9 a.m. -- Opening ceremonies
10 a.m. -- St. Clare vs. AMA
11:30 a.m. -- CdSL vs. CUP
1 p.m. -- PMMS vs. Fatima
2:30 p.m. -- Lyceum-Subic vs. PCU
FORMER champions St. Clare College-Caloocan and AMA University will clash in an early battle of favorites in the 16th NAASCU basketball tournament, which reels off today at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Saints, who bagged the title in 2012, and the Titans, who ruled the event in 2006, take the floor starting at 10 a.m.after a brief but colorful opening ceremony at 9 a.m.
NAASCU chairman Ernesto Jay Adalem of St.Clare will lead the opening ceremony, along with commissioner Fritz Gaston Other opening-day matches will pit newcomer Colegio de San Lorenzo against City University of Pasay at 11:30 a.m.; Philippine Merchant Marine School against Our Lady of Fatima University at 1 p.m.; and Philippine Christian University against Lyceum of Subic at 4 p.m.
The other six member-teams -- Rizal Technological University, Manuel Luis Quezon University, New Era University, De Ocampo Memorial College, EARIST and Enderun Colleges -- drew opening-day byes.
On Friday it will be MLQU against De OCampo at 8 a.m, RTU against New Era at 9:30 a.m. and Enderun against EARIST at 11 a.m. at the JCSGO gym in Cubao.
“With more teams, more events and wider coverage, we expect this year’s NAASCU competitions to be a lot more exciting,” said Adalem.
St. Clare, which is being handled by coach Jinino Manansala, will be the team to beat this year.
The Caloocan City-based Saints, wh o finished runner-up to Cen tro Escolar University in the last three years, will parade a near intact line-up bannered by 6-6 Cameronian center Steve Fonguemm, Mark Puspus, Aris Dionisio, Paeng Rebulio, Nico Principe and Jordan Rios.
AMA, another strong title contender under chairman Dr. Amable R. Aguiluz V, SVP Arneil Guibo and coach Mark Herrera, will rely on Christian Macaranas, Jezer Calma, Miguel Magpantay, Jayson Jordan, Mike De Guzman, Jassn Dulnoan, Jerome Ortega, Paul Carpio, Daniel Salonga, Jason Riley Jr., Janz Pineda, Alvin Fuentes, Clark Quijano, Marc Pippin and Troy Macaspac.
Herrera will be assisted by Benjie Diswe, Bobby Andaya, Edwin Ancheta and Eugene Bautista.
PCU, which underwent massive pre-season build-up that included a runner-up finish in the MBL Open during summer, will also be a big threat with coach Ato Tolentino and his son Elvis at the helm.
MLQU, another multi-titled team on the comeback trail under coach Jimmy Manansala Jr., is the tournament darkhorse.
Manansala, who is best remembered for leading the St.Clare Baby Saints to the NAASCU title in 2014, will lean on the service of 5-10 point guard Joshua Nicholas, 5-10 Jonathan Pastor, 6-0 slasher Mark Poole, 6-3 power forward Alex Junsay and 6-5 shot-blocking demon Aeron Decano.
Also with the team now being supported by New San Jose Builders are Niko Jamila, Clyde Fabilla , Jeanard Hermoso, Amiel Decena, Joseph Lastimoa, John Paul Corpuz, Bader Castillo and John Paul Corpuz.
Only six schools have won a title in the league, established in 2001.
University of Manila is the winningest school in the NAASCU with seven titles, including five in a row from 2001 to 2005 under the tried and tested tandem of coach Loreto “Ato” Tolentino and manager Dr. Ernesto de los Santos.
CEU is second with three championships from 2012-2015, whiel San Sebastian College-Cavite, is third with two titles in 2008 and 2009.
Winning one title each are AMA (2006), STI (2007) and St. Clare (2012).