Video: Michael Porter Jr. highlightsSee the MaxPreps National Player of the Year frontrunner in action.
First things first, No. 1-ranked Nathan Hale (Seattle)
has to take care of business this week in Washington's Class 3A Hardwood Classic in Tacoma.
That won't be an easy task, as the Raiders could face unbeaten Lincoln (Tacoma)
in the semifinals and Garfield (Seattle)
or Rainier Beach (Seattle)
in the final – both Top 100 teams nationally by multiple sources.
Keep in mind Nathan Hale (26-0) went 3-18 a year ago and hasn't been to the state tournament since 1994, so there isn't a lot of past experience to draw on.
If the north Seattle school can win three in a row beginning Thursday at the Tacoma Dome, most assume the next step will be Dick's Sporting Goods High School Nationals in New York City beginning March 30.
But should it be?
A state title with signature wins over Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
and Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)
, plus eight other victories over Top 200 teams, would be a good enough resume to give head coach Brandon Roy's team the national title should they turn in their uniforms Sunday.
Nathan Hale would have nothing to be ashamed of by calling it a season, already winning perhaps the best holiday tournament on the West Coast (Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon), running the table in one of the nation's best high school leagues and beating storied Oak Hill Academy at the famed Spalding Hoophall Classic on ESPN.
Should the Raiders elect to move on to Dick's Nationals, they would have a 26-day layoff before their opener. Roy would have to make his final preparations for the event without MaxPreps National Player of the Year frontrunner
Michael Porter Jr.
, who will be in Chicago for the McDonald's All-American Game March 26-29.
Porter is averaging 37.9 points and 14.2 rebounds per game. It's the equivalent of LeBron James bowing out of practice with the Cavaliers before the NBA Finals.
There's also the matter of stakes. No other team would be pushing as much into the Dick's Nationals pot as Nathan Hale. The Raiders are playing for a national title while the rest of the field would be playing spoiler.
Should the upstart Puget Sound team make the trip and slip, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
or one of the other three Southern California teams in the Top 10 could stand to benefit. They would do so without the same burden of playing in a tournament 3,000 miles away.
The primary governing body in eight of the top 11 most populous states in the country do not permit member schools to participate at Dick's Nationals, so the idea that Nathan Hale must do so in order to be considered a legitimate national champ is a bit unfair.WIAA Hardwood Classic: Class 3A boys bracket
Taking the other side of the conversation into account, there's something to be said for a trip to NYC (though Madison Square Garden no longer hosts the finals) and playing on ESPN (though Nathan Hale has already done so twice this season).
As a media outlet that produces national rankings, we wouldn't object at all to the Raiders keeping the final national rankings in suspense until April 1.
Roy and Nathan Hale would face criticism for skipping the event, but being crowned national champs would likely soothe those pains. A year from now, no one will remember who did and didn't compete at Dick's Nationals.
The story about the high school team that went 3-18 in 2015-16 and a year later won the national title might have a little more staying power.