After all of the Friday and Saturday section finals, here would be the eight boys basketball teams in Northern California and the eight in Southern California that we’d pick for the CIF Open Divisions. Should state and national No. 1 Chino Hills get a first-round bye in the South?
For recap of Chino Hills’ win over Sierra Canyon in Saturday night’s CIF Southern Section Open Division championship, CLICK HERE.
For recap of Modesto Christian’s win over Folsom in Saturday night’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship plus other SJS finals, CLICK HERE.
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(CIF section commissioners will meet on Sunday to determine the Open Division brackets and the pairings for each of the five divisions. The pairings are expected to be released by 5 p.m. We’ll have reaction tweets @CalHiSports and a reaction story on CalHiSports.com in the evening. CIF state championships will be held on Thursday, March 24 and Saturday, March 26 at Sleep Train Arena).
OPEN DIVISION RECOMMENDED TEAMS
1. Chino Hills 31-0
No. 1 in the nation and possibly in the midst of one of the most historically great seasons in state history, the Huskies seem to have cranked their game into a gear many have not seen before, especially with Saturday’s 105-83 win over state No. 2 Sierra Canyon at the Honda Center in the CIFSS Open Division final.
2. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 26-4
Other than a stinker loss to start the season to Moreau Catholic of Hayward at the Prep2Prep TipOff Classic, the Trailblazers’ other three losses are to nationally ranked opponents. Their win over Bishop Montgomery in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals still makes them an easy choice for the No. 2 seed in the south.
3. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 26-2
The Knights didn’t play this week after losing to Sierra Canyon in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals. Their only other loss is to Chino Hills and they were the CIFSS Open Division champions last season.
4. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 27-4
It doesn’t matter that the Monarchs got blown out by Chino Hills in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals. They have a head-to-head win over Foothills Christian, the next team in the SoCal pecking order.
5. Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 23-4
It doesn’t look like there’s any way that the Knights can be seeded any higher than fifth due to their head-to-head loss to Mater Dei at the Nike Extravaganza. They did give Chino Hills a much-closer game than anybody else so far in the state, but that isn’t enough to overcome the head-to-head result. In the CIF San Diego Section Open Division final on Saturday, T.J. Leaf continued to rack up comparisons to some of the greatest players in section history when he scored 36 points and had 11 rebounds, six assists and six blocks in the team’s 80-63 triumph over Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
6. Westchester (Los Angeles) 26-6
On the same night that legendary Crenshaw won an L.A. City Section title (in Division I), the Comets earned their 13th section title by topping Narbonne of Harbor City 51-42 in Saturday night’s L.A. City Open Division title game. With the top five SoCal Open Division slots seeming to lock in easily due to head-to-head results, we’d go with the L.A. City Open champs next. Westchester does have a couple of losses to CIFSS Open Division teams, but none were to Crespi (Encino), the CIFSS Open Division consolation bracket winner. Westchester also has wins over CIFSS Open Division team Corona Centennial and Fairfax.
7. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 20-6
The Dons couldn’t do much to slow down Foothills Christian in the San Diego Open Division final, but they have a head-to-head win over L.A. City Section runner-up Narbonne and Narbonne is a team that had two wins against Fairfax, including one in the L.A. City Open Division semifinals.
8. Narbonne (Harbor City) 23-7
As explained below, it’s a bit difficult to know how the CIF is going to choose a fifth CIFSS Open Division team for the SoCal Open bracket or how that may work. We do know they have the option of doing it. As the D4 state champs from last year, Crespi of Encino may indeed be a better choice for this spot than Narbonne, but since the L.A. City also is apparently going to lobby for a second team, the Gauchos are legit enough to get it. The way Chino Hills rolled in its last two games, giving the Huskies a bye and dropping both Narbonne and Crespi to D1 also makes more sense. We’re putting Narbonne in the eighth slot, but wouldn’t have a problem at all with Crespi or a bye for Chino Hills.
