CSN Top 20 Rankings, Playoffs 1st Round

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CSN Top 20 Rankings, Playoffs 1st Round

1 Maine South (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 1): Defeated Glenbrook South 35-14
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Lane Tech
PrepsTalk: The Hawks soar into the playoffs with the momentum of their 60th straight conference win.  They shook off a 14-0 deficit as Matt Alviti scored four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).

2 Glenbard West (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 2): Defeated Downers Grove North 26-0
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. Elk Grove
PrepsTalk: The Hilltoppers were all business against Downers North; now the scene shifts to the playoffs, where 7As top seed will try to get back to Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2009.

3 Lincoln-Way East (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 3): Defeated Joliet West 42-6
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. Plainfield Central
PrepsTalk: Justin Corbett rushed for 90 yards, racked up 90 more in receiving and scored twice.  Now the Griffins set their sights on getting back to state for the first time since 2005.

4 Loyola (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 4): Defeated St. Rita 28-7
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Evanston
PrepsTalk: Quarterback Peter Pujals accounted for all of the Ramblers scoring (two rushing, two passing touchdowns) as Loyola takes the Chicago Catholic Blue conference title.

5 Marian Central Catholic (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 5): Defeated Wheaton Academy 41-7
Next Game: 5A Playoffs vs. Wauconda
PrepsTalk: The Hurricanes claim back-to-back Suburban Christian Blue conference championships.  The defense against Wheaton was solid, holding the Warriors to only 11 first half yards.

6 Mount Carmel (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 6): Defeated Providence 17-0
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Brother Rice
PrepsTalk: The 'D created six turnovers (four forced fumbles and two interceptions) as the Caravan posted their third consecutive shutout.  Next up: a rematch against a Catholic Blue foe.

7 Crete-Monee (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 7): Defeated Rich East 38-7
Next Game: 6A Playoffs vs. Springfield
PrepsTalk: The Warriors trailed briefly, but got rolling on offense with contributions from Kyle Tilley, Lance Lenoir, Laquon Treadwell, DeShawn Smith and Marcus Terrell.

8 Kaneland (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 8): Defeated Morris 33-30
Next Game: 5A Playoffs vs. Belvidere
PrepsTalk: The Knights lived up to the hype, winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference.  Drew David found Zack Martinelli for the game winning five-yard score with 27 seconds left.

9 Batavia (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 9): Defeated Elgin 49-12
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. Downers Grove North
PrepsTalk: The Bulldogs overwhelm the Maroons and take the Upstate Eight River title for the second straight year.  And they get bumped up to Class 7A.  How will that factor in their postseason run.

10 Palatine (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 10): Defeated Schaumburg 51-18
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Niles West
PrepsTalk: The Pirates might be peaking at the right time.  RB Cam Kuksa (141 total yards, two TDs) is back from an ankle injury.  Palatine's only loss was to 5A state champ Montini.

11 Neuqua Valley (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 12): Defeated Bartlett 42-14
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Naperville North
PrepsTalk: Running back Joey Rhattigan scored three touchdowns and now has 45 over his career.  The Wildcats win their first Upstate Eight Valley championship since 2006.

12 Cary-Grove (9-0)
Last Week (Ranked 13): Defeated Prairie Ridge 35-14
Next Game: 6A Playoffs vs. Rockford Auburn
PrepsTalk: The Trojans pulled away late to win their first division title since 2009.  Marcus Thimios broke open a close game with a 90-yard kickoff return to start the second half.

13 Waubonsie Valley (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 14): Defeated Metea Valley 41-14
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Proviso West
PrepsTalk: Running back Austin Guido --226 yards and four touchdowns against Metea-- set school records for career rushing yards (1,826) and touchdowns (27) in a season.

14 Glenbard North (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 15): Defeated Naperville North 21-14
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Fremd
PrepsTalk: This shows you how competitive the 8A bracket isGlenbard North, the DuPage Valley Conference champs for the first time in 21 years, gets a 4-seed.

