Baylor vs North Carolina Prediction: Can the Tar Heels Repeat Their Impressive First Round Performance?

UNC looked very impressive as they blew out Marquette in the opening round, but can they relay that performance into a strong showing against the defending national champs? Let's break down the game.
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Baylor vs North Carolina Prediction: Can the Tar Heels Repeat Their Impressive First Round Performance?

UNC looked very impressive as they blew out Marquette in the opening round, but can they relay that performance into a strong showing against the defending champs? Let's break down the game.

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Baylor vs North Carolina Prediction

It's the first game of the second round and we get a matchup with two blue bloods here. Baylor comes into this game after a complete rout of Norfolk State where their offense and defense was really clicking on all cylinders.

Baylor has dealt with a lot of injuries this season as they are without star center JTT, and now LJ Cryer as he missed their first game due to injury. Cryer is one of their leading scorers, but this Baylor team has played through injuries all season so even if Cryer is unable to go, I have faith that the Bears will step up in his absence. Matthew Mayer really stepped up in their opening game with 22 points on an extremely efficient 8-12 shooting and 2-2 from the line.

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Mayer garnered the nickname, The Microwave, last year as he was instant offense off the bench for Baylor’s national championship squad, but Mayer has struggled a bit this season. His shooting percentages are all a bit down from last season but if he can replicate his opening round performance, the Tar Heels will be in trouble because I really think Mayer is the X-factor for this team. At 6’9", Mayer has a really solid handle and can get to the rim off the dribble when need be. He is also a willing passer and should be quick enough to drive past Bacot/Garcia if he gets matched up with their bigs.

Another key contributor for Baylor will be Adam Flagler, an absolute sniper from the outside. UNC does not do a very good job of defending the three-point line as they are ranked 237th in 3-point percentage defense. Akinjo should be able to utilize the dribble drive to create open shooting lanes for Mayer, Flagler, or Bonner. The real battle in this game is going to be between Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan of Baylor vs the three-headed monster of Bacot, Manek, and Garcia for UNC.

UNC has one of the best front courts in the nation and is very deep at that position. Bacot is a traditional post player who can bang inside with anyone and is very physical while Manek plays more of a forward role and is a very solid shooter who can stretch the defense forcing Baylor’s bigs to guard outside the paint. If Sochan/Brown can make life difficult for Bacot on the inside, it will really force Caleb Love to step up and make big shots.

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In UNC’s opening game, they absolutely obliterated Marquette in a performance that I did not expect. In that game, Caleb Love knocked down six threes and scored 23 points while Brady Manek scored a game-high 28 points as he was 10-15 from the field.

Overall, it was one of UNC’s best games of the season and I think that’s why we are getting a shorter line here than I anticipated. UNC has a very good offense that can be explosive as we saw a few days ago, but Baylor’s defense is much better than Marquette. Baylor is currently ranked 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 18th in defensive 2-point%, and 16th in defensive turnover% so they are really good on that side of the ball.

The Big 12 has also shown to be a step above the rest of the field so far through the 1st round, so the high level of competition that Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 teams played in conference this season is paying dividends in the tournament to this point. UNC struggled against top-level competition this season as they got blown out by Tennessee by 17 points, blown out by Kentucky by 29 points, and lost to Purdue by nine points. They struggled against top-level competition from other conferences so UNC might not be as good as they look. Baylor played the 11th hardest schedule in the country season while UNC is ranked 46th in that same category, so Baylor is definitely prepared for this game.

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Overall, I think Baylor is the much better team who is better on the defensive side of the ball. I also think UNC is going to regress with their outside shooting as I don’t think Love and Manek will combine for 11 threes on over 50% shooting again.

Baylor is a very solid fundamental team who has the size and athleticism to keep UNC’s offense at bay. Both teams play at a fairly fast pace, and I think Baylor should have a strong transition edge here. With that being said, I am rolling with Baylor 1H -2.5 at -105 for one of my most confident college basketball picks of the day as I think Baylor get off to a hot start here.

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Baylor vs North Carolina Pick

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Joey has spent the last 6+ years betting on sports with a focus on basketball and baseball. Basketball is his main focus, and not many people know more about mid-major basketball than him. Whether you need advice on a Saturday night primetime game or a Tuesday night back-alley SWAC/MEAC game, Joey is your man.

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