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This Week in Betting, A to Z

A – Albertus Maximus. The first big challenge of the year for older horses is the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream, and it attracted a crowd that might not have had superstars in it, but which was very deep and talented. Albertus Maximus parlayed his win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile into a win here. His next stop will be the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race.That’s a good place for him to go – three of the 13 horses that have won the World Cup first won the Donn.

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B – Bynum, Andrew. The Lakers’ youngster just can’t catch a break. His recent hot streak came to a crashing end when he was run over by teammate Kobe Bryant. Bynum was standing under the basket when Bryant drove, and hit Bynum. To make matters even worse, Bryant missed the shot. Bynum has a sprained right knee, but initial reports are that it is nothing more serious than that. This is certainly a guy who can’t afford to miss any more time.

C – Cardinals. It was close. Very, very close. There are several situations that the players will be haunted by, but two in particular stick out to me. That interception at the end of the first half obviously comes first. If they score some points there instead, or even if Harrison gets stopped before the end zone, then the Cards are the champs right now. The second, strangely, is Fitzgerald’s last touchdown. It was brilliant, but you can’t help but think that the result would have been different if Arizona hadn’t left so much time on the clock. All that being said, I feel worst for Kurt Warner – the three biggest passing performances in Super Bowl history, and just one trophy to show for it. He obviously deserves some time, but he didn’t sound much like a guy who was coming back next year in his post-game interview.

D – Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is a heck of a team, but they have one heck of a focus problem. For the second time in a couple of weeks they have followed up a huge win with a terrible loss. To start the week, they got past No. 1 Duke at home. Three days later, though, they let Georgia Tech collect their first ACC win of the year. If there is a bright side, at least it was a close – a jump shot in the last second was the difference.

E – Edmonton Oilers. I am a native of Calgary, so hating Edmonton is what I do best. That means it was a very good week for me. The Oilers came back from their all-star break looking like they were still on the beach in Hawaii. Buffalo dealt them the worst home loss in the history of the franchise, walking away with a 10-2 win. Edmonton coach Craig McTavish was accurate in his assessment of his team’s performance, calling it ‘a debacle of monumental proportions’. When it comes to Edmonton, that’s my favorite kind of performance.

F – Fame, Hall of. Six more guys are headed to Canton after the voting this weekend, including Bills’ owner Ralph Wilson, the oldest man to be elected at 90. Beyond Wilson, the voters were clearly focused on defense – they elected three darned good defensive stalwarts in Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, and Rod Woodson. Smith and Woodson were on the ballot for the first time. Randall McDaniel and Bob Hayes rounded out the class. The most interesting note of all is that Hayes, who died in 2002, left a letter to be read if and when he ever made the Hall of Fame. His sister read it to the media.

G – Georges St. Pierre. There is absolutely no doubt who the king of the welterweights is after Saturday night. St. Pierre absolutely decimated B.J. Penn at UFC 94, looking to erase the controversy of his split decision win the last time the fighters met. Penn got badly pummeled in the second round, and was never the same. His corner threw in the towel after the fourth. The excitement now will be seeing who St. Pierre goes up against next. The list of worthy opponents is short. Thiago Alves is likely next up, but the ultimate showdown with Anderson Silva is what everyone wants to see.

H – Hoyas. I’m going to be forced to keep writing about Georgetown as long as they keep wasting their enormous potential. The Hoyas dropped two more games this week. They have now lost five in a row, and are all but irrelevant in the Big East. The second loss of the week, against Marquette, was acceptable. The first, a one-sided, lethargic showing against Cincinnati, was incomprehensible and the sign of real problems.

I – Irish. The Hoyas are not the only Big East team not living up to the expectations heaped upon them. Two more conference losses this week means that they have also dropped five in a row. Unlike Georgetown, though, Notre Dame has faced an incredibly tough schedule. All five opponents have been ranked in the Top 20, and four of the five were ranked in the Top 8 when the Irish played them. Things don’t get much easier coming up, with UCLA and Louisville among their next three opponents.

J – Joke. The Raiders are a sad, sad punchline. Interim coach Tom Cable was viewed by everyone in sports as a stop-gap solution when Lane Kiffin was fired mid-season. Cable was decent in the position, but nothing more. An extensive job search after the season led them to find the perfect man to lead them into the future – Tom Cable. No one other than the interim wanted anything to do with this hopeless cause. It’s hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that this was actually a job worth having.

K – Kansas State. Texas is supposed to be one of the twin powers of the Big 12, but they didn’t look like it when they hosted Kansas State on Saturday. Michael Beasley isn’t at Kansas State, but his spirit clearly lives on in Denis Clemente. The Miami transfer had a Beasley-esque 44 points to lead his team to an overtime win over the Longhorns. It was the first time Clemente had scored more than 20 points all year, but his strong play and leadership is a big reason why the Wildcats have won three in a row.

L – Lyoto Machida. Light heavyweight Machida met Thiago Silva at UFC 94 in a battle of undefeated 13-0 fighters. The match should have been close given their impressive records. It really, really wasn’t. Machida, rolled all over Silva, answering every question in a decisive first-round victory. Machida unquestionably deserves a shot at shot at light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans next, but politics will probably lead to Rampage Jackson getting the shot instead.

M – Mickelson, Phil. The FBR Open is supposed to be Mickelson’s show. He is the king of Phoenix after his time at Arizona State, and the crazy party atmosphere of the tournament is primarily the result of his presence and success. He should always shine here, but he certainly didn’t this year. He didn’t even make the cut. His first round was terrible, his second wasn’t much better, and Mickelson made it home in plenty of time to hit any Super Bowl party he wants. Mickelson is in desperate need of a breakout performance to prove that he is still relevant.

