This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/09/2009
A - Allen Iverson. I was optimistic about the Pistons' early season acquisition of "The Answer". I clearly shouldn't have been. Iverson has not meshed with the team, his stats are down, are the Pistons are plodding along at .500. Now Iverson is out for a couple of weeks with a back injury, and he is resigned to playing off the bench when he comes back. It will be interesting to see if the Pistons can get their act together enough to make any impact in the playoffs. Whether they can or not, they have a whole lot of cap space to look forward to thanks to A.I's imminent departure.
B - Big Unit. Randy Johnson is on the verge of 300 wins, and he's making it pretty clear that he doesn't intend to waste much time getting them. In his preseason and Giants debut, Johnson tore his most recent team apart. He faced 12 Diamondbacks pitchers in three innings, and he struck out seven of them. Johnson also showed that he's still his same old ornery self - he mocked Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo and then said he would go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner.
C - Cut. Terrell Owens got himself a one-way ticket out of Dallas, but it has turned out well for him. He got to take all the money the Cowboys paid him up front last year, and he quickly signed a surprisingly lucrative new deal in Buffalo. That wasn't an expected destination, but it just might work. Buffalo is so far out of the spotlight that he might be able to stay out of trouble. More importantly, Trent Edwards has a solid ability to throw, and Owens and Lee Evans form a pretty dynamic duo. The risk is low for the Bills, too - it's only a one-year deal.
D - Derek Jeter. There was a bit of a strange sight to see earlier this week - Jeter, the quintessential Yankee, playing against, and beating, his beloved team. It was a sign of things to come for Team USA - the Americans won their first two pool games at the World Baseball Classic in Toronto to clinch a spot in the next round. Jeter has been hitting well in the tournament, but the real star of the team so far has been Adam Dunn - his power is on display, and he is resisting the urge to strike out like he can do so well.
E - Explosion. The two powers in the NBA's Eastern Conference met to settle a score this past week, and it was bound to be explosive. In the end, the game gave Cleveland fans a reason to be concerned. The Celtics won the home game by 11 points. Even worse, Boston won without Kevin Garnett in the lineup. It was the power forwards that did Cleveland in - Paul Pierce led the way with 29 points, and Leon Powe added 20 points and 11 boards off the bench. Boston leads the season series 2-1 with one game remaining.
F - Finally!!!!! It has been a long, long, long, long time, but it looks look my beloved Michigan Wolverines are going to make it back to the dance. Michigan had a big win at Minnesota on Saturday to improve their conference record, get a much needed road win, and give them what they need to look attractive to the selection committee. They won't be a high seed, but now is as good a time as any for history to be made - a No. 11 seed doesn't win the tournament every day.
G - Garnett, Kevin. Garnett has been out of action since injuring his knee against Utah on Feb. 19. He was supposed to be back by now, but things are taking longer than expected. He ran on a treadmill for the first time on Thursday and said he felt good, but he's still expected to be out for at least another week. The Celtics haven't been a disaster in his absence, but they could use him back - they are 5-3, but just 3-5 ATS.
H - Honda Classic. Korean Y.E. Yang picked up his first PGA win on Sunday. What was most notable about the event, though, was how bland it was. Most of the top players didn't show up, and those that did - Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els, for example - were far from their best and weren't in serious contention. PGA success is new for Yang, but he does have one impressive claim to fame - he beat Tiger Woods in the 2006 HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
I - I Want Revenge. This week's big story on the Kentucky Derby trail makes things both interesting and confusing. I Want Revenge moved from California to New York to crush an average field in the Gotham Stakes. The competition wasn't much, but the way he handled dirt the first time he saw it was impressive - he won by 8.5 lengths. The confusion comes from his time in California - he had narrowly lost his last two races to the highly regarded Pioneerof The Nile. The Gotham win makes that horse look very good, except that we have no idea how Pioneer will handle dirt. This confusion is one of many reasons I hate synthetic surfaces.
J - Joba Chamberlain. This should be the year that Chamberlain has a true breakthrough. To do that, though, he'll have to pitch much, much better than he has in spring training. Chamberlain started as the Yankees played Team Canada, but he only lasted through five hitters. He walked four of them and had absolutely no control before getting the hook. That was his second spring appearance. The bad news is that it was only marginally worse than his first one.
K - Kansas. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Jayhawks. Apparently, no one told that to the Jayhawks. Kansas didn't look great in non-conference play, but they found their form in the Big 12, and would up winning the conference title. Incredibly, it was their fifth straight regular season title, and their ninth in the 13-year history of the Big 12. I'm not optimistic about this team in the tournament this year, but their future is ridiculously bright - they recruit extremely well, and they don't have a single senior playing meaningful minutes.
L - Lewis, Ray. Lewis didn't have the smooth, lucrative run in free agency that he was probably expecting, but in the end he wound up right where he should be. Lewis will be back with the Ravens, and he will almost certainly end his career there now. Baltimore will have a new defensive coordinator, and Lewis won't have Bart Scott beside him anymore, but the Ravens still have the makings of a stout defensive squad that should make some noise.
M - Marian Hossa. The Red Wings had a very scary moment on Tuesday night. Leading goal scorer Marian Hossa was carted off the ice on a stretcher after being checked headfirst into the boards. It obviously looked ugly in the short term, but the prognosis is positive - after being checked out at the hospital Hossa left town with the team. He's day-to-day, but the Red Wings could sure use him back - after barely getting by Colorado in the first game without Hossa the Wings were humiliated at home by Columbus, 8-2, on Saturday.
