Year in and year out, the Big East is one of the most interesting conferences in college basketball. Judging by the conference odds listed at DraftKings, that holds true this year as well. This is a six-team race again this season and it wouldn’t be a huge stunner to see one of the upstarts at longer odds make a big push.
Of the big conferences, the ACC and the Big East are likely to be most affected by the rule change that moves the three-point line back. Villanova, the favorite to win the Big East, had the third-highest 3PT rate last season at 53.6%, trailing The Citadel by mere percentage points. Will the increased distance force Jay Wright’s team to make some changes?
Villanova wasn’t the only team that loved to chuck from distance. Creighton was 17th in 3PT rate at 46.7%. Next on the list among Big East teams was Butler at 79. We don’t know exactly how much the added distance is going to impact shooters, but we would be crazy not to factor it into the handicap.
The Big East actually appears to be more balanced this season. Per Bart Torvik, none of the Big East teams fall in the top 19 heading into the year. Villanova is 20th, but six teams are ranked 20 through 40 and only St. John’s and DePaul are given very little hope within the conference this season. KenPom has a much higher projection of the league and of the Wildcats, are they are in the top 20, with Marquette, Xavier, and Seton Hall in the top 20.
Differences of opinion are a good thing and we’ll have a lot of those as the Big East season goes along. Villanova is the +150 favorite per the odds at DraftKings, despite very heavy losses the last two seasons. This is a team that does have a tremendous 2019 class, headlined by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The hope is that JRE can offset the losses of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall and also replace some of the scoring lost from 2017 when the Wildcats had heavy losses after the title run like Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart. You just have to wonder if that attrition eventually plays a role in this conference.
Who is the best player in this conference? Is it Markus Howard at Marquette or Myles Powell at Seton Hall? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe we need to ask which supporting cast is better? The Pirates do return four starters, including Powell, and add Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu.
The Golden Eagles lost most of their supporting cast, as the Hauser brothers, Sam and Joey, transferred out of the program. Howard wore down late last season because of a ridiculous usage rate and the same is likely this season. Steve Wojciechowski scoured the transfer market to find help for Howard and got some, but there is no margin for error and no room for any sort of Howard injury.
It seems like Seton Hall and Xavier will jockey for position behind Villanova if things go according to the odds. Xavier brings back four starters and we have to give a lot of credit to Travis Steele. Year 1 of the post-Chris Mack era was expected to be a tough one, but Xavier was very competitive and brought in a really good 2020 class, including KyKy Tandy and Dahmir Bishop. Xavier’s top offensive player, Zach Hankins, is gone, but this is a solid and deep roster, built for the rigors of the Big East regular season. The +350 price tag may be a little ambitious, though.
Creighton is +450 and Providence is +600 among that next tier of teams. Creighton’s reliance on long-distance jump shots is worrisome with the rule changes. The loss of Martin Krampelj doesn’t help either, as he was Creighton’s best interior presence. Providence is the preferred team in this price range. We’ve seen Ed Cooley’s teams go on some runs and there are 10 returning players for this team, including budding star Alpha Diallo. Add in UMass transfer Luwane Pipkins and Providence looks like a real force to be reckoned with in this league.
Some people are stumping for Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. Omer Yurtseven from NC State could be a huge help for the Hoyas on both ends of the floor and Ewing has gotten some good young talent into the program. It still seems like Georgetown is a year away, especially with some gelling to do.
Butler is +1400 and the best of the rest, but it does seem like it’s Villanova or one of the next-level teams that you want to look at in the Big East.
2019-2020 Big East Basketball Conference Winner Odds: