The GEICO Nationals provides a platform for eight of high school basketball's top programs to bolster their resume and make a case as the top team in America.
This year's event was set to provide an opportunity for the top four teams to determine a true national champion without much debate. That all changed when McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) dropped out.
Video: Top recruits playing at the 2019 GEICO Nationals
See who to watch for as the top teams in America hit the Big Apple starting Thursday.
Even without top-ranked and unbeaten McEachern no longer in the field, there's still plenty to play for this weekend in the Big Apple.
• La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.) or IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) would jump McEachern for the top spot in the final poll.
• If Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) wins and beats La Lumiere in convincing fashion the Eagles would likely jump to the top spot. If Montverde takes down the Lakers in a tightly contested title game, the door would be left open for La Lumiere to slide into the top spot with a 2-1 record against Montverde and additional Top 25 wins at GEICO.
• Wasatch Academy could finish as high as No. 2.
• Oak Hill Academy, Sunrise Christian Academy, University or Bishop Gorman would jump into the Top 5.
The 11th annual GEICO Nationals begins this week, streamed live on ESPN's family of networks April 4-6 at Christ the King high school in New York City.
First-round matchup breakdowns
An eight seed has never taken down the top seed in the GEICO Nationals' 10-year history. There were, however, some close calls. Four 1 vs. 8 games have been decided by five points or less, with last year's champion Montverde Academy escaping with an 87-82 win.
This game is a rematch of a 67-54 La Lumiere win Jan. 4 at the Cancer Research Classic. The first meeting saw the Lakers in control throughout, as Bishop Gorman struggled to
find open looks shooting just 31.1 percent from the field. Isaiah Stewart had 22 points and
12 rebounds for La Lumiere, and Keion Brooks added with 22
points and 11 boards.
La Lumiere is in search of its second event title in the past three years, with the top spot in the final rankings on the line in this crucial three-game stretch. The Lakers will rely heavily on their dominant frontcourt to produce the bulk of their scoring, but guards Gerald Drumgoole and Wendell Green Jr. have also stepped up in big moments throughout the season for this group.
Bishop Gorman has a very young group that starts two sophomore guards, two juniors and one senior. Last time against the Lakers, sophomore Will McClendon went 6-of-21 from the field, while leading scorer Noah Taitz was 5-of-16. Gaels big man Isaiah Cottrell also struggled, finishing with six points and four rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
After winning an eighth consecutive state championship, the Gaels may be one year away from making serious noise in this event. However, If they can limit points in the paint and make 10-plus threes, they may have a chance to upset the top-seeded Lakers.
Players to Watch:
No. 2 La Lumiere (28-0) Isaiah Stewart
(6-9, Sr., C) —
Committed to Washington, Keion Brooks
(6-7, Sr., F) —
Committed to Kentucky, Gerald Drumgoole
(6-5, Sr. W) —
Committed to Pittsburgh, Wendell Green Jr.
(5-11, Jr., G), Paxson Wojcik
(6-4, Sr., G) —
Committed to Loyola-Chicago.
No. 21 Bishop Gorman (28-4)
(6-10, Jr., F), Will McClendon
(6-4, Soph., G), Zaon Collins
(6-0, Soph., G), Noah Taitz
(6-3, Jr. G), Chance Michels
(6-2, Sr., G).
Prediction: The game is closer than expected. An upstart Bishop Gorman squad comes out with a lot of energy early. Over the course of the game, La Lumiere takes control in the paint and show experience and chemistry to take home a 65-57 victory.
Oak Hill Academy is 0-3 against ranked opponents this season. And while the Warriors have struggled against quality opponents, they've showed flashes of promise in their blowout win over Olive Branch (Miss.) at the City of Palms Classic and a tightly contested loss against IMG Academy without injured star Cole Anthony at the Spalding Hoophall Classic among other games.
Similarly, the knock on Wasatch Academy for much of the season was lack of a signature win over a Top 25 opponent. That changed late in the season as the Tigers beat Sunrise Christian Academy 65-53 to earn a GEICO berth. The win came eight days after Wasatch fell 53-52 to one-seed La Lumiere.
Traditionally, Oak Hill Academy has been a high school basketball powerhouse and boasting a 12-8 record all-time at GEICO Nationals including a 2016 title. Wasatch Academy is a newcomer to the "basketball academy" billing, coming on strong in recent years with three appearances in the last four seasons. However, a GEICO win has eluded the Tigers thus far.
The game should provide plenty of fireworks, as both teams fill the basket — Wasatch Academy averages 83 points per game, while Oak Hill Academy averages 91 points per contest.
The game will be a homecoming for New York natives Cole Anthony and Kofi Cockburn, but the Warriors may have their hands full. Wasatch Academy features one of the most underrated post duos in high school basketball with Mady Sissoko and Tristan Enaruna controlling the paint.
Players to Watch:
No. 10 Wasatch Academy (26-3)
Marvin "Tre" Williams III
(6-5, Sr. G) —
Signed with Minnesota, Mady Sissoko
(6-10, Jr., C), Richie Saunders
(6-5, Jr. G), Mike Saunders
(6-1, Jr., G), Tristan Enaruna
(6-10, Sr., F).
