1. San Francisco (16-1) — San Francisco, the state's No 1-ranked team, is the clear choice for the Coast-North Conference championship. After all, the Rams open conference with a state-best 12-game win streak after playing one of the state's toughest preseason schedule. The race for second place might be most intriguing race to watch in this conference. #8 Las Positas, #12 Foothill and #19 Ohlone figure to battle for the runner-up conference trophy. Each of the three programs will begin the new year with 10 wins or more, one of only two conferences in the state who can make that claim.
2. San Diego City (16-2) — The defending state champions are positioned for a chance to defend its title after finishing the preseason with 16 victories. The Knights, winners of nine straight, will compete in the MiraCosta Tournament this week before opening Pacific Coast-South play on January 12. San Diego City has won the last three tournaments it has competed in, but figures to be tested with possible games against #16 San Diego Miramar in the semifinals and then #13 Cerritos in the finals this week. The Knights, obviously, are the conference favorites as only one other team — Grossmont (9-6) — begin the week with a record above .500. One has to wonder how head coach Mitch Charlens will keep his team engaged during the steamrolling of the Pacific Coast-South division.
3. East Los Angeles (12-3) — East Los Angeles took advantage of Citrus' loss to Chaffey and Fullerton's idleness to move up in this week's poll. The Huskies, champions of the holiday Cuyacama Tournament, play in the Cuesta Tournament this week and the one-day Reggie Morris Showcase next week before beginning conference competition. In the Pacific Coast-North, East Los Angeles is the clear choice for the conference trophy. As of today (Tuesday, January 2) only two other teams have records above .500 — Chaffey (9-6) and Pasadena (7-6). Chaffey appears to have awoken from whatever held them back early this season. The Panthers have won 7 of its last 8, including a shocking 65-60 win over Citrus in the finals of the Compton Tournament.
4. Fresno City (12-3) — It has been 16 years since someone other than Fresno City has hoisted the conference trophy. Therefore, it makes sense to declare the Rams as the team to beat in the Central Valley Conference. However, it may not be so clear cut this year. Sequoias and Fresno have already met twice this season, with Sequoias winning by 15 at Fresno and Fresno winning by 10 in Visalia. Fresno is riding a six-game win streak entering conference play. Meanwhile, Sequoias has won four of its last five. It will be interesting to see what Sequoias team shows up in the new year: the one that beat No. 1 San Francisco, 80-63, or the one who lost by 10 at home to Fresno. Another team which could have a say in who wins the conference title is #11 West Hills. The Falcons enter conference play with 9-2 record. After Fresno, Sequoias and West Hills there is a drop off. Columbia, at 6-4, is the only other team with a preseason record of .500 or better.
5. Fullerton (11-4) — The defending Orange Empire Conference champions figure to have their hands full this year. The addition of Santiago Canyon and Copper Mountain has definitely increased the workload in the Orange Empire Conference. The Hornets are one of four teams in the conference with 11 wins or move. As a conference, the Orange Empire is 87-51, a .630 winning percentage. There is only one team in the conference with a losing record. In order to defend the conference title, the Hornets will need to be perfect at home, steal a couple games on the road, while defending against a shocking loss.
6. Gavilan (14-1) — Gavilan, winners of 14 of 15 games, will enter its conference schedule riding a four-game win streak after having its dream of an undefeated season derailed by unranked Porterville in the first round of the Skyline Tournament on December 8. Gavilan appears to have been battled tested, after stringing together one of the state's tougher schedules. In all, five teams will begin play in the Coast Conference-South with records at or above .500. Hartnell and Monterey appear to be Gavilan's biggest competition to its conference hopes and a top 4 regional playoff ranking. The Rams have already beaten Monterey (by 8 in Monterey). This could prove to be another great conference race for second place, one that might include West Valley and even Cabrillo.
7. San Bernardino Valley (13-4) — Head coach Quincy Brewer has never sheltered his teams from the best competition. And this year's team experienced it first hand as the Wolverines competed in the Fiesta Bowl Shootout in Mesa, AZ December 28-30. Going up some of the best out-of-state competition, SBVC went 1-2 in Arizona, losing to Southern Idaho and Salt Lake community colleges, while beating Snow College. SBVC has lost 4 of its last 6 games headed into this week's Cuesta Tournament. Despite the Wolverines' recent troubles, SBVC remains the odds-on favorite in the race for the Pacific Coast-North race, but #16 San Diego Miramar may have a say in just who hoists the trophy. At 11-3, San Diego Miramar is 8-2 in its last 10 games headed into its tournament this week.
