Xavier was the surprise winner of the Big East’s regular-season men’s basketball title as the Musketeers finished at 15-3 in the conference, one game ahead of Villanova. It’s Xavier’s first regular-season championship since winning the Atlantic 10 title in 2010-11. The Wildcats had won the past four Big East regular-season crowns.
Oddsmakers at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, however, favor Villanova at -110 on the odds to win the Big East Tournament, which starts Wednesday at Madison Square Garden and runs through Saturday. It’s the second week the World’s Most Famous Arena has hosted a major conference tournament. The Big Ten held its there for the first time last week, with Michigan winning it; the Big Ten had to move the conference tournament up a week because the Big East has a contract with the Garden for this week.
Villanova, which is the defending Big East tournament champion, did beat Xavier in both meetings during the regular season quite easily. As the No. 2 seed, Nova has a bye to the quarterfinals and will play either No. 7 Marquette (+2500) or No. 10 DePaul (+10000) on Thursday night, most likely the Golden Eagles, who need a good run to get an at-large NCAA tournament berth. The Cats were 2-0 against both schools this season, and neither DePaul game was close.
Xavier, at +2000 on the odds to win the 2018 NCAA tournament, is at +230 to win the Big East tournament for the first time; it only joined the conference in 2013-14. The Musketeers reached their only final in 2015, losing to Villanova. If XU wins this tournament, and it opens Thursday vs. either No. 8 St. John’s (+5000) or No. 9 Georgetown (+5000), it almost surely will be a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Ditto Villanova.
Another NCAA tournament bubble team is No. 5 Providence, which is +1600 to win the conference tournament and opens vs. No. 4 Creighton (+800). The Friars need that much more as the Bluejays will be dancing regardless. Providence last won this tournament in 2014. Creighton, also a newer member, never has but was a finalist in 2017. The winner of that game likely faces Xavier in the semifinals.
In the only other set quarterfinal matchup, No. 3 Seton Hall (+800) faces No. 6 Butler (+700). The Pirates were surprise winners of the 2016 Big East tournament, while the Bulldogs haven’t won it yet. Those schools split in the regular season, each winning by double digits at home. Butler didn’t close the season well, dropping five of its final seven. Both will be NCAA tournament teams.
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