It may seem strange that a team with such an illustrious history as UCLA’s could ever be considered one of the NCAA Tournament’s best Cinderella stories.
But that’s exactly the scenario for Mick Cronin’s 2020-21 Bruins team.
With an Elite Eight win over 1-seed Michigan in Tuesday’s East Region final, 11-seed UCLA tied the March Madness record for the lowest seed to make the Final Four. There, they will face West Region champion — and top overall NCAA Tournament seed — Gonzaga for the right to play in the national championship.
That’s not even the most astounding part of the Bruins’ run to the Final Four; they also join the 2010-11 VCU squad as the only teams to advance all the way to the national semifinal from the First Four. The Bruins’ 2021 Final Four berth came at the cost of defeating five teams: Fellow First Four team Michigan State (86-80 in overtime); 6-seed BYU (73-62); 14-seed Abilene Christian (67-47); 2-seed Alabama (88-78, in overtime); and 1-seed Michigan (51-49).
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Unfortunately for the Bruins — or fortunately, considering they had to win their previous five tournament games — history repeated against Cronin and Co. No team lower than an 8 seed has ever advanced beyond the Final Four, and only one such team has ever won it all (Villanova’s 1984-85 team, which beat Georgetown 66-64 in the final).
Several teams have tried it since 2000, but all have fallen — some harder than others — in the penultimate round of the NCAA Tournament. UCLA came close, but an incredible buzzer-beater by Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs broke the hearts of Bruins faithful everywhere, sending Cinderella home early.
Either way, UCLA’s Final Four run was among the best we’ve seen, regardless of seed. Here’s a breakdown of how it fits among every team, seeded 8 or lower, that has made it to the Final Four:
HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
15 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5
Lowest Final Four seeds in NCAA Tournament
|8||Villanova (1985)||National championship win (66-64 over Georgetown)|
|North Carolina (2000)||Final Four loss (71-59 to Florida)|
|Wisconsin (2000)||Final Four loss (53-41 to Michigan State)|
|Butler (2011)||National championship loss (53-41 to UConn)|
|Kentucky (2014)||National championship loss (60-54 to UConn)|
|9||Wichita State (2013)||Final Four loss (72-68 to Louisville)|
|10||Syracuse (2016)||Final Four loss (83-66 to North Carolina)|
|11||LSU (1986)||Final Four loss (88-77 to Louisville)|
|George Mason (2006)||Final Four loss (73-58 to Florida)|
|VCU (2011)||Final Four loss (70-62 to Butler)|
|Loyola Chicago (2018)||Final Four loss (69-57 to Michigan)|
|UCLA (2021)||Final Four loss (93-90 to Gonzaga in overtime)|
How many times has UCLA been to the Final Four?
|1962||Wake Forest 82, UCLA 80 (national third-place game)|
|1964||UCLA 98, Duke 83 (national championship)|
|1965||UCLA 91, Michigan 80 (national championship)|
|1967||UCLA 79, Dayton 64 (national championship)|
|1968||UCLA 78, North Carolina 55 (national championship)|
|1969||UCLA 92, Purdue 72 (national championship)|
|1970||UCLA 80, Jacksonville 69 (national championship)|
|1971||UCLA 68, Villanova 62 (national championship)|
|1972||UCLA 81, Florida State 76 (national championship)|
|1973||UCLA 87, Memphis 66 (national championship)|
|1974||UCLA 78, Kansas 61 (national third-place game)|
|1975||UCLA 82, Kentucky 85 (national championship)|
|1976||UCLA 106, Rutgers 92 (national third-place game)|
|1980||Louisville 59, UCLA 54 (national championship)|
|1995||UCLA 89, Arkansas 78 (national championship)|
|2006||Florida 73, UCLA 57 (national championship)|
|2007||Florida 76, UCLA 66 (Final Four)|
|2008||Memphis 78, UCLA 64 (Final Four)|
|2021||Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 (OT) (Final Four)|