Opinions among coaches vary when it comes to the teams in the Southern Section 4-AA playoffs, which begin tonight.
Some rave about top-seeded San Bernardino High School, others prefer No. 2 Glendora.
Perris, Inglewood and Riverside Poly also draw a certain amount of respect, depending on who's seen whom or who plays whom. Of course there's Kennedy, which won the 3-A title last season, and El Modena, which has its best team in 11 years.
But ask coaches about \o7 the\f7 player in the division, the guy to watch, or watch out for, and they all answer: Tracy Murray.
No one player in the 4-AA commands as much respect as Murray, a 6-foot-8 senior forward for Glendora.
He averages 44.5 points a game, the highest in Southern Section history. Greg Goorjan averaged 43.4 points per game in 1977-78, including playoffs.
Murray has scored 1,157 points, only 102 shy of Goorjan's single-season record, which also included playoff games.
Murray has 91 three-point field goals this season, eight short of the single-season record that Murray set last season.
"I think you could call Murray an impact player," El Modena Coach Tim Tivenan said.
Teams have tried to use gimmick defenses against Murray, but none have been effective. In fact, he seems to have better games against freak defenses.
Murray is averaging 48 points against teams that employ such tactics.
"I think that's because we run gimmick offenses against teams who play a gimmick defense," said Glendora Coach Mike LeDuc, whose team has won 23 consecutive games since losing to Moreno Valley. "I think it's because we run gimmick offenses, designed to get Tracy the ball. Our straight offense has all five players involved."
Murray tuned up for the playoffs with a 64-point performance against Chino on Wednesday, the most points in a Southern Section game since Goorjan scored 64 in 1977-78.
San Bernardino has the dubious honor of not only being the top-seeded team, but being undefeated. No team has gone undefeated through an entire season since Mater Dei and Glendale did it in 1985.
Still, most coaches consider the Cardinals (26-0) favorites, along with Glendale, to win the title.
San Bernardino, which lost to Woodbridge in the semifinals of the 2-A playoffs a year ago, is led by Byron Russell, a 6-7 senior forward.
Russell, who has signed with Cal State Long Beach, is averaging 18.5 points per game this season. Point guard Carlos Dew (6-3) is the team's second leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points.
San Bernardino and Glendora (25-1) both have byes on the first round.
"You have to like San Bernardino and Glendora," Tustin Coach Tom McCluskey said. "They are the teams that proved themselves over the season. After that, the rest of the division is wide open."
Orange County has six teams in the 4-AA, including El Modena, which is seeded fourth. The Vanguards are champions of the Century League, their first title since 1978.
El Modena (19-5) and Freeway League co-champion Sunny Hills (17-8) have byes in the first round. Kennedy (18-8) hosts Cajon (15-9), Tustin (13-12) plays at Mission Viejo (11-12) and Servite (12-10) travels to Torrance (14-10).
Robbie Pietsch, a 6-4 senior forward, leads El Modena in scoring (22.1) and rebounding (12.0).
Kennedy (18-8) had a thrill-o-minute ride through the 3-A playoffs last season, winning in overtime in both the semifinals and final. The Fighting Irish have two starters back from that team, point guard Mike Pettengill (5-9) and off guard Jim Barker (6-2).
Kennedy has had an up-and-down season. The Fighting Irish are the only team to defeat Saddleback, which is the top-seeded team in the 5-AA, but they also lost to Garden Grove, which didn't come close to qualifying for the playoffs.
Still, Coach John Mayberry is confident.
"We're at home for the first game, then we stay in Orange County for our second game," He said. "If we win those two, we'll stay in Orange County for the quarterfinals. The optimistic outlook is, we could play four of our five playoff games in Orange County.
"I was upset at first that we didn't get a bye in the first round. But I look at a team like Agoura, which got a bye, and they have to play Glendora. I'd rather not have a bye."
4-AA IN A BOX Teams to beat: San Bernardino (26-0), Glendora (25-1).
Dark horses: Inglewood (15-8), Riverside Poly (19-6).
Players to watch: Jerry Dalton (Perris), Harold Miner (Inglewood), Tracy Murray (Glendora), Bryon Russell (San Bernardino), Kurt Schwan (Westlake).
Best first-round game: Cajon (15-9) at Kennedy (18-8).
Final Four prediction: San Bernardino vs. El Modena, Inglewood vs. Glendora.