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Benet's Sean O'Mara shoots over Stevenson defenders. | Patrick Gleason/For Sun-Times Media
We all know who the best teams are and the road all the No. 1 seeds have to get to Peoria. But here is a fun look in forecasting the immediate future of those top teams, along with a whole bunch of others in this pre-state tournament stock report.
This isn’t about one team being better than another. This is about stock options. What stock is the best to buy now –– before a March run ensues or even an upset or two occurs? And what teams should you sell, before they are upset or make an earlier-than-expected exit?
If a team is red-hot and a high seed, well, then their stock is climbing, obviously very high and a little costly right now. Which top team are you willing to spend that large amount on? Unless we know for certain where they will be three weeks from now, selling it might be the best option.
Then there are those lower seeded teams, ones that have lost some buzz heading into March or just a sleeper that gets to Peoria. Imagine the return on Johnsburg in 2003.
Maybe we can find a good buy and ride them for a couple of weeks for a nice little payout.
Here we go with some stock options on 32 different teams from around the Chicago area (listed alphabetically) ...
Benet Academy: Buy
I know they’re a No. 1 seed, but I think you would be surprised by what you could buy this No. 1 seed for on our hypothetical prep hoops stock market right now as no one seems to be talking about them. Maybe it’s because Benet has seven losses. Maybe it’s because they’ve fallen out of the rankings. Maybe it’s because they lost in the sectional semis as the No. 1 seed in 2011. But I’m buying, because this is a team that has a realistic chance of playing in Peoria in three weeks. Benet has 6-9 Sean O’Mara, a few quality shooters around the big man, and a killer schedule that has prepared them well.
The No. 1 seed, a top 10 team with 23 wins in one of the weakest sectionals in the state. You’re not going to make any money on this investment. Move on.
This is a pretty good team, but the No. 3 seed in the East Aurora Sectional has inflated stock. The Raiders have a nice little record and some talent, but the biggest wins on the year include beating conference teams like H-F, Stagg and Joliet Central. Bolingbrook hasn’t beaten a ranked team all year and is 0-4 against teams that have been ranked at one point this season (Bloom, Mt. Carmel, Thornton and Springfield Lanphier).
Everyone –– and I mean everyone –– is punching Marian Catholic’s ticket straight to the super-sectional. But Bloom, a good buy as the No. 4 seed with 16 wins, could be the one team in this sectional that could play the role of spoiler. Get’em on the cheap.
Sell? Sell a Cliff Alexander team that hasn’t lost to anyone from the state of Illinois or any game that Big Cliff has played in this year? Yes, that’s what I’m telling you: sell. It’s going to be hard to get any significant return on a team ranked No. 1 in the state, No. 2 in the country, fresh off a city title and everyone is talking about. And as long as Curie is in the state’s toughest sectional, where it plays a team in Simeon that it beat twice in two tight contests and Young in four overtimes (with Jahlil Okafor not playing 25 minutes), you want to roll the dice? And, oh, there’s that little bit of drama and uncertainty I’ve read something about that kind of scares me off a little.
The Meteors have turned their season around, just recently jumped into the rankings and are feeling good after winning three straight to win the Chicago Catholic League Tournament title. An aggressive, get-rich-quick investor might say, “Lets jump on the bandwagon of this red-hot team.” Not so fast. Hopefully you bought Meteor stock two weeks ago and can unload it today. This is still a team that was .500 heading into the Catholic League Tournament two weeks ago. The regional opener with Brother Rice won’t be a gimme, and then Whitney Young will be waiting. Uh, yeah, stash your money away and invest on next year’s De La Salle team.
I recommend buying this stock for a number of reasons, starting with the Friars are a No. 3 sectional seed and are very capable of winning it. It’s a veteran, well balanced team. It’s a team that doesn’t necessarily need one particular player to play like a superstar to win. And the price is low because it’s a No. 3 seed that finished fourth in the Catholic League North.
Unbeaten and the No. 2 seed in the state’s toughest sectional, the price is inflated. But while the memorable season is so worth getting excited about in Palatine, it’s time for me to sell. Close examination will tell you the Vikings are in a brutally tough and deep sectional, where even the regional championship game could be dicey. And Fremd isn’t exactly well prepared, with only one opponent all year (St. Viator) that has been ranked. An unbeaten team heading to March that certainly has some concerns in a loaded sectional? A perfect time to sell this stock.
Winning a sectional title probably isn’t realistic, but surpassing what Geneva is seeded certainly is. Give me a No. 6 seed with 22 wins, a high-scoring player in 6-6 junior Nate Navigato and experience pulling off an upset (the Vikings upset Hinsdale Central last year in the regional) on the cheap any day.
No one has talked about Hillcrest since the Hawks were drilled by Bogan and Benet at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in late December. Hillcrest stock is as low as it's been in quite a few years, so it might be worth it dabble a little here. Coach Don Houston’s team is improved and hasn’t lost since the calendar turned to 2014, winning 13 straight games. A regional upset win over Morgan Park and you will hit it big with this investment.
Hinsdale Central: Buy
Hey, I gave you a stock tip the other day, calling Hinsdale Central the best team not ranked in the Top 25. That was before it beat Proviso East to win the West Suburban Conference championship. So while the stock price of the Red Devils probably went up a little, it’s still reasonable. The buzz, overall, has remained a little quiet. There’s a lot I like about this team. The teams in the East Aurora Sectional stuck them with a nasty fourth seed, forcing the Red Devils to play a regional road game at Naperville Central. So no better time than to buy some right here. Buy low and hope it can do what it’s capable of doing: winning the East Aurora Sectional.
Lake Forest: Buy
While it’s true their stock has risen, it’s hard to imagine their stock climbing any higher with Stevenson and a rugged sectional awaiting. Plus, I still think there is some value here as a No. 3 seed and a team that I think a lot of people view as, “Yeah, a nice team but more of a pretender than a contender.” But not only do I like Lake Forest’s makeup –– they’re big, strong and physical up and down the roster –– but I like the road they have to the sectional final. In a 2 vs. 3 sectional semi, I will take the Scouts, who can match Fremd’s style and strengths. That leaves them one big upset win away from investors cashing in big time. That’s worth buying a little Lake Forest stock.
This is a good basketball team with quality guards, poised for a deep run in March and one that has yet to be blown up with hype. That’s why I like this buy. You may buy this Larkin stock up and then be a little restless with it during the St. Charles North Regional –– it won’t be easy –– but have faith and ride the Royals.
Loyola Academy: Buy
You wouldn’t haven been able to touch Loyola’s stock a month ago. No, not when they were ranked in the top 10 without a loss to a single in-state team. Then the three-game slide hit, losing to St. Joseph, De La Salle and St. Rita, in the middle of February. Now that stock is right back where I wanted it when the season opened. There are some concerns (this team has to shoot the ball well against quality opponents) and weaknesses (lack of size), but it’s a very winnable sectional for the Ramblers. You may not get a great return as Loyola is still a No. 1 seed, but if it can manage to navigate past Maine South, you’re not going to lose money.
Maine South: Buy
No one has talked about coach Tony Lavorato’s Hawks. Maine South isn’t going to overwhelm you with talent, but they are a sneaky 22-win team that is finally healthy, with the return of junior point guard Caleb deMarigny from mono. The junior tandem of deMarigny and 6-7 George Sargeant are so much better and more consistent than they were in the first half of the season. Plus, the Hawks are in a relatively weak sectional, will be playing at home and always mess with opponent’s rhythm and flow. If the Hawks make it to the super-sectional, I want to have stock in them and get a little of your return as well.
Marian Catholic: Sell
You won’t lose a lot of money by holding onto this stock (the Spartans should win their sectional as a No. 1 seed), but you won’t make any, either (everyone expects the Spartans to win this sectional, so the price is high). But there is that unknown lurking out there –– that southern Illinois opponent no one ever knows anything about that Marian Catholic will face in the super-sectional. It looks like it will be a strong Edwardsville team again, one that beat Marian Catholic in the Super last March.
Morgan Park: Buy
If the Mustangs were a top five team, sitting there with a loss or two instead of six, or had won the vaunted Red-South instead of finishing third, their stock would be untouchable right now as the defending state champs in Class 3A. Instead, it’s a somewhat reasonable time to invest in this talented team that’s well prepared for state tournament time.
Mt. Carmel: Sell
Don’t get me wrong, I like this team and what the Caravan have done in the second half of the season. And coach Mike Flaherty could certainly grind out another win or two with this group. But you just get the feeling this team may be maxed out, even though its ranked and has become somewhat the flavor of the week with their hot streak.
North Chicago: Sell
With the soft road this team has to get through as the sectional’s No. 1 seed, the price is high, and it just seems like a foregone conclusion coach King Coleman’s team will hoist a regional and sectional plaque. North Chicago has impressed me with their talent, but they don’t excite me as a state title contender. I watched them fall behind Larkin by 20 points before losing. I watched them get blown out by Stevenson by 30. They just barely got by Vernon Hills by two points, Grant by six and lost to Marshall. But more than anything, to get any return on investment the Warhawks will have to beat a top-notch team (Orr, St. Joseph or Fenwick) in a 3A super-sectional. Not worth the risk.
Oak Park-River Forest: Buy
I’m not sure anyone has noticed, but this promising, talented and deep team is playing well. The Huskies are a No. 3 seed in a winnable sectional, winners of six straight. Among those victories was a win over the sectional’s top seed, York. And their last four losses this season have been by a combined 8 points. At the end of the day, this is an unranked team without a whole lot of fanfare that is very capable of making a serious sectional run. Buy up!
I love them, I love them not. ... I love them, I love them not. Why do I find this team so scary –– and in every sense? The Spartans have some scary talent and a track record as they reached Peoria a year ago. That’s all good. But they are a scary proposition in the stock market as they are a No. 1 seed in a tough 3A sectional and with some inconsistent individual pieces. I just have a hard time trusting them. For such a high price, and potential roadblocks in the way, I’m selling my Orr stock.
