2014 Big East Predictions and College Basketball Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 10/29/2014
You are not the Big East.
The Real Big East, the conference that redefined and dominated college basketball for most of the past two decades, is dead. What remains is a 10-team Catholic League. It is a who's who of teams that haven't been relevant in the NCAA Tournament the last 25 years.
Last year was the first season of the Fake Big East. It came and went without a hitch. But nothing better epitomizes the confused identity of the Fake Big East more than the fact than its second-best team in 2013-14 hailed from Nebraska.
But the Fake Big East persists. So we will take the time required to break it down. After all, this league is as good as any to mine for potential profit. And that is about the only positive thing that I have to say about it.
Here are my 2014-15 Big East College Basketball Predictions to help you with your college basketball picks (with odds to win the each team's division in parentheses):
The Favorite: Villanova (+175)
Frankly, I'm surprised that the Wildcats aren't a stronger favorite to win another league title. They have four of five starters back from the group that went 16-2 in league play last year. The one loss was an important one as the team's de facto leader, James Bell, graduated. But the Wildcats have last year's top sixth man, sophomore John Hart, ready, willing and able to slide in. They return nearly 80 percent of the scoring from the nation's No. 30 offense last year. Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston are all three-year starters, and this group is as fearless as it is talented. If there is a weakness it is depth. Villanova has some bodies to bring off the bench, but they don't have any difference makers. And most of the minutes the bench acquired last year came in the team's multitude of blowouts. Regardless, Hilliard and Pinkston will assault teams and Arcidiacono will be tasked with making good decisions down the stretch. I don't expect nearly as many blowouts from this team. And after going 22-10 against the spread last year, the books will be all over this team. But they should be a consistent Top 15 club this year and are the clear favorite in this fledgling league.
The Challenger: Georgetown (+200)
Georgetown's ugly collapse at the end of the 2012-13 season seemed to carry over into last year as they struggled to an 18-15 mark. The Hoyas missed the NCAA Tournament and were a non-factor both nationally and in this restructured conference. They lost one of only two guys on the team that could actually score (Markel Starks), and John Thompson III seems to be allergic to fielding a roster that goes more than six-deep. But don't worry guys, Josh Smith is totally going to stay in shape and be motivated this year while providing consistent post play. And if you believe that you must be stoned. Needless to say, the Hoyas are a soft challenger to Villanova this year. They do boast the conference's preseason player of the year, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who can do it all. But there is next to nothing else to work with on the perimeter. And when Smith inevitably gets hurt/suspended, the frontcourt will be down to scraps as well. I like Thompson. And I think Georgetown can play a little better this year. But there's no doubt that this program has been trending downward.
The Dark Horse: Xavier (+350)
The Musketeers acquitted themselves well last year while stepping up in class from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East. Unfortunately, they bid adieu to NBA draft pick Semaj Christon, the team's leading scorer, along with two other starters. Now Xavier will run the offense through massive center Matt Stainbrook, who was a revelation last year after transferring from Western Michigan. The X-Men will be relying on yet another transfer, Indiana castoff Remy Abell, to help fill Christon's role. Xavier also welcomes highly-touted freshman Trevon Bluiett, a rare Top 40 recruit for the Musketeers. Bluiett headlines an extremely talented freshmen class that will be crucial to Xavier's season. Chris Mack has been the latest in an outstanding line of Xavier coaches, and he will be tasked with melding this all together. This is a physically gifted team. But they need a leader to emerge, and they need the freshmen to figure out their places. They will be awful shaky until they settle in.
The X-Factor: St. John's (+800)
We've been hearing about St. John's resurgence for the entirety of Steve Lavin's four-year stint in New York City. To this point it has been a bust. And if this year is going to be any different, it will be because the light switch turns on for D'Angelo Harrison and he starts to play team basketball. But let's be honest, that's not going to happen. Harrison is a talented scorer. But he is ball hog and a grating player that sets the tone for an underachieving group. Point guard Phil Greene is a three-year starter in the backcourt, and Rysheed Jordan looks like a nice complimentary piece. But for the first time in Lavin's tenure the Red Storm have nothing to work with in the frontcourt. Zip. As in barely enough bodies to fill out a frontcourt. They'll need someone to emerge and support the guards if they have a prayer of challenging for an NCAA Tournament berth. I'm not optimistic.
