The Big East regular season is in the books, and the 2016 conference tournament from Madison Square Garden is set to get underway with opening-round action this Wednesday. Villanova and Xavier come in as the top two seeds and heavy favorites to face off against one another for the third time this season in Saturday's championship game, while teams like Seton Hall, Providence and Butler are looking for a good showing this week to help their chances at making the field of 68 for this year's NCAA Tournament.
This week's Big East betting report takes a closer look at this week's conference tournament in terms of finding the best team to go with and another solid candidate to go against when it comes to betting on the games.
Big East Tournament Best Bet
The hottest team coming into this tournament both on the court and at the betting window would have to be the Butler Bulldogs. I have ridden them three straight weeks in my Big East top play and cashed in each time. Bettors along for the ride since the beginning of February have pocketed $690 on a $100 wager on each game with their 8-1 record against the spread. Butler has gone 7-2 straight up over the same span, with the two losses coming against Xavier at home and Villanova on the road.
The Bulldogs are the No. 5 seed in the Big East Tournament, and they will face the No. 4 Providence Friars in Thursday's quarterfinal round. They lost both regular-season meetings against the Friars SU and ATS, but that was earlier in the year. While Butler has been cruising over the past several weeks, Providence stumbled to a SU 4-5 record in its last nine games while going 3-6 ATS. The Friars did close things out with a 3-0 run both SU and ATS, but those wins came against DePaul, Creighton and St. John's as favorites.
The winner of this matchup most likely draws Villanova in Friday's semifinals with the Wildcats having to face the winner of Wednesday's Georgetown vs. DePaul game. Butler hung tough against the No. 3 team in the nation in the first meeting with a five-point loss at home as a 4.5-point underdog on Jan. 10. The two met again on Feb. 20 with Villanova winning again by the score of 77-67, but this time around the Bulldogs did cover as 11-point underdogs on the road.
I do not see the Bulldogs pulling off the SU upset against Villanova in the semifinals. However, after getting past Providence both SU and ATS, I like their chances to cover again against the Wildcats in what could be a much tighter game than expected.
Big East Tournament Betting Bust
Xavier ended up second to Villanova in the Big East regular-season standings at 14-4 SU in conference play, and it is currently ranked No. 5 in both major national polls, so there is no denying that the Musketeers are a very good team that could easily make some serious noise in this year's NCAA Tournament. However, from a betting standpoint they could be a good team to go against this week.
They will begin play in the Big East on Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's Marquette vs. St. John's game. I am going to give that one to Marquette given just how bad the Red Storm has been this year. While I would be a bit hesitant to go against Xavier in that matchup, the Golden Eagles could keep things interesting after covering the last time they met as 12-point road underdogs in an eight-point loss. The time to pounce could be in Friday's semifinals in a probable matchup against Seton Hall. The Pirates were the third-best team in the Big East this season at 12-6 SU, and they drew the No. 6 Creighton Bluejays in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Seton Hall avenged an early loss to the Bluejays with a 75-65 victory on Jan. 30 as 5.5-point road underdogs as part of SU 9-2 run to close out the season. Going back even farther, the Pirates have gone a very profitable 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games. One of those victories came against Xavier on Feb. 28 in a 90-81 win as two-point home underdogs. Seton Hall also covered as a nine-point road underdog in an eight-point loss to the Musketeers in late January.
A bold prediction would be to take the Pirates SU in a moneyline bet as they need this game much more than Xavier does, but at the very least I would go with Seton Hall and the points on BetOnline's betting spread to cover against the Musketeers if everything goes according to plan in the earlier rounds .
Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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