Big East Odds, State of Conference Betting Report: How Will New Era Unfold?
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: UConn Huskies players
As the Big East enters conference play, the league is at the precipice of a new era.
That's a grandiose statement, but it's undeniably the state of the Big East after the retirement of Jay Wright at Villanova.
In the nine years since the Big East splintered in 2014, Wright's Wildcats won either the regular season title or the Big East Tournament in all nine seasons, with seven regular-season crowns and three seasons where they won both.
Wright is gone, having left Villanova with a logical succession plan. Longtime assistant Kyle Neptune returned to take reigns after a successful stint at Fordham (successful by Fordham standards, at least).
Early in Neptune's tenure, it looks like continuing Villanova's dominance over the conference won't be so simple. The Wildcats now have the fifth-best odds to win the Big East, trailing a group of challengers ready for the conference's new era to take shape.
Connecticut has emerged, not just as the favorite to win the Big East, but as a legitimate threat to win a national title. The Huskies are 12-0, one of five unbeatens remaining, and are atop KenPom's rankings.
Dan Hurley has built a roster capable of winning on either end of the court.
Offensively, the Huskies are centered around big man Adama Sanogo, who is a skilled post scorer and requires a double-team against almost any defender. When Sanogo rests, defenders are treated to 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan, who is a monster on the glass and around the rim.
On the perimeter, sophomore Jordan Hawkins adds some scoring pop, transfers Nahiem Alleyne (Virginia Tech) and Tristen Newton (East Carolina) bring some steady experience, and junior Andre Jackson Jr. is on the short list of most eye-popping athletes in college basketball.
The Huskies are even more impressive defensively, where they are quick to defend any shot opportunity. No team in college basketball allows teams to shoot fewer 3s per game or make fewer 3s per game than UConn.
This leaves the Huskies dreaming about a Big East crown and a top seed in March. At 12-0, with some really solid wins over Oregon, Alabama, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Florida, there's every reason to believe they are for real.
I'm eager to see them stack some quality road wins in conference play, starting with a date with Xavier on New Year's Eve.
I'd stay away from the Huskies to win the conference at this number and I think if you don't already have a futures bet on UConn to win the title or Final Four, you're probably late to the party now.
The Next Tier
Creighton Bluejays (+400)
It has been a remarkably strange season for Greg McDermott and the Bluejays.
After bringing back a young core that reached the NCAA tournament and won a first-round game, McDermott added one of the top prizes in the transfer portal, South Dakota State sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman.
In the first month of the season, the Creighton optimists looked vindicated. The Bluejays started 6-0 before losing a 40-minute battle with Arizona in the Maui Invitational title game. Even Creighton's second loss looked explainable, dropping a game on the road at Texas while shooting 4-of-27 from long range.
Since then, the wheels have completely fallen off.
In total, the Bluejays have lost six games in a row. The last three of those losses have come without center Ryan Kalkbrenner, who is fighting an illness that has left him unable to practice.
Until he returns, Creighton is a mess. Thankfully, the scheduling gods were kind at this time of year. The Bluejays won't travel again until January 7.
The bad news? That game is a trip to Storrs to play UConn.
Creighton needs to get right over the holiday season or the Bluejays will go from dreaming of the Final Four to seeing their name in the First Four Out of bracket projections.
Xavier Musketeers (+600)
Sean Miller has done some impressive work in his first year back at Xavier. He retained four of last year's starters while adding Souley Boum from UTEP in the transfer portal. Boum has been a revelation and should be in line for first team all-conference honors by the time the season ends.
I would caution some patience betting on this X team, though. The Musketeers are ripe for some shooting regression.
Boum, a career 36% 3-point shooter, has hit 54% early this season. Colby Jones, 34% for his career, has made 47%. Jack Nunge, also 34% for his career, is at 42% this season. Adam Kunkel, 35% across his career at Belmont and Xavier, is above 44% this season.
In total, the team is making 42.3% from outside the arc, second-best nationally. Last season, this team with many of the same players shot just 32%.
I still like the composition of the roster and I think Miller is going to steer this team to the Big Dance, but I would keep an eye out for a few ice cold nights that lead to unexpected losses.
Marquette Golden Eagles (+700)
Sometimes, a team can totally re-position itself with one performance. This Marquette team did just that with its November 29 dismantling of Baylor in Milwaukee.
The Golden Eagles jumped 26 spots in KenPom's rankings after that game, staking their claim among the better teams in the Big East.
Marquette's sudden and semi-unexpected rise has been due to internal player development. Shaka Smart isn't pulling in production from transfers and top recruits. His upperclassmen grew over the offseason, including some major leaps that will pay dividends in March.
