1. San Beda Red Lions
(Overall record: 8-2; Last week: 2nd)
Entering the second round in a three-way tie for the top spot, the Red Lions were the only team that took care of business this week, pounding the Lyceum Pirates, 77-47, behind a season-high 16 assists from Baser Amer and 17 points from Jake Pascual.
Despite the loss to San Sebastian near the end of the first round, San Beda is starting to look like the steadier team. In their last three wins (against JRU, Letran and Lyceum), no team has come closer than 22 points. And that gives them the solo lead in the NCAA standings and great position moving forward in the second round.
2. Perpetual Help Altas
(Overall record: 7-3; Last week: 4th)
Perpetual got back to its winning ways against Saint Benilde this week, bouncing back from an upset loss to Arellano at the end of the first round. The Altas have had a lot of close calls against lower-ranked teams in their last few games, including this one where they let a 15-point third quarter lead dwindle down to one point with a minute and a half remaining.
That’s not a great sign for the Altas. But what is a good sign is that they got the ‘W’ – which puts them three victories ahead of their closest pursuer for the last spot in the final four.
3. San Sebastian Stags
(Overall record: 7-3; Last week: 1st)
San Sebastian suffered upset losses in two of their last three in games that probably say more about them than about their competition. There’s no doubt the Stags have a great on-court product, but one has to wonder about their motivation to continue competing at a high level at this point, especially reigning Most Valuable Player Calvin Abueva, who was drafted by the Alaska Aces in the PBA Draft last Sunday.
To top things off, they’ll have to deal with the surprise resignation of coach Topex Robinson, who will focus on his duties as part of the Aces’ coaching staff.
4. Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers
(Overall record: 7-3; Last week: 4th)
After closing out an impressive first round with losses only to San Beda and San Sebastian, JRU disappointed this week, falling to the Arellano Chiefs. The JRU defense, which held opponents to under 80 points in seven of their first eight games, has allowed 83 and 85 in the last two contests.
On the plus side, the scoring has been high of late – the Heavy Bombers are averaging 91.5 points in the two games since San Beda held them to a season-low 37 earlier this month – but they’ve had a lot of success keeping the scores low and it’s interesting to see how this plays out for them in the coming days.
5. Mapua Cardinals
(Overall record: 4-5; Last week: 5th)
The Cardinals stayed idle this week, but things are looking up for them after winning back-to-back games to close out the first round. Defense has been leading the way for the Cards in their current streak, holding San Sebastian and Arellano to 54 and 49 points, both season-lows for Mapua.
In fact, all four of their wins this season happen to be the games where they allowed the least amount of points. They lost all five games in which they allowed more than 63 points, and are 4-0 when allowing 63 or less.
6. Arellano Chiefs
(Overall record: 4-6; Last week: 7th)
Arellano picked up a big win this week, knocking off the favored JRU Heavy Bombers, 85-82, behind big performances from Rocky Acidre, Nard Pinto and James Forrester who all had 16 or more points.
The Chiefs have defeated higher-ranked Perpetual and JRU in two of their last three games, but they’ll have to defeat the teams in the lower half of the standings if they want to keep this run going. They’ll get the chance for that this week when they play EAC on Saturday’s playdate.
7. Letran Knights
(Overall record: 4-5; Last week: 6th)
The mysterious disappearance of center Raymond Almazan has apparently been solved with the 6-foot-7 Mythical Team member sitting behind the Letran bench in their game against San Beda and expressing a desire to suit up in the second round in spite of his going AWOL in the last six games.
His return will be a huge boost for the Knights’ campaign. They aren’t out of the final four race yet, but they do have a lot of ground to make up. And it’s unclear whether Letran coach Louie Alas will give Almazan his regular minutes back – or even whether he should.
8. Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals
(Overall record: 3-7; Last week: 9th)
The Generals pulled off the upset of the season when they toppled the powerhouse Stags, 77-67, behind strong efforts from Russell Yaya, Igee King and, of course, Noube Happi. Even more impressive? They did it without two of their guards, Francis Munsayac and Jorem Morada, and coach Gerry Espalana who were all out serving one-game bans.
Many have harped about their record not being indicative of how well they play because they’ve lost a bunch of games that could have easily gone either way. Looks like they’re out to prove that right now, and that deserves a small bump up the Power Rankings.
9. College of Saint Benilde Blazers
(Overall record: 3-7; Last week: 10th)
Carlo Lastimosa made his return to the Blazers this week, dropping 23 big points and leading a big fourth quarter run against the Altas, but it wasn’t enough as they fell to the Perpetual, 78-74. The suspensions to Joel Tolentino (three games) and Rhoel Maconocido (one game) hurt, as they could have used a little extra lift in what turned out to be a winnable game against a final four contender.
The Blazers have a long way to climb if they still want to make a run at the playoffs, but things are looking much more difficult after this tough loss.
10. Lyceum Pirates
(Overall record: 2-8; Last week: 8th)
The Pirates got trounced by 30 points this week, and though it’s tough to be too hard on them for that – it was San Beda, after all – the fact is they’re still in the middle of a five-game slide where only one has been in single-digits (an eight-point loss to San Sebastian).
Two of the losses were by 30 or more while the other two were by 10 and 14 points. They need to do a much better job staying in games if they want the opportunity to grab a win, like they did in back-to-back games against EAC and Mapua earlier this season. Otherwise, they could find themselves in this spot for a while.