IN the eyes of coaches, San Beda remains the barometer by which all other schools will be measured for the upcoming NCAA Season 95 seniors basketball wars.
"Team to beat is really San Beda," said Perpetual coach Frankie Lim.
Arellano mentor Cholo Martin agreed, saying, "San Beda pa rin. May advantage pa rin sila from the rest of the field."
But compared to the past seasons, San Beda is not considered a lock to win the cup in its first season without Robert Bolick, with last year's runner-up Lyceum not far behind and San Sebastian and Letran looking to stake their claim to the title.
"Aside from San Beda, Lyceum pa rin 'yung mahirap na kalaban," said new Mapua coach Randy Alcantara.
"San Beda, Lyceum, Letran, and San Sebastian, yung apat talaga ang strong teams," added Emilio Aguinaldo College bench tactician Oliver Bunyi.
Golden Stags coach Egay Macaraya answered: "Lalo na yung Lyceum, sila yung mabigat namin na nakakalaban."
One thing's clear, though: it's an open race to the title with all 10 teams retooling for this season's campaign.
"Lahat naman, obviously, prepared well for the season," said Letran coach Bonnie Tan.
St. Benilde coach TY Tang agreed, noting: "The teams are pretty much well balanced this time."
"As much as San Beda is favored, you can't really disregard any one of the nine teams," said Jose Rizal University coach Louie Gonzalez.
Half of the league parted ways with their old mentors, with Letran, Mapua, Arellano, EAC, and JRU all making coaching changes.
"I'm excited to play against the new coaches," said Pirates mentor Topex Robinson. "Based on the preseason, everybody’s been really stepping up. One thing’s for sure, it’s gonna be an exciting season for us."
The new NCAA season opens this Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena, with a festive Filipiniana theme slated for the 12 noon opening ceremonies.
Lyceum and Letran renew their rivalry from last year's Final Four at 2 p.m., before San Beda takes on this year's hosts Arellano at 4 p.m.
The road to the championship, no doubt, still goes through the Red Lions
"Malakas ang mga teams, pero syempre, we’re out to defend the crown," said San Beda coach Boyet Fernandez.