The first piece of the March Madness puzzle was put in place this week when the Illinois High School Association released postseason assignments. Here's a look at where teams from the Fox Valley coverage area will open the playoffs.
The majority of area Class 4A schools will compete within the Dundee-Crown sectional, which includes pre-assigned regional fields at Rockford Auburn, St. Charles North, Cary-Grove and Huntley.
Huntley, which reached the Sweet 16 last season, hosts a regional featuring rival Dundee-Crown, upstart Larkin, DeKalb and Rockford Jefferson. If Dundee-Crown and Huntley collide in the postseason, it would be the fourth meeting between the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division schools this season.
The field at St. Charles North is comprised of Upstate Eight Conference schools. Elgin will likely gain the top seed, but the Maroons must contend with rivals St. Charles East and St. Charles North, Streamwood and defending regional champion South Elgin. Elgin defeated South Elgin and St. Charles North on the road last week.
The Cary-Grove regional boils down to a mini-FVC Valley tournament. The Trojans will host Valley rivals McHenry, Jacobs, Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake South.
Defending sectional champion Rockford Auburn hosts an all-NIC-10 field consisting of Harlem, Boylan Catholic, Guilford, and Hononegah.
Bartlett, which has battled District U-46 rivals in the playoffs the last two seasons, has instead been shipped east to the Schaumburg sectional. That sectional field, which will be seeded 1-20, is comprised mostly of teams from the Mid Suburban League, West Suburban Conference and DuPage Valley Conference. The only other Upstate Eight Conference team in the Schaumburg sectional field is Lake Park.
In Class 3A, Burlington Central and Hampshire were both assigned to the Rochelle regional along with Kaneland, Sycamore and host Rochelle. The Rochelle regional feeds into the Sycamore sectional.
In Class 2A, St. Edward will open the playoffs at the Genoa-Kingston regional. The rest of this far-flung regional field includes the host Cogs, Niles Northridge Prep, North Boone, South Beloit, Rockford Christian and Rockford Lutheran. The winner advances to the South Beloit sectional.
Class 1A Elgin private schools Elgin Academy, Westminster Christian and Harvest Christian Academy have been assigned to the Hinckley-Big Rock regional within the Mooseheart sectional. Joining the Hilltoppers, Warriors and Lions in the regional field are Faith Lutheran of Crystal Lake, Mooseheart, the Islamic Foundation (Villa Park) and Hinckley-Big Rock.