By Joe Henricksen
The holiday tournaments have tipped off and will run through the final championship game New Year's Eve in Bloomington-Normal. While a complete holiday tournament preview can be found in the most recent issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, here is a quick holiday tournament primer.
Five best tournaments
1) Proviso West Holiday Tournament ... The most individual talent and team depth on display in Hillside, including four teams in the top 10 in Whitney Young, Glenbrook North, Foreman and Hillcrest. Whitney Young, the No. 1 team in the state, is the team to beat.
2) Pontiac Holiday Tournament ... There are the "Big Three" in Waukegan, Simeon and Peoria Manual, along with a host of teams aching to prove themselves as more than just upstarts.
3) CPS Holiday Classic ... There aren't any twists and it lacks the feel of other tournaments due to it all being Chicago Public League schools. Plus, we see a similar tournament in February with the Chicago Public League playoffs, but it does feature ranked teams, including Morgan Park, Simeon and Foreman.
4) Big Dipper at Rich South ... South suburban bragging rights, energetic crowds and, for your added pleasure, arguably the three best high-flying dunking acts in the state in Thornton's Reggie Smith, Rich South's Macari Brooks and Crete-Monee's Jamie Crockett.
5) State Farm Classic in Bloomington-Normal ... Everyone will be shooting for Champaign Centennial, the defending Class 3A champs and one of the most impressive teams in the first month of the season. This is also a chance to get a look at Rock Island's Chasson Randle.
The underrated tournament
While the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament at York doesn't boast a team ranked in the top 10, the balance and overall depth of the tournament is top-notch. There may not be another tournament with as many competitive games in the opening two rounds as you will find at York.
Five most intriguing (potential) matchups
These are the five potential matchups that would be the most enticing, with the Hoops Report telling you the time and place they would meet.
Whitney Young vs. Glenbrook North (Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. at Proviso West)
• A pair of top five teams squaring off on a big stage.
Simeon vs. Morgan Park (Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Malcolm X)
• A South Side battle featuring some of the best young talent in Illinois.
Simeon vs. Waukegan (Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 9:00 p.m. at Pontiac)
• The perfect setting in Pontiac for J Rich to leave a lasting impression.
Mount Carmel vs. Rockford Boylan (Dec. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Pekin)
• We will find out just how good unbeaten Rockford Boylan is, while Mt. Carmel gets an awfully tough test in a different environment.
Hales Franciscan vs. Rich South (Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. at Rich South)
• The place will be buzzing if the host school gets a crack at the most talented team in the field.
A few storylines to follow
• Will Waukegan be able to get back on track after a rugged schedule has left them a little beaten and bruised? After last year's disappointing upset loss to Plainfield North in the second round, Jereme Richmond & Company looking to make amends.
• Surprising Rich South is looking to reach the title game of its own Big Dipper Tournament for the first time since 1997 and win it for the first time in 16 years.
• There will be several storylines to follow at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament at York, including just how good are a pair of unbeatens in Lyons Twp. and Brother Rice? And Maine South (8-1) has raised the bar once again after its stellar start following the season-ending injury to big man Kevin Schlitter.
• Riverside-Brookfield, with its talented perimeter play, is looking to make a statement at York. With a conference race the Bulldogs will likely walk through, this is their time to shine and gain some respect around the Chicagoland area.
• Will Pontiac be the stage for Joliet and star Anthony Shoemaker to prove the Steelmen are as good as their 10-1 start? Joliet, the No. 4 seed, will have to get by a strong Curie team in the quarterfinals before it gets a shot at highly-ranked Simeon.
• Brooks is without question the best winless team in Illinois. It will be interesting to see how many wins coach Chris Head's club comes back from Centralia with.
• Talented Foreman will get its chance at a signature win at Proviso West. Will the Hornets take advantage of the opportunity? Foreman could get Proviso East in the quarterfinals and Hillcrest in the semis.
• Has a re-charged St. Patrick, which got off to a shaky start, found itself? Led by junior Jacob Williams, the Shamrocks may be ready to make a run at Proviso West.
• Will it be an all-Dupage county final at Elgin between Neuqua Valley and Glenbard East or will surprising Fremd break through?
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