Earlier this week, Ballislife Grassroots Editor Ronnie Flores dropped the 2019-20 preseason FAB 50 rankings in a three-part series. In compiling and sorting the Top 50 teams in the country, Flores took into account not only his own knowledge of returning players and impact transfers, but he also polled coaches across the nation to gather as much information as possible to create an educated list. Of those 50 teams, there are five teams which stand as the most to lose based on preseason ranking, schedule and other on-court factors.
DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)
Of course a team that starts as high as DeMatha (No. 3) is always likely to fall further than a team in the middle or on the lower end of the rankings. The struggle the Stags face is the lack of margin for error, especially late in the season when they are likely to play some of their toughest games in Washington Catholic Conference play against squads like Paul VI and Gonzaga. DeMatha could conceivably finish third in its conference, which won’t bode well for rankings purposes at the end of the season. The Stags will get an early crack against No. 2 Montverde and a win there could help them maintain a high ranking even if they drop a game in conference or conference tournament play. Other key pre-conference game for DeMatha will come against No. 18 Santa Ana Mater Dei on Jan. 4 at the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, WV, Chicago Simeon on Jan 18 at HoopHall and against No. 21 Rancho Christian at that same event. When all is said and done, DeMatha has a chance to either be in the mythical national title hunt or have seven or eight losses to its name.
Lawrence Central (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Lawrence Central doesn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to rising in the rankings from No. 31 because of the fact their schedule doesn’t permit it. The Bears play against largely in-state opponents this season and few of them are FAB 50 caliber teams in the Midwest region. Lawrence Central is the odds-on favorite to win the IHSAA Class 4A title this season, but Indiana high school playoffs always provide an upset or two along the way. The Bears will have to play close to perfect all season long to hold firm in the middle of the FAB 50 pack. If that’s not the case, look for Jeffersonville or Lafayette Jefferson to sneak in there instead.
Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.)
Rancho Christian is one of the more interesting teams in this conversation because its ceiling and floor are so high and low in respect to the FAB 50 rankings. The Eagles have the top prospect in the country in Evan Mobley and play a highly competitive schedule filled with nationally-ranked teams. On the other hand, the Eagles haven’t been as good as expected in recent seasons come playoff time in the CIF Southern Section Region. Rancho Christian, despite having the Mobley brothers on the same floor for three years, have yet to make an appearance in a sectional or regional final. The Classic at Damien will be a big test for the Eagles as they could face in-state and fellow FAB 50-ranked opponents Sierra Canyon or Etiwanda depending on how the brackets shake out. If Rancho Christian drops games it should win against SoCal teams, it could take a long tumble.
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)
Sierra Canyon’s road to FAB 50 supremacy got a little more interesting with the CIF Southern Section ruling that five-star wing Ziaire Williams must adhere to the transfer sit out period which will forbid the 6-foot-8 senior from playing until Dec. 29. If all goes according to plan, Williams’ first game will be in the Classic at Damien championship on Monday, Dec. 30. Nonetheless, our preseason FAB 50 No. 6 team is still loaded even without Williams. Returners Terren Frank and Amari Bailey, along with Kentucky-bound guard BJ Boston east coast transfer Shy Odom are plenty talented enough to hold down the fort until late December. Another layer to the Sierra Canyon machine is how well coach Andre Chevalier has done with stacked teams in recent memory, leading the Trailblazers to the CIF-SS Open Division state championship in each of the last two seasons. But as we mentioned with DeMatha above, it’s difficult for a team ranked so high in the preseason to make a huge jump, especially with California teams not permitted to play teams that don’t compete for a state championship or are do not operate under a state association, meaning Sierra Canyon cannot play No. 1 IMG Academy, No. 2 Montverde Academy, No. 8 Oak Hill Academy or No. 9 La Lumiere. The good thing for the Trailblazers is their schedule is loaded and they will have plenty of opportunity to prove their ranking early.
Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah)
Ronnie admitted that based on talent alone, he might have started Wasatch a little lower than some may have expected at No. 23. The Tigers are in great position this season to take the next step as a program and make a splash at GEICO Nationals as long as they don’t drop any games they shouldn’t along the way. Wasatch won 21 games to open the season last year before falling to Rancho Christian and Vashon (Mo.) in back-to-back games. The Tigers’ first 12 games this season shouldn’t give them much issue as they play mostly in-state opponents aside from two games against teams from Las Vegas. We will really see what Wasatch is about at the Iolani Classic as No. 8 Oak Hill Academy and No. 20 Long Island Lutheran will be in attendance. To remain among the FAB 50 Top 25, and get a crack at GEICO Nationals, the Tigers can’t afford many mistakes.