The Public League Playoffs begin on Tuesday as Simeon tries to capture its third consecutive title in the event.
Annually the event is the toughest to win in the state because of the depth of teams and overall star power, the Wolverines could get tested by Class 2A favorite Orr or Class 3A favorite Morgan Park. Unlike the state tournament, Simeon multiple state title contenders from multiple classes loom in order to win a third straight city title.
High School Lites will have highlights of some of Thursday's second round games on Friday's edition of the show as well as highlights from the semifinals the following Friday.
Can anyone beat Simeon?
Based on how the Wolverines have looked this season, they're the heavy favorites to win a third consecutive title in this event. Led by Talen Horton-Tucker, Messiah Jones and Xavier Pinson, Simeon has perhaps its best and deepest team ever under head coach Robert Smith. The Wolverines are ridiculously balanced. So far this season, Simeon hasn't lost to a team from Illinois and all of the Wolverines' wins against Illinois teams have come by double digits.
It remains to be seen if Simeon can beat No. 2 Orr if they play in the finals. The other strong contenders like Curie, Morgan Park and Whitney Young are going to be tough as well. But Simeon is the heavy favorite to capture another city title entering this event. They're playing at as high of a level as any local team in recent memory.
Who are the other contenders to know?
Simeon might be the heavy favorite, but they'll need to beat a number of high-profile teams to get there. Defending Class 2A champion Orr would love to get a shot at the city title as they're looking for more respect. The Spartans already have a Proviso West Holiday Tournament title and two wins over Whitney Young, but they lost to Curie earlier this season. Dannie Smith and Raekwon Drake are two of the city's better players and they're a tough cover for anyone. Like Simeon, Orr can also score across all five spots on the floor.
Curie owns great wins over Orr and Morgan Park but they've also lost by double digits twice already to Simeon. Curie still has the scoring punch to beat anyone in the state but they haven't had good luck against the Wolverines so far. Whitney Young has prepared for this event by playing another ridiculous schedule as the Dolphins have been tested with top opponents from all over the country. The Dolphins have beaten some really good teams like North Lawndale, but they've fallen to Orr twice and don't own a win over another top-five Public League team this season.
Morgan Park is the wild card. The Mustangs have a lot of talent that has started to improve over the season but the team's health remains a major question mark. Sophomore Adam Miller showed that he's capable of taking over a game with his perimeter shooting in the win over Fenwick as he's one of the tournament's most fascinating players to watch.
Who are the other teams to watch?
Besides for the top five teams in the Preps Power Rankings all being from the Public League there are a lot of really good second-tier teams looking to make a move.
Lincoln Park is the team to keep an eye out for thanks to quality wins over Whitney Young, Uplift, Marian Catholic and DePaul Prep. The Lions are on a recent three-game slide, however, as they have to figure things out quickly before an event like this. Bogan has won four consecutive games as they're looking like a potential darkhorse. The Bengals had very close games against Morgan Park and Curie this season as they could be peaking at the right time. North Lawndale lost to Lincoln Park, Whitney Young, Orr and Curie in a span of weeks but they were close in every game. The Phoenix are a team nobody wants to see early in the draw.
Which White division team is most dangerous?
Although the Red divisions in the Public League split into two super conferences this season, there were also some talented teams in the White division that should be watched. In fact, all four White divisions of the Public League had undefeated teams who won conference. Among those four schools, two are particularly dangerous.
High School Lites recently profiled Lane as our Team of the Week as the Indians are playing well with an 18-5 overall record. Unbeaten in the White-North, Lane gave Lincoln Park a solid game this season and they're confident facing another Red division opponent. The Indians face Harlan in the first round.
Corliss is perhaps the most dangerous team out of the White division because of the presence of Iowa State commit George Conditt. The 6-foot-11 Conditt is a potential game changer at the rim because of his ability to block shots. Corliss also solid guards and the team owns a very good win over Lincoln-Way East. Corliss will get another strong test when they face North Lawndale for its opening matchup.
Feb. 6, 5 p.m.
Foreman at Orr
Lane at Harlan
Westinghouse at Farragut
Julian at Bogan
Hubbard at Curie
UP-Englewood at Marshall
Dunbar at Kenwood
Collins at Lincoln Park
Longwood at Simeon
Corliss at North Lawndale
Brooks at Hyde Park
Payton at Uplift
Clark at Whitney Young
Crane at Vocational
Von Steuben at Prosser
King at Morgan Park