A pair of explosive matches will highlight the opening day of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 93 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Defending champion San Beda College collide with host San Sebastian College-Recoletos in the opener at 2 p.m. while dark horse teams Mapua Institute of Technology and last year’s runner-up Arellano University will clash at 4 p.m.
Opening ceremonies start at 12 noon.
Powered by last season’s finals Most Valuable Player Arnaud Noah and veteran players Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, the Red Lions are tagged as the team to beat this season.
With a crown to defend, the Red Lions exude strength and determination going into this year’s NCAA. They recently ruled the 2017 Filoil Flying V Preseason Tournament, beating reigning University Athletic Association of the Philippines titlist De La Salle University in the finals.
Besides an intact lineup, veteran tactician Boyet Fernandez is back in action to bring a fresh perspective to the squad.
“I believe this team can win back-to-back. It’s our goal to win a championship. But it’s going to be tough because other teams are getting stronger. This will be a very good season this year. All the other teams are competitive,” said Fernandez.
Bolick, who made his presence felt in the Premier Cup by being one of the key players that helped the team win the crown, will be leading the Red Lions along with Davon Potts, Jose Presbitero, Ben Adamos, AC Soberano and Radge Tongco.
San Beda will also rely on Noah and his fellow Cameroonian Donald Tankoua as well as talented rookie transferees Clint Doliguez and 6-foot-8 Kenmark Cariño.
The Red Lions are aiming for their 22nd title overall living up to their name as the winningest team in the league.
Fernandez named Lyceum of the Philippines, San Sebastian Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Mapua and University of Perpetual Help System Dalta as biggest threat to their title-retention bid.
Lyceum finished third in the Premier Cup while San Sebastian reached the quarterfinals.
EMIL C. NOGUERA