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PREVIEW: #6 Villanova at #2 Baylor

A Sweet Sixteen rematch awaits the Wildcats in Waco

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Villanova at Baylor IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch:

Date: Sunday, December 12, 2021

Time: 3:00pm EST

Venue: Ferrell Center - Waco, TX

TV: ABC (Jon Sciambi, Dick Vitale & Kris Budden)

Streaming: WatchESPN

Betting Odds

Spread: BAY: -3.5 (-110) | NOVA: +3.5 (-110)

Total: 137.5

via: Odds Shark

The Villanova Wildcats (7-2) are set to face the Baylor Bears (8-0) in a Sweet Sixteen rematch this Sunday in Waco, Texas.

The last time these two teams met was in the 2020 Sweet Sixteen. During that game, Villanova was leading for a majority of the first half and even took a seven point advantage into the halftime break. Ultimately, a Collin Gillespie-less Wildcats fell short to the eventual national champions, though a valiant effort.

While the Baylor Bears lost four of their starters from last years National Championship team, they have a chance to reclaim the number one overall ranking with a win over Villanova this Sunday. The Bears have a balanced scoring attack that is led by sophomore guard L.J. Cryer’s 15.4 points per game. Other contributors include Kendall Brown and Matthew Mayer who average 13.4 and 11.6 points per game on average, respectively. Baylor is tops in the nation in both offense and defensive efficiency, which are testaments to their number two overall ranking. In addition to being incredibly efficient, the Bears also thrive on the offensive glass, an area in which Villanova has not been particularly good at during the early stages of the season. Led by James Akinjo’s 2.2 steals per game, it should be no surprise that the Bears are also top five in the country in steals, forcing over 11 steals per contest. It is hard to find any flaws in Scott Drew’s basketball program, but one glaring statistic I found is their strength of schedule. Baylor is currently ranked as the NET 248th team in terms of strength of schedule, where as Villanova comes in at 38th. This will be the first true test for the Bears, and should be must-see-tv.

As for the Wildcats, they will come into this game after a very strong second half performance against ex-Big East foe, Syracuse. In that meeting at Madison Square Garden, the Wildcats relied heavily on the three-ball, shooting a program record fifty threes in the win. Led by the red-hot Collin Gillespie and sharpshooting Justin Moore, the Wildcats will look to emulate that performance against a stout Baylor defense. Unlike the rest of the Villanova games, in their last contest, the Wildcats had more rebounds than three point attempts, a welcome sight for the NovaNation. If they want to stay in the game early against Baylor they will need to rebound just as, if not more, efficiently than they have previously. The good news for the Wildcats coming into this contest is that six man Caleb Daniels is finally starting to show flashes of the player he was at Tulane before he transferred to Villanova. We all know Villanova’s biggest weakness is their depth, so if Caleb Daniels can keep contributing quality minutes off the bench for the Wildcats, it will go a long way not only in this matchup with Baylor, but down the road as well.

Like CBS analyst Jon Rothstein always says; ‘Who needs the NFL’. This rematch on Sunday will be appointment television for any and all college hoops lovers. Baylor will come into this game putting their perfect record on the line in a top-six showdown. With a win, Baylor would (likely) vault into the number one overall ranking, which is certainly enough incentive to bring their a-game. As for Villanova, although they would never say it, it would be hard to believe that they did not have this game circled on the calendar as soon as the schedule released. They were toe-to-toe with the eventual national champions without their best player just a few months ago. Villanova is excellent at controlling the pace and protecting the basketball. Baylor is excellent at forcing turnovers and running the floor. An unstoppable force versus and immovable object. This is going to be good.

My Prediction: 78-74 Villanova