I am scribing this narrative Tuesday afternoon amid a whirlwind of cancellations including the National Guard being sent to New Rochelle, a suburb of NYC and about 25 miles from Madison Square Garden, to contain an area of New Rochelle with cases of the Coronavirus. In combination with the Ivy League cancelling their Men’s Basketball Tournament and awarding the NCAA golden ticket to the Yale Bulldogs that certainly brings in great doubt that the Big East Tournament will take place.
First off, I do not believe you can have tournament games played in the greatest arena in the world without fans in the stands. Or could you? Let’s not go down that street yet.
The Tournament WILL get started with the No. 9 seed St. John’s Red Storm taking on the No. 8 Georgetown Hoyas and favored by three points. This is not a true neutral court matchup since St. John’s plays many of their home games at MSG. Both teams finished at 5-13 in conference play with St. John’s 9-8 against-the-spread (ATS) and Georgetown 6-11 ATS.
St. John’s has four players averaging double figures in points and are led by junior guard LJ Figueroa, who is averaging 14.3 PPG. Brooklyn native and freshman Julian Champagnie has really come on and has contributed significant minutes in every game and is averaging a team-high 6.5 rebounds-per-game.
As a team they rank 4th in the conference in offensive scoring averaging 70.8 points-per-game and rank ninth in scoring defense allowing an average of 75.6 PPG. They are excellent ball handlers with just 176 turnovers committed in 18 games. They are an excellent defensive team that suffocates opposing offenses and has earned a conference-best total of 283 turnovers.
Who has the better Chance to Upset Top-Seed Creighton in the Second Round?
The Hoyas have four players scoring double figures in points and are led by Senior center Omer Yurtseven, who is averaging 15.8 PPG, 10 boards, and 1.2 assists. He is obviously a double-double machine and St. John’s will have difficulty defending him in the paint.
The Hoyas rank 7th in the conference in scoring offense averaging 70.2 PPG and rank 7th in scoring defense allowing 75.2 PPG. They are not a strong defensive team that cuts off passing lanes and makes it difficult for a team that uses ball movement to get the best shot attempt in a possession. They allowed conference worst 293 assists in conference play.
So, I believe the obvious choice is the Red Storm has the best chance to upset Creighton and do not forget that just 10 days ago the Red Storm dominated Creighton 91-71. St. John’s advances and covers the spread over the Hoyas.
Got Any Good Machine Learning Tools on this Game?
The second game Wednesday night sees the Xavier Musketeers taking on the DePaul Blue Demons set to start at 9:30 PM ET and immediately will follow the Georgetown vs St. John’s game. I expect Xavier to be favored by six in this matchup.
Here is a situational betting system that you can use for this matchup and carry with you throughout the rest of all of the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament action. The system has earned a terrific 57-31 ATS mark good for 65% winning tickets over the last five seasons and instructs us to play on favorites including ‘pick’ in Tournament action that are coming off of two or more consecutive ‘over’ game results and with them and their opponent allowing an average of 67 to 74 points-per-game on the season. This system also has identified Florida International in their game against Rice tomorrow.
Creighton is the Top-Seed, but Are they Really?
Creighton guard Marcus Zegarowski is doubtful for the Big East tournament after injuring his right knee, the team announced Monday. He was injured at the end of Saturday’s dominating win over No. 8 Seton Hall, in which he hit all five of his 3-point attempts and led his team with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. The sophomore is the Bluejays’ second-leading scorer at 16.1 points per game and leads the team in assists with 5.0 per game.
While cutting down the nets it was obvious that the injury was more than just a hamstring injury as what was originally reported. My guess is that he is out for at least the conference tournament and will be available possibly for their second-round game in the NCAA Tournament. The problem is that Creighton has not won back-to-back games in the NCAA Tournament and have never reached the Sweet-16 in program history. This was supposed to be the year and I still believe it will be.
Denzel Mahoney has started in his place in one other game this season and is the 6th man averaging 12 PPG and played 24 minutes scoring 16 points in the win over Seton Hall. So, he is not a player that is not battle-tested and will be able to step in immediately with success. The team as a whole has a conference-best and one of the top assist-to-turnover ratios (ATR) in the country and their ball movement works like a machine and seems to always find a wide-open jump shooter.
The Bluejays will certainly miss Zegarowski and his 42% shooting for beyond the arc, but the bench has excellent depth to overcome the loss.
I like Creighton at +400 to win the conference tournament.
Speaking of Futures
The Villanova Wildcats are a young team and it has shown glaringly in many situations earlier in the season. The emergence of freshman guard Justin Moore, who is third-high on the team averaging 11.2 PPG and 3.1 boards-per-game and fellow freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is fourth-team high averaging 10.5 PPG and a team-high 9.4 boards-per-game have been an immense addition for the Wildcats.
A sophomore guard in Saddiq Bey is averaging a team-high 16.1 PPG, 4.7 boards-per-game, and 2.4 APG on the season. Bench depth was a big problem for the team in the first-half of the season, but the minutes played are becoming more balanced as head coach Jay Wright molds his team into Tournament shape.
Villanova is lined as the second favorite at +325 and Seton Hall, who in my opinion has the conference player of the year in Myles Powell, are the favorites at +250. I do not think they would be the favorites if Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski had not been injured. As a result, I see this being a public betting overreaction to the injury that makes Creighton an exceptional value play.
The scorching hot Providence Friars are lined fourth at +600 followed by the Butler Bulldogs at +600, Marquette Golden Eagles at +750, and Xavier at +850. I can make a case for any of these teams to have a solid chance to win the Tournament too, but I like Creighton.
This conference is a mirror image of the Big Ten in that every team is fully capable of defeating a conference foe on any given day. If there are no upsets in the first two rounds the final rounds will see betting lines of 6 or fewer points, so it sure will be an exciting and highly competitive Big East Tournament and the winner will know they earned it.