By virtue of defeating three teams ranked in the top ten at GEICO Nationals, including previous No. 1 La Lumiere (Ind.), IMG Academy (Fla.) moves up three spots to finish as the top-ranked team in the final FAB 50 Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com for the 2018-19 season. The one-loss Ascenders edge No. 2 McEachern (Ga.) which received an invitation to the event but did not participate. We break down how IMG is the second program ever from Florida to capture a mythical FAB 50 national title.
By Ronnie Flores
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We stated in last week’s national rankings there was a solid chance the 2018-19 FAB 50 mythical national champion would emerge from GEICO Nationals, which took place at Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) last weekend. The event hosted one of its strongest eight-team fields ever, and previous No. 4 IMG Academy (Brandenton, Fla.) captured the tournament by defeating previous No. 9 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Air, Kan.), 65-50, in the quarterfinals, previous No. 3 and defending champion Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), 74-73, in the semifinals and previous No. 1 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), 66-55, in the title game to capture its first-ever title at the annual end-of-season event.
Villanova-bound Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was named GEICO Nationals MVP after scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists in the title game. The Ascenders also got a huge lift from guard Jaden Springer, who averaged 21.3 ppg in the three victories and was critical in the 16-point comeback win over Montverde Academy in the semifinals.
— Who’s Next (@WhosNextHS) April 6, 2019
“We don’t run anything, we just roll the ball out,” IMG Academy head coach Sean McAloon joked about the talent on his team, which includes three McDonald’s All-Americans. “Honestly, having talent does make it easier. They are good players and good kids who come from good families.”
In reality, three teams from the field had a chance to capture the mythical national crown by winning three games at GEICO Nationals. La Lumiere came into the event as the top-ranked team in the country and came up one game short, as it just couldn’t shoot a high enough percentage from the field to keep up with IMG Academy down the stretch. Montverde Academy, which came in No. 3, also had a chance to finish at No. 1, by avenging its two regular season losses to La Lumiere by beating the Lakers and/or winning the tournament. IMG Academy came in No. 4, and had the opportunity to move up to No. 1 if it faced and beat the two teams ranked ahead of it in the tournament field.
Fortunately for the Ascenders, both those scenarios took place and by virtue of its three victories at the event, IMG moves up three spots to finish No. 1 in the final FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com. Undefeated McEachern (Power Springs, Ga.) remains at No. 2, as it did nothing to justify a drop or a move up in the rankings. La Lumiere falls a spot below McEachern to finish No. 3 with the sole loss to IMG Academy, and with rankings credit for the two wins over Montverde Academy. The Eagles naturally drop a spot after the one-point loss to IMG Academy.
By virtue of finishing No. 1, IMG Academy becomes the second Florida program to ever win the FAB 50 national title or finish No. 1 in polls dating back to 1952, when the National Sports News Service (FAB 50 precursor) began its end-of-the-season ratings. Montverde Academy was the first program from the state to win a mythical national title in 2013. The Eagles also won FAB 50 titles in 2014, 2015 and 2018.
Now The Fun Part
With McEachern publicly accepting a GEICO Nationals invitation initially, then declining the offer to participate once it was clear the team would not be at full strength, there was a looming decision on what from a rankings perspective with a team that finished 32-0 and defeated eight teams in the final FAB 50. If any team besides La Lumiere, Montverde Academy or IMG Academy won GEICO Nationals, it would have been impossible to deny the Indians the mythical FAB 50 national crown.
IMG Academy defeated six teams in the final FAB 50 and lost one game to No. 5 Mountain Brook (Mountain Brook, Ala.), 72-67, at the City of Palms Classic in December. McEachern won that tournament and the Ascenders losing prevented a McEachern-IMG semifinal game. That is significant because McEachern obviously has enough quality wins to have a legitimate claim to a mythical national championship.
“What happened was I got out-coached by (Mountain Brook’s) Bucky McMillan,” McAloon said. “It caused me to sit back and look at our preparation. We found out we could take a bullet, and weren’t invisible. We came back and smashed University School (in our next game) and I think that was the turning point. That game helped us.”
What McEachern doesn’t have that IMG Academy possesses is a victory over a team that came into the game ranked ahead of them, and actually two of them. Those teams are La Lumiere and Montverde Academy, the defending FAB 50 national champion which had a 16-point lead on the Ascenders. It goes without saying, IMG Academy and McEachern never played head-to-head. Obviously head-to-head in the most important rankings factor and common opponent is quite important too, as is quality of schedule. The Mountain Brook result is significant, but so is the way IMG concluded its season, with a 15-point victory over the Sunrise Christian Academy club that took McEachern into overtime, defeating the defending champions who had only lost to the No. 1 team coming in, and soundly defeating the team ranked ahead of McEachern and handing that team its only loss. It’s hard to overlook those results, especially in light of the fact McEachern had an opportunity to defeat a combination of those teams as well, but chose not to. The GEICO Nationals bracket was already released when McEachern pulled out. It was to open with a rematch against Sunrise Christian Academy.
