NCAA Tournament Predictions: Baylor vs. New Mexico State

Johnathan Motley, Matt Thomas_552094

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) dunks the ball over Iowa State guard Matt Thomas (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

3. Baylor (25-7, 12-6/Big 12)– The Bears boast one of the most talented rosters in the nation, with everything you’d want from a team that can make a Final Four run. 6-10 junior forward Jonathan Motley was a first-team All-Big 12 selection and is in the conversation for the National Player of the Year award. He puts up 17.3 points and 9.9 boards per game, and has had some monster performances, including a 32-point, 20-rebound outburst in a win over Texas.

Miami transfer and junior point guard Manu Lecomte has had a transformative impact on this team as well, putting up 12.4 points and 3.9 assists per game. He’s a solid playmaker who shoots the 3 well (42%) and can be a big X-factor in games.

Baylor goes about 9-deep, is tough to negotiate with on D (allowing just 62.7 ppg, which ranks 16th in the nation), and shares the ball well, averaging 15.7 assists per.

14. New Mexico State (28-5, 11-3/WAC)– For the sixth time in eight years, the Aggies have crashed the Big Dance. New Mexico State has been the class of this new version of the WAC, but they’ve still yet to carry regular season success into the tournament, having last won a game in 1993.

This is a young group, with leading scorer Ian Baker (16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.1 apg) the only senior who earns meaningful minutes. The Aggies rebound the ball well, ranking 17th nationally in boards (39.8 per), and grabbing 37.2 percent of boards on the offensive end, which ranks 13th in the country. Head coach Paul Weir also has this group playing tough defense, as they allow just 67.2 points per game.

PREDICTION: Baylor is too big, and too athletic to expect this New Mexico State team to have a real shot at pulling the upset. The Bears do have a history of disappointing NCAA Tourney showings, including losses in the first round in each of the last two years.

When they have made a run under head coach Scott Drew, they’ve advanced pretty far–reaching the Elite Eight twice since 2010. We think this group is better equipped than any in its recent history to make some serious noise, and even get to the Final Four.

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