This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 02/16/2009
A - Arizona. The state of Arizona officially owns UCLA. The Bruins lost to both the Sun Devils and the Wildcats this week. That gives the Bruins just one win versus the state - at home against Arizona - this year. UCLA has showed some bright spots along the way, but unless something changes in the next couple of weeks they could provide real tournament value as a bet against - the public loves them and will assume that they are as good as they have been in recent years. They really aren't.
B - Blake Griffin. It would take something truly catastrophic to cost Griffin the National Player of the Year award at this point. He didn't need to make a statement this week, but he did anyway. In the best game played by him or any player all year, Griffin had 40 points and 23 rebounds to pretty much single-handedly dismantle Texas Tech. It was his 22nd double-double of the year. There isn't a team in the country that isn't terrified of facing him and the Oklahoma Sooners in March. There likely isn't one that has an answer for him, either.
C - Chocolate Candy. A pair of Northern California horse racing legends might just have a Kentucky Derby winner on their hands. Chocolate Candy looked like a seasoned pro in capturing the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday. He faced several challenges, but he showed a ton of fight in getting past them. His jockey, Russell Baze, is racing's all-time win leader. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is the unquestioned king of northern California racing, winning so many training titles that it's a joke. The two have combined for literally thousands of wins.
D - Daequan Cook. If you believed the commentators for the NBA Skills Competition then Cook didn't belong in the three-point shootout. Of course, if you watched two seconds of the competition then you'd realize that the commentators were morons. Cook looked very much at home in the event, forcing a playoff in the event and then emerging with a convincing win. It wasn't the most star-studded field ever, and none of the shooters had a particularly good day, but Cook won fair and square. At this point Cook is the most decorated member of that Ohio State powerhouse. That's not how that was supposed to turn out.
E - Eastern Conference. The NBA All-Star Game was yet more proof of what has been clear for several years now - the East has some nice players, but they can't touch the depth or overall talent of the West. The West rolled over the East in the all-star affair, and Shaq and Kobe, in some bizarre karmic twist, shared the MVP award. Each man has now won that honor three different times, though this is the first time that it has been such a pathetically obvious PR move.
F - Favre, Brett. Ding dong, the witch is dead! Favre retired this week. Again. The difference is that this time it really feels like it is going to stick. In his press conference he didn't go as far as to say that he had made a terrible, ego-fueled mistake, but he certainly hinted at it. The Jets have to be relieved both that he decided to pack it in, and that he did it so soon after the season ended. Now Rex Ryan gets to start with a clean slate. For now Kellen Clemens is penciled in as the starter, but Marc Bulger's days are numbered in St. Louis and I think he'd look darned good in green.
G - Green, Mike. The Washington Capitals defenseman set an impressive record this week when he became the first defenseman ever to score in eight straight games. He had 10 goals over the stretch. Green, who is 29, has had a remarkable offensive year. He has 22 goals, which already eclipses his career high of 18. He's also +28, which shows that he hasn't found his offensive chops at the expensive of his defensive discipline. The Capitals are very good, and Green is a big part of the reason - they are 13-4-2 when he scores.
H - Hasheem Thabeet. I haven't been particularly convinced by Thabeet. He's massive, and his reach is stunning, but I haven't believed that his game matches his size. It's getting harder and harder to hold my opinion, though. Thabeet had a huge game on the weekend against Seton Hall, ending up just one block from a triple-double, with 25 points and 20 boards. He's averaging a double-double, and is the leader of a very good team. Their Monday night showdown with Pitt will be one of the more interesting and informative meetings of recent weeks.
I - Irish. Coming into their game on Thursday, Louisville was looking like a very good, and fast rising, Big East power, while Notre Dame was quickly sliding into oblivion. College basketball is the domain of the unexpected, though, so it shouldn't be much surprise that the Irish absolutely dismantled the Cardinals. Notre Dame won by 33, led by Luke Harangody with 32 points and 17 boards. No Louisville player managed more than 11 points. Louisville quickly shook off the humiliation by crushing DePaul by 45 on Sunday.
