Baylor Bears vs. Auburn Tigers Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 7th 2023

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No. 20 Baylor and Auburn will take the first step toward proving they belong with college basketball’s upper echelon on Tuesday when the two perennial powerhouses open their respective seasons at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Baylor was 23-11 last season and lost to Creighton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the stacked Big 12 Conference in the coaches’ preseason poll, the 13th time in the last 16 seasons that Baylor has been picked to finish in the top half of the league.

The Bears return just one starter, forward Jalen Bridges, and three key reserves — guard Langston Love and forwards Josh Ojianwuna and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua — from the 2022-23 team.

Bridges was named to the preseason watch list for the 2024 Julius Erving Award, the annual award that recognizes the best small forward in Division I men’s basketball. Bridges started all 34 games for the Bears a season ago while leading the team in rebounds (192) and blocks (35).

Baylor’s newcomers include experienced guards RayJ Dennis and Jayden Nunn, who come to Waco via the transfer portal from Toledo and VCU, respectively. Baylor hauled in its highest-ranked recruit ever, five-star Ja’Kobe Walter, who was considered the top prep shooting guard in the nation last year. It also landed big man Belgium-born Yves Missi from Cameroon to add a presence in the paint.

Walter was named the Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year, while Bridges and Dennis garnered all-conference honorable mention.

“There’s an excitement of so much newness,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “You’ve got a lot of different pieces out there, a lot of potential. As a coach you’re always excited about working with guys that you haven’t had a chance with, seeing how much you can improve them and help them.”

Auburn is also in rebuilding mode, but not as drastically as the Bears are. The Tigers went 21-13 in 2022-23 and also advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Houston.

Coach Bruce Pearl’s deep and talented roster is led by center Johni Broome and forward Jaylin Williams. Broome earned All-SEC second-team honors last year as he led the Tigers in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounds (8.4 rpg), while Williams racked up 11.2 points per game, averaged 4.7 rebounds and shot 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Auburn was picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference in the preseason media poll and Broome was a preseason first-team All-SEC selection.

Five-star freshman Aden Holloway, a 2023 McDonald’s All-American, is the highlight of the Tigers’ incoming class and is expected to step into the starting point guard position.

Of the 10 players in the Tigers’ anticipated rotation, eight are upperclassmen.

“We’ve got so much parity, so much competition at each position, which I think is a good thing,” Pearl said. “When the ball gets tossed, our five guys might not be that much better than anybody else’s five guys. But when I go to the bench, I’m not dropping off.”

The Bears lead 5-2 in the all-time series, including a win in the most recent meeting between the teams as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge in the 2020-21 season.

–Field Level Media

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