It's hard to believe we are in the middle of February and the start of the proverbial second season starts Monday for Class 3A and 4A girls basketball programs.
The march to see who will play March 7-8 at Redbird Arena in Normal should be exciting.
Defending Class 4A state champion and Associated Press Class 4A No. 6 Marian Catholic is primed for a run, but Class 4A No. 1 Homewood-Flossmoor is too, as the Vikings have not lost to an Illinois team and have not lost since early January.
If teams play to respective seeding, No. 1 Homewood-Flossmoor and No. 2 Marian will meet Feb. 27 at Bloom Trail for the Bloom Township Sectional title. What a game that should be! A packed fieldhouse and two neighborhood rivals.
Of course, you can't put the horse before the cart as plenty of upsets have happened along the way. Neither Marian coach Dan Murray nor H-F coach Tony Smith will let their teams looks past any opponent.
H-F is in the T.F. North Regional, which has a good Wednesday matchup in No. 8 Marist and No. 9 T.F. South. There are a lot of mismatches in the early games because of the seedings, but this is not one of them.
The Rebels will be going for their 21st win which would tie a program record. Marist has been a power ever since it went co-ed in the 2000s. The winner would probably get H-F in the title game and that could be a great game. First, the Vikings must get past Oak Forest or T.F. North, who play on Tuesday in a "play-in" game.
Another good early matchup is No. 7 Crete-Monee against No. 10 Sandburg at the Sandburg Regional. Coach Christina Cobbins has boosted her team's schedule to get it ready for the postseason.
"That is what we had in mind when we put those games on," Cobbins said. "We knew if we played tough teams, it would get us ready for the postseason. Sandburg, that is really going to be a tough game. We better be ready."
The winner will get the winner probably get Marian, which plays the Richards-Shepard winner in one semifinal.
Last year, the Warriors upset Homewood-Flossmoor and won a regional.
One of the surprise teams could be Bloom Township. The Blazing Trojans had high hopes after winning a regional last year, but when Kat Strong went down before the season and Danielle King got hurt, along with Anika Johnson, the Blazing Trojans struggled. King and Johnson are back for the No. 14-seeded Blazing Trojans at the Lincoln-Way North Regional.
Who knows who will be cutting the nets down on March 8 at Illinois State University. It certainly will be hard to top last year's thriller when Marian beat Rolling Meadows on a last-second shot.