The No. 2-seeded Baylor Bears are set to take on the BYU Cougars in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
While neither team was selected to participate in the 2013 NCAA tournament, it’s clear that both sides have a chip on the shoulder and clearly want to win this to spite the doubters.
Which team will wind up victorious and head to the finals? Keep reading to see our preview, prediction and more for this contest.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.
When: Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3
BYU Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Josh Sharp, Questionable, Achilles
Baylor Injury Report (via USA Today)
No major injuries to report
Key BYU Player: Tyler Haws
Haws is a relentless gunner that will be instrumental in any chance the Cougars have at winning in Madison Square Garden.
The 6’5” sophomore averaged a whopping 21.6 points per game during the 2012-13 campaign and did so efficiently while contributing in other areas. He shot 48.0 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from beyond the arc while grabbing 4.6 rebounds, dishing 2.0 assists and swiping 1.3 steals per night.
In the NIT, he’s been a workhorse for BYU. He helped lead the Cougars to a huge win over Southern Miss behind his 25 points, dominated Mercer with his 24 and destroyed Washington by dropping 37.
This kid is a scoring machine and will have the green light to fire away against the Bears on Tuesday.
Key Baylor Player: Brady Heslip
The Bears have a number of intriguing players that could light it up—including Pierre Jackson and Isaiah Austin—but we believe this three-point specialist is going to be key for Baylor.
Heslip, a junior transfer from Boston College, is an unconscious shooter from range, taking most of his attempts from out there and hitting on a solid 39.6 percent of them.
When he’s feeling it, we believe that there are few teams in the nation that stand a chance against Baylor. In the first round of the NIT, Heslip dialed it in and wound up scoring 26 points and shooting 8-of-11 from distance in a blowout victory against Long Beach State.
If Heslip gets hot and starts knocking down threes against the Cougars, they should have no problem moving on to the finals.
This should be a great game, but we’re giving the edge to Baylor.
Which team will win?
The Bears picked the Cougars apart when they met earlier this season, winning 79-64 back on Dec. 21. While much has changed since, the key players are all here and the result could be quite the same.
Baylor’s balanced offensive assault (each member of the starting five scored in double digits) was just too much for BYU to overcome—despite senior forward Brandon Davies going off for 26 points and 17 rebounds.
If the Bears can absorb that kind of performance from one of the Cougars’ best players and still win by fifteen, we’re certain they’ll be bound for the NIT Championship after this one.
Baylor 71 – BYU 68