The ATS Machine: Butler (+800)
The Bulldogs did not comport themselves well in Year 1 of the post-Brad Stevens era. They were playing in their third different league in three seasons, and injuries crippled any hope they had of competing against the big boys. But they enter this season a bit overlooked and could make some noise. They have four starters back from last year's group and three key additions should provide reinforcements. Roosevelt Jones, a quirky point-forward, is back from the wrist injury that cost him his 2013-14 season. Freshman Tyler Wideman is a Top 100 recruit and adds to the post depth. And Indiana transfer Austin Etherington - who missed much of the offseason with an injured foot - has some intriguing potential. Factor in super scorer Kellen Dunham and you have a group that should avoid a second consecutive season below .500 both straight up and ATS.
The Disappointment: Marquette (+1200)
Buzz Williams' decision to leave Marquette for Virginia Tech was a shocker. You don't take a step down - and Virginia Tech is definitely a step down - from a place you've been coaching at for seven years unless you feel strongly that it is headed downhill. That is a major red flag. The Golden Eagles were a mess last year while finishing 17-15, Williams' worst season. They lost five of their top six scorers, and this year's roster is severely lacking as Steve Wojciechowski takes the reign. Wojo comes highly regarded. But the Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree hasn't exactly been fertile as many more of his former assistants have flopped than have succeeded. The Golden Eagles also acquired my most-hated college player, Matt Carlino, via transfer. The former BYU guard should be a spectacular disaster as he faces much stiffer competition. In all, there are a ton of reasons not to like the direction of his program. We will use that to our advantage.
Providence (500) - Ed Cooley has done a nice job juggling his roster over the past two seasons and squeezing something out of very little down Providence way. But Cooley will have to get by without vastly-underrated guard Bryce Cotton, who graduated. He is one of three starters that have moved on, and that's left Cooley scrambling - again - to replace them. He has two smooth wings in LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris. And seven-foot center Carson Desroisers is a space eater. But the backcourt is completely raw and unproven. They keep waiting for perpetually-injured and overhyped guard Kris Dunn to hit the court. But Dunn's done nothing to make me think he can be the difference maker this group needs. If they don't find a lead guard, this team will take a significant step back after their surprise NCAA Tournament bid last year.
Creighton (+2000) - There is nowhere to go but down for the Bluejays. They are coming off a brilliant, emotional season and now must adjust to life without Doug McDermott, one of the best college players of all-time. McDermott would be impossible to replace. Even by committee. But he's not the only player that's gone. Creighton lost four starters, the entire foundation of their team. They will also be a circled game for a lot of revenge-seeking squads in the Big East this season. Coach Greg McDermott has some bit players, like Austin Chatman, Devin Brooks and Will Artino, that he'll lean on to make the transition to the Post-Doug Days. Ricky Kreklow could be an impact transfer, and Ronnie Harrell could be a nice freshmen. But the elephant has left the room. And the Jays will feel the void all winter long.
Seton Hall (+2000) - Kevin Willard lost four of his top six players from last year's competitive, but not particularly successful, crew. But no one is talking about who's gone. Not when Top 10 recruit and local product Isaiah Whitehead is slated to make his debut this fall. Whitehead is being touted as the program savior. But it is always a hit-or-HUGE-miss proposition when a local high school star decides to slum it with the local college. Two other heralded recruits, Angel Delgado and Mike Nzel, will also be counted on immediately. Junior guard Sterling Gibbs and senior forward Brandon Mobley will need to provide leadership. If some things fall into place - and if Whitehead is as good as everyone hopes he'll be - then Seton Hall could be good for an upset or three. But don't expect some massive leap to be made by The Hall.
DePaul (+5000) - I've flirted with DePaul as a potential moneymaker for most of the Oliver Purnell regime. But no more. Purnell is a clown, and the Blue Demons are a horrendous basketball program despite being located in hoops hotbed Chicago. They went 12-21 again last year and now turn the page from the woefully disappointing Brandon Young-Cleveland Melvin Era. For some reason Purnell has not bothered to recruit a stable of big men similar to what he had at Clemson. And those big guys were really the driving force behind his full-court pressure when he was in the ACC. As a result, DePaul is consistently one of the worst defensive teams in the nation. These guys stink and are simply filler for the rest of the conference. Don't waste your time.
Projected Big East Standings:
4. St. John's
7. Seton Hall
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has an unmatched streak of six straight winning college basketball seasons. His $100-per-Unit clients banked $10,890 in profit with his sides and totals last year and he has raked in a remarkable $55,300 in the last eight years with his nonconference picks alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation and Robert is looking forward to another amazing season. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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