Smart's sophomore class elevated themselves from bit parts to meaningful roles, most notably Kam Jones, who doubled his scoring average from last season.
Villanova Wildcats (+1500)
This is where things get interesting.
Villanova is asking itself the same question we're seeing play out at North Carolina and Duke. Can the "special sauce" survive a coaching change as a legend exits the game?
Early on, the answer is a resounding "no."
On December 2, with seven games under his belt, Neptune's Wildcats were just 2-5, with losses to Temple and Portland. According to Bart Torvik's T-Rank metric, Villanova played like the 149th-best team in college basketball over than span.
There is some key context needed here. Villanova played those games without Cam Whitmore, a near lock to be drafted in the lottery next spring. Whitmore is a five-star recruit with real potential to be one of the best players in the Big East.
Since Whitmore returned, the Wildcats are unbeaten at 4-0 and playing like the 64th-best team in the nation by Torvik's numbers. That's still way below Villanova's standard, but it has been far smoother than the rocky start.
The Wildcats have a lot of players trying to grow into new roles and those roles were even more lofty with Whitmore out of the lineup.
On the defensive end, Villanova has seen a barrage from long range, allowing a top-20 percentage of opponent points via the long ball this season so far.
If there's a team to bet to win the Big East at this stage of the season, for me the value is on Villanova.
It's a long shot for a reason, yet there's a path. With a little bit of tightening on defense and an offense built around Whitmore, Villanova is not the team that started 2-5. That's especially true with All-Big East guard Justin Moore returning from a torn Achilles at some point later this year.
If Moore can return and look anywhere close to his prior performance, Villanova is a top three team in the Big East. It's worth monitoring their odds and his status moving forward.
St. John's Red Storm (+2500)
The Red Storm are the big mystery in the Big East right now. An 11-1 record looks great, yet the Johnnies have played just one top-50 opponent, a loss at Iowa State.
Their best wins are a home blowout of Nebraska and an overtime steal against a mediocre Syracuse team. KenPom ranks St. John's non-conference schedule 339th nationally.
At the end of the day, Mike Anderson's team might be thankful for the easy entrance to the year. He has a roster featuring several transfers, so the time to coalesce without adversity might be a blessing.
We'll know a lot more about St. John's after Wednesday's trip to Villanova.
Providence Friars (+3000)
Like St. John's, Providence hasn't shown enough to be considered contenders this season. The 349th-ranked non-conference schedule doesn't help.
Prior to this weekend, Providence had only played three teams ranked higher than 199th by KenPom and lost to all three.
The Friars opened a few eyes by winning at Seton Hall to start Big East play, though I won't consider them much of a threat until they beat one of the teams listed above them here.
Tuesday offers a chance, when Marquette comes to town.
Seton Hall Pirates (+10000)
The Pirates are really strong defensively, 28th in defensive efficiency nationally.
Seton Hall's offense, on the other hand, is an issue.
New head coach Shaheen Holloway doesn't have a player who can create for himself and others. Kadary Richmond is an interesting point guard, but he ultimately doesn't have the scoring prowess to challenge a defense.
This team will win some dogfights defensively, though I can't see the Pirates being a factor down the stretch.
Butler Bulldogs (+10000)
Butler has a few decent wins, topping BYU, Kansas State and Yale. There's plenty of reasons to believe the first year of the second Thad Matta era at Butler will be an improvement over recent years.
Chuck Harris and Manny Bates makes for a fun 1-2 punch on the perimeter and inside, with plenty of teams unable to find an answer for both.
There's probably not enough here to see Butler in the postseason, though the Bulldogs will win a few that they shouldn't, especially at home at Hinkle.
DePaul Blue Demons (+20000)
We're nearly 1,700 words into this State of the Big East update. What really needs to be said about a DePaul team with losses to Santa Clara and Duquesne?
The last time the Blue Demons took the floor, they lost by 38 to Northwestern.
DePaul will once again sit near the rear of the Big East. A Christmas Day trip to Creighton will tell us far more about the Bluejays than deliver any insights about DePaul.
Georgetown Hoyas (+50000)
Considering what I just wrote about DePaul, think about how bad this Georgetown team must be. To not only be worse than DePaul, but have odds twice as long to win the conference, the Hoyas must be truly dreadful.
If you've watched Georgetown (or sadly, bet on one of its games), you know that it's indeed that bad.
Ewing and the Hoyas have now lost 20 straight Big East regular season games. Unless something changes quickly, it's hard to see how Ewing is the coach at his alma mater after this season.