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No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 UC Santa Barbara preview for March Madness First Round matchup

No. 3 Baylor and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara face off in the First Round of the 2023 NCAA tournament. We’ve got an initial preview of the game and how to watch.

Baylor Bears guard Dale Bonner (3) moves to the basket during the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones at T-Mobile Center. William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday, March 14th with the First Four, and then moves on to the First Round on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17. The No. 3 seed Baylor Bears will face the No. 14 seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Friday, March 17.

Here’s an early look at what we can expect from the matchup.

Game date: Friday, March 17
Game time: 1:20 p.m. ET
TV channel: TNT
Location: Denver, Colorado

Odds: Baylor -11

No. 3 Baylor

The Baylor Bears are once again among the nation’s top teams, having made it through the Big 12 gauntlet as the conference’s third-place team. The Bears beat every squad in the Big 12 at least once except for Kansas State and Iowa State who both beat Baylor twice. That highlights the Bears’ occasional proneness to an off-shooting night; they failed to score more than 65 points in three of those four losses.

Nonetheless, Baylor is generally a huge offensive force boasting some of the best guard play in the country. Keyonte George (16.0), Adam Flagler (15.6), and LJ Cryer (14.6) lead the team in scoring and help spread the floor. Again, such reliance on guard play can lead to issues in March if multiple players have off nights, but it looks at this stage as if the Bears are going to live and die by their excellent guard play and see if it can get them a second title in three years.

Record: 22-10, 11-7 Big 12
Coach: Scott Drew
Qualifier: At-large
KenPom overall: 15
KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 2
KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 104
Pace: 217
PPP overall: 1.105
Leading scorer: Keyonte George
NET: 15
Quad 1 record: 11-10
Against The Spread: 16-15-1
Over Total: 17-15-0
Odds to win NCAA Championship: TBD

No. 14 UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara grabbed an automatic bid with a victory over Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Conference Championship Game. The Gauchos wrapped up their regular season on a four-game winning streak to grab the No. 2 seed in conference play. They last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2021.

UCSB is led on offense by Ajay Mitchell who notches 16.4 points per game, with help from Andre Kelly at the rim with 6.5 rebounds per game. Their defense holds opponents to just 65.4 points per game (49th in the nation). Their strength lies in controlling the pace of a game, which may pose a challenge once they battle teams outside the Big West.

Record: 27-7, 15-5 Big West

Coach: Joe Pasternack

Qualifier: Automatic

KenPom overall: 102

KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency: 71

KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency: 162

Pace: 302

PPP overall: 1.070

Leading scorer: Ajay Mitchell

NET: 100

Quad 1 record: 0-0

Against The Spread: 20-10-2

Over Total: 20-12

Odds to win NCAA Championship: TBD