The race for conference titles is always entertaining and for the continuing coverage for our high school boys basketball preview we decided to go over 10 of the more intriguing conference races in the Chicagoland area for the upcoming season.
Catholic League North:
Loyola (9-2) won the league last season by two full games over Fenwick, St. Ignatius and St. Joseph (7-4 each) by getting hot at the end of the season.
Favorite: St. Joseph has a dynamic backcourt in the junior duo of Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash and they have the talent to win the league and make a deep run this season.
Top contenders: Loyola will return much of their 22-win team as four starters come back. Fenwick and new coach Rick Malnati will also be a presence thanks to Northwestern commit Scott Lindsey on the wing as well as senior big man Dan Dwyer and sophomore point guard Mike Smith.
Teams that could surprise: St. Ignatius, Gordon Tech and Mount Carmel all have talented pieces and great coaching staffs and this league is very solid from top-to-bottom this season.
Catholic League South:
St. Rita finished the year at 9-2 as Brother Rice, De La Salle and Seton all finished a game behind in the standings.
Favorite: St. Rita is the most talented team once again and they're led by Northwestern commit Vic Law at forward along with the Matthews brothers, senior Dominique and junior Charles, and junior big man Myles Carter. And that doesn't include their depth and young players. They'll play a national schedule to prepare for March along with Catholic League games.
Top contenders: De La Salle has an abundance of junior talent as Brandon Hutton has multiple high-major offers and junior guards Martez Cameron and Karl Harris can really play.
Teams that could surprise: There are a number of questions surrounding the other returning teams in the league and it is also wide-open, just like the North.
Central Suburban League North:
Niles North ran the table and went unbeaten in the conference last season as Glenbrook North finished two games behind.
Favorite: Niles North lost Malachi Nix, but they get transfer Duane Stephens from Notre Dame and all-conference selection J.J. Myles returns.
Top contenders: Deerfield and Highland Park are both talented groups that played well together this summer and fall.
Teams that could surprise: Glenbrook North is well-coached and disciplined.
Central Suburban League South:
Maine South went 9-1 to edge New Trier last season as the two programs had fantastic seasons.
Favorite: New Trier lost Steven Cook and his senior class, but they reload with a good class behind them that is talented and plays well together.
Top contenders: Nearly the whole league could contend but the leaders will be Maine South and Niles West.
Teams that could surprise: Depending on how quickly their young talent develops, Evanston could be a surprise if freshman guard Nojel Eastern can make an immediate impact.
East Suburban Catholic Conference:
Benet went 7-1 in the league last season to edge Marian Catholic and Saint Viator.
Favorite: Marian Catholic and point guard Tyler Ulis lead the charge as the Kentucky commit has a solid supporting cast around him to be a major contender this season.
Top contenders: Saint Viator and Benet both have a lot of talent returning as well as the Lions feature one of the state's premier backcourts with senior Ore Arogundade and juniors Roosevelt Smart and Mark Falotico and Benet has Xavier commit and senior center Sean O'Mara in the middle.
Teams that could surprise: Notre Dame has some young talent in place to be solid and St. Patrick and Marist have some pieces as well.
Simeon ran the table and remained a game ahead of rival Morgan Park and Bogan.
Favorite: Simeon remains the slight favorite over Morgan Park thanks to their size and versatility. Junior D.J. Williams is an Illinois commit and he is 6-foot-7 along with fellow junior forward Edward Morrow. Loyola commit Donte Ingram and Jaycee Hillsman will provide senior leadership.
Top contenders: Morgan Park might be the deepest team in the state and could just as easily top Simeon for the Red-South title. Bogan is also feisty as Luwane Pipkins and Bryce Barnes returns in the back court to lead the charge for the Bengals.
Teams that could surprise: You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that can contend with that top three, but it might be senior-laden Harlan.
Curie finished a game ahead of Hyde Park and two games ahead of Dunbar to capture the title last season.
Favorite: Curie is the favorite to capture another Red-Central title as senior center and Kansas commit Cliff Alexander mans the middle. The Stamps brothers, Joseph and Joshua, and sophomore guard Devin Gage are a few players alongside Alexander that can really play.
Top contenders: Hyde Park has some new players, but they're talented and athletic and have some scorers in place.
Teams that could surprise: Kenwood is young but has a talented point guard in junior Steve Williams and a top-five sophomore in forward Nick Robinson.
Orr went 9-0 and finished one game ahead of Whitney Young and two games ahead Farragut.
Favorite: Whitney Young is the No. 1 team in the state and they are led by the No. 1 player in the country in center and Duke commit Jahlil Okafor. Okafor has Georgetown commit Paul White and Saint Louis commit Miles Reynolds surrounding him and the Dolphins are loaded.
Top contenders: Orr is once again loaded and returns seniors Tyquone Greer, Marlon Jones and Louis Adams Jr,. The Spartans are a big-time contender in the Red-West and Class 3A.
Teams that could surprise: Farragut is tough and North Lawndale has a lot of young talent surround senior Keith Mack.
West Suburban Gold:
Proviso East went a perfect 12-0 in the conference and finished two games ahead of Morton.
Favorite: Proviso East once again has the talent to repeat as West Virginia commit and senior guard Jevon Carter leads the Pirates and he has a talented group of athletes around him led by junior guard Kalin Fisher.
Top contenders: Morton returns Weisner Perez, a 6-foot-6 junior with Division I interest and seniors Greg Carter and Jarvis Cannon surround him.
Teams that could surprise: Downers South has three seniors contributors back from a team that finished 7-5 in conference last season.
West Suburban Silver:
Hinsdale Central finished 11-1 and finished three games ahead of York and Oak Park-River Forest.
Favorite: Led by senior guard Erick Locke and transfer senior forward Jovanni Harrell, Oak Park-River Forest has the talent in place to oust Hinsdale Central as the head of the conference.
Top contenders: Hinsdale Central returns 6-foot-7 junior Matt Rafferty and 6-foot-6 forward George Kiernan and York had a very strong summer and is led by Air Force commit Frank Toohey down low.
Teams that could surprise: Proviso West has a lot of backcourt talent returning, but in a league with multiple Division I forwards, they need some size to step up.