This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 02/23/2009
A - Alston, Rafer. Not surprisingly, the NBA trade deadline was pretty much a bust this year - lots of talk, but little action. You know it was devoid of big stories when Rafer Alston is the big name on the move. He wound up in Orlando. He might not be a huge name, but it's a good deal for the Magic - Alston is a serviceable replacement for the injured Jameer Nelson and gives them a fighting chance of salvaging a promising season.
B - Boilermakers. Purdue has struggled to live up to expectations at times this year, and injuries have created headaches, but on Tuesday they delivered a strong message that they are ready for March. They could easily have survived a home loss to Michigan State, but instead they delivered an epic beating. Purdue won by 18, and their sturdy defense limited the Spartans to a season-low 54 points. The Spartans are still in the lead in the conference, but this puts Purdue right in position to pick up the pieces if the Spartans falter.
C - Curry, Stephen. It's quite possible that there isn't a team in the country that is more reliant on one player than Davidson is on Curry. He missed a game this week with a sprained ankle, and the Wildcats were run over by The Citadel. The team scored 32 fewer points than their season average, so they obviously missed Curry's 29 points per game. On Saturday, Curry was back to play Butler, but he was far from his best. Again, Davidson lost badly. It comes down to this - Curry is 100 percent, or Davidson goes home very early in March.
D - Dunkirk. Another week, another three-year-old thoroughbred emerges as a star. Dunkirk has yet to run in a stakes race, but he won an allowance race at Gulfstream so emphatically on Thursday that there is little doubt that he is a star. That doesn't come as much of a surprise in this case - his owner's paid $3.7 million for him as a yearling, so he had both immense talent and high expectations. He's likely only to run in the Florida Derby between now and the Kentucky Derby, so traditionalists will be concerned by his incredible lack of seasoning.
E - Esmailyn Gonzalez. Don't know who Gonzalez is? Neither do the Washington Nationals, apparently, and they own his rights. They signed Gonzalez as a 16-year-old three years ago from the Dominican Republic. It emerged this week, though, that Gonzalez wasn't actually his real name, and that he was actually three years older than he said he was. This hadn't been discovered up until now even though MLB investigates the age of every player before they are signed. Oops. The Nats can at least look on the bright side in one sense - their prospect might be an old liar, but at least he's not on steroids.
F - Foot. Michael Crabtree is the top offensive talent in the upcoming NFL Draft in many eyes, so the news surrounding him this week has to be concerning for many teams. A nagging stress fracture in his foot has caused him to skip the Combine, and it will need surgery. Strangely, Crabtree has announced that he will delay the surgery so that he can run for scouts at his Pro Day. It's obvious what the guy can do in a game, so it will be interesting to how this situation affects him on draft day.
G - Griffey. Junior will again be the king of Seattle. In a very astute move, Ken Griffey Jr. has decided to presumably end his career in the place where it all began, and where he was clearly at his best. Griffey needed a fresh start, the Mariners needed a designated hitter who can play the field if needed, and Seattle fans needed a reason to care about a team that has been very hard to love recently. It's really the perfect deal.
H - Howard, Dwight. You should keep an eye on this guy - he could be pretty good one day. Howard found a couple of new ways to wow us this week. First, he single-handedly dismantled Charlotte by scoring 45 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocks. Never since blocks have been officially recorded has a player had that many blocks, points and boards in a single game. He also tied Shaq's franchise record on that night with his 18th-consecutive double-double. Unfortunately, Howard couldn't break the record next time out, falling two rebounds short.
I - Idiot. Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be the most popular driver in NASCAR, but he certainly isn't the most frequent visitor to the winner's circle. He also has a special talent for doing things that truly annoy those around him. For once, though, Earnhardt was repentant for his actions. He apologized this week for clearly causing the wreck that knocked nine cars out of the Daytona 500 and essentially gave Matt Kenseth the win. I'm sure Kyle Busch feels much better now.
J - John Salmons. Salmons is a talented scorer who hasn't got nearly the credit he deserves because he was stuck in Sacramento. He was much coveted leading up to the deadline, and it was the Bulls who ended up with him. For Chicago he, along with Brad Miller, were consolation prizes for being unable to land Amare Stoudemire or Chris Bosh. It's a brilliant move for the Bulls - they land two pieces that fill real needs, and they didn't have to give up too much to get them. It doesn't make the Bulls an instant contender, but it increases their chances of securing a playoff spot significantly.
K - Kenseth, Matt. Mr. Personality strikes again. There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup races this year, and Matt Kenseth has won both of them. Kenseth is no stranger to success - he was the 2003 champion - but he was winless last year, so this is an impressive rediscovery of form. 1997 was the last year that a driver opened the season with two victories, and Jeff Gordon went on to win the title that year. Kenseth isn't the only hot driver at the moment - Kyle Busch became the first driver to ever win two races on the same day when he won the Truck series and Nationwide series race on Saturday.
L - Leach, Mike. It was a very strange drama that played out in Lubbock over the last couple of weeks, but it's finally over, and it ended like it should have. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach doesn't get along with his athletic director and it almost cost him his job. He had an extension negotiated, it didn't get signed, his agents went over the AD's head and alienated the university's administration in the process, and the Red Raiders almost ended up without one of the better coaches in the game.
M - Miguel Cotto. The weekend in boxing featured two big matches, and both were extremely one-sided. Cotto bounced back from a loss to the now disgraced Antonio Margarito by annihilating relatively unknown Michael Jennings. Cotto knocked Jennings down twice in the fourth and once more in the fifth before the ref stopped the fight. Kelly Pavlik also had a rough loss to bounce back from - Bernard Hopkins in his case. After nine rounds all convincingly won by Pavlik, opponent Marco Antonio Rubio refused to get off the stool to start the 10th.
