It may be too late to determine who’s on Santa Claus’ naughty-or-nice list, but there’s still time to draw up the UAAP Season 86’s good and bad campaigns.
It has been, for all intensive purposes, a colorful season with highs and lows showcased in almost every game of the tournament. From the rise of the Green and White back to dominance, to the men in Maroon proving their mettle, to a guy in Red from Recto making a name for himself, this year saw the competition reach new heights from the starting buzzer to the season’s swan song.
With the attention fixated on Ateneo to defend the crown, Season 86 saw the rise of Universities–expected and not–showing why they deserve the spotlight as much as the defending champion.
People raised an eyebrow on coach Topex Robinson’s arrival in Taft, spectators put immense pressure on the Fighting Maroons to bounce back from a runner-up finish in Season 85 but viewers were surprised to see even more stories unfold from unexpected teams.
So with 2023 nearing its end, take a look at Complex Philippines’ list of teams that fell into the good and bad portions of Season 86. The list is based on their season standing, breakout players, and their future for the upcoming season in 2024.
De La Salle University
Well, talk about stating the obvious.
If there’s any team that deserves to be on the good list after this year, it’s undoubtedly the new kings of the UAAP, the Green Archers.
After going on an absolute tear in the elimination round, La Salle kept its momentum when it was needed the most; in the Final Four.
They may have tripped in Game 1 of the Finals against the University of the Philippines, losing by as much as 30 points, but coach Topex Robinson’s wards won two straight games convincingly to notch this year’s championship.
It’s the season of giving, and the Taft-based squad had the best gift of them all this year in the form of Kevin Quiambao.
Fresh off a Rookie of the Year stint in Season 85, the former National University standout stood atop the competition and won not just one but two MVP awards for Season 86.
The best part? Quiambao confirmed his stay in La Salle just a few days before Christmas.
I guess the Green Archers fell on Santa’s “nice” list as, considering the MVP’s prolonged tenure in Taft is such a good, good gift to receive for the holidays.
University of the Philippines
Don’t be fooled. Just because UP didn’t win it all this year doesn’t mean they had a bad season.
The Fighting Maroons finished atop the league after the elimination round with a 12-2 record, reaching the Finals after trouncing then-champion Ateneo in the Final Four.
Usually, when a team is stacked with high-caliber talents, some players may be muddled in the pack and ultimately end up minute-less inside the court.
Not under coach Goldwin Monteverde, though, which is why they had a great season even without the title in the Katipunan-based squad’s grasp.
With newcomers like Francis Lopez entering the scene, the UP faithful wondered if he would fit in a system full of wings in guys like CJ Cansino and Harold Alarcon, just to name a few.
Yet, lo and behold, Lopez was used to the best of his abilities, even winning Rookie of the Year honors in the process.
UP will take a huge hit next year with the departures of Cansino and Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf, but if this season was any indication, the Fighting Maroons will be just fine next year with their plethora of talents ready to make names for themselves.
Boy, was it fun to watch NU this season.
Watching the Bulldogs this year always felt like watching David go up against Goliath… and there are a lot of Goliaths in the UAAP.
It was like watching a clash inside a medieval coliseum, just grit, grind, and in-your-face type of basketball; one of the best kinds.
During every post-game conference, coach Jeff Napa would always have one line in mind to say in front of the press.
“We haven’t proven anything yet,” he would always say, no matter if the win was lopsided or not.
That still may not have been the case this season after falling short of the championship but they sure as heck proved that they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Highlighted by Kean Baclaan’s scoring exhibitions and the quick upbringing of Jake Figueroa as a cornerstone of the NU program, the Bulldogs proved themselves worthy of being called “competitors” for next season.
That’s enough credentials to be included in the good side of the list if you ask me.
Oh, and lest we forget, NU flashed one of its secret weapons in Reinhard Jumamoy this year, who showed dominance in the boys’ high school basketball division in the UAAP last season.
Develop that young man and put him in the court with a more mature Baclaan next season? Yes, please.
University of the East
Instagram: @uedawnofficial, @ue.mbt
Are you surprised to see a team that missed the Final Four to be here? Don’t be.
No team this season has exemplified the term “bright future” much like the Red Warriors.
It wasn’t easy for UE, though. They had to deal with a coal mine to start the season after losing one-and-done big man Luis Villegas and shifty guard Kyle Paranda in the offseason.
But like any ol’ determined kid on Christmas Eve, coach Jack Santiago saw the coals left in the chimney and turned them into diamonds.
