Letâ€™s be honest. How many people â€“ up to and including Duke fans â€“ actually thought the Devils were making it this far? I know plenty of Duke fans that had Coach K and crew falling out of contention early. Thatâ€™s because by the end of the year, people had figured out the formula for stopping the Devils. (Decent perimeter defense + an off-shooting night = adios, amigos). Itâ€™s with that, then, that it should not be all that shocking to see Xavier and UCLA squaring off for a chance to go to the Final Four.
Speaking of adios ... Kevin Love has been absolutely outstanding in this tournament, averaging 22.7points, 11.3 rebounds per game and 5.0 blocks per game. Were it not for the emergence of Stephen Curry, we might be talking about Love propelling his draft stock higher than Bill Walton in the mid '70s. Instead, the nation is suddenly -- after a 10 point win against Western Kentucky and a squeak by Texas A&M to get here -- wondering if UCLA is vulnerable or not.
Well, the Bruins are vulnerable, at least in the sense that their offense is not especially high powered. Efficient, perhaps, but not high powered. Xavier is equally as efficient though, and possibly more dangerous on offense, although the inside-outside combo of Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender isnâ€™t quite as strong as Love and Darren Collison. With the Musketeers having four players that average in double figures for the tournament, you can expect UCLA to try and slow the pace down and to let defense prevail.
The pick is obviously UCLA (who, for you gambling types out there, are favored by 6.5 points). With all due respect to the 'Teers, who I liked to make it this far just based on the draw, the Bruins are more battle tested and should have never let Western Kentucky get that close. Of course, Collison and the Bruin backcourt have to step up, but I think they will. Hell of a run for Xavier though.â†µ
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