Boys hoops blog | February Madness here Wednesday

With football season deep in the rearview mirror and the pontificating about pitchers and catchers having mercifully subsided, basketball takes center stage at least until baseball games count.

March Madness is still a week away, but the action heats up in the suburbs Wednesday night with four conference championship games between division winners.

In three of the four games, both teams are ranked.

A fifth game, West Aurora-Glenbard East, will decide the DuPage Valley Conference.

Here's a look:

North Suburban Conference

No. 6 North Chicago (24-2) at No. 11 Stevenson (22-4): Both teams are top seeds in their respective tournament sections, and the Jalen Brunson-JayQuan McCloud matchup alone will be worth the price of admission. Brunson, a sophomore, has been sensational this season for the Patriots, who have not lost since placing fourth at the Proviso West tournament. McCloud and Kurt Hall lead a North Chicago team still a bit shorthanded but expected to be at full strength for the state playoffs. Five players had been suspended earlier this month.

Central Suburban League

No. 14 Niles North (24-3) at No. 15 Maine South (25-3): This will be interesting for the contrast in styles as well as the high level at which both teams have been playing. The 44 points 5-foot-7 Niles North guard Malachai Nix dropped against Morton on Sunday is more than Maine South has allowed in 18 of its 28 games. If seeds hold, this will be a preview of a Glenbrook North Sectional semifinal.

West Suburban Conference

No. 4 Proviso East (21-3) at No. 17 Hinsdale Central (18-5): A year removed from a two-point loss to Simeon in the Class 4A final, Proviso East is still loaded, but I'm not going to overlook Hinsdale Central anymore. An 11-1 record in a division full of good teams and coaches is impressive. Gritty senior guard Brian Owens is a winner, and college coaches love 6-7 sophomore Matt Rafferty. There's a talent gap here, but watch Hinsdale Central figure out a way to make it a close game.

Mid-Suburban League

Schaumburg (16-9) at Prospect (15-10): The Saxons overcame a slow start, winning six straight division games to claim its third straight MSL West title with a 48-36 victory over upstart Palatine on Friday night. Propsect has owned the East, capturing its fifth title in six years, but has not played particularly well down the stretch.

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