Top teams face looming tests


Editor's note: The ESPN RISE FAB 50 boys' basketball rankings are compiled by Christopher Lawlor, Ronnie Flores, Ryan Canner-O'Mealy and Doug Huff. They will be released each Tuesday throughout the season.

Click here for regional rankings.

If last week was an indication, then expect the next three weeks to fuel a frenetic February for the ESPN RISE FAB 50 boys' basketball rankings.

Top-ranked Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) showed its mettle during a victory over previous-No. 3 St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.). Mater Dei has adjusted its lineup following the season-ending injury to 6-foot-8 Andy Brown.

No. 8 St. Benedict's, which tumbled five spots, were reeling following a blowout loss to No. 3 St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.). A pair of losses versus Top 5 teams shows the Gray Bees play a challenging schedule. The ESPN RISE rankings' main criterion is strength of schedule. Expect Coach Dan Hurley to rededicate himself to rest of the season; the Gray Bees are a quality club.

St. Patrick avoided a trap game against Pennsbury (Fairless Hills, Pa.), winning the second of two meetings between the clubs Sunday. The Celtics have a monumental weekend with back-to-back games against Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and No. 2 Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), Friday and Saturday, respectively.

In Los Angeles, it's business as usual with No. 12 Westchester and No. 13 Fairfax splitting their regular season series. The two likely will meet again in the postseason.

Kudos to No. 11 Boyd Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) for winning its third consecutive BCAA Big 8 Tournament title. Now the fun begins as Florida's district tournaments tip this week.

No. 10 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) is one team you won't want to face in the postseason. The Spartans run a version of the Princeton offense, where misdirection and backdoor cuts are the norm. They also play a sticky zone defense which is limiting teams to 32 points per game. To wit, the Spartans grounded high-flying No. 32 Dominguez (Compton, Calif.), 64-38, at the Nike Extravaganza. DLS and No. 31 McClymonds (Oakland, Calif.) are on a collision course to replay in the CIF-Northern California Division I bracket.

Three teams were added to the rankings, with No. 43 Bellevue (Wash.) as the lone newcomer. No. 49 Yates (Houston) and No. 50 McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) were previously ranked.

An intriguing matchup is slated for Saturday night when No. 23 Christ School (Arden, N.C.) hosts No. 22 Centennial (Roswell, Ga.). Next week the top game is No. 15 Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) playing Bloomington (Ind.) South on Feb. 21 in a game that may reshape the Midwest Region rankings. This is a good game because both Michigan and Indiana schools have tight travel rules and little wiggle room on their schedules.

Three-point play

Game Ball: Fairfax (Los Angeles) center Renardo Sidney Jr., a national player of the year candidate, turned in four clutch performances, earning him player of the week honors as No.13 Fairfax (Los Angeles) went 4-0. Sidney, a 6-foo-10 post player, had 26 points and 20 rebounds in a 49-42 win over No. 12 Westchester (Los Angeles). He recorded a key dunk and made several clutch free throws down the stretch, pulling the Lions into a first-place tie in the Western League standings with it rival.

Sidney, No. 5 in the ESPNU 100, also scored 28 points against Palisades (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) and 19 against Whitney Young (Chicago) at the Nike Extravaganza. He likely will be selected to the McDonald's All-American Game and is undecided on college.

Game of the week: If you can't make it Friday (7 p.m. ET) to Fordham University's Rose Hill Gymnasium, you can watch the No. 3 St. Patrick-Lincoln matchup on ESPN2. The game is one of three games of the Nike Super Six which tips off at 5 p.m. when No. 16 Rice (Manhattan, N.Y.) plays Paterson (N.J.) Catholic. The finale is No. 19 Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Jefferson (Brooklyn) at 9 p.m.

The marquee game has Lincoln's Lance Stephenson (No. 8-ranked player in the ESPNU 100), one of the nation's top undecided seniors and Maryland-bound forward James Padgett facing the St. Patrick quartet of guard Dexter Strickland (North Carolina recruit), 6-foot-6 Paris Bennett (George Mason), 6-foot-3 junior Kyree Irving and 6-foot-7 sophomore Michael Gilchrist.

Must-see event: Organizer Jeff Hewitson has pulled off another two-day coup, featuring 16 games (eight each day) at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J. The Prime Time Shootout serves as a last-chance for teams to see postseason quality competition in the regular season. Saturday's best games are: No. 16 Rice-Rancocas Valley (Mount Holly, N.J.), 3 p.m. ET; Mountain State Academy (Beckley, W.Va.)-No. 8 St. Benedict's, 4:30; Lincoln-No. 12 Westchester (Los Angeles), 7:30; and No. 2 Oak Hill Academy-No. 3 St. Patrick, 9 p.m.

Sunday's top three games are: Elizabeth (N.J.)-No. 20 Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), noon; No. 2 Oak Hill Academy-Linden (N.J.), 3; and No. 9 Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.)-Shabazz (Newark, N.J.), 4:30.

Records are through Feb. 8.

Dropped out: No. 36 Chester (Pa.); No. 44 Hall (Little Rock, Ark.); and No. 48 Cedar Hill (Texas).