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 January 29:
A lot of the top stories on Thursday involve the New England Patriots. With Super Bowl XLIX now just three days away, there is a growing concern about the health of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady wiped his nose on his sleeve several times while working his way through his mandatory media appearance on Wednesday and told reporters that he had gotten it from his wife and kids. Even though there are three more days for Brady to take fluids and shake off what seems to be nothing more than a cold, the story was dominating headlines on Wednesday and into Thursday.
The murder trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez begins on Thursday. There would seem to be a mountain of evidence against Hernandez and the key witnesses that have not been suspiciously disposed of are willing to testify against Hernandez. Hernandez is a person of interest in a handful of homicides, but this particular trial centers around the death of Odin Lloyd. This should not serve as a distraction for the Patriots, who disassociated themselves from Hernandez pretty quickly after everything went down, but it will continue to be a story because it is a big deal to see a professional athlete facing these types of charges.
Deflategate still hasn’t gone away. Sports networks continue to consult with former quarterbacks to ask their opinions and the NFL is still surveying the situation.
A Feeling of Serena-ty
Serena Williams is back in a familiar position. The five-time Australian Open will have a chance to make it six when she takes on Maria Sharapova in the women’s finals. Madison Keys, the 19-year-old upstart that knocked off Venus Williams to reach the semis, was clearly spent after losing the first set tiebreaker and Serena cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set to advance.
Sharapova knocked off Ekaterina Makarova in her semifinal match 6-3, 6-2 in a dominating performance. Sharapova faces an old foe in this match. In 18 previous meetings, Williams holds a 16-2 advantage over Sharapova and Serena has won 15 straight. This is sure to be personal for both ladies. Sharapova has a major hurdle to overcome against Williams and Williams is hoping for her second consecutive Grand Slam victory after winning the U.S. Open last August.
Serena will be a big favorite given the history between the two ladies. Out of six matches in this year’s Australian Open, Serena has only lost two sets. Sharapova has only lost one set. Both of these women are playing at a high level right now and it should be an exciting match.
On the men’s side, Andy Murray shook off a first set loss to knock off Tomas Berdych and advance to the final. Emotions ran high in this matchup because Berdych employed Murray’s former swing coach after Murray cut ties with him and that led to some verbal fireworks between the players. Murray awaits the winner of Friday morning’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
UFC 183: A Super Bowl Appetizer?
UFC 183 will take place on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and that’s sure to draw quite a crowd and a lot of interest from fans that have made it to Vegas to enjoy Super Bowl XLIX. Anderson Silva squares off against Nick Diaz in the main event.
There is a lot of uncertainty regarding this matchup because Silva has not made a UFC appearance since December 28, 2013. Many people have tried to forget that match because Silva sustained one of the most horrific injuries in recent memory. His broken leg took a long time to mend, but Silva has to be excited to get back inside the cage. One has to wonder if the injury will be in the back of Silva’s mind against Diaz and if that could have an impact on the fight. Silva insists that he has not changed his gameplan in any way, shape, or form, but that may just be “coach-speak” in a way. What else is he supposed to say?
Diaz is 26-9 in the Octagon in his career. It’s been a while since Diaz was in an event of this magnitude. His last major fight was March 16, 2013 when he lost to Georges St-Pierre. The last three fights for Diaz have gone to the cards and all three have been unanimous decisions. The last two fights have ended in defeat for Diaz.
Looking at the odds for this main event matchup from BetDSI Sportsbook, Silva is a chalky favorite at -450. The over/under is set at 3.5 rounds, with bettors paying -150 on the under. There are four other matches on the UFC 183 card and a handful of matches on the under card, which can be seen on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
Without the services of LeBron James, who sat on the bench for Thursday’s back-end of a back-to-back, the Cleveland Cavs got a huge performance from Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 55 points and made 11 three-pointers in Cleveland’s 99-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. James’s absence is something to keep an eye on because it was because of a sprained wrist and not because of the need to rest. Considering that Irving scored 55 of Cleveland’s 99 points, it’s fair to assume that the Cavs could be in trouble again without James if he is out for any length of time.
