• The gift of college basketball

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    Jude P. Roque

    Jude P. Roque

    I will be writing mostly about basketball, which, to me, is one reason to thank God we’re alive.

    Surely, this time of year is an exciting time in the sport.

    For one, the Gilas Pilipinas national men’s team will be heading to Changsha in China in a few days to compete in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, where only the top team will advance to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    If you visit the FIBA Asia Championship page at FIBA.com, you will find the Philippines being ranked third in the Power Ranking behind defending champion Iran and host China.

    And by next month, the PBA will be opening a new season.

    But there is nothing more exciting to me than college basketball in the Philippines.

    It is where true passion and love for the game come to life.

    What’s even more amazing is that I think this year showcases the most talent we had seen in recent years.

    Kiefer Ravena, Scottie Thomp¬son, Art dela Cruz, Jeron Teng, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo, Jio Jalalon, Mark Cruz, Tey Teodoro, Jonathan Grey, Ed Daquioag, Mike Tolomia, Josan Nimes, Andrei Caracut, Ed Batiller, Gelo Alolino, Paolo Pontejos, Kevin Racal, Von Pessumal and Baser Amer are just some of the exceptional local talents in college basketball today who certainly make the games more exciting.

    Such talent boom has made the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas consider the possibility of reviving the cadet program for the next national team.

    This season has been particularly special in college basketball after seeing most of the NCAA and UAAP games.

    Both leagues seem to have unpredictability in their respective tournaments based on current performances of teams.

    For example, five-time defending NCAA champions San Beda Red Lions have looked vulnerable early in the season, having three losses already even as they still occupy top spot in the current standings.

    The Mapua Cardinals, cellar dwellers in the last two seasons, are on a six-game winning streak including triumphs over favored teams Perpetual Help, Jose Rizal, Arellano and Letran.

    The FEU Tamaraws, perceived to be the team to beat this UAAP season, bowed to the UST Growling Tigers in just their second game in the tournament.

    And the UP Fighting Maroons surprised many with wins over the UE Red Warriors and the La Salle Green Archers.

    On Saturday, defending titlist National University got its first win in four games at the expense of erstwhile unbeaten UST.

    The Ateneo Blue Eagles, after being bludgeoned by the Tams on opening day, posted three straight victories and the season has just begun.

    In the NCAA, the next couple of weeks will be crucial as six squads remain in contention for the Final Four—San Beda (11-3), Letran (11-4), Perpetual Help (10-4), Mapua (10-5), Arellano (10-5) and JRU (9-6).

    Particularly interesting will be the scheduled games this coming Friday when all six contenders will have crucial matches—San Beda versus Mapua, JRU versus Perpetual Help, and Letran versus Arellano.

    It is still a wide open race for these six schools for the last four slots, with the top two gaining twice-to-beat advantage in the semis.

    Since 2006, the Red Lions have always finished the elimination rounds at first place.

    But this year, they still have to face the dangerous San Sebastian Stags, streaking Mapua and their two first round tormentors Arellano Chiefs and Letran Knights.

    Will they still wrest the top spot at the end of the elims?

    Or will the Cardinals complete their reign of the second round with a victory over the defending champs?

    Which two teams will bow out of contention in the F4?

    Don’t miss the remaining NCAA and UAAP games. The plot thickens.

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