Even though UCLA lost a heartbreaker to Gonzaga in the Final Four, they leave the NCAA Tournament with plenty to feel good about their March Madness run.
The Final Four ended in disappointment for UCLA. The Bruins lost to Gonzaga when Jalen Suggs hit a long buzzer-beater.
Make no mistake, the Bruins are still the big winner of the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA did the improbable throughout the tournament. They were down by five points to Michigan State with 89 seconds remaining in the First Four and still managed to win.
They upset No. 6 seed BYU. They ended Abilene Christian’s fairytale. They outlasted No. 2 seed Alabama in overtime.
Beating this Gonzaga team was a step too far for the Bruins, but Saturday’s performance was anything but disappointing.
The Bulldogs had blown out every opponent they’d faced in March Madness. UCLA got in their face. They went toe-to-toe with the best of the best. They should be proud of that.
Most teams couldn’t get within 10 points of Gonzaga. The Bruins were within a ridiculous half-court shot that banked in off the backboard.
UCLA can use this tournament run to return to glory
Even UCLA’s most bitter rival had to offer a tip of the cap.
The Bruins can take a few things away from this tournament experience.
The first is appreciation for Johnny Juzang, who was the driving force behind the No. 11 seed getting this far. He put up a career-high 29 points to cap his incredible run of form.
The second is confidence in head coach Mick Cronin. As much as Juzang made a name for himself, the team’s success wasn’t built on flash. It was all about grit, toughness, effort, and a never-say-die attitude. Cronin instilled that mentality. This run is the kind of thing he can build on, even as the talent changes.
The third is a reminder that UCLA’s basketball brand still means something. Before the game, Cronin balked at the idea the Bruins were Cinderellas. Even a No. 11 seed UCLA is dangerous.
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