This is a major week for the top teams in Class 3A as several head-to-head matchups will determine league championship and top district seeds.  The results could also alter greatly the projections for the RPI and state tournament pairings as well.  On tap this week are likely league title games between Kent Denver-Lutheran (Metro), Sterling-Eaton (Patriot), St Mary’s-CS Christian (Tri Peaks) and Pagosa Springs-Centauri (IML).  In the first three games, both clubs are unbeaten in conference games so the winner should land the outright championship.  Pagosa Springs has one win over Centauri this year but needs another on Saturday to officially clinch the crown.  A Centauri win leaves the two teams tied for the title.
For our purposes, we have used the higher ranked team in the RPI as projected winners so Kent Denver, Sterling and St Mary’s get the slight edge in our projected bracket.  Of those six clubs, Lutheran and Eaton are the only two clubs outside the top eight in RPI so at least six could end up playing at home in the early stages of the state tournament.  Both Centauri and Pagosa Springs and are in the top four of RPI so they both are also making plans to host the first two rounds of the state event.
Concerning our automatic qualifiers below, there’s only change and that came inside the Frontier where Middle Park moved ahead of Academy as the #2 team.  The Panthers won the head-to-head battle with the Wildcats last week.  Middle Park and Bennett meet on Wednesday in a game that could determine the league champion overall.  Another important game on tap this week has Delta facing Cedaredge on Tuesday and that outcome could alter the projections in the Western Slope.
We first list our top two teams in each district tournament.  Teams that reach the championship game of their district tournament receive automatic bids to the state tournament.

#1 Bennett #1 Sterling
#2 Middle Park #2 Eaton
#1 Kent Denver #1 Pagosa Springs
#2 Lutheran #2 Centauri
#1 St Mary’s #1 Moffat County
#2 Colorado Springs Christian #2 Cedaredge
#1 Weld Central
#2 Eagle Ridge Academy

With those predictions in mind, we first seed the district champions and at-large teams in order by RPI as published on Monday February 5th.    Please note that Bennett and Weld Central are projected district champions but are not in the RPI top 16.  As a result, they’re replaced in the top eight by at large squads Colorado Springs Christian and Cedaredge.

  1. St Mary’s
  2. Kent Denver
  3. Centauri (at-large)
  4. Pagosa Springs
  5. Colorado Springs Christian (at-large)
  6. Cedaredge (at-large)
  7. Sterling
  8. Moffat County

Next up is the rest of the bracket which is filled out by automatic qualifiers and at-large teams based on RPI standings.  Weld Central, Bennett, Middle Park and Eagle Ridge all make the field in our projections despite being outside the top 32 as automatic qualifiers in their district events.

  1. Lamar
  2. Eaton
  3. Manitou Springs
  4. Colorado Academy
  5. Jefferson Academy
  6. Resurrection Christian
  7. Vanguard
  8. Delta
  9. Grand Valley
  10. Lutheran
  11. St Mary’s Academy
  12. Salida
  13. Alamosa
  14. Coal Ridge
  15. University
  16. Brush
  17. Liberty Common
  18. Faith Christian
  19. Roaring Fork
  20. Machebeuf
  21. Weld Central (#32 overall — moves ahead as projected Confluence #1)
  22. Bennett (38th overall — moves into top 32 as projected Frontier champion)
  23. Middle Park (#39 overall — moves into top 32 as projected Frontier #2)
  24. Eagle Ridge (#40 overall — projected Confluence #2)

With 32 teams selected, the field can now be projected.  Teams seeded in spots 25-32 could be moved to help limit travel.  Also note that the field is NOT RESEEDED once the first two rounds are complete and the bracket will be played out completely from start to finish.  For our projections, we produce a true seed and do not move any teams within the bracket.  But more than likely, first round pairings of conference rivals Delta-Grand Valley, Cedaredge-Roaring Fork and Eaton-University would be altered.

#1 St Mary’s vs #32 Eagle Ridge Academy #8 Moffat County vs #25 Liberty Common
#16 Delta vs #17 Grand Valley #9 Lamar vs #24 Brush
#4 Pagosa Springs vs #29 Weld Central #5 CS Christian vs #28 Machebeuf
#13 Jefferson Academy vs #20 Salida #12 Colorado Academy vs #21 Alamosa
#3 Centauri vs #30 Bennett #6 Cedaredge vs #27 Roaring Fork
#14 Resurrection Christian vs #19 St Mary’s Academy #11 Manitou Springs vs #22 Coal Ridge
#2 Kent Denver vs #31 Middle Park #7 Sterling vs #26 Faith Christian
#15 Vanguard vs #18 Lutheran #10 Eaton vs #23 University