Preps Talk

CSN Preps Preseason Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

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CSN Preps Preseason Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings

On Monday, boys basketball teams from all over the state of Illinois will open their seasons as we begin another exciting few months of high school basketball. But unlike the past few seasons, there is no consensus No. 1 player or No. 1 team.

Gone are the guaranteed McDonald's All-Americans like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander, Tyler Ulis and Jalen Brunson. There are no can't-miss studs in the younger classes, either.

Illinois still has plenty of basketball talent, but this is the biggest year of uncertainty for individual star players in over a decade. So that makes this season's race for the CSN Preps Basketball Player of the Year award that much more interesting.

[RELATED: CSN Preps Basketball Power Rankings - No. 4 Fenwick]

There is a clear front-runner entering the first edition of the Power Rankings for this award, but that could certainly change if others step up this season. We'll examine the Power Rankings for this award every few weeks during the season, but for now, here's a look at the five names you need to know for the race this season.

1. Charlie Moore (PG), Morgan Park

The 5-foot-11 point guard is already the most decorated current senior in the state as the Memphis commit owns two state championships and has been to Peoria in each of his first three seasons with the Mustangs. A starter for the last two seasons, Moore is a deadly perimeter shooter who averaged 18 points per game as a junior. Capable of a big scoring night, Moore opened his junior season with a 49-point performance against Urban Prep/Englewood and also had 28 points in a sectional title win over rival Bogan. Now with former backcourt running mate Marcus LoVett at St. John's, it's Moore's time to shine. Moore was a second-team CSN All-Area selection at the end of last season and he's the current favorite for Player of the Year.

2. Zach Norvell (G), Simeon

Simeon's new senior leader will be the 6-foot-5 Norvell, who is coming off of a very good summer and a commitment to Gonzaga. The lefty guard is a tenacious defender and played multiple spots on the floor for the Wolverines as a junior while averaging 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per game last season. Over the summer, Norvell made national headlines with a ridiculous 53-point game in a Las Vegas AAU tournament in which he made 14 3-pointers — 11 of which came in the first half. Now that Simeon's trio of high-major seniors are gone, this is Norvell's team and he could be in line for a huge senior season.

3. Nick Rakocevic (C), St. Joseph

After winning a state championship in Class 3A last season, the spotlight will be on Rakocevic after the departure of senior guards Glynn Watson (Nebraska) and Jordan Ash (Northwestern). The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 13.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season and seemed to shine in some of the biggest moments of the season. Rakocevic made third-team CSN All-Area honors last season as he had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the state championship game win over Belleville Althoff. The best uncommitted senior in Illinois, Rakocevic's recruitment could explode with a big senior season.

[RELATED: CSN Preps Basketball Power Rankings - No. 5 Bogan]

4. Barret Benson (C), Hinsdale South

The Northwestern commit hasn't had as much team success as the names listed above him, but the 6-foot-10 center is one of the area's most productive players. As a junior, Benson averaged 19.3 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. Unlike the three names above him, Benson has already been the go-to guy at Hinsdale South for a full season. Over the summer, Benson competed in prestigious national events like the NBPA Top 100 Camp and the Under Armour All-American Camp.

5. Nojel Eastern (G), Evanston

One of the breakout players in the area last season, the 6-foot-5 Eastern might be the most talented long-term prospect on this initial list of Player of the Year candidates. The question for the junior becomes how he looks after recovering from offseason ankle surgery to repair a dislocated ankle and two broken bones? Evanston is hoping Eastern is up to speed because he averaged 15.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and three assists per game as a sophomore and showed that he's capable of taking over a game in many different ways. College from coast-to-coast have kept tabs on Eastern, who is regarded as a consensus top-100 national prospect.

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

With the upcoming IHSA football playoff pairings announcement on Saturday night, here are some teams with modest win-loss records who opponents probably wouldn’t want to see in the early rounds of the postseason.

Loyola Academy (5-3): The Ramblers have struggled this season. But head coach John Holocek has, once again, led his team to the state playoff field. So what gives? Loyola has been inconsistent on offense and has turned the football over way too often. The team has also been dealing with various injuries. But the defense (minus a 35-3 loss to Brother Rice) has generally played well this season. If the Ramblers can clean up the turnovers and find a way to get their offense back in a rhythm, this team can undoubtedly surprise some teams along the way in Class 8A. 

Neuqua Valley (5-3): The Wildcats and head coach Bill Ellinghaus have dropped three tight games this season including a last possession, 21-14 decision to DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central two weeks ago. If the Wildcats can continue to get steady production from a balanced offense, led by RB Will Cheviliar and QB John Gronowski, the defense is capable of keeping Neuqua Valley in every game this postseason.

