Ed Cooley

Cooley: “We’re excited” about move away from Big East

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The seven Catholic, basketball-only schools within the Big East recently announced they’ll be breaking away from the league in the future, and on Monday, one of those coaches spoke his piece about it.

Providence’s Ed Cooley, currently in his second season as Friars head coach, gave his opinion of the move to Chip Brown on Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation. Needless to say, Cooley is like many of the coaches that are involved in this mass exodus from the Big East. He agrees something had to be done.

The Friars are currently 7-2 and are expected to contend in the Big East.

“I’m not privy to a lot of those conversations; that’s at a different level.  The preliminary conversations I’ve had with [PC President] Father Shanley and [athletic director] Bob Driscoll, was, they’ve seen the landscape change years ago.  And when you look at, just recently, with Rutgers leaving, then Louisville leaving, I think enough was enough.  It’s unfortunate, as I said earlier today, that football has dominated the landscape of college athletics and, I mean, there’s a lot of reasons for it.  And because we’re a basketball only school as far as the elite high level, I’m pretty sure our presidents got together and said, ‘Let’s go in a different direction.’  The Big East was changing every single day.  There were nontraditional schools being invited and I’m pretty sure it just wasn’t in the best interests of them all.  But we’re excited.  We’re real excited about the direction. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, I just know it’s going in a different direction. And Providence College has solidified itself as far as what we’re doing to be a powerful player in whatever league we’re going to be in.”

So, Cooley’s happy. I don’t have a problem with that. And also, kudos to him for recognizing, for better or worse, that football is king in this discussion. It’s just a fact some coaches have a hard time grasping. He continued.

“We’ve been a proud, proud member of the Big East, being one of the original schools.  And we’ll miss that.  We’ll miss the challenges of Connecticut, Syracuse, we’ve had some great battles with them through the years.  But I think everybody has to be realistic with the changing culture of athletics.  If you don’t change you are going to get left behind.  And whatever new rivalries will come up, we’ll embrace those.  I know our fan base is excited about it [and] our alumni are excited about it and we’re going to try to do the best we can.”

This is one of the more genuine statements I’ve heard from a coach regarding this situation. Cooley recognizes the past, but knows the times change. The collegiate landscape isn’t the same as it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. We all hurt when we see things we love end or become altered, and we can either, in this case, fight a losing battle to stay together or move on and try to improve. Cooley recognizes the seven non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools saw that and had to make the move.

I never really had an opinion on the latest round conference realignment. I’ve become numb to it. Tell me when it’s over. But this is inevitable. Good that Cooley and the other schools are helping themselves instead of trying to funnel water out of a sinking ship.

David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.