My Bruins had a fantastic run this year, so it was heartbreaking to see them lose one step shy of ultimate college basketball glory in the NCAA Championship game last night in Indianapolis, IN. But as this LA Times article points out, UCLA simply lost to a better team and have nothing to hang their heads about.
It was very fun to see a team I followed all year go so deep in the tournament. My in-laws are big UCLA fans, so now that I'm committed to live in LA for awhile, I adopted the team. My father-in-law said that UCLA would be good this year, so I started watching them when I could. I didn't know if I should believe him after they fell hard to Memphis and narrowly avoided a loss to Drexel early in the season. Behind the outstanding coaching of Ben Howland, Pac-10 Coach of the Year, the team gelled at just the right time. Characterized by stifling team defense, they held high-scoring Memphis and LSU to 45 points apiece in the Regional Final and National Semifinal.
The other thing I liked about the Bruins was their unselfish play. No one player could claim to be indispensable. In fact, their high-scoring off-guard, Arron Afflalo, averaged only 11.8 point per game in the Tourney. Constantly someone unexpected would step up and give them a great game when they needed it. Even in the face of extreme adversity they maintained single-minded purpose. Down by 17 to Gonzaga, they managed to come back, scoring the last 11 points of that game to win in a 73-71 shocker. That game remains the highlight of the season.
So I'm sad the Bruins couldn't pull off another great comeback win last night, but there's always next year. Apparently, the team will only get better. They will retain their top two guards, will gain one of their best big men in JOsh Shipp who was out for the season with an injury, and have several blue-chip recruits on the way. Watch out for UCLA next year!
Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.