That showdown takes place Wednesday when top-ranked Merced (17-4, 6-1) hosts No. 2 Turlock (17-4, 6-1). When they met Jan. 8, Merced pulled out a 75-71 victory in overtime.
The winner not only gets a leg up in the race for the CCC championship, but the No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I tournament.
Turlock is seeded No. 2 and Merced is No. 3 -- the section released its first ratings Monday -- behind Franklin of Elk Grove (18-2 overall). Franklin rules the Delta Valley Conference and is unlikely to lose.
If Wednesday's winner can run the table, the No. 2 seed is their reward. The loser could fall as far No. 7, which means a very difficult playoff path. It likely means a quarterfinal vs. Franklin or the No. 2 seed, and maybe another rematch.
The quarterfinals are a crucial round this year because, for the first time, the top four finishers in each of the five divisions will advance to the Northern California playoffs.
Previously, only teams that reached the section finals advanced to the regional tournament. The regional bracket has expanded, however, from eight teams per division to 16.
While the CCC boys receive plenty of respect from the section, the girls are a different story. Turlock is 7-0 in conference and 18-4 overall -- only one other Division I team has more wins -- but is a No. 8.
That means if Turlock loses just one conference game, and finishes the regular season 22-5, it will likely have to open the playoffs on the road.
The CCC is at the bottom of the D-I leagues when it comes to league strength. It's an anchor attached to the Bulldogs and it's pulling them down.
The Stanislaus District had three top seeds in the ratings, which will be updated each of the next two Mondays before the pairings are released Feb. 21 and games begin Feb. 22.
Those top seeds were Ripon Christian's boys in D-5, and the girls from Argonaut (D-4) and Turlock Christian (D-5).