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 Wednesday March 11:
The Day Twitter Nearly Broke
NFL free agency started yesterday, but that was hardly the big story. The “official” start of the NFL offseason was highlighted by some very interesting trades. The first trade sent Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks for Max Unger and a first-round pick. The Seahawks, who were correctly lambasted for their Super Bowl play call that will live in infamy among Seattle fans and Seattle bettors, completed the trade with the New Orleans Saints, who get a big upgrade on their offensive line.
It’s an interesting trade on several levels. For one thing, the Seahawks became more of a passing team while Unger was injured this season and perhaps they feel like they found something there. It’s entirely possible that the Seahawks will throw more during the upcoming season than in past seasons. Unger graded as one of the top run-blocking centers in the league, but injuries limited him to six games last season.
Unger’s health is the major component of this deal for the Saints, along with some cap room. Jimmy Graham’s contract situation was a major debate last offseason because Graham wanted to be paid like a wide receiver, even though he was technically listed as a tight end. It’s also worth pointing out that Graham was not a star player in college. Drew Brees has the ability to turn average or good players into good or great players. Marques Colston, for example, went to Hofstra and was a seventh-round pick.
That part isn’t meant to diminish Graham and his skill set. The Saints likely viewed this trade as an opportunity to upgrade their offensive line and, in the process, prolong Drew Brees’s career by offering him more protection. It’s going to be hard to replace Graham’s production, but the Saints system will produce more talent and they do a good job with drafting.
After that bombshell, Nick Foles was traded to the Los Angeles, er, St. Louis Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford with some draft picks involved. This was a pretty shocking deal, though the Eagles reportedly have a quarterback in mind for their first-round pick and Foles didn’t seem very happy with the Eagles. Bradford has missed each of the last two seasons due to ACL tears and it’s really unlikely that he ever returns to form.
In lesser news, Jake Locker retired from the NFL citing a lack of desire to keep playing the game professionally. Locker was a top-10 pick of the Tennessee Titans back in 2011 and could never stay healthy. He was viewed as a bit of a reach on draft day and it’s a move that has set the Titans back for several years.
Who knows what else the NFL offseason has in store, but it has certainly been exciting to this point.
Everybody Dance Now
The Gonzaga Bulldogs punched their automatic ticket to March Madness and clinched no lower than a #2 seed by revenging their home loss to BYU with a West Coast Conference blowout win. The Robert Morris Colonials won in a tough environment over St. Francis (NY) to take the Northeast Conference crown and make plans to dance for the first time since 2010. The Valparaiso Crusaders shook off a bad first half to become the first repeat champion in the Horizon League since Butler left after the 2011 conference tournament. Bryce Drew, brother of Baylor head coach Scott Drew, also improved his stock as a head coach with the win. The North Dakota State Bison held off tournament host South Dakota State with a 57-56 thriller to win the Summit League crown for the second straight season.
Only one automatic bid is up for grabs on Wednesday night. American University takes on Lafayette for the bid out of the Patriot League. The Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, A-10, and Conference USA tournaments all get underway on Hump Day. Some of the better teams in the ACC are in action for the first time as the second round starts in that tournament in Greensboro, NC.
Wednesday’s edition of Handicapping the Hardwood will cover nine more conference tournaments that get underway throughout the week.
A Day of Information
We found out a lot in the NBA last night. Let’s start with the New Orleans Pelicans, who were playing for the fourth time in five days. They rolled to a 20-point win and held the Nets to 34 points in the second and third quarters, when fatigue should have really come into play. That was a thoroughly impressive performance and no Pelican had more than 17 points. They weren’t entirely dependent on Anthony Davis. That’s a huge win for the Pelicans and they have a bright future.
The Indiana Pacers crushed the Orlando Magic, which wasn’t a big surprise, but the Pacers are rolling right now with a lot of confidence. I’d put my money on them to hold onto one of those playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They’re a solid defensive team to begin with and they’re getting some timely scoring from some key players.
