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Boys basketball holiday tournament preview

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year (couldn’t help myself).

Conference season is in full swing, teams are starting to separate themselves from the pack, and holiday tournaments are quickly approaching.

Holiday tournaments are a great way to test teams as most of the tournament formats require teams to play four games in four days. It’s an unusual grind with 9:00 AM games, little to no scout time and non-traditional matchup.

With all of that being said, there’s still a job to do and we will do our best to breakdown the field and make our “expert” predictions.

Centralia

The favorite

This one is really tough to pick. If I had to pick one team to be the “favorite” it would probably be Belleville West.

It’s hard to know what the downstate teams bring considering our coverage area but on paper, the Maroons and star junior E.J. Liddell will be one to watch.

The darkhorse

Without trying to be a copout, there’s a lot. Evanston, Champaign Central, Carmel, and Centralia all have a chance to make a run during this tournament.

Carmel is a team that runs hot and cold, Evanston can catch fire any given night, Marist is very, very good and and Centralia only have one loss on the season.

Matchups we want to see

Chicagoland teams vs. Downstate teams.

This is the first chance the most will be able to see teams from the Chicagoland area face off against good downstate opponents. There is potential for an Evanston vs. Champaign Central second round matchup

Hinsdale Central

The favorite There are a ton of solid teams in this tournament but I like Bolingbrook to take it. The Brook looked really good against a very good Romeoville team a couple of weeks ago, they’re fast, athletic, and pretty deep which is good for tournaments like these. It also wouldn’t be fair not to mention DePaul as they’re more than just a darkhorse. Perry Cowan is the real deal and can take over a game in an instant. Plus, DePaul will do everything in their power to slow teams down and play frustrating basketball.

The darkhorse Homewood-Flossmoor, Maine South and Marian Catholic can all compete with the likes of DePaul and Bolingbrook. As much as I like Lincoln Park, they aren’t great away from home or against non-city competition. The Lions struggled in their Thanksgiving tournament and I think we see more of the same from the Lions over winter.

Matchups we want to see Marian vs. Lincoln Park in the first round is going to be an absolute barnburner, and a potential second round matchup between HF and DePaul could easily be a final. On the other hand, a game between Maine South and DePaul needs to be avoided at all costs. It may end up coming to fruition, but it would be the slowest game of the entire basketball season.

Maine East

The favorite

The inaugural Maine East holiday tournament picks up the pieces where the old Luther North left off after the school closed this past year. Though it’s not a great field there is potential going forward when you consider the location of Maine East, and it’s proximity to some good basketball schools.

With that being said, Lane should be an overwhelming favorite. The Indians have size, speed, shooters and just an all-around good team. They gave both Niles North and Lincoln Park decent challenges earlier this season and should have a good draw to the finals as well.

The darkhorse

Theres a huge elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Skyridge has traveled all the way from the state of Utah to participate in this tournament. I don;t know why they decided to spend their winter break in Park Ridge Illinois, but I’m sure if they’re traveling 1,500 miles they don’t plan on losing. Color me intrigued.

Matchups we want to see

I actually find the rematch between Maine East and Northside in the first round of the tournament rather intriguing. There was a bit of chippiness the last time these two teams played and Northside’s best player Benjy Rosengard had to sit out the first half.

Pontiac

The favorite Simeon. I could go into detail about the Wolverines talent but everybody knows this by now. Simeon are really starting to separate themselves from the pack and are not only the heavy favorite to win Pontiac, but probably the class 4A state championship as well.

The darkhorse Not to take anything away from Curie or OPRF who are good teams in their own right, but Simeon is in another league right now. Sure Curie could knock them off, but I wouldn’t bet against Simeon.

Matchups we want to see I’ll avoid the obvious public league showdown considering the teams will play each other in a month and go with Simeon vs. Danville. Simeon already has a few games against national competition under their belt, but this is the first chance to see the Wolverines against one of the better downstate teams.

Proviso West

The favorite If you are only able to go to one tournament during the holidays, make it this one. The field is loaded with talent from top to bottom with “upset” potential in every game. Even though Whitney Young just lost to Lincoln Park the week before the break started, I still have the Dolphins as the favorites to win. If anything, the loss will motivate Whitney even more.

The darkhorse Take your pick. Orr, Kenwood, Fenwick, Hillcrest, Proviso East, Bogan and even New Trier can make a deep run. My money is on a Whitney/Orr final, but don’t be surprised to see a Fenwick slip in there.

Matchups we want to see New Trier is going to be tested early and often. We’re going to find out how good the Trevians are really quick with an opening round matchup against Hillcrest and a second round game against Bogan or Proviso East. It would not shock me if New Trier ended the week 2-2 or even 1-3.

Wheeling

The favorite

No going out on a limb on this one, as Niles North looks to be the clear cut favorite here. The sixth ranked Vikings are still undefeated with wins over DePaul Prep and Evanston, but perhaps more importantly, Jamal Stephenson is expected to make his return midway through the tournament.

Waukegan is always dangerous provided all three Brown’s are playing, but the Bulldogs have struggled early this season. St. Viator has also had a great start to the season but the edge has to go to Niles North.

The darkhorse

Prospect really impressed me in their game against Stevenson. The Knights have won eight straight games and coach John Camardella has done a tremendous job with such an inexperienced team.

If they win their first two games, Prospect will have the tough task of facing Niles North in Stephenson’s first game back, but if theres a time to beat the Vikings, it will be when they are tinkering with new rotations.

Matchups we want to see

It has to be Niles North vs. Waukegan. That game would be fast paced, high scoring and potentially a super-sectional preview. It may be a little sloppy at times, but the crowd will be moving their head back and forth as if it were a tennis match.

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