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2021 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds, Pick, Prediction: How to Bet Villanova vs. Baylor

2021 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds, Pick, Prediction: How to Bet Villanova vs. Baylor article feature image

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: MaCio Teague.

Villanova vs. Baylor Odds

Villanova Odds+7.5
Baylor Odds-7.5
Moneyline+250 / -300
Time | TV5:15 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds updated Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET and via BetMGM.

Both Villanova and Baylor had big question marks entering the NCAA Tournament.

Baylor’s defensive efficiency fell off a cliff following its COVID-19 hiatus. Meanwhile, Villanova’s star point guard and team leader Collin Gillespie suffered a season-ending knee injury.

However, both teams looked very strong in the first weekend of the tournament.

Baylor beat Hartford by 24 and Wisconsin by 13, while Villanova beat Winthrop by 10 and North Texas by 23. All-in-all, both took care of business against inferior teams.

Now, both teams face the toughest challenge of their tournament run. Both Baylor and Villanova love to shoot the 3-ball and play questionable defense, so I’d expect fireworks this game.

However, Villanova might have matchup issues against a Baylor team that’s trending upwards. Let’s look into where the value lies in this game.

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The Matchup

From a purely statistical perspective, there are some very peculiar matchups to analyze in this game.

First, both teams feature explosive, high-scoring offenses.

Both Baylor and Villanova love to shoot 3s and both make them at a high rate, specifically Baylor, which paces the nation in 3-point percentage (41.5%). Entering this game, Baylor is third and Villanova sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.

Curiously, neither team gets to the line very often. Both teams rank outside the top 200 in free-throw rate, and Baylor shoots less than 70% from the line. Instead, both teams are super-efficient from the floor.

Second, both teams have been very questionable on defense.

In the seven games following Baylor’s three-week COVID-19 pause, the Bears finished with an adjusted defensive efficiency score of 100 or more in six of them, per Torvik. Baylor was also 6-1 to the over in that seven-game stretch, allowing tons of points on defense.

For Villanova, the defensive problems are much further reaching. The Wildcats simply can’t defend from the floor. Villanova is 221st in defensive effective field goal percentage (51.2%), 238th in the nation in defensive 3-point percentage (34.9%) and 204th in the nation in defensive 2-point percentage (50.4%).

However, Villanova is able to keep games relatively lower-scoring because it plays at a snail’s pace. The Wildcats rank 332nd in adjusted tempo and thereby allow only 66.5 points per game, which ranked second in the Big East.

Third, Villanova’s offensive turnover rate against Baylor’s rate of forcing turnovers will be a battle.

Villanova plays slow and methodical on offense, where it ranks 297th in average possession length. However, it still scores a lot because it never turns the ball over. In fact, Villanova is first in the country in offensive turnover percentage.

Meanwhile, Baylor’s no-middle defensive attack is predicated on forcing turnovers. Baylor is third in the nation in defensive turnover percentage. It’ll be important to monitor which team wins the turnover battle today.

Finally, Baylor and Villanova are polar opposites on the glass.

Baylor is an offensive rebounding machine. It ranks sixth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and pulls down more than 12 per game. However, the Bears don't rebound well on the defensive end, ranking 261st in defensive rebounding percentage and averaging just 23.8 defensive rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Villanova is a top-70 team in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage but falls outside the top 180 in offensive rebounding percentage.

Betting Analysis & Pick

While the longer-term statistical trends might predict a dog fight, there are a few monumentally important factors that make Baylor -7.5 the smart play.

The first is Gillespie’s injury.

The Wildcats are first in the country in offensive turnover percentage. But without its starting point guard, how will Villanova fair against a Baylor backcourt that forces turnovers at one of the highest rates in the nation?

Moreover, Baylor features the best backcourt in the nation. Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague are three of the most talented two-way guards in college basketball. All three can handle the ball, score with efficiency and defend multiple positions.

Without Gillespie, there’s no way the Wildcat backcourt can match up offensively or defensively. When Baylor and Villanova played during non-conference play last season, Gillespie scored 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting and Villanova still lost by 11.

The Wildcats are going to miss Gillespie in this one.

Villanova has adjusted quite well without Gillespie, relying more on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels.

Unfortunately for them, Baylor’s defense looks to be back on track. In their first two tournament games, the Bears posted their two best single-game adjusted defensive efficiency scores since Jan. 27. They allowed just .71 points per possession against Hartford and just .98 against Wisconsin.

It’s only a two-game sample size, but it seems Scott Drew only needed a few days off to round the Bears defense into form. Baylor looked much sharper in the first weekend, and I expect that to carry over to the Sweet 16.

Meanwhile, Villanova still can’t defend. Its perimeter defense is awful, and Baylor is the best perimeter shooting team in the country. Plus, Villanova’s interior defense is terrible, which will allow Baylor’s guards will drive to the basket at will.

The sharps agree. Per the Action Network PRO Report, we’ve already tracked sharp and big money coming in on Baylor. At the time of this writing, the Bears are receiving just 32% of the bets but 75% of the money.

The smart play is laying the points with Baylor. The Bears are trending upward, and the Wildcats will be helpless without their star point guard.

I’d play Baylor up to -8.5.

Pick: Baylor -7.5 (up to -8.5).

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