J - Jerome Dyson. UConn is playing as well as any team in the country right now, but their road to cutting down the nets got much more difficult this week when Jerome Dyson went down with a knee injury. Dyson, a junior guard, was second on the team in scoring when he went down. It's not absolutely certain, but it seems likely that the injury will end his season. Beyond his offense, Dyson's biggest contribution was the experience earned from three years as a starter. He provided calm stability for a team that can look frenzied at times.
K - Krypto-Nate. The NBA Slam Dunk Contest was supposed to be a coronation for defending champ Dwight Howard. Superman was solid, but he didn't have an answer for the five-foot wonder from the Knicks. Robinson trailed badly in the preliminary round, but clinched his title but dunking right over Howard. Critics will say that Howard leaned forward a bit, and that Robinson used Howard's shoulder for lift. but considering that Robinson is 5'9" and Howard is 6'11" it was still incredibly impressive. Howard's highlight was when he raised a rim to 12 feet and then dunked on it with incredible ease. He looked like he could have dunked on a 14-foot rim.
L - Lance. Here's proof that thieves are stupid enough to steal pretty much anything that isn't nailed down. Lance Armstrong's time trial bike was stolen from a truck at the Tour of California. It was at the back of the truck because Armstrong had been held up by an extra doping test. The bike is one of a kind, so it will be extremely difficult to unload. Armstrong is offering a reward, and hopes to have it back for Friday when he needs it next. My guess is that it will miraculously and anonymously appear in lots of time.
M - Matt Kenseth. The most boring man in NASCAR benefited from an incredible set of circumstances to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday despite starting way back in 39th. Kyle Busch was on course to run away with the event after leading 88 laps before an overly aggressive move by Dale Earnhardt triggered a nine-car crash that took him out. Kenseth soon found his way to the lead in the depleted field. He got there just in time for a major rainstorm to end the race 48 laps short. The whole affair wasn't the boost that NASCAR desperately needs after a rough offseason.
N - North Carolina. The first round of the battle for North Carolina state bragging rights and ACC supremacy went down on Wednesday, and it was the Tar Heels that came out ahead of Duke. The game played out about like an impartial observer would have guessed - Duke played well, and Kyle Single was very good, but the Blue Devils couldn't answer the depth and determination that the Tar Heels could toss at them. North Carolina has now won nine in a row. They may not be the powerhouse that they were expected to be, but they are certainly finding the form that will make them dangerous in March.
O - O'Neal, Jermaine. Just a few months ago O'Neal said that he was excited to be joining Chris Bosh in Toronto, and that he expected big things. Now he has played his way out of town. He and Bosh couldn't find any chemistry, and now O'Neal is with the Heat. Miami now has a new O'Neal to play pretty much exactly the role that their last O'Neal did. That worked pretty well for a while. Toronto gets Shawn Marion in exchange. Or rather, Toronto gets to rent Shawn Marion and then enjoy his massive expiring contract. Jamario Moon was also sent to Miami. He is as bad at selecting shots as any player in the league, but he's high energy and exciting, and can mostly replace what the lackadaisical Marion had been providing this year.
P - Penguins, Pittsburgh. After a humiliating loss to the pathetic Maple Leafs on Saturday night the Penguins did what they should have done long ago - they fired coach Michel Therrien. He's just eight months removed from the Stanley Cup Finals, but his brash style clearly clashed with the team's talent, and the team was wasting an opportunity. Pittsburgh followed a recent trend in promoting their AHL coach, Dan Bylsma, to run the team for the rest of the year. Bylsma only retired from the NHL in 2004, but he's had a quick and impressive rise through the coaching ranks, and stands a good chance of connecting with the impressive slate of young talent now at his disposal.
Q - Quarters, General. The Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs produced an unlikely Derby contender and a massive exotic payoff on Saturday. General Quarters came from nowhere to win in very convincing style over a decent though undistinguished field of three year olds. General Quarters paid $29 to win, and Sumo was second at 33/1, so the exacta paid a whopping $893.80 on a $2 bet. You don't need to hit too many of those to make a profit.