I was a bit surprised when I saw that the Cleveland Cavs were such a clear favorite at Dallas on Tuesday night, but the oddsmakers are rarely wrong and they weren’t in this case. The Cavs downright destroyed Dallas thanks to a 41-point second quarter and rolled to their 41st win of the season. The dissention between Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle may have shaken the core of the team and it could be too late to turn things around.
The San Antonio Spurs are peaking at the right time once again. They’ve won six straight, but the bigger area of concern is the Toronto Raptors. After getting out to such a hot start, the Raptors are freefalling down the Eastern Conference standings. They were down 20 at the break in this game and there’s no end in sight for their struggles. I’m selling Toronto right now.
You can stick a fork in the Pistons because they’re done. Seven straight losses, including this latest ugly loss against the Lakers, is too much to rebound from. It was a good story, but they dug themselves a hole way too early.
Tune into today’s Betting the Buckets with Cole Ryan for more NBA thoughts and analysis.
A Day of Information Part Deux
We found out a lot in the NHL last night as well. The Boston Bruins opened road chalk at Ottawa and once again the oddsmakers were on point. The Bruins have struggled throughout the season, sometimes due to injury, other times due to not being able to score goals. But, they put it all together for this game and it’s one of the wins that will allow them to maintain their playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
After dropping the first three games against the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers have won two straight over their cross-town rival. Watching Cam Talbot grow up as a goaltender has been a fun development for NHL fans and especially Rangers fans. With Henrik Lundqvist out, Talbot has been tremendous and the team has responded well. The value on the Rangers in the Stanley Cup futures market is dwindling, but they’d be my choice from the Eastern Conference right now.
The NHL playoff chase is on and things are really heating up.
Painting the Town Green
The Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, FL tees off early Friday morning. Adam Scott is a 12/1 favorite at Bovada.lv, with Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth next in line at 14/1. Jim Furyk, who finished 12th the Doral last weekend, is next in line at 18/1. Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed are in at 22/1. It will be a tough turnaround for Reed. Reed was in line to win the Honda Classic two weeks ago and faltered down the stretch. He shot 2-over to finish 23rd at Doral last week.
Last season’s champion, John Senden, is listed at 66/1. Luke Donald, who is at 25/1, tied for fourth and last season’s runner-up, Kevin Na, is at 45/1. Rain and fog are in the forecast for the first two days of the tournament before the weather breaks for some sunny skies over the weekend. This is a course that plays pretty tough usually, so it would be a surprise if the winner posted a really strong score.
MLB Spring Training Update
Another day, another awful injury in Major League Baseball. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman tore his ACL during a bunt fielding drill and he will miss the entire 2015 season. The Blue Jays are a team that I had really high hopes for, but the Stroman injury certainly tempers those. In fact, I’d completely flip my prediction on the Blue Jays for this season in light of this loss. Stroman is the best starting pitcher on that staff. There’s decent depth and this will guarantee that one or both of Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez is in the rotation.
If the books adjust too much, and they probably won’t since Yu Darvish was only worth one win in the win total line, there could be value to go Toronto over, but it’s a hard bet to make now. To make matters worse, Edwin Encarnacion is dealing with some back soreness already for Toronto.
Gavin Floyd has a stress fracture in his pitching elbow, so the Indians’ $4M gamble on Floyd appears to be a losing bet.
Cliff Lee is going to try to rehab his elbow injury rather than go the surgical route. Surgery would likely end his career. Lee said that he will not pitch through pain, but it’s highly unlikely that he will be effective at any point.
It’s a lesser-known injury, but Jacob Turner could be going the Tommy John route for the Chicago Cubs. Turner has a lot of untapped potential and the back end of the Cubs rotation is a bit worrisome, so this is a dicey situation. Fans were ecstatic that Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant hit home runs in succession off of Trevor Bauer on Tuesday, but the pitching staff is still a concern.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.