While some perennial powerhouse squads chose not to go with foreign players, the University of Cebu and the University of Southern Philippines Foundation will be fielding in their own this season, a development that caught the attention of long-time league commissioner Felix Tiukinhoy.
“It will be a battle to the end. I also think that the teams with foreign players – the reigning champions University of the Visayas, the University of Cebu and the University of Southern Philippines Foundation – would be shoo-ins for the Final Four,” shared Tiukinhoy during the press launch on Friday.
UC, now being coached by local legend Yayoy Alcoseba, will be fielding in Frederick Elombi from Cameroon while USPF has Rich Managor from Nigeria.
Though UV is still pegged as the team to beat this season owing to a lineup that grew even deeper with quality recruit from in and around the region, coach Gary Cortes refused to let his wards rest on its laurels.
“We have a few more days to enjoy being champions. Come the Cesafi, we won’t be champions any more. It will be back to zero,” shared the muscled mentor of the Green Lancers.
The new season will open on August 5 with an explosive collegiate match-up between UC and SWU-Phinma.
Curiously, Alcoseba will be pitted against the team he previously led to two championships in five seasons.
“When the schedule came out, I was surprised to find out that we had to face my former team. But this isn’t the PBA, there aren’t any sister teams. So this will be interesting. SWU is already a powerhouse team while UC, how many years have we missed out on the Final Four?” said the charismatic head coach.
The Cesafi is implementing several changes to the tournament format, the biggest of which was the shift to a crossover semifinals where the top two will have twice-to-beat advantage.
The collegiate finals has also become a best-of-three affair, a departure from the best-of-five playoffs of recent years.
A team that manages to sweep the elimination round will head straight to the finals, relegating the other three teams in the semis to play a stepladder.