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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Long road to FAB 50 title

By Ronnie Flores

The road to the POWERADE FAB 50 mythical national title won't be an easy one.

That journey will definitely pass through Ft. Myers, Fla., and Springfield, Mass. Those two locations are home to the most loaded events this upcoming season in terms of FAB 50 ranked-caliber teams in attendance.

Ft. Myers, Fla., is the home of the State Farm City of Palms Classic, the nation's top holiday tournament in recent years. The 2011 edition (Dec. 16-21) is no different, as Bishop Verot High School will host no less than eight FAB 50-ranked teams between December 16-21. The field of teams include (listed with preseason FAB 50 ranking):

16-Team Classic:

No. 2 Miller Grove (Lithonia Ga.)
No. 6 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
No. 7 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
No. 10 Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)
No. 16 Grace Prep (Arlington, Texas)
No. 18 Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.)
No. 50 Trinity (Louisville, Ken.)

4-Team Signature Series:

No. 23 Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.)

The third place and championship game on Wednesday, December 21 will be televised live on ESPNU.

Among the teams that did not make the FAB 50, the one that intrigues us the most is Salesian (Richmond, Calif.), led by standout junior wing Jabari Bird. The Pride open the season unranked in the West Region Top 20, but one has to wonder how high they would have been in the FAB 50 had standout point guard Dominic Artis, who recently de-committed from UCLA, not left NorCal for Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).

Speaking of Findlay Prep, the rugged schedule for the No. 8 ranked Pilots includes a stop at Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass., on Monday, Jan. 16 at the 2012 Spalding Hoophall Classic. In that game, Findlay Prep will battle No. 1 Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) as part of a four game set to be televised on ESPNU.

Seven of the top nine teams in the POWERADE FAB 50 will participate at the Hoophall Classic, which is quickly becoming the nation's top showcase. The top showcase games at the five-day event over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend (Jan. 12-16) are:

Jan. 14

No. 47 La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) vs. St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.)
No. 18 Riverside Academy (Reserve, La.) vs. No. 19 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)
No. 3 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) vs. Prestonwood Christian (Arlington, Texas)
No. 13 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) vs. Northwest Catholic (West Hartford, Conn.)

Jan. 15

No. 23 Friends' Central (Wynnewood, Pa.) vs. St. Mark's (Southborough, Mass.)

Jan. 16

No. 2 Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) vs. No. 9 St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
No. 7 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) vs. No. 13 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.)
No. 1 Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) vs. No. 8 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
No. 6 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) vs. No. 24 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.)

As if those games aren't enough to make fans and pollsters drool, there is a tentative game to be played on Jan. 7 at the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W. Va., between No. 1 Simeon and No. 2 Miller Grove.

There is no guarantee that game at the Cancer Research Classic will pit the top two ranked teams in the FAB 50. But if Miller Grove can survive its early season schedule, including a game against No. 3 Oak Hill Academy, and win the City of Palms Tournament, there is no doubt the Wolverines will be pushing Simeon for the top spot.

Should Miller Grove falter before facing a potentially unbeaten Simeon club, there will be plenty of pressure on Jabari Parker and company to win that game. If not, a new No. 1 team heading towards the postseason could potentially emerge from the results of the Hoophall Classic.

At the conclusion of the 1989-90 season, four of the top five ranked teams in the National Prep Poll (precursor to the FAB 50) all finished with unbeaten records, led by No. 1 King (Chicago, Ill.) with a 32-0 mark.

With the stacked national schedules ranked teams are playing nowadays, that scenario is unlikely to materialize again.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN