If you are a sports betting enthusiast like all of us at BangTheBook.com are, then you probably start thinking about the betting impact of the day’s top stories. Not every top story has a relevance to betting, but you probably try to connect the dots anyway. In a new feature each weekday, we will take a look at the top six sports stories of the day in an article titled the Daily Six Pack. They say that an apple day keeps the doctor away. Well, we like to think that a six pack a day keeps the bookie away.
With that, let’s take a look at the six top stories for Monday March 30:
The Rise of the Big Ten
The Big Ten Conference had been a punching bag in major college athletics for a long time. The SEC was always the superior conference during bowl season and it has been 15 years since the Big Ten won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship back when Michigan State won it in 2000.
What a difference a few months makes. The Ohio State Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff and two Big Ten teams are in the Final Four. It’s been a down year for the conference as a whole in basketball, but Wisconsin and Michigan State will both be in Indianapolis on Saturday. The Badgers beat Arizona and the Spartans knocked off Louisville in overtime in the Elite Eight.
Duke and Kentucky are the other two teams, and the favorites, in the Final Four. The NCAA got exactly what it hoped for with this Final Four group of teams. These are all big problems with national success in the past and fan bases that travel very well. The Duke vs. Kentucky matchup would also draw the biggest ratings, possibly of any NCAA Tournament Championship Game ever.
It will be interesting to watch the line movements for these games this week. Duke has already grown to a four-point favorite against Michigan State and it would not be a surprise to see Wisconsin money against Kentucky after Kentucky’s near-miss against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish had every chance to win that game, but some questionable shot selection and coaching contributed to a Kentucky win.
Those looking forward to Handicapping the Hardwood for the Final Four and National Championship Game will have to wait until Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET to hear Adam Burke and Kyle Hunter on the airwaves.
Half and Half
As of Monday, eight of the NBA’s 16 playoff spots have been officially secured. In the East, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, and Toronto are all assured a spot in the second season. In the West, Golden State, Houston, Memphis, and the Clippers have all clinched a postseason berth. The more compelling race, if you can call it that, is in the Eastern Conference for the final two playoff spots. It’s hard to get excited about sub-.500 teams fighting for a playoff spot, but that’s the case every year in the Eastern Conference. Even #6 seed Milwaukee is below .500. The #6 seed in the Western Conference is 47-26.
This is a tough time of year to bet on the NBA. With 16 days left in the season, oddsmakers are forcing bettors to pay a premium on teams in “must-win” situations and the bad teams can step up on rare occasions to play to their competition. In the world of Twitter and the 24/7 news cycle, astute bettors are able to catch information on lineup changes and see when players are resting, but it’s still tough to navigate the NBA betting waters.
That was certainly evident on Sunday. The Cavs, a 17-point favorite, beat the 76ers by one point. Most of the other games went according to plan, but perception is also playing a big role in the lines this time of the season. The Spurs’ perception is starting to get out of hand with 13 wins in 16 games and a lot of them in blowout fashion. The Mavericks are an inconsistent team full of talent, but they’re impossible to trust. The Celtics, Nets, and Hornets are all very Jekyll and Hyde-like on a nightly basis.
That’s why Cole Ryan’s Betting the Buckets NBA Betting Podcast is so important. He’ll keep listeners informed on the things that they need to know every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with terrific basketball betting information.
MLB Spring Training Update
Roster battles are being decided and teams are gearing up for the regular season. This is a tough week of Spring Training because players are just ready to get the season going. Pitchers are starting to work into the seventh inning and run up their pitch counts. Relievers are working back-to-back days. There are some relevant roster moves worth noting for this Monday Six Pack.
The Indians have sent Danny Salazar to Triple-A Columbus. TJ House and Zach McAllister will work in the starting rotation to start the season. McAllister is slated to start the Home Opener on April 10, with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer working the opening series in Houston. TJ House will make his first start on April 12 to separate Kluber and Carrasco.
