It wasn't quite a nailbiter, but it wasn't a game where you could relax and say, "We've got this thing in hand" until the final minute or so. But I'm inordinately pleased that UCLA won its game tonight against Pitt, by 9 points, which was the biggest margin of any of the games played tonight. Those guys are gritty! It took stepping up at the free-throw line, where the Bruins have been shaky all season. But tonight they made 23 of 26. I'm not sure, but they might have been outscored on the floor.
The game also seemed to live up to the pregame chatter about coaches. Ben Howland, the UCLA coach, came here from Pitt, where he had also taken the team to excellence with tough defense. Pitt's coach, Jamie Dixon was Howland's assistant at Pitt and before that at Northern Arizona and before that (I think) at UCSB, and the two are pretty close to being best friends. Both teams play the same kind of tough defense, but tonight UCLA made 'em when it counted. Pitt actually had some chances with easy shots they missed, but for the most part the Bruin defense was just stifling.
I've been concerned all along that Kansas is really the class of the tournament, but they didn't win easily tonight. Guess we'll see Saturday.
The game after, between Ohio State and Tennessee, kept me watching until literally the last second. Ohio State was down by as much as 20, but pulled ahead late in the second half. Then, whenever it looked as if the Buckeyes would pull away Tennessee would hit an unlikely shot to tie or go ahead by one. Very exciting but Ohio State hung on to win by one.
I really hope USC beats North Carolina tomorrow.