This Week in Betting, A to Z
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions
A - Aaron Gray. The Pitt center's ankle is perhaps the most important joint in college basketball right now. If it recovers from its sprain quickly, and Gray has no further problems, then Pitt is a legitimate contender in the tournament. If it doesn't come around then it could be a short spring for the Panthers. He played at half capacity against Georgetown and it wasn't nearly enough.
B - Browns. Cleveland won the coin toss with Tampa Bay, so they get to make the third pick in the 2007 NFL Draft this year. If history is any indicator, then that just means that they will have to pay more for their major flop than they would have to with the fourth pick.
C - Calvin Johnson. There is no such thing as a sure thing, especially at wide receiver (just ask the Lions), but Johnson is pretty much a sure thing. He's talented, he's ridiculously athletic, he's very football savvy and he blew away the competition at the Combine. Years from now this could be known as the Johnson draft.
D - Daisuke Matzusaka. Spring training is barely a week old, and already I am sick of hearing about every move of the Japanese phenom. The media frenzy won't go away if he keeps pitching like he has to start the pre-season. It will be very interesting to see how bettors react to him early in the season. My guess is that there won't be any betting value on him for a long, long time.
E - Energized. It was questioned at the time, but the Chris Webber trade has had an incredible impact for the Pistons. The team ends February with a record of 10-1, and they look to be in a class entirely of their own in the East. Not bad for a guy they picked off the scrap heap in Philly. Webber played his best game of the season on Sunday in a big game against Chicago.
F - Florida. Is there something wrong in Gainesville? Bad losses to Vandy and LSU over their last three is more than a bit concerning, and the fact that they haven't covered in five shows that they certainly aren't overachieving. This is just further proof that the tournament is wide open this year.
G - Georgetown. At the end of November it was hard to believe in the Hoyas. They lost three of five, didn't cover four straight and seemed to be unable to live up to the hype. Now they've won 11 straight, they haven't failed to cover since the beginning of January, they soundly beat Pitt this weekend and it doesn't take much imagination to see how they could do some real tournament damage.
H - Hollywood. The Oscars may have been a big spectacle to celebrate the movies, but they weren't much fun for betting with so many heavy favorites. Helen Mirren, the best actress, was so heavily favored that the category was pulled off the board well before the big day. Hollywood needs to make more good movies so that the awards are more interesting to bet on.
I - Inconsistent. I still can't figure out Duke. They lose four in a row, and don't cover any of them, and I was ready to write them off. But then they bounce back and win their last four, and cover all of them handily. Is this team as weak as they have appeared at times, or is Coach K en route to his umpteenth Sweet Sixteen?
J - Juiced. When the Rangers and the Giants meet in the Cactus League on March 10 there is a chance that both Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds will be in the game. I wonder what kinds of topics the press will be asking about that day?
K - Kevin Durant. I know I keep writing about him, but it's only because he keeps doing things worth writing about. I'm not sure that there is anything he can't do. Against Oklahoma he had five three pointers and he stood up well when the game got rough. That's 17 double-doubles and seven games with more than 30 points on the season. I pity the NBA executives who have to choose between him and Oden in the draft.
L - Louisville. Don't look now, but Rick Pitino has his boys playing some impressive ball down the stretch. They have won five in a row, and are 9-1-1 ATS in their last 11. There have been some rough spots along the way this season, but they seem to be peaking at the right time. Having Pitino behind the bench makes any team more dangerous.
M - Michael Allan. If you're an NFL fan and you haven't heard this name yet, just rest assured you will be sick of it by the end of the draft. He's a Division III tight end who did very well at the Combine. The NFL Network guys gushed about him continuously, and he has the kind of story that the media loves.
N - New conference. Of all the college teams out there, no team needs to find a new conference more than Memphis. They have won 17 in a row, they have covered six of seven and they look great. The problem is that there isn't a single team in the C-USA that is legitimate (sorry, Central Florida). I'd feel much better about them going into the tournament if they had played real teams to tune up.
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O - O'Hern, Nick. For the second time, this goofy looking Aussie knocked Tiger Woods out of a match play tournament this weekend. No one else can seem to beat Tiger, but O'Hern has no problem. If he could bottle that ability and sell it he could retire a very rich man.
P - Point guards. They aren't getting a lot of press, but the surprising, and profitable, resurgence of the Raptors has as much to do with the play of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon as anything. They are combining to give Toronto about the best point guard play in the league, and one of them is always on the court, so there is no down time for the team. It's a model that makes sense.
Q - Quinn, Brady. I thought a couple of things as I was watching his press conference at the Combine. First, he comes across pretty good - well-spoken and honest. Second and more important, his teammates in the NFL had better like him. If they do, then his cockiness will be charming. If they don't then it will just be obnoxious.
R - Rudy Gay. The rookies this year aren't getting a lot of respect, but Gay is starting to play very well. He's scored in the double digits the last eight games, and he had his first double-double this week. At least the dismal Grizzlies have one bright spot.
S - Steve Nash. The Suns struggled without him, and observers might have worried that he might have struggled coming back from his shoulder injury. Not so much. He's averaged more than 13 assists since his return, and the team is averaging 116 points. In my mind, an MVP three-peat is a no-brainer.
T - Trade deadline. Despite all the talk and speculation, the NBA trade deadline was a total flop. Nothing of note happened, unless you consider Juan Dixon to be a difference maker. The NHL deadline is up this week. Surely the rink rats can make it more exciting.
U - Upsets. Are good college basketball teams playing badly, or are they just not that good? Four ranked teams lost to unranked teams on Saturday. Marquette and BYU were beaten badly, but their losses weren't nearly as embarrassing as the 10-point loss Florida suffered at the hands of LSU.
V - Vladimir Radmanovic. Yet another moronic athlete. When the Lakers player hurt his shoulder over the All-Star break he initially said he slipped on some ice. Turns out he fell while snowboarding. Has an athlete ever told the truth about an injury? Radmanovic has been disappointing, but the Lakers can't afford to lose more players. The teams' recent skid could continue.
W - Wisconsin. Rough week for the newly crowned, and soon to be replaced, No. 1 ranked Badgers. Losses to Michigan State and Ohio State ensure that they will drop in the rankings. The loss to the Spartans was rough, but they have nothing to be embarrassed about against the Buckeyes - it was a great game that could have gone either way.
X - Xavier. Yet another big week for this column's mascots. Two more wins and two more covers, and they are in a tight fight with UMass for A10 supremacy. Over the last month the Musketeers have made a legitimate case for at-large consideration if they don't get an automatic spot.
Y - Youth, Fountain of. It was a quiet weekend on the Triple Crown trail, but that changes next weekend when Nobiz Like Shobiz, the budding superstar of the division, runs in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream against an impressive field. The Hutcheson and the Robert B. Lewis could also produce interesting contenders.
Z - Zydrunas Ilgauskas. You obviously don't want to profit from a tragedy, but it will be important to see how Ilgauskas plays over the next few weeks. His wife went into early labor and his twin children didn't survive. He's very important to the team, so his mindset could determine a lot down the stretch.
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