Who's likely in and out for the GEICO High School Basketball Nationals

Ten years ago, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), with a starting lineup that included three future NBA players, defeated Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) for the first National High School Invitational title in Rockville, Md.

A decade later, the tournament has traveled from Rockville to Baltimore to New York City. The sponsors have included ESPN, DICK’S Sporting Goods, and this year, GEICO. The one constant is been the quality of the teams and TV coverage by ESPN networks.

The 2018 GEICO High School Basketball Nationals are scheduled for March 29-March 31 at Christ the King High in Middle Village, N.Y.

There will be eight boys teams, with four independent teams likely to make the trip along with four state champions. USA TODAY’s Super 25 rankings are used in the selection process, but are not the only determining factor.

Only five primary state high school associations allow teams to compete: Arizona; Florida; Georgia; Utah; and Washington. However, independent teams and independent state associations also have allowed teams to compete from Indiana, New Jersey, Nevada, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas.

Who’s likely to go

Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) is the No. 1 team and unbeaten, so the Eagles are a likely lock, as is No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), which is also unbeaten.

Montverde has one game left with a Super 25 opponent and has four wins over current Super 25 teams: DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.); Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.); La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.); and Simeon (Chicago) and a win over former Super 25 team Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).

Oak Hill Academy has taken down current Super 25 teams La Lumiere and University (Davie, Fla.). The Warriors also have wins over three former Super 25 teams in Webster Groves, Mo., Prolific Prep-Napa Christian (Napa, Calif); Mater Dei and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.).

Florida state champions are eligible for the GEICO Nationals and No. 3 University (Davie, Fla.) is a favorite to win the state 5A title. The Sharks are 24-1 with wins over Super 25 teams Memphis East (Memphis) and McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.), plus wins over former Super 25 teams Mater Dei and Archbishop Molloy (Queens, N.Y.).

The next likely team is Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.). The Buffs are 20-2 ranked No. 5 and have with three Super 25 wins: Findlay Prep; St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark); and La Lumiere. They also play No. 2 Oak Hill on Saturday.

No. 6 Findlay Prep has wins over Super 25 teams Memphis East and Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), plus wins over former Super 25 teams IMG Academy and Prolific Prep-Napa Christian, making it the likely choice as the last independent team.

That leaves three more state champions. The highest ranked team among those whose state associations allow them to compete in the event would be No. 10 McEachern. The Indians (22-2) have a defeat of Simeon, plus a win over Hudson Catholic (Jersey City), a former Super 25 team. All the Indians need to do is finish the job by winning their state AAAAAAA title.

The next likely state champion would be No. 12 Shadow Mountain (Phoenix). The Matadors, coached by former NBA player Mike Bibby, have a win over former Super 25 team Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) and their only loss was to Findlay Prep. Shadow Mountain needs to repeat as state 4A champion to be eligible.

The last likely GEICO Nationals team would be Garfield (Seattle, Wash.). The Bulldogs are ranked No. 15 and are 20-0. They are coached by former NBA player Brandon Roy.

On the bubble

No. 9 St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark). The Gray Bees only have one loss, and have two wins over former Super 25 teams in Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.) and Hudson Catholic.

Robert Smith, the coach of No. 11 Simeon (Chicago) said it’s a shame that Illinois High School Association would not allow teams such as his to compete.

“We would love to participate in it,” Smith said. “I don’t know if our association would let us. I know in the past they haven’t. I think it’s something good for the kids. Some of them don’t have scholarships at that time. Why would you take that away?”

No. 13 Memphis East (Memphis). The Mustangs have wins over current Super 25 teams Findlay Prep, Oak Ridge (Orlando) and Simeon, but they are unlikely to get permission from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association to play in the GEICO Nationals, particularly since the Shelby County Public Schools, on behalf of Memphis East, are in a lawsuit with the TSSSA over the eligibility of Memphis East players James Wiseman and Ryan Boyce.

No. 14 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.). The Lakers are the defending DICK’S High School Nationals (the tournament’s former name) champion and have wins over Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia) and Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.), but lost to Sunrise Christian, Montverde and Oak Hill.

No. 16 Oak Ridge (Orlando) is 21-3 with wins over Super 25 teams DeMatha and Roselle Catholic. However, the tournament is unlikely to take three Florida teams and as the lowest ranked of the three, the Pioneers won’t go, unless they win their state 9A title and University falters in its search for a state title.

“We don’t have any bad losses,” Oak Ridge coach Steve Reece said. “We also have some big wins and everybody we’ve played, we’ve gone there to play them. There are teams above us that have bad losses.”

Girls teams likely to go

The GEICO Nationals will have four girls teams. The No. 1-ranked team in the Super 25, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.), plays in the California Interscholastic Federation, so it is unlikely to get permission to play in the GEICO Basketball Nationals.

“I’ve always been told that the CIF has starting dates and end dates and contests it is strictly prohibited for having any contests out of that period,” Mitty coach Sue Phillips said. “That’s not to say you couldn’t get permission to do that.”

The top two spots are occupied by independents in No. 9 Westridge Academy (Kernersville, N.C.) and No. 10 Hamilton Heights Christian (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and No. 11 Holy Innocents Episcopal (Atlanta), provided it follows through by winning its state A title. The same holds true for No. 13 Central Valley (Spokane, Wash.), which is looking to repeat as its state 4A champion.

Girls teams on the bubble

No. 14 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) is a past winner of the event and has played a strong schedule. Another possibility is No. 20 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), which plays an independent schedule and recently defeated No. 23 Winter Haven, the highest-ranked Florida public school team.

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