Fancied Lions, Pirates kick off NCAA 94 title hunt

Fancied Lions, Pirates kick off NCAA 94 title hunt

San Beda Red Lions' Rober Bolick gestures to his teammates during Game 1 of the NCAA Season 93 men's basketball final at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum | Contributed Photo

Games Saturday
(MOA Arena, Pasay)
12 p.m. – Opening Ceremony
2 p.m. – San Beda vs Perpetual Help (srs)
4 p.m. – LPU vs San Sebastian (srs)
MANILA, Philippines – Pre-season favorites San Beda and Lyceum of the Philippines University seek to jumpstart their title bid as they take on dangerous Perpetual Help and San Sebastian, respectively, on Saturday at the start of the 94th NCAA basketball tournament at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

Tipped as the teams to beat after retaining the core of their rosters last season and picking up some key acquisitions, the Lions will open hostilities against the Altas at 2 p.m. while the Pirates clash with the Stags on the only other opening day offering at 4 p.m.

It will be preceded by an expectedly entertaining production number prepared by host Perpetual Help and centered on this year’s theme “NCAA Season 94: UnParalleled Heights in Sports Development” set at 12 p.m.

San Beda, which is seeking a third straight title and 10th in the last 12 years, has kept the same line up that swept LPU in the finals in two games headed by Finals MVP Donald Tankoua of Cameroon, Robert Bolick, Javee Mocon, Clint Doliguez, AC Soberano, Franz Abuda and Jose Mari Presbitero while adding blue-chip rookie Evan Nelle and 6-9 Nigerian Toba Eugene.

LPU, which swept the eliminations in 18 games only to get blanked in the finale, for its part, will parade almost exactly the same roster that include reigning MVP Jaymar Perez, Cameroon’s Mike Nzeusseu, MJ Ayaay and twins Jayvee and Jaycee Marcelino while unveiling Rhanzelle Yong, a transferee from San Sebastian.

These earned them praise from the opposing coaches.

San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez, however, said all the preseason hype is only on paper.

“At the end of the day, we still have to play and show if we are worthy of it. The tournament is long and anything can happen,” said Fernandez, whose charges finished in the Filoil Pre-Season Cup behind Ateneo to emerge the best NCAA team.

LPU mentor Topex Robinson agrees.

“Although we’re thankful about how people think of us, we still have to put in the work because championships are won by actions, not words,” he said.

Perpetual Help will parade a new coach in Frankie Lim, who will be coaching against his former team he helped win two titles as a player in the late 70s and steered to four championships as a coach more than a decade ago.

“Nothing personal, we’re just here to compete and make our boss Antonio ‘Tony’ Tamayo and the whole Perpetual Help community proud,” said Lim, who is expected to rely heavily on 6-10 Nigerian Prince Eze with the old faces gone.

The Egay Macaraya-mentored Stags will pin their hopes on Michael Calisaan, Allyn Bulanadi, RK Ilagan, Alvin Capobres and JM Calma, who are all remnants from last year’s squad.

Juniors action, meanwhile, will unfold Sunday with San Beda facing off Perpetual Help and LPU battling San Sebastian at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

NCAA president Anthony Tamayo of Season 94 host Perpetual Help bared the schedule of the “NCAA on Tour” set on July 12 at the Jose Rizal Gym, on July 19 at the Arellano U Gym, on July 26 at the Emilio Aguinaldo Gym, August 2 at the Letran-Calamba Gym, and on August 9 at the Perpetual Help Gym.

“For the second straight year, we will be bringing our NCAA games straight to the students with our “NCAA on Tour,” said Tamayo.

Arturo “Bai” Cristobal will be league commissioner and will tap a new set of referees also officiating in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.