Pac-12 using basketball as a means to gain exposure in China

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Schools and conferences are always looking for ways to gain additional exposure, but usually that exposure is relegated to just within the the United States. For the Pac-12 conference, however, they are seeking to take their brand to a global level with an initiative in China.

It’s no secret that China presents robust opportunities, which is why the Pac-12 believes that there is serious potential for an increase in research collaboration between schools in the conference and universities in China, boost Chinese enrollment at Pac-12 schools, and possibly garner Chinese investment in the conference.

As reported by Jon Wilner of College Hotline, the Pac-12 launched a globalization initiative two years ago with a focus on China. There are many ways to cultivate a relationship between the Pac-12 and China, but using athletics — specifically basketball and volleyball — as a means of strengthening the league’s relationship with Chinese universities and businesses is an integral aspect of the initiative. Basketball, along with volleyball, are two of China’s most popular sports.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said: “We use the term ‘front porch’  to describe the potential role athletics can play for the universities … how athletics can create opportunities for the universities more broadly.”

It isn’t uncommon for schools to take summer trips to Europe and other foreign countries, but it isn’t too often that regular season games take place overseas — remember last year Connecticut and Michigan State kicked their seasons off at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Just last summer, UCLA men’s basketball played exhibition games in China, and fortunately they fared better than the Georgetown team who threw haymakers and punches in a vicious brawl while in China.

According to Scott, there are not any plans to take Pac-12 football to China as there is little interest in American football there, but don’t rule out the possibility of a regular season game — maybe even a conference game — taking place in China. Of course there are logistical issues that must be taken into consideration, but it’s important to recognize that the higher-ups in the Pac-12 are on board with such an idea.

I’m not sure how thrilled some of the Pac-12 basketball coaches and teams would be of a game like this as a trip to China in the middle of the season can really wear on a team, but the exposure the Pac-12 would receive is undeniable. With more and more foreign players making their way into the college game every year, perhaps a Pac-12 school would land the next Yao Ming on their roster if annual games are played. That wouldn’t be a bad trade-off, would it?

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

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.