NCAA tournament

Bears sign standout WR Tanner Gentry, 13 undrafted free agents

Bears sign standout WR Tanner Gentry, 13 undrafted free agents

The Bears have found success in the undrafted free agent market with the likes of wide receiver Cameron Meredith, linebacker Christian Jones and safety Harold Jones-Quartey among others during GM Ryan Pace's tenure with the club. 

Pace and the Bears hope to continue that trend and uncover some hidden gems in this year's crop of undrafted free agents.

Ahead of rookie minicamp this weekend, the Bears announced on Thursday they have signed 13 undrafted free agents.

Here's a look at some of the notable UDFA's the Bears signed:

Tanner Gentry (WR), Wyoming: The 6-foot-2 wideout ran a 4.40-yard dash at his Pro Day and had 72 catches for 1,326 yards with 14 touchdowns for the Cowboys last season. Gentry also led the country in deep targets (49) last season.

Dieugot Joseph (OT), Florida International: After a switch from defensive end to the offensive line, Joseph became a stalwart at left tackle for the Panthers. Joseph was named honorable mention All-Conference USA in 2016.

Andy Phillips (K), Utah: A former member of the United States National Ski Team, Phillips walked on to the Utah football team in 2012. As the Utes starting kicker from 2013-16, Phillips converted 84 percent of field goals and missed just one extra point.

Freddie Stevenson (FB), Florida State: For three seasons Stevenson served as the lead blocker for All-American running back Dalvin Cook. A former four-star recruit as a linebacker, Stevenson had 292 total yards and seven touchdowns with the Seminoles.

Kermit Whitfield (WR), Florida State: One of the most explosive athletes in the country, Whitfield accumulated 2,386 yards as a kick returner at Florida State. Whitfield broke the ACC record for yards per return (36.4) during his freshman season.

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Jhajuan Seales (WR), Oklahoma State: Seales has the ability to climb the ladder and make the contested catches with a 41.5-inch vertical leap. After subpar sophomore and junior seasons, Seales rebounded as a senior with 37 receptions for 615 yards and four touchdowns.

Franko House (TE), Ball State: House was a standout basketball player for the Cardinals. House will use his 6-foot-6, 247-pound frame to make the transition to the gridiron after not playing the sport since his senior year of high school.

Joel Bouagnon (RB), Northern Illinois: The ex-Huskies running back couldn't quite replicate his junior year numbers, but still posted a respectable 4.9 yards per carry with nine total touchdowns in 2016.

Rashaad Coward (DL), Old Dominion: Coward was a second-team All Conference USA selection last season, finishing with 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Coward fits the Bears 3-4 base defense as somebody who could rotate either inside or outside on the defensive line.

Mitchell Kirsch (OL), James Madison: Kirsch was the starter at right tackle for the Dukes since 2014, and was named an FCS All-American last year.

Hendrick Ekpe (LB), Minnesota: Ekpe started 11 games for the Gophers and notched 28 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Ekpe played defensive end at Minnesota, but with his size (6-foot3, 245 pounds) he'll play outside linebacker for the Bears.

Isaiah Irving (LB), San Jose State: The 6-foot-3, 255 pound Irving led San Jose State with seven sacks as a senior.

Alex Searce (LB), Coastal Carolina: Searce was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan National Defensive Player of the Year Award. He had eight sacks for the Chanticleers in 2016.

Below are some standout players who have been invited to rookie minicamp:

Denard Robinson (RB): The artist formerly known as "Shoelace" from his days as a quarterback at Michigan is one several veterans that will try to impress the Bears' brass at rookie minicamp this weekend. Robinson was used as an "offensive weapon" during his four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-2016) and accumulated 1,058 rushing yards, 310 receiving yards and five total touchdowns.

Tyler Gaffney (RB): The former Stanford star will be at rookie minicamp for the Bears after he was released by the New England Patriots in March. Gaffney, originally a sixth-round selection by the Patriots in 2014, spent the majority of the last three seasons on injured reserve. During his season year at Stanford, Gaffney started 14 games and had 1,709 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.

Titus Davis (WR): Davis, a standout wide receiver at Wheaton South High School, is the older brother of Tennessee Titans' 2017 first-round selection Corey Davis. Titus Davis played at Central Michigan from 2011-2014 and registered 204 receptions for 3,700 yards and 37 touchdowns. 

D.J. Johnson (TE), Kansas State: Johnson joins House as one of two college basketball players the Bears will have in rookie minicamp. Johnson averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with the Wildcats in 2016-17 and helped the team to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson was an All-Conference defensive end and tight end at Parkway North High School in St. Louis.

