After back-to-back seasons of a Hamilton-Brophy boys soccer final in Division I, that streak ended last year. Mainly because they were in the same half of the bracket and met in the quarterfinals. This year Hamilton and Brophy are at a familiar perch -- the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively. One or the other or both has reached the semifinals each of the last six years. Positioned to do the same this year, will they do it again? Perhaps. But don't expect it to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Here's a look at the tournament with matchups, favorite, who's hot, who's not and assorted tidbits before first-round play commences on Tuesday (Feb 4). quarterfinals Saturday Feb. 8, semis Wednesday (Feb. 12) and final Saturday (Feb. 15):
FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS: No. 16 Mesa vs. No. 1 Hamilton; No. 9 Desert Vista vs. No. 8 Tolleson; No. 12 Trevor Browne vs. No. 5 Sandra Day O'Connor; No 13 North Canyon vs. No. 4 Gilbert; No. 14 Highland vs. No. 3 Chandler; No. 11 Camelback vs. No. 6 Alhambra; No. 10 Mountain Pointe vs. No. 7 Ironwood; No. 15 Basha vs. No. 2 Brophy. OUTLOOK: Realignment was the driving force behind a tournament field in 2014 that returns only six teams that competed for D-I state last year. Tucson schools and Yuma schools dropped to D-II this season. The six teams returning to state this year are Hamilton, Brophy, Desert Vista, Gilbert, Alhambra and Tolleson. There are 10 newcomers -- Mesa, Trevor Browne, Sandra Day O'Connor, North Canyon, Highland, Chandler, Camelback, Mountain Pointe, Ironwood and Basha. FAVORITE: It's certainly not going out on a limb, but the precision and discipline Hamilton displays game after game gives the Huskies an edge. Hamiilton is 20-1 and allowed only seven goals in 21 games. Half of those games were against teams in the tournament field. The lone game the Huskies gave up more than one goal (2) was the season finale vs. Ironwood, which allowed them to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Eagles in December. with a 3-2 win of their own. Hamilton's defense and attention to detail stands out, so the Huskies get the favorite tag. Brophy could be a co-favorite, but didn't delve deep into Arizona competition aside from power-ranking games. The Broncos 17-2 record is impressive and first-year head coach Noah Lewkowitz has produced another solid squad taking over for Marc Kelly. DARK HORSE: Three come to mind -- two in the bottom half of the bracket -- Ironwood and Chandler and one up top -- Sandra Day O'Connor. Ironwood as mentioned earlier, played Hamilton twice and played two tight games with the Huskies. Ironwood came away with a split. If it wins its first-round game it may well see Brophy. Knowing it can play with Hamilton shouldn't leave Ironwood short on confidence in facing anyone. Chandler is worthy of a nod having the top strength of schedulein D-I posting a 14-3 record. It's only losses are to Hamilton (twice) and Gilbert. Sandra Day O'Connor is dangerous with an explosive attack that figures to be hard for anyone in its quadrant to quell (Trevor Browne, North Canyon and Gilbert). In order to reach the title match, however, the Eagles likely would have to go through Hamilton. WHO'S HOT: Tolleson has won 13 games in a row. Brophy has won eight games in a row. Hamilton has won seven in a row. Chandler and Alhambra four in a row each. WHO'S NOT: Basha has not won in its last four games (0-3-1) -- Chandler, Hamilton, Highland and Mesa. Gilbert has lost two of its last three. ODDS AND ENDS: The team playing the most games against other teams in the tournament field is Hamilton. Hamilton posted a 9-1 record in those games. Brophy and Gilbert each won five games against other tournament teams. Brophy was 5-0, but did not play anyone among the top seven seeds. Gilbert was 5-5. Chandler and Ironwood won four games each against the tournament field.