What Sharps Think About Big East


The Big East has been a very important conference in college basketball since its inception. But, I can't recall there being a season quite like this one…where there are several teams who could go very deep in the Big Dance come March.

I talked about the Big Ten last week. And, I still think that conference is loaded too. I wanted to wait to talk about the Big East because I knew MLK Day was going to bring a couple of matchups everyone has been waiting to see.

*Villanova at Connecticut: which features a dangerous Villanova squad on the road against a UCONN team that made headlines earlier this season in Hawaii but has cooled off a bit in conference play. This is a mid-afternoon game for the holiday. Be sure you watch and study if you get a chance.

*Pittsburgh at Syracuse: possibly the game of the year in the conference. Both are playing great basketball this year. Both are legitimate national championship threats. It's like Duke/North Carolina used to be back when Carolina was also a national power! This is the prime time game on ESPN, and really great way to get you into the flow of the season. Each of these teams will be a major story all the way through March.

If you stop right there…with just those four teams…you're talking about a great conference. Of course, the huge Big East has even more worthy teams for discussion. Louisville, West Virginia, and Notre Dame, will be heard from often. Georgetown is off to a 2-4 start in this brutal league, but knows how to play. Cincinnati isn't as good as their overall record, but will be a dangerous spoiler. That's nine teams I've mentioned already, and Marquette's name hasn't come up yet.

Because this is such a special year in the Big East in terms of true championship potential, I plan on dropping in periodically to let you know what sharps (professional wagerers in Las Vegas) are thinking about the league as a whole, and the main powers when they're on TV. Here are some quick notes to get us started:

*PITTSBURGH and SYRACUSE are both very respected teams by the sharps. They're hesitant to lay big points as a rule, but they'll try to find value prices with these teams against other top competition. The lines won't actually be that high sometimes because there are so many respected teams in the league. Pittsburgh was affordable in their 15-point home win over UCONN. Syracuse has double digit wins over Notre Dame and St. John's. As a general rule, sharps tend to look at underdogs whenever the best teams are playing each other. They figure every game like that is a coin flip because of peak motivation and preparation, so you might as well grab any points that are available. Pitt and Syracuse are playing so well right now that sharps might back off that plan against the other Big East powers until fatigue starts to take a toll later in the season.

*VILLANOVA has covered five in a row coming into today, and is in very good form. This is a team that sharps didn't trust in a playoff atmosphere last year. You'll recall they bet BIG against Villanova in the Dance, when they were almost upset in the first round and lost badly to St. Mary's in the second. This year's team looks to be better in many ways. Today's visit to UCONN will be a big test. I know a few sharps on the Villanova bandwagon.

*CONNECTICUT has been inconsistent since their great start. They'll mix a blowout of a bad team with a sweat game with somebody like South Florida. They'll pull an upset at Texas, but lose by 15 at Pittsburgh. For the most part, sharps seem to be handicapping Kemba Walker by himself! If the opponents won't be able to guard him, you think about backing UCONN. If the opposing defense has some options, UCONN loses value.

*LOUISVILLE has hit a little skid ATS, the Cardinals lost by 14 as four-point underdogs at Villanova, and only won by a point at home this past Saturday while laying five to Marquette. The consensus seems to be that Louisville will overachieve against weaklings, but underachieve against the upper half of the Big East. A bad non-conference loss to Kentucky on the last day of 2010 is in line with that assessment. The Cards aren't playing well vs. top competition.

We won't have space today to hit everyone. Let's save some of the other big name teams for a time when they're about to be on TV. Be sure you watch the Big East powers in the TV games this year, and pay attention to early game day line movements with this league so you can develop a sense of how sharps may be adjusting their strategies as the season progresses.

by Las Vegas linesmaker Nick Bogdanovich


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