Simeon starts playoff run with win


Simeon starts playoff run with win

By Dan Ruane
Simeon started its journey to winning a third straight state title by brushing off the cobwebs. The Wolverines were rusty to begin with but eventually shook free of host Oak Lawn for a 64-25 victory in the opening game of the Class 4A regional semifinal.You could tell early on that we were a different team, Simeon coach Robert Smith said. Weve been going at each other for the last week and a half and (Oak Lawn) was a physical team that didnt let us get wide open shots.If not for Steve Taylor, the top-ranked Wolverines (27-1) would have trailed for most of the first quarter. Taylor made five of his first six shots while the rest of his teammates went 0-for-9 to start the game. That helped to stake Simeon to a 12-8 lead at the end of the quarter. He would finish with 16 points and 10 boards.Oak Lawn managed to stay close behind the play of Lyndell Johnson and Jacob Campbell at the guards. The pair combined to score all of the Spartans (16-11) first quarter points.Johnson and Campbell have just been exemplary as seniors for our program, Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes said. They did every single thing we asked of them and they set the example for our program moving forward.Smith had seen enough of his starters with the exception of Taylor so he benched the other four including Jabari Parker (15 points) and Kendrick Nunn for more than four minutes of the second quarter. His bench did not disappoint.Reggie Norris (10 points), Dennis Williams, Jaylon Tate and Dwaun Stewart came in to outscore Oak Lawn 9-2 and take a 19-10 lead before the starters eventually came back in.Thats the beauty of this team, Smith said. Jabari and Kendrick started off slow and the other guys came in and picked it up for us.The height advantage that Simeon held figured prominently in the game getting away from the Spartans in the second half. Simeon grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and started making its shots more consistently to pull away.We turned the ball over too much, Rhodes said. Their length bothered us around the glass. With that time, you need to give one shot and thats it otherwise you have no chance.Campbell led Oak Lawn with 16 points.

Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)


Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Atlanta Braves

2017 record: 72-90, 3rd place in NL East

Offseason additions: Preston Tucker, Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Peter Moylan, Chase Whitley, Grant Dayton, Chris Stewart, Anibal Sanchez

Offseason departures: Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, Jason Motte, Matt Adams

X-factor: Ozzie Albies

One of the youngest players in the league, Albies just turned 21 in January. He carries with him the pedigree of the game's No. 11 overall prospect entering last season and got his first taste of big-league life toward the end of 2017.

He hit well, posting a .286 average and .810 OPS while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and providing some pop and speed.

Assuming he can avoid any sophomore slump and take another step forward, the Braves could actually surprise some people this year. But without Albies providing Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman some lineup support until a certain phenom gets to town, it's hard to see Atlanta contending.

Projected lineup

1. Ender Inciarte - CF
2. Ozzie Albies - 2B
3. Freddie Freeman - 1B
4. Tyler Flowers - C
5. Nick Markakis - RF
6. Preston Tucker - LF
7. Dansby Swanson - SS
8. Rio Ruiz - 3B

Projected rotation

1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Sean Newcomb
5. Scott Kazmir


The Braves are coming, you guys. 

Maybe not now, but they'll be here soon enough.

2018 will feature growing pains for a young group of up-and-comers including the aforementioned Albies, plus Tucker (a powerful outfielder acquired from the Astros), Swanson (the 2015 No. 1 overall pick who's since fallen on tough times) and Newcomb.

Oh and there's some guy named Ronald Acuna coming up next. You may have heard of him.

The 20-year-old phenom has absolutely torn the cover off the ball everywhere he's gone the last 14 or so months and we'll see the game's No. 1 overall prospect in the big leagues in mid-April, God willing.

Once Acuna does come, it adds another level to a lineup that frankly comes up a bit short right now, even with Freeman (one of the best hitters in baseball) and Inciarte (one of the game's most underrated players). 

The Braves have a solid bullpen, plenty of rotation depth and a decent bench. It wouldn't be shocking to see them challenge for the second wild card spot, but true contention will probably come in 2019 for this bunch.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves

Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season


Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season

Eddie Olczyk joins Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers to discuss what went wrong for the Blackhawks this season, and what changes could happen this summer to get the team back into the postseason.

Listen to the entire HawksTalk Podcast here: