TheDagger previews each of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here's our look at Baylor-Saint Mary's.
No. 3 Baylor (27-7) vs. No. 10 Saint Mary's (28-5)
Friday, 7:27 p.m. EDT, Reliant Stadium (Houston)
How they got here:
Baylor: d. No. 14 Sam Houston State, 68-59; d. No. 11 Old Dominion, 76-68.
Saint Mary's: d. No. 7 Richmond, 80-71; d. No. 2 Villanova, 75-68.
Last Sweet 16 appearances:
Baylor: 1950 (in eight-team field, fell in Final Four 68-66 to Bradley)
Saint Mary's: never.
Matchup to watch: Baylor F Ekpe Udoh vs. Saint Mary's C Omar Samhan
Samhan, who is worth the follow on Twitter, is going to face a slew of Baylor defenders who will not be afraid to give him five times the challenge Villanova did last week. But we're focusing in on Udoh because he's the biggest of the bigs on the Baylor Bears and we'll bet he blocks at least three of Samhan's shots. Udoh is the 11th-most efficient shot-blocker in the nation and is wildly underrated. Samhan is riding high right now, and why shouldn't he? That was a coming out party for both his play and personality last weekend.
Credit to Saint Mary's for continually feeding Samhan because he could exploit Villanova's defense. Baylor coach Scott Drew will most certainly hope to shut down passing lanes by using his athletic teams' extremely long arms to make it difficult for SMC to work from the inside out.
Many believe — including CBS' Seth Davis, who told me this last night — that of the three Cinderella teams playing this weekend, Saint Mary's has the toughest task. The Bears are ridiculously athletic and can go in long spurts of playing effective basketball. This is a team that isn't young but feeds off of youthful exuberance more than most; when they're playing well, it's extremely contagious to everyone else on the team.
However, Baylor does turn the ball over and you wonder how it will play so close to home. Any nerves factor? The Gaels will be playing with house money, and for the first time this season Baylor will have some pressure on its back to come through. If SMC gets the 3 ball to fall we could have an absolute shootout. This could be the best regional semifinal game we get.
Prediction: The Bears are ready for their chance for the Final Four, but we can't go against the Australian national team that is Saint Mary's. It will be a game of runs, and with that could come a lot of costly Bears turnovers. The pick: Saint Mary's 80, Baylor 78.
- Baylor Bears