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 Friday March 27:
How Sweet (16) It Is
The top two seeds in the West region survived scares from formidable foes, while the top two seeds in the Midwest region advanced without a lot of resistance. We’ll start with a look out west because those were the two most compelling games of the evening. Wisconsin had a lot of trouble putting North Carolina away. It was a close game throughout as neither team led by more than seven. It was a bad beat for North Carolina backers because the Tar Heels were not outside the number at any point until there was two seconds left in the game.
What did we learn about Wisconsin? Well, it was good to see Wisconsin have to fight through the game. They didn’t have many close calls in Big Ten play and didn’t play much competition in the first two rounds. The Tar Heels were an athletic, albeit flawed, opponent and a win like this shows what the Badgers can do.
The Arizona Wildcats surprisingly struggled with Xavier, as the Musketeers kept the game close until the final minutes. Arizona failed to cover the double-digit number, but it’s very possible that Sean Miller’s team was overlooking the Musketeers. There’s not really a lesson to be learned in that because the Wildcats don’t need to learn that lesson with games against Wisconsin and possibly Kentucky on the horizon.
Regardless of how Arizona prepared, this was a good outcome for bettors looking to back Arizona. After controlling both games they played, they were out of rhythm a little bit in this game and had to fight for the win. Battle-tested teams tend to fare well in March Madness and now the Wildcats have played that type of game in this tournament. The Wildcats opened a two-point favorite over Wisconsin.
In the Midwest region, Wichita State couldn’t replicate the performance that they had against Kansas and fell to Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish took control in the second half. What hurt the Shockers was that they had to fight so hard to get back in the game after Notre Dame came out really hot. It’s the first Elite Eight appearance for the Irish since 1979 and that’s a huge achievement for the school.
But Notre Dame’s run ends there. The Kentucky Wildcats decimated the West Virginia Mountaineers, taking a 26-point lead into halftime and not letting up in the second half to win the game by 39 points. Notre Dame opened a 9.5-point dog against Kentucky and the market has already bet it to 12. It may be too high at that number, but who is going to bet against Kentucky? They look like the most complete team in the field because they are.
The other two regions will be in action on Friday. In the East region, NC State faces Louisville and Michigan State takes on Oklahoma. In the South region, Duke entertains Utah and UCLA squares off with Gonzaga.
Putting Barnes Out To Pasture?
In a move akin to what the Texas Longhorns athletic department and boosters did with Mack Brown, pressure is mounting on Rick Barnes. After yet another disappointing season, the piñata of Handicapping the Hardwood is being asked to either change his coaching staff or face the pink slip himself. Texas has repeatedly underachieved under Barnes given the talent at the school and that’s inexcusable.
Barnes is a good recruiter and a marginal coach, but his players rarely develop. He’s not a good teacher of the game by all accounts and that’s not good enough at a school like Texas. The AD should just go ahead and fire Barnes because changing the assistant staff may be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Sure, the assistants have a hand in coaching up the players and likely spend more one-on-one time with them during practices than Barnes does, but it seems like a trickle-down effect from the top down. It’s likely Barnes’s methods and ideology that are holding players back at this stage. Texas should cut its losses and move on, especially with so many exciting young coaches out there.
Speaking of Coaching Firings…
News broke this morning that Tennessee has fired men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall. Tyndall’s firing is largely due to the ongoing investigation into what happened at Southern Miss while Tyndall was the coach there. The expectation is that Tyndall will face some stiff penalties, so Tennessee doesn’t want to be the team falling on that grenade.
Of course, this brings into question the vetting process at Tennessee. The Volunteers should have done some more homework because now they have to start from scratch once again. Tyndall didn’t do a particularly great job for the Volunteers this season, but this could change some of their recruits’ minds. Some high-profile coaches at smaller schools have already signed extensions, so Tennessee is a bit behind in finding their next coach.
Tanks for Tanking
The Buffalo Sabres fan base is among the most passionate in all of sports. The Sabres have an extremely high season ticket holder retention rate and First Niagara Center is packed on a regular basis. This season, the Sabres are horrendous. The Sabres were playing the Arizona Coyotes, the team closest to them in the race for the top spot in the NHL Draft Lottery. The Coyotes entered the game with a five-point lead on the Sabres for the last spot in the league.
Arizona won 4-3 in overtime. The Sabres tied the game late in the third period and fans were actually upset. When Arizona scored the game winner, fans cheered. The Sabres fans. In Buffalo. Defenseman Mike Weber was vocal after the game about the fans cheering for the opposition at home and it seemed to sit poorly with other players as well.
The players have to understand what’s going on here. First of all, the front office traded away every useful veteran piece that was not nailed down. Second, Connor McDavid is seen as a franchise player. The Sabres would have the highest odds to get McDavid if they finish dead last. Jack Eichel would be the runner-up prize, a player that has participated on several of Team USA’s junior teams for international tournaments. Ironically, Sabres GM Tim Murray was in Erie, PA scouting McDavid in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Finally, the fans deserve a winner. Sabres fans are fiercely loyal and it has been a long few years with the firing of Lindy Ruff and the years of awful play.
The shoe is on the other foot here because players and front office members are often asking the fans to understand. The fans completely understand in this situation and now the players are put off by their reaction. Personally, I think the Sabres are fortunate that the fans understand. Too many fan bases fail to comprehend what teams are trying to do and that leads to more bad than good.
Nothing will change about the Sabres' performance over these final few games and their lines cannot be bet because the opposition is favored by too much.
MLB Spring Training Update
The only big injury news from yesterday is that 2014 first overall pick Brady Aiken had Tommy John surgery. He went unsigned by the Houston Astros, who will have a compensatory selection in the 2015 draft, and will be eligible once again this season.
More importantly, MLB roster battles are starting to reach a conclusion. These things are important for bettors looking to find teams to back or fade early in the season and also for looking at win totals bets. Here are a few to keep a close eye on over the next week:
Danny Salazar struggled in his start on Thursday for the Cleveland Indians and all indications seem to be that Salazar could start in Triple-A. That would likely put Zach McAllister in the rotation for the Indians. McAllister was going to make the team in some capacity regardless because he was out of minor league options. Salazar has one and TJ House has two, so the numbers game will likely send Salazar down.
The Oakland A’s have quite a battle going on. Kendall Graveman, who started last season in Single-A, is projected to make the rotation, with Drew Pomeranz, Jesse Chavez, and Barry Zito fighting for the final spot behind Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn, and Graveman.
The Colorado Rockies have one of the worst starting rotations in baseball. They recently released Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa is hurt again, so Kyle Kendrick is the Opening Day starter. The Rockies may end up with youngsters Tyler Matzek, Eddie Butler, and Jon Gray all in the rotation along with Kendrick. The Rockies are a definite over team most of the time, but especially with that group.
There are plenty of other roster battles going on, so keep an eye out for those over the final week of Spring Training.
The NASCAR drivers head to Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race on FOX Sports 1. Make sure you know that it’s on FOX Sports 1 if you want to watch. It was a big day for Chevroley last season as Jimmie Johnson led 296 of the 500 laps, but finished second to Kurt Busch. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, with Ford drivers Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose rounding out the top five. Twelve different drivers led a lap at the mile-long track last year.
Jimmie Johnson is your favorite to take the checkered flag at the STP 500 with 7/2 odds at Bovada. Kevin Harvick is next at 9/2 with Jeff Gordon at 11/2. Denny Hamlin, at 13/2, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch round out the top five in odds at 10/1. Joey Logano is at 12/1 with a win and two top-five finishes in his five starts this season.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.