This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 3/15/2010
A - Achilles. Davd Beckham is far from the best soccer player in the world, but he is perhaps the best known. His mobs of adoring fans won't be able to see him at the World Cup this summer, or during the MLS season, either. Beckham tore his Achilles while playing for AC Milan on Sunday. That means that his international career has probably come to an end, and there is a chance that the 34 year old won't play again at all.
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B - Browns. The Cleveland Browns needed to significantly change their quarterback situation after a couple of disastrous years. They certainly have. Neither of their two flawed pivots from last season are back (more on that later), and two new ones are in place. Seneca Wallace is aboard, but Jake Delhomme has a new two-year contract and will likely be the starter next year. Delhomme badly needed a new start after the debacle of the last couple of years in Carolina, but it's hard to believe that Cleveland is a good place for him. Or that Cleveland is a good place for anyone, for that matter.
C - Cliff Lee. Lee, the newest addition to what should be a very good rotation for the Mariners, made his spring debut on Wednesday. It wasn't great - five hits in three innings - but that's not the important part. What matters is that Lee, who had offseason surgery on his left foot to remove a bone spur, felt no pain during the outing, and is very confident that the injury isn't going to be a problem going forward.
D - Duke. I don't like Duke. Actually, I hate them. I have to give them my begrudging respect, though. For the sixth time in nine years Duke won the ACC Tournament - this time with a win over Georgia Tech - and that has cemented their status as a No. 1 seed for the ninth time in 13 years. That's sickeningly impressive. They'll be hoping to add to another impressive streak of success - they have won at least two tournament games in 10 of the last 12 years.
E - Ernie Els. Given his injury woes and general apathy lately I was reasonably sure that we wouldn't see Els win a PGA event on American soil again. Guess I was wrong. Els' swing looked as sweet as ever as he cruised to a four-stroke win in this week's World Golf Championship event at Doral - his second win in a WGC event, and first win of any type in over two years. It was a strong day for South Africa - Charl Schwartzel, a prodigy of Els, wound up in second place.
F - Fired. Here's a shock - the Clippers seem to be in a state of chaos. They are a team that just can't seem to get out of their own way. A month ago they relieved Mike Dunleavy of his coaching duties so he could concentrate on his tasks as GM. This week they fired Dunleavy as GM. He hadn't done much in his time with the team, but the timing and the reasoning seems odd - why ditch him now when nothing can change this year? Seems panicky.
G - Gophers. Coming into the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota was on the bubble, and probably on the outside looking in. They played their way into the bracket with an impressive run in the conference tourney. First, they upset Michigan State. Then they played the most impressive half I have seen all year - a 37-11 tour de force - to rush Purdue. The carriage turned into a pumpkin before the final, though - top seed Ohio State beat the Gophers by 29 after Minnesota ran out of gas in the second half.
H - Hoyas. Georgetown probably didn't need a deep run in the Big East Tournament to make the NCAA field, but it sure didn't hurt. The Hoyas secured their reservation for the dance with an upset of Syracuse in the second round, and then beat up on Marquette before barely losing to West Virginia in the final. It was the second consecutive upset for the Orange - a fact that can't have their fans feeling great heading into the tournament.
I - IndyCar. The once great race circuit opened its season in Sao Paulo on Sunday, and it doesn't seem like many people care. Will Power came out on top for his second career win in race that was shortened because of rain. Dario Franchitti, Mr. Ashley Judd, earned the pole, and was leading for much of the race, but a gamble to keep rain tires on the car for longer than others didn't pay off and he wound up seventh. Danica Patrick couldn't handle the rain and wrecked.
J - Jayhawks. Kansas beat Kansas State for the second time in 10 days to win the Big 12 Tournament and to wrap up their status as the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas is going to be attractive as people fill out their brackets - they were 18-1 against a very tough Big 12 Conference, and two of their most important players - Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich - have already experienced what it takes to win it all.
K - Kentucky. It wasn't pretty, and it probably shouldn't have happened, but the Wildcats won the SEC Tournament to secure the top seed in the East bracket. Kentucky needed three points in the last eight seconds just to tie up a game against what should have been an outmatched Mississippi State team. In overtime, super-frosh John Wall took over, scoring seven of his 17 points to pull off the one-point victory. Kentucky doesn't always win by a lot, but they sure win a lot.
L - Lookin at Lucky. Last year's two-year-old champion male thoroughbred hit the ground running in his three year old debut as he won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn by a neck despite a bump at the start and a rough trip. It was a lot of courage for a young horse to show - especially because it was the first time he had ever run on dirt, and his first time wearing blinkers. The Rebel was previously won by greats like Curlin, Smarty Jones, and Pine Bluff. We'll have to see if this horse has what it takes to join those others when May rolls around.
M - Mountain West. If I was a conspiracy theorist I would be looking hard at the MWC. Going into their tournament BYU and New Mexico were total locks for the NCAA field. UNLV was on the bubble, but probably okay. San Diego State had the most work to do. Given that, it's almost as if the administrators of the schools sat down and determined the ideal outcome of the tourney. UNLV and SDSU got wins over BYU and New Mexico, respectively, to strengthen their records, then SDSU beat UNLV in the final to earn the automatic bid. Suspiciously perfect.
N - New York Jets. Interesting move in Gotham. The Jets have replaced one aging running back with another. Thomas Jones is out, and LaDainian Tomlinson has been signed to take his place. LT inked a two-year deal worth at least $5.1 million, and as much as $5.6 million if all goes well. Tomlinson will have to prove that he is healthy enough to contribute, and that he can be okay playing a supporting role to the emerging Shonn Greene.
