UAAP: Coaches pick Ateneo, NU as teams to beat-A A +A
Monday, July 9, 2012
BASKETBALL mentors in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) arrived at a consensus Monday that defending champion Ateneo de Manila and vastly improved National University are the teams to reckon with in the upcoming 75th season.
University of the Philippines coach Ricky Dandan easily picked the two schools to slug it out for supremacy but that does not mean the six remaining teams will be left out in the cold.
"I think the rest of the teams will have something to say about that," he said in a briefing.
Ateneo is gunning for a fifth consecutive men's title while NU, whose sports program has been beefed up in recent years by the country’s richest man Henry Sy, is eyeing to end its 58-year championship drought.
The UAAP, currently celebrating its diamond year since its inception in 1938, kicks off on Saturday at the UAAP's new game venue Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The opening game pits season host NU and University of the East, while University of Santo Tomas takes on Far Eastern University in the other match.
The next day, it is Ateneo's turn to get back at Adamson, which denied the Eagles the chance to sweep the 14-game eliminations for an automatic finals berth in 2011. La Salle squares off with UP in the curtain raiser.
In its drive for five, Ateneo mentor Norman Black said the road to the ultimate prize would be difficult with the triumvirate of Nico Salva, Kiefer Ravena, and Cebuano bigman Greg Slaughter expected to step up.
"Our perimeter defense will be tested this year and I expect every game to be very tough," he said.
After winning the Filoil pre-season tournament last month, NU was easily installed as a pre-season favorite but that will not matter to coach Eric Altamirano if they will not be able to meet a “modest goal”.
"Our modest goal is to get into the Final Four. At this point, all we want is to prepare one game at a time, and be relaxed and not put too much pressure on ourselves. But it will be nice for the community and the school to achieve that feat (championship)," he said.
Gee Abanilla, who took over the La Salle bench from Dindo Pumaren following a disappointing sixth place finish last year, also saw archrival Ateneo and NU as top-seeded squads.
"Our immediate goal is to enter the Final Four. If we can do that, we will be very happy. I'm just happy that we are improving as a team, as an individual and bring honor to the school," he said as the squad set to lean on key acquisition Jeron Teng, veteran guard LA Revilla and starting center Norbert Torres.
UE lead tactician Jerry Codiñera declined to offer a prediction as to which teams will enter the semifinals this year. He said they will only focus their energies in winning each game.
"We will continue to go out there fighting, one game at a time. I just want to motivate my players to the best of my ability," he said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)