This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 01/21/2008
A - Andy Murray. The former tennis prodigy won his first tournament of the year and was showing new maturity and focus after ditching coach Brad Gilbert late last year, so I boldly chose him as an upset pick at the Australian Open. The Brit rewarded my faith by going out and getting smoked in the first round. He went home with his tail between his legs and my pocket was a little bit lighter. Nice work, Andy.
B - Bynum, Andrew. The Lakers are the biggest surprise in the NBA, but they suffered a big blow on Sunday night when they lost their third year center for two months with a knee injury at the start of he second half. Bynum is leading the league in field goal percentage and he has been an increasingly big part of the team's success, so this could hurt. The impact is already showing - L.A. only beat Memphis by one the day he was injured, snuck by Seattle by two the next night, and weren't as competitive as they can be in losing to the Suns on Thursday.
C- Celtics, Boston. The new NBA superpower had a pretty rough week. Or at least the start of the week. They lost twice in three days to the Washington Wizards. As if to rub in just how rough that is, the Wiz went out in their next game and lost to the Knicks by 12. It's far from time to panic, but those losses combined with a loss to the Bobcats last week dims the shining light a little bit.
D - D.J. Trahan. Trahan came from behind to win the Bob Hope Classic on Sunday for his second career PGA Tour victory. He finished at 26-under over 90 holes, but he needed help to get it done. Justin Leonard was up by four going into the final round, but he collapsed, shooting a 79 on the back nine and finding the water on the 18th to throw away the title. George Lopez, Samuel L. Jackson and Luke Wilson teamed up to win the Pro-Am. Lopez is the host of the event, so the result seems a bit suspicious. Or at least it would if I was enough of a degenerate to bet on a Pro-Am.
E - Eli Manning. The Giants' pivot owes me money. Three weeks in a row I have picked against the guy and his team because I refuse to believe in them. You know how well that has turned out for me. Despite my doubts and hatred, the Giants found a way to pull out an overtime victory in the Green Bay deep freeze, and they would have won with far less stress if Lawrence Tynes hadn't done his impression of a soon-to-be-unemployed kicker twice when he had a chance to score and win.
F - Flop. I've been very high on the A-10 all year, and particularly so for Xavier and Dayton. You can imagine my agony, then, when both teams lost games they definitely should have won on Wednesday night. At least they weren't alone - ranked teams fell like flies this week - UNC, UCLA, Texas A&M, Marquette, Pittsburgh and Butler lost to unranked teams as well.
G - Great Britain. The NFL announced that they are headed back to Britain for another regular season game next year. That's great news because this year's gem between the Giants and the Dolphins was an instant classic. Either that or it was the worst game I have ever seen in my life. I forget which one is the truth because I fell into a coma about halfway through that mess of a game and I don't remember much. If anyone can figure out why the league thinks these intercontinental contests are a good idea they are smarter than me.
H - Hesanoldsalt. One of my favorite older horses met a sad end this week just days after he had returned to training in Florida after a layoff. He was being walked when he spooked, reared, and broke away from his handler. After running out of the barn, he swerved to avoid a groom who had stepped in front of him to try to stop him, crashed into a tree, and suffered injuries that proved fatal. The five year old never quite broke into the upper echelon, but he had strong finishes behind superstars like Invasor, Bernardini, Flashy Bull and Barbaro.
I - In the zone. Dre Smith, George Mason's sophomore guard, had a better shooting night than anyone in history on Saturday. He took 10 three-point shots in the game, and he hit all of them. The rest of the players for both teams combined for nine threes. The previous record of nine in a game was held by three players. Remarkably, Smith had seven of his treys in the second half. He ended up with 34 points, eight points better than his previous career best.
J - Jason Garrett. This guy is a sign either of just how bizarre the NFL has become or that Jerry Jones is losing his mind. A year ago Jones was criticized for making Garrett his offensive coordinator because he was too young and inexperienced. Now, after a reasonably successful season (if you forget he last month) Garrett flirted with two head coaching jobs before agreeing to stay in Dallas as the highest paid assistant in the league. He's paid about the same amount as head coach Wade Phillips. Given that Garrett is almost certainly the team's next head coach, a nervous breakdown for Phillips seems like a good bet.
K - Knicks, New York. The Knicks are the biggest soap opera in sports, but somehow they have managed to overcome the drama to play some decent ball in the last week. They played five games in seven days, and they managed to win and cover four of them. They even beat some decent teams - the Pistons and Wizards are both well over .500. Because of those two wins I won't even mention that they also beat the Heat, a team that has now lost 13 in a row.
L - Long. If you are a hockey purist who doesn't like regular season shootouts then you really wouldn't have like the Oilers-Capitals game on Thursday. Washington won, but not before 24 shooters and 12 shootout rounds. Remarkably, only one of the 24 shooters was able to score in the endless goaltenders duel. Not that the crowd noticed - there were 6,000 empty seats in Washington at the start of the game, and many more by the time overtime rolled around.
M - Maryland. The Terrapins are the reason why sports betting can be so frustrating. They couldn't manage to beat Ohio or American earlier in the year, yet they went to Chapel Hill as 18-point underdogs on Sunday and came out with a win. Senior forward James Gist had 22 and 13 for the Terps, and Greivis Vasquez quarterbacked the upset with 12 points and 11 assists. The ACC race suddenly got more interesting after the unexpected upset. The loss by UNC wasn't a total surprise - they squeaked out a one-point win over Georgia Tech Wednesday night.
