Simeon tops Evanston to head down state


Simeon tops Evanston to head down state

By Dan Ruane
Simeon coach Robert Smith keeps warning people that his team will not win state unless it starts executing its offense better. But what Smith will acknowledge is that the Wolverines have been playing stellar defense.The top-ranked Wolverines continued to dominate in the Class 4A bracket with a 59-34 victory Tuesday over No. 9 Evanston in the Chicago State Supersectional.Simeon (31-1) will play No. 4 Bloom (28-3) at 8:15 p.m. Friday in the second Class 4A state semifinal. The Wolverines will be vying for an IHSA record sixth state championship and their fifth in the last seven years.There was too much selfishness with the ball in the first half, said Smith, whose team led 29-19 after two quarters. We cant just rely on Jabari (Parker) to get it done for us.Simeon took advantage of a nervous Evanston squad early on. They forced the Wildkits (21-11) into six early turnovers and two missed shots while racing to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game. A key play in that run was an alley-oop dunk by Kendrick Nunn that ignited the crowd. It was a sign of things to come for Nunn.Nunn is still young. He wont turn 17 till August, Smith said. He did a great job of wearing their shooter (Josh Irving) down.Nunn scored 13 points and had five assists. But it was his defense against Irving that made a difference. He forced Irving into shooting 3-for-14 from three-point range and held the senior guard to 10 points.I thought they were quicker to loose balls than us and got points off of that, Evanston coach Mike Ellis said. I thought we couldve had more opportunities inside. We didnt think aggressively enough to beat a team like Simeon.Parker had his usual strong game for the Wolverines. The junior, forward scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds and had six blocks. The Wolverine guards Nunn, Jaleni Neely, Reggie Norris, Jaylon Tate and Kendall Pollard held the Evanston trio of Irving, Jordan Perrin and Leonard Garrin to 6-for-28 shooting. This follows a pattern throughout the playoffs for Simeon of holding teams down in the second half while outscoring its opponents by an average of 23 points for the game.We were talking on the bus on the way down here about being happy anytime you can get Downstate, Smith said. We have added pressure this year because we are ranked nationally. But I liked the way that our guys didnt celebrate tonight. They know we have two more games to win.

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: