Thursday News and Notes

Thursday, February 1,

Here are news and notes from
private clipboard. They are compiled from hometown newspapers
and the team’s own press releases. The latest on the DOJ’s War on Gambling at


Old Dominion-Drexel

Press Notes

Dragons and Monarchs are tied for third place in the
league with 8-3 records. Drexel is 16-5 on the season overall while the Monarchs
begin play with a 15-7 record. This will be the second meeting of the year
between the two schools. Old Dominion defeated the Dragons earlier this season
in Norfolk, 84-57. ODU made 10 three-pointers in the game and shot 59 percent
from the floor. Drexel committed 15 turnovers in the game and shot just
3-for-15 from behind the three-point arc. Old Dominion has won three straight
games and five of its last seven. Drexel has won four of its last five,
including a 68-59 win at Northeastern on Monday night.

South Alabama-New Orleans

Press Notes

It is Homecoming Week at the University
of New Orleans
, and the Privateer basketball team gets to celebrate by hosting one of the
hottest teams in the Sun Belt Conference.
UNO will host Sun Belt Conference leader South
. The game will feature a South Alabama
team that has won eight straight games. The Jaguars (15-7, 9-2 Sun Belt) are
coming off a 90-89 overtime win over North Texas after defeating
Louisiana-Monroe two days earlier despite missing three suspended starters. USA
has also been boosted by 6-9 forward Ernest Little. Little, who became eligible
on Dec. 16 after transferring from UAB, has averaged
12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He missed the North Texas
game due to personal reasons, and his status for Thursday’s contest is unknown.
For the Privateers (10-11, 6-4 Sun Belt), the game begins a busy February. UNO will play eight games during the month and will play
four of the next five on the road. UNO has lost three
straight to the Jaguars but has won five of the last six games in New


St. Louis-St. Joseph’s

College Publisher

The Hawks are caught in a tough stretch of games and are
finding themselves playing good teams night in and night out. Three of the four
games were against conference opponents that were the preseason top three and
the fourth game was an always tough city opponent. St. Joe’s had a very good
win against Xavier, let one slip on the road to George Washington, had another
big win against Big 5 adversary Penn, and now the Hawks must battle Saint
at the Alumni Fieldhouse.
The Hawks lost four players from last year’s team, including the top three
scorers. No excuses are being made for St. Joe’s, but the Billikens
come in with an extreme edge in experience. Saint Louis
comes into this game struggling inside the conference. To this day they have
posted a below .500 record of 3-4 and are looking to even it out against the
Hawks. Devastating losses to Temple,
Fordham, St. Bonaventure, and Duquesne are what set back St.
Although the Billikens have dropped some games
against a few of the weaker teams in the conference, they do have some
impressive wins. Wins against Xavier and Rhode Island
bolstered their record and showed that the Billikens
do have the talent and ability to succeed. Also, Saint
has gone 13-7 in the season, three of those
losses coming to top 25 teams in the country and the other four against
Atlantic 10 conference teams.


Washington State-Arizona

LA Times

Despite losing a stunning five of their last seven games,
the Wildcats’ Ratings Percentage Index ranking is still No. 6, so Lute Olson’s
22-year NCAA tournament appearance streak appears fine. Still, Arizona has
rarely looked as bad as it has during its recent offensive funk, going one for
23 from three-point range against North Carolina, and shooting less than 40%
from the field in three of the last four games. At 14-6, Arizona
looks tired and beaten. You can blame the nonconference
schedule Olson made, which is rated the most difficult in the country, just
ahead of UCLA’s. Or you can blame the luck of the draw with the Pac-10
schedule, which already has taken Arizona
to Washington, Washington
State, USC and UCLA, handing the Wildcats three of their four Pac-10 losses on
the road. Other factors seem to be at work too, though. There’s Arizona’s
lack of depth: All five starters average more than 31 minutes a game, and point
guard Mustafa Shakur averages more than 35. The
emergence of freshman forward Jordan Hill, who logged major minutes and made a
big contribution the last two games, could help, along with the return of
forward Bret Brielmaier, who had been out after minor
knee surgery. Leading scorer Marcus Williams is expected to play after being
suspended for unspecified reasons for the Arizona
game and missing much of the North
game because of a sprained ankle.



The early season setbacks against Virginia Tech and
Georgia Tech are now distant memories for this young Blue Devil team after
reeling off five consecutive wins including decisions over Clemson and Boston
– two teams that were above
Duke in the standings at tip off. Meanwhile the Cavaliers have surprised many
with their run to a 5-2 start in ACC play. After all this was the same Virginia
team that lost to Appalachian State in Puerto Rico in
December. After losing to North Carolina
and at Boston College,
the Cavaliers have dispatched Maryland,
Wake Forest, NC
State, and Clemson by an average of 9.5 points per game. Duke enters the game
with third year sophomore David McClure listed as questionable after the 6’6
wing fell to the ground with a hyper extended knee against Boston
on Sunday night. Meanwhile
the Cavaliers are looking to get a shot in the arm with the return of 6’9
junior post player Ryan Pettinella, who suffered a
dislocated knee cap in the San Juan Shootout during the team’s final game
against the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. Pettinella was in uniform for UVa’s
win at Clemson on Sunday, but did not play. On Wednesday, he looked good in
practice, leading the way in sprints at the end of the session. He also looked
good in controlled scrimmages according to the local UVa
beat writers.

