Over the years, I have rarely gotten worked up over a regular-season matchup in football or basketball. Oh, you had to be a box of rocks not to get excited by Isiah Thomas vs. Doc Rivers at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. But with few exceptions, I prefer to wait until the state playoff, when it really matters.
One of those exceptions, in my view, was last Saturday's duel between second-rated Simeon and top-ranked Whitney Young. Young's 62-55 victory probably will be only a footnote to the 2009-10 season. But it was memorable in many respects. For one, in the history of the state basketball tournament, No. 1 and No. 2 have rarely met. And I can't imagine two better teams in the state.
Here are some other scribblings I jotted on a yellow pad during the course of the game:
* Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, who has been stereotyped as an AAU coach who doesn't know an X from an O, demonstrated that he knows how to handle a talent-laden team in a pressure-packed situation. Even after winning the Class 4A championship last March, Slaughter wasn't given his props. Clearly, he is a man in control.
* Call it the Bob Hambric influence. The best Public League teams, dating to Hambric's and King coach Landon Cox's teams in the 1980s, played under control. Despite an abundance of talent, they utilized team play and defense to overwhelm opponents. Today, Slaughter and Simeon coach Robert Smith, Hambric's handpicked successor, play the same tune.
* The most impressive players on the floor were Young's Sam Thompson and Simeon's Brandon Spearman. The class of 2011 is packed with talent and Thompson could emerge as the best of all.
* I'm still not sold on the premise that Young's Anthony Johnson will be a big-time player at Purdue. But, then, it took two years to convince me that Derrick Rose was ready for prime time.
* Young has more good players than anyone else and it appears that Slaughter has figured out how to keep all of them happy and contributing. They utilize all of their talent.
* Jabari Parker of Simeon and Tommy Hamilton of Young are two of the most impressive freshmen I have seen, dating to the debut of King's Rashard Griffith in 1989-90.
* I wonder if Young will play as well or better in March. It is apparent that Simeon's Robert Smith has a different game plan. I got the impression that Saturday's loss was just a building block for Smith, that he still is fitting all of the pieces to his puzzle together, that he is patient and content to wait until February to unveil his final product.
* Barring a serious injury or two, I can't imagine a scenario in which the two teams won't be playing in Peoria in March.