Good morning, BBN! This crazy tournament just keeps on delivering, putting an 11 seed in the Final Four for the first time since Loyola Chicago three years ago!
On top of that, UCLA did it while playing an extra game in the First Four. That’s only ever happened once, when VCU went from First to Final Four a decade ago, a run that culminated with a win over 1 seed Kansas. Crazy, and probably as ruinous for your bracket as it was for mine.
I usually do the five biggest winners, but we only had four so I decided to do the two biggest winners instead. Let’s get started:
Scott Drew has taken the Baylor Bears from rock bottom to a Final Four banner. After inheriting a scandal-ridden Bears team that was a complete mess of a program in 2003, he slowly but surely began building them into a regular tournament team. Then last year he assembled his greatest team yet, dominating the Big 12 and trending toward a 1 seed until Covid-19 stole the postseason.
It looked like they had missed the ultra-rare chance of title contention, but nearly every player returned to make the Bears better than ever this year. Baylor went 22-2 in the regular season this year, won the Big 12 outright (which means Kansas didn’t), and now has reached the Final Four for the first time since 1950.
This run has been 71 years in the making, and the Bears aren’t done yet. They’ve played second fiddle to Gonzaga all season long and are looking to take them on in a showdown for the ages in the title game if both teams advance.
The Bruins are in the Final Four for the first time since 2008, and lemme tell ya this was unexpected. In only Year 2 of the Mick Cronin Era UCLA has made the Final Four, and done it as an 11 seed from the First Four. If they can make it from the fringe of the bubble, who knows what they can do as a 1 or 2 seed?
This team entered the tournament on a 4 game losing streak, but found their footing in the First Four, coming back to outlast Michigan State in overtime. Good shooting helped them skate past 6 seed BYU, and they lucked out when 14 seed Abilene Christian knocked off Texas for them.
When they faced off against Alabama, Crimson Tide fans rejoiced, believing that UCLA was only there due to a favorable draw of opponents. But sloppy shooting and costly free throw misses plagued them all night, and the Bruins jumped out in overtime to take the lead for good. Michigan couldn’t handle them either, even when given two chances to win with a buzzer-beating 3, and here they are.
No matter what happens with 30-0 Gonzaga, know this Bruins fans: your team is the biggest winner of the Elite 8.