'Cocks Have Been Game, but Baylor to End South Carolina's East Region Run

baylor basketball

Ross Benjamin

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 10:18 PM GMT

Wednesday, Mar. 22, 2017 10:18 PM GMT

The East Region has been the most unpredictable thus far in the NCAA Tournament. It's the only region that has seen its top two seeds eliminated prior to the Sweet 16. Our college basketball handicapper examines Friday's matchup between South Carolina & Baylor.

No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 3 Baylor

East Region, Sweet 16, New York City, Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET

NAT TV: TBS

The South Carolina Gamecocks (24-10) have made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The seventh-seeded Gamecocks will take on No. 3 Baylor (27-7) on Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. These teams last faced each other on Nov. 18, 2014, and Baylor walked away with a 69-65 road win in Columbia. Current March Madness odds list Baylor as a 3.5-point favorite across the board. The present total in this contest ranges for 132.5-133.0.

 

Improbable Gamecocks Run

Raise your hand if you predicted a few weeks back that South Carolina would advance to the Sweet 16. Now put that hand down because either you’re either a liar or one of the most ardent South Carolina basketball fans alive. After all, this was a team that had gone 3-6 in its last 9 games prior to the onset of March Madness and their only wins in that span against teams that weren’t selected for the Big Dance.

The Gamecocks received a huge break from the selection committee when they were placed in the East Region and sent to Greenville, S.C. South Carolina turned a 1-point halftime deficit into a 20-point blowout win over Marquette in their opening game. The Gamecocks followed that inspiring performance up by shocking No. 2 seed Duke 88-81 and they overcame a 7-point halftime deficit in doing so. As a matter of fact, during its first 2 NCAA Tournament wins South Carolina outscored Marquette and Duke in second-half action by a cumulative 119-84.

 

Bears Unscathed In Non-Conference Games Vs. Tourney Teams

There’s a reason why Baylor went from receiving no votes in the preseason AP Poll to one week in early January as the top-ranked team nationally. The Bears played a difficult non-conference schedule prior to beginning their Big 12 slate and went 7-0 straight up and 6-0 ATS in games against teams that ultimately were chosen or qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament out of conference. BU added to that impressive resume by winning its first two March Madness games over the New Mexico State Aggies and USC Trojans. They covered against the Aggies as an 11.0-point favorite. However, they failed to cover as 5.5-point chalk against USC by way of a meaningless Trojans' tip-in at the buzzer which resulted in the final 4-point margin.

 

Final Analysis & Pick

South Carolina won’t have the luxury of playing 103 miles from its campus as enjoyed in Greenville. For all intents in purposes those were USC home games. The Gamecocks already played a game this season at Madison Square Garden back in November and lost by 3 to Seton Hall.

Baylor showed me a lot during its first two NCAA Tournament wins, and especially so against a good USC team. The Bears are a dominant rebounding team. The have held a combined 73-50 rebounding margin thus far in the Dance. Moreover, during their previous five games, the Bears have averaged a substantially high 13 offensive rebounds per contest and shot a sizzling hot 49.3%.

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