WITH the cast complete, only the Final Four seedings are set to be determined in a pair of playoffs on Friday in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
San Beda and Arellano face off at 4 p.m. for the right to earn the tag as the top team at the end of the elimination round, after Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help collide two hours earlier for third and fourth spot.
The winner of the second game will face the loser of the first match, with the other two squads taking on each other.
The Red Lions and the Chiefs have already secured the two twice-to-beat advantages in the semifinals, but are eager to head into the postseason on a winning note.
The defending champion Lions are on a longer, rare slump, having lost their last three games in a killer schedule that saw them face fellow semifinalists to finish the regular season with a 13-5 win-loss card, tied with the Chiefs, who lost to eliminated Lyceum, 101-96, on Wednesday.
One of the Lions defeats in the skid was against their co-leaders, a heartbreaking 78-76 decision that was decided with less than a second remaining.
And Lions coach Boyet Fernandez expects another tough match against them.
“You saw what they did last game against us and also how they came back in their game against LPU,” Fernandez said on Thursday, referring to the Arellano's loss to the Pirates in a game where the Chiefs mounted on a furious fightback from 21 points down early the fourth, before just falling short.
“All we have to do is focus on the positives in our last three losses,” Fernandez added. “We have learned some valuable lessons that will help us prepare for the playoffs.”
On the other hand, the Heavy Bombers and Altas, knotted with 12-6 records, are both entering the next round on a winning streak and are keen to keep the momentum going.
“We’ll go for the win against (Perpetual) and we’ll carry that against kung sino man makalaban namin sa Final Four,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said. “Parehas na malakas yan, kahit sino makalaban mo (between San Beda and Arellano).”
Perpetual is also eager to settle a score against the Bombers, who swept the Altas in their head-to-head matchup in the eliminations.
“Gusto namin makabawi sa kanila kasi nadalawahan nila kami noong eliminations,” Altas assistant coach Lester del Rosario said.