Commentary

St. Michael returns to top spot

Updated: December 24, 2008, 3:12 PM ET
By Glenn Nelson and Mindi Rice | ESPN HoopGurlz

Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national girls' basketball rankings each Wednesday of the season.

[+] EnlargeShenneika Smith
Glenn Nelson Can Shenneika Smith and St. Michael finally win the big one?

Though the Nike Tournament of Champions was the center of the girls' high school basketball universe last week, it wasn't the only site featuring major matchups.

That's why St. Michael Academy (New York City) returns to the top spot of the ESPN RISE FAB 50. Led by Jennifer O'Neil's 23 points, St. Mike defeated then-No. 8 University (Newark, N.J.) in the Phoenix's own gym and tournament.

If St. Michael survives the next couple weeks, it will tighten the vise on the No. 1 spot. It plays at the Bojangles Classic in Charlotte, N.C., next week, then travels to Ohio to face No. 6 Bolingbrook (Ill.) in the fifth of five straight games on the road.

Meanwhile, the TOC did much to clarify (or muddy, depending on one's perspective) the national scene. This is how the ESPN HoopGurlz coverage team ranked the teams in the tournament, regardless of division.

1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.): The Monarchs' closest game was 22 points in the Mike Desper championship against a nationally-ranked team, Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. The ESPN HoopGurlz staff believed Mater Dei's stifling pressure and depth would have been too much for Cardinal O'Hara, the Joe Smith titlists.

2. Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.): Yes, we still gave O'Hara the No. 2 ranking in the FAB 50 because we believe its path through the Philly area is far more treacherous (with rivals Archbishop Carroll and Wood lurking) than that of Mater Dei. In other words, O'Hara has more opportunities to "prove" its ranking.

3. Bolingbrook: The Raiders' youth betrayed them in the Smith championship against O'Hara and, if they'd hit just a couple shots in the first half, things may have been far different. We look forward to seeing how this team, with young stars Morgan Tuck and Ariel Massengale, is playing at the end of the season.

4. Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.): This is the team ESPN HoopGurlz believes would pose the biggest challenge to Mater Dei. Diminuitive lightning bolt Mariah Williams could break a lot of the Monarchs' pressure herself, and Regis has enough size to put a dent into Mater Dei at both ends of the floor.

5. Oak Ridge (Tenn.): Like Mater Dei, Oak Ridge relies on its speed and suffocating pressure, but isn't as deep. However, Jill Prudden has this unit running like clockwork and it is very fun to watch.

And One

It's difficult to beat the 34 points Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored for Mater Dei in just three quarters against then-No. 40 Highlands Ranch, a team coach Caryn Jarocki has well prepared, especially at the defensive end. Adding to the degree of difficulty, Mosqueda-Lewis entered the game having been ill for about three weeks and made liberal use of the sidelines garbage cans during breaks.

The Marquee

The first round of the T-Mobile High School Invitational pits two of the nation's most physical guards as Notre Dame-bound Skylar Diggins leads No. 7 South Bend Washington against elite junior Laurin Mincy and No. 17 University. The other matchup at Ball State on Dec. 29 features No. 24 Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.), against Gentry (Indianola, Miss.).

Off the Bounce

No. 27 Nimitz (Houston) had to cancel out of University High School's Festival of the Phoenix tournament in Newark, N.J., because of weather concerns. … Weather also cancelled a big-time matchup between No. 7 South Bend Washington and No. 14 Detroit Community which was scheduled for last Saturday. … No. 12 Whitney Young had a good outing in Newark, beating Marshall (Chicago) and Illinois-bound Adrienne GodBold, No. 36 in the ESPN HoopGurlz Hundred, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.), then ranked No. 44 in the Fab 50.

