The City/Suburban Hoops Report's look at the top teams in the Chicago area continues as it begins to dive into the preseason rankings of the top 10 teams.
#6 ST. RITA
What's to like: There is size, athleticism, experience and some big-time weapons up and down the roster. Northwestern recruit Vic Law, a versatile 6-7 forward, and 6-5 guard Charles Matthews, the top prospect in the state in the Class of 2015, are as good of a 1-2 combo as you'll find. And four-year guard Dominique Matthews is back after averaging 16 points a game last season. The talent continues with two more Division I prospects in juniors Armani Chaney and Myles Carter. Chaney is a point guard who will be leaned on heavily to free up the likes of Law and Matthews, while is a 6-8 athletic rim protector and rebounder. There are enough talented pieces in place to pose nightmarish matchups for opposing teams.
Biggest concern: The program has gone from non-existent to one ranked in preseason polls under coach Gary DeCesare. Yet it's one that is lacking big, defining, in-state wins. Last year's disappointing experience of falling in the regional to DuSable on its home floor needs to be a motivator rather than one that leaves doubt. It's time to turn that talent and potential into some grit and March success.
X-Factor: Experience. Despite all the expectations last season, the Mustangs were still very young. Now, with five returning starters, including four-year varsity players in Dominique Matthews and Law, along with three-year varsity player Charles Matthews, it's a team built around talented veterans.
#7 MORGAN PARK
What's to like: You look at the nucleus of this team and you say, this team is very similar to the one that won a state championship last year with their speed, quickness and defensive pressure. It's just more of the same. Lamont Walker, a 6-4 guard and UMKC recruit, and 6-7 Josh Cunningham, the top uncommitted senior in Illinois, are returning starters and impact players. Cunningham was a high-level producer a year ago and is much improved. Senior Torry Johnson and sophomore point guard Charlie Moore both gained valuable experience last season.
Biggest concern: With four-year star Billy Garrett, Jr. off to DePaul and Kyle Davis now at Dayton, coach Nick Irvin has a full slate of work ahead trying to fill voids and mix pieces to make up for the loss of arguably the state's best backcourt. But all the necessary ingredients are in place for a second straight Class 3A state title.
X-Factor: Kain Harris. His role last year was limited. But the 6-4 junior is a big, strong guard with big-time scoring potential. If Irvin can lean on Harris this season, the offense lost with Garrett and Davis graduating will be felt a little less.
#8 NORTH CHICAGO
What's to like: Three names for you: JayQuan McCloud, JaVairious Amos-Mays and Kurt Hall. All three attack the offensive end with abandon. McCloud (17.4 ppg), a Murray State recruit, is a skilled and smooth 6-2 scoring guard. The high-motored Amos-Mays is tough and versatile. And Hall is a classic big-bodied hybrid forward, a finisher at the rim with improving perimeter skills. Who knows or cares who's really the third option -- McCloud? Amos-Mays? Hall? -- there aren't many teams who have the luxury of having a great third option capable of carrying a team like North Chicago has. This threesome will put a fear into any defensive game plan and gives North Chicago a realistic shot of winning a 3A state championship.
Biggest concern: They will put up points -- 100 if you let'em -- but will the Warhawks ever totally buy into being a defensive-minded team? The belief internally is defense will be a higher priority this season. With all the success North Chicago has had over the past seven years (167 wins, six sectional titles with two trips to Peoria), maybe the question should be: Does it matter?
X-Factor: Chemistry and leadership. For North Chicago, these two words should and won't be underestimated after seeing what a lack of it did last year. It led to, at times, uninspired play, off-the-court issues and one lackluster performance in the biggest game of the year -- a supersectional loss to Orr.
What's to like: The Spartans have continuity with the roster returning nearly intact from a team that finished fourth in the state in Class 3A last March. Among the six key returnees, Orr has a trio of athletes with size, experience and talent in 6-8 Marlon Jones, 6-7 Tyquone Greer and 6-3 guard Louis Adams. All three are uncommitted Division I prospects. Jones, in particular, has a chance to be one of the elite players in the state with his ability to impact games around the basket at both ends of the floor.
Biggest concern: Don't underestimate all that unheralded Jamal McDowell, last year's senior leader at point guard, meant to this team. He wasn't the biggest name, but he's a big hole to fill due to all the attributes he brought.
X-Factor: With Jones, Greer and Adams the focal point of most defenses, it's an opportune time for Crane transfer Isaiah Hayes to blossom into the catalyst Orr needs at the point guard position. If Hayes can fill McDowell's shoes, Orr will be more dangerous offensively than last season.
#10 ST. VIATOR
What's to like: This was a preseason top 25 team before the arrival of Palatine transfer Roosevelt Smart, a 6-2 junior who averaged 18 points a game last season as a sophomore and boasts Division I offers. He joins Drake recruit and seasoned veteran Ore Arogundade, who can fill a stat sheet. The 6-2 Arogundade averaged 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2 steals a game. Add in returning point guard Mark Falotico (10 ppg, 4 apg) and there is enough talent to make a run at an East Suburban Catholic Conference title.
Biggest concern: Maybe it just won't matter with all the perimeter firepower, but the Lions will lack size and a presence inside -- at both ends of the floor. Sal Canella, a 6-5 junior, brings some size but is a more skilled, lanky big.
X-Factor: Pat McNamara, a 6-4 junior, should flourish as a sharpshooter who can space the floor for a solid point guard in Falotico and dynamic slashers and scorers in Smart and Arogundade. McNamara is the one who could provide those back-breaking moments for opposing teams from beyond the arc.
Go HERE for a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason rankings of teams 11-15.
Go HERE for a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason rankings of teams 16-25.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report throughout this high school basketball season on Twitter @joehoopsreport