Illini's Leonard should be lottery pick on Thursday

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Illini's Leonard should be lottery pick on Thursday

With just three days until the NBA Draft, former Illinois center Meyers Leonard is still among one of the fastest risers among team's big boards. The 7-footer has seen his stock rise into the lottery, and the consensus is that Leonard will be drafted anywhere from the No. 7 to the No. 16 pick. Leonard brings great size, sneaky athleticism and plenty of upside to the table, and an impressive showing at the combine in Chicago has him in good position come Thursday. Leonard was invited today to the draft, which means there is a good chance he will be drafted within the first 15 picks.
Here is a look at some potential landing spots for Leonard.
7. Golden State Warriors: As is the case with most teams that pick in the top-7, the Warriors have plenty of needs. Both centers Andris Biedrins are signed for two more years, and that could be just the amount of time the 20-year-old Leonard needs to be a significant contributor.
9. Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe flourished in his sophomore season with the Pistons, but Detroit has little else in the front court to go with the Georgetown product. Last year's first round draft choice Brandon Knight has given Detroit a foundation, and Leonard would do well alongside Monroe. The Pistons aren't in win-now mode, so allowing Leonard to develop for a year or two is doable.
10. New Orleans Hornets: What better way to complement surefire No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis than with a 7-foot-1 center? The Hornets are interested in North Carolina's Tyler Zeller, but if he is gone then Leonard may be the next best available option.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: The last time the Trail Blazers drafted a 7-footer in the first round, it was Greg Oden. With Oden off the books and Joel Pryzbilla a free agent, Portland has a real need inside. If the Trail Blazers go with Weber State point guard Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick, going big with No. 11 seems the way to go.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: The mid-season acquisition of Monta Ellis saw former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut depart, leaving the Bucks shallow at the center position. Furthermore, starting power forward Ersan Ilyosova is a free agent, so it's almost a certainty the Bucks will look to the front court. Leonard has the athleticism and the size, much like a young Bogut.
14.16. Houston Rockets: The Rockets may not keep both these picks, or stay at both spots in the first round, but Leonard would make sense if they did. Marcus Camby is a free agent, and Sam Dalembert (6.7 million), Patrick Patterson (2.1 million) and Greg Smith (762k) all have team options this summer. There will be plenty of turnover in Houston this year, and Leonard would pair nicely with another athletic forward in Luis Scola.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Spencer Hawes is a free agent this season, and his status as a 76er could hinge on where the Sixers draft in the first round. A replacement for Elton Brand could be in order at power forward, but if Leonard were on the board at this point he would be hard to pass up.

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge junior offensive linemen recruit Jeff Jenkins (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) made an unofficial Sunday Junior Day visit to the University of Iowa and came away verbally committed to the Hawkeyes.

"I didn't want to wait," Jenkins said. "I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye when I met the coaches at Iowa and got on campus."

Jenkins, an All-State linemen for the 2016 Class 6A state champion Wolves, received a scholarship offer from Iowa back on Jan. 13. He pointed towards the Hawkeyes history of developing NFL caliber offensive linemen as one of several keys in his early decision.

"Iowa has a great tradition of offensive linemen," Jenkins said. "I was also just really impressed with the coaches at Iowa along with the facilities and everything that they have to offer. I just knew that I couldn't pass up the opportunity at Iowa. I knew it was home."

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.