Bulls

CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

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CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

By Joe Collins & Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

1 Simeon (20-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wednesday vs. Douglass (Public League playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, Kendrick Nunn and company are sure to treat the Public League playoffs like they would for the IHSAs in March.
2 Proviso East (19-0)

Results: Defeated Hinsdale South 71-59 and Proviso West 100-65

This Week: Friday vs. Morton, Saturday at Willowbrook

Hoops Talk: The French Connection (Paris Lee and Paris Burns) help fuel weekend victories by the Pirates on both sides of the floor.

3 Curie (20-1)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wednesday vs. Amundsen (Public League playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Will Curie get their rematch vs. the top-ranked Wolverines in the Public League playoffs? Sophomore center Cliff Alexander will be tough to stop.

4 Warren (17-2)

Results: Defeated Lake Forest 50-38 and Zion-Benton 70-52

This Week: Friday vs. Zion-Benton, Saturday vs. Glenbrook North

Hoops Talk: Nathan Booth went 12-17 from the field and matched his career high in points (28) Saturday at Z-B.

5 Plainfield East (20-1)

Results: Defeated Plainfield Central 64-37, Minooka 48-41 (OT) and Naperville North 70-48.

This Week: Tuesday vs. Plainfield North, Friday at Romeoville

Hoops Talk: Talk about making a statement. The Bengals put the clamps on Minooka (2nd in SW Prairie) and then wallop a good DuPage Valley team by 22.

6 Andrew (17-1)

Results: Lost to Thornton 47-45; Defeated Stagg 51-40

This Week: Tuesday at Bradley, Friday vs. Lincoln-Way North

Hoops Talk: Jubril Adekoya and Glorind Lisha help Andrew rebound from their first defeat on the season.

7 Bogan (19-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wednesday vs. Uplift (Public League playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Devonte Smith and Devaughn Johnson will look to prove theres more to Public League hoops than just Simeon and Curie.

8 Downers Grove South (18-4)

Results: Defeated Addison Trail 66-52, Willowbrook 68-55 and Downers Grove North 66-35

This Week: Saturday vs. Leyden

Hoops Talk: Kevin Honn and Jamall Millison are two key players stepping up in the wake of Jerron Wilbuts absence (suspension).

9 Huntley (19-2)

Results: Defeated Prairie Ridge 56-43 and McHenry 34-29

This Week: Wednesday vs. Crystal Lake South, Saturday vs. Dundee-Crown

Hoops Talk: Its not just the Amanze Egekeze show at Huntley. Guard Troy Miller has stepped up nicely this season as well.

10 Elgin (16-3)

Results: Lost to St. Charles East 65-63

This Week: Tuesday at DeKalb, Wednesday vs. Batavia, Friday at Larkin

Hoops Talk: The Maroons have now lost two straight. Kory Brown still impressive, though: 27 points and 13 boards against the Saints.

11 Whitney Young (12-8)

Results: Defeated North Lawndale 48-47, Crane 45-29; Lost to Bishop Gorman 69-50.

This Week: Wednesday vs. DuSable (Public League playoffs)

Hoops Talk: The Dolphins finished in a four-way tie for first in the Red-West, with Orr, Marshall and Farragut.

12 De La Salle (14-4)

Results: Lost to St. Rita 60-46

This Week: Tuesday vs. Hillcrest

Hoops Talk: Tough closing stretch for the Meteors. Three of their last four opponents are ranked in the CSN Top 20 (Hillcrest, St. Ignatius and Simeon).
13 St. Ignatius (17-3)

Results: Lost to Leo 58-54; Defeated Fenwick 59-38 and New Trier 49-42

This Week: Tuesday vs. Brother Rice, Friday vs. Gordon Tech

Hoops Talk: Brian Howard helped the Wolfpack bounce back in a big way. His game-high 18 points fueled his team against fellow CSN Top 20-foe New Trier.

14 New Trier (18-4)

Results: Lost to Waukegan 54-51 and St. Ignatius 49-42

This Week: Friday vs. Evanston (at Welsh-Ryan Arena)

Hoops Talk: Rough week for the Trevians, who now tune up for a big rivalry game in a large venue.

15 Hillcrest (18-4)

Results: Defeated Oak Forest 64-29

This Week: Tuesday at De La Salle

Hoops Talk: The Hawks hit five three pointers in the first quarter Friday night against the Bengals. A huge measuring-stick game awaits on Tuesday.

16 Bloom (19-3)

Results: Defeated Kankakee 77-27 and Rich South 64-44

This Week: Friday at Rich South

Hoops Talk: This weeks game against the Stars will mark the rubber game between the two teams. Bloom won at the McDipper, South beat Bloom 16.

17 Metea Valley (19-2)

Results: Defeated Neuqua Valley 71-67 (OT); Lost to Hinsdale Central 73-72 (OT)

This Week: Wednesday at Lake Park, Saturday vs. Waubonsie Valley

Hoops Talk: Ryan Solomon carried the Mustangs this week, but M-V could not figure out sophomore Chase Hamilton and the upstart Red Devils.

