The National Collegiate Athletic Association is expecting a competitive and entertaining Season 97 despite the challenges that come with the face-to-face staging of the events – the first time in two years since the Covid-19 pandemic struck the sporting scene hard including in the amateur ranks.
Along with the return of the basketball games which will kick off on March 26, volleyball games are set to follow suit while chess and taekwondo competitions will remain online.
“For two years, we’ve been waiting for the contract sports to return, and we’re excited to have basketball and volleyball games back. And for this year, we continue to hold online chess and online taekwondo tournaments,” said Season 97 Management Committee Chairman Manuel Castellano, Jr. of host school De La Salle-College of St. Benilde.
Also adding a new flavor to the basketball competition is the new format where teams play in a single round-robin eliminations instead of the usual double round-robin format. The top two teams will get an outright semis berth while No. 3 to No. 6 teams will figure in play-in matches.
Castellano said the NCAA mancom decided to compress the basketball calendar due to the budget constraints and current pandemic situation. The changes however make every game crucial for each team as they go for a mad dash to the top six spots of the standings, making the season more competitive.
“We’re expecting a competitive and entertaining season,” added Castellano.
Still missing in the return of the basketball action are the usual loud crowds and ear busting drum beats from the school’s percussion groups and cheerleading squads as the games commence behind closed doors at the La Salle Greenhills Gym.
Castellano however explained that mancom is not closing the doors on possibly welcoming the fans back in a wider venue should the situation improve further.
“Games for the semis, Finals could move to bigger venues and potentially, with fans. As the alert level changes, we can relax our protocols,” said Castellano who also revealed that MOA Arena, Araneta Coliseum and the FilOil Flying V Arena are among the possible venues.