The Baylor Bears know their path to the Final Four, and it is one filled with familiar teams from this season and their recent past. Up first though is the Yale Bulldogs, the Ivy League championship making their first NCAA tournament trip since 1962. The 5th seeded Bears will be making their 3rd consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, a program first.
With the game being held in Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday, the crowd will more than likely be pro-Yale. However, with the Bears success on the road in 2016, that might not even be a negative.
The rest of the bracket should look very familiar to Baylor fans. Oregon is the top seed, who defeated the Bears 74-67 in the second game of the year up in Oregon. The second seed is Oklahoma, who swept the Bears in Big 12 play. Texas A&M in the third seed who also defeated the Bears at home, 80-61. Finally, the 6-seed is Texas, who the Bears defeated twice this year, including last week in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
If the Bears are to defeat Yale, they will be facing the winner of Duke versus UNC Willimington. I won't have to tell you about the Bears experience with Duke in the NCAA tournament (Quincy Acy remembers for sure). Baylor could have a chance at some payback for a few bad calls back in 2010, this time with a Sweet-16 spot on the line, rather than a Final-Four.
First up though are the Yale Bulldogs, who went 22-6, including a 13-1 record in the Ivy League to earn the automatic bid. The Bulldogs are ranked 38th in the KenPom rankings, a very high ranking for a 12-seed. They are led by the 21st best defense in the nation, where they are excellent at defensive rebounding. That will be the biggest key in this game, as it is strength versus strength with the Bears offensive rebounding being one of the best in the nation.
|Makai Mason||11||SO||G||6-1||185||Greenfield, MA||Hotchkiss School||15.8 Pts, 2.6 Reb, 3.7 Ast|
|Justin Sears||22||SR||F||6-8||205||Plainfield, NJ||Plainfield||15.8 Pts, 7.5 Reb, 2.8 Ast|
|Brandon Sherrod||35||SR||F||6-6||240||Bridgeport, CT||Choate Rosemary Hall||12.5 Pts, 7.1 Reb, 1.2 Ast|
|Jack Montague||4||SR||G||6-0||185||Brentwood, TN||Brentwood||9.7 Pts, 2.5 Reb, 3.0 Ast|
|Nick Victor||21||SR||G||6-4||220||Dallas, TX||Winchendon||7.0 Pts, 7.3 Reb, 2.6 Ast|
|Sam Downey||44||JR||F||6-9||230||Lake Forest, IL||Lake Forest||5.6 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 0.4 Ast|
|Anthony Dallier||1||JR||G||6-6||190||Wexford, PA||Northfield Mount Hermon||4.7 Pts, 3.1 Reb, 1.2 Ast|
|Khaliq Ghani||0||SR||G||6-5||205||Inglewood, CA||Loyola||2.7 Pts, 1.6 Reb, 0.4 Ast|
|Blake Reynolds||32||FR||F||6-7||220||Jackson, MO||Jackson||2.2 Pts, 1.6 Reb, 0.3 Ast|
|Alex Copeland||3||FR||G||6-3||170||Los Angeles, CA||2.1 Pts, 0.6 Reb, 0.4 Ast|
|Eric Anderson||5||SO||G||6-7||215||West Chester, PA||Haverford||2.0 Pts, 1.3 Reb, 0.2 Ast|
|Trey Phills||13||FR||G||6-2||185||Charlotte, NC||Charlotte Christian||1.2 Pts, 0.9 Reb, 0.4 Ast|
|Eli Lininger||42||FR||F||6-6||200||Eugene, OR||1.0 Pts, 1.3 Reb, 0.3 Ast|
|Matt Greene||20||FR||F||6-7||205||Brooklyn, NY||0.9 Pts, 0.9 Reb, 0.3 Ast|
|Thomas Ryan||34||FR||G||6-4||190||New York, NY||Hotchkiss School||0.6 Pts, 0.4 Reb, 0.0 Ast|
|A.J. Edwards||25||JR||G||6-5||190||Seattle, WA||South Kent||0.4 Pts, 0.2 Reb, 0.1 Ast|
|Sem Kroon||50||SO||F||6-10||240||Riverside, CT||Northfield Mount Hermon HS|
|Landon Russell||23||SO||G||62||180||Fort Worth, TX||Nolan Catholic HS|
Sophomore point guard Makai Mason and forward Justin Sears are their two standout players. Both average 15.8 points per game. Sears gives them good size at 6-foot-8, and is a very good rebounder especially on the offensive glass.
While the Bulldogs don't have a lot of height, they have good size on the wings with Nick Victor (6-foot-5),Anthony Dallier (6-foot-6), and Khaliq Ghani (6-foot-5). They were just 9-5 in teh non-conference portion of their schedule, with losses to Duke, SMU and USC among their most notable.
Stay tuned for more information on how the Bears matchup with the Yale Bulldogs, game times and looks at the rest of the West bracket.