If ESPN or CBS or NBC or ABC were telecasting the finals of the Illinois high school basketball tournament, they would jump at a chance to pit top-rated Simeon against second-rated Proviso East in the Class 4A championship game, a prep version of Duke vs. North Carolina.
The Illinois High School Association, in its infinite wisdom, hasn't always agreed with that philosophy. So it might surprise some critics and delight most fans to see that, believe it or not, Simeon and Proviso East are paired in opposite brackets and could meet in the 2012 Class 4A championship game.
It won't be easy, of course.
Simeon is the top seed in the Argo sectional, arguably the most competitive in the state. The Wolverines must survive a star-studded field that includes Curie, Bogan, St. Rita, Whitney Young, De La Salle and Marist.
They could meet New Trier in the supersectional, then Bloom or Collinsville in the semifinals.
Proviso East's route isn't as difficult. Oak Park, Schaumburg, York, Lake Park and Glenbard West await in the sectional at Schaumburg. Plainfield East could be the Pirates' supersectional opponent, Warren or Rockford Auburn in the semifinals.
If it happens, it wouldn't be the first time that the IHSA has opened the door for a match-up of the state's two most highly rated teams in the state championship.
In fact, No. 1 has met No. 2 in the state tournament series on 14 occasions since 1945. But it has happened only five times in the state final, the last in 1996 when Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin and second-rated Peoria Manual defeated Melvin Ely, Napoleon Harris, Antwaan Randle-El and top-ranked Thornton 57-51.
In 1945, No. 2 Decatur and Bob Doster beat No. 1 Champaign 62-54. In 1950, Max Hooper set a then tournament single-game scoring record with 36 points as No. 1 Mount Vernon crushed No. 2 Danville 85-61.
In 1982 and 1983, Marty Simmons and Lawrenceville swept Class A titles by beating Monmouth 67-53 and Flanagan 44-39. Coach Ron Felling's teams went 34-0 each season.
In perhaps the most celebrated match-up of the state's two premier teams, top-ranked Collinsville met second-rated Centralia in the 1961 supersectional at Salem. Collinsville, with Bogie Redmon and Fred Riddle, won 66-64 and went on to win the state championship with a 31-0 record.
Another dramatic duel between Nos. 1 and 2 was in the Chicago Public League championship in 1977 when Phillips stunned top-ranked Westinghouse and Eddie Johnson and Mark Aguirre 77-65 before a crowd of 12,000 at the International Amphitheatre. But Phillips lost to St. Laurence in the state quarterfinals.
Other match-ups between the state's two top-rated teams occurred in 1997 when No. 1 Peoria Manual defeated No. 2 Thornton 65-62 in the Class AA semifinals, in 2009 when No. 1 Champaign Centennial edged No. 2 North Lawndale 66-65 in the Class 3A semifinals and in 2010 when No. 1 Waukegan and Jereme Richmond beat No. 2 O'Fallon 85-78 for third place in Class 4A.
In 1959, No. 1 Galesburg and Bumpy Nixon ousted No. 2 Herrin 73-69 in the state quarterfinals, then lost to West Aurora in the semifinals.
In 1964, No. 2 Centralia and Cliff Berger upset No. 1 Collinsville 55-50 in the supersectional, then lost to Rock Island Alleman in overtime in the quarterfinals.
In 1978, No. 1 Lockport and Scott Parzych edged No. 2 St. Laurence and Kevin Boyle and Jim Stack in the sectional semifinals at Downers Grove North, then went on to complete a 33-0 season.
In 1981, No. 2 Madison upset No. 1 Providence and Walter Downing 45-43 in the Class A quarterfinals.