The way it looks now, no Orange County team will be in the Open Division for the CIF Southern Section boys basketball playoffs.

This would be the first time that no county team has been selected for the elite division since CIF-SS began having an Open Division in 2014.

The CIF-SS basketball brackets will be released Sunday morning

Mater Dei has been in the boys Open Division every season, from when the Open Division was a 16-team bracket the first few years until it became an eight-team group in 2018. Crean Lutheran, Esperanza, Los Alamitos, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita have been Open Division teams in past seasons.

A CIF Southern Section boys basketball committee each Monday releases its “watch list” of Open Division candidates. This week the watch list had 13 teams, including O.C. teams JSerra and Mater Dei of the Trinity League.

A look at this week’s CIF-SS Division 1 poll, which lists 16 teams, Mater Dei is ranked No. 9. The top eight teams in the end-of-season Division 1 rankings are also on the Open Division watch list. So if those eight Division 1 teams are selected to the Open Division and Mater Dei is No. 9 in Division 1, Mater Dei is going to be in Division 1 for the playoffs.

What about JSerra? The Lions first must qualify for the playoffs. Going into this week JSerra was in fifth place in the six-team Trinity League. The top three finishers in a six-team league like the Trinity receive automatic playoff berths.

Unless JSerra wriggles its way into the top three finishers it could only qualify for the playoffs as an at-large team. An at-large team is the equivalent of what is called a wild-card team in some pro sports leagues.

Mater Dei going into this week was the Trinity League’s No. 4 team, behind St. John Bosco, Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran. Last year there were five at-large openings in Division 1; Orange Lutheran and JSerra got two of them.

A team must have an overall record of .500 or better to be eligible for at-large berth consideration. Mater Dei, at 20-6 overall going into this week, and 18-8 JSerra are fine there.

League standing is included in the criteria for at-large selection, so another league’s No. 4 teams just might get priority over whoever is the No. 5 team in the Trinity League.

Mater Dei is No. 2 and JSerra is No. 4 in this week’s Orange County Top 25. Other Top 25 teams that might have to go the at-large path to get into the playoffs are No. 16 Villa Park, which was 17-8 going into this week, No. 18 Aliso Niguel (15-10 after a win over Dana Hills on Monday), No. 20 Trabuco Hills (14-10), No. 22 Fountain Valley (17-9) and No. 25 El Toro (14-12 after losing to Mission Viejo on Monday).

We will find out Sunday.


Teams are placed into divisions based on a weight power-points profile covering the previous two seasons, with 2021-22 results representing 70 percent of a team’s power-points profile and 2020-21 results representing 30 percent of the power-points profile. Strength of regular-season schedule results and playoff results figure prominently. Upper division playoff results carry more weight than lower division results. …

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There will be 10 playoff divisions. Divisions 1 through 5A will have 32-team brackets. Wild card-round games will be played if necessary to reduce the fields to 32 teams on Feb. 7. First-round games are Feb. 8 for Divisions 1-5A. Open Division pool-play begins Feb. 10. …

CIF-SS basketball championship games are Feb. 24 and 25. The Division 1 and Open Division finals are at Honda Center on Feb 25. Other division finals are at Colony, Edison and Mira Costa high schools.