BITTER rivals San Beda College and Letran battle it out today for the No. 1 seeding, while Mapua and Arellano clash for the fourth and last Final Four slot in the 91st NCAA basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Knights (13-5) routed the Perpetual Help Altas, 93-64, last Friday to arrange a much-awaited 4 p.m. re-match with the Lions (13-5), with the winner clinching the top seed.
The Cardinals and the Chiefs face off at 2 p.m., with the winner booking the last slot to the Final Four, while forging a 4 p.m. showdown with Jose Rizal for the No. 3 seeding on Thursday also at the MOA Arena.
Jose Rizal, Mapua and Arellano University wound up in a three-way tie at third to fifth places, but the Bombers ended up with the highest quotient of 20 points as against the Cardinals’ -1 and the Chiefs’ -20.
Letran and San Beda split their first two encounters this year with the former taking the first, 93-80, on July 16 and the latter snatching the second, 77-73, last week.
Interestingly, San Beda has ended up the top seed in the last nine years and has never lost its previous three playoff games for the top spot against Arellano, 97-69, last season; San Sebastian, 88-85, four years ago; and San Sebastian again, 71-65, six seasons back.
The Knights, in contrast, are gunning to finish at No. 1 for the first time since accomplishing the feat 10 years ago, the same year they won their last championship by beating defunct member Philippine Christian University.
“We will fight them, kahit tumbang preso o patintero pa ‘yan (even if its just an ordinary child’s game),” said Letran coach Aldin Ayo of their much-awaited face-off with the reigning five-peat champions.
The Cardinals will be eyeing a return to the Final Four since making it that far five years ago before they spiraled down to fifth, sixth and two dead-last finishes in the next five seasons.
In juniors’ play, Lyceum of the Philippines University and La Salle-Greenhills collide at 12 noon for the last spot to the Final Four.
The winner will advance to the stepladder semifinals wherein it will tackle No. 3 Arellano and then the winner gets to meet No. 2 Mapua with the winner finally setting up a title clash with San Beda, which earned a thrice-to-beat edge after an 18-game sweep of the elimination round.