Note: Crespi (Encino) would be the fifth team from the CIFSS that would be under consideration after it defeated Redondo (Redondo Beach) 89-71 earlier in the week to win the CIFSS Open Division consolation bracket. At 28-4 overall, we’ll be ranking the Celts higher than L.A. City Section runner up Narbonne and any other teams from the CIF Central Section. But indications are that the CIF selection committee will try to avoid picking that fifth CIFSS team if there is another legitimate Open Division qualified candidate from the San Diego, L.A. City or Central sections.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA OPEN DIVISION
1. Modesto Christian 30-1
With an avenging loss to Folsom on Saturday in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I we believe that makes the Crusaders a solid choice for the top seed. This also is a team that lost in the NorCal Open Division final last year to Bishop O’Dowd. Besides, we’ve had MC higher than De La Salle in our state rankings for many weeks.
2. De La Salle (Concord) 28-2
Both of the Spartans’ losses are to teams from outside of Northern California (Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and Corona Centennial). They had to go to overtime to beat league rival Monte Vista of Danville the first time those two teams played, but have won by easier margins in the next two meetings, including 47-29 in Friday’s CIF North Coast Section D1 final. Nikhil Peters had 17 points to lead the Spartans, who won their 11th section title but first under new head coach A.J. Kuhle.
3. Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 25-4
Damari Milstead had one of the best outings of his career with 35 points to lead the Mariners, who dominated Miramonte of Orinda 98-67 in Saturday’s NCS D3 championship. Moreau lost in this game last season to eventual Open Division state champ Bishop O’Dowd. Head coach Frank Knight’s bunch are bound for that division again, and no doubt will be wanting to show how much of an aberration last year’s showing in the NorCal Open Division (lost by 20 at home to San Mateo Serra in first round) really was.
4. Sacramento 29-1
The Dragons will logically have to go behind Moreau in the NorCal Open Division pecking order since the Mariners handed them a 77-67 loss (their only one of the season so far) at Haas Pavilion in January. Even though Moreau also has had a stinker loss to Newark, head-to-head results always have been preferred in CIF seedings. In a possible 4-5 game next week, Sac may be without senior guard Raphael Durr (9 pts vs. Antelope) due to a shoulder injury.
5. Folsom 27-4
We overheard several Folsom fans talking after Saturday’s loss to Modesto Christian as if they expected to be going to De La Salle or Moreau Catholic for a first-round Open Division game. We just don’t see how the Bulldogs would be seeded behind CCS Open champ St. Francis, however, so for our selections we’d have them making a much shorter trip to the Sac High gym.
6. St. Francis (Mountain View) 25-2
There was no buzzer-beating defeat suffered by the Lancers when they played Bellarmine (San Jose) in Friday night’s CIF Central Coast Section Open Division final. Head coach Mike Motil’s boys, who lost in this same game last year to Serra (San Mateo), beat the Bells 55-48. Although St. Francis went 14-0 in the WCAL and has been in the top 15 of the state, the team doesn’t have signature wins against any teams outside of the CCS and actually has a four-point loss to Folsom and a 20-point loss to Sacramento.
7. Sheldon (Sacramento) 22-5
We don’t know if we missed reading the Huskies’ log for the last three previous seasons or not when looking at NorCal Open last weekend, but they are eligible for the Open Division in the north and they will probably be going. They’ve been in the State Top 20 and have two wins over a Jesuit (Carmichael) team that also has been in the State Top 20.
8. Salesian (Richmond) 28-4
Head coach Bill Mellis’ squad won the NCS D4 title on Saturday as expected 64-53 over St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo). Despite their record and No. 20 computer state ranking, there are two others that to us could also be picked at No. 8. One is Monte Vista (Danville). The Mustangs (23-7) were NCS D1 champs last year and the year before won the CIF Division I state title. In getting to this year’s NCS final plus having a win over Oakland Section winner McClymonds, that could be enough for the eighth slot as well. In addition, the CIF could still look at Serra (San Mateo) despite its upset loss to Bellarmine in the CCS Open Division semifinals. The Padres (22-6) had two previous wins over the Bells plus have two wins over an Archbishop Riordan team that gave Monte Vista an early-season loss.