Of the massive number of games through the first two days of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, there may be no tougher first-round matchup to gauge than Syracuse vs. Baylor. The 8/9 matchup may not bust your bracket due to a tough potential second-round date with Gonzaga, but it’s a head-scratching game to call.
On one side, Jim Boeheim has obviously had plenty of success during March Madness, but his team went 20-13 this year and 10-8 in conference play. They posted up-and-down results throughout the year and on top of all of this, have suspended guard Frank Howard. Per ESPN, this decision comes due to “a violation of athletic department policy.”
It’s unknown if Howard will return if Syracuse advances, but he scored 28 points in the team’s loss to the Duke Blue Devils while stepping into a large role due to the absence of Tyus Battle. While Battle is expected to be set to go for the tournament, the loss of Howard is still tough.
As for Baylor, they were 19-13 this season with a 10-8 record in Big 12 play but didn’t pick up many big non-conference wins. They also suffered losses to Texas Southern, Wichita State and Stephen F. Austin prior to Big 12 play getting underway. They’re led by Tristan Clark (14.6 points per game) and Makai Mason (14.6 points).
Syracuse vs. Baylor Betting Line & Odds
*Note: All odds and betting lines courtesy of OddsShark, with latest info from Bovada.
- Baylor Bears vs. Syracuse Orange (-2 at -115)
- Over/Under: 130 (-110)
The Orange have been solid against the spread (ATS) this season, going 19-14 and they’re the popular pick early. According to OddsShark, 59 percent of the picks have gone in favor of Syracuse while 59 percent also favor the under in this matchup.
Neither team enters the tournament on a hot streak, as Boeheim’s squad has lost three of their last four and five of seven entering the tournament. On the other side, the Bears have dropped four straight including a tough 83-66 loss to Iowa State in the conference tournament.
Syracuse vs. Baylor NCAA Tournament Prediction & Pick
The loss of Howard certainly hurts the Orange here, as he emerged quite a bit during the ACC tournament. He’s averaged 8.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals over 29 games, and it will likely be Buddy Boeheim who picks up additional minutes in his place. Boeheim filled in admirably for Battle during the conference tournament.
Although Howard’s absence hurts, the return of Battle is a big one. I think Syracuse is undervalued here due to the star guard missing the recent stretch of games. He’ll play a big role as expected and the Orange will be able to get the job done against a reeling Baylor squad.
Prediction: Syracuse Orange 74, Baylor Bears 66
Pick: Syracuse Orange -2