Friday, March 18, 2011

Winning Ugly Is Better Than Not Winning At All

Last night's 78-76 win by UCLA over Michigan State was one of the ugliest wins in UCLA basketball history, and particularly as far as NCAA tournament wins go. Up 23 points with 8 minutes to go, even with my pessimistic penchant I had mentally tallied this one up in the win column. However, over the last 8 minutes, Michigan State whittled down the lead to one point and had an opportunity for a game winning shot. Supposedly after the game the Bruin message boards were reacting as if UCLA had lost the game, and even I had no interest in watching the game over again. Yet, the fact is that an ugly win is infinitely better than any kind of loss (see Rick Pitino and the Cardinal Mascot after Louisville's shocking loss to Morehead State).

In hindsight today's game points out the value of other similar ugly wins by UCLA early this year, where the team built up a large lead and then held on for dear life as an inferior team surged at the end to almost, but not quite catch up to the Bruins. At the time these were viewed as ugly wins, having no redeeming value except for the "W" itself, with the ultimate victory attributable to end of game luck or poor play by the opponent. But seeing how yesterday's game was just one of several similar episodes, those earlier wins were probably valuable in enabling the team to have the fortitude to hang on in the end, rather than collapsing, which was entirely possible. Or looking at it another way, winning ugly could be a positive characteristic showing a team's ability to win, a measurement separate and apart from physical talent.

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