Thursday, August 30, 2012

Long Beach State's eye-catching court

College basketball has seen a revolution recently in non-traditional court designs, plenty of which are proving to be far too garish and brash for many of the fans’ taste.

But one college who seem to have struck the right balance between the two extremes is Long Beach State, where the court design is distinctive without being intrusive or overdone.

Since its campus is located three miles from the shoreline and its teams wear "The Beach" on the front of their jerseys, Long Beach State decided to give its basketball court a palm tree-themed makeover. Four palm trees frame the court, each in gold to reflect the look of a Southern California beach.

This “themed” floor also makes sure that we are not going to see an end to the unusual court designs in college basketball anytime soon. Perhaps we have Boise State and their blue gridiron to blame for starting the trend which has infiltrated basketball over the last two seasons.

There have been so outlandish designs not least these three headed by Oregon who in 2010 unveiled an orange and tan fir tree-lined court floor, Towson University elected last summer to give its basketball court some orange watermark tiger stripes before Cal State Bakersfield  last autumn topped both of those by installing an all-blue court – whether these designs have a positive effect on their ncaab results remains to be seen.

Long Beach State's design could have been as outlandish as any of those had the 49ers adopted one of the other proposed looks. School administrators and basketball and volleyball coaches considered 10 designs during the past 10 months, most of them beach-themed, although one design that was considered was to go with an all-black court.

The one the 49ers chose has received almost exclusively positive reviews so far from fans, media and players, although the floor won’t actually see any ncaab scores from the men’s basketball team until Nov. 10, when they take on North Alabama.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Robson Faces Toughest Ever Test

Britain’s Laura Robson faces probably the toughest test in tennis after progressing to the second round of the US Open, with three-time champion, Kim Clijsters, up next.

Robson, ranked 89th in the world, will come up against a tennis star determined to win one last Grand Slam before retiring at the end of this season. It is a terrible hand for Robson to have been dealt, yet the experience of facing such a legend of the game should set the Brit in good stead in the future.

Very few people betting on tennis are giving Robson a chance in New York, with Clijsters set to take this tournament by storm.      

The Belgian looked fierce against 16-year-old Victoria Duval, mercilessly beating her opponent 6-3 6-1 and, after the game, gave this subverted word of warning to the rest of the field: “There isn’t really anything that I’d say I have to go out on the practice court and work on.”

Indeed, it appears that the 29-year-old has nothing to fear going into this tournament. Having won the event in 2005, 2009 and 2010, Clijsters knows just how clinical one must be in the early rounds.

Competitors with a genuine chance of making the final cannot afford to lose silly sets in the first week at Flushing Meadows, and Clijsters will no doubt bring her A-game to Robson.

It seems that whatever Robson does, she has no chance of stopping this machine that has age, physicality, experience, and desire in abundance over her. Instead of victory, what Robson will be hoping for is to hold her serve and possibly sneak a set on the tie break.

This clash will be valuable experience for Robson, but the result should not throw up too much of a surprise.

Bet on US Open 2012 on Betfair the for the best odds, tips, and gambling tips for the event in New York City.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sharapova back on Grand Slam Track

Having endured a frustrating August, Maria Sharapova is now back on track to reclaim her title as queen of the tennis circuit, after bypassing Melinda Czink in the first round of the US Open.

Sharapova, who won the Grand Slam title in 2006, saw off her opponent 6-2 6-2 to end a spell of absence from the sport, after a mystery stomach bug kept her away from pre-Slam warm up tournaments.

The clinical nature of her victory over 29-year-old Czink will come as a great relief for the Russian, in a match few thought would be over as quickly as it was.

Sharapova has been out of action since her 0-6 1-6 final defeat to Serena Williams at the Olympic Games, earlier this month, and is not expected to make huge headways in New York.

Her performance at SW19 that day was far from the standard expected by fans betting on tennis, with Sharapova unable to offer anything but weak returns and wayward serves against a merciless Williams.

Pundits and fans alike were left reeling as to how the Russian had gone from predator in her semi-final against Maria Kirilenko to wounded prey when up against Williams.

Days later, and the Russian pulled out of Montreal, before confirming she would not take any part in the Cincinnati Masters, ruining her hard-court preparation for Flushing Meadows.

Only just back in action, Sharapova looked at ease once more against Czink and will look to progress at least to the second week of this season’s final Grand Slam. The only two obstacles between her and a semi-final berth are Marion Bartoli or Petra Kvitov√°, both of whom more than capable of breaking the 25-year-old.

