The Martin Luther King weekend has become a busy time on the high school basketball calendar.
The Wheaton-Warrenville South Tournament, headed by the host school Wheaton South, Benet and the favorite, Oak Park, will play out a 16-team bracket on Saturday and Monday.
Lake Zurich, Mundelein, Palatine, Geneva and Carmel headline the Lake Zurich Tournament, while several Chicago area schools head to tournaments in Sterling, Hononegah and Galesburg.
In addition, there are a whole bunch of top matchups this weekend which are highlighted and previewed in this Hoops Report Weekend Forecast.
■ DePaul Prep at Loyola Academy
A big one in the Chicago Catholic League featuring two teams with a combined record of 28-5.
DePaul Prep, led by the junior trio of Perry Cowan, Raheem Anthony and Pavle Pantovic, entered the season as a preseason top 25 team and remains there with a 13-3 record. Cowan, one of the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2019, is averaging 18 points a game. Pantovic and sophomore Lance Mosley average 10 and 9 points, respectively. But the emergence of Anthony (10 ppg, 5 apg) has made the Rams more versatile and dangerous offensively.
Loyola, red-hot with seven straight wins, is gritty defensively. The Ramblers have held 12 of their 15 opponents to 45 or fewer points and only one foe has scored 50 points all season against them. There isn’t a ranked team with anything close to that defensive efficiency.
Senior guard Kevin Cunningham (15 ppg), who has turned it up over the past month, leads the way. Keep your eye on Connor Barrett (14 ppg), a blossoming junior, and senior Pete Mangan (7.5 ppg), who sets the tone with his defensive versatility and toughness.
Loyola stays hot on its home floor and pulls off the mild upset in a down-to-the-wire finish.
Hoops Report pick: Loyola 44, DePaul Prep 43
■ Naperville Central at Naperville North
A rivalry game that really means something at this point in the season. North, the DuPage Valley Conference favorite and leader, is 13-1 on the season. Central, led by 6-8 big man Ben Wolf and senior guard Tyler O’Brien, comes in with a 11-2 record and has the template to pull off the upset.
The Redhawks have familiarity with their rival, balanced scoring and the size and length to contend with North’s terrific 6-7 tandem of junior Tom Welch and senior Chris Johnson. But North has the home court, overlooked senior guard Jack Hill and the return of 6-6 Marcus Lemanski, who came back in late December from a knee injury and has made an impact.
Hoops Report pick: Naperville North 64, Naperville Central 55
■ Evanston at New Trier
For all the talk about Niles North and Evanston in the Central Suburban League South, it’s New Trier all alone at the top with a 4-0 record, thanks to a stunning last-second win over previously unbeaten Niles North earlier this week. As a result, this one has gained even more traction and hype.
New Trier will have a size advantage inside with 6-9 junior Ciaran Brayboy and 6-8 Spencer Boehm. The key, however, is the play of Andrew Kirkpatrick. The senior guard handles the ball against pressure, knocks down shots and brings a competitiveness to coach Scott Fricke’s team.
The youth movement hasn’t hindered Evanston, which has navigated a tough schedule to the tune of a 12-3 record. Juniors Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden, along with freshman shooter Blake Peters, provide an offensive punch on the perimeter for the Wildkits.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 55, New Trier 52
■ St. Charles North at St. Charles East
Another fun rivalry with conference implications, particularly for St. Charles North, which has just one league loss in the Upstate Eight River.
A balanced St. Charles North, led by 6-5 senior Kyle King, beat St. Charles East in the conference opener back in December, 61-56, when St. Charles East star Justin Hardy was held to just 12 points.
A team with high expectations when the season began, St. Charles East needs a big win and to get on an upswing. The Saints may be on their home floor, but they’ve been banged up and have suffered some close losses with three defeats by two or three points.
Hoops Report pick: St. Charles North 60, St. Charles East 57
■ Barrington at Fremd
Barrington is on top of the MSL West, tied with Palatine for the top spot. But you get the feeling Conant and Fremd, lurking just one game behind, are poised to pounce. A loss here for Fremd, however, would do real damage to its hopes of repeating as conference champs.
Barrington, led by guard Anthony Spann, has been a surprise with a 12-3 record after losing 46 points a game from last year’s team.
But in MSL West desperation mode, Fremd finds a way to get one at home.
Hoops Report pick: Fremd 48, Barrington 44
■ Jacobs at West Aurora
No one is going to even try and debate or contend that life without Cameron Krutwig is no big deal. This Jacobs team, though, continues to hum along even with Krutwig now making an impact in college as a freshman at Loyola.
Coach Jimmy Roberts has his team off to a 12-2 start and on top of the Fox Valley Conference. No, there is no Krutwig. But Ryan Phillips (15 ppg), Kameron Mack (12 ppg) and stat-sheet-stuffing Nikolas Balkcom (10 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg) have been rock steady for the Golden Eagles. This is a real test for Jacobs, on the road, in what is the biggest to date on a schedule that lacks a signature win.
West Aurora has taken care of all the teams its supposed to but is also in need of a nice résumé-building win. The talented Blackhawks, led by Camron Donatlan, Jared Crutcher and junior Traevon Brown, have lost to ranked teams in Naperville North, Curie and Bloomington.
I’m willing to contend Jacobs is a better team than most people probably think, and we’ll know for sure after this one.
Hoops Report pick: West Aurora 58, Jacobs 54
■ Morgan Park vs. Bolingbrook at Fenwick
The biggest question coming into this game is the health of Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu. It’s bad enough the Mustangs have missed 6-9 Tamell Pearson all season. But this obviously is not the same team without Dosunmu. Coach Nick Irvin says they are being careful and “taking it slow” with the star point guard as he rebounds from an ankle injury.
In his absence, sophomore Adam Miller has been outstanding, showing why he’s considered the top young prospect in the Chicago area. Plus, other backcourt mates like Kenyon Duling and Marcus Watson have taken turns stepping up.
Bolingbrook counters with some perimeter potency of its own with the junior duo of Tyler Cochran and Joseph Yesufu, a pair of Division I prospects.
But the difference in this one, no matter who is on the floor, could be 6-6 jumping-jack Cameron Burrell. The senior has been one of the breakout players this season and could prove to be problematic for Bolingbrook.
Hoops Report pick: Morgan Park 68, Bolingbrook 64
■ Fenwick vs. Simeon at Fenwick
This is the game of the weekend with what has been a dominating No. 1 team going on the road and playing a top 10 team in what should be a very tough environment. Plus, you get the idea that Fenwick, featuring a stable of veterans from last season and superstar sophomore D.J Steward, is oh-so-close to taking a big step forward.
Are we sensing an upset? No. The Wolverines are playing at too high of a level at this moment, so high and impressive that if you’re a Simeon fan you hope it’s not a team that’s peaking too early. This shouldn’t be easy, but Talen Horton-Tucker has been an absolute star for Simeon and the surrounding talent, led by difference-maker Messiah Jones, will be too much.
Hoops Report pick: Simeon 62, Fenwick 55
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport