Playoff Preview: Boys’ basketball vs. West Ranch

Boys’ basketball is looking to make another magical playoff run, and it starts with an opening round matchup against West Ranch at home Wednesday night. Here are some answers to questions you were too embarrassed to ask.

THE GAME

Who? Harvard-Westlake and West Ranch

What? A first round matchup in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1A playoffs

Where? At Harvard-Westlake

When? Wednesday at 7:00 PM

Why? That’s a pretty vague question

How? You can attend the game in person or watch online on HWTV. I hear the announcer is pretty good and also handsome and generally a pretty cool dude.

So…are the Wolverines going to win? Anything can happen, but as the top seed in the entire bracket, the Wolverines are most definitely expected to win this game. Harvard-Westlake finished second in the highly competitive Mission League, finishing 8-4 in league play and 16-11 overall. MaxPreps has them ranked 48th in the state.

Okay but is West Ranch any good? I would say that every playoff team is good, but when almost everyone makes the playoffs (28 out of 33 Division 1A teams), it’s tough to say. They finished 6-4 in the Foothill League, a six-team league in which the top four teams were separated by just a game in the final standings. The Wildcats finished 14-11 overall and are ranked 240th in California by MaxPreps.

I’m fascinated by West Ranch and would like to know more. What else ya got? The Wildcats opened their season against Loyola and lost 70-66. They’re 2-5 on the road. Last year they upset La Serna on the road 56-46 in the opening round of the CIF-SS Division 2AA. They played Claremont in the second round, and despite coming back from an 18-point deficit, lost on a buzzer-beater, 64-63.  Their best player is named Austin Galuppo, a junior guard who wears #33. ESPN lists him as the 35th best junior in the state of California. Senior guard Chris Kodama and freshman forward Clyde Seo are also worth keeping an eye on.

And what happens after this game? The loser’s season is over. The winner advances to the second round, which will be played Friday night. The winner faces whoever wins between Riverside Poly and Kaiser. The Wolverines will be at home if Kaiser wins, and on the road if Riverside Poly wins. West Ranch is guaranteed a home game in the second round.

THE PLAYOFFS THEMSELVES

You just said that the loser’s season is over, but didn’t Harvard-Westlake lose to Notre Dame in the playoffs last year and still won State? Buckle up, because this is where the answers get kind of complicated. There’s two different playoff championships: sectionals and State. The playoff tournament that starts this week is for the sectional title. To qualify for State, a team has to make it to the championship game of its sectional tournament. But there are four other special cases which give teams a spot in a State tournament:

1.) You’re one of the 16 teams playing in the Open Division for sectionals, in which case you are guaranteed a spot in the State Open Division, Division 1 or Division 2 tournament, depending on how you perform in the Open Division sectional playoffs.

2.) You’re one of six teams to lose in the semifinals of the Division 2AA, 2A or 3AA sectional tournament, in which case, you’re eligible for an at-large bid in the State Division 3 tournament. The CIF State selection committee will evaluate these six teams and grant at-large bids to two of them.

3.) You’re one of six teams to lose in the semifinals of the Division 3A, 4AA or 4A sectional tournament, in which case, you’re eligible for an at-large bid in the State Division 4 tournament. The CIF State selection committee will evaluate these six teams and grant at-large bids to two of them.

4.) You’re one of six teams to lose in the semifinals of the Division 5AA, 5A or 6 sectional tournament, in which case, you’re eligible for an at-large bid in the State Division 5 tournament. The CIF State selection committee will evaluate these six teams and grant at-large bids to two of them.

Special case #3 applied to the Wolverines last year; they were in Division 4AA for the Southern Section playoffs, lost to Notre Dame in the semifinals, but qualified for State via an at-large bid.

But now this year the Wolverines are in Division 1A for sectionals? Yes, which means they have to make the championship game of this tournament or their season is done. If they do make the championship game, they’ll get to compete for the State Division 2 title.

Wait, Division 2 for State, but Division 1A for sectionals? Instead of writing a dissertation on the intricacies and ethical concerns regarding the Open Division, I’m going to point you to page 15 of the CIF-Southern Section basketball Playoff Bulletin.

Why is Harvard-Westlake suddenly in Division 1A now if it was in Division 4AA last year? Aren’t divisions based on school size? They used to be based on school size, but to make the divisions more competitive, the Southern Section reorganized divisions, placing teams using a formula that calculates a team’s strength based on its playoff results over the past few seasons. Then they came up with a new, more convoluted formula and reshuffled the divisions again this season based on the new formula. That formula and the new divisions are spelled out here.

I clicked that link and now I’ve never been more confused in my entire life. Can you show me the bracket, with Harvard-Westlake conveniently highlighted? 

The CIF-SS Division 1A boys’ basketball bracket

You said Harvard-Westlake was the top seed. Why don’t they get a bye and four other teams do? This is one of life’s great mysteries.

 

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