NLEX, Blackwater remain favorites in D-League
MANILA – The NLEX Road Warriors and the Blackwater Elite remain the favorites even as a record 14 teams will compete in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup, which kicks off Thursday at the Ynares Arena.
NLEX has been the toast of the D-League since its incarnation, winning all four championships until Blackwater ended its reign in the Foundation Cup last season.
“It’s very obvious that the teams which played in the Finals last conference, starting from the coaches to the players, are the teams to beat,” said Big Chill coach Robert Sison in a report on the league website.
“I’m not underestimating the other teams, but I should say they (NLEX and Blackwater) are the teams to beat this conference,” he added.
“On paper, expect the two to be the teams to beat. Ang barometer pa rin ay NLEX and Blackwater,” added Cebuana Lhuillier assistant coach Nomar Isla.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac is ready to take on all comers, knowing that as defending champions, they have a target on their backs.
“Ganoon naman when you win a championship. The next conference ikaw na ang inaasinta. Sabi nga nila, you can’t rest on your laurels, so we’ll try to improve more,” Isaac said.
Isaac also stressed that the D-League field is more even this year.
“I would say everybody will have a fair chance. Pare-parehas ang laban niyan,” he said, noting that their only advantage is their championship experience.
According to tournament director Eric Castro, the competition will see all 14 teams play in a single round robin elimination, with the bottom eight teams being eliminated. The top two teams will then advance automatically to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, the next four teams in the standings will face off in the quarter-finals, with the third and fourth-seeded teams having a twice-to-beat advantage.
The top two teams to emerge in the quarters will face the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the semi-finals, with each series being a best-of-three affair. The Finals will also be a best-of-three series.
The tournament kicks off at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday with Café France taking on Cagayan Valley, followed by the 4:00 p.m. game between the Derulo Accelero Oilers and the Zambales M-Builders.