Start the drum roll, please. The Southern Section intends to announce the teams selected for its new Open Division basketball playoffs on Friday, Feb. 14, for boys and girls.
Between 12 and 16 teams will be selected by a "blue ribbon committee" whose names won't be revealed any time soon to protect them from media, fans and coaches in case someone doesn't like their choices. The rest of the divisions will be announced on Sunday, Feb. 16.
Criteria: Any team ranked in the top 10 of their division in the final coaches' poll is eligible. Additional criteria: Strength of schedule; overall record; Freeman/MaxPreps rankings; strength at the end of the season (Village Christian better read this); head to head vs. Open Division entries; overall record vs. Open Division entries; victory vs. quality opponents; quality loss; unexpected loss.
The good news is that any team selected can earn an automatic spot in the state playoffs with a first-round victory in the Open Division (just make sure you don't draw Mater Dei in the first round).
Also, there will be a consolation bracket in the Open Division. Teams that lose in the first round get to keep playing and can earn an automatic state berth if they win the consolation bracket. You might even be given a banner to put in the gym. Teams could still lose twice in the Open Division and still get a state berth if another committee decides the team is worthy.
In other words, it's going to be an interesting, controversial month of February and March, and the people who run the state CIF and the Southern Section better be ready to answer lots of questions from the media.
As for the reason the Open Division was created, "We believe the Open Division will showcase the most elite teams drawn from every league in the section," Commissioner Rob Wigod said in a news release last October.
I know several coaches ready to celebrate losses over the next two weeks to avoid selection to the Open Division.
Hey, at least there's going to be some suspense come Feb. 14.
Correction: An earlier version of this blog had the Open Division teams being announced on Sunday, Feb. 16. The teams will be announced on Friday, Feb. 14.