March Madness Memories: Kevin Love
Timberwolves.com prepares you for this year’s NCAA tournament by taking a look back at four Wolves’ memorable March Madness runs. In Part 4 of this four-part series, Kevin Love helps get UCLA back to the Final Four for the third consecutive year.
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The University of California Los Angeles men’s basketball program is synonymous with winning. UCLA has a pedigree of championship success dating back to John Wooden, and to be part of the Bruins’ success is something a collegiate athlete never forgets.
Timberwolves forward Kevin Love got that opportunity. As one of the most highly touted recruits coming out of high school, Love spent one year in with the Bruins and helped bring UCLA to the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio. The Bruins finished two wins short of the school’s 12th national championship.
“It was very memorable; I look back on those times and wish we could have made it all the way,” Love said. “We won the Pac-10 tourney, we won the Pac-10 championship outright, and our road to the Final Four was not easy.”
UCLA entered the season having gone to two straight Final Fours, both times losing to eventual champion Florida. In 2008, coach Ben Howland’s crew led by Love and future All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, the Bruins rolled to a 35-4 record and the Pac-10 championship with a 16-2 conference mark.
The Bruins rolls off 14 consecutive victories after a loss to Washington on Feb. 10, capping off their regular season conference championship with three wins in the Pac-10 tournament and four straight victories to open up the NCAA tournament.
That led to a matchup with Memphis at the Final Four in San Antonio, led by future NBA Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose. UCLA couldn’t hang with the Tigers, losing 78-63.
“The pregame talk, I remember the pregame talk looking around and all the guys were saying, ‘We made it this far, let’s try to take it all the way,’” Love said. “We didn’t end up making it, but it was still a great run and I remember those guys vividly.”
Love said it was bittersweet not being able to win a championship for UCLA—their last NCAA title was in 1995.
“Being able to cut down the nets at every stage but the last was a little bittersweet, because we were still able to do it,” Love said. “But it all matters how you finish, and we didn’t end up finishing on a win, which was tough.”
Love entered the NBA Draft that summer, was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies fifth overall and was traded to the Timberwolves on draft day. He’s become one of the league’s elite power forwards and a two-time All-Star in Minnesota.
Still, he looks back fondly on his days in Westwood.
“To be here now, it feels great,” Love said. “But I’ll always remember my March Madness.”
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