Sports

Xavier hoping for first Final Four: Sizing up the UCLA Bruins

By: Nick McGill

After an incredibly strong regular season, the Xavier Musketeers are poised to keep their season alive as they face off against the top-seeded UCLA Bruins for a spot in the Final Four.

This could prove to be the highest point so far in an already exhilarating season.

After a disappointing early season loss to Miami University (Ohio), the Musketeers went on a tear, winning 13 of the next 15 games including a 15-point victory over No. 8 Indiana.

Xavier’s offensive attack seemed to make the difference in the success of the season. At the end of the regular season, Xavier, with regards to team stats, finished in the top 25 nationally in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3 point percentage.

The Musketeers came down the stretch on fire, winning 11 games in a row before a disappointing loss to conference opponent St. Joseph’s. This was one of only two conference losses for the team.

Xavier sat comfortably atop the conference standings as the regular season finished up and was the favorite to win the postseason conference tournament.

But once again, St. Joe’s overthrew the Muskies to kick them out of the tournament in the semifinals. Still, due to the dominating play throughout the season, Xavier received an at-large bid as a 3 seed in the West Regional.

Now head coach Sean Miller expects his team to play its best to make a run for the Final Four, particularly senior forward Josh Duncan.

Duncan has led the team in many of the offensive statistical categories during the regular season, including points per game (12.4) and 3-point field goal percentage (41.7).

In the first three games, Duncan established himself as a team leader with an average of 20.7 points per game in the Muskies first three games against Georgia, Purdue and West Virginia.

Duncan was aided by other top performers on the team including junior guard C.J. Anderson and senior guard Drew Lavender.

After a nerve-racking game in overtime against No. 7 seed West Virginia, Xavier must now face off against No. 1 UCLA, ranked third overall in the tournament.

This is a huge game for the Musketeers who have never reached the Final Four compared to the Bruins who have made it a habit.

If Xavier can contain UCLA All-American Kevin Love, the team has a chance at a victory.