This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 02/18/2008
A - Adios. Now is the time every year when we see just how ruthless the NFL can be - it's the time when formerly valued players get tossed aside by their teams to clear up cap space. There have been some impressive names given a pink slip so far - Trent Green, Zach Thomas, Byron Leftwich, Alge Crumpler. That's just the tip of the iceberg, and a reminder to every current Pro Bowler that that recognition guarantees nothing down the road.
B - Boilermakers. This is the second straight week I've written about Purdue basketball. Those who regularly read this column will know that that brings the grand total of times I have written about them to two. They deserve the new attention, though. They had a huge win over Michigan State on Tuesday to tighten their improbable hold on the Big Ten. The most impressive thing with this team is that with three freshmen and two sophomores starting they are only going to get better.
C - Cleveland. There was a fascinating sports betting case study on Monday. The Cavs got beat badly on Sunday night in Denver, and then they had plane troubles and couldn't leave town. They had to play the next night in Orlando, and didn't arrive until well into the afternoon for a 7:00 game. Bettors reacted strongly, pumping the Magic up from 4-point favorites to 9.5 points because of the disruption to the Cavs' schedule. Cleveland won by seven. Just when you thought that maybe this sports betting game was easy.
D - Demon Deacons. It wouldn't have been a total surprise to see Wake Forest cover against Duke on Sunday. After all, they have covered eight of their last nine games. It's far more surprising, though, that they crushed Duke by 13. The Blue Devils were one of the elite teams that had looked truly dominating lately, so this complete no-show is totally unexpected and wildly frustrating, I'm sure, for a large number of sports bettors.
E - End. All good things have to come to and end. Just ask New England. Drake is the most recent team to see an incredible string of success end. After 21-straight wins they finally lost to Southern Illinois on Wednesday. They bounced back nicely on the weekend, though. By beating Northern Iowa they clinched the Missouri Valley Conference title. No conference winner this season will have been less predictable at the beginning of the season than Drake.
F - Fierce Wind. This colt was the winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. That race wouldn't be particularly remarkable for any reason besides being the only major prep race of the weekend if it weren't for the fact that Street Sense went on to much bigger and better things after winning it last year. That being said, I would be willing to bet quite a lot that Fierce Wind won't make it two straight Derby wins coming from this race.
G - Gibson, Daniel. Gibson might not be good enough to start for the Cavs, but he is good enough to beat up on a bunch of rookies. Gibson potted a staggering 11 three pointers on Friday night to lead the sophomores to victory over the rookies as part of the All-Star festivities in New Orleans. Gibson only had 33 points, but you don't need to shoot from anywhere else if your threes are draining like that.
H - Howard, Dwight. Wow. That's really all that there is to say. The giant from Orlando unleashed four dunks in the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday, and each one was almost totally unbelievable. His Superman impression took my breath away, but that was nothing compared the dunk scored off of his own rebound off the back board. The dunk contest spent a lot of years sucking, but that has certainly changed.
I - Insanity. There was a lot of silliness in the sports world this week. There was that total farce in Congress when two guys told lies and left us to decide which one was closer to the ugly truth. Then there was the bitter, washed up former St. Louis Ram who is suing the Patriots for $100 million because he claims the Pats filmed his team before they met in the Super Bowl. Add in an arrest or two for current NFL players this week, and it's all enough to make us long for the days when sports were only about the games played on the field.
J - Jason Kidd. All it takes is a little whining to get what you want. The Mavericks kept up with the Joneses, or at least the Lakers and the Suns, by acquiring the veteran point guard for the stretch run. Like the Lakers, Dallas didn't have to rip apart their lineup to add the vet, but they did have to give up Devin Harris, their continuously improving young point guard. The Western conference playoff race just keeps getting more interesting and harder to handicap.
K - Kobe Bryant. After all that whining Kobe finally got the help he wanted, and now he might not be able to enjoy it for a while. He is sporting an injured pinky finger, and that tiny digit could be enough to sideline him, or at least to limit his effectiveness. Doctors are suggesting surgery, but for now he hopes to be able to play through it. His teammates likely hope that he is right.
L - Liverpool. The major English soccer powerhouse suffered an upset of historic proportions on the weekend. The seven-time FA Cup champs lost to Barnsley in FA Cup action. Barnsley is in the second-tier domestic league, and they aren't even at the top of the standings. For a comparison, the loss by Liverpoll was the equivalent of a loss by the Yankees to the Durham Bulls. You can imagine just how thrilled all those soccer hooligans must be.
M - Michigan. I'd find a way to write about the Wolverines regardless, but it's much easier to do so when there is actually something worth writing about. They beat Ohio State on Sunday, which was their first win over their hated rivals since 2004. That was also their third-straight conference win. They haven't done that for an amount of time that is embarrassing to me and every other fan of the team. Things are getting better, and only partly because they couldn't have gotten much worse.
