ALL eyes will be on Ateneo once the UAAP Season 81 Men's basketball tournament begins on Saturday with the defending champion entering as favorite if rival coaches are to be asked.
With Ateneo fielding an intact roster and a wealth of experience gained in the preseason, teams will be chasing after the Blue Eagles who've set the bar high under the tutelage of Tab Baldwin.
"Everyone has a fair chance. But the one with the best chance diyan is Ateneo," said FEU coach Olsen Racela.
"With the way they played in the preseason. I'd be surprised if they lost a game in the eliminations," he added.
Rookie head coach Joe Silva has the same assessment.
"Of course Ateneo's the champions for a reason. It's Ateneo and everyone else," said Silva.
But make no mistake about it, teams simply wont hand the crown to Ateneo that easily.
"Our overall gaoal is to win a championship but we have to do the little details in between to give us the opportunity to be in that place, said Adamson assistant Don Allado.
New La Salle coach Louie Gonzalez shared the same sentiment.
"Ganado na kami. Naayos na kailangan namin gawin para maghanda. Lima ang gagraduate sa amin. Excited na lahat sa kupunan namin to play for those five players," he said.
One team expected to challenge Ateneo this season is University of the Philippines and Bo Perasol is definitely shooting for the stars this season.
"We can always say we dare to dream that we'll be able to compete against those stronger programs. This season is going to be a testament to the effort we've put in to our program," said Perasol
For Baldwin, he just can't wait for the season to begin knowing that every team has prepared as hard as them.
"It's been a long offseason, I know teams have worked hard. We're looking forward to it. If all of us have worked hard all-year long then we're all looking forward to this," said Baldwin.
"For our team, this is about what we talk about all the time. respect the game, respect the opponents. God willing we stay healthy and continue to work hard. There’s no guarantees," he added.