Simeon, Proviso East could face off for Class 4A championship


Simeon, Proviso East could face off for Class 4A championship

If ESPN or CBS or NBC or ABC were telecasting the finals of the Illinois high school basketball tournament, they would jump at a chance to pit top-rated Simeon against second-rated Proviso East in the Class 4A championship game, a prep version of Duke vs. North Carolina.

The Illinois High School Association, in its infinite wisdom, hasn't always agreed with that philosophy. So it might surprise some critics and delight most fans to see that, believe it or not, Simeon and Proviso East are paired in opposite brackets and could meet in the 2012 Class 4A championship game.

It won't be easy, of course.

Simeon is the top seed in the Argo sectional, arguably the most competitive in the state. The Wolverines must survive a star-studded field that includes Curie, Bogan, St. Rita, Whitney Young, De La Salle and Marist.

They could meet New Trier in the supersectional, then Bloom or Collinsville in the semifinals.

Proviso East's route isn't as difficult. Oak Park, Schaumburg, York, Lake Park and Glenbard West await in the sectional at Schaumburg. Plainfield East could be the Pirates' supersectional opponent, Warren or Rockford Auburn in the semifinals.

If it happens, it wouldn't be the first time that the IHSA has opened the door for a match-up of the state's two most highly rated teams in the state championship.

In fact, No. 1 has met No. 2 in the state tournament series on 14 occasions since 1945. But it has happened only five times in the state final, the last in 1996 when Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin and second-rated Peoria Manual defeated Melvin Ely, Napoleon Harris, Antwaan Randle-El and top-ranked Thornton 57-51.

In 1945, No. 2 Decatur and Bob Doster beat No. 1 Champaign 62-54. In 1950, Max Hooper set a then tournament single-game scoring record with 36 points as No. 1 Mount Vernon crushed No. 2 Danville 85-61.

In 1982 and 1983, Marty Simmons and Lawrenceville swept Class A titles by beating Monmouth 67-53 and Flanagan 44-39. Coach Ron Felling's teams went 34-0 each season.

In perhaps the most celebrated match-up of the state's two premier teams, top-ranked Collinsville met second-rated Centralia in the 1961 supersectional at Salem. Collinsville, with Bogie Redmon and Fred Riddle, won 66-64 and went on to win the state championship with a 31-0 record.

Another dramatic duel between Nos. 1 and 2 was in the Chicago Public League championship in 1977 when Phillips stunned top-ranked Westinghouse and Eddie Johnson and Mark Aguirre 77-65 before a crowd of 12,000 at the International Amphitheatre. But Phillips lost to St. Laurence in the state quarterfinals.

Other match-ups between the state's two top-rated teams occurred in 1997 when No. 1 Peoria Manual defeated No. 2 Thornton 65-62 in the Class AA semifinals, in 2009 when No. 1 Champaign Centennial edged No. 2 North Lawndale 66-65 in the Class 3A semifinals and in 2010 when No. 1 Waukegan and Jereme Richmond beat No. 2 O'Fallon 85-78 for third place in Class 4A.

In 1959, No. 1 Galesburg and Bumpy Nixon ousted No. 2 Herrin 73-69 in the state quarterfinals, then lost to West Aurora in the semifinals.

In 1964, No. 2 Centralia and Cliff Berger upset No. 1 Collinsville 55-50 in the supersectional, then lost to Rock Island Alleman in overtime in the quarterfinals.

In 1978, No. 1 Lockport and Scott Parzych edged No. 2 St. Laurence and Kevin Boyle and Jim Stack in the sectional semifinals at Downers Grove North, then went on to complete a 33-0 season.

In 1981, No. 2 Madison upset No. 1 Providence and Walter Downing 45-43 in the Class A quarterfinals.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.