This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/10/2008
A - Autism Awareness. A horse named for a cause was not only a great story in the El Camino Real, a lower level Kentucky Derby prep at Bay Meadows, but he was also a ridiculously profitable one. The horse was bought for $1,000 by a guy who has a son with Autism. He won a purse of $90,000 when he shocked the racing world by winning the race as a 62/1 no-chancer. The chances of him making it to Louisville are almost none, but you can guarantee Disney is keeping an eye on the story just in case.
B - Barnsley. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how this English soccer team's upset of Liverpool was on par with David taking out Goliath. Well, David reloaded his slingshot. This time it was Chelsea that the little-team-that-could knocked out of FA Cup action. Barnsley is in the second level domestic league, and they aren't very good there, so these two upsets of historic and current powerhouses are almost beyond comprehension.
C - Crosby, Sidney. The king of hockey is back in his throne. After missing six weeks due to injury, Crosby returned to action to help his Penguins down the stretch. He didn't look too bad coming back from his first major injury, either. He had an assist in each of his first two games, and then scored a goal and got credit for another that a defenseman put into his own net as the Pens beat Washington and Crosby's rival Alexander Ovechkin on Sunday.
D - Drake. If you saw any of Arch Madness this weekend then you can't help but be impressed by Drake. The Bulldogs were truly dominant all weekend. In the finals they not only ripped out Illinois State's soul in the 30-point win, but they may have cost the Redbirds their tournament bid as well. As good as Drake looks, though, they were rough at the end of the regular season, and the public is going to be all over them, so I will be hard pressed to back them in the tournament.
E - Edwards, Carl. There was no joyful back flipping after Carl Edwards got dinged with a penalty this week. Two consecutive wins found him on top of the driver standings for the first time in his career, but a failed inspection following his last race cost him 100 points and all sorts of momentum. To add insult to injury, Edwards lost a transmission while on the lead and was unable to finish this Sunday in Atlanta.
F - Federer, Roger. The reigning king of tennis had another unlikely loss this week, and then came out with an excuse that sounds just a little too convenient. His management announced that Federer has been fighting mono, and that accounts for his sluggish performance at and since the Australian Open. If people don't buy that he could always borrow a page out of the Andy Roddick playbook - for the umpteenth time, Roddick has blamed his coach, Jimmy Connors in this case, for his problems and has parted ways with him.
G - Gators. Florida did not perform well under the pressure of sitting on the bubble trying to get a chance to defend their last two national championships. First, they let Tennessee come back from a 16-point deficit to win. Then they lost to a Kentucky team that has somehow improved after losing super-frosh Patrick Patterson for the season. It would take a miracle now for the Gators to avoid going home, or at least to the NIT.
H - Hoosiers. Indiana has had a terrible set of circumstances this year, and now it looks like it is all catching up with them. They have had two terrible Sundays in a row. Last week they were blown out by Michigan State, and this week they lost to a Penn State team that doesn't even belong in the same building as Eric Gordon and the boys. The Dan Dakich era has not been good for bettors - the team is only 1-4 ATS under their new coach.
I - Inexplicable. Thursday night was a tough one for ranked teams. Three different programs that had been playing well coming into the night's action - Clemson, Connecticut and Xavier - all lost games that they had no business losing. None of the teams had a lot to play for other than to get ready for the post-season, and the lack of hunger was pretty evident in all of them. All three bounced back with weekend wins, though Clemson didn't even come close to covering.
J - Jonathan Papelbon. The Boston bullpen ace is yet another example of how much it really doesn't pay to be a young superstar. Papelbon whined and moaned, but in the end he had no real choice but to sign the $775,000 one-year contract offered to him by the Red Sox. He'll cash in next year, but for now he is vying with Prince Fielder for the dubious distinction of the biggest bargain in baseball. Hopefully his contract frustration won't affect his mound performance.
K - Kyle Busch. When the 22-year-old driver of the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing crossed the line first at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday a few interesting milestones were set. Busch became the youngest driver to ever win at the track, and the No. 18 car won at Atlanta again - Bobby Labonte won in the car six times on the track. Perhaps most significantly, though, it was the first race ever won by a Toyota, and the first by a foreign-made car since Al Keller won in a Jaguar in 1954. There are a lot of rednecks who aren't happy about that, I bet.
L - LeBron. Madison Square Garden was home to a truly bizarre site on Wednesday night. James had a huge game (50 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists). Nothing too strange there. In the good old days the proud New York fans would have booed him relentlessly. Well, Isiah Thomas has obviously drained all of that pride, because the home fans instead gave LeBron multiple standing ovations and serenaded him with shouts of MVP! MVP!
M - Moss, Randy. It sounds like he came close to screwing it up, but Moss finally did the smart thing this week and re-signed with New England. Philadelphia would probably have given him more money, and he would have found love from other teams, too, but he was smart enough to realize that things don't get much better than being the favorite deep target of the best quarterback in football.
