#3 Baylor Bears
#10 Saint Mary's Gaels
Vegas Odds: Baylor -4
How Baylor Got Here: Baylor 76 - Old Dominion 68
How St. Mary's Got Here: St Mary's 75 - Villanova 68
Why Watch? Baylor is arguably the country's most underrated team. 7th in the RPI, 5th in overall defense, a nice 27-7 record, and yet you never hear about them. They face another underrated team in Saint Mary's, who was under-seeded to begin with and has been playing top notch basketball.
Why Saint Mary's will win:
Baylor has a good but not dominating defense, and struggles particularly to guard the three. This plays right into the hands of the Gaels, who are 6th in the country in 3-pt fg% and 16th overall in offensive efficiency. In most of Baylor's losses, opposing guards have really been able to light it up, and McConnell and Dellavedova have the ability to take advantage.
Gael to Watch:
Mickey McConnell, G - 14 ppg, 2 rpg, 5 apg
A lights out shooter (52% from 3), McConnell will need to bring his A game against the Bears. When he's off (such as the 1st two Gonzaga games), SMC can be in for long nights.
Why Baylor will win:
What separates Baylor from the likes of Villanova and Richmond, who SMC beat to get here, is the interior presence of Ekpe Udoh. Udoh, a 6-10 forward, is a top notch defensive presence who should help prevent Samhan from another 30 &10 game. So long as Samhan is contained, Baylor's guards are more than capable of matching up against SMC's backcourt.
Bear to Watch:
Tweety Carter, G - 15 ppg, 3 rpg, 6 apg
Carter's been in a bit of a rut over his last 3 games, which helps explains Baylor's mediocre efforts. Sure, they've won 2 of those 3 (beating Sam Houston & ODU), but neither of the tourney wins was that convincing. If Baylor not only wins but makes a statement that their legit, Carter will need to step it up.
How it will go down:
Baylor, to me, has been one of the least impressive Sweet Sixteen teams so far, and they've been far from a dominant team away from home all season. Samhan should come down to Earth against Udoh, but the 3-point shot will keep SMC in the game. It will be close, but the Gaels fall just short in the end.
Betting Pick: St Mary's
Real Pick: Baylor