This week marks the start of the 2020-21 NCAA Men’s Basketball season! After the longest offseason in college hoops history, we finally get a chance to see teams on the floor for the first time. The best way to make money betting on college basketball early in the season is by doing your homework and knowing these rosters inside and out.
Luckily for you, we here at TheSportsGeek have done that homework for you. All you have to do is sit back and take advantage of it. As the non-conference season gets underway, we are taking a look ahead at the conference play season and breaking down each of the major conferences. We have already looked at the Big 10 and the SEC, and today, we are going to take a look at the Big East.
In this article, we are going to look at each of the teams in the Big East and give you the favorites, the contenders, and the longshots, with one team to bet from each tier! We are going to get things started with the favorites in the league, the Villanova Wildcats. Let’s get started!
The top of the Big East is pretty straight forward this year, there is Villanova, and there is everybody else. The Wildcats have dominated the league for much of the last decade, and there is no major conference team that is a bigger favorite to win their respective league title this season than Villanova.
- Villanova Wildcats (-134)
- Creighton Blue Jays (+375)
- UCONN Huskies (+500)
As you can see, the Wildcats are actually laying wood to win the Big East this season, something that is nearly unheard of this early in the season, in what is a very talented league. Can any team challenge Jay Wright’s Wildcats this season?
Villanova Wildcats (-134)
How good is this Villanova program under Jay Wright? Well, last year was a “down” year for the Wildcats, and they still won 24 games and finished with a share of the Big East regular-season title. ‘Nova has reached that rare status where a program is no longer measured by regular-season wins or league titles, they are measured by winning national championships.
It’s not quite national championship or bust at Villanova like it is at, say, Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas, but it is getting close. Villanova has won two national titles in the last four seasons, and they have a total of three trips to the Final Four with Wright at the helm. This year, they are again going to be a team that will compete for a one seed and are amongst the favorites to cut down the nets at the Final Four.
Collin Gillespie is a stud at point guard and is a sleeper pick for the National Player of the Year Award. Having a senior leader at point guard is a huge advantage in the NCAA tournament, and Gillespie reminds me a lot of Jalen Brunson, who led Villanova to the title in 2018. But the reason that everyone is so high on ‘Nova this year isn’t just the play of Gillespie, it is the expected play of sophomore Jerimiah Robinson-Earl.
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) November 27, 2020
Robinson-Earl flirted with the NBA before deciding to head back to school for his sophomore season and nearly averaged a double-double last year as a freshman with 10 points and 9 boards a game. This year, Robinson-Earl has already shown signs of added maturity as he had a double-double in the Wildcat’s first game against Boston College and then torched the ASU Sun Devils for 28 points and 8 rebounds the very next night.
I guess the biggest value on Villanova right now is that this number is only going to drop more as the season wears on. They are big favorites, and deservedly so. You hate to ever lay odds on a team to win a league as great as the Big East, but right now, that is the play, as you aren’t going to see a price this low on them the rest of the year. Take it now, while you still can.
Creighton Blue Jays (+375)
Some people might tell you that the UCONN Huskies can potentially hang with Villanova at the top of the Big East, but I am not so sure I am buying that. In my opinion, the only team that has any shot of catching ‘Nova in the Big East standings are the Blue Jays of Creighton. Kenpom currently ranks the Blue Jays at 14th in the nation, so this team is not one that is going to just lay down in league play, and they could very well end up being a top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Blue Jays had what was likely their best team ever last season, and it was a shame that we didn’t get to see them play in the NCAA tournament, as they would have been a tough out. Creighton shared the league title with Villanova and Seton Hall last year, their first-ever piece of the Big East title, and they were red-hot to finish the season, as they had won 11 of their last 13 games before the season was canceled.
Sadly, while this Creighton team will still have plenty of talent, depth, and experience, the one thing they won’t have is All-Big East first-teamer Ty-Shon Alexander. Alexander decided to take his game to the next level and bolted to play pro ball. There just won’t be an easy way to replace a guy that literally did it all for them in 2020.
🔵 𝙉𝙖𝙞𝙨𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙒𝙖𝙩𝙘𝙝 𝙇𝙞𝙨𝙩 ⚪️
— Creighton Men’s Basketball (@BluejayMBB) November 19, 2020
Marcus Zegarowski provides the upside for the Blue Jays, as he is a potential Big East Player of the Year candidate. Zegarowski was great last year in his sophomore season and loves to facilitate and get his teammates good looks. His 3-point shot was deadly last year as well, as his 45% shooting percentage from beyond the arc was one of the best in the league. If Creighton does manage to take a step up this year, it will be behind his leadership running the point.
Creighton fans are always going to wonder what-if after seeing last year get canceled, and without a superstar like Alexander to carry them, I don’t think they are going to be able to stay with Villanova at the top of the league. They are always tough to beat at home, and I see them giving the Wildcats all they can handle in Omaha, but at the end of the day, I just don’t see them winning enough road games to win the Big East title this year, so I will pass on them at this price.
