TWO NCAA heavyweights hope to keep their lofty perches in the standings as they take on separate foes on Saturday at the start of the second round of the men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
League leader Letran faces slumping Mapua at 4 p.m., before second-running San Beda tangles with upset-conscious Lyceum two hours later.
The Knights have been a cut above the rest of the 10-team field after losing only once in their first nine games of the season.
Even after scoring a statement 74-67 victory over archrival San Beda to cap off a scintillating first half of the season, the Knights are not getting ahead of themselves.
“It was just the end of the first round,” Knights coach Caloy Garcia said, trying to down play what his team has so far achieved.
The Knights, though, remain huge favorites against the Cardinals, who are aching to snap out of a seven-game losing spell. One of those defeats was a 68-87 decision to Letran.
Playing their second game in three days is not also going to help the cause of the weary Cardinals, the league’s worst defensive team which bowed to Emilio Aguinaldo College, 80-89, last Thursday.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Lions are trying to avenge their shocking 66-70 loss to the Pirates in the first round.
“This will be a tough game,” Lions coach Boyet Fernandez said. “We have to be more aggressive and try to outwork LPU if we want to get back at them.”
A victory for the Lions, who sport a 7-2 win-loss card, will enable them to break a tie with resurgent University of Perpetual Help.
A logjam in seventh place with College of St. Benilde and Arellano will also be broken with a win by the Pirates, who tote a 3-6 record, similar to the Blazers and Chiefs.
Lyceum halted a five-game losing streak with a 60-55 victory over San Sebastian last Monday.