18 Orr (16-3)

Results: Defeated Crane 70-45

This Week: Wednesday vs. Powerhouse (Public League playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Marquise Pryor and Jamal McDowell will prove that Orr will not go away easily in the Public League playoffs.

19 Hope Academy (19-2)

Results: No games played last week

This Week: Wednesday @ Ida Crown, Friday vs. Northside College Prep

Hoops Talk: Hope needs to focus on these two games, which includes Fridays senior night, and not look ahead to Tuesdays tilt against Seton.
20 Lemont (19-2)

Results: Defeated Tinley Park 75-66

This Week: Thursday vs. T.F. North

Hoops Talk: Lemonts 27-0 run erased a 21-3 lead for Tinley Park Friday night. Juozas Balciunas had a career-high 31 points.

Looming & Lurking: St. Rita, Marshall, Crane, Farragut, West Aurora, Naperville North, Seton, Foreman, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor, Notre Dame, North Chicago, Riverside-Brookfield, Crete-Monee, St. Viator, Oak Park, Herscher, Immaculate Conception, York.

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

Bulls are unlocking something with Zach LaVine: 'He was terrific'

MINNEAPOLIS—The applause was thunderous on the welcome back for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, two Timberwolves draft picks sent away when the chance to acquire Jimmy Butler came along.

But some of the air was taken out the Target Center due to the absence of Jimmy Butler, who’ll miss the next several weeks after deciding to have surgery on his right meniscus following an injury Friday night.

So while there was no rematch of the thrilling contest the two teams had in Chicago, some things were very much the same.

Lauri Markkanen’s struggles continued.

LaVine showed more flashes of his complete game and Dunn had a couple moments of his own.

And on the other side, Tom Thibodeau kept his starters in the game with victory secured and his team up 20 points in the Timberwolves’ 122-104 win over the Bulls Saturday night.

The Timberwolves broke the game open in the fourth quarter with some key shot-making from veteran Jamal Crawford, as he was one point short of the Timberwolves having four 20-point scorers on the night.

Jeff Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for 70 points in their first game of many without Butler.

LaVine was a main reason the Bulls stayed afloat in the first 36 minutes, finishing with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his first game back in front of the Minneapolis crowd he spent his first few years playing for.

Going head-up with his former teammate Wiggins for a stretch, the two seemed to relish their practice matchups. Wiggins was doing a lot of pure scoring while LaVine seemed to enjoy probing the defense and making plays for teammates, taking more of a ballhandling role as opposed to floating around the perimeter for 3-point attempts.

“He’s doing a much better job not settling for tough shots,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s attacking the basket much better than he was. You can just see him getting his legs, getting more comfortable. It was good to see him as a playmaker, he was terrific.”

Perhaps the Bulls are unlocking something with LaVine, getting him the ball in different places and on the move, where he made some nifty passes in traffic, exercising patience and maturity.

“I liked it. Hopefully we get a little bit more of it,” LaVine said. “But it’s working. Should’ve stuck to it.”

They didn’t, as the Bulls didn’t look as organized as they have previously. Dunn looked extremely motivated and aggressive but it seemed to work against him at times as Teague took advantage of Dunn being too quick for his own good. So hyped up, Dunn blew a breakaway dunk in the first half, but luckily Nwaba was right behind him for a putback.

That type of energy was expected for Dunn and LaVine, maybe even moreso for Dunn considering his underwhelming rookie year where he didn’t get much chance to play as a top-five pick.

Dunn finished with 10 points on four of 12 shooting while Cameron Payne scored 11  in 19 minutes, but the decision making from both point guards left plenty to be desired—which is to be expected given the lack of veterans on the floor.

Their starting unit again struggled as Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez again sat as the evaluation of the younger players continued.

Cristiano Felicio had a better outing than his foul-plagued game against Philadelphia, scoring 11 points but had his hands full on the other end. David Nwaba impressed for the second straight game as a starter, getting in the open floor to force the action, scoring 14 with nine rebounds in 34 minutes.

“The second quarter, I thought, was one of our better quarters of the year,” Hoiberg said. “As bad as we played in the first quarter, I thought we were down 20. We just didn’t sustain it. Against a great team like that, it’s gonna cost you.”

Nwaba, along with Bobby Portis, was a big reason why the Timberwolves couldn’t run away from the Bulls until well into the fourth quarter, even after taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter and sending Hoiberg scrambling for early timeouts.

“You can expect it because you haven’t played with that group before,” LaVine said. “We’re gonna get that chemistry down. We (only) had a couple practices with that lineup.”

Whether it’s the lineup change or just the rookie blues, the year has clearly caught up with Markkanen, who only made one field goal in 32 minutes.

“Gotta get some extra shots up. I see myself thinking too much,” Markkanen said. “That’s how it is. Of course it’s frustrating to not make shots but it is what it is. Gotta work through it.”

Markkanen has gone one-for-eight in each game coming from the All-Star break and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

“He’s shooting the heck out of the ball in practice,” Hoiberg said. “He’s struggling right now with his confidence, no question about it. As a shooter, you gotta keep looking to be aggressive, take the open ones. It takes one game to get that confidence back.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."