This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 01/28/2008
A - Alfredsson, Daniel. The captain of the Ottawa Senators had a pretty good night on Thursday when his team traveled to Tampa Bay. If you call seven points a good night, that is. The Swede scored a hat trick and added four more assists to help his team double up on the Lightning, 8-4. The offensive star hadn't scored in two previous games, so this was a heck of a way to break a slump.
B - Baylor. The Bears aren't used to being ranked, but they made the most of being on the prestigious list this week. They won an amazing game on Wednesday when they took the higher-ranked Aggies of Texas A&M to five overtimes before coming out on top. Unfortunately, they couldn't build on the momentum - they lost at home as 4.5-point favorites to Oklahoma on Saturday. It doesn't get any easier either, with a trip to play Texas up next.
C - Chicago Bulls. Things have not been going well for the Bulls recently, but it's even worse lately. Luol Deng is out of action with Achilles tendinitis and he'll miss anywhere from one to three weeks. Ben Gordon joined him on the sidelines with a sore wrist. After a good run to beat Indiana the first time the team had to play without the two players, the team has struggled offensively in two unimpressive losses.
D - Djokovic, Novak. The king is dead, long live the king. Djokovic, who has long been the future of tennis, let the world know that the future is here. He won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open this week, and he did it in grand style. Others have beaten Roger Federer, but few have done it as convincingly as Djokovic did in the semifinals. The third seed was 12/1 to win the tournament, but his triumph guarantees that it will be a long time before we see a price like that again.
E - Edmonton Oilers. I live in Calgary. That makes Edmonton my sworn enemy. Every time I have to say something nice about the city or its teams, then, a little piece of me dies. There's no avoiding it here, though. Jarret Stoll scored two goals in the last 1:23 of the third period against Carolina on Thursday to tie it up, and then his team won the game in the shootout. Thankfully for me and everyone in my city, even with the win the Oilers are still far out of contention.
F - Flyers, Dayton. Dayton started the season with a bang - they were 13-1 and they posted big wins over Louisville and Pitt. Things have not gone particularly well since then, though. In fact, they have been dismal. Losses to Xavier and Richmond this week make it three losses in a row, and all by large gaps as the team has struggled to shoot and has seemingly forgotten how to play defense. A disappointing turn of events for the team's fans and backers - they had covered seven of eight before blowing the last three.
G - Golden State. There is a clear sign that age brings maturity in San Francisco. Chris Webber is reportedly about to sign with the Warriors. Fourteen years ago C-Webb demanded a trade from the team after clashing with coach Don Nelson. A lot of time has past since then, and now both guys are about to give it a try again. I'm betting that they will get along much better now, and that the Michigan alum will be a great addition to an already talented team.
H - Heat. It may have seemed like it would never happen again, but Miami finally won a game. They ended their 15-game skid against Indiana on Saturday, and they actually showed some heart in doing it - they fought back from a nine point halftime deficit to win by two. It was the second game in a row that they had covered, but just the third in 16 games. Is it possible that it was just two years ago that this team won it all?
I - Indiana. The Hoosiers don't often play out of conference games during their conference schedule. They picked a bad time to start. They invited UConn into their home on Saturday, and the guests left with an unlikely win. To make matters worse for Indiana, Connecticut was playing without a starting guard and a reserve after the players were suspended for the game for violating team rules.
J - Jason Kidd. New Jersey's point guard has apparently asked for a trade. I can't say I blame him - Vince Carter makes me sick and I live on the other side of the continent, so I can only imagine what playing with him would be like. My only wish for the whole thing is that he doesn't act like a baby while the whole process plays out. I can only handle so much whining from athletes, and my quota is pretty much filled for now.
K - Kentucky. It had been a pretty terrible season for the Wildcats, but the team got something to build on in a big way on Tuesday when they beat Tennessee by six. For perhaps the first time this year, Kentucky played the kind of defense that Billy Gillispie was supposed to bring with him from Texas A&M, and they played with a poise and confidence that was too much for a team that was clearly superior on paper to handle. They rode that momentum to another win and a return to .500 on Saturday.
L - Lame duck. Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren both became lame duck coaches this week. Dungy returned to coach another year, but not before getting permission to spend more time in Florida, and not before the Colts named his eventual replacement. Holmgren announced that this will be his last season. In both cases, it will be interesting to watch what happens if either team starts to struggle and the players decide they don't like listening to the guy on his way out any more.
M - Minnesota. The T-Wolves shocked the world (or at least the part of it that pays attention to the NBA on a Wednesday night) when they beat the Suns by 10 points as eight point dogs. That's three wins in four games for the lowly Wolves, and they were a point away from beating Boston to make it four straight. That's a good week for any team, never mind one that only has eight wins on the season. Phoenix doesn't have to be too worried about the slip - the team has covered six of seven.
