A preseason poll for a season still seven months away? Nonsense.
But it’s always fun to start the conversation with ranking adjustments to follow in coming months, knowing the state favorite will once again be that team from down south with the state’s best player.
Here is what we know now with a sneak peak at 16 of the top Chicago area teams to watch next season (listed alphabetically).
What the Bengals did: The lopsided, 30-point loss to Morgan Park in the sectional final certainly raised questions and left a bad taste in Bogan’s mouth. But the Bengals did win 21 games while playing in the state’s toughest conference.
Reason for excitement: Coach Arthur Goodwin returns virtually everyone, so there will be speed, depth and experience. That includes the junior trio of 6-7 Rashaun Agee and guards Jordan Booker and Jeremiah Washington. But juniors Tyler Hardin, Gregory Outlaw and Kevon Mayers all return, along with promising 6-7 sophomore Ideary Mooney.
In a loaded conference with Simeon, Morgan Park and Curie, this could be the team to beat.
What the Raiders did: Coach Rob Brost’s team won 22 games this past season –– the fifth 22-plus win season in the past six years at Bolingbrook –– before falling to West Aurora in the sectional final.
Reasons for excitement: The talented tandem of Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran have won 52 games the past two seasons. Next season the two seniors will form one of the best backcourts in the state. Jordan Myrick, Demari Grant and 6-6 Kameron Leonard also return for the Raiders, who have the look of another 20-plus win team.
What the Condors did: Another outstanding season for coach Mike Oliver’s team. The Condors finished 26-5 before falling to Young in the sectional championship.
Reasons for excitement: There are holes to fill and size to replace but with juniors Marquis Walker and Dajuan Gordon back, the Condors will remain a top 10 team. Look for juniors Justin Harmon and sophomore Ramean Hinton to flourish in bigger roles.
▪ DePaul Prep
What the Rams did: DePaul Prep lost to North Chicago in a Class 3A sectional title game, finishing the season with a 24-7 record.
Reasons for excitement: Coach Tom Kleinschmidt welcomes back four starters from a team that will be favored to win the Chicago Catholic League next season.
All-state junior Perry Cowan will be one of the state’s best and point guard Raheem Anthony emerged this past season. Add veteran big man Pavle Pantovic and guard Lance Moseley and the Rams will be a Class 3A state title contender.
What the Wildkits did: Reaching Peoria with a young nucleus was impressive. The Wildkits finished third in the state and won 27 games with just one senior starter.
Reasons for excitement: The Wildkits return their top four scorers and five of their top six. Led by the junior trio of Lance Jones, Jaheim Holden and Ryan Bost, along with freshmen Blake Peters and Jaylin Gibson, coach Mike Ellis may have the preseason No. 1 team.
What the Vikings did: The 21-win Vikings were one of the real surprises of this past season, capturing the Southwest Suburban Blue over favored Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East and winning a regional title.
Reasons for excitement: This could be the best team in the south suburbs. Coach Marc Condotti has a bevy of returning players with size, length, athleticism and experience, including 6-4 Isaac Stanback, 6-4 Maurion Scott, 6-4 R.J. Ogom, 6-6 Chad Readey and guard Dame Trice.
What the Lions did: After running the table in the Catholic League Blue, Leo was upset by Marshall in the regional final to finish 20-6.
Reasons for excitement: Junior Fred Cleveland returns as a dynamic playmaker at point guard, while 6-6 junior DeChaun Anderson and 6-5 sophomore Kendale Anderson provide size and productivity. That trio is among several returning players from a team that won 20 games and will be one of the top 2A teams in Illinois next season.
▪ Marian Catholic
What the Spartans did: The record-breaking season included the program’s first-ever state trophy. Marian finished third in the state in Class 3A and finished 26-6.
Reasons for excitement: The top three scorers –– sophomore Ahron Ulis and juniors Malik Tidwell and Chris White –– return from a team that won 26 games and finished third in Class 3A. Plus, the addition of promising 6-5 sophomore Elijah Jones only adds to the talent pool.
▪ Morgan Park
What the Mustangs did: Coach Nick Irvin’s team won a second straight Class 3A state championship.
Reasons for excitement: The defending state champs lose a bundle with star Ayo Dosunmu and all-stater Cam Burrell departing. But sophomore Adam Miller is poised to take center stage with plenty of help from talented sophomore guard Marcus Watson.
What the Wolverines did: For any other program in Illinois, the 2017-2018 season would have been magical. Winning the state’s toughest conference, a Public League championship and sectional title while finishing 29-4 is pretty incredible. But for Simeon? The Wolverines fell short of their ultimate goal, which is the same every year: winning a state championship.
Reasons for excitement: Pity the poor Wolverines, who lose POY Talen Horton-Tucker and four other Division I players. But there is always talent. Kejuan Clements will be one of the top guards in the state. Sophomores Sincere Callwood and Bryce Hall are ready for varsity roles. And look out for the dazzling arrival of freshman guard Ahmad Bynum.
▪ St. Rita
What the Mustangs did: After winning the Hinsdale Central Holiday Tournament in December, St. Rita finished the season with 18 wins and a regional championship.
Reasons for excitement: While departing senior Jordan Matthews was a pivotal player for coach Gary DeCesare, there is a ton of experience returning. Sophomores Joel Watts and Alec Millander will form a top-notch backcourt, while 6-7 Jeremiah Oden, 6-5 Javon Cooley, 6-8 Cameron Bartman and 6-5 Stedmon Ihejirka all return.
▪ St. Viator
What the Lions did: The East Suburban Catholic Conference champs went undefeated in conference and won 24 games overall.
Reasons for excitement: A quality group of seniors depart, but the junior duo of Treyvon Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez is one to watch. Calvin is a smooth scoring point guard who put up 17 points a game while the 6-3 Hernandez is a versatile perimeter threat who was co-MVP of the ESCC. Sophomores Connor Kochera and 6-7 Michael Huene will be a year older and better.
What the Titans did: Coach David Taylor watched as his team played its best basketball down the stretch, playing Simeon tough in a city playoff defeat and also playing Orr well in the season-ending sectional loss. Uplift finished the year 18-10.
Reasons for excitement: Markese Jacobs. The Kansas recruit returns and is one of the more dynamic players in the state as he heads into his senior year. Plus, juniors Detalian Brown, DeAndre Vortes, Javaris Wiggins and Tavion Underwood all return after gaining valuable experiencee.
What the Bulldogs did: A season full of high expectations when it began went south. and ended in disappointment. The Bulldogs finished 11-16 record and lost in the regional semifinal.
Reasons for excitement: The Bulldogs are set to forget the 2017-2018 season. Junior Bryan Brown is one of the most productive players in the state, while the addition of transfer point guard Andre White will prove to be the spark and piece this team needs.
What the Dolphins did: A second straight trip to Peoria this past season ended in a state championship game loss in overtime to Belleville West.
Reasons for excitement: Replacing veteran stars Javon Freeman and Xavier Castaneda won’t be easy. But there is more than enough to return to Peoria, and it’s a program that reloads and wins year after year. Look for breakout years from junior Myles Baker and sophomore Tyler Beard next season.