I am a diehard Big Blue fan, have been since I can recall, but I have to admit a fondness for UCLA basketball. It may be sacrilegious for a Cats fan to say, but I’ve always rooted for the Bruins unless they were playing UK.
Furthermore, two of my favorite sports icons of all time have deep associations with UCLA. The obvious is Coach Wooden; I am a self admitted Wooden devotee. I know he had great players, and there may have been some shady dealings going on with a booster named Gilbert, but Wooden’s philosophy on hoops and life in general moves me. I wish everyone felt the way he felt and coached the way he coached.
The other is a man less likely to be known for his UCLA days, legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg. I am a connoisseur of play by play, and Enberg ranks among the best in any sport. Few know or perhaps remember that Enberg was a part of Wooden’s run as the Bruins play by play man…oh my!
So it hurts me to be so offended by the Bruins success in this year’s tournament. The Bruins clearly did not belong in the field. Many more deserving teams were available including Old Dominion and Murray State. But now that they are in the Sweet Sixteen, shouldn’t this legitimize their inclusion? Absolutely not. A controversial win over a superior SMU squad and having the good fortune to play UAB in the next round does not make UCLA’s inclusion any more right. They are a team who is having a tremendous run of good fortune. And that good fortune is probably due in part to all the work of Wooden and Enberg. One made them great, the other made them visible and entertaining. But this version of UCLA without the storybook past would be just another team getting beat in the first round of the NIT.