Wildcats look to knock off top-seeded Bears
Baylor and Villanova were expected to face each other at the beginning of the 2020-21 college basketball season, but Baylor had to pull out of the Empire Classic in Connecticut. The two teams were ranked in the top three at the time, so it is fitting we get to finally see the Bears and Wildcats on the same court during the NCAA Basketball Tournament's second weekend.
Villanova has had the luxury of facing two double-digit seeds in their first two matchups, which may have helped the Wildcats redeem their confidence a bit after a tough end to the regular season. But how far will that go against one of college basketball's most dominant programs this season?
South Region: No. 5 Villanova (18-6) vs. No. 1 Baylor (24-2)
Time: Saturday, March 27 at 5:15 pm ET
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Spread: Baylor -7.0
Keys for Villanova
After a slow start in its second-round matchup with North Texas, Villanova's shooting heated up in a big way. The Wildcats hit 15 3-pointers as they pulled away from the Mean Green before halftime. Big games from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels Jr. gave Villanova exactly what was needed to advance to the Sweet 16. For Villanova to make it past Baylor, the Cats will need more hot shooting from the perimeter.
Keys for Baylor
Scoring against Baylor is a tough task, as the Bears are allowing an average of just 59.0 points per game this season. And with Davion Mithcell leading the surging offensive attack, Baylor looked to return to form against Wisconsin after a second COVID-19 pause interrupted their season. With Baylor's skill and basketball IQ, the Bears look like the national title contender they have been most of the season.
Villanova may have benefitted from an early exit from the Big East Tournament, as the Wildcats got in a rhythm against North Texas. Baylor is far more skilled and experienced, though, and the Bears will be a much different hurdle for Villanova. Baylor's defense will keep the Wildcats from hitting too many clean shots, and Villanova's dependency on 3-pointers may dig a deeper hole than they can climb out of.
Prediction: Baylor 78, Villanova 69