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The Morning After: Spartans back on top

The Morning After is our semi-daily morning recap post. Try not to make it awkward.

Michigan State 54, Wisconsin 47: Now this is a Big Ten basketball game. After their uptempo, runaway win over Northwestern Saturday, it was reasonable to assume the Spartans would want to push the pace against the slow, plodding, methodically effective Wisconsin Badgers. That did not happen: These teams shared 59 possessions (the national average is about 70), and they weren't particularly effective with even those limited opportunities. The AP report is characterizing this game as a "defensive struggle" -- Bo Ryan said much the same -- and that's partially true. Each team prevented the other from getting anywhere near their current averages for points or efficiency. But neither team shot well, and that has plenty to do with it, too.

The good news for the Spartans is that they took care of business at home against what appears to be the second most likely challenger for their Big Ten throne. Everywhere else (with the possible exception of an Evan Turner-fielding Ohio State team) looks a little bit worse than expected; Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are your three Big Ten teams worth their national salt.

Kansas 71, Cornell 66: Three cheers for Cornell, huh? This is a team that went into Allen Fieldhouse, one of the most historic and intimidating basketball arenas in the world, and not only hung with Kansas but very nearly beat them. Cornell took a one-point lead into the final minute, and you know the rest: Sherron Collins took over the game, scoring nine straight points at the end and singlehandedly refusing to cede the lead back to Big Red. What does the win mean? Well, Kansas got its first legitimate test. It had a poor shooting night and still survived. Bill Self will be pleased. But more than anything it means that Sherron Collins is still the de facto leader and go-to guy of the Kansas Jayhawks, no matter how good Xavier Henry has been. Henry might be the more talented scorer, but when the game and season are on the line, Collins will have the ball in his hands. As it should be, eh?

Connecticut 71, Seton Hall 63: Seton Hall could have used this one, but what should you expect? Connecticut isn't vintage Connecticut, but they're still a good, athletic team, and they're still going to win the games they should win at home. So maybe hoping for a Hall win would have been too optimistic. The point is that Bobby Gonzalez's team, after starting 9-1, has now lost four straight. Granted, three of those losses were understandable (to West Virginia in OT, to Syracuse, and to UConn) but one was an indictment of the Pirates altogether (the 102-94 OT loss to Virginia Tech without Malcolm Delaney on Saturday). Seton Hall entered Big East play with a legitimate shot at reaching the NCAA tournament. Those hopes are fading fast.

Tennessee 88, Charlotte 71: On Dec. 5, Charlotte played an injury-bit Louisville team and beat them by 22 points. Last night's game had the potential for similarity: Tennessee is reeling after the suspension of four players, one of whom was star forward Tyler Smith, for gun-related arrests. If any team looks ready to fold in the season, it's Tennessee. But that didn't happen. Rather, the exact opposite did: Tennessee put a whoopin' (as they say in Tennessee) on Charlotte from the opening tip. Wayne Chism led the way with 18 points as all five Tennessee starters scored in double digits. Hey, maybe Bruce Pearl was right. The Vols do still have weapons.

Everywhere else: Syracuse got a minor challenge from Memphis before pulling away late ... One of two things is happening here: Either Marquette is surprisingly good again, or Georgetown has another disappointing team. Or maybe both. Either way, the Golden Eagles upset the No. 12 Hoyas in Milwaukee last night ... No. 23 BYU survived its first conference test of the season, winning by four over UNLV ... Indiana received the blunt end of an Evan Turner welcoming party at Value City Arena ... Craig Robinson's Oregon State rebuilding project suffered its worst loss to date, dropping a lifeless 99-48 game to, get this, Seattle ... and the Pac-10 suffered yet another indictment, this one directed at the team most people still have national hopes for, Cal; a bad UCLA team beat the Golden Bears 76-75 in Berkeley Wednesday night, and I think it's official: The Pac-10 is beyond redemption. Let's just ignore it from now on, OK? (I'm kidding! I love all conferences equally, even when they're really bad.)