UAAP men’s Final Four: Ateneo vs UP and La Salle vs NU
MANILA, Philippines — Only one of the finalists in the past two seasons will return to the championship round as defending champion Ateneo and the top seed University of the Philippines collide in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.
A new finalist will emerge as the twice-to-beat La Salle and National University clash for the other championship berth on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
INQUIRER Sports gives you a preview of this year’s Final Four teams, who will fight for the two tickets for the best-of-three AAP Season 86 finals.
Battle of Katipunan: UP Fighting Maroons vs Ateneo Blue Eagles
After clashing in three of the last four UAAP finals, the Blue Eagles and Fighting Maroons battle it out in the Final Four with the reigning champion this time the underdog as the No.4 seed for the first time in league history.
Parading a new-look roster this season, Tab Baldwin’s team barely made it to the Final Four with the coach’s worst elimination record of 7-7, needing to beat Adamson in a playoff game three days before the semis.
But the Blue Eagles’ record doesn’t speak for their performance as they prevented the Fighting Maroons from sweeping the first round with a 99-89 victory in overtime last October.
However, UP was quick to exact revenge in the second round with a 65-60 victory, which set the pace for last year’s runner-up to finish as the top seed for the first time ever.
For Fighting Maroons coach Goldwin Monteverde, their best record and twice-to-beat advantage were a product of their hard work as they head to their fifth straight Final Four appearance.
Monteverde urges his wards to have the same approach in the Final Four just like their previous matches as holdovers CJ Cansino, Malick Diouf, JD Cagulangan, Gerry Abadiano, and Harold Alarcon, as well as rookie Francis Lopez, Janjan Felicilda, Aldous Torculas, and Reyland Torres, seek to bring their school to the Finals for the third consecutive season.
The Fighting Maroons are raring to get back at the Blue Eagles, who dethroned them in last year’s Finals Game 3.
In Ateneo’s nine consecutive Final Four trips, it will be the hardest path for Baldwin, who was in the last six finals and won four titles, as they need to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage against their stacked rivals.
Ending the drought: NU Bulldogs vs La Salle Green Archers
One from La Salle and National U will finally end their UAAP Finals drought when they battle it out in the Final Four.
La Salle tries to end a six-year Finals drought with its last appearance during the Ben Mbala era team when it lost to Ateneo in Season 80. NU, on the other hand, is raring to return to the Finals for the first time since 2014 when it beat Far Eastern University in three Finals games in Season 77.
The Green Archers, led by MVP frontrunner Kevin Quiambao, are returning to the Final Four— armed with a twice-to-beat advantage — after falling short last season.
Under first-time La Salle coach Topex Robinson, they are oozing with confidence heading to the semifinals with eight straight wins, sweeping the second round in the eliminations for the No.2 seed with an 11-3 record.
Robinson is parading an intact roster bannered by triple-double machine Kevin Quiambao, Evan Nelle, Mark Nonoy, Mike Phillips, and Jonnel Policarpio.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are entering their second straight Final Four with back-to-back losses in the elimination, sliding to the third place with a 10-4 record.
NU coach Jeff Napa hopes for a different Final Four fate this time as they try to force a rubber match against La Salle, relying on Kean Baclaan, Jake Figueroa, Omar John, Patrick Yu, Mike Malonzo, Jolo Manansala, and Steve Nash Enriquez.
The Bulldogs edged the Green Archers in the first round with an 80-77 victory. But Quiambao tallied the league’s first triple-double in five years with 17 points, a modern UAAP record of 14 assists, and 11 rebounds to get back at NU, 88-78.