(3) Baylor vs. (10) Xavier: South Region
Baylor 29-7, 12-6 Big 12 (At large)
Xavier 23-12, 10-6 A-10 (At large)
Time: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Location: Georgia Dome in Atlanta
Winner will face: (1) Kentucky or (4) Indiana, Sunday
Baylor def. South Dakota State, 68-60; def. Colorado, 80-63
Xavier def. Notre Dame, 67-63; def. Lehigh, 70-58
Baylor No. 9 AP; No. 10 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Baylor -6 (O/U 140)
Players to Watch
Baylor: F Perry Jones III, 6-11 So. (13.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 49.4% FG); G Pierre Jackson, 5-10 Jr. (13.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 41.8% 3s); G Brady Heslip, 6-2 So. (10.3 ppg, 45.5% FG, 45.6% 3s). If Heslip shoots like he did against Colorado – 9-of-13 from the 3-point line for 27 points – there may not be a team in the country that can beat the Bears.
Xavier: G Tu Holloway, 6-0 Sr. (17.3 ppg, 5 apg, 1.3 spg); G Mark Lyons, 6-1 Jr. (15.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg); C Kenny Frease, 7-0 Sr. (9.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Frease had a season-high 25 points – his previous best was 19 in a 65-57 win over Richmond – and had his first double-double since March 3 with 12 boards in Sunday’s win over Lehigh.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Baylor: The Bears are long and athletic, causing mismatches for almost every team they face. Against Colorado, Baylor out-rebounded the Buffaloes 34-27 and got 13 offensive boards. For the year, Baylor out-rebounds opponents by 5.4 per game. They also forced 13 turnovers, including nine steals. The Bears average 7.6 steals and force 14.2 turnovers per game. Led by Heslip, they were 11-for-20 from the 3-point line. All season, the Bears have been solid behind the arc, hitting 38.6 percent.
Xavier: Holloway is a great leader who usually saves his best performances for the biggest games, including 46 points through two games of this year’s tournament. Lyons and freshman Dez Wells make up a strong backcourt, helping the Musketeers average 13.2 assists and six steals per game. Xavier excels through its defense, which allows opponents to shoot just 39.9 percent from the floor and 30.5 percent from the arc this season. Lehigh, which entered Sunday’s game red-hot, shot just 21-for-64 against the Musketeers.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Baylor: The Bears are far too error-prone, averaging 13.8 turnovers per game. Despite their incredible size and an almost nightly athleticism advantage, Baylor often prefers to stick to shooting jump shots. That has led to only 46.9 percent from the field for the year. Their inconsistency has also been noted, even by Xavier coach Chris Mack. Although Mack said in a radio interview with Dan Dakich Monday that he’s sure the Bears will come to play, lack of intensity is always a concern for fans in Waco.
Xavier: Frease is inconsistent and prone to foul trouble. Xavier has very little frontline depth and out-rebounds opponents just 36.4-34.1 per game. They also allow opponents to rebound 30.2 percent of their misses and gave up 13 offensive boards to a smaller Lehigh team, which could be a big concern against the bigger, more athletic Baylor frontline. X turns the ball over 12.5 times per game and allows opponents 6.4 steals per contest. Their 69.2 percent free throw shooting is also a concern.
The Bottom Line: On the one hand, Xavier has a tough time guarding the paint and will be overwhelmed by Baylor’s bigs. On the other, Baylor has had a tough time guarding the perimeter and the Musketeer guards could torch the Bears. Tough line, but I like the way Baylor’s guards played against Colorado.
The Pick: Baylor 75, Xavier 67
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1