Kris Dunn

Denzel Valentine
Associated Press

Naismith Trophy early season watch list released

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Wednesday afternoon the Atlanta Tipoff Club released its early season watch list for the Naismith Trophy, which is annually given to the nation’s top college basketball player. Fifty players are on the initial list, and a player being left off does not prevent them from appearing on lists that will be released later this season or winning the award at season’s end.

Seven freshmen made the initial list, including LSU’s Ben Simmons and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray. Labissiere and Murray are joined on the list by teammate Tyler Ulis, making Kentucky one of two schools that can boast three players. The other school with three players on the initial watch list is Kansas, with guards Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr., and forward Perry Ellis making the cut.

There are a number of programs with two players on the list, including Duke (Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram), Gonzaga (Domas Sabonis, Kyle Wiltjer), Iowa State (Monté Morris, Georges Niang) and Wichita State (Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet). Below is the full list, with the midseason watch list (30 players) scheduled to be released in February.

Sophomore SG Grayson Allen (Duke)
Senior PF Ryan Anderson (Arizona)
Senior PG Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova)
Senior SG Ron Baker (Wichita State)
Junior SF DeAndre Bembry (Saint Joseph’s)
Senior SG Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia)
Freshman SF Jaylen Brown (California)
Senior G Kyle Collinsworth (BYU)
Senior SG Kellen Dunham (Butler)
Junior PG Kris Dunn (Providence)
Senior SG A.J. English (Iona)
Senior PG Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)
Senior PF Rico Gathers Sr. (Baylor)
Senior G Michael Gbinije (Syracuse)
Junior SG Jack Gibbs (Davidson)
Senior C A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
Senior SG Shaquille Harrison (Tulsa)
Junior F Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin)
Senior SG Buddy Hield (Oklahoma)
Senior SG Danuel House (Texas A&M)
Freshman G/F Brandon Ingram (Duke)
Junior PG Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame)
Sophomore SF Justin Jackson (North Carolina)
Junior C Damian Jones (Vanderbilt)
Freshman PF Skal Labissiere (Kentucky)
Senior SG Damion Lee (Louisville)
Senior SG Caris LeVert (Michigan)
Junior PG Frank Mason III (Kansas)
Senior SG Sheldon McClellan (Miami)
Senior PG Nic Moore (SMU)
Junior PG Monté Morris (Iowa State)
Freshman SG Jamal Murray (Kentucky)
Freshman SG Malik Newman (Mississippi State)
Senior PF Georges Niang (Iowa State)
Senior PG Marcus Paige (North Carolina)
Senior G Gary Payton II (Oregon State)
Sophomore F/C Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
Sophomore PF Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga)
Junior G/F Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas)
Freshman F Ben Simmons (LSU)
Senior PG D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown)
Freshman PF Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
Junior PG Isaiah Taylor (Texas)
Sophomore PG Melo Trimble (Maryland)
Sophomore PG Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)
Senior G Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
Senior PG Fred VanVleet (Wichita State)
Senior PG Tyrone Wallace (California)
Senior PF Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)

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.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kris Dunn vs. Denzel Valentine; Two 6-0 teams from Ohio battle in Orlando

Kris Dunn
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.

SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  • One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
  • Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
  • Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
  • Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
  • No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
  • UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.

TOP 25 GAMES

  • Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
  • Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)