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USA Today via Reuters

The NCAA Division I basketball tournament has been providing fans with competitive collegiate games ever since its inception in 1939. Commonly referred to as March Madness, the single game elimination tournament has encapsulated the attention of many sports fans across the country as its popularity continues to grow today. While the women’s basketball tournament has garnered plenty of attention this past year due to the rivalry between Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark, the significance of the men’s tourney isn’t lost on the fans as the division continues to draw spectators in huge numbers. Although last season’s finals matchup between UConn and San Diego State saw a dip in viewership numbers, the figure had more to do with the rise in popularity of the women’s game than it had to do with the fixture itself. With 7.8 million viewers tuning in for the finals, the number is still respectable to say the least even though the viewership level was 15% lower compared to the finals between Kansas and North Carolina in 2022. Despite the decrease in viewership, the introduction of NIL deals and the arrival of talents such as Bronny James and Isaiah Collier will surely bring renewed attention to the division as the new season looms around the corner.

While Bronny and Collier have both chosen to represent the USC Trojans, their eternal rivals in UCLA Bruins have one of the most promising teams in the division as they look to win their first NCAA championship in over 28 years. Known as the most decorated team in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball division, the Bruins have struggled in recent seasons despite doing well in the Pac-12 conference. With many of their star players declaring themselves eligible for the 2023 NBA draft, one can’t help but wonder when can UCLA end their trophy drought?

The most decorated team in NCAA history with 11 titles

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Established in 1919, the University of California, Los Angeles or UCLA has been a prominent force in the NCAA Division I since its inception 84 years ago. The public land-grant research university is one of the most successful teams in NCAA history and has won 121 championships across all sports. While it’s football and gymnastics teams have proved triumphant over the years, UCLA’s most successful athletics side has to be its men’s basketball team as they have won 11 NCAA titles, the most by any team in the history of the tournament.

USA Today via Reuters

The Blue and Gold’s have a historic record in the men’s Division I basketball scene and hold plenty of records including the most titles and the highest number of wins in the NCAA final four.

Although they are the most successful team in college history, the record is mainly down to the efforts of man in John Wooden, as the legendary coach led the Bruins to 10 of their 11 title wins including 4 seasons where they were undefeated the entire year. Furthermore, UCLA won 7 consecutive titles under the stewardship of Wooden as the 11x champions became a feared opposition under the Indiana native.

The 28-year trophy drought in UCLA

After John Wooden’s legendary 27-year spell at UCLA, the Bruins had a hard time finding a suitable replacement for the 10x NCAA champion as they bounced around 5 coaches in a span of 13 years. During this time the Los Angeles outfit were still competitive in the division but were a shadow of their former selves as they failed to reach a single NCAA final during that time.

Following the 1978-79 season, the Bruins went through a period of crisis as they failed to proceed past the second round of the NCAA tournament in 8 of the 10 seasons before hiring Jim Harrick in 1988.

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While things didn’t change at once under Harrick (as they lost in the second round once again), the momentum slowly started to shift in his second season as they made it to the sweet sixteen. This however turned out to be a false dawn as UCLA faltered in the coming seasons and only made it out the second round once in four years.

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Despite this abysmal record, things did take a turn for the good during the 1994-95 season as Harrick led the Bruins to their 11th title as they defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks by a score of 89-78. This triumph served as UCLA’s last title win with the team still looking for its 12th championship 28 years later.

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Can UCLA end their 28-year title drought?

Despite only failing to make the NCAA tournament bracket in 6 of the 28 seasons since their last title triumph, UCLA continues to fail at final hurdle as they are still on the hunt for their 12th NCAA championship. The Bruins are still the team to beat in the Pac-12 conference and were the conference leaders last season as well before being shocked by 3rd seeded Gonzaga in the sweet sixteen. Despite making a final four appearance just two seasons ago, the LA based side continues to have an abysmal record in the tournament rounds.

With the Pac-12 conference boasting the likes of the Huskies and the Cardinals and with eternal rivals USC bolstering their squad with Bronny James and Isaiah Collier, the Bruins will have a tough time vying for the top spots in their conference. Add to that the fact they will be headed to the oldest conference in the Big Ten come next year the young UCLA side will have a lot to adapt to in a space of few months. Apart from having multiple stumbling blocks in their conference, UCLA also have lost a host of their stars to the NBA draft this season with the likes of Jaime Jaquez Jr., Amari Bailey, Jaylen Clark and Tyger Campbell who all averaged above 10 PPG becoming a part of NBA teams this year.

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With the Bruins failing to cover the two areas in their defeat to the Bulldogs last season, can the young side do the unthinkable and go all the way the season? Let us know in the comments below.