The 14-2 Villanova Wildcats were the highest-ranked team in the Big East at No. 11 when the AP released their preseason poll, and, following a few ups and downs earlier in the season, they are back on top in the conference as the No. 6 team in the nation in the AP's current Top 25. The next-highest-ranked team in the Big East is the 15-1 Xavier Musketeers at No. 7. Their only loss of the season was against Villanova in their conference opener.
The two other nationally-ranked Big East teams in the current Top 25 are 14-2 Providence at No. 12 and the No. 23 Butler Bears, who are 12-4 straight up on the year. The 12-5 Creighton Bluejays would be my team to watch in the Big East with a 3-1 SU start in conference play.
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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 this weekend's action along with my free Big East Top Play of the Week.
Big East Best Bet
The longest winning streak against the spread in the Big East belongs to 7-10 St. John's at two games, but the Red Storm are still just 6-11 ATS on the year. The most consistent betting team in the conference so far this season has been Xavier at 11-5 ATS through its first 16 games. The Musketeers have lacked consistency in their first four conference games at 2-2 ATS, but they did cover as heavy 17.5-point home favorites in an 84-64 win against DePaul this past Tuesday night on 5Dimes' closing betting line. The total in that game ended as a "push" after staying "under" in four of their previous six outings.
What makes Xavier an attractive betting team is a 10-4 record ATS when closing as a favorite. It is also a profitable 6-3 ATS in nine home games this season. The Musketeers are ranked third in the conference in scoring with 80.4 points per game and the lead the way in rebounds with 41.3 a game.
This week's honorable mention goes to the Georgetown Hoyas with a 3-1 start both SU and ATS in Big East play. The lone loss was a 79-66 blowout against Creighton as three-point road underdogs, but they have been able to cover lately when closing as favorites. Georgetown heads into Wednesday's matchup against St. John's as an eight-point favorite on the road.
Big East Bankroll Buster
As mentioned, the Red Storm have been the biggest bankroll buster in the Big East so far, but this week that dubious honor goes to Marquette. The Golden Eagles have split their first four conference games SU, but after failing to cover in last Saturday's tight 81-75 victory against St. John's as 12-point home favorites they are just 1-3 ATS. This is part of a more troubling 2-6 record ATS in their last eight outings.
Big East Play of the Week
After cashing in on my first Big East play of the New Year, I missed last week's call by the slimmest of margins with a play on DePaul in its 74-63 loss to Georgetown as a 10.5-point road underdog. For this week's Big East top pick, I have set my sights on Saturday's Seton Hall Pirates at Providence Friars' game at the Dunkin Donuts Center in a 4:30 p.m. (ET) tip on FOX Sports 1.
The Pirates went a solid 10-2 SU in nonconference play with a 7-4 record ATS. They followed that up with a big 83-63 romp against Marquette as 3.5-point road underdogs in their Big East opener, but since then they are 1-2 both SU and ATS in their last three games. Seton Hall comes into this Saturday's matchup fresh off a stunning 82-67 loss to Creighton last Saturday as a four-point home favorite.
In the loss to Creighton, the Pirates fell into an early eight-point deficit, and the hometown crowd watched as the Bluejays started the second half on a 15-5 run to basically put this game away. Seton Hall shot 42.1 percent from the field in the losing effort, and on the year it is hitting 44.5 percent of its shots.
Providence rose as high as No. 8 in the AP Top 25, but an unexpected 65-64 loss to Marquette on Jan. 5 as a 9.5-point home favorite made the stay in the Top 10 rather brief. The Friars bounced back from that loss with much-needed 50-48 win against Creighton on the road this past Tuesday as 2.5-point underdogs. They are now 3-1 both SU and ATS in their first four conference games.
I still see the Friars as a legitimate threat to challenge Villanova and Xavier for the top spot in the Big East this season, and the loss to Marquette could act as a necessary wake-up call after their previous run into the Top 10. Led by sophomore forward Ben Bentil (19.1 points) and junior guard Kris Dunn (17.9), Providence has a pair of solid scorers. Defensively, it is holding teams to 65.6 points a game to help make it one of the more-balanced teams in the conference.
I look for the Friars to open as eight- to nine-point home favorites in this Saturday's matchup against Seton Hall, but I believe they can easily win this game by double-digits in case the actual betting line does open a bit higher.
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