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No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 1 Baylor preview, picks for Sweet 16 round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Villanova Wildcats and Baylor Bears are set to meet at Hinkle Fieldhouse for the Sweet 16 round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

Baylor Bears guard Jared Butler runs the offense against the Kansas State Wildcats during the second half at Ferrell Center. Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Saturday, March 27 9:45 a.m. Here are the updated bet splits from DraftKings Sportsbook for Villanova vs. Baylor:

Villanova: +7.5 (31% of handle, 31% of bets)
Baylor: -7.5 (69% of handle, 69% of bets)

No. 5 Villanova and No. 1 Baylor had stress-free second-round games on Sunday, as both teams won by wide margins. The Wildcats and Bears have to go through one another in the Sweet 16, and only one team will advance to the Elite Eight.

Saturday’s game is set to tip-off at 5:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS. The game will take place at legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University.

No. 5 Villanova: 17-6 (11-4 Big East)

First Round: Defeated No. 12 Winthrop 73-63
Second Round: Defeated No. 13 North Texas 84-61
KenPom rating: 15 Overall, 9 Offense, 69 Defense
NET ranking: 17 (5-3 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (16 ppg)
Key stat: Villanova averages just nine turnovers per game.

Many people thought that No. 12 Winthrop had a chance against Villanova, but the Wildcats proved that they’re still a quality team by securing a 10-point victory over the Golden Eagles. They only got better in the second round, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored a team-high 18 points en route to a 23-point victory against North Texas. Three other Wildcats reached double-digits in points.

Villanova’s playmaking is on the rise. The Wildcats amassed 19 assists on Sunday and are averaging 15.3 per contest on the year.

Baylor is heavy on guard play, so Villanova’s forwards — Earl-Robinson and Samuels — while have to assert their dominance on the block to limit the Bears’ high-octane offense.

No. 1 Baylor 23-2 (13-1 Big 12)

First Round: Defeated No. 16 Hartford 79-55
Second Round: Defeated No. 9 Wisconsin 76-63
KenPom rating: 4 Overall, 3 Offense, 35 Defense
NET ranking: 2, (9-2 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Jared Butler (17 ppg)
Key stat: Baylor has the third-highest scoring average (84.2 ppg) in the country.

Baylor secured double-digit wins against No. 16 Hartford and No. 9 Wisconsin en route to the Sweet 16. Jared Butler got off to a slow start in the tournament but bounced back in the round of 32 to score a team-high 16 points alongside Davion Mitchell. The Bears’ guard-centric team beat Wisconsin by 13 despite losing the rebound battle, so Villanova will have to make every board count.

The Bears excel at sharing the basketball as well and average 17 dimes per contest. Butler and Mitchell account for over half of those assists and average 4.9 and 5.3 per game, respectively.

Matthew Mayer unexpectedly scored 17 points off the pine, and his contributions against Villanova’s front court could help the Wildcats' chances of dominating skyrocket.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Baylor -6.5
Total: 137.5
Moneyline: Baylor -295, Villanova +240

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Baylor -6.5
Point total pick: Over 137.5
Pick to Win: Baylor -295

Villanova has managed so far without a key cog in its offensive machine, but only two teams have managed to outscore Baylor’s offense all year. The Bears are at full strength, and their KenPom defensive rating is significantly better than the depleted Wildcats’. Betting against a team that’s won by an average of 18.5 points despite having faced a team that’s 27th in the NET doesn’t make sense.

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