Hello and Happy Friday. We've made it through another week, and I know you're itching to get into your weekend. We've got the Final Four taking place this weekend, baseball's opening weekend, the NBA and the return of soccer from the international break.
And, friends, I have picks for all of it for you in this newsletter. I've got some MLB plays for tonight, as well as NBA props. I've also got picks for both of Saturday's Final Four matchups, as well as a Premier League play for you to start your Sunday off right. I want to see you flourish.
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But before we get into all of it, we need to catch up on what's been happening today.
- MLB is moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia voting restrictions.
- The Mets-Nats series has been postponed due to COVID issues.
- Kansas gave Bill Self a lifetime contract, which makes me wonder what Kansas will have to do to fire him now.
- LeBron James will have a say in the next Red Sox trade. Would he have traded Mookie Betts?
Alright, I know today's intro is a bit shorter than usual, but keep scrolling down and you'll soon see why. We've got a full card, ladies and gentlemen!
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Astros at Athletics, 9:40 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Astros (+115): If you paid attention to any of my MLB futures bets in the letter this week, then you already know I think the market is severely underrating the Astros. Tonight's line is another example of this. Don't get me wrong, I think the Athletics are a good team and will be competing for a playoff spot, but I'm not sure the Astros should be this big of an underdog.
Jesus Luzardo starts for the Athletics tonight, and while he's highly regarded as a prospect, he hasn't been overly impressive in the Majors yet. His strikeout rate isn't where you want it to be, and he's prone to giving up the long ball. Houston starter Cristian Javier is similar to Luzardo, but I like Houston's offense more than Oakland's, so I'm backing the Astros to get another win tonight.
Key Trend: Houston has won four of its last five against Oakland.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model does not like this game nearly as much as I do, but that's not going to stop it from offering its opinion.
💰 The Picks
Rays at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Rays (-105) -- Honestly, this line makes no sense to me. The Rays played in the World Series last season, and even if they lost Blake Snell, they're still the Rays, and this is still the Marlins. Ryan Yarbrough was very effective for the Rays last season, and tonight he's going against Miami's Pablo Lopez. I like Lopez, but his control does wane, and last season he cut his HR rate allowed nearly in half.
From what I can see, I believe that's more a result of a small sample size than any changes. I like the Rays down to -115, so if I can get them at -105, I'd have to be an idiot not to take them. Which, granted, I'm fully capable of being. But not tonight.
Key Trend: Tampa has won 18 of the last 24 meetings in Miami.
🏀 Final Four
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Houston, Saturday, 5:14 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Houston +5 (-110) -- OK, so in this newsletter, I've told you to take a future out on Baylor reaching the Final Four, as well as Baylor winning the national title. So why am I here telling you to take Houston and the points? Well, while I think Baylor is the better team in this game, I don't think this is a particularly great matchup for the Bears. Houston is a legitimate problem for anybody on the defensive end of the court, and the Cougars are monsters on the offensive glass. Baylor is not a strong defensive rebounding team, and I think this is one area in which the Cougars can find an edge.
I think Baylor wins this game more often than not, but I don't think it does so in impressive fashion. Houston's defense, offensive rebounding and slower pace on offense will keep it within range until the end.
Key Trend: Houston is 11-2 ATS in its last 13 games as an underdog.
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA, Saturday, 8:34 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Under 145.5 (-110) -- I need you to know that I will be betting UCLA against the spread in this game, but I'm waiting until Saturday night when the line might be Gonzaga -15. I'm not betting on UCLA because I think it's the right bet. I'm betting UCLA because I owe it that much. The Bruins have made me a lot of money this season, and when the rest of the world is abandoning them, I will remain the side of Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. You can't put a price on loyalty.
All that said, UCLA and the points isn't the right play. The under is. This game reminds me of what we saw with Gonzaga and USC on Tuesday. Either Gonzaga blows UCLA away and keeps the Bruins off the scoreboard, or UCLA slows things down and keeps it close. Either way, that game likely finishes under the listed total. So I'll be on the under too.
Also, there's been a trend that's hard to ignore in this tournament. We have to remember these teams are living in a bubble. In the first round and the Sweet 16, after players have been forced to sit in hotel rooms for a week between games, the under has gone 24-14-1. If you want to include the First Four games, the under is 27-15-1.
Key Trend: The under has gone 24-14-1 in the first round of each NCAA Tournament weekend.
⚽ Premier League
Aston Villa vs. Fulham, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. | TV: NBCSN
The Pick: Aston Villa (+128) -- There are two Aston Villas. There's the Aston Villa with Jack Grealish, and there's the Aston Villa without Jack Grealish. The Villa with Grealish picks up 36 points in 22 matches and averages 1.56 xG per match. The Villa without Grealish picks up only five points in six matches while averaging 0.92 xG. Well, Jack Grealish is set to return on Sunday, which means that Villa's attack is likely to come back with him. That's great news for a Villa that once dreamt of finishing in a Europa League spot. It's not great news for Fulham, which still finds itself fighting for its Premier League life at the bottom of the table.
For a while, it looked as if Fulham had turned a corner, but recent results have dipped again, and the team's attack has never looked fierce. As long as we're getting Aston Villa at +110 or better, I think it's a terrific play.
Key Trend: Aston Villa is just a lot better when Jack Grealish plays.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine senior analyst Larry Hartstein is 21-9 with his last 30 college basketball picks and has a selection for Saturday's Final Four matchup between Gonzaga and UCLA.
💸 The DFS Rundown
PG: Trae Young, Hawks
SG: Fred VanVleet, Raptors
SF: Gordon Hayward, Hornets
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
C: Rudy Gobert, Jazz
PG: T.J. McConnell, Pacers
SG: Svi Mykhailiuk, Thunder
SF: Patrick Williams, Bulls
PF: P.J. Washington, Hornets
C: Robert Williams, Celtics
Full lineup advice
Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.
🏀 NBA Player Props
- DAL Luka Doncic Over 7.5 rebounds (-115)
- BOS Kemba Walker Over 3.5 rebounds (-150)
- CHA Terry Rozier Over 4.5 rebounds (+105)
- LAL Marc Gasol Over 1.5 assists (-160)