THIRTY-TWO high school teams are set to see action in a reformatted SM-National Basketball Training Center League, with half of the field already given their place on the brackets and 16 other teams to play in a seeding tournament before the knockout rounds.
The Mall of Asia Arena will be the main venue of the tournament, with matches also set at the Cuneta Astrodome and Palm Coast Marina.
Seeded No. 1 to 8 are UAAP champion Ateneo, NCAA titlist La Salle Greenhills, MMBL titlist Chiang Kai Shek College, NBTC-Cebu champion University of Visayas, UAAP runner-up National University, and NCAA second placer, last year’s NBTC Division 1 champion San Beda and Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu.
Ranked 17th to 24th are last year’s NBTC Division 2 champion Assumption Montessori School, Lyceum-Cavite, Assumption College of Davao, De La Salle Lipa, Notre Dame of Midsayap, University of Baguio, Hercor College of Roxas and St. Benilde International School-Laguna.
The 11th NBTC season begins with a seeding round on Sunday at the One E-Com Center Building gym where seeds 9 to 16 and 25 to 32 will be determined.
International teams Durham Crossover Canada, Filam Sports USA, AusPinoy Australia and Camp David New Zealand battle wildcard teams Letran, Hope Christian High School, Adamson and San Sebastian for seeds ninth to 16th.
Playing for the 25th to 32nd spots are Letran Bataan, Bacolod Tay Tung High School, Sheperdville National High School Naga, New Ormoc City National High School, SLS-Don Bosco Dumaguete, St. Columban College Pagadian, University of Luzon Dagupan and University of Assumption San Fernando.
“This is a new format,” said SM-NBTC founder Eric Altamirano during the league’s press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena. “It’s not really new because we just patterned it after the US NCAA March Madness.”
“Basically, it’s also a national finals in March that is why we called it Madness in MOA. Because the program is really growing, it’s about time to come up with this format,” Altamirano added.
The winners in the first round will move on to the next round until a Division 1 champion is determined. The losers of the first round of play will move to Division 2 where there will also be knockout matches with the last team standing being the champion.
“It brings a lot of excitement and anticipation. It also gives a good chance for small schools. Last year, the champions of Division 2 is a small school in Cagayan De Oro. It’s a Cinderella story kasi tinalo nila mga schools sa Manila. I hope that will happen again this year. I’m looking forward to a lot of new stories this year especially with the new format,” said Altamirano of the tournament that has Exped Charcoal Socks, Darlington, Freego, and Chooks To Go as co-presentors, Cherifer, Petron and Vivo as major sponsors.