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NCAA tournament: Best bets for the first round (I’ll take Arizona and Gonzaga and give the points, thankyouverymuch)

Back with the best bets and look at the championship odds.
First up: A look at the latter, which reflect the wide-open regular-season.
(Breaking news Tuesday increased that uncertainty:
(Virginia announced De’Andre Hunter, the ACC Sixth Man of the Year, will miss the tournament because of a broken wrist.)
There’s money to be made, somewhere:
Villanova: 5/1
Virginia: 5/1
Duke: 6/1
Michigan: 8/1
Michigan State: 8/1
Arizona: 12/1
Kansas: 14/1
Purdue: 15/1
North Carolina: 18/1
Two Madness-related housekeeping items:
1) My round-by-round picks will be posted on the Hotline on Wednesday morning (First Four excluded).
2) Look for the best bets column to be published prior to each round; check late Friday night/early Saturday for the second-round picks.
Here’s my seven-year tally against the spread. (If only I had been listening to myself) …
2011: 15-5
2012: 12-8
2013: 12-7
2014: 10-9-1
2015: 10-9
2016: 7-12
2017: 10-5-2
Total: 76-55-3
All picks against the spread.
Lines taken from – entertainment purposes only
No. 10 Oklahoma (plus-1.5) vs. No. 7 Rhode Island (Midwest/Thursday): Sooners view the NCAAs as an opportunity for rebirth after staggering to the finish. Trae Young shoot ’em past URI. Pick: Oklahoma.
No. 13 Buffalo (plus-9) vs. No. 4 Arizona (South/Thursday):  Expecting a lengthy run from Arizona this month. It won’t be problem-free, but Buffalo doesn’t have the defense to contain the Cats. Pick: Arizona.
No. 13 UNC-Greensboro (plus-12) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (West/Thursday): Zags serve notice that they’re a force in the West. The defending national runner-ups have gotten too little love as a threat to win the West. Pick: Gonzaga.

No. 14 Montana (plus-12) vs. No. 3 Michigan (West/Thursday):  Skeptical about Big Ten teams in the first round after their long layoff (resulting from the early conference tournament). At the very least, I expect slow starts. And a slow start plus 12 points is too good to pass up. Pick: Montana.
No. 14 Bucknell (plus-14) vs. No. 3 Michigan State (Midwest/Friday): Similar thought here with MSU and its layoff, plus the distractions caused by media love — the Spartans are a popular pick to win the title — and the Bison’s tournament experience. (They lost to West Virginia by six in the first round last year.) Pick: Bucknell.
Five-star special: Gonzaga. Casual observers of college basketball, meet Killian Tillie.
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