SAN SEBASTIAN opens its bid for redemption against a young Jose Rizal University side today in the NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Bannered by their 1-2 punch of RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi, the Stags are determined to capitalize on the gains of their off-season build-up starting with the 4 p.m. clash with the Bombers.
Meanwhile, University of Perpetual Help System Dalta takes on Mapua at 2 p.m., while College of Saint Benilde and Emilio Aguinaldo College usher in a three-game bill at 12 noon.
The six teams hope to join opening day winners San Beda and Lyceum of the Philippines University for the early lead.
Despite losing last year's MVP Prince Eze to graduation, the Altas looked ready to defy all the odds stacked against them to achieve a second straight Final Four appearance under coach Frankie Lim.
The Blazers, with their virtually intact roster, will make another Final Four push after missing the bus last season despite having a winning record, no thanks to a second round meltdown.
Focus will be on San Sebastian, which is in the Final Four due to its impressive PBA D-League campaign, thanks to the impressive performances of Ilagan and Bulanadi.
But coach Egay Macaraya is wary that the Stags might be too overreliant on Ilagan and Bulanadi, as the Recto-based squad have enough materials to contend for a semifinal spot.
For Ilagan, it's time to make amends after he committed an early season blunder last year that caused San Sebastian to forfeit its two first round matches for playing in "ligang labas".
After a three-win campaign last year, JRU hopes to rise again under new coach Louie Gonzalez, who before moving to the Mandaluyong-based school had a brief tenure for La Salle in the UAAP.
MJ dela Virgen and Aaron Bordon will spearhead an upstart Bombers team that is trying to rebuild and be competitive against the league's best.
The Cardinals and the Generals, for their part, will also parade new coaches to revive their respective programs.
Randy Alcantara, one of the key players in Mapua's back-to-back championship runs in the early 90s and a multi-titled juniors coach, will make his collegiate debut for his alma mater, while Oliver Bunyi will now handle an EAC side still looking for a breakthrough Final Four stint since joining the league in 2009.