2017 NCAA Tournament
East Regional Semifinals
#3 Baylor Bears vs #7 South Carolina Gamecocks
Friday, March 24, 2017, 7:29 pm Eastern, TV: TBS
Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
Opening Line: Baylor -3
Current Line: Baylor -3 1/2
Opening Total: 135
Current Total: 135
Opening Money Line: Baylor -155 / South Carolina +135
Current Money Line: Baylor -165 / South Carolina +145
Apart from #11 Xavier and #7 Michigan advancing to the Sweet 16, the seeds have pretty much held up in the NCAA Tournament in every region except the East. The East saw the top two seeds defending champion Villanova and Duke get upset in the second round last weekend. So now either #3 Baylor, #4 Florida, #7 South Carolina or #8 Wisconsin will advance to the Final Four. The 27-7 Baylor Bears take on the 24-10 South Carolina Gamecocks Friday night in New York City. This is a match-up you might expect to see in the Women’s Final Four as both schools are #1 seeds in that tournament. Baylor leads the series 4-2 against South Carolina, including a 69-65 win in Columbia in 2014. They have never met in the NCAA Tournament or even at a neutral site.
South Carolina is coached by Frank Martin. The Gamecocks finished tied for third in the SEC with Arkansas at 12-6. South Carolina was upset by Alabama 64-53 in the SEC quarterfinals in Nashville. South Carolina beat #10 Marquette 93-73 in the first round and upset #2 Duke 88-81 in the second round Sunday. The Gamecocks had the luxury of playing the first two rounds in their home state by playing in Greenville. South Carolina is making their ninth trip to the tournament, and first since 2004. Before last weekend, they had not won a tournament game since 1973, also the last time they went to the Sweet 16.
South Carolina has neutral site losses to Seton Hall in New York City, and Alabama in Nashville, plus road losses at Memphis, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Ole Miss. The Gamecocks have home losses to Clemson, Alabama and Arkansas. South Carolina has home wins over Louisiana Tech, Monmouth, Michigan, Vermont, Florida International, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi State. The Gamecocks have a neutral site win over Syracuse in Brooklyn, plus road wins over South Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State. South Carolina is 13-16-2 ATS and the total is 13-17-1. The Gamecocks were 6.5 point underdogs against Duke and the total was 145.
Baylor is coached by Scott Drew. The Bears finished tied for second in the Big 12 with a 12-6 record with West Virginia and Iowa State. Baylor was upset by Kansas State 70-64 in the Big 12 quarterfinals in Kansas City. Baylor beat #14 New Mexico State 91-73 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and #11 USC 82-78 in the second round Sunday, both in Tulsa. Baylor is in the tournament for the 11th time and in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time since 2010.
Baylor has road losses to West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State, plus home losses to Kansas State and Kansas. The Bears have home wins over Oral Roberts, Oregon, Florida Gulf Coast, Sam Houston State, Xavier, Texas Southern, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. Baylor has road wins at Oklahoma, Kansas State, TCU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, and Texas, plus neutral site wins over VCU, Michigan State and Louisville in the Bahamas. The Bears are 15-14 ATS and the total is 12-16-1 this season. Baylor was a 5.5 point favorite against USC and the total was 141.5.
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South Carolina is outscoring 73-65 this season. South Carolina is #32 in points allowed nationally. The Gamecocks are shooting 41.9% from the field and 33.8% from three point range. South Carolina makes 69.7% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 40% from the field and 30% from 3 point range. The Gamecocks are #18 nationally in field goal defense and #9 in three point defense. South Carolina averages 36.4 rebounds per game and opponents average 31.9 rebounds per game. The Gamecocks average 12.8 assists, 13.2 turnovers, 7.9 steals and 3.8 blocks per game. Opponents averages 9.6 assists, 17.3 turnovers, 6.1 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.
Sindarius Thornwell averages 21.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game. P.J. Dozier averages 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Duane Notice averages 10.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Chris Silva averages 10 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Four other players average at least 14 minutes a game. Kory Holden is out for the season because of eligibility issues.
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Baylor is outscoring teams 74-64 this season. Baylor is #20 in points allowed nationally. The Bears are shooting 47.6% from the field and 36.1% from 3 point range. The Bears are #36 in field goal percentage. Baylor makes 72.5% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 40.4% from the field and 32.1% from 3 point range. The Bears are #43 or better in both categories nationally. Baylor averages 38 rebounds per game and opponents average 25.7 per game. The Bears are #2 nationally in rebounds allowed. Baylor averages 15.7 assists, 13.3 turnovers, 5.1 steals and 4.8 blocks per game. Opponents average 13.2 assists, 11.2 turnovers, 5.4 steals and 3.5 blocks per game.
Johnathan Motley averages 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. Manu Lecomte averages 12.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Al Freeman averages 9.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Jo Lual-Acuil Jr averages 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Terry Matson, Ishmail Wainright, King McClure and Jake Lindsay will also get minutes in the rotation.
South Carolina is 4-1-1 as a neutral site underdog and as an underdog of less than 6.5 points, 7-2-1 in neutral site games, 37-18-1 in non-conference games, 3-7 against teams with winning records, 3-9 overall, 1-4 in Friday games, 1-4-1 after a cover, and 1-5 after a win. The underdog has covered all six games in this series.
Baylor is 4-1 ATS in Friday games, 7-2 in non-conference games, 5-11 as a favorite, 2-5 against teams with winning records, 1-4 after a win and in NCAA Tournament games, and 0-4 against SEC teams.
Although both teams are comfortable playing in the mid 70’s this could be a low scoring game with two of the best defenses in the country. South Carolina is playing with house money after the upset of Duke, but I still like Baylor to win a close game.