March Madness Odds, Preview, Pick: How to Bet Arkansas vs. Baylor In the Elite 8
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Desi Sills.
Arkansas vs. Baylor Odds
|Moneyline||+290 / -380|
|Time||Monday, 9:57 p.m. ET|
On Saturday night in the Sweet 16, both Baylor and Arkansas showed excellent coaching, talent and toughness as they pulled off remarkable comeback victories to seal this Elite Eight matchup on Monday night.
Baylor trailed by seven points at halftime against Villanova before outscoring the Wildcats by 18 in the second half. Meanwhile, Arkansas trailed by 12 with less than 15 minutes remaining against Oral Roberts before leading a late-game charge that earned the Razorbacks a two-point victory.
Both teams made remarkable in-game adjustments during their comebacks. The Bears and Razorbacks also showed how versatile their offensive attacks can be.
Given the high-level of coaching and two-way talent on both teams, this could be the best game of the tournament. However, sports investors aren’t watching for the entertainment.
So, let’s see where the value lies. The best way to do that is by analyzing both teams’ most recent victories, specifically looking at what the Bears and Razorbacks did right during their respective comebacks.
Baylor’s Win vs. Villanova
While Arkansas’ offensive adjustments were impressive, Baylor’s offensive adjustments were even better.
Baylor got punched in the mouth by Villanova in the first half. Wildcats coach Jay Wright decided to pressure the perimeter, and it worked in the first half. Baylor managed just 23 first-half points while shooting only 2-for-12 from 3-point land.
So, the best 3-point shooting team in the country switched gears. Its uber-quick guards started driving the lane and taking advantage of the mismatches in the backcourt.
Here’s what Baylor’s four guards did in the first half:
|2-point FG||3-point FG|
Here’s what Baylor’s four guards did in the second half:
|2-point FG||3-point FG|
Taking fewer perimeter shots and more inside the arc worked.
Baylor scored 39 second-half points while making just one 3-pointer. The Bears proved they’re not a one-dimensional, perimeter-dominated offense. Baylor will take whatever the defense gives it.
Baylor’s defense also came to life in the second half. A pillar of Scott Drew’s no-middle defense is forcing turnovers via active hands in the passing lanes, which is why Baylor is third in the country in defensive turnover percentage.
In the second half against Villanova, the Bears forced nine turnovers on their way to allowing just 21 second-half points. Additionally, Baylor held the Wildcats to just 9-for-33 shooting in the final 20 minutes.
All of the questions surrounding Baylor’s defense seem to have been answered. In its three tournament games, Baylor has an adjusted defensive efficiency of 83.1 while allowing just .86 points per possession, per Torvik.
After stumbling at the end of the regular season, Baylor has reminded everyone that it’s still a championship team thus far in the NCAA Tournament.
Arkansas’ Win vs. Oral Roberts
To reiterate, Arkansas was down 12 points with under 15 minutes left against the No. 15-seed Golden Eagles. But, once again, head coach Eric Musselman and the comeback kids did it again.
That marks the 11th time this season that Arkansas has been down double-digits and still won. This one was more stressful than others, but a win is a win.
So, what did Arkansas start doing right?
Arkansas has been one of the more well-rounded teams in the nation this season. However, its offense has been an issue recently. Since the start of the SEC Tournament, the Razorbacks boast an adjusted offensive efficiency of just 100.4, per Torvik.
A 100.4 adjusted offensive efficiency extended over this full season would put the Razorbacks at about 215th in the nation, right above Iona.
It’s worth noting that this recent offensive stretch has been against tournament-quality defenses, but Arkansas is definitely having offensive issues. Over this five-game stretch, it’s shooting just 42% from the field and 25% from 3-point land.
Against Oral Roberts, the Razorbacks’ offensive woes were on full display. Arkansas managed just 28 points in the first half while shooting just 1-for-7 from beyond the arc against the worst statistical defense in the tournament.
However, in the second half, Arkansas simply used its size and athletic ability to bully a much smaller Oral Roberts team. It got to the rim at will, scoring all 44 of its second-half points from inside the arc or at the charity stripe.
On the other hand, the Razorbacks’ defense played well. Oral Roberts is no joke offensively, as it boasts two pro-level scorers and averages over 80 points per game.
Arkansas managed to hold the Golden Eagles to just 8-for-31 shooting from 3-point range and only 35 points in each half.
The Arkansas defense has been trending up. It’s 5-0 to the under since the SEC Tournament started and has posted an adjusted defensive efficiency score of less than 90 in each of those games. After this stretch, Arkansas has skyrocketed up to eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
It’s no surprise that the Razorbacks are elite defensively. The roster features a group of extremely long and athletic players who all can defend multiple positions.
The key for Arkansas is to utilize those traits on offense. If I was Musselman, I would put the ball in the hands of Moses Moody, Jalen Tate, or Davonte Davis and tell them to drive to the rim.
That could be the key to beating a Baylor team that features a bunch of small perimeter defenders.
Betting Analysis & Pick
This is a tight game. Both teams are playing great at the right time.
Baylor is an amazing two-way basketball team. Its offense can score every which way, and its defense is trending up. Mitchell, Butler, Teague and Flager are four of the most active and athletic two-way guards in the country.
However, Arkansas has a group of players who are just as athletic but also much bigger. The size advantage for the Razorbacks is going to be huge in this game on both ends, especially after they showed they can bully smaller teams like Oral Roberts.
Baylor’s defense is playing at an elite level, and Arkansas’ offense has shown signs of struggle recently.
However, bigger ball-handlers are Baylor’s Achilles heel. Mark Vital can play suffocating man-to-man defense on anyone, but Baylor’s backcourt is small and Arkansas is flush with longer guys who can exploit mismatches.
While Baylor’s offense is one of the best, the Bears will probably struggle to shoot over and score on Arkansas’ length. Not to mention Arkansas has been playing otherworldly defense recently.
Arkansas is 14-2 straight up and 12-4 against the spread in its last 16 games, and it’s catching seven points against Baylor.
That’s too many.
Between two elite defenses and Arkansas’ length, this game is going to be a grind. Therefore, I’m going to take the points with Arkansas here. However, I wouldn’t play it at any better than +6.5.
Pick: Arkansas +7.5 (down to +6.5).