Pairings for every girls 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: St. Mary’s of Berkeley (26-7)
Other Open Division Teams: Carondelet of Concord, St. Mary’s of Stockton, Salesian of Richmond, St. Ignatius of San Francisco, Miramonte of Orinda, Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, Sacramento.
1. Why were eight teams once again taken for the NorCal Open Division when only six were taken for the South? These are two different situations and if there were a seventh or eighth team that could be taken from the South those teams would be taken. The SoCal commissioners just didn’t have options and there is that limit of just four from the Southern Section. In the north, it’s nonsense to say that coaches from teams like Sacramento, Miramonte and St. Ignatius are chomping at the bit to get into the Open Division. The CIF has to know at this point that most coaches, in fact, want to avoid the Open Division like the plague. Many of the ones we know want to win a state title and know their teams don’t have much of a chance against what can only be called national elite-level programs (we all know who these are). In football terms, think of the fourth or fifth highest ranked team in Northern California with a chance to win a state title in a lower division being forced to play legendary De La Salle in an Open Division. Imagine the howling. We’re not going to say the North girls are going to get swept in three weeks because Brookside Christian in D5 has a great shot at it, but 1-5 is definitely a possibility. Because the South only had six teams in its Open Division, we definitely would not have taken either Sacramento or Sacred Heart Cathedral for the Open Division in the North.
2. Why were the St. Mary’s of Stockton girls only a No. 3 seed in the Open Division? Heading into Saturday, we’re pretty sure based on talking to him that St. Mary’s head coach Tom Gonsalves thought his team had a good chance for the top seed in the NorCal Open Division. This was before we knew, however, that St. Mary’s of Berkeley had erased three losses to Salesian of Richmond and beat the Pride in the NCS D4 final. With the Panthers winning, a previous head-to-head win over the Rams then came into play and put Berkeley St. Mary’s in position for that top seed. The curious move on Sunday, however, was St. Mary’s of Stockton being seeded third behind Carondelet of Concord. Apparently, St. Mary’s owning wins over Etiwanda, Bishop O’Dowd and Salesian weren’t enough. Playing Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly wasn’t enough. Carondelet got the nod for the No. 2 slot and therefore would play St. Mary’s of Stockton at home in a potential semifinal. What’s worse is that the selection committee gave St. Mary’s of Stockton as a three seed a much more difficult test in its first game against Miramonte of Orinda than if it was a four seed. The Rams should have been playing St. Ignatius. All told, it was quite an obvious snub, screwing, whatever you want to call it. It would have been quite difficult for the Rams to win the NorCal Open Division anyway after the injury loss of the team’s only senior starter (Charisse Holloway) but now the road has become hard to believe (and undeserved).3. Should Enterprise of Redding or Brookside Christian of Stockton been placed in the Open Division? Technically, yes both could have gone up. Enterprise has a win over D2 No. 1 seed Archbishop Mitty and Brookside has a win over Open Division entrant St. Ignatius. It’s a very applaudable move that both stayed in their divisions. Enterprise is just coming into its own and has not even reached a regional final yet. Brookside is coming off a 2013 appearance in the Open Division that was highly questionable (the Knights had to play Bishop O’Dowd in the first round) and choosing Brookside again would have been less questionable but equally problematic.
4. Can Berkeley go on another roll and get into yet another NorCal regional final? It certainly helps that the Yellowjackets received a No. 4 seed in the D1 bracket instead of No. 5 because a probable tough matchup against McClatchy of Sacramento would be at home. If they can get to a probable semifinal game against Deer Valley in the rematch of the NCS final, how many times have we seen the loser win in the second time? Bottom line is don’t be surprised to see Berkeley get where Berkeley gets quite often.
5. What team is the biggest favorite in any division? That’s a hard one because the Open Division seems wide open, the D1 field isn’t earth-shattering, the D2 field seems like it’s Mitty vs. McNair, D3 is Enterprise but Modesto Christian lurking and D4 is going to produce a NorCal team that’s probably going to get whacked at state. Therefore, we’ll go with Brookside, the D5 state champs from two years ago. Pinewood seems like the Knights’ biggest challenge, but the CCS teams have seemed to be down this season.
Best Team Not In The Field: Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 24-3. Easy call for that because the Dragons won the first CIF Open Division state title last year and the only reason they aren’t still playing is over the violation of a technicality (playing one game over the limit for the regular season). The rule itself isn’t bad, but in California it’s difficult to understand why rules such as number of regular season games are different from one CIF section to the next. There are teams that played 27 regular season games, for example, that were okay in other sections. If the O’Dowd situation helps lead to every team throughout the state having the same limit on regular season games, then that would be a move long overdue.