Thursday, March 10, 2011

3 Things Certain: Lakers, Ohio State and Edwards Will All Win Championships in 2011

By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Lebron James makes it so easy to root against him
After the past weekend of events, I came to the realization that the Championships are all but decided in the NBA, College Basketball and NASCAR. I’ve been believing the sentiment for some time now, but it wasn’t until Sunday that it all clicked together and had me thinking, “Yes, this is going to happen”. The Lakers will win their third straight title, the Buckeyes will be cutting down the nets next month and Carl Edwards will dethrone defending five-time champ Jimmie Johnson as NASCAR’s 2011 champion.

It’s not exactly going out on a limb considering that the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book have the Lakers as 5-to-2 co-favorites with the Celtics, Ohio State 3-to-1 favorites to win and Edwards the second choice behind Johnson to win at 5-to-1. But still, who goes on record with a trio of sports like that and how does it just come upon as a thought process in just one day like happened to me Sunday?

For the Lakers, it’s been them all along, but they’ve had to hurdle a lot questions about their drive and togetherness along the way while a team like the Spurs have rolled to the best record with consistent play without taking any nights off. The Lakers look flat at times and do take the occasional night off against bad teams like the Cavaliers or Bobcats. In fact it was just three weeks ago when the Lakers lost to those teams in the middle of a three game losing streak that had the media, and fans, both seriously questioning whether this was the end of Lakers run.

I don’t normally root for the favorites, and especially not the Lakers, but I find myself drawn to them this season. I marvel at Kobe Bryant like I would as a kid. Even though Phil Jackson appears to say nothing all of the time, I still am in awe of his coaching style and how he gets the most out of all of his players somehow.

Most of all, I have the Lakers as the team to root for in the anti-Heat movement. I can’t think of any team, or player, that I have rooted so passionately against than this years Miami Heat. During the Heat’s four game losing streak, I have popped open bottles champagne like the ’72 Dolphins, celebrating their losses. All their hype and the na├»ve arrogance of Lebron James telling his home state on national television that he’s taking his talents to South Beach immediately had me hoping for their demise and also had me looking for someone to knock them off.

The Heat look as though they’ll have a tough time just getting out of the east, let alone making the Finals. Since watching all the teams very closely, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Lakers can turn on the switch whenever they want. They are that good, and during their current seven game winning streak, they have shown that they are now getting prepped and serious for the money season that soon approaches.

Sullinger should lead Ohio State to Final Four
As we head into March Madness, there is one team I see that looks the most polished and that’s Ohio State. No one is heading into the tournament with more steam than the Buckeyes. Since losing at Purdue a couple weeks ago, Ohio State has destroyed their last four opponents by 19 points or more.

Sunday’s 28 point win against Wisconsin, one of only two teams to beat Ohio State this season, showed just how dangerous they are. The knock against Ohio State has been their inconsistent outside shooting, but on Sunday, they put on a show where they made 14 of 15 three-point baskets.

They have the Superstar in Jared Sullinger, great coaching with Thad Matta and are hitting on all cylinders at the right time. Taking 3-to-1 in the tournament is a gamble with so many crazy things that are bound to happen along the way, but the consistent nature of the Buckeyes make them hard to bet against.

Carl Edwards won the Las Vegas NASCAR race over the weekend which is a prelude of what is about to come. The Vegas tracks represents one of 10 races on 1.5-mile tracks and there are also three others on two-mile tracks that can be lumped in which form the largest group a similar style tracks on the circuit. The driver who does the best of these tracks usually win the Championship. This has been Johnson’s bread and butter the last five seasons, but it looks as though it Edward’s turn this year.

Edwards has the best chance of knocking off Johnson
We saw the momentum building towards the end of last season with Edwards winning the final two races and it has carried over into 2011. Edwards finished runner-up in the Daytona 500 and then had some trouble with Kyle Busch in Phoenix resulting in a poor finish. But the good news from that Phoenix race was that Edwards probably had the best car meaning that he can be expected to be equally good on the other five races that are similar with two each at Richmond and New Hampshire and then Phoenix again.

That’s 17 total races where we should expect the type of performance we saw out Edwards on Sunday. With the horsepower being as good as its ever been out of the new FR-9 engines, we should expect solid performances on other tracks like Dover and Pocono as well and then hope for the best in the three other plate races, the short tracks of Martinsville and Bristol and the two road courses.

Edwards currently sits third in points, just 7-point behind co-leaders Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. If you feel like tying money up for a few months, getting 5-to-1 on Edwards right now is probably the best investment you could make in Las Vegas.

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