How to Watch:
Date: Friday, March 19th, 2021
Time: 9:57pm EST
Venue: Indiana Farmers Coliseum - Indianapolis, IN
TV: TNT (Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner & Dana Jacobson)
Streaming: March Madness Live
Moneyline: WIN: (+215) | NOVA: (-260)
Spread: WIN: +6 (-106) | NOVA: -6 (-116)
Total: 141 - Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)
Odds to Win NCAA National Championship: WIN: (+20000) | NOVA: (+5500)
via: FanDuel Sportsbook
The No. 5 Villanova Wildcats (16-6, 11-4) are set to face off against a formidable opponent in the No. 12 Winthrop Eagles (23-1, 17-1) this Friday night in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Winthrop Eagles are riding a smooth seven game winning streak, including a Big South Tournament championship, into the NCAA Tournament. The Villanova Wildcats on the other hand are reeling, dropping each of their last two games since losing Bob Cousy Award finalist Colin Gillespie. Although this is a #12 vs #5 matchup, it sure does not feel like Winthrop is the underdog in this fight.
‘It’d be an upset if Villanova beat Winthrop.’ Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports tweeted out moments after the matchup was announced on the CBS Selection Sunday broadcast. Thamel is not the only one who believes that, as an outpour of blue check marks on Twitter have all voiced the same opinion. However the hype around Winthrop is not unwarranted. At 23-1 the Eagles did not make this tournament by mistake. They are an extremely well coached team with a lot to play for. Led by 6-foot-7 point guard Chandler Vaudrin, the Eagles boast eleven players that average more than eleven minutes per game. That could pose a real problem for an injury-riddled Villanova team, as fatigue will most certainly be a factor. Winthrop is playing their best basketball of the year right now, and they have all the momentum going into this game. If they continue to play their brand of basketball by pushing the pace, controlling the tempo and shooting the other team out of the gym, the 12-seed Eagles will almost certainly be off to a good start on their cinderella campaign.
As for Villanova, the loss of Collin Gillespie has been painfully evident in their most recent games. The Wildcats will need to rely heavily on their veteran leadership to advance to the next round. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will need to continue to be the focal point of this Villanova offense, which may be a lot to ask of him considering this is his first March Madness appearance due to the COVID-19 cancellation last season. Something to keep an eye on will be Jay Wright’s rotations early in the game, especially with role players such as Eric Dixon, Bryan Antoine and Cole Swider. At the end of the day, Villanova is the more talented team, plain and simple. Winthrop only has one win against teams ranked in the top-100 of KenPom’s rankings and has not played a team of Villanova’s caliber this season. Villanova was a borderline 1-seed this entire season until they lost Colin Gillespie, and while the loss of Gillespie hurts the Wildcats, it does not doom them. Expect to see a lot of Wildcats on the floor diving for loose balls, playing gritty defense and cleaning up the offensive boards, because if Jay Wright’s Wildcats get beat, it will certainly not be for lack of heart or attitude.
This late night bout between two teams who are very accustomed to winning will be one of the better matchups on the opening day of March Madness 2021. As previously mentioned, Villanova is the more talented team and if they bring their ‘A’ game, theres very few teams in the country that can extinguish that firepower. With that being said, I do not exactly love this matchup for the Wildcats. I do think they get past this round just based off of talent and coaching alone, but a #5 seed has never won the NCAA Tournament and I think that record is going to be safe and sound. Give me the Wildcats in a close one, 75-74.