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Chicago basketball report: Bulls’ Torrey Craig nears his return — and attention turns to the Big Ten Tournament

Trent Sprague/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Reinforcement could be coming for the Chicago Bulls as Torrey Craig nears a return, and Ayo Dosunmu leads the pack of second-round draft picks from his 2021 class.

The WNBA will host fans at draft night in Brooklyn this April as the Chicago Sky prepare to make important selections at No. 3 and No. 8.

No. 12 Illinois men’s basketball lost to No. 3 Purdue and ceded the Big Ten regular-season title, while Northwestern remains in third and in pursuit of an NCAA Tournament berth. Meanwhile, the DePaul men’s program is careening toward a winless season in the Big East.

Every Wednesday throughout the season, Tribune writers will provide an update on what happened — and what’s ahead — for the Bulls, Sky and local basketball.

Torrey Craig nears return

The Bulls could get a reinforcement this week as forward Torrey Craig prepares to return after missing six games with a right knee sprain.

Craig previously missed 22 games with a sprained plantar fascia in his right foot, then returned before All-Star weekend. But he sprained his knee while working out away from the team over the break. That removed all power forward options for the Bulls, who already were missing Patrick Williams because of a season-ending foot injury.

Before Monday’s game in Sacramento, coach Billy Donovan said Craig could return by the end of this week’s four-game West Coast trip. The Bulls play back-to-back at Utah and Golden State on Wednesday and Thursday, then face the Los Angeles Clippers in a day game Saturday.

“He’s moving in a really good direction,” Donovan said of Craig. “I don’t know about this road trip, but it’s certainly not out of the question. A lot of this could be depending on how he continues to progress, but I think the medical guys are pretty optimistic of where he is at this point in time.”

Craig will be under a minutes restriction when he returns, but his size and adaptability would help bolster the Bulls defense, which has leaned heavily on Alex Caruso without any true power forwards available.

WNBA opens draft night to fans

The WNBA will welcome fans to draft night for the first time since 2016 in a seated event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 15. The return to an in-person event is a purposeful move as the league hopes to harness excitement surrounding this year’s draft class, which is helmed by Caitlin Clark.

Clark announced her intention to declare for this year’s draft shortly before her senior night at Iowa on Sunday, during which she broke Pete Maravich’s record for all-time NCAA Division I scoring. The Indiana Fever are expected to select Clark with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Fans and executives around the league are still waiting on final draft declaration decisions from top players such as Stanford’s Cameron Brink. Regardless of those decisions, the Chicago Sky will be at the center of the action this year after making several trades — including a blockbuster move to part with star Kahleah Copper — to acquire the Nos. 3 and 8 picks.

General manager Jeff Pagliocca and coach Teresa Weatherspoon will have a wealth of top talent to select from, including Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, LSU’s Angel Reese and Connecticut’s Aaliyah Edwards.

Tickets for the event will go on sale at 11 a.m. CT on March 7.

Illinois men lose game — and shot at Big Ten title — to Purdue, while Northwestern seeks tournament berth

Although they led for most of Tuesday’s matchup against No. 3 Purdue, No. 12 Illinois could not hold off the back-to-back Big Ten champions in their final meeting of the regular season. The Illini lost 77-71 to the Boilermakers despite a 20-point performance from Marcus Domask as Purdue’s Zach Edey scored 28 points.

Purdue already had clinched a share of its second consecutive Big Ten title last weekend with a win over Michigan State, and Tuesday’s victory gave the Boilermakers another outright championship. Now attention turns to the Big Ten Tournament — which could be most impactful for Northwestern.

The Wildcats are third in the conference behind Purdue and Illinois entering Wednesday night’s game at Michigan State and could use another win to help secure their second straight NCAA Tournament berth. With Illinois losing Tuesday, the Wildcats have an opportunity to move up to the No. 2 seed for the Big Ten Tournament.

DePaul men’s basketball could finish winless in the Big East

A season to forget for the DePaul men’s basketball team could end on another low note this week — finishing the season without a single Big East win.

This has been a disastrous season for the Blue Demons, who fired coach Tony Stubblefield in January after a 3-15 start. The Demons are 0-20 in conference play after dropping their 31st consecutive regular-season Big East game Tuesday against St. John’s. With their loss to Butler last week, they surpassed Georgetown for the longest conference losing streak in Big East history.

It has been nearly 14 months since DePaul last beat a Big East opponent on Jan. 18, 2023. The Demons have one more opportunity to avoid a winless conference season: Saturday’s regular-season finale at Seton Hall.

Number of the week: 2,002

Ayo Dosunmu scored 20 points against the Kings on Monday, passing the 2,000-point threshold to bring his career total to 2,002.

Dosunmu is one of only two players selected in the second round of the 2021 draft to score 2,000 or more points in their career. Herb Jones has scored 2,027 in his three seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Week ahead: Bulls

  • Wednesday: at Jazz, 8 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Thursday: at Warriors, 9 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Friday: Off

  • Saturday: at Clippers, 3 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Sunday: Off

  • Monday: vs. Mavericks, 7 p.m., NBCSCH

  • Tuesday: Off

What we’re reading this morning

Quotable

“I don’t really look at it like, ‘Oh, me and Deebo was doing this and that.’ I look at it as we got a good, solid team win.” — Coby White after combining with DeMar DeRozan for 70 of the Bulls’ 113 points in Monday’s win over the Kings