The Morning After is our semi-daily recap of the night's best basketball action. It wrote this after it finished Bubble Watch early this morning; it preemptively apologizes for any fatigue-induced typos.
No. 12 Georgetown 59, No. 19 Notre Dame 41: Every so often in the past three weeks, someone in a chat or on Twitter or wherever would ask whether "Game X" was the appropriate time for Georgetown fans to start freaking out. See, Georgetown has collapsed down the stretch a lot in recent years, and it seems the general fan consensus was that these collapses were systemic. The letdown would happen eventually. It was a matter of when, not if.
This has always been a silly question, perhaps one most easily answered with the following: "Have you seen this Georgetown team play defense?" After Monday night's dominant win over Notre Dame, such a retort has never been more appropriate.
Simply put, the Hoyas -- who share a league with the 29-1 Syracuse Orange, by the way -- play the best brand of defense in the Big East. Throughout their now 12-5 campaign, they've allowed league opponents the fewest number of points per possession. On Monday, it was easy to see examples as to why: The Hoyas use their all-around length to challenge every shot, both from long range and inside the arc, with tenacity, and when their opponents miss -- and they do so more often against Georgetown than all but five teams in the country this season -- the Hoyas often secure the rebound. On Monday night, Georgetown held Notre Dame, a previously scorching squad, to just 17.6 percent on 3 of 17 shooting from long range. Forward Jack Cooley was a non-factor, saddled with foul trouble and unable to compete with the interior length of Henry Sims, and ND rarely got second chances on its misses. The result was .77 points per trip, by far the Irish's worst output of the past two months.
And then, after Georgetown had finished stifling ND on its own end, it brought the ball down the floor and played its trademark brand of patient, pass-first Princeton offense. Everyone was good, but Sims -- who has to be the best passing big man in the country -- was magnificent, scoring easy buckets on the low block but just as often slipping gorgeous bounce passes to Hoyas cutters prettier than anything any coach could ever hope to draw up. God, it was fun to watch.
In the offseason, when the basketball dries up and the depression sinks in, remind me to visit Sims' Synergy profile, click on his assists, and watch the video on an endless loop. (Actually, let me write than on my calendar: "April 20: Shave for first time in weeks. Then watch Henry Sims on Synergy." OK, got it. Let's move on.)
No. 4 Kansas 70, Oklahoma State 58: Actually, come to think of it, make that two offseason reminders: "May 15: Consider taking shower. Decide to pass. Then cue up every single made 3 of Keiton Page's 2011-12 season. Play on loop."
It's not so much that Page's shot itself is sweet -- though it is -- but rather about how Page gets his shots. My roommate, a former screen-utilizing wing player in high school, was watching the "SportsCenter" highlights of Page's night in total appreciation and awe. I think he said something like, "See, that just shows you, if you know how to play basketball and use screens and shoot, you can score." And I hate to tell him this, but he's right. Last night, a relatively unathletic 5-foot-7 dude became Oklahoma State's all-time leader in made 3s, and he got there because: a) he can shoot and b) he uses off-ball screens as well as any player in the country. Rub the shoulder and pin the defender. Fade if he overplays. Come off with your hands out, ready to shoot. Plenty of players in college hoops have these skills, but just as many don't, and with Page, you can't even call it a skill. It's more like an art.
Alas, Page's senior night excellence wasn't enough to stop the Big 12 steamroller that is Kansas, which clinched the outright 2012 Big 12 regular-season title with the win. It's the eighth straight season in which Kansas has won at least a share of its conference's top honors, which is, when you think about it, utterly insane.
The Jayhawks got there thanks in large part to their own senior guard, Tyshawn Taylor, who has, in his four years in Lawrence, morphed from a promising youngster to a mercurial personality to, now, a bonafide fan favorite. Taylor's scoring was incredible: 27 points, 10-of-15 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3.
After the game, Erin Andrews asked Taylor to describe how hard it was to guard Page. "He's a bad boy," Taylor said, an ultimate sign of respect for an opponent of four years. We can only assume the feeling was mutual.