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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures in game against North Dakota State Friday (Richard Shiro)
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures in game against North Dakota State Friday (Richard Shiro)|Associated Press
NCAAB

NCAA Sunday: Staff Selections

Getting Down to 16

Bob Vetrone

Bob Vetrone

MARK ECKEL

> Best Bet
Houston (-6) over Ohio State
> Next Three Best Bets
Buffalo (+4) over Texas Tech
Oregon (-5) over UC Irvine
Virginia Tech (-8.5) over Liberty
> Best Over Bet
Buffalo-Texas Tech (146)
> Best Under Bet
Central Florida-Duke (143.5)
> The Skinny
Houston
isn't just 32-3, the Cougars are 22-12-1 against the spread this year and Corey Davis Jr. is the best player in the country you don’t know. Ohio State got its one win and can go home now . . . Buffalo was the best team in the East all year and will be the last one standing when they beat Texas Tech outright. The Big 12 has shown what it’s all about in the tournament, which is not very good . . . Oregon has covered nine straight games and UC Irvine is 2-8 in its last 10 games against the Pac-12. So I couldn't resist . . . I’m going to ride the Hokies right up until that rematch with Duke.

MIKE KERN

> Best Bet
Texas Tech (-4) over Buffalo
> Next Three Best Bets
Liberty (+8.5) over Virginia Tech
UC Irvine (+5) over Oregon
Houston (-6) over Ohio State
> Best Over Bet
UC Irvine-Oregon (124)
> Best Under Bet
Tennessee-Iowa (155.5)
> The Skinny
Houston hasn’t been past the second round since it lost in the national-title game in 1984. Cougars’ coach Kelvin Sampson hasn’t made it past the second round since 2003, when he took Oklahoma to the Elite Eight . . . Buffalo, as a 13 seed, lost to fifth-seeded Kentucky last year in the second round, 95-75 . . . Texas Tech of course lost to Villanova last year in the Elite Eight, 71-59 . . . UC Irvine is coming off its first NCAA victory (over four seed Kansas State), in its second tournament appearance (2015) . . . Iowa, coached by Fran McCaffery (La Salle High, Penn), last made it to the Sweet 16 in 1999.

GREG FRANK

> Best Bet
Central Florida (+13) over Duke
> Next Three Best Bets
Virginia (-11) over Oklahoma
Oregon (-5) over UC Irvine
Virginia Tech (-8.5) over Liberty
> Best Over Bet
Buffalo-Texas Tech (146)
> Best Under Bet
Iowa-Tennessee (155.5)
> The Skinny
I don’t think Duke is going to cover a single point spread in the tournament. Sportsbooks make the best teams the hardest ones to back against the number and even despite a monstrous second half against North Dakota State, the Blue Devils did not cover the massive 27-point spread. Central Florida looked pretty good in its first ever NCAA Tournament win against VCU on Friday and has a win at Houston this year. Thirteen points is plenty to back the Knights . . . Laying the points with Virginia is betting against two anomalous results which is always a good idea. Virginia played a lackluster first half against Gardner Webb and Oklahoma couldn’t miss on Friday against Ole Miss. The Sooners are the worst team left in the dance and Virginia is going to play a more complete game . . . Mid-majors that upset a power conference team in their first game can tend to struggle in the following game as the emotional high of the victory can result in a lack of focus and that’s what we think happens with UC Irvine today against an Oregon team that has tournament experience and went to the Final Four two years ago . . . It’s a similar concept with Liberty which explains the Virginia Tech pick. Virginia Tech also is going to want to make a statement heading into a potential matchup with Duke in the Sweet 16. As good as Texas Tech is defensively, I have to think both the Bulls and Red Raiders get into the upper 70s which would get that game over the total . . . I’m not sure Iowa can keep up with Tennessee for an entire 40 minutes, but the Hawkeyes will be able to slow the game down enough to keep it under a high total.

BEN GEIER

> Best Bet
Oregon (-5) vs. UC Irvine
> Next Three Bets
Houston (-6) vs. Ohio State
Oklahoma (+11) vs. Virginia
Virginia Tech (-8.5) vs. Liberty
> Best Over Bet
UC Irvine-Oregon (124)
> Best Under
Iowa-Tennessee (155.5)
> The Skinny
Although Oregon and UC Irvine are both known for their defense, I think the game will be high-scoring with Oregon sneaking through another round . . . Ohio State has been hanging on by a thread despite their impressive win over Iowa State. Houston hasn’t missed a beat despite losing the AAC Championship. I’m taking Houston on their overall consistency and the leadership of Corey Davis Jr. . . . Oklahoma made a statement by crushing Mississippi and has the chops to pull off an upset as Virginia was sluggish against Gardner-Webb . . . Liberty managed to snag a huge win against a formidable SEC opponent. However, Virginia Tech is my dark horse and has a lot of talent on their roster. VT could sneak into the Elite Eight . . . Iowa might’ve put nearly 80 points on the board against Cincy, but their offense is still inconsistent.

HOWARD GENSLER

> Best Bet
Duke (-13) over Central Florida
> Next Three Best Bets
Oregon (-5) over UC Irvine
Virginia Tech (-8.5) over Liberty
Houston (-6) over Ohio St.
> Best Over Bet
North Carolina-Washington (148)
> Best Under Bet
Oklahoma-Virginia (126.5)
> The Skinny
Duke
will get Tacko Fall in foul trouble and pull away from Central Florida. I think . . . UC Irvine had a nice win against Wisconsin, but Oregon won’t play offense like Wisconsin. They will, however, defend. . . . I refuse to believe that a Virginia Tech team that beat Duke and Purdue won’t be able to handle a Liberty team whose only Top 100 regular season win was against Lipscomb. . . . Yes, the Big Ten is a better, deeper conference than the American, but Ohio St. went 8-12 in conference play and really struggled down the stretch. Houston’s 32-3 record has to mean something.

BOB VETRONE JR.

> Best Bet
Buffalo (+4) over Texas Tech
> Next Three Best Bets
Virginia (-11) over Oklahoma
Duke (-13) over Central Florida
North Carolina (-11.5) over Washington
> Best Over Bet
Texas Tech-Buffalo (146)
> Best Under Bet
Tennessee-Iowa (155.5)
> The Skinny
Everything is bigger in Texas, but not as big as the chip on CJ Massinburg’s shoulder. The Buffalo leading scorer and former Dallas high school star was barely a blip on the Lone Star State’s recruitment radar and now the Red Raiders get to pay for the sins of its brethren . . . By the way, the Bulls scored in triple digits three times this season and allowed triple digits once . . . I hope they don’t, but my brain tell me the ACC Three -- playing chronologically at 2:40 (UNC), 5:15 (Duke) and 7:45 (UVA) are each going to pile-drive their opponent moreso than the previous one will have done . . . The last five Tennessee games have gone Over, but the last two of those were each by a hair. String breaks here.