(Courtesy Robert Schmidt, CCCMBCA)
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Defending state champion, San Francisco City returns to the state’s No. 1 ranking in the latest California Community Colleges Men’s Basketball Coaches Association poll. The Rams edged out Saddleback, Yuba, San Bernardino and El Camino-Compton, last week’s top-ranked team, this week. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, pretty much ever conference championship is still in play. The next two weeks has the potential to produce some dramatic basketball.
1. San Francisco (22-2) — The Coast Conference-North division race hasn’t disappointed. The Rams, winners of four straight, begin the week with a one-game led on Canada, two-game lead on Ohlone and a three-game lead on Las Positas. This week, San Francisco hosts Canada on Wednesday before visiting Las Positas. Victories in both games will clinch the Rams at least a tie of the conference title headed into games next week against Foothill and Ohlone — at home.
2. Saddleback (21-3) — Saddleback begins the week trailing Fullerton by a half-game in the race for the Orange Empire Conference. The Gauchos have a showdown looming Feb. 16 with Fullerton in Mission Viejo, however, Saddleback is in no position to look ahead. This week, Saddleback visits Wheelock Gym to take on Riverside, a team that has won four straight and pulled within a game of Saddleback for second place. This will be the third meeting between these two teams, and you know what they say — it is hard to beat a team three times. And a hot Cypress team awaits Saddleback on Friday. If Saddleback runs the table, the Gauchos deserve every bit of the conference title!
3. Yuba (22-2) — Yuba now holds the state’s longest win streak at 13 games. The 49’ers, who have four games remaining in the regular season, can wrap the Bay Valley Conference championship with wins over Marin and Napa this week.
4. San Bernardino (21-5) — San Bernardino is one of five teams currently undefeated in conference play to begin the week. The Wolverines have run off seven consecutive wins, six in conference, and have a two-game lead on San Diego Miramar and Mt. San Jacinto with four games to play. So, with that said, San Bernardino can assure themselves a portion of the title with two road wins this week — at MiraCosta on Wednesday and Desert on Friday. There would be some comfort knowing they wrapped up a share of the title with San Diego Miramar and Mt. San Jacinto coming to San Bernardino next week.
5. El Camino-Compton Center (22-4) — Well that didn’t last long. The Tartars became the state’s No. 1 ranked team last week, and then went out and lost in overtime to Cerritos. Despite the loss, ECC opens the week a game up on LA Southwest and two on Cerritos with four game to play. This week, the Tartars host LA Harbor and then visits district-rival El Camino.
6. Fullerton (19-6) — Fullerton begins the week with a half-game lead on Saddleback. Normally, we would focus on next week’s showdown with Saddleback in Fullerton, but we can’t. Fullerton needs to get by Riverside (19-6) on Friday. Their last meeting, in Riverside, resulted in an 81-72 Fullerton win. However, the Hornets didn’t lead in that game until the final minute of the first half. So, we’ll save discussing next week’s “possible” showdown for next week’s poll.
7. Feather River (20-3) — Feather River has clinched at least a share of the Golden Valley Conference championship. The Golden Hawks hold a three-game lead on Shasta with three games to play. Feather River can clinch the title on Wednesday at home when the golden Hawks take to the floor against 7-15 Shasta.
8. San Diego (22-5) — As expected, San Diego City has had an easy time in pursuit of the Pacific Coast-South division title. The Knights, who have four games remaining, holds a two game lead on 12-11 Grossmont, three on 7-14 Imperial Valley and four on 5-18 San Diego Mesa, the only teams mathematically alive for the conference title. That list should become one this week. San Diego City will play three of its final four games on the road, including at Grossmont on Wednesday. Luckily, the Knights host 5-18 Southwestern and should be able to celebrate locking up the title on their home court.
9. Canada (18-6) — Canada begins the week a game behind San Francisco in the race for the division title. If the Colts want even a share of the division title, they’ll need to go on the road and beat San Francisco in its house on Wednesday. Otherwise, the Colts’ title hopes will go up in smoke, and they will begin a three-game fight to hold on to second place.
10. Fresno (19-6) — With four games remaining, Fresno begins the week with one-game lead on hard-charging Merced after losing two of its last three games. Unfortunately, for Merced, the Rams remaining schedule is pretty doable — home to 8-14 Reedley and 1-18 Cerro Coso this week, before road contests against Porterville (9-14) and Sequoias (11-13). Fresno has beaten each of these opponents by 26 points or more. Looks like the Rams will be hanging another conference banner.
11. Santa Rosa (17-7) — Santa Rosa begins the week with a one-game lead on San Joaquin Delta and two games on Diablo Valley and Sacramento. The Cubs, who have four games remaining, hosts Modesto before SJ Delta comes to town on Friday for what could be the conference title.
