ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Normally we would have filled out our NCAA Tournaments by now and spent the next three weeks glued to the games. Alas that won’t happen, but never fear. I’m launching what I’m calling ‘Scott’s NIC-10 Madness.’
I have gone back over the past 20 years and picked what I believe to be the top 16 boys basketball teams in the NIC-10 during that time and placed them in a ‘Sweet 16’ bracket.
Over the next three weeks I’ll let you pick the winners by voting on our website www.mystateline.com and on our Eyewitness News Facebook page.
I’ve seeded the top four teams. You’ll do the rest. The first matchup for you to vote on will be revealed on Tuesday, March 17. Let’s have some fun with this!
Here is a listing of our ‘Sweet 16 teams” I’ve picked along with my top four seeds. Teams are listed starting with the most recent teams.
(#2 Seed) East (2018-19)
The 2018-19 E-Rabs are our number two seed. They went 18-0 in the NIC-10 and 34-4 overall with senior point guard and NIC-10 MVP Chris Burnell leading the way along with dunk specialist Sha’den Clanton and three-point specialist and second team All-State junior Sincere Parker. The E-Rabs went all the way to the Class 4A State Tournament where they finished in fourth place.
The 2017-18 Jefferson J-Hawks coached by Todd Brannan had a senior-dominated group led by MyQuion Garrett, Quillan Dixon and Terry Ford. Garrett and Dixon could do a little of everything. Ford was a dangerous three-point shooter. The J-Hawks won 26 games and they were NIC-10 co-champs. They reached the Sectional Championship game before falling to Elgin Larkin 60-55.
The 2016-17 Boylan Titans were led by senior scoring machine Zach Couper. He averaged more than 23 points per game and he was named Honorable Mention All-State. On the inside the Titans had All-Conference player Kevin Diemer. Anthony Foreman was another key player. This Titans squad ran the table in the NIC-10 going 16-0 under Brett McAllister. They won 27 games overall and a regional championship.
The 2015-16 Auburn Knights are one of the more surprising teams in NIC-10 history. The Knghts didn’t have any returning starters. They weren’t ranked all season, yet they got hot late and won 25 games. Guard Trayvon Tyler was the MVP of this team. Football standout Juwuane Parchman improved greatly as the season wore on, and Devion Dixon, Shidaye Evans and Patrick Davis filled their roles superbly. The Knights used defense and hustle to carry them all the way to the 4A State Tournament where they lost by two points in the semifinals to Chicago Curie. They finished fourth in the State.
The 2015-16 Boylan Titans rolled to a 31-3 record under head coach Mike Winters. They went 16-0 in the NIC-10. Junior Zach Couper was one of the top scorers in the conference, but this was a balanced Boylan team that also got big contributions from Kevin Diemer, Anthony Foreman, Luke McDermott and Sam Fehrle. This Boylan team blew out its first four postseason opponents in Class 3A before losing at the NIU Super-Sectional to Peoria Manual in a heart-breaker 61-58.
The 2014-15 Auburn Knights went 29-2 under Bryan Ott. They were a perfect 16-0 in the conference with a talented senior group that included point guard Laytwan Porter, high-flying Antoine Pittman, Nylik Cobb and Delundre Dixon. The Knights lit up the scoreboard. Nine times they topped 90 points. Four times they topped 100 points. This Auburn team had ‘State Tournament’ written all over it, but at the championship game of the DeKalb Sectional the Knights fell behind Geneva 18-2 at the start, and they spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. They almost did before losing by three.
The 2013-14 Auburn Knights’ top players were juniors, and could they play! Laytwan Porter, Antoine Pittman, Nylek Cobb and Zayvious Hoover led the Knights to a 28 win season and a NIC-10 championship. It took future NCAA Champion and NBA player Jalen Brunson of Lincolnshire Stevenson to finally stop them at the NIU Super-Sectional.
(#1 Seed) Auburn (2011-12)
The 2011-12 Auburn Knights come into the tournament as our #1 seed. This team was led by senior point guard Fred VanVleet. The Knights’ other top talents were LaMark Foote and Elijah Smith. The Knights won 32 games. They ran away with the NIC-10 conference title by a whopping four-game margin. They went all the way to State in Class 4A where they lost to Proviso East in the semifinals, but they rebounded the next day in the consolation game aginast Bloom Township Chicago Heights to finish third in the state.
