After the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s preseason ranking of the top 65 teams, we’re going to keep it a little more simple here the first week of January. This is your Power 13 –– a Baker’s Dozen poll –– of the Hoops Report’s rankings of the top 13 teams in the Chicago area based on results and the trusty ’ol eye test.
Again, this is how the Hoops Report sees it heading into the second half of the season, regardless of the record or where a team is ranked in state or local rankings.
1. Morgan Park (11-1)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 2
The best, most impressive team in the Chicago area. The Hoops Report has said and will continue to say it: Coach Nick Irvin’s Mustangs are the one team that can check off the most boxes: point guard play, perimeter shooter, high-level defender, size, depth and toughness.
2. Curie (10-2)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 3
The loss column only includes a forfeit loss and a Tuesday loss in the closing seconds to Kenwood –– without star guard Devin Gage in the lineup. The Pontiac Tournament title gave the Condors a confidence boost, but we’ll see how they come back after a loss and with a healthy Gage. The DePaul-bound Gage and junior Elijah Joiner are the headliners, cut coach Mike Oliver is getting valuable production from sophomores Landers Nolley on the perimeter and 6-6 Traevon Martin inside.
3. Simeon (9-2)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 1
The Wolverines are still trying to sort it all out and narrow down the minutes and rotation. The only losses have come to the top two ranked teams, including one loss on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. A very tough stretch started with a bang by beating Bogan on Tuesday, but a trip to Memphis, Morgan Park, CVS, Fenwick and Bogan again in the next three weeks awaits.
4. Fenwick (11-1)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 5
The runner-up at Proviso West has lost just once –– to No. 1 Morgan Park. With so little size and strength inside, the margin for error for this team is pretty small. But you win with guards and the Friars have some good ones. And that second half schedule, which includes games with Niles Notre Dame, Benet, Riverside-Brookfield, Simeon, St. Joseph and La Lumiere in Indiana, will prepare them well for March.
5. Evanston (10-2)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 7
The lone losses have come to No. 1 Morgan Park and out-of-state unbeaten power Brentwood Academy (Tenn.). The Wildkits, led by junior star Nojel Eastern, have beaten Niles Notre Dame and talented Miami Senior (Fla.). But coach Mike Ellis was dealt a big blow with the loss of 6-5 Elyjah Williams, who broke a toe and is out 4-6 weeks. You do wonder if the loss of Williams, who provides much-needed strength and size which the Wildkits have little of inside, will impact their immediate results.
6. Kenwood (10-1)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 4
Maybe the highest ranked team we know the least about, with Kenwood’s lone loss coming out of state and the biggest victories being over Hyde Park and a Devin Gage-less Curie team. But we’ll find out a lot about the Broncos, who played in Missouri over the holidays, in the second half of the season. There will be a home date with a likely healthy Curie, along with non-conference battles with Champaign Central in late January and Belleville Althoff in early February.
7. Bogan (10-4)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 11
The three in-state losses have come to teams with a combined record of 31-2 and are ranked No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4. James Jones is big scoring threat on the perimeter and Bryce Barnes remains the leader at point guard. But coach Arthur Goodwin is starting to get much-needed production from Marcus Cole, an always promising 6-3 senior. In four games at Proviso West, Cole averaged 15.5 points a game and was extremely efficient.
8. St. Joseph (11-2)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 12
The Chargers were rolling along until running into the Public League’s Red-South at Proviso West, losing to both Morgan Park and Bogan. But St. Joe’s has something no other highly-ranked team does, which is a dominating big man. Nick Rakocevic, a 6-11 senior who is averaging 22 points and 15 rebounds a game, has been a force and matchup problem for most everyone.
9. Young (7-4)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 6
A team with just one senior playing significant minutes has played a tough, competitive early schedule, losing to Simeon, Fenwick, North Lawndale and St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio), the No. 2 ranked team in the Cleveland area. The Dolphins do have wins over Farragut, Proviso East, and Cathedral Catholic (Calif.) while handing Muskegon (Mich.) its only loss of the season. Look for this nucleus, led by sophomore Xavier Castaneda and 6-5 junior Lucas Williamson, to only get better.
10. Notre Dame (11-2)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 8
Aside from a clunker of a loss to St. Patrick in December, it’s been status quo for a Dons team that captured the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Coach Tom Les is mixing and matching his regular man-to-man defense with a 1-3-1 zone, utilizing a team strength: size and length. A couple of big road games ahead, including a measuring stick of a game at Fenwick (Jan. 6) and an East Suburban Catholic Conference battle at Benet (Jan. 14).
11. Thornton (9-1)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 34
The lone team in the Hoops Report Power Baker’s Dozen to crack the rankings after being unranked when the season began. At least unranked in terms of top 25 status (the Wildcats were No. 34 in the Hoops Report’s preseason top 65). The guard tandem of Patrick Rucker and Sam Taylor is arguably the best in the south suburbs. Since losing the season opener to Springfield Southeast the Wildcats have ripped off nine straight.
12. Marian Catholic (10-4)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 10
It doesn’t quite feel like everything has come together just yet for a team the Hoops Report had such high expectations for when the season began. But that also might be a good thing, because the Spartans are still 10-4 and the losses have all been quality (H-F, Mater Dei (Calif.), Bloomington and Thornton). You could easily argue this team could take off over the next month and set up a very meaningful, high-level game in the East Suburban Catholic Conference with Niles Notre Dame in early February.
13. Joliet West (9-3)
Hoops Report preseason ranking: No. 20
It’s not as if this is a total unknown –– the Tigers were ranked No. 20 in the preseason –– but there is no question this high ranking is based on intrigue and potential. But make no mistake, there are a lot of talented pieces on this roster. This is still a young team with plenty of talent and depth finding its way and getting better and better.
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