Letran, San Beda teams to beat in NCAA Season 97

Published March 19, 2022, 2:27 PM

by Reynald I. Magallon

Members of the NCAA Management Committee pose for a photo during the official kickoff of NCAA 97th Season at the Studio 6 of GMA Network in Quezon City, March 19, 2022. In photo are Atty. Jonas Cabochan, San Beda University; Mr. Hercules Calanta, Lyceum of the Philippines; Mr Oliver Victor Amoroso, GMA Network, Mr Efren Supan, Jose Rizal University; Mr Estefanio Boquiron Jr., Emilio Aguinaldo College; Mr. Manuel Castellano, College of St. Benilde; Rev. Fr. Victor Calvo Jr., Colegio De San Juan De Letran; Mr. Peter Cayco, Arellano University; Mr Francisco Gusi Jr., University of Perpetual Help System Dalta; Rev Fr. Glynn Ortega, OAR, San Sebastian College-Recoletos. (Mark Balmores)

Season 95 champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights and runner-up San Beda University Red Lions are the consensus teams to beat in the return of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball action which is set to kick off on March 26.

Asked during the Season 97 Media Launch at the GMA Network Studio 6, the NCAA coaches believed the two squads remain to be the favorites but they also admitted that the upcoming tournament could see an even playing field considering that all the teams are coming off a two-year lull due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Coach Cholo Martin of Arellano University, Coach Oliver Bunyi of Emilio Aguinaldo College and Coach Louie Gonzales of Jose Rizal University said that the defending champion Letran will be hard to beat this especially with its prized additions in Rhenz Abando and Brent Paraiso.

San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez even noted that Letran is already a lock in the playoffs and that the rest of the NCAA are only battling for the next spots in the standings.

Coach Charles Tiu of the host school College of Saint Benilde added that the championship experience of the two teams easily makes them the top choice although he stressed that the rest of other schools can pull off surprises in the eliminations.

“All the teams I guess you have to beat them, but obviously Letran is the defending champion and their team is pretty solid. San Beda, you cannot just take them out and I think in the last decade dalawa o tatlo lang ata sila ‘di nagchampion,” said Tiu.

Tiu’s Blazers will be the first team to test Letran’s mettle in the season opener on March 26 at 3:30 p.m. followed by a clash between San Beda and Lyceum of the Philippines University at 7:05 p.m.

Pirates head coach Gilbert Malabanan, meanwhile, said the format of the eliminations will play a huge factor in the tournament since the NCAA committee is adapting a single round-robin tournament with the top 6 teams advancing to the postseason.

The top two teams will get an outright spot to the semifinals while the third to sixth teams will battle for the last two spots through a play-in.

“’Yung format natin ngayon is very important, every game is very important so every team is team to beat. Kailangan mo talunin, kailangan mo manalo ng how many games na kailangan para makapasok ka kaya every game is crucial,” said Malabanan.