This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 01/14/2008
A - Again. The NBA has ruled that the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat have to replay the last 51.9 seconds of their game played on Dec. 19. Shaq got a foul with the score 112-111 for Atlanta in overtime. It was his fifth, but the scorers' table said it was his sixth. With the giant center out, the Hawks went on to win 117-111 and cover the spread as two point favorites. They will play it again next time they meet. Two things. First, isn't watching these two teams play once punishment enough? Second, I know I wouldn't be very happy if the Heat win the second time around, and I had already lost my bet back in December.
B - Bobcats, Charlotte. I was about to write that the Bobcats got another big win for their franchise, but I'm not sure they've ever had a notable victory before. Regardless, they pulled the shocker of all shockers on Wednesday night when they rolled into Boston and beat the no-longer-green-because-they're-red-hot Celtics by 12. The team's second road win of the year (seriously) was fueled by 34 from Jason Richardson.
C - Crosby, Sidney. Sir Sidney and his band of merry Penguins are as hot as a hockey team can be without melting the ice. They won eight in a row and then lost the ninth in a shootout, and Crosby, who is mind-numbingly good when considering that he doesn't turn 21 for eight more months, has had 14 points over that stretch to lead the way. It wasn't a super strong start to the season for the team, but it is getting easier and easier to believe that this is the beginning of a run for this team that could last several years and involve a whole lot of hardware.
D - Dallas Cowboys. Oops. That was a waste of a good season. Losing to Eli Manning hurts at the best of times, and especially in a case like this when he was good but not great, and he had very little support from his running game. Towards the end of the game Jerry Jones looked like he was more than a little homicidal. I don't know who he will blame for this, but there will certainly be heads that roll. To start, I suspect Jessica Simpson will be drawn and quartered in front of City Hall early this week.
E - Eustachy, Larry. The Southern Miss coach is taking an indefinite leave from his team to be with his dying mother. That's obviously totally understandable and admirable, and it makes me incredibly guilty about my initial reaction when I read the headline about his leave. Given his background at Iowa State, before I read the facts I again assumed that he had again done something regrettable involving beer and co-eds, and that someone had pictures. I'm a bad person.
F - Federer, Roger. In breaking news this week, Federer was given the top seed at the Australian Open, water is wet, and the sun is on fire. Equally shocking is that Rafael Nadal is No. 2. Federer has won the last three Opens, and made the last 10 Grand Slam finals, so chances are pretty good he will still be standing at the end of the tournament that starts Monday and runs for two weeks. He missed his warm-up tournament with a stomach flu, though, so there is at least a little bit of hope for the mortals. Justine Henin is No. 1 on the women's side, and the Williams sisters are dangerous at numbers seven and eight.
G - Gibbs, Joe. The second Gibbs era came to an end this week in Washington when the once-great-and-now-only-mediocre coach retired. Probably for good this time. This wasn't a widely expected move, and it reportedly even caught his team off guard, but that doesn't mean it is a bad thing. The Skins had a good run this year, but it's hard to see how they were ever going to be better than just mediocre with a guy who is well beyond his best times at the helm. Gibbs is a legend, but I doubt anyone in Washington is crushed to see him leave.
H - 'Hawks. I was pretty uninspried by the Seattle Seahawks this year, and by the looks of their performance on Saturday I wasn't being unfair. The team looked flat, disinterested, and totally outclassed by Green Bay in a horrific snowstorm. Mike Holmgren desperately needs to find a new career. Also, I don't know how Brett Favre is doing what he is doing, and frankly I suspect it involves some sort of a contract with the devil, but whatever it is it is working and it is clearly worth it.
I - Isiah Thomas. The worst coach in the NBA got thrown out of his team's game on Wednesday night against the Rockets, and nobody noticed. Sure, the Knicks still lost, but they were going to lose anyway because, well, they're the Knicks. Other coaches have done huge damage to a franchise, but I'm not convinced any has ever done more to set a team back than Thomas. The most thankless job in the world is being the poor fool who has to replace this absolute moron.
J - Joakim Noah. The Chicago Bulls have done what I wish I could have figured out a way to do years ago - shut up the world's most annoying basketball player for a while. In a strange move, the Bulls players voted to suspend Noah for a game after he got into a run-in with the teams' assistant coach. Maybe Noah will take the hint, get a haircut, and zip it for good.
K - Kansas. Is there a team that is more of an enigma in college basketball than Kansas? They are statistically brilliant and incredibly talented, and they are easily undefeated, but they haven't played a ton of top competition - and none in at least a month. They have the look of a team that is on a fast track to a No. 1 seed, but there will be an inkling of doubt in my mind that will continue to grow and fester until they hit the tougher parts of the Big 12 schedule. I want to believe in this team, but they are a couple of wins away from having my faith.
L - Louisville. Remember last season for the Cardinals? They started out looking vulnerable due mainly to injuries, then they got healthy and did some damage. They must have really enjoyed that script, because they seem to be following it again this season. They have healed up, they've won seven of eight, and they are giving every indication that they will win a pile of games in the Big East en-route to another strong tournament seeding.
M - Majerus, Rick. If Majerus doesn't have blood pressure problems already, he sure will after his Billikens played Thursday night. They set a D-1 record for fewest points in a game when they managed just 20. George Washington scored 49 and won by 29 - that just shouldn't happen. At one point Saint Louis missed 23 straight shots, and they ended up shooting less than 15 percent from the field on the game. Ugly.
