Opinion: Final Four heartbreak aside, UCLA men’s basketball is here to stay in the national equation under Mick Cronin

INDIANAPOLIS — The joy quickly turned to heartbreak at Lucas Oil Stadium. UCLA fans were on their feet as star Johnny Juzang scored a game-tying basket with three seconds left against undefeated and heavily favored Gonzaga in the Final Four. 

"Another overtime," a Bruins fan shouted. "We got 'em." 

Then Jalen Suggs' buzzer-beater – and table-topping celebration – became the gut punch that made UCLA the No. 11 seeded team that almost made NCAA Tournament history. Baylor won 93-90 in overtime.

"These guys, they deserved a better ending," second-year coach Mick Cronin told reporters after the game Saturday night. "I just told them they've got to let the last shot go. And as much as (the players) want to be beat down right now and gutted and miserable, they've got to let it go because they're winners." 

The Bruins showed mettle in this NCAA Tournament, beating No. 1 seeded Michigan and No. 2 Alabama in the East Region before nearly ousting a Gonzaga team that ranks as one of the best offensive teams in the last decade. 

PASSING THE TEST: Undefeated Gonzaga withstands toughest test yet in UCLA

A GIFT: Gonzaga-UCLA gave us an unexpected masterpiece in this men's Final Four

"We might not have been the best team in the country all year, but we became one of the best four teams in the country, period," Cronin said. "This was not a fluke (against Gonzaga). We would not have gotten blown out Monday night (in the championship vs. Baylor). We didn't sneak in. You know how good Michigan and Alabama (are)? I guess, hopefully, it's all positive, especially to our Bruin faithful back home."


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