By Joe Henricksen
There probably isn't anyone who hates the idea of four classes in Illinois high school basketball more than Joe
Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report. Oh, there are plenty of people -- feverish fans, media members
and high school coaches -- who hate it just as much, but no one could possibly despise it more. And while I refuse
to accept it, the least I can do as part of a New Year's resolution is try to make the best of it.
In trying to make the best of it, I have tried to look at the positive. The only positive thus far -- and please don't even
try to give me this gives more kids and communities opportunities to win, blah, blah, blah -- is that if everything falls
just right, the Class 3A Final Four in Peoria this March could be a lot of fun. The bad part, however, as pointed out in
the most recent issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, is there is little room for error. If one of the big dogs fall
early, there are really no talented teams to step in and take their place as a true, legitimate state championship
caliber team. Thus, we have to pray for zero upsets this March in Class 3A.
As of right now in Class 3A, there are three true state powers -- Simeon, Marshall and Decatur Eisenhower. After
that there isn't a team that would be a legitimate state title contender in any other year. But now? Add good -- but
not great -- St. Joseph, Champaign Central, Washington and Peoria Richwoods -- to the 3A mix.
Here is a warning: the regional championship games, the drama-filled sectionals and must-see supersectional
matchups we've all seen in the past won't be there this March in Class 3A. The state tournament as a whole -- in
Class 3A -- will be dreadful. But being the positive guy that I am, the Final Four in Peoria could be pretty special.
How you ask?
First, the Big Three of Simeon, Marshall and Decatur Eisenhower are all in different brackets. These three are
clearly three of the five or six top teams in Illinois regardless of class. There is the intrigue of a possible Simeon-
Eisenhower rematch. Eisenhower handed Simeon a close loss back in December. There will be Division I talent
galore, headed by Purdue-bound Lewis Jackson of Eisenhower, the Illinois State tandem of Eisenhower's Jeremy
Robinson and Simeon's Kenyon Smith, Illinois recruit Stan Simpson of Simeon, Ryan Hare of Marshall, one of the top
unsigned players in the state, and a host of others that will be playing Division I basketball in the near future.
But back to the problem. If any of these three were to lose, get upset on one of those off nights where everything
goes wrong, which we have seen so many times in the past, the drop in talent and overall interest is quick and
pretty sad. Typically when that happens in the past, another talented team takes advantage and rolls into Peoria.
Not this year. The lone exception is probably St. Joseph, with talented underclassmen in junior Diamond Taylor and
sophomore DeAndre McCamey. St. Joe's could give Marshall a scare in a sectional battle.
The fourth team in the Class 3A Final Four will likely come out of the Peoria area. And from a selfish standpoint the
choice would be Washington. If Washington's Matt Roth, the greatest three-point shooter in state history and
Indiana recruit, joins the other three powers on the big stage, it would be awfully fun and entertaining. Plus, fans
could see what all the hype is for Washington junior guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards, who together with Roth form
one of the top backcourts in Illinois. Limestone and Peoria Richwoods may have something to say about
Washington getting out of the sectional, but from a fan's perspective Washington is the choice, even if it's not a
team at the same level as the three aforementioned powers.
So putting a positive spin on this whole four-class, 3A basketball thing, a dream Final Four could still materialize
with Simeon, Marshall, Decatur Eisenhower and Washington. And throw in four 4A schools of Farragut, Zion-
Benton, Homewood-Flossmoor and Batavia? Now those are eight quality teams. It's just too bad they wouldn't all be
playing for one legitimate state title instead of two.
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