The nonconference portion of the schedule for most of the teams in the Big East has already come to a close in advance of the Christmas holiday and the conference as a whole remains in pretty good shape with four teams holding down a spot in the latest AP Top 25.
The No. 6 Xavier Musketeers (12-0) and the No. 9 Butler Bears (10-1) continue to set the pace as the top two teams, followed very closely by the surprising No. 10 Providence Friars at 12-1 straight up on the year. The 9-2 Villanova Wildcats were another Top 10 team earlier in the season, but they have dropped to No. 17 with two losses in their last four games. Two teams to watch in the Big East once conference play starts up next week would be the 10-2 Seton Hall Pirates and the 9-2 Marquette Golden Eagles.
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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 heading into the New Year along with my free Top Play of the Week.
Big East Best Bets
Xavier has not only been the Big East's top team on the court through the first two months of the new season, it has also been the conference's best betting team at 9-3 against the spread. It will be interesting to see if the extended holiday break slows the Musketeers down after covering in their last eight games. They will open play in the conference next Thursday night in a huge New Year's Eve showdown against Villanova. Xavier has some good scoring depth with five players scoring in double figures, led by guard Treveon Bluiett (14.7 points per game), and it is also a solid defensive team with a points-allowed average of 63.5.
Another hot betting team in this conference over the past few weeks has been the Creighton Blue Jays. They are 8-4 SU on the year with a 7-4 record ATS and heading into one last nonconference battle against Coppin State next Monday. With this past Monday's 105-82 romp over North Texas as 19.5-point home favorites, they have now covered in their last four games. One of Creighton's most impressive covers so far came in its 87-74 road loss to Oklahoma on Dec. 19 as a 13.5-point underdog.
Big East Bankroll Busters
The only Big East team that has been a complete disaster to wager on all season long has been the St. John's Red Storm. Following Tuesday's 75-61 loss to South Carolina as 13.5-point underdogs, they have failed to cover in their last three games to fall to 4-9 ATS this year. St. John's is now 7-6 SU heading into its conference opener against Creighton on New Year's Eve.
The 7-5 Georgetown Hoyas have been a drain on the bankroll the entire month of December with a 1-5 record ATS in their last six games with a posted betting line. They lost to Monmouth 83-68 on Dec. 15 as 10-point favorites, and the next time out the Hoyas failed to get past UNC Asheville in a 79-73 loss that had no betting spread. Georgetown closed out its nonconference schedule with a tight 62-59 victory against Charlotte this past Tuesday, but it could not cover as a 13.5-point road favorite. It will open play in the Big East next Wednesday against DePaul.
Big East Play of the Week
After cashing in on my first Big East Play of the Week, I came up short last week in Villanova's 86-75 loss to Virginia as a 5.5-point road underdog. With a very light schedule in college basketball over the Christmas Holiday, I have focused this week's attention on Sunday's Presbyterian College at Marquette game for my play of the week.
Presbyterian College plays out of the Big South Conference and it brings a SU 5-7 record into Sunday's matchup. The Blue Hose have played a fairly competitive nonconference schedule in December with road losses to both Clemson and Richmond in two of their last three outings.
This past Tuesday, Presbyterian lost to Richmond by 30 points in a 74-44 blowout with no posted betting line. The game was never really close with the Spiders opening a 13-point lead at the half and never looking back. Sophomore forward DeSean Murray had the hot hand for the Blue Hose with 13 points and on the season he leads the team with 20.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game.
Marquette will look to close out its nonconference schedule on a strong note before opening Big East play against Seton Hall next Wednesday night. The Golden Eagles bring a SU eight-game winning streak into Sunday's matchup including a big victory over Wisconsin on Dec. 12 as seven-point road underdogs. It was just the first time they covered in their last three games after opening the season with a 4-3 mark ATS.
The Golden Eagles feature a trio of players averaging at least 12 points as part of an offense that is scoring 80 points a game. Freshman sensation Henry Ellenson has led the way with 16.7 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. Junior center Luke Fisher is the team's second-leading scorer with 14.3 PPG and he is also second in rebounds with an average of 7.8. Overall, Marquette is one of the better rebounding teams in the country with 40 boards a game, and it is holding opposing teams to 69.5 points at the other end of the court.
This game should open with a pretty hefty spread favoring Marquette, but this is a complete mismatch both on paper and on the court. Sunday's game should amount to nothing more than a brisk workout for the Golden Eagles as they prepare to start battle in the Big East so you are safe with a play on a betting line of 28 points or less.
Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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