Puppy love bets drop Hampton-Monmouth line

Josh Hansen - Writer

Let the Madness begin.

Heavy public action is moving the line for tonight`s NCAA play-in game between the Monmouth Hawks and Hampton Pirates. The Pirates opened as 5 ½-point dogs but have been bet down to +3 ½.

The winner earns the right to play No.1 Villanova in the Minneapolis bracket Friday.

“Most people can`t name one starter, coach or a famous alumni from these schools, so why would they want to lay four points instead of just taking the points in what they probably perceive as a toss up game,” says Peter Childs from Belmont.com.

“You have two teams that no one really knows about and in games like this, you typically see public action betting the dog because they see value in getting points.”

Bobby Collins` Hawks are a disciplined team that uses most of the 35-second shot clock to set up its offense, and relies on 7-foot-2, 320-pound junior John Bunch to keep opposing team from driving the lane. Monmouth’s big man dominated the Northeast Conference this season and set a record with 68 blocks, six of which came in the title game win over top-seeded Farleigh Dickinson.

Collins plans on using his team’s size and speed to keep the Hawks from controlling the pace. He wants to move the ball inside in hopes that 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior forward Jaz Cowan can get that extra step on the slower, but bigger Bunch. Cowan is the team’s leader in scoring (13.4) and rebounding (7.1).

“We`d like to try to get more of an up-pace, up-tempo kind of a game," Collins told SI.com. "If we play like we have played the last four games, we can be a very dangerous team. We have been clicking inside-out.``

Hampton defeated top-seed Delaware in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Saturday for its fourth straight win and first trip to the Big Dance since upsetting Iowa State as a 15-seed in 2002. Hampton had lost six of seven before Saturday and has been criticized for being the most talented yet underachieving team in the MEAC.

Monmouth head coach Dave Calloway knows all about facing teams like Hampton.

"We`re used to seeing that," Calloway told reporters Monday. “We`re definitely not the most athletic team around. We`re a good, sound fundamental basketball team."

Oddsmakers have tonight`s total set at 125 points.

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