This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/17/2008
A - Andrew Bynum. It looks more and more promising that the Lakers will have their young center back in the fold in time for the playoffs. Bynum has been running in a swimming pool to get back into shape, and he tested his knee on the treadmill for the first time on Tuesday. He still obviously has some ground to cover, and they won't want to rush him, but his rebounds and high percentage shots would be a great addition for the playoffs.
B - Beckett, Josh. Red Sox fans can't be very happy right now. A sore Beckett would be extremely bad news, and that is exactly what we have now. He has missed much of Spring Training with back troubles. The current spin is that he is pain-free, but he's not healthy enough to head to Japan to start the season. Yankees fans are, I'm sure, deeply sympathetic.
C - Coppin State. Sure, Georgia got into the tournament with a suspect resume, but they look like killers compared to Coppin State. The MEAC Tournament champs got an automatic bid despite their 12-20 record. They put together an impressive 1-17 record through the heart of the season, but they found form at the right time to win eight of their last nine regular season games, and all four conference tournament games. Not surprisingly, the Eagles have been relegated to the play-in game.
D - David Carr. There are so many jokes I could make about how it's appropriate that Carr and Eli Manning are now together in New York, but they would all just come across as bitter and uninformed because that moron Eli had to go out and win a Super Bowl. I hate that. Now all I can say is that I find it bizarre that New York would think that he is the answer, but then Jared Lorenzen has been a backup there for a while and that guy looks like he ate an offensive lineman for lunch.
E - Eerie. There was a scary situation in Sunday's Mets game that could have been much, much worse than it was. Carlos Delgado was on third. He was watching the ball when it was hit to see if it was going to land so he could score, so he didn't see that a broken bat was headed right at him. He saw it to late to avoid it, and it hit his arm and cut him. There was a pile of blood, and he needed stitches and will miss a few days, but it could have been really ugly. On the plus side, the Mets are very used to playing without Delgado, so it won't be a big deal.
F - Falcons. Atlanta made a brilliant move that shows that there may be hope for the franchise this week when they cut Joey Harrington. But then they screwed it all up. Just a couple of days later they went right out and re-signed the guy. Did they figure that he finally learned how to play in his four days without a team? He's still a piece of crap, Atlanta, and nothing short of a brain transplant will ever change that.
G - Gatlin, Justin. Yet more proof that the NFL isn't as concerned about drugs as baseball is (or at least as baseball has been forced to be). Gatlin, the former world record holding sprinter, has been suspended from track and field because he is a proven drug cheat. That doesn't deter the NFL at all. He can run a very fast 40 and he's a solid guy, so teams have happily been giving him a look leading up to the draft.
H - Hoyas. I am totally stumped by this team. I thought that they were not quite good enough despite their record for much of the Big East season. I had to begrudgingly admit that maybe they were better than I thought when they beat Louisville to end the season. But then Roy Hibbert didn't get a single point in the team's win over Villanova, and they came out flat and lost badly to Pitt in the conference final. Now I have absolutely no idea what to do with them in the tournament.
I - Illinois. What in the world happened to the Illini this year? They gave up in the Big Ten final against Wisconsin, but not before they strung together three straight wins in the conference tournament to make the final as a 10 seed. Shaun Pruitt showed how good he is, and the rest of the roster made it clear that they wasted an opportunity to be decent this year. It's hard to believe that that team was the same one that lost 13 of 16 in January and February.
J - Jeff Burton. The NASCAR event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday was painfully dull for 497 laps, and totally crazy for three. Kevin Harvick forced Tony Stewart into a spin, and Burton made an amazing move to blow past Denny Hamlin and take the lead for good. Richard Childress racing swept the podium - Harvick was second, and Clint Bowyer was third. The fireworks continued after the race when Stewart's crew and Harvick having a war of words. Why is Stewart always in the middle of every problem?
K - Kansas. I am having a hard time buying into the Jayhawks, but if they keep playing like they did against Texas on Sunday then I might regret that. Kansas won the Big 12 tournament on the back of Mario Chalmers, who had a career-high 30 points in a gigantic performance. He drained eight threes, and his teammates added seven more for a tournament-record total of 15 on the game.
L - Lewis Hamilton. The young Formula One driver from Britain who made a huge splash on the stuffy open-wheel circuit last year as a rookie clearly wanted to show that he wasn't a flash in the pan. He came out in the season opening Australian Grand Prix with an emphatic win to start the year off right. The race was more interesting than most Formula One tilts because changes to the type of braking system cars had made slowing down quickly more of a challenge, so the tight corners on the course were entertainingly problematic.
M - Miami Heat. What a ridiculous mess Miami is. Pat Riley missed time from his team to scout players, and none of his current players bothered to play while he was gone. Check out this list - Shawn Marion, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Alonzo Mourning, Marcus Banks, Dorell Wright, Earl Barron. That's the list of players that didn't play on Friday. No surprise that they lost by 25. They were at home for that game, too, so they really are treating their fans well.
