Arizona to use a deeper rotation in the coming weeks

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Before Brandon Ashley got hurt, when Arizona was still undefeated and the No. 1 team in the country, the Wildcats were not a deep team.

They played a seven-man rotation. Jordin Mayes saw some minutes here and there, but for the most part, it was the starters, Gabe York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson that played for the Wildcats.

That’s it.

Without Ashley, that hasn’t changed much. Mayes took two DNP-CDs and has played seven minutes in the last four games. He played two minutes in Arizona’s double-overtime loss to Arizona State. Matt Korchek, Arizona’s emergency big man, has played just seven minutes since Ashley went out. Elliot Pitts has seen the biggest boost in playing time since the injury, playing 26 minutes in wins over the Oregon schools, but he played just five minutes in the Arizona State loss.

All of Arizona’s starters played at least 45 minutes on Friday. That’s not sustainable, and on Monday, Sean Miller acknowledged that.

“I think early on in games throughout the first half, playing our bench is key,” Miller said at his weekly news conference, “because once you decide not to play it you have players playing not to make mistakes –`I don’t want to foul’ — so all of a sudden your effort level isn’t as high. Transition opportunities aren’t as plentiful and one reason is guys aren’t quite as fresh as they were.”

“So for us to win the most games this year I think our biggest upside lies in trusting Jordan Mayes, Elliott Pitts, Gabe York a little bit more, throwing Matt Korcheck in there and taking some minutes away from the players that are playing.”

Miller also noted that the issue isn’t simply the volume of minutes played, it’s the kind of minutes as well. Arizona doesn’t have much of an offense, so they’re playing grind-it-out games every night.

When every possession matters in a game as physical as Arizona likes to play, it can not only be physically draining, but mentally draining as well.

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.