O - Olsen, Merlin. Football lost a hall of famer and one of the greatest athletes-turned-actors this week when the 69-year-old Olsen died after fighting cancer. After winning the Outland Trophy at Utah State in 1961, Olsen played 15 years with the Rams as a member of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line. From there he went on to be the best part of “Little House on the Prairie,” and the star of “Father Murphy”. On top of that he was a color commentator who covered five Super Bowls and two Rose Bowls.
P - Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao defended his title in front of more than 50,000 people in Dallas, but it was against the opponent that no one really wanted to see. Instead of fighting Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao faced the outmatched Joshua Clottey, and he thoroughly dominated him from the opening bell until the end of the 12-round unanimous decision. Pacquiao is unquestionably the best fighter in the world right now. Here's hoping that Mayweather can get over himself and his ridiculous drug testing demands so the fight that must happen can happen.
Q - Quinn. The Brady Quinn era is finally over in Cleveland after he was shipped to Denver on Sunday for a backup running back and a couple of minor draft picks. It's hard to object to the price Denver paid for a former first round pick - especially one who is just 25 - but I'm not convinced that this makes sense for the Broncos. Kyle Orton was fairly good last year, and showed signs of getting better, so I'm not sure that bringing in a contender for the starting job is the best way to build his confidence. I also doubt whether Quinn has a bright future regardless of where he plays.
R - Redskins. One NFL offseason theme seems to be the movement of aging running backs, and Washington has pulled off the biggest head scratcher. Larry Johnson was an exceptionally good running back, but that was four years ago. It's hard to believe that the 30 year old has much left in the tank, but the Skins clearly think he does - they signed him to a three-year deal worth as much as $12 million. He and Clinton Portis now form one of the oldest, oddest, least likable backfields out there.
S - Streak. The Dallas Mavericks not only saw their 13-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday, but they saw it happen in ridiculous fashion - they lost a home game by 34 points to the Knicks, of all teams. These teams only seem to play by extremes - the last time they met the Mavs won by 50 in the widest margin of defeat in Knicks' history. A surprising star for the Knicks was Bill Walker, the second-year former Kansas State star who joined the Knicks from Boston at the trade deadline. He has had 21 or more points in four of his last eight games. His previous high with the Celtics was eight points.
T - Taiwan. A Dodgers' split squad took a trip to Taiwan for the weekend to play a short series of games. Not surprisingly, the player everyone was paying attention to is the one that always gets the bulk of attention on the team - everyone's favorite steroid user. On Sunday Ramirez went 3-for-4 and scored three runs as the Dodgers crushed a team of Taiwanese all-stars, 11-1. Ramirez was embraced by Taiwanese fans perhaps in part because they are familiar with scandal - they have been dealing with a game-fixing scandal in their league that makes our steroid issues look like child's play.
U - Unimpressive. Rachel Alexandra returned to the track for the first time since being named the Horse of the Year, and it certainly wasn't the return she was looking to make. She never looked comfortable in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday, and her closing move wasn't good enough to beat Zardana - the third stringer out of the same stable as Rachel's rival Zenyatta. The performance was bad enough that she has already been pulled out of an anticipated showdown with Zenyatta on April 9.
V - Virginia, West. Bob Huggins doesn't seem like the nicest guy on the planet, but he sure can coach. In just three years Huggins has transformed West Virginia from a team that could be dangerous in the tournament if they got hot at the right time to one that is an elite squad to be feared. His team won the always-tough Big East Tournament on Saturday, and came very close to securing a No. 1 seed. Instead, if all goes according to form they'll face Kentucky for the East region title.
W - Washington. The Huskies beat Cal to win the Pac-10 title on Saturday, and in the process ensured that the Pac-10 would avoid the humiliation of being just a one-bid league. The Huskies get the credit for winning their league, but they shouldn't be too proud of what they did - the league was terrible all year, and the conference tournament carried on with that trend of lousy, mistake-riddled play. It's not a proud time for the Pac-10 fans out there.
X - Xavier. It wasn't a perfect week for the mascots of our column, but it doesn't really matter. They beat Dayton in the A-10 Tournament, but then lost in overtime to Richmond in the semifinals. Going all the way would have been nice, but it ultimately didn't matter much - they were going to the tournament no matter what, and they weren't likely to move up much from their sixth seed. I like where they landed - Minnesota is a very winnable first game, and Pittsburgh is vulnerable in round two. Kansas State is the two seed I trust least, and Syracuse has a lot of questions for a one seed. If a miracle is going to happen for Xavier anywhere then they are in the right bracket for it to happen.
Y - Yikes. I promise that this will be the last time that I whine about my beloved Michigan basketball this year. Their season came to a fitting, pathetic end on Friday. They looked like they were actually going to upset Ohio State, but a last second prayer from almost half court from Evan Turner found the net and the season was mercifully over. They started the season as the 15th-ranked team in the country, and they wound up winning only 15 games. This is one to forget. There have been a lot of seasons to forget recently in Michigan sports.
Z - Zenyatta. When Rachel Alexandra was given the Eclipse Award over Zenyatta I thought a mistake had been made. Now I am certain of it. Zenyatta won the 15th consecutive race of her career on Saturday, and it was, as always, ridiculously impressive. She toyed with the field, sitting way, way off the pace and waiting until inside the quarter pole before making an indescribably powerful move right through the middle of the crowd to take the lead and the win without ever looking challenged. She is as good as any we have seen on the track in a long, long time.