By Joe Henricksen
Though it wishes it could be, the Hoops Report can't be everywhere over the next five days of holiday tournament action. There is so much potential for tantalizing matchups, so the Hoops Report broke it down. Here is a look at what fans might be able to enjoy over the next five days if the Hoops Report's crystal ball is correct (championship game picks at the bottom).
Monday, Dec. 26
• 5:30 p.m. at Rich South
Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis is a sophomore to get out of the house for, watch play and enjoy. Bolingbrook has a young, up-and-comer in freshman Prentiss Nixon and a red-hot junior prospect in 6-7 Ben Moore. On a slow day of tournament action around Illinois, this is an interesting matchup.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
• 12:15 p.m. at Wheeling
At first glance, a first-round matchup between Loyola Academy and Prospect appears to be a couple of middle-of-the-road teams with a combined record of 9-8. The reality is a young Loyola team is back to full strength (after missing key parts due to the football team's extended playoff run) and Prospect features high-scoring guard Mike LaTulip, who will be a preferred walk-on at Illinois next season.
• 3:45 p.m. at Proviso West
The first round of holiday tournaments don't typically offer a matchup like this: Hillcrest (7-2) vs. Morton (6-1). The winner will get a shot at Rockford Auburn the following day.
• 5:00 p.m. at Romeoville
The first year of the Romeoville Christmas Classic will have its two best teams in the 16-team field, Crane and Ridgewood, meeting in the second round. It wouldn't be a stretch to say these two teams could very well meet again in late March in the Hoffman Estates Class 3A supersectional. Crane's Willie Conner is one of the top unsigned prospects in the state.
• 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at State Farm Classic in Normal
As far as back-to-back, first-round matchups go, there is a nice double-dip on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan Tuesday night. Normal U-High, led by 6-7 sophomore Keita Bates-Diop, takes on Oswego at 6 p.m., while Normal and Thornwood, two teams with a combined 13 wins this season and boasting Division I guards, meet at 7:30 p.m. There is a local flavor with the two Normal schools and talent on display with U-High's Bates-Diop, Thornwood's Darrell Combs (Loyola recruit), Normal's Anthony Beane (Illinois State recruit) and Oswego's Elliot McGaughey.
Wednesday, Dec. 28
• 1:00 p.m. at Pontiac
Waukegan is better than its 3-5 record and Joliet West is a threat to make a run at Pontiac with the duo of 6-9 Marlon Johnson and 6-3 junior Morris Dunnigan. The loser of this first-round matchup becomes the favorite in the consolation bracket over the next two days. The winner will get a crack at No. 2 seed Warren in the second round.
• 5:15 p.m. at Proviso West
There may not be a better quarterfinal matchup in any tournament than Homewood-Flossmoor and New Trier in the second round. New Trier, which has only lost to Warren, hasn't been talked about enough. The Trevians have a legit high school big man in Connor Boehm, along with a surplus of talented guards. That's a terrific combination at the high school level.
• 7:15 p.m. at York
A quarterfinal matchup between No. 6 seed Riverside-Brookfield and No. 3 seed St. Ignatius should be a good one. Ignatius, with just one loss, has been one of the bigger surprises in the early going, while R-B is better than people realize with a talented trio in senior Luke Nortier, junior guard Damonta Henry and 6-7 junior Miki Ljuboja.
• 8:30 p.m. at Proviso West
The potential Proviso East-St. Joseph matchup brings out the local flavor in the near west suburbs. Plus, there will be a lot of talent on the floor, both young and old with the likes of St. Joe's Paul Turner and A.J. Patty and Proviso East's Keith Carter and Sterling Brown, as these two neighbors hook up in a second-round game.
