The Secondary Break: Tuesday’s Links

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FDU is early king of New Jersey hardwood (Bergen Record)
With a new head coach in Greg Herenda, Fairleigh Dickinson entered the 2013-14 season having lost its final 15 games of the season prior. And without a win over a Division I opponent since January 2013, it was clear that Herenda has his work cut out for him. But in less than a week the Knights picked up wins over Rutgers and Seton Hall, which should be seen as progress for the once-struggling program.

Coaching in Calipari’s shadow, Pastner keeps Memphis among nation’s elite (USA Today)
Given their recent struggled in games against ranked opponents, Memphis’ win over then-No. 5 Oklahoma State on Sunday was an important step in the right direction for Josh Pastner’s program. But it isn’t as if Pastner hasn’t experienced success at Memphis, where in five-plus seasons he’s won 75% of his games.

Jim Boeheim’s November record is superb, but another ACC coach has fared better (Syracuse Post-Standard)
During his tenure at Syracuse, head coach Jim Boeheim has won 91.1% of his games in the month of November. That percentage ranks second amongst ACC coaches, and the leader isn’t Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski or North Carolina’s Roy Williams either.

Parker Van Dyke is living his Ute dream (Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah’s racked up six wins to start the 2013-14 season, but they’ve done so against competition that is nowhere near the level they’ll face in Pac-12 play. That changes on Tuesday night when the Utes visit Boise State, and one of the newcomers who has contributed thus far is freshman guard Parker Van Dyke. Originally planning to begin his two-year LDS mission this year, Van Dyke postponed if for a season to help out the program he’s supported forever.

Kevin Ollie making UConn his own (ESPN)
There’s likely nothing tougher in coaching than to be the man who follows a legendary figure, and that was the position Kevin Ollie found himself in last fall. But his Huskies rose to the challenge, resulting in the former UConn point guard being given a long-term contract. And while much of what Jim Calhoun established remains present, Ollie’s adding his own touch to a program that will be asked to carry the banner for the American Athletic Conference as the league establishes itself nationally.

Michigan State’s seniors deserve national attention, too (
With so much hoopla surrounding this season’s crop of freshmen, returnees have been overlooked in some instances. And there are a number of coaches who believe that the hype for the newcomers is overshadowing the performances of these veterans, with Michigan State having two seniors to rely on in Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.

Pittsburgh mayor tweets shots at police lieutenant who moonlights as an official (Pittsburgh Tribune)
During Pittsburgh’s win over Stanford last week one of the officials was Larry Scirotto, who is also a lieutenant in the Pittsburgh Police Department. Of course, Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl took the opportunity to openly ask via Twitter how Scirotto has the time to do both jobs, claiming after the fact that no disrespect was meant.

Video of the Day: The return of “Trick Shot Titus”
The sweet-shooting Titus Ashby is back with a third video, one that includes cameos from actors Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper, and a stop at Wichita State’s Charles Koch Arena.

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.