This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 2/22/2010
A - Antawn Jamison. Amare Stoudemire was long rumored as the power forward Cleveland was going to get to add the scoring punch needed to win the title, but in the end it turned out to be Jamison - mostly because they were able to get Jamison practically for free. I'm confident that the deal will turn out well for the Cavs, but early returns have not been positive - they have lost three in a row since the deal, and Jamison was a pathetic 0-for-12 with 2 points in his debut game.
B - Butler. The Bulldogs were a sexy pick as a surprise Final Four contender heading into the season. A couple of months ago that seemed unlikely given their play, but it doesn't seem so hard to believe now. Butler beat up on a very decent Siena team on Saturday to make a nice statement and, more significantly, to win their nation's-best 17th straight game. They haven't lost since New Year's Eve, and now only have to win at an underwhelming Valparaiso later this week to run the table against the Horizon League.
C - Charlotte. One of the quieter deals on a busy NBA trade deadline may turn out to be the one I like best. Anyone who watches college basketball knows that Tyrus Thomas is on of the most stunningly athletic players we have seen in a long time. He just didn't mesh with Chicago, though, and his lack of playing time led to frustration. Charlotte picked him up and will give him all sorts of minutes. Early indications are that he'll fit in very nicely - he has averaged 10.5 points and 11.5 boards in two games since joining the Bobcats, and was key in a nice home win over Cleveland in his debut.
D - Davis, Shani. We're going to spend a lot of time this week looking at Olympic stars who have had eye-opening performances, and the first alphabetically is Davis. The speed skater not only won gold in the 1000m, but he did it in such an impressively powerful way that there was no doubt at any point that he was going to win - even when his split times were beyond the leaders. It was one of those performances that is just breathtaking to watch - even if you don't follow the sport regularly. Davis followed that up with a solid silver medal performance in the 1500m.
E - Eskendereya. The biggest winner on a busy Saturday of Kentucky Derby prep races was Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth. He was a very disappointing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, but he has obviously grown into himself - he crushed a solid field by almost nine lengths. The stunning win capped an extremely good day for trainer Todd Pletcher - he won all three major prep races on the day, with Discreetly Mine taking the Risen Star, and Connemara closing hard to win the El Camino Real Derby.
F - Free agency. We've been hearing for years about how good the 2010 free agency class is going to be in the NBA. The trade deadline this year did nothing to quiet that hype. The Bulls were so desperate to clear cap space that they traded a very solid player, John Salmons, to Milwaukee - a team that they are fighting for a playoff spot with. The Knicks, Kings, and Clippers also moved to make more room. There are more teams with room for a big player than there are big players, so this is going to be a nasty, fascinating offseason, and there are going to be some bitter, heartbroken fans.
G - Gonzaga. There is no denying that the Bulldogs are still a pretty good team, but their total dominance in the WCC seems to have eroded slightly. For proof of that you need look no further than their debacle of a game Thursday. They traveled to play a Loyola Marymount team that was just 4-6 n conference, yet the somehow managed to lose by eight points. It was their second conference loss of the year - more than they have had in the last two years combined. The good news is that they bounced back nicely with a dominating win at Pepperdine two days later.
H - Hockey. Sunday was one of the greatest days of hockey ever played in one building - unless you are a Canadian. Russia started things off by beating their rivals from the Czech Republic, then the Americans stunned the host Canadians, and Nordic rivals Sweden and Finland closed out the action. Most of the best players in the world played in those three games, and each one was memorable. The Canadian loss stings in a big way for me, and the highlight was the absolutely bone-crushing hit Alexander Ovechkin laid on Jaromir Jagr. I could watch replays of that thing all night.
I - It begins. It's hard to believe because there is still snow outside my window, but the baseball season is underway. Pitchers and catchers have reported for most teams, and some are already making headlines. The most watched pitcher making a debut is Stephen Strasburg. People are so excited about him that he actually drew a crowd to a Washington practice. That's certainly never happened befre - they don't even get crowds for games.
J - Jimmie Johnnson. Johnson is so dominant in NASCAR that it's getting boring. It looked like there might be some cracks in the foundation of the four-time defending Sprint Cup champion last week when he was a dismal 35th at Daytona, but he emphatically erased those concerns with a win this week at Fontana. He got very lucky with his last pit stop - it came as a caution flag came out, so he was able to come out of the pits still on the lead. That made all the difference in the win.
K - Knicks. New York made it very clear that they are all in for next year. The Knicks overhauled their team at the deadline, but they made it obvious that this is only the beginning. They shed Nate Robinson, Jared Jeffries and his oversized contract, promising youngster Jordan Hill, and picked up the massive expiring contract of Tracy McGrady. All of that gives them the cap space to attract two top-level free agents next year. Now all they have to do is convince two great players to play for a hopelessly lousy team.
L - Lysacek, Evan. For the first time since 1988 an American man has won the Olympic figure skating title. Not just that, but Lysacek is the first non-Russian to win since then. Lysacek came from behind in the long program to upset the heavy favorite, Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. It was a controversial win - Lysacek didn't have a quad jump like Plushenko did, but he was able to overcome that in the eyes of the judges with superior artistry.
M - Match Play. Ian Poulter picked one heck of a time to earn his first North American win. Poulter was never really threatened in his 36-hole finale against Paul Casey in an all-English Match Play final. Poulter led the last 28 holes they played en route to a 4-and-2 victory, and his short game was essentially perfect. With the win Poulter moves up to 5th in the world golf rankings, the highest position he has ever held.
