NU Bullpups begin UAAP Jrs basketball title defense against UE Junior Warriors
John Lloyd Clemente is expected to lead the Bullpups, as former star center Justin Baltazar is now in college at La Salle. Jaime Campos

NATIONAL University opens its bid for a second straight title against University of the East on Saturday in the UAAP Season 79 juniors basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.

The Bullpups will be now led by ace guard John Lloyd Clemente as they are tipped to win in the 3 p.m. clash with the Junior Warriors.

Last season's runner-up De La Salle-Zobel, which lost three key players to graduation, plays Far Eastern University-Diliman at 11 a.m.

In other opening day matches, Ateneo takes on University of Santo Tomas at 9 a.m., while Adamson University collides with UP Integrated School.

Justin Baltazar's presence in the middle will sorely be missed, but NU is hoping that its other frontliner Rhayan Amsali will finally mature this year.

The Junior Archers, meanwhile, are hoping to do well even without star players Aljun Melecio, Brent Paraiso and Marco Sario, who all moved to the collegiate ranks, as Jan Sobrevega will now lead the way for the Alabang-based squad. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph