Bulls look to extend home winning streak vs. Philly

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Bulls look to extend home winning streak vs. Philly

Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 3:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Joakim Noah hit the nail on the head

"We feel like were never out of it," said the charismatic center, who recorded his first double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) since March 9 in Saturday's win at Milwaukee. "Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting.

"Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now."

From early in the season, the Bulls--their double-overtime win at Phoenix in November, for example--have played with a fierce determination that should have enlightened observers that this team would be a factor, if not a serious contender, this time of the year. Even in most of the team's disappointing losses, such as their last defeat, an overtime setback at Indiana, it wasn't a question of effort. And with a groundswell of support on the road--Saturday's game had so many Bulls faithful in attendance, you could substitute "United" for "Bradley" in the Bucks' home arena--that inner confidence the players have continues to grow.

"You get it from the crowd," explained Ronnie Brewer. "The crowd builds the energy. you go on the roadwe have a large following in any arena we got toyou get a defensive stop here, defensive stop there and you get an 'and-one' play from 'D-Rose' or him distributing the ball, you cant help but want to play hard and get back into the game."

Added Noah: "Its unbelievable. The love weve been getting on the road latelyI dont know what it isbut it really makes you feel like the peoples champ team.

A lot of that sentiment among fans, as well as the Bulls' fortitude, comes from their on-court leader, Derrick Rose. Unintentionally vying to be the youngest MVP in NBA history--his "I haven't done anything yet" remark postgame in Milwaukee, while showing the proper perspective, could very well be inaccurate in a month's time--the All-Star point guard's inspired play goes well beyond the nightly highlights upon which fans outside of Chicago base his popularity.

"Hes playing his best basketball since hes been here, hes playing with a lot of swag and we feed off that. When your star player is playing at that level, it just makes you want to go to bed early, eat right and do all the right things to get right for this final stretch. Its all about affecting winning and he does it in so many different ways," said Noah. "The way hes contesting shots now, with his passing ability. He understands the plays and knows exactly what he wants out of them. Hes an unbelievable scorer and its unbelievable at the end of the game, how composed he is out there."

Chimed in Brewer: "Sometimes you get bad habits because youre watching him instead of playing the game. So if he misses a shot, sometimes leak out and get back, and Thibs is on your back, but its amazing to watch some of the moves he makes, some of the shots that he makes. Even some of the passes that he makes to guys; hes not even looking them in the eye and finds them crosscourt right on a dime. Hes a blessing to play with and Im just glad hes on my team."

"A lot of people say hes a scoring guard, but you dont find many guys in the league who can have 17 assists and drop 30 points. Hes able to mix it up and take over a game whenever he wants to," he continued. "Theres not a point in the league who has the same athleticismand if there is, you can say a Russell Westbrook, but he doesnt do the things Derrick Rose doesand thats why I think hes one of the best point guards in this league."

Rose takes joy in creating opportunities for his teammates, perhaps more than scoring a boatload of points. His "just win" mentality has allowed him to embrace shouldering more of the scoring load as his career has progressed, but his background as a team-first player and pass-first point guard--his reputation as an elite high school prospect was forged as a result of his playmaking, not scoring--makes the times when he can pile up assist totals more gratifying.

"It makes me feel good. If anything, Im happy for my teammates. They were knocking down shots, making the right cuts and I was just trying to get them the ball," he told CSNChicago.com. "When youve got that going, everybodys playing hard and weve got confidence right now."

Coupled with his fierce competitiveness, that spells trouble for Bulls opponents, especially point guards, as the Chicago native prepares for a potentially deep postseason run.

"Theres no off time right now," Rose told CSNChicago.com. "If Im playing against you, Im definitely going to come at you."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany offers his take on College Football Playoff picture

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany offers his take on College Football Playoff picture

INDIANAPOLIS — Once upon a time, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was quite the advocate that only conference champions should reach the College Football Playoff.

It sounds like he's OK with losing that fight, though, as one of his conference's teams, Ohio State, looks ready to become the first team to reach the Playoff without winning its conference championship.