Aurora Christian (5-3): Coach Dave Beebe’s Eagles have lost to three playoff-bound teams this season with a combined 21-3 record (IC Prep, St. Francis and Bishop McNamara). They have a potent spread-passing attack led by sophomore QB Ethan Hampton. Aurora Christian is also slated to wind up in the Class 1A bracket on pairings night. Their dynamic offense and passing game in general could be a tough matchup for opponents in, what usually is, Class 1A North bracket with teams that generally run the ball.

Barrington (5-3): The Broncos, under head coach Joe Sanchez, have also been dealing with a rash of mid-season injuries; that said, it looks like Barrington is getting healthy at the right time. Junior QB Tommy Fitzpatrick is back from injury and is a key catalyst for any Barrington postseason run. Fitzpatrick has weapons in junior WR EJ Darlington and senior RB Michael Curran. 

Lake Zurich (5-3): The Bears made a starting quarterback change last week as Jack Moses took the reins. He promptly led the Bears to a 42-0 win over Mundelein. If the Bears can limit turnovers and continue to get strong production from their offense, the L-Z defense is more than capable of making life very difficult for any higher seeds that they could draw in the 7A state playoff field. 

Edwardsville (5-3): The Tigers hit a rough patch starting the season with a 1-3 record. But they currently boast a four-game winnings streak heading into Friday night’s tilt at Collinsville. Edwardsville is led by senior QB Kendall Abdur Rahman (Notre Dame) and is a gamebreaker every time he touches the football. Sophomore RB Justin Johnson (and the team in general) possesses a ton of speed. There are athletes and playmakers on both sides of the football. 

Here are some more lower seeds who could wreak havoc:

Providence Catholic (5-3): If the Celtics can get their running game going, beware. 

Raby (5-3): The Raiders could be a handful in 4A.

St. Charles East (4-4): The Saints’ power-option game is always tough to defend. 

Joliet Catholic (4-4): IF the Hilltoppers can beat Notre Dame on Friday, they could be a very tough out in 5A.

Crystal Lake South (5-3): A huge offensive line leads the way for the Gators. 

Zion-Benton (4-4): The Zee-Bees can put as much talent on the field than most of their opponents. 

Lemont (4-4): Needs a win Friday over rival Oak Forest. If the offense can keep the chains moving, the Indians’ defense can do the rest. 

Crete-Monee (5-3): They are the Southland conference champs. Their first two losses in 2018? Lincoln-Way East (8-0) and Brother Rice (8-0).

Thornton (4-4): The Wildcats will need to upset Lincoln Way Central Friday. Thornton always has talent.

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

Bloomington, IL/Chicago, IL (October 17, 2018) -- The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to NBC Sports Chicago for its eighth season in 2018. NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – will air the show live on NBC Sports Chicago+ on Saturday, October 20 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM CT. Viewers are urged to visit NBC Sports Chicago’s “Channel Finder” page (NBCSportsChicago.com/channel-finder) for exact NBC Sports Chicago+ channel locations in their area.

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show, which will reveal the brackets and first round match-ups of all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes, can also be viewed via Live stream beginning at 8:00 PM on Saturday at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), and will also be accessible for viewing to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers via the brand new MyTeams by NBC Sports app (NOTE: MyTeams is available on iOS and Android devices, at no cost, to fans anywhere in the U.S. and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store).

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage across all platforms on Saturday night," said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago.  

NBC Sports Chicago anchor Leila Rahimi hosts the show and will be joined by a panel of experts on-set, including long-time IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard and Illinois high school football bracketologist Steve Soucie. IHSA TV veteran Camron Smith will breakdown each class with media members from around the state, including NBC Sports Chicago prep football expert “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the show and ask questions to be answered during the program by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #IHSAbrackets

The program will once again feature highlights, coaches interviews and media analysis from all over the state. In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will be gathering teams & fan reaction moments throughout the “Land of Lincoln” on Saturday from numerous school playoff pairing parties taking place that evening.

“This is one of the most anticipated nights of the year on the IHSA calendar,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Student-athletes, coaches and communities around the state have put their hearts into the last nine weeks, and for 256 teams, it’s an amazing chance to celebrate their accomplishments, while looking ahead to the path to the IHSA Football State Finals. We appreciate the time and effort that our partners at NBC Sports Chicago put into making this night so special.”

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show kicks off NBC Sports Chicago’s playoff coverage of IHSA Football, which culminates with all eight state title games being televised and streamed by NBC Sports Chicago on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-24), live from Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.