Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — From Sweet to Elite to the Final Four. It’s about to go down in New Orleans, and as always, we have you covered.
March Madness Final Four Pick: Kansas vs Villanova
In the first game, it’s Kansas -4 points over Villanova. Woulda liked ’Nova as a dog in this spot, but after Justin Moore went down with an Achilles injury, it’s almost impossible to back the kids from Philly. Moore was the second-leading scorer for Jay Wright, averaging 14.8 points per game. Of course, the Wildcats still have Collin Gillespie (15.6 ppg) and Jermaine Samuels (11.1 ppg), but we’re thinking that losing Justin will be TOO much to overcome.
Moore had just eight points in the last game, but he ate up 37 valuable minutes. Looked at the box score, and coach Wright had only TWO guys off the bench, Caleb Daniels for 35 minutes and Chris Arcidiacono for two minutes. Yeah, TWO. So to say that Villanova is THIN would be a GIGANTIC understatement. You’re probably too young to remember the Popeye cartoons, but Google “Olive Oyl”. That’s how THIN ’Nova is!
The Midwest Region-winning Jayhawks AIN’T thin, and they have the fabulous Ochai Agbaji. Ochai is one of the five best players in the country, won the Big 12 Player of the Year and WILL be starting in the NBA next season.
Not thrilled about the free-throw disparity with Villanova hitting 53 of 59 (90%) while Kansas has made just 56 of 83 (67%). But we also have a little revenge on the table from the 2018 Final Four when the Wildcats PULVERIZED Kansas 95-79. Not gonna see a 16-point final margin here, but gonna ROCK the CHALK and roll with the Jayhawks.
Also gonna throw down a quick prop bet and take UNDER 62.5 points in the first half.
Duke vs UNC Pick
Didn’t have a couple of THOUSAND bucks to buy a ticket for this EPIC matchup, but will throw you a handful of words on the Duke-North Carolina game. First order of business is DON’T even pay attention to the last regular-season home game at Cameron Indoor.
Sure, Carolina whacked Duke 94-81, but the pressure surrounding that game was ENORMOUS. Eighty or 90 former Dookies formed a tunnel to welcome Coach K onto the court and the media attention was out of control.
A few numbers for you. The Blue Devils have won 13 of the last 15, but covered only seven. The Tar Heels have won 10 of the last 11 and covered nine. Edge to the Heels.
One of the key matchups will be in the paint between Mark Williams and Armando Bacot. Yeah, we saw that Armando went NUTZ against Saint Peter’s with a GINORMOUS 20-point, 22-rebound monster, but hold on. Cinderella had mostly a bunch of talented shorties on the floor, while Williams tips the ruler at SEVEN FEET. And what has Williams done against Carolina? How about hitting 12 of 15 (80.0%) in the two games this season and keeping Bacot off the boards with just 12 rebounds combined.
Very tough to pick against Duke because my heart is in Durham with Coach K and Mickie, but taking +4 might be the road to travel. Actually, the Wynn and Mirage here in Vegas are offering Carolina at +4.5, so we’ll take a tiny bite. Just make sure it’s a skinny bite, a very light play.
Premier League Pick
Quick trip across the pond tomorrow and taking a look at Chelsea vs Brentford. We know about all the issues and possible sale surrounding Chelsea, but the Blues still have six wins on the bounce. In England, that just means one after another with nothing else in between. They’ve also gone 17 games unbeaten at home since September and even though you’ll pay a hefty price, it’s worth the investment. Gimme Chelsea to keep BOUNCING!!!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...email@example.com.
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