Preps Talk

IHSA Class 4A Boys Basketball Playoff Preview

IHSA Class 4A Boys Basketball Playoff Preview

The IHSA Class 3A and Class 4A boys basketball state playoffs begin this week. Class 4A is loaded with interesting teams in nearly every sectional this season as it could be one of the deepest pools of potential state champions that we've seen in years.

We'll have plenty of Class 4A playoff updates throughout the state playoffs on High School Lites and CSNChicago.com. Also be sure to follow our Twitter page @CSNPreps for the latest scores and highlights.

Here's a preview of the Chicago-area teams to track in the Class 4A playoffs over the next few weeks.

Proviso East Sectional

Favorite: Defending Class 4A champion Curie (23-3, 10-0) was one of the hottest teams in the area before losing to Morgan Park in the Public League Playoff semifinals. The Condors have a go-to guy in senior Elijah Joiner and other seniors like Allante Pickens and Terry Smith also have a lot of big-game experience. 

Other Contenders: This sectional features plenty of teams who were in the CSN Preps Power Rankings this season. Whitney Young (20-7, 8-2) and Kenwood (19-7, 8-2) are the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds and both schools have plenty of talent to make some noise while No. 4 seed Oak Park-River Forest (21-6, 11-1) is one of the hotter teams in the West Suburbs. 

Darkhorse: Keep an eye out for No. 6 seed St. Joseph (16-11, 5-4) in this sectional. Gene Pingatore's ballclub has been playing significantly better the last few weeks of the season after a sluggish start and the backcourt of senior Jason Towers and sophomore Marquise Walker is very talented. 

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: St. Joseph potentially battling Kenwood is fun but the possible No. 4 and No. 5 seed matchup between Oak Park-River Forest and St. Patrick (19-8, 5-4) could be tons of fun. Both programs have spent a healthy amount of time in the top 25 this season and the good history of both programs should make for a fun atmosphere. 

Waukegan Sectional

Favorite: Evanston (24-3, 10-0) has only lost one game to an Illinois opponent all season (Naperville North) as they enter the Class 4A state playoffs with a lot of confidence. While senior Nojel Eastern gets a lot of the headlines for the Wildkits, this is one of the most balanced teams in the area. Evanston has plenty of shooters, experienced interior players and some scoring pop off the bench.

Other Contenders: This sectional isn't as deep as past years but there are still plenty of solid teams. Notre Dame (23-5, 7-2), the No. 2 seed, is playing very good ball down the stretch after doing a good job navigating the ESCC while No. 3 seed Stevenson (21-5, 12-2) has some talented seniors in Indiana commit Justin Smith and Willie Herenton. 

Darkhorse: Zion-Benton (20-9, 12-2) is an intriguing team that has the length, athleticism and experience to make a run here. Senior guard Rod Henry-Hayes is generating Division I college interest and he's the type of player who can take over a game and lead the Zee-Bees to some upsets.

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: If North Suburban conference rivals Stevenson and Waukegan (18-8, 10-4) meet up it would be a rubber match as the teams split the season series with the home team winning both games. The third game would be played on a neutral court (Maine West) and also be one of the rare regional title games that features a Division I senior on both rosters (Stevenson's Justin Smith and Waukegan's Carson Newsome.).

Robert Morris Sectional

Favorite: Unbeaten Fremd (26-0, 10-0) is not only unscathed entering the Class 4A playoffs but they've also dominated the competition within their own sectional. The Vikings swept No. 2 seed Conant during the season and also beat No. 3 seed Prospect a week ago for the Mid-Suburban League title. This is the second season in the last four that Fremd has entered the playoffs unbeaten but they don't have to face a future McDonald's All-American like Jalen Brunson in a sectional final this time. 

Other Contenders: Conant (24-4, 8-2) and Prospect (22-5, 9-1) were both top-25 mainstays who had great seasons as the Mid-Suburban League had a lot of talented teams this season. The Cougars are perhaps the bigger threat having won a sectional title in Class 4A last season and senior point guard Jimmy Sotos (Bucknell) is one of the most talented players among the sectional. 

Darkhorse: Grant (19-8, 13-1) has been flying under the radar a bit this season but the Bulldogs are peaking at the right time. Winners of seven straight games, the Northern Lake County champs have knocked off Zion-Benton during the season and they played No. 1 seed Fremd a few weeks ago.

