2023 Big East Tournament Betting Preview, Bracket & Odds
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Big East logo.
Apologies to the SEC for stealing their motto, but during Championship Week in college hoops, the Big East Tournament just means more.
Maybe that’s due to its location at Madison Square Garden (and commitment to keeping the tournament in one location).
Maybe it’s the packed, raucous crowds that come from Big East campuses and alumni bases up and down the East Coast.
Maybe it’s just decades of memories of Kemba Walker, Patrick Ewing, Jay Wright and so much more.
Whatever the reason, the Big East’s claim as the most intriguing and exciting of college basketball’s conference tournaments lives on, even as the league crumbled to pieces and added new members without the historical significance baked in.
This year should be no different, with five teams likely headed to the Big Dance and a season full of great games sure to lead to a chaotic tournament.
2023 Big East Tournament Bracket
2023 Big East Tournament Odds
The Wednesday Wildcats
Since the Big East broke apart into its current format in 2014, there have been eight completed tournaments held at Madison Square Garden.
Seven of those eight featured a top-three seed winning, with Georgetown‘s miracle run in 2021 representing the only time a team has won four games in four days to be crowned champion.
The top five seeds avoid a Wednesday game, with those seeds earned by the five teams currently projected to be safely in the NCAA tournament (Marquette, Xavier, Creighton, UConn and Providence).
The pluckiest team left playing Wednesday night is Villanova, which is red hot over the last month with star guard Justin Moore rounding into form.
Given the way they are playing, the Wildcats should be getting buzz about making a run in Manhattan this week.
Historically, in the current iteration of the Big East, Villanova has dominated this event.
Big East Tournament Records over Last 5 Years
Seton Hall 4-4
St John's 4-4
— Ryan Cassidy (@ryancassidycbb) March 3, 2023
And while the Cats may make a run beyond their seeded expectation, winning four games in four days — with the latter three games coming against high-level tournament competition — is a tall order.
I’ll be looking for the Villanova moneyline in the quarterfinals should it advance that far, but I can’t get behind the Wildcats to cut down the nets at anything under +2000.
Some books list the Cats at less than half that.
Longshots for a Reason
All season long, the Big East has had five good teams, five bad teams and perplexing Villanova in the middle.
The top five earned their byes, leaving the five cellar dwellers needing to win four games in four days, against better competition, to complete the miracle and get an NCAA tournament berth.
The odds set by sportsbooks recognize that unlikelihood, placing Seton Hall, St. John’s, Butler, DePaul and Georgetown at ridiculously high odds to cut down the nets at MSG.
Once-mighty Georgetown is paying 1,000 to 1 to win the tournament, and even that feels generous.
Don’t waste your time pondering a diamond the rough here. In the 50 meetings between a top-five team and a bottom-five team in the Big East this season, the better teams went 44-6, with four of the six losses coming in the lesser team’s home gym.
(For the record, Marquette and Creighton each took care of business with a perfect 10-0 record against bottom feeders).
Don’t chase a big payday — that’s not happening. Focus on the teams with a chance to win.
The Providence Problem
Among the list of teams with a chance to win, the Providence Friars present an interesting conundrum.
After starting Big East play 9-2, the Friars have stumbled to a 4-7 record since Feb. 1. Two of their most notable wins — home victories over Marquette and Creighton — were coin flips decided in double overtime.
The Friars ended the regular season with one of the flattest Senior Day performances in the country, getting routed in their own building by Seton Hall.
Providence limps down I-95 to Madison Square Garden, clearly viewed as a step behind the other teams at the top.
Most books place Providence’s chances to win the Big East Tournament equal or worse than Villanova, which would need to win an extra game to do so.
In theory, the Friars love of the free-throw line. They led the Big East in free-throw rate and percentage of points via foul shots, which is intriguing for their quarterfinal matchup with foul-happy UConn.
In front of a sure-to-be pro-Husky crowd, it’s hard to see the porous Providence defense getting consistent stops. When they played in Storrs last month, the Friars earned 20 free throws, but couldn’t match the output of UConn’s offensive attack, resulting in an easy Huskies win.
Finding Value in the Top Four
That leaves four teams with a real chance to win the Big East Tournament, likely setting up two classic semifinal games: Xavier vs. Creighton and Marquette vs. UConn.
If any of those four were to lose in the quarterfinals, I’d be quick to check the odds for the other top team in its half of the bracket.
For example, if Villanova upsets Creighton (as the Cats did two weeks ago), Xavier’s path to the title gets a tick easier. If the odds don’t reflect that on Thursday night or Friday morning, that could be a time to invest.
Otherwise, finding a team to bet before the tournament starts is a delicate balance.
UConn is playing the best basketball right now. Since Feb. 1, the Huskies have played like the second-best team in the nation by Bart Torvik’s T-Rank metric.
They are 8-1 over their last nine games, though it’s notable that just two of those came against the other top four teams (with the Huskies beating Marquette and losing at Creighton).
UConn’s path to the tournament title, however, may be the toughest of the four. Providence is the best team any of the quartet will play on Thursday (and beat Connecticut by 12 in January).
The other top three teams will also play a team fresh off a Wednesday game, while the Friars will be rested.
It’s fair to call UConn the team in the Big East best suited for postseason play, yet I can’t sign on to it as the clear-cut favorite, as DraftKings does at +190.
If you’re more convinced about UConn’s spot atop the conference, Parx and BetRivers list the Huskies — still as the favorite — at +300. I think there’s more value in rolling over UConn moneylines through the tournament.
Creighton’s path would be the next most difficult, given Villanova’s resurgence and likely meeting with the Bluejays on Thursday night.
Marquette is staring down the reality of playing UConn in the semifinals in Husky territory, with the Garden packed with Connecticut alumni.
That leaves Xavier, which now finds itself with the most favorable path — by a slim margin — to Saturday’s final. The Musketeers miss injured big man Zach Freemantle, but are now 6-3 in his absence.
In my eyes, the top-four teams here would have roughly the same odds to win this tournament in a vacuum, but Xavier boasts the right spot in the bracket and the longest odds of the group. Books are listing the Musketeers as high at +500, but I’m interested in Xavier at anything higher than +420.
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