- UC Santa Barbara is a 10.5-point underdog vs Baylor in Round 1 South Region play at the NCAA Tournament
- Baylor has lost four of their last six, while UCSB has won seven in a row
- See below for the latest UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor odds, picks, and best bets
After laboring through the final leg of their Big 12 season, the Baylor Bears (22-10, 16-15-1 ATS) emerged with a 3-seed in the South March Madness bracket.
That ranking doesn’t cloak the fact they’re one of the most teams bet against in opening round play, as they battle the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (27-7, 21-10-1 ATS).
UCSB has come dancing with a 7-game win streak in tow, complete with the Big West Conference Tournament title. The Bears, meanwhile, have dropped four of their last six, including back-to-back losses to Iowa State, the last in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney.
Action gets underway Friday (March 17) at 1:30pm ET from Ball Arena in Denver, CO. The game can be seen live on TNT.
UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor Odds
 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
|+10.5 (-105)||+460||Ov 143 (-110)|
 Baylor Bears
|-10.5 (-115)||-610||Un 143 (-110)|
Despite their struggles, the Bears are 10.5-point favorites over UCSB. The winner will advance to the Round of 32, taking on the winner of no. 6 Creighton vs no. 11 NC State. The Bears are pegged with the 10th-best odds to win the NCAA Tournament.
At -610 on the moneyline, they have an implied win probability of 85.92% vs UCSB. The game features a total of 143.
Though it’s a small sample, the Gauchos are 3-1-0 against the spread as underdogs this season.
Odds as of Mar 17 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor Matchup Notes
There’s a valley of quality opponent between these two sides. UCSB ranks 218th in KenPom’s strength of schedule metric, and they own just a single win over a KenPom top-100 school this season.
Baylor has played the 3rd-strongest schedule, and the Big 12 is no joke, with eight schools occupying the top 11 spots on KenPom.
That doesn’t mean the Gauchos can’t compete. They bring a top-50 scoring defense to the table, holding opponents to 65.6 points per game (49th), with an above-average effective field goal percentage defense (49.8%).
— UC Santa Barbara Basketball (@UCSBbasketball) March 14, 2023
Offensively, they averaged 71.8 points per game on the year, but they’ve upped that figure to 80.4 on this winning streak. They also shoot it at a 49.5% clip from the field, which ranks seventh in the nation.
The Gauchos are led by guard Ajay Mitchell, who averaged 16.4 points, 5.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game this season. During the streak, he’s led the team in scoring five times, and showed out in the Big West Tournament, averaging 24 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 64.1% from the field.
Miles Norris is a reliable second option, putting up 14.1 points per game, while shooting a crisp 38.8% from 3-point range.
UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor Head-to-Head
|14||South Region Seed||3|
|71.8||Points per Game||77.3|
|65.4||Points Against per Game||70.0|
|49.8%||Opponent Effective FG%||51.4%|
It’s offense or nothing for the Bears, who topped the Big 12 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric, and raked second overall only to Gonzaga. They’re just off the front page in NCAA scoring, putting up 77.3 points per game, and post an effective field goal percentage of 53.1% (52nd).
The Bears also should enjoy a major advantage from the three-point line, where they shoot it at 36.8%, 55th in the NCAA. The Gauchos have struggled defending the arc, allowing teams to shoot 34.9% (258th).
Keyonte George tonight:
5/9 from 2
5/9 from 3
7/9 from the line
Scored all over the floor with so much creativity off the bounce. Also offers much more than scoring for Baylor. A clear top 10 talent in the 2023 NBA draft. pic.twitter.com/4vIyxipL8w
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 12, 2023
Baylor is led offensively by freshman Keyonte George, who averaged 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, though he shot just 38.7% from the field. He’s one of four Bears to score average double-digits, which includes Adam Flagler’s 15.5 points and 4.7 assists and LC Fryer, who averaged 14.5 points. Those three hit at least 75 three-pointers on the season.
The problem is defense: Baylor ranked last in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency. At 104 overall on KenPom, they have the worst-rated defense of any top-4 seed at the NCAA Tournament. They allow 70 points per game, and allow teams to shoot it at 45.2% (275th).
UC Santa Barbara vs Baylor Prediction
The Bears are definitely more accomplished on the big stage, with a 2021 title and a 6-1 ATS mark in their last seven tournament games.
The Gauchos have thrived on a neutral court, however, going 5-0 straight up and 4-0-1 ATS this season.
I think the oddsmakers hit the sweet spot for the spread, just enough to cast doubt on an upset.
Instead, we’ll get these potent offenses to duke it out and win on the total. The Gauchos have hit the over in 20 games this season, and they’ve crossed the total in 14 of their last 16 outings.
Baylor games have hit the over six times in seven games following a loss.
Pick: OVER 143.5 points (-110)
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