The CIF-Southern Section and City Section playoffs are all set to get started later this, week which can mean only one thing: The Southland's top teams are on the verge of squaring off, tournament style, with the hopes of eventually bringing home some championship hardware to their respective schools.
We figured it was best to unveil another installment of the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings before things get underway. It will be interesting, no doubt, to see how things unfold and just how many of the following programs live up to the lofty postseason expectations bestowed upon them.
In terms of making an appearance in the final poll before the playoffs, consideration was given to larger schools Compton, Elsinore, Murrieta Valley, Pasadena and Washington. The same could be same about little guys Mission Hills Alemany, Bellflower St. John Bosco and Westlake Village Oaks Christian. In the end, however, there is only room for 20 teams. So, let's get down to business.
1. (1) Long Beach Poly (24-1): Ryan Anderson and the Jackrabbits have been the top-ranked team from start to finish thus far. No need to switch things up at this stage of the game.
2. (2) Mater Dei (24-2): If anyone is capable of defeating Long Beach Poly in a loaded Division 1AA bracket, perhaps it is the Monarchs. Doing so, however, is an entirely different story.
3. (4) Taft (23-2): The talented Toreadors are the odds-on favorite to win the City Section title. Anything less than a championship would be one of the biggest surprises of the season.
4. (3) Corona Centennial (23-3): The premier program out in the Inland Empire has shown little, or no, signs of slowing down. A deep run during postseason play is a distinct possibility.
5. (5) Loyola (20-5): Talk about playing your best basketball at the most opportune time, no one wants to face the Cubs in Division 1A. The real question is, did they peak a bit too early?
6. (6) Etiwanda (25-2): The Eagles have plenty of explaining to do after inexplicably losing two of their final five regular-season games. That said, we are patiently waiting for an answer.
7. (7) Orange Lutheran (21-6): Among the teams looming as potential threats in Division 4AA are Windward, Alemany and St. John Bosco. The Lancers figure to be tested early and often.
8. (8) Westchester (23-6): After taking a brief glance at the City Section bracket, the Comets appear to be on a collision course with Taft in the finals. Looking ahead could prove costly though.
9. (9) Harvard-Westlake (22-4): With Daniene Cain and Zena Edosomwan providing an imposing presence down low in the paint, the Wolverines will be tough to beat in Division 3A.
10. (11) Peninsula (25-1): Lone loss came last year, on Dec. 3, a six-point setback to Westchester. Fast forward to present day and the Panthers are in the midst of a 21-game winning streak.
11. (10) Mission Viejo (25-1): At 6 feet 10, Issac Neilson is a force to be reckoned with underneath the basket. If the senior stays out of foul trouble, the Diablos can do some serious damage.
12. (14) Anaheim Canyon (24-3): Typically, good guard play is key in a tournament such as the one in Division 2AA. And the Comanches have it in Chris Anderson and JoJo Ballestero.
13. (13) Price (18-6): The Knights can consider their bases covered with Norvel Pelle on the inside and Askia Booker on the outside. Sounds like a daunting task for those in Division 3AA.
14. (16) Ventura (24-2): Without any stars on the roster, the Cougars rely on a selfless group of individuals. And each player knows his role well. The formula might work moving forward.
15. (12) Edison (24-2): Surprisingly enough, the Chargers opened the season with 16 consecutive victories. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
16. (15) Crespi (20-7): Four losses came at the hands of longtime rivals Loyola and Harvard-Westlake. Time to see if the rigors of Mission League play hurt or actually helped the Celts.
17. (17) La Verne Lutheran (18-4): With the cupcake portion of their schedule behind them, we finally get the chance to see if Grant Jerrett, Bruce English, C.J. Cooper & Co. are for real.
18. (18) Windward (19-7): All signs point to the Wildcats taking care of business on their side of the Division 4AA bracket to set up a showdown with Orange Lutheran in the title game.
19. (NR) Aliso Niguel (24-2): A pair of losses to Mission Viejo during the regular season seemed to sidetrack the Wolverines. With a renewed focus, they could be on the verge of big things.
20. (NR) Foothill (19-7): It appears as if Division 2A is up for grabs. If anyone is capable of making a prolonged postseason run, and perhaps challenge top-seeded Peninsula, it is the Knights.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
NOTE: The ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 is independent of the regional rankings, which are compiled by the bloggers who cover each of those regions. Records are through the end of regular-season play.