Who was the best of the holidays?

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Who was the best of the holidays?

Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye are two of the leading recruiting analysts in the nation. For 26 years, they have provided an insightful and comprehensive evaluation of the best high school basketball players in Illinois. During the recent Christmas holidays, they attended seven tournaments from Pontiac to Wheeling. Here is what they saw and how
they saw it:Best team: Simeon. Coach Robert Smith's defense is more effective than his offense. Remember, defense wins championships. But Proviso East has closed the gap. The Pirates have almost as much depth. But do they have a clear-cut difference-maker? Will Keith Carter continue to provide the consistent spark that he did at Proviso West?Best player: Jabari Parker. Even though he didn't dominate every game at Pontiac, he stepped up when his team needed it the most. Steve Taylor was more consistent but Parker stepped up when it mattered the most in the 48-47 semifinal victory over Peoria Manual.All-Holiday Tournament Team: Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Keith Carter, Proviso East; Donald Moore, Bloom.Best shooters: Mike Fleming, Stevenson; Mike LaTulip, Prospect. Fleming made significant strides with his game. He was MVP at Wheeling. When they went head-to-head at Wheeling, Fleming scored 28, LaTulip 18.Best rebounder: Steve Taylor, Simeon. As usual, he went to war in every game at Pontiac. He is an ideal 34 forward for Marquette's program.Best shot blocker: Cliff Alexander, Curie. More than anyone else, the 6-foot-9 sophomore has the best natural ability to block shots.Best playmaker: Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic. He is as good a ball-handler and decision-maker as any point guard in the class of 2014.Best defenders: Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Keith Carter, Proviso East. Carter did an outstanding job against Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Vleet, limiting the Wichita State recruit to 10 points.Best free throw shooter: Mike LaTulip, Prospect. He converts 90 percent of his free throws.Most intimidating player: Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young. There isn't a more unstoppable post player at the high school level than the 6-foot-10 sophomore.Best passer: Jalen James, Hope Academy. The Illinois recruit does a tremendous job of pushing the ball up the floor.Best ball-handler: Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic. Not only does he have great ball-handling ability but has the uncanny knack for lulling defenders to sleep while exploding to the basket.Best coach: Rick Kehoe, St. Ignatius. He did an outstanding job in guiding his team to the championship at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York. He always has his teams prepared and ready to play and wins despite not always having the best talent.Best player you've never heard of: Ore Arogundade, St. Viator. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has the potential to be a high-major college player. He was all-tournament at Wheeling. He scored 18 against Naperville Central, 25 against Prospect.Players whose stock sky-rocketed: Sean O'Mara, Benet; Juwan Starks, West Aurora. O'Mara, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, has clearly shown that he is behind only Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young and Cliff Alexander of Curie as one of the premier post players in the class of 2014. Starks, a 6-foot-4 senior, has firmly established himself as a Division I recruit for the spring signing period.Best game: Simeon 48, Peoria Manual 47, Pontiac semifinal. "The third quarter was possibly the best quarter of basketball action I've seen at Pontiac in 26 years," Roy Schmidt said. "Just non-stop action and intensity."Teams to watch in the New Year: Naperville Central, St. Ignatius, Metea Valley, Plainfield East. Naperville Central beat St. Viator, Libertyville and Stevenson to win at Wheeling. St. Ignatius upset Downers Grove South and De La Salle to win at York. Both proved they can compete against top-level competition but will continue to be tested in their respective conferences.Biggest disappointments: Cliff Alexander, Curie; Homewood-Flossmoor. Alexander wasn't a focal point on offense in any game at Pontiac and relies too much on his athletic ability instead of being a dominant presence. Time is running out on H-F to prove its worth. They have been highly touted for three years and still have trouble getting over the hump in big games.Best playincident I'm glad I saw: At the risk of being redundant, the entire third quarter of the SimeonPeoria Manual semifinal at Pontiac.Best playincident I wish I had seen: Overall good free throw shooting. Do teams even practice free throw shooting anymore? It cost several teams opportunities to win games.Best story: Marshall finished third in the Normandy tournament in St. Louis without its best player, 6-foot-4 senior Milton Doyle, who was forced to stay home with the flu. Corbin McClain, Derrick Miles and Citron Miller stepped up big for coach Henry Cotton's Commandoes, who are 11-2.Best conference: Public League's Red-West. As in the old days, every game in the section will be a war. Orr, North Lawndale, Collins, Crane, Marshall, Farragut and Whitney Young are dominant.Best act of sportsmanship: The Simeon team shaking hands with former Peoria Manual star Howard Nathan, who was sitting in a wheelchair at courtside prior to the SimeonPeoria Manual semifinal at Pontiac.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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