N - New England. These guys are just too darned good. Jacksonville put up a decent fight, but Tom Brady was essentially perfect, and the rest of the team was clearly a step or two better than their opponents. I expect for that same small but significant advantage to continue right through to the most undramatic Super Bowl we have seen since... well, it's been a while since we have had a dramatic, interesting Super Bowl, isn't it? At least Tom Petty should be good.
O - Ole Miss. The Rebels lost their first game of the season on Wednesday when they lost in Tennessee. The surprise isn't that they finally lost after 13 wins. It's that they were able to set a schedule so easy that they couldn't help but win at least 12 games. They were only underdogs once before Tennessee, and the only played two teams from major conferences (Clemson and DePaul) in their first 13. Many teams aren't nearly as good as their record, but none more so than Mississippi.
P - Phoenix Suns. The Suns had a pretty good shooting day on Monday night. In fact, their 20 three pointers were just one short of the NBA record. They only took 31 shots, so that's 64.5 percent, and that's not bad. Of course, to do that ridiculously well you have to have a secret weapon, and the Suns did - GM Steve Kerr came down before some of the game, addressed the team, and let some of his scrawny white man shooting mojo rub off.
Q - Quick work. It didn't take UCLA long to restore the balance of power in the Pac-10. Washington State was ranked higher than the Bruins, and many people were under the impression that the Cougars might be the best team in the conference, but UCLA had a very different opinion. The Bruins took a huge lead at the half, stayed ahead despite a weaker second half, and won by seven to firmly entrench themselves as the Pac-10 team to beat.
R - Richmond Spiders. It's probably a sign that I'm a true degenerate that I know this, but Richmond and LaSalle played a heck of a game in a rare Wednesday afternoon college basketball game this week. The Spiders took a 12-point lead in the first half, LaSalle rallied to tie it up in the second half, and it took three overtimes for Richmond to finally win by one. It would have been a frustrating game for total bettors - the game didn't go over the total until two minutes into the second overtime.
S - Savannah St. These upstarts almost beat the high-powered Kansas State Wildcats on Monday night. And by almost I mean that they lost by 60 points and only managed to score one field goal and four points in the second half. Rest assured, there is not a single mistake in that last sentence. Needless to say, this set two NCAA records and tied a third. I don't know what kind of offense Savannah State runs, but they need to go back to the drawing board.
T - Ty Willingham. At least one Washington alum is not happy with how Willingham is handling his team - he has offered the school a $200,000 donation on the condition that they fire Willingham and the AD. If I were a wealthy Notre Dame alum I'd offer my school at least that much if they would rehire Willingham as coach there - even his darkest days with the Irish are blindingly bright compared to today. I'd keep Charlie Weis around as recruiting coordinator, though - he is a lousy coach, but he sure can coerce kids into signing on the dotted line.
U - USC. The O.J. Mayo era is not going at all like it was supposed to for the Trojans. They lost on Thursday to Washington State to drop to 9-6 on the season and a lousy 0-3 in the Pac-10. They have beat two solid teams in San Diego and Southern Illinois, but for the most part they just aren't good enough to measure up to the best teams, and they could have a bumpy ride in conference play. You can't blame Mayo for the problems, though - he hasn't quite been worth to the five years of hype we have been subjected to, but he is far and away the best player on the team.
V - Vanderbilt. They made it through non-conference play unscathed, but the Commodores crashed back to earth at the hands of an unlikely opponent. The previously struggling Wildcats of Kentucky fought to a big early lead, gave it up late, but found a way to come out ahead in the second overtime period on Saturday. Now Vanderbilt has a loss on their record, and a second one seems likely this week as they travel to play a very good Tennessee team.
W - White, D.J.. Eric Gordon may be hogging most of the headlines coming out of Indiana, but White made a serious statement on Tuesday that he stills deserves some attention. He had 21 points and 22 rebounds against Michigan to become the first Hoosier since 1995 to join the 20/20 club. Gordon poured in 23 points in the game just to make sure that we didn't forget about him, and Indiana again proved that they are a very legitimate team (not that you have to be too legitimate to beat Michigan these days).
X - Xavier. It was another big week for our mascots. They won the first two games of their conference schedule with ease to further secure their spot in the top 25 and show the rest of the division that they are serious this year. The only possible criticism is that they're easy wins weren't quite easy enough - they faced lines of 18.5 and 26, and didn't quite cover either of them. Even with that, they are still profitable (if only barely) and will face more realistic spreads in coming games against better competition.
Y - Yikes. The Peyton Manning legend took a bit of a hit Sunday afternoon. I'm not suggesting for a second that the guy isn't truly amazing, but a player like him should definitely be able to beat a 10-point underdog at home when the opponent loses their starting quarterback and their superstar running back for most of the second half. He and his teammates will take some flack for what happened, but just imagine what the outcry would be like if they hadn't won it all last year. The most notable thing for Manning is that, after starting 14-for-14, he was just 19-of-34 with two interceptions. That's a long way from immortal.
Z - Zoom. The road from California to the Triple Crown started out on the weekend, and a budding potential superstar has emerged. El Gato Malo crushed the life out of solid field of three year olds, winning the San Rafael Stakes by 6-1/4 lengths and setting a track record in the process. He's undefeated, and clearly handled the jump in class to graded stakes company with ease. It's way too early to get too excited, but this is certainly a horse to keep an eye on.