We break down the 16 teams in boys basketball that should be selected for the CIF Southern Section’s Open Division playoffs. It’s the fourth year for the massive section’s open division and it should include all 11 of the section’s teams ranked in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20. There are not as many candidates to fill out the bottom slots as years past and the top four seeds will be massive open round favorites with potentially the best ever semifinal games since the open started in 2013-14. One burning question: Will those games be played at a single site?
For the actual CIFSS Open Division selections, check back on Friday evening.
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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 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (25-1, I-AA, No. 1) vs. No. 16 San Juan Capistrano JSerra (17-9, I-A, NR)
No. 8 La Verne Damien (25-3, I-AA, No. 13) vs. No. 9 Long Beach Poly (21-6, I-AA, BB)
No. 5 Eastvale Roosevelt (18-6, I-AA, No. 8) vs. No. 12 Redondo Union (23-4, I-AA, BB)
No. 4 Santa Ana Mater Dei (28-1, I-AA, No. 4) vs. No. 13 Oak Park (21-6, I-AA, No. 18)
No. 3 Torrance Bishop Montgomery (23-2, I-AA, No. 3) vs. No. 14 Santa Monica Crossroads (18-8, III-AA, NR)
No. 6 Mission Hills Alemany (23-3*, I-AA, No. 7) vs. No. 11 Anaheim Esperanza (25-1, I-AA, No. 17)
No. 7 Santa Margarita (20-6, I-AA, No. 10) vs. No. 10 Corona Centennial (22-7, I-AA, No. 14)
No. 2 Chino Hills (27-1, I-AA, No. 2) vs. No. 15 Northridge Heritage Christian (20-7, II-A, NR)
*Indicates regular season not complete
Cal-Hi Sports Breakdown
No. 1 Chatsworth Sierra Canyon: Not as easy a no-brainer pick as last year with national No. 1 Chino Hills, but still not hard as Sierra Canyon beat Oak Hill Academy, while Chino Hills lost to the same team. The Trailblazers have been No. 1 in the state since the first regular season rankings and are currently No. 2 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings.
No. 2 Chino Hills: The common opponent factor places the defending CIF State and CIFSS Open champions behind Sierra Canyon, which also has played a tougher overall schedule than the Huskies.
No. 3 Torrance Bishop Montgomery: Who gets this seed between the Knights and Mater Dei will be one of the hotly contested items when the Blue Ribbon Committee meets on Friday. In the last month or so, Bishop Montgomery has been quite impressive and is starting to play up to preseason expectations. The Knights were a bit out of sync early in the season when two of their starters were nursing injuries and they lost their season opener to unranked Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland.
No. 4 Santa Ana Mater Dei: Monarchs’ faithful could point to their team having one less loss than Bishop Montgomery, but a scare versus Santa Margarita on Tuesday could warrant the seed matching our state rankings. We’ve had the same Sierra Canyon-Chino Hills-Bishop Montgomery-Mater Dei order since Montgomery lost to Bishop O’Dowd. Mater Dei’s only loss is to Chino Hills without Bol Bol, but it’s still hard to say how much better Mater Dei is with him in the lineup based on the results so far.
No. 5 Eastvale Roosevelt: Alemany is ranked higher in our state Top 20, but Roosevelt deserves the higher seed since it owns three wins over rival Corona Centennial, which defeated the Warriors by 20 points. Coach Steve Singleton’s club won the Big VIII League title over Centennial with a 10-0 mark.
No. 6 Mission Hills Alemany: Coach Tray Meeks’ club actually closes out its regular season on Friday versus St. Francis of La Canada and is heavily favored. This team falls in line behind Roosevelt because it lost to Corona Centennial head-to-head while Roosevelt has beaten that team three times. Scouts and media point to this team the most in informal polls as one that could potentially knock off one of the “Big Four” and crack the semifinals.
No. 7 Santa Margarita: The Eagles have moved in front of Damien in our state rankings because in the past two weeks they have won key weekend showcase games (over Corona Centennial and L.A. Fairfax). They have more losses than Damien, but the Eagles have beaten better teams, too, and deserved to be ranked and seeded higher. They won’t be on the same side of the bracket as Mater Dei.
