Many states were unable to finish their state championship events and there will not likely be any post-season or national All-Star events because of Coronavirus (COVID-19), which rapidly went from a public health crisis to a pandemic on March 11 after a series of events led to the postponement of many sporting events and eventually led to local ordinances banning large gatherings. So what does this mean for national high school basketball and the upcoming travel ball season? And what does this mean for the FAB 50 National Team Rankings, which normally would have four more sets of rankings before the final one on April 5?
RELATED: Past, Present & Future of FAB 50
There were concerns in the scholastic ranks regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) over a week and a half go and the plight of the FAB 50 ranked Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) basketball team brought the public health issue to the attention of high school basketball players and coaches nationwide. Sheldon was able to play in its California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) NorCal Open Division semifinal contest after being re-instated into the tournament following its removal by the Elk Grove Unified School District, but by that time FAB 50 No. 34 Sheldon and the rest of the remaining field had a feeling it was a race against the clock. Sheldon won its regional semifinal contest, and on the same night FAB 50 No. 17 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) recorded a hard-to-believe 63-61 comeback win over No. 22 Etiwanda (Calif.) to win the SoCal Open championship. Because Sheldon’s game on Saturday was postponed until Tuesday, the NorCal and SoCal regionals were not on the same schedule.
Crazy the plight of Sheldon to get to NorCal Regional Final, as its season comes to an end w/a “W” 1 game short of its ultimate goal. It’s crazy how much changed in 24 hours around sports since this aired on #Emerge (@aminajadeTV). Season over for Huskies, O’Dowd & Sierra Canyon. pic.twitter.com/q4pDFkNxQJ
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 12, 2020
The “race against the clock” for state associations was full bore on Wednesday, but by the time it was announced on Wednesday NBA player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for Coronavirus, the situation had became a full-blown pandemic. In a span of 24 hours beginning last Wednesday, many professional leagues shut down operations and college conferences called off their season-ending tournaments before NCAA selection Sunday. Eventually the entire NCAA tournament was cancelled for 2020 and many state associations at the high school level followed suit. By Friday, a vast majority of state governing bodies cancelled the remainder of their respective state tournaments.
By then Coronavirus had affected all facets of life. Here’s how it will affect the FAB 50 and the other things Ballislife touches.
FAB 50 Rankings
With no sanctioned games early this upcoming week, we’ll do our next set of rankings by Tuesday, March 17. There is simply no reason to rush it out with no games being played immediately this week. While a vast majority of state governing bodies that still hadn’t completed their state tourneys before last weekend canceled it, a few such as Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Arkansas announced postponements. Four states went ahead and continued with games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as Louisiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and New Mexico crowned state champions over this past weekend. Among ranked teams, No. 31 Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.) won its fourth straight state title in dominant fashion, defeating No. 50 St. Augustine (New Orleans, La.) in the D1 title game, 66-39, as Mr. Basketball USA candidate Reece Beekman earned MOP honors after recording a triple-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The state tournament was played in front of a limited number of fans as mandated by the LHSAA.
There will be movement in this week’s rankings, but we’re still not sure it will be the final rankings of the season. On Sunday night the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) held a meeting to determine if its state championships would commence on March 19 and March 20 with only essential personnel in attendance. As of now, the MSHSAA state tournament is still tentatively on, but that could change at any time.
If this latest update is indeed the final rankings, they will look different than if this was just the thirteenth poll of the 2019-20 season. When we do our final rankings, we look at the totality of the season and not just the previous week. Teams are judged, first and foremost, against the team that won the final game of the year, meaning its state champion or top ranked team in that respective state. With many states unable to finish up their state tournament, this year’s final rankings will include analyazing more teams than ever that won its final game of the season. In a quick analysis of the final rankings, some teams will be ranked based more on the round of the state tournament bracket they reached, rather than the totality of the season, because the bracket was never completed. The final rankings will be more greatly influenced on the prior week’s rankings because of the uncertain nature of the results that never took place. There is no projections of what could or might have happened, as on-court results are always the most important factor.
