Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his”Ecks & Bacon” column.
Final Four picks
LAS VEGAS — Can’t remember which one of those 279 websites where I read this, but that is actually the first time in 31 years that among the so-called Blue Bloods won’t be at the Final Four. We are talking North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Louisville. That’s THIRTY-ONE YEARS! WOW!
Now for the winner of the very first game on Saturday between Virginia and Auburn. Talking of Blue Bloods, Charles Barkley’s Tigers beat Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky, back to back to back, to make it to their original EVER Final Four. This was VERY impressive. And the previous W against Kentucky was WITHOUT one of their best players, Chuma Okeke. Auburn rumbles into the celebration on a 12-0 straight-up PERFECTO and has covered eight of the last 10.
Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers come in with an impressive resume as well, winning 13 of their last 14, but against the spread, the’Hoos have managed to cover just three of the last seven. Not calling for the upset, but might purchase the hook, push the line to +6, and observe Sir Charles cry on national TV. Crying because, as all of us know,” Barkley is a ferocious sports bettor, and he’ll be over Auburn plus the points.
In the nightcap, we are gonna roll with Texas Tech +2.5 points over Michigan State. Of course, we WILL purchase the hook and push Tech to +3. What else can the Red Raiders do? They rolled to the Sweet 16 against the second-best defensive team in college hoops, Michigan, also blew the Wolverines off 63-44. They then looked at the daunting task of confronting the NUMBER ONE crime in the Nation in the Elite Eight, Gonzaga. You think that the Raiders were worried? Nah. They held that the’Zags into ONLY 69 points, almost TWENTY points under their season average of 87.6.
What about any other matchups with all the Big Ten? Gotcha. Aside from the Michigan match, Tech stomped on Nebraska 70-52. More? OK. TT has won 13 of the last 14 straight up, covered seven of the previous eight, and steps on the court in Minneapolis working within an 8-0 spread PERFECTO on the road. It ain’t gonna be simple, but we are backing the blossom, Chris Beard!!!
NBA pick For the wagering pleasure, here are some spread stats of this day. The Nuggets might not grab the Warriors to the top seed in the Western Alliance, but you know they are gonna deliver some heat to the ESPN matchup against the Blazers. Denver has been on a sweet roll, winning nine of the past 13 straight up, but against the spread, the Nugs have covered just four of the previous 12.
They’ve been stingy with points permitted and have gone UNDER at 10 of the previous 12 games. Portland brings an identical portfolio into the dining table, winning eight of the previous nine straight up, but have done WAY better against the spread, covering four of the last five. Looking at the big picture, the Nuggets’ overall spread log sits in 40-38, 24-15 at home and 29-26 as a favorite. The Blazers’ in general spread markers is 44-33-1, 21-18 on the road and 13-15 as an underdog. Light tickle to Portland.
NHL pick Skating onto the NHL ice, also got a play on the Rangers into the Blue Jackets.
PLZ hit me Twitter over the weekend, even @vegasvigorish, just if anything pops.
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, with all the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and above 100 other newspapers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He’s loved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna bit of Eck, hit his email…ben@americasline.com.

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