MANILA, Philippines -- The coaches of the eight schools in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) agree that the upcoming Season 75, deemed "Unbreakable," will feature tough, exciting competition and a wide-open race to the Final Four.
The four-time defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles and Season 75 hosts National University are pegged as the early favorites in the tournament, but coaches are not counting out veteran squads like the Far Eastern University Tamaraws and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.
"For me, any team can beat any team this season and this will be a very exciting season," said Adamson head coach Leo Austria, whose Falcons made the Final Four last year as well.
"I still believe Ateneo is the team to beat, NU is a top contender, and La Salle is very inspired, especially with their supporters and the change in their coaching staff," Austria added.
Austria also piled on the pressure on FEU, noting that they have "the strongest line-up" on paper, and on UST, especially as head coach Pido Jarencio "always has surprises every game."
La Salle's new head coach, Gee Abanilla, who will be making his debut in the UAAP this season, said the basketball tournament figures to be a "wide open race."
"Our goals are really modest," Abanilla said. "We've been out of the Final Four for the last two years, so the immediate goal is to make the Final Four. If we do that, we'll be very happy."
Meanwhile, FEU head coach Bert Flores stressed the importance of winning the opening games, noting that it gives teams confidence.
Ateneo's Norman Black, whose Blue Eagles will be gunning for a fith straight championship, admitted that it will be difficult for them to defend their title with the departure of two of their best perimeter defenders in Kirk Long and Emman Monfort.
"We know its' going to be difficult, and our perimeter defense will be tested this year. I expect every game to be tough," he said.
NU's Eric Altamirano, for his part, hopes their success in the Fil-Oil Flying V Pre-Season tournament will carry over to the UAAP.
"We had a good summer tournament, and I hope that our record in the summer league, madala namin sa UAAP," Altamirano said.
"But the UAAP is a different league, and I think each team has the same amount of chance of winning it," he added.
University of the East head coach Jerry Codinera and University of the Philippines head coach Ricky Dandan promised that their teams will bring the fight every game this season.
The Red Warriors and the Fighting Maroons languished in the cellar of the league in Season 74, but the two head coaches said they will do their best to get different results in Season 75.
"We will continue to go out there fighting. We'll take it one day at a time," said Codinera.
"We also do have modest goals this year, but what we can guarantee is playing UP this year is not an automatic 'W'," said Dandan.
UST head coach Pido Jarencio's Growling Tigers are among the dark horses in the Final Four race, and the eloquent coach only guaranteed that his veteran squad will fight every game.
"Basta kami, basta nasa lupa ang tigre, matapang at deadly," he said.
The UAAP Season 75: Unbreakable will open on July 14 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.