Introducing

The Peddie School (Highstown, N.J.), jumps in at No. 37 after defeating then-No. 28 Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.), at the Crescent Bank Holiday Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Expect Peddie to drop next week, as it lost to Fayette County (Ga.) 62-51 in the championship, which was Tuesday, a day after the weekly cutoff for FAB 50 rankings. Oak Ridge checks in at No. 13 after a stellar week at the Nike TOC, as does No. 49 ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.), after winning the John Anderson Division. Also debuting is No. 47 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.), which has defeated Minneapolis Roosevelt and Minneapolis South, both of which have been FAB 50 schools.

[+] EnlargeMariah Williams
Glenn Nelson Regis Jesuit's Mariah Williams is committed to UCLA.
Substitutions

The Nike TOC did in a bunch of teams, including Bishop McGuiness (Kernersville, N.C.), now 7-3; Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 11-4; Jefferson (Portland, Ore.), 4-4; Highlands Ranch (Colo.), 8-2, and Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), 6-2.

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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A member of the McDonald's All-American and Parade All-American Selection Committees, he formerly coached girls club basketball, was the editor-in-chief of an online sports network, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.

Mindi Rice is a staff writer for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at mindi@hoopgurlz.com.

Rankings: Preseason / Nov. 25 / Dec. 3 / Dec. 10/ Dec. 17/ Dec. 24 / Jan. 7 / Jan. 14 / Jan. 21 / Jan. 28 / Feb. 4 / Feb. 11 / Feb. 18 / Feb. 25 / March 4 / March 11 / March 18 / March 25 / Final

Records through Dec. 22.

ESPN RISE FAB 50 Girls Basketball Rankings (Dec. 24)
Rank Team (Location) Record Previous Rank
1 St. Michael Academy (New York City) 8-0 2
2 Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.) 9-0 9
3 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) 10-0 4
4 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 8-0 34
5 Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati) 6-0 5
6 Bolingbrook (Ill.) 8-2 10
7 South Bend Washington (South Bend, Ind.) 9-0 7
8 Heritage Christian (Indianapolis) 9-0 9
9 Murry Burgtraum (New York City) 5-0 11
10 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) 15-0 13
11 Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) 7-3 25
12 Whitney Young (Chicago) 12-1 15
13 Oak Ridge (Tenn.) 11-2 NR
14 Detroit Community (Detroit) 5-0 16
15 Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 5-1 14
16 Westlake (Atlanta) 8-1 17
17 University (Newark, N.J.) 0-1 8
18 Kentwood (Covington, Wash.) 6-0 22
19 Archbishop Carrol (Radnor, Pa.) 7-0 18
20 Millington (Tenn.) 11-1 26
21 Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) 3-0 27
22 St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.) 9-3 36
23 Wichita Heights (Wichita, Kan.) 4-0 29
24 Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.) 16-1 31
25 Westbury Christian (Houston) 25-0 35
26 Chaminade-Julienne (Dayton, Ohio) 7-2 23
27 Nimitz (Houston) 15-1 38
28 Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.) 8-3 19
29 Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.) 7-2 NR
30 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) 10-2 1
31 Trenton Central (Trenton, N.J.) 0-0 32
32 Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) 6-0 37
33 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) 4-3 3
34 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) 6-2 24
35 Lower Richland (Hopkins, S.C.) 7-1 28
36 Lexington Christian (Lexington, Ky.) 5-2 39
37 The Peddie School (Hightstown, N.J.) 4-1 NR
38 Murrah (Jackson, Miss.) 10-0 41
39 Cajon (San Bernadino, Calif.) 8-0 42
40 Wilson Central (Lebanon, Tenn.) 8-2 46
41 Mandan (N.D.) 1-1 47
42 St. John the Baptist (West Islip, N.Y.) 5-0 48
43 Punahou (Honolulu) 5-2 45
44 H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.) 5-4 21
45 Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas) 15-2 49
46 Broomfield (Colo.) 7-0 50
47 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) 9-0 NR
48 Union (Tulsa, Okla.) 3-1 33
49 ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) 9-0 NR
50 Eleanor Roosvelt (Greenbelt, Md.) 2-2 44