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Zags loss will lead NCAA Selection Committee to pick from the usual suspects

Feb 28, 2017 3:08 AM

The NCAA Selection Committee can breathe a sigh of relief after the Gonzaga Bulldogs were knocked off by the ageless BYU Cougars at The Kennel last Saturday night, 79-71, in the West Coast Conference regular season finale.

Now, with a wink-wink and a nod-nod, the group can find a way to get all their pals in their usual locales to the best settings on the road to Glendale, Ariz., just outside Phoenix.

So, Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Kentucky and a couple of other major conference schools can now jockey for one of the top four seeds at the conference tournaments without the nuisance of some pesky mid-major.

Despite the loss, however, Gonzaga is still around the No. 5 choice in the wagering, according to oddsmakers, as a 10-1 shot to win the national title.

The Tar Heels actually rate as the favorite, currently as 13-to-2, while UCLA, off a clutch road win at Arizona last Saturday, is tabbed second at 8-1.

Villanova, Duke and Kansas are all around 9-1. Kentucky (11-1), Oregon (14-1), Arizona and Louisville (both 15-1) round out the top 10 favorites, according to our consensus line of available sportsbooks.

At this time, my preferred play out of the group is UK.

Malik Monk had 33 points for the ‘Cats against Florida in a 77-66 win without the presence of co-star De’Aaron Fox in the lineup. Monk showed why he can explode offensively at any given moment, even after stretches of poor shooting like he had in the first half.

VCU (+5, 141) at Dayton (Wed., 5 p.m., CBSSN): Dayton is one game in front of VCU and will be out for revenge, as the Rams won the first meeting 73-68 back on Jan. 27 behind junior forward Justin Tillman’s 18 points.

Since then, the Flyers have won eight-straight but regained control of the driver’s seat when VCU lost at third-place Rhode Island. DU’s Scoochie Smith is one of the conference’s top playmakers. Dayton keeps the roll going. Dayton, 77-67

Harvard (+8, 128) at Princeton (Fri., 2:30 p.m., ESPN2): Time to take note of this year’s Ivy champ-to-be, Princeton. The Tigers have won 14-straight and will remember the first meeting when the Crimson nearly pulled off the home win, falling 57-56.

Princeton’s Steven Cook is the conference’s top all-around player and the Tigers boast arguably four of the league’s top five performers. Harvard started this season 1-4, but got a signature win at Houston in early season, non-league play and is one of the nation’s top spread teams at 14-4 ATS. Princeton, 62-61

Duke (+7, 159) at UNC (Sat., 5 p.m., ESPN): Junior Justin Jackson and North Carolina close in on their third straight ACC title, facing the other shade of blue from eight miles down the road. The Blue Devils won the first meeting at Cameron, 86-78, behind 25 points from Grayson Allen, but could be playing spoiler here depending on UNC’s meeting with Virginia this past Monday.

The Tar Heels may have the title wrapped up or could be playing to earn it outright where a loss could force a shared championship with one of three other contenders. Carolina is 12-4 ATS at home and 11-4-1 to the UNDER in Chapel Hill. UNC, 83-73