Thursday, Dec. 29
• 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at Proviso West
The semifinal night at Proviso West is typically a showcase of four of the top teams in the Chicago area. This year, however, Rockford Auburn makes an appearance and hopes to open some eyes with a run at Proviso West. The Hoops Report is calling for a Morgan Park-New Trier semifinal (Yes, New Trier pulls off mild upset of H-F in the quarterfinals) at 6:30 p.m. The nightcap at 8 p.m. could be a dandy as Rockford Auburn's calm, smooth and talented point guard, Fred Van Vleet, takes on all the speed and pressure the Proviso East guards will throw at them.
• 6:30 p.m. at Pekin
If the top two seeds can manage their way to the title game at Pekin, both Springfield Lanphier and Plainfield East will be unbeaten. Lanphier features one of the top young players in the state in sophomore Larry Austin and unheralded senior Everette Clemons, while a veteran Plainfield East team is led by underrated senior guard Dee Brown. Plainfield East would make one heck of a statement if it heads back home with its perfect record still intact.
• 7:15 p.m. at Wheeling
The first semifinal at the Hardwood Classic could be a good one if Stevenson and Notre Dame tangle. There are some young players in both programs providing some pop to their respective seasons. And no young player in the tournament is better than Hoops Report favorite Jalen Brunson, Stevenson's 5-11 freshman guard.
• 7:30 p.m. at Pontiac
Oak Park, which has received a monster effort from 6-6 Gabe Levin this season, hopes to have Bradley-bound guard Ka'Darryl Bell back from an injury. If Bell is back in the fold, a matchup with Peoria Manual in the quarterfinals at Pontiac becomes a lot more enticing.
Friday, Dec. 30
• 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. at Pontiac
If you can, squeeze in the two semifinal games at Pontiac that tip at 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., where you could catch a double-dip featuring a Curie-Warren showdown and Simeon taking on Peoria Manual. Big Cliff Alexander, Curie's 6-8 super sophomore, will go up against Warren's 6-9 Nathan Boothe and 6-8 Darius Paul. The Simeon-Manual battle could very well be one featuring a pair of state champions at the end of the season -- Simeon in 4A and Manual in 3A.
• 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at Proviso West
You won't find many better third-place games in any tournament than what you will find at Proviso West. The Hoops Report's pick to be playing in the third-place game at Proviso: Rockford Auburn vs. Morgan Park. Then follow it up with a nightcap, where the title game could feature the state's No. 2 team, Proviso East, taking on either New Trier or Homewood-Flossmoor.
• 7:00 p.m. at Rich South
The McDipper Tournament can only hope the top two teams do indeed meet to create a matchup featuring two unbeaten teams ranked among the top five in the Chicago area. Bloom and Seton Academy would fill the gym and bring a lot of interest to the McDipper if the two do end up colliding in the title game.
• 7:15 p.m. at York
A highly-anticipated matchup between Downers Grove South and De La Salle, two teams with big expectations and high profiles, is what everyone is hoping for and expecting at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament final at York.
• 8:45 p.m. at Wheeling
How about a pair of area East Suburban Catholic Conference teams meeting for the title? Although Notre Dame and St. Viator will meet in the final week of the regular season in what will likely decide the ESCC title, the Hoops Report expects these two to collide on the final night at Wheeling in what should be a terrific matchup.
• 9:00 p.m. at Pontiac
If the top two seeds, Simeon and Warren, get through a pretty tough field of teams, it will be a rematch of not only last year's Pontiac championship game but also the Class 4A state title game last March.
Hoops Report's holiday tournament picks
Proviso West Holiday Tournament: Proviso East over New Trier
Pontiac Holiday Tournament: Simeon over Warren
McDipper at Rich South: Seton Academy over Bloom
Pekin Holiday Tournament: Springfield Lanphier over Morton
Jack Tosh Classic at York: De La Salle over Downers Grove South
Wheeling Hardwood Classic: St. Viator over Niles Notre Dame
Normal State Farm Classic: Rockton-Hononegah over North Chicago
Hinsdale South Holiday Tournament: Metea Valley over Schaumburg
Glenbard West Holiday Tournament: St. Charles East over Glenbard West
Romeoville Christmas Classic: Crane over Glenbard South