Mapua and San Beda University aim to rebound from last year’s disappointments as they tackle a new look Arellano University and San Sebastian, respectively, on Tuesday in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 basketball at the Filoil EcoOil Arena in San Juan City.
The Cardinals came in as one of the favorites a season ago when they finished a strong second the previous year but struggled at the start and never got to recover from there and finished a painful seventh place.
The Lions wound up better but their fourth place performance that same season was their worst in decades.
And expect Mapua and San Beda to make amends this year as they open their season against AU at 2 p.m. and SSC at 4 p.m. with the winners joining opening day victors Jose Rizal U and Lyceum of the Philippines at the helm.
“We expect a tougher year because all the teams have improved but we prepared hard for this season because we want to improve from last year,” Mapua coach Randy Alcantara said, who will have skipper Warren Bonifacio, Toby Agustin, Paolo Hernandez and Clint Escamis as his go-to guys this season.
“The boys are motivated to compete this year,” said San Beda’s sophomore mentor Yuri Escueta, who will rely on his grizzled vets Peter Alfaro, Yukien Andrada, Damie Cuntapay, Jacob Cortez, JV Gallego and Clifford Jopia.
John Kallos has taken over from Egay Macaraya as coach and the former will inherit the latter’s team of Rafael Are, Romel Calahat, Alex Desoyo, Jessie Sumoda, James Una and Cris Jacob Shanoda.
The Chiefs, in contrast, have made several changes as they did not only acquire a new coach in Chico Manabat to replace Cholo Martin, they also brought in a whopping nine rookies.
“We’re probably the team with the most rookie but we will give it our best to compete,” said Manabat, who played college ball for the National U Bulldogs.