McEachern ended up defeating one team that finished in the Top 10: Mountain Brook, which suffered two losses to unranked clubs but moved up one spot in the final rankings because it deserves rankings credit for beating IMG Academy. Coach Mike Thompson’s club ended up defeating four teams in the final Top 20: No. 11 Sunrise Christian Academy, No. 14 Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.) and No. 19 Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.). Of IMG Academy’s six victories over FAB 50 ranked foes, all six of those came over teams ranked in the final Top 12: No. 3 La Lumiere, No. 4 Montverde Academy, No. 8 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), No. 10 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), No. 11 Sunrise Christian Academy and No. 12 University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).
McEachern was No. 2 in the FAB at the beginning of the event and stayed in the same rankings position. The Indians weren’t hurt by event, nor did they benefit from it. That is a big difference from the scenario two years ago when Nathan Hale (Seattle, Wash.) finished No. 1 in the FAB 50. Hale had an opportunity to play in GEICO Nationals, but never accepted the invitation. Hale was already No. 1 in the FAB 50. It takes an extreme circumstance in order to drop a team from the No. 1 position without losing a game on-court. It would be less extreme, but it doesn’t happen often that a team moves up to No. 1 without a direct result affecting its position.
This season shows the importance of how pre-season positioning and what transpired in the past affects current rankings. McEachern built up its resume to reach No. 2, but had it won the GGHSA Class AAAAAAA crown in 2017-18 and earned a GEICO Nationals invite, it would have started higher in the preseason rankings and likely would have been No. 1 earlier in the season ahead of La Lumiere, which began the season ranked higher than McEachern and two spots lower than IMG Academy, which began at No. 4.
In conclusion, IMG’s overall quality victories and wins over teams ranked No. 3 and No. 1 at the time of the game were enough to overcome the one on-court loss.
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Final 2018-19 FAB 50 National Team Rankings
Powered by Ballislife.com
(Eighteenth and FINAL poll of 2018-19 regular season; Through games played on Saturday, April 6; There is no bubble clubs listed, as the final Region-by-Region Top 20 Rankings will be released later this week; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included; **Indicates forfeits and defaults not included; ***Indicates scrimmages and foundation games not included)
|No.||Prev.||High School (City)||Record|
|1||4||IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)||31-1|
|2||2||McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)||32-0|
|3||1||La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.)||30-1|
|4||3||Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.)||22-3|
|5||6||Mountain Brook (Mountain Brook, Ala.)||31-3|
|6||5||Ranney School (Tinton Falls, N.J.)||31-3|
|7||7||Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio)||29-0|
|8||12||DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)||33-5|
|9||8||Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)||32-3|
|10||17||Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)||33-5|
|11||9||Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.)||23-6|
|12||10||University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)||27-5|
|13||14||South Central (Winterville, N.C.)||30-1|
|14||11||Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.)||26-3|
|15||15||Carmel (Carmel, Ind.)||26-1|
|16||16||Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.)||28-4|
|17||18||Belleville West (Belleville, Ill.)||34-4|
|18||19||Duncanville (Duncanville, Texas)||32-7|
|19||20||Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.)||27-9|
|20||22||Guyer (Denton, Texas)||32-5|
|21||23||St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.)||37-7|
|22||24||Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.)||28-9|
|23||25||Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)||28-5|
|24||21||Nicolet (Glendale, Wis.)||27-1|
|25||26||Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Wash.)||25-2|
|26||27||Vashon (St. Louis, Mo.)||25-5|
|27||28||Long Island Lutheran (Glen Head, N.Y.)||25-2|
|28||13||Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah)||26-4|
|29||29||Southwest Guilford (High Point, N.C.)||32-0|
|30||30||Federal Way (Federal Way, Wash.)||26-3|
|31||31||Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.)||34-4|
|32||32||Legacy Early College (Greenville, S.C.)||34-5|
|33||33||Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.)||27-6|
|34||34||Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, N.J.)||26-5|
|35||35||Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)||29-5|
|36||36||Mansfield Timberview (Arlington, Texas)||38-2|
|37||37||Starkville (Starkville, Miss.)||30-1|
|38||38||Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)||31-1|
|39||39||Rancho Christian (Temecula, Calif.)||25-6**|
|40||40||Haverford School (Haverford, Pa.)||28-0|
|41||41||Meadowcreek (Norcross, Ga.)||26-6|
|42||42||Roman Catholic (Philadelphia, Pa.)||26-5|
|43||43||Center Hill (Olive Branch, Miss.)||31-3|
|44||44||Curie (Chicago, Ill.)||34-2|
|45||45||Booker T. Washington (Tulsa, Okla.)||26-2|
|46||46||Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.)||28-3|
|47||47||Pinnacle (Phoenix, Ariz.)||28-3|
|48||48||Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.)||35-2|
|49||49||Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)||27-4|
|50||50||Kennedy Catholic (Hermitage, Pa.)||27-3|
Editor’s Note: No bubble clubs are included in the Final FAB 50, as the final 2018-19 Top 20 Regional Rankins will be released later this week.
Note: The FAB 50 powered by Ballislife.com is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota compiled them. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 19 years ago.