UAAP Final Four positionings start taking shape this weekend

Jake Figueroa (with ball) and the rest of the Bulldogs are up for another tough fight against the Green Archers. —UAAP PHOTO

Jake Figueroa (with ball) and the rest of the Bulldogs are up for another tough fight against the Green Archers. —UAAP PHOTO

La Salle coach Topex Robinson put everything in his Green Archers’ perspective as far as their blockbuster matchup with National U goes on Saturday.

“Whether you like it or not, they (Bulldogs) will play in the Finals or the Final Four [at the very least], Robinson said in acknowledging how formidable the National U program is, before saying how much he would love to play them as the elimination round of UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament continues.

“The opportunity for us to learn [playing] against NU is gonna be helpful for us,” he said, never mind the fact that the Bulldogs dealt them a sorry 80-77 overtime defeat just two weeks before, and that vengeance is not their battle cry for the 4 p.m. contest set at Mall of Asia Arena.

“We [are not going to play] to get back at NU,” he went on. “They are worthy rivals. Their strengths are our weaknesses. But NU is not our competition, our competition is ourselves.”

The Green Archers are at 5-3, trailing joint leaders National and idle University of the Philippines by two games for top seeding in the Final Four, making this an important encounter for both sides.

But even National coach Jeff Napa is looking at the game in the same way.

“We actually don’t care who we play,” Napa said in Filipino. “What we want to take care of is ourselves. Our opponents won’t win games for us. We will win the games for ourselves.”

The Bulldogs will be going into the match as the hottest team in the tournament, although there are reports that starting point guard Steven Nash Enriquez is scheduled to go under the knife to repair a broken jaw.

Staying healthy matters

There hasn’t been an official statement from the school regarding Enriquez’ case, though Napa said something about health being a big factor at this point.

“The welfare of my players is the most important thing,” Napa said. “It’s easy thinking about our next opponent, because we can prepare for them and they will surely prepare for us.“I need my players to be healthy because we still have a long tournament ahead.”

La Salle and NU, like UP and defending champion Ateneo—which will have their return match Sunday—are easily the most stacked teams in the tournament and are seen to surely make up the Final Four cast in a few weeks.

But the tournament has seen its twists and turns in its first month that nothing seems to be assured at the moment, with the Blue Eagles falling in and out of the top four, La Salle having its struggles, the Bulldogs also showing some weakness and the Fighting Maroons having the tendency to blow cold.Kevin Quiambao, the first-round MVP leader, will play a key role for the Archers moving forward together with Evan Nelle. The form La Salle’s 1-2 punch which is supported by a talented cast that could be the envy of the other teams.

Meanwhile, University of the East tries to keep and University of Santo Tomas in the cellar when they clash in the 2 p.m. curtain-raiser.

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The Red Warriors will be seeking to repeat a blowout win over the Growling Tigers, who were able to snap a 19-game losing streak with a win over Far Eastern last week only to play horridly again three days later and suffer a 31-point shellacking at the hands of the Maroons. INQ