College Basketball Notes and Thoughts for Thursday 2/27

College Basketball Opening Lines

The two conferences to keep an eye on Thursday night are the Colonial and the Horizon League. Hofstra can clinch the Colonial’s regular season crown with a win over Towson. In the Horizon, there’s a three-way tie for the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Seeding matters because the first two rounds of next week’s tournament are held at the better team’s campus. Keep an eye on WagerTalk’s Live Odds page for updated numbers from a variety of offshore and Las Vegas sports books.

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New Mexico State -6.5 at Grand Canyon – New Mexico State is clearly the king of the WAC, but it hasn’t been a smooth-and-easy season in Las Cruces. The Aggies have battled through some injuries this season, and several teams have given them a scare during conference play. NMSU wrapped up the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament last week, and if there is a tiny hint of a letdown, Grand Canyon will be poised to take advantage. Students began camping outside of Grand Canyon University Arena on Monday. Grand Canyon is allowing opponents to shoot 41.5-percent from three-point range away from GCU Arena. Opponents make 77.3-percent of their free throws away from GCU Arena. But in front of the purple faithful, opponents shoot 28.8-percent from three-point range and 64.7-percent from the free throw line. If Grand Canyon can feed off the crowd early and keep them engaged, this one could go down to the wire. KenPom and Bart Torvik both have this game lined at NMSU -5.

Gardner Webb -3 at Charleston Southern – Pretty strong disagreement between the betting market and analytical projections. As of Thursday morning, the total for this one is sitting at 138.5 or 139. KenPom has this one pegged for 134 points. Bart Torvik has it lined at 132 points. Haslametrics has it at 131 points. These two teams met last month and the game went to double overtime, but they scored 130 in regulation. Jose Perez scored 21 points for Gardner Webb in that game, but he’s no longer on the team. It’s a struggle to see why this total has opened so far off its projections. Both teams play slower than the D-1 average pace. Gardner Webb has the best interior defense in the conference – No. 1 in effective field goal defense; No. 1 in two-point defense; and No. 1 in shots blocked. Charleston Southern is last in the conference in free throw rate, so they don’t get to the foul line for easy points very often. Gardner Webb has only played seven guys in their rotation in each of the last three games. They are in the midst of four games in eight days. Those legs might be a little weary in the second half of this one.

Merrimack -14.5 vs. Central Connecticut – Merrimack can clinch a share of the Northeast Conference regular season title with a win on senior night, but the Warriors have been a little shaky down the stretch. Teams that are getting a second look at Merrimack in the regular season are finding a lot more success. LIU, Bryant and Mount Saint Mary’s have all picked up “revenge” wins over Merrimack in recent weeks. Central Connecticut was undoubtedly one of the worst teams in college basketball this season, but look at the team that Donyell Marshall has been playing at the end of the season. Five freshmen saw 10+ minutes in their last game against Wagner. The Blue Devils are starting two freshmen and two sophomores, and the first two guys off the bench are both freshmen. That investment has been paying off at the end of the season. Central Connecticut has won two of its last three games. They’re averaging a -3.8 point differential over their last eight games. In years past, you could probably count on a team like Central Connecticut to roll over in this spot, but Marshall definitely has them fighting at the end of the season.

College basketball’s conference tournaments start next week, and the WagerTalk crew has you covered from every angle. Direct from the WagerTalk TV Studios in Las Vegas, host Kelly Stewart talks with professional handicappers Gianni the Greek and Bryan Leonard about their favorite conference tournament betting tips.

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