No. 20 Oak Hill Academy (30-4)
(6-foot-3, Sr., G), Cam Thomas
(6-3, Jr., G), Kofi Cockburn
(6-10, Sr., C) —
Committed to Illinois, Christian Brown
(6-6, Sr., W) —
Committed to Georgia, Evan Johnson
(6-0, Jr., G).
Prediction: Wasatch Academy wins after jumping to an early lead before the Warriors battle back. Look for the score to be around 75-70, with a strong game from Williams being the difference for the Tigers' first event win.
One school will earns its first GEICO Nationals win as each school tries to continue to form an identity as a basketball powerhouse.
It's Sunrise Christian Academy's first appearance after a challenging regular season slate that featured signature wins over No. 23 Duncanville (Texas), No. 25 Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia) Guyer (Denton, Texas) and 7 seed University. The Buffaloes have three losses against teams in the field — La Lumiere, Montverde and Wasatch Academy.
IMG Academy makes its second trip to New York, trying to avoid another first-round loss as the Ascenders lost to seven-seed Greensboro Day in 2017, one of the biggest upsets in event history.
Boasting a trio of McDonald's All-Americans, the Ascenders picked up three wins over ranked opponents this season — taking down No. 12 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), Oak Hill Academy and University.
This game features intriguing frontcourt and backcourt battles, as Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Armando Bacot look to control the paint against one of the best defensive big men in the nation in N'Faly Dante. Josh Green, Jaden Springer and Noah Farrakhan make up one of the most dominant backcourts in America, while Jordan Turner, Grant Sherfield and Austin Crowley will all be playing at high-major schools next year in college.
Players to Watch:
No. 4 IMG Academy (28-1)
(6-9, Sr., F) —
Signed with Villanova
, Armando Bacot Jr.
(6-10, Sr., C) ???
Signed with North Carolina, Jaden Springer
, (6-4, Jr., G), Josh Green
(6-6, Sr., W) —
Signed with Arizona, Noah Farrakhan
(6-1, Jr., G).
No. 11 Sunrise Christian Academy (22-5)
(6-11, Jr., C), Jordan Turner
(6-6, Sr., W) —
Signed with Baylor, Grant Sherfield
(6-3, Sr., G), Austin Crowley
(6-6, Sr., G), Noel Coleman
(6-1, Sr., G)
Prediction: After a fairly even first quarter, IMG Academy imposes its will in the paint before halftime after forcing N'Faly Dante into foul trouble. The Ascenders win 78-60 in a balanced second-half effort, with Robinson-Earl making the biggest impact.
A rematch of last year's title game that saw the Eagles capture their record fourth event title 76-58. The Sharks star tandem of Vernon Carey Jr. and Scottie Barnes return with the experience of last year's run, a lack of consistency in the backcourt has plagued University this season.
Carey sat out of the McDonald's All-American game after spraining his ankle in University's state semifinal contest on March 1. Regardless of the future Duke big man's status against Montverde, the Sharks will need excellent guard play from a backcourt that has struggled to compete with high level guards this season.
Look for the Eagles to take advantage of the Sharks deficiencies, pushing when they can and creating havoc with high pressure defense. Montverde has dominated Top 25 opponents down the stretch, winning its final five games against ranked opponents by 25.2 points per contest.
If Montverde can push the tempo and create havoc with their high-pressure defense this game could get ugly. However, if Carey and Barnes can provide their best efforts of the season maybe the Sharks can hang around to pull off an upset with the help from an unexpected hero in the backcourt.
Players to Watch:
No. 3 Montverde Academy (21-2)
(6-6, Jr. G), Precious Achiuwa
(6-9, Sr., F), Harlond Beverly
(6-4, Sr., G), Balsa Koprivica
(7-0, Sr., C) —
Signed with Florida State, Moses Moody
(6-5, Jr., G).
No. 13 University (27-4)
Vernon Carey Jr.
(6-11, Sr., C) —
Committed to Duke, Scottie Barnes
(6-8, Jr., F), Roger McFarlane
(6-4, Jr., G) Jett Howard
(6-5, Fr., G), Jace Howard
(6-6, Jr., W).
Prediction: Montverde Academy takes advantage of University turnovers early and don't look back. Eagles win 75-48 behind strong performances from Cunningham, Moody and Beverly.
Thursday, April 4 (Games on ESPNU)
Noon — No. 4 IMG Academy vs. No. 11 Sunrise Christian Academy
2:00 p.m. — No. 3 Montverde Academy vs. No. 13 University School
4:00 p.m. — No. 2 La Lumiere vs. No. 21 Bishop Gorman
6:00 p.m. — No. 10 Wasatch Academy vs. No. 20 Oak Hill Academy
Friday, April 5 (Games on ESPN2)
3:00 p.m. — Semifinal 1 (IMG Academy/Sunrise Christian winner vs. Montverde Academy/University winner)
5:00 p.m. — Semifinal 2 (La Lumiere/Bishop Gorman winner vs. Wasatch Academy/Oak Hill Academy winner)
Saturday, April 6 (Game on ESPN)
Noon — Championship Game