Top two ranked teams in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife.com lead 10-team field at 2021 GEICO Nationals. This year’s tournament set for March 31-April 3 in Ft. Myers, Fla.
By Ronnie Flores
Last season Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) wasn’t able to end its season playing some of the nation’s other top-ranked teams at GEICO Nationals, as the traditional end-of-season tournament was canceled as a result of COVID-19 protocols. The tournament is back for 2020-21 and today its tourney field was announced. For the first time ever, GEICO Nationals will host 10 teams in a bracket set to be played at Suncoast Union Arena on Florida SouthWestern’s campus in Ft. Myers, Fla. The games will be played March 31-April 3 and televised on the ESPN family of networks.
Montverde Academy, the current No. 1 team FAB 50 national rankings, will look to close out the season with three wins at GEICO Nationals to claim the FAB 50 mythical national title. The Eagles are this year’s No. 1 seed and if the seeds were to hold up, it would be the program’s fifth tourney title. Montverde Academy also won GEICO Nationals in 2018 and from 2013-2015. All four of those teams were also No. 1 in the final FAB 50 rankings.
The No. 2 seed is FAB 50 No. 2 Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.), a team Montverde Academy defeated last Friday to win the inaugural National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) title. MVA defeated the Buffaloes two times in three games during the regular season. The bracket and schedule are as follows:
2021 GEICO Nationals
Seed No. 7 Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.) vs. 10 La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), 6 pm ET
No. 8 Pace Academy (Atlanta) vs. 9 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), 8 pm ET
Seed No. 3 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) vs. No. 6 Milton (Milton, Ga.), 12 pm ET
No. 2 Sunrise Christian vs. No. 7 vs. No. 10 winner, 2 pm ET
No. 1 Montverde Academy vs. No. 8 vs. No. 9 winner, 4 pm ET
No. 4 AZ Compass Prep (Chandler, Ariz.) vs. No. 5 Wasatch Academy (Mt. Pleasant, Utah), 6 pm ET
GEICO Nationals Semifinals (April 2): 2 vs. 3 bracket, 2:30 pm ET; 1 vs. 4 bracket, 4:30 pm ET.
GIECO Nationals Championships (April 3): 12 pm ET
Note: This is the 13th year of the event at the first time the bracket will consist of 10 teams over four days.
Ballislife Instant Analysis:
The first two seeds went as excepted, but there is a bit of a caveat with No. 4 seed AZ Compass Prep (which is not eligible for the FAB 50) landing on the same side of the bracket as Montverde Academy. The Dragons, who lost to MVA in overtime during the regular season, will play in the tournament without Dayton-bound forward DaRon Holmes. Tournament officials ruled he’s not eligible to participate because he transferred to AZ Compass Prep after December 31 of the current high school season. That transfer rule for GEICO Nationals participants has been in place for many years. Ironically, Holmes was at Montverde Academy after spending his junior season at Millennium (Goodyear, Ariz.).
IMG Academy, the 2019 tourney champion and FAB 50 No. 1 team that season, nabbed the No. 3 seed on the same side of the bracket as Sunrise Christian Academy. A full-strength AZ Compass Prep defeated Sunrise Christian Academy, 50-47, at the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament on January 30, so it seems as if Holmes’ absence played a role in the seedings. AZ Compass Prep still should be a formidable team without Holmes as along as Mr. Basketball USA candidate TyTy Washington is running the point and making big shots. Washington recently de-committed from Creighton. The point guard matchup between Washington and Kentucky-bound Nolan Hickman of FAB 50 No. 5 Wasatch Academy will be intriguing. Wasatch Academy is battled tested, while the rest of the Dragons’ lineup (outside of Washington) is quality and looking forward to the national exposure this tournament affords.
The best quarterfinal matchup and the one we’re looking forward to the most is FAB 50 No. 3 IMG Academy vs. No. 10 Milton. That game has the feel of a semifinal matchup, and the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Class AAAAAAA champs will have to show they can rebound and stay with the Ascenders in transition. There is another great guard matchup with two sophomores going heads up: Kanaan Carlyle of Milton and Jaden Bradley of IMG. The difference might come down to how Milton game plans for Michigan-bound Moussa Diabaté and if they can effectively control the game’s tempo and limit the amount of times IMG Academy races out for easy looks.
Sunrise would have it hands full with whomever wins that game in a potential semifinal matchup. Montverde Academy will be a solid favorite in its quarterfinal matchup against the winner of FAB 50 No. 27 Pace Academy and No. 25 Oak Hill Academy. Oak Hill Academy has played the tougher schedule and did defeat No. 5 Wasatch Academy once in three games this season.
Pace Academy, the GHSA AA champion, is participating for the first time and has a well-rounded lineup led by Florida State-bound All-American candidate Matthew Cleveland. This is also the first time in the tourney’s history that two full-fledged state association members from the same state have been selected for the tournament. It would be quite a swoon for the GHSA and Georgia basketball if both its teams were to win a game in this tournament.
Oak Hill Academy won the tournament in 2016 over La Lumiere, the 2017 champion and 2019 runner-up to IMG Academy. This La Lumiere unit is its weakest over the past five years, so Prolific Prep enters the No. 7 vs. No. 10 game as a slight favorite.
Montverde Academy rates as the slight tourney favorite, considering it beat Sunrise Christian twice and AZ Compass Prep won’t be the same team that fell to the Eagles in overtime. Montverde Academy, and Michigan-bound senior Caleb Houstan in particular, will have some motivation to perform well at the event since last year’s tournament wasn’t played.
Montverde Academy was the heavy favorite last year fielding quite possibly the best team ever to qualify for this event, but it never got to close out its 25-0 season on a stage such as the one GEICO Nationals provides. Houstan was the lone returning starter on an already historic Eagles team, one that might see the other four starters in the NBA next season, so him and his teammates will be eager to show this team can get the job done.
This MVA team, although No. 1 in the FAB 50 once again, is not nearly as dominant and a loss at the event after the quarterfinal round wouldn’t be a shocker. This year’s overall field is strong and the Eagles are not quite ahead of the pack as they would have been last season had the games taken place.