UCLA looks to repeat last year’s success at the NCAA Division I Basketball tournament


Moorpark College players defending a Cuesta player during a home game on Feb. 16, 2022 in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Jack Newman

By Luis Silva

The University of California Los Angeles men’s basketball team has historically been one of the most successful programs in all of college basketball. They have a record 11 NCAA titles and have produced some of the greatest basketball players of all time including prestigious names such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Miller, Bill Walton and Russell Westbrook.

In last year’s March Madness tournament, UCLA made a surprise run to the Final Four after winning a tight matchup against Michigan State in their First Four matchup to gain the No. 11 seed.

The team went on to defeat No. 6 seeded BYU, No. 14 seeded Abilene Christian, No. 2 seeded Alabama and No. 1 seeded Michigan in the East Region. UCLA then fell a buzzer beater short of the national championship game, losing to top-ranked Gonzaga 93-90 in heartbreaking fashion.

This year, UCLA has a majority of the team returning from last year, including team standouts Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Johnny Juzang. The players have improved on their 22-10 record in 2021 by going 27-7 and being ranked 11 in the nation by the AP basketball polls in 2022. As a result, they were placed as a No. 4 seed in the East Region of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Moorpark College sophomore Anthony Cruhlac reflected on the team’s success.

“UCLA has plenty of talent to work with, and its nice to see that most of the players from last year especially Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell have returned to give it a second go,” Cruhlac said. “Not to mention some of the new recruits like Peyton Watson give the team even more scoring and defensive options.”

However, the tournament did not start as fans expected since UCLA struggled at times in their matchup against No. 13 seeded Akron. The team narrowly avoided defeat thanks to point guard Campbell’s heroics, including a deep 3-pointer from the logo which put the game out of reach 57-53.

Against the No. 5 seeded Saint Mary’s Gaels, UCLA came out hot and never looked back, defeating them 72-56. But, a possible setback for the team occurred during the second half of the game when star player Jaquez injured his ankle and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Moorpark College freshman Bryce Gardhouse shared some thoughts about the two games UCLA has played so far.

“In the Akron game the team shot terribly but were able to get it together in the final minutes,” said Gardhouse. “Luckily, UCLA performed much better and looked more like themselves against Saint Mary’s. In fact, this is how they should play from now on.”

UCLA will face No. 8 seeded North Carolina in a clash between historic powerhouses in the Sweet 16, with both teams combining for 18 national titles and producing numerous Hall of Famers.

According to Moorpark College freshman Jason Lozano, there is a strategy that can help UCLA win.

“Even though Jaquez is out, UCLA still has a strong set of players to work with, and if they can slow down North Carolina’s momentum in the frontcourt and hit the open shots, then UCLA will pull off the victory,” Lozano said.

Be on the lookout for UCLA’s Sweet 16 matchup as they prepare to face off against No. 8 seeded University of North Carolina on Friday.