Southern Section moves toward Open Division for basketball playoffs

Advisory committee votes overwhelmingly in favor of adding a 16-team postseason tournament that would be open to teams from every division, regardless of school enrollment.

The Southern Section basketball advisory committee gave near-unanimous approval Wednesday to creating an Open Division for its boys' and girls' basketball playoffs beginning with the upcoming season.

It will be up to Commissioner Rob Wigod to decide whether to accept the recommendation, but the overwhelming vote of approval from 27 of 28 representatives — there was one member who abstained — makes it likely to happen.

There would still be 12 divisional championships, but the 3AAA division would disappear, replaced by an Open Division that would have 12 to 16 teams chosen at the end of the regular season by a committee.

The incentive for the teams selected for the Open Division is they would receive a guaranteed berth to the state playoffs regardless of whether they lost in the first round or made it to the final of the Open Division.

Any school ranked in the top 10 of its division in a final poll will be eligible to be selected for the Open Division. Six teams will be selected from Divisions 1, 2 and 3, six teams will come from Divisions 4, 5 and 6 and as many as four will be selected as at-large teams from any division.

The Open Division is designed to bring together the best of the best, regardless of enrollment. By removing teams from certain divisions at the end of the regular season based on ability and performance, it will create opportunities for other schools to win division championships.

For example, had there been an Open Division last season, among the boys' schools chosen would have been: 4AA teams Gardena Serra, Torrance Bishop Montgomery, La Verne Lutheran and Encino Crespi; 4A teams Pacific Hills and Brentwood; 1AA powers Santa Ana Mater Dei, Etiwanda, Long Beach Poly, Los Angeles Loyola and Corona Centennial; and 3A champion Bellflower St. John Bosco.

"I like it," Centennial Coach Josh Giles said. "Every once in a while, we're good enough to compete with them. When we're good enough I want to play them. At the end of the day, it's the most fair for most of the schools."