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Plaschke: UCLA’s toughness and resolve will be tested on ugly way to Final Four

(Illustration by Jack C. Gregory / for The Times)

It’s glamorously called “The Road to the Final Four”, but on the day UCLA Received its coordinates, it was definitely imbued with a gritty feel.

They were not put on the street at all. They were placed on a narrow, winding section of soil and rocks. They were placed on a potholed path leading directly into the moat.

Boise State. It’s Gonzaga. There is – gasp – Kansas.

In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament announced on Sunday, the Bruins were pitted against some of the toughest teams in the toughest field and will have to compete without two of their toughest players.

In other words, he was put in coach Mick Cronin’s wheelhouse.

It’s going to be tough, it could get ugly, and he and his Bruins can’t wait.

“We try to create a culture of no excuses,” Cronin told reporters Sunday afternoon. “I try to teach them that about their lives, too. If you have persistence, and a willingness to work, you can get where you want to go.”

Where they want to go suddenly seems far from here, with the defensive leader Jaylen Clark appears to be out for the season with lower leg injury and big man sow edamame The shoulder pain was nursing, but Cronin was undeterred.

“You know, there’s a way to win a game,” he said. ‚ÄúThere is always a way to win the game, even if Jaylen Clarke is out, Adem is out, God forbid anyone else. There’s always a way to win the game. It may not be that simple, your margin for error may not be that large. But there is still a way to win the game if you’re willing to be tough enough to do it. And these people are, because they want to win. That’s what they’re about.”

Yes, in the wake of Sunday’s announcement, the Bruins can celebrate that they were a No. 2 seed in the West Region, In fact, they might play the first two rounds in Sacramento, and if they’re still alive, they’ll play the next two rounds in Las Vegas, and that’s all a wonderful thing.

But have you checked who they are playing? Have you considered how they will survive the combination of injured matchups and missing players?

UCLA guard Amari Bailey shoots at Arizona guard Cedric Henderson Jr.

UCLA guard Amari Bailey shot at Arizona guard Cedric Henderson Jr. during the second half of a victory over the Bruins on March 4. (Ringo HW Chiu / The Associated Press)

UCLA challenged two seasons ago when they made their way to the Final Four from an 11th-seeded starting position in the play-in games.

In fact, they will have to do something similar again. Playing without Clark and with a hampered Sow, the Bruins will have to navigate this “road” with every move Cronin can summon.

again, the last-dance combo of Jaime Jaquez Jr. & Tiger Campbell & David Singleton Can’t wait.

“I know the three of us have talked a lot about this being our last year together and just embracing it,” Jakes told reporters. “It’s one last chance to do something, our backs are against the wall right now, we feel like it, but we’re embracing it, we take everything that comes with it.”

First up, Asheville, North Carolina, seeded 15th with a 140 net ranking and still a team that could at least startle. The Bulldogs have won 18 of their last 19 games and can take advantage of Bona’s range, which includes one of the nation’s biggest men, Drew Pember, a 6-foot-10 senior who averaged 21 points. and nine rebounds in one game.

“We know you can’t take anything lightly,” Singleton said. “We have to give 100% in every game of this tournament, starting with UNC Asheville.”

Next, it says here that Boise State beats Northwestern and wins against Texas A&M, Washington State and Colorado bring the Bruins up to their 29 net ranking. The Broncos are led by the kind of senior-guard combination that wins in March with Marcus Shaver Jr. and Max Rice.

Cronin said, “We have to make sure … our gas tank is ready to go.”

The Bruins can and should survive those first two games, but it could be dangerous, and their reward could be a whole lot less. Awaiting him in Las Vegas may be an old curse and a defending champion.

Do they really want to play Gonzaga again? especially now? The Bulldogs have a net ranking of six and their only three losses since late November have come by one score or overtime. They are led by 6-10 forward Drew Timme, who has been in college for the past decade.

This is the year that for once no one really paid attention to Gonzaga. It would turn out that this could be the year the Bulldogs finally win a national championship.

You know who else could win a national title by becoming only the third repeat champion in 50 years? Kansas is back and, despite being blown to the Big 12 Tournament championship game against Texas with its coach Bill Self in the hospital, it’s still Kansas.

The Jayhawks play the nation’s toughest schedule, leading the nation with 17 Quad 1 wins, and are inspired by veterans Jalen Wilson and DaJuan Harris Jr.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin yells instructions to his players during the win over Oregon.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin instructs his players during their victory over Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Friday. (Chase Stevens / Associated Press)

If nothing else, if they get to the glitzy Las Vegas area, the Bruins could draw from their sweaty experience at this weekend’s Pac-12 tournament.

They missed a free throw and missed a wide three-point attempt in Saturday night’s championship game win over No. 8 Arizona, despite having four key players on the bench. They were missing not only Clarke and Bona, but also their other two big men, Mac Etienne and Kenneth Nuba, both of whom were ruled out.

The relentless foursomes of Jacquez Jr., Campbell, Singleton, and freshman Amari Bailey nearly beat the massive and talented Wildcats. Surviving the next three weeks will require every bit of that effort and more.

Jackage said, “We have a short memory, get better, figure out the things we need to do, watch the movie and go from there.”

Another Los Angeles team will join them in the craziness of being USC. Despite their undefeated loss to Arizona State in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Trojans entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed in the East, but they are not expected to last long.

If they can beat tournament gurus Tom Izzo and Michigan State in the first round – a possibility if Drew Peterson’s benching is cut loose – they’ll face mighty No. 2 seed Marquette, a team that many have seen leading up to title weekend. chose to reach.

For both the locals, “The Road to the Final Four” should be nothing less than a curving, careening adventure.

buckle up.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times,



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