For half a decade, North Side has dominated the SAC Holiday Tournament like no one ever has.

Five years. Five straight titles.

This year, there will be a changing of the guard. North Side is the No. 10 seed and in the midst of a massive rebuild under new coach Gary Andrews. The chances of the Legends pulling off another tournament title are near impossible.

So, who will emerge on top come Friday night at Wayne? We preview each team’s chances as the opening of the event looms on Wednesday morning.

(1) SNIDER PANTHERS (6-1, 2-0 SAC)

Why they are the favorite

The Panthers have just a single loss and have looked darn impressive outside of a blowout loss to Brownsburg last Friday.

Depth is important in this tournament with up to four games in four days for some teams, and Snider has plenty of it, boosted by the likes of transfer Cleevas Craig and the emergence of freshmen Jaylen Lattimore and Karson Jenkins.

No team in the tournament plays with as much defensive intensity as Snider does, led by point guard Jayshawn Underwood, which can lead to some sloppy turnovers for opposing teams.

Potential tournament star

Michael Eley leads the Panthers in scoring at 17 points per contest, with the sophomore having emerged as one of the best pure scorers in the conference. The issue with defending him is that he can beat you in a variety of different ways. He is hitting 48 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the line.

Potential tournament breakout player

Cleevas Craig still feels as if he is finding his role with this team after getting a late start due to transfer. But as a pure post in a league that lacks much in the  way of the position, he could be that guy to wear down opponents inside, as well as grab some clutch rebounds.

(2) CARROLL CHARGERS (4-3, 1-1 SAC)

Why they could contend

Following a loss to Concordia that dropped them to 1-3, the Chargers looked like a listless and leaderless team. But three straight victories has helped change that outlook.

To win this tournament, Carroll is going to have to put high-octane offenses such as Snider, Northrop and South Side on lock down. The Chargers are perfectly capable of doing this, as they enter the week allowing just over 44 points per game.

Potential tournament star

Dan McKeeman has the type of skill set that can thrive in a tournament environment. He is a streaky shooter that can fill the bucket from the outside if given the opportunity.

He enters the tournament connecting on 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

Potential tournament breakout player

Preston Shearer was one of the bright spots for Carroll in the loss to Concordia when he went for a team-high 17 points. He followed that up with solid performances against Columbia City, Wayne and Norwell.

Shearer doesn’t have to be the star player for the Chargers for the team to succeed. He can be that secondary threat that takes advantage of teams putting so much attention on McKeeman and David Ejah.

(3) HOMESTEAD SPARTANS (5-1, 1-1 SAC)

Why they could contend

The Spartans are always a threat because they are consistently prepared. They seem to be able to put together a game plan to take advantage of a team’s weakness, whatever that may be.

Homestead’s lone loss this year came to Bishop Dwenger, the team it just happens to open with in the tournament.

Potential tournament star

Luke Goode has been in double digits in points in every game this season. When he is feeling it from the outside, he can do some big-time damage on the scoreboard. He hit five threes in a win over Marion and six in the loss to Bishop Dwenger.

Potential tournament breakout player

Despite his great start to the season, junior Zak Krueger is someone that is still going to catch some people off guard with his play this week. Most SAC fans don’t really know much about the guard who is leading the Spartans in scoring at over 17 ppg.

A solid week will earn him the attention he deserves.

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Northrop senior Sydney Curry will be one of the most watched players this week.

(4) NORTHROP BRUINS (6-1, 2-0 SAC)

Why they could contend

Arguably no team in the SAC is as athletic as the Bruins. When they can run transition and have space to maneuver, they can cause a lot of trouble.

Northrop enters the tournament as one of just three teams that has yet to lose an SAC contest, a mark that includes wins over Bishop Luers and South Side.

The Bruins must shore up the free throw shooting, which nearly cost them against the Archers.

Potential tournament star

Qualen Pettus has been the most consistent contributor for the Bruins thus far in the young season. He can create his own shot, which leads to a plethora of opportunities in the way Northrop plays.

Pettus can get to the basket and either finish or dish, which opens up scoring opportunities for others. That will be pivotal for Northrop this week.

Potential tournament breakout player

Everyone has wanted to see Sydney Curry have an impact on the big stage, now as a senior he gets that chance. The crowds come the SAC Holiday Tournament to watch the stars of the city. After three years competing outside of the conference, the 6-foot-8 big gets his chance at coming up clutch.

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The Jordan family has previous success in the SAC Holiday Tournament. Can South Side sophomore Austin Jordan find a big role this year?

(5) SOUTH SIDE ARCHERS (0-5, 0-2 SAC)

Why they could contend

Don’t let the record fool you, the Archers are a definite threat in this tournament despite having to forfeit four victories due to using an ineligible player.

South has six players that are averaging nine or more points per game, led by sophomore Austin Jordan with 12.3 ppg. This is as deep of a scoring team as you will find in the league. Any of six or seven guys can pace this team in any given game, which causes issues for opposing defenses.

Potential tournament star

The big-event feel of the SAC Holiday Tournament fits JT Langston Jr.’s game. The junior is averaging a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds a contest. He plays with high energy and a lot of fortitude, which will be needed if South is to win this thing.

Potential tournament breakout player

Sophomore Austin Jordan enters this week as the top scorer on the Archers, averaging a little more than 12 points per game. He is also the primary facilitator on the floor, giving opportunities to his teammates in bunches. This could be the week that Jordan becomes a talking point in the city as just a 10th grader.

