Making sense of the Big East tourney

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

March 14, 2019 12:32 AM

Recent volatility has thrown a monkey wrench into the Big East tournament handicapping process for sports bettors hoping to build accurate prediction models.

Normally, it’s better to evaluate skill sets and overall quality using larger sample sizes. That gives random variation more time to even out. But, what so you when half the conference changes stripes down the stretch? 

Some quick examples…

  • Marquette was positioned to easily win the regular season crown before losing and failing to cover its last four games. It missed market prices by 31.5 points in those disappointments.
  • Eventual champ Villanova was 2-4 straight up and ATS its last six games, with one of the victories coming over slumping Marquette. Three of those losses missed the market by double digits.
  • Forgotten Creighton stormed home with a 5-0 run straight and against the spread. The Blue Jays covered those five games by a combined 40 points.
  • Xavier snapped out of a funk with a 6-1 run straight up and against the spread. Many of you watched the Musketeers sweep St. John’s in recent days. They “averaged” a double-digit cover in those last seven games.
  • Seton Hall scored final week upsets of Marquette and Villanova to finish off a 7-3 ATS sprint to the finish line…significantly improving NCAA tournament hopes.

Unfortunately for Creighton and Xavier, they open the Big East tournament against each other Thursday (FS1, 2:30 p.m. ET). Seton Hall closes out the quarterfinal session against Georgetown (FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET) Villanova and Marquette still reap the benefits of strong early starts, debuting Thursday vs. tired Wednesday night winners (Providence and St. John's).

Yesterday we talked about how condensed Big East average scoring margins had been this season. Let’s compare those earlier 18-game averages to the final nine league games for each team. If you believe recent form matters, more recent numbers might influence your bets from now through Saturday night.

Big East 18-Game Conference Margins:

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.

Last 9 Games Only:

Creighton 3.2, Seton Hall 2.4, Villanova 1.9, Xavier 1.7, Marquette 1.6, DePaul -0.1, Providence -1.4, Georgetown -2.9, Butler -3.3, St. John’s -5.2

It’s still a condensed league. Villanova and Marquette did enough before the final fortnight to be on the right side of zero. Bettors will have to decide if they want to treat Creighton, Seton Hall, and Xavier as virtual equals on the futures board to locked-in Big Dance entries Villanova and Marquette.

On the whole, fans and bettors will likely be treated to dramatic basketball at the Garden. Game point spreads should be relatively tight when any of the top five seeds play each other. Monitor opening lines to see what kinds of adjustments oddsmakers have made to recent form, then monitor early betting to see if the sharps (professional bettors) respect long-term success (Villanova and Marquette) or surging Cinderellas (Creighton, Xavier, Seton Hall…or a new surprise!).

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