Down-the-wire NCAA Final Four race looms.
Byline: Cedelf P. Tupas
FOUR teams brace for a down-the-wire finish in the second round of the 88th NCAA basketball tournament as they contest the three remaining Final Four berths. With the elimination round down to its final week, the postseason picture remains muddled as only San Beda has gained a spot in the semifinals with San Sebastian, Letran, Perpetual Help and Jose Rizal U all in contention for the three slots.
The Stags, Knights, Altas and Bombers could end up in a quadruple tie at second, which could mean an extended season for the league. The last time this scenario happened was in Season 84, which was determined by the quotient system to rank the four teams and four playoff matches to determine the seeding, before the actual Final Four games.
San Sebastian, last year's losing finalist, has two tough games remaining against this season's surprise package, Perpetual Help, on Thursday and San Beda on Oct. 8. With an 11-5 record, the Stags are assured of at least a playoff for a Final Four berth just like the Knights, who have the Arellano Chiefs for their last game on Oct. 6.
The Bombers, with a 10-7 card as the Altas, have the lighter assignment in the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals on Thursday. With a 15-2 record, the Lions, who are on a nine-game winning run, have already locked up the top seeding in the Final Four.
Meanwhile, Mapua hopes to match its win total last season when it battles Lyceum at 4 p.m. at Filoil Flying V Arena.
Already out of the running for a Final Four slot, the Cardinals are gunning for a seventh win against the Pirates, who are trying to avoid ending up at last place this season.
Laying the foundation for next season's campaign, Arellano and St. Benilde also look for confidence-building wins in the second game at 6 p.m.