THE NCAA Season 94 is upon us and after months of preparation, teams are eager to play in the country's oldest collegiate league.
San Beda and Lyceum are still the heavy favorites coming into the tournament, but teams like Letran, College of St. Benilde and San Sebastian are all expected to compete as well. So where does your school rank heading into tip-off?
SPIN.PH gives you its fearless forecast.
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: Champion, as Zark’s Burger-LPU (7-4, 6th)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 7th (3-5 in Group B)
Smart City Hoops U-25: 5th
Milcu Got Skills Summer Showcase: Champion
Overseas Training: United States (Perez and Ayaay)
Projected Finish: 1st
As much as it’s almost a crime not to have San Beda on top of the preseason list, it’s almost unfair to set aside the progress that the Lyceum Pirates made over the preseason.
Immediately after losing to the Red Lions in the finals, Lyceum racked up titles left and right, highlighted by its run in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) and in the PBA D-League as Zark’s Burger.
With championship experience now and an intact line-up led by the US-honed pair of CJ Perez and MJ Ayaay, this might just well be the year that the Pirates finally win one.
SAN BEDA RED LIONS
Offseason: Filoil Preseason Cup: Runner-up (7-2 in Group A)
Fr. Martin Cup Summer Tournament: Champion
Overseas Training: Dubai, United States
Projected Finish: 2nd
There are a few sure things when it comes to NCAA basketball – and San Beda contending for the title is one of them.
That’s just a testament to the culture that the Red Lions have built throughout the decade, something that coach Boyet Fernandez sure knows a lot about.
Fernandez, gunning for his fourth title in as many tries with the Red Lions, will be having the clutch genes of UAAP–NCAA Press Corps Player of the Year Robert Bolick at his disposal alongside an able supporting cast around him.
The depth of the Red Lions will be their main weapon this season and their ability to find ways to win will always be the most overlooked aspect of this team.
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: 7th, as Wangs Basketball-Letran (6-5 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: Quarterfinals (5-3 in Group B)
Smart City Hoops U-25: 4th
Milcu Got Skills Showcase Showcase: Runner-up
Fr. Martin Cup Summer Tournament: Runner-up
Projected Finish: 3rd
Three years removed from a magical and improbable run to the NCAA title, the spotlight is back on Letran.
Letran is the ultimate darkhorse heading into the season as it comes in with a formidable core of veterans and a slew of solid transferees. The core of the Knights – led by Bong Quinto, JP Calvo and Jerrick Balanza – have experience of winning in the finals - something only a few players can claim this season.
Up front, the Knights are probably one of the tallest teams with Larry Muyang (6’7), Jeo Ambohot (6’6) and Christian Fajarito (6’5) manning the paint. The arrival of Bonbon Batiller and Fran Yu also made them one of the deepest squads.
Will this be the year that Jeff Napa brings his success from high school to college? With a lineup like this and a will to win it all, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: 8th, as Go for Gold-CSB (5-6 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 4th (7-1 in Group B)
Smart City Hoops U-25: 6th
Projected Finish: 4th
College of St. Benilde has done everything in the preseason to make sure that it forms a competitive line-up entering the NCAA Season 94. Now it’s all about turning all these into tangible success.
With TY Tang now in his second year, the youthful head coach has finally found his identity as a coach and he’s starting to leave his imprint on his team.
A stint in the D-League and an impressive run in the Filoil Flying V Tournament put the Blazers on everyone’s radar and for a good reason. With a young, hungry squad led by Clement Leutcheu, Yankie Haruna and newcomer Justin Gutang, don’t be surprised if the Blazers make a run to the Final Four this year.
SAN SEBASTIAN GOLDEN STAGS
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: Runner-up, as Che’Lu-San Sebastian (7-4 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 5th (4-4 in Group B)
Projected Finish: 5th
Had it not been for a mass exodus which had five players from their main team leave during the preseason, the San Sebastian Stags would have been a whole lot higher in this rankings.
But exodus or no exodus, the Stags are still a squad that shouldn’t be taken lightly particularly with the veteran players they have at their disposal.
Michael Calisaan and Allyn Bulanadi forms a dangerous one-two tandem that give opposing squads problems. Coach Egay Macaraya is also no stranger to forming winning squads, and that’s why San Sebastian shouldn’t be taken lightly this season.
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: 9th (3-8 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 9th (2-7 in Group A)
Projected Finish: 6th
When Frankie Lim agreed to handle Perpetual Help, you knew exactly what he’s gonna bring to the table. Toughness and a whole lot of championship pedigree.
A four-time NCAA champion with San Beda, Lim looks to bring that culture to the Altas – a team that has never tasted a championship in its history.
That certainly won’t happen this season, but expect to see positive changes for the team with Lim at the helm.
Offseason: Filoil Preseason Cup: 6th (4-5 in Group A)
Projected Finish: 7th
The Mapua Cardinals won’t be struggling the same way that they did last season, and there might be a reason for optimism with the arrival of Warren Bonifacio to join Christian Bunag of the frontcourt. A run to the Final Four however, seems far-fetched as the Cardinals continue to search for identity in the post-Allwell Oraeme era.
For coach Atoy Co, preparation will definitely be key but his veterans in Bunag, Laurenz Victoria and Exie Biteng will need to have a breakout season if they want a return trip to the semifinals.
JRU HEAVY BOMBERS
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: 11th (2-9 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 9th (0-8 in Group B)
Projected Finish: 8th
Even coach Vergel Meneses will admit that they are now in the process of rebuilding – something that they’ve held off doing for the past few years.
But with the departure of several key players – and with no foreign reinforcement to back them – the Heavy Bombers suddenly find themselves scrambling for options heading to Season 94.
Jed Mendoza and MJ Dela Virgen will look to pick up the cudgels as Meneses looks to continue to showcase his magic as they try to turn heads heading in the season.
Offseason: Filoil Preseason Cup: 6th (3-5 in Group B)
Milcu Got Skills Summer Showcase: T-5th (5-4)
Projected Finish: 9th
Over the past few years, Arellano has made the finals twice and has been a staple among contenders. But with Kent Salado out for the season due to an ACL injury, just how far can the Chiefs go this time?
Coach Jerry Codinera will now be banking on veterans Michael Canete, Levi dela Cruz and Rence Alcoriza to carry the Chiefs while hoping that super rookie Guillmer Dela Torres gets a feel of college-level basketball quickly.
The Chiefs, and their high-octane offense and relentless trapping defense, will still be fun to watch but will that translate to wins? Only one way to find out.
Offseason: D-League Aspirants’ Cup: 10th, as Batangas-EAC (2-9 in eliminations)
Filoil Preseason Cup: 10th (0-9 in Group A)
Projected Finish: 10th
With guys like Sydney Onwubere and Francis Munsayac at the helm last season, Emilio Aguinaldo College still ended the season with a respectable record of 7-11, even with Hamadou Laminou hampered with an injury.
Now Laminou is back and the problem that coach Ariel Sison will be facing is how surrounding Laminou with the support that he needs.
Jerome Garcia and Juju Bautista are two players expected to step-up this season but even if the two plays well, it’s hard seeing the Generals making a run to the Final Four.
It’s always pleasant to be proven wrong though, and if Sison pulls off something this year, then this definitely won’t be his last season with the Generals.