Can UP play the spoiler? FEU, NU, Adamson in tight Final Four race

Ateneo looks to end the elimination round on a high note by shooting for a sweep en route to an outright Finals berth against second-seeded University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Sunday, May 1.

SJ Belangel of Ateneo shoots against Malick Diouf of University of the Philippines (UAAP Media Bureau)

Tipoff is set at 7 p.m. as the two universities, already assured of a twice-to-beat advantage heading into the playoffs, renew their rivalry in another classic “Battle of Katipunan.”

A sweep by the Blue Eagles (13-0) would easily take them to the very top of a stepladder Finals format while the Fighting Maroons (11-2) would have to wait for the winner between the No. 3 and No. 4 squads.

But a victory for UP will erase the stepladder format and create the usual Final Four setup wherein both the Eagles and the Maroons use their twice-to-beat advantage against the No. 4 and No. 3 teams, respectively.

“We would like to go ahead and finish the season with a very positive performance and a win but we know UP is gonna be a real handful and I’m sure they have been looking forward to this game,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.

On a lighter note, the three-time UAAP champion added that his wards are out to enjoy themselves in a friendly competition despite him becoming too serious in-game when push comes to shove.

“I think this coming Sunday, we should all have a lot of fun and you know, obviously try to play great basketball and compete… we have a great sporting event this Sunday and it’s for these athletes to enjoy,” he added.

While De La Salle (8-5) has finally secured the No. 3 spot and a Final Four berth, National University and Far Eastern University, tied at 6-7 record, and Adamson, which has a 5-8 slate, found themselves in a tight race for the last playoff slot.

Adamson and winless University of the East open the curtains at the 10 a.m. match, neighbor schools University of Santo Tomas and FEU battle at their 12:30 p.m. encounter, while De La Salle takes on NU at 4:30 p.m.

A loss by the Soaring Falcons spells doom for them and would result in an outright boot out of the Final Four contention. But if they win, the San Marcelino-based squad would have to rely on the outcome of the Tamaraws and the Bulldogs’ respective matches.

If FEU and NU both emerged victorious, a final battle for the fourth place will take place on Wednesday, May 4 for the last playoff slot.

Since both the Tamaraws and the Bulldogs have the same records and in the event that they yield contrasting results, the team who wins gets the rightful berth to the Final Four. ###

Source: Manila Bulletin (