The Bleachers


Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles have emerged as the team to beat in the Season 84 men's basketball tournament following a unanimous declaration of coaches’ favorite to win the crown.

/ 24 March 2022

UAAP is set to hold the collegiate basketball tournament on March 26 ever since it was halted during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is no surprise that the winner of three-straight titles, Ateneo, is still the favorite of the town.

The Blue Eagles will be led by Gilas naturalized player Ange Kouame, new recruits Chris Koon and Gab Gomez, transferee Dave Ildefonso, and the returning Raffy Verano and Jolo Mendoza.

In a press conference on Wednesday at TV5 studios, UAAP coaches said that they are eyeing Ateneo to beat; however, as Ateneo will not have Thirdy Ravena, Matt and Mike Nieto, Isaac Go, Anton Asistio, William Navarro, coach Tab Baldwin perceived that this will be a ‘difficult’ season to conquer.

“It’s difficult. We have a lot of roster turnover. The way we like to prepare and take time with the players for individual development, we really have to forego a lot about that. I think what we’re doing into the season is try to be cohesive,” he said.

“We don’t know a lot about our opponents with the lack of preseason games. That’s the disadvantage. But I also think that every team has to adjust to the same thing,” he added.

It is without a doubt that there will be challenges for all participating colleges, especially that UP will be led by transferee CJ Cansino and high school standouts Carl Tamayo, Terrence Fortea, and Gerry Abadiano; the Green Archers, led by coach Derrick Pumaren, has Justine Baltazar serving as their ace player together with former Red Lions Evan Nelle and Mark Nonoy from the University of Santo Tomas.

The Tamaraws, meanwhile, will crawl their way with speedy guard RJ Abarrientos and foreign student-athlete Emmanuel Ojuola for the upcoming season.

Still, Baldwin believes that his team has more advantages.

“We have some new faces but we also have veteran players that I believe give us the experience and leadership that we need,” Baldwin said.