We take a deeper at the preseason state rankings released earlier this week from a regional perspective. We also take a look at four teams that were seriously considered for the top 35 but just missed the cut.
Related: Mater Dei No. 1 to Begin Season
Taking in the Arizona-San Diego State college basketball game Thursday night was a clear reminder of just how special NorCal basketball was last season. At the end of the game, 2013 Mr. Basketball Aaron Gordon (Mitty, San Jose) converted a big-time dunk off an out-of-bounds play to help seal the win for the Wildcats. Fellow freshmen D’Erryl Williams and Dakarai Allen (both Sacramento Sheldon) were on the floor in crunch time for San Diego State.
Throw in Marcus Lee (Deer Valley, Antioch), who is seeing spot minutes at Kentucky, and Jabari Bird (Salesian, Richmond), Cal’s highest-regarded recruit in 10 years, and it’s easy to see why NorCal teams will be hard pressed to match last year’s overall performance.
“The teams are a bit down,” said associate editor Harold Abend. “Teams will have to develop players and emerge as the season goes on.”
Without Gordon at Mitty, the usually powerful West Catholic Athletic League doesn’t have a dominant team, but were confident teams will emerge to challenge No. 29 St. Ignatius of San Francisco. Another positive is the growth potential of two of the better teams in the CIF San Joaquin Section, No. 32 Sacramento and No. 34 Sheldon. Both have plenty of underclassmen so they’ll be tough come February.
After No. 25, there was a plethora of teams in both the North and South that realistically could have cracked the rankings (we rank 20 each week) and a team North of the Grapevine we probably overlooked is sure to move up. In last year’s rankings, we had 10 NorCal teams (as defined by the CIF) in our preseason rankings and nine from the region among the final top 35. This year, nine NorCal teams cracked the rankings. So if NorCal is down, what gives?
While there isn’t any specific quota, regional consideration always is part of the rankings equation based on how the road is mapped out to a CIF state title. Because of the state’s sheer size, playoff matches have to be made with travel considerations in mind and that would be the case too if the 10 sections didn’t exist. If teams were seeded for a state tournament based on overall ranking and record, regardless of region and location, our rankings would look a lot different.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at four teams that easily could have cracked the top 35. It’s no secret SoCal has more depth when it comes to teams worthy of being state-ranked. Both regions have really good teams each season, but SoCal usually has more good ones.
Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga) 19-9
With four returning starters and 11 lettermen, it’ll just be a matter of coach David Smith meshing the talent into a cohesive unit. The top player is Cal-St. Fullerton bound Jamar Akoh (6-6, Sr.). Tide Osifeso (5-9, Sr.) is an experienced backcourt man.
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 25-9
Veteran coach Don Lippi (726-221) has a talented and highly-motivated club which lost in the last two Div. V state title games, including last season to Horizon of San Diego on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Long Beach State-bound Temidayo Yussef (6-7, Sr.), who went for 20 points and 19 rebounds vs. Horizon, is one of three returning starters and eight lettermen. The other two are all-league point guard Marcus Harris (5-11, Jr.) and rugged, undersized forward Lamont Banks (6-3, Jr.).
View Park Prep (Los Angeles) 24-14
Coach Harold Jones has a potential small school juggernaut on his hands if the pieces mesh together around highly-regarded pivot Chance Comanche (6-11, Jr.). Luis Medearis (6-2, Sr.) is the quarterback on View Park’s Div. III city title frontrunner and Jason Carter (6-7, Sr.) is a capable scorer and defender around the basket.
Villa Park 24-8
With four returning starters from a team that lost in the CIFSS Div. II-AA final to J.W. North of Riverside, coach Kevin Reynolds club could be one of those dangerous low seeds in the CIFSS Open Division playoffs. Foothill League MVP Luke Selway (6-3, Sr.) returns as an all-state candidate and Lamont Tyler (6-10, Sr.) is a load to deal with inside. All-leaguers Kevin Olsen (6-1, Jr.) and Jason Askins (6-3, Jr.) are improved and Serra of Gardena transfer C.J. Thomas (6-4. Jr.) adds another dimension.