DEFENDING champion St. Clare College-Caloocan and De Ocampo Memorial College set out as the overwhelming favorites when they take on separate semifinal opponents today in the NAASCU Season 18 men's basketball tournament at the RTU gym.
The Saints, who are seeking an unprecedented third straight title, will battle New Era University at 11 a.m.
The Cobras, who are gunning for the title following a runner-up finish last year, meet Enderun Colleges in the opener at 9 a.m.
St. Clare and De Ocampo topped their respective groups and reached the crossover semifinals by handily beating Philippine Merchant Marine School and Rizal Technological University, respectively, in the quarterfinals.
Victories by St. Clare, handled by Jino Manansala, and De Ocampo, coached by Ronnie Dojillo, wil put them closer to a title rematch.
The Saints swept the Cobras, 101-79 and 98-83, in the finals last year.
New Era, which reached the semis for the first time since 2006, relied on the heroics of Jeff Comia to eliminate 2016 runner-up Our Lady of Fatima University, 67-65, in the quarterfinals.
Enderun slammed the door on St.Francis of Assisi College, 86-70, to reach the semis against De Ocampo.
Enderun and RTU begin their best-of-three title showdown in the women's division.
Defending champion Fatima and St. Clare will kick off their own best-of-three title series in the junior division on Monday.