N - Nate Kaeding. This is without a doubt the craziest story of the year in the NFL. It pretty much has to be in order for me to be writing about a kicker. San Diego's kicker broke his leg on Dec. 24 when he was making a tackle, but went on to kick for almost five full games without doing anything about it. In his last game he had four field goals against New England. That's another teammate that makes LaDainian Tomlinson look like a pansy.
O - Ole Miss. It seemed too good to be true when the Rebels jumped out to a 13-0 start. Turns out it was. The team lost to Mississippi State this week, and it was their third loss in the five games since conference play started. What is most concerning is how they lost to the Bulldogs - Ole Miss had their last lead eight minutes in and lost the game by 20. At this rate the team will have to work hard to make the tournament.
P - Pitt. Speaking of teams that are struggling after a quick start. The Panthers have won two of three, and have dropped three of their first seven conference games. The last loss was as humiliating as any defeat by any team all year. Pitt was paying Rutgers at home, and they were favored by 18, so they had no business losing the game by 13. To make matters worse, they blew a seven-point halftime lead.
Q - Quit. Please, please, please stop talking about Tom Brady's ankle, or the kind of footwear he may be wearing, or if he was limping when he went out to buy flowers, or anything else to do with how he walks between now and kickoff. He'll be fine, we won't learn anything more before game time, and that won't change no matter how much time we spend analyzing grainy videos shot on phone cameras.
R - Raptors. Toronto has won and covered seven of nine, so it was no shock that they beat Milwaukee on Friday. What was shocking was how badly they beat them - 106-75. Chris Bosh led the way for the Raps with 32, while the Bucks couldn't score - two players tied for the team lead with 12 points each. Toronto must have no regrets about past transactions - the Bucks with Charlie Villanueva couldn't even remotely compete with the Raps, and T.J. Ford is nowhere near the court.
S - Slump? It has not been a good week for the Boston Celtics. After their blazing hot start they aren't used to losing much, but they did it twice this week. Toronto beat them at home, then they lost at Orlando in a battle of Eastern Conference upstarts. In between they needed a last second steal to squeak past Minnesota by one. The bigger concern is that Kevin Garnett missed the Orlando game with an injury. Boston has only won five of the last 10, and just covered four of those games.
T - Tiger Woods. The guy is a freak. The guy crushed the competition so badly that it was a total and utter joke. I could say more about it, but why bother. The one thing that stuck is out that Tiger said that the Grand Slam is, in his mind, a possibility. The fact that he is saying that means he is thinking about it, and when you combine that with the way he played this weekend it certainly isn't hard to imagine him pulling it off.
U - UFC. Handicapping UFC Fight Night on Wednesday was incredibly easy, and especially so if you were willing to blindly follow the public. Favorites won eight of the nine fights. If only it were always that easy. The biggest statement on the night was made by Mike Swick, who won his first fight at welterweight. He didn't look like he was handling the weight particularly well, though - he looked like he desperately needed a cheeseburger.
V - Vanderbilt. Is Sunday's result a sign that Vanderbilt isn't as good as their start, or that Florida is better than we have been giving them credit for? A bit of both, I figure. Vandy has played a very weak schedule, and is yet another team that has faltered when things get tougher in conference play. Florida hasn't exactly played a group of powerhouses, either, but they seem to be getting stronger as things roll along.
W - Wazzu. The Cougars have gained a ton of respect this year, but they didn't help their case much when they got manhandled by Arizona on Thursday. Arizona won by 12. The Wildcats have struggled to find consistency against a tough schedule this year, but this was their second win over a top 10 team this year, and Arizona has the look and the skill of a team that could do some serious damage if they can plug the leaks by the time the tournament rolls around.
X - Xavier. Regular readers will know that I was a little bit concerned last week when our beloved mascots lost a stinker to Temple. I'm not worried at all anymore after this week. The Musketeers played two big games this week, and they couldn't have done better. They crushed Dayton by 26, then traveled to UMass and won by 12. With the wins the team served notice that the A-10 is theirs and they don't plan to give it up.
Y - Yikes. People are worried about whether Tom Brady will be able to play on Sunday. I'm more concerned about whether Plaxico Burress will be available. He may be in rehab by game time, or at least he should be. He told the media this week that his team has a better receiving corps that the Patriots. That's clear proof that the guy smokes a lot of crack.
Z - Zzzz. The NHL All-Star Game was played on Sunday, and only the players' families cared. Actually, I'm not sure they even could stay awake for this game. This annual mess of an exhibition features absolutely no defense, lackluster goaltending, and the offensive players play well enough to score a ton, but not well enough to be exciting as they do it. This year the East won, 8-7, despite being out shot, 51-33. No good, interesting, competitive game has ever played in which one team gets 51 shots.