If you listen closely you'll hear the dog days of winter barking loud and proud.
Hang in there, folks. Eyes on Five looks at some hoops to look forward to this weekend.
1. State spanning:
OK, we admit it. The state's best boys basketball isn't being played in DuPage County.
Not one county team is ranked in this week's Associated Press state polls. We've got some "others receiving votes" in Benet, Neuqua Valley, York and IC Catholic Prep, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another recent season with such little confidence in DuPage teams.
There's plenty of talent elsewhere in Illinois. Specifically in Chicago where on Monday Curie and Kansas-bound Cliff Alexander knocked off the nation's top-ranked team while Young and Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor beat the fifth-ranked team.
There's also talent elsewhere in the suburbs with Marian Catholic, Zion-Benton and Stevenson. Central Illinois will be a major player in Class 3A.
It's completely possible a DuPage team may upset the apple cart and forge a run to Peoria. For now, though, we're on the outside looking in at other favorites.
What we've got in DuPage, though, might be the next best thing. This weekend we're playing host to one of the season's most-anticipated games.
Glenbard East scored a major coup in its When Sides Collide shootout by securing a showdown between Stevenson and Marian Catholic at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lombard. Fans will love seeing the backcourt matchup between Kentucky-bound Tyler Ulis of the Spartans and Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson.
"It was definitely a home run for us," said Glenbard East coach Scott Miller. "They're both great draws as individuals and as teams, so we're excited."
So are we.
2. A moment of emphasis:
Last week Kevin sat down and had a nice long chat with a veteran local referee. Without naming names, we had an interesting conversation about this season's "points of emphasis" for basketball officials.
Before the season nearly every coach Kevin spoke with expressed concern about the IHSA's two main "points": the reduction of contact initiated by defensive players, and the enforced restriction of coaches to their designated boxed area during games.
In November the action seemed to be called tighter as referees adhered to the spirit of the emphasis on contact limitation. Touch a cutting offensive player? Foul. Put up too stiff a fight against a posting up big man? Foul.
The emphasis slowed down many November games. Since then, however, refs have loosened up.
The officiating pal confirmed as much, saying he and his colleagues have provided increased leeway to defenses to let them have a chance out there. As for the coaching box rule, he said he hasn't called a technical this season despite some mild transgressions.
It's hard to say how the "points" will be addressed in the postseason when more eyes are watching. Could be we're headed for dragged out foul-fests, but let's hope not.
Let's hope the referees use their sound judgment and let the boys play a bit.
3. Standout scores:
Two girls basketball scores from the past few days popped out from among the rest.
One of those scores was Glenbard South's 77-37 defeat of Willowbrook on Tuesday. You just don't see 17-2 teams, as Willowbrook was entering that game, lose by 40 that often.
Turns out it was just the Raiders' day, in a big way.
"We were coming into that game knowing it would be a big challenge and my girls were just up for it," said Raiders coach Julie Fonda, whose 13-6 team hosted St. Francis on Thursday. "We were eager to play a team that would give us a good measuring stick. They got after it from the tip and never looked back. ...
"It was an incredible game to watch and be a part of."
Willowbrook can move on knowing that its goal of a West Suburban Gold championship remains undisturbed; Glenbard South was a nonconference opponent.
The other interesting score was the 92 points Wheaton North scored Saturday at the 24th annual McDonald's Shootout -- in a 99-92 overtime loss.
Accustomed to more methodical playing styles in the DuPage Valley Conference, the Falcons opted not to slow things down against the quick Hawks. Just the opposite, they picked up the pace, grabbing the ball out of the basket and running, often making long passes downcourt to waiting teammates and beating Hillcrest down the court.
It was a memorable game, and they said the experience helped them defeat archrival Wheaton Warrenville South on Thursday night.
"It made us more confident because that was a really good team that we played," the Falcons' Emari Jones said. "It made us know how good we are scoring 90 points in a game. I've never scored that much points in a girls game. We transferred that from that game to this game."
4. Deferring to the second half:
As if it had lost a pregame coin flip, four Fenton starters lined up for the opening jump ball against Lake Forest Academy on Wednesday on defense, back in the lane defending its basket, leaving 5-foot-5 guard Tina Guarino in the center circle surrounded by Caxys.
Not surprisingly, Guarino lost the tip to Lake Forest Academy's 6-3 Khadidiatou Diouf.
"I gave it up," Guarino said with a laugh.
With nobody listed at taller than 5-10 on the roster, it's a familiar situation for the Bison.
"We're used to that," Fenton coach Tim Anderson said.
The Bison try to overcome their height disadvantage in part by passing and cutting to get good looks at the basket in a Princeton-style offense.
"From our height that we do have we've learned to do our post moves," Guarino said. "Anybody, no matter what height you are, can do a post move and you'll be successful. That's what we learned and that's what we do."
5. Stat time:
Remember the fall when Glenbard North senior Justin Jackson had the football in his hands virtually every offensive play for the Panthers? Served the Northwestern-bound running back well while rushing for more than 3,000 yards and leading his team to a second straight DuPage Valley Conference title.
This winter Jackson's giving back.
A starting guard for Glenbard North's boys basketball team, Jackson leads DuPage County with 95 assists for an average of 6.3 a game.
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