The former queen of Flushing Meadows must therefore hope that these early rounds don’t put too much strain on her fitness if she is to stage an attack on the US Open crown.

The US Open 2012 tips website is expecting Serena Williams to dominate the field in New York.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Thunder tie down Ibaka to new deal

The Oklahoma City Thunder have secured the services of Serge Ibaka on a new four-year contract extension, rewarding the 23-year old following a sensational season, in which the Spaniard finished top of the NBA blocks standings.

The signing of Ibaka to a new deal ensures another of the Thunder’s key stars will be in the team going into the future, proving Oklahoma are determined to keep their place as title challengers.

Ibaka’s signature also ends a number of NBA rumours linking the player to other basketball teams. 

The Thunder reached the NBA Finals last season, losing to a sensational Miami Heat side, and there is plenty of pressure of general manager, Sam Presti, to keep the squad together for another real crack at going one step further this year.

Ibaka was certainly essential to the Thunder’s success last season, blocking at least 10 shots on three occasions last year to finish top of the block charts.

That defensive form eventually saw Ibaka go on to earn his place in the NBA All-Defensive Team at the end of the season, proving just how influential the youngster was to the Thunder’s achievements last year.

General manager, Presti, admitted that the Thunder had been desperate to tie Ibaka down to a new deal, well aware that there is still plenty of growth and improvements yet to come from the 23-year old.

He will return to the Thunder will an Olympic silver medal in his collection from the summer in London following his exploits for the Spanish team.

"At 23 years old (by the time next season starts), we really do expect his best basketball to be in front of him," Presti said.

"He does so many things. Obviously, his shot-blocking is a statistic that's most pointed to because it's objective, because it's measurable, but there's a lot of things he does for us in terms of just, I would say, deterring shots."

"He really helps our pick-and-roll defence and bails us out a lot of times." Fans thinking of placing a bet on NBA should make sure that they take account of Ibaka’s defensive forte when gambling against OKC.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gale Eyeing Champs League Glory

Yorkshire captain, Andrew Gale, is hoping the chance to play in the Champions League will ease some of the pain of losing in the T20 final against Hampshire.
Following a spectacular day’s cricket at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff, the result went down to the final over, with Yorkshire needing 14 runs to win.

However, a fine display of bowling by Chris Wood snared three Yorkshire wickets and ensured a Hampshire victory by 10 runs.

Despite the agony of defeat, Yorkshire do have the consolation of a place in the qualifying phase of the Champions League, a point emphasised by England legend, Michael Vaughan.

They face the Auckland Aces of New Zealand and Pakistan’s Sialkot Stallions in the qualifying group in October, giving them the chance to reach the finals stages, where they will compete against some of the best T20 teams of the world.

The competition is growing in stature each year, with the success of T20 leading to an impressive set of domestic leagues – lead, of course, by the megabucks IPL.

Gale believes that the chance to compete with such sides is a fantastic opportunity, and one that they should grab with both hands, despite the agony of their final defeat.

"I like to think we can compete with the best teams in the world," he said. "We only lost the match in the last two or three balls of the final and that shows we have come a very long way in a short space of time." 

"It would have been nice to spray that champagne around but what we have achieved as a club can make us all proud. We now have a trip to South Africa and will be playing the best Twenty20 teams in the world."

Continuing with the theme of short-form cricket, the T20 World Cup odds on Betfair should be your first stop for information on the upcoming event.     

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kaymer runs Ryder Cup risk

Martin Kaymer is certainly confident that his Ryder Cup place is secured having decided not to feature in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles this week.

The German is currently in the automatic places to qualify for the European team at the upcoming event at Medinah Country Club next month but could be overtaken, were one of his counterparts to enjoy a successful tournament in Perthshire this week.

Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts is one of the contenders to make a last gaps run for a Ryder Cup spot but he would have to win or finish as the runner-up for the Johnnie Walker Championship to push Kaymer out of
the running.

The German has struggled for form in recent years but will certainly have something to offer captain Jose Mari Olazabal when they team head across the Atlantic to Illinois (follow the link for more golf betting tips ahead of the Ryder Cup).

Kaymer’s agent Johan Elliot is confident his client is making the right decision by sticking to his schedule ahead of the Ryder Cup, which will see Europe hope to retain the title after their triumph at Celtic Manor two years ago.

