UCLA’s bad Final Four test isn’t new to the Bruins, but they won’t deny it
This time there is no Walton, Jabbar or Marques Johnson. There’s no Chris Smith, Jalen Hill or Daishen Nix either. UCLA doesn’t have the players it first had, it didn’t seem to have players, and it still ends up in a place where it had exclusive rights: the NCAA Final Four.
UCLA has 19 appearances in its Final Basketball in its glorious basketball history, and almost all of them were directed by an extraordinary combination of elite talent. The Famous Halls, All American, were the future NBA All-Stars. When the UCLA enters the tournament so far, it’s because the Bruins were better.
So what happened?
In his second year as a coach, he played three short players who would play key roles, with Mick Cronin placing himself in the same category as Ben Howland, Jim Harrick, Larry Brown and John Wood. And somehow he did something that Brown alone did, maybe he never did: he did a bad test in the Final Four. The Bruins lost their last four games of their regular season and went into a frenzy in March. And now it has become the only first team to reach the Final Four, joining the 2011 VCU.
Brown’s 1980 team was closest to UCLA’s surprise. Those Bruins finished 17-9 and fourth in the Pac-10. They had three regular alumni and that was a success, but they also had seven future NBA players.
“When you’re trying to preach, when you’re building a program – and you heard me say this, I first told you on April 9, 2019 – I say WIM is fun,” Cronin told reporters postgame. “Our score has been elite, 11th or 12th in attack, but tonight has been our defense. You have to find a way to win. And these guys are always having the most fun in that room in life. Because they won.”
In three days, UCLA pulled out No. 1 and No. 2 in the East Region, the regular season champion of the Michigan Big Ten Conference and the regular season champion and champion of the Alabama SEC.
In both cases, the Bruins advanced far this year by achieving a much higher level of defensive commitment. It’s an elite jumping team, and they don’t turn the ball around, but they don’t dominate on high percentage shots. They could hardly beat the Wolverines or the Crimson Tide; so all the actions taken to limit the property and make all the cuts Michigan tried to make as uncomfortable as possible.
“We won on the defensive end,” Cronin said. “It simply came to our notice then. We didn’t interrupt. We were forced to shoot during the shoot and that was the whole key. We were forced to shoot. “
Michigan had every chance of throwing the Bruins, just like Alabama did before, and Michigan State had all the returns in the First Four. None of these three were successful. UCLA scored in the Final Four, averaging 66.6 points in regulation. The deeper the Bruins advanced, the more ugly they needed to play. This was achieved, in part, by consuming as much of the shot clock as possible with patience with the ball, and yet making a proper attempt at the shot. What’s more, it was the product of extraordinary defensive efforts.
Michigan, which owns the nation’s No. 9 offense, had a .83 points per property. All-American Hunter Dickinson was the only Michigan player to reach double-scoring, and he had 11 points. The wings of Franz Wagner and Chaundee Brown, who assumed the offensive responsibility of Isaiah Livers before the injury, drowned Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard and added 12 points.
The Wolverines missed four missed shots and three three-point openers in the final 3 minutes, and each of those shots would put them in the lead. They didn’t make a basket in the last 5 minutes. They made 14 turnovers, almost one for the four goods they had at stake.
“It’s very disappointing for our boys, working so hard this year, to come down to a property,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard told reporters. “It simply came to our notice then. In the game of basketball, there are one or two properties that can help or hurt, and we’ve fallen short for ourselves. ”
UCLA entered the season without Nix, a five-star recruit who committed to the Bruins last year but chose to join the NBA’s G League track program. Smith broke the ACL on New Year’s Eve in a win over Utah. Hill chose to leave the program in February for personal reasons.
Cronin put more offensive responsibility on the transfer of Kentucky’s Johnny Juzang, encouraging him to have more shots than the shooter. Since it was a five-star approach to high school, Juzang was expected to be a long-distance elite. 34.5 percent are shooting. Cronin and his staff convinced Juzang that he had other ways to play large numbers. He averaged 21.6 points in the NCAA Championship, including one of the 51 points the Bruins scored against Michigan.
“I approached it like another game. We’ve been very involved in this tournament, ”Juzang said.“ You don’t want to – as a player, you don’t like to put pressure on yourself. I know the whole team was worried that we would leave him on the ground and give him everything we had. I mean, the shots happened and the teammates found me. I wouldn’t say anything different.
“I love each of these guys. It’s unbelievable, man. Surreal. Surreal. You know, something you’re growing up with, that you dream about. And with such a great team of guys, with such tremendous staff, such tremendous coaches, it’s wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s a wonderful time to share this moment with your brothers and great people. “
Not one of his brothers is American. There are few professionals of the future. But they all go to the Final Four. Like many Bruins before, with bigger names, more skills, but no great desire to win.