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Who are the Michigan State Spartans? UCLA Bruins?

The Spartans and Bruins will face off in a play-in game Thursday to determine which team will battle BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Michigan State forward Aaron Henry (11) tries to get around UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Marco Garcia, Associated Press

When BYU’s men’s basketball team starts its 2021 NCAA Tournament run it will be against either the Michigan State Spartans or the UCLA Bruins.

The 6-seeded Cougars will have to wait until Thursday to find out exactly which team they’ll face in the first round, as the Bruins and Spartans, a pair of 11-seeds, have to do battle first in one of four play-in games.

Both Michigan State and UCLA boast legendary programs, but how good are they this season? Just who will BYU be facing on Saturday?

Time to get to know the competition.


Michigan State Spartans

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Michigan State forward Malik Hall (25) shoots in front of Maryland forward Donta Scott (24) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Michael Conroy, AP

Conference: Big Ten

NET ranking: 70

Overall Record: 15-12

  • Quad 1: 5-10
  • Quad 2: 4-2
  • Quad 3: 2-0
  • Quad 4: 4-0

Player to watch: Aaron Henry

  • 15.3 points per game
  • 5.7 rebounds per game

Best win: 70-64 over No. 1-seeded Michigan

The Spartans, under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, have made the NCAA Tournament 23 consecutive times. While this season has been an up and down one, Michigan State does boast wins over Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers.


UCLA Bruins

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UCLA’s Tyger Campbell (10) plays against Oregon State in an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 men’s tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Las Vegas.

John Locher, AP

Conference: Pac-12

NET ranking: 46

Overall record: 17-9

  • Quad 1: 2-6
  • Quad 2: 3-3
  • Quad 3: 8-0
  • Quad 4: 4-0

Player to watch: Tyger Campbell

  • 10.5 points per game
  • 5.6 assists per game

Best win: 65-62 win over No.-5 seeded Colorado

UCLA has advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 50th time in school history and for the first time since 2018. This is the first season under head coach Mick Cronin that the Bruins have made the tourney. The Bruins haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2017 and lost to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament, but have wins over Colorado and Arizona.