The regular season is nearly complete and the playoff picture is getting pretty clear. Following section seeding criteria, especially head-to-head, common opponent results and quality wins and losses for strength of schedule, we are ranking the teams for a final time this week, in advance of this Sunday’s North Coast Section seeding meeting. If anything changes based on the small number of games this Friday and Saturday, we will edit and re-post this final set of projections.
We started the process by seeding all eight teams in each division, with limited analysis, but now we provide a full breakdown of rationale for all listed seeds. This year features more divisions, but half as many teams getting into each bracket. We write this under the assumption that every eligible team will apply for the post-season, and only change that assumption if a coach makes it clear that their program does not intend on applying.
There is one other important note for our readers. Teams no longer are able to list scores of games on their playoff applications, just whether they won or lost, and committee members do not consider scores when selecting and seeding the teams. So any argument with common opponents which revolves around margin of victory or defeat no longer applies.
Editor's note - this final projection was updated on Saturday, November 9, 7:35 pm to reflect games played on Friday and early on Saturday.
1. De La Salle
4. San Ramon Valley
5. Monte Vista
7. James Logan
8. Amador Valley
Rationale: De La Salle is unquestioned as the top seed, and the same holds true for Pittsburg and Liberty in the next two slots. Pittsburg’s head-to-head win over Liberty gave the Pirates the two seed, while Liberty’s wins over Monte Vista, Clayton Valley and Cardinal Newman all have the Lions locked into the three spot. All three of the top teams sport identical 9-1 overall records.
We had Monte Vista in the four slot for most of the season, but San Ramon Valley’s win over the Mustangs to finish the regular season should be enough to give SRV the four seed. That, of course, means a rematch with Monte Vista in the quarterfinals, since the Mustangs’ win over California keeps them next in line.
The most difficult debate in all this seeding will come down to which team will be at the six and seven seeds. James Logan has a 9-1 overall record, and the Colts are an unbeaten league champion, but California plays in a much more difficult league. Both teams have a win over Heritage, but California also has wins over Clayton Valley, Foothill, Freedom and Antioch. James Logan’s best win is over San Leandro, with Moreau Catholic also a quality victory. It could also come down to quality of losses. All three of California’s defeats are to teams seeded higher in this bracket, while Logan’s defeat was to a 5-5 Los Osos team in its season opener. Strength of schedule could be the tipping point, as California played six games against Division 1 opponents, while James Logan played just one game against a Division 1 opponent.
The stakes are highest for James Logan in this seeding scenario. If the Colts can get the six seed, they would have a home game against Liberty. The seven seed, however, will send them to Pittsburg, since both teams would be league champions. California will be on the road in either scenario.
Amador Valley is the EBAL-Valley champion, with quality wins over Foothill and Antioch, but a bad loss to Heritage will leave the Dons in the eight spot. California has the same quality wins over Foothill and Antioch, while Logan has the win over Heritage to keep the Colts above the Dons.
Freedom is the only other eligible team in Division 1, and the Falcons might have had an argument if Amador Valley had not become a league champ, due to Heritage as a common opponent. But in this current set-up, Freedom’s loss to California has the Falcons on the outside looking in.
1. Clayton Valley
4. San Leandro
Rationale: It could take a while to sort out the top three seeds here. Clayton Valley has the worst overall record at 5-5, but all five of those losses were to Division 1 playoff teams, and the Ugly Eagles also beat a league champion (Turlock) and three Division 1 opponents. Simply put, penalizing Clayton Valley for its losses would be penalizing it for the league it plays in and the schedule it plays. In addition, each of the next two teams have a loss to a lower-ranked opponent.
Vintage has the worst loss on the board, having fallen to Bellarmine, but the Crushers are also 9-1 and a league champion. Vintage has wins over two league champions, Acalanes and El Cerrito, and it is the former which will likely be the biggest factor. Since Acalanes beat Campolindo, that gives Vintage a common opponent edge over the Cougars, though Campo has wins over three league champions (Las Lomas, Amador Valley and Hayward).
San Leandro’s win over Foothill has the Pirates positioned in the top four, while Foothill’s win over San Ramon Valley is better than any win by the rest of the teams on the board. The Falcons are just 5-5 overall, but the same argument applies as with Clayton Valley, as Foothill played in a mostly Division 1 league.
Redwood has the best record of the remaining teams, and though the Giants have a bad loss to Berkeley, it was at the start of the season and Redwood’s only other loss was to Marin Catholic. Livermore has the best win on the board among these three teams, having beaten Windsor, but the Cowboys also have a recent loss to Granada. All three of Napa’s losses, meanwhile, are to playoff-bound teams.
