Last Updated: 2019-03-21
Two at-large teams will lock horns in the West Region First Round showdown at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday night, March 21, 2019, as the No. 9 seed Baylor Bears take on the No. 8 seed Syracuse Orange. The ACC representative Syracuse is listed as a 1.5-point fave with the total at 130.5 points and the Big 12 Baylor at the +110 money line odds. This will be their third head-to-head duel, and the Orange has defeated the Bears in both previous matchups.
The Baylor Bears finished the regular season at the 4th spot of the Big 12 standings with a 19-13 record, while they went 10-8 in the conference play. The Bears had a poor Big 12 championship tournament losing to Iowa State 83-66 in the quarterfinals which was their fourth consecutive defeat. They were completely outplayed by the Cyclones, allowing their opponents to shoot 51.7% from the field including 13 triples out of 25 attempts from deep. The Bears won just four of their last 11 games overall, but they earned the place in the Big Dance as a No. 39 at the NCAA NET Rankings.
The Bears are tallying 113.1 points per 100 possessions (27th in the country) on 50.9 effective field goal percentage (164th) and 34.0% shooting from beyond the arc (193rd), allowing 98.7 points in a return (90th) on 48.6 effective field goal percentage (75th). Their strength of schedule was 43rd in the country, and the Bears defeated Iowa State two times during the regular season. They also outlasted Texas Tech 73-62 at home. The Bears are missing Tristan Clark, as the junior forward is out for the season with a knee injury, so the senior guard Makai Mason is leading the team. Mason is averaging 14.6 points and 3.3 assists per game, while the sophomore guard Mario Kegler is adding 10.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest. Without Clark in the paint, the Bears are struggling to protect the rim.
Baylor will enter the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in its history, recording 13 wins and 13 losses thus far. The Bears previous appearance in 2017 ended in Sweet Sixteen, while they are 4-3 straight up and 3-4 ATS in their last seven first-round games.
The Syracuse Orange finished the regular season at the 6th spot of the ACC standings with a 20-13 overall record and 10-8 in the conference play. They defeated Pittsburgh 73-59 in the second round of the ACC championship tournament, but Duke was too much in the quarterfinals, beating the Orange 84-72. Syracuse lost seven of its previous 11 outings, still earning the place in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 42 at the NCAA NET Rankings. The Orange’s strength of schedule was 33rd in the country, and they defeated Duke 95-91 in overtime on the road on January 14.
The Orange are scoring 110.4 points per 100 possessions (48th in the country) on 49.5 effective field goal percentage (230th) and 33.0% shooting from beyond the 3-point line (239th), surrendering 93.0 points in a return (22nd) on 47.5 effective field goal percentage (37th). The coach Jim Boeheim is trying to win games with a tough defense, while the junior guard Tyus Battle is the first scoring option for the Orangemen, averaging 17.2 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Battle missed the ACC tourney due to a back injury, but he should be ready for the Big Dance. The sophomore forward Oshae Brissett is another key player, tallying 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. The senior guard Frank Howard is suspended because of a violation of school policy.
Syracuse won the National Championship in 2003, while this will be the Orange’s 40th partaking in the NCAA Tournament. They have a 68-39 record and are 8-0 straight up and 7-1 ATS in their last eight first-round games. Interestingly, Syracuse has dropped its two games against the No. 9 seed so far.
Pick: Syracuse Orange -1.5
Both Baylor and Syracuse have been playing in a poor form lately, so this should a really tight game. Both teams play at a slow pace, and we shouldn’t expect to see a bunch of baskets. Hereof, Syracuse’s defense could be a decisive factor. The Bears are 4-7 straight up 2-7-2 ATS in their last 11 games overall, while the Orange are 4-7 straight up and 6-5 ATS in their previous 11 contests overall. Considering the stats and betting trends along with the Orange’s strong first-round displays in their last eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, I’m backing Syracuse to cover.
<< Previous PostNext Post >>