The first round of the 2021 March Madness starts Friday, March 19, so here’s the best betting pick for the South Region clash between the No. 12 Winthrop Eagles and the No. 12 Villanova Wildcats at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis.
Winthrop has never met Villanova before, and the Eagles are 6.5-point underdogs for Friday night’s clash at the moment, according to PointsBet Sportsbook. The Wildcats should’ve been double-digit favorites, but they lost senior guard Collin Gillespie (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) due to a knee injury.
The Eagles are keen to upset the odds in the first round
After finishing atop of the Big South Conference with a 17-1 record, the Winthrop Eagles cruised through the championship tournament, outlasting their rivals by an average margin of 25.7 points. They routed High Point 83-54, Longwood 82-61, and Campbell 80-53 en route to their first appearance in the Big Dance since 2017 when they exited in the first round.
Four Winthrop players average points in double figures, while the Eagles rank 120th in the country in offensive efficiency (105.2 points per 100 possessions) and 69th in field goal percentage (46.1%). Winthrop surrenders 96.2 points per 100 possessions (69th in the country) on 43.1% shooting from the field (165th).
The Eagles are No. 55 in the NCAA NET Rankings. Senior forward Chandler Vaudrin (12.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG) is a key guy in this Winthrop team and someone who gives everything for his team’s cause on both sides of the floor. Senior guard Charles Falden averages 10.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a night, while another senior G Adonis Arms adds 10.5 points and 4.8 boards per game, mostly coming off the bench.
The Wildcats have to regroup ahead of the NCAA championship
The Villanova Wildcats couldn’t overcome Collin Gillespie’s absence in their last two outings. After a 54-52 defeat at Providence in their regular-season finale, the Wildcats lost to Georgetown in the Big East Conference Championship Tournament Quarterfinal, 72-71.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with an 11-4 record in the conference play and atop of the Big East. They are No. 17 in the NCAA NET Rankings and No. 12 in the KenPom rankings.
Villanova ranks ninth in the country in offensive efficiency (118.7) and 68th in defensive efficiency (96.0). The Wildcats make 45.0% of their field goals (121st in the nation) and 35.2% of their 3-pointers (110th) while handing out 15.3 assists per game (55th).
Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 15.7 points on 49.3% shooting per game. He also adds 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists a night, while sophomore guard Justin Moore tallies 12.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.9 dimes per contest.
- 5-2 ATS in the last seven games overall
- 10-0 ATS in the last ten outings as underdogs
- 3-6 ATS in the last nine games played in March
The Wildcats are not exactly the same team with Collin Gillespie at the shelf. They could easily struggle against Winthrop in the first round, especially if they continue to play mediocre defense. The Wildcats allow their opponents to shoot 44.6% from the field (227th) and 35.3% from downtown (267th).
Villanova should win this game, but the Eagles should have enough firepower to keep it close. Winthrop leans on a bunch of upperclassmen who won’t be distracted by the big occasion. The Eagles are a solid defensive team and possess enough depth to stay aggressive for all 40 minutes, so I’m backing them to cover an 8.5-point spread.
Pick: Take Winthrop Eagles +8.5 at -145
The totals will depend a lot on the pace of this clash, as each team will desperately look to establish its style of play. While the Wildcats average only 65.1 possessions per 40 minutes (320th in the nation), the Eagles record a whopping 73.6 (11th).
I would stick with the Eagles to cover, but the under seems like a tempting option. Four of Villanova’s last six games went in the under and none of them produced more than 143 points in total. Also, the under is 5-1 in Winthrop’s previous six contests, and just one of those six tilts produced more than 143 points in total.
Pick: Go under 143.0 points at -110