Wrestling divisions shuffled for next year

There are new CIF divisions in all sports, as has been posted here by TJ Berka, but I thought I’d mention wrestling. By the way, there is still an appeals process that takes place in April, so it’s not all a done deal.

In Dual meet wrestling, Bloomington won the D6 title this year and I don’t know if that weighed into it, but it’s probably only appropriate that the Sunkist League moves up to D5.
The San Andreas League moves up from D4 to D3, and I don’t know if that’s entirely warranted, while the Citrus Belt remains in D4? Most of the other county leagues stay in the same dual meet divisions: Mojave River (D1), Baseline (D2), Mt. Baldy (D3), CBL and Desert Sky (D4). The Sierra is an exception, moving up from D3 to D1, which will not be easy. Of course many of the leagues have new alignments, too.

According to the CIF, the individual divisions (I’m assuming it’s only the individual divisions and not the dual divisions) are comprised based on how many masters meet qualifiers a league gets over a 4-year period.
The four San Bernardino County leagues that had been in the Northern Division the last couple of years, having to go to Oxnard Pacifica (of the Pacific View) to wrestle, are being sent in different directions.
Only the Desert Sky among county leagues remains with the Pacific View. The Mojave River goes into a division in which Sultana should be a favorite. The Sunkist joins the San Andreas in another division, while the fourth league, the Mt. Baldy joins the Baseline in yet another division. The Citrus Belt League is once again alone among Inland Valley leagues in another division. It’s too bad more of the local leagues can’t be in the same division and wrestle locally.

South Regional breakdown

The last region is the South, which could go a million ways. Lots of name teams in this region.

Overall theme:
Is Duke back to being Duke? The Blue Devils’ name has taken a hit in recent years, as Duke hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2004 and has been knocked out as a higher seed in every year since. The Blue Devils haven’t had the athletic, NBA-bound 6-8 wing player in recent years like they did in their power years with Grant Hill, Corey Maggette and Luol Deng and seem to be lacking that player this year. However, Duke does have capable veteran guards and more size than its had in the recent past. Will be interesting to see if that helps.

Watch out for: No. 3 Baylor
Baylor is everyone’s sleeper final four pick and for good reason, as the Bears have NBA talent and can flat out put the ball in the hoop. LaceDarius Dunn is a big guard that goes for about 20 points per game while Tweety Carter is a lightning-quick point guard. But the biggest key to Baylor’s success may be 6-10 forward Ekpe Udoh, a transfer from Michigan that has added an elite defensive presence along with 13 points per game. Don’t be surprised if the Bears are in Indianapolis in a couple weeks.

Stay away from: No. 4 Purdue
The Boilermakers have been dead team walking since star forward Robbie Hummel blew out his knee in late February. Prior to that, Purdue looked like a No. 1 seed and the class of the Big Ten, but since then the Boilers have lost at home to Michigan State and were bombed in the Big Ten tourney by Minnesota. They play a No. 13 seed in Siena that has pulled upsets the last two years, so there’s a good chance the Boilers go down there. If not, the Texas A&M-Utah State winner should finish the job.

High risk, high reward: No. 5 Texas A&M
The Aggies have one of the better guards in the region in senior Donald Sloan and several interchangeable, physical post players that can rebound and defend. They are also tournament savvy, as A&M has won its first-round game four years in a row. Texas A&M has all the tools necessary to make a long run to the Elite 8 or even the Final Four. So why are the Aggies in this category? Because they are facing one of the more proficient 3-point shooting teams in the country in Utah State. If the USU Aggies are hot, the A&M Aggies will go home early.

Upset special: No. 9 Louisville over No. 1 Duke, second round
Obviously I’m skeptical about Duke being back to being Duke. Louisville seems woefully underseeded as a No. 9, as they defeated West Regional No. 1 Syracuse twice and won 11 games in a tough Big East. While the Cardinals are ugly at times, they have two elements that have given Duke fits in the past – height on the perimeter and athleticism everywhere. Duke is a skilled team, but not a team of greyhounds. If Louisville can dictate pace and fluster Duke with its size, its bye-bye Blue Devils.

