By REYNALD MAGALLON
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is expected to be more exciting and competitive as it adapts a new format for its senior’s basketball tournament which is set to return right after the league’s opening ceremony on March 26 at the La Salle Greenhills Gym in Mandaluyong.
Themed “Stronger Together, Buo ang Puso” for its 97th season, the defending champions Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights along with nine other schools are facing a tough challenge with a grueling two-game, five-day week schedule from Wednesdays to Sundays.
According to multiple reports, the regular season games will be compressed into a single-round robin format with the top six teams advancing to the playoffs.
The top two teams will still get an outright semifinals berth and a twice-to-beat advantage.
The biggest change happens at the start of the postseason as it will now feature play-in matches between the third to sixth seeded teams at the end of the elimination round.
The third and fourth ranked team will battle for the third semifinals seat with the loser taking on the winner between the No. 5 and No. 6 team to complete the semis cast.
In the previous seasons, NCAA had a double round-robin format in the eliminations with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals.
The last two teams standing will figure in a best-of-three Finals showdown.
The league will be headed by its returning commissioner Bai Cristobal.
The games will be played live, albeit without an audience and will be aired on GTV while the taped opening ceremony will be shown in GMA 7 at 2:30 pm.