The NFL season is now in the rearview mirror, but the late weeks of winter and early spring are still a great period for sports bettors. March Madness is right around the corner, and there are plenty of big-time college basketball matchups this week. In addition, NASCAR has its biggest race of the year this weekend with the Daytona 500.
NCAABB: No. 5 Villanova vs No. 19 Creighton – Saturday
It’s ESPN’s premier game of the week with the regular season winding down, and just one month left until Selection Sunday on March 14. Villanova has run through its opponents with aggressive defense while limiting foul opportunities. Nova is third in the nation in steals per game (3.8) and eighth in opposing free throw attempts allowed (9.1). Creighton brings one of the most efficient shooting teams to the table, ranking 25th in 3-pointers made per game and 27th in field goal percentage.
FCS Football spring season begins – Saturday
The four-week hiatus of college football is over. The FCS is typically glossed over during its regularly-scheduled fall season, but it’s the only show in town for college football enthusiasts this February. The FCS playoffs begin April 24 with the championship being held May 15 in Frisco, Texas. The season kicks off with McNeese State visiting Tarleton State.
UFC 258: Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns – Saturday
The welterweight title is on the line in UFC 258 on Saturday between Kamaru Usman (-278) and Gilbert Burns (+220). “The Nigerian Nightmare,” as Usman is referred to, has a 17-1 career record with a 44% knockout rate and 50% decision rate. His odds to win remain relatively short in the wake of the McGregor-Poirier upset, giving bettors who want to bet on Usman a leg up. Burns (19-3) prefers to attack submissions, with 44% of his victories coming as such. Bouts including Burns have only been a decision victory 22% of the time. If he is going to upend the champion, Burns will have to do it via KO or a submission.
Daytona 500 – Sunday
NASCAR was one of the first sports to return to action following nationwide quarantines and lockdowns in 2020. The 2021 season kicks off Sunday in Daytona after a short offseason with limited fan attendance. Unsurprisingly, Denny Hamlin (+700) is the favorite to open the week after leading NASCAR in wins last season (nine). Defending champion Chase Elliott (+900) holds the second-best odds to win, followed by Ryan Blaney (+1100), Brad Keselowski (+1100), and Joey Logano (+1100). Other notables in the race include Kurt Busch (+1400), Austin Dillon (+2500), and Bubba Wallace (+2500).