College Basketball Betting: Big East Tournament Preview
The Big East Tournament, one of college basketball’s premier events, takes over Madison Square Garden starting tonight, with a pair of play-in games. This year’s conference is crowded at the top, with Creighton, Villanova, and Seton Hall all earning a share of the regular season crown at 13-5 in conference play. Let’s take a look at what may unfold at the Mecca.
Favorite – There is very little separation between the three teams at the top of the Big East. Creighton, Villanova, and Seton Hall rank 12th, 18th, and 19th in KenPom, respectively. However, the edge ultimately goes to the Pirates here. While Creighton would have been the favorite, given its offensive firepower, current form, and recent success against both Villanova and Seton Hall, news that star point guard Marcus Zegarowski will not play gives serious pause. Zegarowski is one of the most underrated players in all of basketball, and is critical to the running of Creighton’s offensive scheme. He’s averaging 16.1 PPG to go along with 5.0 APG. He also logs 34.6 MPG, and without him providing that quality time on the floor, winning three games in three days will be tough.
Despite Creighton’s late-season push, Seton Hall has looked like the Big East team with the highest ceiling for most of the season. The team lost close games to Michigan State and Oregon and got a quality win against Maryland in non-conference play. The team did the double over Butler, and won at Villanova.
To be sure, this pick revolves around star player Myles Powell. The guard is averaging 21.0 PPG this year. While he has not been at his best of late, averaging only 14.5 PPG in two losses against Villanova and Creighton to end conference play, he should bounce back here. Powell has shown up in many huge moments over his career, and the chance to claim a Big East Tournament crown at Madison Square Garden is something that should motivate him to up his level of play. If he’s playing well, he will be the best player on the floor each time out here.
This Seton Hall team should be plenty motivated. The Pirates cost themselves a regular-season title all to themselves with losses in their last two games. The team will want to make sure it leaves no doubt who the best team in this conference is.
Darkhorse – The Providence Friars come into the Big East Tournament in great form. The team has won six straight, including quality victories against Seton Hall, as well as at Marquette and Villanova. Providence has a solid defense, ranking 27th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating. While the offense can go missing at times, the Big East Tournament is often a rough-and-tumble affair, where hard-nosed defense is rewarded.
Most importantly, the bracket gives Providence a real shot. The Friars start against Butler, a team they beat on the road in the last matchup, 65-61. The Bulldogs stumbled down the stretch, going 4-4. This is hardly the same Butler team that started the year 15-1. After that, the team likely draws Creighton, and as mentioned above, the Friars crushed the Blue Jays the last time out. If it comes down to a final against either Seton Hall or Villanova, well, they’ve beaten both of those teams in the home stretch of conference play.
What to Bet – Expect Seton Hall to make a strong statement in its opening game against Marquette. The Pirates truly believe they are the class of the Big East Conference and will be desperate to bounce back after two straight losses, against Villanova and Creighton, which as mentioned above, cost them a regular season title all of its own. In the two previous meetings against Marquette, Seton Hall notched a pair of comfortable victories. In the most recent meeting, the Pirates won 88-79 at Marquette, covering as a three-point underdog. In mid-January, Seton Hall defeated Marquette 69-55 as a 5.5-point favorite. Seton Hall has had a lot of success defending Marquette star Markus Howard this season. While the offensive dynamo averaged 27.5 PPG in the two games, he shot only 17-for-44 from the field (38.6%). Marquette has lost three straight games coming into the tournament, including losses to DePaul and St. John’s, in addition to the aforementioned home loss to Seton Hall.
Odds to Win Tournament
Seton Hall +340
St. John’s +3500