Wednesday News and Notes

Wednesday, January
31, 2007


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Post Gazette

Duquesne coach Ron Everhart opened up the court to give
his players an opportunity to utilize their quickness and athletic skills to
overcome their lack of height. It was a gamble that quickly has hit the jackpot
for the Dukes, who wore down Dayton,
93-89, and Temple, 96-92, after a
101-87 loss at Massachusetts that
would have been a lot closer had they made their free throws in the final
minutes. Duquesne hadn’t scored 90 or more points in consecutive games since
1992-93 and had its highest points total against a Temple
team. The Dukes had scored more than 80 points only once in 47 previous games
against the Owls. Everhart’s biggest concern about Xavier is the little point
guard who runs the show, 5-7 Drew Lavender, who is in his first season with the
Musketeers after transferring from Oklahoma.
He is a one-man press-breaker who will put Duquesne’s defense to its toughest
test yet. Neither Dayton nor Temple
had a true playmaker to direct traffic against Duquesne’s relentless pressure,
which created a total of 53 turnovers in those two games. The Musketeers are
living up to their preseason billing as the team to beat in the A-10. The
Dukes, meanwhile, are inching up in the standings and find themselves in the
middle of the pack rather than near the bottom as was predicted before the


Appleton Post

Wisconsin is
the only Big Ten team without a conference loss. Wisconsin
leads the Big Ten in scoring defense at 56.6 points per conference game.
Overall, UW is 13th in the nation in scoring defense at 57.5 points.
The Badgers are 5-0 in true road games this season. Indiana
is 27-4 all-time against the Badgers at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have won 13 straight games at
Assembly Hall.

George Washington-Dayton


The Dayton Flyers finally return home after what seems
like a 25-game road trip, when in all actuality it was just two games. Dayton
dropped both road games last week, but return home to face streaking George
Washington on Wednesday evening at UD Arena. While
the two teams may be headed in opposite directions, the Flyers have yet to lose
on their home floor all season long.



Asking if it’s tough to play at the O’Connell Center, home
of the top-ranked defending national champion Florida Gators, is about like
asking if it’s tough to play in The Swamp — the school’s football counterpart.“There are a lot of tough places in our league,
but it’s as difficult as any,” Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said of his
team’s next destination, as the 24th-ranked Commodores Wednesday
night go looking for their third straight Southeastern Conference road win
against a Top 25 opponent. Riding a four-game winning streak, including
victories at Kentucky and Louisiana
, the Commodores have every
reason to feel good about themselves.

Stats Inc.

The Commodores started the season 1-3, but have since won
14 of 17. They are 5-0 against ranked opponents during that stretch, with wins
over Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Alabama,
Kentucky and LSU.

Memphis-Central Florida

Stats Inc.

Since a 79-71 loss on Dec. 20 to
9 Arizona, Memphis
(17-3, 7-0) has won nine in a row while building a 2 ½-game conference lead
over second-place teams Central Florida (15-5, 4-2),
Houston and Rice. For the third straight game, Memphis
was held below 40 percent from the field and failed to record more than 10 assists.Despite his team nearly getting upset,
Calipari thought the game was important for the
development of his team, which starts three sophomores and a freshman. Chris
Douglas-Roberts returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the two previous
games because of a high ankle sprain. The sophomore guard, who leads the team
with 14.8 points per game, was only 3-of-7 from the field but got to the
free-throw line 12 times and made nine to finish with 15 points. Memphis
has won by double digits in all three of its league games on the road after losing
its only two true road games in non-conference play at Tennessee
and Arizona. This will be Memphis
first game at Central Florida, which has won 12 straight
home games since a Feb. 15 loss to Houston.
All four previous meetings were in Memphis
and the Tigers won them all, including a 94-61 victory last season. The only
other time a ranked team played at UCF Arena came on Dec. 12, 2002, and the Golden
Knights upset then-No. 25 College of Charleston 82-64.
Central Florida is 0-15 in all other games against
ranked teams.The Golden Knights are returning home to
play in front of a sellout crowd after playing six of its eight games this
month, including the last two, on the road.


Press Notes

takes to the road hoping to snap an eight-game road losing streak in Evanston,
junior center Spencer Tollackson has missed the past
five games due to a broken left (non-shooting) hand. Tollackson
is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Minnesota
holds a 82-56 all-time lead in the series (not
including vacated games). The Wildcats lead the series in Evanston
36-33. Northwestern has won the last six
meetings including a, 55-40 win in Minneapolis
on January 20. The Gophers snapped their five-game losing streak Saturday with
a 65-60 victory over Penn State.
Northwestern had the weekend off after battling Ohio
to the final minutes before
losing 59-50 in Evanston on


Class, Motivation, and Form

Joe Duffy (

Handicapping techniques can be loosely grouped into
evaluating teams in three categories: class, motivation, and form.

Class meaning the quality of the respective teams, form is
recent play and I hope motivation is apparent.

