Madison Square Garden once again serves as center stage for the Big East Tournament, and Villanova is the heavy favorite on the NCAA basketball odds to cut down the nets.
They were 1-2 in the preseason NCAA Basketball odds to finish at the top of the Big East, and that's exactly where the Villanova Wildcats and Georgetown Hoyas ended up. Only now, the gap between them is a bit wider.
Welcome to the 2015 Big East Championship, set to tip this Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Villanova and Georgetown are expected to eventually meet in Saturday's finals after earning the top two seeds for the tourney, though things rarely happen as expected this time of year. Providence's upset of Creighton in the Championship Game a year ago is testament to that.
The Wildcats began the season as +175 chalk with the Hoyas right behind at +200, but it's 'Nova now that has taken a giant step forward on the college basketball odds at -145 from BetOnline while Georgetown steps in at +500 to grab the automatic invite to the Big Dance.
'Cats & Hoyas Split Regular Season Matchups
Villanova (29-2 straight up, 21-8-1 against the spread) and Georgetown (20-9 SU, 11-14-1 ATS) exchanged easy home wins and covers in their regular season matchups, the Hoyas taking the first clash as 4 point home 'dogs and the Wildcats avenging that defeat a few weeks later with a 16-point win to cover a -9½ spread.
Jay Wright and 'Nova performed as consistently as any team not named Kentucky up to this point, winning 12-straight since that loss at Georgetown and covering all but one of those wins. Their last five games all leapt 'over' the totals, and a Big East title would guarantee a No. 1 seed in the NCAA's.
Georgetown went through a rough patch a little more than a month ago with three defeats in a 4-game stretch, but the Hoyas rebounded to win five of their final six contests to put them in position to grab something in the 4-7 seed range from the selection committee when the invites go out this Sunday evening. Leading scorer D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera missed the regular season finale with a sore knee, but is expected to play Thursday when Georgetown opens against the winner of the DePaul-Creighton 1st-round matchup.
Butler Exceeds Expectations; Providence Draws St. John's
If I had a vote in the Naismith Award polling for the top college basketball ball coach this year, it would go to Chris Holtman at Butler (22-9 SU, 17-12 ATS). Tagged as the interim coach when Brandon Miller backed out for personal reasons just before the campaign got underway, Holtman and the Bulldogs are +550 to deny Villanova and Georgetown in New York this week.
The 3rd-seeded Bulldogs will take on No. 6 Xavier (19-12 SU, 13-16-1 ATS) on Thursday's college basketball betting card after the two halved their regular season matchups with home wins and covers.
Providence (21-10 SU, 16-11-1 ATS) was third behind 'Nova and G'town on the original futures odds, and the Friars are sixth on the updated numbers at +1100 despite drawing the No. 4 seed. They will have to face No. 5 seed St. John's (21-10 SU, 13-13-2 ATS), a team that beat Providence twice during the regular season and will enjoy home court advantage playing at MSG.
DePaul, Seton Hall Fizzle After Good Starts
It all gets underway with Round 1 contests on Wednesday, and earlier this season it didn't appear either DePaul (12-19 SU, 16-14 ATS) or Seton Hall (16-14 SU, 17-11-1 ATS) would be playing on that day. The Blue Demons lost their final seven games, however, while the Pirates dropped eight of their last nine, and should be 1-&-Done's in this event.
It's very difficult to place NCAA Basketball picks on anyone other than Villanova at this point. The Wildcats have clawed their way into the discussion for a No. 1 seed next week, and they're definitely the best the Big East has to offer. Still, I like how Georgetown got things back together, and the Hoyas are my pick to be the last team standing in New York.