26

NCS Division III playoff breakdown

Division III projections got a lot tougher after a few surprises over the weekend. Here’s my latest breakdown, although things are definitely subject to some shifting and this appears to be the division in which the committee will have to make the toughest decisions.

Three new teams (Campolindo, Miramonte and a big surprise in Sonoma Valley) clinched eligbility this week to get us up to 17 teams that are eligible. Bishop O’Dowd, Del Norte and Hercules could clinch eligibility this week with wins.

The updated list of teams that have clinched eligibility: Acalanes, Alhambra, Analy, Campolindo, El Cerrito, Encinal, Fortuna, Healdsburg, Kennedy-Fremont, Marin Catholic, Miramonte, Moreau Catholic, Novato, Piedmont, Sonoma Valley, Tamalpais, Terra Linda.
LOCKS:

ACALANES 5-5, 4-2 DFAL, 2-3 in Div. III — Lost to Campo to close reg. season
ALHAMBRA 8-1, 5-0 DFAL, 4-0 in Div. III — A top four seed
CAMPOLINDO 5-4, 3-2 DFAL, 3-3 Div. III — Huge win over Acalanes, so they are eligible and will make the field.
EL CERRITO 6-3, 4-1 ACCAL, 2-1 Div. III — Will beat Hercules in Week 10 to finish 7-3
ENCINAL 8-1, 6-0 BSAL, 4-0 Div. III — Will beat Moreau in Week 10 to finish 9-1
FORTUNA 7-2, 4-1 HDNL-Big 4, 6-0 Div. III — Wins aren’t very strong, but good chance they go 8-2
HEALDSBURG 6-3, 3-1 SCL, 4-1 Div. III — Have wins over Acalanes and Analy, should lose next week to Petaluma and finish 6-4
MARIN CATHOLIC 8-1, 6-0 MCAL, 4-0 Div. III — Going to be a league champion and probable No. 2 seed
NOVATO 6-3, 5-1 MCAL, 3-1 Div. III — Probably looking like the No. 4 seed and a possible semifinal rematch of last year’s title game with Encinal
PIEDMONT 6-3, 4-2 BSAL, 5-1 Div. III — Showdown with SPSV in Week 10 could propel them to a higher seed with a win
TAMALPAIS 7-2, 4-2 MCAL, 4-1 Div. III — Will lose to Marin Catholic this week, so one-point win over Terra Linda was huge.

Each of those 11 teams is eligible and will finish with at worst a .500 record overall. There’s only one team that fits into that category that I don’t list as a lock and that’s Analy, due to its loss to Sonoma Valley over the weekend. That’s because Analy could end up 5-5 and Sonoma 4-6 and I could see Sonoma getting the call in that situation with the head to head win.
Now for the final five spots….

There are nine teams competing for the final five spots, six of which are currently eligible and the final three can become eligible with a win this week. Hercules is a new addition here after I took a second look through things to find they are now 2-2 within Division III.

Here are the nine teams competing:

ANALY 5-4, 1-4 SCL, 3-2 Div. III
BISHOP O’DOWD 3-5-1, 3-3 HAAL, 0 games against Div. III
HERCULES 3-6, 1-4 ACCAL, 2-2 Div. III
KENNEDY – FREMONT 4-5, 2-3 MVAL, 2-1 Div. III
MIRAMONTE 4-5, 2-3 DFAL, 3-1 Div. III
MOREAU CATHOLIC 4-5, 3-3 BSAL, 2-1 Div. III
TERRA LINDA 4-5, 2-3 MCAL, 4-3 Div. III
SONOMA VALLEY 4-6, 2-4 SCL, 3-2 Div. III
DEL NORTE 2-6, 1-4 HDNL-Big 4, 1-2 Div. III

The first thing I will do is knock out Del Norte. They need to beat Arcata this week to be eligible, but we’d be talking about a 3-6 team who would have two wins over a winless Arcata team and the other win over a 3-6 team from Oregon. That isn’t going to cut it. (While we’re mentioning Del Norte, can anybody tell me why Amador Valley is playing a non-playoff Division III team?) I will also knock out Hercules because they will lose to El Cerrito this week and no longer be eligible.

Also, for the purposes of trying to predict things, I’m going to assume O’Dowd becomes eligible by beating Arroyo this week. This doesn’t mean I think this is a lock to happen. In fact, I might even consider them an underdog in that game. But for these purposes, it’s easier to assume they win and become eligible and if they don’t, we can easily eliminate them and call up the next team.

