March 28, 2008

Bruins have work cut out for XU

The Bruins (34-3) return to the elite eight for the third straight year. The last time UCLA has done that was when they were coached by the legendary John Wooden. The road hasn't been an easy one for the Bruins and it won't get any easier on Saturday when they hook up with No. 3 seed Xavier (30-6).

The Bruins advanced to the western region final after defeating the pesky Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky 78-68 in a game that shouldn't have been that close. Even when the Bruins jumped out to a 21 point lead in the first half, it could have been worse if the Bruins would have been able to convert turnovers into points.

Still when the Bruins go into halftime with a 21 point lead the odds are they will take home the W and they did though there were some stressful moments as the never say die Hilltoppers full court pressed their way right back into the game and actually cut the lead down to four.

The Bruins will have to start playing their best basketball if they are going to advance in this tournament. It can be said about the Bruin they have yet to hit on all cylinders during this tournament run and here they are once again in the elite eight. That is a testimony to the grit and coaching ability UCLA Bruin head coach Ben Howland.

Now Bruins face the Xavier Musketeers, who advanced to the western region final with a 79-75 overtime win over West Virginia. That the Musketeers are back in the elite eight is no fluke. This is the second time in five years they have made to elite eight in the last five years. The first time Xavier ever made it as deep as the elite eight in the tournament before was in 2004.

The Bruins will have to find a way to slow down senior forward Josh Duncan (6-9, 235). The sharp shooting forward led the way with a career-high 26 points and five rebounds. Duncan has earned CBS/Chevrolet Game MVP honors for Xavier for all three of its 2008 NCAA Tournament wins.

So far in the tournament, Duncan has been sensational. In the three games thus far, Duncan is averaging a team high 20.7 points per game (ppg). He also doing a nice job on the boards as Duncan is averaging 6.0 rebounds a game (rpg).

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