Bears

CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

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CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

1 Simeon (26-1)

Results: No games played last week
This Week: Tuesday vs. Oak Lawn or Argo (4A Oak Lawn Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Argo sectional is loaded this year. Teams include Simeon, Bogan, Brother Rice, Curie, De La Salle, Marist, St. Rita and Whitney Young.

2 Proviso East (26-0)

Results: Defeated Oak Park-River Forest 63-48 and Marquette, WI 72-52
This Week: Tuesday vs. Wheaton North or Hoffman Estates (4A Proviso East Regional)
Hoops Talk: If the Pirates are victorious Tuesday, they would play either Glenbard North or Glenbard East in Maywood on Friday.

3 Curie (24-2)
Results: No games played last week
This Week: Tuesday vs. Reavis or Kennedy (4A Marist Regional)
Hoops Talk: Cliff Alexander, Devin Foster and company are thinking state. The Argo Sectional might as well be a state tournament (see above).
4 Warren (22-3)

Results: Defeated North Chicago 84-80
This Week: Wednesday vs. Hersey or Buffalo Grove (4A Stevenson Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Blue Devils soar into the playoffs after Wednesdays North Suburban conference championship. Darius Paul: 28 points, 16 rebounds.

5 Plainfield East (25-1)

Results: Defeated Oswego East 74-46
This Week: Tuesday vs. Wheaton Warrenville South or Plainfield North (4A Neuqua Valley Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Bengals, top seed in the East Aurora Sectional, could make some noise. Senior Brian Bennett (26 points, 15 rebounds vs. OE) is a force.

6 Bogan (24-3)

Results: Defeated Dunbar 76-61
This Week: Tuesday vs. Mt. Carmel or Juarez (4A Mt. Carmel Regional)
Hoops Talk: It could be an entertaining regional final on Friday nightif Bogan and De La Salle win their games this week.

7 Andrew (22-2)

Results: Lost to Thornwood 57-55; Defeated Lincoln-Way West 49-42
This Week: Tuesday vs. Lincoln-Way Central or Eisenhower (4A Andrew Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Thunderbolts will shoot for their first regional championship since the 1989-90 season.

8 Elgin (23-3)

Results: Defeated Geneva 43-30 and Metea Valley 59-50
This Week: Tuesday vs. South Elgin or Streamwood (4A St. Charles North Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Maroons are back-to-back Upstate Valley champs for the first time since 1987, but Kory Brown and company are thinking bigger.

9 Downers Grove South (19-5)

Results: No games played
This Week: Tuesday vs. Oswego East or Romeoville (4A Downers Grove South Regional)
Hoops Talk: If the Mustangs win Tuesday, they would play the Hinsdale Central-Waubonsie Valley winner on Friday night.
10 Huntley (24-3)

Results: Lost to Grayslake Central 52-47
This Week: Tuesday vs. Rockford Jefferson or DeKalb (4A Huntley Regional)
Hoops Talk: The loss to G-C in the Fox Valley title game is a blip on an otherwise impressive season. Auburn and Elgin could be lurking at sectionals.

11 Bloom (24-3)

Results: Defeated Kankakee 70-28
This Week: Tuesday vs. Joliet Central or T.F. North (4A Joliet Central Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Blazing Trojans won the Southland conference on Friday. They could end up facing fellow Southland foe Crete-Monee in sectionals.

12 Lemont (24-2)

Results: Defeated Glenbard South 63-50 and Hillcrest 58-57
This Week: Tuesday vs. Corliss or Bremen (3A Providence Regional)
Hoops Talk: Talk about entering the playoffs on a high note. The win over Hillcrest gave the Indians a share of the conference title (first since 1991).

13 Hillcrest (21-5)

Results: Lost to Lemont 58-57
This Week: Tuesday vs. Evergreen Park or Joliet Catholic (3A Evergreen Park regional)
Hoops Talk: The Hawks couldnt hold a 12-point lead against Lemont. Jayone Troutman and company will still be a tough draw in the playoffs.

14 St. Ignatius (21-5)

Results: Lost to De La Salle 56-48; Defeated Mount Carmel 66-39
This Week: Tuesday vs. Noble Street CharterComer or Hope (3A St. Ignatius Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Wolfpack have a few injuries, but a relatively tame sectional - at least on paper -- could help them out.

15 Orr (19-4)
Results: No games played
This Week: Tuesday vs. Noble Street CharterC. Bulls or Clark (3A Wheaton Academy Regional)
Hoops Talk: The Spartans, along with North Lawndale, Marshall and Farragut are all in the Glenbard South Sectional.

16 Marshall (20-7)

Results: No games played
This Week: Tuesday vs. Montini or Clemente (3A Marshall Regional)
Hoops Talk: Home court advantage should come in handy for the Commandos, who could end up playing rival North Lawndale in the regional final.

17 New Trier (21-5)

Results: Defeated Niles North 93-84 OT
This Week: Tuesday vs. Niles West or Amundsen (4A Niles West Regional)
Hoops Talk: Connor Boehm tallied 32 points and 14 rebounds in a wild victory over Niles North. NT gets the top seed at the Glenbrook South Sectional.

18 De La Salle (16-6)

Results: Defeated St. Ignatius 56-48
This Week: Tuesday vs. Kenwood (4A Mt. Carmel Regional)
Hoops Talk: De La Salle has battled injuries this season, the latest is with Gavin Schilling (ankle sprain). Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster will lead the Meteors.

19 Seton (25-4)

Results: Defeated University 72-64 2-OT and Hales 62-55
This Week: Wednesday vs. Herscher (2A Herscher Sectional)
Hoops Talk: The Sting escape a huge upset in the semis. They respond with a win over the defending state champs and now face a 26-win Herscher team.

20 Thornwood (20-6)

Results: Defeated Andrew 57-55 and Thornton 61-58
This Week: Tuesday vs. T.F. South (4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional)
Hoops Talk: Huge week for the Thunderbirds, knocking off first place Andrew and then beating rival Thornton to capture the SW Suburban-Red title.

Looming & Lurking: Hope Academy, St. Rita, Whitney Young, Metea Valley, Farragut, Mundelein, North Chicago, Riverside-Brookfield, St. Viator, Oak Park-River Forest, Herscher, York, Marist, St. Joseph, Crete-Monee, Grayslake Central, Yorkville, Homewood-Flossmoor, St. Patrick, Ridgewood, Grant, Niles North

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.