MANILA — The UAAP Season 86 basketball tournaments will finally commence this weekend at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Opening the festivities on Saturday is the men’s division which will feature hosts University of the East taking on University of Sto. Tomas in the 2 PM game, while Ateneo de Manila University is set to lock horns against National University in the 4PM contest.
On Sunday, meanwhile, the women’s division will be opened at the same Pasay venue by De La Salle University and Far Eastern University during the 9 AM game, and University of the Philippines against Adamson University at the 11 AM game.
With the Blue Eagles starting their title defense on Saturday, head coach Tab Baldwin is focused on winning their first assignment. According to him, labeling anyone as favorites, both in the men’s and women’s division, can be ‘disrespectful’ to all the programs that will be competing throughout the year
“I think that these sorts of speculative questions are great for the media but not so good for the coaches. It puts us on the spot to do something none of us want to do. We don’t want to be disrespectful to one another,” the four-time UAAP champion mentor said, when asked about his comments on who will be the standout teams earlier today at the league’s media conference.
Baldwin then continued to say that every squad will have the capabilities to turn heads and compete this year, especially with the eventful offseason that saw a lot of teams retool and recalibrate their rosters over the summer.
“There will be surprises as there are every year,” he said. “Probably, a lot of people were surprised Adamson got into the Final Four last year, but by the end of the season, nobody was surprised. They were that good.”
“Whether people expected that in the beginning of the season or not, that’s exactly why we play the season. That’s why I just prefer to pass on this type of question because I’m not going to disrespect any of these coaches up here and the work that they do and the players out there.
“We go to the court to sort it out. We’re all pretty big guys and ladies over here. Until then, we can be very respectful, complementary, and nice guys and nice women, but come competing time, we change, and we should.”
And for Baldwin, doing such can help bring out the best in each and every squad while also providing a win-win situation for all parties involved.
“We should [do it] for the fans, the alumni, the media, for our players, for the benefit of everybody who cares about the game. It’s our responsibility to fight like that for our universities, and this is what everybody will do, so let’s have some fun,” he said.
In doing so, the former Gilas Pilipinas tactician pointed out how they must first take care of business against the Jeff Napa-led squad who is also looking to move up the ranks after their Final Four appearance last year.
“The only team I’m worried about [for now] is NU. We all know how tough NU is going to be. I expect that we’re going to get the brunt of that on Saturday, so we have to be ready for that.”