Girls basketball “bubble” teams
Finally, postseason play has arrived in boys and girls basketball, and while both the sectionals and state tournaments are “one-and-done” single elimination format, sectional tournaments this week won’t mean turning in uniforms for many schools.
For a few, however, it might.
Depending upon the power rankings shuffle and who else wins around them, there are some East Valley teams sitting precariously on the ol’ balance beam between grabbing one of those final seeds among the top 24, and dreams being destroyed.
It’s not a complete list, but a few schools who need a first-round win in the sectional tournament (or a loss but a little luck) to get in. For nearly all these schools, it’ll come down to their final power rankings because there are several schools within their own section already ahead.
If you win the first-round game in the sectional tournament you’ll be in the state tournament.
Per division: Four teams from each of the three sections for a total of 12 teams will earn an automatic bid to the state tournament based on how they finish within their sectional tournament. The final 12 spots will be based on power rankings and the top eight seeds receive a first-round bye.
(all records are power rankings games and rankings as of Monday); all first-round games are Tuesday unless otherwise noted).
Chaparral: At 11-7 overall and No. 24, the Firebirds have the same juxtaposition as several “bubble” schools: In desperate need of a first-round while playing a top-ranked team. In this case it’s another matchup with No. 5 Pinnacle (7:30 p.m. at Chaparral H.S.). Pinnacle has already beaten Chaparral by 50 points (early December) and 35 points (January), so the outlook is grim despite the reduced margin. Playing the No. 5 overall team in Div. I means if Chaparral doesn’t win, the Firebirds should root hard for Pinnacle to win the Section 3 tournament so Pinnacle moves up (and Chaparral’s strength of schedule subsequently moves up). But there are many other schools affecting the strength of schedule in-play, so it’s difficult to know how much difference it would make if Chaparral falls on Tuesday night.
Mountain View: This season hasn’t exactly gone according to script for Henry Bribiescas’ team, a perennial top-notch program. Derailed since the summer by injuries to the team’s best forward (Jordan Jensen out for the year with torn ACL) and then starting point guard Rene Coggins to a broken foot early this season, Mountain View (14-4) has pieced it together enough to stay alive despite a not-great strength of schedule in power rankings games. Mountain View has to play Xavier in Tuesday’s first round which is a tough matchup for the Toros (the 5:45 p.m. at Chaparral H.S.). Mesquite (No. 17), Mountain View (No. 18) and Marcos de Niza (No. 19) appear OK to get in even if the teams lose in the first round of its respective sectional tournament (namely Mesquite because the Wildcats play No. 1 Highland). Good news for the Toros being history is on their side: Mountain View won the previous meeting between these teams, 46-36 in early December.
Notre Dame: It’s the same issue here in Div. II as Div. I, with teams on the bubble facing a difficult first-round matchup, playing roulette with the power rankings in terms of how far the fall will be if a first-round loss occurs. Notre Dame (No. 19 at 13-6) faces No. 1 Seton Catholic (Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Coronado H.S.) to begin the Section 3 tournament. Seton won the first matchup by 11 points back on Dec. 11, 56-45, so the Saints can play with Seton if things go their way. The other big caveat being Seton lost Anne Marie Holter for the season with a torn ACL suffered last week, plus Julia Borcello has been knicked up recently. A loss here by Seton could create a big shuffle heading into the state tournament, but the Sentinels know the state tournament is the bigger priority. This could be a game, whether Seton goes with a full lineup or not.
Queen Creek: The Bulldogs are No. 21 at 12-5 and face No. 12 Maricopa (Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Desert Ridge H.S.). Again, a loss here might be enough to Keep QC in the top- 24 mix by tournament’s end, but it probably requires a strong Maricopa run to do so. The Bulldogs haven’t played Maricopa (No. 12 at 12-6) this season. QC had won four consecutive games before falling against Campo Verde to end the regular season on Feb. 1.
Gilbert Christian: At No. 26 (10-8), the Tigers face No. 23 San Carlos in the opening round of Section 2 tournament (Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. at Superior Jr./Sr H.S). Since a win equates to getting into the tournament, the question is whether a loss to a not-highly ranked team, if it were to happen, would be enough to move. At this point it seems unlikely, unless San Carlos wins at least two games and it propels their power rankings position high enough to help Gilbert Christian’s final strength of schedule. O f all EV teams on the brink, this seems like the most obvious must-win game in terms of getting into a state tournament. The two teams haven’t played each other this season.