Mark Spelman (OL), Illinois State: Spelman was one of the key members of the Redbirds offensive line last season and garnered third-team All-American honors.

D'Nerius Antoine (S), Southern Mississippi: A two-year starter for the Golden Eagles, Antoine had 189 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions and 10 passes defended. Antoine also has experience as a returner.

DeSean Smith (TE), LSU: Smith wasn't often utlized in the Tigers passing game, ending his collegiate career with 19 receptions for 346 yards and one touchdown.

Lance Lenoir (WR), Western Illinois: Lenoir, a high school teammate of 2016 Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Laquon Treadwell at Crete Monee, finished his Leathernecks career as the school's all-time leader in receptions (273), yards (3,796) and touchdowns (28).

United Center to host 2022 NCAA tournament regional

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USA TODAY

United Center to host 2022 NCAA tournament regional

The NCAA tournament will return to the United Center in 2022.

The home of the Bulls and Blackhawks will play host to the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional during the 2022 edition of the event, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

The United Center did the same just a year ago, playing host to the 2016 Midwest Regional, won by Syracuse.

Each NCAA tournament site is hosted by a school or conference. Northwestern will be the host school for that 2022 regional.

The United Center will be the hardwood home for several big-time college hoops events in the coming seasons. In addition to the 2022 NCAA tournament, the UC will again be the home of the Big Ten Tournament in 2019 and 2021. The Champions Classic — which annually features Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky — will again be played at the United Center on Nov. 14.

The NCAA announced locations for the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 events Tuesday. Other host sites in Big Ten Country include Columbus, Des Moines and Washington (2019); Omaha, Cleveland, Indianapolis and New York (2020); Detroit and Minneapolis (2021); Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati (2022). It was previously announced that Minneapolis will host the Final Four in 2019 and that Indianapolis will host the Final Four in 2021.

Kansas mops the floor with another Big Ten team as Purdue bounced from NCAA tournament

Kansas mops the floor with another Big Ten team as Purdue bounced from NCAA tournament

Purdue was hands-down the best team in the Big Ten this season. But when it's all said and done at the end of this NCAA tournament, Kansas might be the best team in the country.

The Jayhawks proved to be just way too much for the Boilermakers in Thursday night's Sweet Sixteen matchup, using a monster second half to sprint away from the Big Ten regular-season champs and win by a 98-66 score.

Purdue's season came to an end with the loss, though it will be a memorable campaign, one that stretched to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010.

But much like it did this past weekend against Michigan State, Kansas exploded on a massive second-half run and went from a narrow lead to an gargantuan one in a hurry, flexing its muscles as perhaps the best team remaining in this tournament field.

The incredibly talented duo of Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson scorched the Boilers, combining for 41 points. But it was actually Devonte' Graham that along with Mason led the Jayhawks with 26 points.

Kansas shot 53.6 percent from 3-point range on the night, splashing home 15 of the 28 triples it hoisted.

Purdue's own player of the year candidate, Caleb Swanigan, helped the team stay alive in the early stages of the second half after a 20-7 run gave Kansas a seven-point lead at halftime. After an ugly first half for the Big Ten Player of the Year — six points, two rebounds, 1-for-2 from the field, four turnovers — Swanigan's third 3-pointer of the night cut the gap to just two about three and a half minutes into the second half.

But that's when the Jayhawks took off, putting together an eye-popping 31-9 run to turn that two-point advantage into a 24-point lead in little more than 10 minutes. At one point, Kansas scored eight straight to grab its first double-digit lead of the night, the capper to that burst a Jackson 3-pointer that seemed to end the game right then and there despite the ample amount of time remaining on the clock.

When it was all over, Kansas outscored Purdue 45-15 from that two-point deficit at 53-51.

Swanigan, despite that poor first half, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Vincent Edwards, who scored a combined 42 points in the first two games of this tournament, had himself an quiet night with just eight points.

Purdue shot 55.6 percent in the first half but just 31 percent over the game's final 20 minutes. The Boilers also turned the ball over 16 times, leading to a boatload of points for the Jayhawks.

The win advanced Kansas to the Elite Eight, where it will take on Oregon, which beat Purdue's conference-mate Michigan earlier Thursday night. The Jayhawks have been piling up the points in the tournament and became the first team to score 90 or more points in each of its first three tournament games in 22 years.

The loss brought an end to things for Purdue, which had a terrific season despite the blowout finish. The Boilers won the Big Ten title outright and made their third Sweet Sixteen under Matt Painter.