R - Ridiculous. Marshawn Lynch is truly an idiot. The Buffalo running back celebrated his 1,000-yard season by getting arrested in California for possessing an illegal handgun. This is far from Lynch's first brush with the law, but he shows no sign of learning from his past mistakes. You'd also think that NFL players would have learned to leave your gun at home after the whole Plaxico Burress mess. Too much to hope for, I guess.
S - Stephen Curry. Davidson is getting ready for another tournament run, but they hit a roadblock this week - superstar Stephen Curry left Saturday's game after 29 minutes with a sprained ankle. He had 25 points already, and Davidson rolled to a win, but they could struggle to keep winning if Curry was out for any time. That seems unlikely, though - the X-rays were clear on Sunday, so the damage should be short-term.
T - Terry Porter. There are some bad coaches in the NBA, but ego-freak Porter has to be near the top of the list. Porter took over a team that needed a boost, but which did a lot things right. Instead of building on those strengths, Porter overhauled the team, tried to make the personnel do what they didn't have the skills or desire to do, took the ball out of the hands of the best point guard in the league, and alienated pretty much every player in town. That's a lot to accomplish in just a few months. Now Porter is out, Alvin Gentry is in, and perhaps there is hope in the desert again.
U - Ugly weather. Rain washed out the final round at Pebble Beach on Sunday. 24-year-old Dustin Johnson has a four-stroke lead as he attempts to join Anthony Kim as the only guys under 25 with multiple tour wins. Canadian vet Mike Weir leads the charge behind Johnson. Notable for his continued disappointing play was Phil Mickelson. He made the cut, but he still hasn't shown even a glimmer of his potential this year. At a time when more and more players are hitting the gym hard, maybe it's time for Mickelson to pump some iron. What he's doing now doesn't seem to be working.
V - Vick, Michael. Some truly ridiculous news came out of Atlanta this week. Word is that the Falcons are trying to trade Vick's rights. Good luck with that. Vick will eventually end up back in the league somewhere, but a team would have to be incredibly stupid to give up anything more than a bag of used balls for him at this point. Appearing eager to get Vick would be a PR nightmare, and overpaying for him would be indefensible.
W - West Virginia. The topsy-turvy confusion of the Big East continued this week when West Virginia rolled over Villanova by 21 points on Friday. Villanova was looking like a developing power after stringing together six impressive wins, while the Mountaineers had struggled to four losses in six games. There is real strength at the top of the league, but beyond that it seems like any team can beat any other at any time.
X - Xavier. It was a second straight rough week for the mascots of our column. After losing at Duquesne in inexplicable fashion last week, they lost again this week. This loss came at Dayton, though, so it is much more respectable than the last one. Xavier bounced back with a lopsided win over pathetic Fordham. Dayton and Xavier are now tied atop the A-10, with Dayton holding the advantage pending their rematch on March 5. Both teams are almost certain to dance.
Y - Yikes. Kevin Durant probably should have been in the All-Star Game this year, and he made sure that everyone noticed that he was slighted. He started the all-star weekend by dominating the rookie-sophomore game, scoring 46 points to lead his squad to a win over Michael Beasley and the rookies. As if that wasn't enough, Durant went out the next day and beat O.J. Mayo and Joe Johnson to win the first H-O-R-S-E competition to be held as part of the festivities. Here's a newsflash - Durant is very, very good.
Z - Zzzzz. Butler has put together a pretty good year, but they were obviously asleep on Saturday night. That's the only way to explain their loss to Loyola on Saturday. The Ramblers were just 5-11 coming in, and had lost six straight Horizon League games, so they had absolutely no business going to Butler and coming out with a win. Hopefully this loss will be a wake-up call for the Bulldogs. But then the loss to Wisconsin - Green Bay two weeks ago should have been a wake up call that would help them avoid a loss like this one.