Preps Talk

13 Boys basketball conference races to watch

generic_preps_basketball_slide.png
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

13 Boys basketball conference races to watch

Now that the conference season is heating up in high school basketball, it's time to examine some of the races that are worth watching these next few months. Many of these conferences are tight at the moment, as the races will prepare teams for the state playoffs in March with some great games between familiar opponents.

Here's an overview of 13 leagues with good races to watch and some of the teams still involved. We'll feature plenty of these teams and conferences over the next few months on High School Lites.

Catholic Blue

Overview: The Catholic League is deep and loaded with talent and good coaching once again. Multiple teams have found themselves in the Preps Power Rankings out of the Blue division — which has Division I talent all over the place.

Teams to Watch: DePaul Prep (12-3, 6-0) maintains a solid early lead as the Rams are trying to prove themselves as a potential Peoria team. St. Laurence (16-3, 5-2), Brother Rice (12-6, 4-2) and Loyola (13-4, 4-3) have all been in the Preps Power Rankings this season as any of this group can knock off DePaul at the top. Fenwick (9-7, 3-4) is a darkhorse that has played a tough schedule.

Catholic White

Overview: With an intriguing mix of classes, the White Division of the Catholic League has been fun this early season. Also with multiple ranked teams, the White Division could have three state title contenders from different classes.

Teams to Watch: Leo (13-3, 5-1) and St. Rita (12-6, 6-1) are both good enough to be in the top 25 as they look like the teams to take care of to win conference. Providence-St. Mel (12-4, 5-2) is another ranked team who doubles as one of the state's premier Class 1A teams. Mount Carmel (12-6, 4-3) is a fourth 12-win team playing at a solid level after the holidays.

CSL South

Overview: Another league that is annually great, the CSL South has a lot of contenders once again this season. Two of the teams are ranked and pushing for state credibility while a second pack of three teams is right there to reckon with.

Teams to Watch: Classic rivals Evanston (16-3, 4-1) and New Trier (15-2, 5-0) are the top two teams in a deep league as they play for the first time on Friday night. Glenbrook South (11-4, 2-2) has surprised this season and found themselves in the Power Rankings after an early win over the Wildkits. And Maine South (10-6, 2-2) and Niles North (9-6, 1-3) both possess the talent to steal wins from the top teams and get back in the race.

DuKane

Overview: A first-year league that has developed into a fun basketball race, the DuKane features some quality teams. With one of the area's lone unbeaten teams and a quality group of teams right behind them, the DuKane will be worth keeping an eye on into March.

Teams to Watch: Geneva (15-0, 4-0) has been one of the area's best teams, as they give the DuKane some instant credibility. Wheaton North (9-7, 4-1), WW South (11-4, 3-2) and St. Charles East (10-7, 3-2) are also teams capable of knocking off the Vikings as each have good wins to start this season. Lake Park (11-5, 2-3) is another team with double-digit wins who can do damage.

ESCC

Overview: Annually one of the area's best leagues, the ESCC is a little more top-heavy than the best few years. But while the league isn't as balanced as before, the ESCC features perhaps the best conference race in the area between really talented ranked teams.

Teams to Watch: Three unbeaten ranked teams remain in the mix for the league title as Marian Catholic (15-1, 4-0), Benet (13-3, 3-0) and St. Viator (14-2, 2-0) are three of the areas best teams. Carmel (12-8, 2-1), Notre Dame (10-7, 1-1) and St. Patrick (10-7) are three more programs who could creep up from the second tier. But for now, this mostly looks like a three-team race. 

Fox Valley

Overview: Dominated by Jacobs for the past few seasons, the Golden Eagles are hovering around .500 as their 26-game FVC winning streak was snapped by Crystal Lake Central earlier this season. For the first time in years, the Fox Valley has an interesting basketball race with a bunch of teams involved.

Teams to Watch: Crystal Lake Central (11-4, 5-0) is the lone unbeaten through five games while Hampshire (10-5, 5-1), Dundee-Crown (12-3, 4-2) and Huntley (9-5, 4-2) are all within two games. And although Cary-Grove (11-5, 3-3) and Crystal Lake South (11-6, 3-3) are both 3-3 in league play, both have double-digit wins while showing an ability to hang with anyone in the conference.

