The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best hoops action. It recommends not waiting too late to catch up on Boardwalk Empire.
Montana 66, UCLA 57: Care for a quick look under the hood? If you scroll down a bit, you'll see observations from me on the week that was. Originally included among those observations was a nice, complimentary paragraph about the UCLA Bruins, a discussion of their impressive, we-was-robbed performance in Lawrence, Kan., on Wednesday and how that performance bodes well for a rebuilding team going forward.
Needless to say, that paragraph didn't make it past the cutting room floor. Last night, the Bruins fell to Montana, 66-57, and did so at the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, thereby negating all the kind and impressed things we were saying about them during the loss to Kansas. You can play as well as you want in a tough road nonconference game, but if you lose, and you can't handle the 3-3 (now 4-3) Montana Grizzlies back in L.A., then you have a lot more work to do for us to take you seriously again. Nevermind the Kansas game. UCLA is, for now, who we thought they were. I'm not even really sure who that is, exactly, but yeah. Yikes.
USC 73, No. 20 Texas 56: How much stock do you want to put into the Longhorns' road loss to USC? I'm not sure. There are two ways to go. The first would be to claim that Texas is already splitting at the seams, that losing to a team as bad as USC, even on the road, is inexcusable, and so on. (USC is bad, after all; the Trojans have losses to Rider, Bradley, Nebraska and TCU. Gross.) The second would be to forgive the Longhorns' loss under the overriding maxim that, hey, guess what? Road nonconference games are just hard. Because they are.
The best strategy here, at least until we see more from Texas and can determine whether this is a team vulnerable to last year's disastrous slippage, is to split the difference. A team as talented as Texas should be capable of winning a road game against the likes of USC any night of the week, but it's never as simple a challenge as "X team is better than Y, and thus should win." Let's wait and (cautiously) see how the Longhorns rebound.
Virginia 57, Virginia Tech 54: Another year in the life of a Virginia Tech basketball fan. Your team finally schedules some legitimate competition in the nonconference, you've got a host of returning players ready to compete for an ACC title, and ... this. You suffer injuries, your nonconference schedule exposes you as overrated, and you're back to square one, searching for plausible avenues to the NCAA tournament once league play begins.
And make no mistake, this was Virginia Tech's signature loss. Falling at Kansas State, to UNLV in Anaheim, and even to Purdue at home -- these are forgivable losses. Virginia is playing well on the heels of their ACC/Big Ten upset of Minnesota, but the bottom line is the Hokies a) can't lose to their in-state rival, b) can't lose to an in-state rival as young and inexperienced as UVa and c) can't -- CAN'T -- lose to them at home. There is no quicker way to indict your team than to pile a bad home loss on top of a 4-3 record.
Tech coach Seth Greenberg has developed a reputation for complaining a bit too much on Selection Sunday, and everyone said this would be the year that trend would stop. That prediction might still come true. But if things keep going this way, that'll be because Greenberg will know he has no argument.
Everywhere else: The upsets above pushed this win to the periphery a bit, but it should be noted that a reeling Temple team righted the ship temporarily last night, beating Maryland 64-61 at what was basically a road game in the Verizon Center in D.C. The Owls surrendered a 15-point second-half lead, but held off the Terps in the final two minutes. It wouldn't have been the worst loss for Temple, but the Owls have suffered a couple of questionable defeats already, so the win feels like a bigger deal than it might otherwise be. (And, in the meantime, Maryland fans can take heart knowing their young team has yet to play a truly bad game this season.) ... Florida easily routed American and Billy Donovan was more pleased with his team, particularly guard Kenny Boynton, for smarter shot selection ... Derrick Williams scored 16 points in 26 minutes Sunday, leading Arizona to an easy win against Oklahoma ... It's either an encouraging win for a rebuilding DePaul team or an ugly loss for the Central Michigan fighting Zieglers, but either way, DePaul won a game, believe it or not ... Oregon had no problem with Portland State ... Guess who's 6-1? Outside of a trip to East Lansing, the South Carolina Gamecocks are unbeaten this season, and unlike in recent years they're not piling up wins against, as one major university president would put it, "The Sisters of the Poor"; freshman Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks to a 64-60 win against Clemson on Sunday night, and my high school buddy Ben, a USC alum, will probably be e-mailing me about this later today ... Richmond added another high-major team to its appetite, taking down Arizona State 67-61 in Tempe ... and Nebraska beat Creighton 59-54; the Bluejays need transfer forward Gregory Echenique to get eligible as soon as possible.