The seeds have been planted and the brackets laid out by the Illinois High School Association. And here's what we know ...
• There aren't two sectionals in the Chicago area stronger than the Argo Sectional and the Bolingbrook Sectional. How talent-filled are these two sectionals? At Argo, imagine having to beat both Whitney Young and Simeon to win a sectional title. There are nine teams who are either ranked or have been ranked at some point this season in this sectional. The top four teams in the Bolingbrook Sectional -- Oswego, Benet, Neuqua Valley and West Aurora -- have been ranked virtually all season. There are 13 teams with at least 13 wins, including 12 teams with 15-plus victories on the season so far.
• If you go strictly by seeds and consensus rankings, here is what the Class 4A semifinals in Peoria would look like next month: Proviso East vs. Simeon and Belleville East vs. Stevenson. And in 3A we would get Washington vs. Morgan Park and Cahokia vs. Orr. That's a pretty star-studded cast with big-named players and high-profile teams. ... Sure, there won't be any upsets.
• The most heavily anticipated postseason matchup -- Simeon vs. Whitney Young -- would take place Friday, Mar. 8 in Summit, if the two take care of business in their regional final and sectional semifinal games.
• It's not often where individual matchups take center stage in March, but that's the case in a potential Argo Sectional semifinal where Curie could meet Whitney Young. Thus, we would have Jahlil Okafor vs. Cliff Alexander. The top two prospects in the Class of 2014, both dominating big men and among the top 10 prospects nationally in the junior class, would meet in a win-or-go-home matchup Wednesday, Mar. 6.
• Staying with the Argo Sectional, will there be a better regional championship game in the Chicago area than the St. Rita-Brother Rice battle? Want a preview of that one? The two will hook up for a Catholic League tussle Tuesday night at St. Rita.
• If you would have said Marist and Hyde Park would meet in a regional back in November, one would be excited. They are meeting, indeed -- in a regional opener as a No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Marist just hasn't been the same since losing Nic Weishar to a season-ending injury in November. In two measuring stick games this calendar year, Marist fell in lopsided losses to St. Rita, 76-56, and Brother Rice, 67-49. That doesn't bode well for a team that shocked so many last March.
• The depth in Class 3A basketball, especially around the Chicago area, is lacking. There are a couple of abysmal sectionals in 3A. But the most power-packed potential matchup prior to Peoria would take place in the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional between two highly-ranked teams in Orr and North Chicago.
• In this season of absolute parity, where the Top 25 rankings have been more fluid than usual, don't expect many sectionals to get the top four seeds through regional play. With that being said, here are two No. 5 seeds that are red-hot: Loyola Academy and Hinsdale Central. Neither have lost a game since the calendar turned to 2013 and are in position to win their respective conferences.
• And how about those early regional semifinal games, where some whacky things can take place and close scares occur? Here is a quick rundown of some of the more enticing games to watch before the regional championships take place, including many rivalry games that will take on even more importance.
➥ Bolingbrook vs. Lemont ... An 8/9 game featuring a Bolingbrook team with Division I talent and, possibly, 19 wins on the year, facing a 20-plus win Lemont team for the right to face No. 1 seed Oswego in the regional championship at Batavia.
➥ Naperville North vs. Naperville Central ... Does anyone really want to play their rival in a regional semifinal? Both teams will have 16-plus victories on the season.
➥ Waubonsie Valley vs. Metea Valley ... Yet another local battle in the regional semis between two teams that split this season.
➥ Riverside-Brookfield vs. Conant ... A contrast of styles, for sure. But it's also a rematch from December, where No. 5 seed R-B lost to No. 12 seed Conant over the holidays.
➥ Larkin vs. Elgin ... Favored and top-seeded Larkin has had its hands full with local rival Elgin, winning 66-62, 60-51 and 76-73 this season. It's bad enough having to beat a rival a third time, but the Royals will have to do it a fourth time.
➥ Palatine vs. Fremd ... It will be Round III for these district and MSL West rivals in a regional semifinal matchup. Fremd won back in late November, while Palatine won the most recent matchup.
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