This is is, pancit. On Thursday, the last game day of the NCAA’s regular season, the LPU Pirates stake their undefeated 17-0 record against the defending champs San Beda Red Lions.
There’s a lot on the table. A sweep will be historic for the Pirates, a young team that has never even made the Final Four. Meanwhile, the historically dominant Red Lions are eager to exact revenge on the team that handed them their only loss so far.
“Matalo na sa lahat, ‘wag lang sa Letran.” –@BabesBolick
— Ceej Tantengco (@ceejtheday) October 13, 2017
This game may be a preview of the NCAA Season 93 finals, but it’s not a direct analogue as the outcome could affect each team’s performance postseason performance. Let’s break it down.
Which team is better built to handle a loss?
If San Beda loses, this will be the first time in 12 years that they did not finish the regular season as top seed. A month ago, coach Boyet Fernandez admitted his players’ confidence took a dive after losing to the LPU Pirates in the first round, allowing the CSB Blazers to get close when the Red Lions should have had an easy win. They’ve been rebuilding that confidence since then, and they do not want a finals situation feeling like their backs are against the wall.
The LPU Pirates, meanwhile, admit that they went into that battle with no expectations—in fact, the coaching staff already had a pep talk ready to keep the boys’ spirits up in case of a loss. Coach Topex Robinson foresaw that the end of a streak might shake the players, so they’ve been making a conscious effort to downplay the importance of the sweep. “A sweep is not a championship,” he says. “That’s not our ultimate goal.”
Let’s say San Beda wins. Do they overtake LPU as the most dominant team?
At the very least, they’ll be even. San Beda will also have a clear edge in terms of postseason experience, with most of their players having been to the finals twice. We have no idea how LPU deals with the pressure of playing in a larger arena. San Beda, meanwhile, lives for the big games.
Let’s look big-picture here. Three years ago, LPU’s key players had talent, but attitude problems to match. People were telling Robinson that he was “too nice” to lead the team to success. Now consider that this diverse group has bought in wholesale to Robinson’s empathy-driven culture, meditating in huddles and posting IG stories about wanting to inspire people. “What they’ve accomplished” is a total turn-around in a team’s culture, and proof that it can work.
How will they handle a loss given that they’ve never lost this season?
Will a win boost either team to championship-level confidence?
Yes. The Pirates talk about beating San Beda as the trigger that fueled their confidence for the current streak. San Beda, meanwhile, can finally dismiss their lone loss as a blip on the way to being top dogs once more.
Who you got for this Thursday’s match?
San Beda and LPU face off this Thursday (October 19), 2:00pm at San Juan Arena.