The final First Four contest features a pair of storied basketball programs in the #11 UCLA Bruins (17-9) against the #11 Michigan State Spartans (15-12). Typically expected to meet in the Final Four, these two teams will battle as two of the final teams to get selected for the tournament. Thursday’s tipoff is scheduled for 9:57 p.m. EST inside Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, IN. Michigan State is a narrow 2-point favorite over the Bruins, according to oddsmakers.
What to Know – UCLA Bruins
The Bruins return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018, UCLA will be making their 50th appearance in the postseason. UCLA was the four-seed in the PAC-12 Tournament, dropping their opening game to Oregon State, their fourth-straight defeat.
Offensively, UCLA averages 72.9 points per game while shooting 46.2% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. The Bruins hold their opponents to 68.5 points per game, 43.9% shoot from the floor, and 35.1% from deep.
UCLA conceded a ten-point halftime lead in the quarterfinal loss to the Beavers in the conference tournament, falling 83-79 in overtime. The Bruins got 19 points and ten rebounds from junior guard Jules Bernard in the loss. UCLA shot 42.9% (27-of-63) from the field but just 25% (5-of-20) from beyond the arc.
This season the Bruins are 12-14 against the spread, but only 3-11 in their last 14 contests. UCLA is 3-0 ATS in neutral site matchups and 5-1 ATS in their last six games against Michigan State.
What to Know – Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State barely got into the NCAA Tournament, but the Spartans are here for the 23rd consecutive season. The Spartans last missed the tournament in 1997. MSU finished ninth in the regular-season standings and dropped their opening-round contest in the Big Ten Tournament to Maryland.
MSU’s offense scores 69.0 points per game behind 42.4% shooting from the floor and 32.0% shooting from the three-point line. The Spartans defense surrenders 70.6 points per game while holding teams to 42.5% shooting from the field and 34.0% from three.
Michigan State couldn’t put it together offensively in the opening round, 68-57, defeat to the Terrapins. The Spartans connected on only 25% (4-of-16) of their threes and 50% (9-of-18) from the free-throw line. MSU committed 18 turnovers to Maryland’s 11 and allowed two players to combine for 40 of the Terrapin’s 68 points.
The Spartans wrapped up the season with a 9-18 record ATS, including a 5-5 mark over their last ten games. MSU failed to cover the spread in their only neutral contests this season and are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games when favored.
The Pick is In
Two storied programs meet in the play-in game for the NCAA Tournament and hopefully will bring an exciting conclusion to the First Four slate. Some of MSU’s lack of success this season is because the Big Ten was excellent this season. However, the Spartans are a disaster offensively. UCLA can shoot it well from the field, and while they are not elite in their own right, the Bruins are equipped enough to take down the Spartans.
The Pick: UCLA Bruins +2