<
>

The Morning After: Spartans lose, but how much?

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best basketball action. Try not to make it awkward.

No. 16 Wisconsin 67, No. 5 Michigan State 49: Phew. Instead of trying to weave all of this into a coherent narrative -- because who do I look like, F. Scott Hemingway? -- let's take it piece by piece:

  1. Shooting. Northwestern's student section wears athletics-department-sanctioned T-shirts that just say "make shots." Most teams' yearly student T-shirts say something like "Year Of Destiny" or "Returning To Glory" -- ostensibly inspirational things designed to rouse fervor in a fan base. Northwestern's was simple and direct, and still the most literally true T-shirt of its kind I've ever seen. It's brilliant, and I love it. Why? Because sometimes basketball is simple. Sometimes you don't make shots -- in Michigan State's case behind the arc, where the Spartans shot a scorching 12.2 percent -- and that makes all the difference. Michigan State only took nine threes. That's is low-risk, low-reward basketball, and without the defense to back it up on the other end, they didn't make nearly enough to slow the Badgers down. Sometimes, you've just got to make shots. First, you've got to take them.

  2. No offense to Wisconsin's players, but ... Is it possible that Bo Ryan is the best system coach in college basketball? Let's define system coach first. Let's say a system coach is a guy who seems to be able to plug just about any combination of his type of players into a basketball team and emerge with a winning product year and year out. Bo Ryan is this person! Wisconsin's recruits aren't anything to sneeze at, but they're also rarely at the elite national level. It never seems to matter. Ryan wins anyway. Heck, his best players -- Trevon Hughes and Jon Leuer -- can be in foul trouble and injured, respectiviely, and Ryan can get 19 points from Jason Bohannon and 17 from Jordan Taylor as the Badgers roll to an easy win. No offense to Wisconsin's players, who are obviously very, very good at basketball and deserve plenty of credit for their success ... but we should start some sort of offseason reality show challenge thing wherein Ryan tries to coach a team of out- of-shape rec league players against Big Ten competition. I'd never bet against this team. (OK, yes I would. But you get the point.)

  3. Kalin, Kalin, Kalin. Losing your first Big Ten game on the road at Wisconsin is no big deal. Losing your star point guard to injury is. It's still uncertain how long Kalin Lucas will miss with the ankle sprain he suffered in Tuesday night's second half, but any amount of time gone from the court is time the Spartans will dearly miss him. Last night's Wisconsin win has repercussions for the Big Ten going forward, but none are more important than the condition of Lucas' ankle.

No. 3 Kentucky 85, Ole Miss 75: Our own Pat Forde checked in late last night with some of his postgame thoughts, so read those if you want a recap. I have but one thing to add: Did you see Eric Bledsoe's alley-oop? Late in the second half, John Wall -- whose performance will officially put to rest any worries about his frustration with head coach John Calipari -- lightly tossed an oop over a defender's arms. As Bledsoe jumped to catch the pass, the defender barely grazed the ball, slightly altering its trajectory to the near side of the hoop, opposite from where Bledsoe jumped. But somehow, Bledsoe managed to adjust his jump in mid-air, extend his arms completely, grab the floating pass on the near side of the basket, scoop it up, and make the bucket. In a year of silly Kentucky highlights, this was easily the best. So far.

Everywhere else: You have to hand it to Seton Hall, who plays tough on the road in the Big East. But the Pirates just aren't there yet. In the meantime, Scottie Reynolds & Co. keep rolling, now 9-0 in conference and officially prompting my roommates asking me if Reynolds can win the player of the year. If this keeps up, he just might. ... Syracuse had few problems with Providence, and the highlight package is worth a look if only for Friars forward Jamine Peterson's off-the-backboard-to-himself dunk ... Nebraska couldn't follow up its first Big 12 win with another, losing to Kansas State in Lincoln ... Rutgers, once again off the schneid, beat St. John's in Piscataway, doubling the Scarlet Knights' conference win record ... Miami cut the lead to three with just five minutes left at Wake Forest, but C.J. Harris' 12 points helped the Deacons stave off a comeback ... BYU jumped all over TCU and never looked back, going to 7-1 in the Mountain West ... and Northwestern stayed just-barely-alive in the race for its first-ever NCAA tournament berth, beating an officially bad Michigan team in Evanston.