League play opens this week for high school basketball and that means tournaments are over, rivalries are renewed, and jockeying for playoff position begins. I know what you might be thinking – playoff position? Sectionals aren't until March! It's true many of the games played in the early part of the regular season can determine where teams land in playoff brackets.
Take this week's match-up between Archbishop Mitty and Bellarmine – an opening night classic in the West Catholic League. Even though there are several quality teams (if not all of them) in the WCAL, this game could have post season ramifications. Mitty won the game by two points, and now they have an advantage in seeding over Bellarmine in any bracket they may play in together. The two teams will rematch later in the season in what could be an even more important affair, but this early season game is still in the mix when looking at the postseason.
Many leagues are beginning their own tournaments before section playoffs begin. The West Catholic League has done this for many years, and the seeding for the tournament is based on--you guessed it--round-robin record. So, if for some reason Mitty and Bellarmine are tied at the end of the year, this head-to-head game could push Mitty into a higher seed. They would then earn a bye in the league tournament, giving them a clear advantage when facing a team on no rest on day 2.
Assuming Mitty goes on to win the WCAL league tournament, (still hypothetical, here) the Monarchs would be a top seed in the CCS Open Division bracket. Mitty would play the early rounds of that tournament in the comfy confines of Fien gymnasium, while lower seeds would travel to hostile sites.
After Mitty calmly wins the CCS Open Division at nearby Santa Clara University, they will advance into the CIF Open Division bracket – once again a high seed. They would host two or more games at Fien Gymnasium before heading to Sacramento for the big state tournament. And as Mitty hoists their state title trophy once again this season, they will have no recollection of that first game against Bellarmine that they barely won by two points. But it did make a difference.
Let the jockeying begin.