Baylor Bears vs. Colgate Raiders Pick & Prediction MARCH 22nd 2024

MEMPHIS — To Baylor coach Scott Drew, seeds mean nothing at NCAA Tournament time.

“Throw it out the window,” he said. “You’d better be ready to play. The best team doesn’t always win. It’s about who’s best for that 40 minutes.”

Drew’s third-seeded Bears are focused on the next 40 minutes against 14th-seeded Colgate when the teams tip off Friday in a first-round West Region matchup in Memphis, Tenn.

Baylor (23-10) is a top-three seed for the fourth straight season. The Bears enter the tournament as one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country, averaging 122.5 points per 100 possessions according to Their effective field goal percentage of 55.5 ranks 16th.

On the other hand, the Raiders (25-9) do an excellent job of forcing opponents into inefficient possessions. Their defensive effective field goal percentage of 47.2 is 31st and they limit foes to 29.8 percent shooting on 3-pointers, 14th in Division I.

“Who’s able to execute the best stays around,” Drew said. “Really, it comes down to a lot of guys who don’t want to go home. That’s why they’re in the NCAA Tournament.”

Superior balance is Baylor’s trademark offensively. Led by Ja’Kobe Walter’s 14.2 points per game, the Bears boast six players in double figures. RayJ Dennis averages 13.3 points and 6.8 assists, while Jalen Bridges hits for 11.9 points and makes 40.1 percent of his 3-pointers.

There’s also Langston Love, who averages 11.0 points and shoots 48.0 percent from the 3-point line, Yves Missi (11.1) and Jayden Nunn (10.6, 43.4 percent 3-pointers). As a team, Baylor is ninth in Division I, shooting 38.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Colgate has won 17 of its last 18 games, including a 74-55 drilling of Lehigh on March 13 that sealed its fourth consecutive Patriot League tournament crown. It’s led by guard Braeden Smith, who was named the league tourney’s Most Valuable Player.

For the season, Smith led a balanced attack with 12.5 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds, earning league Player of the Year honors. Keegan Records contributed 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds, while Ryan Moffatt added 10.4 points and hit 37.1 percent of his 3-pointers.

Thirteenth-year coach Matt Langel, who’s earned five Patriot League Coach of the Year honors, knows his team will have to deal with athleticism it normally doesn’t see from the likes of Lafayette, Lehigh and Holy Cross.

“They play fast and can get after it defensively,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us as we prepare for Friday’s game. These games are really hard when you’re a No. 14 seed. You’re playing against one of the best teams in the country. Our messaging and process does not change.”

The Raiders have played three games against NCAA Tournament teams this season, winning at Vermont and losing at Arizona and Illinois. They hung with the Wildcats for a half, trailing only 35-30 before falling 82-57.

The winner of this game plays either sixth-seeded Clemson or No. 11 New Mexico on Sunday.

–Bucky Dent, Field Level Media

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