UCLA-Michigan brings up more memorable March footage
The names UCLA and Michigan can’t help but conjure up some of March’s most memorable images.
There is the wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, who types his coiled playing program in his hands. The grace of Lew Alcindor and the funky character of Bill Walton. The blur of Tyus Edney running on the floor for a layup that beats the buzz beat Missouri, and ultimately lead the Bruins to their 11th national championship.
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On the other side is Glen Rice leading the Wolverines to their own national championship. The Fab Five in their baggy shorts trying to repeat the feat, only for Chris Webber to call a timeout he didn’t have. John Beilein bringing the school back to fame, only to run into a Villanova sing-saw in the title game.
Now the Bruins and Wolverines meet for the fifth time in the NCAA tournament, this time for a spot in the Final Four.
Perhaps there will be other unforgettable memories made on Tuesday night.
“Obviously there’s a lot of history behind the two teams,” admitted UCLA star Jules Bernard in a zoom call Monday, “but in the end, it’s two teams on the same page. field, and whoever plays the best wins. “
So far, it has been UCLA and Michigan – a few expected to be here and some live up to expectations.
The No. 11 seeded Bruins entered the tournament with four straight losses, then trailed Michigan State in their first four-way game. But since coach Mick Cronin’s fiery half-time speech, the Bruins (21-9) have played with balance and precision on offense and with the courage and determination on defense that would have made the Bruins proud. Wooden.
They shut down BYU, blew up Abilene Christian, and then beat Alabama at their own pace in their second overtime victory of the tournament, one that sent UCLA to its first Elite Eight since the 2008 season.
“The membership has been excellent,” said Cronin, who, like his Michigan counterpart, Juwan Howard, is in his second year on the job. “It’s not about me, it was about them getting together as a group and having to go through so much adversity. They stayed confident through everything they went through.”
The seeded Wolverines (23-4) have no reason not to be confident. They faced the toughest seeds possible in each of the first three laps and sent them all out with brutal efficiency.
The knockout after beating Texas Southern and LSU was a dazzling and dominant 76-58 victory over Florida State. The Wolverines topped the Seminoles 50-28 in paint, needing just three 3-pointers throughout the rout, in a performance that left Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton to say: “They were almost flawless in their execution.”
Will they be able to do it one more time to reach the last weekend of the tournament?
“We’ve all played big games in our lifetimes,” Wolverines forward Hunter Dickinson said. “Obviously the NCAA tournament is an entirely different beast. It’s crazy how important this tournament is. It’s really winning or going home, and there’s only one winner. at the end of this stuff. “
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WHAT COULD BE
There’s been a lot of talk about Michigan losing Isaiah Livers to a stress fracture in his foot ahead of the tournament, but the Bruins know what it feels like. They lost their returning top scorer Chris Smith to a ripped ACL just eight games out of the season.
“Our guys come together like brothers,” Howard said. “(Livers) has been amazing on the sidelines as far as his injury goes, keeping the guys engaged and being another coach for us. But it’s great to see other guys stepped up, and it’s been collectively as a group, where the guys intensified his absence. “
MORE ABOUT HISTORY
The Bruins have beaten the Wolverines in three of their four NCAA tournaments. The first came in the 1965 final in Portland, Oregon, and the other two in the first round in 1975 and the second round in 98. Michigan’s only tournament victory over the Bruins came in the second round in 1993, when ‘he reached the final and lost to North Carolina.
GO ON, SISTER JEAN
The tournament’s most popular fan might be Cronin’s dad, Hep. The longtime Ohio high school coach hadn’t seen his son since an early 2020 game at the Pauley Pavilion, just before the pandemic. They were briefly reunited – from a distance – after the Bruins’ top-four win at Mackey Arena, and Hep’s cheers have been a popular TV shoot ever since.
“Having your dad here during all of this,” Cronin said, “is just great.”
Howard played three seasons for Erik Spoelstra in Miami before spending six seasons on his coaching staff. And while he’s only two years younger than the Heat coach, Howard talks about the 50-year-old Spoelstra as if he’s a father figure.
“Coach Spole probably wouldn’t like me to say this because he’s very private,” Howard said. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach, he understands, knows what it takes to win. Plus, what makes him so special are the relationships he develops, not only with his staff but with his players, the confidence he has in his staff and how he does it. an amazing job developing coaches. “
TALKING ABOUT THE HEAT
Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are among the many friends and former teammates who came into contact with Howard during the NCAA tournament, and undoubtedly would have been in the arena had the pandemic not taken place.
“Every person in the Fab Five, including my other Michigan teammates, will all wear corn and blue,” Howard said. “LeBron too. LeBron has reached out and is very supportive. The support is real and I am very grateful.”