Picked by most polls as either first or second in the five-team league, San Clemente will be led by 11 seniors who look to add another title to the one it earned in the Sea View League during the 2012-13 season. That crown was the school's first in 38 years and only its second overall. The Tritons also will be trying to return to the CIF Playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.
Health and continuity would appear to be the team's major concerns, as it has had players in and out of the lineup because of injuries and the success of San Clemente's varsity football team, whose drive to the CIF Championship game kept six players out of basketball uniforms until mid-December.
Among those is senior forward Sam Darnold, the league MVP in 2012-13, and junior forward Cole Fotheringham, a second team all-league selection in 2013-14.
Additionally, senior guard Nick Crankshaw, named to the 2013-14 all-league first team, missed the Tritons' final pre-league game with a tender ankle. And senior guard Cade Griffin, who received 2013-14 all-league honorable mention, missed most of the early season with a back strain from which he has not fully recovered.
Because of all of this, San Clemente has only had its core lineup together for a handful of games.
Nonetheless, it posted a winning, 9-7, record during pre-league play with a key win coming over Tustin, which is currently ranked sixth in Orange County by OC Varsity. Three of the team's losses came to teams ranked in the OC top 10.
Both league rival El Toro and the Tritons were in the top 10 for a week during the preseason, and most polls picked one or the other to win the South Coast title. But Aliso Niguel, against whom San Clemente opens league play on January 14, called those prognostications into question when it beat the Chargers 66-54 at El Toro in their January 9 league opener. Most polls picked Aliso for third in league.
But Aliso, the Tritons' opponent in their league opener, is built around senior members of the 2011-12 Wolverine Frosh team that went 26-0, so is definitely no slouch. Aliso enters league play at 12-5. It has not faced a ranked Orange County team, nor has it played a common opponent with the Tritons.
Defending league champion El Toro had its lineup decimated by graduation. And at 12-6 it also has not faced ranked Orange County teams. But it does have two common opponents with San Clemente. It lost to Woodbridge, 62-48 on December 26. The Tritons played Woodbridge twice, winning 72-46 on December 4 and losing 60-53 on December 9.
In addition, the Tritons beat West Torrance 55-34 on December 16, as did El Toro, 55-39, on December 20.
Dana Hills and Mission Viejo are universally picked by polls to fight it out for fourth and fifth in league after both teams lost most of their 2013-14 squads to graduation and, in Mission's case, transfers.
Dana, which beat Mission 71-54 in their January 9 league opener, is currently 4-14 this season, and shares four opponents with the Tritons. It lost to Esperanza 72-42 on December 5. San Clemente lost to it 60-57 on December 20 in the championship game of the Irvine World News Tournament.
Dana also lost to Temecula Valley 57-55 on December 6. The Tritons beat Temecula Valley 71-50 on December 2. And the Dolphins lost to University 61-53 on December 20. San Clemente beat it 66-58.
Both teams lost to Esperanza, the Dolphins, 62-59.
As for Mission Viejo, it is currently 5-11. Against common opponents, it lost to Woodbridge 54-47 on December 3 and beat West Torrance 61-53.