Thursday, March 31, 2016

More Than A Spring Game: Jim Harbaugh re-defining the meaning of an off-season


                                Photo Credit: Geno Green



No, this is not an April Fools Joke.

The Michigan Wolverines football team charters new territory as they will play in the first spring game at Michigan Stadium under the lights on April 1 (6 p.m., BTN/BTN2Go).

For coach Jim Harbaugh, changing the annual ritual from the traditional Saturday afternoon is the latest in a series of aggressive tactics to tinker with an off-season in which most college football fans have never seen.

From sleepovers on the recruiting trail, all the way to an award-esque ceremony at Signing With The Stars on Feb. 3, Harbaugh has fans, players and even coaches' attention whether good or bad.

Celebrities such as Tom Brady, Ric Flair and Jeff Gordon showing up on campus this off-season is not a circus act, but a way to re-define a brand, which for all purposes was left on the side of the curb after Michigan failed to make a bowl game and fired Brady Hoke after the 2014 season.

Friday's spring game brings a lot of unpredictability to the forefront in terms of which players to watch for or even a possible celebrity sighting. 


Notable off-season additions/changes:


Change is inevitable in college athletics as seniors graduate and coaches fluctuate from one school to another due to termination or for a better opportunity.

Michigan felt the wrath first hand with defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin taking the Maryland head coaching gig, but for Harbaugh, there was no room for crying in football.

The response was swift as Don Brown left Boston College to take Durkin's spot as Michigan's defensive coordinator.

Brown will have plenty of tools to work with, highlighted by freshman phenom Rashan Gary.

The defensive lineman was the No. 1 recruit in the country and committed on National Signing Day during Signing With The Stars. 

Gary will join the team upon completion of the current semester at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey.

Plenty of energy is in the air in Ann Arbor and the Spring Game should provide a small sample into the 2016 Michigan football season.



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Thursday, March 24, 2016

DePaul/Oregon State: What To Watch For


Photo Credit: Geno Green



The second week of the women's NCAA Tournament kicks off in earnest with regional semifinal games on Friday and Saturday.

One of the more intriguing showdowns will take place on Saturday as the No. 6-seeded DePaul Blue Demons and the No. 2-seeded Oregon State Beavers meet at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX.

Here are some intriguing storylines to watch for as we inch closer to the BIG EAST/Pac-12 battle:


Something Must Give:


Saturday's meeting represents the irresistible force against the immovable object to a tee as DePaul likes to take a high volume of three-point attempts and run an up-tempo offense, while Oregon State prides itself on touches in the paint and a methodical half-court philosophy.

DePaul ranks sixth in the nation in scoring offense (81.2 per game), third in assists (20.8 per game) and 12th in field-goal percentage (46.1).

Oregon State's calling card all season has been its intimidating defense by holding opponents to 50.4 points per game (Fourth in Division I), ranks atop the country in three-point field goal defense and have forced 31 of its 34 opponents to under 40 percent shooting. 

In the first two rounds of the tournament, Oregon State lived up to its defensive tendencies by holding Troy and St. Bonaventure to a combined 20.2 percent shooting.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno believes his tough non-conference and BIG EAST schedule have prepared the team for games like Oregon State.

"The BIG EAST and non-conference schedule prepared us to play some of the best defensive teams in the country," Bruno said. "Defensively speaking, it doesn't get much better than playing UConn, Notre Dame, Baylor and all of the teams in the BIG EAST, so I think our players will be ready to go."





Battle of Conference Players of the Year:


For BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year Chanise Jenkins, the all-too familiar feeling of playing against the opponent's respective league winner for the third time in as many games this NCAA Tournament lurks ever so close.

First, James Madison's Jazmon Gwathmey (CAA), Louisville's Myisha Hines-Allen (ACC) and now Oregon State's Jamie Weisner (Pac-12), but Jenkins is taking the latest battle in stride as more of a team focus, than an individual player.

"Oregon State's a really good team and they have really good guard play to go along with quality post play from Ruth Hamblin," Jenkins said. "We are really looking forward to the game and focusing on our matchup."





Unchartered Territory:


One thing for certain after Saturday's game will occur— either the Blue Demons or the Beavers will make their first ever trip to the Elite Eight.

