The big question all season is the possibility of state No. 2 Clovis West (which was No. 1 in the nation for several weeks in January) being moved to the NorCal Open Division instead of where the Golden Eagles have been for many years. After talking to the CIF, it’s still possible but if there’s no rash of upsets then it’s much more likely they’ll stay in the south. We also look at all of the other Open Division probabilities and then check out possible top seeds for each division of the regional/state playoffs.
Note: We hope you enjoy this free story on CalHiSports.com. Future regional playoff projections, final state divisional rankings and weekly State Top 20 posts through the CIF state playoffs not to mention some of our one-of-a-kind, all-state team selections will be for Gold Club members only. For info, CLICK HERE.
(As of Thursday, Feb. 23; results from Thursday, Feb. 23 not included)
(For the Open Division projections, we are assuming that there are no teams that are not eligible to be moved that also have not requested to be moved up.)
Southern California Open Division
Projected Eight Teams
Clovis West (Fresno) 27-2
CIF Central Section Division I No. 1 seed; No. 2 overall in state.
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 23-3
CIFSS Open Division semifinalist; No. 3 overall in state.
CIFSS Open Division semifinalist; No. 10 overall in state.
Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 23-3
CIFSS Open Division semifinalist; No. 12 overall in state.
Troy (Fullerton) 20-6
CIFSS Open Division semifinalist; No. 16 overall in state.
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 26-2
CIF San Diego Section Open Division No. 1 seed; No. 4 overall in state.
Bishop’s (La Jolla) 27-2 or La Jolla Country Day 16-10
CIF San Diego Section Open Division No. 2, No. 3 seeds.
Fairfax (Los Angeles) 21-5
CIF L.A. City Section Open Division No. 1 seed.
All four of the CIFSS semifinalists that won in Wednesday’s quarterfinals also have virtually wrapped up the four qualifying Open Division slots from the Southern Section for the SoCal regional playoffs.
For now, we are listing Clovis West for the South and if there are no big upsets in the north in the section playoffs putting the Golden Eagles in the north would make no sense on many levels. We get it that the CIF can’t say for sure whether the Golden Eagles will be in the north and south because even on the Saturday night before the CIF commissioners meet to seed the various brackets and pick the Open Divisions that results can shake things up. But if indeed they can put Clovis West at No. 1 in the south and Archbishop Mitty at No. 1 in the north, then there’s just no reason not to do that. Those are the top two teams in the state in multiple polls, they played each other in overtime earlier in the season and it’s just a three-hour drive from Fresno to Sacramento for the state finals. How often does the CIF even get the chance to put a south team that good from Fresno into a state final?
After those five teams, it’ll be easy to place the San Diego Open Division champ into this bracket, which right now is state No. 4 Mission Hills. There’s also a good chance that the winner of an expected semifinal matchup between arch-rivals Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day (who have split so far this season) will likely go to the Open Division as well.
The L.A. City Section has an Open Division format as well, which means that its champion can basically be automatically moved into the SoCal Open Division. Fairfax is the top seed, but Palisades of Pacific Palisades (24-8) has been the perennial powerhouse in recent seasons.
Northern California Open Division
Projected Eight Teams
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 22-2
Central Coast Section Open Division No. 1 seed; No. 1 overall in state.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 17-7
Central Coast Section Open Division No. 2 seed; No. 8 overall in state.
Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 22-2
Central Coast Section Open Division No. 3 seed; No. 13 overall in state.
Carondelet (Concord) 25-4
North Coast Section Division I No. 1 seed; No. 5 overall in state.
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 21-3
North Coast Section Division III No. 1 seed; No. 6 overall in state.
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 25-3
North Coast Section Division IV No. 1 seed; No. 7 overall in state.
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 17-8
Sac-Joaquin Section Division I No. 1 seed; No. 16 overall in state.
Salesian (Richmond) 21-8
North Coast Section Division III No. 2 seed; No. 14 overall in state.
The NCS may have started competitive equity to some degree, but for girls hoops each division of its playoffs looks to have a favorite that would be eligible for the NorCal Open Division. O’Dowd and Salesian, of course, are both in D3 and if they play in the final and it’s a close game that will only make it easier to choose the runner-up for the Open Division as well. Even the No. 3 team in the NCS D3 bracket, Campolindo of Moraga (22-5), would be eligible for the Open Division and has a win over defending NorCal Open Division champ Miramonte of Orinda in league. Miramonte is the top seed in the NCS D2 playoffs.
The CCS Open Division also looks likely to provide at least two and probably three teams to the NorCal Open Division. After No. 1 seed Mitty, you’ve got defending D3 state champ Sacred Heart Catheral and then Pinewood, which is the team that knocked out St. Mary’s of Stockton last year in the NorCal Open Division when the Rams were No. 1 in the state and nation.
