With the Class 3A playoffs beginning today, CSN Chicago takes a look at the sectionals that feature local teams and breaks down the favorites, the contenders and some of the best potential matchups along the way.
CSNChicago.com will have plenty more playoff coverage of the Class 3A playoffs -- and the other classes as well -- throughout the month of March as March Madness rolls along.
Favorite: North Chicago is the clear favorite in this sectional as the No. 1 seed Warhawks have the most talent and have played the best competition. The senior trio of Javairius Amos-Mays, Kurt Hall and JayQuan McCloud lost in the Hoffman Estates Supersectional to Orr last season and they'll be motivated to make it to Peoria.
Contenders: Uplift is the No. 2 seed and won the Public League Red-North but they haven't beaten any elite teams and will be without head coach David Taylor for the playoffs as a compromise for playing in too many regular season tournaments. Carmel could be dangerous as a No. 3 seed because they played in a difficult East Suburban Catholic Conference and 6-foot-9 center Jack George is a matchup problem for many teams in the sectional.
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Best Potential Regional Final: How about a St. Patrick and Gordon Tech regional final at St. Patrick? Nick Coleman is one of the better shooters in the state and Gordon Tech has enough young talent to scare a number of teams in the playoffs.
Best Potential Sectional Final: North Chicago facing Carmel would be intriguing because the Warhawks don't have the size to stop George, but the Corsairs have struggled against uptempo, pressure teams.
Favorite: This sectional is completely wide open, but Wheaton Academy has the most talent in the sectional, even as a No. 2 seed. Wheaton Academy has also tested itself against great competition like St. Viator and Benet and owns a sweep over rival St. Francis, also a No. 2 seed in its regional.
Contenders: Sycamore and Kaneland are both regional No. 1 seeds and they tied atop the Northern Illinois Big 12 standings along with Rockford Lutheran, who has high-scoring senior guard Thomas Kopelman.
Best Potential Regional Final: Sycamore and Wheaton Academy has the makings of a solid game at the Genoa-Kingston Regional. Sycamore was one of three teams to finish tied atop the Northern Illinois Big 12 East and they could face a talented Wheaton Academy team that has an inside-outside threat in senior forward Gordon Behr and junior shooter Josh Ruggles.
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Best Potential Sectional Final: Rockford Lutheran and Wheaton Academy would matchup a pair of guards that can really shoot it in Kopelman and Ruggles, turning this one into a potential shootout.
Rich East Sectional
Favorite: Whoever wins the Morgan Park and Hillcrest regional final at Thornridge should be the favorite to win the sectional. Morgan Park is the defending Class 3A champion and Nick Irvin's team is deep and talented while Hillcrest has won 14 consecutive games coming into the playoffs as the Hawks are peaking at the right time.
Contenders: The winner of that regional final will likely get to face sectional host Rich East, who has a gaudy 19-4 record, but finished second in the Southland to Bloom and didn't defeat many teams of note during the season. Can Quinton Moore and company get past Morgan Park or Hillcrest?
Best Potential Regional Final: Morgan Park and Hillcrest has the potential to be the best regional final in the state in Class 3A.
Best Potential Sectional Final: The Rich East Sectional is definitely top-heavy, as in the top of the sectional bracket. The No. 1 regional seeds at the bottom of the bracket, Lincoln-Way West and Morris, don't have the talent to match up with the teams at the top of the bracket, so the regional final between Hillcrest and Morgan Park might be the unofficial championship game of this sectional.
Favorite: Bogan is back in the Class 3A playoffs and despite being without head coach Arthur Goodwin, the Bengals will have a lot to play for the Class 3A playoffs. Bogan was ousted from the Public League Playoffs in the second round by Farragut and should also be motivated by this IHSA ruling. Luwane Pipkins is one of the most talented guards in the Class 3A field.
Contenders: Hyde Park, the No. 2 seed, is in the same boat as Bogan, as they'll play without head coach Antonne Samuels. Hyde Park is talented enough to give Bogan problems and they've given Curie two really tough games this season. Harlan, the No. 3 seed, is also feisty enough to challenge as senior guard Andre Hogan can put up points in a hurry.
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Best Potential Regional Final: Vocational and U-High should be a good one in the Urban Prep Charter/Englewood Regional. U-High went undefeated in the Independent School League and would love a crack at a Public League Red-South team like Vocational. Unsigned 6-foot-8 senior Max Rothschild makes U-High a potentially dangerous matchup in the sectional.
Best Potential Sectional Final: Bogan and Hyde Park would be the game everyone wants to see in this sectional. The Bengals have hovered around the top 10 in the CSN Preps Power Rankings for the entire season while Hyde Park has really played good ball down the stretch and was a surprise team in the Public League Playoffs before bowing out to Curie in the semifinals.
Favorite: After making it to Peoria last season, Orr is the favorite to make it back after another strong season. The No. 1 seed Spartans have experience, depth and a ton of length and athleticism and as long as they play smart basketball and keep their emotions in check, they'll be tough to stop for anyone in Class 3A.
Contenders: A pair of Catholic League North powers in St. Joseph and Fenwick is a very tough No. 2 and No. 3 seed, respectively. The Chargers and Friars both have younger guards, but each has the interior size and talent to match up favorably with Orr and both teams are more disciplined than the Spartans.
Best Potential Regional Final: Fenwick has a potentially tough regional final with Farragut, who came on strong at the end of the season. The Admirals knocked off Bogan in the Public League Playoffs and Ashawn Jones is a talented scorer. Plus, Farragut gets the benefit of home-court advantage since the regional is being played on their court.
Best Potential Sectional Final: Orr and St. Joseph would be a tremendous sectional final full of Division I prospects and athletic players. Marlon Jones against Nick Rakocevic would be a fun matchup on the interior and the backcourt battle of Lou Adams Jr. against Glynn Watson would also be great to see.