Bears to claw past Bulldogs?

Bears to claw past Bulldogs?

Reaching the NCAA tournament no longer feels like a novelty for Baylor supporters. The next step in the program’s evolution: making waves during March Madness.

The Bears (22-11) will aim to avenge last year’s second-round heartbreak when they square off against 12th-seeded Yale in the second game of the afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

According to oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv, the West Region’s fifth seed sits as a 5.5-point favorite entering the festivities. Both schools have offensive limitations, though, so hitting the over/under total of 137 could prove a tall order.

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Baylor’s gifts certainty reside in the post. Senior forward Rico Gathers is the lone player from a major conference to rank among the nation’s top 10 in offensive boards per contest. Taurean Prince does the dirty work with the best of them, too, giving the Bears a ton of extra possessions even when the long-distance marksmen fail.

Nonetheless, the general public often dismisses the Bulldogs’ own aptitude on the glass. Yale (22-6) actually paced the Ivy League with a plus-11.1 rebounding margin, which contributed heavily to a 7-1 finish in regular-season action.

The only issue: Justin Sears, despite his 6-foot-8 frame, can’t go it alone vs. the Bears’ more athletic front line. Gathers, Prince and Johnathan Motley simply create too much space inside, and that trio won’t allow Waco to repeat last year’s infamous loss at the hands of Georgia State.

THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: BAYLOR -5.5

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