SAN Beda and San Sebastian try to keep their momentum going heading into the second round of the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
The defending champions Lions take on the lowly Lyceum Pirates at 6 p.m., just after the Stags battle the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.
The Stags and Red Lions are tied on top of the standings with Jose Rizal University, all with 7-2 (win-loss) cards.
“We cannot celebrate just yet,” coach Ronnie Magsanoc said after his Lions scored a 65-43 blowout of archrival Letran in their last game of the first round on Thursday.
The rookie mentor said one thing he hopes his young team would improve on is its toughness, adding, “lalo na sa mental side kasi most of the players were not [part of] the core of last year.”
Jake Pascual, Kyle Pascual, Rome dela Rosa, Anjo Caram and Baser Amer have already showed what they’re made of after figuring prominently in the Lions’ successful title retention last season.
But Magsanoc is looking at his other players like Melo Lim, Ola Adeogun, Arthur dela Cruz, and Ryusei Koga.
“The sooner they get used to the limelight, the better for us,” said the San Beda coach.
The Lions and the cellar-dwelling Pirates may be at opposite ends of the standings, but Lyceum’s capable wingmen in Rich Guevarra and Chris Cayabyab, and playmaker Shane Ko are expected to give their San Beda counterparts a run for their money.
The Pirates (2-7), however, are still the heavy underdogs owing to their long inactivity. The Intramuros-based squad has not played in more than two weeks since losing to the Knights, 60-70, on August 2.
Like the Red Lions, the Stags also try to maintain their lofty position as they once again rely on their Big Three composed of reigning MVP Calvin Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang.
Abueva fell an assist shy of a triple-double with 21 points, 21 rebounds, and nine assists, while Pascual fired 28 points as the duo shone brightest for the Stags in their 80-71 romp over the Lions last Monday.
Sangalang, still recovering from a knee injury, put up decent numbers as well with nine points and 10 boards.
The Generals, who will be led by Cameroonian Cedric Happi Noube, ended their first round campaign on a positive note after thrashing College of St. Benilde, 76-61 last August 4.