One may immediately ask about injuries. That is covered under the “class” umbrella as
the sharp player makes adjustments to roster changes, be it trade, injury, star
minor leaguer, surprising and disappointing performers, etc.

Motivation includes mental state. So letdowns, sandwich
games, revenge, playoff ramifications are among the issues in said subset.

Form should be weighed in direct proportion to how often
the sports play. In other words, baseball,
which plays every day, is the sport where recent form is slanted the heaviest,
while football is where we adjust it to the smallest value.

There is no perfect interval to rate form, but as we’ve
said it should be number of days, not games in the apples-to-apples comparison.
For example, in comparing recent form of the Lakers to the Spurs, most use last
five games. We prefer the last 10

Nothing can, for good or bad, alter recent form as much as
time off. This explains why momentum is most important in baseball and least in

The old adage of cream rising to the top…or dung sinking
to the bottom does have a great deal of truth to the handicapper. So across the board, quality is far and away
the primary derivative in sports gambling.

The public tends to overreact to aberrational recent
performance, especially in high profile game. The oddsmakers are aware of this.
Hence the ability to see the big picture is one of the great qualities a
gambler can have.

Famed British writer Daniel Finkelstein of The Times in
the UK wrote
concerning English soccer, “form is temporary, class is permanent.” We find
this quite accurate in North American sports as well.

Joe Duffy’s sports betting selections are at He is the CEO of,
the premier source for professional handicapper selections.

Depleted Jazz

Depleted Jazz

By Marty
Gitlin Contributing Writer

The Utah Jazz haven’t exactly been tearing up NBA hardwoods since the final page was turned on 2006.

And now they’ve added injury to insult.

The Jazz, who are 6-7 since Jan. 5, will be without their starting forwards Monday night against visiting New Jersey. Leading scorer and rebounder Carlos Boozer will miss his first game this season with an injured knee while Andrei Kirilenko is out with a sprained right ankle.

The extent of Boozer’s injury will be known after more tests are conducted. He has enjoyed his finest season at 22 points and 12 rebounds a game, which is fourth in the NBA. Boozer hurt the knee
Saturday night when he collided with New Orleans center Tyson Chandler.

Kirilenko, who missed five games earlier in the year with an injury to the same ankle, is expected to return later this week.

The injuries have played a role in the odds for Monday night’s game, but still lists the Jazz as 2-point favorites against the Nets, who broke a three-game losing streak Saturday night in Denver.

SIGH OF RELIEF IN WINDY CITY: Chicago Bulls fans must have seen the season go up in smoke when center Ben Wallace crumpled to the floor after a collision with Miami’s Udonis Haslem Saturday night.

They held their collective breath, but didn’t need to fret. An MRI on Wallace’s left knee
showed no structural damage. Wallace is listed as day-to-day and could return as early as Wednesday night, when the Bulls start a seven-game road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Wallace is averaging 6.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in his first season with Chicago since signing a free-agent contract during the offseason. He is eighth in the league at 2.12 blocked shots a game.

DRIBBLES: Talk about a glorious return. Milwaukee guard Mo Williams had missed the previous nine games with a sprained shoulder, but he scored a game-high 30 points, including a game-winning running jumper with 3.l seconds remaining, in a 107-105 victory Sunday over New York. … Cleveland threw a brief scare into visiting Phoenix on Sunday, but the Suns pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 115-100 road victory. The Suns will shoot for their 18th consecutive win Monday night
in Minnesota. They are a 5-point favorites, according to … The battered Boston Celtics welcomed the return of swingman Wally Szczerbiak, but still lost Sunday to visiting Washington, 105-91. Their 11-game losing streak is their longest in 10 years. They also set a franchise mark by dropping nine in a row at home and have fallen behind Philadelphia into last place in the Atlantic Division. … Wizards forward Antawn Jamison has certainly given high-scoring point guard Gilbert Arenas plenty of offensive help recently. Jamison has scored 69 points on 26-of-45 (58 percent) shooting in the last two games.

NBA Props

NBA Props

By Chris Goudey Contributing Writer

your resident Fantasy Sensei, it’s my job to provide you with tips and tricks you can use to dominate your fantasy leagues. Winning a fantasy league is great and a real good way to trash talk your friends, but at the end of the day all that smack doesn’t pay the bills. You might win $100-$200 in your league, but there is a way to use that skill to make some real money.

Most of the online sportsbooks offer what are called proposition bets for all the major sports. These are bets that are different from your standard point-spread or over/under bet in that you are usually betting on a single player to do something in a game. The skills you use to do well in fantasy (knowing playing time, hot/cold players, defensive matchups, etc.) can be applied in proposition betting as well.

There are some books ( included) that
offer prop bets for individual NBA players. If you are a winning fantasy player, you can use the same stats you use to set your daily or weekly lineups to win money betting on NBA props. As an example, if you have done research and discovered that Lamar Odom has scored much better at home than he does on the road, you could possibly find a “Lamar Odom over/under x amount of points” bet on the day he has a home game and take advantage of that knowledge. In this case you’d bet Odom over whatever the amount of points is. If he was on the road for that particular game, you would bet under.

