Tennessee gives releases to freshmen Darius Thompson and A.J. Davis

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Tennessee granted releases to two freshmen on Monday, as new head coach Donnie Tyndall could move on without freshman guard Darius Thompson and freshman forward A.J. Davis.

Tyndall hopes the duo returns to Tennessee as both Davis and Thompson received minutes last season for the Vols.

The 6-foot-5 Thompson was a key reserve last season, as the backup point guard ran the offense off-the-bench and appeared in all 37 games for Tennessee, registering double-digit minutes in 33 of those contests. The light-shooting Thompson averaged 2.6 points, two rebounds, 2.4 assists and one steal per game in 16.4 minutes a game last season. Thompson also led the team in steals and was second in assists.

The 6-foot-9 Davis is the son of former NBA All-Star forward Antonio Davis and appeared in 25 games for Tennessee last season, but saw his minutes decline significantly during SEC play. Davis averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in the 2013-14 campaign.

Although both Davis and Thompson should improve over the next few seasons, neither looked like a sure thing to be starters in the SEC based on their freshman seasons.

Thompson was serviceable as a backup ball handler because of his steadiness with the ball (34 turnovers in 620 minutes), but he only shot 38 percent from the field and 19 percent from the three-point line, so he has a long ways to go to be any kind of threat as a scorer.

Still, Thompson was the team’s only returning point guard and if both players opt to leave then Tennessee has six open scholarships for the 2014-15 season. Earlier on Monday, Tennessee announced the signing of JuCo guard Kevin Punter, but he’s more of an off-the-ball option for the Vols as Punter averaged 20-plus points per game last season at State Fair Community College.

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.