Preps Talk

EDGY: Who will be the top team in 2016?


EDGY: Who will be the top team in 2016?

At this time last year I truly had no question who would be the top team in Illinois heading into the preseason.

Homewood-Flossmoor had a ton of returning starters from its 2014 Class 8A title game appearance, and the Vikings became the preseason consensus pick. While the Vikings lost to the eventual top-ranked team Loyola Academy, 34-28, in the quarterfinals, very few would argue that they didn't belong in the top tier of teams in 2015.

So who gets the bulls as the top-ranked team going into 2016? It might not be quite as clear as it was in 2015.

[MORE PREPS: Recruiting News and Notes - Sam Brodner reopens recruiting process]

Let's start with Loyola. Head coach John Holocek's Ramblers welcome back just five starters from last year's title-winning team, but don't let the overall number of returning starters fool you. Loyola has talent on all levels. If the Ramblers have proven anything over the past 6-7 seasons, they don't rebuild. They just reload.

But Loyola won't be the only Chicago Catholic League school in the mix as Brother Rice and Mount Carmel will challenge all foes in 2016. Providence Catholic and St. Rita welcome back several returning starters from a season ago. St. Laurence returns 14 starters and Montini Catholic will bring back five starters on offense, including standout running back Prince Walker.

How about Phillips? The feel good story of the 2015 season, which saw the Wildcats capture the first state football title in Chicago Public League history. They will reload as well. The Wildcats already have several underclassmen from last year's team on the college recruiting radar. Expect Phillips to challenge for another title. 

[MORE PREPS: O'Sullivan decommits from Cincinnati, pledges to Syracuse]

One of the most interesting stories heading into the 2016 season will be the Lincoln-Way schools. With the closing of Lincoln-Way North at the end of the school year, which remaining Lincoln-Way school (or head coach for that matter) will benefit the most from the merging of North? My money is on Lincoln-Way East and head coach Rob Zvonar, who will inherit even more numbers and talent heading into next season.

Homewood-Flossmoor? The Vikings will be hit hard by graduation losses this spring. That said, no one seems to have as much talent, numbers and flat-out athletes in Chicagoland than Craig Buzea's bunch. 

Nazareth Academy? Lots of talent has passed through the halls in La Grange Park over the past two seasons. The Roadrunners feature back-to-back titles and the 2016 team will welcome back several key starters.

The DuPage Valley conference? Pick a team that wins the league title (really any team) to be honest. Whoever survives the DVC schedule is automatically playoff tested and I would focus on the likes of the two Valley schools (Waubonsie and Neuqua), along with Naperville Central and Glenbard North.

[MORE PREPS: Edgy's Recruiting News - Two Land of Lincoln players pick Florida Atlantic

Palatine was under the radar until the 2015 postseason, but that won't happen next season as the Pirates will bring back a ton, including quarterback Zach Oles.

Other very worthy names to watch include the two top dogs in the Fox Valley Conference: Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge. The Trojans return running back/linebacker Ty Pennington, while the Wolves have two more years with quarterback Samson Evans running the option attack. 

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball


Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995.