Morgan Park and Whitney Young playing on the opening night of the 2019-20 boys basketball season is a perfect idea.
The two local titans of Chicago high school basketball have agreed to open the season at Chicago State University on Monday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
During an era where it's become increasingly difficult to draw attention to the start of high school basketball, an attention-grabbing No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup is ideal. The combination of two state title contenders and the state's two best players -- Morgan Park's Adam Miller and Whitney Young's D.J. Steward -- is a great way to grab casual fan interest during a typically slow Thanksgiving week of Illinois high school hoops.
Some Thanksgiving tournaments across the state have solid fields and good crowds. But the state's top talent is too spread out. Many teams opt to take the week off altogether for more practice. There isn't a lot of stock put into winning Thanksgiving events and results are often forgotten by the time we reach the more prominent holiday tournaments in late December.
By putting a headline matchup on the first night of the season, the Chicagoland high school basketball scene is mimicking the successful formula of college basketball's Champions Classic. That annual event opens the season with rotating matchups between Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State. Since all four programs typically hover in the top ten of the national rankings each preseason, it makes for enticing opening-night matchups.
Having two programs like Morgan Park and Whitney Young -- that have combined for nine state titles -- going against each other is a smart early game for the season. It could be the start of something bigger where the Thanksgiving week features more showcase games and events that makes a stagnant week re-think its formula. Getting other notable programs like Simeon and Bloom involved could make for a fun annual tradition to begin the year.
The games test elite competition against each other and will get considered in the seeding process of the postseason. And there's no danger of missing the IHSA state playoffs with any kind of loss since every team in the state makes it anyways.
It'll be fascinating to see how this dream opening day matchup between the top two teams plays out. It's a neutral site during a holiday week where a lot of other teams and tournaments are going on.
But if the formula of top teams playing each other works, expect this sort of thing to become the norm going forward. It's a great way to draw attention to the sport during one of the busiest sports times of the year.