The first half of the South Region semifinals features the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears taking on the No. 5 Villanova Wildcats. The game is scheduled for 5:15 ET on Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Bears are currently favored by 6.5 points, with the over/under set at 140.5 points.
In a way, Villanova is one of the more surprising teams in the Sweet 16. Jay Wright’s team didn’t fare well after the injury to point guard and co-Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie. But Wright was able to rally the troops, as the Wildcats avoided a scare against Winthrop and blew out North Texas by 23 points to reach the regional semifinals.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual last weekend for the Bears, who are now 24-2 on the season. Baylor had little problem taking down No. 16 Hartford before cruising to a comfortable 13-point win over Wisconsin. In both games, the Bears looked a little more like the team that was so dominant before a three-week hiatus late in the season.
Baylor’s backcourt continues to be the driving force for the Bears. The trio of Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell all average at least 14 points per game.
All three were more or less on par with those averages during the first two games of the tournament. Meanwhile, Butler and Mitchell both continue to play the role of distributor, combining for 22 assists over the first two tournament games.
Of course, Baylor’s supporting cast is more than capable of chipping in and supplementing the three guards. Against Wisconsin, it was Matthew Mayer coming off the bench to contribute 17 points and six rebounds.
Against Hartford, Adam Flagler knocked down a few jump shots and scored 12 points to give the Bears a boost off the bench. As long as Baylor gets significant production from someone other than Butler, Teague, and Mitchell, the Bears are usually in good shape.
Filling the Void
Justin Moore deserves most of the credit for helping Villanova survive the injury to Gillespie. He had his own injury scare in the regular-season finale, but he’s recovered enough to score 15 points in each of Villanova’s two NCAA Tournament games.
Forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has also stepped up, averaging 22 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his last three games. He’s even more critical to the Wildcats without Gillespie’s 14 points per game.
However, the Cats also need more from their supporting cast. Without Gillespie’s shooting, role players Caleb Daniels and Cole Swider are now Villanova’s best outside shooters.
Both have delivered in the last two games and need to continue scoring above their season average. However, Chris Arcidiacono has struggled to adjust to a more significant role, contributing just nine points and seven assists over the last four games, as he assumes some of Gillespie’s minutes.
The End of the Road
The Wildcats should be proud to have made it this far without their best player, but this is the end of the line for them. Even with Moore playing better, the Villanova backcourt can’t keep up with Baylor’s guards for 40 minutes.
Bet on the Bears to win and cover against the Wildcats.
Pick: Baylor -6.5
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