Baylor takes on Villanova at 4:00 in the title game of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. The game airs on ESPN.
Villanova is a 1.5 point favorite in Vegas. KenPom has them as a one point favorite and gives Baylor a 46% chance to win.
The Wildcats are led by Jay Wright. In 2016 they won the national title. In 2017 they had the country’s best team, and in 2018 they won another title.
Villanova is 4-1. Ohio State went 9-of-16 from three in a 25 point blowout of the Wildcats. They also held the normally pristine Wildcat offense to .8 points per possession.
1) Limit Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
Villanova’s freshman center scored 22 points on just 11 shots against Mississippi State. The former McDonald’s All-American is a Kansas native that would have likely ended up there—his father played in Lawrence—if not for the NCAA cloud over the Jayhawks.
Baylor struggled against Washington’s duo of elite bigs. They can’t have a performance like that against Robinson-Earl.
2) Transition 3-point defense
The Bears have been very good defensively—with the exception of the final eight minutes of the Washington game. If there’s one consistent worry though, it’s that Baylor has allowed too many transition 3-point attempts. Coastal Carolina and Ohio both led it fly from distance.
Villanova is No. 15 in 3-point attempts. They’re No. 15 in 3-point percentage. They’ll test Baylor’s pick-and-roll coverage and demand excellence in meeting men in transition.
3) Consider the Fival:
Tristan Clark is still limited. He’s been held to a 20 minute a game restriction in this tournament. And Villanova has forced big teams to play small the last few seasons; they ran Kansas off the floor in the 2018 Final Four.
Baylor hasn’t played their lineup with Mark Vital at the five (the Fival, named after the American hero mouse). But with four elite guards, and the ability to play Matthew Mayer some at power forward, I’d like to see Baylor give that lineup some run. Most iterations had Mario Kegler at the four last season. But the key was Vital at the five, and he remains.
This is a super tough game to predict. Baylor’s had stretches where they look close to a Final Four team. They’ve had some runs—in several games—where they look like a bubble team.
I’ll say Baylor has a nice day from the perimeter and Villanova can’t quite make the Bears pay enough inside. I’ll take Baylor 74-70.