Coaches are one in saying that competition in the basketball tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association is more balanced and evenly matched in the coming 98th season, even as Letran, as defending champion, remains the focus of everyone’s attention.
Coach Cholo Martin of Arellano University said it’s “anybody’s ballgame” because the teams’ rosters are almost the same as the last season’s.
“You’ll be surprised,” he said during the media launch on Monday.
College of St. Benilde’s Charles Tiu agreed that all teams have become “contenders.”
That’s because of the long preparation in the off-season, according to coaches Louie Gonzales of Jose Rizal College and Gilbert Malabanan of Lyceum.
“Tumaas talaga ang level of competition,” said Gonzales.
From the words of coach Mike Saguiguit of Perpetual Help, “the ball is up. Lahat ‘yan may chance umangat.”
Coach Oliver Bunyi downgraded his Emilio Aguinaldo College team’s chances, though, on paper, but Mapua’s Randy Alcantara mentioned the Generals as among those who could pull off a surprise.
The EAC Generals will be pitted against the Arellano University Chiefs, while Mapua takes on the San Beda Red Lions in the other game on Saturday’s star-studded opening.
“Parehas, lahat naman makakalaban, ganu’n pa din pagbabago, little adjustments lang,” said Martin.
Tournament commissioner Tonichi Pujante also revealed that the coming season will start adopting FIBA rules.
He said that he will meet with the coaches before the tournament opening.
Pujante also stressed that violence has no place in the league.
“Heavy sanctions await misbehaving players,” he added.
GMA Network will cover the opening live at the Araneta Coliseum and simulcast at 2:30 p.m. on GMA and GTV.