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: A possible game between No. 4 seed Lake Zurich and No. 5 Grant would be the best potential regional final matchup in an otherwise underwhelming sectional. Lake Zurich (18-11, 5-9) had a disappointing conference season but they do have a solid record and some good wins.

Elgin Sectional

Favorite: This is an intriguing sectional with teams from a wide area of the state but Fox Valley champion Jacobs (26-1, 15-1) is a strong contender. The Golden Eagles have lost one game all season (to Prairie Ridge) and they have the most productive senior big man in the Class 4A field in Loyola commit Cameron Krutwig. 

Other Contenders: Rockford Boylan (25-4, 16-0) is the other No. 1 regional seed in this sectional and the Nic-10 champions have one of the state's most underrated seniors in guard Zach Couper. Couper has already put up a 50-point game this season and Boylan could just as easily be put as co-favorite with Jacobs in this sectional. 

Darkhorse: Both St. Charles schools -- St. Charles East and St. Charles North -- have enough to make some noise in this sectional. The Saints (18-8, 9-3) have a very good junior in Justin Hardy while St. Charles North (18-8, 8-4) is the team that ended Geneva's unbeaten season.

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: If St. Charles North plays Jacobs then we get to see if the North Stars can pick off another top-25 team while we also get an immediate chance to see how Jacobs handles a solid team from outside of McHenry County early in the playoffs. 

Lincoln-Way East Sectional

Favorite: Bolingbrook (24-1, 13-1) has been one of the major storylines this season as the Raiders' only loss came when they were a bit banged up. When fully healthy, Bolingbrook is perhaps the deepest team in the state and senior Nana Akenton is a major All-Area candidate. 

Other Contenders: Already a winner of a sectional title last season, Joliet West (23-3, 14-0) returns most of that core group as this team has major expectations to make a potential run to Peoria. Point guard Teyvion Kirk and wing Trevian Bell might be the best one-two punch in the sectional. 

Darkhorse: West Aurora (19-8, 9-1) is finally a fully healthy team and they're entering the playoffs having won four of their last five games. The Upstate Eight Valley champs have a talented go-to junior in Cameron Donatlan and plenty of pieces around him. 

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: Two teams trending in opposite directions could meet if Joliet Central faces Lincoln-Way East. The Steelmen (21-5, 11-3) have been in the CSN Preps Power Rankings most of the year but have two losses to Joliet West and Romeoville heading into the playoffs. Lincoln-Way East (19-10, 6-4) picked off top-25 teams like Homewood-Flossmoor and Bolingbrook during February as they appear to be peaking at the right time. 

Hinsdale Central Sectional

Favorite: Wheaton-Warrenville South plays a slow, methodical style of ball but they've used it to get a 27-1 record and No. 1 sectional seed. The Tigers limit turnovers, play tough defense and have a handful of floor spacers. Wheaton-Warrenville South won't beat themselves very easily so someone is going to have to force them out of their comfort zone to beat them. 

Other Contenders: Geneva (27-2, 11-1) comes in as the No. 2 seed and the Vikings were unbeaten for most of the regular season until a loss to St. Charles North. It would be dumb to count out No. 3 seed Benet since the Redwings are last season's Class 4A runner-up. Naperville North is also an intriguing No. 4 seed since the Huskies are the only Illinois team to beat Evanston this season. 

Darkhorse: This might be the deepest sectional when it comes to teams who could actually win as the middle is very deep. Seeds No. 6 through No. 10 (Wheaton North, Downers North, Downers South, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South) are all well above .500 in both overall record and conference play.

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: Because of the aforementioned depth of the Hinsdale Central Sectional, all four regional title matchups could be enticing but if Wheaton-Warrenville South faces Downers South it would be unique in Class 4A. The Mustangs (18-11, 9-3) might actually have the two most talented players on the floor (as the No. 8 seed) in seniors T.J. Clifford and Denis Alibegovic but Downers South is also mistake-prone and played poor defense in some games.

Thornwood Sectional

Favorite: City champion Simeon (24-3, 8-2) is coming off of a great run over the last few weeks in the toughest elimination tournament in the state so they're prepared to make a run to Peoria in Class 4A. Senior Evan Gilyard is one of the state's best floor leaders while juniors Kezo Brown and Talen Horton-Tucker impact the game in so many ways. 

