The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. They see it rolling, they hatin' ...
No. 4 Duke 74, No. 16 Florida State 66: This Duke team still has a lot of flaws. No question. But despite those flaws -- the defensive lapses on the perimeter, the frequent rebounding rate disparities, the foul-prone ways, all of it -- the Blue Devils keep on winning. Why?
Offense. Really, really good offense. It's just that simple.
The Blue Devils are the most efficient offense in the ACC and the fourth-most efficient in the country, behind only Missouri, Florida and Kentucky. It showed last night. Duke posted 1.13 points per possession against one of the nation's best defenses, and a legitimate fellow ACC contender, on said fellow ACC contender's home floor. There's little to find fault with in the offense Duke played Thursday night. The defense, on the other hand, wasn't great; despite a truly ugly FSU performance, the Blue Devils still allowed just over a point per trip on the evening. But it didn't matter, because Duke, to borrow a phrase from former player and trick-shot artist Kyle Singler, gets buckets. The defensive woes are worth noting and filing away for future reference; the Blue Devils are far from invulnerable. But if they score points like this, against even the best defenses, they're going to be awfully hard to beat.
Cincinnati 60, No. 17 Louisville 56: Speaking of offense, this is perhaps one reason to have doubts about the tournament viability of the Louisville Cardinals: Every once in a while, they throw up some truly stinky offensive performances. Thursday night was one of them. Louisville had only 19 field goals, was 1-14 from 3-point range and committed 15 turnovers along the way. A golden nugget from ESPN Stats & Information: "They are the third power conference team this season to play a game in which they had fewer than 20 field goals, committed at least 15 turnovers and shot under 10 percent from 3-point range. The other two were Georgia Tech in a loss to NC State Feb. 9 and Oklahoma State in a loss to Kansas State Jan. 21." That is ... yeah. Bad.
Which is not to take anything away from Cincinnati. The Bearcats desperately needed a marquee-ish win down the stretch. They had an opportunity Thursday night. They took it. This is the defining theme of what the TV folks call "Judgement Week": At this point, the difference between a tourney team and one bound for the NIT is most often about who takes advantage of opportunities down the stretch. You can never overemphasize just one victory, but for team's on the razor's edge of the bubble picture, one game and one win can mean everything. Kudos to Cincy for getting it done. The question now: Can the Bearcats finish it off? (I say yes, but those computer numbers and that nonconference schedule and the loss to Presbyterian are all ugly. The committee may grade this team on a slight curve. Can't get complacent now.)
Everywhere else: How about those Iowa Hawkeyes? My buddy, a big Iowa fan, is convinced the Hawkeyes deserve tournament consideration. We're not there yet, but it's hard to look at Iowa's wins -- Indiana, Michigan and a sweep over Wisconsin -- and not think this team could, if it wins out down the stretch, get itself into the bubble picture before the start of the Big Ten tournament. Considering where this team was in November and December, that's a remarkable turnaround. And oh, by the way, senior guard Matt Gatens has 63 points in his past two games. Dude's not going down without a fight. ... Despite what appeared to be disastrously timed suspensions, Alabama keeps finding ways to win, as it did at Arkansas Thursday. ... Murray State was clearly not happy with Tennessee State, ruiners of the potential undefeated regular season, and took out said anger in an 80-62 win. ... Saint Mary's secured at least a share of the WCC title with a win over Portland, and provided they take care of business at San Francisco Saturday, they'll unseat Gonzaga from the top of the conference and take sole leadership for the first time in, like, forever. ... Speaking of Gonzaga, the Bulldogs handled bubbly BYU with relative ease Thursday night. ... And out in the Pac-12, Cal and Arizona won in expected fashion, but Colorado took a 24-point home loss to Stanford, one that should eliminate them entirely from bubble contention.