Most of the boys and girls Open Division basketball pairings for Northern California and Southern California released on Sunday by the CIF made sense, but as usual there was one choice that stood out the most for its absurdity.
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For the eight Open Division girls teams in the north and south and how we would have seeded them, CLICK HERE.
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One year after a CIF selection committee dropped the ball on CIF San Diego Section Division I girls basketball champion Horizon Christian by not including the team in the field at all, this year’s top candidate for a seeding that makes little sense is the Immanuel of Reedley boys.
All of the CIF’s basketball seedings (boys & girls, NorCal & SoCal) were released late Sunday afternoon after a meeting of CIF section commissioners. Most of the media attention centered on the Open Divisions and for good reason.
Immanuel’s position as being considered the No. 1 overall team from the CIF Central Section despite being a Division IV school was not surprising. The Eagles did post a head-to-head win over Division I section champion Central of Fresno.
What was shocking was Immanuel (25-5) being lifted completely out of Division IV into the Southern California Open Division and being given the eighth seed. Instead of being in the Division I or Division II bracket for this week’s regional playoff opener, the Eagles will travel to Chino Hills and will play the nation’s No. 1-ranked team that just won games 102-54 and 103-84 in the CIF Southern Section Open Division.
There’s nothing in Immanuel’s resume for the season that suggests the team should be considered even close to the eighth best overall team among all teams from the Southern, L.A. City, San Diego and Central sections. The team does have a couple of standout players in senior Colin Slater and junior Darrin Person Jr. who at least will get to perhaps showcase what they can do in a tough atmosphere, but sending this team on a long road trip hundreds of miles to probably get in a running clock game against the consensus No. 1 team in the nation has a rotten smell to it.
Four years ago, it was common knowledge in CIF circles that the Brookside Christian of Stockton girls were “punished” by the CIF for running up the score and running up stats for one player when they were moved up to the NorCal Open Division. Did somebody at Immanuel do something that ticked off the wrong person on the CIF committee?
This being the first time in Southern California (not in the north) in which “competitive equity” is being used as the primary criteria for seeding teams into divisions may have something to do with the confusion surrounding Immanuel’s placement. The Central Section, unlike San Diego, Southern and L.A. City, does not have its own Open Division but this year was able to present and seed its SoCal playoff qualifiers in any order it wished.
That’s not the issue with Immanuel, however. There were other teams eligible for the SoCal Open Division that could have been chosen, such as L.A. City runner-up Narbonne, and it was written in its own bylaws that the selection committee under certain circumstances could select a fifth CIFSS team for the Open Division. With Immanuel’s selection, it’s now known that there will never, ever be a first-round bye and it’s now known that there’s very little chance that a fifth CIFSS team will ever be added.
Many will see the irony of a small, private school that has dominated its section in Division IV against mostly small public school opponents having to face a public school powerhouse. That’s true, but Immanuel being D4 in its section is a section issue. This is a state issue and in that context it’s clearly a major mistake.
CIF executive director Roger Blake loves to say how shocked he is that some coaches don’t want to be in the Open Division, comparing it to students who should want to be challenged by the best teachers and toughest courses. Taking Immanuel from a 60-44 win over Taft in the Central Section Division IV final (in which the Eagles “struggled” at times) and then to play Chino Hills, however, is like asking a high school algebra student to take an AP Calculus exam.
MORE COMMENTS ON CIF OPEN DIVISIONS
NorCal Boys: Modesto Christian just proved that its seeding in the Sac-Joaquin Section behind Folsom was wrong and that our state rankings were correct. The Crusaders will just have to do that again, now that they were placed second behind De La Salle of Concord. All eight teams that we thought were going to be chosen were, in fact, chosen with the CIF commissioners giving the Open Division eighth slot to Salesian of Richmond.
SoCal Boys: Immanuel’s inclusion in the eighth position overshadows everything else. The top five seeds went as expected with Chino Hills being followed by Sierra Canyon, Bishop Montgomery, Mater Dei and Foothills Christian. The only difference in what we picked was that last position, but it was a huge one.
NorCal Girls: Brookside Christian not only was seeded into the Open Division instead of Vanden (Fairfield), but instead of the eighth spot was given the seventh. All eight teams we would have picked were picked with the exception of Brookside at No. 7 and Carondelet of Concord at No. 8. Guess it’s a tossup to compare resumes, but there’s a bigger desire obviously for the CIF to have different teams from different sections play each other, regardless of travel.
SoCal Girls: Just like in the north, all eight teams that we recommended to be picked were indeed picked. The big news was Clovis West of Fresno nabbing the No. 2 seed instead of CIFSS Open Division runner-up Long Beach Poly. Although the Jackrabbits also have a win over the Chaminade team they lost to in the final, the CIF commissioners seem to have been more impressed with Clovis West having two of its three losses to state and national No. 1 St. Mary’s. We’re still going to rank Poly higher and we know it’s going to be tough for head coach Carl Buggs’ squad to perhaps have to win on the road in the semifinals, but there have been many years in which Clovis West has been on the short end of the stick in SoCal seedings.