Other Contenders: There are plenty of competitors in this sectional as seeds No. 2 through No. 7 all spent time in the CSN Preps Power Rankings this season. Among that group, No. 3 seed Thornton has perhaps the state's best player in senior guard in Alonzo Verge and No. 4 seed T.F. North is pummeling opponents lately during a red-hot winning streak.  

Darkhorse: Sitting down at the No. 7 seed is Homewood-Flossmoor as the Vikings are a dangerous team that spent much of the year in the top 25. Playing one of the area's strongest schedules, the Vikings won't be phased one bit if they have to face No. 2 seed Brother Rice. 

(Potential) Matchup to Watch For in Regionals: This is another sectional with strong depth and that should make for a lot of intriguing regional finals. If No. 4 seed T.F. North and No. 5 seed Marist play, however, that one would be tremendous. The Meteors are playing some of the best basketball of any team in the state and Marist was champion of a loaded East Suburban Catholic Conference. 

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Sparty Nation got another reason to flex. And it may have Coach K seeing green.

Max Christie, a five-star shooting guard (Rivals) and the top Illinois player in the Class of 2021, is headed to play for Michigan State and legendary head coach Tom Izzo. The Rolling Meadows High School product made his decision Tuesday in an interview with Fox’s Andy Katz.

“It just felt like it was a place that I was needed and a place I wanted to go to,” Christie said. “I think Coach Izzo and his staff and all my teammates there can push me to be the person I want to be, not just on, but off the court.”

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Christie selected Michigan State —his only official visit— over, namely, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Also on his list of potential choices were Villanova, Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois and several others. While Christie is excited for Izzo to help improve his game, he also prides himself on his versatility and making an immediate impact.

“I think I can be a great facilitator and a great scorer,” Christie said. “I feel like I can do anything that Coach Izzo or the players need be to do if that means rebounding, pushing the ball, setting up an offense or coming off screens, I feel like I am versatile enough of anything that is asked of me.”

The 6-foot-6 Christie may get another boost on the court a few years down the line, as Class of 2022 phenom Emoni Bates, the top player in the current junior class, committed to play for MSU on June 30. All of this assumes Bates keeps his commitment to East Lansing and doesn’t hop the NBA. Christie remains steadfast in his committed to Michigan State and is not exploring any G-League options at the moment.

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Christie has grabbed headlines in Chicagoland since his freshman year. He has tallied a 50-point game and a triple double and had several clutch moments during his junior season. He is coming off the first 20-win campaign at ‘Meadows in nearly 30 years.

And there’s more Christie magic in the pipeline. Cameron, his younger brother, is one of the quickly-rising sophomores in the area.

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

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USA Today

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

It’s time to party like it’s 1995 —especially if you’re a high school basketball fan who likes watching the game in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) board of directors voted Monday to move the host venue for the boys state basketball finals from Peoria to Champaign’s renovated State Farm Center for the next three seasons.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion from high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021."

The boys tournament will run on March 11-13, 2021, March 10-12, 2022 and March 9-11, 2023.

“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois, Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We are grateful to the IHSA and its leadership for choosing State Farm Center and Champaign-Urbana to host the state finals.

The boys tournament, which had been located in Champaign for 77 years, moved to Peoria’s Civic Center (Carver Arena) starting in 1996. The girls tournament was also in Champaign until 1992 before moving to Redbird Arena. The girls tournament will remain in Normal.

The Champaign area was steeped in prep basketball glory for generations. The first televised championship came in 1952 when Hebron, a school of 98 students defeated a Quincy school boasting an enrollment over 1,000. Six years later, the first Chicago school —Marshall— won state. In 1972, the tournament was split into Class A (small schools) and AA (large schools). The late Ben Wilson helped Simeon win in a title in Champaign in 1984 while future NBA stars (Kevin Garnett, Melvin Ely) and NFL receivers (Antwaan Randle El and Tai Streets) graced the floor at Assembly Hall during the 1995 tournament.

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The next year was a perfect one for the city of Peoria to grab the reins for the boys tournament. Hometown Manual High School won their third and fourth consecutive state titles in 1996 and 1997. Later, Derrick Rose guided Simeon to back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. A four-class system was instituted for the 2007-08 season. Simeon dominated again from 2010-13 with Jabari Parker in the spotlight.

This year’s basketball tournaments were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.