QuinnipiacThe Quinnipiac Bobcats knew they were in for a fight. Their athletic program decided to leave the Northeast Conference and join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (definitely a higher level of competition as far as their men’s basketball team is concerned) a little more than a year ago. Then again, Quinnipiac’s motto is qui transtulit sustinet: He who transplants, sustains.

That’s exactly what the Bobcats have done since making the move. In 2012-13, they led Division I in raw rebounding at 42.1 per game, and they were still No. 1 in the nation at 45.9 rebounds per game as of Wednesday. That’s despite having to play in a much more physical conference. As a result, Quinnipiac has been a profitable pick for college basketball betting at 17-8 straight up and 11-7 against the spread.

The Bobcats also are strong contenders for the MAAC title. They’re 12-4 straight up in conference play, winning their last five in a row at 4-1 against the spread to stay two games behind the Iona Gaels for first place. Only four games are left in the regular season, so overtaking Iona for first and earning an automatic NIT berth will be difficult. But the MAAC men’s basketball tournament comes next, and Quinnipiac can earn a ticket to the Big Dance by winning the conference championship.

Head coach Tom Moore certainly has his team pointed in the right direction. Formerly a top assistant under Jim Calhoun at UConn, Moore has led the Bobcats to a postseason berth each of the last three seasons, and this program is well on its way to making it four in a row. This also is the fourth year in Hamden for senior forward Ike Azotam, the Boston native who leads the Bobcats in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (11.0 boards per game).

Joining Azotam on Quinnipiac’s impressive front line is fellow Bostonian Ousmane Drame (13.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks per game), who torched the St. Peter’s Peacocks (+8) for 23 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s 74-64 victory. Aztoam added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Bobcats won the battle of the boards 42-28, including 16 offensive rebounds.

Azotam and Drame were expected to do big things this season, but the Bobcats needed some help in the backcourt if they were going to compete in the MAAC, and that help arrived in the form of senior transfer Umar Shannon (14.5 points per game), who graduated from Saint Francis University last year. Shannon has missed the last two games with a concussion, but he’s expected to be available when Quinnipiac visits the Canisius Golden Griffins (18-9 straight up, 15-8 against the spread) on Thursday.

The Golden Griffins are tied with the Bobcats in the MAAC standings, and Ken Pomeroy has Canisius ranked slightly ahead in terms of efficiency at No. 114 (No. 62 offense, No. 206 defense) on the Division I charts, with Quinnipiac at No. 124 (No. 58 offense, No. 232 defense). The Griffins won their first matchup 86-74 as two-point road favorites. Stay tuned for the college basketball odds for Thursday’s rematch at Koessler Athletic Center as they become available. Tip-off is t 7 p.m.

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