We break down the 16 teams in boys basketball that should be selected (and yes, we think 16 should be chosen) for the CIF Southern Section’s Open Division playoffs. It’s the second year for the massive section’s open division and it should include 11 teams ranked in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20. The teams that will fill the bottom slots don’t appear as strong as the teams in last year’s open division, which was the toughest 16-team section bracket in state history.
For the actual CIFSS Open Division pairings that were announced on Friday, CLICK HERE.
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Below is our predictions for how the CIFSS Open Division should look:
(Listed with final regular season record, section division and overall state ranking)
No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei (24-3, I-AA, No. 2) vs. No. 16 Riverside J.W. North (24-1, I-AA, BB)
No. 8 Etiwanda (20-7, I-AA, No. 10) vs. No. 9 L.A. Cathedral (19-6, III-A, No. 11)
No. 5 La Verne Damien (23-3, III-AA, No. 7) vs. No. 12 L.A. Price (20-5**,VI, BB)
No. 4 Corona Centennial (21-4, I-AA, No. 6) vs. No. 13 Mission Hills Alemany (20-7*, III-A, BB)
No. 3 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (21-3, V-AA, No. 5) vs. No. 14 Montebello Cantwell Sacred Heart (15-11, III-A, BB)
No. 6 Long Beach Poly (22-3, I-AA, No. 8) vs. No. 11 Chino Hills (19-6*, I-AA, No. 12)
No. 7 Redondo Beach Redondo Union (21-5, I-AA, No. 9) vs. No. 10 Orange Lutheran (22-4, IV-AA, No. 15)
No. 2 Torrance Bishop Montgomery (26-1, IV-AA, No. 3) vs. No. 15 Bellflower St. John Bosco (16-10, I-AA, BB)
Cal-Hi Sports Breakdown
No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei: As the four-time defending state champs and defending CIFSS Open champs, the Monarchs should nab the top seed. They have not lost in-state.
No. 2 Torrance Bishop Montgomery: Great regular season for the 2014 Division IV state champions, who have only lost to unranked Marin Catholic. The Knights should be on the opposite side of the bracket as Mater Dei.
No. 3 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon: This underclass-dominated team had a slightly better regular season than Corona Centennial and should be placed on the opposite of the bracket as Mater Dei. Not much difference as the semifinal games should be dynamite if the seeding holds up.
No. 4 Corona Centennial: The Huskies had some up and down moments, but looked like world beaters in two league victories over talented Roosevelt of Eastvale. If this team plays with the defensive intensity coach Josh Giles would like to see them play with on a consistent basis, the Huskies could be a dark horse finalist.
No. 5 La Verne Damien: Going 3-1 versus Etiwanda and Chino Hills in league and winning it outright should give the Spartans a slight edge over Long Beach Poly, which has the same number of losses but the Moore League doesn’t have another open team.
No. 6 Long Beach Poly: The Jackrabbits lost head-to-head to Cathedral, but the Phantoms’ late season loss to Cantwell Sacred Heart means the Jackrabbits, who beat Redondo Union, have done enough to overcome it. There is really not a bad loss on the Rabbits’ resume.
No. 7 Redondo Beach Redondo Union: This team has a lot of incentive and motivation to show it can win games in the open after reaching the semifinals last season. Having Cameron High back in the rotation should provide another emotional lift for a team that is has been without sophomore Billy Preston since early January.
No. 8 Etiwanda: The Eagles closed strong with avenging wins over Damien and Chino Hills after losing in the first round of league play to those clubs. They beat Damien soundly after losing by two points in the first meeting. This team has a lot of experience and will be an extremely tough out at home if it snags that eighth seed.
No. 9 Los Angeles Cathedral: The Phantoms were unable to split with Bishop Montgomery, but they had a successful regular season with quality wins over Long Beach Poly, Alemany and Price. A late season loss to Cantwell Sacred Heart, however, likely will rob Cathedral of a first-round home game.
No. 10 Orange Lutheran: Closed out the regular season with a resounding 89-60 victory over bubble club St. John Bosco of Bellflower on Thursday night. It was the Lancers’ second win over the Braves. With its veteran personnel, OLu could surprise and win some games — or make a deep run in the consolation bracket. This team lost twice to projected top seed Mater Dei and to state No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd by eight points and was able to avenge the fourth loss to bubble club La Mirada with a 57-43 win. Assuming Bishop Montgomery gets into the CIF SoCal Open Division and OLu falls back to D4 for the regionals, a D4 state title could be in its future.
