With the holiday season in full swing, college basketball continues to wrap up the final few games in the nonconference portion of the schedule. The Big East Conference has been able to make an early name for itself with four teams ranked in the current AP Top 25.
The Xavier Musketeers are off to a strong 10-0 start to capture the No. 10 spot in the poll, followed by 8-1 Villanova at No. 12, 10-1 Providence at No. 14 and 8-1 Butler at No. 17. Marquette and Seton Hall could be knocking on the door as well at 8-2 on the year.
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The following is this week's Big East betting report with a closer look at a few teams to go with as well as go against right now along with my free Top Paly of the Week.
Big East Best Bets
Not only is Xavier off to a perfect 10-0 straight up start heading into this Saturday's home game against Auburn, but it has also been the hottest team in the Big East to bet on lately with a perfect 6-0 record against the spread over its last six games. This past Saturday against bitter rival Cincinnati, the Musketeers made a statement in a 65-55 victory as 4.5-point home favorites. The total stayed "under" 140 in that win after going "over" in their previous four games.
Another solid betting team in this conference over the past week has been the Creighton Blue Jays. They hammered Nebraska 83-67 on Dec. 9 as 5.5-point home favorites before this past Saturday's 90-65 romp over IUPUI as 15.5-point favorites at home. Creighton is now 7-3 SU on the year with a 5-4 record ATS. Next up is a tough road game against Oklahoma this Saturday.
When it comes to betting the total line, the Butler Bulldogs have put some money in bettors' pockets with eight of their first nine games going over the closing line.
Big East Bankroll Busters
If you are looking for a Big East team to go against before the start of conference play later this month then my top choice would be the Georgetown Hoyas. They have always been one of the higher-profile teams in this conference, but early losses to powers such as Maryland and Duke contributed to a slow 1-3 SU start out of the gate. Of greater concern to bettors would be this past Tuesday's stunning 83-68 loss to Monmouth as 10-point home favorites. Georgetown is now 6-4 on the year with an even 5-5 record ATS. It has failed to cover in four of its last five games.
St. John's is trying to work its way back into the national spotlight, but a tight 63-56 win against St. Francis Brooklyn as a 7.5-point home favorite on Dec. 6 followed by a close 48-44 victory over Niagara on Dec. 9 as a nine-point home favorite will not help its cause. The Red Storm did storm back this past Sunday with a solid 84-72 upset of Syracuse as 10.5-point underdogs at home, but it was just the second time they covered in their last eight games.
Big East Play of the Week
I went with the red-hot Musketeers as last week's Big East Play of the Week against crosstown rival Cincinnati and cashed in to start the new season of top picks on a strong note. This week I have turned my attention to this Saturday's huge showdown between Villanova and the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers, out of the ACC. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m. (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Wildcats fell out of the Top-10 rankings with a 78-55 loss to Oklahoma as five-point favorites in this season's Pearl Harbor Classic on Dec. 7, but they roared back this past Saturday by pasting Big 5 rival La Salle 76-47 as heavy 25-point favorites at home. They are now 6-2 ATS in eight games with a closing line.
The main thing I like about Villanova this season is the way it has been playing defense, which will be crucial in a tough matchup against the equally-stingy Cavaliers. The Wildcats are allowing an average 57.6 points a game, which is the eighth-lowest total in the nation. Guard Josh Hart is leading the way at the other end of the court with a team-high 15 points per game, and overall Villanova has four players averaging at least 10 points a game.
Virginia bounced back from a stunning 73-68 early-season loss to George Washington as a 6.5-point road favorite with a SU seven-game winning streak heading into this game. It is currently 8-1 SU on the year, but in seven games with a closing betting line this record falls to 4-3 ATS. The Cavaliers did look solid in a recent 70-54 victory against West Virginia as 4.5-point home favorites.
Saturday's showdown is shaping up to be a defensive battle, with Virginia ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed (57.1). It also matches up close ly with the Wildcats when it comes to scoring points. Guard Malcolm Brogdon has been a stud with 16.9 PPG while shooting 47.5 percent from the field, and the return of London Perrantes (10.4 PPG) to the lineup against the Mountaineers added a scoring boost after missing his previous two starts.
Saturday's game should be a hard-fought battle that could go either way. I am looking for Villanova to open as a four- or five-point road underdog, which is enough points for me to make the Wildcats my Big East Play of the Week.
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