Will UP take home the bacon

Sports fans are beginning to take notice of the Fighting Maroons.

Not because Kobe Paras, the highly touted recruit who rose from his stellar performance in the US high school circuit, is spearheading the Diliman quintet.

The 6’6” Kobe is the son of Benjie Paras, the only pro cager who copped both the PBA ROY and the MVP honors in the same year. Very obviously, the young Paras was named after Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s foremost adored stars and future Hall of Famer.

UP is still having difficulty searching its place in the UAAP galaxy, despite its near-successful stint last year. It is just regretful that five of its mainstays have graduated just when Kobe was about to reinforce their squad.

Well, what I’m telling you is this: Had Paras already been in the line-up last year, I would have bet my P100 peso bill for the UP five to win the 2018 crown.

Yes, even against Ateneo.

Sad, right?

Judging by the monstrous performance of the Blue Eagles in making a clean sweep of the first round, I have this feeling that Ateneo could take the two round elimination format and become the first finalist with nary an effort.

But the Blue Eagles coaching staff cannot rest on this thought.

However, as the competition progresses, the Maroons are expected to jell more, mature more and study more in referencing to their future championship match against Ateneo.

And this is a big burden for coach Bo Perasol whose ballistic reaction to the officiating resulted in his ejection during the first meeting between the Eagles and the Maroons before a jampacked crowd at the MOA.

If I may assess the Maroons’ initial game versus the Eagles, I thought the Diliman boys failed to play more as a five-man team, electing but failing to outsmart a well-coached, well-prepared Loyola platoon with a solid augmentation from seven-foot center Kouame.

Paras tried to do a yeoman’s job but he was defensibly crowded all the time and forced to commit turnovers by the Eagles.

UP needs to learn how to box out Kouame and force the Eagles to take outside shots. If the Maroons are successful in plotting out a defense to effectively deny the ball from getting into the Ateneans’ giant center, Perasol may find a reason to smile.

UP cannot hope to match the running game of a well-knit squad tutored by a well-respected basketball coach in the international circle.

A deliberate, slow-break strategy with Kobe at the receiving end will give the Loyola boys a big headache. Perasol also needs to plan how to get away from the cramping backcourt pressure defense of the Eagles which the latter have implemented quite successfully several times.

Kobe Paras is the key to UP’s success.

Yes, and everyone in the opposition knows this.

Kobe is a marked man. (Email your feedback to fredlumba@yahoo.com.) GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!