Inside the FAB 50: Can Findlay be No. 1?

With this year’s field of teams set for the National High School Invitational, a question on the minds of many is whether the final No. 1 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50 has been locked away in a closet at Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

Oak Hill has been No. 1 since January and has done little to give the ESPNHS rankings compilers a reason to ponder moving any other team into that position. The Warriors wrapped up the best record they’ve ever had last week (44-0) with a 130-69 triumph over Body of Christ Academy (Raleigh, N.C.).

With Oak Hill not participating in the NHSI, there is the possibility that No. 2 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) could enhance its case by winning an event loaded with top-ranked teams.

Based on results already in the books, it’s a no-brainer to rank Oak Hill in front of Findlay Prep. This is because Oak Hill has a 77-59 win over La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) while the Pilots’ only loss was 67-66 to the same team.

So how could Findlay perhaps overcome the common opponent disadvantage with Oak Hill? Here’s the possibilities:

1. The Pilots get a chance to play No. 25 La Lumiere in the NHSI and avenge that one-point loss with a convincing win.

2. Findlay wins the NHSI over a field that also will include No. 10 St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.); No. 11 Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.); No. 14 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.); No. 16 Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.); and La Lumiere.

3. The Pilots not only win the NHSI, but do it with their McDonald’s All-Americans -- Anthony Bennett along with 6-foot-8 Brandon Ashley -- both putting on a show. Bennett was not at 100 percent in the December game with La Lumiere.

4. The two best non-NHSI teams that Findlay has beaten this season -- current FAB 50 No. 5 Marcus (Flower Mound, Texas) and No. 6 Simeon (Chicago) -- both complete their seasons by winning state titles and thus assuring themselves of very high final rankings.

5. One or two of the best teams that Oak Hill has beaten this season -- led by current No. 9 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) and including No. 44 Science Hill (Johnson City, Tenn.) -- do not complete their season by winning championships and thus slightly diminish Oak Hill’s strength of schedule. It should be noted that coach Steve Smith’s team will already own big wins over the two top Texas Association of Private Prep Schools champions: No. 12 Prestonwood Christian (Plano, Texas) and No. 24 Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas).

It would definitely take a lot for Findlay Prep to have a strong enough case to move into No. 1. We also wouldn’t want such a move to be viewed in any way as a knock against the Warriors for going on their exhibition tour in China. That’s an opportunity that the players will remember the rest of their lives.

Still, with rankings that are based on criteria such as strength of schedule, it is possible that Findlay can put together a resume that could in the end be superior to Oak Hill’s.

Oak Hill's tour of China

Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) closed its season at a historic 44-0, which earned them the top spot in the POWERADE FAB 50.

But the Warriors won't participate at the ESPNHS National High School Invitational on March 29-31. Oak Hill is sitting out for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 2009 due, in large part, to its basketball tour of China, which runs from March 7-19.

“If we weren’t going to China we’d definitely play in the NHSI,” said Oak Hill coach Steve Smith, whose Warriors will play nine games against international competition. “But this is something that will be very special for the kids and very special for the school. I wanted them to experience this.”

The Warriors have never won the NHSI and have lost twice in the finals, including last year’s double-overtime thriller to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.).

Smith said he never felt the Warriors played their best ball at the NHSI because of the timing of the event.

“We usually have about 17 days off then have to turn right around and play in that big a tournament,” Smith said. “We finish our season in February and play in late March, early April and that’s just tough to do. You can’t find teams to scrimmage because their seasons are over and then we wouldn’t have our point guard because right when we get back Tyler’s (Lewis) headed off to the McDonald’s game. It’s just a tight squeeze with all that we have going on this season.”