UCLA is scheduled to open play in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Thursday against Michigan State in a First Four game with the winner advancing to face Brigham Young Saturday.
Each of the lowest four seeded at-large teams are required to play in the First Four as are the four lowest automatic qualifiers. The Bruins (17-9) are seeded 44th in the 68-team field, one spot behind the Spartans (15-12), the NCAA announced Sunday.
UCLA and Michigan State are both considered 11th seeds in the East Region.
The game is set to begin at 6:57 p.m. at Mackey Arena at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and will be televised by TBS.
Because the entire tournament will be played in Indiana in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the overall seed list was the main determination for the bracket. In a typical year, geographic proximity to hosting sites in the early rounds helps determine bracketing decisions.
The Bruins enter the tournament on a four-game losing streak, including an 83-79 overtime loss to eventual champion Oregon State Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Spartans have lost three of their last five games, including a 68-57 loss to Maryland in a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal Thursday.
UCLA lost to Michigan State, 75-62, in the most recent meeting between the two teams, on Nov. 27, 2019 in the fifth-place game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Seven of the 10 Bruins who played in that game remain on their roster and 10 of the 16 Spartans.
UCLA leads the series, 6-4.
This is the 50th time UCLA has advanced to the NCAA Tournament and first since 2018. The 2020 tournament was canceled three days before Selection Sunday due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bruins last won an NCAA tournament game in 2017 when they defeated Cincinnati, then coached by current UCLA coach Mick Cronin, to reach the Sweet 16.
Michigan State’s streak of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournaments is the fourth longest in NCAA history behind Kansas’ 31 from 1990 to the present, North Carolina’s 27 from 1975-2001 and Duke’s 24 from 1996-2019.
The First Four has been held since 2011 when the tournament was expanded from 65 teams. In each of its first eight years, at least one First Four team won a first-round game. In 2011, Virginia Commonwealth went from the First Four to the Final Four.