Race for UAAP championship series berths gets going, and it could be a sprint for top two to there | Inquirer Sports

Race for UAAP championship series berths gets going, and it could be a sprint for top two to there

By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 05:30 AM November 25, 2023

Gerry Abadiano UP UAAP

UP guard Gerry Abadiano during a game against Ateneo in the second round of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

The best of the best of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament have come this far, to a stage where the veritable men always get separated from the boys.

The Final Four, nothing, save for the title series itself, is more exciting and the match-ups are definitely mouth-watering. Depending, of course, on which school one is rooting for.


Elimination round topnotcher University of the Philippines (UP) squares off with Ateneo, and No. 2 La Salle battles National University (NU), with the Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers needing to beat their respective foes just once to make it to the best-of-three title series.


Safe bets definitely go to the higher-ranked teams, but no one can certainly call the defending champion Blue Eagles and Bulldogs as longshot bets, and again, depending on which school one is rooting for, rubber matches being played don’t seem far-fetched.

“At the start, we all know that all teams are competitive,” said UP’s brilliant Goldwin Monteverde, the architect of UP snapping a 36-year title drought in Season 84, said. “Whatever we worked hard for, we have to follow through on it.”

The Maroons have played with near-perfection all season long, and the same cannot be said of the Eagles.

La Salle has been perfect ever since the first round ended, while the Bulldogs have been on an up-and-down ride in that same stretch.

Season splits

The UAAP Final Four for men's basketball Season 86.

The UAAP Final Four for men’s basketball Season 86. –MARLO CUETO/ART

Still, no Final Four team has dominated anyone in any game this season, with protagonists of both series splitting their elimination round assignments.

The ‘Battle for Katipunan’ happens a round early and the Maroons have a chance to eliminate the Eagles this early in the season ever since the decorated Tab Baldwin assumed the reins at Ateneo.


Interestingly, Monteverde-Baldwin are 6-6 in their faceoff, with the UP coach owning a second round win.

The Maroons will also be fresher coming into the 2 p.m. contest at Smart Araneta Coliseum, as the Eagles needed to go through a knockout game against Adamson Wednesday to make this round. That, too, has never happened ever since Baldwin took over.

“We’re a little beat up,” Baldwin had said after a 70-48 win over the Soaring Falcons. “[And we’re] going to face a really strong UP team who is well-rested.”

La Salle, meanwhile, has been untouched for more of the past month with the Archers taking an eight-game winning streak into the semifinals. And how MVP frontrunner Kevin Quiambao talks makes the Taft-based side even more fearsome.

“We will put all our focus on whoever we play,” Quiambao had said in Filipino a week ago. “We won’t allow ourselves to lose whoever we play (in the Final Four).”

If ever, making the Final Four as the No. 3 seed is something that NU coach Jeff Napa didn’t see coming.

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“Our last two games were very frustrating,” Napa said in Filipino after they blew a chance to even becoming No. 1 by losing to Adamson and then UP. “I take full responsibility for those losses. We just need to move forward.”

TAGS: Ateneo, Men’s basketball, UAAP Season 86, University of the Philippines

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