No. 11 UCLA vs No. 11 Michigan State First Four

No. 11 UCLA vs No. 11 Michigan State First Four | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on March 16, 2021

It’s arguably the best First Four matchup in NCAA Tournament history on Thursday when blue-bloods and No. 11 seeds UCLA and Michigan State square off, with the winner to face No. 6 BYU in the first round of the Big Dance. Sparty is a short favorite on the NCAAB odds.

How to Bet UCLA vs. Michigan State NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

The schools played early in the 2019-20 season in Hawaii and Michigan State won 75-62 when the Spartans were the No. 3 team in the country. Cassius Winston scored 20 points and Xavier Tillman had 14. They are both in the NBA now. Michigan State had an 18-2 advantage in fast break points. Chris Smith had 13 points and Cody Riley scored 11 for UCLA.

Michigan State is 4-6 all-time against UCLA, but has won the last two meetings. In the only other previous matchup in the NCAA Tournament, No. 7-seeded UCLA beat No. 10-seeded MSU in 2011.

Why Bet on UCLA? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Things seemed dire when Chris Smith (12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG) suffered a torn ACL on New Year’s Eve. But Mick Cronin’s club won six a row, displaying resilience and depth after losing a critical player. Unlike last season, when the Bruins finished 11-3 in their final 14 games, the good run didn’t last. A UCLA squad that started 8-0 in Pac-12 play finished 13-6 before losing to Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. But the Bruins led the Pac-12 with a 39% clip from the 3-point line in league play.

Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang (14.0 PPG) has given UCLA (17-9) a boost. the Bruins have a methodical offense-first approach, but they have just one win over a top-40 KenPom team (home vs. Colorado).

Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Juzang have been named All-Pac-12 Team selections. Campbell, a 5-foot-11 point guard, was one of 10 players in the Pac-12 to secure first-team all-conference acclaim. Campbell ranks second in the league in assists per game (5.6) and is among the top five in the league in assist-turnover ratio (2.7 to 1). Jaquez Jr. and Juzang, a pair of 6-foot-6 guards, were recognized as second-team All-Pac-12 selections. Juzang has registered a team-best 14.2 points per game in his first season at UCLA.

UCLA secured its 50th all-time berth in the annual NCAA Tournament (and the team’s first bid since 2018). This will mark UCLA’s second appearance in the tournament’s “First Four” round, a series of play-in games that began in 2011. UCLA seeks its first win in the NCAA Tournament since 2017, when the Bruins advanced to the “Sweet 16” with consecutive wins in Sacramento.

Mick Cronin is one of just five coaches in the nation to have led his teams to the past 10 consecutive NCAA Tournaments – along with Mark Few (Gonzaga), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bill Self (Kansas) and Roy Williams (North Carolina).

Why Bet on Michigan State? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Spartans’ high-end wins vs. Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan proved they were going to get into the Big Dance. But that 15-12 record total means Tom Izzo’s team is plenty capable of having its struggles vs. tournament-level teams. MSU’s key to making a run relies upon Aaron Henry. He’s been an improved player for most of the past month; no coincidence Michigan State became a tournament team when that happened.

The Spartans feature a balanced attack, with All-Big Ten Third Team selection Henry leading the way with 15.3 points per game, two other players averaging nearly 10.0 points per game. Henry is one of only two Division I players averaging at least 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.

Michigan State’s streak of 23 straight NCAA Tournaments is not only a Big Ten record, it’s also the fourth longest in NCAA history (Kansas, 31, 1990-2021; North Carolina, 27, 1975-2001; Duke, 24, 1996-2019). In addition, MSU’s streak is the second-longest active streak in the nation (Kansas, 31).

Michigan State is making its 34th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a record of 69-32 (.683) in its previous 33 tournaments. MSU has made 10 trips to the Final Four (1957, 1979, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2019) and captured the NCAA Championship in 1979 and 2000. MSU’s .682 winning percentage is the eighth-best all-time in NCAA Tournament play, while the program’s 69 total victories rank sixth all-time.

The last time the Spartans missed the NCAA tournament, Izzo was 42 years old and in his second season as Michigan State head coach. Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves were both freshmen. This was 1997, three years before Michigan State’s most recent — and the Big Ten’s last — national title run in 2000.

Game Trends

  • Bruins are 3-11 ATS in their last 14 games overall.
  • Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games as an underdog.
  • Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
  • Spartans are 7-17 ATS in their last 24 games overall.
  • Spartans are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite.
  • Spartans are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games as a favorite.

Expert Prediction

  • UCAL 65, Michigan State 63
  
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