Delany joined the crew of ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday morning in Indianapolis and discussed the current Playoff picture, which is a little clearer — and a little worse for the Big Ten — after Washington won the Pac-12 championship on Friday night.

With Alabama and Ohio State looking like Playoff locks, Washington seemingly punched its ticket to the final four with a dominating performance in a 31-point clubbing of eight-ranked Colorado. That would leave one spot up for grabs, and another Big Ten team that will finish the year without a conference championship, Michigan, is certainly still in the mix. So too are Wisconsin and Penn State, who play each other in Saturday night's Big Ten title game. The other team competing for and perhaps the favorite for that fourth spot is Clemson, currently ranked third and playing Virginia Tech in Saturday night's ACC title bout.

So Delany provided an assessment of the landscape on GameDay, though his comments revealed some politicking for either Michigan or the Big Ten champ, as he left two spots open without acknowledging Washington.

The idea that two of the four teams in the Playoff field, should both Ohio State and Michigan find their way in, would box out three champions of Power Five conference clashes with the argument Delany made just a few years ago.

"Well I was a campaign manager four years ago for the four best conference champions. We lost that election, and what we decided on was the four best teams, which I'm fine with," Delany said. "Obviously this year's unique in some ways. We have the two divisional champions playing head to head here today for the conference championship, and they won their division and they should be respected for that. The committee has another role, and that is to pick the four best teams in the country. I think there are a couple teams that are unequivocally among those four best. I think Alabama has had a great year, Ohio State. It seems to me like there's probably winners of games today plus Michigan who the committee's going to have to sort through to fill out those next two spots. But in my view, this event has been great for this conference, and the College Football Playoff has been terrific for college football in large part because people are playing people. So it should be about who you play, who you beat.

"For sure you have to — when teams have similar resumes and records are similar — you have to look at conference champions, but there are 10 conference champions. Not all conference champions are equal, OK? There are 10 in the FBS. Several conference champions are going to be evaluated, including the one out of this conference, the one out of the Pac-12, the one out of the Big 12, the ACC. I myself think Alabama has done enough whether they have a conference championship behind their resume or not. I think Ohio State has done enough. I think the committee has suggested that in their early years. So what we have right now, I think, are two slots available and probably three, four, five teams fighting for those. Conference champion is relevant, but also who you played head to head, who you beat. Who'd you play in the non-conference, who'd you beat."

Again, that seems to be some not-so-subtle campaigning for either Michigan or the Big Ten champ. The Wolverines boast a resume with three top-10 wins, including a non-conference game against Colorado. Ohio State, too, won a big non-conference game on the road against a top-10 Oklahoma team. Penn State has already beaten a top-10 team in Ohio State, Wisconsin opened the season with a non-conference win over LSU, and Saturday's winner will gain another top-10 win. Washington earned its first top-10 win Friday night after playing non-conference games against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State.

Paul Chryst says Alex Hornibrook will be available for Badgers in Big Ten Championship Game

Paul Chryst says Alex Hornibrook will be available for Badgers in Big Ten Championship Game

INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin will have quarterback Alex Hornibrook available to play in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game.

After Hornibrook was listed as questionable on Friday afternoon's injury report, Badgers head coach Paul Chryst told ESPN's Sam Ponder on Saturday morning that Hornibrook will be ready to go.

"Each day this week he's progressed, so I think that he'll be available to play, which is good," Chryst said in the interview.

Hornibrook sustained a head injury last weekend during Wisconsin's win over Minnesota and sat out the second half, forcing Chryst to turn his two-quarterback system into a one-man show starring Bart Houston.

But Saturday night, it seems that things will return to what they've been for the majority of the season: Hornibrook and Houston splitting time under center.

The Badgers' offense typically relies on its customarily strong rushing attack, but having both guys will be important for Chryst, who likes to keep opposing defenses on their toes by mixing up the two quarterbacks. 

Hornibrook has completed 58.1 percent of his passes this year for 1,243 yards and eight touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. Houston has completed 63.9 percent of his passes on the season for 912 yards and five touchdowns compared to three interceptions.

Houston is the more mobile and accurate of the two, though he hasn't completed more than nine passes in any one game since losing his starting job to Hornibrook early in the season.