Preps Talk

Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Frankie O's Blog: It's a Man('s bracket) baby!

Friday, March 18, 2011
9:33 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

That time of year again when one word takes over the lexicon of most adult (by age!) males in this country. The fact that we only use it now makes it more special. But like wearing white pants after Labor Day, I dont want to hear about yours, nor will I talk about mine two days after the Final Four is over. Enough is enough. For now though: Its game on!

I had a more difficult time than usual, since thanks to D-Rose and the Bulls, Ive watched a ton of pro basketball this year and that hasnt left time for a lot else. Not to mention the fact that I always try to watch the Heat when they play a good team so I can watch them lose. That never gets old! So my college basketball knowledge, while not always a strong-suit, is even less so this year. (Yes, even guys who go on TV wearing a red bow tie, have limitations!) This college basketball season did not seem to capture my, or most people that I talk to at the bar, attention. Sure, I have Jimmer Fever, but how many games against great competition did he play? At a time when we were all watching? Add to that, the local college scene is a mess. Illinois was all over the road, leading to a lot of Webber must go discussions (or should I say vents!) from the Illini unhappy faithful. This team had a lot of expectation, played well early, then tripped all over themselves for most of the second half. And they were the good story! DePaul and Northwestern are irrelevant, and most of the lesser-lights are rebuilding. For me, it got so bad, that I didnt once look at Joe Lunardis bubble!

Still on Selection Sunday, the competitive juices, along with the beers, started flowing. Contemplating your bracket is one of the rites of spring and an opportunity to win cash and bragging rights, not necessarily in that order. But most of the time, well almost ALL of the time, my efforts spent on my bracket are just an exercise in futility. I dont know if there is anything that I have spent a considerable time at over the years that has produced less results. I mean besides the diets that is. (Can I help it that the only places that sell food when I get done work sell breakfast, burgers or pizza only? Or that all said food types taste better when washed down by beer?) But hope springs eternal when you hit that send button and gazing at that freshly printed bracket in your hands is a living testament to your sports acumen. At least thats what you think when you go to sleep, the morningafternoon (I work nights!) will bring another reality.

This year, I took the tact of picking teams that I would like to see win, divided by their seed, times the lesser of two evils. Who said this wasnt an exact science? One thing Ive learned through years of paralysis from over-analysis is that, in the end, its whether you pick the winner or not. Style points dont matter. How many times has one of my genius picks played a great game, only to falter down the stretch and lose by a basket? A gazillion! Thats how many! Then I have to listen to chalk boy, who didnt think twice about the game, he just picked the better seed, tell me that he picked the winner. Ugh.

So I put it all together and came out with the number one over-all seed winning. What?! Chalk? Hold on! Along the way, I picked 10 lower seeds to win in the first 32 games. This included 3 12-seeds and a 13!! Who else, besides someone in Jr. high school, do you know who can say that? I didnt think so. Amongst my very Sweet Sixteen, I have a 13 and a 10-seed. After this point though, my common sense screamed to take over and I joined the chalk highway. I didnt go all President Obama and pick 4 number 1s, but I did take two. I finished with a Final Four of Ohio State, Kansas, San Diego State and, against my better judgment, St. Johns. 1,1,2 and 6-seeds. I think Ohio State will beat Kansas in the final. Anyone who knows me understands how difficult it was for me to type that, but I had to stick with my formula.

I understand that none of that is going to happen, thats just the way it is, but I do know, that I will watch every game that is humanly possible and root for the big upset whenever it presents itself. The story of Cinderella is what makes this tournament so great. Like everything else, its about the story and no story is better than one about over-coming adversity or a higher seed. Add to it that upsets blow-up brackets, and that connects all of us in two ways: Were all captivated by this tournament and all it offers. And, after cursing our misfortune, almost all of us can toss our bracket in the garbage, where it belongs and know it will be 11 stress-free months until we need to add the b-word to our vocabulary.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.