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Pittsburgh to hold ‘Morning Madness’ to tip off 2013-14 season (VIDEO)

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Last season the Pittsburgh Panthers opened up their season in a way that few programs have in recent years: they went outside. To celebrate the school’s 225th year Jamie Dixon’s squad practiced between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union on Bigelow Boulevard, a night complete with the head coach dressed up as Jackie Moon from the moving “SemiPro.”

(Note: Dixon didn’t do any singing at the event, and if you’ve seen “SemiPro” you know the song.)

To open things up this season the Panthers will once again play basketball in an unfamiliar environment, this time doing so at Stage AE on September 28 with the action scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Stage AE is a facility that sits adjacent to Heinz Field, which will allow Pitt fans to take in the festivities (including player skits and a dunk contest) prior to the football team hosting Virginia in its annual Homecoming game.

Homecoming’s always a good time to stage such events given how many people make the effort to return to campus to relive their college days and catch up with friends they likely haven’t seen in years, so that should enhance the atmosphere for Pitt’s public practice.  Add to that the fact that Dixon’s program will be doing so before a football game against a conference opponent (and the tailgaters should be ready considering the fact that kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. EST), and this has the potential to be an exciting day for Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s announcement of “Morning Madness” also came with a video of Coach Dixon donning “his” Flint Tropics warmups, and it will be interesting to see if Jackie Moon makes an appearance for the second consecutive year. The Panthers, who finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 24-9, will play their first season as an ACC member with three returning starters including forward Lamar Patterson and guard James Robinson.

h/t CBS Sports

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

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
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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

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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.