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Battle for fourth provides suspense in Ateneo-dominated season


Ateneo’s Ange Kouame rises for a shot. —UAAP MEDIA

At the UAAP’s most complicated path, Adamson defeats University of the East while National University and Far Eastern U drop their assignments on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.

That will put all three teams tied at six wins and eight losses. In that case, the Falcons draw a bye. The Bulldogs and the Tamaraws engage in a no-tomorrow match with the winner advancing to a playoff with Adamson for a spot in the semifinals.

All that, just to get to fourth place.

But in Season 84’s men’s basketball tournament, where it’s almost a given that Ateneo will run away with the crown, just making it to the Final Four can be seen as an achievement.

The Eagles, after all, have made it look like the rest of the field will have to settle for crumbs this year, running their overall winning streak to 39 games while collecting 13 wins in as many games this season.

Only one team stands in the way of Ateneo’s elimination round sweep—and an outright Finals berth: University of the Philippines (UP). But both teams’ 7 p.m. Sunday showdown at Mall of Asia Arena is practically no-bearing. Ateneo will wind up the top seed in the Final Four and UP will be No. 2.

‘UP a handful’

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, however, believes that the duel has enough significance to excite varsity hoop fans.

“We know for sure that UP is gonna be handful,” Baldwin said. “And I’m sure they have been looking forward to this game for, you know, some weeks. But it will be good. It will be what a lot of people have waited for and it’ll be exciting.”

Competitively speaking, however, the only teams that the Ateneo-UP match will affect are the lower seeds of the Final Four. If the Eagles beat the Maroons, they dunk the rest of the semifinalists into a stepladder series. It will be of minor inconvenience to UP, which will wait at the final step of the ladder if that happens. For the No. 3 and 4 teams, however, the stepladder represents an additional roadblock to the finals.

They will engage in a knockout match, with the winner advancing to play a UP squad shielded by the twice-to-beat bonus.

If UP beats Ateneo, the format shifts to a regular Final Four process, with the Eagles and the Maroons holding twice-to-beat protection against the lower-seeded schools.

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