8. Las Positas (12-4) — Las Positas has won 8 of its last 9 games headed into its home conference opener vs. #19 Ohlone on January 3. There will be few nights off in the Coast Conference-North division, where six of the seven teams post records of .500 or better. Unfortunately, one of them is #1 San Francisco. This is a conference that could see its second-place team secure a top 6 seed in the regional.
9. Citrus (14-3) — Citrus had a wing clipped this week as the Owls fall in the state poll after suffering a disappointing 65-60 loss to unranked Chaffey. But, as luck would have it, Citrus can atone for that loss in this week's Chaffey Challenge. It won't be until the finals on Friday, but we are sure the Owls would relish the opportunity to beat Chaffey at home for the trophy. The Challenge will serve as the final preseason games for Citrus who open Western State-East play on January 13 vs. LA Valley. Citrus will open conference play as the favorite, and as one of only two teams to have managed to post 10 wins headed into conference play. With a 10-5 record, Victor Valley possesses a threat to Citrus' championship hopes. The Rams, who have been inconsistent, have impressive wins over #16 San Diego Miramar and Antelope Valley. At the same time, there is that overtime loss to 4-7 Cerro Coso.
10. Santiago Canyon (13-3) — Santiago Canyon recovered from a tough stretch that saw the Hawks lose 3 of 5 games. Since losing to Bakersfield on December 2, Santiago Canyon has run off three consecutive victories. At 13-3, the Hawks will take the best record into conference play. But it will be all meaningless unless the Hawks can soar past the likes of Fullerton, Copper Mountain, Riverside, Saddleback and the rest of the competition. We said it earlier, the winner of the OEC will have to defended home court, steal a game or two on the road and guarded against a shocking loss.
11. West Hills (9-2) — With a .818 preseason winning percentage, West Hills opens the Central Valley Conference with the best winning percentage among the eight teams. Too bad two of those other teams are Fresno City and Sequoias. West Hills has shown they can play, beating Fullerton, 85-72. The Falcons have two of the conference's top scorers in Darius Scott (18.4) and Lloyd Hanna (14-9). West Hills has shown its capable of putting points on the board, averaging 89.1 points a contest, four points better than Fresno City, and 10 better than Sequoias. Unfortunately, West Hills ranks 75th in scoring defense.
12. Foothill (11-5) — With Foothill coming in at #12 this week, the Coast-North has three teams ranked in the top 12. Foothill has been playing some of its best basketball, winning its last four and 8 of its last 10 games. Considering the Owls opened the season losing 3 of its first 6 and 4 of first 8 games . . . there is optimism that Foothill might have a say in who wins this conference title. That is the good news. The bad news is Foothill faces the other three top teams in concession — Las Positas, San Francisco and Ohlone. That is a tough road to maintain. A bad night could lend itself to a ball of disaster.
13. Cerritos (12-3) — Cerritos is off to a great 12-3 start. However, its three losses have come within its last 10 games. Consecutive losses to Ventura and San Bernardino Valley to close out November dropped the Falcons in the poll. Since then Cerritos is 7-1, one atoning for its lost to Ventura. Only loss in the stretch was to #4 Fresno, 80-69. In that game, Cerritos went nearly the first four minutes of the game without scoring, and the Falcons managed just 3 (on 14 attempts) three-pointers. This week, Cerritos, the favorite in the South Coast-South, will compete in the MiraCosta Tournament. The Falcons open conference play in January 13 vs. El Camino, the state's top scoring team. LA Harbor and Long Beach City poise the greatest challenge to Cerritos' title hopes. LA Harbor is 8-2 in its last 10 games and have won 6 of its last 7 headed into the Cuesta Tournament where it will see the likes of #3 East LA and #7 San Bernardino Valley possibly.
