With just four weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture gets a bit clearer every week. Following section seeding criteria, especially head-to-head and common opponent results, we will rank teams accordingly each week, and discuss the criteria used and how these seeds may change in the near future.
We started the process a few weeks ago by seeding all eight teams in each division, but with limited analysis, which continues to evolve each week. This year features more divisions, but half as many teams getting into each bracket. We will try to note match-ups which will have the largest impacts on our projections. Also, we do this under the assumption that every eligible team will apply for the post-season, and only change that assumption in the final couple weeks if a coach makes it clear that their program does not intend on applying.
1. De La Salle
4. Monte Vista
6. James Logan
7. Amador Valley
Rationale: The biggest change in our projections right now is the exclusion of San Ramon Valley. The Wolves are no doubt one of the top eight teams in the division, and sit at 4-2 with four games remaining. But after last week’s loss to Foothill, San Ramon Valley will need to pull at least one upset in the final four weeks in order to be eligible for the post-season, so we cannot list them on here at this time.
If SRV is not able to get eligible, that opens the door for the third-place team from the BVAL, which we are right now projecting to be Antioch, based on the Panthers’ one-point win over Heritage and one-point loss to San Ramon Valley. Antioch also has a loss to Amador Valley, which will strengthen the case for the Dons to get away from the dreaded eight seed and a date with DLS.
California’s big win over Clayton Valley last week moves the Grizzlies back ahead of James Logan in our projections. We have also moved Pittsburg ahead of Monte Vista for the time being, based on a pair of higher quality non-league wins. However, the comparative end result against Liberty will go a long way towards determining seeds two through four, so check back each week to see where things stand there.
Aside from San Ramon Valley, the other team with the most likely shot at getting eligible would be Freedom, despite its current 0-7 start. The Falcons have already played Liberty and Pittsburg, so their finish in league will be determined in large part based on how it fares against Heritage and Antioch.
1. Clayton Valley Charter
3. San Leandro
Rationale: Despite Clayton Valley’s loss to Cal, the Ugly Eagles should still be in line for the top seed, as both of their losses are to top Division 1 opponents, by a combined four points and they have a top win over Turlock. Campolindo should be no worse than a second-place team in the DAL-Foothill, and with three solid wins over Rancho Cotate, Amador Valley and Hayward, it is hard to imagine the Cougars dropping below the two seed unless they get upset in league play.
The next three teams could really go in any order by the end of the season, and we have San Leandro there right now based on its win over Foothill, a win which has gained strength each week. Foothill’s win over San Ramon Valley gives it a higher quality win than anything Vintage has at this point, so the Crushers are bumped to the five spot in our projections at this point, with a huge game looming this week against American Canyon. It’s important to note that Foothill could suffer a couple losses before the end of the year and still end up in the top four, since losses to teams such as Monte Vista and De La Salle will not hurt the Falcons’ standing. San Leandro also has a big game this week, heading to Bishop O’Dowd.
Redwood’s win over San Marin puts the Giants in the driver’s seat for the MCAL title, though the designation will go to Marin Catholic. Redwood does have a bad loss to Berkeley, but that was in the season opener and late-season results hold a bit more water. Dublin’s win over Granada clinched eligibility for the Gaels, and they will continue to rise if they beat Amador Valley and Livermore, a quest which starts at Livermore this Friday. In fact, either Dublin or Livermore could still end up in the top five seeds if they win the division title, depending on what also happens with teams like San Leandro and Vintage.
Right now, the top teams on the outside looking in with these projections are clearly Napa and College Park. College Park’s best chance is to beat Benicia this week and secure a DAL-Valley title, which would guarantee a playoff berth. Napa, meanwhile, needs a strong showing against Vintage in the regular season finale and definitely has to run the table to that point. The biggest case against the Grizzlies right now, like with College Park, is lack of a true quality win.
1. Las Lomas
2. Rancho Cotate
4. American Canyon
6. Bishop O’Dowd
8. El Cerrito
Rationale: With wins over Bishop O’Dowd and Vanden, Las Lomas has the inside track to the top seed, as long as the Knights finish no lower than second in the DAL-Foothill Division. Rancho Cotate likely secured a top-two seed with a strong showing against Cardinal Newman, despite the loss. The Cougars also have big wins over Pleasant Valley-Chico, El Cerrito and Vanden, and could be strongly considered for the top seed based on the common opponent score with Vanden, as Rancho beat them by 28 points while Las Lomas had a one-point victory. That means there is little room for error for Las Lomas as it navigates league play.
