UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help seeks to validate its status as a title contender in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament as it jumpstarts its Season 90 campaign against minnow Mapua on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
Coming off impressive preseason performances, including a championship conquest in the Fr. Martin Cup, the Altas have been pegged as one of the top threats to San Beda’s seemingly unstoppable reign.
Although the squad barely missed the quarterfinals of the Filioil Flying V Cup, Perpetual stunned eventual champion La Salle in its last elimination-round game.
And the Las Piñas-based dribblers are eager to translate their offseason success in the country’s oldest collegiate league into a championship, starting with their match against the Cardinals at 12 noon when they look to come out with a share of the early leadership with the Red Lions and San Sebastian.
But Altas coach Aric del Rosario is careful not to underestimate the Cardinals, saying all teams pose danger and can pull off upsets.
“Lahat sila (teams delikado) kasi lahat sila pinaghahandaan ako,” said the respected multi-titled mentor, whose team is now fielding an all-Filipino lineup with Nigerian Nic Omorogbe exhausting his eligibility.
Still, the Altas, bannered by Juneric Baloria, Harold Arboleda, Earl Thompson, and Justine Alano, remain odds-on favorites against the Atoy Co-mentored Cardinals, last year’s cellar-dwellers who appeared to even have a downgrade in their roster this year.
Cardinals star Josan Nimes had been ready to return after an injury-plagued season as he played in the offseason, before the prolific guard suffered a mysterious knee injury that forced him to be a late scratch.
Another promising Mapua cager in Mark Braña was poised to have a breakout year, but was dropped from the lineup due to academic deficiencies.
Arellano, which didn’t participate in offseason tournaments, looks to make an early surprise in the league as it takes on Lyceum in the second game at 2 p.m.