UNIVERSITY of Perpetual Help System Dalta is bracing for a tough duel with College of Saint Benilde today in the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
The Altas and the Blazers, who figured prominently in the race for the last Final Four berth last year, eye for a piece of the lead at 4 p.m.
Also seeking to join defending three-time champion San Beda in first place is San Sebastian, which plays Mapua at 2 p.m.
In the first game, Letran shoots for a second straight win after a season-opening loss to Lyceum of the Philippines University as it tangles with last-place Jose Rizal University at 12 noon.
Moving on without last year's MVP Prince Eze, Perpetual Help needs to dig deep to achieve a second consecutive Final Four stint.
The reality has set in for the Altas, who turned to Edgar Charcos down the stretch to edge the Cardinals, 80-78, in their season-opener last week.
In his final year for Perpetual Help, Charcos is not taking lightly his new role as the team's leader.
"Siguro, challenge na rin sa akin iyon eh," said Charcos.
"Kailangan ko sila i-guide, kung ano nangyayari sa loob. Kasi ako 'yung may experience din sa kanila eh, kaya ayun, sinasabihan ko lang sila kung anong dapat gawin," he added.
The Altas are definitely pulling all the stops to fill the huge void left by Eze, as Charcos cannot do it alone.
"Kumbaga, kung anong nawala sa amin kay Eze, dapat buoin namin lahat. Isang team talaga kami, every game andoon kami lahat para punuin yung kulang, yung (contribution) ni Eze sa stats," said Charcos.
Coming off a scrambling 69-66 victory over Emilio Aguinaldo College to open its season last week, St. Benilde will be truly tested against Perpetual Help.
"The good thing about playing our second game is we have a week of preparation to that game. So hopefully we can settle in, our first game's over, continue on with our practices and readiness towards games. I feel also that the first game is very important because it really dictates the momentum going into this season," said Blazers mentor TY Tang.
St. Benilde will most likely play without its injured starters Clement Leutcheu and Yankie Haruna, as Justin Gutang and Jimboy Pasturan will lead the team.