TWO teams seek to sustain their rise in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as the race to the Final Four continues to heat up on Thursday at The Arena in San Juan.
Emilio Aguinaldo College and College of St. Benilde press their respective semifinal bids as they collide at 4 p.m., before another Final Four aspirant in Jose Rizal University takes on eliminated Mapua two hours later.
The Generals, who languished in the cellar in their first two years in the league, started to make heads turn last season and are now looking to upend the favorites, in fifth place with an even 7-7 win-loss card.
“Ngayon naniniwala na (ang ibang teams) na EAC can compete in this tournament,” Generals coach Gerry Esplana said. “Dati, hindi naman tayo pinapansin pero ngayon yung respeto, dahan-dahan napupunta sa atin
And unlike last season, where they had a scintillating second-round campaign but barely missed the playoffs, the Generals are in a better position for a breakthrough entry to the Final Four this year as a victory against the Blazers moves them only a half-game behind fourth-running San Sebastian.
“Our fate is in our hands,” said Esplana, whose team can also match their win total last season if they beat the Blazers.
Underachieving in the last decade since they captured the first and only championship in 2000, the Blazers, have likewise gone on a mini resurgence this year.
They are in seventh place at 5-8, but most of their losses were just two points or less.
Based on last season alone, the Blazers have definitely shone improvement, having already matched their number of wins last season when they finished next to last with a 5-13 mark.
The Bombers, tied with the Blazers in the standings, also seek to keep their semifinal hopes alive as they face the cellar-dwelling Cardinals, who seek to snap a 13-game losing streak.