Here's a division-by-division look at the CIF Northern regional playoffs, which begin Wednesday.
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Bishop O'Dowd (26-4), No. 2 Capital Christian-Sacramento (27-3), No. 4 Newark Memorial (24-7).
WHOM TO WATCH: Ivan Rabb (O'Dowd), Paris Austin (O'Dowd), D.J. Wilson (Capital Christian), Joey Frenchwood (Newark Memorial), Tyrell Alcorn (El Cerrito), Ben Kone (Archbishop Mitty).
INSIDE THE FIELD: The bracket isn't quite as deep as last season when Aaron Gordon led Archbishop Mitty-San Jose to the inaugural NorCal Open Division title. But the East Bay is well represented with O'Dowd, Newark Memorial and No. 6 El Cerrito all making the six-team field. ... El Cerrito is the only team selected that didn't win a section title, but the Gauchos played even with No. 1 O'Dowd for a half in the North Coast Section Division III final. ... O'Dowd and Newark Memorial were also were part of the Open field last year, but bowed out in the opening round. ... Since losing seven games in a row in December, Newark has won 21 straight. O'Dowd also hasn't lost since the 2013 calendar year, a 21-game streak that includes a 86-60 blowout over No.
SLEEPER PICK: Archbishop Mitty
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Bishop O'Dowd
-- Stephanie Hammon
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Monte Vista (28-1), No. 2 Jesuit-Carmichael (28-3), No. 5 McClymonds (19-8)
WHOM TO WATCH: Trevor John (Monte Vista), Jerry Karczewski (San Ramon Valley), Patrick Marr (De La Salle), Rodney Pope (Freedom), Isaiah Bailey (Jesuit), Deion Ellis (McClymonds)
INSIDE THE FIELD: Many thought Monte Vista had a chance to succeed in the Open Division, but the Mustangs didn't automatically qualify and instead opted to try for the program's first state title in their enrollment division. ... Three of the bracket's 13 teams are from the East Bay Athletic League, including a No. 4 San Ramon Valley team that handed Monte Vista its only loss of the season in overtime. ... No. 7 De La Salle's defensive style makes the Spartans a tough matchup, though they'll need to become road warriors to pull off a deep run. ... It would be a major upset if the East Bay isn't represented in the NorCal title game as six of the top eight seeds are from the NCS and Oakland sections. ... No. 2 Jesuit was working on an unbeaten season when it was defeated by Newark Memorial on MLK Day.
SLEEPER PICK: De La Salle
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Monte Vista
-- Stephanie Hammon
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Folsom (29-2), No. 2 Concord (22-8), No. 4 Serra-San Mateo (21-8)
WHOM TO WATCH: Jordan Ford (Folsom), Siaan Rojas (Concord), Alex Van Dyke (Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove), Danny Mahoney (Serra), Joe Giacchetti (Leigh-San Jose), Caleb Baskett (Washington)
INSIDE THE FIELD: Folsom has the explosive star in Ford that could lead it to a title. The 6-foot sophomore point guard is averaging 22.8 points a game this season and scored 33 points in a 79-62 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game win over Cosumnes Oaks. ... Concord was impressive in its near-upset of Newark Memorial in the North Coast Section Division II title game. Before that loss, the Minutemen had won nine in a row. ... Cosumnes Oaks has much the same story as Concord. The Wolfpack, the No. 6 seed in the SJS Division II playoffs, won two close games in the quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the finals. ... Serra advanced to the Central Coast Section Open Division finals, where it lost 68-60 to Archbishop Mitty-San Jose. ... Ninth-seeded Washington and 11th-seeded Las Lomas has different familiarity with the Northern regional playoffs. The Huskies have not reached the tournament in at least 10 years, while the Knights have competed in it two of the past three years.
