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Yale Bulldogs vs Baylor Bears: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview and Prediction

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Yale has designs on being the latest Ivy League champion to act as a first round nuisance to a higher seed. The Bulldogs earned their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1962. To put it in perspective, that occurred in the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis, Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game and the release of Bob Dylan's debut album.

Baylor is making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last nine seasons. The Bears are looking for redemption after No. 14 Georgia State knocked them out of the Round of 64 a year ago. This will mark the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

No. 12 Yale Bulldogs (22-6) vs. No. 5 Baylor Bears (22-11)

When: 2:45 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Where: Dunkin Donuts Center (Providence)


Line: Baylor -5.5

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Keys for Yale

Attack from the perimeter

Baylor has one of the worst 3-point and field goal percentage defenses among Big 12 teams this season. It's a stroke of good fortune for Yale. The Bulldogs shoot 47.1 percent from the field overall and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc. If Yale is patient and works to get open shots on the perimeter, they could be there for the taking.

Play unselfish

Yale succeeds because it does not rely on a single player to get things done. Guards Makai Mason and Justin Sears each averages 15.8 points per game. Forward Brandon Sherrod offers nice balance in the post with 12.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per contest. The Bulldogs will need that sort of balance against Baylor to keep the Bears' defense off balance.

Keys for Baylor

Clean the glass

Yale doesn't miss many shots and the Bulldogs are a solid rebounding team, ranking in the top 20 nationally in both total rebounds (40.4) and offensive rebounds per game (13.5). Baylor is an equally strong rebounding team, also ranking in the top 20 nationally in offensive boards per game (13.7). The Bears typically out-rebound opponents by 7.9 rebounds per game. They will need to control the glass against Yale to put pressure on the Bulldogs' methodical offense.

Get Prince touches

When Taurean Prince is knocking down shots, good things happen for Baylor. Prince has the necessary tools to dominate against a slower Yale frontcourt. He leads the Bears in scoring (15.5 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.1 rpg). If Baylor feeds Prince the ball early and often, the Bears could snuff out Yale's upset hopes.

Final Analysis

Ivy League teams have a habit of making life miserable for higher seeds in the first round. Over the past five years, the Ivy League champion has gone 2-3 in Round of 64 games. Those contests have been decided by an average of 4.6 points. Yale has played major opponents tight this season and won't be intimidated. The Bulldogs definitely have what it takes to exploit Baylor's porous defense and be the latest No. 12 seed to knock off a No. 5.

Prediction: Yale 66, Baylor 64

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.