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Top 25 California boys basketball 2023-24 preseason rankings presented by SBLive Sports/Sports Illustrated

There appears no reason that defending CIF Open Division champion Harvard-Westlake to be removed from perch;

For basketball purists, it was a thing of beauty watching Harvard-Westlake play the game last season. 

Balance. Depth. Shooting. Defense. Ball-sharing. 

Skilled players dedicated to the program overcame a setback at the section level — the Wolverines didn't make it out of pool play — but regrouped in a big way to breeze through the Southern California regional. In the SoCal final, they dethroned defending champion Corona Centennial with a masterful 19-point road win, before taking the state title at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento with a 75-65 triumph over St. Joseph-Santa Maria

Afterward, rather than fly home separately, they gladly took a six-hour bus trip home just to stay together a little longer. 

"Win or lose, they want to be together," Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo said. 

Considering there wasn't a senior on the roster, the same group is back together to start the 2023-24 season. There's not a single solid reason to think they'll be knocked from their perch at No. 1. 

There's 24 teams right below them that could rise up and snatch the title from their grasp. But it's going to take a special effort. 

The Southern California talent alone — Rebibo called it a "gauntlet" — is a huge challenge for Harvard-Westlake, and the coach of Northern California's top team thinks the top half of the state, "is stronger than it's been in years." 

"It's not just at the top, but across the board," said Riordan coach Joey Curtin, whose team is ranked fifth in the state thanks in part to an influx of college-bound transfers to go with some excellent young talent. "There's really good quality teams throughout the region." 

Southern California play gets going this week and Northern California teams start the week after.