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Monday, November 19, 2012
The Morning After: UConn survives

By Eamonn Brennan

The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best basketball action. It thought the clean-shaven look worked well for Abu Nazir.

No. 23 Connecticut 89, Quinnipiac 83: It really is a shame this UConn team can't play in the NCAA tournament.

I know, Huskies fans. I know. That was not the most polite way to begin a quick recap of yet another November win for this young, tenacious group of players. It's probably a huge bummer, actually. But it is something I thought to myself watching Connecticut outlast in-state rival (ha) Quinnipiac Sunday night: If this team could get in the tournament, it would be awfully exciting to watch.

As it happens, with just one more game in the Paradise Jam -- a chalky championship showdown with New Mexico -- Monday night will be the last time we get to see this team play an elimination game. We'll see how things hold up during the drudgery of the regular season. But right now, it's hard not to be impressed. That starts with Shabazz Napier, who scored 23 of his career-high 29 in the final 4 minutes of regulation and the two overtime periods, including a game-tying bucket on the penultimate possession of regulation that was just a blatant display of speed superiority. It was as if Napier woke up late in the game, realized no Bobcat could guard him and played the rest of his 47 minutes accordingly. Meanwhile, he and Ryan Boatright combined to shoot 23-for-25 from the line.

The Huskies may have a lot of ugly shooting nights like Monday night, and they may not be as good as the performance against Michigan State would suggest. But they are playing hard. And they are fun to watch.

Meanwhile, let's take a moment and send a kind thought in the direction of ESPN.com college football editor Brian Kelly, whom I've decided will be name-dropped on the site anytime his beloved alma mater, Quinnipiac, is mentioned. BK had a rough Sunday night.

New Mexico 70, George Mason 69: There is a fair amount of anticipation regarding this New Mexico team, because they spent most of the offseason being so vastly underrated a full-fledged backlash is now underway. The real test will come against aforementioned UConn Monday night. (Stay tuned for a preview this afternoon.) But in the meantime it's hard to know exactly what to make of a team that needed a last-second Tony Snell rainbow 3-pointer to take down this George Mason team. Or maybe it's time to revise gloomy predictions for Mason, which now owns wins over Virginia and Mercer, lost by five at Bucknell (no shame in that; Mike Muscala can ball) and gave New Mexico everything it wanted and more. Monday night will offer more clues.

Oklahoma State 76, No. 6 NC State 56: See Myron Medcalf's closer look at Oklahoma State's utter trouncing of NC State for all your analysis needs. I'll just say one thing: NC State is clearly better than last season. This was a gross loss. It'll recover. But it was never the sixth-best team in the country. It barely made the tournament last season. How quickly we forget.

Colorado 81, Murray State 74: Like Myron, Jason King had this one covered like a covered bridge. (#fakelilwaynebars)

No. 16 Baylor 97, St. John's 78: There's not a lot to analyze here: Brady Heslip had the game of his life (29 points, 8-of-12 from 3), the Bears all scored with ease and rebounded 58 percent of their misses and got to the line all the time and cruised to an easy win after a disappointing loss to Colorado at the weekend. But I am interested in St. John's. That is a truly promising team, talent-wise, but it appears to lack two things: 1) A forward who can score on the low block (as opposed to shooting 15-to-18-foot jumpers) and 2) a coherent game plan beyond "outrun, outjump." That's not a slight on coach Steve Lavin; if I wielded that much athletic ability, I'd try to run everybody out of the gym, too. But the lack of a Plan B, particularly against teams that match or outstrip your athleticism, can get you run out of the gym just as quickly.

Everywhere else: Ohio State rolled Washington, thanks in large part to Deshaun Thomas being unstoppable. ... Duke started slow against Florida Gulf-Coast, and then scored 30 points in a row. ... Florida had minimal issues with a much-better-than-you-think Middle Tennessee. ... Tennessee got its offense back on track against UMass. ... Poor Penn State. ... Boston College didn't fare much better, but at least it didn't get blown out. ... Long-term NCAA tournament sleeper La Salle took an awfully ugly loss to Central Connecticut State. ... and Hofstra had itself a week and a half, about which more to come.