 This Week in Betting, A to Z

N – Nicanor. Nicanor is a full brother to Barbaro and he serves as a reminder of how stupid bettors can be at times. The three year old made his debut on Saturday in a 12-horse allowance race at Gulfstream. He was 4/1 in the morning line, which was ridiculous for his lack of experience, but a necessary reaction to the public sentiment. It wasn’t nearly enough. The public slammed the horse early and often, sending him off at 5/2. As you would expect in the face of public sentimentality, Nicanor was an irrelevant 10th in the race. The extra attention on him created some other big prices, though – a $2 bet on the exacta paid a gaudy $816.80.

O – One. The rankings are part of what makes college sports great, and they often act in mysterious ways. Earlier in the college basketball season, being ranked fourth was a recipe for disaster. Now it’s No. 1. For the third straight week, and the fourth time in five weeks, the No. 1 team lost when Duke fell at Wake Forest. Next up is going to be Connecticut. They are obviously deserving, but they might try to find a way to refuse the suddenly dubious honor.

P – Pittsburgh. Two Super Bowls in four years. Not much you can say about that. It will be very interesting to see if Santonio Holmes just had a good day, or if this boosts him to the next level. Beyond that, the most interesting part of the game to me was Big Ben. It was a perfect example of who he is – he wasn’t particularly impressive for much of the game, but the guy just gets it done when it needs to be done. He is the king of winning ugly.

Q – Queen. Serena Williams owns tennis. When she wants to, that is. Wiliams doesn’t have the health or the focus to stay at the top of the game, but she is so clearly the best there is when she is in form. She rolled through the Australian Open this week, ultimately wining the final in less than an hour without breaking a sweat. For good measure, she won the doubles with sister Venus as well. The win returns Serena to the No. 1 ranking. Having her anywhere else makes the rankings completely meaningless.

R – Red Wings. Detroit has so much firepower and experience that the Stanley Cup should almost be guaranteed to return to Hockey Town yet again this year. You’d never guess it by the way they are playing lately, though. Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals handed Detroit their fifth straight loss on Saturday night. That’s the longest streak of the year for the Wings. They’ll obviously find their way back into form, but the teams that will have to play Detroit in the playoffs now can finally believe that the Wings can be vulnerable.

S – Saratoga Sinner. The latest star on the Kentucky Derby Trail is an unlikely one. The Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream featured three stars of the young Derby class in West Side Bernie, favorite Danger to Society, and Beethoven, but it was Saratoga Spinner, a lightly-regarded 12/1 horse, that made his mark. His win was impressive, but it wasn’t easy. 33/1 Bear’s Rocket took the lead out of the gate and held it until well into the stretch. He held on for second place.

T – Texas Tech. Pat Knight isn’t his father, and it’s not really fair to either of them to make the comparison. On Saturday, though, the current Texas Tech coach had an explosion that would have done the former coach proud. A very questionable foul led Knight to sprint across the court to call the officials several names that likely weren’t very nice. He was ejected, but it didn’t help his team – the Red Raiders dropped their sixth game in seven tries.

U – Useless. Illinois had been playing extremely well in Big Ten play – well enough that people have been calling them an unlikely contender for the conference title. It won’t happen if they play many games like they played against Minnesota, though. The Illini managed just 20 points in the second half, but that was an explosion compared to the 16 they had in the first half. The pathetic 36-point total was Illinois’ worst in 24 years.

V – Vu, deja. For men’s tennis, the final round is starting to be redundant. For the umpteenth time, the inevitable final at the Australian Open happened when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met. The result was also a case of recent deja vu – Federer played a heck of a game, but didn’t quite have enough to get past Nadal. Federer broke down in tears after the match, showing the true depth of both Nadal’s skill and Federer’s frustration.

W – Wildcats. Villanova is viewed as a very good Big East team, but one that is clearly behind the elite teams. That’s still the case, but the Wildcats got the kind of decisive win over a top contender that helps to strengthen their case. They had Pittsburgh at home, and they did what they had to do, winning by 10 points. It was an especially important win, because they had yet to beat a ranked team in four previous tries.

X – Xavier. It was another good week for the mascots of our column, but just barely. They rolled over Charlotte earlier in the week, and should have done the same against UMass on Saturday. It didn’t happen that way, though. The Musketeers won by just two, and the result was in doubt until the last second. Xavier was up by eight and rolling with 15 minutes left, but UMass fought back and briefly even took the lead, before Xavier reclaimed it and held on.

Y – Yikes. If this is how Sidney Crosby comes back from a knee injury then he should get hurt more often. After missing the all-star festivities with knee problems, Crosby bounced back with a vengeance. He had four points in his first game back against the Rangers, and followed that up with two points in each of back-to-back games on the weekend. Crosby’s season has been inconsistent, but he hasn’t looked any better than he has this week.

Z – Zetterberg, Henrik. The NHL’s love affair with ridiculously long contracts is still going strong. The Red Wings have secured their sniper for a full dozen years. Terms were not disclosed, but it is believed that the deal is worth $73 million, or just over $6 million per year. As these deals go, this one makes as much sense as any of them – Zetterberg is young, healthy, and wildly talented, and the price is a bargain in current terms. In a land of guaranteed contracts, though, these contracts just seem so bizarre.

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