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The Morning After: Favorites for a reason

1/26/2010

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

No. 2 Kansas 84, Missouri 65: Sometimes it's easy to forget just how loaded Kansas is. Exhibit A: Cole Aldrich has been woefully neglected at times this season as Kansas' guards -- Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry, primarily -- have worked inside-out and broken down defenses with their supreme offensive talent. Sometimes, Aldrich goes entire stretches without touching the ball on the offensive end, and so you can forget just how good he was last year and just how important he is to Kansas' national championship chances in 2009-10. And then he reminds you: 12 points, 16 rebounds, seven blocks, about six or seven Kevin Love-esque 60-foot outlet passes and only five field goal attempts. Aldrich is good enough to own games even when Kansas refuses to give him the ball.

That's what happened Monday night. And after an 8-3 Missouri run to start the game, Aldrich and company showed why Kansas is Kansas, and why it's foolish to get even slightly bearish on the Jayhawks. This team has so many resources it can afford to be wasteful and still blow out a 15-4 team at home. What goes for Aldrich goes for these Jayhawks: Forget about them at your own peril. The dominance is startling.

No. 4 Syracuse 73, No. 11 Georgetown 56: Missouri had a chance to have a national coming-out party with an upset win at Kansas; Georgetown's situation was similar but less drastic. A win meant Georgetown, barring a late collapse, needed to be seriously considered as a Final Four contender. A loss meant ... well, not all that much. It's just really hard to win at Kansas, and it's really hard to win at Syracuse. These are not innovative facts, but that doesn't make them any less true. Still, Georgetown fans might be slightly discouraged by Monday night's blowout loss. The Hoyas jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first three minutes and looked entirely unfazed by the Carrier Dome's angry masses. The next 37 minutes saw Syracuse outscore John Thompson's team 73-42. It wasn't pretty, either. Syracuse was more physical, took better shots, closed any remaining holes in its 2-3 zone and looked vastly superior to a Georgetown team that beat Pittsburgh at Pitt. (By the way, that's a Pitt team that beat Syracuse at Syracuse. The transitive property is not applying here.)

The stats aren't complimentary of Georgetown's performance, either. The Hoyas allowed Syracuse a free throw rate of 62.2 percent, and they turned the ball over on nearly 30 percent of their possessions. Nor did the Hoyas get to the line themselves. Once Syracuse locked things in on defense, it was over. Georgetown didn't get inside, it didn't get good looks and the Orangemen made the Hoyas pay in transition.

In closing, then: Kansas and Syracuse are really, really good at playing five-on-five basketball in the year 2010. Were you not aware of this fact, you are now. Those were unequivocally dominant back-to-back performances by two teams that belong in this year's Final Four, and even if the games didn't live up to their advanced billing, those favorites sure did.

Everywhere else.