Baylor Bears vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

No. 14-ranked Baylor will attempt to improve its NCAA Tournament seeding on Thursday night when it battles upstart Cincinnati in the final quarterfinal game in the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

The winner of Thursday’s clash will face either second-seeded Iowa State or surprise quarterfinalist Kansas State, the 10th seed, in the late semifinal on Friday.

The Bears (22-9) are the third seed in the league tournament and received a bye into the quarterfinals based on their production in the regular season. The 11th-seeded Bearcats (20-13) advanced to a third game in three days in this event via a 72-52 win over sixth-seeded Kansas on Wednesday in the second round.

The Bears beat Cincinnati 62-59 at home on Jan. 13 in the only matchup between the teams this season.

Baylor has not earned a spot in the Big 12 semifinals since 2021 and is projected to be a No. 3 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Bears have never won the Big 12 tournament — not even in 2021, when they captured the national championship.

“You never know if you’ll be in March Madness again, so you’ve got to cherish and appreciate all those moments,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said Tuesday. “The great thing about the Big 12 tournament is that it’s not going to hurt you (if you lose). If you’re (projected) in the (NCAA) tournament, you’re not going to drop out because there’s not a bad loss to be had. If you’re in the tournament and you do well, you can move up a seed line.”

Baylor enters the Big 12 tournament off a 78-68 loss at Texas Tech in the regular-season finale. Ja’Kobe Walter had 15 points and Jayden Nunn and RayJ Dennis added 14 and 12, respectively, for the Bears, who saw their three-game winning streak end.

The Bears already have put the loss to the Red Raiders behind them and are looking to make some waves in the Big 12 tourney and beyond.

“This is the time when great players really show that they’re great,” said Walter, Baylor’s likely one-and-done freshman. “I just want to come into this postseason and just hoop, do whatever it takes to win, and hopefully we get these tournament wins.”

The Bearcats built a 17-point lead and were up 38-25 at halftime in the win over Kansas before the Jayhawks rattled off 13 of the first 15 points of the second half. Cincinnati rebuilt its advantage to 14 points with 5:49 to play.

Dan Skillings Jr. led all scorers with 25 points in the win for Cincinnati. John Newman III added 12 points and 10 rebounds, Jizzle James scored 11 points, and Simas Lukosius contributed 10 against Kansas.

The Bearcats have been the most impressive team over the first two days of the tournament, roaring back from 16 points down to beat West Virginia 90-85 in the first round and then hammering Kansas.

“It’s a great win for our program,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said afterward. “We’re pleased to be advancing. I thought we played with good edge for the most part tonight, and we played with good togetherness as we tried to execute our game plan. It’s difficult for everybody in a tournament where you play back-to-back days to prepare.”

–Field Level Media

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