The Morning Mix

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I hope you all enjoyed the Tip-Off Marathon. Today is a “Rest & Recovery” day. But here’s what’s going on in today’s Morning Mix:

Wednesday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – St. Bonaventure’s @ Cornell (NBC Sports Network)
7:00 p.m. – No.22 Wisconsin @ No.10 Florida
8:00 p.m. – Santa Clara @ Saint Louis
8:00 p.m. – Toledo @ Northern Iowa
8:00 p.m. – Western Illinois @ SIU-Edwardsville
8:05 p.m. – UAB @ N0.15 Creighton


Top Stories:
Wichita State able to outlast VCU’s havoc, grabs hard-fought 53-51 win: In a rematch of last season’s NCAA tournament first round game, the Shockers of Wichita State were able to overcome the intense pressure of VCU’s patented “HAVOC” defense. Oregon-transfer Malcolm Armstead hit a jumper with 3.8 seconds left in the second half to give the Shockers a solid road win.

Lackluster performance against Xavier raises concerns about Butler Bulldogs: Butler’s offense struggled to click in the 62-47 loss to a  thin Xavier squad. Sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke struggled to run the offense, and big-man Andrew Smith didn’t get enough touches. Maybe we were wrong to pour on so much preseason love for the Bulldogs.

Keith Appling’ game-winning bucket proves that he can be the Spartan’s leader: Keith Appling’s last-second lay-up in heavy traffic gave the Michigan State Spartans a 67-64 in the opening game of the Champions Classic. The junior showed poise and confidence and looks to be the leading candidate to fill the void left by the graduation of Draymond Green.

Shabazz Muhammad’s family releases statement: The family of ineligible UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad released a statement to the LA Times disputing many of the NCAA’s claims. The high-profile freshman has had his eligibility status in limbo for the last three months, and it was announced last Friday that the NCAA was denying him eligibility.

Hoops Housekeeping:
– San Diego State freshman Winston Sheppard suspended three games for taking improper benefits (Eye on College Basketball)

– Kansas picked up their fifth recruit from the class of 2013 in the form of 7-footer Joel Embiid (Kansas City Star)

Observations & Analysis:
– UMass’s Sampson Carter hit a buzzer-beater to knock off Harvard as part of the Tip-Off Marathon (The Dagger)

– The Washington Huskies dropped a head-scratching loss to the Albany Danes on Tuesday, which is the first of what we imagine to be many ugly non-conference losses for pac-12 teams (Seattle Times)

– With star guard Vincent Council going down with an injury, Providence fans must be very grateful that Bryce Cotton ultimately decided against transferring (Rush The Court)

– Princeton struggled with Northeastern, but it became evident that Ian Hummer is the Ivy League’s top performer (New Jersey Hoops Haven)

Odds & Ends:
– Texas-Arlington doesn’t get many high-profile home games. So with the Oklahoma Sooners on the way into town, the atmosphere is already starting to buzz (Dallas Star-Telegram)

– UCLA’s Josh Smith struggles with lay-ups (The Mock Session)

– St. John’s Jakarr Sampson airball’d a lay-up. You just hate to see that happen. (Big East Coast Bias)

– At halftime of the Champions Classic game between Duke and Kentucky, John Calipari said that the Duke players were flopping and would be suspended if they played in the NBA. He was clearly joking, but nobody knew it. (The Dagger)

Video(s) of the Day:
The Tip-Off Marathon featured a bevy of highlight reel dunks, led by Detroit’s Doug Anderson and Kansas’ Jamari Traylor (Ballin’ is a Habit)

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

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.