This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 4/5/2010
A - Abbotsford. There are few things as fun to watch as a meltdown by a coach, and Jim Playfair had one for the ages this week. He's the former coach of the Calgary Flames, and now the coach of their AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat. Upset about a call by the refs, Playfair climbed up on the bench, took a player's stick, and smashed it over the boards. That was just the start. Next, he ripped his jacket off in his best Incredible Hulk impression. Finally, he grabbed a second stick and wrecked it in a way that made the first one look gentle. It was epic.
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B - Butler. The story continues for the Bulldogs. They couldn't shoot at all on Saturday, yet they were able to beat Michigan State and move to the finals by playing consistently stifling defense, and by never losing their composure. They certainly aren't the most talented team, but they are extremely well coached, and they just seem to try harder than everyone else. The star of the game, and my new man-crush, was Gordon Hayward. He looks like he is 12 years old, but he was absolutely dominant all over the court all game.
C - Colt McCoy. The Texas QB is likely to fall further in the draft than he would have ideally dreamed of, but he helped his cause significantly this week with his performance at his Pro Day. There are obvious concerns about his shoulder after the BCS Championship Game, but he answered those and more with a very strong performance. He threw very well regardless of the distance, and looked comfortable and, more importantly, healthy. He couldn't have helped his cause more, and there's a good chance he'll be a nice bargain for whoever picks him.
D - Duke. Well, that was dominant. The most hated team in college basketball did nothing to improve the atmosphere of love that surrounds them when they absolutely and overwhelmingly massacred the Mountaineers. It looked like it was going to be close for a while, but halfway through the first half they woke up and it was all over. Duke shot better, rebounded better, defended better, and just plain crushed West Virginia. It wasn't pretty, but it certainly established them as the strong favorites in the finals – they are eight-point favorites on Bodog.
E - Early entrants. This is the time of year for one of the more unfortunate traditions in sports - when talented college basketball players make monumentally stupid decisions about their draft future. Case in point - Michigan star Manny Harris has declared for the draft, and will get an agent, even though he will go no higher than the second round, and may even go undrafted. He and several others will choose to take a non-guaranteed contract, or a contract in Europe, instead of another year improving and getting more attention in college. Dumb.
F - First. Oklahoma City is heading into the playoffs for the first time. The Thunder have been ahead of schedule all year, and they capped that on Saturday by officially clinching the playoff spot they have had in hand for weeks. The most impressive thing about this team isn't that they are going to the playoffs, but that they have the real ability to win a series or two once they get there. And they are only going to get better from here on.
G - Golf. No one cares about anything not related to Tiger, but the golf world went on with their business today even as Tiger was being spotted at Augusta. Anthony Kim showed something new to him - composure in the face of adversity - as he shook off a terrible putt on the 72nd hole to win his third career tournament in a playoff over Vaughn Taylor. It was a tough loss for Taylor - a win would have got him into the Masters in his hometown.
H - Heat. Miami hasn't been fun to watch for much of this season, but they certainly have their act together these days. On Saturday Dwyane Wade scored 39 points and Udonis Haslem added 17 boards as the team won their eighth straight game. It's been an impressive streak for the Heat, and is made only slightly less impressive by the fact that they have only beaten one decent team - Charlotte - over the stretch. The key will be for them to carry this streak over to good teams.
I - Irish. A terrible, terrible story for Notre Dame this week. Matt James, an incoming offensive lineman, has died after falling off a hotel balcony while partying in Florida during spring break. James was a highly-regarded prospect - a four star who was top 15 at his position by most evaluators. The scariest part of this story is that James wasn't even the first guy to die this way in Florida this spring - a 19 year old from Georgia also died on March 24.
J - Jones, Jr. Hopefully now Roy will go away. The greatest boxer of the 1990s has now lost six of his last 11 bouts after falling to 45-year-old Bernard Hopkins on Saturday. Hopkins won the decision easily, and was in command most of the way, but it was a punishing fight for both guys - they both had to go to the hospital for evaluation after the fight. Hopkins moves to 51-5-1, and avenged a loss to Jones (54-7) that he suffered 17 years ago.
K - Kim Clijsters. The Belgian has been very good since her return from retirement last August, but she has never been better than she was on Saturday. She won the Sony Ericsson Open over Venus Williams in impossibly easy fashion. The score was 6-2, 6-1, and the match took just 58 minutes to play. In the second set Clijsters won 17 consecutive points. That kind of domination shouldn't happen in the opening round of a tournament, never mind the finals.
L - Ligament. Lucky for Denny Hamlin, ACL surgery isn't nearly as big a deal in NASCAR as it is in other sports. Hamlin was scheduled to have his torn ligament repaired last Monday, but he had to postpone because he had to race in, and win, the rain-delayed event at Martinsville. He had the operation done Wednesday instead, and is only going to miss one weekend of racing before returning this coming weekend in Phoenix. The injury came in a pickup basketball game, so it's a good thing it doesn't cost Hamlin more time away from the track.
M - Michigan State. I am far from a Michigan State fan, but I really did have to feel sympathy for them watching them lose on Saturday. They played a tough, close game throughout, but it was painfully evident that Kalin Lucas was badly missed. Without him they just couldn't move the ball effectively, and they really could have used Lucas' calming influence and creativity. Between Lucas and Robbie Hummel, no conference's tournament potential was hurt by big injuries more than the Big Ten.
