How important is the Heat game?

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How important is the Heat game?

If you ask Joakim Noah, Wednesday's Bulls-Heat clash is just as big as it's been advertised.

Yeah, I think it's an important game. I mean, everybody sees it the way they want to see it. Maybe in the standings, but everybody knows tomorrow is a big game. Were all excited, the center said after the Bulls Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center. You want to play against the best. Its going to be a competitive game. They have a lot of great players. Its a team that eliminated us and went to the Finals. We just want to set the tone.

However, according to Tom Thibodeau, the showdown is only important because, as hes fond of saying, its the next game on the teams schedule, meaning there wouldnt be any extra preparation for the primetime affair.

Just all your normal stuff. For us, its not going to change. Every game, we do the same. The routine remains the same, said the coach, who had a one-on-one post-practice video session with Derrick Rose, a staple during last season. To me, theyre all the same. They all count the same. We have to be ready to play.

While Noah and Thibodeau have conflicting views on how big the game is, the two do share similar opinions on philosophy.

Play smart. Try to really limit our turnovers. Play good defense, which is something we havent done in a while, and play our game, said Noah. All these games against Miami are really, really close. We know we gave up a lot of points in transition off our turnovers. If we can limit that, it will work in our favor.

Echoed Thibodeau: We know we have to defend, weve got to rebound, weve got to take care of the ball. That was one thing in the game down there we felt we didnt do a good job of and the way they convert turnovers into points, if they get into the open floor, theyre hard to stop, so weve got to do a better job. More inside-out and well go from there.

Just run our offense. Theyre an excellent defensive team and LeBrons an excellent defender, and their team is excellent, so we have to try to attack them before theyre set and if they are set, weve got to move them, keep the ball moving, keep our bodies moving and the big thing is taking care of the ball, he continued. Theyre a good team. Were chasing them. Theyre the Eastern Conference champions from last year, so we know we have to come out and play real hard.

Thibodeau said that while the Bulls can take some lessons from their narrow late-January loss at Miami, he isnt dwelling on that outcome.

That ones long gone. The big thing for us is to learn from the games, move on, focus in on the next game and all were concentrating on is tomorrows game. Whats happened in the past is the past. Theres nothing you can do about it but learn from it, move on and be ready, he said. Theres not a big difference amongst teams in this league. The talents great on every team and Miami certainly has a lot of talent, and whats transpired in all our games is theyre usually very hard-fought and very close. At the end, it usually comes down to a hustle play and a make or a miss. Miamis tough. Theyre not going to beat themselves. You have to play well to beat them.

Noah discussed the fact that the East-leading Bulls are currently fighting off the Heat, who are second in the conference, for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

We know there are a lot of good teams so you have to take it one step at a time. But it would be ideal, he said. Its very important to hang onto home court. We know in the playoffs that home court means a lot. You still have to win on the road, but playing at home definitely helps.

Added swingman Ronnie Brewer: Thibs comes and tells us how important home court is for morale, if you want to make it deep in the playoffs and you dont really want to watch what other teams are doing because you hold your own destiny, but you look at the standings and see where the Heat are, where the third-place team is at, where the fourth-place team is at, and you just want to try to go out there and take care of business every time you step out on the court.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead