By: Eric Van Dril | Feb. 6, 2017
The city tournament kicks off tonight. It’ll continue later this week, with second-round games on Wednesday and the quarterfinals on Friday.
Let’s break down the bracket by looking at some pre-tournament superlatives.
The White-division team with the best chance to pull off an upset in the first round: Collins (vs. Kenwood).
The Warriors are very dangerous.
They haven’t lost since December. They went 10-0 in the White-West. They’ve lost to just one team from Illinois (White-North champions Schurz) all year.
Collins features three guards — sophomore Jaquan Embrey, and seniors Terwon Matthews and Kamal Hill — who can each score 25 points on any given night. Hill and Matthews are especially dangerous from behind the arc, which is a tremendous asset when playing against a team like Kenwood that is much longer and taller.
Kenwood will have to dominate the glass against Collins and keep its guards relatively in check. The Broncos are the favorites in this game, but don’t be surprised if it goes down to the wire and Collins has a chance to win it at the buzzer.
The best first-round matchup: Westinghouse at Hyde Park.
The Warriors and Thunderbirds are very evenly matched.
They’ve been ranked near one another all year long in The Public League’s rankings. Hyde Park senior forward Shomari Tillett and Westinghouse senior forward Coreyoun Rushin can both go for 20 points and 10 rebounds on any given night.
This game, like so many Westinghouse has played this season, figures to be decided in the final minutes.
The Warriors are the slight favorite because of Rushin — the senior had 38 points against Whitney Young last week — and their super-competitive schedule. The Red-West has prepared Westinghouse for playoff games like this one.
Others matchups in consideration: Collins at Kenwood, Urban Prep-Englewood at Uplift, Taft at Brooks.
The No. 1 seed with the toughest road to the semifinals: Uplift.
The Titans are clearly the answer to this question.
They have the most difficult first-round matchup of any No. 1 seed. Urban Prep-Englewood was a reverse layup by Chase Adams away from beating Marian Catholic at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. The Lions beat Hyde Park by 14 just last week.
If Uplift defeats Urban Prep-Englewood, it will likely have to play Farragut on Wednesday evening with a showdown against Simeon looming.
The Titans have already talked about how they’re ready to play Simeon, but Farragut is a dangerous team that should not be overlooked.
The Admirals are young, but battle-tested. They finished fourth in the Red-West, the city’s deepest conference. They nearly beat Curie in the city playoffs a year ago, and the Condors went on to win the Class 4A state title. Farragut’s roster includes 6-foot-5 senior guard Kawanise Wilkins, who’s one of the best players in Chicago that nobody talks about. It also features freshman point guard Reggie Strong and sophomore guard Aaron Strong.
If Uplift beats Farragut and Urban Prep-Englewood, it will then have to host Simeon, the defending city champions. The Titans have repeatedly showed an ability to play their best against top teams, but the Wolverines would present an immense challenge.
The team playing the best entering the city tournament: Curie.
The Condors have been on an impressive run since they finished sixth at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
They’ve won nine-straight games, including a pair over rivals Kenwood and a non-conference tilt over Thornton. Elijah Joiner went for 40 in an unforgettable performance against Kenwood on Jan. 10.
Curie is an experienced squad with a championship pedigree, multiple Division I players and more size than any team in the city aside from Morgan Park. That combination will make the Condors difficult for any team to beat.
Others in consideration: Uplift, Bogan, Whitney Young, Collins and Schurz.
The team nobody wants to face: Bogan.
The young Bengals took their lumps at times during the first five weeks of the season, as coach Arthur Goodwin predicted they would before this season. But they are rolling into the city playoffs.
Bogan earned its biggest win of the season when it upset Simeon 83-64 on Thursday, Jan. 19. Then, early the following week, junior point guard Cortez Bailey played in his first game after becoming eligible after transferring from Morgan Park.
Goodwin expected Bailey to have a big impact when he came back, especially with his leadership and shot creation.
The Bengals are a team that is long, very deep and not afraid of anybody. They’re an underdog to advance out of a quadrant that includes Kenwood and Whitney Young, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they’re the talk of the tournament at the end of its first week.
Others in consideration: Orr, North Lawndale, Farragut and Westinghouse.
The best potential quarterfinal: North Lawndale at Morgan Park.
Each quarterfinal will be fantastic if the favorites win in the first and second rounds, but North Lawndale and Morgan Park would arguably be the most fascinating of the four.
Its intensity would be sky-high. The Mustangs would have the best player in the game (Ayo Dosunmu) and a size advantage, but North Lawndale has more depth and plays the type of defense on the perimeter that could force somebody other than Dosunmu to make plays. That is what Whitney Young succeeded in doing against Morgan Park in the Proviso West final.
Plus, North Lawndale vs. Morgan Park is a matchup that could happen again in the Class 3A state semifinals or finals.
The team that I like the most to win the city championship: Whitney Young.
I will unveil all of my picks later today, but here’s a spoiler: I’m picking Whitney Young to win the city title.
The decision was a hard one. There are nine teams that I could see getting hot over these next two weeks and winning the city title, but I picked the Dolphins because of what I saw at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
In late December, I saw an undersized team win the rebounding battle against a much-larger Morgan Park squad. I saw a team with a lock-down defender (Craig Beaudion) that executed well, defensively. I saw a team whose offense was lethal in transition and effective in the half-court.
I also saw a team that had so many offensive weapons — including junior point guard Xavier Castaneda, senior forward Lucas Williamson and junior guard Javon Freeman — that it seemed almost impossible for anybody to slow all of them down at once. Senior sharpshooter Justin Boyd has since returned from an ankle injury, too.
For all of those reasons, I am going with the Dolphins.