This You Gotta See: Bulls-Pacers, Blackhawks-Coyotes, Illini try to stay on tourney path

Is this really happening? Is Illinois, which hosts Minnesota on Thursday, really headed to the Big Dance for the first time since 2013? Whoa, slow down! OK, fine — it’s a lock.

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Michigan v Illinois

Two words for anyone who’s doubting the Illini: Kofi Cockburn.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

SUN 26

Pro Bowl (2 p.m., ESPN, Ch. 7): Ravens — 12 of them in all — will be everywhere at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Bears will not; it’s up to safety Eddie Jackson, return man Cordarrelle Patterson and replacement cornerback Kyle Fuller to represent. Meanwhile, a new rule: For some unearthly reason, a team that has just scored will have the option of maintaining possession and instantly facing a fourth-and-15 from its own 25-yard line. Fourth-and-15? Hey, that’s totally the Bears’ wheelhouse.

Celtics at Pelicans (5 p.m., ESPN): With all due respect to the playoff-bound team from Boston, this one’s all about the going-nowhere Pels’ Zion Williamson. See Zion run. See Zion jump. See Zion blow his nose into a towel on the bench. All of it is can’t-miss theater.

Ohio State at Northwestern (5:30 p.m., BTN): In case Williamson doesn’t rev your engines, maybe the Big Ten’s most underachieving (Buckeyes) and last-place (Wildcats) teams will. In truth, Chris Collins’ squad has been playing better. Is this the night for an upset?

MON 27

Spurs at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH): Jim Boylen squares off against his old boss, Gregg Popovich, which must be a big deal considering how much Boylen loves to talk about his experience under the wing of the five-time NBA champion. Given Boylen’s record with the Bulls, Popovich may be forced to answer any questions about his protégé with: “Jim who?”

TUE 28

Celtics at Heat (6:30 p.m., TNT): With all due respect to the playoff-bound team from Boston, this one’s all about the even-better Heat’s Jimmy Butler. See Jimmy get buckets. See Jimmy lead. See Jimmy make Bulls fans question their very existence. All of it … you get it.

Clippers at Lakers (9 p.m., TNT): And then there’s the new mega-rivalry NBA fans around the world are obligated to flip out over every time the co-tenants of Staples Center do battle, but enough about that. Hugely important question: Would LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George be able to beat the Bulls four-on-five?

WED 29

DePaul at Seton Hall (5:30 p.m., FS1): Blue Demons fans can forget about the team contending in the Big East, but that doesn’t mean getting back to the NCAA Tournament is impossible. It’s all about putting together big wins — and what would be better for the ol’ résumé than a “W” over the league-leading Pirates? 

Bulls at Pacers (6 p.m., NBCSCH): Zach LaVine and Coby White combined for 66 points the last time these teams met, and guess what happened? The Bulls got spanked by double digits, their seventh straight loss against the Pacers. Warning: Ex-Bull Doug McDermott is coming in hot at 10 points per game.

THU 30

Minnesota at Illinois (6:30 p.m., FS1): Is this really happening? Are the Illini really back on the NCAA Tournament path for the first time since 2013? If we call it a lock, it probably won’t happen. But — what the heck — it’s a lock.


Australian Open women’s final (2:30 a.m., ESPN): Forget who will win. We want to know who will get up — or stay up — and watch. For you non-maniacs out there, an encore presentation of the final will air at 7 a.m. on ESPN2.

Blackhawks at Coyotes (7 p.m., NBCSCH): It’s the first game out of a nice, long All-Star break for the Hawks, who are three points removed from the playoff picture — and three points behind the Coyotes in the West standings. But how good can the Coyotes really be if Nick Schmaltz (seven goals, 28 assists) is leading them in scoring?

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