Speaking of St. Mary’s, that team seems to be getting healthier every week and even with eight losses would be Open Division-bound if it wins a 10th straight Sac-Joaquin Section title. Note that in head-to-head results that Rams have losses to Carondelet and Bishop O’Dowd, they’ve split with Cardinal Newman (won first, lost second) and have wins over Sacred Heart Cathedral and Salesian. Therefore, look for St. Mary’s to perhaps climb to a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the bracket.
After the first eight on our board, teams that could rise up to the Open Division in the north include McClatchy of Sacramento (25-3), the No. 2 seed in the SJS D1 bracket behind St. Mary’s, plus the aforementioned Campolindo.
Southern California Divisional Playoffs
Projected Top Seeds
It was hard to predict which teams, other than No. 1 seed Long Beach Poly, would rise up in the CIFSS Open Division so it’s also a wide-open race to see which of the teams that didn’t make it to the semifinals will wind up winning the consolation title in that bracket and then likely take the No. 1 seed for the SoCal Division I playoffs. The teams in the running that we’ve had ranked the highest so far this season have included Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (20-5), Alemany of Mission Hills (21-7) and Windward of Los Angeles (22-4).
If Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day do meet in the San Diego Open Division semifinals and it’s a close game, the loser of that matchup may get a high seed in this bracket. Bishop’s enters the playoffs at 27-2. The winner of the game played between Eastlake of Chula Vista (22-6) and Poway (23-5) in the San Diego Open quarterfinals could be another San Diego team that merits a fairly high seed.
After Clovis West in the Central Section and after Fairfax/Palisades in the L.A. City, there doesn’t seem like there are other teams that would matchup very closely with any of the eight on the board from the Southern Section.
Just two years ago, Mater Dei of Santa Ana was battling for the top Open Division title and now after two close losses to start the CIFSS Open Division to Harvard-Westlake in the first round and then to Windward in the second round, the Monarchs may be looking at being the top seed in the D2 South playoffs. Last year’s D1 Open Division state champion, Chaminade of West Hills, also will be in this division.
Of the CIF Division 1AA quarterfinalists, it’s hard not to like Valencia. We’ve had the Vikings (25-5) in the State Top 20 for a good chunk of the season and they’d have gotten our vote for the CIFSS Open Division over a couple of other teams that were picked for that bracket. Canyon of Canyon Country (20-9) from the same league also is one of the semifinalists in that division. Then in the CIFSS D1A playoffs, another candidate for a high seed in the D2 state playoffs is 28-1 M.L. King of Riverside. We haven’t put the Wolves in the State Top 20 due to schedule issues, but at 28-1 and with USC-bound Shalexxus Aaron they’d be 30-1 if they go all the way. Esperanza of Anaheim (25-3) also is in those semifinals.
Outside of the CIFSS, the San Diego Open Division will have teams in the D2 SoCal and state brackets. The loser of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 first-round game could be one team to watch for in this division.
The Central Section No. 1 seed in D2 is Independence of Bakersfield (25-3) while the projected L.A. City Open Division teams that may end up in D2 South included Narbonne of Harbor City (19-7) and Carson (18-9).
A CIF Southern Section D2AA semifinal to pay attention to for this division is between Camarillo (27-3) and Rowland of Rowland Heights (26-1). If the winner of that game goes on to win the championship, that is going to be a team with an impressive record and resume and would be hard to deny being the top seed, even if there’s a San Diego Section Open Division team in the mix.
The only CIFSS team still going that could be on the D3 South board that is currently on our state rankings bubble is Rosary of Fullerton (23-5). The Royals are playing JSerra (16-13) on the other side of the CIFSS D2AA bracket that Camarillo and Rowland are on.
Highest seeded teams still going in the CIFSS D2A or CIFSS D3AA playoffs are Righetti of Santa Maria (24-3), Glendora (24-5) and Bishop Amat of La Puente (20-7).
In the L.A. City, San Diego and Central sections, looking for teams that have top seeds and also project to get a high seed for D3 South doesn’t reveal much. One to watch, though, is Mission Oak of Tulare (24-6), the No. 1 seed in the Central Section D3 playoffs.
Just this week, we had an undefeated team bite the dust that might have been a high seed possibility in this division when Aquinas of San Bernardino (24-1) was knocked off by Pomona (26-5) in the CIFSS D4A quarterfinals. That’s the lowest division of the three from the CIFSS that will have teams in D4. The top seed in the CIFSS D3AA bracket, Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga (20-3), is still going and we also like CIFSS D4AA No. 1 seed Village Christian of Sun Valley (26-3). Village Christian last season lost 57-50 in the CIF D5 state final to Eastside College Prep of East Palo Alto.
Some San Diego Section divisional teams that are projected to fall into D4 such as Rancho Bernardo (22-6), the top seed in its D2 bracket, may go far in this group. Lincoln, which is 24-4 and top-seeded in its D3 playoffs, is another to watch.
