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The Matchup: #1 Baylor vs #5 Villanova
Where to Watch: Saturday, 5:15 p.m. EST on CBS (@ Hinkle Fieldhouse)
The Odds: Baylor -7.5 (-335 ML), Villanova +7.5 (+250 ML), 140.5 O/U
After predictable first-round and second-round wins over #16 Hartford and #9 Wisconsin, respectively, Baylor is beginning to remind people of the team that started the season 18-0. While COVID-19 tried to derail the Bears' season, they just now seem to be rounding back into form and will take on a surging Villanova team in the Sweet 16. Coming off a Round of 32 win against the Wisconsin Badgers and highlighted by their impressive 15-4 assist to turnover ratio, the opening line of Baylor -5.5 has been bought all the way up to Baylor -7.5 for Saturday's matchup against Jay Wright and the Wildcats. Baylor backers are relying on their impressive season-long offensive numbers: first in 3PT%, third in effective FG%, third in adjusted offensive efficiency and sixth in offensive rebounding %. With offensive stalwarts in Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, the Bears will look to create a pace that Villanova simply can’t match.
Wright and his Wildcats, on the other hand, find themselves in the thick of March Madness yet again despite the absence of Collin Gillespie. But Villanova will still need to rely on its experience to overcome Baylor. The Wildcats have double-digit wins against Winthrop and North Texas to start the tournament under their belt, as Winthrop was a trendy first-round upset pick and North Texas had previously upset Purdue in the opening round. Neither team offered much resistance to Villanova though, as the Wildcats covered the spread easily in both matchups. Despite the aforementioned success, Villanova hasn’t received much love in the betting market in anticipation of Saturday’s game either. Perhaps bettors are putting more stock in Villanova's inability to close the regular season after it lost three of its last four games leading up to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats do have the offensive firepower to keep up with Baylor, but it's their defense that could be their downfall in the end. Kenpom makes the game Baylor -3, which is a stark contrast to the current market line. Something has to give for this Saturday showdown.
The Matchup: #3 Arkansas vs #15 Oral Roberts
Where to Watch: Saturday, 7:25 p.m. EST on TBS (@ Bankers Life Farmhouse)
The Odds: Arkansas -11 (-590 ML), Oral Roberts +11 (+390 ML), 159 O/U
Arkansas came into the NCAA Tournament winning nine of its last 10 games and has continued its winning ways through the first two rounds of the Big Dance. The Razorbacks had a comfortable win versus Colgate in the opener and fought off feisty Texas Tech in the second round. Arkansas is a well-rounded club that features above-average numbers in nearly every statistical category. The Razorbacks opened as a -13.5 point favorite, but that number has fallen to -11 as Oral Roberts looks to continue an impressive run of its own. However, there is a big difference between winning and covering. Arkansas just needs to have a solid game to advance to the Elite 8 here, and with a Kenpom ranking of 15th overall and 10th defensively in the nation, head coach Eric Musselman will continue to rely on his defense as the Razorbacks look to run the clock out on Oral Roberts and the Golden Eagles' Cinderella run as one of just two #15 seeds in tourney to make it all the way to the Sweet 16 (the other, of course, being Florida Gulf Coast University).
Oral Roberts is one of the many tournament darlings but the lowest seed remaining since knocking off the #2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round. The Golden Eagles concluded their regular season winning five straight against the likes of Western Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota, and although carrying that type of win streak into the tournament is never a bad thing, their opponents did little to create excitement for their chances versus Ohio State. Just two games later, however, and that mentality has shifted. Arkansas can no longer afford to take #15 Oral Roberts for granted. The Golden Eagles upset Ohio State in overtime before outlasting the Florida Gators in the second round, and while Oral Roberts is a flawed team - the Golden Eagles' defense ranks 239th in the country, according to Kenpom - it can’t offensive rebound well and the team doesn’t get to the free throw line much either. On paper this shouldn’t be much of a game, but surely Ohio State and Florida felt the same way last weekend.