(Filoil EcoOil Centre)
12 p.m. – Saint Benilde vs San Beda
3 p.m. – Letran vs Lyceum
It’s going to be a dogfight as topseed College of Saint Benilde and Letran College seek to make quick work of their respective foes to advance to the finals of Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan.
The Blazers, who last made it to the Final Four 20 years ago, will battle a proven winner in San Beda University while perennial contender Knights will collide with dark horse Lyceum of the Philippines University at 3 p.m. to book a return flight to the finals.
Saint Benilde coach Charles Tiu said they have to be at their best because the Red Lions are also aware that the real battles are the semifinals.
San Beda, for one, is one of the best defensive teams, holding its opponents to an average of 70.5 points while Saint Benilde has the most fluid offense with a league-leading 81.7 points per game.
“Not sure we have any advantage really. They’re a very good and complete team,” Tiu said, adding that they will go all out to complete a historic title run.
“Hopefully, we can win one game. We are just trying to compete and make some history from our school. We have to be confident and believe we can beat them.”
Saint Benilde will be leaning on Most Valuable Player leader Will Gozum as well as shock troopers in Migs Oczon, Miggy Corteza, Jimboy Pasturan, and Mark Sangco.
On the other hand, San Beda’s rookie tactician Yuri Escueta believes that their playoff experience will be the key to stop the high-powered Blazers.
“We still think the guys have a lot of experience playing in a lot of postseason games. That’s something I’d like to think as our biggest advantage,” Escueta said right after their Sunday practice.
“They’ve been in this situation last season so we can say that they’re already familiar with it. For me, we’re just making sure that they take it one game at a time and believe in themselves.”
Graduating players James Kwekuteye and JB Bahio will be leading the pack for San Beda along with
Peter Alfaro, Jacob Cortez and Tony Ynot in a bid to win their 24th NCAA title.
Also set to draw attention is the battle between Letran and Lyceum.
The Pirates will be armed with a twice-to-beat incentive but they have to contain the run-and-gun attack of the Pirates, who are leading the league in fastbreak points with 15.4.
“Lyceum’s the too fastbreak team in the league and we hope we will be able to stop their run-and-gun style,” Tan, whose wards lead the league in three-point shooting with 31.3 percent and third in rebounds with 45.9 per game, said.
“We just need to be consistent. Just like any other game in the elimination, we treat each game as a championship match.”
Tan, the team manager of NorthPort in the Philippine Basketball Association, will be relying on the veteran core of Fran Yu, Brent Paraiso,