Ayo, La Salle embrace favorites' tag - and all the pressure that comes with it
Change has come even to the UAAP press launch with basketball coaches doing away with the traditional pre-tournament pose. Jerome Ascano

JUST about every rival has tagged De La Salle as the team to beat in Season 79 of the UAAP men’s basketball competitions which begins on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

That's fine by Aldin Ayo.

“The pressure is there,” said Ayo during the press launch of the new season on Tuesday at the Novotel in Cubao. “But pressure opens up opportunities. Pressure also motivates us.”

Ayo won a championship in his only season with Letran and is now in good position to do it again with the Green Archers, thanks to a deep, talent-laden lineup led by Jeron Teng and Ben Mbala.

The La Salle coach, however, said he is not losing sleep over the high expectations, insisting that he is focusing on things they can control, specifically their preseason preparation.

“A lot of expectations sa team namin. Our goal is to work really hard in practices and during games. Ibibigay namin lahat,” said Ayo.

After La Salle, National University and defending champion Far Eastern University are also considered top contenders to reach the Final Four in the season hosted by University of Santo Tomas.

The Bulldogs will be led by Alfred Aroga and J-Jay Alejandro while the young Tamaraws are now being spearheaded by Raymar Jose following the departure of Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, and Roger Pogoy.

The league will formally begin on Saturday with the opening ceremonies at the UST grounds before action takes place on the court.

University of the Philippines faces Adamson in the first game of Season 79 at 2 p.m., followed by the match between last year’s runner-up University of Santo Tomas against Ateneo.

On Wednesday, NU takes on University of the East at 2 p.m., while La Salle battles FEU at 4 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

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