FORGET MARCH MADNESS. It was an April absurdity. On April 3, the UCLA men’s basketball team gave the world of sports an instant classic in their Final Four tussle with undefeated and No. 1–ranked Gonzaga. But the Bruins fell seconds short of victory, thanks to a Bulldog’s improbable, nearly half-court bank shot to beat the overtime buzzer.

Head Coach Mick Cronin’s team, which had limped into the NCAA tournament with key players injured and a four-game losing streak, had gone on an unlikely run of its own. UCLA became the second team ever to go from First Four to Final Four and almost upset the top-seeded Bulldogs. And they did it with all the toughness, tenacity and togetherness their coach expected of them.

Cronin, who signed a two-year contract extension through 2026–27, said of his student-athletes: “These guys, they deserved a better ending. But … as Coach Wooden would say, ‘True greatness is giving your best effort.’ And that’s what they did.”

Read more from UCLA Magazine’s July 2021 issue.