Weekend Forecast: Previewing and predicting this weekend’s top games

There are big games all over the area the next three days.

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Loyola’s Connor Casper (22) controls the ball against New Trier’s Jackson Munro (41).

Loyola’s Connor Casper (22) controls the ball against New Trier’s Jackson Munro (41).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

After a frenetic past couple of weeks, there is no let up. Believe it or not, we’re hitting the stretch run of the regular season with regional play –– can you believe it? –– just three weeks away. 

We will dive right into this Weekend Forecast with more previews and picks.

Last week: 6-2

Overall: 27-9

Loyola (16-7) at DePaul (16-3), Friday

Expect a grind-it-out slugfest between two teams and coaches that are familiar with one another. Defense is the staple for each of these programs and their success over recent years. 

Want an example? During DePaul’s current five-game win streak, coach Tom Kleinschmidt’s Rams are allowing just 33 points a game.

Loyola, however, is going to have to do more offensively. The Ramblers can’t expect to beat high-quality teams scoring 24 points, which it did in its loss to St. Ignatius, and 38 points in a losing effort to Evanston. There is offensive potential in the guard tandem of sophomore MIles Boland and junior Alex Engro. 

DePaul’s Dylan Arnett will pose a problem for the Ramblers. When he asserts himself with a brand of physicality, he’s a difficult matchup with his size and strength inside. 

Hoops Report pick: DePaul 47, Loyola 41

Evanston (15-6) at Glenbrook North (15-5), Friday

While New Trier and Glenbrook South are the cream of the crop and at a different level in the Central Suburban League South, this next wave featuring E-Town and GBN shows the quality depth of the league. 

While Evanston has fallen back to the pack this year, it’s been GBN that’s risen with junior scorer Ryan Cohen leading the way. 

Since getting blown out by Glenbrook South in the title game of the Hardwood Classic at Wheeling, the Spartans have held their own. They lost to Glenbrook South 60-59 in the rematch, beat Yorkville Christian and played highly-ranked New Trier tough in a 59-56 loss. 

These two played back in December with Evanston winning in overtime. Does GBN get over the hump and knock off a CSL South power? Yes, indeed. GBN in a down-to-the-wire finish. 

Hoops Report pick: Glenbrook North 55, Evanston 53

No. 5 Curie (20-2) at No. 3 Simeon (18-2), Friday

A big one in the city –– and a rematch of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship game a month ago. Simeon dominated the second half in that one and pulled away for a 71-58 win. 

Simeon, despite the loss to Glenbrook South last week, is even better now than it was when it beat Curie. But the ankle injury to 6-8 big man Wes Rubin remains a concern for the Wolverines. The good news is 6-8 Miles Rubin is still around. 

That Wes Rubin injury, though, could mean more opportunities from Chikasi Ofama, Curie’s big man who has been productive this season but uncharacteristically didn’t score in the first meeting. 

This could come down to the guard battle between two backcourts with different styles: Curie’s physical tandem of Phoenix Bullock and Carlos Harris and Simeon’s tiny, jet-quick tandem of Jalen Griffith and Aviyon Morris. Griffith scored 17 in the first meeting. 

When you throw Simeon’s surging senior guard Jaylen Drane into the mix, you can expect more of what we saw in Pontiac. 

Hoops Report pick: Simeon 68, Curie 58

Bradley-Bourbonnais (16-7) at Andrew (16-3), Friday

Time to pay attention to life in the SouthWest Suburban Red, because this one could go a long way in deciding it. Both Bradley and Andrew are unbeaten in league play.

First priority for Andrew and coach Dave Wilson: Neutralizing Owen Freeman. The 6-9 junior and Iowa commit is a matchup nightmare for a team without much size. The long, athletic big man is fresh off a 32-point, 14-rebound effort Tuesday night over Lincoln-Way West. 

For surprising Andrew, a lot will depend on the health of Mike Morawski (17 ppg, 8 rpg). The 6-4 Morawski has been out with an ankle sprain and will hopefully return this weekend. Shooter Zain Jubeh is a perimeter threat for the T-Bolts who have won 10 of their last 11. 

A banged up Morawski matters, which means Freeman and Bradley squeeze out a tight one. 

Hoops Report pick: Bradley-Bourbonnais 55, Andrew 52

No. 1 Glenbard West (22-0) at No. 16 Lyons (18-3), Friday

Is there a reason to preview this one when Glenbard West has beaten Lyons twice by a combined 69 points? Yes, because Glenbard West is ranked No. 1 and Lyons is an 18-win team ranked No. 16 in the Super 25. 

Lyons still has a dynamic point guard in Tavari Johnson to lean on. We’re going to say this one will be closer, but the mighty Hilltoppers still roll. 

