Tom Wolf Imaging/Canisius Athletics

The Chase for 180: Billy Baron’s become even more lethal

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Who is the best shooter in the country?

It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? Does being a “shooter” simply mean merely being a high-level marksman from beyond the arc? Can a player who thrives in the mid-range but rarely ventures out into three-point land be eligible? How heavily should we be valuing stats like efficiency and effective field goal percentage when taking all of this into account?

One number that we like to use is “180″. How do you become a 180 shooter? By shooting 50% or better from the field overall, 40% or better from three and at least 90% from the charity stripe. From this point forward we’ll track this until the end of the regular season, providing weekly updates as well as a look into how some of the nation’s best find (and connect on) their quality looks.

In his first season at Canisius guard Billy Baron proved to be one of the MAAC’s best players, posting averages of 17.2 points and 5.0 assists per game. And with shooting percentages of 43.9% from the field, 38.2% from three and 82.4% from the foul line, Baron was also an efficient shooter who ranked in the top ten in the MAAC in both effective field goal (51.5; 8th) and true shooting (57.0; 6th) percentages.

So what would Baron do for an encore? To this point in the season, all he’s done is become an even more lethal scorer while averaging nearly the same number of assists per game (4.9 apg) for a team that’s currently tied for first place in the MAAC.

Baron’s scoring has increased to 24.2 points per game, which is quite the achievement when considering just how much attention he receives from opponents on a daily basis. That’s an impressive number, one that ranks third nationally and second in the MAAC, but what makes it even more impressive is the fact that Baron’s done this while raising all of his shooting percentages.

He’s currently shooting 48.0% from the field, 45.5% from three and 91.0% from the charity stripe, and since shooting just 33.3% in a win over Lamar on December 21 Baron’s shot at least 45% from the field in nine straight games. And in those nine games Baron’s attempted an average of 17 shots per game. And according to Baron’s improved his percentage on two-point jumpers, making 37.6% of those shots after connecting on just 32.1% a season ago.

Add to that his improvements at the rim (62.5% from 57.7%) and beyond the arc, and the end result is a player who’s likely the early favorite for MAAC Player of the Year and possibly some national recognition as well.

THE TOP TEN (Note: Players much be eligible to be ranked in FG%, 3PT% and FT%. And here’s a glossary that includes the stats you’ll see used in these posts. Tempo neutral numbers per

1) Jason Calliste (Oregon) 
53.2% FG, 55.6% 3PT, 88.4% FT = 197.2
Shot %: 15.5
eFG %: 65.9
True shooting %: 73.2

2) Phil Forte III (Oklahoma State)
46.8, 49.6, 91.8 = 188.2
Shot %: 23.2
eFG %: 66.2
True shooting %: 71.0

3) Jarvis Summers (Ole Miss)
51.7, 55.0, 79.1 = 185.8
Shot %: 25.2
eFG %: 59.5
True shooting %: 64.4

4) Billy Baron (Canisius)
48.0, 45.5, 91.0 = 184.5
Shot %: 29.1
eFG %: 58.6
True shooting %: 64.7

5) Doug McDermott (Creighton)
50.0, 43.9, 89.3 = 183.2
Shot %: 37.9
eFG %: 57.5
True shooting %: 62.5

6) Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
46.4, 45.1, 91.2 = 182.7
Shot %: 22.9
eFG %: 57.9
True shooting %: 62.7

7) Anthony Brown (Stanford) 
50.3, 50.0, 81.7 = 182.0
Shot %: 19.0
eFG %: 59.6
True shooting %: 63.4

8) Riley Grabau (Wyoming)
44.9, 45.7, 90.4 = 181.0
Shot %: 17.6
eFG %: 61.7
True shooting %: 67.6

9) Johnny Dee (San Diego)
44.2, 43.0, 93.5 = 180.7
Shot %: 30.8
eFG %: 54.3
True shooting %: 59.8

10) Austin Tillotson (Colgate)
58.1, 49.0, 73.6 = 180.7
Shot %: 18.5
eFG %: 66.0
True shooting %: 68.1

Five Perimeter Marksmen (20 or fewer two-point attempts)

1) Kikko Haydar (Arkansas)
50% 3PT; 1-for-9 2PT

2) Anthony Lindauer (High Point)
50% 3PT; 2-for-11 2PT

3) John Gage (Stanford)
50% 3PT; 4-for-10 2PT

4) Ethan Wragge (Creighton)
49.7% 3PT; 2-for-6 2PT

5) Ben Cherry (Charlotte)
49.2% 3PT; 8-for-10 2PT

Previous Installments
November 11
December 4
December 11
December 18
January 8
January 15
January 22

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.