If it's done nothing else, the revised Southern Section basketball playoff structure has generated excitement because no one is quite sure whether their team has a chance to be selected.
When the revised format was instituted this year, most coaches admitted they paid little or no attention to the announcement. They figured if they won their league championship, they didn't have to worry about at-large bids.
Now the regular season is about to conclude, and every non-title-contending team is asking the same question as Ventura Coach Roy Gilmore.
"Do we have a shot at making the playoffs?" Gilmore wondered. "We might have been eliminated, but I'm not sure."
For the record, the Cougars were eliminated from playoff consideration last week.
Schools belong to one of nine Southern Section divisions--three more than last year--based on enrollment. Teams will be selected to fill 32-spot brackets in each division. The top three finishers from each league automatically qualify for the playoffs. Teams with overall records of .500 or better will be considered for at-large berths if open spots remain.
Ventura (9-12, 4-8 in league play) was tied with San Marcos for sixth place entering Wednesday's games and has no chance of finishing in the top three.
Also, the Cougars will finish below .500 even if they win their last two games. Gilmore hoped the Cougars might still qualify for the playoffs because there are only 39 teams in the 4-AA Division, to which Ventura belongs.
However, the Southern Section confirmed Tuesday that some brackets will contain less than 32 teams and that no team with an overall record below .500 will make the playoffs unless it finishes among the top three teams in its league.
A look at the playoff possibilities of county teams follows:
Already invited: In the Channel League, Rio Mesa (19-3, 12-0) has clinched at least a tie for the title and has qualified for the 4-A playoffs. Buena (10-2, 17-4) will likely finish second and make the 5-A playoffs. Simi Valley (16-7, 9-2) has clinched at least a tie for the Marmonte League title and heads to the 5-AA playoffs.
Frontier League champion Santa Clara (18-3, 8-0) is in the 2-A playoffs. Agoura (8-9, 6-2) and Nordhoff (10-10, 6-2) are fighting for second and will qualify in the 4-AA and 2-AA, respectively.
St. Bonaventure (14-6, 7-1) and Bishop Diego (16-5, 7-1) are fighting for the Tri-Valley League title and are headed to the 2-A and 1-A playoffs, respectively.
On the fringe: Every team in the Marmonte League except last-place Channel Islands (1-17, 0-10) has a chance to make the playoffs.
Camarillo (15-6, 7-3) and Westlake (13-9, 6-4) appear to be locks in the 4-AA. Newbury Park (12-9, 3-7), despite a dismal league showing, should make the 4-A playoffs because its overall record is better than .500 and there are only 46 teams in the division.
Royal (6-5, 11-12) needs to beat Thousand Oaks (10-11, 5-5) to win a spot in the 5-AA playoffs. The Lancers probably need to win both of their games to qualify in the 5-A.
Santa Barbara (13-9, 8-4) has clinched a tie for third in the Channel League and should make the 5-AA playoffs. Dos Pueblos, a 3-A school, has an overall record of 12-9 playing in a league with much larger schools. But the 3-A is the largest division with 65 schools.