Defending champion San Beda College and Letran College start their best-of-three showdown for the 89th NCAA basketball title at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Monday.
The Red Lions, who want to extend their run to four straight titles, face the Knights at 2:30 p.m.
The San Beda Red Cubs, who are looking for a fifth consecutive juniors crown, take on College of St. Benilde-LSGH at 12:30 p.m.
The Red Cubs enjoy a thrice-to-beat advantage after sweeping the double round robin elimination.
The Greenies are in the finals for only the second time in the last three years.
Coach Boyet Fernandez’ Red Lions earned a finals berth following an 85-58 thrashing of San Sebastian College last Thursday.
Not to be outdone, the Knights of coach Caloy Garcia leaned on a near triple-double performance of pro-bound Raymond Almazan to end University of Perpetual Help Altas’ hope with a 70-51 victory in the Final Four.
Both the Red Lions, who finished the elimination round with a 15-3 win-loss slate and the Knights, who wound up second with a 14-4 card, split their two meetings in the elims. Letran carved a 74-67 win in their first encounter on Aug. 24, but San Beda bounced back with a 76-72 triumph on Oct. 21.
Fernandez, who has won a PBA title with the now defunct Sta. Lucia Realty, expect a tough series, citing Letran’s massacre off the Stags in the semis.
“The results of the semis suggested a rout for the Knights over the Stags. That’s why we are worried, it’s not going to be easy. They have Almazan (Raymond), Mark Cruz as well as Kevin Racal, Jonathan Belorio, John Tambeting and Rey Nambatac. These players are veterans.”
“This is going to be a classic finale, I hope we will win in the end,” he added.
This year’s finals is a rematch of last year’s, which San Beda won, 2-1
The Red Lions are the winningest team in the NCAA with 18 titles.
Letran ranks second with 17.
“What I’m worried most is their fastbreak and their transition offense. This year, Letran is playing more like a team. So it’s really hard to beat a team like that because we can not just focus on one player. Their other players are also equally good and shooting well,” added Fernandez.
Letran last won an NCAA championship in 2005.
“We are not going to allow a repetition of last year’s Finals. We wanted now to get even,” said Almazan, the third overall pick by Rain or Shine in the recent PBA rookie draft.