UCONN Huskies (+500)
As I mentioned above, the UCONN Huskies are being priced like favorites in the Big East, but I really don’t think they belong in this top tier. It is great to see the Huskies back in the Big East after the failed experiment in the American Athletic Conference, but they aren’t going to win the league in their first year back. UCONN got hot late last year in the AAC, but they probably weren’t making the NCAA tournament as they lacked quality victories, and they had a couple of nasty losses on their resume.
They had just a good enough season to make the case that they were a tournament team, and with COVID-19 wiping out Selection Sunday, they didn’t have to be disappointed when they didn’t hear their names called. The Dan Hurley era in Storrs is off to a bit of a slow start, but UCONN has improved in each of his years as head coach, so things are moving in the right direction. But you have to think that if the Huskies couldn’t win 20-games in the AAC under his leadership, that they aren’t going to do it in the Big East.
— UConn Men’s Basketball (@UConnMBB) November 26, 2020
The Huskies will go as far as James Bouknight can take them this year, as the sophomore was electric as a freshman last year, and many people expect big things out of him in 2021. Bouknight exploded for 20 points in UCONN’s first game this season, a blowout victory over lowly Central Connecticut State, and will have some help around him in the form of a couple of impact transfers.
UCONN added RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin through transfers, and if they are going to actually finish where the books think they might, both of those guys are going to need to play well. Cole scored 17 points in his debut with the team, while Martin was held out of the contest on a one game suspension for attending a summer camp on the NCAA’s no-no list.
There is talent on this roster, and they are going to win their fair share of games. But I see the middle of the Big East as being very crowded, with little to separate teams like UCONN, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, and Xavier from each other. Could UCONN finish in the top-3 in the league? Absolutely. Do they make sense to back priced as a favorite? No way.
In this next section, we are going to take a look at the middle of the pack teams that would need things to break their way in order to move up into that top tier of teams and really compete for the Big East title. Please see the odds below.
- Providence Friars (+1300)
- Marquette Golden Eagles (+1500)
- St. John’s Red Storm (+5000)
- Xavier Musketeers (+5000)
While the odds on these teams are a bit all over the place, any of these teams could surprise and end up finishing near the top of the league this year. Don’t be shocked if all of these teams are dancing in March.
Providence Friars (+1300)
The Providence Friars are a good basketball team. The only reason that the odds are so high on PC is because of Villanova’s dominance at the top. Generally, if a team is offering double-digit odds just to win their own league, they are going to be a bubble team at best in March. That is not the case for the Big East, as all of these odds are inflated based on how great Villanova is expected to be this year.
Kenpom has the Friars as 46th right now, projected to finish 5th in the league. That puts Providence on the right side of the bubble if they can play as expected. Nobody wanted to play this team late last season, as they finished the year on a tear, winning 6 straight games, including top-20 wins over Section Hall and Villanova, two of the teams that ended up splitting the Big East regular-season title. After the strong finish, the Friars finished just one game behind that trio of teams, and by the looks of how they were playing, had the season lasted a week or two longer, they would have caught them.
Alpha Diallo, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago, is gone, but the Friars have several guys poised to step into that lead dog role. David Duke and Nate Watson are both upperclassmen that will pick up the slack on the offensive side of the ball. The two players led the Friars in scoring in their season opener against Fairfield, combining for 41 points, and should give Providence all the umph they need on offense.
Game 1 starters pic.twitter.com/FBtCNSluY5
— PC Men’s Basketball (@PCFriarsmbb) November 25, 2020
PC also brought in several transfers that give Ed Cooley an immediate infusion of talent. Noah Horchler (North Florida), Jared Bynum (Saint Joseph’s), Brycen Goodine (Syracuse), and Ed Croswell (La Salle) all join the team and are expected to play right away.
If game one was any indication of how quickly these guys will mesh together, the Friars could be sneaky good. Bynum had 8 assists and zero turnovers, and Horchler and Croswell both scored double-digits off the bench. Goodine only played 14 minutes but managed to pick up 2 assists and 3 steals in limited action.
Do not sleep on the Friars! The fact that so much of their rotation is going to be made up by transfers has them rated much lower than they should be right now, and while Villanova is going to be awfully hard to catch, PC did go into The Pavilion late last season and knocked them off on their home floor. All the Villanova love has made backing Providence a profitable play.
Marquette Golden Eagles (+1500)
There are some people out there that see Marquette as a contender in the Big East. I am not one of them. Last season, Marquette was a bubble team, one that was likely on the right side of the bubble, but a bubble team no less. This season, the Golden Eagles return without one of the best players in school history, Markus Howard.
It was quite literally a one-man show last year for Marquette. Howard took an absolutely absurd 19 shots a game and scored 28 points per contest. Most Marquette possessions consisted of Howard dribbling down the court, never giving the ball up, and jacking up a parking lot three while the rest of his teammates watched and shook their heads.
