Locked and loaded.
Expect crossfire in the hard court when the men’s basketball tournament of the UAAP Season 74 unfolds this Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
With a relatively leveled playing field, all coaches agreed that this season is anybody’s game.
“Any team can beat anybody at any given day,” said new National University coach Eric Altamirano, who might miss the services of their highly touted rookie Bobby Ray Parks Jr. due to eligibility.
This edition of the UAAP, themed “All Out, All Heart,” will have an Olympic-style opening ceremony on Saturday (July 9) to be held at the Marikina Sports Complex. Basketball games will kick off the following day.
Ateneo will open its bid for a rare four-peat against title favorite Adamson after the Far Eastern University and De La Salle encounter for an opening-day treat.
“They (Adamson) are very athletic, and they can match up well with us, so it’s going to be tough,” said coach Norman Black Monday afternoon in the UAAP press conference at the Gateway Mall in Cubao.
The Blue Eagles, who topped the Filoil Flying V Preseason tournament, will parade the cream of the crop of this year’s rookie class, Kiefer Ravena, while waiting on blue chip recruit Greg Slaughter, whose eligibility is also hanging in the balance.
Adamson, on the other hand, will basically be that same stocky squad built around its big three of Lester Alvarez, Jan Colina and Alex Nuyles.
Sans burly banger Pippo Noundou, who obtained a season-ending ACL injury, the Tamaraws will have to rely more on National team mainstay Aldrech Ramos and other bigs to fill the hole upfront.
“We lost Noundou, but we still have Mark Bringas, Bryan Cruz and others who are ready to step up,” said comebacking FEU coach Bert Flores.
Last year’s finalist FEU remains as one of the legitimate contenders to dethrone Ateneo with reigning league MVP RR Garcia and Rookie of the Year Terrence Romero primed for another stellar season.
The Green Archers look to improve on last season’s final four appearance with a big boost from newcomers Van Opstal and Norbert Torres, who are beefing up their frontline.
La Salle also welcomed back playmaker LA Revilla, who will quarterback the team along with lethal wing shooters Luigi de la Paz and Joseph Marata.
University of Santo Tomas, NU, University of the East and University of the Philippines will start their Season 74 campaign on the next play date slated July 14.