The first two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Championship were full of surprises, but two teams in the South Region got their job done, so we’ll see a marquee matchup Saturday, March 27, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The No. Villanova Wildcats will square off against the No. 1 Baylor Bears, and here’s my best betting pick along with the key tips and stats.
According to William Hill Sportsbook, Baylor opened as a 6.5-point fave with a total of 140.5 points. The Bears meet the Wildcats for the first time since November 2019 when Baylor outlasted Villanova 87-78 as a 1.5-point dog in the non-conference play.
The Wildcats had no problems going through the first two rounds
The Villanova Wildcats had a pretty easy job in each of the first two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Championship. After a 73-63 victory over No. 12 Winthrop in the opener, Villanova dismantled the 13rd-seeded North Texas Mean Green in the second round, 84-61.
Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the way for the Wildcats, dropping 22 points on the Eagles and 18 on the Mean Green. He’s averaging 16.0 points and 8.3 rebounds on the season, while sophomore guard Justin Moore is adding 12.8 points and 3.0 assists a night.
The Wildcats have the sixth-best offensive rating in the country, scoring 119.8 points per 100 possessions, but their defense has been an issue thus far. Villanova allows 96.3 points per 100 possessions (71st in the nation) on 44.1% shooting from the field (209th) and 34.9% from downtown (252nd).
The Bears dominated their opponents from start to finish
The Baylor Bears cruised through the first round, thrashing the No. 16 Hartford Hawks 79-55. They met ninth-seeded Wisconsin in the second round and earned a fully-deserved 76-63 victory as 6.5-point favorites.
The Bears turned the ball over only four times against the Badgers while forcing them into 14 turnovers. Junior guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell accounted for 16 points each, while another junior G Matthew Mayer added 17 points off the bench.
Baylor spent most of the season as the No. 2 in the NCAA NET Rankings, just behind the mighty Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bears tally 122.8 points per 100 possessions (3rd in the nation) and surrender 93.0 in a return (37th). They rank 16th in field goal percentage (48.8%) and first in 3-point percentage (41.5%).
- 10-2 ATS in the last 12 games as favorites of 6.5 or fewer points
I’m not going to overthink this one at all. The Wildcats are without their best player, as senior guard Collin Gillespie (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) is sidelined with a knee injury, so they will struggle to cope with Baylor on both sides of the floor.
Villanova has struggled defensively so far, so I’m expecting the Bears to pile on their misery and win this clash by seven or more points. Baylor possesses great depth and will play aggressive defense all night, but the Bears’ prolific offense should be a key factor in this one.
Pick: Take Baylor Bears -6.5 at -110
The Wildcats love to take things slowly, averaging just 64.5 possessions per 40 minutes (332nd in the nation), so the Bears will look to speed up things whenever they can. Baylor is posting 68.5 possessions per 40 minutes (158th).
This is the clash of two teams that both lean on a prolific offense, so I’m backing the over on the totals. Seven of Baylor’s last eight games went in the over, as well as 11 of Villanova’s previous 18 contests overall.
Pick: Go over 140.5 points at -110