N - North Carolina. The Tar Heels had some rough spots through the season, but they ended things well and wound up as ACC champs again. Their season ended at home against rivals Duke on Sunday, and they earned their second win of the season over the Blue Devils. It was Tyler Hansbrough's last home game. He didn't quite reach his season averages in points or rebounds, but he still played well and was a key part of the win. Needless to say, UNC will miss him.
O - Oklahoma. It's getting harder and harder to believe that the Sooners have a deep tournament run in them. They have the best player in the country, and one of the top freshmen as well, but they are showing weakness. After winning 13 straight games Oklahoma has lost three of their last five. This week they finished with a win over Oklahoma State, but that followed a discouraging loss against Missouri. The Tigers are a solid team, but Oklahoma should be better than a nine-point loss.
P - Penguins. Pittsburgh is absolutely red hot. After struggling for much of the season and falling out of playoff contention the Pens have won six in a row and are 8-1-1 in their last 10. They capped it with a shootout win over their not-so-friendly rivals from Washington. Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal in the shootout, and newly acquired Bill Guerin added a goal and two assists. Crosby has three points plus the shootout winner in two games since returning from injury.
Q - Quit. Now would be a good time for Bobby Bowden to quit. He's only a figurehead coach anyway, and his team is pretty clearly out of control. The Seminoles will lose scholarships and face four years in probation after a major cheating scandal hit the team. More significantly, the team will be forced to vacate all of the wins in which players involved in the scandal played in 2006 and 2007. Bowden was just one win behind Joe Paterno on the all-time list, but this will give Penn State's geezer a nice cushion.
R - Ramirez, Manny. The drama is over. It took forever, but in the end Ramirez wound up in the only place he could have gone - with the Dodgers. He didn't get a four-year contract or the $100 million he wanted, but the $43 million he'll make over two years in Chavez Ravine should be enough to keep him out of the poor house. The move makes all sorts of sense for both sides - Manny has a good chance to win and make the playoffs, and the Dodgers secure their position as division favorites with the signing.
S - Stardom Bound. The top three year old filly in the country got yet another win in a big stakes race, but the margin was tight - probably tight enough to knock her off the trail to the Kentucky Derby. As was her pattern, Stardom Bound found herself at the back of the field on the back stretch. She unleashed her move around the final turn, went way wide to find the room she needed, and got up to the lead just before the wire. It wasn't as visually impressive as other wins, but she covered far more distance than any other horse in the race, and the gain showed her incredible class. She'll probably head for the Kentucky Oaks, but I'm still hoping for the Derby.
T - Trade deadline. The NHL trade deadline passed on Wednesday. It probably went mostly unnoticed in the U.S., but in Canada it's almost a national holiday. A Canadian squad, the Calgary Flames, was the biggest winners on the day. They added a top forward in Olli Jokinen and a solid puck moving defenseman in Jordan Leopold, and they didn't have to give up much of real value to get either of them. The Bruins, Rangers, and Penguins also improved themselves and their playoff chances.
U - UFC 96. Another UFC event is in the books, and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson emerged as the big winner. He didn't score a decisive win over Keith Jardine, but he earned more points to get the decision. Jackson is now in line to face light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans for a chance to get his title back. Elsewhere on the card, heavyweight Shane Carwin had an impressive knockout of Gabriel Gonzaga, and Gray Maynard ripped apart Jim Miller.
V - Vu, deja. We've seen this one before. Pitt played the No. 1 ranked UConn Huskies this week, and the Panthers emerged as the winners. The margin was eight points last time around, and 10 this time. Huskies' fans can't be thrilled about the result, but they can take consolation in one thing - Hasheem Thabeet at least showed up this time after being a no-show in the first game. This game was the battle of the Titans in the Big East, but neither won the conference title. Instead, Louisville won their last seven to wind up on top of the tough heap.
W - Warner, Kurt. The ageless QB wonder flirted with the 49ers this week, but in the end he wound up back where he belongs. Warner signed a two-year contract with Arizona, and with a little luck will be able to end his career starting games in the desert. Warner will still have his biggest weapon around in Larry Fitzgerald, and made yet another plea to get Anquan Boldin back in the fold. That might not happen, but ether way the signing of Warner ensures that the ball will fly in Arizona and the team will be fun to watch.
X - Xavier. It was another frustrating week for the mascots of the column. They started out with an impressive win over Dayton, the second best team in the A-10. They couldn't carry that momentum, though - they lost their final game at the decidedly average Richmond Spiders. Xavier won the conference, finished the season ranked, and is a tournament lock, but it sure would be nice to see them make a big statement in the A-10 tournament. They have lost four of their final eight games, so a decisive performance in the tourney would be a good sign of their readiness for the Big Dance.
Y - Yikes. Remember when Kentucky used to be a good team? With their tournament fate in their own hands, they lost eight of their last 11 games, including the final four. This week they had a particularly brutal and heartless loss at home to Georgia, and followed it up by losing to Florida in a game that could have saved them. The Wildcats are probably headed to the NIT, and Billy Gillispie has a very uncomfortable offseason ahead of him.
Z - Zzzzz. I'm bored of A-Rod. First we get inundated with endless steroid talk thanks to his youthful stupidity, and now we get to hear about nothing but his hip and it's status. He needs surgery, then he doesn't. He's going to treated, then he's just going to try rehab. He'll be out six weeks, or he'll be out for three months. It never ends. It's truly a shame that a guy this freakishly talented can't just keep his nose clean and let his play speak for him.