The Division II boys' basketball playoffs should provide tougher competition than the larger Division I competition as the San Diego Section employs its new five-division format--as opposed to the traditional 3-A, 2-A, 1-A--beginning Tuesday.
The Division II boys' tournament has definitely benefited, as five league champions and six of the The Times' top 10 county teams will play for the title.
The Division I boys' tournament appears thin: Only 2 of the 20 tournament teams are conference champions, and only three are ranked among the top 10.
The Division I and II first-round games involve the lower seeds in the boys' and girls' brackets. All surviving teams play Thursday against higher-seeded teams in the second round. The quarterfinals are set for Saturday and the semifinals March 1. The finals will be March 4 at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Division I: The top four seeds are Santana (21-2), ranked seventh in the county; fourth-ranked Poway (18-5); ninth-ranked Valhalla (15-7), which finished second in the Grossmont League, and Mt. Carmel (15-9), which finished third in the Palomar League.
Valhalla should be in Division II by enrollment figures, but Coach Manny Silva chose to move up before the season started. Silva gave several reasons why.
"I thought we could do well against Division I teams, and Division I is the main game," he said. "Also, Valhalla is growing so fast, we will be in Division I shortly.
"As a coach, there are two things I am responsible for . . . one is the safety of my players and the other is to give my players the opportunity to win every time out. And I think I've afforded my team a chance to win."
Montgomery (13-8), which won the Metro-Mesa League title, is seeded fifth. Patrick Henry (15-8) is seeded sixth, Morse (16-9) seventh and Granite Hills (14-7) eighth.
Santana and Poway appear to be the class of the division, but Valhalla and Mt. Carmel have shown they have the ability to make the final. Valhalla defeated Santana, and Mt. Carmel is the only team to defeat top-ranked Torrey Pines this season.
Division II: As expected, top-ranked Torrey Pines is seeded first and No. 2-ranked Madison is second.
Third, fourth and fifth seeds are El Camino (20-4), the Avocado League champion and the county's fifth-ranked team; Kearny (21-4), winner of the City Western League and the sixth-ranked team; and Castle Park (17-7), the Metro-South Bay League champion and the 10th-ranked team.
"This is a learning process for us," said Ray Johnson, El Camino coach. "I think it came out pretty fair. I'm not sure what the process was. There wasn't as much yelling and screaming as there usually is."
As with most of the Metro Conference teams, Castle Park is an unknown, not having played many teams outside the conference. Castle Park has won 12 in a row but will get an early test when it plays host to University City (12-9), the third-place team from the City Western League and winner of 11 of its last 15.
Seventh-seeded Escondido (19-5) and sixth-seeded La Jolla (17-8) could work their way into the semifinals.
Division I: Point Loma is in a familiar position for the playoffs. The Pointers (25-2), which have won four consecutive section and state titles, are the top seed despite being ranked No. 2 in the county behind Santana (22-1).
Point Loma received the No. 1 seeding based on head-to-head competition and strength of schedule. The Pointers defeated Santana, 48-47, in the championship of the Kiwanis tournament and, according to Coach Lee Trepanier, defeated five different league champions and four second-place teams during the season. Point Loma was seeded No. 1 by a 7-2 vote of the seeding committee.
Division II: San Pasqual (22-2) is the only team affiliated with a 2-A league that is seeded in the top four. The others are in 3-A leagues.
Fourth-ranked San Pasqual, which lost to La Jolla in last season's 2-A championship, is seeded first. Tenth-ranked Helix (16-5), which tied for second with Monte Vista in the Grossmont League, is seeded second.
Though lacking impressive records, Madison (11-10) is seeded third and Fallbrook (14-8) fourth because of tougher schedules.
Ninth-ranked La Jolla (17-5) is seeded fifth, eighth-ranked Mission Bay (18-6) sixth, Castle Park (19-6) seventh and San Marcos (12-11) eighth.