Video: Paige Bueckers' highlights
See the UConn commit in action for Hopkins.
For the most part, the elite teams have room to schedule the opponents they want.
Some choose to play a good but not great list of opponents, and a talented, well-coached team can win most or all of its games. Others choose to seek out the best, no matter where they are, and for those teams, going unbeaten is a challenge. (There are some schools that are limited in travel opportunities or available games, but even those can find worthy opposition if they work at it.)
In general, we reward strength of schedule, so that a team that is constantly tested and absorbs a loss or two will be ranked higher than an unbeaten team that doesn't do as much — which is why La Jolla Country Day remains atop the Xcellent 25 despite a loss to Long Beach Poly. The San Diego area's best team has already played in its own tournament, traveled to the Nike TOC (which it won), plus playing Long Beach Poly, and still has previously ranked Centennial and a trip to Northern California left. And after that, it must battle its way through the California Open Division playoffs.
Given that last sentence, it might be time to talk about what the "Open Division" means in California and its 1,300 or so high schools. There are 10 sections in the state, and all but one of the major sections has an Open Division — and teams are placed in the Open by a committee and not given the option of remaining in enrollment-based divisions. After that, each half of the state creates an Open Division comprised of the best Open Division teams in the sections, and then, in the grand finale, the regional Open champs play for the state Open title.
So for any California team in the Top 25, not only does the regular season schedule remain, but at least six and possibly 10 games against Open Division competition in the playoffs. And that, in and of itself, is a tougher schedule than many teams listed below will face.
Then again, it's one thing to play good teams, and it's another to beat them — and though La Jolla Country Day gets a pass for its one loss, a second defeat will make any shot at a national title a long one. And then it's possible that unbeaten teams with maybe not as tough a schedule will get a turn at the top.
MaxPreps Top 25 high school girls basketball rankings
1. (Last week 2) La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla, Calif.), 16-1
The six-point loss to rejuvenated SoCal power (and No. 18) Long Beach Poly was a serious body blow, but the Joe Smith Division title at the TOC and a difficult remaining schedule move LJCD to the top. But there is no margin for error.
Hamilton Heights has a loss to a very good unranked team, Fairmont, but since then has beaten two ranked teams and will be tested on a regular basis for the next two months. And at the end of the road are the GEICO playoffs, and unlike many schools, Hamilton Heights is able to attend.
So the big win over Westlake doesn't mean that much? Well, it does, but with the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference down, winning an exceptionally weak Florida tournament didn't add enough to the strength of schedule to get to the top spot. But a game against No. 9 Long Island Lutheran and at least two against No. 19 Bishop McNamara are challenging enough to earn the three spot.
The only loss is No. 3 Paul VI, and wins against ranked opponents Lovejoy (No. 20) and Sacred Heart (No. 22) move Westlake into the top five. A trip to Las Vegas to play Centennial and a good Spring Valley team will determine if Georgia's best will stay here.
Ohio is good but not great, so Mount Notre Dame is limited in its potential opponents, but victories over preseason No. 1 New Hope and Wayne are solid credentials. And so is an unbeaten record.
With No. 13 St. Frances and very talented New Hope on the schedule, South Shore will get a bit of a workout before the New York postseason begins — but New York may be as weak as it has ever been, so the road looks comparatively smooth.
A lot of people think Hopkins is the most talented team in the country, but a very weak schedule will keep Minnesota's finest down at No. 7.
Another California team that lost only to No. 18 Long Beach Poly, Mater Dei beat No. 10 Sierra Canyon at the West Coast Jamboree, and rolled through some quality opponents in Hawaii prior to that. And in Southern California, the week-in, week-out schedule is always brutal.
A nice win over St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida is the biggest item on the resume, but with No. 3 Paul VI and No. 12 Riverdale Baptist coming up, LuHi will have a chance to add luster to its reputation.
Three losses and still in the top 10? Two of the losses were by one point in the championship games of major tournaments, and the other came to No. 15 DeSoto in Texas. On the plus side, wins over No. 11 Duncanville, No. 12 Riverdale Baptist and Crestwood, Canada's best. And then there's a trip to New Jersey before California's postseason.
