In a span of 20 seasons since the Final Four format was introduced, only four UAAP teams have left an indelible mark in the country’s most popular collegiate basketball league.
University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University, Far Eastern University and most recently, Ateneo de Manila.
Santo Tomas began the reign of UAAP dominance in 1993, the year the Growling Tigers scored a 14-game sweep en route to the automatic championship. (UAAP tournament format then, rewards the team that sweeps the tournament the league title).
The Growling Tigers went on to continue its amazing run, winning three more UAAP crowns from 1994 to 1996, beating the Green Archers in three classic Finals battles, making Santo Tomas the first team to win four straight league titles since University of the East won seven straight from 1965 to 1971.
FEU then succeeded Santo Tomas in 1997 after beating La Salle for the crown in the Finals.
But upon the entry of Franz Pumaren as La Salle’s coach, the Green Archers started their own four-peat UAAP title run – vanquishing college foes like FEU, UST and Ateneo all the way to matching the Growling Tigers’ “four-ward” feat.
Ateneo, under then coach Joel Banal, ended La Salle’s dreams for a high-five UAAP championship dream, winning its first UAAP championship in 2002 since winning the 1987 and 1988 men’s championships.
Far Eastern University returned in the championship circle for another three years from 2003-2005 during Arwind Santos and Mark Isip’s time.
By 2006, Santo Tomas snapped a 10-year UAAP title drought, beating a highly-favored Ateneo squad led by Douglas Kramer, JC Intal and Macky Escalona. The 2006 UAAP championship was also the first under then first-time coach Pido Jarencio.
But from 2007 to 2012, Ateneo, already mentored by Norman Black, ruled the UAAP, making the Blue Eagles, joining the UE Red Warriors with five or more league titles.
With only four UAAP schools alternating in the league championships, where does that leave UE, University of the Philippines, Adamson U and National University?
With due respect to UE, UP and Adamson, I think with the stable financial backing of Henry Sy at National University, most probably in two years time, we’ll see the Bulldogs breaking the four-school stranglehold of the UAAP.
The NU Bulldogs still have newly-crowned back-to-back UAAP MVP Ray Parks to lead them. And with a steady stream of young superstar materials in the current varsity and farm teams, the Bulldogs I feel, will surely be a force to reckon with in college basketball.
What do you think?