15 Wheaton North (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 16): Defeated Wheaton Warrenville South 23-13
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. St. Charles East
PrepsTalk: It's a pretty good time to be a Wheaton North Falcon-- an 8-1 record and they keep their arch-rival out of the postseason.  John Peltz: 20-28, 223 yards and three TDs vs. WWS.

16 Bolingbrook (7-2)
Last Week (Ranked 18): Defeated Lockport 34-10
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Sandburg
PrepsTalk: Intriguing first round matchup against a fellow SW Suburban Blue foe who has already beaten Brook.  All eyes will be on the injured Aaron Bailey this week.  Will he play?

17 Benet (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 19): Defeated Joliet Catholic 31-21
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. Andrew
PrepsTalk: Its a storybook season for Benet.  Not to look ahead or anything, but what a matchup Benet-Oswego could be in the second round.  Stellar D versus a juggernaut offense.

18 Marist (8-1)
Last Week (Ranked 20): Defeated Cincinnati (Withrow) 27-12
Next Game: 8A Playoffs vs. Lyons
PrepsTalk:  Quarterback Ian Woodworth had a favorite go-to receiver in Flynn Nagel on multiple scoring strikes.  The RedHawks could have a tough road in the 8A bracket, though.

19 Lemont (8-1)
Last Week (Not Ranked): Defeated T.F. North 42-0
Next Game: 6A Playoffs vs. Morgan Park
PrepsTalk: Dont overlook Lemont in 6A.  They have shut out five opponents on the season.  Their opening round matchup will represent a rematch of last years playoff matchup.

20 Providence (7-2)
Last Week (Ranked 11): Lost to Mount Carmel 17-0
Next Game: 7A Playoffs vs. Bradley-Bourbonnais
PrepsTalk: The Celtics could not overcome turnovers, one of them a fumble that resulted in an 88-yard Caravan touchdown.  Brandon Price did rack up 103 yards, but was kept out of the end zone.

Looming and Lurking: Morris, Richards, Lakes, Simeon, Thornton, Homewood-Flossmoor, Glenbrook North, Oswego, Montini, Aurora Christian, Oak Forest.

Be sure to follow @JoeCSN for prep football coverage.

High School Lites airs every Friday night at 10:30pm and is streamed live at csnchicago.com

The consummate pro: How Taj Gibson has become the Bulls' version of Udonis Haslem

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USA TODAY

The consummate pro: How Taj Gibson has become the Bulls' version of Udonis Haslem

The 2011 Eastern Conference Finals between the Bulls and Miami Heat featured three future Hall of Famers in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Derrick Rose had been named the youngest league MVP in league history weeks earlier. Luol Deng was blossoming and would earn All-Star nods in each of the following two seasons. $82 million man Carlos Boozer had averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in his first season with the Bulls. The series was loaded with star power.

But buried deep in that series was a matchup of unsung reserves that influenced the series far greater than their numbers in the box score indicated. Udonis Haslem averaged just 4.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 22 minutes in the series – the Heat won in five games – but his impact was felt nonetheless, in part because of the physicality he brought against an energetic second-year forward named Taj Gibson.

“When we played them in the Eastern Conference Finals, Gibson had an incredible impact on that series, and (Haslem) was just coming back from an injury,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said before Saturday’s tilt between the Bulls and Heat. “And we thought that was probably the missing component in that series early on, was having a player like UD to match up against (Gibson). And that really helped us close that series.”

Five years later Haslem is on the final leg of his NBA career. He’s only appeared sparingly in seven games for the Heat in this his 14th NBA season. But the two-time NBA champion has had a lasting impact on the Heat organization – so much so that they allowed him to miss Friday’s game to attend his son’s state-title football game in Florida – and has etched himself in Heat lore, despite never averaging more than 12 points or nine rebounds in a season.

