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MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo still stands as the heavy favorite even as the Blue Eagles parade a new batch of standouts when the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament tips off on Saturday, September 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles, who returned to the UAAP throne last December, open their campaign against last season’s surprise semifinalist National University Bulldogs at 4 pm.
Host University of the East and University of Santo Tomas, with champion coach Pido Jarencio back on board, get the season going in a 2 pm battle.
La Salle and Far Eastern University, both parading new coaches after missing last year’s Final Four, aim for a fresh start on Sunday, October 1, in a 2 pm duel also at the MOA Arena.
University of the Philippines, which settled for a runner-up finish a season after a historic UAAP title run, tangles with Adamson at 4 pm to wrap up the weekend opener.
The Blue Eagles, despite losing top scorers Dave Ildefonso, Forthsky Padrigao, BJ Andrade, and Ange Kouame, still look very much solid with Mason Amos, Kai Ballungay, and Sean Quitevis.
Amos, who even at 19, already dazzled in his national team debut with Gilas Pilipinas, impressed along with Ballungay during their preseason competitions.
The UP Maroons, though, may just rival Ateneo’s star-studded roster with top high school prospects Seven Gagate and Luis Pablo, Fil-Am Sean Alter, and transferees Janjan Felicilda, Reyland Torres, and Francis Lopez leading the pack.
Other holdovers from UP’s Season 85 champion squad also include CJ Cansino, JD Cagulangan, Harold Alarcon, and reigning MVP Malick Diouf.
La Salle aims to put up a stronger fight with new coach Topex Robinson and the core of Kevin Quiambao, Mike Phillips, Mark Nonoy, and Evan Nelle, a season after the Green Archers fell just a rung short of a semifinal spot.
Adamson, with Falcons top gun Jerom Lastimosa reportedly coming off a preseason injury, and the intact NU Bulldogs also vie for another competitive run after crashing the Final Four last season. – Rappler.com