Red Lions start title defense vs Stags
Defending champion San Beda seeks to live up to its top pre-season billing as it clashes with a vastly-improved San Sebastian even as last year’s runner-up Arellano U tackles an Allwell Oraeme-less Mapua tomorrow at the start of the 93rd NCAA basketball tournament at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
The Red Lions have kept the core of the team that swept the Arellano U Chiefs last season and adding a pair of talented transferees and topped the super strong Premier Cup last month to emerge as the early favorite to repeat this year.
Robert Bolick have emerged the team’s unquestioned leader after a strong pre-season performance while Jayvee Mocon, Jomari Presbitero, Ben Adamos, AC Soberano, Davon Potts and Cameroonians Arnauh Noah and Donald Tankoua should provide steady presence.
San Beda has also tapped Clint Doliguez and 6-8 Kenmark Carino, who came from Ateneo, to beef up an already formidable roster.
While San Beda returnee coach Boyet Fernandez accepted the tag as the team to beat, he was wary of the pressure that comes with it.
“We’re thankful to the teams who think of us as the favorites but I think it will be added pressure for us,” said Fernandez, who steered the Lions to the 2013 and 2014 NCAA titles before he coached NLEX in the PBA for a couple of years.
San Beda will tackle a San Sebastian squad that has shown mark improvment following a quarterfinal finish in the Premier Cup.
They collide at 2 p.m.
The emergence of Michael Calisaan, who is back in full strength after missing the early part of last season due to a motorcycle accident, was one key part of the Stags sudden resurgence.
“You will see a different Calisaan this year,” said San Sebastian mentor Egay Macaraya.
Arellano U is expected to rely heavily on the pair of Kent Salado and Lervin Flores with leader Jio Jalalon leaving to turn pro when it faces off with Mapua, who will be minus back-to-back league MVP Oraeme (missing in action) and Shane Menina (transferred to National U).
The Chiefs and Cardinals collide at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, league president and Policy Board chair Fr. Nemesio Tolentin, OAR will usher in Season 93 by honoring two alumni each from all 10 participating schools including San Sebastian’s Rommel Adducul and Calvin Abueva starting at 12 noon.
Management Committee chair Fr. Glyn Ortega, OAR, of San Sebastian said “NCAA on Tour” will be held every Thursday in six schools while there will be three seniors games each on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Ortega said they are also introducing 3×3 basketball as a special event and possibly futsal in the second semester of the school year.
Arturo “Bai” Cristobal is the league commissioner while Atty. Rebo Saguisag is his deputy.