SAVING the best for last, the NCAA holds its final men’s basketball tournament elimination round playdate on Monday featuring two of the best teams in the league in San Beda and San Sebastian.
The Lions and Stags lock horns at 6 p.m. in the lone game at The Arena in San Juan in what is widely considered as a preview of the Finals.
While the two-time defending champion Lions have already sealed the top seeding in the Final Four, the Stags are eyeing to lock up the second spot and the second twice-to-beat incentive in the postseason.
A loss for the Stags, who tote a 12-5 record, would forge a playoff for the second spot with Letran.
“We are looking at our game versus San Sebastian as a good test of character, a good check on how prepared the team is for the playoffs,” Lions rookie coach Ronnie Magsanoc said on Sunday.
In a battle of two perennial heavyweights with contrasting styles of play, the Lions, the league’s best defensive team allowing just 58.7 points per game, try to avenge their 71-80 first-round loss to the Stags, the league’s best offensive team averaging 80.6 points per outing.
All eyes will be on Calvin Abueva, the second overall pick in this year’s PBA draft who will be trying to make history as the first player to lead any of the country's major leagues in points, rebounds, and assists.
The league’s reigning MVP, Abueva already leads the league in rebounding with 16.4 per outing and assists with 6.7 a contest.
But the do-it-all 6-foot-2 forward remains second in the scoring department with 19.9 points.
Abueva has already tied teammate and former scoring leader Ian Sangalang in the same category, but has now found a new hurdle in Letran star guard Kevin Alas.
Alas’ 24-point performance in the Knights’ last game of eliminations against Arellano last Saturday catapulted him from third to the top spot in the scoring column with a 20-point average.
So Abueva needs to score at least 22 points and Sanglang to score less for the former to achieve the unprecedented individual feat.
He would also hope that San Beda’s sixth man Baser Amer would not dish out more than seven assists to keep his lead in the assists department. Amer, the shifty sophomore playmaker from Davao, only trails Abueva by four-tenths of a point with 6.3 dimes per game.