The UCLA Bruins are the first team in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to reach the Final Four after losing four games, according to a study by the Elias Sports Bureau. After losing their last three regular season games, the Bruins lost to Oregon in the first game of the Pac-12 tournament. No team lost its conference opener or won the NCAA tournament.
But here the Bruins face undefeated Gonzaga in the semifinals Saturday night after having to beat Michigan State in overtime in the first round and then defeating BYU, Abilene Christian, Alabama and Michigan.
In light of UCLA’s impressive run, we looked at other teams in various sports that have done damage in the postseason after a poor start.
Men’s Varsity Basketball
Coach Rollie Massimino is just coming off a win after Villanova defeated Georgetown to win the 1985 national championship. AP photo.
1984-85 Villanova Wildcats
Villanova went from Jan. 27 to March 8. 6 and 7 before losing to St. Louis. The game was won by St. John’s 89-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. That places the Wildcats in eighth place in the NCAA Tournament with a 19-10 record. But Villanova then went 7-0 for the first time in the season with six consecutive wins in a 66-64 final victory over Georgetown that remains one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. Villanova remains one of only three teams to win a national championship after entering the tournament with double-digit losses (1983 NK State, 1988 Kansas).
2010-11 UConn Huskies
UConn went 1-4 in its last five regular season games and is 4-7 in its last 11 regular season games after a 17-2 start. Since the start of the conference tournament, the Huskies have won 11 consecutive games – winning five games in five days to win the Big East tournament, then beating Butler in all six games of the NCAA tournament to win the national championship.
2015-16 Syracuse Orange
Syracuse lost five of six games in the NCAA Tournament, including its first game in the ACC Tournament – as the No. 10 seed – dropping its record to 19-13. The Orange qualified for the NCAA Tournament as the 10th seed and then defeated No. 7 Dayton, No. 15 Middle Tennessee, No. 11 Gonzaga and No. 1 Virginia to become the first No. 10 seed to reach the Final Four. But there, the streak ended when the Dutch lost to North Carolina.
World Series MVP Derek Jeter celebrates after the Yankees beat the Mets in 2000 to win their third consecutive title. Amy Sanchetta/AP photo
2000 New York Yankee
By mid-September of the 2000 season, the two-time defending World Series champion Yankees had taken over the AL East, so a third consecutive MLB title seemed likely. But when New York ended the regular season with 15 losses in its last 18 games, the Bronx’s strong scorers suddenly became vulnerable. The Yankees lost the first game of their division series to Oakland, but won three of the next four games to eliminate the A’s, then beat the Mariners in six games and the Mets in five to win another championship.
2006 St. John’s St. Louis Cardinals
In Los Angeles, the Cardinals were the best of a bad bunch. Even after losing nine of their last 12 games, they won the division with an alarming 83-78 record. But everyone starts the postseason 0-0, and St. Louis is the only place you need to be. St. Louis beat the Padres in four games, then the Mets in seven, with Yadier Molina hitting a two-run homer in the ninth inning of Game 7. The Cards passed the Tigers, a 95-win team, to become World Series champions with the lowest winning percentage of the regular season (.516).
Drew Brees and his son Baylen enjoy the moment after the Saints’ Super Bowl win. Jed Jacobson/Getty Images
2009 Saint of New Orleans
The Saints ran out to a 13-0 lead, but then lost their final three games even though they won the NFC South championship and advanced to the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans beat the Cardinals in the divisional round and then beat the Vikings in overtime to reach its first Super Bowl. After beating the Colts 31-17, the Saints became the only team in the 16-game season to lose its final three regular season games and still win the Super Bowl.
2012 Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens started the season 9-2, but then things went awry, losing four of their last five games. They grabbed the lead over the Bengals for the AFC North title, but missed the first round. But Baltimore came back in the playoffs, beating the Colts at home, Peyton Manning and the Broncos in overtime, and Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game. The Ravens won 34-31 over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Sergei Fedorov celebrates the Stanley Cup after the Red Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes in 2002. Elsa/Getty Images
1999-2000 New Jersey Devils
The Devils fired coach Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the regular season, then went 4-4-0 under interim coach Larry Robinson and then to the playoffs. New Jersey overcame a 3-1 deficit in the series against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals before defeating the Dallas Stars in six games (including a thriller in double overtime in Game 6) to win the second Stanley Cup in Brand history.
2001-02 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have won just one of their last 10 regular season games (1-3-6) and were ahead 2-0 in their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Vancouver Canucks. Detroit rallied and won the next four games to win that series, and went on to win the Stanley Cup, going 16 of 21.
John Daly came out of nowhere to win the 1991 PGA Championship – and the hearts of many golf fans. Ron Heflin/AP photo
While UCLA was one of the final four teams in the NCAA Tournament, John Daly was the last man in the field at the 1991 PGA Championship – or the ninth alternate. Daley, a 25-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour who doesn’t fit the profile of a typical tournament pro, only got a place in the tournament because others above him withdrew. A long-time driver, Daly quickly captured the stands with his aggressive style and provided one of the biggest surprises in golf history with his first Tour victory in a major championship.
frequently asked questions
Who beat UCLA to reach the Final Four?
The Gonzaga junior took a photo at the buzzer next to the Final Four logo for a 93-90 overtime victory over UCLA on Saturday night, bringing the Bulldogs within one win of an undefeated season and the national title.
What kind of seed is UCLA?
That’s not the case for UCLA, which is seeded 11th and will dance in the Final Four for the last time. NCAA.com.
Did UCLA win their basketball game?
His win gave No. 1 seeded Gonzaga a 93-90 victory over No. 11 seeded UCLA in a classic back-and-forth contest that will go down in tournament history as one of the greatest finals it has ever seen.
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