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Big East Odds, Second State of Conference Betting Report: Should UConn Be in Driver’s Seat?

Big East Odds, Second State of Conference Betting Report: Should UConn Be in Driver’s Seat? article feature image

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Jack Nunge & Adama Sanogo (Xavier & UConn)

The Big East remains one of the blue-chip conferences in college basketball, and once again, it should feature plenty of intrigue throughout the regular season.

This past Saturday featured four of the top five teams squaring off, with both underdogs stealing a win and throwing a wrench in the Big East standings.

With those results in the bag, it’s a perfect time to review the Big East futures market and evaluate the conference team-by-team as we flip the calendar to 2023.

The Favorite

UConn Huskies (-160)

The undefeated season has ended, but UConn remains the favorite to win the conference. A road loss to one of the league’s best teams is not anything to panic about. The Huskies still boast a top-10 offense and defense nationally and are as deep as any team in college basketball.

I don’t, however, see them still being worthy of being the odds-on favorite here. UConn is only 1-3 ATS in Big East play and some of its early-season statement wins are losing their luster (looking at you, Florida and Oregon).

UConn remains the most likely Big East champ, but you’re not getting value at this price.

The Challengers

Xavier Musketeers (+350)

Sean Miller has Xavier rolling.

The Musketeers haven’t lost since November and haven’t lost to a team outside the KenPom top 20 period.

Xavier made a statement on Saturday, besting UConn at home. That was the first major domino in the race for the Big East crown.

In theory, it puts Xavier in the driver’s seat, though plenty more challenges await, including the return trip to Connecticut.

Given that the Musketeers hold the lead at this very early juncture, I think there’s some value if you find this number any higher (Parx has Xavier at +400, for example).

Marquette Golden Eagles (+700)

Both analytically and anecdotally, this is the best offensive team Shaka Smart has ever coached.

The Golden Eagles rank in the top 10 in the nation in offensive efficiency, thanks to the fourth-best percentage on 2-pointers in the nation. When Marquette attacks the interior, it does so efficiently and effectively.

The main reason to doubt this team as a conference championship contender is its schedule thus far. Marquette has yet to meet Xavier or UConn, but will see both in a five-day span later this month.

Creighton Bluejays (+700)

The Bluejays started the season 6-0, then skidded to six straight losses. Since then, Creighton has rebounded with two victories over Big East foes, thanks in large part to the return of center Ryan Kalkbrenner.

The 7-footer has been integral to Creighton’s success. The Bluejays are 8-3 when he suits up and 0-3 when he hasn’t. He’s shooting 76% from the field while anchoring the Creighton defense.

His absence has been a death knell for Creighton. With Kalkbrenner on the floor, the Bluejays are posting 120.3 adjusted points per 100 possessions offensively, per Hoop-Explorer. Without him, that number drops to 103.6.

The difference is even more stark defensively. With Kalkbrenner, Creighton allows only 89.1 points per 100 possessions. Without him, that mark jumps to 97.9 points.

In total, his presence swings Creighton’s net rating by over 25 points per 100 possessions.

If those numbers sound like a reason to bet on the Bluejays to win the conference, I advise you do it now. Creighton goes to UConn next Saturday and to Xavier the following Wednesday. The Bluejays probably need to steal one of those to stay in the race.

If they do, their odds will move pretty swiftly.

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Villanova Wildcats (+2000)

In my last edition of this column, I called Villanova‘s chances to win the conference my favorite value on the board. Since then, the Wildcats have lost twice and their odds have jumped all the way to 20-to-1.

Somehow, I’m not sure I’m ready to quit the Cats.

My optimism was based on Villanova’s play and record with highly-touted freshman Cam Whitmore back from injury.

Villanova battled on the road at UConn, threatening the highly-ranked Huskies late despite shooting just 22% from downtown.

The Wildcats then lost by just two points to a strong Marquette team.

Here’s the problem: Whitmore has impressed on a very limited basis, considering his usage by first-year head coach Kyle Neptune. Villanova fans are livid that Whitmore saw the court for just a few seconds during the final seven minutes against Marquette.

Cam Whitmore was Villanova's best player today, and he played 26 seconds of the last 7 minutes. I am legitimately beside myself.

— Andrew M. Laird (@andrewmlaird) December 31, 2022

That looks especially damning because the Wildcats scored just six points during the games final eight minutes, and didn’t score in the final 3:42 of play.

In Whitmore’s time on the court this season, Villanova has unquestionably been better than in its time without him.

With Whitmore, the Wildcats are scoring 121.2 adjusted points per 100 possessions, per Hoop-Explorer, compared to just 112.1 without him. Defensively, the difference is similar, with Villanova allowing 96.4 points per 100 with Whitmore and 104.0 without him.

That difference in Net Rating is eye-popping, and the eye test backs it up. Whitmore is the only Wildcat capable of actively creating his own shot.

The logical follow-up question: if Whitmore plays, who sits?

