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March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (4) UCLA vs. (13) Tulsa

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: UCLA (4) vs. Tulsa (13)

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UCLA Bruins 26-8, 12-6

A run to the Pac-12 conference tournament championship has completely changed the outlook on the Bruins going into their 46th NCAA Tournament. Prior to that championship run, the Bruins dropped three of their last five games, but after defeating Oregon, Stanford and Arizona on consecutive nights, they’re as confident and dangerous as any team in the field. In his first year at the head of the program, Steve Alford has the Bruins playing at a fast tempo, scoring 82 a night (10th nationally). In the halfcourt he allows 6’9 sophomore Kyle Anderson, a point forward if there’s ever been one, to orchestrate the offense. He’s thrived with the responsibility, putting up 14.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists on average. He regularly flirts with triple doubles and is the most unique player to try and match up against in college basketball. Jordan Adams, the Bruins’ leading scorer at 17.2 a contest and a lethal spot up shooting threat, consistently benefits from his playmaking ability. Defensively, the Bruins allowed 71 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent from deep against the 32nd most difficult schedule in the country. If they can get stops when they need them, get out in transition and at least keep the battle of the boards even as they did for most of the season, the Bruins should be able to win consecutive tournament games for the first time since 2008.

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Tulsa Golden Hurricane 21-12, 13-3

Conference USA was a fun league this year with the top four teams all finishing with 13-3 records in the regular season. Tulsa won eight games to close out regular season play and continued their roll through the C-USA conference tournament, winning three games in three days against Tulane, Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. This is their 15th time in the tournament and their first since 2003. They’ve won at least a game in seven of their last eight appearances and in Danny Manning they have a head coach who knows all about winning in March. The Golden Hurricane played the 98th most difficult schedule in the country, going 1-3 against the RPI top 50, which is likely the range their first round opponent will be in. They score 73.2 points on average while allowing 68. Sophomore guard James Woodard continues to be a heck of a signing for Tulsa; he’s the team’s leading scorer (15.7 ppg) and rebounder (5.8 rpg). The team’s depth took a hit when Pat Swilling Jr. was suspended in light of an off the court issue that is being investigated by police. The Golden Hurricane’s free throw and foul issues are going to really work against them in their quest to continue their tradition of tournament success. They only shoot 67.6 percent from the charity stripe and commit 21.7 fouls a game, more than 313 other programs. With only one senior in the regular rotation, though, Tulsa may be a year ahead of schedule. Their chances at pulling off an upset could be much better next season, especially after this experience.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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