Red Lions heavy faves again | Inquirer Sports

Red Lions heavy faves again

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 04:13 AM June 17, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — San Beda finds itself in a familiar position as heavy favorite heading into another NCAA season that begins on June 28, but the rest of the field are predicting a dogfight for the remaining Final Four spots.

Having kept the core of last year’s championship drive, including 6-foot-8 Nigerian Ola Adeogun, the Red Lions are tipped to claim a fifth straight title, although coach Boyet Fernandez was quick to dispel notions that his team will cruise to the crown this season.

“There are no pushovers (this season),” said Fernandez, on his second year as coach of the school with the most NCAA men’s crowns at 18. “All the teams are getting stronger.”

Coaches who graced the press conference launching the league’s 90th Season agreed that the Lions remain a cut above the rest.

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“After San Beda, it’s going to be a free-for-all for those Final Four spots,” said Emilio Aguinaldo coach Gerry Esplana, whose squad won nine of its last 12 games last season.

The tournament opens at Mall of Asia Arena with an opening ceremony that NCAA president Vincent Fabella said will “have technology only seen in international events like the NBA.”

Letran lost last year’s Most Valuable Player Raymond Almazan to the PBA, but the Knights will still have Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal, while San Sebastian remains formidable with CJ Perez and Jamil Ortuoste in the fold.

High-scoring guard Juneric Baloria returns for another tour of duty for Perpetual Help, fourth placer last season, while Lyceum seeks to surpass its eight-win output, which included an upset of San Beda.

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St. Benilde, which lost several close games during the 89th season, has kept its old roster.

“Hopefully, the team is more mature now,” said Blazers coach Gabby Velasco. Hard-luck Mapua lost Josan Nimes as the flashy forward hurt his knee two weeks ago.

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Only Arellano will have a new coach in PBA great Jerry Codiñera, who replaced Koy Banal.

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TAGS: Basketball, NCAA

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