This Week in Betting, A to Z
T.O. Whenham of Doc's Sports Predictions
A - Anticipation. If the gods like basketball, then we will get to see North Carolina and Texas play in the Sweet Sixteen. It's always a treat to see Kevin Durant, and the ridiculously speedy Ty Lawson matching up against D.J. Augustin could be epic. The game could be an instant classic. UCLA and Kansas a couple of days later could be almost as good.
B - Best game. The most interesting match-up of the first round, without question, is Nevada and Creighton. Notre Dame-Winthrop, Kentucky-Villanova, and BYU-Xavier are others that I'm excited about.
C - Circular Quay. The Todd Pletcher-trained horse hadn't won in his last three despite being favored in all of them, but that changed in grand fashion in the Louisiana Derby. The colt made a stunning move to show that he was clearly the best of the group and has his sights set on Kentucky. With the win, along with the win of Cowtown Cat in the Gotham, Pletcher now has about 800 horses that are serious Derby contenders.
D - Disrespect. Joakim Noah tried to claim that his team gets no respect in a bizarre post-game interview, but then Florida got the No. 1 overall seed. The highly regarded team that will be able to use the 'we get no respect' card, however, is Ohio State. They were ranked No. 1 in the polls, they crushed Wisconsin to win their conference, and yet they were only the third ranked No. 1 seed in the bracket.
E - Easy. Easy is relative, because nothing about the tournament is easy. But some teams have a much smoother route to the Elite Eight than others. UCLA, Florida and Georgetown have a very good chance of overcoming all that they will face. North Carolina and Kansas, on the other hand, certainly didn't get any breaks.
F - Four? Jimmie Johnson won the NASCAR event in Las Vegas this weekend, the third consecutive year he has done so. Regardless of how his season is going, I have a hunch about who will be the favorite in Sin City next year.
G - Geography. I hope that kids aren't using the bracket to learn the layout of the country. Kansas is in the West and Oregon is in the Midwest? Washington State is in the East? Rand McNally clearly isn't a member of the selection committee.
H - Home court. Teams don't get home court advantage in the tournament, but Louisville comes close. They only have to travel a few miles down the road to Lexington for their first two games. Coach Pitino should be fairly comfortable in Rupp Arena, too - he's won a game or two in that building over the years.
I - Interesting. The race for the last few playoff spots in the NBA Western Conference could be very interesting. The Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets and Kings are all struggling, and the Warriors are charging hard from far back. The competition should provide some solid betting opportunities down the stretch.
J - Jazz. Utah might not be an exciting place to visit, but their basketball team certainly has been a pleasure to bet on recently. They have won their last five games, and they've covered the spread in each. The Jazz are a much better team than they are getting credit for in the national press.
K - Kansas. The Jayhawks are playing very well, and are helped by a generous first round match-up against the play-in game winner, but the team has to be nervous about yet another embarrassing first round upset. A 16 seed has never upset a No. 1, and Kansas obviously doesn't want to be the first. They probably won't be, but it will be fun to bug all of the Kansas fans you know until then.
L - Lakers. It was expected that L.A. would get beaten soundly on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant was suspended, and they were. It was not as expected that they would also get beaten soundly by Philadelphia and humiliated by Dallas once Kobe returned. This shows the clear importance of Lamar Odom - the team is 0-5, and 1-4 ATS, since Odom went down with a torn labrum. The bad news for the Lakers is that Odom isn't coming back any time soon.
M - Mortal. It turns out that Roger Federer is mortal after all. Not only did he finally lose for the first time in 42 matches at the Pacific Life Open, but the super-freak got crushed. He lost in straight sets to Guillermo Canas, and the last set was a 6-2 blowout. He'll just have to start another incredible winning streak next time out.
N - Niagara. The Purple Eagles are, by a wide margin, the best team ever to end up in the play-in game. Since winning just one of their first seven games while missing eight suspended players, the team went 21-5, and won their last 11. They were a very solid 7-2-2 ATS over that stretch.
O - Oregon. A No. 3 seed? Really? Sure they won the Pac-10 Tournament, but they were going to be, at best, a No. 8 seed before that tournament, and no one who isn't a die hard Ducks fan can possibly believe that they are the best team in their conference. They captured lightning in a bottle, but I don't like their chances of doing it again.
P - Pitino. Is it just me, or does the Louisville coach look more and more like Al Pacino every day? I couldn't get over that every time I saw him during the epic overtime marathon against West Virginia. At least the casting for the movie of Pitino's life will be simple.
Q - Quick exit. For 33 teams the tournament will be over by Friday, and some of those games won't even be competitive by halftime. How do you get excited if you are a fan of Jackson State, Central Connecticut State or Eastern Kentucky? You have to know that you stand almost no chance.
R - Robbed. If I was the athletic director at Drexel I would call a press conference tomorrow to announce that I was immediately leaving the NCAA to start my own conference with its own tournament. That way my team wouldn't get screwed again by a selection committee. There is absolutely no reason why a team that won more road games than any other team in D-I history should have to settle for the N.I.T.
S - Syracuse. I'm guessing that the mood isn't light and bright in the land of the Orange these days. Virtually everyone was telling them they were a lock, so you can imagine their surprise when they were left off the bracket. They will be especially happy when they watch questionable teams like Stanford, Arkansas and Purdue play in their place. Maybe the Orange can get together with Drexel to watch the games.
T - Tigers. Of all the teams in the bracket, I think Memphis confuses me most. They have won 22 in a row, but the only win over that stretch that is even remotely interesting is an overtime nail biter over Gonzaga. Their three losses on the season are against Arizona, Tennessee and Georgia Tech. None of those teams are fantastic, and the losses were all pretty convincing. It is very hard to get a sense of how good this team is.
U - Upsets. It's been the 12 seeds that have been doing the upsetting in recent years, and Old Dominion could continue that trend, but it's the 11 seeds that really seem poised for more than their share of wins - Winthrop, VCU and George Washington all have good draws and are all very dangerous.
V - Volume. The Raiders are certainly going for quantity when it comes to running backs. They already had LaMont Jordan and Zack Crockett, and they have added free agents Dominic Rhodes and Justin Griffith this week. At least JaMarcus Russell will have a running game to rely on. The team will still be terrible, though.
W - Wisconsin. The Badgers aren't getting a lot of respect these days. Unfortunately for them, they probably don't deserve it. They are missing one of their best players in Brian Butch, they looked totally outclassed against Ohio State, and they have a tricky second round game against either Georgia Tech or UNLV. They could certainly be the first No. 2 to fall.
X - Xavier. It was a rough week that ended well for our mascots. An eight-point loss to Rhode Island as 11.5-point favorites could have been a major problem, but in the end the year's performances, and the nine-game win streak before the loss, earned them an at-large bid. They have their hands full with BYU in the first round, though.
Y - Yikes. That sound you hear is the panicked screaming of Red Sox fans. Dice-K had his third spring training start and it wasn't pretty. Not only did he allow two home runs in four innings, but it was against the less-than-dominating Orioles, and the two players who went deep were both non-roster invitees.
Z - Zzzz. Those snores are the sound of the tournament sleepers that are poised to rise up and create chaos in the bracket. Teams like Winthrop and Old Dominion are getting lots of press, and VCU, Long Beach State and Oral Roberts could make some noise.
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