College Basketball Betting: Big East Conference Preview

Villanova Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie (2) during the college basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the Villanova Wildcats on December 7, 2021 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY.
Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The reconstituted Big East likely will never recapture the dominance of 1985, when three teams — Villanova, Georgetown, and St. John’s — reached the Final Four. Nor is it likely to ever duplicate the 2010-11 campaign, when the league shoehorned 11 teams into the NCAA Tournament (including national champion Connecticut).

However, the 11-team league is enjoying a bit of a resurgence, especially with UConn back in the mix. Last year, four Big East schools garnered NCAA invites; this season (presuming good health), as many as seven programs could realistically contend for The Big Dance.

One school, though, appears to stand head and shoulders above the others: Per the college basketball conference championship betting market, the Villanova Wildcats are the overwhelming favorite to take the regular-season Big East crown.

But that doesn’t mean Jay Wright’s squad won’t be challenged. In fact, one of the teams listed below in the “Dark Horses” category has already knocked out Goliath — and did so convincingly. breaks down the regular-season-title odds of each Big East squad in our latest college basketball conference betting preview.

Big East odds via DraftKings and updated as of 3 p.m. ET Dec. 28. All SU and ATS record current as of date of publication.

Previous Conference Previews

Big Ten

Big East Basketball Odds

Villanova Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie (2) during the college basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the Villanova Wildcats on December 7, 2021 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY.
Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Favorite

Villanova +100 (8-4 SU/6-6 ATS)

Villanova has everything bettors should want in a preseason conference favorite: a solid starting five, including an experienced playmaker handling clutch moments (fifth-year guard Collin Gillespie); an early slate of prominent opponents with contrasting styles (including UCLA, Purdue, St. Joseph’s, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Baylor, which were part of a top-ranked non-conference schedule); and an undeniable track record of recent league success (115-28 Big East record since 2013-14).

Despite all that, though, this Wildcats squad is far from flawless, which was evident in a pair of recent blowout defeats — 57-36 at No. 1 Baylor and 79-59 at Creighton in the Big East opener.

To be fair, Villanova (AP ranking: 22; KenPom ranking: 12) rebounded nicely from the Creighton setback to beat Xavier 71-58 as a 5.5-point favorite in the conference home opener. However, the ugly losses to Baylor and Creighton — along with an overtime loss at UCLA and a close neutral-site loss to Purdue — have led some to wonder just how invincible the Wildcats are.

Those questions figure to linger at least until Villanova shows it can successfully navigate a tough upcoming schedule that includes trips to Seton Hall (Jan. 1), DePaul (Jan. 8), and Xavier (Jan. 12), along with the anticipated home rematch against Creighton (Jan. 5).

Should ‘Nova come out of that stretch unscathed, bettors might feel secure in reassigning “Final Four contender” status to the Wildcats, who began the season as the AP’s No. 4 team.

The Challengers

Connecticut Huskies forward Isaiah Whaley reacts after a basket and foul against the Providence Friars
Image Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Connecticut +450 (10-3 SU/6-7 ATS)
Xavier +750 (11-2 SU/9-4 ATS)
Seton Hall +800 (9-1 SU/6-3 ATS)

It makes sense that oddsmakers view UConn, Xavier, and Seton Hall as the most viable threats to Villanova’s pursuit of an eighth regular-season title since 2013.

For starters, the three teams are clustered in the top 30 of the KenPom rankings, which factor in strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule, adjusted efficiency margin, adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency, and possessions per 40 minutes.

According another metric, Xavier (18th), UConn (19th), and Seton Hall (25th) all have played top-25 schedules to date.

Additionally, No. 15 Seton Hall owns the highest Big East ranking in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 — that’s seven slots ahead of Villanova.

Meanwhile, the schedule sets up particularly well for Xavier and UConn. The Musketeers get their rematch with Villanova in two weeks, and that’s at home. From there, Xavier wouldn’t have to deal with the Wildcats again until possibly the conference tournament.

As for UConn, it has a potentially treacherous back-to-back-to-back slate against Seton Hall, Xavier, and Villanova from Feb. 16-22. However, all three games are in Connecticut. Also, the Huskies road games against Seton Hall (Jan. 8) and Villanova (Feb. 5) are spaced a month apart (their scheduled game at Xavier today was called off due to COVID issues).

