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Las Vegas Expert Picks: March Madness, MLB

Houston Cougars

Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.

March Madness picks

LAS VEGAS — Last time we saw Kentucky forward PJ Washington, he was in a walking boot. That’s a BIG deal. Why? PJ is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. John Calipari’s Wildcats beat Abilene Christian and Wofford in the first two rounds. That’s NOT a big deal.

Jay Bilas, a pretty savvy hoop analyst, was asked what he thought, and if Houston would win. His answer, “With a healthy PJ Washington, probably not. Without Washington, Houston will win. It is that simple. I love this Houston team.” Gotta agree with my guy Jay in this spot. Just make sure to check out the starting five to see if PJ is in or out. Either way, we’ll grab the 3 and run to the bank.

Also thinking about Duke -7 points over Virginia Tech. Looks like Ty Outlaw will play for the Hokies after getting a summons on Tuesday charging him with one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession. Outlaw, kind of an ironic name for this situation, was in San Jose when the police in Blacksburg searched his apartment. And apparently, Ty was given a drug test and it came up negative.

With Outlaw on the court, Tech is better, but the Blue Devils should be able to avenge an earlier loss to the Hokies AT Blacksburg. According to most who watched the game against UCF, the Dookies should not even be in the Sweet 16, but here they are, and the Elite Eight is just 40 minutes away for Coach K.

Keeping my wallet closed, but have some tasty spread stats on the North Carolina/Auburn game in Kansas City. Everyone is expecting a track meet here, and thinking that the final score is gonna go WAY over the projected total, which is sitting at 164.5. NOT so fast. Looked at the Tar Heels’ recent work, and they have gone UNDER in five of the last six games, and nine of the last 12. The Tigers have gone OVER in five of the last seven, but looking back to the beginning of February, Bruce Pearl’s guys have gone UNDER in 10 of the last 17.

Also note that Carolina has been phenomenal on the road, winning 12 of the last 13. In the big picture, the Heels’ overall spread log sits at 22-11-2, 14-5 on the road and 19-10-2 as a favorite. The Tigers’ overall spread mark is 19-16-1, 9-11 on the road and 3-2 as an underdog.

MLB pick

Gotta throw out a little baseball tonight as well, and gonna drop some love on the Dodgers with Ross Stripling over the D-backs. Don’t think that L.A. is gonna pound EIGHT dingers again this evening, but without Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the Arizona lineup, the Snakes do not have enough venom to take down the defending National League champs.

Still digesting last night’s results and studying hard for the Elite Eight tomorrow, so PLZ hit me on Twitter over the weekend, @vegasvigorish, just in case anything pops on the college hoop board.

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...ben@americasline.com.

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