No surprise: UAAP teams pick Ateneo as team to beat
MANILA, Philippines – Attention turned to the Ateneo Blue Eagles once again as they're in a "favored" position to win a UAAP three-peat title this year.
Adamson head coach Franz Pumaren, Far Eastern University's Olsen Racela, National University mentor Jamike Jarin and Bo Perasol, who steered University of the Philippines to an unexpected finals stint last season, all picked Ateneo as the team to beat this seaosn.
"Ateneo should be rated No.1, but of course, you cannot count out other schools," said Pumaren, whose Falcons get to test the two-time defending champion first in the men's basketball opener on Wednesday, September 4, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, though, wants to make sure his players won't let high expectations get into their heads, and instead, just focus on their first game.
"For us, it's pretty simple. It's Adamson because they're the next team. We tend not to look beyond that," said Baldwin. "I don't think there's a lot of profit in getting caught up in trying to predict who's gonna be the top teams [this season]."
With the champion core intact, Ateneo team captain Mike Nieto feels confident that his team will stay grounded.
"So being the team to beat this season, well thank you, but we just want to prove to everybody that we’re here to defend the crown and we just want to be the greatest team that coach Tab preaches during practice," said Nieto, who's playing his final year of eligibility along with his twin brother Matt, Isaac Go and Thirdy Ravena.
University of Santo Tomas head coach Aldin Ayo, however, believes the title is up for grabs as all teams look to have leveled up their game.
"I think it’s very difficult to say which one is the team to beat [since] all teams have improved and I think this will be an unpredictable season," said Ayo.
The season tips off with a triple-header on Wednesday, September 4, starting with the 10:30 am clash between University of Santo Tomas and University of the East at the Araneta Coliseum. (UAAP basketball treat: Wednesday tickets priced at P35)
UP and FEU tangle at 12:30 pm, while Ateneo and Adamson collide at 4 pm. (GAME SCHEDULE: UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball) – Rappler.com