For the second consecutive season, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday hoops bonanza has seen the nation’s No. 1 ranked team lose in a showdown of top-ranked teams at the Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts. On both occasions, the team on the losing end was Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), but this year the scenario was a bit different because the Eagles were unbeaten coming in and the No. 2 ranked team also lost at the same event. Check out the new national pecking order with results through games on MLK Monday and our explanation for placing Curie (Chicago) as the newly crowned No. 1.
By Ronnie Flores & Mark Tennis
Contributing: Doug Huff
It usually takes a superb performance to knock off the nation’s top-ranked boys basketball team in the Student Sports FAB 50 rankings. Usually, the other team is ranked as well and even then there is usually some other factor involved with the No. 1 team going down: lineup changes, travel, coming off another big win, playing an unfamiliar foe from another region of the country or a bad matchup.
Unlike most other team sports, one individual can make a big difference in high school basketball. Never was this more evident than on Monday when No. 6 Curie (Chicago) took on No. 1 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) in a showdown at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. On paper, Curie faced a daunting task taking on a team with six seniors committed to Division I colleges and arguably the best junior in the country, LSU-bound Ben Simmons. Curie countered with a solid cast of players surrounding 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander and on this particular day, the Kansas-bound power forward was the one player the Condors needed to pull off a 73-69 upset victory.
Alexander’s team trailed by double-digits in the fourth quarter, but Curie caught the Eagles behind three monster dunks by the No. 2 player in the latest Mr. Basketball USA National Tracker. Alexander also made 8-of-8 free throws in the game and demoralized Montverde’s spirit down the stretch with a conventional 3-point play and a couple of big-time offensive rebound putbacks. Not only was Alexander’s performance a signature one for a National Player of the Year candidate, but one of the best individual performances we’ve seen on a big stage against a highly-ranked team in recent memory.
MLK Monday was a great day for Chicago high school basketball as another Windy City team, Whitney Young, took down the nation’s No. 2 team — Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) — at the Hoophall Classic. Whitney Young has a dominant big man of its own in Duke bound Jahlil Okafor, last season’s Student Sports Junior Player of the Year. It wasn’t a dominant individual performance that took down the No. 2 Warriors, but more of a team defensive effort. The Dolphins outscored Oak Hill 21-10 in the fourth period to pull out a 53-50 victory. Whitney Young out-rebounded Oak Hill, 46-32, and got a superb effort from Georgetown-bound forward Paul White (19 points, 11 rebounds).
With Montverde Academy defeating previously unbeaten and No. 3 White Station (Memphis) on Saturday night 73-60 in the title game of the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo., a breakdown of this week’s new No. 1 team obviously needs some explaining. Our new No. 1 team is Curie of Chicago and here’s why:
The Condors not only knocked off previous No. 1 Montverde Academy, they beat a team that was an overwhelming No. 1. Montverde Academy was the defending FAB 50 national champion and owned a 23-game winning streak against the likes of No. 5 White Station, No. 8 Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.), beating that team twice, No. 9 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), No. 10 Northside Christian Academy (Charlotte, N.C.) and No. 16 Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Curie hasn’t played the overall schedule of the Eagles, but for now deserves ratings credit for knocking off the team with the most glittering resume.
And it’s not as if Curie came out of nowhere or isn’t a team to be reckoned with. Curie has one loss – a 73-66 setback to No. 32 Muskegon (Muskegon, Mich.) – in a game in which Alexander sat out. Based on his showing vs. Montverde Academy, it’s safe to say Alexander would have made a difference in that game. Curie also owns a win over No. 37 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and could meet up with Okafor and Whitney Young in the IHSA Class 4A sectionals down the line. The Condors won’t have an easy road to go unbeaten the rest of the way.
No. 3 Rainier Beach (Seattle) and No. 4 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) were also given consideration for the top spot, but it was a relatively easy decision to place Montverde Academy No. 2 because of its overall strength of schedule. Rainier Beach was given the most consideration besides Curie because it owns a win over the Whitney Young team that just beat Oak Hill Academy, as well as the Bishop Gorman team Curie beat. Rainier Beach, however, may not face another Whitney Young type team the rest of the way and Curie gets the credit for knocking off a consensus No. 1.
The best victories so for Mater Dei are Monday’s 79-67 win over No. 40 Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) and a 63-59 victory over No. 34 Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) in the championship game of the Tarkanian Classic. Mater Dei’s strength of schedule so far doesn’t warrant a No. 1 ranking, but the season is far from over. Coach Gary McKnight’s club will play Whitney Young at its own Nike Extravaganza on February 1 and still has to navigate through the new CIF Southern Section Open Division and potentially the CIF Southern California Open Division playoffs. If the Monarchs are still unbeaten after that gauntlet, they could hop Rainier Beach by the time they potentially meet Bishop O’Dowd again for the CIF Open Division state title.
Updated Student Sports FAB 50
Boys Basketball National Team Rankings
(Fourth poll of the 2013-14 regular season; Through games played on Monday, January 20; Previous ranking in parentheses)
|2||1||Montverde Academy||(Montverde, Fla.)||18-1|
|3||4||Rainier Beach||(Seattle, Wash.)||15-0|
|4||5||Mater Dei||(Santa Ana, Calif.)||19-0|
|7||2||Oak Hill Academy||(Mouth of Wilson, Va.)||23-2|
|9||10||Paul VI||(Fairfax, Va.)||16-3|
|10||11||Northside Christian Academy||(Charlotte, N.C.)||18-1|
|11||18||Northside Christian Academy||(Charlotte, N.C.)||16-1|
|12||14||La Lumiere||(La Porte, Ind.)||15-2|
|13||16||Findlay Prep||(Henderson, Nev.)||21-3|
|14||17||Apple Valley||(Apple Valley, Minn.)||15-1|
|15||18||St. John's College||(Washington, D.C.)||13-1|
|18||15||Prime Prep Academy||(Dallas, Texas)||16-5|
|19||21||Blue Valley Northwest||(Overland Park, Kan.)||6-1|
|21||29||Cardinal Hayes||(Bronx, N.Y.)||16-0|
|22||22||Archbishop Carroll||(Radnor, Pa.)||12-2|
|24||32||Greater Atlanta Christian||(Norcross, Ga.)||19-0|
|25||30||Arlington Country Day||Jacksonville, Fla.)||16-3|
|27||27||Orlando Christian Prep||(Orlando, Fla.)||20-0|
|29||43||Marian Catholic||(Chicago Heights, Ill.)||14-1|
|31||13||Sunrise Christian Academy||(Bel Aire, Kan.)||10-3|
|34||36||Bishop O'Dowd||(Oakland, Calif.)||10-4|
|35||39||Corona del Sol||(Tempe, Ariz.)||18-1|
|36||NR||DeMatha Catholic||(Hyattsville, Md.)||15-1|
|37||37||Bishop Gorman||(Las Vegas)||14-4|
|44||NR||East Side||(Newark, N.J.)||10-0|
|45||NR||Brookfield Central||(Brookfield, Wis.)||12-0|
|47||NR||Redondo Union||(Redondo Beach, Calif.)||14-3|
|48||NR||Scotlandville||(Baton Rouge, La.)||22-1|
|50||NR||Sierra Canyon||(Chatsworth, Calif.)||17-2|
Dropped Out: Previous No. 9 Germantown (Germantown, Wis.); No. 23 St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.); No. 28 Carmel (Carmel, Ind.); No. 38 Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.); No. 41 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.); No. 45 Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.); No. 48 Edwardsville (Edwardsville, Ill.); No. 49 Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.).
Bubble Teams: Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) 16-2; Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.) 11-0; Central (Omaha, Neb.) 12-1; Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 14-1; Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) 13-1; Denver East (Denver, Colo.) 11-3; De Soto (De Soto, Texas) 17-3; Eastside (Paterson, N.J.) 12-1; Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins, Colo.) 12-0; Germantown (Germantown, Wis.) 13-1; Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 21-2; Hamilton (Memphis, Tenn.) 10-2; Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.) 13-1; Johnson (St. Paul, Minn.) 14-2; Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 10-2; Monte Vista (Danville, Calif.) 16-0; Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) 8-1; New Castle (New Castle, Pa.) 14-0; North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 13-1; O’Connell (Washington, D.C.) 10-6; Parkview (Little Rock, Ark.) 13-1; Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 8-4; Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 17-3; Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Ill.) 14-1; St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) 9-2; St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) 9-1; Washington (Charles Town, W. Va.) 11-0; Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) 15-4; Zanesville (Zanesville, Ohio) 12-0; Zion-Benton (Zion, Ill.) 15-1.
Note: The STUDENT SPORTS FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 14 years ago.