(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
11 a.m. — Ateneo vs UST
1 p.m. — UP vs UE
4 p.m. — NU vs FEU
6 p.m. — La Salle vs Adamson
Joint leaders University of the Philippines and National University shoot to secure their seats in the Final Four against separate foes in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 men’s basketball tournament today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Fighting Maroons get another crack at a fifth straight semifinals appearance in a showdown against University of the East at 1 p.m. after falling short in their first attempt the last time out.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, try to jump on the golden opportunity for a return trip to the Final Four when they take on Far Eastern University at 4 p.m.
Sporting identical 8-2 win-loss records at the top of the standings, both UP and NU only need to win one more game to formalize their entry to the next round and move closer to clinching the coveted semis twice-to-beat advantage.
Streaking De La Salle University, on the other hand, goes for a fifth win in a row against surging Adamson University in the main game at 6 p.m.
Opening the quadruple-header playdate is defending champion Ateneo de Manila University looking to arrest a three-game slide in a clash with cellar-dweller University of Santo Tomas at 11 a.m.
However, all eyes will be on the Fighting Maroons and Bulldogs.
UP hit a brick wall last Sunday in a 79-88 meltdown at the hands of the Green Archers.
But the Fighting Maroons remain on the right course for a semis berth.
“We just have to move on and put our attention and focus on UE. I’ll be looking forward to the next game,” UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde said as his wards seek to make a repeat of their 84-69 first round drubbing of the Red Warriors a month ago.
“I don’t pay attention to the standings because we still need to deal with the coming games. Wherever it takes us, we’ll accept it as a team.”
Monteverde has high hopes for reigning Most Valuable Player Malick Diouf’s return after skipping the previous match because of a sprained wrist. Guard JD Cagulangan is also expected to suit up after missing a couple of games because of a nagging hamstring injury.
UP will also rely on CJ Cansino, Janjan Felicilda, Harold Alarcon, Francis Lopez and Gerry Abadiano to get back on the winning track.
But UE is not the same team that the Fighting Maroons crushed in their first meeting. The Red Warriors are on a two-game win streak including an 87-86 escape over the Tamaraws last Sunday for a 4-6 slate tied with the Blue Eagles.
NU, meanwhile, is fresh from a huge 65-61 win over Ateneo with UAAP Juniors Season 85 MVP Reinhard Jumamoy making his presence felt with 21 points off a crisp 8-of-10 field goal shooting.
The Bulldogs beat the Tamaraws 71-65 in the first round last month.
FEU is at the seventh spot with a 3-7 card and in desperate need of piling up wins to keep its flickering semis hopes alive.
“We have to be ready against FEU. We can’t be too complacent against them just because they are at the bottom. They did beat Atene,” NU coach Jeff Napa said.
“We can’t take them lightly. We have to be ready because we have a goal that we need to achieve.”
La Salle holds a 7-3 mark at solo third and guns to secure at least a playoff for a semis seat. Behind the Green Archers at no. 4 is Adamson, which won its last two outings, carrying a 5-5 mark.
MVP frontrunner Kevin Quiambao, Evan Nelle, Michael Phillips and Jonel Policarpio lead the way for La Salle’s repeat attempt over the same rival it demolished 71-58 in the first round.
The Blue Eagles, on the other hand, want to rediscover their winning ways over the Tigers, who are hanging onto dear life in the semis race with a disappointing 1-9 record.