This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 02/09/2009
A - Autographs. Signing day has come and gone in college football, and LSU and Alabama came out the big winners. The whole thing is really a strange phenomenon - we get tense, thrilled, or crushed by the news of what colleges a bunch of 17-year-old guys decide to go to. It seems ridiculous - or at least I would think it was if my beloved Michigan hadn't managed to pull in a Top 10 class. The No. 1 prospect, running back Bryce Brown of Wichita, gave the rebuilding Hurricanes a huge boost by choosing Miami.
B - Bogut, Andrew. The Milwaukee Bucks really can't catch a break. They were just trying to figure out how to live without Michael Redd for the rest of the season when they were dealt another blow. Bogut, the former No. 1 pick, has a stress fracture in his back that will keep him out for at least two months. The team dropped out of the playoff hunt right after the latest loss, and it's hard to imagine them turning things around - losing both your top scorer and your top rebounder is a significant blow.
C - Clemson. Teams in the ACC just can't handle success. The Tigers made a big statement earlier in the week by absolutely destroying Duke. It was the worst loss in 20 years for the Blue Devils. That result combined with the lackluster play from UNC and the bad loss by Wake Forest arguably perched Clemson on top of the conference. It didn't last. Clemson did what ACC teams do best - they came out flat following a big win and lost to an inferior team. In this case it was Florida State that stole the momentum.
D - Durant, Kevin. It was the 2007 No. 1 draft pick versus No. 2 when Durant and Oklahoma City played Portland and Greg Oden. As recent form would suggest, it wasn't a fair fight. Oden had just four points and two rebounds and looked nothing like the superstar-lock he is supposed to be. Durant, on the other hand, channeled Michael Jordan as he lead his team to a win by scoring 31 points. He has now scored more than 30 points in each of his four February games.
E - Elton Brand. Brand was supposed to revolutionize the 76ers when he shocked the Clippers by moving to Philly. It hasn't worked out that way at all. Philly is hanging on to a playoff spot, but it's not particularly thanks to Brand. His offensive production is far below expectations, and he hasn't blended well with the Sixers' style. And now he's gone. Brand has had shoulder surgery that has ended his season. Hopefully next year works out much better.
F - Flop? A few years ago, Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats gave up the chance to pick Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay to take Gonzaga star Adam Morrison with their third overall pick. Now they have just given up on him. Morrison and Shannon Brown, another first round disappointment, were sent to the Lakers this week in exchange for Vladimir Radmanovic. The deal isn't going to be a difference maker for either team, but it's likely just the first of many moves for Charlotte because coach Larry Brown has never met a player he wouldn't rather trade.
G - Green Bay. Butler is a highly-regarded team that was supposed to roll through the underwhelming Horizon League. But then they ran into Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Phoenix had only previously beaten two ranked teams in their entire history, but they looked like old pros as they easily handled the Bulldogs at home. Guard Ryan Tillema leads' a potent Green Bay offense, and he stepped up in a big way, scoring 21 points including 18 in the second half. Butler bounced back nicely with two road wins in a rare three-game week.
H - Haley, Todd. The Steelers might have the hardware, but Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley is perhaps the biggest winner of the NFL playoffs. Before the postseason, Haley was just another solid coordinator that few casual fans had ever heard of. An improbable playoff run changed all that, and now Haley is the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have been lousy for too long, but it's a good job for Haley - with Scott Pioli in town and $5 million in cap space, the future is fairly bright for the Chiefs.
I - Ignition. It took a while, but Mats Sundin is finally showing glimpses of the reason that so many teams wanted him to join them. After tallying just three points in his first nine games, Sundin has had five in his last two outings. It's no coincidence that Vancouver has won both of those games after losing eight in a row. The Canucks are locked in a ridiculously tough fight for a playoff spot, and Sundin is probably the biggest key to them earning one other than the play of goalie Roberto Luongo.
J - Joe Calzaghe. The 36-year-old Welsh fighter has chosen to go out on top. Calzaghe has retired with a perfect 46-0 record. He held the super middleweight title for 10 years before moving up to light heavyweight to face Roy Jones Jr. for his last fight and biggest payday. He says that there will be no comeback, but this is boxing so that's obviously not true. He would need just three more wins to tie Rocky Marciano at 49-0, and he obviously still has lots of game, so I expect to see him again.
K - Knicks. Someone in the NBA office obviously doesn't like Knicks, because they had the hardest week a team could have. They hosted the Lakers, Cavs, and Celtics, and then traveled to play Portland. It pretty much goes without saying that they had a winless week. They did succeed in making their opponents look good, though - Kobe Bryant scored a Madison Square Gardens record 61 points, and LeBron James had 52 points and was one rebound away from a triple-double. New York has a much easier road in their next five, including the Warriors, Clippers, and two with lowly Toronto.
L - Lakers. The Lakers didn't just flex their muscles in New York. The whole week was an impressive show of strength for Kobe and company. They earned another regular season win against the Celtics, then they dealt Cleveland their first home loss to finish off their six-game road trip without a blemish. There is still a lot of time left in the season, and regular season success doesn't always translate to postseason glory, but L.A. decidedly asserted themselves as the team to beat this week.
M - Marquette. The don't-call-them-Warriors were an unlikely choice to be the last unbeaten Big East team, but they held that distinction until earlier this week. They fell from glory in embarrassing fashion, though, by giving South Florida just their third conference win in 10 tries. They might want to get used to losing, because their conference schedule is definitely back-loaded, and it ends with a brutal four-game run - UConn, Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse.
