The UCLA Bruins are headed to the Final Four for the 19th time in their history, and they took an incredibly unconventional route to the national semifinals. UCLA barely made the NCAA Tournament, but five games later they became the second First Four team to reach college basketball’s Final Four.
Mick Cronin’s second regular season as the UCLA head coach was not overly impressive, but they did enough to sneak into March Madness and made the most of it. The Bruins had a few games postponed or canceled during the regular season due to COVID-19, and they suffered a big loss on New Year’s Eve when one of their best players Chris Smith tore his ACL. UCLA recovered but did not come into the tournament playing well, losing each of their last four games going into the NCAA Tournament.
As the first team since the VCU Rams to make it this far, UCLA needed an overtime win over Michigan State just to get into the field of 64. They then took down BYU and benefited from a matchup with Abilene Christian to get to the Sweet 16. In the second weekend of the tournament, UCLA beat the two top teams in the region by taking down Alabama in an overtime thriller and held off Michigan in a grind-it-out win that featured 100 combined points from both teams.
Johnny Juzang is the star of this UCLA team, averaging 15.5 points per game. He injured his ankle again in the Elite Eight game against Michigan but returned and finished with 28 points to punch the Bruins’ ticket to the Final Four. Second leading scorer Jaime Jaquez Jr. comes in averaging 12.1 points and is the leading rebounder with 6.1 boards per game. Tyger Campbell, who has my vote for most valuable hair of the tournament, runs the offense with 5.3 assists per game to go along with 10.2 points and 1.1 steals.