March Madness Betting: Value in Big East NCAA Tournament Prop Bet
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 03/18/2009
Total Wins by Big East Teams
Over 15.5 (-160)
Under 15.5 (+130)
At first look this NCAA Tournament prop bet looks like a "lock". With the depth of the Big East and getting seven teams in the conference, including three No. 1 seeds, no first round underdogs and no seed lower than a No. 6, reaching the 16-win plateau sounds too easy.
Once you break it down though, 15.5 wins in March Madness is a lot, even for seven teams. The ACC, also bringing seven teams to the Big Dance, only has an over/under of 11. The Big Ten is also sending seven teams and its over/under is exactly seven. The Big 12 has six teams and its total is set at eight wins while the Pac-10 has six teams and is Sportsbook.com has its over/under at 6.5. This goes to show that the basic rule of thumb with setting these totals is to shoot for somewhere around one win per team, on average. The Big East has a whopping 2+ wins per team.
As the No. 1 seeds, you can basically pencil Louisville, UConn and Pitt into the second round. The top seeds probably will not decide this bet. For that you will have to look at the No. 6 seeds, Marquette and West Virginia, and the No. 3 seeds Syracuse and Villanova. Marquette is playing without Dominic James, the point guard and that cost them in the Big East Tournament and down the stretch in the regular season. The team also has a very difficult first round draw as a No. 6 seed with Utah State looming. Las Vegas is not giving the Golden Eagles much credit at all, pegging them as only 4.5-point favorites in that game. Even if Marquette were to get through, the stifling defense of No. 3 Missouri could very well be waiting.
West Virginia will have an easier time as 8.5-point favorites against Dayton in the first round. However, a second-round meeting against the defending national champions Kansas could be in place for the Mountaineers. Any way you look at it, the Big East will be hard pressed to get more than two combined wins from its No. 6 seeds.
Syracuse and Villanova both drew nice first-round draws, as could be expected for No. 3 seeds. However the second-round path gets a little murky regardless of any potential upsets. Syracuse will have to get through either No. 6 Arizona State and James Harden or No. 11 Temple and Dionte Christmas. Both will present formidable tasks for a Syracuse team without much March Madness experience.
Villanova's second round path includes either UCLA or an upstart Virginia Commonwealth team that is flying under the radar despite a talented and experienced starting five.
The best case scenario for the Big East to reach the magic number of 16 wins is for two of the top seeds to reach the Final Four, the other No. 1 seed to reach the Elite Eight, and both the No. 3 seeds and No. 6 seeds all avoid first round upsets with one of them reaching the Sweet 16. That gives you the magical 16 wins. A lot easier said than done.
The biggest thing riding against the Big East is the physical play of the league. Year in year out this continues to plague the conference. While the Big East Conference schedule often resembles a last-man standing, barroom brawl, those officials will not be calling the Big East's games. With physical post players like DeJuan Blair (Pitt is 0-3 when he fouls out) and UConn's Hasheem Thabeet (two players that their respective teams cannot afford to foul out), things to do not bode well for the physical Big East teams and all of them can be classified that way on some level.
Also, getting at least two No. 1 seeds seems like a lock for the Big East. However, Pitt has had teams just as talented yet never has a Jamie Dixon-coached club or Ben Howland (his predecessor) gotten past the Sweet 16. Save the juice, take the +130 and watch as Big East teams are officially eliminated throughout March Madness.