The 2012-13 campaign may not be the Big East’s strongest in terms men’s basketball juggernauts, however, that says more about the conference’s unprecedented dominance historically, than it does about a perceived lack of contenders this season.

Nonetheless, with the Louisville Cardinals representing the brigade as the No. 2 team in the country, and a handful of programs capable of dealing damage on the national level, this is one batch of programs that can’t be ignored when it comes to betting on college basketball.

Headlined by returning junior Russ Smith and 2012 Big East championship MVP Peyton Siva, the Cardinals are without a doubt the team to beat in the conference. The Cardinals, it’s worth noting, have some of the highest odds of winning March Madness this season as well.

The Big East does not boast just one legitimate threat this year, as it’s the conference’s overall depth that has made it one of the most fascinating betting options available to college basketball odds connoisseurs.

No. 8 Syracuse, depleted as they may be after their exodus of talent to the NBA, fills in as the second-best team in the conference — at least according to preseason polls. If junior C.J. Fair can build on a promising sophomore campaign and truly emerge as a legitimate big man in the Big East, it’s not unreasonable to expect another deep run in the postseason. The Orange have qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of the past four years and there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be back for a fifth.

Elsewhere in the conference, contenders like Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Connecticut make this one of the deepest the NCAA has to offer. Although it might be unrealistic to expect the Fighting Irish to mimic the success of their football club, there’s no reason to think that they can’t represent the Big East admirably come Selection Sunday next spring.

Before anybody locks in their March Madness bets, however, there will be plenty of opportunities for college basketball fans to get a good long look at the options available. Although this season won’t be rife with NBA-bound talents (with the exception of Pittsburgh’s potential lottery pick Steven Adams), it’s the quality of play that has always defined the iconic conference.