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The first responsibility for every coach is to do what's best for his or her program, and that's as it should be. But those coaches who want to see their teams nationally ranked have to look at the bigger picture.
As much as possible, a team that has designs on a top 10 ranking, or even a top 25, should schedule not only quality opponents, but out-of-state opponents as well. Even better, travel to one of the elite tournaments scattered across the country. Of course, some states don't allow teams to travel very far, or at all, and other teams are limited by their league schedules and state restrictions that prevent them from playing other elite teams.
All of that is factored in when it comes to the rankings, and so sometimes you'll see a team fall out of the rankings and wonder why, while other teams remain for no apparent reason. Usually the answer is strength of schedule – the team that has the tougher one stays, and the team with a calendar full of cupcakes will be gone.
It's really unfair, at some level, when a team that can't play a lot of quality opposition is punished in that way, but as someone once pointed out, life isn't necessarily all that fair. And even the teams with the most restrictions could, if they really worked at it, find a way to get at least one elite team on the schedule.
(Note: We urge all teams, not just those in the Xcellent 25, to make sure their rosters and schedules are up-to-date on MaxPreps. This allows parents, fans, media and college coaches easy access to what they need to know. Problems? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard1. (1 last week) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), 0-0
Speaking of strength of schedule, No. 1 Paul VI plays No. 9 Millbrook on Friday and No. 5 Centennial on Saturday at the Art Turner Memorial Tipoff Showcase. Much will be revealed. 2. (2) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.), 0-0
Mitty opens this weekend against traditionally strong Bishop O'Dowd, but is saving up its games for a series of December tournaments. The first is in Hawaii, followed by a trip to the Nike TOC in Arizona two weeks later.
3. (3) Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), 4-0
Stewart's Creek made life miserable for Riverdale last year, and Riverdale gets a shot at revenge Dec. 9. Otherwise it should be smooth sailing until the Nike TOC.4. (5) Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.), 5-0
Hamilton Heights started the season with a three-game tournament in Canada, and ran into some tough competition, winning only by an average of 8.3 points. Another tough one looms Dec. 3, against Mercer County of Kentucky in the Hoops for Harvest Classic.5. (7) Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.), 0-0
This is how teams earn a national reputation: Travel across the country (to D.C.) and play Christ the King from New York, No. 1 Paul VI from Virginia and one of Maryland's best in Our Lady of Good Counsel. On three consecutive days.6. (9) Miami Country Day (Miami), 6-0
Miami Country Day had its first big win of the season, downing in-state rival Ribault -- and knocking the schedule-challenged Jacksonville school out of the Xcellent 25. The next big test will be the Nike TOC Dec. 19-22.7. (8) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), 0-0
Poly hasn't played yet, but once the Jackrabbits start, they're going to pick up more frequent flyer miles than most college teams. First up is Hawaii, then Arizona and finally Washington, D.C. And they'll face elite competition at each stop.8. (10) National Christian Academy (Fort Washington, Md.), 0-0
National Christian tunes up this weekend against a couple of Maryland teams before drawing No. 12 Monacan at the She Got Game Classic.9. (23) Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.), 4-0
Want to be a top 10 team? Beat a top 10 team. That's what Millbrook did, slipping past now No. 16 Riverdale Baptist 52-48 -- to stay in this exalted company, however, will require a good showing Friday against No. 1 Paul VI.10. (12) Montini (Lombard, Ill.), 5-0
Montini will play twice Saturday, the second against Pickerington Central, which got thumped by a solid Wayne team -- but that's no gimme. On Tuesday, Trinity, already tested by No. 19 Homewood-Flossmoor, gets a second shot at an Xcellent 25 team.11. (11) St. Rose (Belmar, N.J.), 0-0
The game clock can't start ticking in New Jersey until December, and teams from the Garden State can't play three games in three days, so they are eliminated from most elite tournaments. But that doesn't mean teams like St. Rose aren't really good. 12. (13) Monacan (Richmond, Va.), 0-0
Monacan's first game isn't until next week either, but they'll get right in the swim against No. 8 National Christian the following weekend. 13. (NR) Norcross (Ga.), 6-0
Norcross jumps into the rankings thanks to close wins over No. 18 Homewood-Flossmoor and in-state rival McEachern -- and thanks to senior guards Taylor Mason (signed with Miami) Vanessa Blagmon (South Florida).14. (16) Duncanville (Texas), 12-1
A ranked team with one loss this early? One of the unwritten rules, though, is that if a team avenges a loss -- as Duncanville did against No. 19 Mansfield Timberview, due credit is given. And Duncanville also beat Murrah, who many consider to be Mississippi's best, 68-43.15. (15) Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.), 0-0
Talk about a late start -- O'Hara's first game isn't until Dec. 15. That's one way to preserve a ranking.16. (6) Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.), 1-1
Riverdale Baptist exemplifies another way to stay ranked with an early loss: Play a murderous schedule. This week isn't that tough, all things considered, but after that, comes the She Got Game Classic followed by the Nike TOC. 17. (18) Manasquan (N.J.), 0-0
We won't know much about Manasquan until after Christmas, when the New Jersey team takes a trip to Florida for the KSA Tournament. Until then, it should be smooth sailing.18. (NR) Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.), 3-1
After absorbing a 55-43 loss to No. 13 Norcross, Homewood-Flossmoor bounced back with a 49-42 over then No. 4 St. Francis. Homewood-Flossmoor will now return home to test itself against Illinois opponents.19. (19) Mansfield Timberview (Arlington, Texas), 6-1
A 23-point win over South Grand Prairie -- a team many thought would challenge the best in Texas -- is proof that Mansfield Timberview belongs in the top 20.20. (4) St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.), 3-1
Milton was in the wrong place at the wrong time -- that is, playing St. Francis right after the previous No. 4 got upset. The final was 100-29 Tuesday night, but a tougher Greater Atlanta Christian is on the schedule Dec. 3.21. (21) Grandview (Aurora, Colo.), 0-0
Grandview doesn't start until next week, but will play Regis Jesuit -- not at the level it once was, but still solid -- before heading to the Nike TOC.22. (22) Ossining (N.Y.), 0-0
Ossining will be at the Art Turner Memorial Tipoff Showcase but doesn't play any of the heavy hitters. Of course, those will be Ossining's first games, so it would be asking a lot to start the season with a top ten opponent.23. (25) Central Valley (Spokane Valley, Wash.), 0-0
Central Valley has two -- count them, two -- non-conference games available all season, but unfortunately did not choose to use them against elite opposition. Everyone expects Central Valley to go unbeaten, and anything less will be a serious letdown.24. (NR) North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.), 5-0
North Little Rock already handed Arkansas power Conway its only loss of the season, and later travels to Mississippi to play two of that state's best. 25. (NR) Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.), 0-0
One of the state's, if not the nation's, traditional powers, Detroit Country Day's first game is Wednesday. Michigan teams are limited in travel opportunities, but DCD will play at least one out-of-state opponent.
Dropped out: No. 14 Ribault, No. 17 Wayne, No. 20 Butler, No. 24 Ursuline.