If the FAB 50 rankings are any gauge of overall team strengths and competition, one high school league can just about claim the "best in the country" tag this season: the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
No less than three WCAC members are ranked among the top 29 teams entering this week's play. And the trio play each other twice in the regular season, including a showdown Tuesday night between No. 9 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) and No. 28 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.).
Paul VI scored its second-straight win against a higher-ranked WCAC team with a 66-53 triumph over the Purple Eagles. Last weekend, Paul VI bested No. 29 ranked DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) 64-62. DeMatha, which at one point this season was No. 5 in the FAB 50, also lost earlier this season to Gonzaga 76-74.
This league is just getting warmed up, too. Rematches remain for all three teams: Paul VI versus Gonzaga, Paul VI versus DeMatha; and Gonzaga versus DeMatha.
While Gonzaga now has two losses on the season to WCAC foes, it has wins against three non-WCAC teams that have been ranked in the FAB 50. That only further shows the conference’s strength this season.
The other WCAC members include St. John's (Washington, D.C.), which is the team with a win over Gonzaga; Bishop O'Connell (Arlington, Va.); Archbishop Carroll (Washington, D.C.); Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.); Good Counsel (Olney, Md.); and St. Mary’s Ryken (Leonardtown, Md.).
FAB 50 Spotlight Player of the Week: Jordan Bell, Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
The 6-foot-8 junior forward only averages 8.6 points per game so how could he be in the spotlight? It’s about his defense and the shots he routinely swats with either hands or by pinning off the backboard in transition. Bell, whose offense is developing with pressure taken off him due to the presence of high-scoring 6-foot-6 junior Roschon Prince, led the No. 22 Jackrabbits with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 16 blocked shots in their 68-59 win last week against rival Jordan (Long Beach, Calif.).
Bell’s 16 blocks gets his name into the state record book. According to the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports record book, it’s not the record -- that total is 20 for a single game -- but any total above 14 makes the list. Bell, who also averages 8.7 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game, is the No. 51 player in the ESPNU 60.
Super Bowl alums from FAB 50 schools
Neither Benjarvus Green-Ellis or Sergio Brown played basketball when they were in high school, but the two members of the New Englands Patriots who will play in this year’s Super Bowl are from currently FAB 50-ranked basketball schools.
Green-Ellis hails from No. 16 St. Augustine (New Orleans). As New England’s No. 1 running back, he could be very important in the Patriots’ slowing down the vaunted New York Giants’ pass rush. Brown is from No. 26 Proviso East (Mayfield, Ill.). He’s a defensive back and special teams player for the Pats.
The five most likely undefeated teams for the regular season
There are 12 teams in this week’s FAB 50 that begin February with unbeaten records and look for perfect regular seasons.
Here are the five we think are most likely to accomplish that feat:
No. 5 Chester (Chester, Pa.): The defending Class 4A state champion Clippers took a 43-game win streak into this week. With five regular-season games remaining, Chester already has wins over four in-state foes and closes its regular season against Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) at the PrimeTime Shootout event.
No. 11 Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.): The three-time defending Class 6A titlists sport the nation's second-longest win streak, 56 games, and the Falcons' only remaining pre-playoff challenge could be against city rival Northwest on Feb. 10.
No. 26 Proviso East (Maywood, Ill.): The Pirates have only had two of 17 wins by less than double-digit margins. With five regular season games left, Proviso East not only could take an unblemished record into the Class 4A state playoffs, they could make a run at dethroning two-time defending champion Simeon (Chicago).
No. 42 Eastview (Apple Valley, Minn.): The Lightning not only have been a dominant team vs. instate foes but have handed Wisconsin contender Madison Memorial its only loss. Eastview also has wins against all of its remaining regular season opponents.
No. 43 Germantown (Germantown, Wis.): Wisconsin's No. 1 ranked Division 1 team continues to pile up lopsided victories with the closest margin of victory being 11 points. The Warhawks, in fact, could be the best bet among these five to wrap up an unbeaten regular season.