The early balance of power in the Big East has shifted back in favor of national power Villanova with a huge 95-64 rout of formerly-unbeaten Xavier in it conference opener on Dec. 31. Heading into this week's action, No. 10 Musketeers still had the slight edge over the No. 11 Wildcats in the latest AP Top 25, but the highest-ranked Big East team on the list was Providence at No. 8. Unfortunately for Friars' fans, that lofty status is sure to be short-lived following a stunning 65-64 loss to Marquette this past Tuesday as 9.5-point home favorites.
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The Butler Bears are still in the Top 25 at No. 18 despite suffering back-to-back losses to Providence and Xavier in their first two conference games both straight up and against the spread.
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 Big East Top Play of the Week.
Big East Best Bet
You would probably have to go with Villanova as the hottest Big East team right now with a SU four-game winning streak while going 3-1 ATS. Along with the victory against Xavier as 6.5-point home favorites on 5Dimes' closing betting line, the Wildcats pasted Creighton 85-71 this past Saturday as 8.5-point favorites on the road. They could be tested on Wednesday night as 14-point home favorites against the red-hot Seton Hall Pirates.
Villanova has been a solid scoring team this season behind Josh Hart with an average of 78.1 points a game, but the team's strong suit has been a shut-down defense that is ranked ninth in the nation in points allowed (60.3). Despite this effort, the total has still gone "over" in four of its last five games.
Speaking of the Pirates, their current SU winning streak reached seven games with a tight 78-74 victory against DePaul on Jan. 2 to go to 12-2 SU on the year. They failed to cover as 10.5-point home favorites to snap a streak of four-straight wins ATS. Going back over Seton Hall's last 10 games, it's still a profitable 7-3 ATS. The total has gone over in three of its last four outings after staying under it the previous seven games.
Big East Bankroll Buster
St. John's continues to post a disappointing run through the 2015-16 season both on the court and at the betting window. With SU losses to Creighton and Providence in the first two Big East contests, the Red Storm are in the red on the year with a five-game losing streak that has dropped them to 7-8 SU overall. Betting against St. John's has built up bettor's bankrolls with a 4-11 record ATS.
St. John's has now failed to cover in its last five games. And with a home game against Xavier this Wednesday followed by a road game against Marquette this Saturday; the prospect for any kind of turnaround does not look good.
Big East Play of the Week
The New Year got off to a strong start with the right call in Providence's 83-65 romp over St. John's as a heavy 16.5-point home favorite. For this week's top Big East play, I have turned my attention to Saturday's DePaul at Georgetown game as an early rematch in a Noon (ET) start on FOX Sports 1.
The Blue Demons are stuck at the bottom of the Big East standings at 0-3 in early conference play as part of an overall SU record of 6-9. However, you have to give them credit for taking Butler to the wall their last time out in a tough 77-72 loss as 9.5-point home underdogs following that four-point loss to Seton Hall. They have now covered in three of their last four games following a costly 3-7 record ATS in their previous 10 games.
DePaul is still one of the bottom-feeders in the Big East, but it remains a scrappy team that tends to play the better programs in this conference tough. Going back to last season, it went 8-0 ATS in its first eight Big East games before fading down the stretch to a 12-7 ATS record overall . Two of those covers came against Georgetown as a seven-point home underdog and 14-point underdog on the road.
The Hoyas have been a tough team to figure out this season at 9-6 SU with a 7-8 record ATS. They rolled over DePaul 70-58 as four-point road favorites in their Big East opener on Dec. 30, but this past Tuesday they came up well short in a 79-66 road loss to Creighton as three-point underdogs.
This lack of consistency has been evident in Georgetown's last four games with a scoring average of 69.5 points as opposed to a season average of 74 points a game. The Hoyas are well down the list in rebounds (36.5), and defensively they are allowing an average of 69.3 points a game.
I am looking for the betting line to favor Georgetown by eight or nine points in Saturday's rematch, and this time around I have the Blue Demons keeping things close enough to cover.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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