UCLA received the second seed in the West Region in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Sunday and will face 15th-seeded UNC-Asheville in a first-round game Thursday in Sacramento.
Oddsmakers have made the Bruins (29-5) a 17 1/2-18 1/2-point favorite. The ABC News-owned data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com gives UCLA a 95% chance of winning.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the second seeds have a 121-7 record against the 15th seeds in the first round. One of the losses came last year when St. Peter’s upset Kentucky, 85-79, in overtime, then advanced to the Elite 8, the furthest a 15th-seed has advanced.
UCLA (29-5) is the overall fifth seed in the 68-team tournament, while the Bulldogs (27-7) are seeded 62nd.
UNC-Asheville qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2016 and the fifth time in history when it defeated Campbell, 77-73, in the Big South Tournament championship last Sunday, its 18th victory in 19 games. The Bulldogs were also the conference’s regular-season champion with a 16-2 record.
UNC-Asheville is led by 6-foot, 11-inch senior forward Drew Pember, the Big South Conference’s leading scorer, averaging 21.2 points per game, and rebounder, averaging 9.4.
Bruins junior guard Jaylen Clark will miss the tournament because of a lower leg injury suffered March 4 in an 82-73 victory over Arizona, coach Mick Cronin said Sunday.
Cronin said he had a “much more optimistic” outlook for the availability of freshman center Adem Bona, who missed the last 1 1/2 games because of a left shoulder injury.
The approximately 7:05 p.m. game will be televised by truTV. The winner will advance to play the winner of the game between seventh-seeded Northwestern and 10th-seeded Boise State Saturday.