Metro Suburban Blue

Overview: Sometimes an afterthought league, the Metro Suburban Blue has some serious talent in 2018-19. Multiple teams could make deep postseason runs in multiple classes and the league is good enough to have multiple ranked teams.

Teams to Watch: Riverside-Brookfield (13-3, 4-0) has burst back on the area scene as they've been ranked before this season. Aurora Christian (14-3, 2-0) and Chicago Christian (14-5, 4-1) are both firmly in the conference race as well as both are only a handful of local teams to reach 14 wins. And McNamara (12-7, 2-3) looms as a threat in the middle of the conference. 

Mid-Suburban West

Overview: Although both Mid-Suburban races are intriguing, this one has three 12-win teams all battling it out. One team has come ahead as a potential favorite, but the other two teams are still firmly in the mix.

Teams to Watch: Fremd (12-3, 4-0) has emerged as a top-25 team after proving themselves with multiple quality wins at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Schaumburg (12-5, 3-1) and Barrington (12-5, 2-2) have both set solid marks this season while flying under the radar as the Broncos beat the Saxons by a point.

Public League Red South/Central

Overview: Perhaps the state's most star-studded conference, the Public League's Red South/Central division features multiple state title contenders and top-10 teams. The clashes between top teams usually highlights any week of games and this season has been no different.

Teams to Watch: Curie (16-1, 4-0) has looked like the area's best team to start the season after winning Pontiac. Morgan Park (12-3, 3-1) and Bogan (14-2, 3-2) won the Big Dipper and Proviso West, respectively, as they've been top-five teams most of the season. Simeon (7-9, 2-2) is still top-ten good despite their tough start while Kenwood (11-5, 3-2) is another top-25 caliber team.

Public League Red North/West

Overview: While the other Public League Red division has more star power, the Red North/West is the deeper of the two. An astounding nine of the league's 10 teams find themselves over .500 at this point, as it's nearly impossible to take a night off in conference play.  

Teams to Watch: Orr (10-7, 4-0) currently finds itself as the league's only unbeaten, but they still have to prove themselves against the area's and conference's elite teams. Whitney Young (13-6, 3-1) remains a favorite despite still figuring some things out while Uplift (9-4, 3-1) and Lincoln Park (10-6, 2-2) are both top-25 worthy teams. Lane (11-4, 2-2), Marshall (7-4, 2-2) and North Lawndale (8-5, 2-2) are all good at home and help make the league's insane depth.

South Suburban Blue

Overview: Traditionally dominated by Hillcrest, the Hawks get another year of stiff competition. An astounding six teams out of seven are 4-2 or better in league play 

Teams to Watch: Hillcrest (10-6, 6-0) is the favorite and unbeaten to this point. Behind them, Tinley Park (11-4, 4-1) and Lemont (9-8, 4-1) are only a game behind. At 4-2 in league play lies Oak Forest (13-4), T.F. North (9-4) and T.F. South (7-8, 4-2) can all still make an impact by continuing to win.

Upstate Eight

Overview: The re-worked Upstate Eight still has a great three-team race at the top as the conference tries to figure itself out for the future. While the Upstate Eight is having a down year, there are a lot of programs with recent success having rebuild years.

Teams to Watch: The class of the conference has been West Aurora (15-3, 8-0) to this point. Glenbard South (11-3, 6-1) and South Elgin (12-6, 6-2) are the only two other teams in the 10-team conference even close to over .500 at this point as they'll need to knock off the Blackhawks to catch ground. 

West Suburban Gold

Overview: Four teams are within a game of first in this division of the always-talented West Suburban. The Gold Division is as wide open as any in the Chicagoland area heading into the heart of January.

Teams to Watch: Proviso East (11-3, 4-0) is the league's only unbeaten as a pack of three teams are right behind the Pirates. Downers South (11-5, 4-1), Willowbrook (9-6, 3-1) and Morton (8-6, 2-1) are all hanging around and Leyden (8-7 2-2) presents another team who could become a problem. 

