This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/06/2007
A - Arena Football. With all the pomp and pageantry of… okay, there was neither pomp nor pageantry, and few people seemed to care (or notice), but the AFL did get underway this weekend. It's far from the highest profile league, but that can be a gift for serious handicappers - it means less time has been put into setting lines, so value can be found.
B - Butler. The Bulldogs struggled to beat Loyola of Chicago to reach the Horizon League finals. The team is obviously a tournament lock, and they deserve to be, but the attention that they have received all year, and their solid 19-9 record ATS, could mean that they are overvalued by bettors when the tournament rolls around.
C - Colorado Rockies. The Rockies hit into a triple play against the Angels in exhibition play on Saturday. At least Colorado is consistent - the start of their season is as pathetic and hopeless as it will be at the end of the year.
D - Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Dice-K legend, already at ridiculous level, grew even bigger with the Japanese superstar's first spring training start. He looked good in two innings. If you want to be truly impressed, though, then you should ignore that he was playing against Boston College. Jonathan Papelbon, who has become a starter, also looked impressive in his first spring training appearance, so Red Sox fans will be truly and unbearably giddy now.
E - Edge. Everyone is looking for an edge when it comes to betting on the tournament. Here are three simple rules to keep in mind - don't trust Kansas until they win in the first round because that is far from certain no matter how good they are, never bet against Duke regardless of how flawed they may seem to be, and come up with a good excuse to skip work because you don't want to miss a second of the tournament.
F - Federer, Roger. I am reasonably convinced that there has never been a more dominant force in sports than Federer. He won Dubai for the fourth time in five years this weekend, and he hasn't lost since August. He may be the only entity in the world that provides value at odds of 1/12.
G - Glimmers of hope. Tyrus Thomas has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but he is finally starting to show some of the potential that was so obvious in the NCAA tournament last year. The Bulls' youngster is playing much better, and adding some highlight reel aerials. He's still a year or two away from being a consistent contributor, but at least fans can believe it will happen now.
H - Howard, Ryan. After being unable to come to an agreement for a long-term deal, the Phillies signed the superstar to a one-year, $900,000 contract. That's the maximum one-year salary allowed for a player not eligible for arbitration. I would guess that a lot of teams would be happy to pay him that. I also suspect that he'll be playing for at least a few bucks more next year.
I - Injured. Reports are that the Cavs could be without their starting point guard, Daniel Gibson, for as long as two weeks. This brings up an interesting question - the Cavs have a point guard? They sure don't play like it, and it is going to cost them in the playoffs.
J - Joey Porter. If you need proof that the NFL can be an incredibly cruel league, look no further than Porter. Despite being a valuable Steeler and a good citizen, Pittsburgh cut the 29 year old this week. The three-time Pro Bowler will sign somewhere for big bucks, and that team immediately needs to be given credit for an improved defense.
K - Kevin Durant. I write about this freak almost every week, but not for this reason. He hit the floor very hard against Kansas on Saturday, and he was not himself afterwards. Obviously, the hopes of Texas rest on his continued health. With him they could be dangerous, without him they are an over-seeded joke. Handicappers will have to watch the Big 12 tourney very closely now to see how he is doing physically.
L - Lava Man. The great horse from California won the Santa Anita Handicap for the second time on Saturday, and he did it easily. The Breeders Cup Classic is a long way away, and the picture will change immensely, but the older horses have been very impressive at the start of the year.
M - Mr. Longoria. Tony Parker was scratched with a hip flexor problem over the weekend. The Suns and the Mavs will be watching his progress closely, because the Spurs are the only team that can stand in the way of the match-up between the two Western powerhouses, and they won't be able to do it without Parker being at full strength.
N - Nevada. The Wolf Pack end the regular season with a 27-3 record, the best in the country. Now it remains to be seen if Nick Fazekas, Marcelus Kemp and the rest can hold up under unfamiliar pressure and scrutiny that comes with being a top seed. It'll be a step up in class for the team, but they likely won't embarrass themselves - they are too talented.
O - Oden, Greg. After watching the Buckeyes crush the hopes of my beloved Wolverines, I have no doubt about the impact of Oden. He is so much better than his stat line - his mere presence changes every play, because opponents have to adapt and react to his every move. To make him even scarier, he is finally healthy - the right hander has been using his left hand to shoot all season, but his massive right paw is back in action.
P - Patriots. What happened to the cheap Patriots that covet players with value over marquee names? The signing of Adalius Thomas for huge money throws that out the window. Thomas is a beast, so he's a great pickup. But what will his signing do to team chemistry? Several key players signed for less than they probably could have to stay in Beantown, and they may not be happy.
Q - Quarterbacks. The Buccaneers have had problems at QB for a while now, but they chose a very odd way to solve it - it seems like they are going to sign as many potential starters as they can. They picked up Jeff Garcia and Jake Plummer this week. Expect them to bring in Brad Johnson, Drew Bledsoe and Aaron Brooks soon. Anyone know where Jeff Hostettler is? Tampa wants to talk to him, too.
R - Running backs. It was not a good week to be a ball carrier. Both Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis were cut loose by their teams this week. Lewis was declining, so that move wasn't that surprising. Henry was a bit more of a shock. He had a huge bonus due, but he had a great season last year, and the Titans only have the unproven LenDale White signed. Look for the Titans to resign Henry, or someone else, very soon.
S - Samardzija, Jeff. The former Notre Dame wide receiver made his spring training debut for the Cubs, and he looked good. The guy appears to have a future in baseball, but it seems odd that he would give up football when he was likely going to be a first rounder. Maybe he really didn't want to go to the Combine.
T - Total mess. Before this weekend the Triple Crown trail seemed simple - Nobiz Like Shobiz was the best. The problem is that he forgot to run like he was the best in the Fountain of Youth. He finished fourth behind Scat Daddy, a Todd Pletcher trainee that won with a monster late move. Adore the Gold and Drums of Thunder also failed to impress, so the field is again wide open. In other races, King of the Roxy and Great Hunter made us pay attention.
U - Unbelievable. The Edmonton Oilers traded away their best player and the heart and soul of their team, Ryan Smyth, after failing to agree on a new contract. Reports are that the team and the player were only $100,000 a year apart on a contract worth more than $5 mil per year. Don't bet on the Oilers anymore - this is a clear sign that they have given up hope.
V - Vegas. NASCAR heads to Las Vegas this week. The NBA's fans couldn't seem to behave themselves with the temptations of the city surrounding them. Can the NASCAR faithful do better? There's a joke about rednecks to be made here, but I'll resist the temptation.
W - Winthrop. Quick, what is the most consistently dominant team in the country? You could make an argument that it is Winthrop. The beat VMI this weekend to claim their seventh Big South conference title in the last nine seasons. They were undefeated in their conference, too. You probably don't want to pick them in the dance, though - they have never won a tournament game.
X - Xavier. I am so proud of the mascots of this column. They won their last two games, and nine of the last 11, to go into the A10 tournament in great shape. They didn't cover the last two, but they still won by 10 and 11 so I'm not concerned. They are conference tournament favorites, but they deserve an at-large bid even if they don't win it.
Y - Yao Ming. The Chinese giant could finally be back in action this week after missing 32 games with a knee injury. The team is just 16-15-1 ATS in his absence, but the betting reality of the Rockets will change fundamentally when he hits the floor. Look for bettors to overcompensate for him early on.
Z - Zero chance. There is almost no chance that Dirk Nowitzki will miss a free throw these days. Not only is the team dominant in every aspect of the game, but their best place hasn't missed from the foul line in his last 42 attempts. It's not really fair for the rest of the league that the Mavs are so good.