NCAA coaches tabbed Arellano University as the team to beat in Season 92, which kicks off on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
With the Chiefs’ impressive run in the preseason, NCAA coaches see Arellano as the title favorites entering the new season, with defending champion Letran, San Beda, and Mapua also considered strong contenders this year.
“Impressive ‘yung finish nila. Arellano is the best team and the strongest contender,” said CSB coach Gabby Velasco during the league’s press conference on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Arellano took the Fr. Martin Cup, Got Skills, and a few pocket tournament crowns in the offseason, while adding a runner-up finish to De La Salle in the Filoil Cup.
Arellano coach Jerry Codinera played down the favorites tag but is embracing the confidence boost their strong showing in the preaseason has brought to the team heading into Season 92.
“Nafe-feel ko talaga na napakahirap manalo dahil kapag nananalo ka, you get praises. Pero siyempre, ganun talaga ‘yung buildup. Mahirap din naman kapag puro kami talo. At least nagkaroon ng positive outlook ‘yung team,” Codinera said.
Still, a few coaches are not counting out last season's finalists, Letran and San Beda, from the title race because of their championship experience.
The Knights underwent changes starting with a new coach in Jeff Napa, who replaced Aldin Ayo during the offseason, while last year's leaders Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal now play in the pros. But coaches think the Knights can still pull off some surprises despite their unimpressive preseason campaign.
“You can never count out Letran because they are the defending champion,” said San Beda coach Jamike Jarin. “They have a heart of a champion so they will always be there.”
“Nandoon pa ‘yung winning attitude nila. Madali na lang to pick up from there,” added Lyceum assistant coach Jeff Perlas, who was also once part of the National University coaching staff with Napa a few years ago.
Despite the departure of Baser Amer, Art Dela Cruz, and Ola Adeogun, the Red Lions also remain among Season 92's top contenders.
“I think the best two teams for me are Arellano and San Beda,” said Atoy Co, coach of the Mapua team that's also one of the top teams in the league mainly due to Season 91 rookie MVP Allwell Oraeme.
“Everytime you have a rookie MVP on your team, you are always a contender,” said Jarin.
Letran faces San Beda to open Season 92 at 2 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena before Mapua and Jose Rizal University take the floor at 4 p.m.
Arellano and Perpetual Help starts a Sunday tripleheader at 12 noon, while San Sebastian takes on College of Saint Benilde at 2 p.m. Emilio Aguinaldo College and Lyceum cap off the matches at 4 p.m.