collegiate basketball

NCAA bumps off 2-time champ Letran from Season 98 opening due to COVID-19

JR Isaga
NCAA bumps off 2-time champ Letran from Season 98 opening due to COVID-19

PLAYMAKER. Letran guard Fran Yu looks to set a play against Lyceum’s Renzo Navarro.

NCAA/GMA Images

For the first time in recent NCAA history, the defending league champion will not grace a season opening game day as four Letran players get COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines – The NCAA Season 98 men’s basketball tournament is off to a rocky start as two-time defending champion Letran will not be able to grace the opening ceremony at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, September 10, due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Four Knights contracted the virus just days before the traditional champion-versus-host match against the EAC Generals, thus rendering the entire roster as close contacts and unable to compete.

Replacing the three-peat-seeking champs are the Arellano Chiefs in the 3:30 pm kickoff game, while perennial contenders San Beda Red Lions and Season 97 runners-up Mapua Cardinals clash at 6 pm.

Letran will have its delayed debut on the third game day, September 14, against the JRU Heavy Bombers.

Other key matchups – which will all emanate from the FilOil EcoOil Centre for the first round – include the San Beda-Letran rivalry game on September 30, the San Beda-San Sebastian rivalry match on September 21, and the Letran-Mapua Season 97 finals rematch on September 27.

With the schedule returning to a pre-pandemic double-header format, the first round will run for an entire month, ending with the rescheduled Letran-EAC champion-host match on October 11 and the All-Star Game on October 14.

Spearheaded by men’s basketball, seven sports will be held this season, including men’s and women’s volleyball, online taekwondo, online chess, cheerdancing, track and field, and swimming.

In a mid-pandemic first, the NCAA will also revive the juniors (high school) division with boys’ basketball, and boys’ and girls’ volleyball sometime in the first quarter of 2023.

Former UAAP commissioner Tonichi Pujante will serve as the commissioner for this season, which has the theme “Achieve Greatness Every Day.” – Rappler.com

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