Pre-Season Happening Hoops Chicago College Basketball Power Rankings
By: Ethan Hennessy
November 3rd 2019
I have seen these five teams play live a combined 25 times in the past three seasons, and covered games featuring one of them on press row nine times, therefore I feel like I have a pretty good expertise on the college basketball scene in the Windy City. As I enter my final year of undergrad at nearby Valparaiso University in Valparaiso Indiana I knew I wanted to do something to give back to the college basketball community of this great city that has done so much for me and my brand Happening Hoops. I want to provide the best possible coverage of Chicago hoops in my coverage this season, so in addition to continuing to cover games at these schools I decided to launch the weekly Happening Hoops Chicago College Basketball Power Rankings. Obviously I have love for these programs based on the number of times I’ve seen/covered them, and the relationships I’ve built with people at them, but I strive to be as unbiased as possible, and to rank the teams as accurately as I see based on the court results in my weekly power rankings. I hope you enjoy, and thank you for your continued support.
1 – DePaul – Fresh off their best season since 2006-07 the Blue Demons look to build upon a 19 win season that saw them finish as runners up in the College Basketball Invitational losing to South Florida 2-1. The demons graduated two key contributors Max Strus and Eli Cain in the offseason, but this year’s roster seems to have even more playmakers and with time could gel into a real force in the Big East. Romeo Weems the number 44 prospect according to ESPN from the 2019 class who joined DePaul this season is a name to watch along with Kansas transfer Charlie Moore and returning big man Paul Reed who was first in the Big East in rebounds per game and third in blocks. The talent on this team has them starting off the season in the one spot, but they will need to produce the results on the court in order to stay atop the rankings.
2 – Loyola Chicago – Many have picked the ramblers to finish somewhere in the two to four range in the Missouri Valley. That being said the road to a top tier finish in the Valley is not easy. This is not the same Loyola Chicago team that made the final four two seasons ago. The roster only has seven underclassmen and only one senior. MVC pre-season player of the year Cameron Krutwig will do a lot of heavy lifting for the Ramblers. Lucas Williamson and Aher Uguak will need to fill their roles well if this team is to achieve their full potential. I can see coach Porter Moser and star center Cameron Krutwig being able to get this team to 15 wins by themselves, but however many more they pick up after that is up to what the supporting cast is able to produce night in and night out.
3 – Northwestern – I like the pickup of Tewaaraton Award winner (best collegiate lacrosse player) graduate transfer Pat Spencer for the wildcats, and not its not just because he comes from Loyola MD. Spencer is an athletic guard who proved he can ball at this level back in his high school playing days in the MIAA and on Northwestern’s overseas tour this summer. Spencer, Turner, and Gains should make a good trio for Northwestern. The only problem is the rest of the roster is going to struggle to compete in the Big Ten. I like a lot of the guys on the roster to fill good 11th to 15th man roles at this level, but many of them will be forced into the 4th to 9th man on the roster roles. When matched up with many of the rest of the Big Ten rosters its hard not to see this extremely young wildcat team get exposed, and as a result I foresee a bottom tier Big Ten finish.
4 – UIC – The flames have consistently been a top half Horizon League team for the past few years. UIC averages 17.67 wins in Steve McClain’s last three seasons. I expect them to be about the same this year. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to move them above the four spot as it is difficult even as an above average mid major team to compete in a city with a Big Ten team, Big East team, and a Mid major who made the final four two years ago. Boahen, Ottey, Diggins, Ferguson, and Blount will be a fun bunch to watch, and I’m intrigued to see if this is the year they can break through and win the Horizon League.
5 – Chicago State – Lance Irvin enters year two on the south side with an almost entirely new roster. In fact only four players are on the team this year that suited up in a game for the cougars last year. Given that it is hard to say how the cougars will do together as a group until we have seen them play a few games. Last year was difficult on the court with the team going 3-29, but this year Irvin and company have created a schedule that is more conducive towards collecting wins which should help boost the team’s confidence heading into the ever challenging WAC play. I would be very surprised if Chicago State has not doubled their win total from all of last season by the time the calendar flips to 2020.