Two of the nation’s top mid major College Basketball programs will be under the spotlight as the Richmond Spiders and the Virginia Commonwealth Rams collide in the Farm Bureau Insurance Black & Blue Classic in Richmond, Virginia. Tipoff is set for 8:00 PM ET from the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Sportsbooks opened with the VCU Rams favored by -3 points with the total at 128 on the NCAA basketball odds boards. At the moment, both the total and the spread have risen half-a-point each, so be sure to shop for lines to find the best prices and college basketball betting lines.

The Rams (5-3 SU, 4-3 ATS) had an amazing run in the NCAA tournament last year reaching the “Final Four”. They’ve won two straight and covered in four consecutive games entering tonight’s clash. Since losing to 13th ranked Alabama on the November 27, the Rams have beaten South Florida and George Washington.

In their 75-60 rout of GW, senior Bradford Burgess posted his fifth straight game in double figures with 18 points while Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg each had 10 points. VCU is now averaging 65.2 points per game while limiting opponents to 60.8 ppg.

Richmond is also on a roll. The Spiders (6-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) have won and covered in three straight including an impressive 70-62 decision over ACC opponent Wake Forest on Saturday. Guard Kendall Anthony led the way with 21 points while Cedrick Lindsay added 15.

Rebuilding

Spiders coach Chris Mooney has done a solid job with a young team that has just one returning starter (Darien Brothers) from last year’s 29-win team. While the faces have changed the game plan hasn’t. It’s still all about defense at Richmond.

After holding the opposition to 40 percent shooting from the field and to under 60 points a game in 2010-11, the Spiders have come back and held their foes to just 35.5 percent shooting and just 60.6 points a game through eight games.

Only two teams, Davidson and Illinois, have scored more than 60 points against the Spiders. Over the three-game span in the Cancun Classic, which produced wins over Sacred Heart and Rutgers and the loss to the Illini, the Spiders held their opponents to a combined 9-of-50 shooting from three-point range, a measly 18.0 percent.

Beyond the arc

Brothers has been the team’s main source of long distance dialing. He’s knocked down 17 of his 35 three point chances (48.6 percent) and is averaging 10.5 points per game. Freshman Kendall Anthony leads the team with 15.4 ppg followed by Lindsay at 11.5 ppg. Derrick Martin is the other Spider in double figure scoring with 10 points per game.

Still a contender

VCU RamsThis VCU team doesn’t have the deep, experienced lineup that took them to the Final Four, but there is enough young talent to once again challenge for the CAA title. Burgess (14.1 ppg) leads the team in scoring and isn’t afraid to mix it up on the defensive end.

Darius Theus is an emerging star at point guard, while Brandenberg (10 ppg) brings a consistent all-around game every night. Both Reddick and J.D. Haley are beasts on the boards and among the better shot blockers in the league. If the Rams make it back to the tournament again, it will be due in large part to its defense and head coach.

Smart, who is in his third year at VCU, guided the team to a 28-12 overall record in 2010-2011 including a 12-6 record in the CAA. Entering the season he was averaging 27 victories in his first two campaigns.

Trends

Richmond is 12-3 ATS in its last 15 games overall but 3-8 ATS vs. Virginia Commonwealth. The favorite has gone 7-1 vs. the number in the last eight series meetings.

Harvey’s Take: This has been a great rivalry over the years but one that’s been dominated by the favorite. I’ll stick with tradition and lay the low number with Smart’s team. Take VCU.

Good Luck!