Aaron Craft

The Morning Mix

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Four spots in the Elite Eight were handed out last night. Ohio State won on yet another game-winning 3-pointer. Wichita State looked like a legitimate Final Four team against La Salle. Marquette made Miami look like, well, Miami and Syracuse roughed up Indiana worse than any team had done this season.

Four more games are on-tap today, including the return of #DunkCity.
Let’s hit the links.
Read of the Day:
Ayn Rand’s formula for NCAA success. Make sure you read this. (Bloomberg View)
Observations & Insight:
– Some interesting thoughts on the college coaching search from an actual headhunter. (Land-Grant Holy Land)

– Luke Winn ranks the title chances of the Sweet 16 teams. Obviously, four teams have been eliminated from this list. (Sports Illustrated)

– Bruins Nation always has a strong take on the state of the UCLA athletic department. They believe that the coaching search for the next UCLA head basketball coach will be a defining moment for Bruin basketball. (Bruins Nation)

– Projecting the field in 2014: How many ACC teams will make the NCAA tournament next year? (BC Interruption)

– A look back at the other No. 15-seeds to earn NCAA tournament victories. FGCU is the first No. 15-seed to make the Sweet 16, but five other No. 15-seeds have won tournament games. (Penn Live)
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Butler head coach Brad Stevens is believed to be one of UCLA’s key coaching targets. But then again, almost every major program that has had a coaching vacancy in the last three seasons has targeted Stevens. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Part of Shaka Smart’s new contract extension at VCU is that his entire salary will be privately funded, meaning no student fees, tuition or state money will go towards Smart’s new salary. (USA Today)

– Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole was on the Siena campus yesterday interviewing for the Saint’s head coaching vacancy. Toole’s stock has skyrocketed following the Colonials’ N.I.T. win over defending national champions Kentucky. (Albany Union-Times)

– Abdel Nader, the leading scorer for Northern Illinois, has decided to transfer following a 5-win season. (Rant Sports)

– Justin Edwards, the America East’s top scorer, has announced that he will transfer out of Maine. (Bangor Daily News)

– Could Verizon and their inflated subscriber fees be the downfall to the impending super-conference era? (VU Hoops)
Odds & Ends
– The south regional finals are being held at Cowboy Stadium, home of the world’s most unnecessarily large TV. (The Dagger)

– Reese Waters of ESPN’s “UNITE” show fills us in on how to cure “March Sadness”. (ESPN Playbook)

– A treasure trove of FGCU dunks, .GIFs and #DunkCity memorabilia. (The Dagger)

– Jahlil Okafor, the top recruit in the class of 2014, doesn’t like it when coaches mispronounce his name. Welcome to the club, pal. Have you seen my last name? (USA Today HS)

– Sports bars in Lawrence, KS are cracking down on customers who abuse March Madness privileges. (KUsports.com)

– Aaron Craft crossed-up Arizona’s Nick Johnson pretty badly in the first half their West regional semifinal. (The Big Lead)

– I saw this live. It wasn’t pretty. My face began to hurt just watching the replay. (The Big Lead)

– These are good, especially “Madison Ware Garden”. (Card Chronicle)
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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.