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Sophomore Brenden Lytle (left) and Bishop Dwenger enter the SAC Holiday Tournament off a win over Richmond at the Marion Classic.

(6) BISHOP DWENGER (5-1, 1-1 SAC)

Why they could contend

The Saints’ last two wins have come at Marion – victories over the Giants and Richmond – proving the team has moved past its sole loss to Concordia.

Arguably no one in the SAC has the resume of wins as Bishop Dwenger does. This team has already handled clutch situations against quality opponents, a trait needed to emerge as a champion in this tournament.

The Thursday 9 a.m. game between the Saints and Homestead will be one worth waking up early for.

Potential tournament star

As a senior, Hayden Smithey has been through the wars of the SAC. He knows what to expect in a tournament such as this and has the 6-5 frame to deal with the physicality and intensity that comes with it.

Smithey on his game not only gives teams trouble with his ability to finish around the hoop, it also opens up other opportunities for teammates on the perimeter.

Potential tournament breakout player

A name recognizable from football season, linebacker Jared Lee also plays basketball. This year, the senior has been one of the Saints’ most consistent scorers. A solid tournament performance could have fans talking about the 6-2 forward as much for his hoops prowess as they do his work on the gridiron.

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Senior point guard Cameron Starks will help lead a now Craig Young included Wayne team into the Holiday Tournament.

(7) WAYNE GENERALS (3-4, 0-2 SAC)

Why they could contend

Craig Young.

Despite not playing in the loss to Indianapolis North Central over the weekend, Young is expected to make his season debut against North Side on Wednesday. The senior is the best athlete in the SAC and immediately makes Wayne a contender for the tournament title. He is that good, and is surrounded by a cast of players that have made a pretty solid showing of themselves without him.

Potential tournament star

Young. No one player can guard him, and his mid-range jumper is as smooth as silk. The only concern is the rust that Young may have to shake off before getting into a rhythm. Opponents will play him physical, as that sometimes leads to Young mentally checking out of games.

Potential tournament breakout player

Michael Redding is not as streaky of an outside shooter as his older brothers Jacob and Dillon, but he can become zeroed in quickly with his three-point shot. There are a lot of shooters for Wayne who can knock down a big three when it counts, but Redding has that innate ability to find where an opponent isn’t, park himself there and be ready to catch and shoot on a moment’s notice.

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5-1, 2-0 in the conference and an eight seed? No problem for Concordia and Adam Gottschalk (pictured), who have been outperforming expectations all season.

(8) CONCORDIA CADETS (5-1, 2-0 SAC)

Why they can contend

First-year coach Phil Brackmann has returned to his alma mater and instilled a winning mentality and an aggressive defense to post five victories in the team’s first six games.

With six seniors and six juniors on the roster, this is a veteran group that has taken to its new coach rather quickly. While the offensive scoring output has been there, it is the defense that has propelled this team to league wins over Carroll and Bishop Dwenger, forcing teams into bad shots and untimely miscues.

Potential tournament star

Senior Jadon Dance returned to Concordia this season with the hopes that he could help a team under a first-year coach find itself going into the future. But the guard has been a part of something more, placing the Cadets firmly in the SAC race entering 2019.

Dance has a great move to the bucket from the outside that should work well in this tournament. He also has a great knack for making the extra pass in traffic for easy baskets.

Potential tournament breakout player

Junior Brayden Pearson is a name that should stick in people’s minds by the end of the season. He has range with his shot, but does his best work towards the basket. He can also clean up misses on the offensive boards. In a grind of a game that could erupt in this tournament, Pearson is one who can thrive.

(9) BISHOP LUERS KNIGHTS (1-4, 0-2 SAC)

Why they can contend

Apart from a blowout loss to 3A No. 1 Mishawaka Marian, the Knights have been competitive in every game this season, including a close defeat to Homestead less than two weeks ago.

While this team is still finding itself, it has some offensive weapons that opposing defenses have trouble containing. While Bishop Luers likely cannot win this tournament, it wouldn’t be shocking if it strung together a couple of victories.

Potential tournament star

Sophomore Naylon Thompson showed flashes of his potential last season, but has really emerged as a true future star in this city. He is second on the team in scoring (16 ppg) while leading the Knights in rebounds (4.4) and assists (3.8).

Potential tournament breakout candidate

Demarcus Hudson enters this week hitting 60 percent of his shots from the field and leads Bishop Luers in scoring. In a track meet-type of game, the junior has the skill set to really fill the bucket.

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Trayshawn Shoals (white jersey) has struggled scoring as of late for North Side, but his aggression and rebounding have given the Legends hope.

(10) NORTH SIDE LEGENDS (3-4, 1-1 SAC)

Why they can contend

The five-time defending champions of this tournament will need a miracle to be playing on Friday, although coach Gary Andrews has the coaching acumen to make his team believe.

This group is a work in progress. It turns the ball over too much and it really has no varsity playing experience whatsoever, but it plays hard, particularly on the defensive end.

If a team takes the Legends lightly, they have enough athleticism to make things interesting for awhile.

Potential tournament star

Mike Scott is the lone player with any type of varsity experience on the Legends’ roster, and even his playing time came very limited over the last few years. But the senior was impressive in Friday’s win over Liberty Christian, showcasing a smooth touch around from about seven feet and in. He also has the body size to bang in the post

Potential tournament breakout star

Ryan Collins hit four three-pointers in the victory over Liberty Christian. It is that type of hot shooting that North is going to need to have any shot at winning a game this week. A true inside-out game by the Legends offense, coupled with a significant decrease in its turnovers, is something drastically needed.

 

 

 

 

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