The Bruins’ run began with a First Four game against fellow college hoops power Michigan State, a dramatic comeback 86-80 win. Two days later, they upset No. 6 BYU 73-62, and blasted 14-seed Abilene Christian, which had knocked off 3-seed Texas, 67-47.
On Sunday, UCLA overcame a game-tying buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and knocked off 2-seed Alabama in overtime, 88-78. Last night’s game was a true slugfest, but once again they found a way to win, this time against the top-seeded Wolverines. The Bruins are the first team to make it from the First Four to the Final Four since 2011 VCU.
This is the first time that a Mick Cronin-led team has made it out of the Sweet 16. The longtime Cincinnati coach was famously not UCLA’s first choice when he was hired in 2019, but he has done a very nice job with the Bruins overall. Now, they’re peaking at exactly the right time this year, and have a fan in one of college basketball’s top head coaches: Iona’s Rick Pitino.
So excited for my guy @CoachMickCronin -Gave me everything he had for two years. Let’s Go Bruins! Congrats Mick, what a start!
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) March 31, 2021
Cronin was an assistant under Pitino at Louisville from 2001-03, before landing his first head coaching job at Murray State. Pitino is famously loyal to those who have worked for him, so it is no surprise to see him publicly supporting Cronin here.
If UCLA is to advance any farther, they’ll need to pull off what would be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history. The Bruins face No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, this year’s prohibitive favorite to win the entire tournament, on Saturday night. The undefeated Zags have absolutely rolled through this NCAA Tournament (and basically the whole season), and look to be the first team to go undefeated since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
This matchup of historic and modern college hoops powers tips off at 8:34 op.m. ET on Saturday night. The winner will face whichever team comes out of that evening’s Baylor/Houston game in next Monday’s national title game.