Predicting seeding for the upcoming boys state tournament is an inexact science at best.
But that doesn't mean rubbing the crystal ball and gazing into the future isn't more than a bit inviting.
So, here goes.
If the Longhorns (20-6, 10-0) win the East regional tournament championship today, Friday, in Round Valley, Payson would probably be awarded the No. 4 seed into the 3A state tournament.
Which would mean the Horns would be pitted in the opening round of state against the No. 13 seeded team.
That possibly would be Tuba City (8-9) of the North region.
The game will be played 8:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Walkup Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Aligned with PHS earning a four seed would be the unenviable task of playing No. 1 ranked, top-seeded and state-title favorite Estrella Foothills in the 3A semifinals rather than the championship game.
That matchup, of two state-ranked teams, would occur because both the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds are aligned in the same eight-team bracket of the 16-team tournament.
But before the Longhorns can begin focusing on a state semifinal game, which would be a Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix, the Horns must get past the opening round and a quarterfinal clash possibly against No. 5 Chino Valley.
The quarterfinal would be 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Walkup Skydome and the semifinal showdown at 12:15 Feb. 21.
The state championship is slated for 8 p.m. Feb. 23 at Jobing.com Arena.
Estrella a huge favorite
While many around the state are ready to concede the state championship to powerful Estrella Foothills (25-2), a team that owns a regular season 73-45 win over Payson, there are several teams in the state tournament with their eyes set on the title.
They include Safford, which is 18-0 in regular season play and No. 2 seeded in the power point rankings.
Monument Valley (15-3) is a force because it plays the reservation-style fast-break basketball that usually gives opponents fits. But, MV probably doesn't have the talent to contend with Estrella stars Brandon and Corey Hawkins.
In the second game of the season, Estrella humbled MV 80-52. Dark horse contenders in the state race include Chinle (12-5), Window Rock (11-5) and Coolidge (14-7).
Fountain Hills (8-10) is a three-time state champion but hasn't shown the talent this season to four-peat.
East teams that could join Payson in the state shoot out include Round Valley (10-9) and Snowflake (9-8).
RV is currently clinging to a No. 16 power- point ranking and Snowflake is rated
No. 15. The East region tournament championship game -- which will be played at 7 p.m. today, Friday, in the Ensphere dome in Eagar-Springerville -- will pit Payson against either Round Valley, Alchesay or Snowflake.