Big East Tournament Preview: Lay Chalk With Villanova?

Rainman M.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

The Big East Tournament tips off on Wednesday at the Madison Square Garden in New York City and concludes on Saturday evening. Villanova is favored to repeat. Is there betting value in other teams?


Free NCAAB Pick: Creighton +800Best Line Offered: at BetOnline


Butler: +700

Creighton: +800

DePaul: +10000

Georgetown University: +5000

Marquette: +2500

Providence: +1600

Seton Hall: +800

St. John's: +5000

Villanova: -115

Xavier +230

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Thursday @TheGarden @BIGEASTMBB Tournament Quarterfinals is the greatest college hoops day of the year. #BigEastHoops

— Big East Hoops 24/7 (@BigEastTourney) March 4, 2018

Bubble Teams and Surprises:

Providence is barely on the right side of the bubble and would love to achieve at least one win in order to secure its spot in the Big Dance. The Friars will have trouble getting past Creighton. What separates these two teams is the quality of Creighton's half-court offense, led by senior point guard Marcus Foster. Foster doesn't commit many turnovers or fouls and ranks in the top 500 in two-point and three-point shooting percentage. Small forward Khyri Thomas ranks in the top 100 in both latter categories. Providence lacks this kind of offensive quality. Providence will struggle to create enough plays against Creighton's second-best half-court defense and lacks efficient scorers when opportunities do arise.

Either team can beat top-seeded Xavier in the next round. What makes Creighton difficult for Xavier is its ability to create plays and score inside. Xavier ranks last in two-point defense and sixth in half-court defense. The Friars aren't efficient inside the arc but they are strongest here, relying more on two-point scoring than every other Big East team besides two. They also excel at forcing turnovers and achieving steals. Xavier's offense would be limited by its mistakes, ranking eighth in turnover percentage, and against Providence's top-ranked half-court defense. So Creighton is my favorite long-shot betting option, followed by Providence. I would then hedge either one in the final.

Marquette is currently sitting on the 'First Four Out.' Assuming that they beat lowest-seeded DePaul, which is not an automatic assumption to make--DePaul is the Big East's version of Rutgers, a scrappy team, which can upset the offensive rhythm of turnover-prone Marquette--they would have to face Villanova. The difference between Nova and Marquette is predominantly twofold: Nova plays strong defense and is ball-secure. The Wildcats rank first in KenPom's defensive efficiency and turnover percentage while Marquette ranks outside the top five in both categories. Marquette allowed a combined 185 points in both games to Nova. Poor defense and turnovers aside, Golden Eagles don't even have the offensive weapons to compete with Nova's. Six Wildcats average double figures and those six include NBA-caliber point guard Jalen Brunson, who averages 19 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Nova would face either Butler or Seton Hall. Nova separates itself from both by the quality of its point guard, Brunson. Seton Hall's point guard, Khadeen Carrington, is a converted shooting guard whose scoring potential suffers due to the position change. Butler's Kamar Baldwin is a mediocre sophomore whose KenPom offensive rating is nearly 28 points lower than that of Brunson. Villanova likes to attempt threes more than any other Big East team. Butler's weak perimeter defense that ranks sixth in opposing three-point percentage will offer little resistance. Seton Hall's is a bit stronger, but its defense ranks eighth in efficiency particularly because it struggles to force turnovers, ranking last in the category, and thus allows the opposing offense more scoring opportunities.

Predicting a Creighton vs Villanova Final:

Creighton (or Providence) bettors should hedge here. Villanova bettors should have opened an open parlay and put Nova ML for each game in order to derive more value than by laying chalk with a Nova future.

It's hard to match up with a complete and deep Nova team that ranks first both in offensive and defensive efficiency. Rebounding is one weakness, but Creighton ranks outside the top five both in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Nova attempted 39 threes in each of its match-ups against Creighton. Creighton's perimeter defense is weak--it beat Nova at home because Nova suffered an off-day in a hostile environment. In neutral territory, I expect Nova, which ranks second-best in the Big East in three-point percentage, to make its shots in order to help its stingy defense secure the win. Brunson, plus four other Wildcats, rank in the top 400 in three-point shooting percentage.

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