MANILA, Philippines -- The University of the Philippines was unanimously hailed as one of the "teams to beat" for UAAP Season 85, where the Fighting Maroons will enter as defending champions.
UP ended a 36-year championship drought just last May when they dethroned Ateneo de Manila University in an epic finals series in Season 84. Just four months later, they march into battle again, with the target firmly on their backs.
Virtually every coach declared the Fighting Maroons as a team to beat in Season 85, which starts on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo's Tab Baldwin immediately answered "UP" when asked for his team to beat during Wednesday's press conference, while Far Eastern University coach Olsen Racela and National University (NU) coach Jeff Napa picked the Fighting Maroons and the Blue Eagles.
Adamson coach Nash Racela also highlighted Ateneo and UP as favorites, but believed that De La Salle University and NU will also be top contenders.
La Salle's Derick Pumaren and University of the East assistant coach Don Allado, for their part, said every team in the UAAP will offer their own challenge.
Indeed, "all of the above" was Pumaren's response.
UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde selected Ateneo as the team to beat and downplayed their status as championship favorites.
"Winning a championship last season doesn't mean na ngayong season, sigurado na 'yun," he pointed out.
"I think every team, every coach would really prepare and face 'yung magiging challenge namin for Season 85. Sa amin naman, when we play, we just make sure na we'll be ready and prepared," he added. "[We'll] just do our best in everything na mangyayari."
UP opens its title defense on Saturday against the De La Salle Green Archers.
Catch replays of UAAP Season 84 games via the UAAP Varsity channel on iWantTFC, available for Premium users outside the Philippines.