MANILA — With almost the same lineup from last season’s champion team, the defending title holders, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, are widely considered the toughest team to beat in UAAP Season 82.
At a press conference on Sunday, all UAAP coaches, except Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin, agreed that the Blue Eagles will be the team to beat, even predicting that Ateneo will finish on top of the standings after the double round-robin eliminations.
“It’s quite obvious that it will be Ateneo. From player 1 to player 16, I think, skills-wise, they are all the same,” Adamson University head coach Franz Pumaren said.
Far Eastern University (FEU) chief tactician Olsen Racela and University of the Philippines (UP) coach Bo Perasol also echoed Pumaren’s statement, saying Ateneo is poised to secure the top spot in Season 82.
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin, on the other hand, downplayed the expectations of seven other coaches, stressing the season will difficult for all participating teams.
“We have a lot of job to do. Its not gonna be easy to everyone,” Baldwin said.
Meanwhile, Adamson and UP are also seen as threats to other groups, given their deep rosters ahead of the season.
Racela said he believes the Falcons and the Maroons are almost locked in at Final Four, while the rest will slug it out for the last ticket for the playoffs.
Mike Jarin of National University agreed with Racela, saying he sees Adamson as “near second” to Ateneo.
Pumaren, meanwhile, noted the depth of UP given notable transferees Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras who will finally suit up for the Maroons this season.
Despite the consensus on Ateneo as the team to beat, other coaches believe Season 82 is unpredictable, citing the preparations each school had done during the offseason.
“Lahat ng teams nag-improve,” University of Santo Tomas (UST) coach Aldin Ayo told the press.
De La Salle University’s Gian Nazario noted that all eight teams had fruitful recruitments, making “everyone the team to beat.” His squad is hoping to return to the Final Four.
This season will also be highlighted by transferees from different schools in the country, as well as one-and-done players recruited by some UAAP teams.
La Salle will be parading three such players, while UE has its own set of student athletes who are good for a year only.
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