Posted On: 02/13/18 5:25 PM

With the CIF-SS Open Division committee cutting the bracket in half this postseason from 16 to eight teams it makes for a much stronger field in Division I.

Teams like Oak Park, Harvard-Westlake, Pasadena, JSerra, Chino Hills and Corona Centennial now have the opportunity to compete for a Southern Section title.

The new format comes with a caveat, however, as not all teams that qualify for the Division I playoffs are guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs like those of the Open.

The Division I playoffs begin Wednesday and here are some things to watch for in the field.

The Darkhorses

Gardena Serra is on the road at Long Beach Poly Wednesday and has the makeup to take the Jackrabbits down to the wire. Doctor Bradley, a 6-foot-5 athletic freak of a guard, could pose a match-up nightmare for this undersized Poly team. Serra plays and uptempo style that creates more possessions in a 32-minute game, and if they can take care of the basketball and make shots, the Cavaliers could advance.

Serra guard Doctor Bradley the ability to push the Cavaliers deep into the playoffs.

Windward got one of the toughest first-round draws in all playoff divisions outside of the Open Division with a road game at Dominguez. If there’s one guy who can will a team to an upset, it’s Wildcats’ UCLA-bound forward Jules Bernard. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior has the size, strength, athleticism and ball skills to pose a tough cover for the Dons. Role players the likes of Jared Barnett, Corey Silverman-Lloyd and Marcus Joseph will play a big part in if Windward can advance.

Rancho Verde has all the necessary pieces to pull off a few upsets in the postseason. Tory San Antonio is back healthy, Jaxen Turner is a big time point guard (and defensive back, for that matter), and Jaishon Forte is one of the most under-the-radar seniors in SoCal. One of the things that stands out most about Rancho Verde is its team defense. The Mustangs are allowing opponents to score just 49.4 points per game agains them on average.

La Mirada enters the postseason as winners of four of its last five games, including a big Suburban League victory over Mayfair. The Matadores are led by two seniors, Danny Cabrera and Nick Colosi, who are complimented by a solid group of high IQ players. First-year coach Randy Oroñoz has done a stellar job of regrouping his guys after cutting three starters after they violated team rules. The Matadores play an unselfish brand of basketball that bodes well for their playoff chances. La Mirada and Rancho Verde will face off Wednesday night in Moreno Valley.