(This is the first of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)
JACK TOSH HOLIDAY CLASSIC
Where: York High School
When: Dec. 26, 27, 28, 30, 31
➤ NEED TO KNOW: This is the first year the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament has expanded to a 32-team field. With two gyms available, all 32 teams -- 16 total games -- will be playing on the opening day of the tournament.
➤ BUZZ WORD: Balance. There isn't a juggernaut among the 32-team field, but the balance among the top 8-10 teams is as difficult to sort out as any tournament in Illinois.
➤ THE FAVORITE: Take your pick among a half-dozen teams, but the Hoops Report believes the host school, led by big man Frank Toohey and underrated Charlie Rose, is the team to beat. York is off to a 6-0 start.
➤ SLEEPERS: Take your pick from among Conant, St. Patrick, St. Ignatius, Stagg, Highland Park, Elk Grove and Lake Forest.
➤ CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: While this tournament field lacks ranked teams, it remains a field with quality depth. This is a proving ground of sorts for so many teams. And with so many "average" to "above-average" teams, it's an opportunity for one of them to go 5-0 over the holidays in this 32-team field and gain a boatload of confidence heading into January.
➤ STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: The host school won its own holiday tournament last year for the first time in 30 years. Now York is in position to repeat. ... Stagg is unbeaten at 8-0 and boasts underrated star Max Strus. But four or five wins at York would validate the fast start a little more. ... Everyone is talking about the top three in the tough East Suburban Catholic, but they're not talking about St. Patrick. Can the Shamrocks, off to a 5-2 start, gain a little more steam with a strong showing here? ... And just how good is Elk Grove? The Grenadiers graduated plenty of offensive punch a year and haven't played the toughest of schedules thus far, but they sit a surprising 6-1 four weeks into the season.
➤ MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: York vs. Lake Forest. Both teams play in two of the best conferences in the Chicago area -- York in the West Suburban Silver and Lake Forest in the North Suburban Lake -- and both feature Division I big men in York's 6-8 Frank Toohey and Lake Forest's 6-7 Evan Boudreaux.
➤ TOP FIVE PROSPECTS: Harrison Niego, 6-1, Jr., Lyons Twp.; Evan Boudreaux, 6-7, Jr., Lake Forest; Frank Toohey, 6-8, Sr., York; Nick Robinson, 6-5, So., Kenwood; Max Strus, 6-4, Sr., Stagg.
➤ UNDERRATED PLAYER TO SEE: St. Patrick's Nick Coleman. The 6-1 junior guard is off to a fast start in leading St. Patrick to a 5-2 record, averaging 24 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in the last two games.
➤ HOOPS REPORT PICK: York