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UAAP Men’s Basketball Semifinals Set: Ateneo vs UP and La Salle vs NU

Only one among the finalists in the past two seasons will return to the championship round as defending champion Ateneo and the top seed University of the Philippines confront each other in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament. A new finalist will emerge as the twice-to-beat La Salle and National University clash for the other championship berth on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

INQUIRER Sports gives you a preview of this year’s Final Four teams, who will fight for the two tickets for the best-of-three AAP Season 86 finals.

Battle of Katipunan: UP Fighting Maroons vs Ateneo Blue Eagles
Ateneo Blue Eagles vs UP Fighting Maroons in the UAAP Season 86. –MARLO CUETO/
After three out of four UAAP finals clashes, the Blue Eagles and Fighting Maroons go head-to-head in the Final Four, with Ateneo now the underdog as the No.4 seed for the first time in league history. Coming off a new-look roster this season, Tab Baldwin’s team just made it to the Final Four with his worst elimination record, losing 7-7 and needing a playoff win over Adamson three days before the semis. However, UP was quick to exact revenge in the second round with a 65-60 victory, which set the pace for last year’s runner-up to finish as the top seed for the first time ever.

Ending the drought: NU Bulldogs vs La Salle Green Archers
NU Bulldogs vs La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP Season 86. –MARLO CUETO/
La Salle tries to end a six-year Finals drought with its last appearance during the Ben Mbala era team when it lost to Ateneo in Season 80. NU, on the other hand, is raring to return to the Finals for the first time since 2014 when it beat Far Eastern University in three Finals games in Season 77. Under first-time La Salle coach Topex Robinson, they are oozing with confidence heading to the semifinals with eight straight wins, sweeping the second round in the eliminations for the No.2 seed with an 11-3 record.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, are entering their second straight Final Four with back-to-back losses in the elimination, sliding to the third place with a 10-4 record. NU coach Jeff Napa hopes for a different Final Four fate this time as they try to force a rubber match against La Salle, relying on Kean Baclaan, Jake Figueroa, Omar John, Patrick Yu, Mike Malonzo, Jolo Manansala, and Steve Nash Enriquez.