Out of all the conference tournaments set to take place this week, the Big East tournament might be the most competitive. The one seed down to the five seed all won twenty or more games this season, and each could have an argument made for them to cut down the nets in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. We’ll preview the field before going over which team I’ll be holding a ticket for this week.
Despite being the four seed in the tournament, the UCONN Huskies currently have the best odds to win at +190. Early in the season, it looked like the Huskies might run away with the regular season conference title and set themselves up for the one seed, but after losing six of eight games during a stretch in January, they finished 13-7 in the Big East.
The Huskies got a lot of national attention before that rough stretch, but they are now back to looking like a dangerous team as they will enter the tournament on a five-game win streak and ranked fourth in the country on KenPom. They will match up with Providence in the first round, a team they split the season series with.
After UCONN, the next two teams with the best odds are Creighton and Marquette, both listed at +325. The difference between these two teams is that Marquette won the regular season title and 11 of their last 12 games, while Creighton will enter this week 3-3 over their last six games. KenPom has the Bluejays ranked one spot ahead of Marquette and 10th in the country in defensive efficiency, while Marquette is ranked 68th.
Each team has a tough road to the finals, but Creighton will likely have to beat Villanova and Xavier to make it to Saturday. Xavier has the fourth-best odds to win the tournament at (+425) and finished in second place in the regular season.
The conundrum with betting on a team like Xavier is the disparity between their offense and defense, as they rank 10th in offensive efficiency and 84th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. With all the offensive talent in this tournament, the Musketeers' offense will need to be light outs to win three straight games.
It is called March Madness for a reason, so it would not be right to ignore the rest of the field that will be looking for a deep run into the tournament in order to make it to the NCAA tournament. After all the teams mentioned above, the oddsmakers have listed a big dropoff with the next best odds after Xavier belonging to Villanova and Providence at +1500.
The Wildcats had a very lackluster season to their standards this year, but they will match up with the 11-seed Georgetown Hoyas in the first round, which gives them an excellent chance to take on Creighton in the quarterfinals. Villanova is ranked 91st in defensive efficiency on KenPom, making their road to the finals difficult, even with guys like Cam Whitmore.
Providence has a tough matchup right off the bat with UCONN, so Ed Cooley and his Friars will need to bounce back quickly after their blowout loss to Seton Hall in their final game of the regular season. Speaking of Seton Hall, their odds are listed at +5000, and despite having the 21st-ranked defense on KenPom and an ideal first-round matchup against Depaul, they’ll need to get passed Xavier to make it into the semi-final round.
I touched on it in the intro, but this is one of the deepest and most competitive fields in conference tournaments we will see this season, so there are plenty of places to go when making a future bet. With that being said, my pick for this tournament will be the Marquette Golden Eagles at (+325). The Golden Eagles have never made the Big East Championship game, and between Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones, I think that changes.
Shaka Smart has proven he can win big games, and after the quarterfinal round, they will match up with either UCONN or Providence in the semi-finals. They split the season series with both of those teams, and in a likely offensive-heavy tournament, Marquette ranks 4th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom, which is the best in the conference.