THE race for the remaining three semifinals berths in the UAAP men's basketball tournament remains close as the four teams on top are separated by just two games.
Definitely, the last three playdates of the elimination round will make or break one team's Final Four bid.
So far, Ateneo is assured of playing in November, as the defending champions are just two wins away from making it to the Finals outright.
Running second is University of the Philippines, which has been grinding out wins all-season long.
Sporting a 8-6 record, the Fighting Maroons need only to win one of their last two matches to make it to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
UP's next opponent is a La Salle team that is fighting for its Final Four life on Sunday in Antipolo City. The Maroons will wrap up the elims against the Eagles in a Finals rematch on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"We’re going up against two great teams, La Salle and Ateneo. First I just wanna focus on going up against La Salle," said Kobe Paras, who has been clutch in UP's close shaves against Adamson and National University.
In joint third are Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas at 7-6, and both teams will have also-ran opponents that are capable of doing spoiler role in their final elimination round assignment this weekend.
The Tamaraws seek to sustain their late semis push against University of the East on Sunday, while the Growling Tigers will play Adamson on Saturday.
"Well kami yata together with UST ang tuluy-tuloy ang games, sa dulo kami magpapahinga. Next Wednesday ang bye namin eh. But sa tingin ko nakabuti nga sa amin yung ganung schedule eh because we gained momentum," said FEU coach Olsen Racela.
"Gumanda kami and we’re peaking at the right time, I think, with the schedule that we had. Siguro blessing in disguise yung nangyari dahil na-prepare talaga kami dito sa second round schedule namin. And we just have to prepare hard against UE dahil ang UE really has nothing to lose. So I expect them to play well on Sunday," he added.
The Green Archers are sitting in fifth place at 6-6, as they go up against the Maroons on Sunday before wrapping up their elims sked opposite the Falcons on Wednesday.
"We can’t really rest. We understand the task at hand. We’ve been actually watching tapes of UP already. It’s gonna be an exciting game. Kind of expect the same intensity, same atmosphere, we’re gonna be ready for it," said coach Gian Nazario after La Salle's narrow 80-79 victory over UST Wednesday night.