By Steve Silverman

Bagley plays role of orthopedist and fixes own shoulder

It could have been a nasty injury when Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III was unable to move his shoulder early in Monday night’s game against Miami.

He came out of the game as a result, and he quickly popped his own shoulder back into its socket. While that is difficult to do in most cases and can be quite painful, Bagley accomplished the feat without any problems and he was able to return to the game shortly after getting the go-ahead from the Duke medical staff.

Bagley performed the correct manipulation on his own shoulder, and he scored 13 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the No. 5 Blue Devils came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to secure an 83-75 victory over the 25th-ranked Hurricanes.

“I started moving it around and I was kind of scared it would hurt bad, but then it went right back in,” Bagley said after the game. “The trainers checked it out and then I went back out. As we kept playing, I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was trying to get this win and we did.”

Bagley did not have his usual game for the Blue Devils as he is averaging 22.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per night, and he understands that every game can’t be a breath-taking piece of art. However, he avoided what could have been a serious injury and he doesn’t have to miss any valuable time.

That’s the key part of the puzzle for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.

Miles Bridges #22 of the Michigan State Spartans. Credit: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Spartans sinking; need to develop true leadership

Two weeks ago, Michigan State was the No. 1 team in the nation, and it looked like Tom Izzo had the Spartans on track to dominate in the Big Ten and prepared for a long run in the NCAA tournament.

The Spartans have since fallen all the way to the No. 9 spot in the rankings, and all kinds of questions about as to the team’s future.

There is clearly plenty of talent on the court with Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Joshua Langford and Cassius Winston, but that does not means that they are all going to mesh together on the court. After losses against Ohio State and Michigan, there has been no meshing.

That’s because the great players on the roster like Bridges and Ward are not necessarily great leaders. The leadership position on this team is manned by Lourawls “Tum-Tum” Nairn Jr., and the senior guard is definitely a take-charge guy who can tell everyone on the court what their assignment is in a given defensive set.

But while Nairn may have a great name and a memorable nickname, he is not much of a player with the Spartans. He is averaging 1.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game, and while he means well, those kind of contributions usually do not lead to effective leadership.

It’s going to have to come from Bridges or Ward. Bridges is averaging 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per night, while Ward is scoring 14.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per night.

The Spartans have the time and ability to turn things around, but they can’t do it if they are going to depend on Nairn for leadership.

Coreontae DeBerry #22 of the Cincinnati Bearcats battles for the ball with Devonta Pollard #24 and Leron Barnes #4 of the Houston Cougars. Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Keep an eye on Houston as season progresses

The Houston Cougars (14-4, 4-2) have been playing with a real edge this season for head coach Kelvin Sampson, and much of it goes back to last season.

The Cougars were a very worthy team, but they were left out of the tournament despite their 22-11 record. This year’s team has beaten teams like Providence and Wake Forest, and that raised the profile quite a bit.

Houston has a star player in 6-1 guard Rob Gray, who has an excellent chance to make a name for himself as the American Athletic Conference player of the year. Gray is averaging 19.4 points and 4.0 assists per game, while shooting 48.0 percent from the field.

Gray is getting plenty of help from Corey Davis Jr. , Devin Davis, Armoni Brooks and Wes VanBeck.

The Cougars have head coach Kelvin Sampson’s signature in that they are going to put up a high volume of shots on an every-night basis. The Cougars shoot quickly, go to the offensive boards hard and they do an excellent job of protecting the ball.

Houston has to continue to perform well against its most outstanding opponent. They have a home game Saturday against No. 7 Wichita State and a road game January 31 at Cincinnati. If the Cougars can find a way to win both, it could propel them to a fantastic month of February that would all but guarantee Sampson’s team a spot in the tournament.

This and that …

More injury news from Notre Dame, and while Mike Brey may be one of the best coaches in the nation, there’s only so much he can do when key players go down. In addition to Bonzie Colson’s broken foot, the Irish have lost freshman wing D.J. Harvey to a nasty bone bruise on the knee. He is expected to be out four weeks. … Oklahoma freshman Trae Young continues to lead the nation in scoring and assists. Young is scoring 29.5 points per night, and also handing 9.8 assists per game. Kendrick Nunn of Oakland is the nation’s No. 2 scorer with 25.8 points per game. … Junior guard Joseph Chartouny of Fordham is a player to watch. Chartouny has very quick hands and is leading the nation with 3.5 steals per game, slightly ahead of West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, who is coming away with 3.4 steals per night.