The 2010-11 Auburn Knights won 25 games with junior Fred VanVleet at the helm at point guard. Anthony Strickland and LaMark Foote were Auburn’s other top threats. Bryan Ott’s guys went undefeated in the conference. They went as far as the NIU Super-Sectional before they were derailed 63-51 by Glenbard East and future Illinois State player Jon Hill. VanVleet had an off-night shooting. He made only 3 of 16 field goal attempts otherwise this outcome might have been different.
The 2008-09 Hononegah Indians were led by David Brown the NIC-10’S MVP, an All-State pick at guard, and a future Western Michigan standout. Dustin Meier, Mario Donaldson, Matt Carroll and Chase Robinson were the other key players on that team. Hononegah went 15-1 to win the conference. The Indians were 26-4 overall. They were upset though in the Regional Tourament by an Auburn team that had finished three games behind them in the conference standings.
(#4 Seed) Boylan (2006-07)
The 2006-07 Boylan Titans are our number four seed. That team was led by the long and athletic Tori Boyd. Zach Opheim, Michael Edwards, and Lamar Williams complemented him well. This Boylan squad went 15-1 in the conference and won 28 games overall. It beat an outstanding Rock Falls squad led by Seth Blair and Zach House for the Sectional Championship. It then knocked off Hoffman Estates Conant in the Super-Sectional before losing in the AA State Quarterfinal to Lincolnshire Stevenson.
The 2005-06 Boylan Titans posted a 15-1 conference record and 26-4 overall. The senior trio of Andrew Weber, Vernon Sims and Martez Hawkins could be counted on to produce every game, and athletic junior Tori Boyd gave them a dynamic forward who could run the floor. This Titan team had State potential, but in the Sectional Championship game at RVC it ran into another team that also had State potential Rock Falls. The Rockets edged the Titans in overtime 44-41 on a three-point basket at the buzzer by Seth Blair.
The 2005-06 Freeport Pretzels were led by All-State forward Willie Veasely. The future Butler University standout was head and shoulders above everyone else in the NIC-10. He averaged 23.6 points and 11 rebounds per game. With help from Martin Trainer, Gavin Taylor and Matt Weik, Veasley and the Pretzels went 14-2 in the conference and 24-5 overall. They blasted Sterling and Belvidere to win a AA Regional Championship. Their season ended at the hands of Rock Falls in the Sectional.
(#3 Seed) Jefferson (2004-05)
The 2004-05 Jefferson J-Hawks are our number three seed. This team, coached by Mike Winters, lost ten games that season, but when the J-Hawks were on their game they were amazing! It all came together down the stretch for twin towers Robert Eppinger, and Pat Nelson and guards Josh Pickens and Branden Fisher. The J-Hawks beat NIC-10 Champion Boylan for the Sectional Championship. They beat Elgin Larkin 73-60 at the AA Moline Super-Sectional. At State in the quarterfinals the J-Hawks defeated Lincoln. Their hot streak ended when they lost in the AA semfinals to Glenbrook North, and they lost in the consolation game to Downers Grove South.
The 2003-04 Jefferson J-Hawks had a remarkable mix of size and athleticism. 6’7 sophomore Robert Eppinger and 6’9 junior Pat Nelson provided the size and high-flying guards L.C. Robinson and Ricky Ellis the athleticism. The J-Hawks were conference co-champs, claiming Jefferson’s first conference championshp in school history. Their postseason run was a short one though, they lost in the Regional Championship game to Sycamore.
The 2001-02 Boylan Titans were the Class of the NIC-10 under Steve Goers. They went 16-0. Their only regular season losses were to Chicago area powerhouses Farragut and Thornwood. Athletic point guard Steve Harris was surrounded by a whole lot of talent including Matt Weber, Adam Finley, Jason Winkler and Eric Gillam. This Boylan team went 29-3 and reached the AA Super-Sectional where it lost at the MetroCentre to Moline in overtime 51-49 just missing a trip to State.