When the seeds are set for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, the best teams are supposed to have the easiest route to the finals.
Somebody better tell the committee that they still have some tweaking to do before next year.
The top two teams from arguably the toughest conference in all of college basketball shouldn't be tested like they were in the second round should they? The No. 3 team from the Pac-10, Washington St. (25-8), had no problems getting past Notre Dame 61-41, while UCLA and Stanford both needed clutch plays to win their games in the closing seconds.
UCLA (33-3) beat Texas A&M (25-11) on the strength of its defense 51-49 on Saturday night. A&M looked to be in control of the game, leading by eight with as little as 8:41 left in the game, but that's when UCLA began to take defensive control by going on a 10-1 run to tie the game with 3:03 left.
The two teams played a game of tug of war the rest of the way until UCLA took the lead for good with 12 seconds remaining on Darren Collison's, (21 pts., 1 ast.), driving layup to make it 51-49.
The game still wasn't over at that point, since 12 seconds is plenty of time to get an open-look bucket. After the Aggies took a timeout with nine seconds remaining, they brought the ball in and went to their leading scorer, Donald Sloan, (12 pts., 1 rbd., 2 ast.), who drove the lane and went for the jump shot. It may have gone in, but Collison blocked it and Russell Westbrook picked it up and took it down the floor for a last-second dunk that was later ruled to be after the buzzer.
Stanford (27-7) had a tougher time disposing of Marquette (24-10), needing overtime and a clutch play to do it 82-81.
It didn't help that head coach Trent Johnson got himself thrown out in the first half with 3:36 to go. Lucky for Johnson, he's got the services of the Twin Towers to help him out. Stanford's Twin Towers, Robin, (18 pts., 9 rbd.), and Brook, (30 pts., 4 rbd., 1 ast.), Lopez each had to come up big when it counted to keep the Cardinal hopes alive.
With eight seconds left and Stanford down by one, a shooting foul brought Robin to the line for two free throws. After missing the first one, he hit the second to tie the game, then with only two seconds left, he blocked the winning jump shot by Marquette's Lazar Hayward.
In overtime, Brook got hot for a rebound, an assist, and eight points. Brook’s final two points were the clutch points that gave Stanford the win.
Down by one with only nine seconds remaining, Mitch Johnson, (9 pts., 1 rbd., 16 ast.), completed his 16th assist by passing down low to Brook, who made a spectacular, off-balanced layup with only two seconds left to clinch the win.
Both Marquette (6) and Texas A&M (11) made cases for being ranked too low in their respective brackets and made believers of UCLA and Stanford on the same day.
Both Pac-10 teams will need more than clutch plays if either of them expect to make it past the Sweet 16. For now, they can both be happy that they only have to wait a week to prove themselves again.
The committee, Texas A&M, and Marquette, all have to wait until next year.