NCAA Basketball Picks: Top Big East Tournament Quarterfinal Plays

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 10, 2016 1:25 AM GMT

The Big East played its two first-round games Wednesday, with the quarterfinals getting off to an early start Thursday. As of this writing, there are two matchups set at Madison Square Garden in the quarters. Let's examine on Heritage's NCAA Basketball odds.

Butler vs. Providence (+3.5)
A 2:30 p.m. ET tipoff for this game in New York City between the fifth-seeded Bulldogs and No. 4 Friars. Both these schools were ranked for a while this season and looked like early contenders for the Big East crown but faded a bit as the year went on. Both still appear comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field no matter what the result here; the winner almost surely will play regular-season champion Villanova in Friday's semifinals. Butler (21-9) did close the season pretty well with three straight wins, including a 21-point rout of Marquette to finish things off.  The Bulldogs had senior Roosevelt Jones and sophomore Kelan Martin named to the All-Big East Second Team. Jones does a little of everything as he's third on the team in scoring (14.3 points per game), second in rebounding (6.7 rpg), and first in assists (4.7 apg) and steals (1.5 spg). Jones also had a triple-double on Feb. 6 against St. John's, the program's first in 32 years. In Big East games only, Martin was third in the conference in scoring (17.6 ppg) and fifth in rebounding (7.6 rpg). Overall, he averages 16.2 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Butler is an excellent offensive team, averaging 81.3 ppg (17th nationally). The Bulldogs are 0-2 in their short Big East history in this tournament.

Providence (22-9) finished with the same 10-8 conference record as Butler but won the tiebreaker. The Friars were ranked as high as No. 10 this season following an upset at Villanova on Jan. 24. But then Providence lost six of its next eight games to land on the NCAA Tournament bubble. PC got off said bubble with three straight wins to close the regular season. Providence has two of the conference's best players in junior guard Kris Dunn and sophomore forward Ben Bentil -- just little else. Both those players were named All-Big East First Team and Dunn added Defensive Player of the Year honors. Bentil leads the conference in scoring overall at 21.2 points per game and is fifth in rebounding (7.8 rpg). Dunn was fourth in the Big East in scoring (16.3 ppg), second in assists (6.4 pg) and first in steals (2.7 spg). Providence was 2-0 vs. Butler during the season, winning 81-73 in Indianapolis and 71-68 at home.

Not easy beating the same team three times in one season, but I'll take the points at +3.5 NCAA Basketball odds. Providence is 11-2 ATS in its past 13 neutral-site games. The Bulldogs are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Providence +3.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Creighton vs. Seton Hall (-2.5)
The final game of the four Big East Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday is this one between the No. 6 Bluejays and No. 3 Pirates. The winner probably faces No. 2 Xavier on Friday. Creighton (18-13) isn't going to the NCAA Tournament short of winning this tournament; otherwise it's likely headed to the NIT. Picked to finish ninth in the preseason, the Bluejays went 9-9 in Big East play and were sixth. Creighton had played its way into NCAA consideration but then lost four of its final five games -- the only win in that stretch was against Big East doormat St. John's. The Bluejays' star is junior guard Maurice Watson Jr., who led the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (6.6 apg). The latter number was best in the Big East. Watson was named All-Big East Second Team.  Creighton is a strong offensive club, averaging 79.8 points per game and is 14-1 this season when scoring at least 80. The club struggles on defense.

Seton Hall (22-8) finished 12-6 in the conference and in sole possession of third. The Pirates have no NCAA Tournament worries regardless of the result here. They are projected currently as a No. 7 seed. Few teams in the conference closed better than Seton Hall, which won nine of its final 11 games. The only two losses in that stretch? To Butler. Isaiah Whitehead is a top candidate for Big East Player of the Year and is All-Big East First Team. Over that closing 11-game stretch, he averaged 22.1 points, 5.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocked shots and 1.5 steals. Whitehead finished third in the Big East in scoring at 17.9 ppg and third in assists (4.9 apg) and steals (1.5 spg). Seton Hall and Creighton split this season. On Jan. 9 in New Jersey, the Bluejays won 82-67 behind 13 points and 14 assists from Watson. On Jan. 30 in Omaha, SHU won 75-65. Whitehead had 22 points.

Take Seton Hall -2.5 with your NCAA Basketball picks. The Pirates are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 vs. teams with a winning record. Creighton is 1-3-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Seton Hall -2.5 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle