Sunday College Basketball Odds, Picks for Villanova vs. Baylor: Winner Likely to Become Top-Ranked Team
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie.
- Baylor hosts Villanova Sunday afternoon for a likely battle for the nation's top ranking.
- The Bears have the physicality and defensive edge, but can the Wildcats overcome it with their strong offense?
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the game below and gives his top pick.
Villanova vs. Baylor Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Although it’s only December, college basketball has brought us buzzer beaters, star performances and the nation’s No. 1 team going down three weeks in a row.
With Ron Harper Jr. making the shot of the year over Purdue, it’s likely the winner of this Villanova-Baylor matchup will take over that spot on Monday.
So, ipso facto, this is the most-important college hoops game to date.
Which team has the edge?
Villanova has the offense to beat Baylor’s defense. But Baylor is going to play more physically, specifically on the defensive end.
Let’s dive into this matchup a little deeper.
Despite their 7-2 record, the Wildcats resumé is more than adequate. Their two losses came to UCLA and Purdue, and they sport convincing wins over Tennessee and Syracuse.
Villanova’s roster is so experienced that it runs Jay Wright’s offense to perfection.
The Wildcats play slow (351st in tempo), pass effectively around the perimeter (54.5% A/FGM) without turning the ball over (ninth in turnover rate), and shoot and make a lot from deep (11th in 3PA/FGA, 19th in 3P%).
Collin Gillespie is the straw that stirs the drink. He’s the primary ball-handler while being ranked nationally in assist rate and turnover rate. Plus, he’s shooting almost 45% from deep, often off the dribble.
Collin Gillespie over Johnny Juzang to give Nova the lead 💧 pic.twitter.com/3NkTjXeU90
— ESPN (@espn) November 13, 2021
But lest we forget the other ‘Nova upperclassmen. Justin Moore, Jermaine Samuels and Brandon Slater are combining to average 40.6 points per game with an average ORtg over 120.
All in all, the roster is so in sync and the offense is so finely tuned, that it’s impossible to stop. Villanova is scoring 1.024 PPP in the half-court, which is better than all but six teams.
The defense is iffy, and the Wildcats are undersized on the interior. The 6-foot-7 Samuels and the 6-foot-8 Eric Dixon rotate at the 5, and the Wildcats are 323rd in block rate as a result.
The interior is where Baylor will really need to establish itself.
Matt Mayer, Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua are versatile big men leading an offense that’s top-30 nationally in 2-point shooting (56.1%) and top-five nationally in offensive rebounding rate.
Mayer could have a big game. He’s a matchup nightmare. At 6-foot-9, he’s a solid ball-handler, slasher and shooter, and he could take advantage of Slater and Samuels.
Two things are clear about Matthew Mayer
– His hair is feathered and lethal
– He's got some moves pic.twitter.com/9EXbMeYVFy
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 27, 2021
Before the season, I thought Mayer would have a breakout season. However, he’s been inconsistent at times. One night, he’s scoring 15 on a ferocious VCU defense. The next night, he’s scoring four on 0-for-4 shooting from 3 against Stanford.
While the Baylor frontcourt has been predictably good, the Baylor backcourt is a complete surprise. Scott Drew lost three guards and his three best players, but LJ Cryer and Arizona transfer James Akinjo has replaced a lot of that production.
So far, those two are combining for 25.3 points, 8.2 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Akinjo is shooting 36.4% from deep while Cryer is shooting a whopping 47.9%. Both create their own shots, run the offense well, and are very active defenders.
The Baylor defense hasn’t lost a step despite the roster turnover. Drew runs a no-middle scheme, derived from Chris Beard, designed to force ball-handlers baseline and away from the rim. When it’s working, offenses are forced into inefficient jumpers or long, turnover-prone skip passes.
Credit: Coach Matt Dennis
So far, Baylor allows the seventh-lowest percentage of shots at the rim and ranks third in defensive turnover rate. The Bears defense is top-10 in defensive efficiency as a result, which is even better than last season.
But, the way you beat Baylor is optimal weak-side spacing, crisp cross-court passing, and 3-point shooting. Villanova excels in all three of those areas.
Villanova vs. Baylor Betting Pick
This spread opened around Baylor -3.5 but has since been pushed up to -5. Like the sharps, I also lean Baylor, but five points is a lot for a game of this magnitude.
This game is going to be a thriller. Both teams play slow, but each have matchup advantages on the offensive end. Plus, I’m expecting the Wildcats and Bears to show up on Sunday afternoon, playing for that No. 1 ranking.
Therefore, I love the over, which has already been bet up a point from its open of 137.5.
As mentioned, optimal spacing and lights-out perimeter shooting is how you beat the no-middle. Wright’s Wildcats are the ideal team to beat this defense.
Meanwhile, the Bears have interior advantages against a middling Villanova defense.
While both teams play at a relatively low tempo, both will score with impossible efficiency. I’ll happily bet that both teams reach 70 in the game of the year.