Ted S. Warren / AP
Saturday, March 12, 2022 | 2 a.m.
Baseball is back, and by extension, that means baseball betting is back.
Major League Baseball’s owners and the Player’s Association finally reached a new collective bargaining agreement Thursday to bring an end to a labor stoppage. That makes me feel obligated to start building a baseball-futures portfolio in the weekend wagers after spending last week’s introduction bemoaning the lack of progress.
The column could use some futures action anyway after a rough a couple weeks as part of the restart post-football season. UFC 272 was a slightly profitable endeavor last week, but most of the other sports contributed to another slight loser.
Read below for this weekend’s five bets on five different sports. Records are attached for each individual sport with a cumulative tally at the bottom of the page. Lines are the best available in Las Vegas at publication time.
College basketball (1-0-1, $100): Purdue -6 vs. Michigan State (Circa Sports)
$165 to win $150
This would be a fair price if the Spartans and Boilermakers were facing off in an ordinary game midseason. The Big Ten conference tournament semifinal is not that. Not when Michigan State has played two straight close, grinders of games in each of the last two days. There deserves to be at least a slight fatigue adjustment factored into the line, one that would be squarely in Purdue’s favor. The Boilermakers came off six days of rest on Friday — the Spartans had only four days in between the end of their regular season and the start of the postseason — to beat Penn State in their opening game of the tournament without too much suspense. Purdue has perhaps the most explosive offense in the nation, one that Michigan State isn’t fully equipped to handle. The Spartans did upset Boilermakers 68-65 in their lone regular-season meeting, but the stage is set for the latter to even the score today in Indianapolis.
NHL (0-2, -$430): Seattle Kraken -101 at Montreal Canadiens (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
$202 to win $200
Seattle is the anti-Vegas as far as expansion hockey franchises go, as it mercifully winds down its first year as one of the worst teams in the league. The Kraken really aren’t that bad though. They’ve just underachieved. That makes them a difficult team to back but one that should have some value down the stretch of the season. Having a line this tight against the Canadiens, which have rivaled the Coyotes for the true worst team in the league all year, seems like recency bias. Montreal has turned it around lately, even winning seven of 10 games, but Seattle is better by most any metric when looking at the season as a whole. The Kraken tend to find ways to lose, but that’s not predictive. They should move past that late in the year. Let’s hope so.
UFC (4-3, $325): A.J. Fletcher +185 vs. Matthew Semselberger at UFC Fight Night (Circa)
$160 to win $296
One of the best ways to clean up in the mixed martial arts market is by identifying a big-time prospect before anyone else and betting on him or every time out until the books catch up. It’s too early to say for certain that Fletcher, who debuts in the UFC at the Apex tonight after getting a contract through Dana White’s Contender Series, fits that lofty profile but he just might. The Louisiana native has stopped five straight opponents in the first round and has a wrestling base to fall back on if his quick-finishing ways fail him. Semselberger has faced, and excelled against, a better level of competition while in the UFC for the last two years but doesn’t seem to have a skillset that would be too prohibitive to Fletcher finding immediate success. Given Fletcher’s upside, this looks more like a pick’em fight than the borderline mismatch the line makes it out to be.
NASCAR (1-1, $0): Kyle Busch -110 vs. Ryan Blaney head-to-head in Ruoff Mortgage 500 (SuperBook)
$165 to win $150
Busch arguably should have won — he sure thinks so — last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and that was in a backup car after he crashed at practice. Now this week he gets to shift to a venue where he’s had more success at Phoenix Raceway. The Durango High graduate has won in Phoenix three times, including in both 2018 and 2019, and finished in the top-five 12 times. Blaney, meanwhile, has never won in Phoenix with only three top-five finishes. Busch’s average finish at the track is 10.8 to Blaney’s 14.2. These are usually the type of tracks where Blaney dominates but, for some reason, he’s never been the same in Phoenix. Maybe this is the week he figures it out, but he could figure it out and still finish behind the on-point Busch who’s bound to pick up a win in NASCAR’s next-generation car soon.
MLB (0-0, $0): Seattle Mariners +650 to win AL West (SuperBook)
$100 to win $650
The Mariners confounded the baseball world by nearly making the postseason last year, largely because they had one of the best bullpens in baseball. The bullpen could be even better this year, and the rest of their American League West division could be worse. Seattle could also still upgrade as it’s reportedly seeking to spend more with transactions now open again leading up to the new April 7 opening day. There aren’t many baseball futures up yet with all the uncertainty — only three books in town had division odds — so I want to target ones with the capability to move before the market settles. Do I think Seattle will win the AL West given one choice? No, but I think they do it more than 13% of the time that this line currently implies. The Mariners should at least be competitive for a second straight year.
Weekend wagers column year to date: 6-9, -$472.50
Weekend betting column all-time: 248-239-1, $6,045.93
Previous pending wagers: Jon Rahm 12-to-1 to win Masters ($100 to win $1,200); Texas 50-to-1 to win 2022 NCAA Tournament ($100 to win $5,000); Philadelphia Union 16-to-1 to win MLS Cup ($125 to win $2,000)