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Norfolk State vs. Baylor Odds, Picks, Predictions For NCAA Tournament First Round: Bears Have Axe to Grind

Norfolk State vs. Baylor Odds, Picks, Predictions For NCAA Tournament First Round: Bears Have Axe to Grind article feature image

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Kendall Brown (Baylor)

  • Norfolk State vs. Baylor doesn't have upset potential, but it does have betting value.
  • Find Norfolk State vs. Baylor odds in our analysts' guide to betting this NCAA Tournament matchup below.
  • They make their picks and predictions on the spread for this first-round showdown between a 1- and 16-seed.

Norfolk State vs. Baylor Odds

Thursday, March 17
2 p.m. ET
Norfolk State Odds
-110o / -110u
Baylor Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

By Patrick Strollo

The top-seeded Baylor Bears (26-6, 14-4 in the Big 12) play the No. 16 seed Norfolk State Spartans (24-6, 12-2 in the MEAC) in the Round of 64. The game will be played in Fort Worth, which is just an hour and half from Waco, Texas.

The No. 4 ranked Bears have earned back-to-back No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and are appearing in the Big Dance for the seventh time in the last eight tournaments.

A veteran Norfolk State team makes its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance after earning an auto bid by winning the MEAC Tournament.

This will be the third meeting all-time between the two programs, with Baylor winning both contests. Baylor was victorious against Norfolk State during the 2009-10 season (86-58) and the 2014-15 season (92-51).

Will Baylor get off to a hot start in pursuit of its NCAA title defense and make easy work of the Spartans? Or will Norfolk State present some resistance as it enters the tournament as a streaking mid-major?

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Norfolk State Spartans

By Patrick Strollo

Behind senior guard, Joe Bryant Jr., Norfolk State won its second straight MEAC Tournament. Bryant, the MEAC Player of the Year and MEAC Tournament MVP, led the Spartans in points (16.8), assists (3.3) and steals (1.5) this season.

Jalen Hawkins, a senior guard, had an outstanding conference tournament for the Spartans. Hawkins led the team in scoring this postseason, averaging 17.6 points.

Anchoring the front court, forwards Kris Bankston and Dana Tate Jr. have been heavy contributors on both sides of the court.

The Spartans played just one Quad 1 opponent this season. This will be to their detriment, as Baylor has played 15 Quad 1 games.

The relative performance of Norfolk State within the MEAC was excellent, but on an absolute basis, the Spartans have the decks stacked against them in this game.

Norfolk State features an AdjO and AdjD of 101.2 and 102.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 195th and 180th, respectively.

The Spartans have had excellent shot defense all season, but have yet to face an opponent anywhere near the caliber of Baylor. They will need to play perfect basketball and hope for long periods of underperformance by the Bears to keep this game within reach.

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Baylor Bears

By Doug Ziefel

The defending national champions had quite an eventful season that was filled with peaks and valleys.

Baylor began the season on a tear, winning 15 straight to open the campaign. Most notably, it dominated the Villanova Wildcats, holding them to just 36 points.

However, the Bears’ streak would come to an end, and then injuries struck. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua went down with a season-ending knee injury. Their leading scorer LJ Cryer has only played in one game since January due to a chronic foot injury. His status is up in the air going forward.

Fortunately, the adversity did not last long, as others like James Akinjo, Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan have since risen to the occasion and brought Baylor back to a championship-caliber level.

For all the hardship, the Bears are still one the most well-rounded teams in the country. They finished the season ninth in offensive efficiency and 14th in defensive efficiency.

Being bounced from the Big 12 Tournament may play to their benefit, as they'll have a whole week of rest. Also, let’s not forget, this same program also lost in the conference tournament before going on to win the National Championship last season.

Norfolk State may be getting the best version of Baylor we have seen since the beginning of the year.

Norfolk State vs. Baylor Betting Pick

By Patrick Strollo

Norfolk State has had success in the Big Dance as big underdogs before. In 2012, it knocked off the No. 2 seed Missouri Tigers in what was one of the largest point spread (+21.5) upsets of all-time.

Keep your finger off of the Spartans moneyline trigger because that won’t be happening this year.

Featuring an excellent offense and defense in terms of AdjO (ninth) and AdjD (17th), the top-seeded and No. 4 ranked Bears will prove to be too much to handle for the MEAC champs.

Just an hour and a half from its home court, Baylor will have an axe to grind after flaming out of the Big 12 Tournament in the quarterfinals.

I am projecting Baylor as 23.77-point favorites. Look for the rested Bears to get the cover as they commence their title defense.

Pick: Baylor -21.5 or better

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