LA SALLE remained the title favorites for UAAP Season 80, but a new challenger in Adamson is starting turn heads in the tournament which will officially kick off on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The defending champions might have lost many veterans including King Archer Jeron Teng, but second year head coach Aldin Ayo will still be coming in with a menacing line-up as they target their second straight title.
League MVP Ben Mbala will still be leading La Salle on both ends while Kib Montalbo, Ricci Rivero and Season 79 Rookie of the Year Aljun lMelecio keep the Green Archers a formidable team. Yet opposing coaches see a more competitive field in Season 80.
"Siyempre tama sila. Yung team na nag-champion from last year, ang La Salle ang team to beat," said UP head coach Bo Perasol.
"Pero again wala akong nakikitang isang team na bibilangin mo na panalo e. I really see this is going to be an exciting season," he added.
But it's not only La Salle that’s favored coming into the new season.
After a strong showing last season, the Falcons of coach Franz Pumaren are starting to look like real contenders and teams are starting to take notice.
The Falcons made a return to the Final Four last year, even making life difficult for the eventual champions La Salle in the semifinals.
With a basically intact line-up and some key recruits, Adamson will be entering the season as a team which could possibility dethrone the mighty Archers.
"The defending champions are still the team to beat but right now we're focused on Adamson," said Ateneo assistant Sandy Arespacochaga.
"They're a very strong team. Last year they were darkhorses, now they're no longer the darkhorses," he added.
The coaches of both schools, however, were quick to play down the tags of favorites and instead quickly noted the parity in the competition.
"Basically based on last season, all teams prepared hard," Pumaren said. "There's no assured wins this season. Everybody is well prepared, well coached. Yung preparation is longer than usual.”
"It's gonna be Ateneo, FEU, Adamson, NU... the rest. It's gonna be a hard season," Ayo added.