The other thing that stands out with this field is the amount of eligible teams who won’t make the playoffs. Dublin and Granada could each make an argument, having both finished tied for second in the EBAL-Valley with Livermore. Granada has the win over Livermore, but a loss to Dublin, while Dublin has a loss to Livermore. Meanwhile, College Park and Mt. Eden both finished 5-1 in their respective leagues and 7-3 overall, but chances of either making this field are very slim. College Park’s best win was over Mt. Eden, who did not defeat a quality opponent all year.
1. Las Lomas
2. Rancho Cotate
5. American Canyon
6. El Cerrito
8. Santa Rosa
Rationale: Las Lomas and Rancho Cotate both have a loss to Campolindo, but Las Lomas was a league co-champion and has the better overall mark at 9-1. They also both have a win over Vanden. In terms of quality victories, Las Lomas can boast wins over Acalanes and Bishop O’Dowd, while Rancho Cotate has wins over Pleasant Valley-Chico, Windsor and El Cerrito. Important to also note, however, that Rancho Cotate has the worst loss among the top four teams, having fallen to Sacramento. This loss could become a factor despite their trio of quality victories.
Benicia and Hayward are likely neck-and-neck in the debate for the three seed. Both teams are unbeaten league champions in comparable leagues, both have a win over Pinole Valley, and the only loss for each team is comparable as well, with Benicia falling to Sutter and Hayward losing to Campolindo. The possible edge here could be depth of quality victories, as Benicia beat two teams who are likely to be playoff-bound, and possibly as many as four who might make the post-season, while Hayward beat one for-sure playoff team and another possible playoff team. It is also not out of the realm of possibility to move these teams up to two and three while dropping Rancho to the four seed, based on that loss to Sacramento.
O’Dowd and El Cerrito played by far the most difficult schedules of the remaining, but it is hard to overlook the fact that American Canyon is 8-2 with a win over Napa. The recent loss to Justin-Siena certainly knocked the Wolves out of the running for a home game, but a top five seed could still be likely.
El Cerrito shared a league title this season, and has a solid win over Kennedy-Richmond, the best win on the board among these final three teams. The Gauchos also did not suffer any bad losses, while the Seaside loss (Seaside plays in a ‘B’ league in the CCS) is hampering an O’Dowd team that finished above .500 in league play and had a brutal schedule, but failed to win any of those games against higher-ranked opponents, although four of those teams are league champions. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa's win over Piner on Friday gave the Panthers the outright NBL-Redwood title, clinching them a playoff berth when they previously were way off the bubble. This means that either El Cerrito, O'Dowd or Windsor will get bumped from the field after previously being in our projections.
Windsor’s best win is over a Eureka team which did not win a game in league play and the Jaguars did not beat a single playoff-bound team (the same can be said for O’Dowd). Windsor’s overall strength of schedule pales to that of O’Dowd’s, and the loss to Livermore is a bit damaging, though the Cowboys are a likely playoff team. But if the Jaguars beat Maria Carrillo on Saturday night, they will be 7-3 and also boast a win over Santa Rosa, now giving the Jaguars a win over a team in the field, and that will make it tough to remove them from the group. That means it could wind up that a perennially powerful O'Dowd team, after 3-7 against a brutal schedule, could be on the outside looking in, despite many observers agreeing that the Dragons have the talent to make a run at any time.
Casa Grande, Bethel, Northgate, Washington, and Novato are all playoff eligible. Casa Grande has head-to-head losses to both American Canyon and Windsor, which leaves the Gauchos likely on the outside looking in. Bethel has a bad loss to Pinole Valley, and its best win is over College Park, which just won’t be enough to make this field.
Northgate lost to College Park and its best win is over Ygnacio Valley, while Washington has a bad loss to Kennedy-Fremont. Novato’s one-year turnaround is remarkable, but the best win is over Terra Linda and the Hornets also have a bad loss to San Rafael.
1. Cardinal Newman
2. Marin Catholic
6. Newark Memorial
Rationale: Put the top two seeds in either order, though we are placing Cardinal Newman at one based on a slightly deeper slate of quality victories. The Cardinals’ wins include Placer, Sutter and Rancho Cotate, though Marin Catholic also has a very good win over Mitty.
The debate for the three seed became an easy one when Piner lost to Santa Rosa, meaning that Acalanes has secured that spot.
Tamalpais was all but locked into the five seed before Piner's loss, but now it appears more likely that the Red-Tailed Hawks move into the four seed since Piner's loss to the Panthers is far worse than anything on Tam's slate, and the Hawks' victory over San Marin is better than Piner's win over Miramonte.
