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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA quarterfinals

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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA quarterfinals

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA quarterfinal football playoff games across Chicagoland on High School Lites, Saturday at 11 p.m. In Class 8A, can Homewood-Flossmoor keep the Drive alive and beat Loyola Academy on the road? Naperville Central suffered its lone defeat against Waubonsie Valley. Can it get revenge on the Warriors in Saturday’s rematch? In 7A, can Cary-Grove take its ‘ground and pound’ on the road and win in Batavia? In 6A, does the final story of Lincoln-Way North's final season extend to the semifinals, or does Hinsdale South close the final chapter in Phoenix football history? Catch highlights from games in 4A through 8A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Class 8A

(8) Homewood-Flossmoor at (1) Loyola, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: The 8A showdown that many fans across the state have wanted to see all season long is here. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-1) head coach Craig Buzea will look to his quick strike and explosive offense to counter the stout Loyola defense. Keep an eye on HF senior QB Bryce Gray (Notre Dame baseball commit) and senior twin running backs Devonte and Deante Harley-Hampton, who will be asked to dent one of the state's top defenses. Loyola Academy (11-0) head coach John Holocek will look to get his offense in gear behind senior QB Emmett Clifford, senior RB Dara Laja and a group of big and physical receivers, led by senior Eric Eshoo (Northwestern). Whose defense can rise to the challenge this week? Everyone will talk about the HF offense against the Loyola defense, but for me the key matchup is the Ramblers offense against the Vikings defense. 

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 24, HF 21

(6) Naperville Central at (30) Waubonsie Valley, 1:30 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This game is a DuPage Valley Conference rematch from back in Week 4, a Waubonsie Valley 15-14 upset win over the visiting Redhawks (10-1). Waubonsie Valley head coach Paul Murphy will give the football to senior RB Max Irhy early and often. Irhy will run behind a solid Warriors offensive line, and QB Jack Connolly is more than capable of keeping the Redhawks defense honest with the playaction pass. Naperville Central went back to work after that loss to Waubonsie Valley (7-4) and hasn't looked back since. Senior QB Connor Joyce has been a huge part of the Redhawks' success since the loss to Waubonsie Valley. Paired with an already strong running game, the Redhawks are going to be tough to defend. Can Naperville Central slow down the Warriors running game this time around and get the football back to its offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Naperville Central 21 Waubonsie Valley 14

(5) Brother Rice at (13) Palatine, 2 p.m.

EDGY's Take: How about those Pirates? Palatine (9-2) and head coach Rick Splitt have won five straight games and are playing great football at the right time of the season. Palatine will rely on senior QB Zach Oles, who is a threat at all times with the pass and the run. Oles also has plenty of targets in WR Matt Lamm along with RB Josh Turner. The Pirates also have a knack of winning close games this season. Brother Rice (10-1) and head coach Brian Badke will look towards senior QB Cam Miller and a potent shotgun spread offense. Keep an eye out for junior WR Ricky Smalling for the Crusaders. Can Palatine slow down the Rice spread passing attack? Can the Crusaders defense get a handle on Zach Oles?

EDGY's Pick: Brother Rice 34 Palatine 31

Class 7A

(5) Cary-Grove at (4) Batavia, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Cary-Grove (10-1), coached by Brad Seaburg, was supposed to be in a reloading mode this season after making it to the 7A state title game a year ago, and obviosuly the Trojans didn't get the memo.  Cary-Grove junior FB/LB Ty Pennington is the main ball carrier in their power running game and he’s also a terrific defender. Batavia (10-1) and head coach Dennis Piron struck Simeon early with the big play in last week's 35-14 win. The Bulldogs are getting a big season from senior QB Kyle Niemiec who is a threat with the run and the pass. Batavia also has an impressive group of tall and speedy receivers including junior TE Glenn Albanese. Can the Batavia defense get the football back to its offense early and often? Can the Cary-Grove defense contain the Batavia balanced offense and also avoid giving up the big play? 

