To no one's surprise, television ratings are way down for the NBA Finals as compared to last year. Four million less American homes are tuning in to see defensive-minded Detroit and San Antonio battle for the World Championship. Going into last night's contest, each game totaled a puny 175 points or less, and all were blowouts. The Finals' prolonging pre-game shows are not helping.
Of course, the main thing the Finals are missing from last year are the love 'em or hate 'em Los Angeles Lakers. But don't worry, things are slowly starting to get better for LA now. First, ex-Laker Shaquille O'Neal failed to reach the Finals, then 9-time champion head coach Phil Jackson returned. Before hooking up with Jackson, Michael Jordan, O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Scottie Pippen owned a total of zero rings.
Finals - The home teams easily covered the point spread in the first three games. San Antonio will not lose at home, so it's just a matter of time before the Spurs are crowned champions. The picks are Over in Game 5, and San Antonio and Under in Games 6 and/or 7.
• The College World Series begins today at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb. With its metal bats and unpredictable outcomes, the CWS is a fun event that usually produces wild, exciting baseball action.
Winner - Nebraska (3/1). The Cornhuskers are the hottest team in the country and gained some experience from CWS trips in 2001 and 2002. With three universities in the CWS, their Big 12 appears to have been the strongest conference. Playing only 50 miles from their home of Lincoln should give the Huskers a huge boost.
Nebraska's first opponent is Arizona State, who for some reason is 18-to-1 in the 8-team field. If the Sun Devils get by Nebraska, then Florida and/or Tennessee, that 18-to-1 ticket would be a beauty.
The title bets are on both Nebraska and Arizona State.
In the other four-team bracket, No. 1 seed Tulane has been the favorite all season long and should get past Oregon State. But the pick here is for Baylor to upset Texas in its first game and go on to win the bracket, and then lose to Nebraska in the best-of-three Finals.
Tennis' third major of the year, the Wimbledon Championships begin Monday in London. Just two weeks ago the French Open was wrapping up on the slow, red clay of Paris' Roland Garros Stadium. Now at Wimbledon competitors must make the quick transition to playing on grass, the fastest surface on the tour. After the long clay court season, that is simply not enough time for many of the athletes to make proper adjustments, which just adds to the advantages for players with power games.
On the gentlemen's side in order to win you need a big serve, which narrows down the field quite a bit. Major winners like two-time defending champion Swiss Roger Federer, last year's runner-up American Andy Roddick, and Russian Marat Safin look like the top contenders. Since Federer at 5-to-8 odds and Roddick at 5-to-1 do not give handicappers a good enough return, going for the money here is not a bad idea.
Prediction: Federer will win his third straight Wimbledon, but the bet will be on Marat Safin at 18-to-1, and then if possible hedge it if he meets Federer.
As for the ladies, last year Russian Maria Sharapova proved she was much more than just a pretty face when she burst onto the scene and won the tournament. French Open Champion Justine Henin-Hardenne (5/2) has been recuperating at home and not playing any matches in preparation. The bet is on a Sharapova repeat, even though the odds are only 2-to-1.