MANILA, Philippines – The San Beda Red Lions and the Arellano Chiefs will seek to keep their lofty perches in the NCAA tournament as they battle Mapua and San Sebastian, respectively, at the start of the second round of eliminations Wednesday at The Arena in San Juan.
Tied at the helm with 7-2 win-loss records at the end of the first round, the Lions clash with the last-placed Cardinals (1-8) at 2 p.m., while the Chiefs battle the Stags at 4 p.m.
The Stags are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place along with the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals and the Letran Knights.
Nigerian center Ola Adeogun should be back for San Beda after he was benched in last week's 64-53 loss to Letran for missing practice, as well as point guard Baser Amer, who sat out the first ever NCAA All-Star Game last Saturday due to a neck injury he sustained against the Knights.
"We're starting out fresh and we hope to get on a kind of rhythm that we want in making the Final Four," said San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez.
Arellano mentor Jerry Codinera, for his part, hopes the Chiefs can sustain the momentum they had in the first round.
"If we can at least sustain, if not better, the way we played, especially on how we score in transition, we'll have a chance of finally making it to the Final Four," said Codinera, who is hoping to steer Arellano to its first post-season appearance since entering the NCAA five seasons ago.
The Chiefs average 82.6 points a game, an offense fueled by their league-high nine steals per game.
The San Beda-Mapua duel, meanwhile, will be a battle between the league's best and worst defenses, as the Lions hold their foes to a league-best 65.1 points, while the Cardinals give up a league-worst 82.6 points per game.
Making it worst for Mapua is that it also has the league's second worst offense, scoring only 70.8 points per game. Only Letran, at 70.4 points per game, score less.
"Defense is our offense. That has been our battle cry from the start," said Fernandez.