The NCAA kicks off it’s 93rd season today. The San Beda Red Lions are aiming for another back-to-back title run while the rest of the league looks to stop them. For the Four Quarters, SLAM PH writers talk about key players and teams to watch out for this season.
Q1 – Who will be a surprise team this season?
Levi Verora: The Lyceum Pirates. They performed well in the preseason. CJ Perez is back. Coach Topex Robinson is a great tactician. They have some pieces to compete. In the NCAA, after San Beda, there are several teams are trying to get to that upper tier of the league. Lyceum could be the team that breaks into that upper echelon this season.
Q2 – Which player breaks out in Season 93?
Ceej Tantengco: Sure, Kent Salado was big enough last year to get himself a nickname from TV commentators—The Conductor—but that name in itself reveals a lot about how the guard from Cagayan de Oro was always defined in relation to his childhood friend Jio Jalalon. Salado would come off the bench as a back-up point guard, letting Jalalon move into the #2 spot when the team needed crucial buckets.
With the do-it-all Jalalon in the pros, Arellano’s dynamic changes significantly. But it also opens the door for Salado to come into his own both as team captain and as a main offensive weapon. In the preseason and in practice, he’s been used as a shooting guard, giving him more opportunities to prove himself as a scorer. And taking the heat from double-teams in the preseason will only make him stronger in the NCAA.
Salado says he doesn’t want to be “promoted” to use Jalalon’s old “Bus Driver” nickname. Fine. I say this is the year he earns a nickname all of his own.
Q3 – Who are the two title favorites this season?
Yo Sarmenta: According to the NCAA coaches, San Beda remains to be the top contender while LPU is the dark horse of the tournament.
The Red Lions, who are eyeing back-to-back titles are of course the number one team to beat above all else. With point guard Dan Sara being the only key member lost, the team is relatively the same. San Beda is such a talented and deep team that even their third unit can be the starting five. What’s even more impressive about them is how they have continued to embrace the selflessness and camaraderie that’s expected of a winning team. Take Robert Bolick. As much as he’s appreciative of it, he doesn’t like being called the “star” of the team. And even though he’s one of the leaders right now, he remains a humble contributor, helping the team in any way he can.
LPU has gotten a lot of attention over the summer because of their impressive showing in the FilOil Flying V tournament. Their full court pressure defense is as tough as they come and can even rival the mayhem intensity of the DLSU Archers. On offense, they attack quickly and space the floor to knock down perimeter shots. LPU lacks height and size, so they make up for it by playing non-stop energy on both ends of the court. LPU has also risen as a prime contender with the fall of the three final four finalists from last year. Mapua, Arellano, and Perpetual Help, have all experienced significant losses in their roster that will hurt their playoff chances. If LPU can carry the momentum from this summer, they’ll have a successful NCAA season.
Q4 – Who is the leading candidate for the MVP in Season 93?
Jutt Sulit: I see it as a toss up between San Beda’s Robert Bolick and LPU’s CJ Perez. I would say though that Perez has a bigger opportunity to bag the award. There’s going to be a bunch of talented players around him. But even then, he will be the focal point of the team. Plays will start with him. The ball will reach his hands almost every possession. Thus, he has a larger window to make his impact felt.
With Bolick, we will all be in awe of his talent and the growth of his game. But there’s just so many options in San Beda. There are so many ways to attack. So unlike Perez, Bolick won’t necessarily be involved in every San Beda possession.