Bears

CSN Top 20 IHSA basketball rankings

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CSN Top 20 IHSA basketball rankings

1 Simeon

PrepsTalk: The Wolverines quest for a four-peat will share as much intrigue as Jabari Parkers eventual college decision. Simeon also features standouts in Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn and many others.

2 Whitney Young

PrepsTalk: All eyes will be on 6-10 Jahlil Okafor this season for the Dolphins. But their size doesnt end there. 6-8 Paul White should make big contributions for coach Tyrone Slaughters team.

3 Proviso East

PrepsTalk: The Pirates finished second to Simeon last year and could go deep into March again. Forwards Sterling Brown and Brandon Jenkins, along with guard Paris Lee will bring excitement to Maywood.

4 Morgan Park

PrepsTalk: The Mustangs have three senior guards who could cause trouble for opponentsKyle Davis, Markee Williams and Billy Garrett Jr. They will challenge Simeon and Young for city supremacy.

5 St. Rita

PrepsTalk: Brothers Charles and Dominique Matthews provide a good 1-2 punch for the Mustangs. Charles is a sophomore, as is 6-8 Myles Carter. 6-7 Vic Law should also give St. Rita balance.

6 St. Joseph

PrepsTalk: The last time Gene Pingatores Chargers advanced to state was 1999. They could get back there again with sophomore guard Jordan Ash and junior forward Paul Turner leading the way.

7 Curie

PrepsTalk: As was the case last year, the team revolves around 6-9 Cliff Alexander, now a junior. Keep an eye on Demarcus Richardson, a transfer from De La Salle, to help the Condors.

8 Hillcrest

PrepsTalk: Jalen Loving and Jayone Troutman are gone, but Jovan Mooring is back looking to get Hillcrest back to state. Kyle Oden and Taylor Adway also look to step up.

9 Bogan

PrepsTalk: Four south side Public League powers are in the top 10. The Bengals have a couple of fine guards in Juwan Henry and Luwane Pipkins. Theyre also big up front.

10 Seton

PrepsTalk: Guards Kamal Shashi and Mark Weems were lights-out at times last year. But theyll get a boost in 2012-13, with 6-8 senior forward --and De La Salle transfer-- Alex Foster joining the squad.

11 Benet

PrepsTalk: From the front line to the frontcourtSean OMara helped Benets offensive line make a good playoff run in football. Hes once again the Redwings go-to in the post.

12 Bloom

PrepsTalk: The Blazing Trojans finished fourth in class 4A last year. Theyll try to get back to Peoria with help from seniors Johnny Griffin (F) and 6-2 guard DeJahown Freeman.

13 Orr

PrepsTalk: Its a family affair on the west side, with sophomore Louis Adams (son of coach Lou Adams) helping lead the Spartans. But this team belongs to Tyquone Greer and Marlon Jones.

14 North Chicago

PrepsTalk: Aaron Simpson is gone, so itll be up to the likes of Javairius Amos-Mays and Kurt Hall. The Warhawks have played in Peoria the last two years (finished fourth, then second)

15 Bolingbrook

PrepsTalk: The Raiders will run a lot of their offense through 6-8 senior forward Ben Moore. Expect Brook, Joliet West and Homewood-Flossmoor to duke it out in the SW Suburban Blue.

16 Glenbrook North

PrepsTalk: The Spartans have one of the best big men in the area with 6-8 senior Andrew McAuliffe. The Davidson recruit will battle with the likes of Niles North in the Central Suburban conference.

17 Notre Dame

PrepsTalk: The Dons finished first at the Lane Thanksgiving tournament. MVP Matt Mooney and Jake Maestranzi will look to bring more hardware to the trophy case in Niles this season.

18 Marist

PrepsTalk: Like Notre Dame and Benet, Marist should also make a run in the East Suburban Catholic. Keep an eye on senior guard Lexus Williams for the RedHawks.

19 West Aurora

PrepsTalk: The Blackhawks look to continue a long tradition of basketball excellence, with Jontrell Walker, Chandler Thomas and Spencer Thomas setting the pace.

20 Schaumburg

PrepsTalk: Seniors Kyle Bolger and Jimmy Lundquist look to take the Saxons deep into the playoffs this season. Keep an eye on sophomore guard Brendan Parker.

Looming and Lurking: Andrew, Evanston, Marshall, St. Charles East, Waubonsie Valley, Homewood-Flossmoor, Lake Forest, Oswego, Niles North, Mundelein, Stevenson, Zion-Benton, Marian Catholic, De La Salle, Hyde Park.

Programming Note: The first basketball episode of High School Lites will air this Friday night at 10:30pm on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The show streams live at csnchicago.com. And stay with us all season long, as well profile the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment. Can Jabari Parker lead the Wolverines to another state title? Well also catch up with the Montini Broncos in our Muscle Milk Team of the Week segment. This football powerhouse in Lombard has won four consecutive 5A state championships. Well have scores, highlights and much more.

Be sure to follow @JoeCSN for prep basketball coverage.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

Seth Gruen, Chris Emma and Matt Zahn join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester pitches like Jon Lester again and the offense does just enough to win in Pittsburgh. Jim Deshaies joins the guys to talk about the Cubs.

 

Should Roquan Smith make his preseason debut in Denver? Plus the Ohio State controversy takes a salacious turn. Will Urban Meyer keep his job when the investigation wraps up Sunday?

