Biggest Challenges UCLA Faces in NCAA Tourney Matchup vs. Tulsa

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2014

Biggest Challenges UCLA Faces in NCAA Tourney Matchup vs. Tulsa

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    The UCLA Bruins will finally get their 2014 NCAA tournament campaign underway Friday night at 10 p.m. ET against the South Region's No. 13 seed, Tulsa. 

    The fourth-seeded Bruins (26-8) will have to wait until the last tip time in San Diego to grace the court with their presence, and they must be up to the task of taking down the dangerous Golden Hurricane (21-12). 

    Here is a look at the five biggest challenges that stand between the Bruins and a victory on Friday night. 

Danny and the Miracles, Part 2

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    Make no mistake about it: If Tulsa keeps this game close late into the second half, people will begin to bring up the "Danny and the Miracles" nickname.

    The Golden Hurricane are coached by 1988 tournament star Danny Manning, who led Kansas to an improbable title run that year. 

    If Manning has the same magic touch on the sidelines in March that he did when he was a player, the Bruins could be in for some trouble. 

    It also doesn't hurt that Tulsa is on fire heading into the tournament, having won its last 11 games. 

Tulsa Is the Hotter Team

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    Tulsa steamrolled through its competition from February 8 on, as it won its last 11 games in regular season and conference tournament play. 

    With a strong record like that heading into the Big Dance, Tulsa is a dangerous opponent ready to pounce on the Bruins when they make any mistakes. 

    Most of the victories during that 11-game stretch were not close games, which means not only is Tulsa on fire record-wise, but it also is playing with a massive amount of confidence and no fear. 

    Those attributes are part of the perfect formula for an unexpected March upset.

    UCLA won five of its last eight, with the three losses in that span coming at the hands of Stanford, Washington State and Oregon. 

Play on the Glass

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    UCLA holds a statistical advantage over Tulsa in almost every category—except for rebounds per game. 

    UCLA sits 129th in the nation with 35.6 boards per contest, while Tulsa averages close to a rebound more per game (36.3) and ranks 97th in the nation.

    While this may seem like a slim advantage, sometimes a game comes down to grabbing one crucial rebound in the waning moments. 

    If you take away the numbers of the leading rebounder from each team (Kyle Anderson for UCLA and James Woodard of Tulsa), the numbers favor the Golden Hurricane just slightly.

    Tulsa has three players that average over four rebounds per game, while UCLA has only two. 

    If the game does come down to the wire, expect the battle on the glass to intensify, with the slightest mistake costing a team dearly.

James Woodard

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    Tulsa's James Woodard is like a mini version of UCLA's Kyle Anderson.

    Just like Anderson, Woodard is a terrific scorer and can also get the job done on the glass. 

    Anderson averages 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while Woodard put up 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest this season. 

    UCLA should know how to shut down Woodard since he possesses plenty of the same game-changing qualities Anderson has. 

    However, we have seen early on in the tournament that teams with similar personnel and strategies have played very intense, close games.

Steve Alford's Big Dance Slump

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    In case this hasn't been brought up over the last few days, Steve Alford's record in the NCAA tournament is brutal (5-7). 

    The UCLA head coach has failed to make it out of the first weekend on his last six attempts.

    During that horrific spell of March form, Alford's teams at Iowa and New Mexico have been eliminated in the first game three times. 

    The only time Alford made it to the Sweet 16 was back in 1999, when he was in charge of Southwest Missouri State. 

    Alford has enough talent on his roster at UCLA to make it that far this season, but his coaching abilities during crunch time is what has to worry Bruin fans more than the potential poor performance on the court. 


    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.