No. 11 Chino Hills: The Huskies’ record is on the court as they forfeited six regular season victories for using an ineligible player. Last year’s CIFSS Open Division finalist is also hurting with an injury to sophomore sharpshooter Li’Angelo Ball, but with Mr. Basketball candidate Lonzo Ball in the lineup this team can compete with anyone. Chino Hills was ranked ahead of Price towards the end of the regular season, and should get a higher seed because Etiwanda, Damien and Chino Hills cannot be all on the same side of the bracket. Chino Hills’ forfeits won’t have any bearing on its placement in the CIFSS Open Division.
No. 12 Los Angeles Price: Similar to Cathedral, this team has quality personnel and some keys wins this regular season, including over Chino Hills and a split with Cantwell Sacred Heart. Coach Michael Lynch’s club must be behind Cathedral because of a head to head loss. Price doesn’t play in a league but it would make zero sense for them to play in the CIFSS Division VI playoffs with its personnel and resume. Price actually plays St. Anthony of Long Beach on Friday night, but that result won’t factor in to Price’s inclusion or exclusion from this bracket.
No. 13 Mission Hills Alemany: Coach Trey Meeks’ club struggled at times during the regular season, but turned it around in calendar year 2015 and won the traditionally tough Mission League with an outstanding 11-1 record. Alemany’s official record is actually 21-6 because it is credited with a forfeit win over Chino Hills, but it lost to Cantwell Sacred Heart. It should be seeded in front of the Cardinals, however, since Cantwell and Cathedral won’ t be placed on the same side of the bracket.
No. 14 Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart: At first it might look like the Cardinals have too many losses, but when your analyze their resume, not to mention their personnel, they belong in the open division. Coach George Zedan’s club’s late season win over Cathedral pushed this team up and it should be seeded higher than Alemany because of a head to head victory, but it likely won’t because it is in the same league as Cathedral. Cantwell Sacred Heart also split with Price and defeated bubble club Loyola of Los Angeles.
No. 15 Bellflower St. John Bosco: Despite closing out the regular season with a second loss to Orange Lutheran, we project the Braves to get the final spot in the open division over Loyola of Los Angeles. They won’t be the No. 16 seed because they won’t be going up against fellow Trinity League member Mater Dei on the same side of the bracket. The Southern Section doesn’t place teams from the same league on the same side of the bracket in its playoffs and even though it’s based on tradition and what’s always been done instead of deserving seeds, it will apply here. Bosco is built to compete in the open division and likely won’t be rewarded by remaining in the CIFSS Division I-AA bracket, which will be gutted of its top eight ranked teams in the latest Southern Section Boys Basketball Advisory Committee poll. With junior forward Vance Jackson, the Braves also have a player that can give them a chance in the first round. Bosco also defeated the Windward team that gave Sierra Canyon all it handle on Thursday night, while Loyola lost to that same club. Redondo Union also beat Loyola 64-55 while Bosco lost to the Sea Hawks by two points. It’s close as far as resumes go, but Bosco should get the nod.
No. 16 Riverside J.W. North: North didn’t play a strong regular season season schedule, and only lost one game when San Diego Morse’s Justin Davis went bonkers in a MLK showcase game. The Huskies should be in the open division, however, because of their personnel and showing last year when they made it to the semifinals against eventual champion Mater Dei. They shouldn’t be rewarded for the teams they beat, however, and will open with one of the top four seeds. We’d have them ranked ahead of St. John Bosco, but the Braves can’t open with Mater Dei.
First Four Out: Los Angeles Loyola, Beverly Hills, La Mirada, La Habra Sonora
Beverly Hills was impressive in league, but it lost to Bosco and the Compton team Loyola and St. John Bosco defeated. La Mirada split with Orange Lutheran, but losses to Sonora, Edison and Cerritos will leave that team on the outside looking in. If Sonora had defeated Orange Lutheran at Saturday’s Nike Extravaganza, that probably would have been enough for it to be in with a 22-3 mark. Chris Williams’ last-second 3-pointer turned out to be a dagger shot.