It will be a clash of styles on Thursday afternoon when the Baylor Bears and Yale Bulldogs get together. The Bulldogs are in the top-20 in the nation in both points allowed and rebounds per game while the Bears are sixth in the country with 17.8 assists per game. Yale wants to keep the game at a slow pace while the Bears want to get out and run.
The Bulldogs had a terrific year on the court, but their appearance in the 2016 NCAA tournament is being overshadowed by a recent lawsuit filed by former team captain Jack Montague. Montague is suing the school after he was expelled for allegedly sexually assaulting another student. His lawyer says the school is using him as a “whipping boy” for a national problem at other universities.
On the court, the Bulldogs are led by sophomore guard Makai Mason and senior forward Justin Sears. The two combine to average 31.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while senior forward Brandon Sherrod also pitches in 12.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Yale’s goal is to get the ball in the paint and work the ball around for a good shot. Don’t expect it to try to run with the Bears.
Although Baylor is returning to the tournament for the third straight season, its 2015-16 campaign left a bit to be desired. With Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers, Lester Medford and Johnathan Motley all returning, there was hope the Bears would battle for the Big 12 title. Those hopes went by the wayside as they lost 11 games and got eliminated by Kansas in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.
Gathers was bothered by an undisclosed illness toward the end of the season which caused him to miss multiple games. It seems he may be past it now as he’s played at least 22 minutes in each of his last four games. The Bears will need him to be at his best against the Bulldogs on Thursday.
The other key for the Bears will be Motley. Since stepping foot on campus last season, the 6-foot-9 forward has been a bit of a letdown as he’s struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble. When Motley’s out there, the Bears have the capability to beat any team in the country, but he continues to struggle. Baylor desperately needs him if it is going anywhere in this tournament.
With Gathers back in the fold, the Bears are a different basketball team. While Yale has had an amazing season, and made the tournament for the first time since 1962, the Bears are too talented to lose this game. Expect Gathers and Prince to lead Baylor to the Round of 32.
Prediction: Baylor 79, Yale 63