The defending champion San Beda Red Lions will play against an undermanned Lyceum Pirates when they start seeking their 21st seniors’ crown in the 94th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament tomorrow.
The Pirates will miss reigning Most Valuable Player CJ Perez in Game 1 of their best-of-three finals series at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Perez was suspended for his failure to inform the NCAA management committee of his intention to join 2018 Philippine Basketball Association rookie draft. It was learned that his agent reportedly made a mistake on the submission of his documents.
“It’s not over yet. We still have a title to defend against Lyceum. Hopefully, we can prepare well against them,” said Red Lions’ coach Boyet Fernndez after they ousted the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas, 83-72, Friday evening at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
The Pirates are expected to make major adjustments in their rotation without Perez, the 6’3” utility swingman, who averages 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.3 steals per game.
The NCAA’s Policy Board is set to meet to review Lyceum’s appeal and formalize its sanctions on Perez.
Without Perez, the team will remain focused on the task ahead, said Lyceum coach Topex Robinson.
Team captain MJ Ayaay is expected to take care of things on the floor without Perez.
Earlier, the La Salle Greenhills Greenies will start their second title defense against the Malayan Red Robins at 2 p.m.
The Greenies, led by 6’2” Inand Fornilos, RC Calimag and scoring machine Joel Cagulangan, pulled off a 97-71 swamping of the Jose Rizal University Light Bombers last week to arrange a best-of-three affair with the Red Robins.
The Red Robins, who drew a career-high performance of 27 points and 10 rebounds from Paolo Hernandez as they eliminated the San Beda Red Cubs, 75-67, are in their third straight championship appearance. They will be shooting for their second crown in three seasons.