Yes, folks, it's the return of The Morning After, our quasi-daily morning analysis of last night's best hoops action. Good to have you back for another year, TMA. It's good to be here. Wait. What's up? Am I talking to my own blog feature? I don't know, are you? Whoa. Let's just start. Yes, let's. Whoa.
Notre Dame 58, Wisconsin 51: This early in the season, there are plenty of teams out there you might have expected to be undefeated. Duke. Ohio State. Kansas. Notre Dame? Not so much. Granted, the Domers haven't played country's toughest schedule, but they beat a ranked Georgia team in Anaheim Thursday, held Cal to five points in the first half of an easy win Friday, and scored 15 straight points to roar back from an 11-point deficit in an impressive win over Wisconsin Sunday. Just as impressive as that poise -- typically, Wisconsin is the team you associate with stolid competency and intelligent decision-making -- was Notre Dame's ability to keep Wisconsin off the foul line. The Badgers' free throw rate was an insanely low seven percent. The Irish, meanwhile, got to the foul line on more than 52.1 percent of their possessions, consistent with their season mark of 54.1 percent. You don't have to be the prettiest offensive team to win, but if you get to the line that often, you're certainly going to win.
UNLV 71, Virginia Tech 59: Speaking of unexpectedly undefeated teams ... ladies and gentlemen, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. Lon Kruger's team has at least three impressive wins on its resume already: Wisconsin, Murray State and, after Sunday, a neutral-court win over a Virginia Tech team many expected to challenge in the ACC and build an unimpeachable NCAA tournament resume by March. That hasn't happened, primarily because the Hokies can't score: Virginia Tech is averaging .96 points per possession this season, and though the Hokies have been tough on the defensive end, against good teams they're not getting nearly enough offense from players not named Malcolm Delaney. Meanwhile, UNLV is 6-0 precisely thanks to the way they won Sunday night: they shoot the ball well, clean up on misses on the offensive glass, and dominate on the defensive end. UNLV's opponents are scoring .88 points per trip this season. If the Rebels continue to defend anywhere as well as they have in their first six games, the Mountain West is going to have a fantastic race at the top.
No. 14 Florida 55, Florida State 51: When you play Florida State, you're going to have trouble scoring the ball. This isn't a secret. The Seminoles were the nation's most efficient defensive team last season. Much of that team returned in 2010-11, and Florida State entered Sunday night's game already ranked No. 3 in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom. The problem? Florida State can't score. At least so far. So Billy Donovan did what smart coaches do. He adjusted his team's defensive set -- going to a rare 2-3 zone, rather than Florida's typical pressing man-to-man -- and eschewed a scoring lineup in favor of what he saw as his best defensive team. To beat FSU, you have to make sure their offensive woes eclipse their ability to stop you on the other end, and you have to hope you can get to the foul line enough to offset whatever sudden shooting problems your team is having. Florida did that, and it escaped with a quality road win. Impressive stuff.
Everywhere else: Texas A&M is rebuilding this year, but Mark Turgeon seems to find a way to keep his teams in games no matter the personnel; the Aggies toppled No. 20 Temple at the Old Spice Classic Sunday ... North Carolina had to rally -- yes, rally -- from a second-half deficit to hold off College of Charleston, 74-69 ... Colorado might not be a Big 12 sleeper after all: Harvard dealt Tad Boyle's team a comprehensive and incriminating 82-66 loss ... Oklahoma State outlasted Murray State thanks in large part to Keiton Page's 29 points ... Northwestern handled a Creighton team that should be much better once forward Gregory Echenique becomes eligible in December ... Princeton ran away from Siena in overtime, winning 86-77 and quite possibly ending the Siena-as-dominant-mid-major meme of the past three seasons ... California still can't score, like, at all; the Bears scored 48 points in their loss to a mediocre-at-best Boston College team ... And DePaul got what coach Oliver Purnell called a "resilient" performance in an overtime loss to Stanford.