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2016 NCAA Tournament Odds: Villanova again leads the Big East, St. John's tied for fifth

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The Red Storm are fifth in the conference right now with 100/1 odds to win the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The folks in Las Vegas have released their very early odds to win the 2016 NCAA National Championship, with the usual names like North Carolina (6/1), Kentucky (8/1), defending-champion Duke (16/1), and Kansas (16/1) leading the way with favorable odds. But where do the teams in the Big East stack up as we head into the offseason?

For the second straight season, it is the Villanova Wildcats who have the best odds in the conference to be crowned champions next April. After having 25/1 odds at this point last year, the Wildcats once again sit with those same odds to take home the 2016 championship.

Villanova will return most of their starters for 2015-16 after they lost just three games all of this season, but once again suffered an early exit in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats are followed closely by the Butler Bulldogs, who come into the offseason with 40/1 odds to take home the title. Butler was one of the more surprising teams in the nation this season, sitting in or around the top 25 for much of the year.

They'll return most of their core difference makers onto next year's team, including Kellen Dunham and Andrew Chrabascz.

After those top two, both Xavier and Georgetown hold decent odds as well, with the Musketeers currently holding 66/1 odds and the Hoyas at 75/1.

Along with Villanova and Butler, those two make it four Big East teams that will have better than 100/1 odds to take home the title next season, a stark contrast from this time last year when only the Wildcats held such odds.

St. John's comes in with 100/1 odds at the championship, better than their 150/1 odds at this point last year, but not quite as high as their 66/1 odds two years ago. The Red Storm are tied with Big East foes Providence and Marquette with their odds as Chris Mullin begins his rebuilding effort back home in Queens.

The Red Storm next season will lose four of their impact players from this year's team in D`Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Sir`Dominic Pointer, and Jamal Branch, however things are beginning to look a bit brighter for the Johnnies future after both Chris Obekpa and Rysheed Jordan appear to be returning next year as a senior and junior, respectively.

It's clear that the Big East has gained the nation's respect after this past season, when six of the 10 teams in the conference went dancing in the NCAA Tournament. It would not be a completely outrageous thing to say that the Big East is among the best conferences in college basketball, which would not have been the case a year ago.

Just by these outrageously early odds we're starting to see that this conference is beginning to somewhat resemble the powerhouse that ruled college basketball for decades in the past. And while odds are just odds, members of the Big East can only hope that this growth continues in the near future.