Alright, so now we’re trying to pick the five teams out of these seven that are most worthy. Here’s who I think will get in, alphabetically.

ANALY — The Tigers lost to Sonoma Valley last week in a game that throws the biggest monkey wrench into predicting this field. It would’ve given Analy a sixth win and a chance to win a seventh against Windsor this week (which they will be underdogs in) and, most importantly, it would’ve knocked Sonoma Valley out of contention. While Sonoma Valley will have an argument to get in ahead of Analy, I don’t think the commitee would keep a 5-5 team out when several 4-6 teams will be getting in. Plus, Analy has a win over Terra Linda, which beat Sonoma Valley, so that could help carry Analy in.
BISHOP O’DOWD — Every game is played against higher division teams and yet they still achieved eligibility. This is a down O’Dowd team and they’ll probably be one and done, but O’Dowd makes it in if they beat Arroyo on Saturday.
KENNEDY-FREMONT — In a similar position to O’Dowd of playing mostly higher division teams, although they did play three Division III teams in nonleague. The MVAL is typically lauded for its strength  in this meeting because its all Division I schools except for Kennedy and that will carry the Titans into the postseason despite that loss to American last week.
MIRAMONTE — The Matadors play a fairly tough schedule and own a win over a Campolindo team that will make this field, thanks to its win over Acalanes. That Campo win alone is enough to get Miramonte in.

That leaves us with Moreau Catholic, Terra Linda and Sonoma Valley competing for the final playoff spot. Moreau plays Encinal this week, so we can lock in a 4-6 record for them. Terra Linda plays Justin-Siena, which could be a tough game for them, so they could finish at either 4-6 or 5-5. Sonoma Valley is already done with a 4-6 record.

If Terra Linda beats Justin-Siena this week to finish 5-5, I think they get in, end of discussion. However, if they lose and each of these teams is 4-6, what would happen? I think the first team to get eliminated is Sonoma Valley, based on its loss to Terra Linda. Sonoma could undoubtedly point to the fact that it beat Analy, which in turn beat Terra Linda, but I think by the time the committee is discussing this, Analy will already have made the field and they will primarily be deciphering between Terra Linda and Sonoma Valley and use that head-to-head game to make the decision.

Now, how do we separate between Moreau Catholic and Terra Linda. Moreau’s four wins are against teams with losing records, including a Kennedy team that eventually cancelled its season. The Mariners were blown out against St. Mary’s, Piedmont and St. Patrick-St. Vincent (and likely will be blown out against Encinal). Their best game is probably a 5-point loss to a 6-3 San Lorenzo team.

Terra Linda, on the other hand, had the benefit of not having to face the two best teams in its own league. It has only faced two teams all year that possess a winning record (Analy and Tamalpais), although it did just go to the wire in a one-point loss Saturday to Tamalpais, a 7-2 team that’s a lock to make this field. Moreau, by comparision, will have played six teams that will finish with an above .500 record. All of those games will be losses, but at least they don’t have losses to 2-7 teams like Terra Linda does to Redwood and San Marin.

In the end, I think the fact that Moreau has played a tougher schedule than Terra Linda should carry some weight and give the Mariners the final playoff berth. That leaves Terra Linda rooting against O’Dowd this week so there is one more spot available, which would likely go to them.

And so, here are my 16 projected playoff teams, alphabetically.

Acalanes, Alhambra, Analy, Bishop O’Dowd, Campolindo, El Cerrito, Encinal, Fortuna, Healdsburg, Kennedy, Marin Catholic, Miramonte, Moreau Catholic, Novato, Piedmont, Tamalpais.

Now, my revised seedings:

1. Encinal (8-1)
2. Marin Catholic (8-1)
3. Alhambra (8-1)
4. Novato  (6-3)
5. El Cerrito (6-3)
6. Tamalpais (7-2)
7. Piedmont (6-3)
8. Healdsburg (6-3)
9. Fortuna (7-2)
10. Acalanes (5-5) — Might’ve moved up to 7 with a win over Campo, right now have to hope their close game with Alhambra carries weight
11. Campolindo (5-4) — I know they beat Acalanes, but they also were blown out by Miramonte
12. Bishop O’Dowd (3-5-1) — Might be too high, but the bottom of this bracket really doesn’t wow you
13. Miramonte (4-5)
14. Kennedy-Fremont (4-5)
15. Analy (5-4)
16. Moreau Catholic (4-5)

There you go. Things should be clearer after we see what O’Dowd does, but regardless there are going to be some tough decisions for the final spots.

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.