IRVINE ( — March Madness is about to descend on UC Irvine.

In honor of the Anteaters’ debut in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Friday, a watch party will be held at the Newkirk Alumni Center at UC Irvine.

Doors will open at noon, with the tip-off of the East Regional game against Louisville from Seattle set for approximately 1:10 p.m., which will be televised on TBS.

The Anteaters (21-12) are the unquestioned underdogs, with oddsmakers picking the Cardinals (24-8) as an eight-point favorite. The ESPN-affiliated data prediction website gives UC Irvine a 25 percent chance of winning.

Besides the daunting odds, there are two bits of history that work against the Anteaters’ favor.

UC Irvine is seeded 13th in the 16-team East Regional, while Louisville is seeded fourth. Since the NCAA tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the 13th seed is 25-95 against the fourth seed, a .208 winning percentage.

Plus, a team from the Big West Conference, of which Irvine is a member, has not won a game in the round of 64 since 2005.

However, the Anteaters do have one big plus in their favor – a 7-foot-6-inch center from Senegal, Mamadou Ndiaye, the tallest player in college basketball.

UC Irvine qualified for the tournament by defeating Hawaii, 67-58, Saturday night, in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game.

The Anteaters had an 0-4 record in the finals of the Big West Conference tournament before Saturday’s victory. The winner of the conference tournament receives an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

UC Irvine opened in the fall of 1965 and began competing on the Division I level in 1977. It played in the Division II tournament four times.

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