Don’t worry, reader. It’s pretty clear to anyone who has watched a Villanova game this season. Chris Arcidiacono, younger brother of once-Villanova hero Ryan, is playing more than 75% of minutes for the Cats while logging just a 9.4 usage rate. He’s essentially invisible on the court.

In all of men’s Division I college basketball, there’s only one player averaging more than 30 minutes per game while attempting fewer than 3.5 field goal attempts: Arcidiacono.

Among all players averaging 30 or more minutes per game this season, Arcidiacono ranks dead last nationally in points per game. He’s attempted 12 2-point baskets all season and only made four of those.

Those numbers might seem fine for a lethal outside shooter, but Arcidiacono is hitting 32% from outside for his career and only takes 2.6 per game.

The path to Villanova surging late in the season is clear. Former All-Big East guard Justin Moore is ramping up to return from an Achilles tear last season.

If he returns and looks at all like himself, Neptune can play Moore and Whitmore more often and send Arcidiacono to the bench, making an already efficient Villanova offense a real threat.

That’s a lot to ask of Moore, but a little to ask of Neptune. If changes don’t come soon, Villanova will miss the Big Dance for the first time in a decade.

Providence Friars (+2500)

Last year, Providence was a controversial team in betting circles, thanks to an ungodly fortunate set of outcomes in games decided by seven or fewer points.

You’d expect some regression from a team like that year-over-year, though thus far, that hasn’t been the case.

The Friars are gutting out tough wins again.

Providence stole a road win by four points at Seton Hall and needed two overtimes to escape Marquette at home.

We’ll learn a lot more about this team’s tournament chances over its next four outings: home dates with UConn and St. John’s, followed by trips to Creighton and Marquette.

The Bottom Dwellers

St. John’s Red Storm (+10000)

The Johnnies are a tough team to handicap thus far. The Red Storm played one of the softest non-conference schedules in the country, competing in just one game where their opponent was ranked higher by KenPom (and it was close, with the 41st-ranked Johnnies losing to 43rd-ranked Iowa State).

After making it through that slate of cupcakes mostly unscathed, Big East play punched St. John’s in the mouth. The Red Storm are 0-3 (both SU and ATS) in their last three conference games.

Mike Anderson has the Red Storm playing at one of the fastest paces in the country, with almost no outside shooting. It’s a 40-minute long full-court rim attack every time St. John’s steps on the court.

That makes St. John’s scary against a team not ready for pressure, but limits its variability and makes a hot-shooting upset less likely.

I wouldn’t want my favorite team to have to play a road game at Carnesecca Arena, but I’m also not rushing to bet the Johnnies against better competition.

Seton Hall Pirates (+20000)

Shaheen Holloway has the Pirates winning the same way his Saint Peter’s Peacocks won last March: with gritty defense.

Seton Hall might not have the firepower to earn an NCAA tourney berth this year, but I love it as a home underdog against Big East teams visiting Newark. The Pirates have a top-40 defense in the nation and get to the free-throw line at the sixth-highest rate in the country.

In its home building, with a loud crowd and a favorable whistle, I love Seton Hall’s chances to surprise some teams.

That could start with Creighton Tuesday night.

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Butler Bulldogs (+20000)

After an 8-3 start against a top-150 non-conference schedule, the early returns on the second Thad Matta era in Indianapolis seemed promising. The Bulldogs collected wins over three top-100 foes and looked headed for a competitive year in the Big East.

Then conference play started, and Butler fell flat. The Bulldogs started with three losses, all by a margin of 20 or more points.

Here’s the good news: the early schedule was tough and Butler rebounded by pummeling Georgetown on the road. If the Bulldogs can take care of business in upcoming games against DePaul, Seton Hall and St. John’s, home wins in the next two against Villanova and Creighton would look a lot more realistic.

DePaul Blue Demons (+50000)

There may not be a sadder Division I men’s college basketball program this century than DePaul. Since joining the Big East in 2005, the Blue Demons have finished outside the bottom three of the standings just twice (last doing so in 2008) and have finished in sole possession of last place 10 times.

Tony Stubblefield’s team will fight for a couple wins in conference, but won’t be a factor down the stretch.

Georgetown Hoyas (+100000)

Well, there’s currently one program sadder than DePaul.

Did you ever imagine a day when the Georgetown Hoyas would pay out 1000-to-1 to win the Big East? Those odds are generous. The chances of the Hoyas winning the Big East this season are not best defined by numbers but by unicorns and pixie dust.

Georgetown has not beaten a Big East team since March 13, 2021, nearly two calendar years ago.

This season, Georgetown has played eight games against power-conference foes. The Hoyas are 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS, with six of those losses by double-figures.

Keeping things relatively close with highly-ranked UConn may have fooled the sportsbooks a touch, but make no mistake: these Hoyas are dreadful.

Georgetown is 3-7 ATS in its last 10, including a 29-point drubbing at home against Butler most recently.

If the Hoyas are getting fewer than 10 points from almost any team in the Big East, it’s close to an auto-bet for me.

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