Villanova put the Big East at the center of the college basketball universe this past Monday when the Wildcats ascended to top spot in both major polls. They got some help from some shocking losses in the ACC and Big 12, but nonetheless this is now the team to beat heading down the stretch run of the regular season.
The Xavier Musketeers made a move into the Top 5 of both the AP and Coaches Poll this past week, but the stay will be brief following Tuesday's stunning 70-56 loss to the Creighton Bluejays as 1.5-point road favorites. The Providence Friars are the only other nationally-ranked team in the Big East right now at No. 20 in the AP Top 25 and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll.
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The following betting report takes a closer look at which Big East teams have been hot at the betting window and well as which one has been the biggest drain on the bankroll lately. I will also release this week's Big East Play of the Week for one of this Saturday's matchups.
Big East Best Bet
The 21-3 Wildcats earned that promotion with a solid 72-60 victory against then-No. 11 Providence this past Saturday as five-point road favorites. Following Tuesday's 86-59 romp over DePaul as 14.5-point favorites on the road, they should hold onto the top spot with a win against St. John's this Saturday as an expected heavy favorite at home. Villanova has tested bettors' patience this season with a 13-10 record against the spread, but it has now covered in its last three games with the total staying "under" in two of those contests.
A carry over team from last week's Big East best bets list is the Seton Hall Pirates. With this past Saturday's 69-61 victory against Georgetown, they have now won their last four games SU and their winning streak ATS stands at seven games. Next up is a Wednesday night clash against Butleras 3.5-point home favorites on 5Dimes' current board.
The Pirates have the third-best SU record in the conference at 7-4, and in those 11 games they have gone 9-2 ATS. The total has now stayed under in their last four games. What makes this team so attractive is its scoring depth, with four players averaging at least 10 points a game, and its play under the boards with 40.9 rebounds a game.
Big East Bankroll Buster
There are a few perennial Big East teams to go against right now with St. John's sitting at 9-16 ATS and DePaul sporting a 8-14-1 record ATS, but Xavier remains the highest-profile team that has been a drain on the wallet lately.
Along with Tuesday's stunning loss to Creighton, the Musketeers also failed to cover in recent victories against St. Johns and Marquette as double-digit favorites. They are now a costly 2-5 ATS in their last seven games. The total stayed under 157 in the loss to the Bluejays, but Xavier has paid off on the total line with five of its previous six games going over the closing line.
Big East Play of the Week
Xavier failure to cover against Marquette sunk last week's top pick, but the game I have turned my attention to for the play of the week is the Georgetown Hoyas on the road against Providence. Saturday's tipoff from the Dunkin Donuts Center is set for noon (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on FOX.
The Hoyas remain a tough team to figure out at 7-5 SU (5-7 ATS) in Big East play. They have posted quality wins against both Xavier on the road and Creighton at home, but this past Tuesday's 92-67 romp against St. John's was the first time they covered in their last six games. Their other five SU wins have come against the bottom three teams in the conference standings.
Georgetown has a solid scorer in D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera with an average of 16.7 points a game, but he is shooting just 42.7 percent from the field. The team as a whole is connecting on 44.2 percent of their shots from the floor, and it is ranked ninth in the Big East in total rebounds (35.8).
The Friars have been another frustrating team lately with just one win (SU and ATS) in their last four games, so they should be in desperation mode in Saturday's game in front of the home-town crowd. The loss to Villanova last Saturday was expected, but the 77-70 loss to DePaul on Feb. 2 as 7.5-point road favorites was not. They are now 6-5 SU in conference play, and one of those wins was a 73-69 road victory against Georgetown on Jan. 30 as 2.5-point underdogs.
The thing that makes Providence attractive as a probable four- to five-point home favorite in this matchup is the combination of Ben Bentil (19.7 points) and Kris Dunn (17 points) as the top two scorers in the Big East this season. Bentil injured his ankle in that loss to DePaul. However, he was able to quickly bounce back with 20 points in the loss to Villanova.
The Friars will first face Marquette on Wednesday night as two-point road favorites. However, regardless of what happens in that game, they have to be looking forward to playing the Hoyas at home after playing three road games in their last four outings. As long as the spread stays in that manageable four- to five-point range, stick with Providence to get back on track with a win this Saturday both SU and ATS.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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