College basketball’s conference tournament smorgasbord is set to provide one of the busiest sports betting buffets of the entire calendar year. Five major conferences begin their events Wednesday. We start with the Big East, where slumping St. John’s sits precariously on the Big Dance bubble.
First Round at Madison Square Garden
#8 Providence vs. #9 Butler (FS1, 7 p.m.)
#7 St. John’s vs. #10 DePaul (FS1, 9:30 p.m.)
In a matter of days, St. John’s went from a likely #3 seed in the Big East tournament and a virtual lock for the NCAA’s to being a huge question mark. The Red Storm finished the regular season with three straight losses, missing the point spread by 15.5 at home against Xavier, 11.5 at DePaul, and 11.5 at Xavier.
No margin for error in the competitive, and tightly bunched Big East. That dropped them down to a #7 seed in the standings, which is backed up by final conference average margins…
Big East: Villanova 6.4, Marquette 4.2, Creighton 1.1, Seton Hall -0.5, Xavier -1.2, Georgetown -1.2, St. John’s -1.6, Butler -2.1, DePaul -2.5, Providence -2.6.
As we mentioned last week, margin averages in conference play give you a great visualization of team quality expressed in POINTS because of similar schedule strengths. In the Big East, all teams played a full home-and home round robin.
It’s astounding to see a league where the WORST team has an average result of only -2.6. Bettors will be confronted with very tight point spreads all through this event, particularly because favorites Villanova (2-4 straight up and against the spread its last six games) and Marquette (0-4 SU and ATS its last four) ended the regular season in such unimpressive fashion. (Note that St. John’s will get some market credit for home court advantage.)
Truly, ANYTHING could happen this week at the Garden.
As promised yesterday, here’s a quick look at regular-season margin averages in the other major conferences. Note that only the Big 12 played a double round robin.
Big 12 (Kansas City): Texas Tech 9.3, Kansas State 6.1, Texas 2.3, Iowa State 2.2, Kansas 2.0, Baylor 1.9, TCU -3.1, Oklahoma -3.4, Oklahoma State -7.4, West Virginia -9.7.
Big Ten (Chicago): Michigan State 10.6, Purdue 8.0, Michigan 7.3, Wisconsin 5.0, Maryland 2.7, Penn State -1.3, Iowa -1.6, Minnesota -2.0, Indiana -3.3, Illinois -3.9, Ohio State -4.0, Rutgers -5.5, Nebraska -5.8, Northwestern -6.4.
SEC (Nashville): Tennessee 11.9, Kentucky 10.4, LSU 7.3, Auburn 5.0, Mississippi State 2.4, Florida 1.2, Ole Miss 1.1, South Carolina -1.1, Alabama -1.7, Arkansas -1.9, Missouri -4.9, Texas A&M -5.3. Georgia -10.8, Vanderbilt -13.3.
Pac 12 (Las Vegas): Washington 7.6, Oregon 3.9, Colorado 3.4, Arizona State 3.0, Utah 2.1, Oregon State 1.4, USC 1.3, Stanford 1.1, UCLA -1.2, Arizona -1.8, Washington State -9.5, California -11.2.
You’ll likely notice that round-by-round point spreads are more consistent with those margin averages than they are with seeding. For example, South Carolina is a #4 seed in the SEC despite only having the eighth best margin average. Betting markets won’t price them as fourth best.
Points are the coin of the realm when you’re betting real money.