As one West Coast high school coach mentioned, it’s a disappointment that his team couldn’t finish its season on the court (his team reached the state semifinals), but the scenario created a situation where less teams ended its season with a loss. Losses always increases the chances of the losing team dropping in the final rankings. There is always the possibility of upsets in state tournaments (because the competition usually gets better the deeper a team advances in the bracket) and when there is an upset involving a ranked team, that scenario not only can pull up the winning club in the final rankings, but potentially pull up teams it lost to.
We are still not sure if this week’s rankings will be the last.
In addition to the state tournaments that postponed its playoffs, GEICO Nationals postponed its event last week scheduled for Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.) April 2-4 after it moved from New York City, which is one of the regions of the country hit hardest by the current pandemic. Event organizers and some of the teams are holding out hope our country’s current situation doesn’t get much worse before it starts getting better. Already we know many spring sports around the country are in peril, as school districts around the country have shut its doors for an indefinite period of time. It was announced Sunday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending no gatherings of 50 or more throughout the United States for the next eight weeks. That means the chances of these state tournaments finishing up and GEICO Nationals taking place just went down a notch. If the season does get completed at a much later date, we’ll still come back and do an updated set of rankings to reflect those results.
The good news here is many states competed its season, and a vast majority got over 90 percent of the season completed. So there is enough data to compile our usual post-season honors, namely our annual Elite All-American Team, Underclass All-American team and Mr. Basketball USA. As we mentioned, spring sports around the country will be hit hard, but unlike NCAA athletes, high school basketball players and athletes won’t be able to petition for their year back.
We’ve already began to reach out to coaches to get their season stats and individual numbers, a process that would usually happen a bit later in the season. We’ll still have a final Mr. Basketball USA Tracker after we compile some of the statistics of the nation’s best. The nomination process will be more important this season, because some of the nation’s best players and teams had a few less games than they would in a normal season. And it’s not just any games, as a big playoff run or a great championship performance is a great resume builder, especially if its comes in an upset. Already it’s been announced the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American Game will not be held this year, so our nation’s elite won’t be able to close out their careers enjoying the festivities and opportunities that national all-star games provide. This is important, because a player’s evaluation (good or bad) against his peers in a practice setting or a big performance during a national all-star game can help his candidacy or be the factor that puts one candidate over the other. Those particular barometers won’t be available this season. Simply put, there are less measurements we normally would use to evaluate a player’s All-American candidacy this season.
An announcement will be made soon about the status of the Ballislife All-American Game, which was scheduled to take place in Southern California on May 2. Even if the annual event must be cancelled, we’ll still have an announcement of the deserving individuals who were extended an invitation to play.
Grassroots and Recruiting
It’s been announced the Nike EYBL, has cancelled its April stops and the other shoe company-sponsored events (adidas and Under Armour) will follow suit. NCAA officials are now meeting to determine what, if anything, will be implemented with existing April live periods, which include two weekends in 2020. There will be no off-campus NCAA recruiting until at least April 15th. Already many spring leagues have been cancelled or postponed because many college and junior college campus facilities are shut down of all activity for the rest of the month or even into April, along with high school facilities.
EYBL 2020 Update pic.twitter.com/3oFGic50JH
— EliteYouthBasketball (@NikeEYB) March 13, 2020
Independent event operators can operate at their pleasure during dead periods, but with local ordinances in affect with regards to gatherings (sports or otherwise), there will be limited opportunities for non-live period events as well. When restrictions are lifted, one has to think some parents will ease their kids back into the cycle of games in crowded facilities and traveling across the country.
For colleges, the Coronavirus situation is likely to impact the low-major schools the most, as elite players that usually commit to high-major programs are identified earlier and have more options to make a college choice. College coaches already don’t have enough of a sample size in the current structure and recruiting calendar, so any new limitations is likely going to affect the schools that didn’t already have their main targets completely evaluated or schools that typically are more deliberate in their evaluations and get commitments later in the recruiting process.
Coronavirus is going to affect graduating 2020s who needed the spring to give colleges more evaluation time and 2021s that haven’t already been identified. This is unchartered territory for both colleges and recruits. This spring and summer (or whenever the live period actually takes place) is going to be crucial for players to participate in the events that will offer them the best exposure to the level they’ll likely play at in college. More than ever, it will be imperative for parents and coaches to be realistic about the level players are shooting to play at in college and make informed decisions based on whatever recruiting calendar is put in place when our current pandemic dies down.