By CARLO ANOLIN
Reigning champion Ateneo remains as the team to beat despite the departure of several key players, including Thirdy Ravena, when the UAAP Season 84 kicks off on Saturday, March 26.
Apart from Ateneo, University of the Philippines is also tipped to figure prominently in the title race following the acquisitions of several talented players.
Coaches were also in unison in recognizing both Katipunan-based squads in the men’s basketball tournament during a press conference at the TV5 Media Center in Mandaluyong City Wednesday, March 23.
While Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin was left hanging without an answer, Far Eastern University’s Olsen Racela chose Ateneo and UP while Nash Racela of Adamson echoed his brother but also included the Tamaraws among his choices.
National University tactician Jeff Napa and UP’s Goldwin Monteverde also mentioned FEU and De La Salle. Derrick Pumaren, mentor of the Green Archers, for his part, did not leave University of Santo Tomas out of the picture.
Like most of the coaches, Baldwin himself admitted that having a bubble setup training was quite a challenge even for the defending champions.
The three-time UAAP champion coach said there are limited information and scouting over their opponents sans participating in pre-season tournaments due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think that’s a disadvantage,” said Baldwin about the lack of pre-season games. “But I also think that every team has to adjust to the same thing. At the end of the day there’s a lot of unknown as we start this season.”
Nonetheless, Baldwin is excited to kick off Ateneo’s UAAP campaign without Ravena, 2018 Rookie of the Year awardee Angelo Kouame, Isaac Go, and Nieto twins — Matt and Mike, and Adrian Wong.
In Season 82, Ateneo remained undefeated in the elimination round which paved the way to a stepladder format in the Final Four.
With Ateneo waiting at the top, fourth-seeded UST beat No. 3 FEU in the first round of the stepladder.
The Growling Tigers then won back-to-back games against the Fighting Maroons, the second-seeded team which has a twice-to-beat-advantage, in the second round.
But Ateneo still prevailed at the end as the Blue Eagles took back-to-back commanding wins against the Growling Tigers in the best-of-three Finals en route to their third straight UAAP title since the 80th season in 2017-18.
MATCHES TO BE AIRED ON ONE SPORTS
Cignal, the country’s leading pay TV provider, will be airing its live coverage of the UAAP Season 84 via One Sports (free-to-air), in high definition on the UAAP Varsity Channel (pay TV), and Cignal Play (OTT streaming). Smart will also be digitally streaming the UAAP events on its Smart GigaPlay app.
School spirit is sure to be reignited as UAAP fans root for their favorite teams and student cagers in the country’s premier collegiate sports league. Games will be seen every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday – 10AM, 1PM, 4PM, and 7PM – with all games airing live on the available platforms.
Since fans are not yet allowed to watch the games live from the venue, Cignal and Smart make sure to bring the action closer to fans as they boast of a unique pool of veteran and new broadcast talents, credible UAAP analysts, and 18 UAAP Season 84 correspondents – a major first in the league’s colorful history – ensuring that fans won’t miss out on the UAAP experience.
“With Cignal and Smart providing an extensive coverage of the UAAP tournament, we welcome the whole collegiate community and the passionate fans who are part of the UAAP journey, from beginning all the way to the championship games. Together, we experience a more thrilling UAAP season as the hardcourt comes ‘fully alive’ once more with the intense basketball action we’ve all been craving for. Rest assured that we will be giving the best possible front-row coverage of the UAAP games for the whole basketball community to enjoy,” said Cignal President and CEO Robert P. Galang.
“Our partnership with UAAP is aligned with our commitment to bring our subscribers closer to their passions, powered by no less than the country’s fastest mobile data network. We thank the organization for all their hard work to finally kick off the games, and we wish the best of luck to all the teams as they play for passion and pride,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT Inc. and Smart President and CEO.