With two seats already taken by Ateneo de Manila University and Far Eastern University (FEU), the race for the remaining spots in the Final Four has become tougher in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 77 men’s basketball tournament.
But the road to the next round may become clearer right after today’s matches with defending champion De La Salle University taking on season host University of the East (UE) at 2 p.m. and National University (NU) facing last year’s runner-up University of Santo Tomas (UST) at 4 p.m.
Ateneo and FEU took the first Final Four berths by virtue of their 10-3 marks, leaving La Salle, NU and UE battling it out for the last tickets to the semifinals.
La Salle holds a 9-3 card at third while NU is in fourth with an 8-4 mark followed by UE with 7-5. UST (5-7), University of the Philippines (1-12) and Adamson University (0-13) are already out in the running.
If La Salle and NU win today, the Final Four cast will be completed with the Green Archers joining the Blue Eagles and the Tamaraws in the race for the coveted Top 2 spots. For starters, the top two teams after the double-round robin elimination will be given twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
For UE to make it to the Final Four, they must hurdle their last two assignments and hope that NU loses in its own last two games.
For the last four years, Ateneo (2010, 2011 and 2012), FEU (2010, 2011 and 2013), La Salle (2010, 2012 and 2013) and NU (2012 and 2013) were regulars in the Final Four scene while UE last made it to the semifinals in 2009 and eventually wound up second to the eventual champions Blue Eagles.
With the way the Red Warriors played in their two previous games, they are statistically capable of pulling off surprises that could boost their Final Four bid.
UE stunned erstwhile leader FEU on Sunday via a humiliating 94-71 win. It was a fitting follow up to their 64-55 demolition of NU last week—an average of 16-point winning margin against the league’s top teams.
“We’re still there [Final Four race]. We just have to take control of our destiny. One game at a time,” said UE head coach Derrick Pumaren.
Cameroonian Charles Mam-mie, prolific point guard Roi Sumang and Bong Galanza are expected to deliver for the Red Warriors, who are aiming to avenge their close 58-60 loss to the Green Archers in the first round.
La Salle, on the other hand, is carrying a two-game winning streak following victories over UST (67-60) and Adamson (66-57). Last season’s Finals Most Valuable Player Jeron Teng is still the main man of the Green Archers, scoring an average of 20.5 points in their last two games. Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins and Almond Vosotros are expected to provide solid backup.