Dayton wants to show its desire to keep the First Four with a sellout

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Be it the three-year old First Four of the Opening Round Game before that, Dayton has been the “first stop” on college basketball’s journey to the Final Four for the last 13 years.

And with the NCAA in the process of deciding between 2-year and 10-year proposals by the city to keep the First Four in town, the Dayton community has made a commitment to sell out this year’s event.

In either format (Opening Round Game or First Four) the city has yet to sell out University of Dayton Arena, and the hope is that doing so in the 75th year of the NCAA tournament would convince the NCAA that this is where the tournament should begin every year.

“The University of Dayton is pleased to host the First Four games again this year, and we are honored with the confidence extended by the NCAA,” said Dayton president Daniel J. Curran in the release.

“The University has always enjoyed great support from the Dayton community. Already, basketball fans have stepped up and put us very close to an Arena sellout months before the tournament. We will continue working with the First Four Local Organizing Committee to enhance the experience for all First Four student-athletes and fans.”

The First Four has been a part of the NCAA tournament for just three seasons and Dayton, which according to city leaders will receive a boost in upwards of $10 million hosting the First Four and second/third round games this spring, has seen some history during that stretch:

In 2011, tournament Cinderella VCU’s journey started with a win in Dayton. Last year, the inaugural First Four Festival attracted more than 15,000 to downtown Dayton on Selection Sunday.  President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first heads of state to attend an NCAA tournament game when they joined fans at UD Arena for an opening-night game.

According to Andy Katz of the NCAA will make its decision within six to eight weeks, and frankly it would be a good move to leave the First Four in Dayton.

Sellout crowd or not the city has embraced its role in regards to the NCAA tournament, and it’s something Dayton hopes to do in the future as well.

“Feedback from the teams and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee make it obvious that community support is a critical factor in awarding future NCAA sites,” said Dayton vice president and AD Tim Wabler in the same statement.

“It has to be clear, no matter where any visitor travels in the Dayton area that week, that Dayton is the center of the college basketball world when the NCAA comes to town. We have the chance to cement the First Four in Dayton for years to come.

“It’s our goal to make Dayton as synonymous with the First Four as Omaha is with the College World Series.”

Photo credit: NCAA/University of Dayton

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.