By Joe Henricksen
The Illinois High School Association has released the sectional assignments and state tournament brackets for the boys state basketball tournament next March. And once again there is a ridiculously loaded sectional--at Morton.
DeLaSalle, Morton, Foreman, St. Ignatius and Whitney Young are all currently ranked among the top 25 and all are headed to the Morton Sectional. And this doesn't even include Farragut, Lincoln Park, Proviso West, York, Fenwick, St. Patrick, Proviso East and Oak Park. The winner's reward? How about either Simeon, Curie or Mt. Carmel in the Chicago State Supersectional. Just a brutal stretch of games for any team that needs to win five games against five quality opponents to reach Peoria.
Hoops Report Crystal Ball
While there has been very little basketball played in the grand scheme of things and a lot will happen and develop between now and March, here are the Hoops Report's picks for Peoria in Class 3A and 4A through Dec. 12.
Class 4A Semifinals
Zion-Benton vs. Neuqua Valley
The Zee-Bees could get major tests from a number of schools, including Warren, Waukegan and Glenbrook North., prior to reaching Peoria.
Simeon vs. Thornton
A potential rematch of an early-season classic between these two storied programs.
Class 3A Semifinals
North Lawndale vs. Champaign Centennial
Just can't see anyone slowing powerful North Lawndale down.
Rock Island vs. Leo
Leo would have to get by either Hillcrest, Crete-Monee or Brooks in the super.
Here is a look at the biggest winners and losers following the release of the state tournament pairings last week....
• York... Here is a school that is in the western suburbs and played its sectional basketball last year in the western suburbs. Yet this March the Dukes are thrown to the wolves in the state's toughest sectional, which includes the host school, Morton, and Chicago schools DeLaSalle, Whitney Young, St. Ignatius, Lincoln Park, Foreman and St. Patrick.
• Simeon... After winning a 3A title in 2007 and finishing as state runner-up in 2008, the perennial power makes the move to Class 4A with an enrollment of 1,565 but with the multiplier in play, the enrollment bumps to 2,582. So instead of a cakewalk to Peoria in a weak 3A sectional, Simeon will move to 4A.
• Riverside-Brookfield... Here the Bulldogs have one of its best teams in years and the reward? Well, R-B will host its own sectional.... but North Lawndale, the state's most talented team, perennial power St. Joseph and defending 3A champ Marshall will also be there.
• Thornton... Of all the Chicago heavyweights, there may not be a team with a better route to Peoria. The Wildcats miss the Chicago area's elite in sectional play and then would get the southern Illinois representative in the ISU Supersectional. But then again, that's what we thought last year with Homewood-Flossmoor.
• South Elgin... One of the biggest surprises in the early season, South Elgin could be poised for a long state tournament run--thanks in large part to its sectional placement. South Elgin was sent west, where it will likely be favored to win a soft sectional.
• Neuqua Valley... While the sectional is far from a picnic, last year the Wildcats were sent to the Chicago State Supersectional to face the south suburbs' top team, which was eventual state champ Richards. If the scenario would have remained the same this year, Neuqua would have gotten either Simeon, Curie or Mt Carmel in the supersectional. Instead? Neuqua has its best chance in school history to reach Peoria. With a sectional title the Wildcats would face the Elgin Sectional winner in DeKalb, likely Upstate Eight Conference foes South Elgin and St. Charles North or Rockton Hononegah or Rockford Auburn out of the Rockford area.
• Aurora Central... A year ago the Chargers had one of their best teams in school history, only to meet eventual 3A champ Marshall in the sectional. This year Aurora Central, which is unbeaten in the early going, could have been sent to the same sectional, where North Lawndale, Marshall and St. Joseph would have been waiting. Yikes! Instead, ACC was sent to west to the winnable Hampshire Sectional, where Sterling and Joseph Bertrand appear to be the toughest test.