The next round of the high school basketball playoffs offer a different look and feel, and it ensures new champions will be crowned in several divisions.
No area girls or boys teams gained a top seed in the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs in a combined 12 divisions spanning Divisions I-V and the new Open Division.
The Open is designed to put the elite programs into one grouping, regardless of division. The intent is to better allow other teams to win state championships that have overwhelmingly been captured over the years by private schools. The Open also is expected to create a new level of big-game excitement.
Sheldon, one day after winning its fourth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship, landed an Open No. 4 seed, one spot lower than it expected.
The Open criteria include a consistent top-10 state ranking, NorCal and championship success in recent seasons, and strength of schedule and success this season.
Cal-Hi Sports and MaxPreps have Sheldon ranked No. 2 in Northern California behind Open No. 1 seed Salesian of Richmond, but Sheldon is seeded below Salesian, Mitty of San Jose and Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland.
Mitty, the two-time defending D-II state champion, beat Sheldon early this season.
Sheldon opens at home Friday against Central Coast Section power Serra of San Mateo, with the winner playing at Salesian on March 12.
This means the teams that for the past six weeks have been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in NorCal for all divisions could meet sooner than anticipated. Salesian beat Sheldon 69-60 in a nonleague thriller a month ago. Salesian is ranked No. 1 in the state and Sheldon No. 4 by Cal-Hi Sports.
In the D-I boys field, Pleasant Grove earned a favorable No. 2 seed despite falling to Sheldon in the D-I section final Saturday.
Pleasant Grove is seeded opposite Deer Valley of Antioch, fresh off its first North Coast Section Division I championship. Pleasant Grove, which earned its second NorCal berth, has an opening bye and could face longtime NorCal power De La Salle of Concord on March 12 in a home semifinal.
Fresh off a successful defense of its Division II section title, Antelope earned the No. 2 seed and an opening bye in the D-II field.
Dublin of the North Coast Section is the top seed. Grant, which fell to Antelope in the section final, is a No. 4 seed with a bye. Sacramento is a No. 5 seed. Grant beat Sacramento in a section semifinal, and the teams could face off Saturday in a NorCal semifinal in Del Paso Heights.
Capital Christian is a No. 2 seed in D-V behind St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda and has a bye.
The Sacramento girls, ranked No. 1 by The Bee all season, are in the Open despite no recent deep NorCal success or a ranking in the state top 10 this season.
One criterion was met in that the Dragons have won three section titles in a row. Sacramento earned a No. 5 seed and opens at St. Mary's of Berkeley on Friday.
Coach Michele Massari has mixed feelings about the Open and said, "We'll play wherever they put us, and we'll compete."
In girls D-I, Kennedy is the No. 5 seed after falling to national power St. Mary's of Stockton in the section final. Kennedy opens at home Wednesday against Berkeley, which beat Kennedy for the NorCal title last season. Oak Ridge, which fell to Kennedy in the section semifinals, is a No. 10 seed and opens at Amador Valley of Pleasanton.
Florin is a No. 4 seed in D-II and has a bye after losing to Metropolitan Conference rival Sacramento in the section final.
In D-III, Christian Brothers is a No. 4 seed after winning the section championship. The Falcons open at home Wednesday against Paradise of the North Section.
Bradshaw Christian is the No. 2 seed in D-IV after downing Bear River in the section final. The Pride has a bye, as does No. 4 Bear River.