Boys’ basketball: Who should be No. 1?

After a week of crazy results up and down the Post’s Top 20 (special thanks to O’Connell for knocking off both the No. 1 and No. 4 seeds in a seven-day stretch), this week’s updated boys’ basketball rankings are up and ready to be debated. The AllMetSports staff did its fair share of friendly banter as it put together the newest Top 20, so now we’re asking for you to do the same. Who should be the No. 1 team in the Post’s poll? Before you vote below, here’s a bit about what each team’s done to help and hurt its case for the top spot so far:

Paul VI's Marcus Derrickson tries to shoot over St. John's defender Darius Bryant in the Panthers' 20-point win over the Cadets in December (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post). Paul VI’s Marcus Derrickson tries to shoot over St. John’s defender Darius Bryant in the Panthers’ 20-point win over the Cadets in December (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post).

1. Riverdale Baptist (17-2) LW: 3

Why they deserve it: The Crusaders have the most wins of any area team, and their two losses have come to two of the better high school teams in the Mid-Atlantic — St. James and Our Savior Lutheran (NY) — and by fewer than five points each. They’ve disposed of then-Top 15 teams Clinton and National Christian, and feature a two-headed inside tandem of bigs Chinanu Onuaku and Taron Oliver that few teams in the area can match.

Why they don’t: The theory of rankings relativity. It’s hard to place the Crusaders relative to other top teams because while WCAC test themselves against each other nightly, Riverdale hasn’t played Paul VI, St. John’s, DeMatha, or O’Connell. While they share opponents with several other top teams (the Crusaders, for example, beat Good Counsel 66-56 while Paul VI beat them 95-38), the transitive property is an untrustworthy formula for comparing teams.

2. Paul VI (11-2) LW: 1

Why they deserve it: The Panthers topped our poll for the first month and a half thanks to a roster loaded with future Division I players and a formidable blend of size and strength. They dismantled then-No. 2 St. John’s 71-51, handled then-No. 4 Montrose Christian 71-58, and their lone loss through 11 games came to one of the nation’s top teams, Monteverde Academy (Fla.).

Why they don’t: After tearing largely unchallenged through area competition early on, the Panthers stumbled at then-No. 9 O’Connell 63-58 last week. Though they bounced back with a 99-72 win over McNamara, there’s now a chink in the armor of seeming local invincibility that had surrounded the Panthers.

3. St. John’s (12-1) LW: 2

Why they deserve it: With the exception of that 20-point loss to Paul VI, the Cadets have been perfect, including comfortable wins over Top 15 Prince George’s County powers Wise and Potomac. Like the Panthers, St. John’s is loaded with future Division I players, which makes it impervious to an off night from any one star.

Why they don’t: It’s tough to tell whether the Cadets’ struggles against Paul VI represented a momentary lapse or a significant disparity between the WCAC foes. In addition to a rematch with the Panthers at Paul VI, St. John’s plays DeMatha and O’Connell twice each in the coming weeks, meaning lingering questions about the Cadets should be answered over the next month.

4. O’Connell (9-4) LW: 9

Why they deserve it: Last week. The Knights are off to a 7-0 start in the WCAC thanks in large part to a 63-58 win over shocked — and top-ranked — Paul VI which they followed up with a 62-58 win over then-No. 4 and previously unbeaten DeMatha two days later. By dint of that success, as well as five wins against unranked WCAC foes, O’Connell — not Paul VI, St. John’s, or DeMatha — currently sits atop the WCAC standings.

Why they don’t: At one point this season, the Knights were 1-3 after dropping three straight games to out-of-area teams on an early season trip West. They’ve also dropped a game to weekly top-10 team Bullis, but that 55-52 result is O’Connell’s only loss in its last nine games.

5. Potomac (Va.) (13-0) LW: 5

Why they deserve it: The Panthers’ record says it all. No one’s beaten Potomac this season, the only team in the Top 20 yet to stumble. Potomac boasts experience and a balance of inside and outside scorers no one has been able to match yet.

Why they don’t: Strength of schedule. The Panthers have not and will not play a team that has been ranked so far this season, but have still had five wins come by ten points or fewer. Might they fare well against their fellow top-five squads? Potentially, but there’s no good way to tell.

6. DeMatha (13-1) LW: 4

Why they deserve it: After a down year in 2012-13, the Stags are back in force this season, charging through the first 13 games of their schedule with big wins over strong Prince George’s county squads DuVal and Eleanor Roosevelt and disposing of WCAC foes Good Counsel, Ireton, Ryken and Gonzaga with little trouble. The Stags may be the most explosive team in the D.C. area, with an arsenal of size and athleticism, which served them particularly well in a statement win over Maryland powerhouse Milford Mill in December.

Why they don’t: Strength of schedule bites the Stags, too. Though they topped the WCAC early, DeMatha’s 13 straight wins included none of its most formidable conference rivals, and in the Stags’ first matchup with one of them — O’Connell — they faltered. The question of whether the Stags are truly back to dominance or still a season or two away will be answered over their final 11 games, five of which come against teams ranked in the Post’s top five.

[polldaddy poll=7712231]

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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