During the NCAA Tournament, we will be running some picks from a variety of Guest Selectors, some former players, some business owners, some entertainment personalities:
(Former Temple player)
> Virginia-Gardner Webb (Under 130)
Chances Virginia loses to a 16 seed two years in a row? Zero! Chances they cover this number might a different story. However, I’m confident they learned their lesson and their best in the country defense will be on overload. Defense travels, as they say, and who better to talk defense then me! I see this as a low-scoring game, especially on the GW side.
> Central Florida (-1) over VCU
Obviously, I didn’t learn my lesson from trying to pick the first 8/9 game on Thursday. This is a pure AAC over the A10 pick. I watch the AAC a lot since that’s the conference Temple is in and UCF is a solid squad that presents problems for any team. I’m not sold on the A10 this year. Plus, how can you not root for Tacko Fall?
> Oregon (+2) over Wisconsin
A 12 seed always beats a 5 seed, right? Well, here’s my requisite 12 seed pick. I know the PAC-12 was down this year but Oregon may be playing their best right now. In a 5 vs. 12 you’d think the line would be bigger than this, so that is telling me something. Exactly what it’s telling me I’m not sure, but I’ll go with the Ducks in this one.
> Iowa State (-5.5) over Ohio State
The Cyclones have been hot down the stretch, postings wins over nationally-ranked opponents (Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas) on the way to snagging a Big 12 tournament title. Meanwhile Ohio State has stumbled into The Dance with less than stellar conference results. I don't look for Iowa State to make it to the Sweet 16, like in 2014 and 2016, but they last long enough to face Houston in the next round.
> Kansas State (-4.5) over UC Irvine
No. 19 K-State's road to the Final Four takes them past March regulars (Villanova, Virginia) to face Kansas. Out of the gate though, KSU has its work cut out for itself against the Anteaters who've won “only” 16 in-a-row on their way to a 30 win season. Not feeling completely confident in this pick, but given that my bracket has the Wildcats against Kansas in the Final Four, and the spread is just five, I'm riding with KSU!
(Co-owner Chick's Deli)
> Virginia (-22) over Gardner-Webb I hate laying so many points, but I like the first half cover (-13.5) and the game cover. Virginia lost to a 16 Seed last year, so this year I think they embarrass one.
> Utah State (-3) over Washington
Utah state had a stellar regular season and played tough in the conference tournament. They are going to handle the weak Washington team that has stumbled in the postseason.
(Manager Splitz Bar N Grill/Laurel Lanes)
> Central Florida (-1) over VCU
I believe this will be a low-scoring affair. UCF will feed big man Tacko Fall just enough to get by VCU. Central Florida, who is 8-2 in last 10 ATS, makes it 9-2 in a 59-57 first-round thriller.
(Penn Hall of Fame Player)
> Tennessee (-17.5) over Colgate
Bad match-up as the Patriot leaguers will be physically outmatched. Vols need to regain momentum and will pound them.
> Virginia (-21.5) over Gardner Webb
Coach Bennett will seek to erase last year’s memory and step on the gas and notlet up. UVA is 7-1 as a 19.5+ point favorite, an obvious team on a mission.
> Mississippi State (-11) over Liberty
Patrick Henry said “Give me Liberty or give me Death.” Mississippi State means death for Liberty. It’s size, athleticism and rebounding margin are way too much for the Flames, who really did not beat a Power 5 team. SEC, better than thought, is 2-0 already and will likely be 4-0 by tip.
(Co-owner High Tides Restaurant)
>Tennessee (-17.5) over Colgate
Still reeling over their huge loss in the SEC conference finals. This potential Final Four team squeezes Colgate from the bottom up and top down.
> Ohio State (+5.5) over Iowa State
Iowa State always seems to live up to their nickname in their conference tourney but always seem to end up a light breeze come NCAA big dance time.
> Wisconsin (-2) over Oregon
Because Wisconsin always covers on the first weekend and the Ducks are still playing off of their reputation under Chip Kelly.
(Host of South Jersey Sports Talk on RVNTV.com)
> Virginia Tech (-10.5) over Saint Louis
Hokies coach Buzz Williams keeps rising on the coaching Wish List and is being talked about as the next UCLA coach for good reason since he wins at every stop. Virginia Tech is my Final Four long-shot dark horse since they can shoot from deep and welcome back Justin Robinson from injury after sitting 12 games. Sure, the Billikens won the Atlantic 10 tourney, but St. Louis finished sixth in the regular season and are shocked to be in the dance.
> Texas Tech (-13) over Northern Kentucky
Sixers’ fans might remember Texas Tech as where first-round pick Zhaire Smith played last year before sitting out as a rookie this season, but the Red Raiders haven’t missed him either as Coach Chris Beard rolls out perhaps the nation’s best defense. Tech is stinging from a first-round loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 tourney so they won’t be taking any prisoners on defense and will cover the number as easily as the Norse, which at least wins the battle of nicknames for Northern Kentucky in Tulsa.
> Virginia (-22) over Gardner-Webb
The embarrassing sting of being the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed last year in the opening round of the NCAA tournament didn’t keep Virginia from earning another top seed this year. Unlike last March, when the Cavaliers were bushwhacked by UMBC, Tony Bennett’s team is going to make quick and easy work of Gardner-Webb, comfortably keeping a 20-point spread throughout the second half before padding the final score to cover. Losing in the semifinals of the ACC tourney to Florida State last week will only drive Virginia to keep G-W safely away from the number even though the Bulldogs did slay Wake Forest and Georgia Tech this year.
> Colgate (+17.5) over Tennessee
Like picking Temple to win against Belmont, selecting Colgate to cover against Tennessee seems like another sentimental pick. Perhaps it is since Colgate coach Matt Langel is a South Jersey guy from Moorestown who comes from a wonderful family and is a great guy. But, rather, I feel since Langel played in the NCAA tourney with Penn and the moment won’t be too big for him or the Raiders with his leadership, even though they are in tourney for the first time since 1996. Tennessee, however, boasts a strong coach as well in Rick Barnes, who rotates eight players that gave the Vols the top offense in the SEC and the second-best defense, so picking Colgate to win outright would be pushing it, but take the points because Langel will keep his Patriot League champs in this game in Columbus, Ohio. where his family and friends from South Jersey will be pulling for him all the way.