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By Jason Webb

We’re finally going to get a good run of continuous games after breaks from the Holy Week and All-Star weekend. With teams averaging four playing dates left to book their seeding in the classification, it’s a sprint to the finish line in the next three weeks.

Every team will have a chance to participate in the playoffs but their final team standings will be the biggest gauge of their probability to go all the way to the top.

For those who’ve been hiding under a rock and still are unaware of how the format for the playoffs is set, the top two teams get an outright semifinal slot. The No. 3 and 4 seeds face the ninth and tenth seeds, respectively, with twice-to-beat advantages while it’s the fifth vs. eighth and sixth vs. seventh in one-game knockout affairs with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals.

I’ve mentioned before the main position to play for is the top two seeds for obvious reasons. Having to go through a knockout game and best-of-three quarterfinal opens good teams to upsets. To make the semis, it’s all about number of wins. For now, I think 10 is sure, 9 is good but just might tie, 8 is possible but highly improbable.
NINE TOES IN THE DOOR – Barring a monumental collapse San Miguel Beer should be able to take the first of two semifinal spots.

SAN MIGUEL (8-1) – Opponents left: Alaska, Burger King, Barako Bull, Sta. Lucia, Coke

I just can’t imagine San Miguel not taking one of the outright semifinal seats. Not only have they played the least number of games so far (along with Coke), they also have three fewer losses than the closest challenger. Plus when you look at their schedule, they’re the only team that gets to play three teams with losing records. They showed they’re not invincible with their loss to Rain or Shine but grabbing two wins in their last five should not be that hard.

PERFECTION IS KEY – If any of these two teams manage to sweep their final games, they should automatically get the second outright semifinal spot.

STA. LUCIA (6-4) – Coke, Ginebra, Purefoods, San Miguel

PUREFOODS (6-4) – Barako Bull, Ginebra, Sta. Lucia, Burger King

The schedule difficulty for the two teams is quite even. Both teams’ first assignment is against teams they’re favored to win and in no way should lose to, if they don’t want to make things difficult for them. And then it gets real interesting. Both teams face Ginebra for their second assignment and could end the Kings’ dream of making it to the semifinals outright.

Obviously, their key game is their duel against each other on May 14. That game might just decide who takes the other semifinal seat.

DESTINY’S NOT IN THEIR HANDS – Even if these teams make a perfect run of their last three games, it is likely that it won’t necessarily mean they get in.

RAIN OR SHINE (6-5) – Talk ‘N Text, Barako Bull, Coca-Cola

BURGER KING (6-5) – San Miguel, Talk ‘N Text, Purefoods

Of the two teams, Rain or Shine’s schedule is much easier than that of Burger King. With the team in high spirits after beating the erstwhile unbeaten SMB, if Rain or Shine manages to beat Talk ‘N Text in their upcoming update, it’ll be an odds-on favorite to finish with nine wins. After that, it’s all about standings-watching for the Elasto Painters.

Although Burger King has the same record, it should be much harder to get three straight wins against SMB, TNT and Purefoods.

PERFECT RUNS, DIFFERENT RESULTS – A 4-game win streak could catapult these teams to a playoff or outright semifinal seat. A 4-game losing streak could send them to the bottom and become the ninth seed.

TALK ‘N TEXT (5-5) – Rain or Shine, Coke, Burger King, Alaska

BARANGAY GINEBRA (5-5) – Sta. Lucia, Purefoods, Alaska, Coke

Same records, different directions. Barangay Ginebra is on a 4-game win streak and have found an import that works well with their locals while Talk ‘N Text just lost their last two and their import as well. While TNT’s schedule is easier than Ginebra, their run will be dictated by the quality of reinforcement that arrives for their final elimination run. The Kings’ first two assignments will be their biggest test.
Purefoods and SLR are the toughest teams they’ve faced ever since they started their win streak. The games of both teams are all critical since they face not only teams they want to surpass in trying to make the semis but also the two teams that can catch them in the standings.

THE BOTTOM THREE – Odds are stacked against these teams to get out of the dreaded final two slots. Good thing is that there are three of them. One of them evades the difficult task of facing a team carrying a twice to beat advantage.

ALASKA (4-7) – San Miguel, Ginebra, Talk ‘N Text

COCA-COLA (3-6) – Sta. Lucia, Talk N’ Text, Rain or Shine, Ginebra, San Miguel

BARAKO BULL (2-9) – Purefoods, Rain or Shine, San Miguel

While Barako Bull is a long shot to get out of the cellar, Alaska only has a slim advantage against Coke to slip out of the bottom two. With Coke having two more games to play compared to Alaska, it’s not far-fetched for the Tigers to tie or even jump ahead of Alaska. Alaska’s schedule is much tougher even if they both play the same teams. It’s because Alaska plays SMB inn their next encounter while Coke faces them in their last. You would think that SMB is on a must-win mode against Alaska and will likely have wrapped up a semifinal spot when they face Coke in Dubai in the last game of the classification phase.

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