With rival schools making huge improvements, coach Eric Altamirano says odds of NU clinching second straight UAAP title slim
The eight coaches strike a familiar pose ahead of the UAAP cage wars. Jerome Ascano

NATIONAL University coach Eric Altamirano said odds of making a repeat of the UAAP seniors basketball title are slim, and most of the teams have a good chance of winning the crown this year.

A year after breaking a six-decade title drought last year, the Bulldogs will be one of favored teams to win the men’s basketball crown of Season 78, which will unfurl on September 5 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Altamirano, however, said it will be very difficult to make it two in a row.

“Halos even steven, lahat,” Altamirano said in Tuesday’s UAAP Season 78 press conference at the Gloria Maris Restaurant in Cubao, Quezon City.

“We are very thankful for the opportunity to win the championship. But just like we mentioned to the team, tapos na ’yun eh. It’s over and done with,” said Altamirano.

Far Eastern University, Ateneo, and La Salle, the other teams that made it to the Final Four last year, also waved off the “favorites” tag.

“Desire namin to go all the way doesn’t diminish every year kahit na sa palagay ko it will be an uphill climb for us. Napakalaki ng disparity ng experience ng veterans as against sa baguhan namin. But it’s not going to be an excuse not to give our best,” Ateneo coach Bo Perasol said.

“Hopefully, we could perform a lot better than last season,” said La Salle coach Juno Sauler.

“FEU will do its best this year. Hopefully, we will have a favorable outcome,” FEU coach Nash Racela said.

While last year’s semifinalists are naturally aiming for a title shot, host University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Adamson are simply hoping for a better finish after missing out on the postseason last year.

“We are aiming big. We are aiming for the Final Four,” said UP rookie coach Rensy Bajar.

UST coach Bong Dela Cruz said: “Last year, natuto na kami sa mga mistakes namin. With the long preparation, naiayos na namin ang lahat.”

"We'll try to improve from last year and win as many as possible,” said Adamson mentor Mike Fermin.

With an all-Filipino lineup, University of the East coach Derrick Pumaren is keeping expectations realistic.

“We will have an all-Filipino line-up with nine rookies. We are like a high school team this year.”

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