There are not many books out there that offer props that are unique to their site (many books copy other books’ lines), so it pays to research as many books as you can and have money in as many of these books with unique lines as possible. The reason to do this is you have access to as many “soft” or beatable lines as you
can. When you bet NBA props, it is very important to be able to bet them right as they get posted on the site. If you don’t get them right as they post, sharp bettors will force the book to change the original line, and it will make a less advantageous situation for you.

There are people who are very successful in prop betting, and they use the exact same skill set that any successful fantasy player would use. Defensive matchups in the NBA are extremely important and knowing which teams are stronger or weaker on that end of the court is crucial. You can study the stats for scoring defense, rebound margin, assist differential, and home/road splits and gain a huge advantage over most prop oddsmakers.

There are many soft lines posted, and the reason for that is simply because the
oddsmakers don’t have the time to do that in-depth research that a bettor might have. When there are 13 NBA games in a night, you’re talking about bets on up to 60-70 players, and when you see that many players posted, there are bound to be a few exploitable lines in there. The key to being a successful prop bettor is knowing which trends to look at (I use home/road splits, recent performance, and playing-time evaluation in addition to the defensive matchup) and taking advantage.

Before the bets get posted every day, I will set a line in my head for each player that I think will be put up. Let’s say for example, I think Dwyane Wade is going to have a total of 28 points. If I see a line like 25 put up, I’m going to jump on the over as soon as I see it. Being prepared ahead of time is critical because as I said, those lines move very quickly and you have to be ready. If I saw a 31 for Wade,
I’d pound the under.

Prop betting is becoming more and more popular as people get more involved in fantasy sports, and I think you’ll see a lot more props for all sports as we go forward. If you are prepared, know which numbers to study, and have access to the bets right as they post, you can become a big winner!

Colts Take Their Time

Colts Take Their Time

By Tim Sullivan contributing writer

If we’re such a good story, if we’re such a hot item, then you can wait a day for us.

In essence, that’s what Colts coach Tony Dungy and his AFC champions were saying to the grumpy media types who have been up in arms over the fact that Indianapolis waited until today to arrive in Miami. The Bears? They cooperated and, like most Super Bowl teams, showed up on site, on Sunday afternoon, a full week before the big

The Colts? They stayed in Indiana and jumped on a charter Monday morning.

“We understand the Super Bowl is not going to be normal. We just felt that that was the way to go,” Dungy said of the delayed strategy. “We’ll get a chance to get down there, and let the guys enjoy the city.”

Perhaps that’s the biggest reason he slowed things down. Miami isn’t the greatest place in the world to practice and prepare for the biggest game of the season, the tilt that Indianapolis is a 6.5-point favorite for on There are distractions aplenty. Maybe one less day of those distractions will prove beneficial.

“Miami is a great place to visit and there are all kinds of things you can get into,” said
Bears rookie return man Devin Hester, who played at the University of Miami. “We do want to have a little fun, but be careful of your surroundings. We’re here to play a football game.”

So are the Colts, who will have many a question to answer on Tuesday, when Media Day commences and all those grouchy sportswriters can finally press record on their handhelds.

“We put our schedule together for what we thought was going to be the best for us to win,” Dungy said. “My thought was to take a couple of days away from it physically and emotionally.”

And it’s hard to argue with him. After all, the Colts, unlike the Bears, had to win three games to get to Miami. They’ve been facing critical games, week after week, for more than a month. Chicago, on the other hand, was on cruise control
leading up to the postseason, then had the benefit of the bye week, and didn’t have to travel a mile to play either of its two playoff games.

“I just want them to relax,” Dungy said.

Mission, apparently, accomplished. Now, it’s time to get to work.

HELP FOR ELI: Or so they think. The Giants, late on Sunday, named Chris Palmer their new quarterbacks coach. The former head coach of the Cleveland Browns will now be the primary tutor for struggling starter Eli Manning. Palmer has also worked on the staffs of New England, Jacksonville, Houston and Dallas.

Palmer is a decent hire, but you can look at his past results either way. On one hand, he truly helped Drew Bledsoe
while with the Cowboys, and Mark Brunell when he was with the Jaguars. Palmer worked under his current boss, Tom Coughlin, in Jacksonville, by the way.

But the jury is still out on David Carr, whom Palmer mentored in Houston. And Tim Couch, whom the new Browns staked their franchise to, was a complete bust.

Where Eli falls in that mix is anyone’s guess.

EXTRA POINTS: Maybe this is the reason we didn’t hear much from Richard Seymour this postseason. The Patriots defensive lineman will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason, but shouldn’t miss any of Coach Bill Belichick’s organized team activities. … Former Giants
running back Maurice Carthon, who was fired as offensive coordinator in Cleveland halfway through this season, could land in Arizona as a running backs coach this week.

First Half NBA Fantasy All Stars

NBA First-Half Fantasy All-Stars

By Chris Goudey Contributing Writer

The final results have just come in on this season’s NBA All-Star voting, and while you see the typical names on the list of starters (Wade, LeBron, Garnett, Kobe, Duncan, etc…) for the East and West, in fantasy basketball all of these guys are pretty much doing what was expected of them. Those aren’t the guys that are going to win you a fantasy title because they give you the same great numbers year after year and you select them with your 1st and 2nd round picks. No, the players that win you fantasy titles are the ones you draft in the late rounds or acquire off free agency early in the year that become solid to outstanding NBA starters, so while you see the big names on the real All-Star squad, my All-Star team is going to look a lot different.

