West Region: Baylor vs Syracuse Prediction
Baylor vs Syracuse Preview
Syracuse being an afterthought when the NCAA Tournament begins is no surprise to them or the national audience. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a dangerous team that needs to be taken seriously.
The Orange snuck into the NCAA’s last season after losing four of their last six games … and then they won a First Four game and two more before narrowly losing to Duke in the Sweet 16.
Three years ago, Syracuse staggered in as a No. 10 seed after losing five of six. The Orange then ripped off four consecutive victories in a thrilling ride to the Final Four, where they were stopped by North Carolina.
“I think we’re in better position than we were last year in terms of how we’re playing,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “But it’s a tough road. We’ll see what happens.”
Cuse is 2-5 in their last seven ball games. Definitely not ‘hot’ by any stretch.
Baylor (19-13) is also hoping that pre-tournament momentum means nothing. The Bears have lost four consecutive games and honestly, I’m surprised they even made the field, let alone a single-digit seed.
“I don’t necessarily think we’ve been playing terrible,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I think in each game, there’s been areas where we didn’t do enough to win, but there’s no sense of falling apart.”
The Bears were picked to finish ninth in the Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll, lost standout sophomore forward Tristan Clark to a season-ending knee injury Jan. 8, and then navigated injuries to senior guards Makai Mason (foot) and King McClure (knee), who each missed several games.
“They really maximized their ability as far as playing for one another and really bought into serving one another and caring more about the team than themselves,” Drew said of his players.
“Individually, talent-wise, people had us picked ninth or 10th for a reason. I really think the guys competed hard. As a coach, you always can hang your hat and go to bed at night knowing that as long as a guy’s played hard, that’s half the battle.”
Mason, a grad transfer from Yale, averages a team-high 14.6 points per game.
Zone vs Zone
Drew’s zone defense has been a foundation of Baylor’s success in recent years, although he will switch to a man-to-man to create different looks. Both sides in this matchup should be content with a slow-paced grind, with Baylor having to solve Boeheim’s celebrated zone that is holding foes to 39.7 percent shooting this season.
As we all know, Boeheim will not be switching to any man-to-man.
Battle is Back
The return of Tyus Battle who missed the Orange’s previous two contests with a hip injury practiced Sunday and should be near 100 percent come game time on Thursday. He leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game.
LINE: -2.5 Syracuse
Dan’s Bet: Under 131.5
Bracket Pick: Syracuse
Score Prediction: Syracuse 57 Baylor 53