Both teams are a combined 0-5 in the Round of 16 (DePaul- 0-4, Oregon State- 0-1).

The month of March creates organic storylines and for DePaul or Oregon State, they can move one step closer to the ultimate shining moment— the Women's Final Four.


Game Planner:


No. 6 DePaul vs No. 2 Oregon State


Time: Saturday, 5 p.m. CT



TV/Online: ESPN/WatchESPN



Line: Oregon State (-6.5)




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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The anatomy of DePaul's 12-game win streak away from McGrath-Phillips Arena


                             Photo Credit: DePaul Athletics


Winning on the road can be a challenge for any team, no matter the sport.

For the DePaul Blue Demons, a 12-game winning streak away from McGrath-Phillips Arena which started with a 77-64 victory at Northwestern on Dec. 19 came at the perfect time. 

After a three-game stretch away from the State of Illnois in the second week of December at Notre Dame, Texas A&M and South Dakota State, DePaul went 1-2 and applied those lessons into its current streak, highlighted by wins against Seton Hall, St. John's and Louisville.


Treats, treats, treats:


After eeking out a 73-72 win against No. 3 seed Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 20, DePaul veered from its normal 5-hour bus ride from Louisville to Chicago to make a stop at Culver's Restaurant for ice cream.


January and the rest of the Blue Demons were not used to making impromptu stops on road trips during the season, but BIG EAST Player of the Year Chanise Jenkins convinced everyone to make a unified trip to Culver's.

"Normally we don't stop after road games, but after one trip earlier in the season, we wanted to stop for ice cream, but everyone was too tired," January said. "After the win at Louisville, Chanise [Jenkins], who really likes ice cream, wanted us to stop for it this time and it was so good."


One-game season:


DePaul coach Doug Bruno refuses to get caught up in cliches as No. 2 seed Oregon State lurks in the shadow in the regional semifinal on Saturday at Dallas (5 p.m., ESPN/WatchESPN) with a spot in the Elite Eight at stake.

"The Elite Eight is something that matters to the media and the fans," Bruno said. 

"What matters to us is one in a row against Oregon State and that is how we approach every game. If we are going to get hung up on numbers, then we should get hung up with the fact we are a 6 seed and they are a 2 seed. You don't get hung up on it and what it comes to is either we beat them one in a row or they beat us one in a row, that's what the NCAA Tournament is all about."

Jenkins adopted a similar thought process in preparation for Oregon State.

"Of course, we want to be the first team to make it to the Elite Eight, but we have to win the game in order to do that, so our focus is on [Oregon State]," Jenkins said.

With a win against the Beavers, the Blue Demons would earn their 13th straight victory outside of Chicago, but on a grander scale, the first ever Elite Eight game in program history. 

"To be able to make history at DePaul would be awesome," January said. 

"Coach Bruno has done a really good job of preparing us for road games at Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Baylor and Northwestern. I think that is why we are so good on the road and have a lot of confidence going into the [Oregon State] game."



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Monday, March 21, 2016

Michigan Spring Football Game Countdown: The Evolution of John O'Korn






The John O'Korn File:



Height: 6-4

Weight: 209 lbs.

Position: Quarterback

Class: Junior

High School: St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)


Summary:


Everything must come to an end at some point in life as nothing lasts forever.

For Michigan quarterback John O'Korn, the above statement applies to a tee.

O'Korn is used to bouncing from state to state and started in high school after moving from Huntington, Pa. to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in his junior and senior seasons.

The University of Houston offered O'Korn a scholarship and started as a true freshman and appeared things were looking cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Things turned from cool to bitter as O'Korn would be benched after one game as a sophomore at Houston in 2014 and decided to move to greener pastures at the University of Michigan, where Jim Harbaugh was named coach on Dec. 30 that year.

The junior sat out last season and maximized every opportunity by getting to watch former St. Thomas Aquinas teammate Jake Rudock start for Michigan.



Career Stats:


2013 (Houston)

- 259-of-446 completions (58.1 percent) for 3,117 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.


2014 (Houston)

- 90-of-173 completions (52.0 percent) for 951 yards, 6 TD's and 8 INT's.


2015

- Transferred to Michigan and sat out due to NCAA transfer rules.



