After nearly a week off, the No. 5 seed Villanova Wildcats will take on the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears in a South Region Sweet 16 matchup on Saturday.
Let’s take a closer look at this matchup with our Villanova vs. Baylor betting pick that includes odds, analysis and ATS prediction.
Villanova vs. Baylor Betting Pick
After bouncing back with two impressive wins to start the tournament, Villanova finds itself as an underdog for the first time all season. Let’s dissect whether the Bears have what it takes to cover a sizable number against the resurgent Wildcats.
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Villanova vs. Baylor Odds
Here are the latest Villanova vs. Baylor odds listed at DraftKings Sportsbook:
|Villanova||+7.5 (-110)||+240||O 141.5 (-110)|
|Baylor||-7.5 (-110)||-295||U 141.5 (-110)|
As mentioned above, it is interesting to see Villanova as an underdog for the first time this season, let alone a dog of this magnitude, receiving upwards of 7.5 points at most online sportsbooks.
There is a short list of teams deserving of laying such a number to a Nova team that was fast-tracked for a No. 1 seed at points this season, and Baylor is certainly on that list.
With an electric offense, a Big 12 resume, and just two losses across the entirety of this season, the Bears bring a very different challenge for the Wildcats than did their first two NCAA Tournament opponents, No. 12 seed Winthrop and No. 13 seed North Texas.
The total of 141.5 has jumped up from an opening number of 138 and with Baylor’s top-end scoring offense and Nova’s 78.5 ppg average in two tournament games, this seems completely reasonable. After all, the Wildcats saw their lowest total of the season last time out against North Texas and sailed over that 125.5 number by nearly 20 points.
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Why Villanova Can Cover the Spread
Villanova has done much to dispel bettors’ valid concerns that it was a lost team without Collin Gillespie in the lineup. Nova went from losing two straight without him to finish their Big East season to winning two straight both SU and ATS with relative ease in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has more than picked up the slack, averaging 20 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, and 6 assists per game. The Wildcats’ defense has upped its game as well, allowing just 62 points per contest in two games to start the tourney. If the game is close late, Nova has one of the best free throw shooting groups in the country, which could make the difference against a subpar free throw shooting group from Waco.
Of note, the Wildcats were 11-1 SU on at least three days of rest this season, managing a 7-1 SU record on long rest against opponents also coming in with at least three days off.
You would have to go back to last season to see this, but the Wildcats have not lost any of their last four games ATS as an underdog. They’ve also covered five of their last six games as dogs on a neutral court.
At the end of the day, since 2016, this has kind of been the Wildcats’ tournament. Besides winning the whole thing twice since then, they have also covered 17 of their last 22 games in the Big Dance. Without a single loss ATS in their last five games against teams with above a .600 winning percentage, it is completely reasonable for Nova backers to believe their team can cover this large number, if not win the game outright.
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Why Baylor Can Cover the Spread
Baylor, despite laying a large number to a team that has yet to be an underdog all season, has every reason to believe it is at least 10 points better than this Villanova team.
Baylor and Gonzaga were runaways as the nation’s two best teams for much of the early portion of the season. The Bears won 17 straight to start their season, winning those games by an insane 24.2 points per game.
In fact, the only thing that has truly slowed this team down at any point this season has been a 21-day stoppage forced upon it due to COVID-19.
After that layoff, the Bears beat Iowa State by just five as a 24-point favorite, then lost to Kansas and bareely edged West Virginia in overtime. They followed those lackluster performances with four missed covers in their next five games, one of which was another outright loss, this time to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament.
This poor run of form tempered bettors’ faith in the Bears and, with it, oddsmakers’ treatment of their line in the Round of 32.
But a convincing win over Wisconsin coupled with the team’s first real chance to recover and gameplan since its layoff (nine games in 27 days before this six-day break), should allow one of the nation’s best teams to finally put its best foot forward again.
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Villanova vs. Baylor Prediction
Through a season that showed Baylor’s true colors early on, but then set them up to fail after a three-week break beyond its control, we think the six-day respite before this game will pay huge dividends for the Bears. They boast the nation’s best three-point shooting percentage (42.9%) as part of the third-highest scoring offense (85.3 ppg) and 13th-ranked field goal percentage offense (49.7%).
The Bears were a strong 6-1 ATS this season when favorites of 3-8 points and 21 of their 24 wins came by 8+ points, good enough to cover this spread.
These two teams met early last season and Baylor handled the Wildcats at home with a nine-point win as a small underdog.
Baylor returns that team mainly intact, while Villanova now has to try to close the gap without Gillespie and Saddiq Bey (now on the Pistons), who combined for 43 of the ‘Cats 78 points in that head-to-head loss. Without those two here to help, it is unlikely the Wildcats will be able to keep pace with the high-scoring Bears.
Villanova vs. Baylor ATS Pick: Baylor -7.5