This Elite Eight matchup features two of the best teams in the nation in the Arkansas Razorbacks and Baylor Bears. The last game of the Monday night slate is set to be an instant classic at Lucas Oil Stadium. These teams have taken very different paths in the tournament to get to this point. Baylor hasn’t broken much of a sweat, winning all three of their tournament games by double digits. Arkansas has really broken a sweat, winning their last two games by just a bucket. The line opened at six and has since moved a whole point and a half. Is this an overreaction? It’s time to continue our NCAA odds series and make a Arkansas-Baylor prediction and pick.
Here is how the sportsbooks have set the opening Arkansas-Baylor odds.
NCAA Odds: Arkansas-Baylor Odds
Arkansas Razorbacks +7.5 (-110)
Baylor Bears -7.5 (-110)
Over 148 Points (-11o)
Under 148 Points (-110)
Why Arkansas Could Cover The Spread
Don’t get it twisted, this Arkansas team is one of the best in recent history. The Razorbacks were ranked as high as eighth in the nation at one point this season and won over 20 games for a reason. Sure, they’ve won their last two games by just a bucket, but the resiliency to get through those games is what I’m focused on. They’re in the Elite Eight despite shooting just 23.8% from 3 in the tournament. The Razorbacks have found great success behind their high-energy defense and timely scoring. In the Sweet 16 victory over Oral Roberts, Arkansas held the Golden Eagles to under 26% shooting from beyond the arc and hit big shots down the stretch.
The Razorbacks will need big outings from a few key pieces in order to reach the Final Four. Freshman sensation Moses Moody (17.0 PPG) has been the leading scoring and will need a bounce-back performance to catapult his team past the Bears. He has shot poorly from 3 in the tournament, which has been his biggest strength all year. If you’re the leading scorer on the seventh-best scoring team in the nation, you’re capable of lighting the gym on fire any night. That’s the potential that Moody possesses in this game. He will also look for support from senior forward Justin Smith, who has a good matchup against a smaller Baylor team. Smith leads the team in rebounding at 7.3 boards per game and will look to provide a spark on the block. Baylor has struggled from the field recently and Arkansas is hot, going 10-3 ATS in the last 13 games.
Why Baylor Could Cover The Spread
Baylor has played dominant basketball in the tournament thus far, pulling off double-digit wins in their first three games. The Bears did have to overcome an 11-point deficit against Villanova in the Sweet 16 and are hoping to carry some of that second-half momentum into the Elite Eight. Their comeback was catapulted by their defense, holding Nova to below 18% shooting from 3. In the tournament, Baylor is averaging 9.6 steals and has turned opponents over 18 times per game.
The Bears hope to see a bounce-back performance from their lights-out guard Jared Butler (16.6 PPG). He only dropped nine points in the win against Villanova and has struggled to get his shot going during the tournament. He is in a prime bounce-back spot in this matchup against the Razorbacks, though. Baylor will have the experience edge in this matchup as all five starters are upperclassmen. With Arkansas struggling to get it going from the field, look for Baylor’s elite defense to be the difference in this Elite Eight affair.
Final Arkansas-Baylor Prediction & Pick
When assessing this line and making an Arkansas-Baylor prediction, I see the movement being a slight overreaction to the tight games Arkansas has been forced to play. The Razorbacks were ranked as high as eighth at one point this year and has all of the necessary talent to compete with Baylor. Arkansas’ offensive struggles have been uncharacteristic, and I look for them to get out of the rut by playing inside-out basketball. The defensive energy from both teams will be fairly even and should make this a close game down the stretch. Arkansas is a battle-tested squad and should have to a chance to win this game late.
FINAL PICK: Arkansas Razorbacks +7.5 (-110)