If the Raiders can stay No. 1 in the seven national polls they're already on top of, they will be considered the consensus national champions, a first for a team from Washington.
The Nathan Hale Raiders wrapped up a perfect season on Saturday night, beating Garfield 68-51 in the Class 3A state championship at the Tacoma Dome. The Raiders (29-0) make a good case for being the best team in Washington history.
Could they also be good enough to be considered national champs?
We’ll have to wait a month to find out.
How does a high-school basketball team win a national title? It’s all about the polls.
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Over the last two months, the Raiders have moved to the top of seven national polls. Each of these polls crowns its own national champion, much like college football used to do before the days of the BCS and the college playoffs. If Hale stays atop all those polls, they would be considered the consensus national champions. These polls release their final rankings in the first week of April.
So can Nathan Hale just sit on its clubhouse lead for a month and earn a national crown?
Obviously, many states are still playing out their postseasons and have yet to crown a state champ. Also, there’s the Dick’s Sporting Goods national championships, which are at the end of the month in New York City. Many of the nation’s top teams will play in the tournament and the champion could climb high in the polls.
There’s still no word on whether Nathan Hale will play in the Dick’s tournament. (And the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association apparently granted a waiver for Hale to participate, according to USA Today despite a rule that bans participation beyond the state tournament. We’re still waiting on confirmation from the WIAA.)
Dick’s tournament or no, Maxpreps.com’s Jason Hickman thinks it’s likely Hale has done enough to win the title (he lays outs his case for skipping the Dick’s tournament here). Hickman and Maxpreps have one of the seven national polls mentioned earlier. His was the first to put Nathan Hale at the top after the Raiders won the Les Schwab Invitational over the holidays in Hillsboro. Ore., beating previous No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, Calif. The tournament is considered to be the top tournament on the West Coast.
Hickman said it’s hard to imagine a scenario that Hale doesn’t win the title. He points out that other contenders have struggled in their own postseason tournaments and the Dick’s tournament might not be a factor as other contenders won’t be allowed to play in it because of rules by their own state’s sanctioning bodies. Most of the teams likely to play in Dick’s already have three or four losses, including Oak Hill, a perennial national power, which Nathan Hale beat in January.
No team from Washington has won a national championship.