The NCAA will commence its 99th season with the opening ceremonies on Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The opening of Season 99 marks the return of the NCAA Seniors Basketball Tournament to the SM Mall of Asia Arena for the first time in nearly four years.
The last NCAA Basketball event held in this world-class arena was the Game 3 Finals thriller between Colegio de San Juan de Letran and San Beda University back in Season 85.
That battle saw the Knights successfully tame the then three-time defending champs who had gone 18-0 in the elimination rounds, narrowly securing an 81-79 win.
While the last NCAA matchup in the SM Mall of Asia Arena signaled the end of San Beda’s four-peat bid, the league’s return this Sunday marks the beginning of Letran’s own journey for four straight crowns – a journey that began with that momentous upset almost four years ago.
The opening ceremonies will precede a much-anticipated clash between the newly revamped three-time defending champion Letran and the host school, Jose Rizal University, at 3:00 PM.
“For Sunday, expect the JRU Heavy Bombers, and I hope also the Letran Knights, will set the tone for season 99. It’s going to be be competitive; its going to be exciting. Yun yung tinitingnan namin, ” said JRU coach Louie Gonzales.
The afternoon will end with a bout between two Season 98 final four finishers from last season: Lyceum of the Philippines University and De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde.
Lyceum Pirates’ coach Gilbert Malabanan shared that his squad has extra motivation heading into the first matchup due to the difficulties they faced against Benilde in the previous season.
“Last year never kami nanalo sa Benilde kaya masyadong excited yung mga players ko,” said Malabanan.
To the Pirates’ advantage, the Blazers are expected to play without the services of NCAA Season 98 Most Valuable Player Will Gozum, as the Blazers’ star big man was suspended for one game after landing a headbutt on Letran’s Pao Javillonar in their finals encounter last season.