With Friday night’s games now over, the Elite 8 is complete. We have already previewed today’s Regional Final games between Louisville-Florida and Syracuse-Ohio State. Now let’s look at Sunday’s games.
In the South Regional Final, #1 seed and tournament favorite Kentucky matches up with the 3rd-seeded Baylor in a game that features future lottery picks all over the floor.
[Related: Here is Andy’s preview and prediction for North Carolina-Kansas.]
Kentucky-Baylor Elite 8 Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #1 Kentucky v #3 Baylor in South Region
- Kentucky-Baylor Date: Sunday, 3/25
- Kentucky-Baylor Tip Time: 2:20 ET
- Kentucky-Baylor Location: Atlanta
- Kentucky-Baylor TV: CBS
- Kentucky-Baylor Announcers: Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg
- Kentucky-Baylor Point Spread: Kentucky -7.5
- Tickets: South Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Kentucky-Baylor Analysis and Prediction
Sunday’s matchup between Kentucky and Baylor is an NBA scout’s dream with multiple potential lottery picks on display.
The Wildcats used stellar free throw shooting and a prolific offensive attack to hang 102 points on Indiana on Friday night. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led UK with 24 points to go with 10 rebounds, and four other Wildcats scored at least 12 points in the victory.
Baylor jumped out to a huge lead on Xavier and hung on to win by five. The Bears finished with 21 assists on 29 made baskets, and Quincy Act went off for 20 points and 15 rebounds.
Kentucky-Baylor By The Numbers
Kentucky enters the game second in adjusted offensive efficiency and ranks in the Top 20 in three of the four factors. The Wildcats are 14th in effective field goal percentage and are in the Top 50 in both two- and three-point shooting, while Baylor ranks just outside of the Top 100 in effective field goal percentage defense. The Bears certainly have the big bodies to compete inside, but defense has been an issue throughout the season.
Kentucky appears to have a huge advantage on the offensive glass. The Wildcats rank 16th in offensive rebounding percentage at 38.1 percent, but Baylor has routinely been victimized on the glass this year as evidenced by its 182nd-ranked defensive rebounding percentage. Keeping Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist off the boards will be a challenge to say the least. MKG came up with a number of critical offensive boards and loose balls in the win over Indiana.
The Wildcats also have a low turnover rate, but the point guard matchup between Marquis Teague and Pierre Jackson should be a great one. Jackson will need to force Teague into some poor decisions for Baylor to spring the upset.
On the other end of the floor, the two teams are evenly matched from an efficiency standpoint. The Wildcats rank first in effective field goal and block percentages and second in two-point defense, all of which will serve them well against the likes of Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller inside. Kentucky will also need to lock down shooters like Jackson and Brady Heslip, both of whom shoot over 41 percent from deep.
Kentucky is also eighth in opponents’ free throw rate, but they also don’t force many turnovers, which makes it unlikely the Wildcats will be able to take advantage of Baylor’s 20.4 turnover rate.
Baylor’s greatest advantage appears to be on the offensive glass, where the Bears rank in the Top 20 in offensive rebounding percentage at 38.0 for the year. Kentucky ranks just inside the Top 100 on the defensive glass, and if the Wildcats can limit Baylor’s second chance points, it’s hard to see the Bears springing the upset.
Much like Sunday’s other game, the inside matchups are the most intriguing with Davis, Jones, and Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky and PJ3, Acy, and Miller for the Bears. IU was able to get Anthony Davis in foul trouble, but even that wasn’t enough against the Wildcats. Baylor will need to try and do the same, but I would be surprised to see that happen again.
The aforementioned Jackson-Teague matchup should be a good one at the point, but much like Indiana’s Jordan Hulls on Friday night, Brady Heslip will struggle defensively against the likes of Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.
I expect this game to be extremely entertaining based on the sheer talent level of these teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another high-scoring affair. In the end, I just don’t see how Baylor can slow down Kentucky’s offensive attack enough to come away with a win.
When I picked the Wildcats to win it all, I cited the contributions of Kidd-Gilchrist as the main reason why. He came up big against IU, and I expect more of the same in this contest.
Predicted winner: Kentucky
Kentucky Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 32-2 (16-0 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 11-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Florida (3), Kansas, Lamar, Louisville, Loyola (MD), North Carolina, Vanderbilt (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Anthony Davis (6’11″ F, Fr.) – 14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.6 bpg, 1.4 spg, 64.3 FG%
Kentucky Bottoms Line:
The Wildcats earned the overall top seed and will be picked by most pundits to win it all – and rightfully so. Kentucky finished in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and steamrolled all comers in the SEC. On offense, the Wildcats are in the Top 25 in two-point shooting, turnover rate, and offensive rebounding percentage and have a number of offensive weapons.
In all, six players score at least 9.4 points per game, led by freshman phenom Anthony Davis who is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year. He averaged a double-double and shoots a high percentage, but his shot-blocking ability is a game-changer on the defensive end. Fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a fiery, do-it-all competitor who will do whatever it takes to win. Sophomore Terrence Jones gives the Wildcats yet another talented frontcourt player, and if he brings his A-game, look out. The backcourt features freshman Marquis Teague, who has really improved at the point over the course of the season, and lights out shooter Doron Lamb, who hits over 45 percent from beyond the arc.
For all the discussion about Kentucky’s weapons on offense, they are just as impressive on defense. They boast the top-ranked block percentage, two-point defense, and effective field goal percentage defense to go with a Top 10 opponents’ free throw rate.
Baylor Bears Team Capsule
- Conference: Big 12
- Record: 27-7 (12-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-7
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: BYU, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State (2), Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Texas (2), West Virginia
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Kansas (2), Missouri (3), Kansas State, Iowa State
- Player to Watch: Pierre Jackson (5’10” G, Jr.) – 13.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 43.4 3P%
Baylor Bottoms Line:
Few teams in the country can match Baylor in terms of pure talent, particularly along the front line. However, the Bears went just 4-7 against other teams in the top half of the Big 12, which has some people questioning their toughness as well as Scott Drew’s coaching. Five Baylor players score at least 9.6 points per game, with sophomore Perry Jones III leading the team in both points and rebounds.
PJ3 has been wildly criticized for his lack of intensity and aggressiveness, but he was fantastic in the Big 12 Tournament, which should give him plenty of confidence. Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller join him up from, with Acy a do-it-all competitor whose toughness shines through on both ends of the floor and Miller an impressive freshman with loads of potential. In the backcourt, juco transfer Pierre Jackson is second on the team in scoring and leads the Bears in assists and steals. He’s made a number of clutch plays this season but can get out of control at times. Brady Heslip knocks down over 43 percent from beyond the arc, and opponents simply can’t allow him to get loose on the perimeter.
Baylor ranks in the Top 15 in offensive efficiency thanks to a strong presence on the offensive glass and impressive shooting both inside and outside of the arc. Defensively, they have solid block and steal percentages, but they have routinely been hurt on the offensive glass and have a tendency to give up points in bunches when things start to go awry.