The No. 1 Baylor Bears will begin their title defense on Thursday and will engage the No. 16 Norfolk State Spartans in a first-round showdown. This East region matchup will come live from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX, and will tip off at 2 p.m. ET on TBS.
No. 1 Baylor: 26-6 (14-4 Big 12): At-large
KenPom rating: 5 Overall, 9 Offense, 14 Defense
NET ranking: 4 (10-5 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: James Akinjo (13.4 ppg)
Key stat: Ninth in the country adjusted offensive efficiency
The reigning national champions are looking to begin another deep run into the NCAA Tournament coming off a successful regular season campaign. Despite dealing with injuries to the likes of key contributors like LJ Cryer, the Bears earned a one-seed by racking up 10 Quad 1 victories and finishing the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
Expect the Bears to try to put this one out of reach within the first 15 minutes of action.
No. 16 Norfolk State: 24-6 (12-2 MEAC): Auto bid
KenPom rating: 168 Overall, 190 Offense, 160 Defense
NET ranking: 156 (0-1 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Joe Bryant Jr. (16.8 ppg)
Key stat: Norfolk State led the MEAC in field goal percentage on both ends of the floor.
Norfolk State ran through the MEAC Tournament with three consecutive victories, and they’re taking a six-game streak into their Round 1 matchup with the No. 1 seed in the East region. The Spartans have done a ton of winning with a 24-6 record as they enter NCAA Tournament play.
Watch for Norfolk State to challenge Baylor’s sharp shooters as the Spartans are allowing just 28.8% of 3-pointers to drop.
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: Baylor -20.5
Point total: 137.5
Moneyline: Baylor -4500, Norfolk State +1800
Against The Spread Pick: Baylor -20.5
Point total pick: Over 137.5
Pick to Win: Baylor
Norfolk State ranks inside the top 75 in possessions per game, and their quicker-than-usual pace will be a disadvantage against a significantly more talented roster, leading to the Bears to cover and for the over to cash. Baylor should come out hot especially considering they let No. 16 seed Hartford to hang with them for the majority of the first half in last season’s NCAA Tournament first round.
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