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Mapua the slight favorite as coaches see ‘free-for-all’ NCAA 98


Less than a week before the 98th season of the NCAA begins, the league’s head coaches spilled their take on who is the team to beat in the upcoming tourney during the NCAA Media Launch on Monday at Novotel in Cubao, Quezon City.

The teams that were mentioned the most as the top contenders are defending champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran, first runner-up Mapua University, and San Beda University.

Despite getting recognition from most of the coaches, Knights head tactician Bonnie Tan is still keeping an eye on a few teams – mainly St. Benilde, San Beda, San Sebastian, and their finals opponent Mapua.

“Lahat ng teams ay lumakas at lumaki. So para sa’kin, masabi ko is nandyan pa rin yung Beda, Mapua, CSB. and Baste,” said the two-time NCAA champion coach, who steered the Knights to a clean 12-0 sweep of Season 97.

Interestingly, among the teams Tan mentioned, only San Beda and Mapua reached the Final Four last season.

Meanwhile, Cardinals head coach Randy Alcantara opted to pick under-the-radar Emilio Aguinaldo College and Lyceum of the Philippines University.

According to Alcantara, these two teams have a good chance to shock everyone this season.

“Ayun yung mga tahimik na team. Pero pagdating ng NCAA, baka magulat tayo diyan,” said Mapua’s head coach.

For newly appointed San Beda University head coach Yuri Escueta and College of St. Benilde’s Coach Charles Tiu, it is also the champions and the runner-up Letran and Mapua.

“Siyempre yung defending champion, yung Letran. Mapua, yung first runner-up,” said Escueta, while also giving credit to San Sebastian and St. Benilde.

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“Para sa’kin favorites pa rin ang Letran, Mapua. Buo pa rin sila. Of course, Letran kasi kahit nawala si [Rhenz] Abando and [Jeo] Ambohot, pero malalim pa rin yung team nila. And of course yung San Beda with Coach Yuri, there will be improvement din siyempre. Sila pa din ang favorites for me,” added Tiu

EAC head coach Oliver Bunyi, meanwhile, commended the winning cultures of San Beda, Letran, San Sebastian, and St. Benilde as he wishes to join them this season.

“Letran, San Beda, CSB, and San Sebastian.

“Lahat sila I think already have winning culture among the ten teams, kami na lang siguro hindi. So I hope we will compete much better this year,” said Bunyi as the Generals missed last season’s play-in by a game.

For Jose Rizal University head coach Louie Gonzalez the top dogs are rivals Letran and San Beda, while also adding the Cardinals and the Golden Stags in his top four.

San Sebastian’s Egay Macaraya, on the other hand, made an interesting pick with Perpetual.

Meanwhile, University of Perpetual Help System DALTA, Lyceum of the Philippines University, and Arellano University believe that this season is a free-for-all.

Lyceum’s Gilbert Malabanan believes that enough preparation time for this season, boosted the chance of other teams to compete with the favorites Letran and Mapua, while Perpetual’s Myk Saguiguit said that all teams are on their radar.

Arellano’s head coach Cholo Martin based his take on the recently concluded FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup were no teams really stood out.

“For this Season 98, it’s anybody’s ball game.

“Basing sa previous game sa FilOil parehas lang. Parehas lang ang mga line-up. Walang outstanding, walang one, two. Even-steven tong mga line-up namin. Kaya walang favorite like nung Season 97 alam mo na agad na Letran. But basing dun sa FilOil games wala, walang favorite. You’ll be surprised,” said Martin.

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The Tally

NCAA-Season-98-Captains Mapua the slight favorite as coaches see 'free-for-all' NCAA 98 AU Basketball CSB CSJL EAC JRU LPU MIT NCAA News SBC SSC-R UPHSD  - philippine sports news

Among the 10 teams, Mapua was picked the most by the coaches with six, followed by the back-to-back champions Letran with five. San Beda and San Sebastian were both selected four times. St. Benilde was picked three times, while the host school EAC was chosen twice. Lyceum and Perpetual were both chosen once.

Top Dogs

NCAA-97-MU-VS-SBU-HERNANDEZ-3 Mapua the slight favorite as coaches see 'free-for-all' NCAA 98 AU Basketball CSB CSJL EAC JRU LPU MIT NCAA News SBC SSC-R UPHSD  - philippine sports news

Based on the coach’s opinion, Mapua is the top contender for this season which is understandable since the Cardinals kept their core in the coming season.

NCAA Season 97’s runner-up also had a promising preseason campaign in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup as they finished second while also gaining experience from their guest players Juan Gomez de Liano, Jollo Go, and Kenmark Carino.

On the other side of the coin, both Letran and San Beda lost their respective key players during the preseason.

Despite being the defending champions, the Knights were only second as they somewhat downgraded as they took a huge blow after losing their rookie-MVP Rhenz Abando sign with Anyang KGC in the KBL and Finals MVP Jeo Ambohot, who is now playing in the PBA.

San Beda, meanwhile, will not have key players Rhayyan Ahmsali – who decided to skip the season to reconnect with his faith – and JV Gallego, who underwent season-ending knee surgery.

Up and Comers

FOEO-MBB-Lorenzo-Navarro-2-scaled Mapua the slight favorite as coaches see 'free-for-all' NCAA 98 AU Basketball CSB CSJL EAC JRU LPU MIT NCAA News SBC SSC-R UPHSD  - philippine sports news

San Sebastian, Lyceum, St. Benilde, and EAC all had impressive preseason campaigns in the FilOil EcoOil cup with three of the four reaching the quarterfinals.

With Baste beating the likes of Letran, San Beda, and JRU in FilOil, and Ichie Altamirano coming back from his injury last season, the Stags look to be stronger than ever.

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Lyceum. meanwhile, had the best finish among the NCAA teams in the preseason as Renzo Navarro embraced his leadership role. Both St. Benilde and Perpetual will try to one-up their previous NCAA campaign.

And of course, the Generals will surely look to impress in their first-ever hosting season.

NCAA Season 98 opens on Saturday, 12:00 NN at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Written By

Writer. Letranite. Basketball nerd and a life-long Los Angeles Lakers fan. My love for sports brought me here.


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