A limping San Beda Red Lions kick off their title retention drive against a rebuilding Arellano five Sunday in the lone seniors’ game of the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
Playing time will definitely come aplenty for rookies Francis Abarcar, Antonio Bonsubre, and Ritchie Villaruz, sophomores Yvan Ludovice and Dave Moralde, and the returning Art dela Cruz, as the six were the only ones left out of the champion’s badly-depleted roster.
Nine players - Rome dela Rosa, Jake Pascual, Anjo Caram, Baser Amer, Kyle Pascual, Jaypee Mendoza, Ryusei Koga, Melo Lim, and Nigerian import Ola Adeogun – have been barred from suiting up in the 2 p.m. game as they serve out the suspensions meted on them following their involvement in a brawl during a women’s volleyball match at the San Beda gym last December.
With the exception of Adeogun, the rest of the players were only suspended for a single game. The Nigerian, originally banned for a year, escaped with a reprieve as his suspension was reduced to just four games by the NCAA Policy Board.
That leaves rookie coach Ronnie Magsanoc to make do with a line-up of mostly third-stringers against the Chiefs.
“We have to make the necessary adjustments,” said Magsanoc. “What’s the expectation (this Sunday)? Laban lang.”
The Chiefs, definitely heavy-favorites over the Lions, will be spearheaded by PBA D-League campaigner Rocky Acidre, Prince Caperal, and Vergel Zulueta.
They will also parade a bevy of notable rookies in Filipino-Canadian James Forrester, Nard Pinto, Julius Cadavis, John Bangga, and Aldrin Lunas.
Koy Banal makes his debut at the helm for the Chiefs.
Action in juniors competitions also start Sunday with the San Beda Red Cubs likewise jumpstarting their title retention bid against the Arellano Braves in the opener of a heavy four-game bill that begins at 12 noon.
San Sebastian Staglets battle the Letran Squires at 4 p.m., before the Jose Rizal Light Bombers clash with the Mapua Red Robins at 6 p.m.