I’ll break these down by position because in fantasy, your lineup usually consists of point guards and shooting guards, not just “guards” like
they do in the real All-Star game. Here are the All-Stars from a fantasy perspective:

Point Guard:
Maurice Williams, Milwaukee – Mo was most likely a last-round or next-to-last round selection in most drafts, but has played like a 3rd-4th rounder. Williams was a backup last year to T.J. Ford, but became a starter this year when Ford was traded to Toronto in the off-season. Mo has been very solid across the board, averaging 17 ppg, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and just over 1 3-pointer and 1 steal per game. Unfortunately he got hurt a couple of weeks ago and it’s now looking like he won’t be back for at least another couple of weeks, so hopefully his owners can wait it out until he returns. Williams might not make the end-of-year team because the Bucks acquired Earl Boykins to fill in for
him and Boykins has played just as well as Williams did. It remains to be seen what will happen because the team now has 5 guys for 3 spots (Mo, Boykins, Michael Redd, Charlie Bell, and Ruben Patterson), but as far as the 1st half is concerned, Mo is definitely an all-star.

Deron Williams, Utah – After a rookie season where he lagged in comparison to Chris Paul, the other PG taken early in the 2006 draft, Williams has shown why he was so highly regarded coming into it. D.Will was probably taken a few rounds before Mo so he gets the second spot instead of the first on my team, but his numbers are very close to his namesake. The one area where Deron is unquestionably better than Mo is in assists, where he averages 9.1 per game, tied for 2nd in the league with Jason Kidd. The rest of his numbers are almost identical to Mo, with Mo being a slightly
better rebounder. There is no reason why Deron can’t continue this play and could take over the top spot by the end of the season.

Honorable Mention: Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix; Earl Boykins, Denver-Milwaukee; Jarrett Jack, Portland

Shooting Guard:
Kevin Martin, Sacramento – Martin is another guy like Mo Williams, who was probably drafted very late if at all, but has put up almost “real” All-Star numbers. Martin has been an outstanding shooter, making almost 50% of his shots from the field and 88% from the line. In leagues that count those two categories he has made a world of difference because he’s taking a lot of shots, enough to average over 20 points per game. Add in 1.6 3-pointers per game and 1.2 steals and you’re looking at some great
fantasy numbers. Martin’s not much of a rebounder or passer but you can get those stats from your PG and your big guys.

Mike Miller, Memphis – Miller has just become a fantasy stud this season, combining deadly long-range shooting with a new-found love for rebounding and passing. The new uptempo game they are playing in Memphis is perfect for Miller, who was probably taken in the mid-late rounds in most drafts. Previously he had been known as just a 3-point shooter but this year he has really stepped up his game, going from 1.9 per game to 2.8 this year, which is 4th in the league behind Gilbert Arenas, Ray Allen, and J.R. Smith. The thing that’s making Miller a much better player this year are his assists (4.4 per game) and rebounds (5.9), which are very strong in comparison to most of the other players at the position. Miller is a true swing player, playing both
shooting guard and small forward, but I put him here because there are two small forwards that I couldn’t keep off the team.

Honorable Mention: Monta Ellis, Golden State; J.R. Smith, Denver; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia

Small Forward:
Josh Howard, Dallas – Howard is one guy on this list that might make the “real” team, but that’s more because of his defense and his team’s record. For the fantasy team he makes it because he was probably a mid-round selection who is putting up 2nd round numbers. There is only one out of eight categories where Howard isn’t putting up at least good numbers, and that’s assists, which is no big deal for a small forward. You’d like a guy to have at least 4 assists per game but when he averages 20 points, 7.2 rebounds (outstanding for a SF), 1.5
3’s made, 1.3 steals, and even gets 1 block per game, you’re not going to complain when he’s only getting you 2 assists. Howard is a nice percentage shooter also, making 46% from the field and 83% from the line, so when you add all that up, you have your starter at SF.

Caron Butler, WashingtonIt’s hard to believe the Wizards got this guy for Kwame Brown, isn’t it? Butler has a shot at making the East All-Stars because of his outstanding improvement and the fact the Wiz currently have the best record in the conference. This guy is probably the biggest reason for the team’s improvement, despite the heroics of Mr. Hibachi Arenas. Caron is having a dream season, averaging 21 points, 8 rebounds (the best rebounding SF in the game if you don’t count Shawn Marion), 4 assists, and 2 steals. He’s also shooting 48% from the
field and 88% from the line. Those are just excellent all-around numbers. Butler is not a big shooter of the 3-ball, so hopefully if he’s on your team you’ve got some others who can do that, but with those other fantastic numbers he’s giving you, you’re probably sitting in a very nice position in your league.

