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 recall which one of those 279 websites where I read this, but that is the first time in 31 years that among the so-called Blue Bloods will not be at the Final Four. We’re talking North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Louisville. That is THIRTY-ONE YEARS! WOW!
Now for the winner of this first game on Saturday between Virginia and Auburn. Talking of Blue Bloods, Charles Barkley’s Tigers conquer Kansas, North Carolina and Kentuckyback to back to back, to make it to their first EVER Final Four. That was VERY impressive. And the previous W against Kentucky has been WITHOUT one of the greatest players, Chuma Okeke. Auburn rumbles into the party 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 too, winning 13 of the last 14, but against the spread, the’Hoos have managed to cover just three of their previous seven. Not necessarily calling for the upset, but might buy the hook, push the line to +6, and watch Sir Charles cry on national TV. Crying because, as we all know,” Barkley is a ferocious sports bettor, and he will be all over Auburn and also the points.
In the nightcap, we are gonna roll with Texas Tech +2.5 points over Michigan State. Obviously, we WILL purchase the hook and drive 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, and hauled the Wolverines away 63-44. Then they looked at the daunting task of facing the NUMBER ONE offense in the country in the Elite Eight, Gonzaga. You believe that the Raiders were nervous? Nah. They held that the’Zags into ONLY 69 points, nearly TWENTY points under their season average of 87.6.
What about any other matchups with all the Big Ten? Gotcha. Besides the Michigan match, Tech stomped on Nebraska 70-52. More? OK. TT has won 13 of the previous 14 up, covered seven of the last eight, and steps onto the court in Minneapolis working within an 8-0 disperse PERFECTO on the road. It ain’t gonna be easy, but we are backing the beard, Chris Beard!!!
NBA select For the wagering pleasure, here are your disperse stats of this day. The Nuggets might not grab the Warriors to the top seed in the Western Conference, but you realize they’re gonna deliver some warmth to the ESPN matchup against the Blazers. Denver continues to be on a sweet roll, winning nine of the past 13 straight up, but against the spread, the Nugs have covered just four of the last 12.
They have been stingy with points allowed 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 from the spread, covering four of their last five. Taking a look at the big picture, the Nuggets’ in general spread log sits in 40-38, 24-15 at house and 29-26 as a favorite. The Blazers’ in general spread mark is 44-33-1, 21-18 on the street and 13-15 as an underdog. Light tickle to Portland.
NHL select Also skating on the NHL ice, also got a play to the Blue Jackets.
PLZ struck me on Twitter over the weekend, @vegasvigorish, just if anything pops.
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America’s Line, together with all the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him on line at He’s beloved by many, when he chooses winners, and detested by others, when he chooses the occasional failure. Should you wanna bit of Eck, hit on his email…

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