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 (20-1)

Results: Defeated Bogan 68-57 and Harlan 81-59

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Point guard Jaleni Neely, back from an ACL tear last summer, will be playing a major role for the Wolverines down the stretch.

The Drive: Watch the latest behind-the-scenes webisode on Simeon here.
2 Proviso East (17-0)

Results: Defeated Addison Trail 79-36

This Week: Friday vs. Hinsdale South, Saturday at Proviso West

Hoops Talk: Keith Carter sat out vs. A-T, but Sterling Browns efforts (17 points, 12 rebounds) pave the way to another easy conference victory.
3 Curie (20-1)

Results: Defeated Kenwood 49-46, Harper 82-30 and Leo 60-46

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Behind Cliff Alexander and Devin Foster, the Condors could do serious damage in the playoffs, both Public League and IHSA.
4 Warren (15-2)

Results: Defeated Stevenson 64-38 and Mundelein 87-78

This Week: Friday at Lake Forest, Saturday at Zion-Benton

Hoops Talk: Two double-doubles for center Nathan Booth this week and Darius Paul netted a career-high 30 points Saturday against Mundelein

5 Andrew (16-0)

Results: Defeated Tinley Park 58-37, Lincoln-Way West 66-30 and Thornwood 48-45

This Week: Tuesday vs. Thornton, Friday at Stagg

Hoops Talk: Andrew was in need of another marquee win. They got it Sunday in South Holland and it now places them in control of the Southwest Suburban Red.
6 Plainfield East (17-1)
Results: Oswego East 56-55, Oswego 66-63 and Plainfield South 84-66

This Week: Tuesday at Plainfield Central, Friday vs. Minooka and Saturday vs. Naperville North

Hoops Talk: A couple of close calls this week, but the Bengals hold serve in the Southwest Prairie conference behind Dee Brown and Brian Bennett.

7 Bogan (19-2)

Results: Lost to Simeon 68-57

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Nice second half comeback wasnt enough against the top-ranked Wolverines. They will still be a tough out in the playoffs.

8 New Trier (18-2)
Results: Defeated Glenbrook South 60-54

This Week: Friday vs. Waukegan, Saturday vs. St. Ignatius (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: The Trevians will enjoy some home cooking before five straight away from Winnetka. Saturdays game against the Wolfpack will be one to watch.
9 Elgin (16-2)

Results: Lost to St. Charles North 55-53

This Week: Friday at St. Charles East

Hoops Talk: Kory Brown scored 23 points but it was not enough as the Maroons have their 12-game winning streak snapped.
10 De La Salle (14-3)

Results: Lost to St. Joseph 68-61; Defeated Loyola 52-33

This Week: Friday at St. Rita

Hoops Talk: Interesting finish to the regular season for the Meteors, whose last five games include three against teams currently ranked in the CSN Top 20.
11 Downers Grove South (15-4)

Results: Defeated Hinsdale South 55-52 and Morton 57-46

This Week: Tuesday vs. Addison Trail, Friday at Willowbrook, Saturday vs. Downers Grove North

Hoops Talk: Jordan Cannon and Kevin Honn came up big in Jerron Wilbuts absence (two-game suspension).

12 Huntley (17-2)
Results: Defeated Cary-Grove 41-32 and Dundee-Crown 45-40

This Week: Tuesday at Prairie Ridge, Friday at McHenry

Hoops Talk: The Red Raiders are now in the drivers seat in the Fox Valley Valley conference after Saturdays triumph over Dundee-Crown.

13 St. Ignatius (15-2)

Results: Defeated Hales 56-43

This Week: Tuesday at Leo, Friday vs. Fenwick, Saturday vs. New Trier (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: Marty McClure and Peter Ryckbosch each tallied 12 points against Hales. The Wolfpack will face a battle in all three games this week.

14 Whitney Young (10-7)

Results: Defeated Collins 93-31 and Soldan International Studies MO 53-46

This Week: Tuesday at North Lawndale, Thursday vs. Crane

Hoops Talk: The Dolphins continue to roll behind sophomore phenom Jahlil Okafor. He had 15 points against Soldan.
15 Metea Valley (18-1)

Results: Defeated Bartlett 90-53 and South Elgin 58-53

This Week: Wednesday vs. Neuqua Valley, Saturday at Hinsdale Central

Hoops Talk: The Mustangs compiled a 28-0 run against Bartlett. Kenny Obendorf and Milan Bojanic continue to impress in the Upstate Eight.

16 Hillcrest (17-4)

Results: Defeated Crete-Monee 70-60 and T.F. North 74-41

This Week: Friday at Oak Forest

Hoops Talk: The Hawks duo of Jalen Loving and Jovan Mooring have been giving opponents fits this season.

17 Bloom (17-3)
Results: Defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 63-56, Rich Central 69-41

This Week: Tuesday at Kankakee, Friday vs. Rich East

Hoops Talk: Johnny Griffin, Lejavious Johnson and Donald Moore help keep the Blazing Trojans motoring in the south suburbs.

18 Orr (16-3)
Results: Defeated Marshall 68-50, Hales 51-37

This Week: vs. Westinghouse, then Public League Playoffs

Hoops Talk: Marquise Pryor and Deshawn King are two of the reasons that the high-flying Spartans have stood out in the mighty Red-West conference.

19 Hope Academy (19-2)

Results: Defeated Lake Forest Academy 77-71 2 OT, Chicagoland Jewish 72-46 and St. Benedict 75-70

This Week: No games scheduled this week

Hoops Talk: No Jalen James? No problem. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith could help blaze a trail downstate.

20 Lemont (18-2)

Results: Defeated Providence 70-65, Bremen 56-34 and Oak Forest 69-62

This Week: Friday vs. Tinley Park

Hoops Talk: Yes, another basketball power resides in the South Suburban-Blue besides Hillcrest. Junior guard Juozas Balciunnas is having a fine season.
Looming & Lurking: Marshall, Crane, Farragut, Naperville North, West Aurora, Seton, Foreman, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor, Notre Dame, North Chicago, Riverside-Brookfield, Crete-Monee, St. Viator, Oak Park, Glenbard West, Herscher, Immaculate Conception, Joliet West, York

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?