ATENEO is the consensus favorite to win the championship and complete a three-peat in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
The seven other teams all agree that the mighty Blue Eagles are the team-to-beat when the compressed competition starts on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s quite obvious - it’s gotta be Ateneo. From player 1 to player 16, their skills are the same,” said Adamson coach Franz Pumaren during the press conference yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Incidentally, the Falcons will test the mettle of the Eagles in a rematch of last year’s opening day showdown which the Katipunan-based cagers suffered a shock loss, in the marquee match-up to cap a three-game bill at 4 p.m. at the Big Dome.
The UAAP will finish the basketball season before Southeast Asian Games in late November, as the league was forced to do Wednesday elimination round tripleheaders.
University of the Philippines, last season’s losing finalists, could also not help but agree.
“It’s given that Ateneo will be on top,” said coach Bo Perasol.
The Eagles hope to cap a successful decade with another title - and cement another dynasty - in the final year of key players Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go.
But Ateneo, as expected, simply downplayed its pre-season tag.
”For us, it’s pretty simple - team-to-beat is Adamson because they’re the next team,” said Eagles coach Tab Baldwin.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the three-peat will be a cakewalk for Ateneo as the tournament is being seen to be as tight as it has ever been in recent history.
‘’All the schools have done a wonderful job. Everyone’s gonna be a team-to-beat,” said La Salle coach Gian Nazario, who will get help from active consultant American Jermaine Byrd in the sidelines this season.
Second year University of Santo Tomas mentor Aldin Ayo also believes that the field is wide open.
”It’s gonna be a very unpredictable season,” said Ayo.
After the Blue Eagles, the Falcons and the Fighting Maroons, who cross paths in last season’s Final Four, are also being tipped to make it all the way.