NCAA Final Four kicks off

Top-seed Benilde takes on San Beda; Letran faces Lyceum

Top-seed College of St. Benilde and No. 4 squad San Beda would serve as inviting curtain-raisers for the Final Four action as NCAA Season 98 men's basketball tournament returns Tuesday, Nov. 29, at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.

Will Gozum of College of St. Benilde Blazers (NCAA/GMA)

Tipoff is set at 12 p.m. as the Blazers look to continue their season sweep of the Red Lions while the Letran Knights are set to face the Lyceum Pirates in their 3 p.m. affair.

CSB, which finished the elimination with a 14-4 record, now enjoys not only being at the top but also a twice-to-beat advantage after besting San Beda twice in the elimination, eking out an 82-73 victory in their second round showdown.

In an unexpected turn of events, Letran, which ended its pre-season campaign with a 13-5 slate, got denied of the No. 1 spot and was relegated to No. 2 after absorbing an 87-71 loss to the embattled Jose Rizal University as the Heavy Bombers' victory actually paved the way for the Blazers.

Despite the loss, the Knights still gained their own twice-to-beat perk when they take on another contender in the Pirates, who finished the elimination round with twin 12-6 records alongside the Lions.

Lyceum, however, got the upperhand heading into the semifinals after taking down San Beda twice in the pre-season.

Expect Will Gozum, who is at the forefront of the Most Valuable Player race, to carry the cudgels for the Blazers anew with the help of a reliable and strong supporting crew in Migs Oczon, Miggy Corteza, and Mark Sangco, among others.

Corteza hopes to recover fully from nursing a sprained right ankle last game while Sangco seeks to deliver efficiently once more after posting a double-double performance of 19 points and 12 rebounds against San Beda.

The veteran experience of JB Bahio and James Kwekuteye would be much-needed by the hungry Lions, who won three straight titles from Seasons 92 to 94, before the Knights took over as the new kings of NCAA.

Letran, who seeks not only a bounce back win but also its three-peat campaign, is also as much eager as the other three semifinalists with its frontlines led by Fran Yu, Louie Sangalang, King Caralipio, Brent Paraiso to name a few.

The Knights have already proven their solid and intact core in Season 98 as they make their way to another Finals campaign for the third straight season.

A balanced effort from Enoch Valdez, JM Bravo, Mclaude Guadana, and Renzo Navarro, to name a few, is what Lyceum would rely on when it takes on the top-ranked CSB. ###