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Skidding Seton Hall may have peaked early

Are betting markets now overrating No. 16 Seton Hall? 

That’s an important question to ponder in advance of Wednesday’s huge Big East battle against No. 21 Butler (6:30 p.m., FS1). Though Seton Hall’s games are unavailable for legal betting in New Jersey, market performance could signal that the Pirates peaked too early. 

For the full 2019-20 season, the answer is obviously no. The Pirates are 16-9 against the spread for a sparkling 64% cover percentage. They’ve clearly been one of the most underrated programs if you accept the premise that game-by-game point spreads are the best representation of how teams are rated through a campaign. 

But if you’re emphasizing more recent action, the answer is arguably yes. 

— Seton Hall failed to cover its last two games, losing outright at Providence 74-71 as a three-point favorite and falling to Creighton 87-82 laying 5.5 points. That’s 0-2 straight up as a favorite, with a combined miss of 16.5 points. 

— Seton Hall is also 2-4 ATS in its last six games, with wins over Villanova and Georgetown preceded by non-covers against Xavier and DePaul. 

That impressive 16-9 full-season ATS record was once 14-5. Percentage-wise, a downward trend from 74% to 64%. 

This doesn’t mean Seton Hall is going to be toast for the tournaments. You’ve likely heard of sandwich games in sports, when a matchup that doesn’t get the juices flowing is preceded and followed by marquee opponents. February is a sandwich month in college basketball. January brings peak intensity in the first month of conference action. March is madness. February can cause powers to lose focus as they look ahead to tournament thrills. 

Other possible causes for Seton Hall’s slide:

— Fatigue: Senior star Myles Powell may be wearing down from heavy minutes. Powell was 3 of 14 shooting in the loss to Xavier and 3 of 16 in the loss to Creighton, and he had a season-worst seven turnovers in the loss to Providence. 

— Familiarity: Seton Hall may be easier for opponents to deal with in a second look. The Pirates are 1-3 ATS in rematches — covering vs. Georgetown and failing to DePaul, Xavier and Providence — but a stellar 7-2 ATS in Big East first looks, including its recent road upset of Villanova. This could be bad news for third looks in the Big East tournament but basically resets against opponents from other conferences in the Big Dance. 

Wednesday’s Butler game is a rematch. Seton Hall (+ 5) won 78-70 Jan. 15 in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs will be looking for revenge.

Analysts should keep an eye on Powell in upcoming action. Tournament forecasters, and bettors in jurisdictions who can play Seton Hall games, should ponder whether recent market performances are an early warning sign for March disappointments. Hurdles will stay high. This national championship dark horse may be losing speed. 

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