EDGY's Pick: Cary-Grove 27 Batavia 21

Class 6A

(13) Hinsdale South at (1) Lincoln-Way North, 6 p.m. 

EDGY's Take: This game could easily wind up being one of the top games across the state on Saturday. Mike Barry has his Hornets (8-3) are on a two year run. Keep an eye out for senior QB Sean McCormack along with senior RB Marcus Curry. The Hornets offense can hit teams equally well with the run and the pass, while the defense is anchored by senior four star ranked DE Josh King (Michigan State). Lincoln-Way North and head coach George Czart has directed the Phoenix well this season despite the closing of the school in the balance at the end of this school year. Lincoln-Way North (11-0) features a balanced offense behind QB Ryan Arthur plus WR Drew Slager, WR Jaylin Branch and RB Joe Peters. Can the Phoenix defense slow down  the multiple weapons from the Hornets offense? Can Hinsdale South's defense get a handle on the Phoenix passing game? 

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way North 28 Hinsdale South 27 OT

Class 5A

(3) Joliet Catholic at (7) Nazareth, 1 p.m.

EDGY's Take: These two East Suburban Catholic Conference foes will square off in a game that will have a much bigger feel on Saturday in LaGrange Park. Joliet Catholic (10-1) took a 31-0 halftime lead then hung on for dear life to beat the Road Runners 38-35 back in Week 7. Joliet Catholic, who features big and physical offensive and defensive lines, will run the football early and often. Keep an eye out for JCA senior RB Michael Johnson, sophomore RB Ke'von Johnson plus QB Cade Earl. Nazareth Academy (9-2) brings plenty of talent to the table. Keep an eye on senior WR/RB/DB Julian Love (Notre Dame) and junior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin. Did Nazareth find something they can exploit from their Week 7 loss to the Hilltoppers? Will we see the ‘first half’ or ‘second half’ JCA team this time around against Nazareth?

EDGY's Pick: Joliet Catholic 35 Nazareth Academy 27

(3) Peoria (10-1) at (7) Lincoln-Way West, 3 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Peoria and head coach Tim Thornton has done a terrific job of bringing the Lions program to the forefront of Class 5A. The Lions have some serious firepower with sophomore QB Coran Taylor and with WR Jamir Whitelow. The injury list for Peoria (10-1), however, is growing and standouts RB Kenten Watkins and OL Jeff Scott remain questionable for the Lions on Saturday. Lincoln-Way West (9-2) and head coach Dave Ernst received good news last week when injured QB Connor Lowman returned from injury. That said, the Warriors want to run the football first with RB Gabe Montalvo and an NFL-sized offensive line anchored by senior OT Justin Witt (NC State) and senior OG Bryan Brokop (Nebraska). Can Peoria match up with the size of LWW? Can West slow down/keep up with the Lions explosive offense?

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way West 31, Peoria 21

(8) Tinley Park at (5) St. Laurence, 7 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Expect a ton of offense here as Tinley Park (9-2) and head coach Nick Johnston will look toward RB Lamont Brooks and QB Dan McCullough to lead a very potent attack. St. Laurence (9-2) also has some weapons on offense including QB Alex Martinez and junior RB Fayezon Smart. Both schools are making their deepest IHSA state playoff run since 1986, as Tinley Park in 1986 wound up winning the Class 4A state football title. Last possession wins here?

EDGY's Pick: St. Laurence 41 Tinley Park 38

Class 4A

(4) Geneseo at (1) Phillips, 7 p.m. at Gately Stadium

EDGY's Take: Phillips head coach Tim McAllister (11-0) has been looking hard at how to better defend Geneseo (10-1) and its power veer option attack. Geneseo and head coach Larry Johnsen has run the same offense --and has worn the same Green Bay Packers influenced uniforms-- for years with tremendous success. Phillips will look towards senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) along with a team loaded with skills and speed. The Wildcats defense is also big, quick and physical. Watch out for senior DT Amir Watts. Can the Wildcats solve the Maple Leafs punishing running attack? Can the Maple Leafs run and stay with the Phillips skill players?

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 21 Geneseo 20

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.