He said: "Martin's been in a bit of a slump as we all know, but he is comfortable with where he is heading and he wants to be at the Ryder Cup. There's no doubt about that.

"He decided to stick to his schedule rather than play this week and he's spoken to Jose Maria about it.

"He's a smart man and he knows that Martin knows what he needs to do.”

Follow the link for more information, news and odds ahead of next month’s Ryder Cup.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why don’t more teams develop knuckleballers?

It’s a question on the lips of MLB experts up and down the leagues, and one that’s often dismissed with the retort that the minor league roster spots are too valuable.

Sure, it requires general managers and staff to broaden their horizons a little bit and break the modern baseball mould, but it’s worth taking a chance on when you consider the possibilities.

Take the Rockies, for argument’s sake, there is an opportunity for gains to be made if the powers-that-be would only open their eyes and consider just how little they have to lose.

If we saw more teams adopting this way of thinking then it’s certain we’d be seeing more batters taking their frustrations out on the dugout facilities, having seen a would-be floater inexplicably transform in mid-air for a strike.

So why aren’t teams teaching pitchers how to deliver a knuckleball? Well, part of the reason is that there’s a perception that it’s a difficult pitch for catchers to stick to.

But that’s nonsense, as those who enjoy betting on baseball have seen in countless World Series-winning campaigns and even the showpiece games themselves.

But you need a mentor, one of the real MLB picks, and somebody who knows the skill and can impart that knowledge with enough authority and will to instill it as part of their student’s game.

Unfortunately there aren’t many of these ‘knuckle-masters’ about, although those who do hold this particularly skill in their armoury are typically eager to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation.

Throwing a knuckleball isn’t easy, and many who show a passing interest are often reluctant to throw their weight into the practice, out of fear of restricting their options.

And that’s certainly a reason why we don’t see many of them thrown in the modern game, but surely that’s not a good enough reason for the skill to be so wantonly overlooked?

It cannot be a last resort following a string of failed fastballs, sliders and curveballs, but unfortunately the knuckleball does not come attached with the same glamorous tags at its more commonly utilised brothers.

But this is where the teams come in. It’s time for coaches at junior level to invest their time and resources into teaching their youngsters this important skill.

History tells us that the ones who have mastered the knuckleball have gone on to enjoy long and fruitful careers. Niekro, Wakefield, Wilhelm, Dickey, Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood - there aren’t many poor knuckleballers.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bookies Running Scared of Frankel Juddmonte Bid

Even though he has never run as far before, and is likely to be faced by a small but select field, betting firms seem to be running scared of the mighty Frankel, as he nears his first outing at 10 furlongs in the coveted Group 1 Juddmonte International stakes at York on August 22, writes Elliot Slater.

With pedigree experts, racing pundits, and bookmakers alike seemingly all agreed that Frankel is likely to be as good over an extra quarter mile as he has been in 12 stunning performance so far, the very best price in the marketplace is 1/6 about Sir Henry Cecil’s superstar extending his unbeaten sequence to 13.

However, some York Ebor meeting betting firms are being particularly cautious, and only offering 1/8.

Of course, it would help if Frankel’s likely opponents would stand up and be counted. In recent days, the likes of Nathaniel and Cirrus des Aigles have been effectively ruled out of the contest, leaving Ballydoyle’s smart St Nicholas Abbey, the ex-French group 1 winner, Planteur, and the Irish Derby runner-up, Born To Sea, as the most likely challengers to the highest rated horse on the planet. 

Very good horses as the aforementioned trio are, they are not expected to prove good enough to lower Frankel’s colours. Some judges have strongly suspected that the 140-rated son of Galileo may well prove to be even better over the longer distance than the he has so far at a mile, where he has turned a long series of Group 1 contests into little more than exhibition exercise canters.

Should one or more of the intended rivals to Frankel drop out before the big race on the Knavesmire, it is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility that Cecil’s pride and joy could be sent off at odds of 1/10 or shorter.

Completing the race circuit in August will be the feature contest at Doncaster. Visit the St Leger 2012 odds page for more on the popular contest.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Smith Misses out on World Cup

South Africa seem to be confident that they can succeed at the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka without their experienced Test skipper, Graeme Smith.
The Proteas are in the midst of a Test series with England, and look set to go top of the world rankings, if they can avoid defeat in the third and final encounter at Lords’.