Lead-pipe lock: The guard play will be outstanding
It’s been said that the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s tournament. If that’s true, then the South Regional is ground zero. All the key players, Duke (Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith), Villanova (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes), Baylor (Dunn and Carter), A&M (Sloan) have elite-level guards, while teams like Notre Dame (Tory Jackson) and California (Jerome Randle) have little guys that can play huge. Should be fun to watch.

East Regional breakdown

Now to the East, where the youngest team in the tournament is the region’s No. 1 seed.

Overall theme: Well-renowned coaches looking to get over “the hump”
The coaches of the top two seeds, Kentucky’s John Calipari and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, are two of the more respected coaches in the game. They’ve combined to win 1,090 games and have combined for three Final Four appearances. However, neither coach has won a national title and only one (Calipari) has even been in the championship game. This year could either boost their legacies or cement them as guys who couldn’t quite win the big one. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan, who has never been to a Final Four, is in a similar boat as well.

Watch out for: No. 2 West Virginia
While Huggins’ teams have underachieved in the tournament in the past – last year’s first-round flameout being the latest – the stars seem aligned for a long Mountaineer run this year. They are the No. 2 seed in a region where the No. 1 seed (Kentucky) has star players barely able to vote and a No. 3 seed (New Mexico) that plays in a mid-major conference. The Mountaineers have length, size, and athleticism in the forward and wing guard spots and can play a variety of styles. There’s no reason for WVU not to at least make the Elite 8.

Stay away from: No. 12 Cornell
This seems kind of a copout, but the chic “12-over-5″ upset pick has involved the Big Red beating No. 5 Temple. I get a bit wary when everyone jumps on an upset pick – makes me think twice about its validity. Cornell is getting its props for almost beating Kansas in December but it couldn’t make it through the Ivy League unscathed, losing to conference doormat Penn at one point. Temple has 29 wins in an underrated Atlantic 10 and has plenty of athleticism on the perimeter. Don’t see the Ivy League kids winning this one.

High risk, high reward: The Washington-Marquette winner
Another kind of goofy pick, but the winner of the 11-6 matchup between the Huskies and the Golden Eagles are set up for a run into the second weekend. Marquette is guard heavy with an elite scorer in forward Lazar Hayward – two things that tend to work in the favor of teams in the tourney. Washington also has an elite scoring forward in Quincy Pondexter and a point guard that pushes tempo well in Isaiah Thomas. Whoever wins this game can beat New Mexico in round two and give West Virginia a run, but picking the winner is a crapshoot to say the least.

Upset special: No. 10 Missouri over No. 7 Clemson
Another weak 10-7 call, but there aren’t any other upsets that I think are compelling. Not into Wofford over Wisconsin in the 13-4, already have discussed the 12-5 and 11-6 games, etc. Mizzou coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo, “40 Minutes of Hell” approach has yielded dividends in the past, getting UAB to the Sweet 16 as a nine-seed in 2004 and getting the Tigers to the Elite 8 a year ago. Oliver Purnell, on the other hand, as seen Clemson lose in the first round as a higher seed two years in a row, as a 5 to Villanova in ’08 and as a 7 to Michigan last year. I’m feeling a hat trick.

Lead-pipe lock: There will be some fun basketball played in games not involving Wisconsin.
Between the up-tempo teams that I’ve mentioned early in this thread to the spectacle that Kentucky freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins create with their soon-to-be-NBA-lottery-picks skill, this will be fun. Kentucky has the most talent in the region, but their youth could hold them back from getting to the Final 4. As for the Badgers, watch at your own risk.