This season saw the Red Warriors rely on Rey Remogat, who had a breakout season after being part of Season 86’s Mythical Five.
Remogat, who assumed the position of floor general, gave UE fans a treat every game after posting averages of 16.5 points, 6.36 rebounds,7.86 assists, and two steals per game.
Alongside Remogat was Precious Momowei, who was the consensus Rookie of the Year if it wasn’t for a disqualifying foul in the elimination round.
The scary part about all of this is, the dynamic duo of Remogat and Momowei are still oh-so-young. So next year, expect UE to jump up the good list even higher.
University of Santo Tomas
At the beginning of the season, coach Pido Jarencio joked about UST’s goal to “win just one game.”
Apparently, jokes really are half-meant, as the Growling Tigers finished at the very bottom of the standings with a 2-12 record.
The squad came out of the Tigers’ den sluggish and it only got worse after their first game of the season.
Already counted as underdogs at the start of the tournament, it just got worse and worse for UST.
For one, the Growling Tigers basically competed in a handicap against the competition with import Adama Faye leaving the squad midway through the season.
It’s hard to find the good in UST’s run as it’s overshadowed by the bad but better days may come in coach Jarencio’s way next season.
The aforementioned Paranada found its new home in UST alongside former Ateneo swingman Forthsky Padrigao.
With those two guards coming in next year to back up streaky shooter Nic Cabañero, the Growling Tigers may find themselves out of this list in no time.
Adamson sure had a seesaw of a tournament this season for various reasons.
The Soaring Falcons started quite well to start their campaign, even defeating defending champions, Blue Eagles, in the early round courtesy of a Vince Magbuhos buzzer-beater which gave the Adamson community a reason to hope for the best.
But since then, Adamson started going on a slippery slope, failing to make the Final Four at the end of the season.
To add salt to the wounds, coach Nash Racela had to enter game-in and game-out with the uncertainty of star guard Jerom Lastimosa’s presence inside the hardwood.
Well, Lastimosa did return to action in the second round but he ended up tearing his ACL in his comeback game against UP in October.
It’s for sure that the “King Falcon” won’t return for Adamson anymore, having played his final year of eligibility in Season 86, but the Soaring Falcons still have a lot left in their arsenal.
One of those weapons is rookie Matthew Montebon, who saved Adamson from elimination against the University of the East with a game-winning bucket to force a battle-for-fourth match against none other than…
Ateneo de Manila University
Having Ateneo on the bad side of the list isn’t a knock on the part of the Loyola Heights-based team one bit.
But when you’re the defending kings of the UAAP, expectations will and always be there for you to try and break.
Unfortunately, the Blue Eagles just couldn’t do that this season.
With the exodus of Ateneo’s troika in Ange Kouame, BJ Andrade, and Dave Ildefonso, coach Tab Baldwin was dealt with a deck full of young guns to try and replicate their mastery in Season 85.
From the top of the mountain, Ateneo barely scraped by to reach the playoffs, defeating Adamson in the rubber match for the last Final Four spot, only to be decimated by the Fighting Maroons in the semifinals.
The squad had silver linings in the season but it just wasn’t enough to bring Baldwin to back-to-back titles.
What’s worse is that Ateneo will have to swallow the bitter pill that stars Kai Ballungay and Jared Brown decided to move on from the collegiate ranks and try their luck in professional ball.
Thankfully for the Blue Eagles, they will still have Chris Koon and Mason Amos in their lineup, alongside more young talents that can lift the squad back to relevancy and out of this year’s bad list.
Far Eastern University
For the second straight year, FEU missed out on a Final Four spot.
Why is this surprising? Well, for years, the Tamaraws have always been a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
FEU has seemingly lost that splendor despite its tough fight this season.
It’s a story of “win one” and “lose one” for the Morayta squad this year. Win, because their star guard LJay Gonzales won mythical team honors.
Lose, because, well, it’s Gonzales’ final year with FEU.
But maybe we should give the Tamaraws the benefit of the doubt. They are, after all, in the process of adapting to a new system under first-year coach Denok Miranda.
And it’s not like it was all bad for FEU, as they saw the uprising of their young talent in Jorick Bautista, who scored 17 points in the squad’s final game of the tournament against fellow cellar dweller, UST.
Finishing with a 3-11 record, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that FEU fell to the bad side of this list, but this is for 2023, mind you. Season 87 may deal with some more surprising scenarios, one of which is seeing the Tamaraws exceed expectations.