Fullerton pressures City College of San Francisco for No. 1 spot in men's basketball poll

Fullerton pressures City College of San Francisco for No. 1 spot in men's basketball poll

One hundred teams have a conference title dancing in their dreams. Five conferences have begun conference play with others to follow in the new year. This week’s poll continues to be paced by the four undefeated teams who remain one through four. There was some movement in the next five as Butte fell out of the top 10 as Fresno City and Southwestern moved in. Santa Monica was this week’s biggest mover as the Corsairs jumped to No. 11 after being No. 18 two weeks ago. Below is a breakdown of this week’s Top 30.

Happy Holidays from the CCCMBCA and the student-athletes.

Top 30
1. San Francisco (13-0) — San Francisco remains the state’s top ranked team after running its season-opening win streak to 13 games. The Rams appear to be running on all cylinders. San Francisco has posted 100 or more points in four of its last five games and scored 90 or more points in 10 of 13 games. All of that fire power has San Francisco as the state’s top scoring team at 96.6 points a game. The Rams will await Santa, returning to action on January 3 for their final preseason tune-up at Gavilan.

2. Fullerton (13-0) — While San Francisco is doing it on the offensive end of the floor, Fullerton, the defending state champs, are using a defense that is best in the state. The Hornets, who opened defense of its Orange Empire Conference title with consecutive wins, is allowing the opposition just 55.2 points a contest, nearly three points less than traditional stingy program Irvine Valley. Fullerton is outscoring its opposition by 18.7 points a contest. Fullerton has scored 80 or more points just four times this season, and not once in its last seven games. So, for Fullerton, victories begin with its tough defense. Fullerton returns to action January 3 with a home contest against Cypress.

3. Santiago Canyon (14-0) — With 14 victories, Santiago Canyon leads the state this week in victories. The Hawks are using an offense that ranks as one of the best in the state. The Hawks are one of just four teams averaging 90-plus point a contest (San Francisco, West LA, Fresno). And they have used the deep ball to spearhead their offensive power. The Hawks have made a state-leading 190 three-pointers, 61 more than Reedley (129). And the Hawks are pretty good at the three-point shot, making 40.9 percent (190-464), second only to LA Pierce (110-267). Santiago Canyon has surpassed the century mark in two of its last three games, scoring 132 vs. El Camino and 116 vs. Orange Coast. The Hawks will remain grounded until taking on Saddleback on January 3.

4. Columbia (12-0) — Columbia set a school record with its 12th consecutive victory, and remains No. 4 this week. The Claim Jumpers’ 1992-93 state championship team won their first 11 games. Columbia has won all but three games by 10 points or more. The Claim Jumpers has the state’s 16th best offense, led by a front line that is 8th in the state in rebounding. Columbia has four players averaging five rebounds or more, led by Saleb Carter (7.8) and Seth Coddington (7.5). Columbia will host Gavilan (Dec. 30) and San Mateo (Jan. 4) before beginning Central Valley Conference play at Fresno City in what will decide who will have the inside track to the conference title.

5. San Diego City (11-3) — San Diego City has won seven straight games and in doing so remains in the state top 5. The Knights have been on a tear offensively, scoring 90 plus points in each of the wins with the exception of one. Twice, San Diego City has broken the century mark. The Knights’ late offensive surge has moved them to No. 11 in state in offense at 84.8 points per contest. The Knight shave already secured two conference victories, but face a tough home contest on January 3 against ranked Southwestern on January 3). Winner of this contest has the inside track on the conference championship.

6. East Los Angeles (11-1) — East Los Angeles moves into No. 6 this week. Since losing to Copper Mountain, the Huskies have won seven consecutive games. East LA is hardly blowing the competition away, however. Six of their last seven victories have been by 10 points or less. The Huskies will play three games in the Cuyamaca Classic after Christmas, including a featured game against Southwestern. The Huskies won’t open their division play until January 22, so East LA has eight nonconference games remaining. East LA is second in the state in field goal percentage, but 98th in attempts, and 14th in three-point percentage, yet 88th in three-pointers made and 99th in three-pointers attempted. Good thing East LA is 16th in the state in defense at 67.6 points per contest.

7. Yuba (10-3) — Yuba climbs three spots behind a three-game win streak and surprise losses by Allan Hancock and Sequoias. Yuba’s three losses have been to ranked opponents — San Francisco twice and No. 8 Allan Hancock in a strange game that saw Allan Hancock outscored Butte 16-4 in overtime. Yuba has played the 14th toughest schedule to date in the state. Yuba visits Shasta on December 28 and then opens Bay Valley Conference play after the first of the year. The 49’ers will rely on the state’s 18th offense, while trying to figure out how to improve upon its 17.6 turnovers a contest, 23 worst in the state.

8. Allan Hancock (10-2) — A disappointing loss to unranked Santa Ana cost the Bulldogs this week as they slip a spot. The loss, 73-67, snapped a seven-game win streak. In that loss, Allan Hancock was 8 of 21 from the free throw line. The Bulldogs have the state’s 14th best offense (83.8 points a game), but the Bulldogs 67th in the state in free throw percentage (65.7/213-324). Only Grant Johnson has a free throw percentage above 80 percent at 88.2 (30 for 24). After the holiday, Allan Hancock hosts its Holiday Classic where the Bulldogs will take on San Jose City, coached by his brother Devin, 4-6 LA Southwest and 8-3 Chabot who has lost its last two contests.

9. Fresno City (10-2) — Fresno City is this week’s biggest mover as the Rams, winners of nine straight, climbs to No. 9. The Rams, who average 95 points a game, appear to have found its offense. Fresno City is the state’s best shooting team at 53.2 percent (421-791) from the floor and fourth best from beyond the three-point line at 40 percent (102-155). Since its last loss — November 8 at San Diego City — the Rams have scored 90 points or more in seven of their last nine games. And, in the course of those nine games, the Rams have scored 100 points or more four times. Ironically, in its last two games, Fresno City was held to 78 points by Cerritos and 83 by Ventura, and won both game by less than 10 points. Fresno City has two remaining nonconference games. The Rams will face Antelope Valley and MiraCosta in the Adelman Classic in Oceanside.

10. Southwestern (9-2) — Southwestern climbs six spots this week behind a five-game win streak. Since losing to Fullerton by two, Southwestern has been on a tear. The Jaguars haven’t had a game decided by less than 11 points since falling to the Hornets. The Jaguars opened Pacific Coast Conference play by routing Grossmont and San Diego Mesa. Southwestern will take a break from conference play to compete in the Cuyamaca Classic. Circle December 30 when Southwestern squares off No. 6 East LA in what will be a test for Southwestern. The Jaguars will follow that up with a conference showdown against No. 5 San Diego City on the road. Winner of the Southwestern-San Diego City game will have the inside track for the conference title.

11. Santa Monica (10-4) — Santa Monica has played the state’s 7th toughest schedule. The Corsairs’ loses read like the poll's who’s who — Fullerton, East LA, Allan Hancock and Ventura, yes Ventura. That 74-71 loss in the finals of the Antelope Valley Tournament probably kept Santa Monica from returning to the top 10 this week. How did they responded — by beating No. 20 Saddleback and No. 14 San Bernardino Valley (for the third time). Santa Monica is one of four ranked teams from the Western State-South division. But begins conference play as the favorite along with West LA and LA Valley – it is going to be a battle.

12. Sequoias (10-3) — Sequoias falls out of top 10 after losses to Mendocino and Cerritos. The Giants have lost three of their last six games. Sequoias will take on Monterey on December 30 before the Giants begin what is expected to be a grueling Central Valley Conference schedule. Sequoias, Fresno City and Columbia are expected to compete for the conference title.

13. West Los Angeles (11-1) — Winners of six straight, West LA settles in at No. 13 this week. The Wildcats have played just one ranked opponent (Long Beach City) currently and may not play one until January 18 when the Wildcats host No. 15 LA Valley. West LA also faces having to battle No. 11 Santa Monica and No. Bakersfield for the division crown. In fact, the title could come down to February 21 when West LA visits Santa Monica for the regular-season final game.

14. San Bernardino Valley (9-3) — San Bernardino Valley doesn’t want to see Santa Monica again. All three Wolverine losses have come at the hands of Santa Monica (by 3, by 5 and by 8). Recently, SBVC lost to Santa Monica twice in an 11-day span. In each game, SBVC fell behind at half and never recovered. The Wolverines will turn their attention to winning the first Inland Empire Athletic Conference title. The nine-team conference kicks off conference play on January 2. The Wolverines open at Chaffey and Desert.

15. LA Valley (11-1) — LA Valley climbs this week as the Monarchs avenged its only loss to Long Beach City with an 88-87 OT victory over the Vikings at the Santa Barbara Tournament. LA Valley is 9th in the Massey Ranking this week, its highest showing this season. LA Valley, which is paced by Micah Copper and Greg Chew, Jr., have won six in a row. The Monarchs have three remaining nonconference games, include a December 28 game at Irvine Valley, one of the state’s best defensive units. On January 3, LA Valley also travels to Ventura, one of handful teams who just missed breaking into this week’s state poll. The Western State-South division features four ranked teams — LA Valley, West LA, Santa Monica, Bakersfield. Many believe it is Santa Monica’s to lose, but this division could prove interesting once they start going head-to-head on January 8.

16. Butte (10-5) — Butte falls 10 slots this week after losing three of five contests, twice to unranked opponents. The Roadrunners stopped the bleeding with a last-second basket against Las Positas. But it wasn’t nearly enough to keep Butte in the top 10. This week, Butte travels to Skyline on December 30 and then open Golden Valley Conference play on January 11 at Redwoods, perhaps the one team that can keep the Roadrunners from claiming the conference title.

17. Las Positas (9-4) — Las Positas drops three slots this week after losing two of its last three games. Both losses came in OT at the Skyline Classic. Currently, the Hawks are looking at games in conference against three ranked opponents, led by No. 1 San Francisco. Las Positas figures to battle Foothill and Chabot for the runner-up slot. Las Positas has one remaining nonconference game against Hartnell before beginning conference competition.

18. Redwoods (13-3) — Previously unranked Redwoods is riding an eight-game win streak headed into Golden Valley Conference play and lands at No. 18 this week. It appears Redwoods has put its bad losses (Marin and DeAnza) behind them. Redwoods is coming off winning the Santa Rosa Tournament behind freshman Isaac Puzz who was named the tournament MVP. Puzz had been coming off the bench, but in the championship game he started and made the most of the opportunity, hitting six three pointers (for the second consecutive night) as the Corsairs knocked off Santa Rosa. With 13 wins, Redwoods has won more games than in the previous three seasons. The Corsairs last won 13 games in 2015. Redwoods hosts No. 15 Butte on January 11 that will go a long way in deciding the conference champion.

19. Santa Rosa (9-4) — Santa Rosa falls four spots after falling to Redwoods in the finals of its own tournament. The Cubs have won five of their last six games and have played the state’s 26th toughest schedule. Santa Rosa appears to be the frontrunner for the conference title, but will face a stiff challenge nightly as five other teams could unseat the Cubs. Six teams from the Big 8 Conference begin the week above .500.

20. Saddleback (8-5) — People are probably wondering how Saddleback with five losses could be ranked inside the top 20. The answer is easy, the Gauchos have played the 18th toughest schedule to date after opening Orange Empire Conference with two victories. Saddleback has won six of its last eight games, losing to Cerritos by three points and Santa Monica by 10 at Riverside City College’s tournament. Four of the Gauchos’ losses have come to ranked teams. Saddleback will have a chance at a statement victory on January 3 when the Gauchos host No. 3 Santiago Canyon. Until then, Saddleback hosts Glendale on December 30.

21. Cerro Coso (10-1) — Cerro Coso breaks into the top 20 this week. Since losing to Allan Hancock to open the season, Cerro Coso has won 10 straight games. The schedule won’t send shivers down the backside of the competition, but the Coyotes do have the state’s 5th highest scoring offense behind Jordan Pumphre (16.2 points per game), Haven Ousley (15.7) and Jonathan Foster (10.6). Cerro Coso is be looking to play with the likes of conference favorites — San Bernardino, Chaffey, Copper Mountain and Mt. San Jacinto. Cerro Coso opened conference play with an easy 104-79 victory over Barstow, but they get Mt. San Jacinto (at home), Chaffey (on the road) and San Bernardino Valley (at home) beginning on January 4.

