Previewing the Public League playoffs

Breaking down the 2020 city tournament.

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Young’s DJ Steward (21) and Jaehshon Thomas (24) interact during the game against Lincoln Park.

Young’s DJ Steward (21) and Jaehshon Thomas (24) interact during the game against Lincoln Park.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

A preview of the Public League playoffs, which tip off Tuesday.

Team to beat

There is a clear-cut team to beat — and it’s the same one that won the city championship last year.

Curie is ranked No. 1, hasn’t lost to an in-state team and is fresh off a big road victory against talented St. Louis Vashon.

The Condors, led by seniors Ramean Hinton and Elijah Pickens, have passed every test this season, beating city powers Simeon and Bogan and suburban powers Bloom, Hillcrest and Joliet West. Defense, chemistry and understanding and accepting roles have led coach Mike Oliver’s team to a 20-1 record.

Top challengers

Young has a star in McDonald’s All-American DJ Steward, a recharged Tyler Beard (who just committed to Georgetown) and a schedule that has prepared it well for the stretch run.

Bogan has lost only two games this season — to No. 1 Curie and No. 4 Notre Dame by a combined five points. The Bengals head into the playoffs with a dynamic talent in Antione Bloxton.

Sleepers

When have Simeon and Morgan Park been given the ‘‘sleeper’’ label? But that’s what 16 losses between these perennial powers will do. Don’t be surprised, however, if one of these teams makes a title run.

Morgan Park, which hasn’t won a city championship since 2010, has the firepower to beat anyone. That starts with high-scoring Illinois recruit Adam Miller and continues with Wake Forest recruit Marcus Watson and 6-5 wing Brandon Weston.

With victories against Morgan Park and Notre Dame in the last two weeks, Simeon looks to be turning the corner and playing its best basketball. Ahamad Bynum has take-over-the-game ability, and Jeremiah Williams’ versatility is a plus.

Biggest story

Unfortunately, the biggest story is off the court. The recent drama surrounding Lincoln Park, a team with a 19-3 record, has led Chicago Public Schools to suspend its season until further notice. CPS is investigating misconduct violations stemming from the Lions’ trip to Detroit in December.

Cinderella candidate

With Lincoln Park’s season being suspended, the door has been opened for the winner of the first-round game between Kenwood and Clark to make a quarterfinal run. Kenwood, however, is 0-5 against the city’s big boys, losing by an average of 16 points.

Clark is an intriguing White Division team. Coach Terry Head has energized the program in his fourth season. Head’s teams regularly play hard and with energy, and this group is led by the trio of Pierre Calhoun (19 points per game), Coby Weekly (16) and Darrius Perryman (16). The Eagles recently knocked off Niles North and played highly ranked Thornton tough in a loss.

Game we want to see

Morgan Park edged Young 61-59 in a season opener in November. Another matchup between Steward and Miller in the quarterfinals would bring a lot of heat to the playoffs.

Semifinal picks

Young over Bogan, Curie over Simeon.

Title-game pick

Young over Curie.

A preview of the Chicago Public League playoffs which tips off Tuesday.

Team to beat

There is a clear-cut team to beat. And it’s the same team that won last year’s city championship.

Curie is ranked No. 1, hasn’t lost to a single in-state team and is fresh off a big road win over talented St. Louis Vashon.

The Condors, led by seniors Ramean Hinton and Elijah Pickens, have passed every test all season long, beating Simeon and Bogan in the city and suburban powers Bloom, Hillcrest and Joliet West. Defense, chemistry and understanding and accepting individual roles have led coach Mike Oliver’s team to a 20-1 record.

Top challengers

Young has a star in McDonald’s All-American D.J. Steward, a re-charged Tyler Beard, who just committed to Georgetown, and a schedule that has prepared them well for the all-important stretch run.

Bogan has lost just two games all season –– to No. 1 Curie and No. 4 Notre Dame by a combined five points. The Bengals head into the playoffs with a dynamic talent in Antoine Bloxton.

Sleepers

When have Simeon and Morgan Park both been given the “sleeper” label? But that’s what 16 losses between these two perennial powers will do. But don’t be surprised if one of these teams make a title run.

Morgan Park, which hasn’t won a city championship since 2010 after falling in the title game three times since then, has the firepower to beat anyone. That starts with high-scoring Illinois commitment Adam Miller and continues with Wake Forest recruit Marcus Watson and 6-5 wing Brandon Weston.

With wins over Morgan Park and Notre Dame in the past two weeks Simeon looks as if it’s turning the corner and playing its best basketball. There is depth, the versatile Jeremiah Williams and a player in Ahamad Bynum with take-over-the-game ability.

Biggest story

Unfortunately, the biggest storyline is off the court. The recent drama surrounding Lincoln Park, a team with a 19-3 record and previously ranked among the top 10 teams, has led to a suspended basketball season until further notice. CPS is currently investigating misconduct violations stemming from the team’s trip to Detroit in December.

Cinderella candidate

With Lincoln Park’s season being suspended, the door has been opened for the winner of the Kenwood-Clark first-round game to make a quarterfinal run.

However, Kenwood is 0-5 against the city’s big boys, losing by an average margin of 16 points a game.

Clark (17-5) is an intriguing White Division team. Coach Terry Head has energized the program in his fourth season. Head’s teams regularly play hard and with energy, and this group is led by the trio of Coby Weekly (16 ppg), Pierre Calhoun (19 ppg) and sophomore Darrius Perryman (16 ppg). The Eagles recently knocked off Niles North and played highly-ranked Thornton tough in a loss.

Game we want to see

You never know what you’re going to get in a high-profile season opener. That’s when Morgan Park and Young met –– way back in November when Morgan Park edged Young 61-59.

Another matchup between Steward and Miller, the top two seniors in the state, in the quarterfinals would bring a whole lot of heat to the city playoffs.

Semifinal picks:Young over Bogan; Curie over Simeon

Title game pick:Young over Curie

2020 Public League playoffs

First round

Tuesday, Feb. 4

All games at 6 p.m. (subject to change)

Taft at Young

Schurz at Brooks

Uplift at Westinghouse

Ag. Science at Morgan Park

UP-Englewood at Bogan

Phillips at Lane

Lindblom at Hyde Park

Crane at North Lawndale

Harlan at Curie

Longwood at Marshall

Vocational at Corliss

Mather at Orr

Perspectives-IIT at Lincoln Park

Clark at Kenwood

Payton at Farragut

King at Simeon

Second round

Thursday, Feb. 6

Quarterfinals

Tuesday, Feb. 11

Semifinals

Friday, Feb. 14

Title

Sunday, Feb. 16

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