No. 8 La Verne Damien: The Spartans had a successful regular season and fall into place here because they won’t be on the same side of the bracket as Chino Hills. They lost to the Huskies twice and to Mater Dei, with key wins over Roosevelt and Long Beach Poly.
No. 9 Long Beach Poly: Since Corona Centennial won’t fall on the same side of the bracket as Roosevelt, it will be a Damien-Poly rematch of a regular season game played at The Classic. The Jackrabbits lost that game and a few ones early in the season they’d like back, but haven’t lost in calendar year 2017 and played Chino Hills to within one possession.
No. 10 Corona Centennial: The Huskies have been a bit up and down at times, but are a talented and dangerous team that will be highly motivated in the post-season. If this seed holds up, they will play against the Santa Margarita team they lost to at the Rolling Hills Prep State Preview Classic.
No. 11 Anaheim Esperanza: This is the team media scribes and fans are most curious to see in the open bracket. The Aztecs earn their first open berth behind the incredible play of Stanford-bound Kezie Okpala and have not lost to an in-state foe. They are also 0-0 against CIFSS open division competition.
No. 12 Redondo Union: The Seahawks have played solid ball under first-year coach Vic Martin and will be a tough out for the Mustangs or whomever they may face. Redondo Union owns a win over Long Beach Poly and finished unbeaten in the Bay League. It won’t be a surprise if the Seahawks are seeded higher.
No. 13 Oak Park: Even though we have Oak Park higher than Redondo Union in our rankings, we envision a scenario where the Eagles get a lower seed with two more losses on the resume. Riley Battin and company also own a win over Long Beach Poly and played state ranked Birmingham of Van Nuys and Alemany awfully tough.
No. 14 Santa Monica Crossroads: Don’t let the overall loss count fool you; this is a quality team that really hasn’t had all of its pieces together on the floor very much during the regular season. On Thursday night, it gave state No. 1 and projected No. 1 seed Sierra Canyon all it could handle before falling 79-66. We can even envision a higher seed for this team, but regardless, it won’t be on the same side of the bracket as the Trailblazers.
No. 15 Heritage Christian: In our predictions there will be three Trinity League teams, so it makes sense to put the Warriors No. 15 and JSerra as the final seed as to avoid a potential JSerra vs. Santa Margarita matchup. The chances of Mater Dei and JSerra meeting would be significantly lower. Heritage Christian is a talented club that has beaten the Beverly Hills club Crossroads lost to and also defeated state-ranked St. Augustine of San Diego in a game we evaluated. Heritage Christian also avenged losses in league play against Maranatha of Pasadena and Valley Christian of Cerritos to close out the regular season.
No. 16 San Juan Capistrano JSerra: The final two spots can go in many different ways but we see a scenario where the Lions get in. As we’ve stated many times, there is not many lower seeded teams or bubble clubs that can realistically win a game in this bracket and the committee wants to select teams that would have a chance. JSerra does have two losses to St. John Bosco in the Trinity League, but we feel the Lions will be the third team selected because they split with Santa Margarita, whereas Bosco was not very competitive in both games against that sure-fire open team. In addition to the Braves, Edison of Huntington Beach also could be placed in this spot. We just evaluated Edison this week in a loss to Los Alamitos and simply think JSerra could give one of the top seeds a better game.
Cal-Hi Sports Analysis: Instead of doing a “first four out” we decided to add additional comments about the bracket and seedings. Simply put, there are not 16 open division teams that are playing at the level the teams did in the first year of the CIFSS Open. This is the weakest group of teams overall in four seasons and because the top four teams are so good (all nationally ranked in the top 20 of the FAB 50 produced by Ballislife.com), it makes the imbalance even more glaring. Realistically, the first four seeds should be given byes, but from experience since the advent of the open division, the CIF doesn’t want byes in its brackets at the regional or section level. It would be a colossal upset if one of the top four seeds were to lose in the opening round. By the quarterfinal round, the games should be dynamite and the section semifinals will have a CIF regional final or CIF state final atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sierra Canyon vs. Mater Dei or Bishop Montgomery and Chino Hills vs. the opposite team, the games will be electric. It would be nice if the CIFSS placed these games at the same venue, or stagger the starting times. If the CIFSS chooses to have separate venues, it should have the games on separate days, too. Fans that have been following these teams and want to support high school basketball should have an opportunity to watch both games.