Hoops Report regional forecast

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report offers up a quick rundown of what to look forward to Friday night as regional championship games take place across the state of Illinois.

For the Hoops Report’s predictions of every Class 4A regional go to 4A picks.

For the Hoops Report’s predictions of every Class 3A regional go to 3A Picks.

Must-see regional finals

Here are the four best regional championship games in the Chicago area — ranked in order — and why you need to be in the gym to see them.

1. Whitney Young vs. St. Ignatius

This is the only regional final involving two teams that finished the regular season ranked in the Hoops Report’s Top 25 –Young at No. 9 and Ignatius at No. 21. A couple of future Big Ten players –Illinois recruit Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius and Ohio State recruit Sam Thompson of Whitney Young — square off in this Chicago Catholic League vs. Chicago Public League battle.

2. East Aurora vs. Neuqua Valley

When these two match up it always seem to be entertaining and down to the wire. Last year’s regional final between these two Upstate Eight foes went to overtime, with East Aurora winning. The Tomcats, in fact, have won the last three times these two have tangled. East Aurora and Ryan Boatright are one step away from getting its shot at the No. 1 ranked team in the state — Benet Academy next Tuesday.

3. Glenbrook North vs. Niles North

A pair of conference foes who have played in two tight games this season meet in the rubber match that will send one team home and the other on to sectional play. GBN stumbled in the second half of the season, while Niles North has erupted and is one of the hottest teams in the Chicago area.

4. Morton vs. Farragut

A couple of tough teams that will just go at each other without any fear. A fun matchup to watch will be Morton guard Jeff Jarosz up against the Farragut senior tandem of D.J. Tolliver and Gabe Williams.

Best game outside the Chicago area

Peoria Manual vs. Peoria Central

The potential for a special night is always present anytime two highly-regarded Peoria teams clash in March.

Spoiler alerts

Here are several teams seeded to lose Friday night that could very well extend their season with an upset. The Hoops Report’s Upset Alert rating included.

No. 10 Waukegan vs. No. 2 Mundelein

Upset Alert Rating: Very High

After a loud thud to end the year last season, Mundelein has bounced back with a terrific run in 2010-2011 behind Ryan Sawvell, sophomore Robert Knar and Leavon Head. But Waukegan is not a normal No. 10 seed, with as deceiving of a record as there is due to a grueling regular-season schedule. Plus, Waukegan’s top two players, Akeem Springs and Aaron Johnson, have postseason experience from the past two years.

No. 6 Morton vs. No. 3 Farragut

Upset Alert Rating: Very High

This Morton team is scrappy and just never seems to play uptight. Those are a couple of key ingredients for any No. 6 seed to pull off a win over a No. 3 seed.

No. 8 Lincoln-Way East vs. No. 1 Thornton

Upset Alert Rating: High

The top-seeded Wildcats just look vulnerable. Thornton, which hasn’t played a ranked team since beating Crete-Monee at the McDipper Tournament, lived on the edge in a regional opening win over Shepard. Nonetheless, this is a senior-dominated team enjoying a whole bunch of success this season. But there are more than a few people that believe Lincoln-Way East will keep the game in the 40s or 50s and put a real scare into the Wildcats.

No. 8 St. Joseph vs. No. 1 Crane

Upset Alert Rating: Mild

Everyone seems to have written off Gene Pingatore’s Chargers, the No. 11 seed in the R-B Sectional. While Crane is a heavy favorite as the top seed, the Cougars will have to get it done on the road and against a young team that has gotten better over the last month.

No. 8 St. Patrick vs. No. 1 Notre Dame

Upset Alert Rating: Mild

This is a No. 1 vs. No. 8 seed game where the lower-seeded team has the confidence in knowing it has already beaten the top seed. So of course there is an upset possibility. The St. Patrick senior group, highlighted by Jacob Williams and Kortney Darby, would love to go out with a bang.

No. 7 Orr vs. No. 3 Marshall

Upset Alert Rating: Mild

This is a No. 3 vs. No. 7 matchup in numbers only. Orr and star Mycheal Henry is eager to show a disappointing regular season is long forgotten. And a win over Red-West rival Marshall would do the trick.

No. 10 Wheaton South vs. No. 2 Downers Grove South

Upset Alert Rating: High

Maybe, just maybe, the down-to-the-wire scare Downers South received in its regional opener will prevent another near upset Friday night. The 10th-seeded Tigers of Wheaton South are rolling, playing with extreme confidence and shot the lights out in a romp over West Aurora in the semis. If Wheaton South establishes tempo and keeps it close early, this will go down to the wire.

No. 7 Brother Rice vs. No. 2 Lyons Twp.

Upset Alert Rating: Mild

Who would ever put this game on the list when LT pounded Rice back in December? This is a different Brother Rice team than in December and the game will be played at Brother Rice. Should be a pretty electric atmosphere with two great groups of fans.

No. 12 St. Rita vs. No. 4 Mt. Carmel

Upset Alert Rating: Mild … but heating up

A semifinal overtime win over Bogan was just what the doctor ordered for a St. Rita team looking for a boost. And having played Mt. Carmel tough already this season, losing 77-74, only adds to Rita’s burgeoning confidence. Oh, yeah, the game is at St. Rita. These are the type of ingredients and hopeful signs needed to pull of a No. 12 over No. 4 upset.

Cinderella’s chances?

Glenbard West is the lowest seeded team still alive –seeded No. 21 in a 23-team sectional. An overtime win on Monday night, followed by a stunning one-point win over Waubonsie Valley on Wednesday night, propels coach Tim Hoder’s club into the regional championship. Will the surge in momentum carry over for 32 more minutes? The Hilltoppers will come into the game with nothing to lose but will have their hands full against 23-3 Glenbard East and the backcourt of Johnny Hill and Zach Miller. These two met early in the regular season, with Glenbard East winning 77-43 in a game that probably wasn’t even that close.

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