(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — UP vs FEU
4 p.m. — NU vs UST
Co-leaders University of the Philippines and National University look to boost their bids in securing a Final Four twice-to-beat advantage against separate rivals in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 men’s basketball tournament today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kicking off the double-header feature are the Fighting Maroons against desperate Far Eastern University at 2 p.m. and the Bulldogs opposite also-ran University of Santo Tomas at 4 p.m.
UP and NU are tied on top with 9-2 win-loss records. Both squads need the win to build enough separation over idle third running De La Salle University, which is on a five-game roll holding an 8-3 card.
All three semis-bound teams remain in the tight race for the Final Four incentive with just three games left in their respective elimination round campaigns.
The Fighting Maroons recovered from a stinging setback to the Green Archers with a 79-72 win over University of the East last Wednesday.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Malick Diouf, who returned after a one-game absence due to a sprained wrist, as well as JD Cagulangan, CJ Cansino, Francis Lopez and Gerry Abadiano are expected to deliver the goods to sweep the Tamaraws in their elims head-to-head.
The Fighting Maroons needed an extra quarter to beat FEU, 80-76, in the first round.
“The good thing with our position now is that our destiny is in our hands. And that’s one thing that Coach Gold (Monteverde) would always emphasize, since the start of the season, or even prior to that, we always wanna take control of the things within our hands,” UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon said.
“And at this point, things are still within our hands so hopefully, we could, you know, sweep the next three games.”
Carrying a 3-8 record at seventh spot, the Tamaraws’ chances of advancing to the next round are already bleak as they need to sweep all their remaining games and hope that the other teams still in contention for the last Final Four seat won’t reach seven wins to force a playoff.
FEU is on a three-game skid with its last defeat coming at the hands of NU, 57-68, last Wednesday.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are favored to make a repeat of their 87-69 crushing of the hapless Tigers in the first round.
NU won back-to-back games to secure its second straight semis ticket.
“We’re in the Final Four but there’s still work to be done. We have a goal. We have a dream that we want to achieve that’s why we challenge ourselves to see where our work will take us,” Bulldogs coach Jeff Napa said.
“We have the mindset that every game counts.”
UST dropped all of its first four games in the second round including a 59-67 loss to defending champion Ateneo de Manila University last Wednesday.
With nothing to lose, the Pido Jarencio-mentored squad will now be playing spoiler as it tries to prevent a repeat of a one-win finish it had last year.