Smith has been at the helm of the Test outfit and has really led from the front with some impressive batting performances from the experienced opener.

There is no questioning the skipper’s quality, and, if he wants, he can really push the run rate with some trademark big hits against the best strike bowlers in the world.

However, the South African selectors have decided not to select the 31-year-old, who has not featured for the side in the shortest form of the game since October, last year.

Selection convener, Andrew Hudson, said: "We are confident that our squad will be very competitive and make South Africa proud.

"We have had basically the same squad together for the past year, and many of them also produced stand-out performances at the Indian Premier League.

"The Proteas will also have excellent preparation for the World Twenty20, by finishing the England tour with three matches.”

South Africa have decided that they will take experienced batsman, Jacques Kallis, on the trip to Sri Lanka for the tournament, which all gets underway on September 18 in the subcontinent.

The Proteas clearly believe that they have the personnel in their squad to challenge for the trophy next month, and they will be hoping that it wasn’t a mistake to leave a player of Smith’s quality back home.

Visit the cricket tips and England betting pages on Betfair for the best odds, picks, and news for world Test cricket.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Federer Happy for Murray

In the aftermath of his Olympic mens singles final defeat to Andy Murray, Roger Federer has shown his class by saying that he is happy for the 25-year old British player.

“Don’t forget that he is an amazing player already. I thought he played a very, very good Wimbledon Championships. 

So, for me, what I was happy to see is that he didn’t have a let-down, you know, after the Wimbledon final,” Federer said. “It’s easy to come back, best-of-3, you know, go out third round maybe. You just feel more horrible,” he added.

Federer, 30, who has won a record 17 Grand Slam titles during his career, has also tasted defeat in 7 major finals, and he knows what it takes to come back and be successful after a big let down; this is why his praise of Murray will be so well received by the man from Dunblane. 

“He (Murray) came; he won gold. I think this is how champions react. That’s more what I see, and not just actually him beating me and beating Novak back-to-back. We knew he could do that. He was a threat in a big way,” Federer said.

Whilst Federer may be happy to compliment his rival, it is worth remembering that, just four weeks previously, he gave Murray a real lesson in the Wimbledon final and he is sure to bounce back, something that fans of tennis betting should keep in mind.
Federer won’t have to wait long for his chance to add another Grand Slam title to his collection, as the US Open starts at Flushing Meadows on 27th August. 

Federer has won the US Open five times previously, and if he can continue the form that he showed earlier in the year at Wimbledon then he will certainly be hard to beat, regardless of his defeat in the Olympic final.

Murray is now the second favourite to triumph at Flushing Meadows, according to the US Open 2012 odds.

Monday, August 6, 2012

France In For an Easy Outing against Tunisia

The French basketball team started their 2012 London Olympics campaign with a heavy defeat at the hands of the powerful USA, but they have since regained their composure significantly.

They have followed up that opening-day loss with twin victories and will now be looking to put one foot in the knockout round and enhance their Betfair betting odds by defeating the minnows Tunisia on Saturday.

The Blues were criticised for their highly disjointed effort against the Americans last Saturday but instead of feeling down and dejected, they quickly got up and upset one of the silver-medal favourites Argentina 71-64.

Their start point guard Tony Parker then inspired them to turn a four-point half-time disadvantage into an 82-74 win at the final whistle against Lithuania and so their Olympics campaign is now well and truly back on track.

After the Tunisia meeting, their final group game will be against another minnow Nigeria, who recently were on the receiving end of a record-breaking beat down by the US.

The French team last won an Olympic basketball medal in Syndey 12 years ago and are desperate to secure a podium finish this time around.

In order to realise that dream, they need their two main scoring options (Parker and Nicolas Batum) to keep firing on all cylinders. However, they would also need timely help from role players such as Boris Diaw and the new Los Angeles Clippers man Ronny Turiaf, especially now that they have lost the services of Florent Pietrus due to a broken nose.

The Tunisian basketball team, which is participating in Olympic Games for the very first time, had started off with a hard-fought 60-56 win over Nigeria, although they have been thoroughly dispatched by USA and Argentina in their subsequent two games.

But they will take confidence from the fact that they had managed to keep their game with the South Americans very close until the half-time and so they will be hoping to do more of the same when they meet the French tomorrow.

Elsewhere, the Olympic Boxing tournament is reaching the climactic stages. Make sure you get the latest news from the event on Betfair.