Sweet 16 Predictions: Baylor Bears vs. Xavier Musketeers

Jeff GrantContributor IMarch 22, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 09:  Perry Jones III #1 and Pierre Jackson #55 of the Baylor Bears celebrate in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the semifinals of the 2012 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 9, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Baylor Bears (29-7) and Xavier Musketeers (23-12) will meet up in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA tournament on Friday night inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Bears as six-point favorites, and the total has moved up two points from its opening number to 142.

Baylor has covered its first two games in capturing wins over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (68-60) and Colorado Buffaloes (80-63) as 7.5-point favorites in both contests.

The Bears are 5-2 in NCAA tournament games under head coach Scott Drew, but any advancement past the Elite 8 may be hard-pressed due to their 0-7 combined record against the Indiana Hoosiers and Kentucky Wildcats.

It's important to note that the program's seven losses this year have all come against foes that were part of the original field of 68 teams for the Big Dance.

Bettors may be turned off a bit in backing the Bears due to their disappointing 38-41 against-the-spread (ATS) record the last two-plus years.

Xavier is no stranger to being in this position and is one of only four teams that have reached the Sweet 16 in four of the last five years.

The Musketeers will certainly be challenged by playing an opponent from the Big 12 Conference, as they've dropped all three such contests over the last two-plus seasons.

Playing inside Friday's venue may inspire the program to improve upon its 17-7 ATS record in tournament games since 1997.

The last time this Atlantic 10 powerhouse played in the Atlanta regional, it captured a 79-71 victory over the Texas Longhorns in the 2004 regional semifinal before ultimately getting bounced out by the Duke Blue Devils.

I've been a big fan of both conferences the entire year, but must side with the Bears due to their 4-0 ATS mark as a tournament favorite, while the Musketeers are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 neutral-site contests.

Pick: Baylor Bears -6