N - Norm Chow. The offensive coordinator went from being a genius at USC to getting fired after three underwhelming years at Tennessee. Not surprisingly, he has decided to go back to school, and he is returning to the scene of his greatest success. Or close, anyway. The reports are that Chow is the new OC for the Trojans' crosstown rivals UCLA. That should add a new element of intrigue to an already bitter annual contest.
O - Ouch. The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently having to do something they have no desire to get used to - they are playing without Sidney Crosby. The superstar has a high ankle sprain. At this point it's not known how much time he will miss. This kind of thing is never good, but the timing could certainly be worse - the NHL is about to head into the All-Star break, so Crosby will have extra time to heal without missing time for his team.
P - Penn, B.J.. If you don't like blood then Penn's UFC lightweight title winning victory over Joe Stevenson was definitely not for you. Penn beat the former star of "The Ultimate Fighter" in the second round, but not before slicing him open with an elbow. As soon as Penn won the match by dominating on the ground, he was confronted by Sean Sherk, the former champ who was stripped after a positive steroid test. It looks as if Penn will defend against Sherk at UFC 85 in May.
Q - Quite awful. It was a truly terrible seven days for Texas A&M. The Aggies had only lost once before this week, and not since the second of December. This week they lost twice. First they gave Bobby Knight his 900th win on Wednesday, then they lost by 21 to Kansas State on Saturday in one of the worst performances by a ranked team in recent memory. It will be very interesting to see if they can forget that this week ever happened, regroup, and move on.
R - Roy Jones, Jr. - For a while at the start of the match it looked like Jones had made a huge mistake by choosing to fight Felix Trinidad. In the end, though, Trinidad was just too small and couldn't keep up with Jones. It was a win by decision for Jones. Now he thinks he should fight Joe Calzahge. He must have suffered a serious brain injury against Tito because that's the only way he could come up with an idea that incredibly bad.
S - Sabres, Buffalo. After such a good year last year, things are not going well for the Sabres these days. They lost their 10th-straight game on Wednesday. Five of those losses were in the shootout, just adding to the feelings of frustration. They broke the streak in style on Friday, pounding Atlanta 10-1, but returned to their familiar losing ways against the struggling Maple Leafs the next night. The team suffered a free agent exodus in the offseason, and the impact is clearly showing.
T - Tony Sparano. The Miami Dolphins have tabbed their next head coach - Dallas Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano. Anyone who is even somewhat literate can tell the difference between Sparano and Soprano, but that won't stop us from being bombarded by an overwhelming number of bad mobster puns for as long as he has the job. The Fins are a mess, but Sparano should be fine. The biggest thing in his favor is that Cam Cameron set the bar so low in his one season at the helm that Sparano can't help but look better by comparison.
U - USC. O.J. Mayo was pretty sure that he was going to turn things around and finally give his team a win over UCLA, but then Mayo likes to talk a lot so it was hard to get too excited about what he said. It turns out, though, that he was right. Mayo was solid, scoring 16 points as the Trojans beat the Bruins by nine. It was another freshman that stole the headlines, though, and it wasn't Kevin Love. USC's Davon Jefferson led the way with a career-high 25 points.
V - Vanderbilt. It seems like I have been writing about the Commodores every week. I won't be much longer if they keep playing like they did on Thursday. I understand that Tennessee is a good team that is really rounding into solid form, but Vandy needs to be able to stay closer than 20 points if their goal is to prove that the start to the season wasn't a total fluke and that they do indeed deserve the respect afforded to top 25 teams.
W - Williams. You can never tell before a tournament starts how the Williams sisters are going to play these days. Their heads are often in the clouds, but they came to play when they headed to Australia for the Open. Both players finished the first week of the two-week tournament by advancing to the quarter finals. The two can't meet up until the Australian Open finals, so their progress will be interesting to watch. Serena has had more success at this tourney in the past, but Venus has the easier route to the last game by far.
X - Xavier. It was not a good week for our boys. They were favored by 7.5 when they visited Temple on Wednesday, yet they found a way to lose by 19 in a truly disgraceful no-show. They bounced back on Saturday to beat George Washington, but they are in a concerning four game stretch without a cover. I'm not panicking yet by any means, but it would be nice to see them step it up a bit as they get deeper into the A-10. Their big game against Dayton on Thursday would be a good place to start.
Y - Yawn. The Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl. Wake me up when something surprising happens. Just how good are the Pats? Tom Brady was uncharacteristically terrible, throwing three bad interceptions, yet the Pats won a game with little drama. The media has two weeks to figure out how to make the Super Bowl seem interesting, but I don't like their chances. Those looking for cracks in the behemoth will note that Randy Moss had just one catch for 18 yards. Is that a result of the distraction of his legal woes? The Giants sure hope so.
Z - Zoom. The racing year has just begun, but we saw one of the most impressive non-stakes performances of the year on Thursday. Commentator, who was a disappointing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last time out, won an allowance at Gulfstream by an astonishing 14 lengths, and he set a track record while doing it. The horse's connections raised some eyebrows when they brought the seven year old back for another year, but Commentator emphatically showed he isn't done just yet.