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First round picks

Mar 16, 2004 8:40 AM

The lines are out and now the bartering starts. A half-point here or there could mean driving the extra mile on the Strip or off.

With 32 first-round matchups, it’s too risky to bet each one. Here’s eight early bargains we see in the opening two days of the NCAA tourney.

Vermont (+20) vs UConn: New England has a true David vs Goliath matchup to crave for a couple of days in Buffalo. Vermont has one good player. UConn is a No. 1 seed. Okefor or no Okefor, the Huskies bark loud and long. UCONN.

Nevada (+21/2) vs Mich St: We hope Michigan State takes the Wolf Pack lightly in Seattle. Nevada beat Kansas. State is no Kansas. NEVADA.

Valpo (+19) vs Gonzaga: The Zags in Seattle. Real bad news for a Valpo team a cut below past years. GONZAGA.

Louisville (-1) vs Xavier: Louisville not the same team that beat Kentucky. Xavier defeated both St. Joe’s and Cincinnati. Louisville lost to Cincy. XAVIER.

UL-Lafayette (+8) vs NC State: Second part of our Orlando parlay with Xavier. NC State at less than 10 is just too good to pass up. NC STATE.

Utah (+2) vs Boston Col: The Utes barely escaped UNLV in the Mountain West final. The Eagles were rising in the Big East. Milwaukee isn’t Salt Lake. BC.

UCF (+14) vs Pitt: Part II of the Milwaukee parlay. A Big East special. Pitt just too big and talented for Central Florida. PITT.

Pacific (+71/2) vs Providence: This is no paper Tiger. Pacific gave Duke fits at Cameron. PC overrated in KC. An upset special. PACIFIC.