Even without a Sac-Joaquin Section blue banner to throw around his neck like a cape, Reggie Nelson believes Merced's got a team full of Supermans.
"This is a dream team," the Merced senior said even after a knockout-loss to eventual section champ Sheldon in the Division I semifinals last week.
If Merced can pull off this next task, Nelson might be right.
Merced (25-5) is the lowest-seeded team in the CIF Northern California Regional Tournament, which begins Tuesday evening.
The seeding is curious not because No. 12 Merced is seeded in the bottom half of the bracket, but because it trails No. 11 Turlock.
Turlock (24-6) was seeded lower in the section tournament and finished behind Merced in conference. Merced won each of its regular season contests. Both teams reached the section semifinal round at Arco Arena.
Merced coach Marcus Knott was miffed by the CIF's seeding plan, which also ranked Sheldon (26-5) seventh -- last among section champions and behind two section runners-up and a semifinalist.
Franklin (26-5), the Sac-Joaquin Section's runner-up, is seeded No. 8.
"I'm not privy to what the CIF is thinking when they make these brackets," Knott said. "We go where they send us. But it doesn't make any sense to me at all. I looked at the teams left in these brackets. We've beat Turlock twice in our division. We beat Woodcreek (Division II, No. 4). We beat Sacred Heart Cathedral (Division III, No. 5). I guess that wasn't important enough to them.
"I can't speculate. It doesn't matter anyway, because every team is good."
Merced will play No. 5 San Ramon Valley (26-3) at Monte Vista High in Danville at 7 p.m.
San Ramon Valley reached the semifinal round of the North Coast Section playoffs, falling to eventual champion and NorCal No. 1 seed De La Salle (27-2).
The North Coast was favored by the regional seeding committee, earning three of the top-five seeds: No. 1 DLS, No. 3 Newark Memorial (27-4) and No. 5 San Ramon Valley.
A fourth, Castro Valley (23-6), is No. 10.
The seeding committee was comprised of section commissioners, or their designees, and the regional tournament director.
"I guess we'll have to earn some (respect)" Knott said.
It'll be an uphill battle from the start against San Ramon Valley.
Knott doesn't know much about his first-round opponent -- "I'll get some film. We'll have a little bit of information on them " -- but he's got an idea of what to expect in this best-of-the-best tournament.
Back in 1991, Merced lost in the section championship game and drew Jason Kidd and St. Joseph's in the first round of NorCals.
Kidd prevailed, sending Knott and Merced home from the Bay Area with a season-ending loss.
"These are all teams playing for a state championship," Knott said. "You're not going to have nights off or quarters off. It's doesn't take much for these teams. You have to play at your highest level."