12. Ohlone (18-7) — Ohlone begins the week on a three-game win streak and in third place, two games behind conference-leading San Francisco. Ohlone has a final shot at the Rams (Feb. 17 in San Francisco), however, it figures to be too late by then. But there is still a lot to play for as Ohlone is just a game behind second-place Canada. The Renegades have three games remaining, including a road game at Foothill on Friday.
13. Citrus (20-5) — Citrus begins the week looking over it shoulders. The Owls will take a one-game lead in the race for the conference title. Antelope Valley and Barstow area game back with four to play. Citrus is currently on a five-game win streak headed into contests with Victor Valley (in Victorville) and Glendale at home. Next week, however, barring any upsets, Citrus faces Antelope Valley at home and Barstow on the road to close out the season.
14. Riverside (20-6) — With four games remaining, Riverside’s championship hopes rest in defending home court. Three of the Tigers remaining home games will take place in storied Wheelock Gym, where they are 6-2. One of those two teams which has have beaten Riverside at home comes a calling on Wednesday — Saddleback. The Gauchos beat Riverside in the final of the Tiger Holiday tournament on Dec. 9, 84-77. Right now, four teams are mathematically in the running for the conference title. The Tigers are 1 ½ games behind Fullerton, but with Saddleback and Fullerton, in Fullerton, on the menu this week, the Tigers’ championship hopes lay with this week’s results.
15. San Joaquin Delta (14-9) — SJ Delta begins the week a game behind Santa Rosa in the race for the Big 8 title. The Mustangs get a final shot at Santa Rosa on Friday, but first must get past Sacramento City on the road. A win against the Panthers would set the stage for showdown for a share of the conference lead headed into the final week of the season. The last meeting between SJ Delta and Santa Rosa resulted in an 86-80 OT thriller for the Mustangs. In that game, SJ Delta’s bench outscored Santa Rosa’s bench, 35 to 11.
16. San Diego Miramar (18-7) — While we are sure San Diego Miramar is still eyeing a share of the Pacific Coast-North division title. The Jets would be smart to look out its cabin window because the Jets will begin the week tied with Mt. San Jacinto for second place. The race for second (and a possible top eight seed) is at hand. Miramar hosts last-place Desert before hitting the road for a contest against Palomar. Mt. San Jacinto’s schedule mirrors the Jet’s schedule, so now it becomes who blinks.
17. Las Positas (19-6) — Things look bleak for Las Positas. The Hawks are three games behind San Francisco with just three to play. Losing consecutive last week has pushed Las Positas to fourth place in the division. This week, the Hawks travel to take on Chabot before host San Francisco on Friday. The Hawks need a motivational win headed into the playoffs, and beating San Francisco would fit the bill.
18. Chaffey (19-7) — Chaffey is embroiled in another race that appears won’t be settled until the final week of the season, which is next week. The Panthers will open the week holding a one-game lead over three teams, yes you read that right. East LA, Mt. San Antonio and LA Trade Tech each are just one game behind Chaffey. The Panthers, who finish the season at home against East LA and on the road at Mt. San Antonio, will venture to LA Trade Tech on Wednesday and then return home to take on Pasadena City.
19. Cerritos (17-6) – Cerritos moves back in the Top 20 after upsetting previous No. 1 El Camino-Compton Center. Unfortunately, the Falcons remain third in the division, two games back of ECC with four games to play. The hope now is to catch LA Southwest, which happens to visit Norwalk on Wednesday. LA Southwest currently sits in second, a game in front of Cerritos. Their last meeting resulted in a 74-73 loss, a loss where Cerritos missed 10 free throws and shot just 39 percent from the floor and missed 11 three-pointers. Wednesday’s game plays big in Cerritos’ playoff hopes. The Falcons also have a road contest on Friday at LA Harbor.
20. Merced (15-8) — Merced is having one of its best seasons in years. The Blue Devils have won three straight, including a 105-93, victory over Fresno in Fresno. Unfortunately, Merced is going to need some help if the Blue Devils are to capture the Central Valley Conference title. Fresno opens the week with a one-game lead on Merced and finishes the season against the bottom half of the conference. Merced, meanwhile, hots the road this week for games at West Hills and Reedley, before finishing up at home with games against Columbia and Porterville.
Northern California Regional Rankings
1. San Francisco (12)
2. Yuba (2)
3. Feather River (1)
5. Fresno City
6. Santa Rosa
8. San Joaquin Delta
9. Las Positas
11. Diablo Valley
12. Sacramento City
14. American River
Others receiving votes: Columbia
Southern California Regional Rankings
1. Saddleback (11)
2. San Bernardino (2)
3. El Camino-Compton (2)
5. San Diego City
8. San Diego Miramar
11. East Los Angeles
12. Mt. San Antonio
13. Mt. San Jacinto
Others receiving votes: Antelope Valley, Cuesta, LA Southwest, West LA, Barstow