CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings


CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

By Joe Collins & Taylor Bell

1 Simeon (8-0)

Results: Defeated Perspectives-Calumet 82-42 (Mon.), Corliss 79-51 (Wed.) and Whitney Young 62-55 (Thu.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Will Simeon and Warren meet again in the finals at Pontiac? Jabari Parker and company open with Bloomington on Wednesday.

2 Proviso East (7-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Pirates will be the team to beat in Hillside this week. Proviso East finished in third place in the tournament last season.

3 Warren (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Warren will be the No. 2 seed in Pontiac. They battle Plainfield North in Wednesdays opening round.
4 Curie (8-0)

Results: Defeated Robeson 70-18 (Tue.) and DuSable 65-33 (Thu.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Forward Cliff Alexander and the Condors could meet West Aurora in the second round in Pontiac, provided they survive Niles West on Wednesday.

5 Downers Grove South (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament (York HS)

Hoops Talk: Jerron Wilbut and the Mustangs look to defend their title in Elmhurst this week. They open against Palatine on Tuesday.

6 Bogan (8-0)

Results: Defeated Urban Prep-Englewood 79-18 (Mon.) and Perspectives-Calumet 80-69 (Wed.)

This Week: Centralia Holiday Tourney

Hoops Talk: The Bengals will be the No. 1 seed in Centralia. Other Chicago teams participating include Marist, St. Laurence and Richards.

7 De La Salle (7-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament (York HS)

Hoops Talk: Gavin Schilling and Alex Foster should give Downers South a run for the title. The Meteors open tourney play against Perspectives on Wednesday.
8 New Trier (9-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Connor Boehm and Austin Angel give the Trevians hope for a title this week. They will face Fenwick on Tuesday in the first round.
9 Whitney Young (4-2)

Results: Defeated Westinghouse 62-45 (Mon.) and Manley 81-38 (Wed); Lost to Simeon 62-55 (Thu.)

This Week: Beach Ball Classic, Myrtle Beach SC

Hoops Talk: Gabriel Snider and Jahlil Okafor are picking up the slack in the wake of injury losses to Tommie Hamilton and Jermaine Morgan.

10 Andrew (6-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Kankakee Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Thunderbolts look to be the favorites in Kankakee, a tournament that features a 3A4A and 1A2A bracket. They face Carver Wednesday.

11 Bloom (9-0)

Results: Defeated Rich East 59-50 (Tue.)

This Week: McDipper Tournament at Rich South

Hoops Talk: The Blazing Trojans, who open against Corliss on Monday, are favorites to win in Richton Park this week. Seton and Crete-Monee could challenge.

12 Plainfield East (7-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Pekin Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: The Bengals, No. 2 seed in Pekin, will battle Thornridge in Tuesdays opening round. Senior guard Dee Brown will be tough to contain.
13 Seton (11-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: McDipper Tournament at Rich South

Hoops Talk: Undefeated record will be challenged by a talented field at the McDipper. The Sting will open against Rich Central on Monday.

14 Homewood-Flossmoor (7-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Proviso West Tournament

Hoops Talk: A potential second round matchup of H-F and New Trier could be a nice holiday treat. The Vikings will take on Von Steuben in the first round.
15 West Aurora (8-1)
Results: Defeated York 67-42 (Fri.)

This Week: Pontiac Holiday Tournament

Hoops Talk: Look for Juwan Starks to turn some heads in Peoria. Could they be the sleeper team in the tournament?

16 Elgin (12-1)
Results: Defeated Holy Trinity 54-30 (Mon.), Glenbard North 57-51 (Tue.), Neuqua Valley 52-48 (Wed.) and La Lumiere IN 40-34 (Thu.)

This Week: No games scheduled

Hoops Talk: Huge week for the Maroons, who beat national power La Lumiere to win the Elgin Tourney. Kory Brown was deadly from beyond the arc.
17 Notre Dame (9-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wheeling Hardwood Classic

Hoops Talk: The Dons, along with Stevenson, look solid in this tourney. ND opens against Vernon Hills. If the Dons win, theyll battle the Lake Park-Deerfield winner.

18 North Chicago (6-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: State Farm Holiday Classic (Bloomington-Normal)

Hoops Talk: Aaron Simpson and the Warhawks look to tame the field in Bloomington. First up: Culver Academy (IN) on Tuesday.
19 Metea Valley (9-0)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Hinsdale South Tournament

Hoops Talk: New-kid-on-the-block Metea a perfect fit for the inaugural Hinsdale South tourney. Their opener against Eisenhowers Grinnell offense could be fun.
20 Huntley (10-1)
Results: Defeated Lake Zurich 38-26 (Tue.), Hope Academy 66-60 (Thu.) and Crystal Lake Central 55-49 (Fri.)

