Big East Conference Futures: Don’t Be Afraid To Bet On UConn or Providence
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: UConn’s RJ Cole.
On Wednesday night, St. John’s and Georgetown turned back time in the Big East with two big upsets.
The Red Storm entered their home matchup with No. 3 Villanova as a 9.5-point underdog and stunned the Wildcats with a 70-59 win that was even more dominant than the score indicated.
St. John’s had three players in double figures, led by lightning-quick guard Posh Alexander (16 points), who added three steals to a dominant two-way performance.
Georgetown was an even bigger surprise, earning an 86-79 outright win as 14-point road underdogs against Creighton. The Hoyas shot a blistering 47.6% (10-of-21) from 3-point range, led by Jahvon Blair’s 22 points (five 3-pointers).
While Villanova still holds a substantial 2.5-game lead over Creighton atop the conference standings, all signs point to a wide-open Big East Tournament. The Wildcats (-235) and Bluejays (+300) are still the favorites, but there is strong value in some of the other teams in the conference.
Let’s take a look at my favorite Big East Tournament bets as we enter the month of February.
All odds are as of Feb. 5 and via DraftKings.
The Huskies have battled through the absence of star guard James Bouknight and three separate COVID-19 pauses to a respectable 8-3 record.
The Huskies have completely bought into head coach Danny Hurley’s defensive philosophy, ranking first overall in adjusted defensive efficiency within conference play.
Senior forward Isaiah Whaley (6.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg) has been a force on the interior and tallied a seven-block performance in the Huskies’ 63-51 win over Butler. Fellow senior Tyler Polley (8.8 ppg, 38.8% 3-point) can get scalding-hot from deep, with five 3s in back-to-back wins over Butler and Marquette.
The absence of Bouknight has provided opportunities for players like junior Tyrese Martin (11.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and R.J. Cole (10.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.1 aps) to carry more of the scoring burden.
UConn fans have also been pleased with the development of 6-foot-9 freshman Adama Sanogo (5.9 pg, 3.7 rpg), who has averaged 11 points and five rebounds over UConn’s last three games.
Recency bias has allowed the Huskies’ odds to fall to +500, an incredible value.
UConn has yet to face Villanova or Seton Hall and lost with Bouknight at home to Creighton by two in overtime.
UConn is a superior rebounding team, ranking fourth-best in the country on the offensive boards. I love the price tag on a well-coached, defensive-minded team with one of the best players in the Big East returning shortly.
We’ve seen the late-season Ed Cooley run before.
In 2014, the Friars parlayed a three-way tie for third place in the regular season into a magical Big East Tournament championship.
In 2018, Cooley’s Friars again made a run to the title game, eventually succumbing to Villanova, 76-66, in overtime. It was the third consecutive overtime game for Providence in that tournament.
This season, the Friars have largely disappointed with a 5-7 conference record after a third-place preseason poll selection. But the roster construction for the Friars has everything needed to make another magical run in the Big East Tournament title.
Guard David Duke (17.9 ppg, 41% 3-point) is an elite scorer with four games of 28 points or more. He is complemented by the inside presence of 6-foot-10 Nate Watson, who contributes 17.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
Providence needs more consistent production from junior guard A.J. Reeves (9.6 ppg), who followed a season-high 28 point game against Georgetown with just four points in a 17-point loss to Seton Hall.
The Friars have struggled without starting point guard Jared Bynum, who continues to battle a groin strain. Bynum facilitates the offensive efficiency, with three games of eight assists.
Providence doesn’t stand out with superior metrics, but it has the talent to make another deep Big East Tournament run. If they can get a fully healthy roster, the Friars can parlay Duke’s scoring with their own pedigree of success for a nice payoff at +5000.
St. John’s Red Storm
Yep, the team with the fifth-longest odds on the board is worth a serious look.
Mike Anderson’s Red Storm have won five consecutive games, including Wednesday’s shocking win over Villanova. St. John’s has a unique style with a group of talented players who relentlessly attack the basket off the dribble.
Sophomore Julian Champagnie (19.5 ppg, 42.4% 3-point) is a brilliant scorer, with seven games of 20 or more points.
Point guard Alexander (11.3 ppg, 2.7 spg) is a versatile two-way player who continually disrupts the opposing offense.
Juniors Greg Williams Jr. (10.3 ppg, 41% 3-point) and Vince Cole (10.2 ppg, 39.5% 3-point) are dangerous wing players who open the floor with deep efficiency.
The Red Storm’s defensive pressure is relentless, as illustrated by their 21st ranking in defensive turnover percentage, per KenPom.
With three consecutive conference road wins over Connecticut, DePaul, and Marquette, St. John’s has proven its ability to win outside of Carnesecca Arena. The Red Storm make their free throws at a 73.4% rate and are shooting a superb 37% from beyond the arc.
While is difficult to envision a team at +8000 winning the Big East Tournament, St. John’s recent play lends the rationale for a lottery ticket bet in the battle for 2021 Big East supremacy.