This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 02/04/2008
A - Aggies. It's been a pretty great 10 days for Texas A&M, with big conference wins over Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma. The 17-point victory over Texas was particularly striking. The only problem is that the team preceded this nice string with three conferences losses in a row, and they weren't close in two of them. This is one of those teams I find so hard to figure out - which team is the real one, and which one can we expect to show up in any given game?
B - Brock Lesnar. Well that was disappointing. It turns out that a couple of years of being a fake fighter does nothing to prepare you to be a real one. Lesnar made his much-hyped UFC debut on Saturday night against Frank Mir. For a brief while Lesnar looked okay. But then 90 seconds passed and it was all over. Lesnar tapped out to Mir, not exactly the toughest heavyweight in the UFC stable these days. I hope Dana White hadn't pinned the hopes for the future on Lesnar, because he has a lot of work still to do. To say the least.
C - Crennel, Romeo. For a while it looked like they might screw it up, but the Browns did the right thing by bringing their coach back for two more years. Crennel managed something that hasn't happened much in Cleveland for a decade or so - his team believed in themselves and were tough to play against. The defense was a disaster, but he can work on that, and he has much more to build on than he did when he arrived in town.
D - Ducks, Anaheim. The defending Stanley Cup champs keep getting better piece by piece. First, Scott Niedermayer, the best defenseman in the league for my money, ended a brief retirement and returned to action. Now he has been joined by Teemu Selanne, the Finnish sniper who took the first half of the season off. They need the help, too - they have lost six in a row and have just five goals over that stretch.
E - Eli Manning. Sure, you got a Super Bowl and your MVP. Congrats. That doesn't mean I like you. In fact, I still find you pretty unimpressive. You're a decent quarterback, and by that I mean better than 20 starters in the league, but you still haven't done anything to make me believe that you are a legitimate star over the long term, and I can't wait to feast on the lines that are inflated by the betting fools next season who think that you are the second coming of your brother. I don't like him, either, but you can't carry his jock strap.
F - FBR Open. A rock concert atmosphere hits the PGA tour ever year in Scottsdale, and it looks like one heck of a party. Despite unseasonably cool weather and the Super Bowl being in town, the crowds poured in the gates, and they were treated to a heck of a finish. J.B. Holmes birdied 18, and then did it again in a playoff to hold off Phil Mickelson and take home the title. Holmes may not be a household name, but he sure loves Arizona - this is his second win in three years at the FBR. It helps that Tiger is in Dubai at this time every year.
G - Gonzaga. The Bulldogs aren't the team that they have been in recent years, but they reminded me yet again why I love college basketball on Saturday. I meant just to have their game at Santa Clara on in the background as I did some work, but I ended up being glued to the sloppy but totally captivating action. After trailing all day, they tied it up with 0.3 seconds left thanks to free throws from perhaps the most brainless foul I have ever seen a player commit. They got ahead in overtime, couldn't hold, and had to do it all over again. They finally pulled away and won by five, but not before my emotions had been taken on a roller coaster like only college hoops can provide. And I don't even care about either team.
H - Hughes, B. Wayne. You might not know the name, but the thoroughbred world does. He's a ridiculously wealthy horse owner, and he is one happy dude this weekend. Crown of Thorns, a three year old stretching out around two turns for the first time in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Saturday, made it look easy in winning, and he placed himself directly on the road to the Derby. He looked like he might get stuck on the rail, but when he found space he pounced and ran away.
I - Incredible. On a list of things I never thought I would see in sports, a second go-round in the relationship between Chris Webber and Don Nelson would have been right up there near the top. The first time they were together it was a disaster. Both guys are much older now, though, and Webber is much more aware of his role, so it could work. If he can fit into the Warriors' lineup without disrupting all that is already working for the hot team then he could be a huge addition down the stretch for a team that could do some playoff damage.
J - Johan Santana. I wouldn't have believed it, but apparently a guy who will make more than $20 million a year can be a bargain. The Mets won the long and drawn out Santana Derby, and they had to send surprisingly little to Minnesota in the end to do it. Santana is pricey, but he is going to an easier league, he'll be in a pitcher's paradise at Shea, and he should be able to truly dominate. It's a good time to be a Mets fan, I would guess. As a bettor, though, you can throw away any hope of value every fifth day.
K - Kansas State. If I was a fan of the Wildcats I would be slitting my wrists right about now. They had a historic win on Wednesday, knocking rival Kansas from the ranks of the undefeated, and ending a home losing streak against the Jayhawks that stretched back a quarter century. But then they came out on Saturday and lost to Missouri. Yes, that is the same Missouri squad that suspended five players indefinitely this week after they were in a brawl at a nightclub.
L - Lakers. Wow. that's really all their is to say about that. They get an all-star caliber player in Pau Gasol, and all they had to give up was spare parts and some draft picks which, thanks to Gasol, won't be very high. I haven't understood how the Lakers have done it so far, but all I know now is that they are way up among the elite of the league now, and that front court is really going to be something to watch when Andrew Bynum returns to action.
M - Mountaineers. It was a humiliating Wednesday night at home for West Virginia. They had what should have been an easy game against coach Bob Huggins old team from Cincinnati. They were favored by 13.5, but you'd have never guessed it from the scoreboard - they lost by 23. No matter how bad it gets for the team, though, they can rest assured that things are worse for former coach John Beilein. His Michigan team has won just once in their last 11, and look as bad as a basketball team can look.