N - Nets. Forget historically bad, New Jersey is actually pretty good right now. For a while they had the record for all-time futility in their grasp, but they have won four of their last six games, and are doing a pretty convincing impression of a basketball team. Saturday's win over New Orleans was the biggest of the season for the Nets - they won by 28 points fueled by 14 points and 14 assists from rookie Terrence Williams.
O - Ouch. There are those injuries that you can't get out of your head once you see them. Andrew Bogut added one of those to our collective minds on Saturday. After dunking the ball, the Aussie center crashed to the ground, landed awkwardly on his right arm, and it was incredibly obvious that his elbow was dislocated - it was bending in ways it shouldn't be able to. Bogut is likely done for the year, so the Bucks have to head into the playoffs without his 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds for game. Ouch.
P - Philadelphia. The Eagles do know that they play in the NFC East with the Redskins, don't they? It's not often that you see a team trade a franchise quarterback, and much less common that they trade him to a divisional rival. That's what Philly did, though, receiving two draft picks in return - a second this year and a third or fourth next year. Either this is a clear sign that the Eagles have no clue, or they just don't believe that McNabb's best days are anywhere other than far behind him.
Q - Quite old. In an attempt to give back to their sport the Redskins have apparently opened a retirement home for old running backs. That's the only way you can explain their personnel moves. they already had Clinton Portis in the fold. A few weeks ago they added Larry Johnson. Now this week they have signed Willie Parker to a one-year deal. That's three guys who have been great in the past, but who all look to be well past those glory days. It will be interesting to see if three former stars can become the equivalent of one current star.
R - Rays. The AL East seems to be widely viewed as a two-team race this year between the perennial powers from New York and Boston. The Rays have served notice that they will be looking to break up that cozy group this year. Tampa Bay finished spring training with the best record of any team. They don't have the star arms of the teams they will be chasing, but if their young arms can reach their potential and their young players can continue to develop then this could be a dangerous squad.
S - Sidney's Candy. The Santa Anita Derby was supposed to feature an impressive win, and it did. The problem is that it wasn't the horse that everyone expected. Lookin at Lucky, the Bob Baffert horse that was the two year old champion last year, was the heavy favorite, but he got a truly terrible ride from Garrett Gomez and wound up a gutsy third. Sidney's Candy, owned by diet mogul Jenny Craig, took advantage of the situation to run away with the race and secure a trip to Kentucky. Despite the loss, Lookin at Lucky should be headed to Louisville as well.
T - Turner, Evan. It's not that surprising that Ohio State's Evan Turner is the AP Player of the Year, and he is absolutely deserving of it. What did surprise me, though, is how convincingly he won it. There are 65 votes available for the award, and Turner secured 54 of them. John Wall, the obvious second choice, took just nine of the votes. I guess that Wall will just have to take consolation in being the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.
U - UConn. The Huskies' women's basketball team is making a mockery of their sport like no other team I have ever seen. They won their Final Four game over Baylor by 20 points, and that was by far the closest game they have played in the tournament. In fact, before this they have only won by 20 or fewer five times all year. Now they are one win over Stanford away from winning their second straight championship without a loss. This should be by far their toughest game, though - Stanford has only lost once, and is the last team to have beaten UConn.
V - Vicente Padilla. There are some names that you just shouldn't see on opening day. Padilla is one of those names. That's where he is, though - the Dodgers have named Padilla their opening day starter. He's a decent mid-rotation type of arm, but the fact that he's the best that L.A. has to offer right now is a pretty good sign that this team has some scary issues when it comes to pitching. Some teams have to figure out which one of their guys gets to be their ace, but the Dodgers have to face the reality that they just don't have an ace. Or even close.
W - West Virginia. Well, that didn't go according to plan. A Bob Huggins team is supposed to be well prepared and ready to play, but that wasn't the case on Saturday. They didn't seem to have an answer for anything that the Blue Devils threw at them. At one point in the second half they showed a small glimmer of hope, but then Da'Sean Butler was hurt and the team packed up their bags and quit. I had questions about the toughness of the Big East all year, and this performance certainly didn't do anything to ease them.
X - Xavier. Each week during the college basketball season Xavier saves me from the ugly task of trying to figure out a word that starts with X when I write this column. I appreciate that very much, and I am always sad when their season ends. That sadness is stronger than usual this year, though, because this team was truly a pleasure to watch and write about. It was one heck of a run. You'll be missed, boys.
Y - Yankees. That was one ugly way to open the baseball season. The Yankees and the Red Sox played the first game on Sunday night, and it was far from a classic - at least not if you like good pitching. Josh Beckett was yanked in the fifth when he had spotted the Yankees a 5-1 lead. C.C. Sabathia returned the favor, allowing five earned runs before leaving in the fifth. In the end 11 pitchers were used in the 9-7 non-classic.
Z - Zoom. Last year, the winner of the Wood Memorial, I Want Revenge, was the Kentucky Derby favorite until he was scratched on Derby morning. The Wood likely produced another Derby favorite on Saturday, and this time fate will hopefully let him in the gate this time. Eskendereya was 1/2 in the field, so he was expected to win. What wasn't expected, though, was his incredible dominance. The horse won by almost 10 lengths, and he did it without any urging at all from his jockey. He was brilliant, and he looks like he can be even better if he needs to be.