Division II playoff predictions
Here are my thoughts on Division III. I’ll have Division I out tomorrow.
As for D-II, it’s another tournament with five (Salpointe, Centennial, Ironwood Ridge, Chaparral, Marcos de Niza) legitimate contenders. Maybe Salpointe should be considered the favorite at this point after defeating Ironwood Ridge, but it still seems up in the air. Here’s my round-by-round breakdown with predictions.
First round: No. 1 Salpointe over No. 16 Notre Dame; No. 8 Cienega over No. 9 Marana Mountain View; No. 5 Cesar Chavez over No. 12 Millennium; No. 4 Centennial over No. 13 Sahuaro; No. 3 Ironwood Ridge over No. 14 Prescott; No. 6 Apollo over No. 11 Horizon; No. 7 Chaparral over No. 10 Perry; No. 2 Marcos de Niza over No. 15 Betty Fairfax.
Analysis: I didn’t pick any first-round upsets. Horizon seems to have the best chance, but there aren’t a ton of matchups with upset potential. Marana Mountain View beat Cienega in a thriller in the regular season, but I think the Bobcats will get revenge. Notre Dame beat Salpointe in last year’s first round, but the Lancers didn’t have star Cameron Denson in that one and he is a big piece this year.
Quarterfinals: No. 1 Salpointe over No. 8 Cienega; No. 4 Centennial over No. 5 Cesar Chavez; No. 3 Ironwood Ridge over No. 6 Apollo; No. 7 Chaparral over No. 2 Marcos de Niza.
Analysis: The game to watch is Marcos de Niza-Chaparral. The teams met in the second week of the season and the Padres pulled off a 29-27 win when quarterback Josh Eckley scored on a scramble as time expired. Marcos de Niza has more high-end talent, but Chaparral is deeper. The Firebirds played very well in the season finale against Saguaro and we’ll see how much they’ve improved in this rematch. I don’t foresee the other three top seeds having too much trouble in the second round.
Semifinals: No. 4 Centennial over No. 1 Salpointe; No. 7 Chaparral over No. 3 Ironwood Ridge.
Analysis: This is where it gets good. The bracket worked out nicely in that four of the best teams should end up here. The Centennial-Salpointe game may feature the two best teams in the division and should be a battle. Even though the Coyotes will likely have to play a ‘neutral’ site game down in Tucson, I think they pull out a close one. Ironwood Ridge has beaten Centennial and Marcos de Niza already this year and relies on a opportunistic defense. If it can force turnovers, Chaparral could be in trouble. However, if the Firebirds take care of the ball they have a good chance.
Championship game: No. 4 Centennial 31, No. 7 Chaparral 21
Analysis: Centennial probably has the most talent of any team in Division II, led by star running back Jalen Ortiz. If the Coyotes play to their potential in the postseason, they should win it all. However, the team has been prone to turning the ball over and making mistakes, which could give Chaparral a chance. However, it seems like the Firebirds are still a year away. Even still, a run to the championship game after a 1-3 start would be an impressive accomplishment.