Villanova v Butler

No. 11 Villanova survives Butler in the Bulldog’s Big East opener

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Hinkle Fieldhouse almost claimed another victim.

No. 11 Villanova did everything they could to give the game away against Butler. They allowed the Bulldogs to erase a second half deficit in the final minutes, tying the game and forcing overtime on a Kellen Dunham jumper with 25 seconds left.

In the extra frame, Villanova took a five point lead but then proceeded to miss five-out-of-six free throws, turn the ball over up one with 19 seconds left and then give up an offensive rebound to Khyle Marshall with just 9.5 seconds left in the game. Butler had a chance to win the game, but they were out of timeouts and couldn’t get the ball inbounds against the Villanova defense.

And that was that.

The Wildcats escaped — yes, escaped is the word to use here — with a 76-73 win in overtime.

What that should tell you, more than anything, is that the Butler team that we all wrote off when Brad Stevens left and Roosevelt Jones injured his wrist is going to be a problem this season.

The Bulldogs probably don’t have enough pieces to make a real push at winning the Big East. But Kellen Dunham has emerged into one of the nation’s best pure scorers. He’s more than just a jump-shooter this season. He’s not averaging 18.5 points this season by accident. Khyle Marshall has gotten better as well, and there’s enough rebounding, scoring and Butler Gumption (patent pending) on the rest of the roster for this group to be a thorn in the side of each and every other Big East member.

Can they make the NCAA tournament?

Well, it’s going to be tough. The Bulldogs didn’t pick up a marquee non-conference win, losing to Oklahoma State and LSU. Villanova is far-and-away the best win that can be earned in league play and Butler just lost to them at home. As competitive as the Big East is going to be this season, I’m not sure how many at-large bids the league will produce.

In other words, Butler is sitting in a hole that’s going to be tough to dig themselves out of.

But that says less about how good this team is than how much they are going to regret losing to Villanova, Oklahoma State and LSU by a combined six points.

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.