BASED on the assessment made by coaches, De La Salle will be the top favorite to win the UAAP crown for the second straight time.
The Green Archers were hands-down the 'team to beat' in UAAP Season 77 in the eyes of coaches polled in the league's press launch on Monday at the Gloria Maris Restaurant in Gateway Mall Quezon City.
“La Salle is the barometer for this season,” said Ateneo assistant coach Yuri Escueta, who represented the Blue Eagles in lieu of head coach Bo Perasol, whose team is still in Korea for a preseason tournament.
“La Salle will still be there,” said University of the East coach Derrick Pumaren, himself a former head coach of the Green Archers. “They have an intact lineup that won the championship last year.”
LA Revilla was the lone player gone from the La Salle team that returned to the top of the UAAP men’s basketball competition last season by beating University of Santo Tomas in three exciting games in the finals.
Far Eastern University coach Nash Racela went as far as say that he expects La Salle to be more formidable this season with the addition of several blue-chip rookies and players who have finished their residency.
“They have a better lineup this year,” said Racela, whose team had the chance to play La Salle during preseason tournaments and in tune-up games.
When asked to react to the coaches’ assessment, La Salle coach Juno Sauler turned to rookie players Julian Sargent, Terence Mustre, Abu Tratter, and Prince Rivero, and told them, “Did you get to hear that?”
Sauler later played down the coaches’ assessment.
“I don’t focus too much on expectations. Again, what I’ve stressed, day-to-day, I want them to get better in practice and in every game. “That’s most important, more than the expectations,” Sauler said.
Meanwhile, UE officials said they are looking forward to the hosting of Season 77 under the theme ‘Unity in Excellence.’
“This year’s theme is a celebration of sportsmanship, various athletes of various disciplines coming together as one,” said UAAP president Carmelita Mateo.
The Red Warriors open the season with a game against University of the Philippines at 2 p.m. while the defending champion Green Archers take on FEU at 4 p.m. at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.