THREE teams in the middle of the pack press their respective Final Four bids when they see action on Thursday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Letran takes on also-ran Lyceum in the 4 p.m. opener before the two other semifinal aspirants in Mapua and Arellano University square off two hours later.
Of the three, the Knights obviously have the lighter assignments in their next two outings as they face a pair of teams in the bottom half of the standings. After the Pirates, they take on College of St. Benilde Blazers next.
But Letran coach Louie Alas refused to label the Knights’ next two opponents as easy, noting they won a `close’ game against the Pirates in the first round, 70-60, but lost to the Blazers, 60-77.
“Actually it’s not a light (schedule). It will be tough,” said Alas, whose boys are behind Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help in the standings. The Bombers and Altas are knotted at third place with 8-4 slates.
The 6-6 Knights, though, remain heavy favorites against the Pirates as they aim to bounce back from a 62-68 loss to archrival San Beda last Saturday.
A more balanced pairing looms in the 6 p.m. main game.
The 5-7 Cardinals have the slight edge over the Chiefs owing to their convincing 68-49 win over Arellano on the final day of the first round elimination.
Jonathan Banal, son of Arellano coach Koy, factored heavily in the Cardinals’ first-round win as the former Rookie of the Year fired 16 points, including four threes.
The elder Banal is again setting aside familial ties as he seeks to steer his team to a fifth win in 13 games, banking on prolific guards Rocky Acidre, Nard Pinto, and Filipino-Canadian James Forrester.