College Basketball Nation: Stanford

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

Seton Hall 80, Louisville 77: Wednesday was a night of streaks. Memphis lost its conference win streak; DePaul broke its conference losing streak; Pitt ceded its Big East home game streak, and so on. Louisville might as well have played on Wednesday night, as the Cardinals lost for the third time in a row for the first time since 2005-06. If that seems confusing, it's not just the awkward phrase. That's how good Louisville has been in the Big East for the past three years, and in 2009-10, for whatever reason, the Cardinals are managing to post efficient statistics and numbers and still look utterly mediocre in the win column. That's what's most confusing: Why isn't this Louisville team better? Or, more precisely, why isn't this Louisville team, which appears on paper to be one of the best four or five teams in the Big East, so apparently unable to turn that efficient profile into wins?

No. 20 Butler 48, Loyola (IL) 47: Perhaps the most important thing for Butler is they survived, and won, a game in which they made .08 points per trip, posted a 38.4 FG percentage, went to the free throw line on a mere 17 percent of their possessions, and were out-rebounded on the offensive end almost 2-to-1. Still, though, that is an ugly performance. Even against mediocre Horizon League teams like Loyola, Butler won't be able to play this badly and expect to make it through the conference slate unbeaten, which is pretty much what they have to do to secure an at-large bid and not worry about the pressures of the conference tournament come March. If you wanted to over-analyze the game, you could say that surviving and winning on the road on such a bad night was a good thing, that it proved Butler's mettle, or something. Or you could just call it what it is: a bad game that Butler can't afford to replicate all that often.

Indiana 67, Penn State 61: Indiana fans have had a weird relationship with this year's IU team. Most went into the season with some cautious optimism, only to have that optimism simultaneously piqued and dashed week in and week out. Tom Crean's team is capable of beating Pitt in Madison Square Garden, only to lose Loyola (MD) at home a week later. This is the kind of up-and-down, tweener season Crean is having right now: His team can play inspired, coherent basketball and challenge and even topple superior teams ... and then a night later can toss in horrid, ugly performances that have some of the more strident IU fans already questioning the length of Crean's contract. (Kentucky fans get a bad rap for being too hard on coaches, but IU fans deserve a shout-out: That some are already nibbling at the edges of his popularity is kind of shocking. What did you expect? Things were screwed up before, and Crean is trying to make them less screwed up, and you're going to blame him when the process takes longer than you hoped? Note that you could, were you so inclined, substitute Barack Obama's name in for Tom Crean's ... but let's not go down that road.)

Anyway, the point is that Thursday night was one of IU's Dr. Jekyll nights. Penn State is a bad team, but Big Ten road wins were an absolute impossibility last season. Crean has his team at .500 after 18 games. Given the circumstances he inherited, that's worthy of some measure of respect.

No. 10 Gonzaga 91, Pepperdine 84: Today's AP wrap makes note of the history of Pepperdine-Gonzaga, when both teams used to contend for the WCC every year, when both teams used to make it to the NCAA tournament, when both teams were mid-major darlings (even if Gonzaga hogged most of the press). Those days are basically over: Gonzaga has emerged the victor, becoming a national power a ubiquitous national profile and Nike shorts in every sports good store in the country. Pepperdine has receded in WCC mediocrity. But last night, the two teams had one of their trademark duels, the kind that harkened back to the glory days of the late 1990s, and Gonzaga needed a career-high 32 points from Matt Bouldin and a 20-and-13 from freshman Elias Harris to get past the Waves at home. One more note on Harris: Most reading this blog will already know this, but Elias Harris should be in contention for every freshman award there is. It's not that he'll win all of them -- John Wall, John Wall, John Wall -- but Harris' performance deserves national attention. He's special.

Everywhere else: Florida notched a big SEC road win over Arkansas, 71-66 ... Utah State cruised in Fresno ... Siena stayed unbeaten in the MAAC with a six-point win over Loyola (MD) ... Isiah Thomas' FIU team dropped to 6-16 overall with a 15-point loss to Arkansas State at home ... Cal utterly destroyed Oregon in Berkeley ... Oregon State scored 35 points in a 60-possession game and promptly lost to Stanford; more on this later ... Washington State beat a lifeless USC team in L.A. ... and UCLA caused its fans to rush the court with a home win over Washington. More on this later, too. In the meantime be sure to check out Diamond's live coverage of the game from Pauley Pavilion.
Saddle Up is a quick preview of the basketball your TV wants you to watch tonight. Here's Thursday night's rundown.

Louisville at Seton Hall, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: If I told you Louisville was almost exactly as efficient a basketball team as Syracuse, would you believe me? Probably not: Syracuse has one loss and is a favorite to make the Final Four; Louisville already has two losses in the Big East and is still apparently rebuilding from last year's Earl Clark-Terrence Williams dual exodus. But it's true! Louisville has been a pretty darn efficient team so far in the Big East, tying Syracuse with a plus-.11 efficiency margin, good for fourth in the conference. Louisville plays very good offense (largely thanks to its No.5-ranked offensive rebounding percentage) and serviceable defense. Louisville's problem is fouls: The Cards give up way too many trips to the line to opposing teams, a stat that makes Pitino's style of play -- pressing, pushing, forcing teams to play fast and scattered -- much more difficult to pull off. Seton Hall, meanwhile, needs a to start a flurry of Big East wins if it wants to sniff the NCAA tournament; the Hall's weak non-conference schedule make a Big East run imperative. At 1-3 so far, it's not looking good.

Florida at Arkansas, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: Speaking of teams that need to start rattling off conference wins: Florida. This is a team that doesn't shoot particularly well, and combines that problem with its stunning inability to get to the free throw line. Florida is No. 302 in the country in free throw rate. This is very bad; either the Gators need to figure out a way to shoot better, or they need to figure out a way to get to the line. One or the other could cause a veritable renaissance in Gainesville. Neither will see the Gators left out of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year.

No. 20 Butler at Loyola (IL), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN360: Butler has an interesting conundrum on its hands. Because the Bulldogs fared somewhat poorly in their non-conference slate -- the same non-conference slate that could have pushed them into high-seed territory come March, had things gone as planned -- Butler finds itself needing to win almost every league game to avoid needing to win the Horizon League tournament to guarantee its NCAA bid. Fortunately, the Horizon League isn't chock full of talented teams, at least not as talented as Butler. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter. What'd we learn Wednesday night? (And, you know, in every college basketball tournament ever?) Upsets happen. The Bulldogs could slip and still make the tournament as an at-large bid, but it won't be a guarantee. This means that every league game Butler plays -- even against opponents like Loyola, which is 3-4 in Horizon League play -- is important and nervy. Sounds like fun, right?

Everywhere else: There's a big slate of Pac-10 games this Thursday, including Washington-UCLA, where our man Diamond Leung will be on the scene. If you desperately want to watch a desperately unwatchable conference, there's also Oregon State-Stanford, Oregon-Cal, and Washington State-USC ... Gonzaga will take on Pepperdine at home, which used to be a much better game, but should still provide some exciting moments ... Indiana and Penn State will do battle in the three-team race (the third team is Iowa, natch) not to be the worst team in the Big Ten which, given the other two teams in each's equation, would be very bad indeed ... Siena will look to stay perfect in the MAAC ... and last but not least, Utah State will travel to Fresno to help settle in a match up of 3-2 WAC teams. Also, Jersey Shore is on. You know you're going to watch. Don't lie to me.

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