How to Watch:
Date: Saturday, March 27th, 2021
Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
Venue: Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
TV: CBS (Brian Anderson, Jim Jackson & Allie LaForce)
Streaming: March Madness Live
Moneyline: BAY: (-295) | NOVA: (+240)
Spread: BAY: -6.5 (-110) | NOVA: +6.5 (-110)
Total: 138.5 - Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)
Odds to Win NCAA National Championship: BAY: (+440) | NOVA: (+2600)
via: FanDuel Sportsbook
The No. 5 Villanova Wildcats (18-6) are set to face off against the No. 1 Baylor Bears (24-2) in this Saturday evening’s premier Sweet 16 matchup. Baylor, a popular pick to cut down the nets in April, will be looking to advance to the Elite 8 for just the third time in program history, all since 2010. Villanova on the other hand will look to accomplish the same feat for the third time in their last five tournament appearances. With everything on the line, this bout between two title hopefuls is shaping up to be the game of the tournament thus far.
The Baylor Bears will be coming into this matchup after handily defeating a very good Wisconsin Badgers team in the round of 32. Led by a pair of sharp-shooting juniors in Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, the Bears boast the best three-point shooting percentage in the country at just over 41%. In addition to Mitchell and Butler, Baylor is anchored by Jerry West Award Finalist MaCio Teague and the winningest player in Big 12 history, Mark Vital.
Not only does Baylor have the firepower of the aforementioned four-headed monster, but they also have one of the deepest benches remaining in the tournament, featuring thirteen players who have appeared in over ten games for the Bears. The key to success for Baylor will be playing within themselves and not finding themselves in a hole early. Villanova does not defend the three well, at all, so I would expect a barrage of three-point shot attempts from Baylor early and often. If they can stymy the Wildcats hot shooting of late, and limit Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the post, the Bears will likely advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2012.
For Villanova, this will be the first time all season that they have come into a game as an underdog. The Wildcats are coming off two impressive wins in classic Villanova fashion, by playing gritty defense and thriving beyond the arc. While it has gone somewhat unnoticed, the Wildcats' defensive efforts have been ramped up over the past five weeks as well, holding opponents to 40% or below from the field in each of their contests in that stretch.
Villanova is 12-0 this season when holding opponents to 70 points or fewer, so while that task is very much easier said than done, especially against a team like Baylor, the key to success for the Wildcats will be defensive pressure, with regard to three-point shooting. As crazy as it sounds, Villanova is actually in a good spot for this game. Jay Wright has had a week to prepare for the Bears, and Villanova will be coming into this game as an underdog and a team with nothing to lose. That is a combination that no number one seed would want to face in a Sweet 16 matchup.
Villanova is 16-2 in the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and if they want to keep adding to that number they will have to bring their A-game against Baylor. Anything less will result in a first-class ticket back to The Main Line. I am confident Jay Wright will have his team ready for the Baylor Bears and the Wildcats will not go down without a fight. With that being said, I do believe that the combination of Baylor’s, talent, depth, and experience will be too much for the under-manned Villanova team to handle. Baylor was the third most popular pick to cut down the nets on ESPN’s Bracket Challenge for a reason. I am taking Scott Drew’s Bears in a thriller, 82-75.