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Ben Bolch on UCLA’s men’s basketball team: From the moment his team commenced this pulsating run, becoming the underdog that always found a way, Mick Cronin insisted it wasn’t about winning a few games to put a lovely bow on the season or to show promise for what’s to come.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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Achieving an upward trajectory, nudging his team back into national prominence and quieting the doubters were not among the reasons Cronin agreed to come to UCLA.
As the team’s 11 national championship banners reminded him daily, there was only one acceptable finish for a team with this kind of history on college basketball’s biggest stage, and that was winning it all.
In what has felt like an improbable instant under their fiery coach, the Bruins are almost there.
In only his second season, missing two of his best players over the final months, Cronin has pushed every needed button, his team slaying every heavy favorite, coming within two victories of the school’s first national title since 1995.
UCLA held off top-seeded Michigan, 51-49, in the East Regional final on Tuesday night after surviving its most feared nemesis: an inbounds pass in the final second.
That play had haunted…