2018 Big East Basketball Tournament Odds and Expert Predictions
Now that those Big Ten poseurs are out of the way its time to get down to business in Madison Square Garden.
The Big East Tournament has become a rite of March, with the league's championship held at The Mecca of Basketball every year since 1983. This year's tournament begins on Wednesday, March 7, and the champion will be crowned on Saturday, March 10.
This league is one of the most competitive and parity-driven in college basketball. Villanova and Xavier, two Top 10 teams, are clearly the two best squads. But the next five teams in the 10-team league all finished either 10-8 or 9-9, and this league should send more than half of its schools to next week's NCAA Tournament. Throw in the magic of The Garden, and this week's tournament could be anyone's ball game.
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Here is Doc's Sports 2018 Big East Conference Tournament preview and predictions:
The Favorite: Villanova (-110)
Despite not winning the regular-season crown, the Wildcats are the clear favorites to cut down the nets at MSG. Villanova may lack the senior punch of past iterations. But they have still been the most consistent, most successful, and most profitable team in the country over the past five years. Juniors Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are the team's one-two punch, and their seven-man rotation is impenetrable. The Wildcats have made it to three straight Big East Tournament finals, winning twice. And with the No. 1 scoring offensive in the country they are going to be tough to slow down.
The Contender: Xavier (+380)
The Musketeers still couldn't beat Villanova head-to-head this year, getting blown out by the Wildcats twice. But they were able to outlast Nova for the regular-season title. Seniors J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiet can do it all. And if Xavier's two big men, Sean O'Mara and Kerem Kanter, are playing well then this team has no clear weakness on either end of the court. Almost this same cast of characters made it to the semifinals last season before making a run to the Elite Eight. But if they are going to claim this year's title it will likely require them taking down Villanova for just the second time since the X-Men joined the Big East.
The Sleeper: Creighton (+840)
Injuries have really kept the Bluejays from peaking this year. But this is a dangerous team that features two of the best players in the league, senior Marcus Foster and junior Khyri Thomas. They lost center Martin Krampelj for the year in January. But they've held it together enough to beat Villanova and Seton Hall and pull a 72-71 near miss against Xavier. I think the X-factor for this team is senior Toby Hegner. A former starter, this stretch-four senior needs to be involved. And if he gets hot from the outside and can throw in some rebounding then this team could be a real tough out.
The Spoiler: Seton Hall (+1000)
Here we have another team that is dealing with injuries at the absolute wrong time. Do-everything wing Desi Rodriguez has missed three straight games with an ankle injury and is questionable for this week. Starter Ismael Sanogo is also out with an ankle injury. They are two of the four senior starters that the Pirates are packing in this one. And this same core cut down the nets here in 2016 when they won the Big East title. Seton Hall has been a bit of a disappointment this season and has never really clicked. They earned the No. 3 seed thanks to some tiebreakers and a bit of luck. Can they get healthy and can they find a groove? For their accomplished senior class, this is their last chance.
Bubble Team To Watch: Providence (+3200)
The Friars have quietly played their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. But I think they need at least one win over Creighton in the quarterfinals to have a shot. Providence is yet another team stocked with seniors making one last go-round in MSG. And they have proven that they can beat anyone in the league as one of the only schools to beat both Xavier and Villanova this year. Providence has not been shooting the ball well. And if they are going to do enough to punch their NCAA Tournament ticket they will need someone to get hot from the outside.
Early-Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 3 Seton Hall (-4) vs. No. 6 Butler (2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 9)
This is a rematch of last Saturday's 77-70 Seton Hall win in Newark. On one hand, Seton Hall won that game without two starters. On the other hand, it was at home and on a very emotional Senior Night. Butler has hit the skids over the past month, losing five of their last seven. But two of those losses were in overtime, and they have one of the league's most explosive scorers in Kelan Martin. Butler is still looking for its first Big East Tournament win, going 0-4 straight up since joining the league in the 2013-14 season. To get it they will have to take down a Pirates squad that will have a lot of local support. This one will be intense in the afternoon.
2018 Big East Conference Tournament Predictions: Along with the Big 12, the Big East is one of the most densely-talented leagues in the nation. There are simply no easy games - the No. 9 seed in this 10-team league, St. John's, beat Duke - and upsets generally abound in this high-profile tournament. I do think that Xavier is a bit underrated and that their odds don't reflect their outstanding regular season. But can they beat Villanova? They are just 1-9 in their last 10 games against them, and a host of them have ben blowouts. I think the game of the tournament would be a Villanova-Seton Hall semifinal. And I think that the winner of that one would have to be the favorite in the championship game. I think if Xavier gets a shot at Seton Hall then they will cut down the nets. But until I actually see Xavier shut down Villanova I won't believe that they can, and an Xavier-Nova final would likely go to the defending champs.
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 posted 10 of 11 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year next week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here .
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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