14. Sequoias (10-4) — Sequoias began the season ranked No. 18 and climbed as high as No. 2 after putting together a six-game win streak. But since then the Giants have been anything but big, losing 3 of its next 7 contests. Sequoias will need to that magic bean dust if they hope to unseat Fresno from the perch in the Central Valley Conference. Where is that team that beat #1 San Francisco by 17? Or are we destined to the team that lost to Diablo Valley by 19? Sequoias' faithful will find out soon enough as Fresno comes to town on January 6. We have mentioned it before here, if you want to win a conference title you have to defend home court? Can the Giants come up big at home against a program running out of trophy space?
15. Copper Mountain (13-4) — Copper Mountain gives the Orange Empire three ranked teams in the top 15 this week. Quite honestly, the Fightin' Cacti are lucky to have hung on to its #15 ranking after closing out December losing 2 of its last 3 games. What saved Copper Mountain was its impressive 92-84 victory over Fresno City. Unfortunately, the impressiveness wore off quickly with losses consecutive losses to Cuesta and Modesto. Despite the disappointing closeout to the month of December, Copper Mountain remains in the mix for the Orange Empire Conference Championship. It has been mentioned previously that we expect this race to be one of the best. Could it result in a multi-conference champion? Three teams seeded into the top 10 or even 8 for regionals? The OEC storyline is one worth keeping an eye on.
16. San Diego Miramar (11-3) — In their last 11 games, the Jets are 9-2. This week, Miramar participates in the MiraCosta Tournament where it figures to meet #2 San Diego City in the semifinals. A win over the Knights would be a great confidence boost for Miramar headed into Pacific Coast-North play where the Jets will take on the (SBVC) Wolverines in a battle for the conference title.
17. Butte (12-3) — Butte falls seven slots from the previous poll. The Roadrunners figure to be in a battle with Feather River for the Golden Valley Conference title. Butte has the state's 11th best strength of schedule ranking, up three spots from last week. Feather River is 35th. Averaging 74.3 points a contest, the Roadrunners have three players averaging in double figures, led by Darae Elliott at 14.2 points a game. Feather River has the conference's leading scorer in Gerard Andrus at 23.2. The title could come down to the final game of the season on February 14 when Butte travels to Feather River.
18. Santa Rosa (9-4) — The Big 8 Conference isn't quite living up to its previous standards. In fact, just four teams begin the new year with a record above .500. At 9-4, Santa Rosa is the best of the nine teams that make up the conference. The Cubs have won five straight and 7 of its last 10 games and its first two conference games. By no means do we think Santa Rosa — or at any team for that matter – will run away with the conference title. Currently, four teams are undefeated after opening conference play before the new year. We think this will be a quite the race, mostly because it appears anyone is capable of beating anyone on any given night. This week, Santa Rosa faces games against San Joaquin Delta (1-0, 4-6) and Sacramento City (1-1, 9-6).
19. Ohlone (10-7) — Ohlone is the fourth ranked team from the Coast-North, which should give everyone an indication of what this conference race will be like. Ohlone is the fourth team in the division to have won 10 or more games. The Renegades are 6-4 in their last 10 contests, with three of its four losses coming at the hands of ranked teams (2-point loss to Copper Mountain, 12-point loss to Fresno City and a 2-point loss to Foothill). Ohlone will need to figure out a way to win those type of games if the Renegades are truly to be in the mix come February. Ohlone gets back-to-back home games against San Francisco and Las Positas the end of January. If they can't defend home court, conference championship dreams are over.
20. Ventura (12-6) — The Pirates have raided the No. 20 slot in this week's state poll. Considering Ventura is 3-4 in its last seven games it is a bit shocking that the Pirates managed to edge out a hot-charging Chaffey team or a conference leading West Los Angeles squad. Although, three of their four losses were to ranked opponents. Ventura will battle Allan Hancock and Cuesta for the Western State-North division title. The Pirates scored an impressive 72-66 road victory over Riverside to close out 2017.
1. San Francisco (15)
2. Fresno City
4. Las Positas
5. West Hills
9. Santa Rosa
11. Feather River
12. Contra Costa
1. San Diego City (13)
2. East Los Angeles (1)
3. Fullerton (1)
4. San Bernardino Valley
6. Santiago Canyon
8. Copper Mountain
9. San Diego Miramar
12. West Los Angeles
14. Allan Hancock
15. Irvine Valley/Grossmont