The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of last night's best basketball action. It asks your preemptive forgiveness for any typos that may or may not occur today. It is feeling rather tired.
No. 10 BYU 104, Utah 79: I think we can all agree on one thing: At this point, you don't need me to tell you how good Jimmer Fredette is. All you need to do is see the highlights of Fredette's 47-point night. Or check the ridiculous box score: 16-of-28 from the field, 6-of-9 from three, 9-of-9 from the free throw line, six assists, four rebounds, two steals. Or watch "The Mtn."
OK, so that last one's a little bit sarcastic. Because here's the thing: You probably have a pretty good idea. But if you're like most college basketball fans, you also probably haven't actually seen Jimmer play.
Last night, after we get home from a little basketball of our own, I practically forced my roommate Paul to watch the Fredette highlights. He had a vague idea of how great Fredette was, but he didn't know what he looked like, let alone what his game comprised. He hadn't seen the way Fredette makes impossible shots look routine, the way he hangs in the air on his jumper for that extra half-second, the way nothing he does looks possible until he does it so often you have to submit to the sheer frequency of his excellence.
After watching Fredette play, Paul asked why teams don't run a second defender at Fredette the minute he gets across half court. I told him it was because "Jimmer can pass, too, and BYU is a team of shooters." This launched him into an hour-long Jimmer Fredette research project. He wanted to know who BYU had beaten this season. He wanted to know how athletic their competition was. He wanted to see games when Jimmer had struggled, games when he'd excelled, and wanted to figure out the difference in opposing defensive styles in each. ("You absolutely cannot let this guy beat you! He just singlehandedly won them that game!") He wanted to see Jimmer play against big, strong, rangy defensive guards. (I told him to check the UNLV game.) He wanted to see BYU play San Diego State, and he wanted to see them go deep in the tournament against athletic competition. He is, for lack of a better word, locked in on the Jimmer.
Intentionally or no, Paul hit on the key storyline of BYU's season going forward: How deep can this team go in the NCAA tournament? As John Gasaway wrote for Insider Wednesday, Jimmer-led BYU teams have looked great by every possible measure -- from tempo-free stats to old standbys like the eye test -- in each of the past two seasons, and in each of the past two seasons haven't survived the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
There's no reason why this BYU team can't break that mold this year. Not only is this a well-rounded scoring bunch, but it's a good defensive team, too. And, above all, the Cougars they have the one thing so many teams in college basketball crave, the one thing so many sell their ethical souls in an attempt to find: a bonafide star.
No. 24 Michigan State 64, No. 21 Wisconsin 61: How unlikely was this win? Usually, if you trail any team by nine points with 2:37 remaining, you're done. If you trail the Wisconsin Badgers by nine points with 2:37 left on the clock, you might as well walk off the floor.
Why? Because of the many things the Badgers do well, taking care of the ball and knocking down free throws is what the Badgers do best. Wisconsin is the No. 1-ranked team in the country turnover rate this season; including last night's game, the Badgers cough the ball up on a mere 14.2 percent of their possessions. They shoot 81.0 percent from the free throw line, also tops in the nation. Before Tuesday night, the Badgers had committed just 13 turnovers in their first three Big Ten games. That is jaw-dropping stuff, kids.
Equally as jaw-dropping? That after dominating possession for 38 minutes, turning the ball over a typically low rate, defending well enough to keep Michigan State on its heels, and building a seemingly insurmountable lead, Wisconsin started losing the ball. It happened once. Then it happened again. Suddenly, the team that has spent all season hoarding the ball like it was the One Ring (which, in basketball, it kind of is) was giving it up willy-nilly, taking bad threes, stepping out of bounds, and stumbling all it over itself in an attempt to give Michigan State a chance to win the game.
After the most unlikely of comebacks, that chance came in overtime, and Michigan State didn't waste it.
Now the question most MSU fans are likely wondering: Can this win turn around the Spartans' currently disappointing season? Eh. I don't know. Maybe it's a confidence booster; maybe it's a rallying point; maybe it's just a good win. Whatever it is, it certainly can't hurt. Gutty victory by the Spartans, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Everywhere else: Guess who's 3-2 in the Big Ten with wins over Illinois and Michigan State? That's right: The Penn State Nittany Lions. Led by Talor Battle's 26 points, and aided by a 19-of-46 shooting night from the Illini, Penn State got its second straight win over a ranked Big Ten foe Tuesday night. ... Texas Tech got absolutely crushed by Texas; things are not looking good for the Red Raiders right now. ... Terrence Jones broke his teammate Doron Lamb's Kentucky freshman single-game scoring record last night, dropping 35 in an easy win over Auburn. ... Reggie Jackson went for 29 points, five boards and six assists in BC's win over NC State. ... and Florida escaped Knoxville with a win after the Volunteers pushed the Gators to overtime late.