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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Geno Green Experience- Bill Bender






On this edition of The Geno Green Experience, Bill Bender from The Sporting News makes an appearance as we preview the 64-team field in this season's NCAA Tournament.










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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE- DePaul finishes up its final practice before heading to Louisville to play James Madison




Moments after wrapping up its final practice before heading south to Louisville to play No. 11-seeded James Madison on Friday, DePaul's Chanise Jenkins, Megan Podkowa and coach Doug Bruno talked exclusively with College Sports Overload.


Jenkins:


Podkowa:



Bruno:





Game Planner:


No. 6 DePaul vs No. 11 James Madison


Time: Friday, 11 a.m. CT



TV/Online: ESPN2/WatchESPN



Line: DePaul (-8.5)



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Monday, March 14, 2016

VIDEO- Selection Monday press conferences


Moments after the No. 6-seeded DePaul Blue Demons learned of its first round showdown with the No. 11-seeded James Madison Dukes, BIG EAST Player of the Year Chanise Jenkins and coach Doug Bruno addressed the media.


Jenkins:




Bruno:




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DePaul locks down its 14th straight bid to the Women's NCAA Tournament


                              Photo Credit: Geno Green


College athletic programs are no different to the reality of constant change, but brings a different dynamic from other scenarios with yearly turnover due to graduation.

For coach Doug Bruno and the DePaul Blue Demons women's basketball team, consistency has been the name of the game as they made the 64-team NCAA Tournament field for the 14th straight season Monday night.

"Even though we have done this for 13, going on 14 straight years, there's no guarantee that any team will do this every single year," Bruno said in front of DePaul fans in Monday's selection show party at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

"Every year is unique because there are different players each season and I pulled out video from last year's practices and it was interesting to see how much this team has changed in one year."


First Round draw:


The Blue Demons (25-8) drew the No. 6 seed in the Dallas region and will play the No. 11 seed James Madison Dukes (27-5) in Louisville, on Friday at 11 a.m. CT (ESPN2/WatchESPN).

The Dukes won its third straight Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on March 12, in a 60-46 win over the Drexel Dragons.

CAA Player of the Year and the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player Jazmon Gwathmey leads the James Madison attack with 20.7 points per game on the season. 

At 6'2'', Gwathmey could be a potential WNBA Draft Pick and is considered to be the CAA's best player since Elena Delle Donne (Delaware 2008-13).


Gameplay, not numbers:

Despite not getting to a top 4 seed and home court for the first round in Chicago, Bruno believes more in showing up to play for 40 minutes, rather than the number next to a team in the tournament.

"In this tournament, everyone talks, speculates and moans, but you have to strap it on and play," Bruno said. "The women's tournament is so much harder than the men's, because you have home court to deal with [as a lower seed]."

DePaul's quest for the BIG EAST Tournament title came up short in a 75-66 loss to St. John's in the semifinal round on March 7. 

Seniors Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa talked about the loss and relishing the opportunity of getting back on the court for one more chance to make a run in the postseason.

"This year, we are really confident and have the pieces to put together a run," Jenkins said. "We learned from the loss against St. John's in our last game and will use that to fuel us for the [NCAA Tournament]."

"I think the [St. John's] loss helped us because of the mistakes we made and has forced us to put more time into focusing on each game from this point forward," Podkowa said.


Looking Ahead:


If DePaul can win the first two rounds of the Louisville mini-pod and the regional semifinal in Dallas, Texas, potential rematches with top-seeded Baylor, fourth-seeded Texas A&M and eighth-seeded St. John's are possibilities in the regional final in Dallas, Texas on March 27-28.


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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Genotology for March 13, 2016


                                    Photo Credit: Geno Green


Selection Sunday is here and before the real brackets come out, I decided to give everyone a glimpse as to what the 68-team field could look like through my lens.

@- Automatic NCAA Tournament Berth


MIDWEST (CHICAGO):




WEST (ANAHEIM):




EAST (PHILADELPHIA):





SOUTH (LOUISVILLE):





Last Four In:

Vanderbilt
Wichita State
Monmouth
Temple


First Four Out:

Texas Tech
San Diego State
St. Bonaventure
Valparaiso


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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Whitehead's three-point play leads to Seton Hall's first BIG EAST tourney title since 1993



                                     Photo Credit: Geno Green



In a strange twist of irony, the Seton Hall Pirates were in the same predicament as the Villanova Wildcats in last season's at the BIG EAST Tournament.

