Early-round NCAA tournament match-ups can be difficult to handicap, but we did find a lean when handicapping the West Region's three-vs.-14 game between Baylor and Georgia State, set for Thursday afternoon in Jacksonville.
Bears-Panthers Betting Odds
The NCAA Tournament odds opened this game with Baylor favored by eight points, the total offered at right around 131. In the early betting most books bumped the Bears to -9.
Going by Sagarin's predictor ratings at USAToday.com Baylor should be favored by 10 points for this game.
Bears-Panthers : The Match-Up
Baylor finished in a tie for fourth place in a Big 12 Conference that sent seven teams to this NCAA Tournament. The Bears capped off the regular season with a 5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS run, then beat West Virginia in their Big 12 tournament opener, before falling to Kansas 62-52.
On the season Baylor owns wins over Texas Southern (which won the SWAC regular-season and tournament titles), a pretty good Texas A&M team, New Mexico State, Oklahoma and Texas, two over Iowa State (which won the Big 12 tournament) and three over West Virginia.
On the lower-seeded side of this match-up Georgia State comes into this NCAA tournament, its first since 2001, with 13 wins in its last 15 games. The Panthers won the Sun Belt regular-season title at 15-5, then won the conference tournament, nipping Georgia Southern in the championship game last week 38-36, leading GSU head coach Ron Hunter to tear an Achilles tendon during the immediate post-game celebration. He's listed as “probable” for Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this season Georgia State lost to Iowa State by 23, and to NCAA snub Colorado State by 10, fell to a pretty good Old Dominion team in overtime, and split two games with a decent Green Bay team. The Panthers then went about their business in the Sun Belt, and finished the regular season on a 10-3 ATS run.
GSU won the Sun Belt last year, but got upset in the conference tournament championship game in overtime, missing out on the NCAA tournament. The Panthers then began this season as the favorite to win the Sun Belt again, and this time completed the season sweep.
By the Numbers
Georgia State is shooting 48 percent from the floor this season, but only 33 percent from the FT line. At the other end of the court the Panthers are stifling opponents to just 38 percent FG shooting, which ranks in the top ten in the nation.
Baylor is only shooting 43 percent from the floor, but holding foes to 40 percent shooting.
Bears-Panthers Betting Trends
Georgia State is 12-13 on the totals this season, as Panthers games have averaged 134 points. GSU has also played nine UNDERS in its last 12 games, mainly because it's been playing some pretty good defense.
Baylor is 14-12 on the totals, as Bears games have averaged 130 points.
No. 3 seeds are 19-11 SU vs. 14 seeds since 2007.
Bears-Panthers Free Pick
There's no need to over-think this one; Baylor is the better team and our NCAA Tournament pick this time. Coming off an almost murderous schedule, favored by a very reasonable spread and after butting heads with the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas all season; the Bears should find the going much easier Thursday as they prepare for their next contender between Ole Miss & Xavier.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Baylor -8.5 at Pinnacle