Two of the teams Duncanville has lost to it has since beaten, including No. 15 DeSoto, and the other defeat came at the hands of No. 10 Sierra Canyon. And the win over No. 19 Bishop McNamara is a good one — but like DeSoto, Duncanville never leaves Texas so there's always something a little suspect about all those wins.
Riverdale Baptist navigated a minefield of a schedule very well, losing only to No. 10 Sierra Canyon — but then took a big misstep against unranked Pallotti, losing 62-54. But wins over No. 13 St. Frances Academy and No. 18 Long Beach Poly, added to victories over two very good teams, New Hope and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, make up for that stumble.
A 33-31 win over No. 14 Southeast Raleigh jumps St. Frances Academy here (the only loss is to No. 12 Riverdale Baptist), and Baltimore's best will get a shot at No. 6 South Shore down the line.
The loss to No. 13 St. Frances will be hard to overcome, because North Carolina does not look particularly challenging and there are no out-of-state games left on the schedule. And that win over previously ranked Tampa Bay Tech doesn't look nearly as good now as it did when it happened.
The fall could have been greater, but the 50-41 win over No. 10 Sierra Canyon still counts for a lot, and eventually DeSoto will have to win out in the top division in Texas — which might not be quite as tough as California's Open, but is a weeks-long test with no easy questions.
Edison was planning to play some quality teams in Chicago, but Michigan rules about being in the same event with schools too far from the state border cancelled the trip. Which means Edison must hang its reputation on a 68-59 win over Africentric, as Michigan doesn't appear to be chock full of worthy opponents.
A 23-point win over once-ranked Germantown and a one-point win over inconsistent Miami Country Day move a second Tennessee team into the Top 25. Unfortunately, Ensworth and No. 3 Hamilton Heights will never meet as Hamilton Heights does not participate in the Tennessee postseason.
Those who have been around for a while remember the old-school Poly teams. They ran out wave after wave of athletic, tough defenders who really didn't shoot all that well, but certainly didn't let the other teams shoot much either. The old Poly is back, and though the Jackrabbits (love that mascot) couldn't muster up enough points to beat No.12 Riverdale Baptist and New Hope, they did grind out wins against two Top 10 teams, La Jolla Country Day (No. 1) and Mater Dei (No. 8).
Two of the losses are to ranked teams and the third is to a team that doesn't qualify for the Top 25, which means wins over previously ranked Princess Anne and New Hope (twice) earn Bishop McNamara this spot. And this could be higher after the league battles with No. 3 Paul VI.
The only loss is No. 4 Westlake, by three, but Lovejoy's schedule is not national-caliber. Hoover of Alabama may be the biggest roadblock left.
Like Lovejoy, Wayne has some good wins but its main claim to glory is a tough loss — in this case, a 51-47 defeat at the hands of No. 5 Mount Notre Dame. Wayne also beat Fairmont, which is the only team to beat No. 2 Hamilton Heights.
Sacred Heart, like Lovejoy, lost to Westlake, and did knock off previously ranked Tampa Bay Tech. Opportunities for advancement will come against Montini and others in Raatz Fence O'Shea's Basketball Classic later this month.
Fifteen up and none down is impressive, but the caliber of competition is not. And Northwestern will only play one team from outside the Hoosier State.
A second Florida team joins the party, but Lake Highland Prep will have to do some fancy dancing to keep the lights on. Tampa Bay Tech, St. Thomas Aquinas and Montverde all lie in wait, and Montverde, in fact, has already beaten Lake Highland Prep once.
The trail is convoluted, but … Norman beat Northside, one of the best in Arkansas. Deer Creek beat Norman. Jefferson City beat Deer Creek. So a case can be made that Jefferson City is the strongest team in those three states — and thus the No. 25 ranking.Dropped out:
No. 3 Centennial (Las Vegas), No. 12 Grandview (Aurora, Colo.), No. 15 Tampa Bay Tech (Tampa, Fla.), No. 16 Africentric Early College (Columbus, Ohio), No. 19 Garfield (Seattle), No. 22 Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.), No. 23 Benet (Lisle, Ill.)