If we go by the number of NCAA basketball titles, UCLA is the best hoops program in history. However, many basketball purists did not even expect the Bruins to make the Big Dance this year, much less enjoy a trip to the Final Four. UCLA shocked the world and the #1 seed Michigan Wolverines by upsetting them by 2 points on Tuesday night! The win sends Bruins coach Mick Cronin to the Final Four in only his second season with UCLA and it also silences the many folks who were critical of Cronin’s hiring (msn.com).
From First Four to Final Four: Recap of UCLA’s Season
Here are a few highlights and low points from the Bruins 2020-21 season:
- UCLA opened the season with a horrific loss to San Diego State by 15 points!
- The bad opening night loss seemed to wake up the Bruins as they then rattled off 5 straight victories.
- The Bruins best winning streak of the regular season was from New Years Eve to January 21st. UCLA won 7 straight games during that time frame. A loss in overtime to Stanford snapped that streak on January 23rd.
- A definite low point occurred for the Bruins after losing 4 PAC12 games in a row to end their regular season. These 4 losses brought UCLA’s record to 17-9 and many folks predicted they would not even make the NCAA Tournament.
- The Bruins were blessed with a berth in the Big Dance as one of the First Four teams that barely made it to March Madness. UCLA outlasted legendary coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State with a 86-80 victory in OT on March 18th and the Bruins have been off and running ever since!
- UCLA has won 5 straight NCAA tournament games and pulled off shocking upsets over #2 seed Alabama and top seeded Michigan to make the Final Four
- The Bruins are the first team in 10 years to go from the First Four to the Final Four. The last team to accomplish this feat was Virginia Commonwealth back in 2011 (espn.com).
Who are UCLA’s top performing players?
The Bruins are led by Johnny Juzang, a 6-6 sophomore guard from Tarzana California. Juzang leads the team in scoring with an average of 15.5 points per game. Jaime Jaquez Jr., another 6-6 guard, leads the team in crashing the boards with 6.1 rebounds per contest. Tyger Campbell, a slight statured 5-11 guard, leads the Bruins in assists per game with 5.3.
Does UCLA have a chance to knock off Gonzaga?
In the famous words of Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” (LOL). Sure, UCLA has a chance. This is college athletics and no one can accurately predict how well 18-22 year old kids will perform.
The Bruins have been disrespected all year long and the oddsmakers are doing so yet again in this Gonzaga matchup. In fact, UCLA is listed as a huge underdog (+14) at many betting websites. Can the Bruins pull off that steep of an upset and hand the Zags their first loss of the year? We can hardly wait til Saturday to find out.