N - Newman, Ryan. Newman only led one lap at the Daytona 500, but it was the one that mattered. Owner Roger Penske got his first win at Daytona after 14 wins in the Indy 500, but it was by the narrowest of margins. Newman was able to get past leader Tony Stewart only because he was bumped from behind by teammate Kurt Busch. Stewart made a tactical decision that backfired on the last lap and gave Newman the win, which was his first anywhere in over two years.
O - One more time. The first time Kelly Pavlik beat Jermain Taylor it was a surprise to many. It had to be much less of a surprise on Saturday when he did it again. Pavlik won a unanimous decision in a fight that saw both fighters seizing the edge at different points. It was the first time Pavlik had ever gone 12 rounds, and the fight wasn't nearly as dramatic as the first one, but it was still an impressive display by Pavlik.
P - Phil Mickelson. There seems to be a simple formula that Phil can follow to pile up as many wins as he wants - play in California or Arizona in tournaments that Tiger skips. Mickelson won at Riviera this weekend, and it was his 16th win in the two western states. It was a nice way to bounce back from missing the cut at Pebble Beach last week - A million bucks will make a six over par 11 seem like it never happened.
Q - Qualifier. James Blake probably thought he had it made on Sunday. He was the top seed at the International Tennis Championships in Delray Beach, Florida, and he had drawn unknown qualifier Kei Nishikori in the final. Oops. Nishikori, who is just 18 and ranked 244th in the world, won 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. He is the first Japanese man to win a tournament since 1992.
R - Red Wings, Detroit. Stop me if you have heard this before - a team full of veteran stars looks totally unbeatable for much of the season, but start to fade and look vulnerable as their age catches up to them as the season progresses. It's not the Patriots, it the Wings. After piling up 86 points in just 55 games, the Wings have dropped six straight. They suddenly can't score or stop the other team from doing so almost at will. Things will come around for the team - they are too talented to struggle forever - but the rest of the teams have to be breathing a sigh of relief as the playoffs draw nearer now that there is a chink in the armor.
S - Samson, Kelvin. This guy is quite possibly the slimiest coach in the history of coaches. He's almost certain to lose his job this week after racking up an impressive list of NCAA violations. Indiana is the second program in three years that he has tried to destroy with his total lack of ethics. The players are the victims in this mess, but at first glance they don't seem too immediately bothered - they beat Michigan State by 19 on Saturday.
T - Texas. There was a showdown for Big 12 supremacy on Monday night, and the result was a bit surprising. The Longhorns hosted the Jayhawks and ended up with a three-point win. The impressive part of the performance was that Texas was thoroughly unimpressive with their shooting, so they instead relied on their defense to get it done. That versatility is a big part of the reason why the Longhorns are 8-2 in their conference, and why they keep winning impressively.
U - Unbelievable. The Michael Beasley legend just keeps growing. If you have been under a rock all year, here's the summary - Kansas State has a rookie who is stunningly good. Most recently, Beasley scored a career-high matching 40 points, and added 17 rebounds for good measure, as his Wildcats blew past Missouri by 37. It would have been an even more impressive week if K-State hadn't given Pat Knight his first career win on Wednesday night.
V - Villanova. There was a robbery this week, and 'Nova was the victim. They were tied with Georgetown and headed to overtime. With 0.1 seconds left Georgetown had the ball and was a solid 80 feet from the Villanova basket. A Villanova defender brushed the ball carrier with about as much force as a butterfly exerts on a leaf when he lands on it. The ref called one of the worst fouls in the history of sports, and Georgetown accepted the gift by sinking the winning free throw. Truly and utterly terrible.
W - Wildcats. Remember all of those signs that indicated that maybe Kentucky had turned the corner and got their act together after a terrible start? Premature, at best. In perhaps the most pathetic performance by any team all year, Kentucky traveled to Vanderbilt as four-point favorites and proceeded to lose by 41. You really have to work hard to be that bad. They bounced back with a win over LSU, but that doesn't erase even a fraction of the shame.
X - Xavier. It was a relatively light week for the mascots of the column. They had just one game. It was a win against Charlotte, but it could have gone better - they only won by two. Things get much more difficult on Monday against Rhode Island. A win there would put them even closer to their seemingly inevitable conference title. A lacking performance like they had against Charlotte, though, and that win may not happen.
Y - Yikes. Memphis maintained their claim as the only undefeated team in college basketball, but it wasn't pretty. They were down by seven with less than a minute and a half to go at UAB, but they were able to unleash a furious 9-1 rush down the stretch to eke out the win. Chris Douglas-Roberts was the hero with six of the nine points. The margin of victory doesn't build a lot of confidence in the Tigers, but you have to be particularly impressed with the heart they showed in the win.
Z - Zzzzzz. We finally got to see Kimbo Slice make his official MMA debut. If you can call it that. He fought Tank Abbott at an Elite XC event on Saturday night, and it couldn't have been more of a joke. Abbott looked far more washed up than I expected, and I expected him to look pretty terrible. The match went about a minute before Slice scored a knockout, and it would have ended sooner if the ref hadn't stepped to break the fighters up once.