Cubs

CSN's Top 20 basketball rankings

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CSN's Top 20 basketball rankings

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

1 Simeon (20-1)

Results: Defeated Bogan 68-57 and Harlan 81-59

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Point guard Jaleni Neely, back from an ACL tear last summer, will be playing a major role for the Wolverines down the stretch.

The Drive: Watch the latest behind-the-scenes webisode on Simeon here.
2 Proviso East (17-0)

Results: Defeated Addison Trail 79-36

This Week: Friday vs. Hinsdale South, Saturday at Proviso West

Hoops Talk: Keith Carter sat out vs. A-T, but Sterling Browns efforts (17 points, 12 rebounds) pave the way to another easy conference victory.
3 Curie (20-1)

Results: Defeated Kenwood 49-46, Harper 82-30 and Leo 60-46

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Behind Cliff Alexander and Devin Foster, the Condors could do serious damage in the playoffs, both Public League and IHSA.
4 Warren (15-2)

Results: Defeated Stevenson 64-38 and Mundelein 87-78

This Week: Friday at Lake Forest, Saturday at Zion-Benton

Hoops Talk: Two double-doubles for center Nathan Booth this week and Darius Paul netted a career-high 30 points Saturday against Mundelein

5 Andrew (16-0)

Results: Defeated Tinley Park 58-37, Lincoln-Way West 66-30 and Thornwood 48-45

This Week: Tuesday vs. Thornton, Friday at Stagg

Hoops Talk: Andrew was in need of another marquee win. They got it Sunday in South Holland and it now places them in control of the Southwest Suburban Red.
6 Plainfield East (17-1)
Results: Oswego East 56-55, Oswego 66-63 and Plainfield South 84-66

This Week: Tuesday at Plainfield Central, Friday vs. Minooka and Saturday vs. Naperville North

Hoops Talk: A couple of close calls this week, but the Bengals hold serve in the Southwest Prairie conference behind Dee Brown and Brian Bennett.

7 Bogan (19-2)

Results: Lost to Simeon 68-57

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Nice second half comeback wasnt enough against the top-ranked Wolverines. They will still be a tough out in the playoffs.

8 New Trier (18-2)
Results: Defeated Glenbrook South 60-54

This Week: Friday vs. Waukegan, Saturday vs. St. Ignatius (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: The Trevians will enjoy some home cooking before five straight away from Winnetka. Saturdays game against the Wolfpack will be one to watch.
9 Elgin (16-2)

Results: Lost to St. Charles North 55-53

This Week: Friday at St. Charles East

Hoops Talk: Kory Brown scored 23 points but it was not enough as the Maroons have their 12-game winning streak snapped.
10 De La Salle (14-3)

Results: Lost to St. Joseph 68-61; Defeated Loyola 52-33

This Week: Friday at St. Rita

Hoops Talk: Interesting finish to the regular season for the Meteors, whose last five games include three against teams currently ranked in the CSN Top 20.
11 Downers Grove South (15-4)

Results: Defeated Hinsdale South 55-52 and Morton 57-46

This Week: Tuesday vs. Addison Trail, Friday at Willowbrook, Saturday vs. Downers Grove North

Hoops Talk: Jordan Cannon and Kevin Honn came up big in Jerron Wilbuts absence (two-game suspension).

12 Huntley (17-2)
Results: Defeated Cary-Grove 41-32 and Dundee-Crown 45-40

This Week: Tuesday at Prairie Ridge, Friday at McHenry

Hoops Talk: The Red Raiders are now in the drivers seat in the Fox Valley Valley conference after Saturdays triumph over Dundee-Crown.

13 St. Ignatius (15-2)

Results: Defeated Hales 56-43

This Week: Tuesday at Leo, Friday vs. Fenwick, Saturday vs. New Trier (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: Marty McClure and Peter Ryckbosch each tallied 12 points against Hales. The Wolfpack will face a battle in all three games this week.

14 Whitney Young (10-7)

Results: Defeated Collins 93-31 and Soldan International Studies MO 53-46

This Week: Tuesday at North Lawndale, Thursday vs. Crane

Hoops Talk: The Dolphins continue to roll behind sophomore phenom Jahlil Okafor. He had 15 points against Soldan.
15 Metea Valley (18-1)

Results: Defeated Bartlett 90-53 and South Elgin 58-53

This Week: Wednesday vs. Neuqua Valley, Saturday at Hinsdale Central

Hoops Talk: The Mustangs compiled a 28-0 run against Bartlett. Kenny Obendorf and Milan Bojanic continue to impress in the Upstate Eight.

16 Hillcrest (17-4)

Results: Defeated Crete-Monee 70-60 and T.F. North 74-41

This Week: Friday at Oak Forest

Hoops Talk: The Hawks duo of Jalen Loving and Jovan Mooring have been giving opponents fits this season.

17 Bloom (17-3)
Results: Defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 63-56, Rich Central 69-41

This Week: Tuesday at Kankakee, Friday vs. Rich East

Hoops Talk: Johnny Griffin, Lejavious Johnson and Donald Moore help keep the Blazing Trojans motoring in the south suburbs.

18 Orr (16-3)
Results: Defeated Marshall 68-50, Hales 51-37

This Week: vs. Westinghouse, then Public League Playoffs

Hoops Talk: Marquise Pryor and Deshawn King are two of the reasons that the high-flying Spartans have stood out in the mighty Red-West conference.

19 Hope Academy (19-2)

Results: Defeated Lake Forest Academy 77-71 2 OT, Chicagoland Jewish 72-46 and St. Benedict 75-70

This Week: No games scheduled this week

Hoops Talk: No Jalen James? No problem. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith could help blaze a trail downstate.

20 Lemont (18-2)

Results: Defeated Providence 70-65, Bremen 56-34 and Oak Forest 69-62

This Week: Friday vs. Tinley Park

Hoops Talk: Yes, another basketball power resides in the South Suburban-Blue besides Hillcrest. Junior guard Juozas Balciunnas is having a fine season.
Looming & Lurking: Marshall, Crane, Farragut, Naperville North, West Aurora, Seton, Foreman, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor, Notre Dame, North Chicago, Riverside-Brookfield, Crete-Monee, St. Viator, Oak Park, Glenbard West, Herscher, Immaculate Conception, Joliet West, York

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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