Lions start 6-peat bid vs host Cardinals in NCAA opener

Ola Adeogun I File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- The 91st NCAA basketball tournament unfolds on Saturday with San Beda seeking to set in motion its six-peat-feat bid against Mapua and last year's first and second runners up Arellano University and Jose Rizal colliding at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

NCAA president and Mapua CEO Dr. Reynaldo Vea on Monday said the season will be formally ushered in with an opening production number to remember at 12 noon centered in this season's theme "NCAA: Engineered for Sports Excellence in the New Decade."

"We're expecting a more exciting NCAA season not just in basketball but in other sports as well," said Vea in the press conference at the Coral Hallway of the MOA Arena that was also attended by presidents, owners and rectors of all 10 participating schools.

All eyes are on the Lions, who have tied the San Sebastian Stags of the 90s with the longest title streak with five after sweeping the Arellano University Chiefs last year, when they collide with the vastly improved Cardinals at 1 p.m.

"Everyone is looking at San Beda as the team to beat but I think anyone can beat anyone in the NCAA, that's how strong teams are now," said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin, who took over from Boyet Fernandez late last year.

Nigerian Ola Adeogun is expected to carry San Beda on his broad shoulders anew along with Baser Amer, a member of the gold medal-winning Gilas cadet team in the 28th Southeast Asian Games in Singapore who is playing his fifth and last season, and Arthur dela Cruz.

Jarin knows they will have their hands full against a Mapua team boosted by the acquisition of African Allwell Oraeme and the return of Josan Nimes, Andretti Stevens and Mark Brana to join forces with the vastly improved CJ Isit.

"As I've said, all the teams have become stronger and Mapua is one of the teams who I think will be tough to beat," said Jarin.

Also expected to generate attention is the 3 p.m. duel between the Chiefs and the Bombers, two teams with contrasting styles.

Arellano is expected to rely on the duo of Jio Jalalon and Dioncee Holts when it displays its league-best offense while Jose Rizal shows off its defense-first type of game anchored on its two Africans--Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab and Abdouladif Aylagningi Poutouchi.

"We've lost some players but I think we'll show the same type of aggressiveness we showed last year," said Arellano coach Jerry Codinera.

Meanwhile, the NCAA will also formally welcome Emilio Aguinaldo College and Lyceum as its newest regular members as well as its reunion with television giant ABS-CBN as its official broadcasting partner for the next decade.

NCAA Management Committee chair Melchor Divina said the league has upgraded the status of the Generals and the Pirates this year after meeting all the requirements for compete regular status.

"EAC and Lyceum are now regular members of the NCAA starting this season,"  he said.

Divina of Mapua said the league has re-scheduled its games from Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with a total of seven seniors games to be played every week. ABS-CBN will be NCAA's media partner for the next ten years starting this 91st season.

Games will be shown on ABS-CBN Sports + Action live on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

The Arena in San Juan City will host majority of the elimination round games with the marquee matches set at the MOA Arena.

?San Beda College, the reigning seniors basketball champion, is out to extend its dynastic reign to six seasons while College of Saint Benilde defends its general championship after emerging the overall champion last season.

comments powered by Disqus