As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 22-11 (10-8 Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 116.8 (13th)/990 (72nd)
Seed: No. 5 in West Regional
Impact Player: Rico Gathers, senior, forward. 11.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 51.6% from field
The Case For: The Bears play in the best and toughest conference in the country, so a non-Big 12 opponent is a welcome sight to coach Scott Drew—and theoretically, it should be a lot easier physically and mentally, at least the first few rounds of the tournament.
Five players score about two-thirds of Baylor’s points, led by senior forward Taurean Prince (15.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, double figure scoring in 15 of his last 16 games) and sophomore guard Al Freeman (11.5 ppg, team-high 86% from free throw line), so they’re pretty well balanced. Before he takes his shot at the NFL, senior forward Rico Gathers can use his 6’8”, 275-pound frame to dominate in the paint a few more times, punishing defenders with his strength. Gathers and the Bears give themselves plenty of second-chance opportunities, grabbing 13.7 offensive boards per game (they outrebound teams by a margin of 7.9, 15th best in the country). Johnathan Motley has come off the bench most of the season, chipping in 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, and is one of the team's more active defensive players.
Teams that move the ball well are difficult to defend, and Baylor shares it better than most, averaging 17.8 assists (senior point guard Lester Medford has passed out 216 this season, compared to just 78 turnovers).
The Case Against: Can Baylor be trusted this time around? One year after a stunning loss to 14th-seeded Georgia State that will forever live in Vine-infamy, the Bears come skidding into the Big Dance, having lost three of their last four.
They played Kansas tough in the Big 12 tournament semis before falling 70-66, but there were some troubling stats that hinted at potential trouble in the coming weeks, like getting outrebounded by 12 by a team that only has a +4.8 margin for the season, and a disappearing act from Prince, who scored only nine points in the loss.
Meanwhile, Gathers is virtually unstoppable on the glass … when he wants to be. He’s snagged 13 or more boards in eight different games this season, but his play has been sporadic the last few weeks. Baylor will likely go as Gathers does—and there’s no guarantee that means a deep run. Also of note: Five seeds have a history of underwhelming.
SI Prediction: Beat Yale in the first round; beat Duke in the second round; lose to Oregon in the Sweet 16.