Final stretch: Wild chase for UAAP Final Four berths going down the wire
A season that has been filled with tight, heart-stopping games will also feature one of the closest Final Four races in years.
The prospect of a quadruple tie for the three remaining Final Four berths in UAAP Season 82 looms, following De La Salle’s tightrope 80-79 victory over University of Santo Tomas on Wednesday.
While Ateneo has locked up the No. 1 seed after rolling to 12 straight victories, there is still a possibility that University of the Philippines, UST, La Salle, and Far Eastern U could all finish with 8-6 records with three playdates remaining in the second round.
If this scenario happens on top of an Ateneo sweep, UAAP commissioner Jensen Ilagan said the league will apply the Fiba classification of teams, which will see the squads with a higher point differential in matches involving the four teams earning the better seeding.
A knockout match will be needed for those who will finish at the bottom two with the winner securing the No. 4 seed, while the Top 2 seeds will dispute the No. 2 berth.
The third and fourth seeds will then clash for the right to meet No. 2, which will now be armed with a twice-to-beat edge.
For UP’s explosive forward Kobe Paras, getting the job done against La Salle on Sunday is foremost on the minds of the Fighting Maroons.
“It’s going to be tough to be able to stick to the No. 2 spot so we really have to go all-out in our last two games,” said Paras, who had 19 points and six assists in the 80-77 win over National U on Wednesday.
The Maroons, who are currently in second with an 8-4 record, also stand in the way of the Blue Eagles’ bid for a 14-game sweep, which will reward the defending champions an outright finals berth and force the stepladder format for the second to fourth seeds.
UST’s last assignment on Saturday will be against already-eliminated Adamson, which will also play La Salle (6-6) in the final second-round playdate on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
FEU, who like UST hold a 7-6 record, take on also-ran University of the East on Sunday at Ynares Center in Antipolo.
“I think the schedule in the second round has been kind to us because we gained momentum and we’re peaking at the right time,” said FEU coach Olsen Racela after the Tamaraws beat the Falcons, 63-60, also Wednesday.
The Tigers nearly forced overtime against the Archers as Rhenz Abando hit a desperation shot that beat the buzzer, but the basket was only ruled as a two-pointer after he stepped on the line.
“We can’t really rest,” Archers coach Gian Nazario said. “We understand the task at hand [of reaching the Final Four] and we know what’s at stake.”
For UST coach Aldin Ayo, the season is only living up to his expectations.
“I already said right from the start that this was going to be an unpredictable season and look how it has turned out,” Ayo said. “It will really boil down to who wants it more.”
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