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Road games, 5 new teams highlight 8th FilOil Cup

MANILA, Philippines – The Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup gets bigger as it tips off Wednesday, April 23 at the Arena in San Juan City with the debut of 5 new squads and scheduled provincial games.

Already in its 8th season, the premier amateur preseason basketball tournament goes nationwide with more teams participating from the Visayas and Mindanao.

A total of 43 squads – 21 in the seniors, 10 in the women's and 12 in the juniors division – shall showcase their wares in this year's edition of the Filoil cage wars. Among those participating are CESAFI champions University of Visayas, NAASCU champions Centro Escolar University, University of San Carlos, Holy Trinity University (General Santos City), and St. Clare College.

The seniors division will be divided into 3 groups composed of 7 teams.

Each group will play a single round robin; the top two finishers per group and the two best third-placers based on record and quotient will qualify in the 8-team quarterfinal round where all games will be do-or-die.

In Group A are reigning UAAP champions De La Salle University, NCAA finalists Letran College and San Beda College, defending Filoil titlists University of the East, and Cebu-based squads Southwestern University, University of San Carlos, and University of the Visayas. 

A slot in Group B has been reserved for the PH U-18 national squad to aid them in their upcoming FIBA Asia U-18 championship campaign later this year.

They shall face Far Eastern University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Lyceum of the Philippines, Mapua Institute of Technology, St. Clare College, and the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.

Lastly, in Group C are Centro Escolar University, College of St. Benilde, Holy Trinity College, Jose Rizal University, National University, San Sebastian College Recoletos, and University of the Philippines.

Tournament director Joey Guillermo said the addition of teams from the Visayas, Mindanao and NAASCU is part of the tournament's plan to expand across the archipelago.

"Our plans for expansion began last season when we invited SWU,” said Guillermo.

“We saw how well they played towards the end of Filoil and during the PCCL where they defeated La Salle. The exposure to top-flight competition helps. This year, we are continuing that expansion by not only adding new teams but also taking the games out of town.”

The league will also take the games closer to the basketball fans as reigning Filoil titlists University of the East and UAAP champion De La Salle University will go on the road May 22-25 to play matches in Cebu against Cebu-based teams.

“If the provincial teams are excited to play in Manila, so are the Manila schools excited to show what they can do in Cebu,” said Green Archers team manager Raffy Villavicencio about the road matches.

Felix "Donbel" Belano, a former PBA pro who now calls the shots for the University of San Carlos Warriors is excited for the team's stint.

Siguradong magiging malaking tulong sa team namin ang paglaro sa Filoil dahil we can gain exposure. We will be able to gauge the competitiveness of our team against other teams especially those belonging to the big collegiate leagues like the NCAA and UAAP," the former Talk 'N Text point guard said.

(The Filoil exposure will definitely help our team because we can gauge our competitiveness against other teams especially those in the big leagues.)

Holy Trinity Wildcats mentor Pol Torrijos is likewise looking forward to the tournament.

“We are very honored to be invited to join Filoil. It will be a gauge for not only our team but also for our program as we will play against the best from all over the country," said Torrijos, whose squad is the back to back PCCL Mindanao champion. – Rappler.com