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Virginia head coach Tony Bennett (center) talks to his team during practice  Wednesday (Michael Conroy)
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett (center) talks to his team during practice Wednesday (Michael Conroy)|Associated Press
Boop

NCAA Thursday: Staff Selections for the Sweet 16

Regional Semifinals, Day 1

Bob Vetrone

Bob Vetrone

MARK ECKEL

> Best Bet
Purdue (+1) over Tennessee
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Florida State (+7.5) over Gonzaga
> Best Over Bet
Purdue-Tennessee (146.5)
> Best Under Bet
Florida State-Gonzaga (147)
> The Skinny
Tennessee was on its hands and knees to beat Colgate in the opening round and then needed overtime to beat a young, albeit well-coached Iowa team. The Vols' luck runs out against Purdue, which gave the defending national champs an old-fashioned beating . . . Florida State has been under the radar all season. That’s what happens when you play in the same conference as three No. 1 seeds. I’m not sure the ’Noles will beat Gonzaga (they might), but I think they keep it close. Oh, and FSU is 4-0 against the spread vs. West Coast Conference teams, while the Zags are 1-6-1 against the spread vs. ACC teams . . . I’m glad we’re only picking two games, because the other two are just too close to call.

MIKE KERN

> Best Bet
Michigan (-2) over Texas Tech
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Tennessee (-1) over Purdue
> Best Over Bet
Oregon-Virginia (119.5)
> Best Under Bet
None
> The Skinny
Texas Tech has never been to back-to-back Elite Eights. Last year was the first time it made it that far . . . Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, in his 23rd NCAA appearance, has been to two Elite Eights (both with Texas, in 2003 and ’06). The Volunteers have made it that far once (2010). Purdue, which is in the Sweet 16 for the third straight year and fifth in since 2009, last went to an Elite Eight in 2000 . . . Florida State made it to the Final Eight last year, for the first time since 1993.

GREG FRANK

> Best Bet
Texas Tech (+2) over Michigan
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Florida State (+7.5) over Gonzaga
> Best Over Bet
Virginia-Oregon (119.5)
> Best Under Bet
Tennessee-Purdue (146.5)
> The Skinny
The wrong team is favored in the Michigan-Texas Tech game. The Red Raiders have the best player left standing in this region in Jarrett Culver and Michigan isn’t going to score enough to win this one. The Wolverines have been an up and down offensive team this season and Texas Tech is one of the best defensive teams remaining . . . Florida State waxed Gonzaga in this round last year and while Gonzaga is a much better team this time around, a red hot Seminoles team can certainly stay within seven tonight . . . Oregon’s scoring enough to get into the mid-50s against Virginia which should be enough to get the game over 119.5 total . . . Purdue plays on its terms early on against Tennessee, keeping this South regional semifinal under a decently high total for a Big 10 team that, like most of the league, prefers to grind it out.

BEN GEIER

> Best Bet
Gonzaga (-7.5) over Florida State
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Michigan (-2) over Texas Tech
> Best Over Bet
Virginia-Oregon (119.5)
> Best Under Bet
Purdue-Tennessee (146.5)
> The Skinny
My “best bet” can be considered a grudge match. Gonzaga fell apart to Florida State in the “Sweet Sixteen” last year. However, now they’ll get a second chance to redeem themselves. The Zags have been lights out and it wouldn’t surprise me if they got their revenge by a good margin . . . Michigan and Texas Tech are both in the top three with their respective defenses. However, swiss-army knife Zavier Simpson will become the hero for Michigan in a close one . . . Virginia might have the best defense in the nation, but that means nothing in March Madness. Oregon’s Bol Bol has been sensational and Virginia isn’t necessarily a slouch on offense either. I expect this game to be somewhere in the low 70’s . . . Tennessee was absolutely exposed by Iowa. Purdue’s defense is going to take it up a notch turning the tides to a much-lower game then expected.

ROBERT MIMS

> Best Bet
Virginia (-8.5) over Oregon
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Gonzaga (-7.5) over Florida State
> Best Over Bet
Purdue-Tennessee (146.5)
> Best Under Bet
Florida State-Gonzaga (147)
> The Skinny
Purdue put a big number on Villanova and will do the same against the Vols . . . Look at a first-half play in this game of Over 67.5.

HOWARD GENSLER

> Best Bet
Oregon (+8.5) over Virginia
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Purdue (+1) over Tennessee
> Best Under Bet
Gonzaga-Florida State (147)
> Second Best Under Bet
Virginia-Oregon (119.5)
> The Skinny
Me and every oddsmaker expects Virginia-Oregon to be a slow, low-scoring game. Eight-and-a-half therefore seems too big a margin . . . Tennessee has struggled in its two wins against teams not as good as Purdue. Purdue’s destruction of Villanova was impressive . . . Florida State has played so many tougher games than Gonzaga, I think this will be more of a slugfest than the Zags are accustomed to . . . Doubtful Virginia-Oregon will get to 60 possessions and doubtful either team can maintain a point-per-possession average.

BOB VETRONE JR.

> Best Bet
Gonzaga (-7.5) over Florida State
> Best Bet of the Other Three
Purdue (+1) over Tennessee
> Best Over Bet
Michigan-Texas Tech (126)
> Best Under Bet
Virginia-Oregon (119.5)
> The Skinny
Every No. 1 seed trailed in the second half of a game at some point over the first weekend, except one: Gonzaga. The Zags are on a mission and it is going to take a better team out of the ACC than the Seminoles to end it . . . Saturday night, Purdue had 19 points by the first TV timeout. If I have seen that before, I do not remember it . . . Unless Bobby Knight shows up to coach on the Red Raider bench, I have a feeling Michigan might score enough to get the Over themselves . . . If Virginia were playing any other Power 5 team that made the tournament here, I would take the points and run, but I just don’t think the Ducks have what it takes to cover. Not yet sold on the Cavs either, but I can see a 55-46 game that ends early Friday morning with no one in Middle America watching.