Big East Tournament Odds & Picks: Cases For Betting St. John’s & UConn To Cut Down the Nets
Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: James Bouknight.
There’s still a long list of conferences yet to crown champions, with 15 championship games on Saturday followed by five more before the NCAA Tournament bracket is released on Sunday.
In order to help you navigate the jam-packed week of college basketball, our analysts have come together to deliver their top picks to win each of the remaining Power 6 and high-major conference tournaments.
You’ll find their favorite outright bets for the Big East Tournament below. Be sure to also check out their picks for the Big 12 and more conference tournaments here.
Big East Tournament
Collin Wilson: St. John’s +2000
Call this a bet on the current status of injuries all going in favor of this futures wager.
Posh Alexander was named to the Big East All-Freshman team and is set to return after missing a couple of games with a thumb injury. Alexander has not played since the Feb. 23 loss to Villanova, but the Red Storm have executed without their young star. Mike Anderson’s roster has beaten both Providence and Seton Hall, who they draw in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Led by sophomore Julian Champagnie, St. John’s dominated the second half against the Pirates. With Alexander back in the fold, the Red Storm are slated to meet a Villanova team that is on the ropes. The Wildcats are reeling after the loss of star Collin Gillespie to a torn MCL against Creighton on March 3.
To compound those issues, significant contributor Justin Moore fell in the season finale to Providence with a sprained ankle. Both Moore and Gillespie played at least 79% of Villanova’s total minutes, which is terrible news for a squad that ranks 325th in bench minutes.
A play on St. John’s is counting on the health of Alexander to return against a Seton Hall team that was just defeated and against a Villanova squad with unfortunate injuries.
Shane McNichol: St. John’s +2000
It is so tempting to allow the ins and outs of the regular season to play an outsized role when looking at conference tournament brackets.
In reality, a large portion of this week’s games and tournaments will come down to matchups, incentives, and quirks within each bracket. In the Big East, all of those factors favor the Johnnies.
They’ll start with a quarterfinal game against a collapsing Seton Hall team. The Pirates, once solidly on the correct side of the bubble, now find themselves on the outside looking in, according to most Bracketologists. Seton Hall’s regular-season finale was a loss to St. John’s in which the Pirates allowed 53 second-half points.
The winner of that matchup is in luck, setting itself up to face a Villanova team currently ravaged by injury. Jay Wright was already playing a shallow lineup, with only seven VIllanova players receiving more than 150 total minutes so far this season.
Injuries to Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore will severely hamper this Villanova team. The Wildcats looked completely out of sorts until a late run against Providence. Sophomore Chris Arcidiacono, who sports a familiar name thanks to his brother Ryan’s time at Villanova, played more minutes Saturday against Providence than he had all season.
Not only were Gillespie and Moore pivotal players for Villanova, they were the starting backcourt on a team that ranks in the top five in the nation in avoiding turnovers.
To date, Villanova’s two most turnover-heavy games this season came against St. John’s. The Red Storm have their own problems, but a favorable path on their side of the bracket and a tournament in their home city is enough value to grab the Johnnies at +2000.
Mike Randle: Connecticut +300
The Connecticut Huskies are the best team in the Big East. Period.
After battling through a season filled with COVID-19 pauses and injuries, the Huskies are now fully healthy and playing their best basketball of the season.
Since the return of star guard James Bouknight (20.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG) from an elbow injury, the Huskies have won five of their last six games. Their only loss was a close 68-60 battle at Villanova against a Wildcats team that will now be without point guard Collin Gillespie (torn MCL) for the remainder of the season.
Head coach Danny Hurley has the best defensive team in the Big East, leading the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed (KenPom). The Huskies have a deep roster filled with multiple bigs that comprise the best defensive block percentage in the Big East.
Almost every other contender in the conference has major flaws that will be exposed over a four-day tournament. Connecticut ranks 25th overall in adjusted offensive efficiency and 29th in defense, per KenPom. It’s fully healthy, balanced, and has great team chemistry with Hurley (unlike tournament favorite Creighton).
Even at relatively low odds of +300, the Huskies are my best value in a top-heavy Big East Tournament.
Kyle Remillard: Connecticut +300
The Connecticut Huskies are the 3-seed in the Big East Tournament, and if they had James Bouknight all season, they would be the 1-seed.
Bouknight is averaging 20.2 points along with 5.6 rebounds per game and makes the rest of his teammates better when he’s on the court. I’ve posted the image below about a half-a-dozen times this season as I don’t think his importance to this program can be overstated.
UConn is a different team when he’s on the court, and it’s thriving at just the right time heading into the Big East Tournament. It’s won six of its last seven games since he returned to the lineup, only losing to Villanova when the Huskies couldn’t hit water out of a boat in the second half.
The Huskies own the No. 1 ranked defensive efficiency in the Big East and a top-25 offensive efficiency nationally. In the semifinals, they will need to get by Creighton, which has had some drama with head coach Greg McDermott and lost two of its last three.
It could also face Villanova that will be without Collin Gillespie in the finals. The Wildcats have also been struggling of late, dropping half of their last six games.