Baylor Bears @ Gonzaga Bulldogs / NCAAB 2022 Predictions & Preview

Two preseason title favorites will try to get back on the right track Friday evening when the Baylor Bears take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Two preseason title favorites will try to get back on the right track Friday evening when the Baylor Bears take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game will be played at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD, for the Peacock Classic. Both teams enter the game with 5-2 records on the season though neither has suffered a “bad loss.”

The game is scheduled for an 8:00 PM EST tip-off, with the Bulldogs favored by (-1.5) with a total of 164.5 points. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Bears are fresh off of a thorough whooping at the hands of the Marquette Golden Eagles by a score of 96-70. That marks the sixth time that a Scott Drew team has surrendered over 80 points since the calendar turned to 2022. The program only gave up 80 points nine times from January 5th, 2019, to December 31st, 2021.

Gonzaga rebounded nicely after their second loss of the season to Purdue by defeating a good Xavier team at the Phil Knight Invitational. While the Zags were able to secure the victory, they didn’t do so in an impressive fashion.

Xavier scored 1.14 points per possession and only turned the ball over nine times. Gonzaga was saved by their three-point shooting as the team connected on 13 of 24 attempts from deep.

Friday’s showdown marks the seventh meeting between the two powerhouse programs dating back to 1991. Gonzaga won the first five games, while Baylor defeated the preseason championship favorites of the 2020-21 season by 16 points in the national championship game.

Baylor still has three players that were a part of that championship team in Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer along with Flo Thamba, all of whom are starters this season.

Gonzaga also boasts three players from the group that lost in the title game with Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, and Anton Watson.

Baylor Bears Overview

Baylor may have the most talented backcourt in the nation this season, but the campaign has not started the same as the last time they were able to make that claim in 2020-21. The biggest issue for this team to date is a lack of frontcourt productivity.

The Bears are 286th in the nation in defensive rebounding, 208th in blocks per game, and 323rd in the nation in two-point attempts. The backcourt has tried to pick up the slack, shooting the eighth most three-point attempts and making nearly 12 per contest.

Along with the points per game statistic provided above, Baylor has not been the defensive team that we have become accustomed to in recent years. They currently rank 263rd in the nation in opponents’ effective field goal percentage and 335th in the nation in defensive three-point percentage.

Opponents are currently shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc this season against Baylor. They are still turnover opponents over, however, ranking 31st in the nation in opponents turnover percentage.

The Bears are just 3-4 against the spread this season as they are underperforming the number by -4.9 points per game, the worst in the Big XII.

Gonzaga Bulldogs Overview

Gonzaga may not be the team that they have been over the last few years, but this is still a quality group that is certainly capable of winning the national championship.

Drew Timme is one of the preseason favorites for national player of the year, while wing Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton are providing plenty of scoring from the perimeter.

While the Bulldogs’ offense has predictably been there, they have not shown the same defensive prowess that has been typical in the last two seasons. Gonzaga ranks just 220th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage and 258th in opponents’ turnover percentage.

The loss of Andrew Nembhard is being felt on the offensive side of the ball, as well as the Zags rank 199th in the nation in offensive turnover percentage.

Gonzaga is just 2-5 against the spread this season while underperforming the number by -5.2 points per contest, the worst in the West Coast Conference.

Baylor vs. Gonzaga Prediction

Dating back to 2017, Baylor is 19-11-1 against the spread in games played on a neutral court. They are defeating the number by +1.7 points per game with a margin of victory of 8.5 points per contest.

During that same timeframe, Gonzaga is just 26-27 ATS in neutral site games. They have underperformed the number by -1.3 points per contest.

Despite recent trends, the Baylor defense is not typical of the program, while the Gonzaga offense is ranked first in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. While the Bears’ backcourt is certainly capable of taking over the game, it is unlikely that the frontcourt will be able to stop Timme and Watson.

Look for Gonzaga to win a close game that will likely end with a 2-4 point margin.

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