If the CIF wants to shake up its state basketball championships and perhaps get more fans in the seats, focusing more on those teams in the Open Division may be part of the answer.
Attendance, in general, for this year’s CIF state basketball championship in Sacramento was a major disappointment.
Although Manteca brought several busloads of fans and was perhaps the best school of all 12 throughout the weekend in terms of bringing support, there were only 3,735 who came on Thursday and 7,501 on Saturday. Those totals were despite the fact that the No. 1 boys team in the nation (Chino Hills) was playing on Saturday.
Could it be that one of the problems is that many fans are well aware that the very best teams (and many of the best players) were involved in the Open Division and that most of the teams competing for divisional titles are just not close to being on the same level?
One solution is to actually treat the Open Division like the big honor of being in it is supposed to be. It’s not like the other divisions and should be packaged and promoted accordingly, not just added at the top of a slate of other brackets.
The timing of when certain games to be played would have to be worked out, but what if the CIF brought the final four boys and girls Open Division teams to one location and then played those semifinal games back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Those four teams also could be seeded differently so the possibility of an all-NorCal or all-SoCal final could happen.
This year, for example, we would have probably had Chino Hills vs. Modesto Christian and Bishop Montgomery vs. De La Salle as boys Open Division semifinals and then Miramonte vs. Long Beach Poly and Chaminade vs. Pinewood as girls Open Division semifinals.
And with the possibility that the various NorCal and SoCal regional finals in each division may be switched to home venues as soon as next season, the Open Division semifinals could then be the games played at the big arena such as Golden 1 Center, which already has been announced as the host site for the 2017 and 2018 CIF state basketball finals.
Another way in which the CIF could further separate the Open Division is to allow the four teams that lose in the first round to be placed back into the Division I bracket so that those teams wouldn’t have their seasons end by being in the Open Division.
That wouldn’t help an Open Division semifinal loser very much, but for a team like the Brookside Christian of Stockton girls or Immanuel of Reedley boys this year it would have at least enabled them to not have their season end the way it did in blowout losses to Miramonte and Chino Hills.
Those Open Division teams falling back to the D1 bracket also would have to be inserted into that bracket in the second-round, essentially giving them a bye into the quarterfinals. But again if they’re Open Division teams in the first place, they deserve that kind of treatment.
At this year’s press conference during the state finals, at least CIF executive director Roger Blake seemed open and interested in any and all different ways of changing the way the tournament has been conducted in recent years.