N - New England. To the surprise of no one, the New England Patriots have applied the franchise tag to Matt Cassel. That doesn't mean that they have decided to keep him around, of course. It just means that they maintain his rights, so they can trade him away for real value instead of just getting a compensatory pick if he left on his own. As long as Tom Brady appears reasonably healthy, Cassel will have a new address reasonably soon. The Pats will get a good price, too - a team might as well trade their No. 1 pick for Cassel instead of using it on a riskier, less experienced QB in the draft.
O - Ottawa. The Senators made a coaching change last week, but it didn't have an immediate impact on their play. Rookie head coach Cory Clouston got his first career win with a shootout victory on Saturday night, but that followed two more losses for the struggling team. This is one of those cases where it is hard to see how the new coach can succeed because the old problems are still there in full force - the defense can't move the puck, the offense is moody and ineffective, and the goaltending is barely adequate.
P - Pioneerof the Nile. The Kentucky Derby is still more than two and a half months away, and that's an eternity in the world of horse racing. The early stars of this solid-looking class of three year olds is emerging, though. Among them is Pioneerof the Nile, an impressive horse with an unfortunately spelled name. The Bob Baffert-trainee handled a good field in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita this weekend to book a ticket for the Santa Anita Derby. He looks great, but the big concern is that he won't have a dirt prep race before the Derby. That scares me.
Q - Queen of the track. Zenyatta is still the queen of the track, but Stardom Bound is the princess, and she's making a claim for the top job. Last year's winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies returned to action this weekend in the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita, and she was an impressive winner. So impressive, in fact, that she is next going to face the boys in the Santa Anita Derby with an eye on the Kentucky Derby. That's the same path that Winning Colors, the last filly to win the Derby, took.
R - Rodriguez, Alex. What an idiot. A-Rod could have been the undisputed king of the record books for eternity, but instead he's just another guy who tainted his legacy with steroid use. The revelation of his positive test in 2003 came in shady circumstances, but it doesn't take away from the fact that it happened. Now he faces a season of distractions to overcome, and we face yet another mega-star who has forced us to question everything he has ever done.
S - Stars. Dallas has made a remarkable turnaround. In the middle of December they were well below .500, struggling badly, and the playoffs seemed like a pipe dream. Two months later they are in fifth place and looking very good. They are a very solid 15-5-3 over that time, and are not a team that anyone would want to play in the playoffs. This is a good story, but it can't come as a surprise - this is a very talented team that was grossly underachieving early in the year, so their current surge is really only a result of them playing to their potential. They are making it fun to watch, too - they whipped the Rangers 10-2 this week.
T - Tigers. Memphis isn't nearly the high-profile team that they were last year, but they served notice that they shouldn't be ignored with a statement win on Saturday. The Tigers traveled to Spokane and crushed Gonzaga by 18 points. Gonzaga's 50 points were the fewest of the season, and it raises real concerns for the Cinderella of the northwest. Freshman guard Tyreke Evans had a big game, and is rapidly growing into his big reputation.
U - UConn. The Huskies climbed to the No. 1 spot in the rankings for the first time this week, and they look like they plan to stay there. They celebrated their ascension by smacking down Louisville in Louisville. It was a balanced and dominating win. The Huskies followed that up with a win against Michigan that was closer than it should have been. Michigan had a lead at the half and held on for quite a while before the Huskies pulled away. They'll have to tighten their focus against lesser opponents by tournament time.
V - Villanova. The Wildcats have won five in a row, and their last one was particularly stylish. They got into a shootout with Syracuse, broke the century mark with 102 points, and beat Syracuse by 17 points. They had 94 points in the previous game, so this isn't a team afraid of going offensive. Senior Dante Cunningham is a big reason why the Wildcats are surprisingly good, and he came through with a huge game against the Orange - 31 points and 10 boards.
W - Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have a great name and some impressive talent. If they could only find some consistency then they'd be dangerous. They followed up their victory over Duke two weeks back with two losses in a row to teams they should have rolled over - Georgia Tech and Miami. Before things snowballed into a real slump, though, they came back on Saturday and crushed Boston College.
X - Xavier. It should have been another easy, satisfying week for the mascots of our column. All they had to do was beat Temple and Duquesne, two overmatched A-10 rivals. The first half of that challenge went well, but the Duquesne game wasn't nearly as successful. Laziness led them to a 15-point halftime deficit, and their hustle and determination only allowed them to eliminate 11 of those points in the second half. The loss won't hurt Xavier's tournament hopes, but it opens the door for St. Joseph's in the hunt for the conference title.
Y - Yawn. Absolutely nothing about this year's Pro Bowl did anything to change my opinion about the game. It's a lame animal with no hope for recovery that needs to be taken behind the barn and shot. It takes months of diligent effort to install the offensive and defensive systems that make football so fun to watch, so it's almost impossible for teams to create a system in just a week that can make a game watchable or worthwhile.
Z - Zoom. NASCAR returned unofficially this weekend when Kevin Harvick won the Budweiser Shootout. Not surprisingly given that the sport is built with strong reliance on the car industry, NASCAR is not in good shape right now. Far from it. Teams are short of sponsors, staff is being laid off, and a major sporting success story has quickly turned into a financial nightmare. There should be even more changes ahead before things get sorted out.