Baylor provides an early appetizer of hoop action Sunday as it attempts to extend its season for another game.
The Bears (19-14) are the No. 1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament. It gives them a chance to host Mississippi State (23-11), which finished tied for seventh in the Southeastern Conference. The game will be at the Ferrell Center in Waco on Sunday, March 18.
Baylor was the top team not selected for the NCAA Tournament. But the Bears cratered late in the season, losing four of their last five games before beating Wagner in the first round of the NIT.
The Bulldogs appeared to be headed for the NCAA Tournament before a tough late stretch that saw them lose three of their last four games. Included were home and road losses to regular-season SEC champion Tennessee.
Find game time, information and a preview below:
Baylor-Mississippi State game time, details
Time: 12 p.m. CT
Date: Sunday March 18, 2018
Location: Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas
Which TV channel is Baylor-Mississippi State on?
Baylor-Mississippi State airs live on ESPN.
How can I watch Baylor-Mississippi State online?
You can stream Baylor-Mississippi State on the ESPN app.
Baylor-Mississippi State basketball preview, keys to the game
The Bears started their NIT run with an impressive 80-59 victory over Wagner, giving them 10 wins in their last 11 games in the tournament.
The most notable takeaway from the Wagner game was the strong defensive effort by the Bears, who limited the Seahawks to 30 percent shoot and 20 percent from 3-point territory.
One concern was that they allowed Wagner, a much smaller team, to grab 20 offensive rebounds. They must improve against Mississippi State.
With Jake Lindsey hobbled by a hip injury, Baylor guard Manu Lecomte emerged with a big game against Wagner with 24 points and 6 assists. He’ll need to be similarly productive against a tougher opponent playing for the Bulldogs.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs advanced after a 66-59 home overtime victory over No. 5 seed Nebraska on Wednesday.
Veteran coach directs UCLA
The Bulldogs are coached by Ben Howland, who has taken them to the postseason for the first time in his three-season stint coaching there. He is most known for his UCLA career, leading led the Bruins to five straight NCAA tournament appearances. They made Final Four trips three times from 2006-08, including a runner-up finish to Florida in 2006.
It will be a battle of strengths in Sunday’s games. The Bears have outscored 29 of their 33 opponents in the paint. But they will be challenged by a talented, mobile inside presence from Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs are 11th nationally in blocked shots and have two strong defenders in Aric Coleman and Abdul Ado who both average more than 1.7 rejections per game.
Howland’s team struggles shooting from the perimeter, shooting only 31.2 percent from 3-point territory. It’s 332nd among the 351 Division I teams. Coleman is the only player in their rotation who shoots at least 33 percent. They also struggle from the foul line, hitting 68.6 percent to rank 276th nationally.
Past NIT success for Baylor
Baylor has been successful in the NIT in the past. The Bears advanced to the 2009 NIT finals before losing to Penn State in the championship game. And they won the 2013 NIT title with a 74-54 victory over Iowa in the finals.
Both teams will play with some new rules mandated by the NIT. The game will feature four 10-minute quarters rather than two 20-minute halves. The 3-point line will be extended by 1 feet, 8 inches to 22 feet, 7 inches. It is the configuration employed for international competition.
The free throw lane will be widened from 12 feet to 16 feet, the same width used in the NBA. And after a missed shot, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound. The current NCAA rule provides a fresh 30-second shot clock362.
Baylor struggles in previous games with Bulldogs
Mississippi State holds a 2-1 lead in the series against the Bears, including an 84-75 home win in the 1990 NIT. Mississippi State also claimed a 70-61 triumph in 1959. Baylor notched a 54-52 triumph in Dallas in 2011.
Baylor has opened as a 6-point favorite in the rare Sunday afternoon game in Waco.
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