We are just about halfway home in this 2014-2015 regular season. With holiday tournament play in the books, everyone can start weighing in and begin to truly debate potential matchups if they were to come to fruition, conference races and, yes, rankings.
When you’re 10, 11, 12 games into a season, it’s no longer simply projections as all those preseason polls are about. It’s not about returning starters or what players have progressed in the offseason or transferred in. While there is plenty of room to grow as a team over the next two months, there is also some concrete evidence of what a team is made of at the midway point.
Here is the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s midseason power rankings, taking anything and everything into consideration –– from head-to-head play, how they’re playing now and the eye test.
1. STEVENSON (13-1)
Selling point: Unbeaten vs. Illinois teams. And, oh, that one kid –– what’s his name? Brunson?
With a perfect record against teams from Illinois, including a Proviso West Holiday Tournament romp, this is your top team in the state heading into January. And you better believe the out-of-state experiences and high-level games, despite the season’s only loss (to Chaminade, Mo.) are only going to make this team better.
2. SIMEON (10-1)
Selling point: Bouncing back in big way following a loss shows some true fortitude.
Enough with the very poor, lackluster performance against St. Rita on national television in December. Did you see the whooping they put on Bishop Gorman? And if that wasn’t enough, Simeon went out and crushed Bogan Tuesday night. Regardless of head-to-head competition (Yes, they lost to Rita), this team is either 1 or at least 1B when you look at how high of a level the Wolverines are playing right now.
3. ST. JOSEPH (11-3)
Selling point: A talented, well-rounded trio to carry them.
The Chargers, who have handed both Hales and St. Rita their only in-state losses of the season, have emerged as the Class 3A favorite. That dynamic trio of point guard Glynn Watson, athletic guard Jordan Ash and skilled big man Nick Rakocevic forms quite a three-headed monster and can beat you in different ways.
4. ST. RITA (9-2)
Selling point: A confidence-building and brow-beating win over Simeon.
The Mustangs put together quite a December, beating Simeon and finishing third at Proviso West, which included impressive double-digit victories over Rockford Auburn and Kenwood. St. Rita’s biggest obstacle coming into the season –– consistency –– is becoming less of a concern.
5. LAKE FOREST (15-0)
Selling point: An absolutely dominating big man and arguably the most physical team around.
Yes, it’s time to take the Scouts seriously. They are big and strong, extremely physical and boast experience. Just read here how good they are. Plus, Evan Boudreaux is an absolute matchup nightmare at the high school level. Take a moment to appreciate this, Lake Forest fans, because seriously … 14-0 is pretty awesome
6. MORGAN PARK (8-3)
Selling point: The Mustangs just might have the state’s best backcourt.
This much we know in basketball: You win with big-time guard play. And this much we know through December: Marcus LoVett and Charlie Moore provide just that.
7. HALES FRANCISCAN (13-1)
Selling point: Balance, chemistry and just enough underrated talent.
Well, it’s time to quit calling Hales this season’s biggest surprise. It’s January and coach Gary London’s balanced and cohesive team, whose only loss came to St. Joseph by four points, is legit and a true state title contender in Class 2A.
8. BOGAN (12-3)
Selling point: Even with the hype and expectations, the potential to be even better than they’ve played up to this point is appealing.
Ok, Bengals! After a few years of knocking on the door of big things, this was to be the year, remember? Bogan came up short in a big Red-South test on Tuesday with Simeon, which coupled with the upset loss to O’Fallon last week does raise some questions. Bogan will remain a 3A threat no matter what, but right now it’s not playing at that level it did a year ago.
9. KENWOOD (8-3)
Selling point: Yes, it’s at the midway point, but this still remains a team with several breakout candidates.
This group is learning a lot as it goes and should continue to improve with a young, talented but inconsistent nucleus. Understandably, there were going to be some growing pains. But coach Marlo Finner’s team is still the favorite in the Red-Central and, remember, those two lopsided losses did come to the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams.
10. ST. CHARLES EAST (12-1)
Selling point: A dependable, difference-making point guard.
DeKalb Tourney champs have just one loss –– to No. 2 St. Joseph. And with wins over Larkin, Geneva and St. Charles North already in the books, the Saints control their own destiny in a tough Upstate Eight River race. A fun and exciting team with catalyst Cole Gentry at point guard and underrated junior James McQuillan.
11. HINSDALE CENTRAL (10-2)
Selling point: A ton of experience, continuity –– and some real talent.
Mr. Reliable, Matt Rafferty (averaged another double-double at Proviso West), remains a constant. The Red Devils, a little more athletic than people give them credit for, are clear favorites to repeat in the West Suburban Silver and will be zeroing in on a No. 1 sectional seed over the next month.
12. LAKE ZURICH (12-3)
Selling point: Winning the Pekin Tournament was a major stepping stone for this program and should put a little mojo into this team.
So, how dangerous is this team? Mike Travlos, a Division II recruit heading to Hillsdale College in Michigan, is one high-scoring guard no one talks about –– he scored 20-plus in all four wins at the Pekin Holiday Tournament. But 6-7 Will McClaughry, 6-3 Jack O’Neill and junior Nick Penny provide a strong supporting cast. Big test with Stevenson on the horizon.