Honorable Mention: Luol Deng, Chicago; Kyle Korver, Philadelphia; Matt Barnes, Golden State

Power Forward:
Al Jefferson, Boston – It took a month or so for Jefferson to get into the starting lineup thanks to the brilliant coaching of Doc Rivers, but now that he’s there, he might not come out for 10-12 years. Jefferson has just been a beast down low, averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game since December. For a guy who was probably acquired off the waiver
wire, he’s really helping your team right now and is probably the best player that didn’t get drafted in most drafts this year.

David Lee, NY Knicks – If that honor doesn’t go to Jefferson, it might go to Lee, who has come out of nowhere to average almost 11 rebounds per game, and that’s in only 30 minutes per contest. If Isiah Thomas was smart he’d be playing Lee 40 minutes per game and then he’d probably be the leading rebounder in the league. Lee’s not a big scorer yet, only averaging 11 points per game, but he averages a fantastic 61% from the field and 79% from the line, which make him a valuable member of a fantasy team. By having a guy like Lee on your team you can afford to have a couple of low-percentage scorers (i.e. Allen Iverson or Gilbert Arenas) to balance it out.

Honorable Mention: Zach Randolph,
Portland and Carlos Boozer, Utah. Both guys are obviously having great years and are very nice values compared to where they were drafted, but remember this team is about guys who are going to win fantasy titles for you, and while I’m sure teams who own Zach and Booz are doing well, there are more 1st place teams who have Jefferson and/or Lee.

Andris Biedrins, Golden State: Anytime you can draft a guy who will get you 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in the last round, you’ve done very well for yourself. Biedrins is the guy who fits that description this year, and while he’s fallen off a bit recently, owners who have had him since the beginning of the year are sitting pretty. It remains to be seen how the recent trade the Warriors made where they acquired Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington will affect Biedrins, but as long as he
gets the minutes, he’ll keep producing the rebounds and blocks. He also shoots a lovely 62% from the field, so he’s like David Lee with the added bonus of 2 blocks per game.

Eddy Curry, NY Knicks: I didn’t think I’d ever see this guy on anyone’s all-star team because of his supposed attitude problems, but apparently Isiah has made one good coaching move this year. Curry’s having a career-best season, averaging 19.5 points on 59% shooting. Eddy was probably a late-round selection and while he doesn’t rebound as well as most big guys (7 per game) and doesn’t really give you any other numbers except good shooting and scoring, for his price tag he’s been a very nice value. If he could ever use that body to get some boards and block some shots he could be a real All-Star, but fantasy owners are still happy with him this year.

Honorable Mention: Mehmet Okur, Utah; Nick Collison, Seattle; Mark Blount, Minnesota; Alonzo Mourning, Miami

If you have a few of my All-Stars you are probably sitting pretty in your league and could be dominating if your stud players (the “real” All-Stars) have been healthy. The key for the 2nd half of the year is to pay attention the box scores every night and see who’s getting more playing time than they used to. That’s the way you can acquire guys ahead of your competition and stake your claim to your fantasy championship!

Vegas Expected $100 Million Super Bowl

Like most of America, Robert Walker stared at the TV in February 2002 and watched as Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal won the Patriots Super Bowl XXXVI. Unlike most of America, Walker figures the kick saved his job.
Walker is the director of the race and sports book at MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. He sets the lines for 14 different properties in Vegas, and on this day he was sweating out the largest bet he’d ever taken on the big game.
Someone bet $4.6 million on the Rams to beat the Patriots on that day. When Vinatieri’s kick cleared the crossbar, Walker may have been the happiest man in America.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Patriots and Adam Vinatieri since then,” Walker said. “If he doesn’t make that field goal, you might be talking to someone else right now.”
Next Sunday is the biggest holiday of the year in Las Vegas. Last year, a record $94 million was bet legally on the Super Bowl. This year, Vegas hopes to reach $100 million. The men in charge of bringing in all that money spent last weekend trying to figure out the best point spread to make the most amount of money.
Set the number too high and the underdog takes in too much money. Set it too low and everyone jumps on the favorite.
For Walker and his brethren, these are the two biggest weeks of the year. From the regular betting line to prop bets, they have to make placing a bet on the big game as tempting as possible.
This year’s matchup between the Colts and Bears has them thinking big bucks.
“I think it’s a phenomenal matchup,” said Chuck Esposito, the assistant VP of the race and sports book at Caesars Palace. “The Bears are one of the most popular teams with the public. The Colts have arguably the most popular player in Peyton Manning. You have the Colts offense vs. the Bears defense.”
Each of the sports-book directors interviewed said they entered last weekend with an idea of what the line would be for each potential matchup. Walker even posted lines at the Mirage for each scenario to gauge the public’s feelings. They all felt the Colts would be around 61/2- or 7-point favorites if they wound up matched with the Bears. When watching the games, they paid attention for any injuries or performances that might affect the way the public would bet.
John Avello, the director at race and sports operations at Wynn Las Vegas, thought the line would be Colts minus-61/2, but then decided on 7 after watching the Colts’ performance in the second half against the Patriots.
“In the third and fourth quarter, all cylinders were firing,” Avello said. “That was the last impression left in watchers’ or bettors’ minds. I’m thinking we have Peyton Manning, one of the best passers, against the Bears, who have a quarterback [Rex Grossman] that people are unsure of. But the Bears do have a great following. Instead of 61/2, I’m going to use 7.”
The line was posted immediately after the Colts-Patriots game ended last Sunday. Walker, who posted the Colts minus-61/2, saw the first seven or eight bets come in on the Colts and moved it to 7.
Most directors rely on staffs of handicappers to help them come up with the number. Once the line is posted, plenty of other people also offer up opinions.
“When I post that number, I get people running back telling me I made a mistake,” Walker said. “If some think it’s too high and some think it’s too low, I know I have it right.”
After the line and over/under are set, the sports book staffs try to finalize their prop bets, which have increased in popularity in recent years. Esposito said his staff has been working on them for the last six weeks. Caesars is credited with staring the prop bet when it posted odds on William “Refrigerator” Perry scoring a touchdown in Super Bowl XX.
“We’ll have 200 to 250 different prop bets on the board,” Esposito said. “You name it, we’ve got it on the board.”
Source: NY Post

