THIS WEEK’S BEST BETS
NASCAR SPRINT CUP AUTO CLUB 400
Details/TV: At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 11:
Brad Keselowski was pretty pumped up in Las Vegas recently, and it had nothing to do with any kind of wager he made at a casino on The Strip. All stripped down, the gamble he made that paid off was passing Kyle Busch with six laps to go, allowing him to cruise to a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Turns out, that victory in the third event of the 2016 season was Keselowski’s first Sprint Cup triumph going all the way back to last March at Auto Club Speedway. “This is such a good feeling to be back in victory lane; it’s been way too long,” he said.
A year ago in Fontana, Busch, who started on the pole, assumed the lead with 11 laps to go after a restart. Jeff Gordon, in his last Auto Club Speedway appearance, slipped into the lead during a caution flag. But when they tried a green-white-checker flag finish, Busch zipped back to the head of the pack. But then came Keselowski – again. The Team Penske driver took the lead on Turn 2 of the final lap and held off both of the Steward-Haas teammates, Busch and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski, who started eighth, said afterward that Harvick and Busch “had great cars the whole weekend and probably had the field covered on speed.” But maybe not on smarts. As it turned out, Busch won the Sprint Cup series championship eight months later at Homestead-Miami, with Harvick finishing second. Keselowski? Seventh.
Also this week at Auto Club Speedway:
= Fanfest and hauler parade: Thursday from 5-to-9 p.m. (beginning at Quakes Stadium in Rancho Cucamonga)
= Sprint Cup qualifying: Friday at 4:30 p.m., FS1. (Practice on Friday, 10:30 a.m., FS1 and Saturday, 8 a.m., FS2 and 11:30 a.m., FS1).
= Xfinity Series NXS 300, Saturday at 1 p.m., FS1 (Practice on Friday, noon and 2:30 p.m., FS1; qualifying Saturday, 9 a.m., FS1)
ALSO THIS WEEK:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT
FIRST ROUND: EAST REGION
USC vs. PROVIDENCE
Details/TV: At Raleigh, N.C., Thursday at approx. 6:50 p.m., TBS
No favors done here for the 21-12 Trojans. But don’t let that color your outlook. This season, we’ve seen USC wear four different colored jerseys: Basic white, bright gold, rich Cardinal and the occasional black – the latter of which they sported during their last loss to Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament. How will Nike suggest they dress up for the Big Dance? It might matter. The Elias Sports Bureau, working with NCAA sponsor LG, did some research on what teams wore a certain predominant color and how they did in the NCAA Tournament since it went to 64 teams in 1985. For example, of the 31 teams that have won the title, 23 wore blue. Fine for North Carolina, Duke or Kansas, not a great sign for USC. Red, however, was dominant for teams that have have the largest greatest points per game (79.2) and most assists (15.8). Black also won out for teams that had the largest average margin of victory (with a plus 11.1). The point here: If the Trojans go gold or white, it could be one-and-done. And don’t even consider green on St. Patrick’s Day instead?
The NCAA Tournament begins with “First Four” contests on Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. The official first- and second-round games air on Channel 2, TBS, TNT and truTV starting Thursday and Friday, and continuing Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m.
Also: The 32-team NIT starts Tuesday and includes Long Beach State at home vs. Washington (6 pm., ESPn2). The 16-team College Basketball Invitational tournament begin Tuesday (ESPNU). The 32-team CollegeInsider.com tournament begins Monday (CBSSN).
THE REST OF THE WEEK
The Clippers start a five-game road trip in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 32-0 at home this season (Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) … The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has its women’s and men’s final on Sunday (11 a.m., ESPN) … UCLA finds out where it starts in the NCAA women’s tournament when the brackets are announced Monday (4 p.m., ESPN) … The Kings start the week in Chicago (Monday, 5 p.m., NBCSN) and are home against the N.Y. Rangers (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., FSW) and Boston (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FSW) … More at this link.