The Seattle Mariners sent Roenis Elias to Triple-A Tacoma, paving the way for Taijuan Walker to make the starting rotation. Walker is an oft-injured prospect with a ton of upside. I watched a couple of his starts against the Indians in Spring Training and his stuff was filthy. The Mariners are a trendy pick for some in the American League and with good reason. This is a solid club.
Justin Verlander is “feeling better” after experiencing “triceps cramping” in his last Spring Training start. Verlander was sitting 94-96 with his fastball early in that start and scouts were excited about his performance. Verlander took a major step back last season with a significant drop in strikeouts and an ugly 4.54 ERA, his worst mark since 2008. There are some signs of positive regression in his statistical profile from last season and he could be a bounce back candidate if the triceps problem goes away.
Jaime Garcia will not make the St. Louis Cardinals rotation because he’s hurt, again. Garcia has spent a lot of time on the disabled list over the last few seasons and the Cardinals were going to face a difficult decision with Garcia because he’s out of minor league options. Some team would have taken a gamble on Garcia’s upside (maybe), so the Cardinals get to buy some time with this latest setback.
More MLB 25-man roster decisions will be made throughout the week, so keep it tuned to BangTheBook for the latest.
NHL News and Notes
There are less than two weeks left in the NHL regular season and plenty of things to discuss. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been dealing with major injury concerns all season long, have suffered yet another devastating blow. Defenseman Kris Letang has been diagnosed with a concussion. Letang has a history of concussion problems and suffered a stroke last season. It was a very scary situation when he fell awkwardly into the boards and slammed his head. It would be a major surprise if Letang comes back at all this season.
The Penguins have been falling like a rock down the scoring rankings with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin hindered by injuries. Pascal Dupuis has missed the entire season with a blood clot in his lung. Olli Maatta had surgery for cancer and then had season-ending shoulder surgery. This is not a team to back for the rest of the season or into the playoffs.
Henrik Lundqvist is back for the New York Rangers. The Rangers surged without him and his return only strengthens the most complete team in the Eastern Conference. Hopefully you jumped on their futures price a few weeks ago when it was suggested in this very column.
The road team won six of the eight games on Sunday. There are a lot of advantages to home ice in the NHL, with different board bounces in every arena and the last line change. Bettors are usually forced to pay a premium on home ice, but road teams were great on Sunday. We’ll see if that continues.
A Banner Day for Toyota
Denny Hamlin picked up his fifth career win at Martinsville and the first win for Toyota in 32 races. Toyota cars grabbed three of the top five spots on the one-mile track. Kevin Harvick led the most laps but finished in eighth place, one spot behind Danica Patrick, who picked up her first top-10 finish since August 31, 2014 at Atlanta.
It was a decent day for Ford as well, with Brad Keselowski’s second-place finish and Joey Logano’s third-place result. Logano led 108 laps for his third top-five finish in six starts. Logano also won the trucks race on the weekend.
The drivers have Easter Sunday off as they prepare for the April 11 race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Walker, Texas Ranger
Jimmy Walker won the Valero Texas Open by four shots on Sunday, one of the few Sundays without drama on the PGA Tour so far this season. Jordan Spieth had another solid tournament with a second-place finish and nearly $670,000 for his efforts.
The players remain in Texas for the Shell Houston Open at Redstone in Humble, TX. Matt Jones downed Matt Kuchar in a playoff at this event last season. Sergio Garcia finished third. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler each cracked the top 10.
This event is the final appetizer for the Masters, which begin on April 9, in Augusta, GA. The Masters field will be the biggest since 1966, and there are other players that are questionable for the field, including Tiger Wood, Brooks Koepka, and Steve Stricker.
Bonus Beer: America Runs on Duncan
Finally, my friend and colleague Cole Ryan brought something to my attention over the weekend. Tim Duncan and the Spurs are riding high right now, but Duncan was also $100 richer following the events of last Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Duncan’s “BFF” from his days at Wake Forest bet the big man that he would not hit a three.
Tim Duncan....for THREE on @espn! #NBARapidReplay http://t.co/a1epb2awT2
— NBA (@NBA) March 26, 2015
Said friend is now down $100.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.