San Juan Knights and Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards are set for an early clash in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Invitational after the squads were drawn together in Group C during a ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza in Ortigas on Friday, Nov. 26.

Photo from MPBL

Nueva Ecija, which made noise after the signing of two former PBA stars PJ Simon and Marc Pingris, will be testing its mettle against San Juan which finished second in the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Cup.

Joining the two in Group C are Valenzuela MJAS Zenith, Saranggani Marlins, and Muntinlupa Cagers.

A showdown between the three Visayan teams will happen in Group A with Negros Muscovados, Bacolod ABB and Iloilo United Royals joining Caloocan Excellence and Bacoor Strikers in the mix.

Group B meanwhile will feature VisMin Super Cup Champions Jumbo Plastic Basilan along with Laguna Krah Asia, Marikina Shoe City, Makati FSD Blazers and the Aldin Ayo-mentored Bicol Volcanoes.

Group D is composed of Manila Stars, Emkai Rizal Golden Coolers-Xentromall, Imus Bander, Gensan Warriors, Mindoro Tamaraws and Bulacan Kuyas.

Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascarinas also announced during the draw ceremony that the 13-day Invitational set from Dec. 11-23 will be held in the Mall of Asia Arena in a close-circuit setup.

Group stage will be played in a single-round robin format with the top two teams advancing to the quarterfinals. Playoffs will be in a single elimination bracket which means matches from the quarterfinals to the finals will be all knockout games.

The top team at the end of the MPBL Invitational action will take home a whopping P2 million cash prize. The second placers will get P500,000 while the third placers will be take home P 250,000.