Here comes the big-time bubble talk.
It’s not just football either, though we’ll start there. But volleyball teams are also on the confusing verge of getting in or falling out.
Nobody knows (still), but here’s a glimpse of what to watch as fall’s two biggest sports hit the final week of the regular season.
Despite Highland’s win over Mesa, other schools’ wins actually dropped the Hawks down to No. 14. Highland (6-3) needs to beat Red Mountain this week because Yuma Cibola (Section I) is going to get an automatic bid and knock out the lowest seed among the top 16 who isn’t in Section I.
A win by Chaparral (No. 8) over Saguaro on Thursday night would cement the Firebirds as getting at least a home game to start the Division II playoffs, quite an achievement considering where Chaparral was after Week 4 of the regular season (1-3 with questions about quarterback play and injuries galore).
Speaking of turnarounds, Notre Dame (No. 15) is a win over Horizon away from nearly repeating its crazy 2011 season and getting back into the playoffs. A loss by Horizon (No. 12) could put the Huskies in real bubble trouble.
Also, this new AIA/MaxPreps.com seeding formula has mostly made sense to this point, but someone needs to explain why No. 8 Saguaro (7-2 with a schedule “strength” of 3.3618) is behind No. 7 Glendale Cactus (7-2 with a “strength” of 1.4944), and Saguaro beat Cactus early this season.
Friday night’s matchup between Williams Field (No. 4 at 9-0 in Div. III) and Queen Creek (No. 3 at 9-0 in Div. III) should help jostle the Division III logjam, though it’s puzzling why Williams Field is behind Tucson Sabino and Queen Creek when all three teams are 9-0 and the Black Hawks have a slightly better “strength” rating than Queen Creek or Sabino.
Despite a tremendous turnaround, Tempe (No. 17 at 5-4 in Div. III) must win against a tough Maricopa team on Friday night to get in. Paradise Valley (No. 15 at 6-3) has to beat Fountain Hills and San Tan Foothills (No. 16 in Div. V) has to beat Yuma Catholic (No. 4).
As for volleyball, the top teams in Div. I appear legitimate with Horizon, Hamilton, Glendale Mountain Ridge, Xavier and Gilbert worthy of their seeding.
Let’s start with Corona del Sol (No. 14 in Division I) and Mesa (No. 16), as both are on the bubble and face some difficult opponents to end the regular season (Corona plays Hamilton and Desert Mountain, while Mesa has a mildly easier road with Desert Ridge and Chandler).
The hurdle here is that Section I will have two more automatic bids (three total) who are on pace to replace the Nos. 15 and 16 seeds, so finishing no lower than No. 14 appears to be a requisite for staying in the playoff picture.
Queen Creek (No. 16 in Div. II) has a big match against Desert Ridge on Tuesday. Higley (No. 14 in Div. III) and San Tan Foothills (No. 16 in Div. V) are both done with the regular season, so both must wait around for everyone to see how things shake out.
That’s as much forecasting as we’re capable of doing these days. It’s not so easy when nobody knows the algorithm.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.