Newark Memorial’s head-to-head win over Kennedy-Fremont gives them the edge over the Titans. It is very hard to distinguish between the two teams vying for the final spot, as Vallejo and Tennyson have very similar resumes. Both have similar quality victories, but the one thing standing out right now is Tennyson’s loss to American, which certainly hurts the Lancers. Still, it will be a close call.
One additional note – if Maria Carrillo beats Windsor on Saturday night, then the Pumas would be eligible and certainly in the field, likely as the six seed, which would move Newark and Kennedy each down a notch and bump Vallejo.
2. Del Norte
3. De Anza
4. Moreau Catholic
5. San Marin
Rationale: Another top-heavy division, all three of the top seeds are league champions but Encinal’s strength of schedule has the Jets sitting on top, especially with wins over San Leandro and Bishop O’Dowd. With wins over Moreau Catholic and St. Bernard’s, Del Norte is a strong bet for the two seed, with the Warriors’ only loss coming to a one-loss Mazama-Klamath Falls team.
De Anza’s only loss is to a solid Christian-El Cajon team, but the Dons played in the weakest league of the top three teams, a fact that should solidify the seeding for the top three teams. With wins over Middletown and San Marin, Moreau Catholic is the likely four seed, with San Marin following at five. Fortuna just got playoff-eligible when the Huskies beat St. Bernard’s, but they also have an earlier loss to Miramonte, so they slide in just beneath the Matadors.
Alhambra, Terra Linda, San Rafael and San Lorenzo are all eligible for the final spot, but Alhambra certainly had the best strength of schedule and wins over College Park, Pinole Valley and Northgate should cement their spot in the playoff field.
A Moreau Catholic-San Marin quarterfinal will be the fourth time those teams have met in the last two seasons, while Del Norte and Fortuna can play for the fifth time in the last two years.
2. St. Bernard’s
5. Lower Lake
6. St. Patrick-St. Vincent
7. Pinole Valley
Rationale: Kennedy’s win over Salesian gave the Eagles a share of the TCAL-Rock title, and that is a stronger league than the NCL, which Middletown has captured. Kennedy also has the 9-1 record and the win over St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
St. Bernard’s just suffered a loss to Fortuna, but the Crusaders still have wins over Ferndale and Eureka, and they play in the top-tier of the HDN. Middletown should wrap up its regular season with a win over Cloverdale, and the Mustangs can make their own strong argument for the two seed with wins over St. Helena, Lower Lake and Willits. However, a slightly stronger overall strength of schedule should be enough to keep St. Bernard’s in the two spot.
Justin-Siena is a virtual lock for the four seed after beating American Canyon, but figuring out the five and six seeds will take some discussion. Lower Lake has a far superior record to St. Pat’s, but the Bruins have a quality win over Alhambra and played a much more difficult schedule. Still, 7-3 with a win over Willits could be enough to keep Lower Lake ahead in this scenario, but no guarantees on that one.
Pinole Valley finished second behind De Anza in its league, and the Spartans have solid wins over Bethel, Mt. Eden and Vallejo, with the last one being a potential playoff team. Arcata has a good win over Willits, but four of the Tigers’ six wins came against two opponents, which hurts their strength of schedule.
Ygnacio Valley is the other team eligible in this division, and sports a stellar 7-3 overall record. The Warriors, however, do not have a single quality win to measure to up the other teams which should make this field.
4. St. Helena
5. St. Vincent de Paul
6. Clear Lake
7. El Molino
8. California School for the Deaf
Rationale: With a share of the TCAL-Rock title, playing against all opponents from higher divisions, Salesian is a strong bet for the top seed. Ferndale captured the HDN-Little 4 and has an earlier win over Fortuna, meaning the Wildcats should be the two seed.
Willits has head-to-head wins over St. Helena and St. Vincent, meaning the Wolverines should be the three seed. St. Helena should get the four seed over St. Vincent based on strength of schedule and a quality victory over St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
Clear Lake is eligible based on its record in the division, and the Cardinals have an early win over Ferndale which should have them no lower than the six seed. El Molino also secured eligibility and seem pretty locked into the seven seed.
California School for the Deaf beat Hoopa Valley on Saturday afternoon to essentially play its way into the playoffs. The loss also knocked Hoopa out of contention.
Extra note here - as of 6 pm on Saturday, Clear Lake had not applied for the playoffs. If the Cardinals do not turn in an application, then El Molino and CSD would each move up a spot and the field would only have seven teams, meaning a first round bye for Salesian.