Games today: (Cuneta Astrodome)
8 a.m. -- PCU vs New Era
10:30 a.m. -- Opening ceremony
12 p.m. -- St.Clare vs Enderun
2 p.m. -- OLFU vs. CUP
4 p.m. -- De Ocampo vs DLSAU
DEFENDING champion St.Clare College-Caloocan opens its bid for an unprecedented third straight title when it takes on Enderun Colleges at the start of the 18th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) basketball tournament today at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Game time is 12 noon after the 10:30 a.m. opening ceremony with no less than Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Bureau of Correction head Gen. Ronald “Bato" de la Rosa and Melvin Contapay of Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa as special guests.
NAASCU founding president Dr. Ernesto Jay Adalem of St. Clare College-Caloocan will deliver the welcome remarks, while NAASCU president Dr. Martha Beata Ijiran of Philippine Christian University will make the formal declaration of the opening.
A total of 15 teams divided into two groups are seeing action in the tournament with St. Clare and last year’s runner-up De Ocampo Memorial College leading their respective groups.
To be handled anew by multi-titled coach Jino Manansala, St. Clare remained confident about its chances despite losing two-time MVP Aris Dionisio and six other key players of last year's champion team.
Leading the charge for the Caloocan City-based Saints are import Mohamed Pare, Irven Palencia and Junjie Hallare and rookies Joshua Fontanilla, Joseph Peñaredondo and Aeron Decano.
Other opening-day hostilities will pit PCU against New Era University at 8 a.m.; 2016 runner-up Our Lady of Fatima University against City University of Pasay at 2 p.m.; and De Ocampo against De La Salle-Araneta University at 4 p.m.
A colorful opening ceremony highlighted by the traditional parade of teams and their muses will usher in the 18th season of the league.
Go will talk about sports and the youth, De la Rosa will discuss sports against drugs and Contapay will expound on sports and the future in their inspirational remarks.
Dr. Adalem will also administer the Oath of NAASCU to the Board of Trustee, while Dr. Ijiran will also introduce the guest speakers.
Last year, St. Clare defeated De Ocampo, 101-79, and 98-83, in their scheduled best-of-three title showdown to capture back-to-back championships.
The Saints, who bagged their first-ever title in 2012, also became only the third team after University of Manila and Centro Escolar University to win three titles or more since the league’s inception in 2001.
Manansala also tied CEU mentor Egay Macaraya as the second winningest coach with three titles behind only the five of UM coach Ato Tolentino.
Overall, University of Manila is the winningest team with seven titles.
The Hawks bagged the title in the league’s first five years -- 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 -- and repeated in 2010 and 2011.
AMA ended UM’s reign when it captured the title in 2006.
Other NAASCU champions are STI (2007), San Sebastian College-Cavite (2008, 2009), Centro Escolar University (2013, 2014, 2015) and St. Clare (2012, 2016, 2017).