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 Thursday March 5:

More Conference Tournaments Begin Thursday

If you haven’t listened to Wednesday’s Handicapping the Hardwood yet, make sure that you do. Do it early in the day on Thursday before the next round of conference tournaments start.

It’s a busy day in the college basketball world as the MAAC and MVC Conference Tournaments start today. The MAAC is led by favorite Iona and three first round games are on tap for today. Niagara faces Siena in the first one at 5 p.m., followed by Fairfield vs. St. Peter’s in the second game, and Marist vs. Quinnipiac at 9 p.m.

In the Missouri Valley Conference, or Arch Madness, Southern Illinois takes on Missouri State and Bradley battles Drake. Wichita State and Northern Iowa are the top two teams in this conference by far, but a good value play was given on Handicapping the Hardwood.

Make sure to keep an eye out for all of the conference tournaments and our college basketball betting podcast twice a week this month.

Peyton’s Place

Peyton Manning will officially be back under center for the Denver Broncos and new head coach Gary Kubiak. Manning took a $4M pay cut in order to help the team build through free agency and sign Demaryius Thomas to a long-term deal. There was no question that Manning was going to return after he talked about how good his offseason training was going.

Manning can make up the loss $4M with a couple of $2M incentives for winning the AFC Championship and winning the Super Bowl. Manning couldn’t replicate the incredible 2013 season he had, but he still threw for 4,727 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. The Broncos have averaged 12.7 wins per season with Manning under center and have rattled off three straight AFC West championships, so the betting market will be looking for Denver over and another AFC West title. There’s not a lot of value in either of those plays, but the AFC West looks like it will be a mediocre division again next season and the Broncos are going to shove all-in this offseason after the AFC Semifinal loss to Indianapolis.

I would expect that the Broncos make some significant improvements through free agency and also draft a player that can help them right away this season. Since it was already assumed that Manning was returning, there was not a big move in the futures market on Denver and the value could be available now before they start making offseason transactions.

The Broncos could be more balanced on offense this season because of how Gary Kubiak likes to run things. Manning got worn down at the end of last season and Kubiak’s offensive philosophy could keep him fresher for the upcoming season. That’s always a consideration with a quarterback that will turn 39 this month.

Please, Russell, Don’t Hurt ‘Em

Russell Westbrook came back from a fractured cheekbone to rack up his fourth(!!) straight triple-double. This time, Westbrook did so with 49 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists in 42 minutes in Oklahoma City’s overtime win over the Washington Wizards. Without Kevin Durant in the lineup, it has certainly been all Russell Westbrook, all the time. Westbrook took 33 of his team’s 96 field goal attempts and shot 20 of the team’s 34 free throws.

While Westbrook’s line was certainly impressive, it was Oklahoma City’s bench that did the damage. The five starters for the Thunder ranged from -12 to -22 while they were on the floor. The bench ranged from +13 to +34, including three players in double figures. While Westbrook’s line was impressive, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about for Oklahoma City. The lowly 76ers pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and were more physical than the Thunder all game long.

The Thunder are in a tough position right now because they are wholly dependent on Westbrook. Dion Waiters had 20, but everything goes through Westbrook until Durant comes back. This is still a worrisome trend given the uncertainty surrounding Durant’s injury.

My colleague and Gridiron Gambling Report co-host Cole Ryan suggested on an episode of Betting the Buckets recently that Russell Westbrook had a ton of value in the 4/1 or 5/1 range to win the MVP. Hopefully you took advantage of that because more performances like this and he’s going to get a ton of consideration, especially as Durant remains sidelined.

Bow to the Unibrow

Anthony Davis’s return was overshadowed by Russell Westbrook’s enormous game, but the Brow returned to the lineup for the New Orleans Pelicans and recorded a triple-double of his own. Davis had 39 points, 13 boards, and eight blocks. The Pelicans played well without Davis and that’s definitely a good sign going forward because they learned to win without him and that should give other players confidence.

The Pelicans wound up needing all of Davis’s offense in a three-point win over the Pistons, but it’s hardly surprising that the team would be a little bit complacent with their star back on the floor. With Davis back, the rest of the Pelicans could go through a bit of a transitional period before they start to play together as a unit once again. The Pelicans trail the Thunder by a game in the Western Conference standings and have the opportunity to make the rest of the season interesting as long as they keep winning. Friday night’s matchup against the Boston Celtics should be another victory.

The road is certainly tough for the Pelicans because after March 17, all of their remaining games are against Western Conference competition. I wouldn’t buy into them making the playoffs, but this experience is going to benefit them for next season.

Another Day, Another Bills Trade

After announcing a deal on Tuesday night with the Philadelphia Eagles to add LeSean McCoy in exchange for Kiko Alonso, the Buffalo Bills took another step towards fixing their offense by acquiring Matt Cassel from the Minnesota Vikings. The Bills are clearly in need of a quarterback and a case could be made that Cassel is the best QB that Rex Ryan has ever had as a head coach. It’s certainly the best one that he has had over the last several seasons.

For me, it’s still not enough to move the needle on Buffalo futures. Cassel is not that much of an upgrade from EJ Manuel, with the exception of his experience in the league. The problem is that the Bills continue to try and find patchwork solutions without admitting that the pick of Manuel was a mistake. Without a first round pick this season, it’s hard for the Bills to do anything, but the Bills pick 18th in the second round and some interesting quarterback prospects could be there like Bryce Petty or Shane Carden. Other guys, including those two, could also be available in later rounds and the Bills could strike gold by taking a chance on somebody like that. Garrett Grayson is another interesting name to watch for the Bills and he’s used to playing in the cold after wrapping up his collegiate career at Colorado State.

MLB Spring Training Recap

There was some injury news out of Spring Training that is worthy of consideration with win totals. First, Boston Red Sox projected center field Rusney Castillo has a strained oblique. Oblique injuries are tricky. Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis suffered an oblique injury in late April last season and it affected him all season long because he rushed back from the injury. It took away his power. In the case of Castillo, his value is tied to his ability to play defense more than swinging the bat. However, the Red Sox will be extremely careful with this injury because they have a ton of depth and a defense-first, offense-second center field in Jackie Bradley, Jr. that can fill in if necessary. Mookie Betts and Daniel Nava could see additional outfield time because Castillo will be out until at least mid-to-late April in all likelihood. It’s early, so the Red Sox will take their time with this injury.

Mike Minor of the Atlanta Braves was scratched from Sunday’s start with shoulder tightness. Minor also had shoulder tightness in Spring Training last season. Minor went from a 3.5-win season in 2013 to a 0.2-win season in 2014 as he was never healthy during the season and it affected his command. This is a major concern for the Braves because their starting rotation is very questionable.

The Oakland A’s are finally moving Coco Crisp to left field, which makes a lot of sense because the aging outfielder graded very poorly in center field last season. With Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry, two gifted defensive players, the A’s are in good shape. They are a team with some good season win total over potential because they are undervalued after their offseason fire sale. I’d jump on this one before everybody gets hip to it.

The already-thin Detroit Tigers bullpen got some bad news that Joel Hanrahan needs Tommy John surgery again and will miss the entire 2015 season. Hanrahan was a wild card to have an impact this season as a Tommy John returnee, but now his season is over once again.

Finally, a public service announcement about Spring Training. Spring Training stats are largely meaningless. Players are experimenting with changes to their deliveries or their swings. They are focused on hitting pitches to the opposite field or working exclusively on fastball command. Hitters are putting up video game numbers against Double-A pitching or pitchers are throwing clean frames against minor league hitters. Don’t read very much into what happens in the Spring. It doesn’t mean much of anything when the season starts.


Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.