The Dark Horses

Creighton Bluejays guard Ryan Nembhard dribbles against the Villanova Wildcats during a Big East basketball game
Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Creighton +1,300 (9-3 SU/5-7 ATS)
Providence +1,400 (11-1 SU/8-4 ATS)
St. John’s +1,800 (8-3 SU/4-7 ATS)

This year’s Creighton team isn’t built like the perimeter-oriented squads of seasons past, when the Bluejays routinely bludgeoned opponents with a barrage of three-pointers. Within Big East circles, Creighton ranks dead-last in three-pointers made (6.3 per game) and three-point proficiency (31.1 percent).

And despite their 20-point beat-down of Villanova in Omaha on Dec. 17, the Bluejays’ typically stout home-court advantage also has been demystified a bit. Creighton fell to visiting Arizona State and No. 8 Iowa State (12-0 overall) during the non-conference campaign.

Among the teams in this group, Providence might offer the best betting value. At No. 21, the Friars are currently the Big East’s second-highest-ranked team, and they possess the best conference road win to date — on Dec. 18, they upended Connecticut 57-53 in Hartford. Providence also has three other impressive victories on its ledger, knocking off Wisconsin (road), Northwestern (neutral site), and Texas Tech (home) — all as an underdog.

From a logistical standpoint, St. John’s might have drawn the proverbial short straw among Big East title hopefuls. Four of the Red Storm’s league matchups — Seton Hall, Butler, Marquette, and Georgetown — were either postponed or temporarily canceled because of COVID issues. If those games get made up, the Red Storm could be routinely operating on short rest during January and February.

Such quick turnarounds could make for a brutal closing stretch that already has St. John’s scheduled to take on Creighton (twice), Villanova (twice), Xavier (twice), Seton Hall, UConn, and Providence nine times in its final 12 regular-season outings.

The Long Shots

Marquette Golden Eagles guard Tyler Kolek (right) drives for the basket against Connecticut Huskies guard RJ Cole (left) during a Big East basketball game
Image Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Butler +3,500 (7-4 SU/3-8 ATS)
Marquette +3,500 (8-5 SU/6-7 ATS)
DePaul +6,000 (9-1 SU/8-2 ATS)
Georgetown +15,000 (6-5 SU/5-6 ATS)

Butler ranks 318th in scoring offense (out of 350 schools), averaging just 63.4 points per game. That’s not going to cut it when the Bulldogs have to face seven Big East schools (St. John’s, DePaul, Seton Hall, UConn, Georgetown, and Xavier) averaging more than 75 points per game. And while Butler does own a surprising upset at Oklahoma, it also gotten trampled by the likes of Michigan State (73-52, Houston (70-52), and Purdue (77-48). Throw in a seven-point loss to Texas A&M, and the Bulldogs are 1-4 SU and ATS against top-flight competition.

Marquette warrants kudos for enduring a top-20 schedule before the new year. The Golden Eagles scored upset victories over Illinois (home), Ole Miss (road), West Virginia (road), and Kansas State (road), but fell to St. Bonaventure, No. 24 Wisconsin, No. 23 Xavier, Connecticut, and No. 5 UCLA. That’s a solid start, considering new head coach Shaka Smart has been implementing his system on the fly, while readying Marquette (8-11 in league play last year) for a run at the Big East’s upper division.

Non-conference wins over Rutgers (73-70) and Louisville (62-55) suggest DePaul’s 9-1 start may not be a fluke. However, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly the Blue Demons can reclaim their mojo after having crucial clashes with Northwestern (road) and No. 15 Seton Hall (original Big East opener) canceled or postponed due to COVID outbreaks. If the Blue Demons play Butler on Wednesday, it’ll mark a 15-day gap between games.

Georgetown’s super-long odds for winning the Big East are tough to fathom. The Hoyas boast four double-digit scorers (Aminu Mohammed, Kaiden Rice, Donald Carey, and Dante Harris). Among that quartet, Mohammed (averaging 14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds) has the capacity to carry Georgetown in bursts down the stretch. Throw in a solid non-conference schedule that includes respectable defeats to San Diego State (73-56), St. Joseph’s (77-74), South Carolina (80-67), and TCU (80-73), and one program-defining win over longtime rival Syracuse (79-75), and the Hoyas certainly don’t look like a Big East pushover.

Jay Clemons
Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media's national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out,,, The Players' Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's pre-eminent award for Best Football Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and now American Affiliate's Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta. And for the betting community, covering the last two years of the sports calendar (2019-20 / 2020-21), Clemons enjoyed a rock-solid winning rate of 59.6 percent with point-spread and over/under selections (NFL, college football and college basketball.)