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No. 8 Baylor, No. 9 Syracuse limp into NCAA Tournament

Tyus Battle Baylor vs Syracuse Betting Odds Preview NCAA Tournament March Madness

If you need evidence that the NCAA selection committee analyzes a team’s entire body of work, just look at Baylor’s at-large bid. The Bears enter the tournament losers of four straight and have averaged 65 points per game – nearly seven points below their season average – during that stretch. The Bears are 19-13 overall and 16-14-2 against the spread this season.

The Orange have lost five of their last seven, are 20-13 overall and 19-14 against the spread. Syracuse opened and remains a 2-point favorite over Baylor, while the total opened at 133.5 and is now at 133.

Baylor vs Syracuse Game Center

STANDOUT STATS

  • Baylor will be without leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Tristan Clark and his 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. A knee injury sidelined Clark for the season back in January.
  • These are defensive-minded squads. Syracuse is ranked 15th nationally in opponent field-goal percentage, having held the opposition under 40 percent from the floor and under 33 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Baylor has held opponents to 67.2 points per game, which is comparable to Villanova and Florida State’s points allowed per game average. However, the Bears have allowed 76 points per game over their past three. They are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
  • Baylor ranks outside the top 150 D-I programs in points per game, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage. However, the Bears are second in the nation in KenPom’s offensive rebound rate – 38.2 percent – which can take full advantage of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense that has trouble boxing out when shots go up. The Bears need to capitalize on second-chance points to keep this matchup close down the stretch.
  • Take a close look at Syracuse from beyond the arc as its three-point percentage has quietly crept up seven percentage points – from 33 percent on the season to 40.3 percent – over the past three games.
  • The OVER has hit in 15 of Baylor’s last 20 games with an average combined score of 143.6, while the OVER has also hit in five of its last six tournament games.
  • Although Syracuse possesses one of the slowest tempos in all of D-I basketball, the total has hit the OVER in three of its last four games. Part of the reason why that’s occurred is the Orange defense has allowed nearly seven more points per game than their season average of 65.7 points allowed per game.
  • Dating back to 2011, No. 8 seeds are 18-12 overall and 17-13 against the spread vs No. 9 seeds with the OVER hitting in 17 of those 30 matchups.
  • Syracuse is 3-0 ATS in March Madness matchups when favored by 2 or fewer points.

MY LEAN

Syracuse -2 and OVER 133

If you remove the top scorer from any squad, it’s hard to make a case for them come tournament time. Granted, Baylor has been without Tristan Clark for more than two months now, but their body of work indicates the Bears haven’t fully recovered and adapted to his loss.

Meanwhile, the Orange are 9-2 against the spread in their last 11 tournament games and 7-2 in their last nine games following a loss. Jim Boeheim knows what it takes to win come tournament time and although the Orange will be one-and-done, I’ll take Syracuse -2 and the OVER.

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