2017 Big East Conference Tournament Predictions with College Basketball Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/8/2017
With all the change that the Big East has undergone this decade it is nice to know that some things about this league will never die. And holding its conference tournament at Basketball Mecca is one of them. The Big East Tournament will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York this week. Play begins on Wednesday, March 8 and the champion will be crowned on Saturday, March 13.
Here is Docâ€™s Sports 2017 Big East Conference Tournament preview and predictions (with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
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The Favorite: Villanova (-240)
The Wildcats have been the best program in the country over the past four years, going an astounding 117-15 straight up and serving as the defending national champions. Villanova has dominated the Big East since mass defections sapped the league of several of the Wildcatsâ€™ long-time rivals back in 2013. And this year was no different, with Jay Wrightâ€™s squad taking the regular season crown by three games. Wright utilizes a tight seven-man rotation that features star wings Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Mikal Bridges. Point guard Jalen Brunson is he straw that stirs the drink and the Wildcats are tenacious and efficient on both ends of the floor. Villanova won the Big East tournament in 2015 and lost in the finals last year. I see no reason why they wouldnâ€™t have another chance at winning yet another banner.
The Contender: Butler (+525)
Despite ending the regular season with a home loss to Seton Hall, Butler has quietly had an outstanding season. Transfers Kethan Savage and Avery Woodson and exciting freshman Kamar Baldwin, who I love, have injected talent and production into this Butler team and they are legit. The Bulldogs run a deliberate, but efficient, offense that can score inside and out. And the key to this team is interior defense that has a tendency to wane. Butler actually swept Villanova this year and has superb nonconference wins over Arizona, Cincinnati, Northwestern, Utah and Indiana. The Bulldogs are definitely a threat.
The Sleeper: Marquette (+1200)
Steve Wojciechowskiâ€™s club is the type of wild-eyed squad that can beat anyone in the country or lose to anyone in the country. The Eagles are the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the country and one of the nationâ€™s most efficient and effective offensive forces. They have seven guys scoring nine points per game or more and five guys in double-figures, with freshman Markus Howard, who comes off the bench and plays just 21 minutes per game, leading the effort with 13.1 points. But the two more important players are big man Luke Fischer, their only true low-post guy, and mercurial fifth-year senior Katin Reinhardt. The Eagles have a lot of talent and a lot of confidence. But their defensive effort will determine how their month plays out.
The Spoiler: Providence (+2000)
The Friarsâ€™ have been charging hard. Their six-game winning streak to close the regular season vaulted them to the No. 3 seed and has them firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Now Providence has the opportunity to smash this bracket even further, taking on beleaguered Creighton in the quarterfinals before a potential matchup with Butler. Theyâ€™ve beaten both during this winning streak. Providence is one of the last teams in the country to utilize the Flex offense. They pound the paint. And the extreme versatility of their lineup â€“ they start four guys that are all 6-7 that can defend multiple positions â€“ allows them to clamp down defensively. Providenceâ€™s weakness is that it lacks a true go-to guy with high-end potential. But it hasnâ€™t slowed them down lately.
Bubble Team To Watch: Xavier (+1800)
If you had told me a month ago that Xavier, which was 18-6 at the time, would end up on the tournament bubble I wouldâ€™ve laughed. But an injury-influenced 1-6 slide down the stretch has the Musketeers heading to MSG in desperate need of some wins and some momentum. Injuries have been the culprit for this team. They lost leading scorer Edmond Sumner for the season. Then their No. 2 man, Trevon Bluiett, injured his ankle and missed a couple games as well. The key for Xavier will be simply settling down and finding a rhythm. Bluiett looks close to 100 percent and J.P. Macura is a guy that can do a lot of things offensively. If Xavier can get solid interior play on both ends they could win a couple games and re-assert themselves. But if they canâ€™t find their game this team, which won 28 games last year and looked like a Sweet 16 this December, could play its way into the NIT.
Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Marquette (-4) vs. No. 5 Seton Hall (2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 9)
The Pirates are the defending champions of this tournament. They are playing close to home and are coming off a confidence-building comeback win at Butler over the weekend. The Pirates have won four straight, versus Marquetteâ€™s 4-1 run, and these two played a pair of fantastic games this season, with each winning by just three points on their respective home courts. So now it is time for a rubber match, with the winner likely staring down Villanova in the next round. Marquette will want to speed this game up. Seton Hall will try to slow it down. And whoever wins the battle of the tempo should eventually win this game.
2017 Big East Conference Tournament Predictions: I simply canâ€™t see Villanova leaving New York City without the championship. I think they are simply too much for either Marquette or Seton Hall, their potential semifinal opponents. In the finals they would either be facing a Butler team trying to beat them for a third time (unlikely) or Creighton or Xavier teams that are severely weakened versions from the squads that Villanova took down at the start of conference play. The Wildcats have owned this conference the past four years. I have to think that they will end up with a second league tournament title to show for it.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has a streak of 10 straight winning regular seasons. Robertâ€™s $100-per-Unit clients have banked over $8,300 in profit over the last three weeks and took home $16,900 in profit for his clients last year alone. There is no better moneymaker in the nation. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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