The Public League Playoffs tip-off on Wednesday as 32 teams from around the city will compete for the coveted crown of city champion. Although the event has lost its luster a bit over the years as Public League teams like Simeon, Whitney Young, Morgan Park, Orr and Marshall have been a couple of recent examples of programs making it downstate and competing for a state championship, the city title still means quite a bit, especially for bragging rights among players and coaches.
Here's a look at everything you need to know to be prepared for the action.
The five favorites to know:
1. Curie — The Condors are still unbeaten in the state of Illinois and have Cliff Alexander, the frontrunner for CSN Chicago Preps Player of the Year honors.
2. Whitney Young — The defending city champions have played a national schedule and boast a strong core of seniors led by Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Miles Reynolds.
3. Bogan — You may be surprised to see the Bengals at third on this list, but they swept Morgan Park and split with Simeon in Red-South play. Luwane Pipkins is one of the best juniors in the state.
4. Simeon — Are the Wolverines peaking at the right time? The road win at Bogan last week was a huge win for Robert Smith's ballclub and he always has them prepared for tournament play.
5. Orr — The senior-laden Spartans finished second to Whitney Young in the Red-West, but Orr has a lot of size and athleticism across the board and they're still as dangerous as ever.
The five players to track:
Cliff Alexander, Curie — The 6-foot-9 senior and Kansas commit is a potential triple-double waiting to happen thanks to his unbelievable athleticism and tenacity. The amount of pressure Alexander is facing to win championships this season is immense.
Josh Cunningham, Morgan Park — This is Cunningham's team now as the senior was a big-time role guy for Morgan Park's Class 3A championship team last year as a junior. Can Cunningham help lead the Mustangs to a city title?
Marlon Jones, Orr — The 6-foot-8 unsigned senior is battling a foot injury, but he's been the Spartans' best player this season for a team with tremendous balance. Jones is one of the few guys with the size and athleticism to guard Alexander and Okafor.
Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young — The 6-foot-11 Duke commit is nipping at Alexander's heels for Player of the Year honors and commands double- and triple-teams nearly every possession. Can Okafor and the Dolphins go back-to-back?
Luwane Pipkins, Bogan — The junior point guard has really improved his perimeter shooting and he's one of the premier two-way guards in the area. Since the Bengals are low on seniors, Pipkins acts as a team leader and Bogan usually follows his hard-playing lead.
First-round matchup to watch: No. 5 Kenwood at No. 4 Harlan — This will be a really intriguing first-round matchup as a young and talented Kenwood team travels south to face a feisty Harlan team. Kenwood is led by junior guard Rahamanh Katumbusi and super sophomore forward Nick Robinson while Harlan has given scares to Red-South powers Morgan Park and Simeon and senior guard Andre Hogan is playing great ball this season. The winner of this one could give No. 1 Uplift a heck of a second-round game.
(Potential) Second-Round Matchup to watch: No. 5 Farragut vs. No. 1 Bogan — The Admirals already had a play-in game of sorts on Monday as they had to beat Westinghouse to remain in the Red-West. Senior swingman Ashawn Jones is having a big season for the Admirals and junior guard Ernest Johnson is a solid player as well for Farragut. Farragut has taken Orr to the brink this season, so they won't be scared to face Bogan.
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(Potential) Quarterfinal to watch: Whitney Young vs. Morgan Park — Not to overlook a Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship rematch between Curie and Simeon, but we've already seen that game before. How about this matchup of Whitney Young and Morgan Park? The Mustangs are young and deep and advanced to the finals at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament while Whitney Young is playing some of the best ball in the area right now after facing a national schedule.
(Potential) Semifinal to watch: Bogan vs. Curie — Although Bogan would have a difficult time containing Cliff Alexander down low, the Bengals ferocious perimeter defense could give the Condors' turnover-prone guards issues if this game becomes a track meet. Luwane Pipkins and the Bengals have already beaten Morgan Park and Simeon this season and won't be afraid to face Curie for a chance at the city title.
(Potential) Championship to watch: Whitney Young vs. Curie — I mean, duh. Cliff Alexander vs. Jahlil Okafor is a matchup everyone in the country will be talking about as the nation's top two big men could potentially collide for a city championship. Can you imagine the buzz surrounding this game? Not only would the matchup of elite big men be entertaining, but Curie has yet to lose in the area and Whitney Young has played the toughest schedule in the area thanks to its coast-to-coast schedule. Can Whitney Young repeat? Can Curie coach Mike Oliver win his first city title? So many great storylines here.
First Round: 2/5 (Bracket Order)
No. 8 Raby (11-6) at No. 1 Uplift (21-3)
No. 5 Kenwood (10-13) at No. 4 Harlan (13-11)
No. 6 Brooks (6-15) at No. 3 King (13-9)
No. 7 Prosser (14-9) at No. 2 Orr (17-3)
No. 8 Schurz (15-8) at No. 1 Whitney Young (17-5)
No. 5 Vocational (13-10) at No. 4 DuSable (7-12)
No. 6 Dunbar (4-15) at No. 3 Morgan Park (14-5)
No. 7 Urban Prep-West (15-3) at No. 2 Lincoln Park (10-10)
No. 8 Lindblom (10-11) at No. 1 Bogan (23-3)
No. 5 Farragut (9-11) at No. 4 Taft (7-15)
No. 6 Foreman (9-9) at No. 3 Marshall (10-11)
No. 7 Carver (14-4) at No. 2 Hyde Park (15-8)
No. 8 Perspectives-Calumet (13-8) at No. 1 Curie (19-1)
No. 5 Von Steuben (4-16) at No. 4 North Lawndale (10-11)
No. 6 Westinghouse (12-10) at No. 3 Lane (9-14)
No. 7 TEAM Englewood (13-9) at No. 2 Simeon (16-4)
Second Round: 2/8 and 2/9 (Bracket Order)
Saturday, 2/8 at Whitney Young
No. 8 Raby/No. 1 Uplift vs. No. 5 Kenwood/No. 4 Harlan
No. 6 Brooks/No. 3 King vs. No. 7 Prosser/No. 2 Orr
No. 8 Schurz/No. 1 Young vs. No. 5 Vocational/No. 4 DuSable at TBA
No. 6 Dunbar/No. 3 Morgan Park vs. No. 7 Urban Prep-West/No. 2 Lincoln Park
Sunday, 2/9 at Corliss
No. 8 Lindblom/No. 1 Bogan vs. No. 5 Farragut/No. 4 Taft at TBA
No. 6 Foreman/No. 3 Marshall vs. No. 7 Carver/No. 2 Hyde Park
No. 8 Perspectives-Calumet/No. 1 Curie vs. No. 5 Von Steuben/No. 4 North Lawndale
No. 6 Westinghouse/No. 3 Lane vs. No. 7 TEAM Englewood/No. 2 Simeon
Quarterfinals: 2/16 at Chicago State
Semifinals: 2/19 at Chicago State
Finals: 2/21 at Chicago State