22. Mendocino (9-3) — Mendocino breaks into the ranking this week after winning six of seven. The lone loss was a three-point setback to No. 9 Fresno City, 109-106, in double overtime. The Eagles’ other losses have come against No. 18 Redwoods (also beat Redwoods) and No. 15 Butte. Having completed its preseason schedule, Mendocino will turn its attention to overtaking Yuba for the conference title. No. 7 Yuba, Mendocino and No. 27 Los Medanos are three of six teams with a record better than .500 in Bay Valley Conference. As a conference, the nine teams are 55-59, take out the above three teams and the remaining six programs are 27-49.

23. Chabot (8-3) — Chabot slips this week after losses to No. 4 Columbia (by 21) and unranked Cabrillo (by 5). The Gladiators also saw a drop in the Massey Ranking. Chabot has three remaining nonconference games, including a showdown with No. 8 Allan Hancock on December 30. Chabot has a week to convince coaches that they can be an elite program this season, especially with a home game looming against San Francisco to launch the conference schedule on January 8.

24. Irvine Valley (10-2) — Irvine Valley is just 2-2 in its last four games, but one of those losses was to No. 2 Fullerton (by 9 points). The Lasers are one of the top defensive units, but offense has been spotty. Irvine Valley is averaging 70 points a contest, but has scored more than 80 points just once this season. Irvine Valley has just two players averaging in double figures (Austin Carter 10.9 and JT Robinson 10.7). Irvine Valley hosts No. 15 LA Valley on December 28 before returning to Orange Empire Conference competition.

25. Palomar (11-3) — Palomar has quietly won nine straight games, including its first two Pacific Coast Conference contests. The Comets are trying to stay relevant since Southwestern and San Diego City are the favorites for the conference title. Palomar is yet to beat a ranked opponent. They will get their first chance on January 10 when the Comets host Southwestern.

26. Desert (9-3) — Desert moves into the Top 30 after winning five of six. Two of the Roadrunners’ three losses have been to ranked opponents (West LA by 28 and Fullerton by 3). Desert appears to be in the mix for the Inland Empire Athletic Conference title as it appears to be a six-team competition. Desert is 8-2 in its last 10 games, headed into its final nonconference game against Cypress on December 29. After that, Desert will need to prove they can handle a stretch of San Bernardino, Mt. San Jacinto, Copper Mountain, Chaffey and Cerro Coso.

27. Foothill (9-4) — Foothill has won six of seven games, with its lone lost coming to a non-California community college program. Against California opponents, Foothill has lost to three ranked opponents — Redwoods by 3, Fresno by 37 and Sequoias by 19. While it is doubtful Foothill has enough to overtake San Francisco for the Coast-North title, the Owls do look primed to battle the likes of Chabot and Las Positas for second place. The Owls visit Alameda on December 30 before opening conference play against Canada on January 8.

28. Los Medanos (9-4) — Los Medanos lost two of its last three games, but they were to ranked opponents — Santa Rosa (by 20) and Yuba (by 3). Los Medanos opened its conference schedule with a loss to Yuba, so winning the conference title is just that much tougher. The Mustangs appear headed into a battle with Mendocino for second place in the Bay Valley Conference. Los Medanos continues its conference play after the first of the year with games with Solano and Merritt.

29. Long Beach City (9-4) — Three of Long Beach City’s four losses have been to ranked opponents (Santiago Canyon by 3, West LA by 7 and LA Valley, by 1 in OT). Currently, Long Beach City is riding a two-game win streak and won four of its last five. Long Beach City has perhaps the state’s best player in Jace Bass who is averaging 31.3 points a contest. The combo of Bass and Kester Ofoegbu (22.2 points a contest) has been formable combination. The Vikings are averaging 84.2 points a contest headed into the new year. Long Beach City has five remaining nonconference games, including a January 17 date at East Los Angeles.

30. Bakersfield (10-2) — Bakersfield has won four straight games, earning the 30th spot this week. The Renegades won their first five, lost two straight and now is riding a four-game win streak. In doing so, Bakersfield has climbed into the top 40 in strength of schedule. The Renegades are dark until January 3 when its hosts 1-11 Santa Barbara and 1-9 Oxnard. After that the Renegades will need to prove to pollsters they belong when they travel to No. 11 Santa Monica and then hosts Citrus, who nearly overtook Bakersfield for a spot in this week’s poll.