Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Even though West Virginia fled the Big East only to struggle in the Big 12 in both football and basketball, there are still a whopping 15 teams in this marquee conference that will be getting a lot of TV time and sports betting attention from now through March Madness.
Bettors watched, and hopefully profited in Big East games the past few days like Syracuse-Louisville, Cincinnati-Syracuse, and Georgetown-Notre Dame. Great situational spots and Power Rating edges still lie ahead in a league that often throws the media and oddsmakers for a loop.
You see, the bad teams have figured out how to inflate their records in January and December by playing very weak schedules. The good teams don’t have to do that, but some do anyway. It’s worth noting that all 15 teams entered conference action with winning records, even though many aren’t anywhere near being Dance caliber teams.
Today we’re going to update you on what the nation’s most respected computer ratings are saying about the best and worst of the Big East. Then, we’ll talk some more about handicapping strategies for this busy conference. The rankings you see below are those from publicly available websites at USA Today (Jeff Sagarin’s vaunted computer evaluation) and kenpom.com as compiled by Ken Pomeroy.
BEASTS OF THE EAST
Louisville (#4 in Sagarin, #2 in Pomeroy)
Syracuse (#7 in Sagarin, #6 in Pomeroy)
Pittsburgh (#14 in Sagarin, #9 in Pomeroy)
Cincinnati (#15 in Sagarin, #17 in Pomeroy)
That’s a lot of power at the top. Note quite the Big Ten, but clearly much better than anyone in terms of a top four. Louisville is on pace to get a #1 seed. Syracuse looks solid as at least a #2, particularly after beating Louisville on the road this past Saturday. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are looking at Sweet 16 potential based on computer sentiment. You know the Big East has to be seething that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh are headed to the ACC soon.
We urge you to start paying very close attention to games involving all four of those teams now. They’re going to loom large in the Big East tournament and the Big Dance, even if it ultimately turns out that the season will belong to the Big Ten instead of the Big East. We’re guessing some Big Ten powers are going to have to beat some Big East powers along the way!
Marquette (#25 in Sagarin, #35 in Pomeroy)
Georgetown (#36 in Sagarin, #45 in Pomeroy)
Connecticut (#40 in Sagarin, #47 in Pomeroy)
Notre Dame (#45 in Sagarin,# 51 in Pomeroy)
Notre Dame has been in a free-fall recently, and may be on their way out of this group and into the one below. They were crushed at home by Georgetown Monday Night. They had previously lost at home to Connecticut too. There’s still time to right the ship. But, we’ve shown you in past seasons that Notre Dame’s style isn’t well suited to the rigors of “playoff style” basketball. When the Big East is this deep, there’s a lot of that in the regular season. Notre Dame is getting exposed earlier than normal as a pretender.
These may not be vintage Connecticut and Georgetown teams in terms of the storied histories of those programs. Nobody wants to run into them come March. Remember that March also includes the Big East tournament. One of the hidden advantages of studying a large conference like the Big East is that you can score more “extra” winners in the conference tournament than with any other league. If you “own” one of the eight or nine-team conferences. There may only be one or two conference tournament games that really offer value. In a big league like the Big East, edges will pop up in every round
SETTLING IN AS SPOILERS
Providence (#80 in Sagarin, #69 in Pomeroy)
Rutgers (#71 in Sagarin, #93 in Pomeroy)
Villanova (#89 in Sagarin, #91 in Pomeroy)
Seton Hall (#102 in Sagarin, #97 in Pomeroy)
St. John’s #(96 in Sagarin, #105 in Pomeroy)
South Florida (#97 in Sagarin, #107 in Pomeroy)
DePaul (#135 in Sagarin, #132 in Pomeroy)
What’s notable to us is that only DePaul is a real doormat this year by Big East standards. All of those teams above DePaul are capable of pulling off shockers against the elite if their opponents come in flat. That’s actually very common in league play, particularly once you get to February. The elite teams start to get overconfident as they’re looking ahead to March. We can assure you that JIM HURLEY will be looking very closely at a few of those teams in value underdog spots from this point forward.
Note the disagreement between the computers with some of those teams. Is Rutgers as good as #71 would suggest? Or, are they more like #93? Providence and South Florida also have double digit differences of opinion, and St. John’s almost does. If the most respected computers in the field can’t agree, that means there’s a chance the oddsmakers will miss the mark somewhere too. JIM HURLEY doesn’t want to tip his hand. He will tell you that he expects one of those teams to be pointspread gold over the next month, while at least one other will have a fall from grace that will have stun its fans.
We talked the other day about the Big Ten being an underdog conference at the moment. The same general principals apply here to the Big East as well. Until some of the lesser lights throw in the towel, we’ll typically be looking to take points rather than lay them in expectation of some very competitive basketball. Few games all season were more competitive than Syracuse-Louisville this past Saturday, or then Cincinnati-Syracuse this past Monday.
Upcoming games in the Big East:
South Florida at Seton Hall on ESPNU
St. John’s at Rutgers
Syracuse at Villanova
Notre Dame at South Florida
Louisville at Georgetown on ESPN
Providence at Marquette
DePaul at Pittsburgh
Seton Hall at St. John’s
Rutgers at Connecticut
That’s going to be quite a Saturday doubleheader with Syracuse/Villanova and Louisville/Georgetown. We’ll be looking at both of those for our weekly TV Triple Crown (along with North Carolina/NC State, Temple/Butler, Oklahoma/Kansas, Maryland/Duke, and a few others). Just remember that many of the strongest value plays come in non-TV games involving off-the-radar teams that oddsmakers have mis-evaluated.
JIM HURLEY has been embarrassing Vegas with its mistakes in both college and pro basketball since the season got started. You can purchase his daily plays right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about adding the Super Bowl to any basketball package when you call. It’s very important that you spend the next week-and-a-half building your bankroll for the Super Bowl with BIG JUICY WINNERS in the baskets!
Back with your tomorrow to talk more hoops. The season is really picking up steam now from coast to coast. How about UCLA/Arizona and BYU/Gonzaga on that Thursday card? After the huge Wednesday Night ticket that always feels like a mid-week Saturday! Be sure you’re with us here in the NOTBOOK every day so you know what’s REALLY going on in the world of sports!
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