While the Final Four opponent remains to be seen, there’s no uncertainty with where the UP Fighting Maroons will stand once the UAAP Season 86 postseason kicks off.
The Maroons wasted no time in securing the first seed and the twice-to-beat advantage by blowing past the NU Bulldogs in their elimination round finale.
A 10-2 run gave UP a lead they wouldn’t relinquish despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts. Seven Maroons scored at least six points, with the balanced attack only adding to UP’s confidence as they await the winner of the playoff between the ADMU Blue Eagles and the AdU Soaring Falcons.
As it stands, the Maroons have been the most consistent team in the UAAP despite the threats they’ve faced. The DLSU Green Archers may be the hottest team in the league as of this writing and it would be a stretch to call this edition of UP as “inevitable”, but they’ve been the best team for much of Season 86. And that may be enough to win it all.
The Maroons have arguably the most stacked roster and judging by their record, they’ve been able to maximize this group through all the obstacles they’ve faced this season. UP’s losses to the Blue Eagles and the Green Archers may have revealed some areas that need work, but the Maroons have responded with consecutive wins after each defeat.
UP’s current run of four straight wins has come with a balanced offense and some tenacious defense, all of which have come as they have increasingly been less dependent on one player. Yes, Malick Diouf remains an MVP candidate, while CJ Cansino and Francis Lopez have had their moments, but their success both at the individual and team level has been when they work as a group.
When teams have threatened the Maroons, they simply go back to their sets with UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde. Instead of panicking, they probe the defense for any mismatches and breakdowns, and when the opportunity reveals itself, they pounce. Moreover, a different member of the team has stepped up during the course of Season 86, and the Maroons’ depth will be their greatest asset.
That being said, UP’s greatest opponents are pretty much themselves. Opposing teams will pounce during the moments the Maroons veer away from executing their sets. If Diouf gets the ball in an uncomfortable spot, then his defenders will have an easier time covering him. Cansino, Lopez, Harold Alarcon, Gerry Abadiano, and JD Cagulangan cannot be careless with their passes, lest they want opponents to go back the other way for transition baskets.
The UP Fighting Maroons have emerged as the top seed in the Final Four of UAAP Season 86, but they enter the postseason with a target on their backs. Teamwork has kept their dream alive thus far, and if they want things to work out in the end, they can’t get away from what’s got them to this point.