IRVINE (CBSLA) – For only the second time in school history, the University of California, Irvine is going to the Big Dance.
UC Irvine received the No. 13 seed in the South Regional bracket Sunday after winning the Big West Conference Tournament. The Anteaters will face No. 4 seed Kansas State in San Jose at 11 a.m. Friday.
UC Irvine received an automatic bid with a 92-64 win over Cal State Fullerton in the BWC Tournament final Saturday night, extending its school-record winning streak to 16 games and improving to 30-5.
UC Irvine is incredibly one of only two California schools to make the tournament, the other being St. Mary’s.
UC Irvine lost to Kansas State, 71-49, on Nov. 17, 2017 in Manhattan, Kansas as part of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational. All 10 starters from that game remain with their teams.
“I think it’s a really good matchup for us, especially playing a team that we had the chance to play last year,” junior guard Evan Leonard told CBS2 Sunday. “We know we’re really familiar with them. We know they’ve been having a great year, but we’ve been having a great year ourselves.”
“Last year, they got us at their place,” graduate forward Jonathan Galloway said. “We’re gonna play in San Jose, a neutral court. Our improvement with every guy on our roster, and the additions we’ve added, I think that’s gonna be the difference.”
The Anteaters other tournament appearance was in 2015 when they were the No. 13 in the East Regional and lost to fourth-seeded Louisville, 57-55, in a game UC Irvine led in the final minute.
There are four UC Irvine players whose fathers or grandfathers played in the NBA. Redshirt senior guard Spencer Rivers is a son of Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who played 13 seasons in the NBA.
Freshman forward JC Butler is a son of Caron Butler, who played 14 seasons in the NBA, including one with the Lakers and two with the Clippers.
Max Hazzard is a grandson of the late Walt Hazzard, who played 10 seasons in the NBA, including the first three with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Redshirt freshman forward Collin Welp’s late father Chris played three seasons in the NBA after being the University of Washington’s career scoring leader. He died in 2015 at the age of 51 from an apparent heart attack.
UC Irvine opened in 1965 and began competing on the Division I level in 1977.
Kansas State (25-8) was the regular-season co-champion of the Big 12 Conference with Texas Tech and was upset by Iowa State, 63-59, in the semifinals of the conference tournament Friday night.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)