Division shifts affect power teams in non-football sports

The division shifts in football got most of the attention by the CIF-Southern Section on Monday, but several other powerful local teams in other sports were impacted by the changes.

One of the teams most impacted was the Redlands East Valley girls volleyball team. The three-time defending CIF-SS champions are being bumped up a class from Division 2-AA to 1-A. The Baseline and Citrus Belt leagues were bumped up in softball from Division 2 to Division 1 and the Citrus Belt was bumped up from Division 2 to Division 1 in girls soccer.

The High Desert also saw its soccer prowess recognized as two-time defending Division 4 girls champion Sultana moves into Division 3, along with CIF-State Southern California Division II regional champion Granite Hills. The boys soccer teams got a bump too, with the Mojave River League moving up to Division 4 and the Desert Sky League going to Division 5.

Strauss coming back after all?

Harold Strauss might not be done as football coach at Colton High School after all.

Strauss, who retired this past season to take on full-time duties as athletic director, is thinking seriously about throwing his hat back in the ring as football coach after issues arose in the hiring of his successor.

“We had 21 applicants, but we just laid off 141 teachers as a school district,” Strauss said. “It’s hard to hire a coach to a teaching position and justify it with that going on. It just might not be the right time to leave this position.”

The Colton Unified School District is redrafting the ad for the position. Depending on the verbiage of the position, Strauss said he’s “70-30″ in favor of reapplying.

“I think I would have to reapply because the job has already been flown, but I don’t know for sure,” Strauss said. “Depending on what the school district releases, I’m interested in coming back. The new school opens in the fall of 2011 and when that happens, teaching jobs will come back and hopefully that will make things easier. But it might be a situation where an extra year or two is necessary.”

Playoff realignment divisions

A quick cheat sheet of what it will look like the next two years.

Football playoff divisions for 2010 and 2011

CENTRAL DIVISION (one at-large)
Mt. Baldy (4 teams)
San Andreas (4 teams)
Desert Valley (3 teams)
Inland Valley (4 teams)

EASTERN DIVISION (one at-large)
Desert Sky (3 teams)
Mojave River (3 teams)
Sunkist (3 teams)
Mountain Pass (3 teams)
Sunbelt (3 teams)

EAST VALLEY DIVISION (four at-large)
Ambassador (2 teams)
De Anza (2 teams)
Mountain Valley (2 teams)
Academy (2 teams)
Alpha (2 teams)
Frontier (2 teams)

INLAND DIVISION (zero at-large)
Baseline (3 teams)
Citrus Belt (3 teams)
Sierra (3 teams)
Big 8 (4 teams)
Southwestern (3 teams)

Baseline, Sierra head back to Inland Division

The playoff alignments for various sports, including football, for the 2010-2012 seasons were released by the CIF-SS offices Monday, with some interesting changes in football.

The Baseline and Sierra Leagues, which were in the Central Division the last two years, will swap back into the Inland Division to play against the Citrus Belt League, the Big 8 and the Southwestern Leagues. The Inland Valley League will swap out, moving back to the Central Division with the expanded San Andreas and Mt. Baldy Leagues and the Desert Valley League, which moves up from the Eastern Division. The Sunbelt League switches places with the Desert Valley, moving into the Eastern Division.

These changes will make life tough on the Baseline League, which ripped up the Central Division in both seasons in it. Three of the four semifinalists during the last two years were Baseline teams, with the Central Division title game being an all-Baseline affair (Rancho Cucamonga over Upland in 2008 and Upland over Los Osos in 2009) both seasons.

Another change that will impact the Baseline is the zero at-large entries in the Inland Division. Considering that the Central champion this past year, Upland, was an at-large entry from the Baseline, a brutal league will become even more cutthroat.
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West Regional breakdown

Now we are off to the West. While the Midwest is filled with giants and the prohibitive championship favorite, the West could be, as the cliche’ goes, wild.

