UCLA vs. Xavier - Tourney Game Preview
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
Top-seed UCLA faces a tough Elite 8 match-up when it faces No. 3 seed Xavier on Saturday afternoon in Phoenix.
UCLA (34-3) held on to beat Western Kentuky, 88-78, to advance on Thursday. Three Bruins recorded double-doubles; Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and James Keefe. Junior Darren Collison had one of his worst games of the season, scoring 4 points and fouling out with five minutes remaining in the contest.
The Musketeers (30-6) advanced to the West Regional Final with a 79-75 overtime win over West Virginia. Senior Josh Duncan led the way with a career-high 26 points and five rebounds.
Xavier was 14-2 in the 2008 Atlantic 10 Conference regular season race, winning its second straight Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championship.
The West Regional Final game will feature two teams that resemble each other in many ways.
Similar to UCLA, Xavier plays a tough man-to-man defense and has physical players up front and off the bench. They are not a gambling defense but do a good job preventing dribble penetration and staying in front of their opponent.
Xavier allowed just 63.1 points per game on 40.6% shooting. The Musketeers held a +5.4 rebounding margin per contest this season.
Offensively, Xavier features solid half-court sets and excellent three-point shooters, and have the ability and personnel to score in transition when the opportunity arises. They averaged 75.6 points per game while shooting 47.8% from the field and an efficient 39.6% from three-point distance.
Xavier is a senior laden team and has five players averaging in double figures in scoring and a sixth that is close: senior Josh Duncan leads the way at 12.4 points per game. Senior Drew Lavender is second at 10.9 ppg, followed by sophomore Derrick Brown (10.8 ppg.), juniors C.J. Anderson (10.8 ppg.), B.J. Raymond (10.1 ppg.) and senior Stanley Burrell (9.8 ppg.).
Josh Duncan (6'9, 238, Sr) has earned game MVP honors for Xavier in all three of its 2008 NCAA Tournament wins. In the three games combined, he has scored a team-high 20.7 points and grabbed 6.0 rebounds.
Duncan can post up inside and can step out and shoot effectively out to the three-point line. He is shooting 50.2% from the field and a team-high 42.9% on three-pointers.
6'8 junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the starting defensive assignment against Duncan. This is a good match-up for UCLA to have one of its best defenders on Duncan. However, Mbah a Moute has been hobbled by a sprained left ankle and was wearing a boot yesterday. He states his ankle is fine and is ready to go 100% on Saturday.
At point-guard, Xavier has speedy Drew Lavender (5'7, 153, Sr). A dangerous three-point shooter, he leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game. UCLA's Darren Collison will need to keep Lavender in front of him and out of the paint on the offensive end.
Guard Stanley Burrell (6'3, 120, Sr) was the 2007-08 Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is a candidate for National Defensive Player of the Year honors. He averages 9.8 points and is also a threat from beyond the arc, shooting 39.1%. Burrell will likely shadow Collison on the defensive end since he usually guards the opponent's best perimeter offensive player.
Derrick Brown (6'8, 225, So) gives Xavier some size along the front line. He averages 10.8 points on 60.4% shooting. Brown is the team's leading rebounder at 6.6 per game, he has a good midrange game and finishes strong at the rim. Kevin Love will likely be matched-up against Brown.
C.J. Anderson (6'6, 220, Jr) is a rugged player who averages 6.0 rebounds and is a solid defender. He scores 10.8 points on 52.2% shooting. Anderson will likely lock up with UCLA's Josh Shipp for most of the contest.
The Musketeers get solid contributions from its bench of Jason Love (6'9, 225, So), B.J. Raymond (6'6, 226, Jr), and Dante Jackson (6'5, 205, Fr).
Love gives Xavier size and a physical player off the bench especially to help counter Kevin Love. He averages 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 18.0 minutes per game.
Raymond gives the team instant offense and is deadly from beyond the arc, shooting 41.3% on three-pointers, while Jackson gives another long-range shooter and solid defender on the wing.
The Bruins will not be able to play a 20 minute game against Xavier, as it did against Western Kentucky, and expect to come away with a win. The Musketeers are much too deep and talented at every spot on the floor.
With an excellent defense and a go-to-scorer in Josh Duncan, the Musketeers are a legitimate contender for the NCAA championship this year.
(photo credit: Xavier Athletics)
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