— Marquette Basketball (@MarquetteMBB) November 26, 2020
Howard was talented enough that some of those shots went in, and that led Marquette to more wins than they deserved. This year, without Howard, I just don’t see any way that they are able to score enough points to compete. Heck, even with Howard, they lost six of their last seven games last year in the Big East. I see another disappointing season in Milwaukee that just might end with head coach Steve Wojciechowski getting fired.
St. John’s Red Storm (+5000)
In the non-conference last year, St. John’s looked like a Final Four threat. They ran up an 11-2 record and had wins over West Virginia and Arizona. But then Big East play started, and the bottom fell out for Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson. St. John’s would go on to lose 12 out of their first 15 league play games last year before saving a little face late and winning twice in the season’s final week of play.
The Red Storm lost their best player in LJ Figueroa, who decided to transfer, and I don’t see much success in the cards this year for St. John’s. They brought in several transfers that should help them out, but for this team to have any real shot at making a run in the Big East, they are going to need their bevy of young guys to all step up, and I just don’t see that happening.
— St. John’s BBall (@StJohnsBBall) November 26, 2020
The Johnnies are 2-0, but they barely snuck past 176th ranked Saint Peters by a point. Anderson’s team will head to Lubbock to play the Red Raiders of Texas Tech next week, and if they can somehow win that one, I will be forced to reassess my position on this team. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, as the Red Raiders had a total of one true road victory last season, and that was against DePaul.
Xavier Musketeers (+5000)
Travis Steele is in year three, and after missing the NCAA tournament in each of his first two seasons, he looks like he might have a tournament team this year at Xavier. The Musketeers did lose Naji Marshall, but they brought in several transfers that were all studs playing at smaller schools. Nate Johnson from Gardner Webb joins the team as a grad transfer and went for 17 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in his first game with his new team.
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) November 25, 2020
Brian Griffin was a D-2 player that has played sparingly but has grabbed 21 rebounds in just 48 minutes of play across three games. Steele was hoping to get Adam Kunkel (Belmont) and Ben Stanley (Hampton) cleared to play this year as both guys are big-time scorers, but their waivers were denied. Had Xavier been able to get those guys suited up for this year, I would have had them finishing in the top half of the league for sure. Without them, they are a bubble team that I think sneaks into the tournament.
In this final section, we will highlight the longshots at the bottom of the Big East. In a league that threatens to get nearly all of their teams into the Big Dance every year, even the bottom of the league needs to be feared.
- Butler Bulldogs (+8000)
- Georgetown Hoyas (+10000)
- DePaul Blue Demons (+10000)
Butler Bulldogs (+8000)
Last season the Butler Bulldogs rose to as high as 5th on kenpom, and they looked like a team that was ready for another Final Four run. Big East play took its toll, and eventually, the Bulldogs cooled down quite a bit, but the Kamar Baldwin led Bulldogs were scrappy and hard to beat. They were going to be that four or five seed that no one seed wanted to see in their bracket.
But with Baldwin gone, as well as Sean McDermott, Jordan Tucker, and Henry Baddley, the Bulldogs are in rebuild mode this season. But to be fair to Butler head coach LaVall Jordan, most people thought they were rebuilding last year too. Bryce Nze and Bryce Golden are back and are nice pieces, but this team has five freshmen on the roster, four of which are going to be expected to play significant minutes off of the bench.
It’s rare that Butler isn’t at least serviceable, but if they are ever going to underachieve, it will be this year with so many young guys on the floor. In their season opener, Butler beat 238th ranked Western Michigan by just four points, in a game they trailed in during the second half. That tells me it’s going to be a long year in Indianapolis.
Georgetown Hoyas (+10000)
The Patrick Ewing experience at Georgetown might be coming to a close. In his first three seasons running his alma matter, Ewing has failed to lead the Hoyas to the NCAA tournament, and their highest finish on kenpom was just 67th. This year, they are picked to finish last in the league and are the lowest-rated team on kenpom right now at 91st. Yikes.
Georgetown lost the one guy that had with any real ability from last year’s team that went 5-13 in the Big East, when Mac McClung transferred to Texas Tech. Ewing has mostly young and inexperienced players this year, and if they win 5 games in the Big East again this season, I will consider that them overachieving.
DePaul Blue Demons (+10000)
I am going to leave this last section short and sweet. It’s DePaul. They are awful this year, and they are awful every year. Dave Leitao has only had a winning record once in his five years at the school and has never come close to having a winning record in league play. This year won’t be any different. I know I said I was giving you a bet from each tier of teams, but you can safely save your money on these cellar dwellers.
The 2020-21 NCAA Men’s Basketball season is officially underway, and we here at TheSportsGeek are right here with you providing all the sharp betting advice and analysis you need to make money betting college hoops. Thanks for reading, and make sure you check out TheSportsGeek’s college basketball betting page, where we bring you free daily picks all year long!