More than half a year after their season-ending loss to the FEU Tamaraws, the DLSU Green Archers will once again return to the court in the 10th edition of the FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup, which is slated to open tomorrow morning at the FilOil Arena in San Juan.
Led by head coach Aldin Ayo, La Salle will open the tournament at 10 am against former head coach Franz Pumaren and his new team, the Adamson Soaring Falcons. Along with AdU, DLSU is bracketed in a stacked Group B, which features last season’s champion San Beda, NCAA champion Letran, archrival Ateneo, UE, Lyceum, and Mapua.
Reigning UAAP Champion FEU and Season 77 champion NU will headline Group A, along with UP, Arellano University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, University of Perpetual Help, DLS-College of St. Benilde, and San Sebastian College.
Opening last season’s campaign with a loss to San Beda, the Green Archers raced to victories over the likes of UE, LPU, and a gutsy UP squad before surrendering the top seed with a loss to the CEU Scorpions. A close victory over the UST Growling Tigers sent them to the knockout rounds, where DLSU clinched wins over UPHSD and FEU to forge a rematch against the Red Lions.
In what was the second straight finals series between both teams, La Salle surrendered the title after suffering a crushing 79-53 defeat that saw only Jeron Teng and Andrei Caracut reach double figures with 21 and 10 points, respectively.
This year, DLSU enters the annual preseason tournament with a more experienced lineup that is continuing to familiarize itself with Ayo’s system. Early on, the team seemed to struggle in their first few games together during the EDQ Cup, something that showed the growing pains of a team learning a new scheme. However, their recent performance in the 2016 Araw ng Davao Basketball Invitational and their 85-59 win over Ateneo in the Milcu Got Skills Summer Showcase showed the potential of the team once they get the full grasp of the system.
Though no official lineup has been released, veterans Teng and Thomas Torres will look to begin their final playing year in convincing fashion. They won’t be alone in their campaign, as Ben Mbala will be making his FilOil debut along with highly touted rookies Aljun Melecio, Ricci Rivero, and Brent Paraiso. Sophomores Caracut, Jollo Go, Gboy Gob, and Larry Muyang will also be returning, this time with a year of experience under their belts.
Missing from the list of schools are Season 78 first runner-up UST, NCAA’s JRU, and Cebu-based schools such as Southwestern University and the University of Visayas. Teams will be allowed to field in as many as 20 players, with two replacements allowed up to their third game.
The format remains relatively familiar as it is still a single round-robin setup in the elimination round, with the top four teams in each group advancing to the crossover quarterfinals. A knockout semifinals will take place, followed by a winner-take-all final.
It will be a test of new schemes as Ayo will be deploying the Mayhem press that has become his calling card, while Pumaren will be bringing his vaunted press to San Marcelino. Come tip-off, the beginning of a new era for both UAAP schools will commence, with both teams aiming to come away with good first impressions as they prepare for Season 79.