Race for UAAP Final Four heats up, UP secures first slot

Games  Thursday(Smart Araneta Coliseum)11 a.m. — DLSU vs AdU1 p.m. — UE VS NU3 p.m. — UP VS FEU6:30 p.m. — UST vs ADMU

WITH one seat already taken in the Final Four, the race for the three remaining chairs heats up featuring multiple squads with razor-thin separations in the resumption of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

At 9-1, reigning champion University of the Philippines (UP)was the first team to secure its slot in the playoffs before UAAP’s break for Gilas Pilipinas, leaving a wide-open race for the rest of the pack in a fight for survival starting with a crucial four-game bill today.

As National University (NU) (7-3) and Ateneo (6-3) hold an inside track to the Final Four with a slight footing, Adamson (4-5), University of the East (4-6), Far Eastern University (4-6) and De La Salle (3-6) are gridlocked in the middle with the slimmest of margins in the last four games of the eliminations.

Adamson University, currently clinging to No. 4, tries to gain a little breathing room when it takes on De La Salle at 11 a.m. followed by an equally vital duel between NU and UE at 1 p.m.

At 3 p.m., FEU attempts to land a massive upset on UP while Ateneo for its part is out to elude a one against cellar dweller University of Santo Tomas (1-8) in the main game at 6:30 p.m.

“If we continue to play like how we played in the past five games, I like our chances. It showed that we can compete with any team in the UAAP. As long as we stay consistent and play to our strengths, we have a chance,” said FEU mentor Olsen Racela.

FEU, which owns the Final Four appearance streak in eight straight seasons, was the comeback team in the UAAP prior to its FIBA break with a four-game winning run to revive its playoff drive from a 0-5 start.

The Tamaraws were eventually halted by the Bulldogs in a 71-60 come-from-behind triumph to stay comfortably at No. 2 as chasing squads in the Green Archers and Red Warriors also lost steam with costly losses.

De La Salle, picked by many as one of the strong contenders this season, had a disappointing campaign so far but will welcome back its Gilas forward Kevin Quiambao in a last ditch playoff bid.

Big man Ange Kouame will also return to the Blue Eagles’ nest following their national duties on the road in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in the Middle East against Jordan and Saudi Arabia. — John Bryan Ulanday