A false sense of stability settled over the Xcellent 25 this week, as final regular season games were on the docket in some states and the early rounds of playoffs (read "mismatches") began elsewhere. The only movement occurred in Northern California where previous No. 21 Bishop O'Dowd went on the road to take on previously ranked St. Mary's of Stockton — and lost by four.
That produced the only change in the rankings, with St. Mary's sliding in at No. 23 on the basis of an extremely difficult schedule, both in Northern California and across the country.
And speaking of difficult schedules, that's what more and more teams are going to face as state playoffs begin. After the first few rounds there are only strong teams left, and those still standing have more than enough confidence to believe they can win against nationally ranked teams.
Let the carnage begin ...
MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard1. (Last week 1) Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) 25-1
Round three of Blackman vs. Riverdale will be in the finals of the District 7AAA tournament, barring an upset of epic proportions. So far Blackman is 2-0, though the first win was by just one point.2. (2) Incarnate Word Academy (St. Louis) 19-1
Incarnate Word had to battle to get past No. 11 Rock Bridge, but
hit one of her five three-pointers to put the Red Knights ahead in the fourth quarter and they hung on for a 40-37 win. 3. (3) Duncanville (Texas) 27-0
The UIL 5A Bi-District (don't ask) playoffs kick off the Texas postseason, and Duncanville must get past MacArthur of Irving to advance. A few years ago, this would have been a marquee matchup, but Odyssey Sims is at Baylor and wondering if she'll be the third overall pick in the WNBA draft and Alexis Jones is now playing for Duke. 4. (4) Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) 18-2
Regis Jesuit took care of rival Highlands Ranch 69-38 and then easily handled a solid Rock Canyon team, 67-44. Next up, though, is ThunderRidge, at ThunderRidge, where Highlands Ranch was upset and knocked out of the Xcellent 25.5. (5) Homewood-Flossmoor (Flossmoor, Ill.) 19-2
Homewood-Flossmoor should sail through the Calumet City Regional, which doesn't start for the Vikings until Feb. 19. Edwardsville is the probably the toughest out in the Bloomington Super-Sectional, which will be decided March 3.6. (6) New Hope Christian Academy (Thomasville, N.C.) 28-0
New Hope has played some good teams but hasn't faced any other members of the Xcellent 25. Too bad, because the Phoenix might be a bit undervalued at No. 6, but there's really no way to tell.7. (7) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 22-1
JSerra's a pretty good team that's played many of the best teams in Southern California — which might just be the strongest region in the country this year — but JSerra will need to ramp it up to challenge Mater Dei. The first game was a 27-point win for the No. 7 Monarchs.8. (8) Windward (Los Angeles) 22-2
Even though Windward beat Sierra Canyon by 15 just a couple weeks ago, it would be a mistake to look past a 21-2 team that beat two out-of-state powers — Ribault of Florida and Elizabethtown of Kentucky. After that game on Thursday, the playoffs begin.9. (9) Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) 21-0Playoffs upcoming. Opponent not known.10. (10) Long Beach Poly (Calif.) 21-2
Lynwood proved to be more of a challenge than Poly's league opponents, but still, Saturday's outing was a 21-point win for the Jackrabbits. Playoffs start next week.
11. (11) Rock Bridge (Columbia, Mo.) 17-3
Rock Bridge and Incarnate Word Academy have both played the toughest schedules in the country, and the 40-37 Rock Bridge lost to IWA reflects just how close they are. Then again, Smithfield has only lost three times, and is on tap Saturday, so the road is still a little bumpy. 12. (12) Myers Park (Charlotte, N.C.) 21-1
Myers Park is now playing for free the rest of the season — only 22 games count for seeding purposes in North Carolina, and if a school plays more, it can drop two from its record. And the upcoming Southwestern Conference tournament is just for exercise as well.13. (13) Whitney Young (Chicago) 24-3
The biggest blemish on Whitney Young's record is a loss to Trinity — but if the seeding holds, the Dolphins will get a shot at redemption in the Hinsdale Super-Sectional semifinals.14. (14) Northside (Fort Smith, Ark.) 19-1
Northside beat Greenwood 64-59 the first time around, at Northside. When they play again Feb. 18, it will be at Greenwood.15. (15) Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.) 30-2
The Sub-Regionals are next, and Sparkman will play some familiar suspects — either Austin or Hazel Green await in the second round, and both have given Sparkman good games.16. (16) Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) 20-1
The nasty winter weather has made a mess of the New Jersey prep basketball schedule, so now Shabazz faces twice-beaten Weequahic Wednesday. Playoff seedings are set for Friday, a day later than anticipated. 17. (17) Lawrence North (Indianapolis) 20-1
Stan Benge, who guided Ben Davis to national prominence in Indianapolis, now coaches Roncalli — and that's the very sound team Lawrence North will face Saturday in the Sectional 10 finals. 18. (18) Bedford North Lawrence (Bedford, Ind.) 21-1
Jennings County is next, which for some reason drew a bye in the Sectional 15 playoffs despite a 9-10 record. Since Bedford won by 40 earlier this year, look for an easy step forward.19. (19) McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) 22-2
Marietta has given McEachern two tough games, and it would be unwise for the Indians to look past Friday's Region 4 semifinal. Hillgrove is the likely opponent Saturday.20. (20) Salmen (Slidell, La.) 26-1
Down five with less than two minutes left, Salmen came back to knock off 28-3 Easton 52-50 when Tiara Warren
made two of three free throws with 1.2 seconds left. At the other end, Easton missed its last five free throws, so Salmen stays in the Xcellent 25.21. (22) Joliet Catholic Academy (Ill.) 22-1
Morgan Park and Bishop McNamara are not going to be easy outs in the New Lenox Sectional, but romantically named Coal City must be disposed of in the 3A regionals first.22. (23) Manvel (Texas) 32-2
The goal is to play No. 3 Duncanville again, but that's a ways down the road in the 5A playoffs. North Shore will be just the first of many challenges before Manvel can seek revenge.
23. (NR) St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) 21-4
Three of those four losses came at the hands of members of the Xcellent 25, and after St. Mary's outlasted previous No. 21 Bishop O'Dowd, 81-77, the Rams jump back into the rankings. McNair will be a challenge Thursday, though.24. (24) Cosby (Midlothian, Va.) 16-0
Virginia changed its playoff format this year, and now enrollment will determine the first set of playoff opponents rather than geography. Regardless, Cosby is the favorite to move on, though Franklin County is far from a pushover.25. (25) Clovis (N.M.) 23-0
Clovis traveled to Hobbs and escaped with a 39-33 win. For Clovis to wind up unbeaten in the regular season, though, a win over Hobbs at home in the season finale will be a necessity.Dropped out:
No. 21 Bishop O'Dowd