Villanova stumbled into the NCAA tournament as a 5-seed on the heels of consecutive losses, but easily won and covered point spreads in dispatching Cinderella wannabes Winthrop and North Texas.
Baylor looks to be a whole different story as an opponent in the Sweet Sixteen, as demonstrated by odds from Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks.
For the first time all year, the Wildcats will be an underdog Saturday as they face the South Region’s top seed. Baylor has compiled a 24-2 record in earning its way to odds as the second most-likely team to win the tournament, behind only Gonzaga.
Villanova, 18-6, could be missing injured point guard Collin Gillespie more than ever against the Bears, who play at a fast tempo full of defensive pressure.
Taking that into account, most of the sportsbooks have Villanova as a 7.5-point underdog for the afternoon contest. FOX Bet was the one exception as of Thursday morning, with just a 7-point spread.
The over/under on points ranges from as low as 140.5 at BetMGM to 141.5 at FanDuel, Caesars, and Betfred.
Baylor among top-scoring teams
Villanova would certainly not be as big an underdog if it still had senior guard Gillespie, whose season was ended by an MCL injury at the start of the month. The team, which started the season an impressive 11-1, suffered two losses without him before rebounding to beat Winthrop by 10 and North Texas by 23 in the first two rounds of March Madness.
But Baylor is not Winthrop or North Texas. The Bears have averaged 85.3 points per game, third best in the nation, though that pace has been off a bit in the tournament in dispatching Harford, 79-55, and Wisconsin, 76-63.
To beat a top-seeded team that is also among tops in the nation in forcing turnovers, Villanova will have to control the ball well and perhaps somehow shoot as well from outside as it did against North Texas, when it rained in 15 of 30 3-pointers.
Without Gillespie, the Wildcats are led by forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who scored 40 points combined in the tournament’s first two games. They also could be considered to have a weapon on the bench in coach Jay Wright, who saw his 2016 and 2018 squads cut down championship nets.
Still, the odds are deemed slim of his team doing that a third time. FanDuel puts the Wildcats’ title chances at 35/1, 10th among the 16 teams remaining. That would be the biggest payout among the state’s online sportsbooks, and thus the place to go for a Villanova backer. Baylor’s championship odds range from +300 at FOX Bet to +450 at BetMGM.
Most sites also offer odds on Villanova to reach the Final Four, with the best payout being +600 from BetMGM. (FOX Bet puts the normal odds at +500, but is advertising an “odds boost” to +600.)
Betting sites are also worth reviewing for any special promotions attached to March Madness. DraftKings is advertising an “up to 50% profit boost” for “every Round 3 game,” and more offers could emerge from other sites by Saturday.