Survival Time for UCLA, Stanford

Three Pac-10 teams won their second NCAA Tournament games Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16. Things came very close to turning out quite "bitter" for the Stanford and UCLA clubs before they wrestled victories from the jaws of . . . Well, you know how that saying goes, right?

ANAHEIM, CA – The Pacific 10 Conference will be represented by three schools' teams in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament semifinals Thursday and Friday evenings.

 

And the Stanford and UCLA teams came oh-so-close to failing to live up to their ends of the bargain with the Washington State Cougars, who put some serious defensive clamps on a high-powered Notre Dame team in a East Regional second-round game in Denver Saturday evening.

 

Basketball Lesson No. 1 for a late Saturday night: How does a team manage to overcome an 11-point deficit after its head coach has been ejected and still pull out an 82-81 victory in overtime over a very good Marquette club?

 

When it's Stanford and it possesses the very nifty offensive option of throwing the ball into 7-footer Brook Lopez and watching him drop in a wide-variety of jumpers and half-hooks seemingly from the rafters of the Honda Center.

 

Hoops Lesson No. 2: How can a team survive a game when it scores only 14 points over a 20-minute-plus stretch of the game, and all but two of its players combine to hit just six of 20 shots from the floor?

 

When it's UCLA and Kevin Love and Darren Collison are wearing Bruins' uniforms, as they were during the team's 53-49 West Regional second-round game with Texas A&M in the second game played in the Honda Center Saturday night.

 

Marquette's post defenders did everything within their powers, short of sprouting four or five inches apiece, in trying to defend Brook (30 points) and seven-foot twin Robin Lopez (18 points).

 

Slick guard Jerel McNeal, destined for All-American status next season, did all he could, with 30 points (nine of those via three 3s in the OT), for Coach Tom Crean's Marquette team Saturday.

 

But, as the Golden Eagles found out, if things turn into a "try to beat us while letting us throw the ball inside to the Lopez brothers"-type of game against Stanford, it's tough sledding for the team not named Stanford.

 

The Texas A&M Aggies, considered at least mild "underachievers" after splitting their 16 Big 12 Conference games during the regular season, would have left Southern California Sunday morning with one whopper of a second-round victory if not for the we're-determined-to-get-to-Phoenix play of the slick and slender Collison (including the go-ahead drive with 9.5 seconds to go) and the oh-so-powerful and just as oh-so-skilled play of Love.

 

And the Bruins of Coach Ben Howland didn't secure the win until junior Josh Shipp, who went scoreless inn 37 minutes, had a strip/block on Donald Sloan in the closing seconds that Aggies everywhere will always believe was more like a foul/foul.

 

Russell Westbrook picked up the loose ball and had emphatic slam at the buzzer – the only uncontested shot the Bruins took all night.

 

In contrast, Michigan State (65-54 over Pittsburgh in Denver) and Wisconsin (72-55 against Kansas State in Omaha) of the Big Ten Conference, Kansas (72-54 over UNLV in Omaha) of the Big 12, West Virginia (73-67 over Duke in Washington, D.C.) of the Big East and Xavier (85-78 against Purdue in Washington, D.C.) joined Washington State in earning regional semifinal slots in relative breezes Saturday.

 

Senior guard Drew Neitzel extended his MSU career for at least one more game as the Spartans won their toe-to-toe, slug-it-out affair with the Panthers.

 

And the Badgers brought the brilliant collegiate career – all one year of it – of Kansas State's Michael Beasley to a close.

 

How wealthy is Beasley about to become as the next No. 1 overall selection in an NBA Draft? I shudder to think.

 

Kansas had to pull away down the stretch to finally put away a UNLV team that defines the term "overachieve" this season. I hate being repetitive but no one did a better coaching job than UNLV's Lon Kruger this season.

 

Sean Miller's Xavier team outlasted Purdue to earn a spot in a West semifinal against West Virginia, which kept Duke out of the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

 

One last thought before packing up and leaving the city that Walt Disney made famous: How many job offers will Sean Miller and Tony Bennett have next month?

 

  SATURDAY'S ROLL CALL

 (Top five performances)

*Joe Alexander (had 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots as West Virginia knocked off No. 2 seed Duke, 73-67, in Washington, D.C.

 

*Brook Lopez (scored 28 of his 30 points in the second half and overtime, including two on a turnaround jump hook from the right baseline with 1.3 seconds to go that gave Stanford an 82-81 win over Marquette in Anaheim).

 

*Kevin Love (scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots as UCLA rallied from 10 points down early in the second half to edge Texas A&M, 53-49, in Anaheim).

 

*Drew Neitzel (scored 21 points with four rebounds and four assists to help Michigan State outlast Pittsburgh, 65-54, in Denver).

 

*Washington State Defense (two days after holding Winthrop to .301 shooting in a 71-41 victory, the Cougars limited Notre Dame to .245 during a 61-41 win over Notre Dame in Denver.

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE REGIONAL SEMIFINALS

*In the West (Phoenix/Thursday): No. 3 seed Xavier faces No. 7 West Virginia, and No. 1 UCLA faces the winner the game between No. 12 Western Kentucky and No. 13 San Diego in Tampa Sunday.

 

*In the South (Houston/Friday): No. 3 seed Stanford plays the winner of Sunday's game between No. 2 Texas and No. 7 Miami in Little Rock, and No. 5 Michigan State takes on the winner of Sunday's game between No. 1 Memphis and No. 8 Mississippi State, also in Little Rock.

 

*In the East (Charlotte/Thursday): No. 4 Washington State faces the winner of Sunday's game between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 8 Arkansas in Raleigh, and the winner of Sunday's game between No. 2 Tennessee and No. 7 Butler in Birmingham takes on the winner of Sunday's game between No. 3 Louisville and No. 6 Oklahoma, also in Birmingham.

 

*In the Midwest (Detroit/Friday): No. 1 Kansas plays the winner of Sunday's game between No. 12 Villanova and No. 13 Siena in Tampa, and No. 3 Wisconsin will play the winner of Sunday's game between No. 2 Georgetown and No. 10 Davidson in Raleigh.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.collegehoops.scout.com


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