Benicia finds itself sort of stuck in the three seed spot right now. The Panthers won’t have a good enough quality win to make a case for either of the top two seeds, but also only have a three-point loss to an excellent Sutter team. As long as Benicia runs the table in the DAL-Valley, it should not drop any lower than three, but moving up will be a challenge. The same could be said for American Canyon, which just beat Napa to move to 7-0, but the lack of true quality victories is hurting the Wolves. If AC loses to Vintage and no one else, the four or five seed looks likely. Even running the table might not move the Wolves any higher, but a loss to anyone other than Vintage could send them plummeting.
Pegging the final four teams gets real difficult and will take some time to sort out. On one hand we have Hayward, which is likely to finish 9-1 as a league champion, and the only loss was a very competitive game against Campolindo where the Farmers trailed by two scores for most of the night. But like American Canyon and Benicia, quality wins are lacking. Hayward does have a similar score victory over Pinole Valley to Benicia, and that win just got better with Pinole’s win over Bethel, so the Farmers could make a case for the four seed, depending on how well AC plays against Vintage.
Bishop O’Dowd just routed Berkeley to start league play in the WACC-Foothill, the higher-tier division compared to where Hayward plays. Despite losing their first five games, if the Dragons win out, they will have to move into the top four of seeding. This week’s game against San Leandro will go a long way towards determining that possibility, so check back next week for more thoughts on this development.
Windsor is another difficult placement. The Jaguars have a solid win over Eureka, but that win won’t be fully gauged until we see how the Loggers do in league play. Meanwhile, Windsor still has Rancho Cotate and Cardinal Newman on the schedule. Just staying competitive in those two games will strengthen the Jaguars’ case for a seed in the top five or six, and they need to win all remaining league games.
El Cerrito has struggled mightily to start the year, but is still considered a top-three team in the TCAL-Rock, especially after easily handling St. Patrick-St. Vincent in its league opener. The Gauchos could easily move into the top six seeds by placing in the top two of their league, and certainly if they beat Kennedy this Saturday.
While sorting out the eight teams listed above is pretty tricky due to lack of common opponents, there does seem to be a clear line between those eight and any other teams looking to snag a playoff spot. Bethel’s loss to Pinole Valley really damaged any case the Jaguars might have had, and they absolutely now have to beat De Anza to have a shot. Casa Grande will be eligible if it splits its final four games, but to have a shot at getting in, needs to win at least three of the four.
Ukiah needs to win three of its final four to have a shot at the field, which would mean beating Windsor, while Northgate likely needs to upset Benicia to have a shot.
1. Cardinal Newman
2. Marin Catholic
6. Newark Memorial
Rationale: The top two seeds are pretty much a slam dunk at this point, though they could go in either order. Piner has blasted every opponent thus far, but lack of a true quality win will leave the Prospectors relegated to no better than the three seed.
Meanwhile, Acalanes played tough against Vintage and has wins over Berkeley, Sacred Heart Cathedral and El Cerrito already. If the Dons knock off either Las Lomas or Campolindo, they would secure the three seed. If not, four might be more likely when compared to an unbeaten Piner team which routed Miramonte.
After Tamalpais, simply filling out this field becomes a matter of who can get eligible, and the resulting first-round games will probably not be what the section had in mind when they reduced the fields to eight teams. Newark Memorial has wins over Tennyson and Kennedy-Fremont, which means the Cougars have secured eligibility, though wins over Washington and Irvington to get them to .500 overall will look a lot better on the resume.
Tennyson just beat Alameda to get to .500 overall and 2-0 in the WACC-Shoreline. The Lancers do have a two-point loss to Newark, but should win at least two of their remaining four and slide in behind the Cougars. The final spot could come down to Kennedy, Vallejo or Concord. Concord only needs to beat Mt. Diablo to be eligible, but probably has the weakest overall argument, unless the Minutemen upset Ygnacio Valley, Benicia or Alhambra. Vallejo is likely to finish .500 in league play, but if Kennedy gets eligible, the Titans have a better strength of schedule and a narrow loss to Newark. Kennedy needs to split its final four games to be eligible, which will likely mean beating American and Washington.
It is important to note that if Maria Carrillo or Petaluma could get eligible, either of those teams would make the field, but at this point, it does not appear likely. Carrillo is 3-3 overall right now, but has games remaining against Cardinal Newman, Rancho Cotate and Windsor. An upset victory against any of those three teams would certainly guarantee a berth for the Pumas, however.
