NCAA Basketball: Baylor/Villanova Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/27/2021

by Big Al Staff

Villanova plays Baylor in a Sweet 16 matchup in the South region on CBS at 5:15 PM ET.

The Wildcats advanced to their third Sweet 16 in the last five tournaments with an 84-61 victory against North Texas as a 4.5-point favorite on Sunday. Villanova nailed 15 of 30 shots from 3-point land, with eight different players contributing. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored 18 points, and Jermaine Samuels added 15 points. The Wildcats won the National Championship under Jay Wright in 2016 and 2018, the last two times the program reached the Sweet 16.

Villanova has adapted to being without Collin Gillespie, who suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this month. The senior point guard was averaging 14.0 points-per-game with 3.3 rebounds-per-game and 4.6 assists-per-game. Wright has shifted the offense to revolve around Robinson-Earl, who has averaged 20.0 points-per-game and 8.5 rebounds-per-game in his two games in this NCAA Tournament. The 6’9 sophomore averages 16.0 points-per-game and 8.3 rebounds-per-game for the season. Justin Moore has taken on more of the point guard duties in Gillespie’s absence. The sophomore averaged 15.0 points-per-game and 3.5 assists-per-game in the first two rounds of this tournament.

The Wildcats rank 11th in the kenpom ratings with an 18-6 record. They finished 11-4 in the Big East regular season before getting upset by Georgetown, 72-71, in the conference tournament quarterfinals in their second game without Gillespie. Wright has seen eight games postponed this season, including six straight during a COVID pause in late December through mid-January. They have registered three wins against NCAA Tournament teams: Creighton, UConn, and Texas. They earned the fifth seed in the South region.

Villanova ranks eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They lead the nation with a turnover rate of 13.8%. They make 35.8% of their 3-point shots, ranking 72nd nationally, with 45.1% of their field goal attempts being from distance, ranking 27th nationally. They have a balanced attack with four players averaging at least 9.9 points-per-game even after losing Gillespie. The Wildcats are 72nd in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are fourth in the Big East with a defensive turnover rate of 19.4%. Villanova has an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 51.2%, with these foes making 34.9% of their 3-point attempts, ranking 221st and 238th nationally.

Baylor won their sixth game in their last seven with their 76-63 victory against Wisconsin as a 3.5-point favorite on Sunday. Davion   Mitchell led the team with 16 points. The Bears forced 14 turnovers which represented 21.9% of the Badgers’ possessions.

The Baylor defense has been an area of concern since a three-week pause from COVID in February. The Bears had not allowed more than 69 points in their eight conference games before their shutdown after February 2nd. When they returned on February 23rd, they allowed at least 70 points in five Big 12 games and six of seven overall going into the NCAA Tournament. In their two tournament games against Hartford and Wisconsin, Baylor allowed 59.0 points-per-game with a 40.4% opponent’s field goal percentage.

Junior Jared Butler leads the team with a 16.9 points-per-game average. Senior Macio Teague adds 16.1 points-per-game, with Mitchell contributing another 14.1 points-per-game. Scott Drew has a deep rotation with nine players averaging at least 10.9 minutes per game. Drew had six players return from the Baylor rotation that finished 26-4 last year.

The Bears rank third in the kenpom ratings with a 24-2 record. They finished 13-1 in the Big 12 regular season before getting upset in the conference tournament semifinals to Oklahoma State, 83-74. Baylor has wins against Illinois, Texas Tech (twice), and Wisconsin, who rank in kenpom’s top-twenty. The Bears’ two losses are against Kansas and the Cowboys. They are the top seed in the South region.

Baylor is third-best nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom. They lead the nation with a 41.5% shooting percentage from 3-point land. They rank sixth in offensive rebounding by grabbing 36.7% of their missed shots. Drew’s team is the 37th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They force turnovers in 24.7% of their opponent’s possessions, ranking third nationally. If there is a weakness to this team, it is with their defensive rebounding. Baylor allows their opponents to rebound 30.2% of their missed shots, 261st in the nation. The Bears do not get many freebies on the charity stripe, given a free throw rate that ranks 288th nationally.

BetAnySports
lists Baylor as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 141.5 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The victor plays the winner of the Arkansas/Oral Roberts contest.

Computer prediction: Baylor 75 Villanova 66

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.