 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

DENVER — Expect the Bears’ starters to play deeper into the first half on Saturday in Denver than they did last week in Cincinnati, but their time on the field will still be relatively brief. The real dress rehearsal for the Bears will be next weekend, when they gameplan for and host the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 25. 

But Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium still represents sort of a checkpoint in the buildup to Sept. 9’s season-opening tilt with the Green Bay Packers. It’ll be the last game of the installation phase of the offseason, with coaches turning their focus to gameplanning for the Chiefs next week and then the Packers afterwards. 

There’s still plenty to be learned on Saturday, though. A few things to watch:

1. Will the first-team offense actually produce?

Mitch Trubisky this week bristled at the notion preseason games didn’t matter — “They don’t matter?” he said. “Then why do you guys talk about them so much?” — which fits with the attitude of a guy who was fairly frustrated with his and his teammates’ performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Trubisky wasn’t happy with offense’s sloppy and ineffective play during the two drives he quarterbacked, and wasn’t willing to write it off as “just” a preseason game. 

“No matter what it is, if it’s on the practice field, if I’m in the backyard by myself, if it’s a preseason game, we’re trying to get better and we’re trying to move the football,” Trubisky said. “That’s what great players do. That’s what great teams do. We’re trying to get some momentum and everybody do our job and execute the offense.”

Still, because the Bears aren’t doing much in the way of gameplanning for the Broncos, any production or lack thereof won’t tell us much about the direction in which this offense is headed. More important will be how successful this group is next week against the Chiefs. 

But Trubisky’s competitiveness means he’s not going to let a poor performance slide, even if it’s only for a few series in a game that doesn’t count. He and the Bears hope that translates into some first downs and points on Saturday. 

2. Some notable debuts

Helping Trubisky’s cause will be the 2018 preseason debuts of running back Jordan Howard and wide receiver Allen Robinson, as well as running back Tarik Cohen — who only played one snap against Cincinnati — perhaps being used more. 

The Bears’ offense will not be at full strength, with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (foot) and tight end Dion Sims (concussion) still out. But for Trubisky, it’ll be a good opportunity for him to see how all the work he and Robinson put in to develop a chemistry in the last few weeks translates to the field.

“We continue to create that chemistry in practice and my job is just to get the ball to the playmakers,” Trubisky said. “The more playmakers we have on the field, just continue to get them the ball and let them do what they do and we just need to roll as an offense, be on the same page, everyone continue to do their job, lock in and go out there and have fun an execute. It’ll be nice to see those guys with the ball in their hands this weekend.”

3. What about Roquan?

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith in full uniform going through pregame warmups, but it would qualify as a minor surprise if he actually played on Saturday. 

The benefit to Smith playing would be working to accelerate his development with an eye on Week 1, even if it’s only for a few snaps. But does the risk of him getting injured outweigh whatever benefit playing him would provide?

It’s a question the Bears surely are debating. But coaches and trainers made sure to not push Smith too hard in this week’s joint practices against the Broncos, and it would be risky to put him in Saturday but tell him to not play at full speed. 

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Smith to play on Saturday, but more likely would be No. 58 making his preseason debut against the Chiefs with another week of practice under his belt. 

4. Snap decisions

James Daniels felt like he was a little sloppy last week against the Bengals, specifically with his hand placement but more broadly because the intensity of things was increased. 

“I think that’s when my technique gets sloppy is when you’re out there and playing against somebody else, you’re really playing,” Daniels said. 

This week’s joint practices, then, were beneficial for Daniels to focus on keeping his technique sound in a more intense setting. And he had the opportunity to do that all while still playing center, not left guard, where he had been working up until last week. How Bears coaches evaluate Daniels' week of practice — which certainly wasn't perfect — will be important, especially in the context of...

... Cody Whitehair going through a snapping “slump” over the last week or so, starting with that preseason game in Cincinnati. If those low/high snaps crop up again Saturday, and Daniels is able to put in a solid day of work with the second-team offensive line, it may nudge the Bears toward moving Whitehair to guard and inserting the second-round Iowa product into the starting lineup. 

The Bears haven’t considered that move yet, though, and the plan all along has been to keep Whitehair at center. A lot has to happen for that plan to change: If Whitehair can’t consistently get snaps to Trubisky, if Daniels proves he’s one of the team’s best five offensive linemen, and then if Daniels proves he’s a better option at center than Whitehair. So far, the Bears haven’t arrived at any of those conclusions, but Saturday’s game could have a significant impact on what those conclusions wind up being. 

5. Down-the-depth-chart position battles

Plenty of players fighting for a spot on the Week 1 53-man roster will get an extended opportunity to put more good — or bad — things on film on Saturday. 

Near the top of the depth chart, Adam Shaheen will have another opportunity to keep his arrow pointing up at the “Y” tight end spot with Sims still out. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris will continue their competition for the final starting spot on the defensive line, with Bullard still likely the slight favorite. Nick Kwiatkoski can help his case to hold off Smith with another solid showing in what’s been a solid preseason. 

An all-hands-on-deck competition to be the Bears’ reserve outside corner is developing, and with Prince Amukamara (groin) not practicing this week, everyone from that group will get a chance to help their case of making the Week 1 roster. Marcus Cooper needs to have a better game than he did against Cincinnati, while 2017 practice squad’er Doran Grant should get plenty of opportunities, too. For undrafted rookies Anthony Toliver, Michael Joseph and John Franklin III, it’s a big opportunity, too, to turn a longshot bid for a roster spot into something more realistic.