Super Bowl is Played in Vegas

He reaches for his new set of specs, just another indication that Kenny White’s eyes spend way too much time staring at these dizzying digits.
”I just started wearing glasses three or four days ago,” said White, the CEO of Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “My eyes are shot from all these numbers.”
White digs through a stack of papers within this organized mess he calls his desk. He’s in search of his team power ratings, which he develops through statistical analysis to help him devise the betting lines for nearly every national sporting event.
Two unsuspecting tutorials surface near the pile as he searches: there’s a book titled Sports Betting 101 and a cassette tape called How to be a Winning Sports Bettor. Indeed, it is an odd sight, like finding sheet music for Chopsticks near Mozart’s piano.
White knows numbers. He knows them better than bettors, which is why 90 percent of the sports books in Las Vegas consult him before they accept a single wager. White also knows this: Only one number matters more than all of the rest.
It’s the Super Bowl betting line. And it’s Indianapolis by seven.
”Absolutely,” said White, who devised the line with a group of oddsmakers in this office after last week’s conference championship games. “It’s extremely important.
“It’s the most important line of the year, simply because of the volume that will be wagered on this game.”
That, of course, is the reason White has all of these binders full of depth charts and injury reports and statistics. It’s why he still immerses himself in nearly every book written about sports betting.
A blunt reminder of his job’s significance can be found simply by looking out one of the windows in this unsuspecting office building.
On the other side of the airport runway, about a mile from this dark corner of the glittery city, is the Las Vegas Strip. By the time Sunday’s game kicks off, more than $80 million will have been wagered on the Super Bowl at the casinos on The Strip.
”It’s almost like a national holiday,” said Chris Andrews, who runs Leroy’s Race & Sports Book inside the same building as the Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “A lot of people gear their vacation around coming out here for the Super Bowl.”
Even as online overseas gambling sites have surged in recent years, the amount of money wagered on the Super Bowl has continued to increase. Each of the past two Super Bowls has broken the previous record for the amount of money wagered on the big game, White said. Along with his staff, White plays a major role in who ends up with the loot.
But for now, on this particular Thursday in mid-January, there isn’t much sports action within any of those casinos. At the MGM Grand, the area where sports bets are placed (called the sports book) isn’t bustling as it will be this weekend.
Only a few of the 85 seats are filled, and guests have the option to watch 49 TV screens. On this afternoon, there are 15 sports events being shown.
On Sunday, however, there only will be one: the Super Bowl. Every sports book in town will be packed with people tuning into that same money-pulling game.
”It’s just a mass of people,” said Robert Walker, the director of the sports book at the Mirage. “It will be wall-to-wall, people sitting on the floors in the front. And it’s like that at every book in town. It’s like those two minutes of the Kentucky Derby. That’s how the whole first quarter of the Super Bowl is. It’s crazy.”
Walker, like White, also faces some serious stress when it comes to the betting line on Super Bowl Sunday. Most of Walker’s worries begin to build on the actual day of the game, unlike White, who faces his tough tasks weeks before when he sets the line.
`RULE OF 10′
Walker, whose sports book at the Mirage actually serves as the hub for the sports books at Mandalay Bay, the Bellagio and MGM Grand, will watch as weeks of hype culminate within those casinos. That’s when his ”rule of 10” kicks into gear.
”Everybody bets 10 times as much as they normally do,” Walker said.
And in some cases, those bets can creep excessively high. In 2002, Walker accepted the highest bet ever taken inside a Las Vegas sports book wagered on a Super Bowl. The wager of $4.6 million, which first had to be approved by Bellagio president Bill McBeath, was for the St. Louis Rams to beat the New England Patriots with the money line.
”The Patriots won outright, thank God,” Walker said. “Otherwise, you’d be talking to somebody different right now.”
Still, even when considering the significance and magnitude of the bet, Walker said the Super Bowl has an intriguing way of bringing people from all different classes of society together.
Whether the bettor is making big wagers or small, the goal is the same: to win.
”That’s the one thing about that game that’s unique,” Walker said. “You might have a guy that bet $100 sitting next to a guy that bet $50,000 or more, and they’re still cheering the same way. The camaraderie is unique between those two people who have the same bet, no matter how much they put down.”
In Miami, the score of the game will dictate the winners and losers. In Las Vegas, however, it will be the outcome of the spread that dictates the mood of many. So, unless the Colts win by more than seven points, it won’t matter whether they hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
If the Colts fail to beat the spread, they still would be Las Vegas’ biggest losers this weekend — which is precisely what makes oddsmakers like White so important.
”Ideally, if seven is the number, we would open at seven and stay there [rather than moving the line because too many bettors are picking one side],” Andrews said. “That would be great. We also want the game to end nowhere near the number so we don’t have to refund anybody. That would be fantastic.”
Problem is, it doesn’t always work out that way. Over the years, oddsmakers and sports books have faced their share of devastating days — few as terrible for the industry as the 1979 Super Bowl.
Although White is quick to note he wasn’t around for this one, the line for the Super Bowl matchup between the Steelers and the Cowboys was initially set at 3 ½ with the Steelers as the favorites. But because of lopsided betting, the line moved to 4 ½ by the day of the game.
The final score? The Steelers won by four points, 35-31.
”That was one of the biggest nightmares this state has seen,” White said. “Because if the number lands in the middle like that, you end up paying both sides.”
Under his watch, though, White said the Las Vegas Sports Consultants has provided a line that has yielded winning results for casinos — and losing results for the fans — each year.
So pick your team, and decide what you will about White’s decision to give the Colts a seven-point edge. You also might want to keep in mind this one little piece of advice from Bears defensive end Alex Brown about that ever-important Las Vegas line:
“Those people in Vegas don’t play football.”
That’s true. White’s profession involves something far different. In the end, however, Brown and White are after the same goal: They both want to win.
”Crunching numbers,” White said. “That’s all it is. I’ll be in here all day long, just constantly trying to make sure we’re picking the perfect number.”
Source: Miami Herald

Formula One

Formula One Changes

By Brit Fryer Contributing Writer

The deck was shuffled again in Formula One. So, if you haven’t been following which driver is driving what in 2007, here’s a brief overview.

At The Front
Ferrari: Finn Kimi Raikkonen (+125 to win the F1 championship on, formerly of McLaren, inherits Michael Schumacher’s car, one that won’t lose a wing or suffer mechanical failure every other race. And Brazilian Felipe Massa, who broke through in 2006, vows not to play second fiddle to his new teammate.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: Ron Dennis’ team lured Fernando Alonso (+200,, the two-time defending world champion, away from Renault. He’ll pair up with Lewis Hamilton, last year’s GP2 winner.

Renault: Clearly fielding the dominant car the past two seasons with Alonso, boss Flavio Briatore will rely on veteran Giancarlo Fisichella. Heikki Kovalainen was promoted from a testing role to a race seat.

In The Middle
BMW Sauber: The team terminated Jacques Villeneuve last year and replaced him with Polish upstart Robert Kubica, who performed admirably. Kubica and teammate Nick Heidfeld should do fairly well in the team’s second season under BMW control.

Honda: Formerly British American Racing, Honda closed the gap in 2006. Englishman Jenson Button posted his first grand prix victory in thrilling fashion at the Hungaroring and outperformed teammate Rubens Barrichello.

Red Bull Racing: Red Bull regressed in 2006, scoring 18 less points than in 2005. David Coulthard, who earned the team’s lone podium finish last season, welcomes Australian Mark Webber, who’s trying to rebound from a disastrous
stint at Williams.

Toyota: The team with the ultimate financial backing posted one podium in all of 2006, but Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli enter their second season on Bridgestone rubber.

Williams: Frank Williams’ once-powerful team has been rubbish lately. Nico Rosberg limped through his first season in F1 as Williams totaled 20 DNFs. Austrian Alexander Wurz gets his first chance at a full-time drive.

At The Back
Spyker: In September, the former Jordan and Midland team was sold to Dutch sports car manufacturer Spyker. The drivers? Christjian Albers has never scored a point in his two F1 seasons, and Adrian Sutil has never made a grand prix start.

Super Aguri: Short on speed and just about everything else, the Japanese team retained Takuma Sato and handed the second seat to England’s Anthony Davidson, once an impressive test driver for Honda.

Toro Rosso: The Red Bull-backed team, at times, outran its big brother. Though no official announcement has been made, Italian Vitantonio Luizzi and American Scott Speed are expected to return in 2007. Remember, Toro Rosso
was lowly Minardi not long ago.

NEW DRIVES: January is the month Formula One teams show their hand.Renault and Honda unveiled their 2007 machines Wednesday — Renault the R27 and Honda the RA107. Red Bull followed with its RB3. This all came after BMW Sauber, Ferrari, McLaren and Toyota showed off their stuff.McLaren is particularly proud of its new MP4-22.

“Once we get the MP4-22 on track, the progress we can make from now until the first race will be really big,” Alonso said, “and I have no doubt that we will fight for the championship.”

The season begins with the March 18 Australian Grand Prix.

WORKAHOLIC: Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher just can’t stay away. After announcing his retirement from Formula One last season, Schumacher is remaining at Ferrari as a consultant. He has unlimited access to Ferrari’s F1 program.

“He’ll come over whenever he wants to, and he will attend some GPs. He knows everything about racing and F-1. He will help us with our decisions,” Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.