N - Nate Robinson. The three time slam dunk champion's unhappy time in New York finally came to an end at the deadline. The Celtics had failed to make a move to keep up with their key contenders in the East, so at the last minute they pulled the trigger on the high-energy scoring threat. The price was right - just a few spare parts - but it seems doubtful that the obviously struggling Celtics have done enough to make themselves competitive enough to win it all.
O - Orange. Syracuse needed to come back strong after a surprising and frustrating loss to Louisville last week. They certainly did so. In a key Big East game at the 10th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas, Syracuse built a massive halftime lead and then held on in the second half for a four-point win. The win moves Syracuse to 12-2 in Big East play, and gives them a one-game lead in the conference over Villanova. They look more and more like a one-seed with every game.
P - Purdue. While we're on the topic of teams like look like a No. 1, we have to talk about the Boilermakers. Purdue got a huge three-point win at Ohio State on Wednesday, and then followed it up with a fittingly convincing win over Illinois at Saturday. They have now won nine in a row, have taken the lead in the Big Ten, and are penciled in as the fourth top seed in my bracket at this point. Three of their four remaining games should be reasonably easy wins. The fourth, a home contest against Michigan State, could ultimately define where Purdue winds up.
Q - Quit. The Buffalo Bills are, very unexpectedly, in the market for a new right tackle. Starter Brad Butler, despite only being 26, shocked the team by announcing his retirement after just four seasons and 33 career starts. Butler had spent a summer working for Jack Kemp before he died, and has indicated that he has an interest in public work that obviously outweighs his desire to play football. I guess you have to give him credit for making a decision that almost no one else would make by choice.
R - Ridiculous. In my eyes, Tiger Woods' highly choreographed farce of a press conference was a total joke. All that Woods proved is that he can do a dead-on imitation of a robot. He didn't say anything new, he didn't sound even remotely sincere, and anything he did say is stuff that he should have said months ago. And he couldn't even convince his own wife to show up and be a part of the farce. The whole thing was 13.5 minutes of my life that I wish I could get back.
S - Slovakia. The Slovakians aren't likely to get a medal in hockey, but I'm pretty sure they won't mind. After all, they still managed to pull of a win that they aren't soon to forget. Slovakia shocked the heavily favored and extremely potent Russians in their round robin meeting with a 2-1 shootout victory. Russia scored the first goal in the second period, but Slovakia fought back in the third, and then came out on top in a marathon shootout session.
T - Tar Heels. It's not fair that I give the suffering Tar Heels more attention than they deserve given their play, but I just can't help it - I'm completely fascinated by the stunning fall from grace that the team has undergone. It's still less than a year since they cut down the nets in Detroit, but a loss at Boston College on Saturday was their ninth in 11 games, and dropped them to 3-9 in ACC play. I honestly don't think that they can wind up better than .500. We knew they would take a step back this year, but nothing like this.
U - UFC 110. The first UFC card ever to be held in Australia signaled the emphatic emergence of a strong presence in the heavyweight division. Up-and-comer Cain Velasquez was facing Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera in his main event debut, and he proved that he absolutely belongs. Velasquez knocked Noguiera out in 2:20 of the first round, and he delivered an impressive beating up to that point. The win moves the young heavyweight to 8-0. The scary thing is that he's clearly only going to get better.
V - Vonn, Lindsey. The American downhiller may not have owned Vancouver quite like she was expected to, but she hasn't been a failure either. Her win in the downhill was every bit as impressive as it was supposed to be - she set a pace that was head and shoulders above everyone else. She only managed a bronze in the Super G even though her run was by far the best at the time she finished. The biggest disappointment was in the Super Combined - she had won the downhill portion easily, and was cruising to a win in the slalom portion when, in sight of the finish line, she caught her ski on the gate and hit the snow.
W - White, Shaun. I am not a snowboarder, and I don't pay much attention to the sport. Watching White win his gold medal, though, was one of the more impressive things I have seen. Not only was he so much better than everyone else in the field, but his second run was dramatically better than his first - and the first had already secured him the gold medal by a wide margin. I'm not even going to try to figure out what that last trick of his was called, but if you saw it you know what I am talking about - truly, incredibly ridiculous.
X - Xavier. It was an easy week for the mascots of our column. They played two games against outmatched opponents, and they took care of business. They beat Saint Joseph's by 36 points at home, then went to Charlotte and won by 14. Like much of the A-10, Xavier is playing very good ball. I am fairly comfortable that Xavier will be dancing, and that as many as five of their conference mates could join them in the tournament. The A-10 is the best conference no one talks about.
Y - Yikes. As a Canadian I came into these Olympics with high hopes. We've had some strong performances and big wins, but we've also had more than our share of frustrations and disappointments. None bugs me as much, though, that the 1000m short track speedskating. Short track is barely a sport in the first place, but I tolerate it because we are supposed to be good at it. On Saturday, though, we manged to do something stunning - we had two highly-regarded skaters in the five-man final, and didn't come out with a single medal. That's hard to do, and it hasn't endeared the skaters or the sport to frustrated Canadians.
Z - Zoom. Bode Miller is one of those guys who you either love or hate depending upon your world view. I personally like the guy and the way that he does things his own way and mostly gets results doing it - with the notable exception of the last Olympics. He's making up for his embarrassment in Turin in a big way in Vancouver. His gold Sunday in the Super Combined joins his silver in the Super G and bronze in the downhill, and makes him one of the most decorated athletes at the games. The way he is skiing he may not be done yet, either - the giant slalom could go well for him.