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Gonzaga forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke celebrate Thursday (Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Gonzaga forwards Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke celebrate Thursday (Marcio Jose Sanchez)|Associated Press
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NCAA Saturday: Staff Selections

First Tickets To Be Punched for Final Four

Bob Vetrone

Bob Vetrone

MARK ECKEL

> Best Bet
Texas Tech (+4) over Gonzaga
> The Other Game
Virginia (-4.5) over Purdue
> Best Over/Under Bet
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Under 137)
> The Other Over/Under
Virginia-Purdue (Over 126)
> The Skinny
I almost always have conviction in my picks. Today, I don’t know. These are two tough games with two difficult spreads. I’m taking Texas Tech, because what they did to Buffalo and Michigan was just too impressive to overlook and getting points sure doesn’t hurt. If the Red Raiders can’t beat the Zags maybe they can keep it close . . . I’ve liked both the Cavs and the Boilermakers and went back and forth on this one all day. I’m taking Virginia solely based on the fact that Purdue might be spent after its OT win Thursday against Tennessee. Plus, everyone knows by now I have a huge ACC bias . . . All four of Texas Tech’s game have gone under in the tourney. Why go over now?

MIKE KERN

> Best Bet
Gonzaga (-4) over Texas Tech
> The Other Game
Purdue (+4.5) over Virginia
> Best Over/Under Bet
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Under 137)
> The Other Over/Under
Virginia-Purdue (Over 126)
> The Skinny
Gonzaga is 1-2 in the Final Eight. That win came two years ago, when the Bulldogs were also a No. 1 seed. They would lose in the national title game . . . Virginia is 2-4 in this round. The Cavs last went to the Final Four in 1984. Three years ago, as a top seed, they lost to 10th-seeded Syracuse . . . Purdue is 2-2 in this round. The Boilermakers last made it to the final weekend in 1980. The last time they made it this far was 19 years ago . . . Texas Tech has never been to a Final Four. Last year was the Red Raiders’ first appearance in an Elite Eight. They of course lost by 12 to eventual champion Villanova.

GREG FRANK

> Best Bet
Virginia (-4.5) over Purdue
> The Other Game
Texas Tech (+4) over Gonzaga
> Best Over/Under Bet
Purdue-Virginia (Over 126)
> The Other Over/Under Bet
Texas Tech/Gonzaga (Under 137)
> The Skinny
The public narrative here is that Virginia narrowly escaped against Oregon and Purdue is brimming with confidence. The Boilermakers got out to a comfortable lead against Tennessee in the Sweet 16 and then had to rally late to win in overtime against the Volunteers after a very impressive opening weekend. But Virginia’s redemption tour is about to reach new heights and the Cavaliers will play their best game of the tournament getting Tony Bennett to his first Final Four . . . Texas Tech keeps itself in games with stifling defense making points valuable whenever you can get them so I’ll go with the Red Raiders to cover the spread . . . I’ll also go Over the total in the South Regional final as a slight hedge on the Virginia pick. Purdue’s been scoring a lot in the dance and if it pulls the upset will score at least 70 . . . Texas Tech will defend well enough to keep Gonzaga at bay long enough to keep the West Regional final Under.

BEN GEIER

> Best Bet
Gonzaga (-4) over Texas Tech
> The Other Game
Purdue (+4.5) over Virginia
> Best Over/Under Bet
Purdue-Virginia (Over 126)
> The Other Over/Under
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Over 137)
> The Skinny
The one pick that I’m wavering on is whether Purdue can upset or cover against Virginia. I’ve stated constantly that I can’t trust Virginia’s offense. However, I give the Cavaliers credit that their defense has managed to control the pace of each game. Purdue has been averaging 93 PPG in their past two games against quality opponents (Villanova & Tennessee). I’m sticking with my gut that I still can’t trust Virginia if the game becomes a track meet.

ROBERT MIMS

> Best Bet
Purdue (+4.5) over Virginia
> Best Over/Under Bet
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Under 137)
> The Skinny
Purdue is rolling and Virginia does not have enough offensively to keep up . . . Tech is long enough to keep this game in the 60s.

HOWARD GENSLER

> Best Bet
Texas Tech (+4) over Gonzaga
> The Other Game
Purdue (+4.5) over Virginia
> Best Over/Under Bet
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Under 137)
> The Other Over/Under
Virginia-Purdue (Under 126)
> The Skinny
Texas Tech
seems like a team on a mission and this is where Gonzaga’s weaker conference schedule catches up to them . . . Yes, all those Purdue threes may clang against the rim against the Virginia D, but it’s not like Virginia is a scoring machine. Purdue knocks down just enough to keep it close and maybe win it. . . . As the tourney rolls on, the defense gets tougher and the nerves get tighter (unless you’re Auburn) so I like the Unders.

BOB VETRONE JR.

> Best Bet
Purdue (+4.5) over Virginia
> The Other Game
Gonzaga (-4) over Texas Tech
> Best Over/Under Bet
Purdue-Virginia (Over 126)
> The Other Over/Under
Gonzaga-Texas Tech (Over 137)
> The Skinny
Purdue is really starting to look like one of those teams that has caught March Lightning in a Bottle (Villanova, 1985; Kansas, 1988; UConn 2011). The Boilermakers are coming off their two highest-scoring outputs since Feb. 3 . . . Gonzaga still has not trailed in the second half of any NCAA Tournament game . . . Texas Tech’s three NCAA games have been Under by 6.5, 14.5 and 18. The Red Raiders started the season with five straight Unders; they will end it with four straight.