Hardcourt Happenings - Big East Conference

 


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Throughout the college basketball season, Matt Fargo will be taking a look at teams that should pique your betting appetite, whether they are good or bad. We all know about Florida, North Carolina and UCLA but with 336 teams in division I college hoops, there are plenty of teams flying under the radar. Today’s session:

Big East Conference

The Big East Conference, the so-called “Super Conference", hasn’t been that super of late with teams falling faster than Tara Reid on the red carpet. But that necessarily doesn’t make the conference weak, it only solidifies the fact that the conference is packed with parity and above average teams throughout. Sans Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida and Seton Hall, the four teams likely to be left out of the postseason tournament, and March 7th-10th should be an exciting time.

Georgetown is slowing establishing itself as the team to beat as it is putting together another late season run similar to last year. The Hoyas easily dispatched of West Virginia, a team that had just upset the #3 team in the nation. Georgetown is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak but with the next two on the road following by a season-ending three-game run against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Connecticut, things could start going the other way.

Pittsburgh has been the elite team in the Big East all season but coming off a home loss against Louisville has taken some of that luster and dominance away. It was the first loss in six games for the Panthers but one that isn’t going to win many style points. Following a non-conference tilt against Washington on Saturday, Pittsburgh closes with three of its final four conference games on the road including difficult test at Marquette and Georgetown. The game against the Hoyas will tell us a lot.

Marquette had a solid run of eight straight wins going before running into the Georgetown buzz saw this past Saturday. The Golden Eagles are still ranked ahead of the Hoyas, which obviously makes no sense for reasons I won’t get into, but this is a team that can make another run and still claim the regular season championship. The schedule is the easiest of the bunch and a showdown with Pittsburgh at home in the final game of the season could be for the Big East crown.

The Cardinals huge road win over Pittsburgh will go a long way in determining their postseason fate. Louisville has moved up to 4th place in the Big East standings and a 2-2 split in its final four games seems likely which could mean a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Cardinals had an RPI of 73rd coming into that Pittsburgh game and it was their first win over a top 50 team as they were 0-5 prior to that which is not a positive mark for what still looks like a bubble team.

Then we have teams 5 through 12 where it is simply a jumbled mess. West Virginia is currently the 5th place team but it’s sitting a mere game and a half out of 10th place and two games out of 12th place so there is absolutely nothing set in stone in the way these seedings are going to pan out. The big surprise could be the 12th place team which is Connecticut, who is just a game out of completing missing the tournament for the first time in team history.

Also in the mix are teams that can make a run. Notre Dame started off the season on fire but has since slowed down after the loss of point guard Kyle McAlarney. Syracuse is hanging tough and is always good for a tournament run. Villanova is at .500 but sitting with a healthy RPI of 13th. Providence is on the bubble following a near miss at Pittsburgh. DePaul is the most veteran team in the conference and could be a real surprise while St. John’s is playing better and will be on its home floor for the tournament.

Come big dance time, as many as 11 teams will campaigning for an invitation but it all comes down to who does what during the conference tournament. The four teams that go one-and-done will likely be heading to the NIT unless in happens to be Villanova or West Virginia who are both virtual locks. Other teams need big runs and some help. There is no chance the conference gets eight in and even six could be pushing it which is unfortunate because many are deserving candidates.

What should we expect to see for the next 19 days? We are going to see a lot of teams pressing, likely meaning plenty of upsets along the way. Those upsets could come way of the bottom four teams which can easily throw everything even more out of whack. Look for the favorites to have a lot of trouble over this final stretch as only six of the 16 teams have pocketed a profit this season for their backers which certainly gives value to the underdogs over the final three weeks.

Matt Fargo is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Matt_Fargo.htm

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