Busting Brackets

Baylor vs. Villanova: 2021 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV and prediction

Nov 26, 2020; Uncasville, CT, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (24) reacts with his teammates after a play against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the second half at Mohegan Sun. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2020; Uncasville, CT, USA; Villanova Wildcats forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (24) reacts with his teammates after a play against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the second half at Mohegan Sun. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

After having their potential matchup in November canceled, Baylor and Villanova are on the court, with a spot at the Elite Eight on the line.

Date: March, 27, 5:15 p.m. CBS

Arena: Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Line: Baylor -6.5 (According to DraftKings Sportsbook)

For the second consecutive season, Baylor and Villanova were attempting to play a Non-Conference game against one another, in November. However, COVID had different plans.

Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew was confirmed to have COVID-19 and forced Baylor out of the Mohegan Sun and the chances of playing the Wildcats.

The year prior, the two faced off in among the best non-conference games of the 2019-2020 season. Led by terrific scoring from Jared Butler, Collin Gillespie, and MaCio Teague, Baylor won the first battle, 87-78.

The teams have been on similar paths since. However, the Bears have risen to be a consistent elite over the past few seasons. Baylor has put it to the test in the tournament and has taken care of Hartford and Wisconsin in their first two matchups.

They did it with the usual elite guard play in the starting lineup, but also got a lift from the bench. Baylor struggled during the back half of the season when the bench was limited in scoring.

They have broken the funk in the first two games, with sophomore guard Adam Flagler dropping in 12 points in game one. Matthew Mayer duplicated the success, with 17 points and six rebounds in their win this past Sunday.

Baylor has been the most efficient three-point shooting team in the country, at 41.5% on the season, and has five players that shoot it 40% or better. They are led by Davion Mitchell‘s 46.1% in that category.

The Bears have two projected first-round picks in the backcourt, in Mitchell and Jared Butler. MaCio Teague, who arguably deserves some draft talk, being the final leg of the trio. He averages 16 points and 4.1 rebounds on a team-leading 84.6% free throw clip.

Baylor has found a winning formula and has a ballclub, that has been dominant, throughout the majority of the season.

When it comes to Villanova, they have in some ways, exceeded expectations so far during the tournament. Quite a few brackets from analysts featured the Wildcats missing the sweet sixteen or even some instances, a first-round upset.

Meanwhile, Villanova has stayed the course and relied on what they’re best at to beat Winthrop and North Texas in keeping the basketball. The Wildcats were headlined by a 34-6 run at one point in the second round, that would be a feat the Mean Green could not overcome.

Losing Collin Gillespie lost a lot of hope for a deep title run for the Wildcats. However, Villanova has been competent in their two games in the tournament and showed glimpses of dominance.

Regardless of the competition, the Wildcats have shown throughout the season, that they can control the ball at an elite clip. They are the best team in the country, at just 8.8 turnovers per game. However, Baylor has exploited an elite ball-controlling team once in the tournament.

The second-best team in the country in that category is Wisconsin, and Baylor forced 14 Badger turnovers, in their effort against the Bears.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a familiar face, as he did not play up to his standards in the November 2019 meeting. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds but was 3/9 from the field and just 62% from the foul line.

Baylor thrives on guard play and although Jay Wright is elite at developing guards, having Gillespie out is going to hurt the Wildcats’ chances of pulling off the upset. Justin Moore is a fine player but is not the three-point specialist that Gillespie can be.

Only two Wildcats with consistent minutes shoots 40% or better from beyond the arc, and neither of them are starters in Cole Swider and Brandon Slater.

Even with the low season averages, Villanova had its best three-point shooting game of the season on Sunday, as the Wildcats drained 15 triples in 23 point win over the Mean Green.

However, shooting 50% from beyond the arc has been rare for them, and will need to do that again against Baylor.

Prior to the North Texas game, the last contest Villanova made over 42% of their three-pointers, was against Marquette on February 10. During the stretch between then and Sunday, the Wildcats had four games, where they shot 30% or less.

When it comes to athleticism, Villanova is a much more athletic team than Wisconsin but is just as methodical with their offense. Villanova does not hurry to run plays on offense, as they rank 332nd in the country in tempo, according to KenPom.

Letting Baylor set up their defense that has two Big 12 Defensive Players of The Year on it might not be the smartest idea. Notably, with Mitchell being a Naismith Defensive Player of The Year finalist.

Switching up the pace of the game and connecting on three’s similar to their second-round game will be the keys for Villanova to pull off yet another massive upset.

For the Bears, they match up well against Villanova, height-wise. The main concern for the Bears is being disciplined to take advantage of Villanova if they do make mistakes. Baylor only had four turnovers in the Wisconsin game and that within itself is an anomaly.

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Had this game been played three weeks ago, Villanova would have a strong chance of winning. However, Baylor looks to be back in the form we saw from November-January and the defense has replicated. It stays competitive for 28-30 minutes, but Baylor runs away in the end, just like they have in so many games this season.

Prediction: Baylor 76, Villanova 65