Villanova (29-5) won its first tournament title in 20 seasons and Seton Hall (25-8) found itself in an eerily similar position on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Seton Hall's 23-year drought of falling short in the conference tournament came to an end as Isaiah Whitehead's three-point play gave the Pirates a one-point lead with 18 seconds left and Angel Delgado's free throw make marked an exclamation point in 69-67 win against top-seeded Villanova and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Whitehead finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-of-21 from the field and relishes the role of the closer with March Madness in full swing.

"This whole year, Coach [Willard] has been raving about just making winning plays," Whitehead said. 

"I really just attacked the basket. I felt I had an opportunity to score the ball. I mean, I saw Kris Jenkins coming over and I knew that he wouldn't be able to get in position fast enough for me to draw a charge. I just tried to lay it on him."

Whitehead goes into next week's tournament with at least 20 points in nine of his last 10 games.


Game Recap:

In front of an enthused, sold-out crowd of 19,812 for the first time in since the 2009 BIG EAST title game, both teams did not disappoint in the game's first 8:49 as Seton Hall held a 17-15 advantage.

On the other side, both teams were sloppy in the ball-handling department with five turnovers in that stretch.

Whitehead capped a 10-2 run with a triple that threw Pirate fans into a frenzy to go ahead 25-19.

The Pirates controlled the pace for the remainder of the half as they went into the locker room with a 40-29 advantage on Villanova shooting 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field. 

With Seton Hall looking well on its way to finishing off the defending tournament champions at the 15:21 mark in the second half, Villanova responded like a boxer answering the 10-count in the 12th round with a 9-0 run, which threw Villanova fans into a frenzy.

Villanova would fight back and tie the game at 50 on a three-pointer from Jenkins.

With the momentum shifting towards Villanova, Whitehead decided to take matters into his own hands by nailing a jumper with Darryl Reynolds draped all over and fouled in the process. 

Both teams slugged it out for the next nine minutes in game time, with each shot being matched and the crowd's audible levels rising as the layers began to reach its climax.

Whitehead's three-point play towards the end of the game and Delgado's split capped off Seton Hall's comeback and coach Kevin Willard emphasized about New York City always being a BIG EAST town.

"I got asked the question before about, is the tournament in trouble? And I think of today, people were hanging over the sky bridges," Willard said. "If you watched the level of basketball that these kids play, I'm sorry, it's incomparable."

Villanova coach Jay Wright echoed similar sentiments on the intensity of the crowd at the Garden.

"If you're a basketball purist, there's nowhere you would rather coach or play than in this conference  or you would rather play your tournament than in Madison Square Garden," Wright said. "You just saw tonight that's what it is."


Looking Ahead:


Seton Hall and Villanova will be a part of the NCAA Tournament in Sunday's Selection Show. 

No matter the seeding, Wright relishes the opportunity to participate in the 68-team field.

"I don't know enough about the criteria and would love to play in the East [Region], but being in the tournament is good enough for us," Wright said.




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VIDEO- 2016 BIG EAST Championship Game press conferences


After Seton Hall's 69-67 win over top-seeded Villanova in the BIG EAST Championship game, both teams addressed the media.


Seton Hall:




Villanova:





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2016 BIG EAST Championship Game Photo Gallery


After a thriller between Seton Hall and Villanova on Saturday night, I figured it would be cool to share some of the portraits from Madison Square Garden in New York.






















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Genotology for March 12, 2016


                                              Photo Credit: Damon Warren



Championship Week is in full swing, which means we are one day away from the brackets for the NCAA Tournament being released.

Notable teams who are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament:




SMU and Louisville



KEY
:

* New entry in the field

> UP

< DOWN

@ Automatic Berth via Conference Tournament Championship



SOUTH (LOUISVILLE):





WEST (ANAHEIM):



EAST (PHILADELPHIA):



MIDWEST (CHICAGO):



Last Four In:

Vanderbilt
Wichita State
Monmouth
Temple


First Four Out:

Texas Tech
St. Bonaventure
LSU
Valparaiso


Social Media:


Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.