N - No deal. Tyson Chandler had a busy week. He was a Hornet, then he was with the Thunder, then he was a Hornet again. He was traded to Oklahoma City to provide some much-needed support for Kevin Durant and some salary cap relief for New Orleans. The Thunder's doctors wouldn't give Chandler medical clearance, though, so the trade was rescinded. That had to lead to some awkward moments when Chandler went back to his original team.
O - Oklahoma. The Sooners had the No. 1 ranking in the palm of their hands. All they had to do was beat Texas on Saturday. As is so often the case, though, things didn't work out anywhere near to the way they were supposed to. Blake Griffin had his bell rung early in the game and missed most of the action with a suspected concussion. His status is unclear for the next game. Oklahoma couldn't overcome Griffin's absence, and Texas won. On the plus side, the No. 1 ranking has been a curse, so the Sooners have saved themselves from that.
P - Pitt. The No. 1 curse struck again. UConn had a chance to show that they were the clear class of college basketball this year, but they couldn't get past the Panthers. Hasheem Thabeet was the biggest name in the game, but he was basically irrelevant. Instead, it was Pitt sophomore forward DeJuan Blair that made the big statement in the game, scoring 22 points and adding a gaudy 23 rebounds. The big win and the losses in front of them should earn Pitt a shot at the top ranking.
Q - Quite timely. Phil Mickelson had had a pretty ugly spring, but he found his form this week to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. It wasn't a consistent week - the first and third rounds he put up were stellar, but his second and fourth were pedestrian. Mickelson got the win just in time, because his nemesis, Tiger Woods is returning to action next week. Mickelson hasn't been staring down Tiger very successfully for the last couple of years.
R - Return. Tiger is back. Almost. The world's best golfer has ensured that the Match Play, which starts Wednesday, will be an absolute media circus by announcing this is where he will make his much-anticipated return from injury. It makes good sense - Tiger is very comfortable with the format, having won three times including last year. He'd have to play more than in a normal tournament if he goes all the way, but the matches are fast, can be shorter than normal, and are generally less strenuous. There will be rust, but it will still be hard to bet against him.
S - Stoudemire, Amare. The Suns can't get a break. It's hard to know if they decided against trading Stoudemire because they came to their senses and realized they wouldn't get anything approximating value for him, or because they couldn't get the kind of offer they wanted. I think they did the right thing either way, but it was followed by a very bad break - Stoudemire suffered a detached retina against the Clippers on Wednesday, and the required surgical correction will likely keep him out of action for the rest of the year. That pretty much writes off any chances of salvaging this season that Phoenix had.
T - Terrapins. Maryland had a virtually impossible task on Saturday, but they didn't seem bothered by it at all. The Terps were down by 16 in the second half against North Carolina, but they fought back to tie the game in regulation and win in overtime. The unquestioned star was Greivis Vasquez. He had Maryland's first triple-double in 22 years, with a career-high 35 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Maryland had troubles earlier in the ACC season, but this win should likely take them off the bubble for good.
U - UFC 95. The latest event from the UFC was available for free, but it was mostly worth paying for. Diego Sanchez beat Joe Stevenson in the main event - a battle between winners of The Ultimate Fighter. It was Sanchez' lightweight debut, and sets him up well for a future in the weight class if he can make the weight. Nate Marquardt, Demian Maia, and Josh Koscheck also had nice wins on the card. Perhaps the most impressive performance was by heavyweight Junior dos Santos. He proved his knockout of Fabricio Werdum last time out was no fluke by demolishing Stefan Struve in less than a minute.
V - Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are red hot, having won eight of their last nine games. That's an impressive turnaround for a team that had won just one of their previous 11 games. Unfortunately, Calgary is winning ahead of them as well, so the Canucks still sit eight points out of the division lead. The most dramatic and emotional win came on Saturday in Toronto. Mats Sundin returned to the building where he was much loved for 13 years, and he scored the shootout goal that gave his new team the win.
W - Washington State. The Cougars came into their game against UCLA on Saturday at just 13-13 and having won just once in 52 previous games in L.A., so it should have been an easy day for the Bruins. Instead, guard Taylor Rochestie erupted for a career-high 33 points, including 14 of his team's last 16, and the Cougars emerged with an unlikely one-point victory. The Bruins are still a lock for the tournament, but they certainly don't have the air of invincibility around them that they have had the last few years.
X - Xavier. It was another frustrating week for the mascots of our column. They beat up on George Washington on Sunday, but that followed a five-point loss at Charlotte on Thursday. That was their third loss in four games, and all have come on the road. The cause of the unexpected slide isn't particularly clear, though key players like B.J. Armstrong and Terrell Holloway haven't been playing nearly as well as they should be at this point in the season.
Y - Yikes. You might guess that the Celtics would be lost without Kevin Garnett. Well, now we'll get a chance to find out. Garnett suffered an injury this week that is likely to keep him out of action for two or three weeks. The problem is a muscle in his right knee. Something like this is never a good thing, but as long as it doesn't prove to be a serious injury it could actually be a blessing in disguise - the team doesn't need to win to secure their position in the division, and this will give Garnett a chance to rest and refresh for what will hopefully be a long spring.
Z - Zzzzz. Penn State and Illinois played one of the strangest and least interesting college basketball games in recent history this week. The Nittany Lions won the game, 38-33. And no, they didn't cancel the game at half time, and the shot clock wasn't disconnected. Neither team could get anything going offensively at all, and the pace of play was obviously painfully slow. The 71-point total was the lowest in Division I in four years.