Holiday tournaments return in earnest
There will be an extra gift under boys high school basketball fans trees this Christmas.
After holiday tournaments were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, they return this season, so there will be plenty of bouncing basketballs all over the state.
The one fallout could be start times for the games. The later in the day the Tip-Off, the more it could be delayed.
That is in part because of the mandatory 90-second mask timeout in each quarter. That will add an additional six minutes to each game.
That could squeeze schedules, which at most tournaments have 90-minute time slots for each game. That time includes the usual 15-minute warmup time.
Some tournaments do have extra time allotted, usually an hour break midday, which could help, as well as auxiliary gyms for teams to warm up in.
The good news is that early arrivers can see more basketball from teams they may never see. Also, a trip to the concession stand to pick up some eats from local restaurants could also be on tap.
Cancellations due to COVID protocols have already dotted the landscape for the tournaments. As of Thursday, there have already been changes at Hinsdale Central, Pekin and Wheeling.
Here is where you can catch area teams this year:
Hinsdale Central Holiday ClassicDates: December 22-23, 28-29
NW suburbs teams: Maine South
Favorite: DePaul Prep
Outlook: The tournament began Wednesday and Maine South was to open up with Oak Forest. Maine South was awarded a forfeit win when Oak Forest withdrew due to COVID protocols, but then Maine South had to do the same on Thursday when the Hawks were to have played Stevenson in the quarterfinals. It is a tough field that includes St. Rita, DePaul Prep and Marian Catholic.
ICCP/Westmont Holiday ClassicDates: December 27-30
NW suburbs teams: Hoffman Estates
Favorite: St. Edward
Outlook: Hoffman Estates won its Thanksgiving tournament, but the Hawks have struggled a bit in the rugged Mid-Suburban West. Still, they can be a contender in the tournament behind the play of brothers Mike and Nick Vukovic. St. Edward has been solid and is led by Robert Wilson, who is averaging 16.5 points, and 6-foot-6 sophomore Kaden Dawson.
Hinkle Holiday Classic at JacobsDates: December 18, 22-23, 27-28
NW suburbs teams: Barrington
Favorites: Larkin, Barrington
Outlook: Barrington has already claimed a spot in Monday's semifinals after going 3-0 in pool play. The winners of the four pools will meet in a tournament bracket on Monday, with the championship on Tuesday. Barrington has made a huge step to being one of those four teams. The Broncos won their opener last Saturday, rallying to beat Prairie Ridge. They then beat Grayslake Central on Tuesday and South Elgin on Wednesday.
Maine East Holiday TournamentDates: December 27-30
NW suburbs teams: Maine East, Elk Grove, Leyden
Favorite: Vernon Hills
Outlook: This tournament began in 2017. Maine East opens the tournament with a 9 a.m. start against Elgin. Elk Grove is up next at 10:30 a.m. against Kennedy from the Chicago Public League. Leyden will meet Antioch in the final game of the first day at 7:30.
Pekin Insurance Holiday ClassicDates: December 27-29
NW suburbs team: Hersey
Outlook: This is the 56th year for the Pekin tournament and Hersey is making its 25th consecutive trip downstate to the tournament. The Huskies were originally scheduled to meet third-seeded Rockford Boylan in their opening game. However, when Plainfield South dropped out of the tournament, it was reseeded and now Hersey will face top-seeded Moline on the Monday at 10:30 a.m. Mt. Carmel is the second seed and Lake Park is the No. 4 seed.
Hardwood Classic at WheelingDates: December 27-30
NW suburbs teams: St. Viator, Prospect, Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, Fremd, Maine West
Favorite: Glenbrook South
Outlook: This tournament has the most local flavor with six NW suburbs teams competing. St. Viator opens the tournament with a 9 a.m. game Monday against Deerfield. Prospect will play Niles North at 2 p.m., and Buffalo Grove will follow against Glenbard North at 3:45. Host team Wheeling will play Libertyville at 7:15, while Fremd takes on Maine West at 8:45. Those two teams played each other at Thanksgiving with Fremd winning 52-42. Glenbrook South is a heavy favorite and comes into the tournament averaging 74.6 points per game. The Titans have a pair of Division-I commits in Cooper Noard (Cornell) and Nick Martinelli (Elon). Glenbrook North comes into the tournament with just one loss. But the Spartans haven't played a game since December 11 due to cancellations and won't play until Tuesday at Wheeling because of COVID protocols. They will play two games that day, opening against Hampshire. Prospect and Fremd are both dark horses to reach the championship game on Dec. 30.
Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at YorkDates: December 27-31
NW suburbs teams: Conant, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg
Favorite: Glenbard West
Outlook: The 32-team Jack Tosh tournament has taken over as the premier holiday tournament in the suburbs, supplanting Proviso West. Glenbard West, with Gonzaga-commit Braden Huff and three other D-1 commits, is favored. You can run between gyms early on Monday to catch area games. A surging Palatine team meets Tinley Park at 10 a.m. while Conant takes on St. Ignatius at 10:30 a.m. Rolling Meadows, which was in the semifinals two years ago, is hoping to make a return trip. The Mustangs meet St. Laurence in their tournament opener at 1 p.m. Schaumburg will play St. Francis at 3:30 p.m. The tournament championship game is at 2 p.m. on New Year's Eve.