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UCLA Survives and Advances

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Jim Valvano's famous phrase was never truer than in yesterday's UCLA game against SMU.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

"Survive and advance." - Jim Valvano

While that quote was first and most applied to the 1983 NC State Wolfpack basketball team that won the National Championship, it's a quote that typically comes up during March Madness every year.

And, while it may now be somewhat of a cliche, yesterday's UCLA game is a great example of the phrase in action because the Bruins survived. While it is easy for anyone to argue whether UCLA deserved to win yesterday after giving up a 19-0 run to SMU and had to score the last eight points of the game to win, they found a way to win.

"Survive and advance."

As we saw in yesterday's postgame comments, reasonable people can disagree over the way the game ended.

While I was sure that the "correct" call would have been for the official to call basket interference, the actual call was goaltending. I didn't get to hear the NCAA head of officiating say that he had spoken with the game officials and that goaltending was the call.

The problem with all of the different replays that were shown is that none of them were from the angle of the official who actually made the call.

Was it the right call? Ultimately, it doesn't matter. It was what's known in officiating as a judgment call and judgment calls are not reviewable. What does matter is that, in the judgement of the official who made the call, it was a goaltending violation. To him, the shot looked makeable.

Some will argue that he was thirty feet away. In that situation, however, only two of the three officials can actually legitimately make that call and they are the two officials who were positioned closer to mid-court. The baseline official cannot make that call. Why? Because he is looking or supposed to be looking at the players on the floor in front of him.

And, while Kevin Looney and Yanick Moreira of SMU were right in front of the baseline official, he has the responsibility to not be looking up at the basket because looking up at the basket, even just a little as he would have had to do in this case, would take his eyes off of his primary area of responsibility.

The question of whether the shot had a chance of going in changes based on your available angle. Looking at it on the replay from roughly the angle of the official at the bottom of your TV screen, the shot looks like it never had a chance of going in. But, from the angle of the official who made the call, it becomes understandable how he would have called goaltending. SMU fans may never see it that way, but the call was legit.

"Survive and advance."

The question a lot of UCLA fans were asking yesterday though is "Why was Bryce even taking that shot instead of going inside?" and it's a fair question.

Down by 2 with 22 seconds to go, the obvious play is to get the ball to someone down low, score the two and play for overtime. Guess what? Larry Brown knew it because that's what he would have done. In the timeout, he coached his players to not allow anyone to get inside and his players executed very,very well.

Despite having given up eight three-pointers to Bryce Alford over the course of the game to that point, SMU's strategy essentially forced Bryce to yet another three point shot and it would have been the right thing to do. Except for the fact that Moreira jumped up and tapped the ball before it hit the rim. He made a very costly mistake -- one that essentially cost SMU the game.

That still didn't stop SMU from having the chance to take not one, but two final shots before the game ended.

It wasn't a case where someone had to put up a desperation shot from half-court that had little chance of going in. The Mustangs were able to take two shots on their end which just didn't go.

Why didn't Larry Brown who still had not one but four timeouts call a timeout to set up the play that he wanted? That question baffles me. They had plenty of time on the clock -- enough time to get off two shots. Ulitmately, they were two bad shots that didn't go in.

"Survive and advance."

For all the criticism which has been properly leveled at Bryce for his play on the court, like when he decided to dribble up court and not pass the ball to a wide open Isaac Hamilton at the end of the Cal game in Berkeley In February, Bryce deserves a lot of credit for the Bruins' victory yesterday. He scored 27 points in the game -- all of which came on 9 three-pointers. His accuracy from three-point range yesterday allowed the Bruins to survive.

The Bruins needed every single one of his threes yesterday because the rest of the team was ice cold, going 1 for 9 from three-point range. Tony Parker was held to only 3 points the entire game by SMU. That seriously hurt the Bruins' chances to win. We know that because, in most Bruin wins this season, it's been the combo of Powell and Parker that have led the way.

Of course, if the Bruins' defense could have done something, make that anything, to stop the 19-0 run, they would have had a bigger margin of error.

But Parker was held in check and the Bruins' defense couldn't stop the 19-0 run. Thank goodness, Bryce was on yesterday.

"Survive and advance."

Next up is the University of Alabama-Birmingham and, while UCLA beat UAB early in the season, that doesn't matter come game time tomorrow as UAB will be looking to survive and advance.

This is your open thread for all of Friday's NCAA Tournament action.

Go Bruins!