13. RIVERSIDE-BROOKFIELD (13-1)
Selling point: Offensive firepower to put a scare into just about anyone with the emergence of Sam Johnson.
It’s weird to suggest a team that’s 13-1 might be a year away, but the Bulldogs might be a year away. Nonetheless, it’s a team that has dangerous weapons and scoring options and certainly can be a threat this year.
14. MAINE SOUTH (10-2)
Selling point: That darn, reliable system is so dependable.
A 2-1 mark at Proviso West with wins over Uplift and Proviso East showed this is now your favorite in the Central Suburban League South, even with four teams bottled up at the top of the league at 2-1. You win with players like George Sargeant, Jon Arenas and Caleb deMarigny, though with a lack of depth and firepower beyond the “Big Three,” you wonder what Maine South’s ceiling is.
15. HILLCREST (9-3)
Selling point: There is balance but sophomore Marcus Garrett is emerging.
The Hawks have some quality wins (Fenwick, Plainfield East, H-F and Bloom) and the three losses have come to teams with a combined record of 35-4. Coach Don Houston has some serious balance with Taylor Adway, DeAngelo Isby, Cornelius McIntosh, George McDaniel and Marcus Garrett. But after allowing 44 points defensively the first 10 games of the season, the Hawks allowed St. Joe’s and Auburn to score 76 an 84, respectively.
16. BENET (9-3)
Selling point: Discipline, defense and smarts can overcome deficiencies.
A much improved team over the past month since November losses to Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central in November. What more can you say about the job Colin Bonnett has done in leading this team? The Redwings had just 34 turnovers in four games at Pontiac. But their margin for error is probably smaller than 90 percent of the teams in this Top 25 power ranking.
17. CURIE (8-3)
Selling point: Explosive offensive tandem in Gage and Stamps.
You would expect this team to take some time to find its groove. And the double-digit loss to Benet at Pontiac was certainly a step back. But a nice blend of experienced weapons (senior Joshua Sta
mps and junior Devin Gage) and young talent (freshman Treavon Martin and sophomores Elijah Joiner and Terry Smith, Jr.) will keep this team dangerous all year.
18. LARKIN (12-4)
Selling point: Inexperienced guard play has come along more quickly than anticipated.
An impressive run over the holidays winning the Jacobs Holiday Tournament. Three of their four losses have come to teams (St. Charles East, Morgan Park and Rockford Auburn) with a combined record of 33-5. Christian Negron, the talented 6-6 sophomore, impacts the game in so many different ways.
19. PROVISO EAST (6-4)
Selling point: A go-to scorer in Kalin Fisher.
Rough finish at Proviso West, dropping two straight to Kenwood and Maine South, with Fisher, now an uncommitted guard, averaging 25 points a game. Pirates teeming with potential but need a consistent threat offensively beyond Fisher. Some good news is sophomore Tyler Chisom continues to be a factor, which will only help in battling Morton for the top spot in the West Suburban Gold.
20. LAKE PARK (14-2)
Selling point: The Lancers don’t beat themselves.
Experience, solid guard play and a little bit of shooting will go a long way. Lancers have made an impression after winning the Hardwood Classic at Wheeling and emerging as the favorite in the DuPage Valley. We’ll see how long their shelf life is.
21. NILES NOTRE DAME (10-2)
Selling point: Has shown it can win up-tempo and limited-possession games.
Mild upset loss to Lake Park in Hardwood Classic final, yet this is your East Suburban Catholic Conference favorite. Big test for the Dons and breakout guard Joe Mooney this weekend with unbeaten Lake Forest in a non-conference showdown. Mooney will need more consistent help from a couple of juniors–– 6-5 Ammar Becar and 6-4 guard Lucas Simon.
22. LYONS TWP. (12-3)
Selling point: You will win a lot of games by simply beating the teams you’re supposed to beat.
Quality losses count for something, right? The three opponents who have handed LT losses this year have combined for a ridiculous 39-2 record. Now, the Lions need to go out and snare a quality win. Biggest résumé building win came over DePaul Prep. But a big one awaits this Friday at Hinsdale Central.
23. NEUQUA VALLEY (13-1)
Selling point: The Wildcats have shooters and can put points on the board with nine games of 65-plus points and five 75-plus point games.
This typically isn’t a program that sneaks up on people. No, not when roll out 20-plus wins a year for over a decade. Even with wins over Geneva, West Aurora, De La Salle and Benet in the books, this team kinda has snuck up on some people. Veteran Connor Raridon has come into his own. Lone loss came to an underrated team in Bartlett (11-3).
24. BRADLEY-BOURBONNAIS (10-1)
Selling point: They have the benefit of having the best player no one talks about, junior guard Micah Bradford.
If you didn’t know yet, Bradford is a force with the basketball in his hands. And fellow junior Zach Hollywood is rock solid. The lone defeat came in a 82-79 loss to Crete-Monee. Won’t play Thornwood or Thornton for a couple more weeks.
25. RICH SOUTH (8-3)
Selling point: A win over Thornton and the program’s first trip to the championship game of its own McDipper in 17 years has the Stars feeling good and believing.
The arrival of Dedrick Shannon in the backcourt has elevated this team considerably. There is probably a ceiling on this team, but it’s one that’s ready to compete for a Southland Conference championship.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport