MANILA, Philippines – Every school in Group A of the 2014 Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup will be in an important game nearly every time as the pre-season tournament takes on a new format this year.
This year's tournament will be shorter, and only the top two teams of each bracket -- along with the two best third-placers --will advance to the quarterfinals.
Group A is a virtual “group of death,” with defending Filoil champions University of the East (UE) bracketed along with UAAP and PCCL champions De La Salle University (DLSU), NCAA champions San Beda Red Lions, NCAA first-runners-up Letran Knights, and CESAFI champion University of the Visayas (UV) along with league-mates Southwestern University and the University of San Carlos.
“It’s definitely a tough group, and my first reaction was, ‘Paano kami napunta diyan? Lahat ng tough teams nandiyan.’ But we will take the postives from this and learn from it,” admitted La Salle head coach Juno Sauler.
The Green Archers will be fielding an 18-man line-up that will feature rookies Abu Tratter, Julian Sargent, Prince Rivero and Renzo Subido among others.
“We will use this to discover our strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, we will learn from them in time for the UAAP,” said DLSU team manager Raffy Villavicencio.
“I agree that it’s a tough group,” said Letran head coach Carlos Garcia. “More so (because) we do not have a replacement for (NCAA Season 89 MVP) Raymond Almazan who is now in the PBA.”
“But we are looking at it for exposure and to develop team chemistry,” he added.
Without Almazan, Letran shifts its attention to the speedy and high-scoring backcourt of Mark Cruz and Rey Nambatac.
UV Lancers head coach and former pro player Donbel Belano believes that going up against some of the best teams in Manila will help his Green Lancers prepare in their defense of the CESAFI crown.
“You will learn a lot more from playing the top teams than the teams na kayang-kaya mo,” he pointed out. “The exposure will be of valuable help to us.”
Filoil’s “group of death” opens their play on Saturday, April 26, at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan when UE takes on Letran at 2 p.m., while La Salle and San Beda clash at 4 p.m. in a replay of the PCCL Finals.