Video: Riverdale (TN) national champions
See the parts that equaled a national crown for the Warriors.
It's a long season, starting for some with practice in August and ending for some in April -- and the final Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard reflects the ups and downs that go along with it.
Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) finishes as the national champion in a year that really didn't produce a clear-cut No. 1, as the Tennessee champion's strength of schedule didn't match up to teams that finished behind it. But there's more to the rankings than strength of schedule.
1) The scoreboard doesn't lie. If you play a lot of good teams and lose, that doesn't help -- but if you play a lot of games and win them all, that helps a lot. Going unbeaten in high school basketball at any level, against any set of opponents, is incredibly difficult, and Riverdale did just that. Though Riverdale didn't play a great schedule, it played a good one, and had to battle through the Tennessee playoffs, which is never an easy task.
2) Overall strength of schedule. A very important factor, but not every team has an equal opportunity. Some teams can afford to travel more, and though intersectional competition is important, it's simply not fair to punish a team that doesn't have the resources to get to the Nike TOC in Arizona or the Title IX tournament in Washington, D.C. And of course some states don't allow teams to travel far, if at all, and other teams are constrained by league schedules and state rules that don't leave them enough opportunities to play in major events.
3) Good wins and bad losses. Some teams play weaker competition in their states and leagues, so the few big games they have take on added importance. Centennial, for example, rolled through Nevada (which had a down year) but offset that with some big wins. Central Valley of Washington, on the other hand, lost to an unranked team and had no quality wins to balance it out.
The ideal, of course, is head-to-head results, and when that happens, it makes it easy. If Team A beats Team B, Team A is better, plain and simple.
And then there's the revenge factor. Losing to a team early in the season can be "avenged," as far as the rankings go, by beating them later on -- if that opportunity presents itself. Canyon, for example, avenged two of its losses but never got another shot at the other team it lost to. Seton Catholic, on the other hand, wound up twice beating the unranked team it lost to, the second time for the state title.
4) State championship. It's hard to wind up in the Xcellent 25 without winning a state title, especially in a smaller state or one that has numerous divisions. Seton Catholic, again, won the state title and in the process hammered Cactus Shadows, a team it had lost to in the regular season. In California, though, the top teams are all placed in the same Open Division, so unlike Arizona or Florida or Texas, only one team can survive that bloodbath.
5) Talent. One method that some use to rank teams is to do the thought experiment "Who would win if they played tonight?" For us, the body of work trumps talent level, but all things being equal, it comes into play -- and it also definitely comes into play in the preseason rankings. Then again, talent reveals itself in competition, and of course, the scoreboard doesn't lie.
But all that said, rankings are always subjective, and who's to say that Mesquite of Arizona, which was No. 26 for us, couldn't beat No. 19 Elk River or that Central Valley, with that one bad loss, couldn't knock off No. 15 Ursuline? Suffice it to say that every team listed in the Xcellent 25 is a very good team, but there are more than a few very good teams that aren't listed.
Final MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
1. (1 last week) Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), 34-0
The strength of schedule wasn't elite, but everything else was.2. (2) St. John's (Washington, D.C.), 30-2
Played a very good schedule and avenged one of its losses, but unbeaten trumps twice-beaten.3. (3) Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.), 32-2
Didn't play in an elite tournament, despite the opportunity, and lost twice to St. John's College.4. (4) Centennial (Las Vegas), 30-2
Should the seven-point loss on the home court of Paul VI be that definitive? Yes, because the scoreboard doesn't lie.5. (5) Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.), 34-2
Split with No. 4 Centennial, split with No. 9 Archbishop Mitty and played a very good schedule. But as with St. John's, unbeaten trumps twice-beaten.6. (7) Miami Country Day, 31-1
Very impressive performance in the Dick's National High School Championships, boat-racing No. 12 Hamilton Heights in the final. But lost to No. 5 Clovis West head-to-head. 7. (8) Grandview (Aurora, Colo.), 27-1
The only loss was to No. 6 Miami Country Day, and MCD's jump to No. 6 pulled Grandview to No. 7.8. (6) Monacan (Richmond, Va.), 30-0
Dropped a couple spots because of Miami Country Day's strong finish, but No. 8 in the nation is still pretty good.9. (11) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.), 28-3
Jumped past Hamilton Heights and St. Francis after those two lost in the Dick's National High School Championships -- and also has a win over No. 5 Clovis West.10. (12) Fayetteville (Ark.), 30-2
Finishes in the top 10 with a win at Duncanville (never easy), plus avenging one of its losses and winning the state title in a good year in Arkansas.11. (13) Duncanville (Texas), 39-2
The best in Texas, year in and year out, and that's saying something.12. (10) Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.), 29-2
A brutal finish to a good season, but No. 6 Miami Country Day is a very good team. And Hamilton Heights could be better next year.13. (9) St. Frances Academy (Baltimore), 30-1
Lost to No. 12 Hamilton Heights in overtime at the Dick's National High School Championships, so head-to-head results put St. Frances here. 14. (14) Seton Catholic (Chandler, Ariz.), 29-4
Gave No. 6 Miami Country Day a good run in the Dick's National High School Championships, and also had a good win over No. 18 Long Beach Poly in the Nike TOC.15. (15) Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, Del.), 22-1
The best in the northeast this year, though it's uncertain how much that really means.16. (16) Canyon (Texas), 31-3
Winning a state title in Texas is always difficult, and Canyon was one of the smallest schools in the 5A bracket.17. (17) Homestead (Fort Wayne, Ind.), 28-2
Indiana is basketball's heartland, and Homestead was the best in the state.18. (18) Long Beach Poly (Calif.), 27-4
Poly traveled all over the country to find the competition unavailable in its league, but in the end couldn't get past California competitors No. 5 Clovis West and No. 9 Archbishop Mitty.19. (19) Elk River (Minn.), 32-0
Unbeaten and untested. Could be better than this; could be worse.20. (20) Destrehan (La.), 35-0
Same as No. 19 Elk River.21. (21) Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.), 26-1
Always good, but state rules limit travel opportunities, so it's hard to measure just how good.22. (22) Norcross (Ga.), 29-3
Lost in the state title game, but another fine season for a perennial national power.23. (23) Appleton North (Wis.), 28-0
Same as No. 20 Destrehan - and No. 19 Elk River.24. (24) Northwest Guilford (Greensboro, N.C.), 29-2
It was a good year in North Carolina, and Northwest Guilford emerged as the state's best.25. (25) Olive Branch (Miss.), 33-1
Lost just once, to a good Tennessee team, and had some quality wins. Maybe next year, Olive Branch will get on the road and test itself outside of its area.Dropped out: