Down to four: What to expect in UAAP Season 85 men's basketball playoffs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — To say the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament is unpredictable is an understatement.

The elimination round extended a bit as the competition was at its tightest in recent years.

Seven of the eight schools had a realistic shot at making it to the playoffs up until the last week of the preliminaries, and the last playoff spot had to be disputed in an extra game day.

After the dust settled, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles, University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons, National University (NU) Bulldogs, and Adamson University Soaring Falcons would vie for the title.

Here's a preview of the two Final Four match ups:

(1) Ateneo vs (4) Adamson

Round 1: ADMU 80-75 AdU, Round 2: ADMU 66-61 AdU 

Ateneo went on a six-game winning streak to close its elimination round campaign. The confidence level is high for the Blue Eagles as they've shown their true potential during that stretch.

Ateneo is the heavily-favored team in this matchup, but it should prepare and be cautious for whatever surprise Adamson has in its sleeve.

One name will be on top of the Blue Eagles' scouting report: Jerom Lastimosa. The spitfire guard carried the Soaring Falcons throughout the season whether in scoring or passing to a teammate. He can change the complexion of the game when he gets aggressive.

Adamson head coach Nash Racela is aware that Ateneo's defense will collapse on Lastimosa so he must also get production from his other players for them to have a chance to force a decider against the Blue Eagles.

Keeping the score close will be crucial for the Soaring Falcons because once Ateneo finds an opening and pulls away especially in the third quarter, it will be tough for Adamson to mount a comeback.

(2) UP vs (3) NU

Round 1: NU 80-75 UP, Round 2: UP 75-63 NU 

A lot of eyes will be on UP as it seeks to defend the championship. It took 32 years for the Diliman-based squad to capture another title so the pressure will be high for the Fighting Maroons to repeat the feat.

UP held on to the top spot for most part of the elimination round until it lost to La Salle and Ateneo in the second round and the Blue Eagles won their remaining games.

The Fighting Maroons are loaded with stars who can shine at the right moment. Expected to lead the charge for UP are Carl Tamayo, JD Cagulangan, Zavier Lucero, Malick Diouf, and James Spencer.

Meanwhile, NU is a defensive-minded team that draws its strength from the collective effort of its players. Head coach Jeff Napa has done an impressive job in bringing out the best in his wards.

Big man Omar John will be the Bulldogs' X-factor heading into this match. If he can limit Most Valuable Player contender Malick Diouf of UP and score at the opposite end, then an upset might be on the horizon for NU.

The coaching duel between Goldwin Monteverde and Napa will also grab the spotlight as they continue their rivalry which stems from the juniors. The mentor who can adjust rotations on the spot and draw big plays down the stretch will lead his team to victory.

The UAAP Season 85 Final Four is on Dec. 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.