Into the homestretch, this race is bound for a frenetic finish.
The Final Four picture of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament is taking shape, with four playdates left in the second round of eliminations. The results of at least seven of the remaining eight games would have implications to the team standings as Season 81 basketball action nears its playoff phase.
Two universities have already booked their seats to the Final Four, while two teams have already fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile, four other squads are in for a scrap for the last two slots for the big dance.
FOX Sports Philippines scoured through the standings and upcoming schedule to determine:
Booted out of the Final Four and into an early vacation are the UE Red Warriors and the NU Bulldogs. The Warriors are currently at the bottom of the pile with a woeful 1-11 win-loss card, with their lone victory coming in the first round against the FEU Tamaraws. Rookie head coach Joe Silva went through a “baptism of fire” in his Seniors division debut with the Alvin Pasaol-led Warriors.
Long been away from the Final Four scene, the Recto-based dribblers last made it to the postseason in 2009.
Missing out on the Final Four bus for the third-straight season are the NU Bulldogs, currently at seventh place with a 3-9 slate. After a rousing season opener against UST, the Bulldogs fell into a five-game losing skid, despite the impressive showing of rookie wingman Dave Ildefonso.
Making a return to the Final Four are the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles and the Adamson Soaring Falcons, ranked first and second in the standings respectively. With a 10-2 record, the Blue Eagles are poised to take one of the two twice-to-beat incentives. The worst scenario for the defending Seniors champions would be a playoff for second spot should they lose in their last two games – against nemesis De La Salle and UST.
The Falcons, who finished third in Season 30, have their sights set on the twice-to-beat edge with a 9-3 slate. The Franz Pumaren-mentored squad can surpass their nine-win showing from last year and secure an advantageous position in playoffs. After their match against the eliminated UE Red Warriors on November 10, the Falcons close out the second round with a November 18 clash against the FEU Tamaraws.
WHO’S ALMOST THERE
Of the four teams still in contention, the De La Salle Green Archers are in a formidable position to claim one of the two remaining Final Four seats. At third place with an 8-4 card, the Taft-based squad earned at least a playoff for the highly-coveted spot should they go 0-2 in their remaining games. After their second round encounter with the Eagles, the Louie Gonzalez-mentored Archers next face a team gunning for a Final Four breakthrough.
That team would be the UP Fighting Maroons, who last played in the Final Four in 1997. With a 6-6 record, the Diliman-based squad has a clear shot in finally ending a 21-year absence from the semifinals. Prior to their November 14 tiff against DLSU, coach Bo Perasol and the Maroons battle their first round tormentors UST on November 10.
However, another squad is crowding UP at fourth spot. With a similar 6-6 card, the FEU Tamaraws also have two remaining must-win games for the season. The Morayta-based Tamaraws still have matches against NU and Adamson on November 11 and 18, respectively.
If UP and FEU both turn in 7-7 records at the end of the eliminations, a playoff game between the two schools would determine the final entrant to the semifinals. This scenario also clinches a Final Four spot for DLSU, regardless of their final elimination round record.
Beset with a tougher road to qualify for the Final Four, the UST Growling Tigers have no choice but to sweep their last two games to force a playoff for the number four spot. Currently holding a 5-7 card, the Tigers should also hope that FEU that does not reach eight wins. Else, coach Aldin Ayo and his gritty Tigers would have to say goodbye to their Final Four aspirations.