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UAAP: Ateneo is team to beat

 

By WAYLON GALVEZ

 

The last thing that Ateneo mentor Tab Baldwin would do is to give a Final Four prediction in the 81st UAAP men’s basketball tournament set to open this Saturday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

Baldwin, coach of the defending UAAP champion Blue Eagles, said that it’s hard to make a forecast this early, which other teams could use as motivation if he identifies his top four.

“That will only fuel the other teams,” said Baldwin in a press conference yesterday held at MOA Arena. “My opinion actually doesn’t matter. We’re going to worry about ourselves, that’s all we care about.”

Ateneo defeated archrival La Salle, 88-86, in Game 3 of a thrilling three-game showdown. The team, which competed in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan last June as part of its buildup for the UAAP, will have an almost intact roster led by Finals MVP Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go.

The other coaches, however, were vocal in saying that Ateneo remains as the team to beat owing to its strong showing in the Jones Cup.

Far Eastern University coach Olsen Racela agreed.

“All the other teams have chance,” said Racela, an incoming second year coach of FEU. “But the team with the best chance is Ateneo.”

“After that, after Ateneo it’s a fair fight for all seven teams. One loss can make a difference on making it the final four,” added Racela.

Coach Jamike Jarin of host school National University provided an interesting answer in giving his Final Four predictions as he pointed to his right, where Baldwin and Racela, as well as Adamson assistant coach Don Allado and new La Salle coach Louie Gonzales sat at the residential table.

“On my right, these are the Final Four teams, on my left including me (pointing to coaches from UE, UP and UST), we’ll all try to get to the right side,” said Jarin in jest to the delight of the audience.”

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