We got it wrong: San Diego's surprise Teams
Each year in San Diego, there are teams that look at our preseason rankings and post them on bulletin boards in their locker rooms. Some will even put my face on dartboards. Others will take to the message boards. “Full-Time, you’re sleeping on us.”
And every year, some of those teams will actually go out and prove it on the floor.
This season is no different, as a number of teams have outplayed their preseason rankings, in one case - Mt Miguel - by as many as 20 places.
Here are some of the biggest surprise teams in San Diego, and to their players, this is my mea culpa:
San Diego Surprises:
Mt Miguel Preseason Rank: 35 Current Maxpreps Ranking: 14 Current Record: 20-4 What we said: “The Division 3 runners up return a potent core, including sleeper James Allen, shooter Mikeece Dunbar, and soon-to-be household name Marquise Edwards. What they’ve done: We really dropped the ball on this one. Outdoing our projections by 21 rankings, Mt Miguel - which was the Division 3 runner up last year - is much more than James Allen, Mikeece Dunbar and Marquise Edwards. The Matadors have gotten strong contributions all year from senior transfer Daron Traylor, glue guys like Justice Chima and Marquis Neal and imposing post play from CJ Jackson, who came off the gridiron and has shown flashes of dominance in his first organized hoops season. Combined with a favorable schedule, the Matadors have become the class of Division 3 - once again.
Orange Glen Preseason Rank: 25 Current Maxpreps Ranking: 12 Current Record: 15-7 What we said: “The Patriots graduated the 2017 core that brought the program back to prominence, but they still have key pieces from last year's Division 2 finalist. Miller is a tremendous point guard who elevates everyone around him, and he is flanked by two underrated seniors, Palmer and Tovar. Tovar is a lightning quick lefty whose flash is a perfect complement to Miller. Orange Glen doesn't have a ton of size, but they spread the floor, share the ball and shoot it from deep. That's always a great combination.” What they’ve done: Everything we said has been pretty much on point about the Patriots. What we underestimated was how dominant Damien Miller would be and how tough this system would be to defend. Chris Featherly has done an excellent job getting every drop of effort out of his guys, and deserves to be one of the front runners of coach of the year.
Bishop’s Preseason Rank: 25 Current Maxpreps Rank: 13 Current Record: 13-6 What we said: “Led by the talented frontcourt duo of Rose and Cross - who are long, athletic and improved skillwise - Bishop's looks to be one of the bounceback teams of 2017. Much will depend on the point guard position, where Thomson and White are skilled, but both have dealt with injuries. If they are healthy, watch out for the Knights.” What they’ve done: Well, again, this is one where we nailed the analysis, but underestimated how good the Knights would perform overall. They served notice when they beat Morse in a preseason scrimmage (ironically, Morse was my #13 preseason team) and have notched several other wins against teams slotted higher than them, including Hoover, Santa Fe Christian and La Jolla Country Day. Rose and Cross have been superb, but seniors Conrad Tempel and Collin Douglass have been very good role players. Nick Levine has done an outstanding job.
Maranatha Christian Preseason Rank: Unranked Current Maxpreps Ranking: 21 Current Record: 18-3 What we said: Nothing What they’ve done: Win. And win a lot. The Eagles returned almost everyone from last year’s No. 3 seeded D4 team, including stud combo guard Phillip Willis. That team, of course, suffered a huge upset in the first round of the playoffs, but this year’s team has picked up where they left off. They’ve already notched wins against their top Division 4 competitors, Monte Vista (by 1) and San Diego (by 4) and have also picked off games against Mt Carmel and Granite Hills. Willis has been flanked by one of the best shooting teams in the section, led by Micaiah Boettner and Adam Buffini and junior bruiser Matt Brashear. Brooks Barnard is one of San Diego’s most underrated coaches, and in every level of the sport, coaching still matters.
Rancho Buena Vista Preseason Rank: Unranked Current Maxpreps Ranking: 25 Current Record: 15-7 What we said: Nothing What they’ve done: The Longhorns, in head coach Aaron Abram’s second year, has been one of the most improved teams in the section. Abrams team prides itself on defense and timely scoring from a very improved cast, including seniors Jamaul Bell and Nathaniel Romero, sophomores Jack Bailey and Noah Fields and junior guards Patrick McLachlan (a Pittsburgh transfer) and Jason Danso. Early season wins over Otay Ranch, Eastlake and San Dieguito Academy served notice that the Longhorns are for real. While they are taking their lumps in the ever tough Avo East, expect the Longhorns to vy for a Division 3 championship come playoff time and enter next season as a dark horse in the Avo East.
San Diego Preseason Rank: Unranked Current Maxpreps Ranking: 30 Current Record: 16-5 What we said: Nothing What they’ve done: Coach Bazz Fontenot has done a great job with the Cavers in Year 2, after hitting the transfer lottery when Thomas Marcus came over from now defunct Horizon. Marcus, headed to Arizona on a football scholarship, has been absolutely scintillating, but the growth of holdovers Daniel Thomas and Emanuel Henry, the contributions of underrated Bonita Vista transfer CJ Johnson, and the emergence of freshman guard AJ Burgin have the Cavers atop the Central League standings. Along the way, the Cavers have notched wins over Division 2 and 3 opponents Olympian, Hoover, Steele Canyon and University City. It’s losses since the return of football players Marcus, Thomas and Johnson: Maranatha, Division 1 Lincoln in OT, D2 Bonita Vista in OT, Division 3 Mt Miguel by 8. That’s impressive.
Otay Ranch Preseason Rank: Just outside Current Maxpreps Ranking: 27 Current Record: 14-7 What we said: Nothing What they’ve done: Howard Suda’s crew served notice the first game of the season - a stunning rout of Canyon Crest -that we had done them wrong in the rankings. Chris Stanek, a returning all-league player, has been the leader, but the surprise play of senior Tariq Deadmon has been the big story. The Mustangs shoot it well from deep and get good guard play from Diego Sanchez and Isaac Ochoa. Currently sitting a half-game back of third place in the solid Metro Mesa League, look for the Mustangs to be a contender in Division 2.
Other surprises: Granite Hills, Escondido, West Hills, Grossmont, Point Loma