The Los Angeles Times’ Eric Sondheimer is a fine writer whose logic I often agree with.
I agree emphatically with his recent column. The CIF’s selection process for the boys and girls Open Division state basketball tournaments was a head scratcher.
In fact, I’d even agree with a statement along the lines of, “If you can’t do it better than this, don’t bother having an Open Division.”
It is true that the top three boys teams in the Maxpreps.com California rankings - Etiwanda, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly - are in the Open Division.
However, it’s also true that a team that should have been an automatic for the Northern Cal Open Division - Antioch Deer Valley, which Maxpreps rated fourth in California and a squad that won a Nor Cal sectional championship - was left out of that division and put in Division I as the top seed.
Far worse, Bakersfield Stockdale was somehow put in the girls Southern Cal Open Division instead of Etiwanda.
Etiwanda toppled then-Maxpreps national No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei in overtime in the Southern Section Division 1AA semifinals before falling to Corona Santiago in the title game.
Santiago and Mater Dei are in the Southern California Open Division. That makes sense. So is Stockdale. That makes no sense. The Mustangs are ranked 53rd in California and 407th nationally.
Meanwhile, Etiwanda gets to avoid Santiago and Mater Dei and enter Division 1 as the top seed.
The CIF didn’t even make an eight-team Northern Cal bracket and an eight-team Southern Cal bracket in the Open Divisions. There are eight Nor Cal Open Division boys teams and seven So Cal Open Division boys squads. There are eight Open Division Nor Cal girls squads and just six So Cal Open Division girls squads.
So I agree that the boys and girls Open Division fields are not nearly as strong as they should be.
What I don’t agree with is St. John Bellflower boys coach Derrick Taylor’s statement.
Taylor, in effect, told Sondheimer that he wasn’t complaining about his Southern Section 3A champion squad’s inclusion into the Open Division but that the selection process was a lousy one.
He said to Sondheimer, “How can you place any value on any division outside the Open Division?”
Actually, you can place plenty of value on any division outside the Open Divisions.
Every other division, boys and girls, has a sectional champion as a top seed. Every other division includes a Southern Section champion. The Southern Section is by far the largest of any CIF division and, I believe, the deepest.
Basketball fans will be treated to some outstanding high school basketball, particularly as teams go deeper into the playoffs, during whichever regional they attend.
Is it not worth having an Open Division if the selection process isn’t better? Yes. Has the entire state tournament been gutted? No.
When it’s all over, I doubt that any of the non-Open Division state title winners will be thinking, “Geez, we’ve just won a value-less state championship.”
The guess here is that they will all have that championship feeling. And they should.