Pairings for every boys basketball division plus the announcement of teams for the second-ever Open Division in Northern California were released on Sunday by the CIF state office. Here are some burning questions and choice for best team no longer playing.
Open Division No. 1 Seed: Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland (26-4)
Other Open Division Teams: Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, Capital Christian of Sacramento, Newark Memorial, Modesto Christian, El Cerrito.
1. Did Monte Vista’s vote to not ask to be included in the NorCal Open Division cause a different team to be taken up from the North Coast Section instead? Probably not. The NorCal commissioners likely would have just taken a seventh team instead of going with a six-team bracket. Both El Cerrito and Newark Memorial certainly have the credentials to be chosen for the Open Division.
2. What was the biggest surprise in any of the divisions? At first glance, probably St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda being the No. 2 seed in Division V. The Pilots arguably have a body of work close to Newark Memorial and split with El Cerrito (both Open teams). But they also had a loss to Central Catholic of Modesto (the Sac-Joaquin Section D5 runner-up to Capital Christian) and only won the NCS D5 final by one point over Branson.
3. What team is the biggest favorite in any division? It may be the Open Division but anybody who saw O’Dowd dismantle No. 2 seed Capital Christian on MLK Day knows how strong the Dragons looked. The odds of an O’Dowd vs. Mater Dei state final in the Open Division also has to be what the CIF is rooting for with Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson going for a fourth straight state title and having to do it against a Dragons’ team led by ESPN No. 1 Class of 2015 player Ivan Rabb.
4. What team is hurt most by the Open Division? We’d vote for Newark Memorial. This is an underrated program (one of the best in the last 10 years in Northern California) that would be outstanding in the old format. In fact, last year the Cougars definitely could have won the D2 state crown. This year, if Concord goes on the same type of run that College Park went on last year (Concord just lost to Newark in section finals), just remember how good Newark Memorial has been the last two seasons.
5. What is a key storyline to watch for in the early rounds? San Ramon Valley in D1 can definitely make a run at getting a third game this season with arch-rival Monte Vista in the semifinals. The teams have split in two previous matchups. The game would be at Monte Vista, but you never know what’s going to happen when these two schools meet in any sport.
Best Team Not In The Field: St. Mary’s of Stockton (26-3 on-the-court, 27-2 officially). The Rams went out in the super-competitive Sac-Joaquin Section D2 bracket in the quarterfinals by just 76-74 to Cosumnes Oaks. Their best wins came against St. Joseph Notre Dame, Campolindo and Serra of San Mateo (all still playing). Gabe Vincent, headed to UC Santa Barbara, had 40 points in that last loss and missed a 3-pointer at the horn that would have won the game and eliminated Cosumnes Oaks.