When can I get Simeon stock this low? Are you kidding me? Buy it, baby. No one is expecting the Wolverines to do anything of substance in a sectional that features Young and Curie. But I get a No. 3 seed on the cheap. And one severe punishment to Curie from the IHSA and the Wolverines are one big win away from winning another sectional.
St. Joseph: Sell
There are some big names and guard play is paramount for success in March, which St. Joseph has with Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash. However, I’m always leery of banking on a team with no seniors in state tournament play. St. Joe’s, the No. 2 seed, also lost to No. 3 seed Fenwick just two weeks ago.
St. Rita: Sell
Considering the talented pieces on this team, including the Kentucky-bound Charles Matthews, top 100 senior Vic Law and Catholic League South Player of the Year Dominique Matthews, I should probably recommend for you to buy St. Rita stock. But I can’t. The Mustangs have name recognition now, but they’re 1-4 vs. ranked foes this season, and surpassing their seed in the sectional would mean having to beat the likes of Curie, Young and Simeon.
St. Viator: Buy
For no other reason, buy this stock for the fact this is one of the most dangerous No. 5 seeds you’ll find. Without much buzz surrounding the Lions right now, it’s a good time to buy Viator on the cheap. I’m not sure this team has shown me enough or been consistent enough to put together a sectional title run, but with the potent perimeter punch of Ore Arogundade, Roosevelt Smart, Pat McNamara and Mark Falotico, there is no reason why Viator can’t beat Zion-Benton in a regional final.
Yes, there is a nowhere-to-go-but-down feel to this one, so this right here is for the Large Cap investors. It’s not as if I don’t think Stevenson can win a state championship; in fact, they just might be my pick. But this just might not be the best time to buy this high-priced stock. For comparative sake, trying to buy Stevenson right now, fresh off dismantling North Chicago, beating Simeon, finishing 26-1 and star Jalen Brunson grabbing every imaginable headline available, would be like plunking down big bucks just for a tiny share of Google or Apple. And with the way the Patriots are playing, anything short of reaching Peoria for a second straight year and your return on investment isn’t going to be worth it. Plus, that sectional at Lake Zurich is no picnic. But if you’re a big-time investor willing to take the plunge, go for it.
First, I applaud coach Paul Slavich and the Thunderbirds. In fact, I just rose out of my seat and put my hands together in appreciation for all that this coach and team have done this season. Amazing, really. You lose your best player, a Division recruit headed to Bradley, and you rip off win after win while capturing a conference title. But the No. 2 seed T-Birds sure could use Donte Thomas in March. I can’t buy this high. No, not on a ranked, No. 2 seed that hasn’t lost since December and relies so heavily on the three-pointer and –– dare I say it –– is just so due for a loss.
This is a great time to buy. Bargain hunting for some cheap stock with some hope. No one is scurrying around trying to buy up Uplift stock, so go ahead and get it on the cheap now, before a March run in the Antioch Sectional. This team could be one upset win away (over North Chicago) from providing you a big return on this investment.
West Aurora: Buy
A couple of home February losses to Glenbard North and Naperville Central, which cost the Blackhawks an outright DuPage Valley title, dropped the stock of coach Gordie Kerkman’s team. But you know what? Go ahead and grab some stock in a team with a veteran senior guard like Jontrel Walker who has been a part of two straight sectional title teams the past two years –– neither as a No. 1 seed. I like the Blackhawks’ road to at least get to a sectional title game, where it will likely face either Benet or Hinsdale Central.
This is a 23-win team that is a No. 1 seed in the Bartlett Sectional. But there just haven’t been enough quality wins for me to pay what I need to for a No. 1 seed on the market. I see losses to Lake Forest and Benet, two quality teams. And I see a lost conference championship and three losses in the final two weeks. But what scares me from splurging on the Dukes the most is a lopsided loss to Morton this past Wednesday night, a Morton team that is the No. 4 seed in the Bartlett Sectional.
Oh, the price is high. But you’ll be glad you invested if the IHSA comes back on Monday and says, “Sorry, Curie!” I like this team and this investment because it has talented pieces that fit together so well –– and they’re tougher, more experienced than the past two Whitney Young teams. Anchored by a mega-star in Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 ranked player in the country, coach Tyrone Slaughter also has a 6-8 high-major recruit in Paul White and unheralded Saint Louis recruit Miles Reynolds that complement one another so well. Young’s supporting cast has taken turns in assisting the “Big Three,” which is why the Dolphins are a pricey, but good buy in a rough-and-tumble Marist Sectional.
Right now, I just think their ceiling isn’t as high as others believe it is. I’m not just overreacting to a 3-2 finish to the regular season after a 22-1 start. The loss of big man Jerome Davis at midseason didn’t help, but their formula for a long March run just isn’t sustainable. The Zee-Bees will have to rely so heavily on star Milik Yarbrough night in, night out in this tough Lake Zurich Sectional, where strong, physical defensive teams like Lake Forest and Stevenson just give this team fits.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport
Tulane offers Simeon's 6-7 Ed Morrow, one of the top half dozen prospects in the senior class in Illinois