With the DICK’S Sporting Goods High School Nationals a little more than a month away, here’s a primer on who’s in, who’s possibly in and who’s not likely in.
Organizers use USA TODAY High School Sports’ Super 25 boys basketball rankings to help determine the eight teams that are invited, but that’s not the final word. Most state associations don’t allow basketball teams to play following their state tournament. The choice is among the highest-ranked teams from state associations that will allow teams to play along with the likely independents. All games are televised among the various ESPN networks.
Who’s in, no questions asked: No. 2 Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Not only do the Eagles have a 28-1 record, but their regular season is over and they have a great draw in Ben Simmons, the No. 1 player in the 2015 class. They’ve signed on to play in the DICK’S Nationals and there’s no reason for them to drop in the rankings until the tournament.
Who’s in, almost definitely: No. 1 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). The Warriors are 42-0 and provided they don’t lose more than once in their final three games against the likes of Genesis Prep, a highly unlikely happening, OHA will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
No. 5 Huntington-St. Joseph Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) is also a likely shoo-in. The Fighting Irish only have two regular-season games remaining and would have to implode at this point to have their invite withdrawn.
No. 8 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) . The Pilots are 26-2 and have been slaying teams lately with only two games left. They’re pretty much a stone-cold lock.
Who’s not in, sadly, but probably: No. 3 St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) and No. 4 Callaway (Jackson, Miss.). No matter how much we want to see the unbeaten Fighting Irish, the Ohio High School Athletic Association won’t allow SVSM — or any other state champion, for that matter — to play in an event after the state tournament. Sorry, Malik Newman and crew at Callaway, the same rule is in place in Mississippi. Now, that doesn’t mean a school couldn’t appeal those rules to the state associations, but that’s likely a dead end. However, remember last year, when Rainier Beach (Seattle) threatened to sue and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association suddenly had a change of heart? Well, that could happen elsewhere. Also, SVSM is LeBron’s old school, so pressure could be applied. Just saying.
So…, that still leaves four teams to be determined.
Who has a good shot: No. 6 Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.). The Florida High School Athletic Association has approved its champions playing in the DICK’S Nationals. The unbeaten Tigers aren’t there yet, however, as they must win two games to win the state title, starting with a state 7A semifinal with North Port on Friday. Do that, and they’re in.
No. 10 Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach) is 27-2 with a good schedule, and as a state independent, it can go to a postseason event. The only thing likely standing in the way for the Dolphins is the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association finals and a likely matchup Saturday with Paul VI (Fairfax). While the Panthers are 16-13, they’re dangerous, as evidenced by their defeats of DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Who has a good, but slightly less good, shot: No. 13 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale), like Ely, has to win its state championship, but even if it does, organizers might not want two teams from Florida. Gibbons’ only loss was to Ely. The Chiefs play two more games, beginning with a state 5A semifinal Friday with Gibbs (St. Petersburg).
No. 16 Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) and No. 21 Greensboro Day School (Greensboro, N.C.). One of these two is likely in, provided it wins the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association title. The catch is that they will likely play each other in the NCISAA 3A championship Saturday. The teams have split their meetings this year.
No. 25 Rainier Beach (Seattle) and somebody from New York City. The precedent is already there for Rainier Beach to go to the event, though the Vikings didn’t help their cause by not playing well in last year’s DICK’S Nationals. The Vikings still have to win their state title, not an easy task, and get an invite.
There’s also support for a team from New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League to play in the event. If nothing else, that would draw more interest for the event, with the preliminaries at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) and the championship at Madison Square Garden. The problem is, the PSAL hasn’t said yes yet and there are always politics at play. If we had to guess, it’s going to be the PSAL champion, which will likely be Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn), Lincoln (Brooklyn) or Wings Academy (Bronx), if the PSAL decides to play along.