It’s not unlike the career path Gibson has taken in his eight seasons in Chicago. The now-31-year-old Gibson has spent the majority of his career playing behind the likes of Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. And while he’s been an integral part of the Bulls’ rotation since joining the team in 2009, his role has never matched his ability or production. It’s why Haslem said he sees so much of himself in Gibson, an unselfish, care-free teammate, yet also someone who is willing to work every day despite the lack of accolades.

“Taj plays hard, man. He’s a guy that gets all the dirty work done. The banging down in the paint, he knocks down that 15-footer, (he) rebounds,” Haslem said. “A lot of similarities to myself when I was a little younger. Like you said, unsung. Doesn’t look for any attention, doesn’t look for any glory. Just goes out there, is professional, and does his job every night.”

And in his eighth NBA season, Gibson has done his job every night incredibly well. Through 23 games he’s posted career-best numbers in field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and steals, and isn’t far off in points and blocks per game. His 16.9 PER would be a career-high.

He’s done all this with little real estate in the spotlight. Jimmy Butler has cemented himself as a legitimate MVP candidate, and free-agent acquisitions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have earned headlines.

But Gibson has been as reliable and consistent a frontcourt player as the Bulls have – he’s one of three players to have appeared in all 23 games this season – and he’s playing some of his best basketball while the Bulls are mired in a mini-slump.

“He’s a rock for us on this team,” Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s going to go out and do his job. He’s never going to complain about his role. He’s going to put on his hard hat and make the little plays that may not show up in the box score, but help you win.”

Including Gibson’s 13-point, seven-rebound effort in Saturday’s win over the Heat, he’s averaging 12.6 points on 58 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds in the Bulls’ last 11 games. He’s corralled 16 offensive rebounds in that span – including two on Saturday that he put back for layups – and is the main reason the Bulls entered as the league’s top offensive rebounding team in the league (and second in total rebound percentage). The Bulls are also nearly six points per 100 possessions better defensively with Gibson on the floor.

Gibson’s and Haslem’s career numbers are eerily similar – Gibson has averaged 9.3 points on 49 percent shooting and 6.4 rebounds, compared to Haslem’s 7.9 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds, with this year excluded. And both players accomplished their numbers while acting as the third scoring option, at best, on their respective teams. Wade, who spent 13 seasons with Haslem, also sees similarities in the two forward’s games and personalities.

“Taj does his job. He doesn’t try to do too much. Some nights he’s featured a lot. Some nights he’s not. He’s out there to do his job, wants to win,” he said. “(Haslem and Gibson) are very similar. He has that mentality where he’s a workhorse and he’s going to do whatever it takes.”

Added Spoelstra: “Incredible amount of similar qualities. In my mind both those guys are winning players and have all the intangibles and toughness. Doing the little things, the dirty work, both those guys embody all those qualities. We’ve always respected Gibson because of that.”

Gibson is third on the Bulls in field goal attempts per game, the first time in his career he’s been higher than fifth in that category. The Bulls are using him more than ever before, and it’s paying off. He's in the final year of his four-year contract with the Bulls, and is looking at a significant pay raise in free agency this coming summer. Whether his future is in Chicago or elsewhere, don’t expect him to change his persona or mentality anytime soon. Much like Haslem did for years in Miami, Gibson has defined being a consummate professional, teammate and player.

“When you’re on championship teams, competing for a championship, trying to go deep in the playoffs, trying to do special things, guys are doing to have to sacrifice their game. Everybody can’t play big minutes; everybody can’t take the shots,” he said after the Bulls’ win over the Cavs on Thursday. “I’m one of the guys that sacrificed my game for the good of the team. Whatever the coach wants me to do, I’m going to go out and do (it).

“If a coach wants me to set 100 screens and not take a shot, I’m gonna do that because I’m about helping the team. And that’s what I’ve been doing all these years. As long as I’m out there enjoying myself, having fun and playing with great teammates, I’m blessed.”

Morning Update: Bulls take down Heat for second time this season

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls take down Heat for second time this season

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