Featured Video from Scott Reichel
The Baylor Bears and Syracuse Orange will wrap up the day in Salt Lake City, UT, as the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament brings us the 4th of 4 games to come on this Thursday’s opening round of the big dance.
The 8 p.m. MT tip-off at Vivent Arena will be a game you can catch on TruTV if you are looking around to watch this contest between Big 12 and ACC foes who arrive to the party by receiving At-Large bids from the committee as 8 and 9 seeds for their 1st round encounter.
The Orange finished the season at 20 – 13 with a 10 – 8 ACC regular season record, and were knocked out of the ACC Tournament by Duke after only 1 win over Pittsburgh in Charlotte, NC.
The Bears finished the regular season riding a 3-game losing streak to finish year 19 – 12 , and it led them to an early exit at the Big 12 Conference Tournament at the hands of Iowa State in their only game in Kansas City, MO.
The Orange are showing as slight 2-point favorites to take this contest, while a low 132 is being offered from the line setters as these two meet for the 3rd time in their history. Cuse has taken both wins, but neither came at the tournament just being regular season affairs back in 2006 and 2013.
Bears Making 5th NCAA Tourney Appearance In 6 Years
The Bears will be partaking in their 8th consecutive post-season tournament under head coach Scott Drew, and despite and NIT appearance last season Baylor will be headed to their 5th big dance in 6 years.
.@BaylorMBB made the NCAA tourney 4 times in its first 68 years.
This week, they'll make their 5th appearance in 6 years (and 8th in the last 12 years under @BUDrew).
— BaylorProud (@BaylorProud) March 18, 2019
Baylor’s deepest run in the big dance from the 16 years under Drew has left them with two Elite-8 showings from the 2010 and 2012 campaigns, and they took the NIT title in 2013.
Coach Drew threw a big thank you to the Baylor faithful on Sunday after the draw was announced, as he said, “Thank you Baylor Nation for your Great Support this season and helping us get to the NCAA tournament! Couldn’t have done it without you.”
Last year, the Bears were bounced out of the NIT 2nd round by Mississippi State, and their 19 – 13 record combined with an early exit from this year’s Big 12 Conference Tournament had many wondering if Baylor would burst a bubble to grab an At-Large big to the big show.
Did they earn it, and do they deserve to be here playing as they did to close out the year, because that also factors into the committee’s decision-making process. Baylor could have been headed back to NIT and there might not have been a ton of arguments coming from the CBS and ESPN so-called experts, but whatever, they made it, and here comes Syracuse who has a long way to travel to get to Salt Lake City themselves.
Baylor lost their final 3 games of the regular season, and although they swept the series with Iowa State, the Cyclones took their third meeting in the Big 12 Conference Tourney, 83 – 66, on March 14.
Sophomore forward Tristan Clark led the Bears with 14.6 PPG this season and although he didn’t lead the team in rebounding, he still took in 6.3 RBG while adding a team-leading 2.4 blocks a contest.
Even though Mark Vital is listed at 6-5, he plays big and is why Clark sits second in rebounding behind him with his 7.2 boards a night.
Makai Mason actually tied Tristan Clark putting up 14.6 PPG as well, and led the squad dishing out 3.3 dimes per game while playing his final games in a Bears uni in this year’s senior campaign.
The Bears offense only put up 71.7 PPG this season, which has them ranked all the way back at 201st in the nation while their 44% shooting from the floor leaves them at 199th in the land.
Baylor ranks 64th in the country allowing 67.2 PPG and their 42.2% opposing field goal number has them ranked 84th.
The Bears were exactly .500 against the spread this year with a 15 – 15 – 1 ATS number to go along with their 17 – 14 over to under ratio.
Orange Nation Hoping That Tyus Battle Can Do Any Battling
Watching him try to even make an attempt to go against Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament opener was telling enough, as we all saw him struggle with the back/hip injury that has nagged him for quite some time.
At the same token, the concern will also be as what will Syracuse be getting back if he is not 100%, because the trainers are going to have pull off 3 miracles, while the angels sing and the Heaven’s open to get him back on the court for the NCAA Tournament.
He is listed as probable, but the flight won’t help from upstate N.Y all the way to Utah, and we all know that he will be resting, sleeping, and rehabilitating until the ref tosses the ball in the air to start this game.
— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) March 18, 2019
If Battle can’t go, or is limited at least, junior guard Elijah Hughes will have to step up his game, and we all know the Cuse defense better be zoned-up and ready to shut it all down too. Hughes only put up 8 points in the loss to Duke that bounced Cuse from the ACC Tourney, so he damn well better do better than that tonight.
As you can listen to from the Syracuse YouTube post that included Jim Boeheim’s comments, coach stated that, “We’ll have to study — I’ve seen Baylor a little bit, they’re good — and at one point in the middle of conference play they were playing the best in the Big 12.”
I mentioned the down-season that Frank Howard put together as I covered the ACC Tournament here at Statsalt, and then he decides to show up in a big way, so maybe he read my criticism of his weak year. Howard only averaged about 9 PPG this year, but he went nuts in the ACC Tourney putting up 18 points vs Pitt, and 28 vs Duke, looking more like the guy from last year who averaged nearly 15 PPG.
The Cuse defense is their obvious strength, as they rank 17th in the nation holding opponents to 39.8% from the floor, while their 65.1 PPG allowed ranks them 41st in the country. It’s not just about the numbers for those who know what a strangle-hold this defense can present for teams who aren’t used to this and Baylor might struggle with it.
• Orange are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 NCAA Tournament games.
• Orange are 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games.
• Over is 5-0 in Orange last 5 neutral site games.
• Bears are 1-8-2 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
• Bears are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. Atlantic Coast.
• Bears are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Let’s see if history repeats itself, as the last and only time Syracuse landed and 8 seed, it was 1999 and they landed another Big 12 program with Oklahoma State, who went on to beat Cuse in the opening round, 69 – 61.
That was then, and this is now, and with the hopeful return of Tyus Battle, no matter what he can offer with the health of his hip and back, the Cuse should still manage to escape to the 2nd round in Utah.
At -2, avoiding a 1-point win is about all I ask, obviously.
Prediction: Syracuse -2
Full-Game Total Pick
I can handle offering a total with Cuse and Baylor to topple this number, and despite the Cuse D being able to obviously cause problems, shooting the ball is still shooting the ball, and this number is too low.
Cuse go on to take a 74 – 70 win, and we will see you for Saturday’s action in Salt Lake!
Prediction: Over 132