After all CIF section girls basketball champions are crowned by Saturday night, it’ll only take a few minutes before many in the media and some coaches will start to think about Sunday when the CIF state office will release its pairings for the upcoming Northern California and Southern California regional playoffs. We start thinking seriously about it this week, though, and here are the possibilities not just on which teams may be seeded at the top but about which teams have the highest probabilities of going to the Open Division in the first place.
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Note: In all previous years of the Open Division in basketball, which began during the 2012-13 season, the CIF has posted a series of criteria that it would use for selecting which teams that were eligible for the Open Division. There also was a 50 percent rule that stated no section could have more than 50 percent of the teams in any bracket of any division in the NorCal or SoCal playoffs. Neither guideline is in place starting this season, which for the Open Division means that a section can have more than four of the eight teams in either the North or South brackets.
1. Windward (Los Angeles) 22-3
Last year’s CIF D1 state champions aren’t the top seed going into the CIF Southern Section Open Division final on Friday vs. Harvard-Westlake, but they’ve been ranked higher by us since they won the second of two matchups between them. The winner of the game probably will be the top seed in SoCal Open Division, but don’t be surprised if it’s No. 2.
2. Clovis West (Fresno) 28-3
The Golden Eagles blew out Clovis in their CIF Central Section D1 semifinal on Wednesday and will now meet Clovis North in the final. Yes, they played in a lower division of the Arizona TOC than others from California did and didn’t win in that tourney. Another of the out-of-state teams Clovis West lost to (Seton Catholic of Arizona) was later beaten badly by Etiwanda. But in recent weeks it sure looks like head coach Craig Campbell has gotten his girls playing at an elite level. And as the defending CIF Open Division champion, you have to think the CIF will at least think about putting the Golden Eagles in the No. 1 slot for the SoCal Open. That’s where they were last season. As a CIF Central Section team, they could even be put in the north but with nationally ranked Archbishop Mitty and St. Mary’s of Stockton projected to be 1-2 in that bracket that move would be a little ridiculous.
(North Hollywood) 25-4
We have the Wolverines projected to be the runner-up out of the CIFSS Open Division. If they were to beat Windward (that wouldn’t be an upset), they’d get our vote to be the top seed for this bracket. For this simulation, we’re placing them third.
4. Etiwanda 23-5
Using common opponent formula, it could be argued that the Eagles, who beat Mater Dei on Wednesday in the CIFSS Open third-place game, should be seeded higher than Clovis West. We think there are other factors, though, that favor Clovis West. The win over the Monarchs plus some of the other wins by Etiwanda during the season does seem to lock this team into a top four seeding.
5. Clovis North (Fresno) 23-4
In many years, the CIF Central Section has struggled to get even one team up into the SoCal Open Division. This year, they have two legit squads. The Broncos, who beat Independence of Bakersfield in the D1 section semis on Wednesday and face Clovis West in the final, lost by just five points when they played Harvard-Westlake and have wins over CIFSS Open teams Bishop Montgomery and Sierra Canyon. Even if they lose for a third time to the Golden Eagles, they seem headed for the SoCal Open bracket and could even be placed ahead of Mater Dei.
6. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 23-4
Sure, going by rankings the Monarchs might still be ahead of Clovis North next week, but they just played Etiwanda and that’s not going to happen again. The most logical placement for them seems to be sixth where they could play Harvard-Westlake. They just played Windward too so if Windward doesn’t win on Friday we’re not sure what the CIF might do then.
7. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 26-4
Owning a head-to-head win over Bishop Montgomery of Torrance isn’t good for the Lions if their goal is to do well in the CIF Division I state playoffs and not have to be in the SoCal Open Division. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, Bishop Montgomery beat Serra of Gardena in overtime on Wednesday and won the fifth-place game in the CIFSS Open Division playoffs. Fairfax is going for a CIF L.A. City Section title repeat on Saturday against Granada Hills Charter. It’s not a guarantee by any stretch. The Highlanders are higher in the MaxPreps computer rankings.
8. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 19-9
The Knights have now beaten league rival Serra of Gardena twice after losing to them the first time. Serra has some quality wins over top competition as well. Going into Wednesday, we wouldn’t have thought Bishop Montgomery was going to be an Open Division team even if the girls beat Serra. What happened is that in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division top seed and state-ranked La Jolla Country Day was upset by Mission Hills of San Marcos. Mission Hills clearly isn’t a SoCal Open team. That team’s opponent in the SD Open finals, Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley, is 29-1 but its loss was to LJCD. Could the CIF stick a 30-1 Mt. Miguel up into the SoCal Open if it wins against Mission Hills? Yes, but we’ll be ranking Bishop Montgomery higher.
*Granada Hills Charter (26-4) has a win over CIFSS Open Division seventh-place team Ribet Academy but other losses (like the one against Canyon of Canyon Country) have prevented the Highlanders from cracking the State Top 20. If they were to beat Fairfax on Saturday, though, and win the L.A. City Section Open Division title that might elevate them.
*Serra of Gardena (20-8) will be the sixth team in the CIFSS Open Division pecking order. Due to the elimination of the 50 percent rule, this seems like a good year that there will be five CIFSS teams in the SoCal Open Division. There won’t be six.
*Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley (29-1) has been highly ranked in the CIF San Diego Section, but hasn’t been ahead of La Jolla Country Day due to a head-to-head loss and Country Day’s very tough schedule. If head coach Robbie Sandoval’s girls, though, can beat Mission Hills in the SD Section Open Division final, they might be in the SoCal Open Division. That wouldn’t be an avenging win but beating the team that knocked out LJCD is similar. Plus, that one loss to the Torreys is the only one on Mt. Miguel’s ledger so far. And there’s always the stated goal by the CIF to get as much section representation into each Open Division.
1. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 26-0
Since winning the top division of the Nike TOC in Arizona, the Monarchs have been the No. 1 team in the nation. They rolled over Eastside College Prep in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals on Tuesday and play state No. 6 Pinewood in the final on Friday.
2. St. Mary’s (Stockton) 25-2
The Rams have been looking to be the No. 2 seed in the NorCal Open Division since they lost to Mitty in the Nike TOC final. They know that both top two seeds play at home in the regional quarterfinals and semifinals before meeting on a neutral court. St. Mary’s blew out Edison of Stockton in Tuesday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 semis and plays Folsom on Saturday in the final.
3. Folsom 25-3
Saturday’s SJS D1 final between the Bulldogs and St. Mary’s of Stockton will be highlighted by the two McDonald’s All-Americans who will be on the floor — McKenzie Forbes for Folsom and Aquira DeCosta of St. Mary’s. Assuming St. Mary’s wins, Folsom still may go as high as No. 3 on the NorCal Open board. Having a head-to-head win over Salesian of Richmond is the key to that plus head-to-head results involving some of the other teams.
4. Salesian (Richmond) 25-5
If Mitty beats Pinewood and St. Mary’s beats Folsom and the Pride win the CIF North Coast Section D3 final over Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa, the head-to-head results would put them fourth on the NorCal board. We doubt if Harold Abend (our primary girls hoops ranking analyst) would rank Pinewood lower in that scenario, but the CIF as we know goes by the head-to-head result in a major way. If the seeds hold up through the section finals, Folsom has a head-to-head over Salesian and Salesian has a head-to-head over Pinewood. Plus, did you know the team that beat Mitty two years ago? It was the Pride in the NorCal Open Division.
5. Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 24-1
The head-to-heads continue as the Panthers own a win over Carondelet of the NCS, but their only loss so far is to Salesian. They are going to take a crack at knocking off Mitty in Saturday’s CIF CCS Open Division championship. Even though the Monarchs have lost top post player Nicole Blakes to injury, a Pinewood win in that game might even be enough to move the team all the way to the top seed in this bracket. A loss, even a close one, may put them back behind Salesian.
6. Carondelet (Concord) 21-8
A victory in Wednesday’s NCS D1 semifinals over San Ramon Valley advanced the Cougars into the title game opposite Heritage of Brentwood. The head-to-heads still continue this far down, too. Carondelet has lost to Salesian and Pinewood but has a win over NCS D2 top seed Miramonte of Orinda.
7. Miramonte (Orinda) 25-4
Head coach Kelly Sopak’s squad has a tough matchup in the NCS D2 championship against 19-10 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. Forget that record. O’Dowd recently went overtime with state No. 3 Windward and has played a loaded schedule. If the Mats win, they’ve got the pedigree and season ledger to be in the Open Division.
8. Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 25-4
Like many teams in this range of the NorCal pecking order, the Cardinals wouldn’t be crazy about being a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Open Division and then facing either Mitty or St. Mary’s. If they beat Salesian in the NCS D3 final, they might get up to the sixth position. Which would be good. If they lose to Salesian and Miramonte wins the D2 game over O’Dowd, we see Newman ahead of O’Dowd and still ahead of all other NorCal teams on the board. McClatchy of Sacramento not getting to the SJS D1 semifinals is another factor.
*Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland (19-10) won its NCS D2 semifinal 65-23 on Wednesday over Montgomery of Santa Rosa. Most of the 10 losses suffered by the Dragons were early in the season and against national-level opponents. In January, they lost in overtime to projected SoCal Open top seed Windward of Los Angeles and beat Edison of Stockton, which was the team that knocked out McClatchy. O’Dowd’s last loss was by seven to Salesian. With a win over Miramonte in the final on Saturday, even with 10 losses, there’s a good chance the Dragons would have to go up to the Open Division.
*Bear Creek of Stockton (27-2) was almost put into the State Top 20 this week since the Bruins have lost only to Fairfax of Los Angeles and to Clovis North (two projected SoCal Open teams) and have a win over Edison of Stockton (again that was the team that ousted McClatchy). That may be enough to surpass O’Dowd on the NorCal Open board, but not both O’Dowd and Cardinal Newman. The Bruins are playing Antelope on Friday in the SJS D2 final. They could be one of the most intriguing teams in the NorCal D1 bracket.
*Pleasant Valley of Chico (20-4) merits consideration for the NorCal Open Division as well, especially with its early-season win against Folsom. But after that win the Vikings have had losses to both St. Ignatius of San Francisco and Lincoln of Stockton. They are playing Enterprise of Redding for the CIF Northern Section D3 crown.