This Week: No games scheduled

Hoops Talk: Look out for the Red Raiders. Sophomore forward Amanze Egekeze scored 21 points in the title game.
Looming & Lurking: Benet, Morton, Marshall, Farragut, Glenbrook North, Stevenson, Libertyville, Harlan, St. Ignatius, St. Viator, Hope, St. Rita, Oak Park, Foreman, Crystal Lake Central and Crane.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout


Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below:

Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context


Will Bears see instant improvement under Matt Nagy? Putting his first-year expectations in context

Circling back around from the playoffs to the Bears, or at least to the Bears using the current postseason as a bit of a prism, magnifying glass, measuring stick, all of the above:

The ultimate question, obviously meaningfully unanswerable for perhaps another 10 or 11 months, revolves around expectations that were ushered in along with Matt Nagy and the rest of his coaching staff. One early guess is that there’ll be an inevitable positive bump in the record, the only true measuring stick. Depending on changes in practices, strength training, luck, whatever, Nagy might fare better than John Fox simply by virtue of having a presumably healthier roster — pick any three Bears who were injured during the 2017 season: Leonard Floyd, Cameron Meredith, Eric Kush, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Mitch Unrein, Kevin White and Willie Young — and a broken-in Mitch Trubisky from the get-go.

This is far from a given, however. Far, far from a given for the Bears. Of the 10 coaches hired in the 50 years since George Halas stopped, only Fox, Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt improved on the winning percentage of their immediate predecessor. All dipped, save for Jack Pardee, who in 1975 equaled the 4-10 finish of Abe Gibron before him. And Pardee was getting Walter Payton in that year’s draft, so things started looking up in a hurry.

And maybe that should be the expectation for Nagy, who projects to get some or all of Fox’s wounded back, plus a draft class beginning with No. 8 overall.

Better Bears record in 2018? Maybe, but ...

The Bears are perhaps something of an anomaly (imagine that) in the near constant of incoming coaches failing to improve matters in their first years. One of the more memorable aspects of this writer’s first year on the Bears beat (1992) — besides the obvious pyrotechnics of Mike Ditka’s epic final season — was the startling turnarounds effected by first-year (and first-time) NFL coaches that year, with several teams on the Bears’ schedule that year, meaning there were chances to study those in depth.

Consider: Bill Cowher took the Steelers from 7-9 to 11-5, Dennis Green took the Vikings from 8-8 to 11-5, Mike Holmgren took the Packers from 4-12 to 11-5, Bobby Ross took the Chargers from 4-12 to 11-5, and Dave Shula took the Bengals from 3-13 to 5-11.

The Bears played all but the Chargers that year, losing twice to Green, once to Holmgren and defeating the Cowher and Shula teams. Holmgren’s Packers didn’t make the playoffs, but he had to make an in-season quarterback change, which worked out pretty well long-term (Brett Favre).

Bears coaching-change history notwithstanding, the Nagy bar should be well above the five wins of Fox’s 2017. Nagy is a first-time head coach, but none of Cowher, Green, Holmgren, Ross or Shula had ever been NFL head coaches previously, either. Green and Ross had been college head coaches, albeit Green with a losing record and Ross barely .500 in those tenures.

And those coaches were taking over in the last year before the advent of free agency, which began in 1993. The Bears “landed” Anthony Blaylock and Craig Heyward. The Vikings secured Jack Del Rio. The Packers, Reggie White.

Odd years coming

Expectations vs. results will be interesting to observe in quite a few places this season. In some spots, the situation wasn’t completely broken but they “fixed” it anyway, in the dubious tradition of the Bears axing Lovie Smith after consecutive seasons of 11-5, 8-8 and 10-6 — two more wins (29) than Fox and Marc Trestman had combined (27) over the next five years.

Sometimes that sort of thing can work out. Phil Jackson did get the Michael Jordan Bulls to the next level that Doug Collins hadn’t. And Joe Maddon got the Cubs over the Rick Renteria hump, though adding Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Jon Lester probably helped, too. Fox got the Broncos into a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, but Gary Kubiak won one with Manning. Fox’s Broncos went against the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, one of the top 10 defenses of all time, while Kubiak had the good fortune of instead having one of the all-time great defenses in 2015.

But back to current NFL case studies:

— The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season, his third winning year out of four there, two of those going to the playoffs.

— The Titans concluded their playoff year with the exit of Mike Mularkey, his reward for a second straight 9-7 that reversed four straight losing years under others.

— Chuck Pagano had five .500-or-better seasons with the Colts, didn’t have Andrew Luck all year, and was fired two years after going 5-3 with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for Luck.

What the expectations are in those venues is their business, just as it was when Phil Emery launched Smith in a fashion similar to the Titans with Mularkey. Smith didn’t reach the 2012 playoffs but would have been fired for anything short of a Super Bowl appearance, as Mularkey was for only winning one playoff game with Marcus Mariota as his quarterback.

All of which makes the Nagy/Pace Era more than a little intriguing. Nagy takes over a team with a No. 2-overall quarterback, as Mularkey did with Mariota. Some of Mularkey’s undoing traced to failing to maximize Mariota with an offense suited to how his quarterback plays his best, and force-fitting a player into a scheme is high-risk at best.

That doesn’t really apply in the case of a conservatively wired Fox, who directed that the offense be kept under ball-security control with a rookie quarterback. Fox and Dowell Loggains arguably were as constrained by Trubisky as he was by them.

But Nick Foles flourished with the Eagles under Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson, struggling a bit under Jeff Fisher. Case Keenum, a teammate of Foles when the Rams played in St. Louis, was so-so under the defense-based Fisher with the Rams, yet went supernova this year under the defense-based Mike Zimmer with the Vikings, which speaks to the value of the right coordinator irrespective of the head coach’s offensive or defensive background.

In the end Nagy’s achievements will be player-based. They always are. What he can do with what he’s got and given, via draft, free agency or whatever, vs. the successes and non-successes of others in his situation, is the work in progress now.