Covering High School Sports in America
I've received some passionate e-mails this week from fans stating a case for their team's inclusion in our national rankings.

Most made a great argument, especially considering four ranked teams fell last week yet remained in the Top 25 – an unusually high number. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Jeffersontown (Louisville, Ky.), Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) all lost but filled the No. 20 through No. 23 slots.

The reason is simple. The teams listed above have accomplished more so far this season than the others on the outside looking in.

Photo by Lonnie Webb

Northland senior guard Trey Burke and<br> head coach Satch Sullinger.

Here is a glance at the outsiders who garnered the most consideration for a spot in the Xcellent 25 last week and what they need to accomplish to crack the list;

Dr. Krop (Miami, Fla.) (14-2): I watched the Lightning play four times in Fort Myers at the City of Palms Classic. I liked – didn't love – what I saw. Yet Krop boasts wins over No. 24 Winter Park - by 21 points – and most recently a strong Dwyer program minus Jacoby Brissett. The standard of proof is cut and dry for the Miami school – beat No. 3 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) at the Marriott Invitational Jan. 22. Outside of that, a dominant state championship run may be the only ticket in.

Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) (12-2): Like Dr. Krop, I was able to watch 128 minutes of Panther basketball in Fort Myers. Unlike Dr. Krop, I absolutely loved what I saw from Dwyer. Head coach Fred Ross' squad has it all and I would be surprised if they don't carve out a Top 25 spot before the end of the season. However, they need a full-time, fully-committed Brissett to really make things go. The two-sport star missed Dwyer's showdown with Krop while participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Eastern (Louisville, Ky.) (13-1): The Eagles are 13-1 coming off a win last week against No. 21 Jeffersontown. Sounds like a potential Top 25 resume, except for the fact that J-Town was missing three injured starters and beat Eastern in the final of the King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic two weeks earlier. Eastern won't necessarily have to beat its rival again to prove it belongs with a win over Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) on the resume, as well as a 29-point pounding of Chane Behanan and Bowling Green (Ky.).

Etiwanda (Calif.) (15-0): It was very tempting to bite on Etiwanda's glossy record, which includes recent victories over highly-regarded Sacramento and Loyola (Los Angeles). Something about the Eagles' overall resume leaves me wanting more, however. There probably isn't a game left on Etiwanda's schedule that would automatically vault it into the Xcellent 25, but remaining undefeated will be hard to overlook.

Kalamazoo Central (Kalamazoo, Mich.) (6-0): The Giants – Michigan's defending Class A state champions – have won 21 games in a row dating back to last season. While that's an impressive run, with just six games to go on this season, I don't have a solid read on Central just yet. A state championship game rematch Saturday with 4-1 Huron (Ann Arbor) should tell us more. Kalamazoo Central has four senior averaging double figures in the scoring column – T.J. Buchanan (15.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game), Dequavian McCants-Wilson (13.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists), 6-foot-7 Darius Norman (12.0 points, 8.8 rebounds) and Tyler Bell (10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds).

Kimball (Dallas, Texas) (19-2): Based on developments over the last couple weeks, the Knights may be the most controversial exclusion. Kimball beat No. 18 Lincoln (Dallas) in a tournament final Dec. 29, then followed up with another tournament victory in New Orleans, downing Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.), Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.) and Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the process. Kimball is rolling, but none of the teams it beat in Louisiana are Top 25 quality and Lincoln handled the Knights by 16 in late November. If the Dallas power continues to pile up wins and doesn't slip, it could slide into the Top 25 in the coming weeks.

McCluer North (Florissant, Mo.) (14-0): While fellow St. Louis school Chaminade checks in at No. 19 this week, many locals might argue they aren't even the area's best team. Arkansas signee B.J. Young leads the unbeaten Stars, who have a win over Branden Dawson and Lew Wallace (Gary, Ind.) and also won a tournament in Illinois last month.

Northland (Columbus, Ohio) (6-0): A win over Rice (New York, N.Y.) doesn't carry the weight it has in past years, but combine that with an unbeaten record built with blowouts and a talented roster, and the Vikings are on the radar in their first year without Jared Sullinger. Michigan-bound senior Trey Burke may be having an All-American season, averaging 23.5 points and 6.2 assists per game.

Oak Ridge Military Academy (Oak Ridge, N.C.) (19-2): Like many of the North Carolina independent schools, Oak Ridge has tackled a challenging schedule this season and is holding up quite well with a 19-2 mark. The signature victory came Nov. 20 in a 58-57 win over No. 16 Quality Education Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.). A win at this weekend's Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri would make the Cadets tough to deny.

Powers Catholic (Flint, Mich.) (5-0): Like fellow Michigan school Kalamazoo Central, just not enough information on the Chargers to justify a Top 25 ranking. Powers Catholic is loaded with talent, but has played just five games. That hasn't stopped MaxPreps.com's Freeman Rankings from loving the Chargers, however. The computer-generated rankings have them at No. 22 nationally.