CIF-SS Open Division Predictions
The 2016-17 high school basketball regular season is a wrap, and to put it bluntly, there was nothing extraordinary about it.
The "Big Four" - Sierra Canyon, Chino Hills, Bishop Montgomery and Mater Dei - had the seasons most pundits expected and head in to CIF-SS Open Division play as the top four seeds.
Sierra Canyon (25-1, 8-0 Gold Coast League) is as clear-cut a No. 1 seed as Chino Hills was last year, with its only loss coming by way of a two-point decision against National No. 1 Seattle (WA) Nathan Hale, led by the country's best player, Michael Porter, Jr.
Chino Hills (27-1, 10-0 Baseline League) is a few successful Gelo Shots away from the No 1 seed. The Huskies only loss of the season was to Mouth of Wilson (VA) Oak Hill Academy at Nike Extravaganza, a 96-91 final score in a game where LiAngelo Ball shot just 8 of 35 from the field.
Bishop Montgomery (23-2, 8-0 Del Rey League) lost its first game of the season to Oakland Bishop O'Dowd, albeit without junior shooting guard David Singleton, and dropped another to nationally-ranked Montverde Academy back east at the HoopHall Classic.
Mater Dei (28-1, 10-0 Trinity League) benefitted from the mid-season addition of 7-footer, and highly-regarded recruit, Bol Bol. The Monarchs only loss of the season was to Chino Hills in the Tarkanian Classic championship game in mid-December. Mater Dei was looking like a surefire three-seed before nearly dropping one to Santa Margarita at home on Tuesday, loosening their hold on the coveted spot to avoid playing Sierra Canyon in the semifinals.
The order of the second-tier Open Division teams is an absolute crapshoot.
Alemany is very good and has been on a tear as of late; Eastvale Roosevelt has the dynamic duo in Matt Mitchell and Jemarl Baker; Santa Margarita is loaded with size; Damien is deep and talented; Corona Centennial is dangerous with defense; Long Beach Poly played one of the toughest nonleague schedules around; Redondo Union athletic and gritty; Oak Park has two of the best juniors and one of the best freshmen in SoCal.
Many have argued that there aren't 16 teams worthy of being in the Open Division this season (the 2015-16 Los Alamitos team would like a word), and while those people are probably right, there's no chance the Open Division committee goes with a 12-team bracket.
The last four teams are the ones that will draw the biggest ire from those respective coaches for being sent to the proverbial slaughterhouse.
Esperanza is 25-1, but has done it against lesser competition; Crossroads has two electric players in Shareef O'Neal and Ira Lee, but has eight losses on the year; JSerra has benefitted from a number of transfers, but hasn't been healthy all year; Heritage Christian, Gahr, Harvard-Westlake, Edison and Etiwanda, also in consideration based on the most recent Open Division watchlist, all have questionable losses.
The 16-team Open Division field will be announced at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon with the seedings likely coming on Sunday along with the rest of the divisions.
Below are my predictions for who is in and how the seedings will shake out. There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to seeding: Teams from the same league must be on opposite sides of the bracket. If there are three teams from one league, two may be on the same side of the bracket, but must be placed to where they cannot meet until the semifinals.
Sixteen Team Bracket Prediction
1. Sierra Canyon (Gold Coast)
16. Heritage Christian (Olympic)
Comment: The Trailblazers are the obvious choice for the top seed. Heritage Christian sneaks in and isn't happy about it.
8. Damien (Baseline) 9. Corona Centennial (Big VIII)
Comment: This would be an intriguing Inland Empire match-up between two teams that play hard. 4. Mater Dei (Trinity) 13. Esperanza (Crestview)
Comment: Orange County Player of the Year Kezie Okpala against Orange County's top team year-in and year-out? Sign me up.
5. Alemany (Mission)
12. Oak Park (Coastal Canyon)
Comment: Big Fred against Big Riley and Big Zeke? Slajchert Bros. against Brandon Davis and DJ McDonald? Is Ernie Sears the X-Factor? This one could be interesting.
2. Chino Hills (Baseline)
15. JSerra (Trinity)
Comment: JSerra would need Sebastian Much healthy and for him to have a huge game.
7. Roosevelt (Big VIII)
10. Long Beach Poly (Moore)
Comment: Jackrabbits are one of few teams to play Chino Hills tough this season. Could they limit Mitchell and Baker to pull off an upset?
3. Bishop Montgomery (Del Rey)
14. Crossroads (Gold Coast)
Comment: Bishop Monty is humming along, but Lee and O'Neal provide Crossroads with plenty of firepower.
6. Santa Margarita (Trinity)
11. Redondo Union (Bay)
Comment: Redondo Union has won 16-straight, but can they deal with Santa Margarita's size?
First Four Out: Edison, Gahr, Etiwanda, Harvard-Westlake