N - Nuggets. The Sonics deserve some credit - they went over 100 points for the fourth time in five games when they scored 116 against Denver on Sunday. That's proof that the offense is working. It would have been better, of course, if they hadn't allowed the Nuggets to tally 168 in regulation. That's not a typo. Seriously. Eight different players were in double digits in points, and the team shot better than 60 percent from the field. Denver also scored 79 points in a half against Toronto this week. Whatever they are doing they should keep doing it.
O - Oden, Greg. The first overall pick in the NBA Draft last year did something this week which he had never done before - he practiced with his team during the regular season. The timeline hasn't changed at all - there is no chance that he will even try to play before next year. Still, it's a good sign that we will finally get to see what Oden can do, and maybe get an answer to the Oden - Kevin Durant debate over which guy will be the better pro. Durant is off to a pretty good head start so far.
P - Pacquiao, Manny. Boxing is in trouble because people mostly care about the heavyweights. It would be the most popular sport in the country if more people watched fights like the one that saw Pacquiao win the 130-pound WBC title on a split decision from Juan Manuel Marquez in a rematch. Their first fight four years ago was a draw. Both of these guys are brawlers, and the fight was unbelievable. Both fighters were bloody and battered at the end of the fight, and they had nothing left after pounding on each other relentlessly for 12 rounds. Brilliant fight.
Q - Quite fine. I only saw the first half of the Suns' game against Sacramento on Saturday, but that was more than enough to assure me that Shaq and the Suns have things figured out and his addition is going to work out just fine. Phoenix was up by three after one quarter, and 31 at the half. The second quarter was about as perfect as a team can play for 12 minutes, and Shaq was a big part of it. Phoenix has now won and covered four straight. Shaq isn't like he once was, but he is still an incredibly disruptive force on the court.
R - Rockets. Houston may never lose again. They added four more wins this week to bring the total to 22, and they capped it off with a huge 12-point win over the Lakers. Pau Gasol missed the game with an ankle injury, but I'm not sure that it would have mattered. With the win they are now at the top of the West. That doesn't even begin to make sense on so many levels, so I won't even try to explain what is going on.
S - Sidney Crosby. The news is not good out of Pittsburgh. After missing most of two months thanks to an ankle injury, Crosby, the top young player in the NHL, returned to action and he looked good. For a while. On Tuesday he was forced to sit out after just three games back because of renewed soreness in his ankle. He was still out for the team's weekend game. Pittsburgh has played very well without their captain, but they certainly need him healthy to make a splash in the playoffs.
T - Tiger. This is getting ridiculous. Tiger did just enough to stick around on Thursday and Friday, closed the gap on Saturday, stalked the lead on Sunday, and then sunk a long birdie on the 18th to take the lead and put away his fifth straight win and 64th overall. The scary thing is not how well he is playing, but how intense he is about it. After sinking the putt he screamed, ripped his hat off, and slammed it into the ground. He said he didn't remember doing it. The guy has won $80 million in purses and made several times that in endorsements and yet somehow he is still the hungriest guy out there. Amazing.
U - Ugly. War Pass, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner last year and the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, had a very bad day on Saturday. He ran Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby, a race that should have been little more than a timed workout given the quality of the competition. Instead, War Pass showed that his critics that said that he wouldn't be able to do anything if he didn't get the early lead were right. He got buried in the pack, finished dead last, and created some huge payoffs for the bettors who didn't buy into him and his 1/9 price.
V - Vanderbilt. Other than maybe Washington State, there is no decent team in the tournament that I am more down on than Vanderbilt. They have had their moments - most notably when they were able to catch the Volunteers napping after they beat Memphis. Since that big win, though, they have won just twice in five games, and they needed overtime in one win. I don't see a lot of tournament upside for the Commodores.
W - Wisconsin. They didn't get much credit for it when the bracket was announced, but the Badgers had a heck of a weekend. They easily handled Illinois to win the Big Ten championship, but it was the semifinal win over Michigan State that was impressive. They were down by a dozen well into the second half. Given the style of play in the Big Ten that's like a 25-point deficit in more offensive leagues. They turned it around, though, led by Brian Butch, the big man who shoots like a guard.
X - Xavier. It was a frustrating week to be a fan of our mascots. The Musketeers started the A-10 Tournament by bursting Dayton's bubble, but then they came out the next day against St Joe's looking like they had no interest in being there and lost by eight without putting up much of a fight. That means they covered just one of five down the stretch, and they lost to St. Joe's twice in that time. They got a break in the bracket, though, drawing the overachieving Georgia Bulldogs in the first round, and an eventual winnable showdown with Duke.
Y - Yankees, New York. Note to the Yankees - signing Billy Crystal to a one-day contract and letting him bat lead off against Pittsburgh was about as funny as, well, Billy Crystal. That's not a compliment. It was ridiculous and obnoxious and totally unnecessary. But then, a lot of things the Yankees do fit into that category.
Z - Zany. There have been many conference tournaments that have featured better basketball, but few that have featured more bizarre drama and intriguing story lines than the SEC Tournament did this year. A tornado delayed games and forced a change in venue, the champs played three games in two days and it took all four tournament wins to give them a winning record on the season, and the last games were played in an eerily empty arena.