N - Notre Dame. That scent you can catch in the air is the smell of desperation, and it is coming from South Bend. The Irish added a pretty high profile piece to their coaching staff this week. Jon Tenuta, the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, is the new assistant head coach for defense at Notre Dame. Both sides of the ball were a total disaster last year, and Charlie Weis seems to be better at recruiting than coaching, so the move makes sense for a program desperate for a return to respectability.
O - Ovechkin, Alexander. Who says Russian hockey players are soft? Ovechkin had a tough night on Thursday against Montreal. He broke his nose when he was pounded into the boards, and he needed stitches in his lip after someone tried to make him eat the puck. All he did in response was score four goals, including the overtime winner, and added an assist as the Caps beat the Habs, 5-4. Washington still can't be mistaken for a good team, but they have won 10 of 15, and they are at .500 on the season - a level they haven't been at this late for a while.
P - Patriots. I have just two questions for this team. First, how in the world did you manage to win 18 straight games when you apparently have no ability to tackle? There were three of you with your hands on Manning with the game on the line and he got away. Come on, now. Second, you had two weeks to prepare for this game. Didn't you consider even for a second that they might rush Brady hard on every single snap? I'm no hoodie-wearing genius or anything, but I might have planned for that or something.
Q - Quit it. Does Arlen Specter really have nothing more important to worry about than Spy-gate? If I lived in Pennsylvania I would really wonder why my senator is spending his time worrying about why some essentially meaningless tapes were erased instead of focusing on, I don't know, say education, war, health care, or any one of a million other things that actually matter even a little bit. I could feel my brain cells taking their own lives as I listened to Specter speak.
R - Redskins. Washington has made a total mess of their coaching search, but at least they are showing signs that they may get it right. Or, if nothing else, they at least paid attention during the Super Bowl. The word is that they will interview Giants' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Tuesday, and they have decided against their original plan of also interviewing New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Those two coaches played a high profile chess match on Sunday and Spagnuolo scored an impressive checkmate.
S - Sutton, Eddie. The veteran coach got what he came out for - his 800th win. That's why he came out of retirement to take over San Francisco, and it is unquestionably an impressive total, but I can't help wondering if it really matters. Nobody can believe he is at San Francisco for the long term, or for any reason other than the record, and the whole thing seems hollow given the reason for his retirement just short of the mark in the first place. In this case maybe sleeping dogs should have stayed lying down.
T - Tony Parker. Mr. Longoria will be spending a lot of time with his hot wife for now, because he is sidelined with heel spurs. He's been shelved, and there is no timeline for his return. Needless to say, this is not good news for the Spurs. They signed Damon Stoudamire to help fill the gap, but Mighty Mouse is a big step down from the Frenchman. Still, no need to panic - they went in to Phoenix without Parker and won by three as 7.5 point underdogs.
U - Ugly. The Top 25 was not particularly impressive in Saturday action. Nineteen ranked teams played unranked opponents on the day. Five of those teams lost outright. A couple showings were particularly embarrassing - Michigan State was favored by nine over Penn State but lost by the same margin, and Villanova lost to Syracuse by 14. The news was even more grim for bettors - only eight of the 19 ranked teams covered the spread. Trusting the opinion of the polls was a quick road to poverty.
V - Varejao, Anderson. Apparently teams from Cleveland aren't allowed to have any luck. The Cavs lost Varejao, their second leading rebounder, for three weeks with an ankle sprain this week. That comes just after they lost Sasha Pavlovic, a starting guard, for six weeks. Those are tough breaks for a team that has won 12 of 15, covered seven of nine, and is finally playing like many expected them to coming into the season.
W - Washington State. The Cougars are, it appears, falling from grace. They were media darlings earlier in the season, but two losses this week, and three in their last four games, has decreased their appeal quite dramatically. They at least made it to overtime with Stanford, but there is no excuse for losing to Cal at home. Next up this week is UCLA and USC, so it could really get ugly if they don't get their act together.
X - Xavier. It was an easy week for the mascots of the column, but they did what they had to do. Their lone game was at home against the outclassed La Salle, and they cruised to a 13-point win without breaking a sweat. That wasn't a cover against a 20.5-point spread, but I'm not at all convinced that there is enough difference between a 13 and 20-point margin to get worried about. At some point the big spreads are pretty meaningless, really.
Y - Yawn. I am about to write the most predictable thing on this list - Tiger won a tournament this week. It wasn't looking good for him in Dubai. He was chasing Ernie Els after three rounds, he had been inconsistent in the third round, and Dubai hadn't always been kind to him in the past. The freak did what is now expected of him each time he touches his clubs, though - he birdied five of his last seven to charge back and win it by a stroke. That's four wins in a row in official tournaments and six in his last seven. The more he plays, the more a Grand Slam seems not only possible but likely.
Z - Zzzzz. That was not a good Super Bowl game. In fact, it was, for the most part, pretty terrible. The first half was almost entirely unwatchable, and the third quarter was only barely better. The fourth quarter was better, but by that point it was almost too far gone to be saved in my eyes. I should know better than to expect anything other than utter disappointment from the biggest of NFL games. Give me a good week 13 slate of games over that circus any day.