Remember how badly the Cavs played when James was out a couple weeks ago and how much better things have gone with him back in the lineup. The Cavs take on Sacramento at home on Saturday and travel to Minnesota on Sunday. They may not need James in the lineup to win those games, but keep an eye on his status. Also, keep an eye on the perception of the Cavs with and without James. They’re beginning to get steamed by the oddsmakers because it’s a “what have you done for me, lately” industry.
Looking around the NBA as a whole, there were some interesting results. The New York Knicks played the “blind squirrel theory” perfectly in a 100-92 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Atlanta Hawks pushed their winning streak to 17, but their against the spread losing streak is now at two. Phoenix and Houston both picked up impressive wins over Washington and Dallas, respectively.
Are You Serious, Jerian Grant?
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish knocked off the #4 Duke Blue Devils in one of the most exciting games of the college basketball season to date. The Irish prevailed 77-73 on their home floor, thanks in part to Grant’s circus shot with just over a minute left to give the Irish a 73-70 lead.
Jerian Grant doing insane things. https://t.co/XSpYSVlFzo
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 29, 2015
Grant wound up with 23 points and 12 assists in what was one of the most scintillating individual performances of the season. Lost in the shuffle of the game is that Jahlil Okafor had a monster night for Duke with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
From a handicapping standpoint, there are a lot of things in play now. This was a high-octane, high-energy game for Duke, who is on the road again on Saturday in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia is a significantly different type of opponent. Their claim to fame is to control the tempo and limit possessions. Notre Dame was willing to run with Duke and run they did. That presents a lot of problems for Duke, because it can be frustrating to be that athletic and have to play at a snail’s pace. There’s also a revenge angle in play for Duke after Virginia knocked them out in the ACC Tournament last season.
From the Notre Dame side, this was an emotional win and one of the biggest for the program in quite some time. It could be hard to focus on the next two games, at Pitt and at home against Boston College, with a Duke rematch on the horizon on February 7. Saturday’s game represents a big letdown spot against a physical opponent on the road. Knee-jerk reactions drive the college basketball market and a lot of people that are new to college hoops betting for this season watched that game because football is almost done and college hoops are now in the spotlight. Don’t overvalue Notre Dame on Saturday.
The Prospects of Prospects
The baseball Twitter world was abuzz on Wednesday because ESPN MLB Expert Keith Law released his organizational prospect rankings. The Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins ranked first and second, which came as a shock to nobody. The Cubs have the best collection of prospects in baseball and only a couple of teams truly come close. MLB bettors will remember that some of the Cubs top prospects played last season, including Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Jorge Soler. There are others in the pipeline, including power hitter Kris Bryant and slick shortstop Addison Russell.
The Twins are loaded with the consensus #1 prospect, Byron Buxton, and third baseman Miguel Sano, who missed all of last season due to injury. Sano is a big power bat that has the fielding profile to stay at third base. More so in baseball than in any other sport, prospects have the highest bust potential. The jump from Triple-A to the Major Leagues is enormous. Hype and potential are good, but what scouts and front offices consider a scouting victory is what fans and bettors consider subpar. There’s a major disconnect in the perception of prospects. Some are “can’t miss” players that are going to make a Major League impact, like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Mike Trout. Others show up with a lot of potential and fall well short of expectations.
The Mets and Red Sox were both in the top five as well. As Law said in the free part of his ESPN Insider article, more big market teams appear in the top 10 of his list than usual because ownership is starting to understand the value of building from within.
Keep all of that in mind when MLB Season Win Totals are released in a couple of weeks. Teams that have good farm systems aren’t going to overachieve simply because those players come up in the second half of the season. Similarly, teams with underrated farm systems may be undervalued because of the composition of the Opening Day lineup.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six-Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.