SLEEPER PICK: Serra
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Folsom
-- Phil Jensen
WHO'S HOT: No. 4 Burlingame (26-4), No. 5 Fairfield (25-6), No. 7 Aragon-San Mateo (20-9), No. 8 Enterprise-Redding (19-8)
WHOM TO WATCH: David Parsons (Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco), Chris Hansen (Campolindo), Jiday Ugbaja (Archbishop Riordan-S.F), Frankie Ferrari (Burlingame), DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes (Fairfield), Buster Souza (Acalanes)
INSIDE THE FIELD: Three of the top four seeds played in the Central Coast Section's Open Division playoffs, and none of the three (No. 1 Sacred Heart Cathedral, No. 3 Archbishop Riordan and No. 4 Burlingame) reached the finals in that tournament. ... David Parsons of Sacred Heart Cathedral sank a 70-foot shot at the buzzer to win a CCS Open Division quarterfinal game ... Campolindo is led by the inside-outside combination of Hansen and Andrew Zolintakis. But it will miss Matt O'Reilly, who suffered a broken arm in the NCS semifinals and is out for the season, said Campolindo coach Matt Watson on March 11. ... This is the first year since 2007 that Acalanes has been in the Division III Northern regional playoffs.
SLEEPER PICK: Fairfield
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Sacred Heart Cathedral
-- Phil Jensen
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Moreau Catholic (24-6), No. 2 Salesian (20-14), No. 6 Natomas-Sacramento (19-8), No. 7 Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton
WHOM TO WATCH: Jose Flores (St. Patrick-St. Vincent), Jonathan Galloway (Salesian), Brandon Lawrence (Moreau Catholic), Damari Milstead (Moreau Catholic), Michael Shoemaker (Corning), Kaijae Yee-Stephens (Santa Cruz),
INSIDE THE FIELD: Moreau Catholic, with its stirring comeback win over Salesian in the NCS Division I championship game, earned the No. 1 seed and a first round bye. The Mariners have a young team, but the time might be right for them to make a run at the Northern regional title. Should Moreau Catholic beat either Encina Prep or Corning, a third round game against battle-tested St. Patrick-St. Vincent looms. ... Salesian played some of its best basketball down the stretch with wins over El Cerrito and SPSV. and likely won't be tested until the regional semifinals, potentially against either Half Moon Bay or Natomas. ... Natomas enters the state playoffs with momentum, having won 10 straight, including the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title. ... Division IV has some of the top scorers in Northern California, including guard Kaijae Yee-Stephens of Santa Cruz (20.8 ppg) and forward Michael Shoemaker of Corning (19.2 ppg).
SLEEPER PICK: Natomas
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Moreau Catholic
-- Curtis Pashelka
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Central Catholic-Modesto (25-6), No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame (27-5), No. 4 Branson-Ross (25-6), No. 5 Liberty Christian-Redding (25-4)
WHOM TO WATCH: Jonathan Boddie (Central Catholic), Ethan Eads (Central Catholic), Temidayo Yussuf (St. Joseph Notre Dame), Lamont Banks (St. Joseph Notre Dame), Armani Collins (Stuart Hall), Luke Jordan (Forest Lake Christian), Taylor Walton (Branson)
INSIDE THE FIELD: Central Catholic earned the No. 1 seed after it advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game, where the Raiders ran into a loaded Capital Christian-Sacramento team and lost by 21 points. Still, Central Catholic has depth, with five players who average nine points or more per game. ... Few Division V teams enter the state playoffs as battle-tested as two-time defending Northern regional champion St. Joseph Notre Dame, which not only won the Tri-County Athletic League tournament title, but won its last two NCS playoff games by one point each, including a controversial 49-48 win over Branson in the Division V title game. Not many teams will be able to match up with Temidayo Yussuf, either. ... Branson is on the other side of the bracket, but will be plenty motivated to reach the Northern regional final for a possible rematch with the Pilots.
SLEEPER PICK: Branson
PREDICTED CHAMPION: St. Joseph Notre Dame
-- Curtis Pashelka