The beginning of this movie got off to a rough start. And while the final scene hasn’t been written yet, it’s already a triumphant tale.
When Mick Cronin left Cincinnati to take over in Westwood in 2019 after the school unsuccessfully threw themselves at TCU’s Jamie Dixon and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, it had become clear that UCLA’s prestige was gone. The 11 national champions didn’t mean anything anymore, especially since the Bruins hadn’t won one since 1995, meaning that the legacy of the sport’s most successful program was just a “cool story” to today’s recruits.
UCLA was desperate, and it was uncomfortable to watch. But, oddly enough, Cronin relished the opportunity. He knew something we didn’t, as the Bruins are headed to the Final Four.
“I am incredibly humbled and honored to become the head coach at UCLA,” Cronin said when he was hired.
“UCLA is a very special place with a strong tradition of excellence. To be able to join such a world-class institution is truly a privilege, and I can’t wait to get started in Westwood.”
In just two seasons, Cronin has turned UCLA back into what it once was, as the No. 11 Bruins defeated No. 1 Michigan, 51-49, to advance to the tourney’s final weekend for the 19th time. The Bruins joined 2011 VCU as the only teams to go from the First Four to the Final Four. 2018 Loyola, 2006 George Mason, and 1986 LSU join VCU and UCLA as the only No. 11 seeds to have reached the plateau. And with wins over No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 Michigan, UCLA and ‘86 LSU are the only No. 11 seeds in tournament history to knock off No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on their journeys.
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