Gardner Webb forward DJ Laster  was named the MVP  of the Big South Conference tournament March 10 (Lee Luther Jr.)
Gardner Webb forward DJ Laster was named the MVP of the Big South Conference tournament March 10 (Lee Luther Jr.)|Associated Press
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NCAA Friday: Staff Selectors

Our writers give you a uniform look at Friday’s NCAA Tournament action

Bob Vetrone

Bob Vetrone

Each day, our writers will give you a uniform look at a single-day’s NCAA Tournament action so you can compare and contrast their selections . . . A few of them will have even more selections posted separately here . . .

MARK ECKEL

> Best Bet
Iowa State (-5.5) over Ohio State
> Next Three Best Bets
Virginia Tech (-10.5) over Saint Louis
Washington (+3) over Utah State
Liberty (+6.5) over Mississippi State
> Best Over Bet
Texas Tech-Northern Kentucky (137)
> Best Under Bet
Washington-Utah State (135)
> The Skinny
Ohio State was just 14-19 against the spread this season and 9-19 against teams with a winning record. The Buckeyes are also 1-6-1 in their last eight games against the Big 12. Iowa State is also the better team . . . Virginia Tech welcomes back its best player, Justin Robinson, with a big win over Saint Louis, which is 1-5-1 against the spread in its last seven games against the ACC . . . I think Washington beats Utah State straight up, so the three points is just a bonus . . . Give me Liberty or give me death. (I just wanted to use that line. Thank you.)

MIKE KERN

> Best Bet
Cincinnati (-4) over Iowa
> Next Three Best Bets
Wisconsin (-2) over Oregon
Central Florida (-1) over VCU
Houston (-12) over Georgia State
> Best Over Bet
Kansas State-Cal Irvine (118.5)
> Best Under Bet
Buffalo-Arizona State (157)
> The Skinny
Virginia
of course last March became the first No. 1 seed in the men’s bracket to ever go down in the opening round . . . Colgate is coached by former Penn player and Fran Dunphy assistant Matt Langel, whose name has come up in connection with the sudden vacancy at Saint Joseph’s . . . Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, the one-time Dookie standout, is going up against his former team, Buffalo . . . Kansas State, the four seed in the South Region, is playing UC Irvine in San Jose. Six years ago, the Wildcats lost its opener in Kansas City as a four seed to LaSalle . . . Kelvin Sampson has done a commendable job with Houston, yet I’ve never been his biggest fan. Might have something to do with the fact that a few months after his Oklahoma team lost to Temple (61-43) in a 1996 first-round matchup, Sooner star Ryan Minor (who was drafted by the Phillies) said they thought the Owls were playing man-to-man. Yo, that’s a violation.

GREG FRANK

> Best Bet
Ohio State (+5.5) over Iowa State
> Next Three Best Bets
Oregon (+2) over Wisconsin
Utah State (-3) over Washington
Buffalo (-4.5) over Arizona State
> Best Over Bet
UC Irvine-Kansas State (118.5)
> Best Under Bet
North Dakota State-Duke (149.5)
> The Skinny
Not many teams were more inconsistent down the stretch than Iowa State and after the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament, they’re getting expensive which makes now a good time to sell high . . . Oregon’s red hot and Wisconsin showed enough vulnerability in the Big 10 to be a five seed susceptible to an upset . . . As for the rest of the Pac 12, no thanks . . . There’s a bit of an overreaction to Dean Wade not playing for Kansas State with the total against UC Irvine being this low and given the Anteaters are a trendy upset pick, we think both teams should be able to score 60 . . . Duke was one of the best under teams in the nation this year and we’d expect the pace to slow considerably in the final minutes of this one with it likely in the bag.

BEN GEIER

> Best Bet
Central Florida (-1) vs. VCU
> Next Three Bets
North Carolina (-22.5) vs. Iona
Oregon (+2) vs. Wisconsin
Colgate (+17.5) vs. Tennessee
> Best Over Bet
Washington-Utah St. (135)
> Best Under Bet
Iowa-Cincinnati (137.5)
> The Skinny
The three-headed monster of Aubrey Dawkins, Tacko Fall and B.J. Taylor should catapult Central Florida . . . Coach Johnny Dawkins will advance to face his ala mater Sunday . . . North Carolina has played great basketball all season and will remain level-headed against Iona . . . Surging Oregon seems like a team bound to at least win a game or two after stealing a spot in the tournament from UNC Greensboro . . . Colgate might not win against Tennessee, but I’d cut this line into single digits as they’ve been very hot . . . Utah St. can score fast and have managed to get over 80 points in four of their last five games . . . Cincinnati prides themselves on defense giving up a mere 62 PPG . . . Iowa has struggled scoring against ranked opponents all season.

HOWARD GENSLER

> Best Bet
Buffalo (-4.5) over Arizona St.
> Next Three Best Bets
Gardner Webb (+22) over Virginia
VCU (+1) over Central Florida
Houston-Georgia St. (Under 141.5)
> Best Over Bet
Tennessee-Colgate (148)
> Best Under Bet
North Carolina-Iona (166)
> The Skinny
Buffalo is a solid, senior-laden team with a chip on its shoulder that crushed a better Arizona team last year in the first round . . . Virginia is simply a numbers play. Since Tony Bennett has been there, the Cavaliers are 7-6 in the NCAA Tournament and have only one win of more than 22 points. . . . UCF is staggering into the Tournament. VCU lost to Rhode Island in the A-10 Tournament, but had won 12 in a row before that. . . . Assuming they nailed the Houston-Georgia St. spread -12, that would be a 77-65 game to get over 141.5. I think it will be a little lower. . . . Tennessee should score in the 80s against a Colgate team ranked 203rd in defense and Colgate has won 11 in a row averaging more than 81 points per game. . . . Iona is not a particularly good defensive team so the Tar Heels should have no trouble scoring, but to cover 23 and go over 166 you’re looking at something higher than 95-71. That’s a lot of points. Carolina has only gone over 166 in a first round game once since 2012, a 103-64 win over Texas Southern in 2017.

BOB VETRONE JR.

> Best Bet
Utah State (-3) over Washington
> Next Three Bets
Houston (-12) over Georgia State
Central Florida (-1) over VCU
North Carolina (-22.5) over Iona
> Best Over
North Carolina-Iona (Over 166)
> Best Under
Virgina-Gardner Webb (Under 130)
> The Skinny
Washington won the regular season championship of a so-so Pac-12 and then couldn’t hold serve in the conference tournament. Utah State has won 10 straight and is 7-2 ATS over its last nine . . . Houston has been on our radar all season. Two of their three losses were a controversial one (at Temple) and the meaningless conference title clash . . . Their Cougars’ third loss was to Tacko Fall and Central Florida, at Houston . . . North Carolina is playing the first round as a top seed outside the Carolinas for the first time since 1998. The Gaels will pay for that in a high-scoring blowout. Everybody scores! . . . Virginia allowed the total fewest points in the nation by a margin of 135.

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