Overall theme:
This region is pretty much a free-for-all, as the higher-seeded teams come in slumping. No. 1 Syracuse has lost its last two games, at Louisville and against Georgetown in the Big East tourney, and might be without center Arinze Onuaku. No. 2 Kansas State struggled a bit down the stretch, losing to Kansas twice and at home to Iowa State. No. 3 Pittsburgh lost its Big East tourney opener to Notre Dame while Vanderbilt was eliminated early in the SEC tourney. You get the picture.

Watch out for: No. 7 BYU
The Cougars have suffered their share of heartbreak in the tourney over the years, as Danny Ainge’s miracle shot against Notre Dame in 1981 is the last time they went to the Sweet 16 – until this year perhaps. BYU has perhaps the best pure scorer in the field in Jimmer Fredette and a first-round game against a questionable Florida team. With shaky Kansas State in the second round, BYU has a good chance to make it to the Sweet 16 in its backyard of Salt Lake City. Should the Cougars make it there, they could be a Cinderella Final Four squad.

Stay away from: No. 4 Vanderbilt
The last time the Commodores were a No. 4 seed was just two years ago, when they were embarrassed by Siena in the first round. Vanderbilt comes into this tournament limping a bit, and a 30-4 Murray State team is hardly the pushover that it was hoping for in a No. 13 seed. Vandy could lose right away and if it doesn’t, it will have its hands full with the Butler-UTEP winner. I wouldn’t put too many sawbucks on the ‘Dores right now.

High risk, high reward: No. 9 Florida State
The Seminoles haven’t won a tournament game since 1998 and their first-round game is no picnic, as they draw tournament veteran Gonzaga. However, the Seminoles have a lot of size, especially in the interior, and play defense more like a Big Ten team than an ACC one. With a Syracuse team of questionable health looming if it beats Gonzaga, don’t be shocked if FSU is still standing in the Round of 16.

Upset special: No. 12 UTEP over No. 5 Butler, first round
I could have gone a million ways with this one. I’ve hinted at a couple of the other possibilites (Murray State over Vanderbilt, FSU over Syracuse, BYU over Kansas State), leaving this upset as the winner. UTEP boatraced Conference USA this year, going 15-1 in the conference behind guard Randy Culpepper, who averaged nearly 20 points per game. Butler did the same in the lesser Horizon League, but mid-majors with major seeds tend to have uneven results (see Drake, 2008). Add that to the 12-5 upset phenomenon that tends to happen and there ya go.

Lead-pipe lock: Pittsburgh will make it to the Sweet 16
The No. 3-seeded Panthers are a steady force in this wildly unpredictable bracket, as they have made it to the tournament’s second week five times since 2002. Pitt is physical down low, has athletically erratic guard play and a wing player that can jump out of the gym. It’s pretty much the same every year. They don’t make it past the Sweet 16 often, as last year was the first in their current run, but they are good until then. You can pick Pitt a couple rounds and feel pretty secure about it.

Midwest Regional breakdown

As some of you know, every March I go absolutely crazy when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Kind of a weird field this year without defending champion North Carolina, UCLA, Arizona (first miss since 1984) and UConn. However, it’s literally my favorite time of the year and I’ll do my annual region-by-region breakdown. These are for recreational use only, but if you are tempted, I make a profit on my tourney pools a year ago.
Now to the Midwest Region:

Overall theme:
Coaching heavyweights everywhere. In this region alone, there are four coaches – Bill Self (No. 1 Kansas), Gary Williams (No. 4 Maryland), Tom Izzo (No. 5 Michigan State) and Steve Fisher (No. 11 San Diego State) that have won national titles while four others – Thad Matta (No. 2 Ohio State), John Thompson III (No. 3 Georgetown), Lon Kruger (No. 8 UNLV) and Paul Hewitt (No. 10 Georgia Tech) – have led their teams to the Final Four. Half of these coaches have coached on the sport’s biggest stage, so don’t expect much in the way of jitters.

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