A look at the “Final Four” matchups in San Diego’s Open and D1 divisions
March Madness started a couple of weeks early this year right here in San Diego.
A slew of upsets in San Diego’s playoffs turned the best of predictions (including mine) on their ears.
Now that the dust has settled, let’s look at the semifinal matchups in the CIF divisions.
Semifinals: Torrey Pines at Saint Augustine; La Costa Canyon at El Camino.
Time: Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The skinny: Both games are rematches from the regular season. The Saints defeated the Falcons 60-55 in the finals of the West Hills tournament in December. El Camino swept the seasons series with LCC, although the Mavs played both games without the services of junior PG Tommy McCarthy.
What to look for: In the first matchup, the Cyrus-Kell matchup (especially when St. Augustine is on offense) obviously is the headliner, but much of this battle hinges on the point guard play of both teams. Zack Wagner is an experienced floor general, and he will square off against sophomore Eric Monroe and freshman Otto Taylor. Whichever team controls that matchup likely will control the outcome of the game.
In the second game, prevailing wisdom would tell you the pressure is on the Mavs to avenge earlier losses. However, the added dynamic of McCarthy’s return shifts some of the pressure on the Wildcats as to how they will defend him. Given that the total margin of both games, 12, is smaller than McCarthy’s point-per-game average, expect this game to go down to the wire.
Predictions: I see the Saints advancing to the Open finals in a game decided by 3-5 points. In the second game, I expect we will need extra time to decide the winner, but in the end, I think LCC wins in a nail-biter by 2.
Games: Morse at Escondido, San Marcos at Mission Bay
Time: Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The skinny: Morse and Escondido did not meet in the regular season, but played an entertaining fall league game at the Mt. Miguel Invitational, with the Cougars winning in OT. Morse was without the services of Justin Davis in that affair, and Escondido played without sophomore guard Marcus Hentley. San Marcos and Mission Bay have not played.
What to look for: Morse and Escondido are virtually mirror images of one another in terms of personnel. Both have very good lead guards (Jahmere Mitchell for Morse, Khy Kabellis for Esco), solid off-guards (Kenny McDonald for Morse, Hentley for Esco) and size in the middle (Davis and Brandon McCoy for Morse; Keegan Cummins and Matt Duniphan for Escondido). For Escondido, keeping Justin Davis off of the boards will be critical, and for Morse, neutralizing Khy Kabellis, one of the region’s top junior point guards, is key.
In San Marcos Mission Bay, look for San Marcos to employ the same trap strategy it has against other top point guards, including Westview’s Marcus Graves and Escondido’s Kabellis, against sophomore standout Justin Moore. On its defensive end, the Bucs will need big games from Lamarriel Taylor and Isaiah Milan to slow down Johnny McWilliams and Ben Perez, the major source of offense for the Knights. The other X-factors will be San Marcos’ Trace Dimeff and Mission Bay’s lanky center Alex Wilbourn. If Dimeff can continue his hot shooting for the Knights, they are very tough to defend. Wilbourn will have the height advantage at 6’9”, but he is rail thin, so he will have to summon all his strength to take advantage of the height differential.
Predictions: Mission Bay has been up and down all season. Some nights they look like the best team in San Diego, and then there are nights like the blowout losses to Cathedral and University City, when they are totally beatable. The same can be said about San Marcos, though they were more consistent for longer stretches of the year. I see the Knights pulling off the upset by 5 points.
As for Morse and Escondido, I said on Twitter that I believed Morse was the most dangerous team in D1, and they have lived up to it with a stingy defense and timely perimeter shooting. But Escondido was underseeded as a 9 seed and has already taken down the top seed in the bracket, Eastlake. With that said, I see the Tigers heading up to North County and pulling out a 2-point win.
But don’t take any of these predictions to the banks.