The CIFSS might have messed up its competitive equity toward the bottom of its playoffs. We think two D6 squads, Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro (26-3) and Grace Brethren of Simi Valley (25-2), actually are strong enough to contend for the top seed, especially because the winner of the section title will probably have beaten the other. In Rolling Hills Prep’s first three playoff games, it has won 76-24, 82-15 and 76-11. Grace Brethren also has one of the top freshmen scoring leaders in the state in Abria Lauie (23 ppg), who’s been written up many times in our State Stat Stars feature.
While Heritage Christian of Northridge (22-9) and Crean Lutheran of Irvine (17-10) are high seeds still going in the CIFSS D5AA bracket, it’s also hard not to miss perennial small school state power Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank (23-3) lookiing like a favorite in D5A.
Speaking of schools with great traditions, the Central Section has one in D5 as well with San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno (20-8). The Panthers have some big wins in their league over some much bigger schools. Being in D5 may be a perfect spot for them.
Northern California Divisional Playoffs
Projected Top Seeds
This division has tended not to be kind to the north, including last year’s win in the state final by Brea Olinda over St. Francis of Sacramento. But the north has a couple of very interesting possibilities this time, especially if you assume that Menlo-Atherton of Atherton even at 26-1 isn’t going to threaten the top three teams in the CCS Open Division.
If it gets past Oak Ridge in the Sac-Joaquin D1 semis, McClatchy looms as another potentially powerful D1 team from the north. There is a chance the Lions (26-3), who won the D1 state title two years ago at Cal in a memorable overtime thriller with Gardena Serra, could go to the Open Division and would go to the Open Division if it were to win the section title and end Stockton St. Mary’s nine-year reign. It’s still more probable that St. Mary’s is going to win again and that McClatchy will be in D1.
A likely NCS runner-up team from its D1 playoffs behind favorite and projected Open Division pick Carondelet may be a high seed in the NorCal D1 bracket as well. Heritage of Brentwood (23-4) is the No. 2 seed and James Logan of Union City (23-4) is the No. 3 and both are still going.
Last year’s Open Division champs from the north, Miramonte of Orinda (24-3), is in a good spot here. The Mats are eligible for the Open Division again if they win the NCS D2 title, but they would go behind at least four other NCS projected teams for the Open Division right now based on head-to-head results, including their own league loss to Campolindo. All of those other NCS teams are from other divisions and so is Campolindo. Therefore, to get back to the state finals in D2 this time for Miramonte is a real possibility.
Teams bouncing down to D2 from the CCS Open Division, such as Valley Christian of San Jose (13-11) and St. Francis of Mountain View (14-10), and whichever team emerges out of the Sac-Joaquin D2 playoffs — Vanden of Fairfield (23-5), Modesto Christian (23-4), Sacramento (20-8) and Elk Grove (24-5) are all into the semis — would be the other two teams to look at for the top seed. Elk Grove also is the NorCal defending champion.
Since at this point it looks like defending D3 state champ Sacred Heart Cathedral plus Bishop O’Dowd and Salesian from the NCS seem to be best bets for the Open Division, watch out for Campolindo of Moraga (22-5) for D3. Although the Cougars may only get to the semis of the NCS D3 playoffs, they do have a win over Miramonte and Miramonte may end up being a high seed in the NorCal D2 bracket.
Pleasant Valley of Chico (17-6) has played a tough schedule and is No. 17 in the latest computer rankings. The Vikings may therefore be as high as No. 3 for the NorCal D3 bracket.
A team from the CCS Open Division that is projected to bounce down to D3 for the regionals is St. Ignatius of San Francisco. The Wildcats (17-7) have a win against McClatchy of Sacramento and anytime you have a WCAL team to consider that’s a team that will be considered strongly.
Teams we have projected to be in the D4 NorCal playoffs are a wide open bunch. This also could be one bracket where the CIF looks to add a team from the Central Section, which also could be the case for D3 with all of those teams projected to be moved up into the Open Division.
NCS No. 2 seed St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda (24-4) may be one team to watch. The Pilots aren’t expected to knock off state No. 7 Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa in that bracket, but Cardinal Newman is likely bound for the Open Division.
This also may be a good situation for Sac-Joaquin Section No. 1 seed West Campus of Sacramento (22-4). Head coach John Langston’s team just lost by four to St. Mary’s of Stockton and had a four-point loss early in the season to McClatchy. The team also posted a quality win at the MLK Showcase in Stockton against Mark Keppel of Alhambra.
There were a lot of years where the CIF system wasn’t kind to Eastside College Prep of East Palo Alto. But after last year’s D5 state title, the marbles seem to indicate they’ll fall into place once again so that the CCS Open Division squad will indeed fall back to D5. And frankly if that happens, there doesn’t seem to be a SoCal or NorCal team on our board that will be as formidable.
No. 1 seed Argonaut of Jackson (22-4) and No. 2 seed Capital Christian of Sacramento (19-8) are still in line to play each other for the Sac-Joaquin Section title and the winner could be looking at a No. 2 seed behind Eastside.