De La Salle University is still the team to beat in the upcoming University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament.
In a news conference on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, coaches admitted that it’s a tough challenge to dethrone the defending champion.
La Salle’s sophomore coach Aldin Ayo said his Green Archers are all geared up for battle.
“We’re excited and we’re ready,” said the soft-spoken Ayo.
Ayo, on the other hand, named last year’s runner-up Ateneo de Manila University, host Far Eastern University, National University and Adamson University as strong title-contenders.
Last season’s Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala is expected to carry the charge for the Archers along with Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero and Andrei Caracut.
But the Cameroonian big man will not be able play for the first two games of the Taft-based squad as he will be suiting up for his national team in the Afrobasket 2017.
Adamson tactician Franz Pumaren, for his part, downplayed the praises for the Soaring Falcons.
“There’s no assured win for us this season. Any given playdate will be tough. Everybody’s well-prepared and well-coached,” said Pumaren.
Aside from last season’s top four, coaches are also wary of the much-improved University of the Philippines.
However, the State U’s starting center Ibrahim Quattara and forward Rob Ricafort were ruled ineligible to play this season along with University of Sto. Tomas’ Steve Akomo.
Quattara and Akomo failed to comply with residency requirements.
Hostilities in the UAAP basketball tournament begin on Saturday with National U and University of the East set to battle in the season-opening game at 2 p.m. while Ateneo and Adamson collide at 4 p.m.