2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

X-Factors to Watch in UCLA vs. Tulsa NCAA Tournament Matchup

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

X-Factors to Watch in UCLA vs. Tulsa NCAA Tournament Matchup

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    Playing close to home at Viejas Arena in San Diego on Friday at approximately 9:57 p.m. ET, the No. 4 UCLA Bruins will look to take down second-round opponent, No. 13 Tulsa.

    The Golden Hurricane come into the game as a scary upset pick, led by 1988 tournament hero and present head coach Danny Manning. 

    The two teams will be involved in a game that will be closer than the experts think, but which players will help decide the result? 

    Continue reading for a look at five X-factors for Friday's late clash in the South Region. 

Bryce Alford, G, UCLA

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Throughout the 2013-14 season. Bryce Alford, son of coach Steve, has shown spurts of brilliance, but he has also seen his production drop off on many occasions. 

    The perfect example of that inconsistency in the freshman's game came in a two-game homestand against Oregon and Oregon State.

    On February 27, Alford went off for 31 in an overtime loss to Oregon, and just a few days later, he scored just six in the win over Oregon State.

    After scoring in double digits during the final two regular-season games, he scored a total of 14 points in three games at the Pac-12 tournament. 

    Alford is due to explode from the field, which would be a welcome to sight to all UCLA fans after his rough time in Las Vegas.

Rashad Ray, G, Tulsa

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    Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

    Rashad Ray may have averaged just 21 minutes per game, but he made every second count when he was on the floor. 

    In the 33 games he has participated in this season, he recorded at least one assist in 31 of them. He is second on the team in assists with 2.4 per game and also contributed point totals of 18 and 15 near the end of the season. 

    Ray's 15-point showing in the Conference USA tournament final against Louisiana Tech proved that he can take his game to the next level and contribute in more than one statistical category in a big game. 

David Wear, F, UCLA

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    David Wear's production may be down from his junior season in Westwood, but that doesn't mean he can't be a spark in March. 

    He showed signs of life against Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, scoring 11 points and pulling down four rebounds in just 22 minutes. 

    If the senior forward can play with the same efficiency against an upset-minded Tulsa team, then the Bruins should be in good shape in the paint. 

    Wear is also a terrific free-throw shooter at 82.1 percent, which could come into play late in what has the potential to be a close game. 

D'Andre Wright, F, Tulsa

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    Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

    Averaging 17 minutes per game as a sophomore, D'Andre Wright has been very productive. He posts 7.1 points and four rebounds per game, giving Manning an extra body to work with down low. 

    The play down low against the height of the Bruins will be a crucial part of an upset bid by the Golden Hurricane, which means Wright has to continue to deliver quality minutes off the pine. 

    In his final six games leading up to the NCAA tournament, he averaged 5.5 rebounds per game, which indicates he is playing above-average basketball during crunch time. 

Tony Parker, F-C, UCLA

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    UCLA carries an advantage in the size department into this No. 4 vs. No 13 matchup, but for the team to capitalize on that edge, players like Tony Parker must play well. 

    The 6'9" sophomore, who weighs in at 255 pounds, can cause trouble down low for Tulsa by altering shots with his size. 

    If Parker can star for the Bruins on the defensive end, it will get his confidence flowing, and maybe he will put home some key baskets on offense as well. 

    Out of the eight players in the UCLA rotation, he averages the least amount of minutes per game (17.5) but could end up being the key factor to a Bruins victory on Friday night. 

Game Prediction

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Prediction: UCLA 75, Tulsa 69

    This game will be closer than most people imagine it will be, but expect the Bruins to pull out the victory as Coach Alford and the players who are left from last season's UCLA squad look to avoid a second-round upset for the second consecutive season.

    All-around star Kyle Anderson should be too much for the Golden Hurricane to handle, and the strong depth in the paint should also be a key factor to a UCLA victory. 

    While picking UCLA is the smart call now, don't be surprised if Tulsa pulls off one of the shocks of the tournament. 

     

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