THE road to win two UAAP men’s basketball championships in one year begins for University of the Philippines.
After ending a 36-year title drought last May, the Fighting Maroons hope to end 2022 still on top as Season 85 kicks off today before an expected huge crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
UP sets in motion its title-retention drive against La Salle in a rematch of last season’s Final Four showdown at 4 p.m.
“They have a different confidence level right now,” said Green Archers coach Derrick Pumaren of the Fighting Maroons.
La Salle, which had an impressive preseason buildup highlighted by a PBA D-League title last month, is raring to duke it out with UP.
“I can guarantee that we will just play hard, we work hard, and we will compete to get a chance of winning that ballgame,” said Pumaren.
No doubt, the most-awaited match-up is between former high school teammates Carl Tamayo, one of the vital cogs in the Fighting Maroons’ championship run, and Kevin Quiambao, whose high basketball IQ will definitely boost the Green Archers.
Quiambao is a big plus to Taft-based squad’s bid to redeem from last season’s failure to reach the Finals, backing up holdovers Mike Phillips, Schonny Winston and Evan Nelle.
“We really prepared for them. La Salle is a very good team,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde.
The Fighting Maroons remain the yardstick this season, as Tamayo still has a solid supporting unit behind Season 84 Finals hero Joel Cagulangan, Xavier Lucero and Senegalese Malick Diouf to reach the summit.
Monteverde downplayed UP’s tag as one of the title favorites.
“Ganoon naman kami, every time we go to a season, we just take it na anuman ang dumating and face the challenge,” said Monteverde.
Adamson and University of Santo Tomas opens curtains for the new season at 2 p.m.
The Jerom Lastimosa-led Falcons will enter their showdown with the Growling Tigers clueless.
“We don’t have any idea on how they play under coach Bal (David),” said Adamson coach Nash Racela. “So, we will gonna be blind playing them this Saturday.”
Hoping to set aside the losses of Sherwin Concepcion and Bryan Santos, who were ineligible to play this season due to age, as well as Kean Baclaan, who after a scintillating preseason showing has moved to National University, UST will now rely on Nic Cabañero’s leadership to be competitive in the season opener.
“We will just try our best to win this game,” said Rodney Santos, one of David’s assistant coaches.
Action resumes tomorrow at the same Pasay venue, as Ateneo begins its redemption from last season’s Finals heartbreaker to UP against Far Eastern University at 4 p.m., right after NU and University of the East collide at 2 p.m.
The new season will actually open at 8 a.m. with the return of women’s basketball tournament, which was last played in 2019 and was not held in Season 84.