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"March Madness"-like playoffs to culminate NBTC cagefest

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--With the national finals of the SM NBTC League happening next March, why not make it a Filipino "March Madness"?

The playoffs of the tournament pitting the best high school teams in the Philippines will now be patterned after that of the US NCAA tournament, that is, the regional champs, the league champs and the runners-up of the NCAA, UAAP, CESAFI, and the MMBL, four other teams from Metro Manila, and four invited teams from other countries will be seeded accordingly before getting bracketed to the knockout tournament.

"Everybody will be ranked from 1-32," NBTC director Eric Altamirano said during the launching event of the 11th season of the said high school league, the 6th MVP Sports Foundation Coaches Convention at the Ynares Sports Arena on Monday. "Merong seeding games on the first day, and then after that, malalaman kung sino ang number one all the way to number 32. And then magkakaroon ng knockout games. Very interesting itong season na ito."

The losing sides in the Round of 32, however, will still have a shot at redemption.

"Magkakaroon ng lower bracket. Yung mga matatalo sa first round will get to Division 2. They will have their own bracket. So we will have two champions at the end of the five-day national championship," Altamirano bared.

About the invited international teams, he said, "We will have international teams from Australia, US, Canada, and New Zealand."

He added that the format for the national finals next year was inspired by the reigning Division 2 champion's Cinderella run.

"A small school, yung Assumption Montessori from Cagayan De Oro, na-upset niya yung mga big teams sa NCR," Altamirano shared.

Altamirano added that like the usual, the NBTC season will begin with the local city qualifiers.

"The local city qualifiers will start on the first week of December and will run until the second week of February," he bared the time the tournaments will take place.

He continued, "After that, kung sino ang mga mananalo sa local cities, all of them will take part sa regionals. It will have 16 legs. And then yung 16 regional champions will go to the nationals." The seeded Mega Manila squads, CESAFI finalists, and the international squads are assured of slots in the national finals.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno