The CCS boys basketball seeding meeting is less than 48 hours away. While brackets have remained largely intact from our previous projections, there are a few changes in place that need to be noted.
As a reminder, a couple of changes to the playoff format should be noted. First, the only neutral site game across all divisions will be the Open Division Championship Game, to be played at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz. All other games across all other divisions will be at home sites, just as they were in the 2021 season. This is a deviation from the pre-COVID tradition of holding semifinals and championship games at neutral sites, and it places more of an emphasis than ever on having a high seed.
Furthermore, the Open Division has been completely revamped to follow a pool play format similar to the one used by the Southern Section. All teams will play three games within their pools, with the higher seed hosting each game. Pool A will have teams seeded 1, 4, 5 and 8, and Pool B will have the 2, 3, 6 and 7 seeds. The winner of each pool will advance to the championship game.
With Los Altos losing a pair of league games to rival Mountain View, the Open field seems to be all but set, with Sacred Heart Prep and Santa Cruz joining six WCAL teams. Seeding SHP is the main quandary facing the committee. The Gators own head-to-head wins over both Riordan and St. Francis, but lost to Bellarmine. Furthermore, Riordan and St. Ignatius are currently tied for second in the WCAL. If both win their games on Tuesday, they’ll be even on all measures.
While enrollment divisions are required to select teams in order of league standings, accounting for tiebreaking procedures, that isn’t necessary in the Open Division. In 2020, a three-way tie atop the WCAL had Mitty in front, followed by Bellarmine and Riordan in accordance with the league’s process, but Riordan was seeded ahead of the Bells. Likewise, a scenario in which Riordan and SI end up tied would not be decided by a coin flip, but rather by subjective analysis from the committee.
For now, we believe the Wildcats will have the upper hand, fueled by strong non-league wins over Miramonte and Redwood. With Miramonte seeded above Dublin in the NCS Open Division, the victory over the Matadors should outshine Riordan’s triumph over the Gaels. Therefore, we currently have SI as the second seed, followed by SHP in the third spot and Riordan in fourth.
Of course, it’s entirely possible for Serra to beat the Wildcats in the Jungle Game on Tuesday night. Should the Padres defend their home court, SI likely drops to the fourth seed and would host Serra in the first round on Friday despite being swept by the Padres in the regular season, though some debate could be had to seed Serra ahead of the Wildcats in that scenario if the committee values a head-to-head sweep over league finish. That hypothetical sweep would include a Serra win without Garret Keyhani, whose season is likely over due to a hand injury.
There would be debate between Riordan and SHP for the second spot, with the difference between second and third being home court when the teams meet in pool play. We believe the Gators will get the nod over the Crusaders, not just for their head-to-head victory, but also for their win over Inderkum, currently ranked as the top team in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
A Serra loss to St. Ignatius paired with a St. Francis win over Bellarmine would leave the Padres and Lancers tied for fourth in the WCAL, and the Lancers would be seeded higher by way of their head-to-head sweep. That would drop Serra to sixth and likely put the Padres in the same group as SI. The only scenario that likely separates Serra and SI into opposite pools is one where the Wildcats win the Jungle Game and Bellarmine beats St. Francis. A Riordan loss to Sacred Heart Cathedral on Tuesday would throw a further wrench into matters, and while it’s unlikely, it would be no surprise if Ray-John Spears went off in his final game.
With the races in both SCVAL divisions coming down to the final night and automatic bids still up for grabs, Division I remains a complete mess. With Bellarmine almost certainly serving as the lone D-I representative in the Open Division, there are 21 eligible teams for 16 spots, with a few teams locked into automatic bids.
Mountain View should be the first SCVAL team selected regardless of Tuesday’s result between Palo Alto and Los Altos, but past that, there’s a lot to still be decided. If Fremont beats Gunn, the Firebirds would earn a share of the El Camino title and likely be placed on the board before Los Gatos by virtue of a head-to-head sweep. If Gunn wins, the Titans go up ahead of the Firebirds, as the teams would be tied for second place and the tiebreaker would favor Gunn, whether it’s a two-way tie or a three-way tie with Lynbrook.
In the BVAL, Independence should go ahead of Silver Creek via tiebreaker. The 76ers and Raiders split their head-to-head meetings, but Independence has a win over first-place Pioneer. Santa Teresa has the auto bid from the Santa Teresa West Division, tying Sobrato for the championship and sweeping the Bulldogs head-to-head.
Even if Carlmont loses to Burlingame on Tuesday and ends up alongside the Panthers and Menlo-Atherton in a three-way tie for first place, we expect the Scots to be selected ahead of the Bears. The teams would be even on all measures in the league standings, but Carlmont’s win over Mountain View gives the Scots the edge and the inside track for the top seed.
The PCAL will have a domino effect that decides the entire field. Alvarez remains an incredibly difficult team to seed, with an impressive record and a big win over Antelope from the Sac-Joaquin Section but an otherwise weak strength of schedule. A second win over Monterey would give Salinas the third and final automatic bid from the Gabilan Division and lock the Cowboys into the field. Hollister currently sits at second in the Pacific Division and would have an automatic bid as well, but the Haybalers need to win at Stevenson on Monday night to ensure their place. Should they lose, the second automatic bid in the Pacific Division would go down to a coin flip, even though Stevenson is going to be a top seed in Division V regardless of Monday’s result.
A similar scenario has unfolded in the Santa Lucia Division, the fourth of the PCAL’s five tiers. Watsonville is by far the weakest of the eligible teams from Division I, but would be in line to share the division title with Soledad, so long as the Wildcatz beat last-place Gonzales. Soledad should be in the Division III field even without an auto bid, but Watsonville’s fate would hinge on the outcome of a coin flip. Our projections assume the Wildcatz win that coin flip. As of now, that leaves Gunn on the outside looking in with both Hollister and Watsonville in via automatic berths. If the Titans win on Tuesday, they’ll slide above Fremont, and the Firebirds would remain ahead of Homestead via a head-to-head victory, which could leave the Mustangs’ fate reliant on a PCAL coin flip.
For now, our seedings in Division I remain unchanged from our prior projections, but Monday and Tuesday results could have major chain reactions.
Recent BVAL results cause a few changes to Division II seeding. Oak Grove finished the regular season on a three-game losing streak and lost to Branham in late December, so we now have the Bruins ahead of the Eagles. Whereas our last projections had Oak Grove getting selected before Hillsdale and Aragon, Branham would now go on the board first and likely be selected after the pair, pushing both BVAL teams down.
Hillsdale officially qualified with Friday’s 48-44 win at Aragon, and the Fighting Knights have the head-to-head sweep over the Dons.
Valley Christian seems to be in shape for the top seed, though the committee could evaluate the Warriors based on their recent performance without Jacob Bannarbie, who’s out for the remainder of the season. The top four seeds will almost certainly consist of Christopher, Lynbrook, Pioneer and Valley, but ordering those four teams will be a challenge.
Changes to Division III are most prominent at the top of the bracket, where Aptos has taken over the top seed after Saratoga dropped four out of five games. Burlingame split with San Mateo, and going by past precedents, the committee likely won’t weigh Sobrato’s non-league win over San Mateo ahead of Burlingame’s split with the Bearcats. In turn, the Panthers are now ahead of the Bulldogs, and that also frees up Half Moon Bay to take the fourth seed ahead of Sobrato.
There’s even an argument for Burlingame to take the top seed, as the Panthers beat Lowell. The Cardinals are responsible for one of Aptos’ four losses, but we project the Mariners to get the top seed for their overall body of work and strong non-league schedule. With that said, any combination of Aptos, Burlingame and Saratoga could make up the top three seeds, and if Burlingame earns a share of the PAL South title by beating Carlmont on Tuesday night, the Panthers will have a strong case.
King City swept Rancho San Juan last week and likely takes the final spot over the Trailblazers. As a result, the four unseeded teams have been shifted around, accounting for travel considerations.
The only change to our Division IV projections comes with the field shrinking by one. Thursday’s loss to East Palo Alto leaves DCP El Primero on the outside looking in unless the Lobos can beat North Valley Baptist. Lick is set to qualify by way of closing the regular season with wins over Yerba Buena and Mt. Pleasant.
Aside from the debate between San Lorenzo Valley and Terra Nova over the fourth and fifth seeds, we feel very confident in our Division IV projections, barring any unexpected entry or decision to withdraw by a small private school that hasn’t been posting updated results.
With so many schools that didn’t even play a non-league schedule in Division V, many teams’ inclusion in the field is reliant on league results, especially in the PSAL. In turn, our Division V projections are largely a guess, made with far less evidence and much more speculation than other divisions.
We feel confident about the top four seeds. Summit Shasta would be in the discussion, but the Black Bears suffer heavily from a head-to-head loss with Crystal Springs Uplands.
The only change to Division V from our prior projections come at the bottom of the field, where we believe Mountain View Academy will take Pacific Bay Christian’s spot after securing a .500 league record. In turn, we’ve adjusted a few of the matchups for the unseeded teams in the first round.