UE loses ‘Precious’ edge; Ateneo looks to take advantage
Call this the relative calm before the storm.
With three playdates left in the elimination round of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament, only one Final Four slot is left to be filled—and that can happen after Wednesday’s heavy four-game schedule. But the real fight for twice-to-beat slots will happen on the weekend.
And those semifinal bonuses surely look to be precious possessions the way things have shaped up.
Defending champion Ateneo takes the Mall of Asia Arena floor first at 11 a.m. when it battles a short-handed University of the East (UE) side that will be playing for nothing more than pride, before the Blue Eagles watch National University (NU) try to fish for a win against Adamson in the 6 p.m. game to see if they advance outright.
The Red Warriors will be without Precious Momowei, who was slapped a one-game suspension for a second unsportsmanlike foul in the season against La Salle last Sunday. He was leading the Rookie of the Year race, but because of the sanction, was disqualified from winning any individual award.
“This is a tough season this year. Well, the standings might not have a lot of surprises on where the teams are,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “The actual games themselves have told an entirely different story than what the standings are showing.
“It has made for a great season, but we gotta do our job to get into the second season (Final Four) and see what we can do if we get there,” he added.
Expected wins by the Eagles and the Bulldogs will make Ateneo the No. 4 team, but La Salle and University of the Philippines (UP), who battle separate ousted foes in the middle two games, will also need to prevail over Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas (UST), respectively, going into this weekend.
No. 1 up for grabs
As things stand, the Fighting Maroons and Bulldogs are tied for the lead at 10-2 with the Green Archers a game behind. La Salle has won its first six games of the second round and is not expected to encounter much trouble against the Tamaraws in the 4 p.m. game.
The Maroons will be too much for the Growling Tigers in the 2 p.m. game if their 31-point massacre of UST in the first round is considered.
“The good thing about our situation is that our destiny is in our hands,” said UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon. “So we take care of business in the next two games then obviously that twice-to-beat is, no question, something we are aiming for.”
And all four projected Final Four protagonists will then make the final two days of action super interesting, as the top two spots will be staked with the No. 1 team able to veer away from a matchup with the formidable third-ranked squad but make a date with the Eagles in the Final Four.
Ateneo-La Salle happens on Saturday, and the Green Archers will have a shot at becoming the No. 2 team behind the winner of the UP-NU clash on Sunday with a win.