The San Beda Red Lions will banner a mix of eight mainstays and seven rookies when a shortened 97th National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament fires off Saturday at the La Salle Greenhills gymnasium in San Juan.
Senior players James Canlas, Franz Abuda, Peter Alfaro, Damie Cuntapay, JB Bahio, Gabriel Cometa, Ralph Penuela, and Alex Visser are among those whom coach Boyet Fernandez will count on to lead the Red Lions’ bid for redemption this season.
The Red Lions, who lost in the finals to the Letran Knights two years ago, will meet the Lyceum Pirates in a 7:05 clash.
They come into the fight with rookies Rhayyan Amsali, Yukian Andrada, Tony Ynot, and Justine Sanchez making their debuts with former Far Eastern University big man Clifford Jopia.
Two blue chip recruits, Fil-Hawaiian guard Dan Villejo and former National University Bulldog JV Gallego will replace Evan Nelle, who transferred to the De La Salle University.
The showdown comes after the 3:30 pm match between the Knights and the host squad, the College of St. Benilde Blazers.
The 2 p.m. opening ceremony of the NCAA Season 97 “Stronger Together. Buo ang Puso” is simulcast on GMA and GTV.
The 6’2″ Villejo, who played for Northeastern Junior College in Colorado, is expected to share point guard duties with Gallego and Canlas.
The Pirates will now be coached by Gilbert Malabanan after Jeff Perlas stepped down. They will be led by two mainstays, Mac Guadana and John Barba, both standouts from the junior division.
The season will have a shortened format. Instead of the usual double-round robin elimination round, games will be played in a single-round robin format
The top two teams at the end of the elimination round will advance to the semifinals, while the third and fourth seed will battle for the no. 3 spot.
The loser of the third and fourth seed game will play the winner of the fifth and sixth seeded teams for the no. 4 spot.
After that, the usual Final Four system will implemented for the semis and eventually the finals.
The no. 1 spot will play no. 4, while no. 2 and no. 3 will face each other in the semifinals. The top two teams will still have a twice-to-beat bonus.
The format will also be implemented for the volleyball tournament.