It’s a bit of a David vs Goliath matchup on Saturday when the #9 Baylor Bears (19-12) face the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-2) at Vivint Smart Home Arena in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Baylor fans might want to temper expectations as the Bears started as big 13-point underdogs. Their upset bid will get underway at 7:10 pm ET.
This season, the underdog Bears have exceeded expectations. Picked by many to finish last in the Big 12, they rolled to a 20-13 overall record (10-8 Big 12). Due to playing at a slow pace, their offense is only averaging 72 points per game, 201st in the country, but it’s more efficient than those numbers suggest. The Bears shoot are 21st in the country in offensive efficiency at KenPom and shoot a respectable (though not earth-shattering) 34.5-percent from three (168th).
Defensively, the situation is a little more concerning. Baylor is only giving up 67 PPG, which puts them 56th in the country, but efficiency-wise they rank just 79th.
If this team plans to upset the Bulldogs, who rank first in the entire country in offensive efficiency, it will need a better effort at the defensive end.
Offensively, Baylor is led by Makai Mason, who’s scoring a team-high 15 points per game. In terms of rebounds, Mark Vital has led the way with 7 rebounds per game. As a team, the Bears are above-average in terms of rebounding, despite being somewhat undersized and playing a zone defense much of the time. They average 35 rebounds a game, 57th overall.
Baylor is coming off a 78-69 win over #8 Syracuse in their tournament opener. As has been the case most of the season, Mason came up big in the W, leading the team with 22 points.
The Bears will be facing a Gonzaga team that is unparalleled on offense, sitting 1st in offensive rating. That has led to the Bulldogs scoring 90 points per game, 1st in the country. They connect at a proficient 49-percent from the field, 37-percent from three (57th), and 77-percent from the charity stripe (12th).
The Bulldogs pair their efficient offense with a resilient defense, one which sits 16th in defensive efficiency and is allowing only 65 points, on average, heading into their tilt with Baylor. It’s going to be difficult for Baylor to find a weakness to exploit.
Rui Hachimura is the high man at the offensive end, averaging 21 points per game, while Brandon Clarke leads the Bulldogs in rebounding, pulling in 8 rebounds per game.
Clarke’s prowess on the glass has helped Gonzaga dominate that aspect of the game. As a team, they rank 18th in rebounding, at 36 rebounds a night.
The Bulldogs were able to get an easy win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 87-49, in the first round. Hachimura led the team in scoring, as usual, pouring in 21 points in the win. The outcome was never in doubt as the Zags led 53-17 at halftime.
Against the number, Gonzaga has cashed a lot more often than not, going 22-12-0 ATS, despite facing some massive spreads this year. Baylor is over. 500 against the number, but just barely, going 16-15-2 ATS.
Find up-to-the-minute odds, line movement, and score prediction for Baylor vs Gonzaga in the tables above. Best of luck out there.