Hoops Report pick: Glenbard West 67, Lyons 50

No. 20 Homewood-Flossmoor (14-5) at No. 6 Hillcrest (19-2), Saturday

If you want a steady, consistent winning team that probably hasn’t received proper recognition up to this point, it’s coach Don Houston’s Hillcrest team. 

The steady and consistent comes from an ultra-balanced attack from the Hawks with four players averaging in double figures. Junior guard Bryce Tillery leads the way with 11.4 points a game, while 6-7 Marcus Glover and sophomore Isaiah Green both average 10.3 points and 6-7 Darrion Baker is at 10.2 points.

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for H-F, which is led by the tandem of 6-5 Christian Meeks and guard Nashawn Holmes. But the Vikings have won three straight, including a momentum-boosting win over Bloom last week. 

Every H-F pick of mine is wrong. When I pick them to win, they lose; when I pick them to lose, they win. So this could be good news for Vikings fans.

Hoops Report pick: Hillcrest 70, H-F 64

No. 14 Larkin (21-2) vs. Thornton (13-5), Saturday

This should be one of the better matchups among the eight games played Saturday at the Orr Shootout. 

Thornton relies heavily on Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers, the physical and athletic 6-5 forward who does so many things to help a team win. He just went for 17 points and 16 rebounds earlier this week in a nice win over Bloom. Rodgers is a true alpha in the sport and impacts in so many ways. 

Larkin is cruising in the Upstate Eight, off to its best start in school history. This will be a nice test for the Royals, though, who have won 17 of 18 games with the lone loss coming to No. 1 Glenbard West. 

Larkin’s perimeter attack features senior Damari Wheeler-Thomas, a four-year point guard who is averaging 20 points a game. The North Dakota State recruit is approaching 1,400 career points and is the fourth all-time leading scorer in school history. 

Veteran senior Fernando Perez adds 15 points a game and sophomore guard Jakob Blakley has provided a nice offensive lift, putting up 13 points a game and is a legit three-point shooting threat.

Hoops Report pick: Larkin 66, Thornton 61

No. 7 New Trier (21-2) vs. No. 12 Rolling Meadows (22-2) at Loyola Saturday

The best game of the day opens up the War on the Shore, with Evanston-Lake Forest and Loyola- Glenbrook South to follow at this annual basketball showcase. 

But this is a matchup between two ranked teams with gleaming records. When you add in the fact the outcome will go a long way in seeding the tough Glenbrook South Sectional in a couple of weeks and this is a big one. 

Rolling Meadows has relied heavily on junior star Cam Christie and breakout senior Orlando Thomas, who average 22 points and 14 points a game, respectively. The high-scoring backcourt, though, has received ample support from intriguing and skilled big man Mark Nikolich-Wilson (10 ppg), Foster Ogbonna (8 ppg) and freshman Ian Miletic (8 ppg). 

Jackson Munro is a problem for any team the Trevians face. The New Trier big man can score around the basket and bring opposing big men out of the lane with his capable face-up jumper. But Rolling Meadows does have some size and length to throw at him in 6-7 Tsvet Sotirov, 6-6 Nikolich-Wilson, 6-5 Miletic and the rugged 6-4 Obonna.

Coach Scott Fricke’s team, though, has several weapons, including junior shooter Jake Fiegen and the senior foursome of Karlo Colak, Noah Shannon, Josh Kirkpatrick and point guard Peter Kanellos. 

Hoops Report pick: New Trier 66, Rolling Meadows 58

No. 6 Hillcrest (19-2) vs. No. 9 Wheaton Warrenville South (22-1) at Orr, Sunday

This is a fun one because it’s a pair of teams that play extremely hard and for each other. This is why both teams are better than anyone expected. 

Quite a back-to-back for Hillcrest. A day after facing familiar south suburban foe H-F, the Hawks go out of the box and take on the hard-to-prepare-for-challenge of Wheaton South.

Don’t say there are no such things as moral victories. Back in December Hillcrest gave Glenbard West all it could handle before losing 51-48. How’s that loss looking to everyone right about now? 

As previously noted, Hillcrest is extremely balanced with four players in double figures. And there is quality depth. 

Wheaton South is also balanced but not very deep. The Tigers will continue to rely on leading scorer Tyler Fawcett (14 ppg) and the double-figure scoring trio of point guard Danny Healy, 6-4 Braylen Meredith and guard Rourke Robinson. 

This is a terrific measuring stick for Wheaton South and an opportunity for some name recognition. The best wins on the season came over Rolling Meadows way back in November and victories over Brother Rice and Orr. This would be the biggest of what has been a highly successful season. 

Again, this is a funky matchup for Hillcrest on short notice. Wheaton South finds a way to pull off a minor upset. 

Hoops Report pick: Wheaton Warrenville South 44, Hillcrest 42

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