Orange County usually has an obvious favorite or two in the CIF Southern Section Boys basketball playoffs.

This is not one of those years.

However, there are an unusually large number of county teams that look good enough to get to the semifinals or beyond in their division.

One of those teams is JSerra, which finished the regular season with heat, winning its final six games. The Lancers defeated Trinity League champion St. John Bosco and two other top teams, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita, in that stretch.

The Lions have two standout candidates for the All-Orange County team, junior guard Aidan Fowler and junior forward Sebastian Rancik.

JSerra’s path through the playoffs might not be as challenging as the paths of others. The Lions (20-8) play at Great Oak (16-12) in the Division 1 first round on Wednesday. Great Oak was not in the final Division 1 top 16 poll, while JSerra was  No. 4, thus, JSerra is seeded No. 4 in Division 1.

Crestview League champion Canyon (23-5), which features sophomore forward Brandon Benjamin, got a first-round bye in Division 1. The Comanches and JSerra could face each other in the quarterfinals.


• Mater Dei is not an Open Division team for the first time since the Open Division was added in 2014. The Monarchs (21-6), who finished second to St. John Bosco in the Trinity League, are in Division 1. They will play a first-round home game Wednesday against Long Beach Poly (12-15). If Mater Dei beats Poly, its second-round game would be Friday against the winner of San Juan Hills-Crean Lutheran. Mater Dei defeated both teams in recent weeks — San Juan Hills 63-52 on Jan. 14 and Crean Lutheran 88-65 on Jan. 21 — so the Monarchs could be in an advantageous situation in Division 1.

• Orange Lutheran (16-10) could be well-positioned for a deep run in Division 2AA. Lancers sophomore guard Zion Paleo averaged 16 points and six assists in Trinity League games. The Lancers play a first-round home game Wednesday against Aliso Niguel (16-11). If the Lancers advance, they play the winner of Villa Park (17-10) vs. Edison (19-9).

• The O.C. team with perhaps the most difficult first-round draw is Los Alamitos. The Griffins (22-6), who were the Surf League co-champions with Edison, play at Santa Margarita (20-8) in Division 1. Los Alamitos is No. 11 in the Orange County Top 25 while Santa Margarita is ranked No. 5.

• The playoffs begin with wild card-round games Tuesday in divisions that need the games to reduce their field to 32 teams for the first round. Orange County teams playing wild-card games Tuesday are Costa Mesa in 4AA, Anaheim in 5AA and Liberty Christian in 5A.

• The schedule for Divisions 1 through 5A: first round, Wednesday; second round, Friday; quarterfinals, Feb. 14; and semifinals, Feb. 17.

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• The Open Division’s pool-play format for its eight teams has games Friday, Feb. 14 and Feb. 17.

• Finals for the Open Division and Division 1 are Feb. 25 at Honda Center. The Other divisional finals are Feb. 24-25 at Colony, Edison and Mira Costa high schools.

• Among the Orange County teams that received at-large entry to the playoffs: San Juan Hills (14-14), Division 1; Fountain Valley (19-9), Marina (16-12) and Villa Park (17-10), Division 2AA; El Dorado (15-13) and Portola14-11), 2A; Sunny Hills (17-11), 3AA; and Laguna Hills (14-14), Mission Viejo (15-13) and Yorba Linda (17-11), 3A.