Marquette opened as a 19-point underdog in its trip to Villanova tonight, which caught my attention, as I didn’t recall Marquette ever being given so many points.
After a bit of searching, it turns out that my initial assumption was correct. Marquette has only been given 19 or more points once since the 1999-2000 season, when Cincinnati was a 22-point favorite at home on Jan. 8, 2000.
The line has since moved to 16.5, but that is still in rare company and would be the third largest spread Marquette has ever received, if it closes there. Twice before it has been given 16.5 points or more in its visits to Louisville, 16.5 in 2004 and 18 in 2005.
All of this got me interested in seeing how Marquette has fared as a double-digit dog in the modern era (or) since the turn of the century, so I logged the results to see what we could find. (All lines come from here, a great reference and one of the only sites I found that kept archived games).
In the last 16 years, Marquette has been a double-digit underdog 29 times, going 5-24 in those games. For betting purposes, it has gone 20-9 against the spread in those games. What that tells me is MU, historically, is a safe bet to cover, doing so as recently as last year at Xavier.
However, pulling off the W is a tall task. Only once in the last 17 years has Marquette covered a spread larger than 11 points as an underdog, and that was two coaches and 11 graduating classes ago.
And although it is true betting history has no bearing on tonight’s game, recent history isn’t much kinder. MU was a double-digit underdog to Villanova twice last season, and twice didn’t come close to covering, let alone winning.
All of that is to say if Marquette does in fact come away with a victory, it will be one of the unlikeliest outcomes of the last two decades.