Arellano tipped as NCAA title favorite after strong preseason showing

Is veteran-laden Arellano U ready to win it all in the NCAA this year?

At least two collegiate champion coaches, La Salle’s Aldin Ayo and National U’s Eric Altamirano, think so, convinced the Chiefs have what it takes to clinch their breakthrough title in the 92nd NCAA seniors basketball tourney that unfolds on June 25 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Arellano U made a big statement during its pre-season buildup, ruling Fr. Martin’s Cup last week and giving the Archers all they could handle before finishing bridesmaid in the 2016 FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup on Sunday.

And the way the Chiefs are playing at a high-level certainly put them as one of the top threats to the title-retention bid of Letran, which Ayo led to the Promised Land in an impressive fashion at the expense of former ‘five-peat’-holder San Beda last year.

Altamirano, 49, the man behind the Bulldogs’ UAAP title conquest in 2014, believes the Chiefs will be hard to stop, especially their prized playmaker Jiovani Jalalon.

“The mere fact they beat San Beda (in the FilOil quatrefinals), it’s already a testament that they can win in this coming NCAA season,” he said after the Bulldogs absorbed 54-66 setback dealt by the Chiefs in their semis duel recently.

“He’s going to be the player who’ll be very hard to stop in the coming NCAA,” added Altamirano of Jalalon, a Gilas Pilipinas cadet.

Although he’s pinning his hopes on a successful title defense by the Knights, Ayo admitted the Chiefs will be a genuine force to be reckoned with.

“They are much better than last year dahil kay Jio. Ang lake ng in-improve ni Jio. Ripe na siya sa pro,” he said of the Chiefs’ 5-foot-9 playmaker who fired six of his seven triples in the first frame on his way to a 32-point performance in their 74-86 setback against the Archers in their exciting finals affair.

Even Green Archers’ dominant big man Ben Mbala tipped his hat to the Chiefs.

“They were able to make it to the finals, it means they were really playing well. They really deserved to be there. It was really a hard-fought game and I really have to congratulate them because they really played well,” said the 6-foot-7 Cameroonian, adding Jalalon gave them a handful.

“He really gave us a hard time. He was really hot at the beginning of the game but coach asked us not to stop playing D (defense), to keep pressuring him, and you know, in time he probably got tired and start missing shots and hopefully, with the help of God, that’s what happened and we were able to win the game.” – By Jerome Lagunzad

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