N - Not pretty. Stanford had a heck of a season, and should be a legitimate threat in the tournament, but they certainly didn't end the season like they wanted to. They didn't have enough to hold off UCLA on Thursday, and looked like they had pretty much given up in overtime. They had definitely given up by Saturday when they came out flat against USC and were never really in it en route to a 13-point loss. The Trojans are certainly coming into form at the right time if that game is any indicator.
O - Ohio State. The Buckeyes won't die. They had been left for dead after four straight losses, but consecutive wins over conference powers Michigan State and Purdue to finish the season means that they are back on the bubble. They will probably need a good win or two in the conference tournament, but it is at least possible that last year's runner up will be back in the dance. That wasn't the case a week ago.
P - Pyro. Racing has a new star. When this three-year-old won the Risen Star last month he came from the far back in a stunning move, and his critics complained that he had benefited from a perfect pace scenario. The horse shut those critics up in the Louisiana Derby on Saturday when he won handily after racing just off the lead in a fairly fast pace. If you haven't heard much about the horse so far, the buzz about him should make it into the mainstream soon as the Derby draws nearer.
Q - Quit. I don't know if you heard anything about this during the week because it hardly got any coverage at all, but Brett Favre retired. You know, that guy who played quarterback for the Packers. The saga was the most covered event involving one person since the pope died. Ridiculous. It will be very interesting to see how the public responds to Aaron Rodgers. I suspect there could be some value as people assume that the Packers are hopeless now that he-who-walks-on-water won't be under center.
R - Riley, Pat. Riley has officially given up on his team, which only seems fair because the team has clearly given up on themselves. The coach and president of the Miami Heat will be taking some time away from his team to scout college players in tournament action to prepare for a likely top pick in the draft. The move seems odd, but then it's not like having an assistant at the helm is going to make the team worse.
S - Suns. I was all ready to come out and write some clever, nasty things about Phoenix. I was going to make fun of GM Steve Kerr, and call Shaq names. But then a strange thing happened. The Suns came out on Sunday and played well to beat the hot Spurs by seven. Shaq looked almost like a younger version of himself with 14 points and 15 boards. It's just one game, and a bunch of ugly ones have preceded it, but it could be a sign that Kerr's gamble won't be a total disaster.
T - Texas Tech. Last week I made the mistake of saying a few nice things about Pat Knight and the Red Raiders. How did they reward me? My promptly coming out and losing to Kansas by 58. The game was indescribably bad in every possible way, and it probably set the program back a bit, but there is a silver lining in all of it - if Bobby Knight were still on the sidelines at least one player would have been murdered.
U - UCLA. The Bruins got two big wins this week, but they sure don't make it easy on themselves. They needed to come back to force overtime before pulling away from Stanford to win by 10 on Thursday. Things were truly ridiculous on Saturday as they only beat Cal thanks to a probably illegal shot from Josh Shipp at the last second. Shipp's ball went over the backboard from behind and into the net for the unlikely finish. Ben Howland will probably be looking to finish games off before the 39th minute in the next few weeks.
V - Vanderbilt. Shan Foster, the schools all-time leading scorer, finished his home career in style this week as his surprising Commodores beat Mississippi State. Foster was ridiculously dialed in, sinking nine straight threes and ending up with a career-high 42. The thrill of the win was tainted a bit, though, when they came out on Saturday to finish the season against Alabama and lost in overtime after being unable to overcome a very flat first half.
W - WBC. If I asked most people what sport Samuel Peter participated in, they would probably get it wrong even if they had three guesses. Peter is the new WBC Heavyweight champion after earning a 6th-round TKO against former champ Oleg Maskaev in the boxing hotbed of Cancun. To recap - the guy few people have heard of took a title that nobody cares about from some guy that even the biggest sports fans couldn't pick out of a lineup. Wow, is boxing ever in good shape.
X - Xavier. It was an up-and-down week to end the regular season for our mascots. The high points included a dominating win over Richmond on Saturday in which they easily covered the 16.5-point spread. The problem was the previous game - they were frustratingly flat and disinterested in a loss to St. Joe's. The season ends up at a pretty stellar 26-5, but the dismal 13-14 ATS mark shows that the Musketeers struggled to live up to obviously lofty expectations of the betting public.
Y - Yao. Apparently the Rockets don't need their Chinese giant after all. Houston extended their winning streak to 18 in a row this week, and six in a row since Yao was lost for the season. They have covered 10 straight, too. What's more impressive than the wins is how and against who - they won by 15 in Dallas and then beat the Hornets by 10 at home. With New Jersey, Atlanta and Charlotte up next it could easily be 21 in a row by the time Kobe and the Lakers roll into town on Sunday.
Z - Zzzz. In perhaps the most ridiculous moment in recent NBA history, the Hawks beat Miami 114-111 in overtime on Saturday night. That was the result after the teams had to replay the last 51.9 seconds of the game that originally ended 117-111 on Dec. 19 because the Heat protested the result. Shaq was told he had fouled out in the overtime period when he only had five fouls. Of course, Shaq was nowhere near the game, and it is unclear what the whole thing proved. I feel sorry for the 16 or so fans who were at the game - it meant that they had to sit through even more unwatchable basketball.