Edgy's recruiting news and notes: LWE's Dzioban commits to Miami (OH)

generic-footballs-0930.png
USA TODAY

Edgy's recruiting news and notes: LWE's Dzioban commits to Miami (OH)

Lincoln-Way East junior kicker Dominic Dzioban (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) added a recent scholarship offer from Miami of Ohio and has since given the Redhawks and head coach Chuck Martin his verbal commitment. 

"I just had a great visit on Saturday to Miami of Ohio and I was able to get every question I had about the school and the program answered on Saturday," Dzioban said. "When I was first offered by Miami (Ohio) I had no idea what they had to offer or what they are all about. Miami (Ohio) has a historic campus and they also offer an amazing education. It seems like every facility at Miami (Ohio) is brand new and Oxford is just a great small college town. Miami (Ohio) really offers everything I was looking for in a school and having a chance to go to Miami on a full scholarship is a huge opportunity I couldn't pass by at all."

Lake Forest sophomore linebacker Cal Uihlein (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) was able to add his first offer recently from the Wisconsin Badgers, and Uihlein also made a visit to the University of Wisconsin this past Saturday. 

"I had a great visit to Wisconsin on Saturday," Uihlein said. "It wasn't a usual recruiting type of visit, it was much more low key and I was able to just see everything behind the scenes including seeing the team scrimmage. I was able to get a good feel for the team and the coaches after the scrimmage. I was also able to talk with some of the coaches at Wisconsin including head coach Paul Chryst and linebacker coaches. Everyone at Wisconsin seems very excited about me and it was just good to get to know them a bit better. I was able to just basically see the stadium and I didn't get to see too much of the facilities or the campus. I'll definitely head back again to Wisconsin soon and see more of the school and the facilities and overall it was a great visit."

Warren Township junior three star ranked defensive tackle Willis Singleton Jr. (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) was able to add an offer from the University of Illinois last Saturday while on a visit to watch the Fighting Illini's spring game. 

"I was hoping that an offer (from Illinois) was coming but I still had no idea," Singleton Jr. said. "I know that Illinois is on the rise and have added some really strong players from my recruiting class. My Dad also went to Illinois and just telling him over the phone that Illinois had offered me was an amazing felling and experience."

Singleton Jr. also said that "Illinois is definitely on the top of the spectrum. My recruitment is open, but there are definitely one of the top schools because of how they went about things with me on the visit."

Bolingbrook sophomore safety Justin Walters (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) has also seen more and more schools take notice of him this spring. Walters is currently holding six FBS level offers and growing by the day. 

"I have six scholarship offers now," Walters said. "I have offers from Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Army, Iowa, Iowa State and now Minnesota. Minnesota is my latest offer and they offered me a few weeks ago."

Walters has also been hitting the road and visiting a few schools this spring and plans to see even more soon.

"I've made visits already to Iowa and Iowa St and Wisconsin. I also visited Northwestern awhile ago. I'm also planning to visit Michigan State sometime this spring."

Breaking: Northwestern adds another in-state pledge

footballs-0718.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Breaking: Northwestern adds another in-state pledge

It didn't take Wheaton North junior outside linebacker Xander Mueller (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) long to give the Northwestern coaching staff his verbal commitment today. Mueller — whose older brother (junior linebacker Erik Mueller) is already on the Wildcats roster — attended the Wildcats final spring practice today. He picked up a scholarship offer and then gave head coach Pat Fitzgerald his verbal commitment on the spot. 

"I didn't expect it (adding a Northwestern offer) and I was very surprised," Mueller said. "Northwestern is the place for me because of the incredible academics, the location, having my brother already on the team and the amazing coaching staff and football program. I'm super happy."

Mueller is the second in-state name for the Wildcats and the seventh known verbal commitment for the Northwestern Class of 2020. Mueller joins Lake Zurich tight end Hunter Welcing (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) as the Wildcats in state commitments so far in the 2020 class. 

Mueller was also the Wildcats second overall verbal commitment today as Groveport (Ohio) Madison three star ranked offensive guard TeRah Edwards (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) also committed to the Wildcats after today's final spring practice.