It’s almost been a decade since Gus Johnson yelled out those words on the broadcast of UCLA’s 73-71 comeback win over Gonzaga. On the brink of losing in the Sweet 16, those Bruins somehow stormed back from a 17-point deficit against the Bulldogs and Adam Morrison, the Oscar Robertson Trophy winner. The moment has been enshrined as one of the classics of March Madness.
I’m guessing he didn’t imagine seeing a rematch in this year’s Sweet 16. No. 11-seed UCLA and second-seeded Gonzaga will tip off Friday at 4:15 p.m. PT in Houston’s NRG Stadium. The Bruins opened as a 9.5-point underdog.
UCLA hosts No. 9 Gonzaga tonight at 7:05 p.m., the first part of a tough five-game stretch that will tell everyone a lot more about what type of team Steve Alford has on his hands.
Kenpom.com currently projects the Bruins losing all five: to the Bulldogs (44% win probability), No. 1 Kentucky (12%), Alabama (44%), Colorado (44%) and Utah (27%). The latter four games are all away from Pauley Pavilion.
Since leaving UCLA as a three-time all-conference point guard, Darren Collison has carved out what looks to be a promising pro career. Now 25, the former Bruin made the All-Rookie team in 2010 after the New Orleans Hornets drafted him 21st overall, and is a restricted free agent after averaging 12 points and 5.1 assists in his fourth season.
He returned to the Los Angeles area recently, where he’s been busy with interviews as well as preparing his youth basketball camp. I talked to him this week about his season with the Dallas Mavericks, his thoughts on Ben Howland and Steve Alford, as well as a UCLA flashback.
Q: What have you been up to this summer?
I’ve just been chillin’ at my parents house in the Inland Empire. I actually started working out a little bit earlier than usual. I watch every (playoff) game. Every game. I told myself that I wouldn’t, because we didn’t make the playoffs, but I’ve been glued to that TV. Oh yeah, by far. I realized how tough it is. I missed the playoffs my first year, but after being in the playoffs my next two years, it made me miss it.
Q: What was your favorite series?
My favorite series would definitely be the Warriors and San Antonio. Or Warriors and Denver. The Warriors were just an incredible team in the playoffs. I definitely had fun watching them.