UCLA won't be in Minneapolis this weekend for the Final Four.
And the Bruins won't soon forget their 106-79 loss to Indiana on Saturday at Albuquerque, N.M., in the West Regional final, the most lopsided drubbing by a top-seeded team since the NCAA tournament selection committee started seeding teams in 1979.
Before Saturday, it was an excellent season in Westwood:
--UCLA won the Pacific 10 Conference championship for the first time since 1987, ending Arizona's run of four consecutive titles.
--The Bruins were 28-5, their winningest season since 1976.
--They reached the round of eight in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980.
--They defeated Arizona, 89-87, at Tucson, ending the Wildcats' 71-game home winning streak.
--They were ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll, their highest season-ending ranking since the 1978-79 season.
So, how would this rank among UCLA's greatest seasons?
Relentless stumping by its coaches and administrators notwithstanding, the Pac-10 was not as strong as it has been in recent years, and the Pac-10 hasn't exactly produced national powers with any regularity. Since 1976, only two Pac-10 teams--UCLA in 1980, Arizona in 1988--have reached the Final Four.
And UCLA's most noteworthy victories of the regular season--a rout of Indiana in its opener and a sweep of Arizona during conference play--were diminished by postseason events.
Arizona lost to East Tennessee State during the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Indiana, in its victory over the Bruins on Saturday, showed that its earlier loss to UCLA was insignificant.
As successful as it was, the Bruins' season probably was defined as much by their five losses as their 28 victories:
--During an 86-82 loss to USC at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins were outhustled by a Trojan team that was not nearly as talented.
--During an 83-79 loss to USC at the Sports Arena, the Bruins were outhustled again.
--During an 84-71 defeat by Notre Dame and 75-65 loss to Duke, the Bruins crumbled down the stretch.
The Bruins were outscored by Notre Dame in the last 5:40 at South Bend, Ind., 21-4, and by Duke in the last 3:06 at Pauley Pavilion, 16-4.
--During the West Regional final, the Bruins were the victims of a 42-point turnaround, losing by 27 points--their most lopsided loss in 89 NCAA tournament games--after having beaten Indiana last November at Springfield, Mass., 87-72.
That last game will be remembered longest by Bruin fans.
UCLA was the only team to reach the NCAA tournament's round of eight without facing a team that ranked among the top 25 in the final AP poll.
And yet, after the loss, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said that the Bruins were "spent" before they played the Hoosiers.
UCLA, Harrick said, had "no enthusiasm, no zip."
Also missing, captain Gerald Madkins said, was the one-for-all, all-for-one approach to the game that the Bruins had striven for since last fall, when they met at a restaurant in Century City to iron out differences and lay out goals for the season.
"Indiana came out as five guys (playing together), and we came out as individuals," Madkins said. "We played like we did in the past--too individualistic. We didn't work as a team, and it caught up to us.
"Don (MacLean) said he could have done a great deal for himself if he had made it to the Final Four. That's the wrong frame of mind to be in, (saying) me, I. . . .
"That kind of attitude just ran through our team."
Perhaps the true character of the Bruins finally had surfaced?
"That could be true," Madkins said. "Some guys, their true colors come out in stressful situations, pressure-packed situations. But we had put it together pretty well until that moment. It hadn't come out at all, really."
A fifth-year senior and the last holdover from the Walt Hazzard era at UCLA, Madkins enjoyed a unique perspective on the highly visible Bruin program.
He helped build it back to national prominence under the guidance of Harrick, who is 94-35 after four seasons, the winningest of the six coaches who have succeeded John Wooden.
Harrick would be even more successful, Madkins suggested, if he recruited more to need.
"He has put a system together that's been successful over the years, but its success is determined by the kind of people you have in that system," Madkins said. "If you get a team full of individualistic people, it's not going to work, because it's based on sharing the ball and getting the ball to the open man. It's based on a lot of unselfish things.
"The (prep) All-Americans are good to have, but I don't think you can really convince them to play together.
"I may be wrong, but I've always had a perception that our team was too many stars and not enough role players; too many guys who wanted to grab the headlines and not enough guys who wanted to do the dirty work."
And too many guys who wanted to fill the basket before they filled the passing lanes, Madkins added.
"Our mentality is not to play defense," he said. "The mentality of certain guys, like Don and Tracy (Murray), is just offense.
"Since they've been here, they've been such great scorers that their offensive output is rewarded even when their defensive output isn't the best."
UCLA will be loaded with talent again next season.
Three of the Bruins' top five scorers--Murray, Mitchell Butler and Shon Tarver--will be back, as will Tyus Edney, Ed O'Bannon and Rodney Zimmerman.
Joining them, and probably starting at center, will be Richard Petruska, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound transfer from Loyola Marymount who was ineligible this season.
It's a strong nucleus, but that doesn't guarantee success.
"It's going to be a tough task to get those guys to believe in one another and to play together totally," Madkins said.
And the mix can be volatile. It can explode at any time, even with the Final Four in sight.
"We've done a lot," Madkins said. "We won 28 games. That ain't bad. I'm proud of that. How many people can say they've been to the final eight? That's a big achievement. We set a lot of goals and we marched them right down. We just didn't reach the ultimate goal."
That won't be easy to forget.