2. Del Norte
3. De Anza
4. Moreau Catholic
6. San Marin
Rationale: All five of Encinal’s wins are by shutout, and its one loss was a competitive showing against McClymonds, so for now we have the Jets in the top spot, but that could easily change.
The top two or three seeds are going to be pretty up for grabs in this division. Del Norte could certainly go 9-1 in the regular season, but if Encinal beats either O’Dowd or San Leandro in league play, the Jets will have a strong argument for the top seed even at 8-2 overall. The biggest knock against De Anza will be the league that the Dons play in, and it is hard to imagine a team from a lower-tier division getting a top-two seed without a massive non-league victory.
Moreau Catholic’s win over San Marin should keep the Mariners in front of the Mustangs, just like their loss to Del Norte solidifies their place below the Warriors. Eureka will get its chance to fight for a better seed in league play, and the Loggers could shake this up with a win over Del Norte, which could likely get Eureka a top-two spot.
This week’s Alhambra vs Miramonte game is huge for both teams. Miramonte likely needs a win just to become eligible this season, while Alhambra needs a win to avoid sliding to the eight seed. A victory for the Bulldogs could even get them in consideration for the top six.
Piedmont has a rough schedule the next two weeks, but could become eligible with wins over Berkeley and Castro Valley in the final two weeks of the season. Anything but a split of the four games, however, will leave the Highlanders on the outside looking in. Defending NCS champion Fortuna could also still get eligible, but the Huskies will need to win two of three games during Big 4 action. If they do so, however, they should crack the field and keep their chances of repeating alive.
2. St. Bernard’s
5. St. Patrick-St. Vincent
6. Pinole Valley
7. Lower Lake
Rationale: If Kennedy wins the TCAL-Rock, the Eagles will likely be the top seed here, but that is no given considering that El Cerrito and Salesian stand in the way. Justin-Siena and St. Bernard’s are both off to strong starts, especially with Justin-Siena’s win over Riordan, but the Braves’ loss to Casa Grande has to drop them below the Crusaders right now.
Middletown has the inside track to the NCL title, but still has games with Willits and St. Helena remaining, with the latter happening this week. Pinole Valley just boosted its stock with a huge win over Bethel, and the Spartans are favored to run the table and finish 6-4. With the drop-off after the top four in this field, that should be good enough for the six seed. Why not the five seed? Alhambra is the reason for that, as Pinole has a loss to the Bulldogs while St. Pat’s has a win in that match-up. The Bruins may be just 1-5 right now, but as long as they split their final four games and that includes a win over Saint Mary’s, then they will be eligible and have a high strength of schedule to support their argument.
The final two spots will likely come down to three teams – Lower Lake, Arcata and Ygnacio Valley. Arcata’s win over Willits is the best on the board among those three teams right now, especially after Willits beat St. Helena last week. The Tigers, however, will need to pick up wins over Hoopa Valley and/or Ferndale to solidify their case. Lower Lake has a decent win over El Molino, but the Trojans need to at least split their final four games. A loss to either Kelseyville or Clear Lake would be very damaging.
As for Ygnacio Valley, the Warriors are likely to finish 7-3, including a forfeit win early in the year. But wins over Concord and Berean Christian won’t add much to the playoff resume, while a win over Northgate would clinch no worse than the seven seed. YV could still have a strong shot at the eight seed, however, if Arcata slips up during the remainder of league play.
3. St. Helena
5. St. Vincent de Paul
6. El Molino
7. Hoopa Valley
8. California School for the Deaf/Oakland Military Institute
Rationale: Salesian is the clear front-runner for the top seed, especially with a win over Moreau Catholic and St. Helena’s recent loss to Willits. That puts Willits in the driver’s seat for the two seed, with wins over St. Helena and St. Vincent de Paul. Ferndale’s win over Fortuna and current unbeaten record in Little 4 play has the Wildcats in line for a top four seed.
El Molino will likely fall this week to Piner, but just needs to beat Healdsburg next week to secure eligibility, and could run the table with Montgomery and Harker also remaining. Hoopa Valley just needs to beat McKinleyville next week to secure eligibility, and already has a win over the Panthers.
The season-ending game between CSD and OMI will determine which of those programs is eligible for the post-season. Stellar Prep has officially been eliminated from playoff eligibility, while Cloverdale needs to beat St. Helena or Middletown in the final two games of the season to become eligible. Clear Lake could also become eligible with a win over Cloverdale, and if that happens, the Cardinals would likely make the field over either of the two teams we have listed at eight right now.