MANILA, Philippines – Ateneo de Manila University is just two games away from completing an elimination round sweep in UAAP Season 82, after its comfortable victory over University of the East (UE) on Sunday afternoon.
The two-time defending champions clobbered the Red Warriors, 84-50, to improve to 12-0 in the men's basketball tournament. Their remaining elimination round assignments are National University (NU) and University of the Philippines (UP), both of whom they routed in the first round.
Head coach Tab Baldwin refused to entertain the notion of a possible sweep, however.
"We're just thinking (about) NU," said the coach, referring to their game on Saturday against the Bulldogs.
"For any team in this position, things like undefeated seasons, sweeps – they happen because you take it one step at a time," he added. "Not because you make some grand statement about how good you are in front of a microphone."
No team has completed an elimination round sweep since the UE Red Warriors went 14-0 in Season 70, with a team anchored by a rookie Paul Lee and Mark Borboran. They went on to lose to De La Salle University in the finals via a two-game sweep.
La Salle and Ateneo both came close to elimination round sweeps in recent years.
The Green Archers, behind Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng, won their first 12 games in Season 79 but were shocked by Ateneo in their penultimate game of the elimination round, 83-71. They went on to sweep the Blue Eagles in the finals.
In Season 80, Ateneo was on the verge of a sweep, winning their first 13 games. But the Green Archers pulled off a 79-76 triumph in their final game of the eliminations, ensuring that there would be a traditional Final 4.
Ateneo went on to beat La Salle in a thrilling three-game series in the finals that year.
Thus, rather than dwell on what they can get done against UP on October 30, Ateneo's attention is on their equally crucial match-up against the Bulldogs on Saturday.
"We're very much focused on what our next performance is gonna be," said Baldwin.
"Hopefully, when we step up against NU, we'll be prepared for that game, and they will be the center of our attention, and we'll take care of business," he stressed.
A sweep of the elimination round will propel Ateneo straight to the best-of-3 finals, while the rest of the semifinalists duke it out in a step-ladder format to determine their opponent.
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