Outside of football season, one of my favorite times of the year is undoubtedly March.
The midwest weather begins to warm up and the snow is gone, a March Madness full of upsets is underway, and it seems like every year we get to get a glimpse inside the mindset of one of basketball's Cinderella stories of the tournament.
Mick Cronin's UCLA squad is one of those Cinderella stories this year after winning an 11-seed play-in game over Michigan State before knocking off 6-seed BYU in the first round. In the round of 32, the Bruins beat 14-seed Abilene Christian to set up a Sweet 16 match up against Alabama. Over the weekend, the Bruins were able to continue their run with a win over Nate Oats and the 2-seed Tide to set up an Elite 8 match up with top-seeded Michigan tonight.
UCLA's Cinderella run almost didn't happen. When the Bruins were struggling earlier this year and not playing great basketball, Cronin noted that things weren't going to change unless they found some humility.
"The reason teams do things, like defend and execute the plays, is because of humility. You have to have humility. So I've talked about before and I talked about it over our holiday break, we need to get some humility."
"I told them that our fate isn't going to change until we get some humility."
"Cool does not win. You have to be willing to do the uncomfortable things that go into winning. If all you're worried about is getting 12 points, regardless of the outcome for our team, it is going to continue.
Knowing they are a win away from an improbable Final Four berth with a win tonight, Cronin's comments from that point in their season are fun to look back at now, and a recent tweet from Basketball Psychology has brought those great sound bytes back to the forefront.
"The name on your jersey has nothing to do with who wins basketball games. Usually a team that is humble enough to do the things that it takes, gets the win."
"Winners know why they win. Losers? They don't know why they lose. They think it's the coach, or their teammates, the referees. Winners know that intangibles win games. Preparation. Adherence to the game plan. Execution. Physicality. Toughness."
"Winners know that. They know the name on a jersey doesn't matter. They know the little battles within a game. They're willing to do the uncomfortable things that go into winning."
UCLA will tip against Michigan at about 10pm EST tonight.