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San Miguel, TnT Finals Match-up: Who Has The Upperhand? By: Ariel Ian Clarito - Jun 19, 2017

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Two established powerhouses meet in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals which will begin on Wednesday, June 21. San Miguel Beermen and TnT Ka Tropa both scored emphatic 3-1 wins in the semifinals to arrange a best of seven showdown for the 2nd conference crown.

TnT was the most dominant team in the PBA at the start of this decade, while San Miguel, the winningest team in PBA history, has been lording it over the competition these past 3 years by winning 4 out of the last 7 conference titles. Given the pedigree of both teams and their loaded line-ups, we can expect a finals series of titanic proportions.

San Miguel will have the edge in the battle down low with 6'8 Charles Rhodes and 3-time MVP 6'10 Junmar Fajardo forming an imposing twin tower combination that has proven to be a handful for all teams they have faced thus far this conference. Both Rhodes and Fajardo along with Arwind Santos form San Miguel's frontline rotation that average a combined 53.5 points and over 25 rebounds a game. The TnT frontline made up of Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams, Mo Tautuaa, and Troy Rosario has been mostly inconsistent this conference, with only De Ocampo averaging close to double figures at 9.94 points per game. Import Joshua Smith has been nursing torn toe ligaments and has been playing on one good foot, so this series is for the San Miguel frontline to dominate.

The backcourt is where things get interesting. It will feature Asia's best point guard, Jayson Castro of TnT, against the PBA's premiere defensive guard, Chris Ross of San Miguel. Castro and Ross lead the league in assists (Castro is averaging 6.9 while Ross registers a league-best 7.5 assists per game), so you can expect both to lead in orchestrating their respective team's plays and establishing order in the game. Castro and Ross will probably cancel each other out, so their respective backcourt crew will spell the difference in this series. TnT has a phalanx of guards in Roger Pogoy, RR Garcia, Kris Rosales, and Ryan Reyes, but it is only Pogoy who has been consistent offensively for the KaTropa. For San Miguel, Alex Cabagnot has been on a tear this season and has been lighting up the scoreboard, while Marcio Lassiter is still churning out averages of 14.88 points a game. The TnT backcourt will have to be at their defensive best to slowdown San Miguel which will have the advantage in terms of scoring punch.

What TnT will have the upperhand in is in the bench rotation. Coach Nash Racela usually utilizes 10-11 players in a game to ensure he has fresh legs to run his dribble-drive offense and the occassional pressing defense. If his team can make this a long series, his deep rotation might just outlast San Miguel which traditionally relies on a short 8-men rotation, with Coach Leo Austria giving some insignificant minutes to 2-3 more players every so often, more of the exception than the rule in Austria's coaching philosophy. Austria's starters average a minimum of 34 minutes per game, so if this series makes it to a game 6 or 7, TnT can be expected to be the team with more bounce in its steps.

The Beermen will be the solid favorites in the finals, although TnT will have a puncher's chance to pull off an upset. Both TnT and San Miguel have shown the ability to simply outshoot their opponents given the loads of talent both teams have. Unfortunately for TnT, in facing a team like San Miguel, the Katropas will not have enough to match the firepower of the Beermen who have 6 players averaging in double figures. TnT will have to turn this into a defensive battle and a long, grind out series for it to have a chance to at least make the finals a competitive affair. San Miguel plays basic, almost predictable basketball. It tries to impose its might down low and establish the post presence of Rhodes and Fajardo, and in so doing, open the floor for their gunners like Cabagnot, Lassiter, Ross, and Santos to snipe from outside or drive to the basket. TnT most likely already knows what to expect from San Miguel, but this will not necessarily translate to the Katropas knowing how to stop the Beermen's onslaught which will definitely come in waves during the entire finals series.   

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In a country where the average height of the male population is just around 5'4, Kai Sotto literally stands head and shoulders above everyone. Filipinos have been enamored with and awed by this giant of a boy who will only be turning 16 this May 11. But there also have been doubters who have dismissed him as nothing more than a tall kid who has nothing else to offer [read more]
16 for Under-16 Batang Gilas Named- Feb.19, 2018  (by Ariel Ian)

SEABA champions Batang Gilas will face the penultimate test as they represent the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region in the FIBA Asia Under-16 which will be held from April 2-8 in Dongguan, China. The level of competition has significantly gone up in the FIBA Asia given the entry of Australia and New Zealand. The Philippines has always been a legitimate contender in the region, but their lack of size and height has hampered their quest to advance in previous stagings of the youth... [read more]
The Gilas Wish List- Feb.5, 2018  (by Ariel Ian)

After PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial announced the lifting of the one-player-per-team limit for the Gilas pool, fans naturally became excited at the prospect of seeing other PBA stars join the national pool. Although Coach Chot Reyes has announced there will be no new players added for the second qualifying window which is less than 3 weeks away, he said they will look into expanding the pool for the succeeding qualifiers. The question now is who are the players who deserve a national... [read more]
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