July countdown concludes with launches of NBA and NHL

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

July 30, 2020 11:13 PM

July’s final day ends our “pop-up” series of daily articles covering the restarts of major sports during the corona virus challenge. Last night, the NBA successfully launched with two nationally televised thrillers. Tomorrow, the NHL begins a flurry of qualifying round action in the Stanley Cup championship chase. 

A lot has happened in the past month! 

Entering July, there was significant mystery around the potential of “bubbles” in a covid-saturated state like Florida. Would containment even be possible if the outbreak worsened? Would containment flow so smoothly that sports with larger rosters (baseball and football) might have a great chance to exceed across a more expansive landscape through the rest of 2020. And, what would happen in the battle against the disease itself? Would mitigation strategies slowly knock it out? Would a successful treatment be discovered?

July didn’t bring us all the answers. But we did learn a lot.

*Bubbles COULD safely hold containment, even in a troubled state like Florida that topped 10,000 new confirmed cases on more than half of July’s days. Leagues featuring small, manageable rosters like basketball and soccer can exist safely in a bubble…at least in “made for TV” matchups without live attendance. Perhaps more importantly, success of the NBA, WNBA, and MLS showed the power of aggressive mitigation. If covid can be eradicated in a bubble, it can be wiped out on a larger scale. 

*Sports with larger rosters could will real trouble sustaining seasons in the current environment. Baseball is off to a shaky start. Though, trouble has been limited to “East” divisions thus far, as firewalls were built around three different regions. If MLB learns from the Miami debacle, it can finish its 2020 campaign, and look toward the future. College and pro football? Big question marks right now because infections have been prominent in simple workout sessions all over the country. What’s going to happen when full contact practices start? 

*Unfortunately, we learned that “passive mitigation,” half-hearted efforts by communities to stop the spread, aren’t enough to slow down the virus. Things are worse nationally, and in many states, at the end of the month than they were at the beginning. This is so universally true that there’s not much point in listing a lot of examples from around the country. 

A quick way to paint the picture is to compare the first two days of the month to the most recent two days. That’s a Wednesday-Thursday combination, important because reporting is inconsistent state-to-state over weekends and at the start of a new week. A Wednesday-Thursday couplet gives you a fairly clean read.

Here are a few brief comparisons…

The UNITED STATES reported 109,887 new confirmed cases on the first two days of July, 135,490 on July 29-30 (a 23% increase). The nation reported 1,363 covid fatalities those first two days, 2,950 the last two (a 116% increase). 

NEVADA, of vital interest to sports bettors in our audience, reported 1,277 confirmed cases in the starting couplet, 1,988 the last two days (a 56% increase).

MISSISSIPPI, another state with legal sports betting reliant on tourism and casinos to sustain its economy, reported 1,523 cases the first two days, 3,280 the past two days (a 115% increase). 

A handful of states are better off or treading water. Most are worse. Wherever you live, please bet safely. 

Let’s close out our final report with some Friday news and notes.

*The SEC announced a 10-game “conference only” schedule for college football this fall. That appears to block the ACC’s bid to maintain rivalry games featuring the two leagues. In the SEC’s plan, the season would start the weekend of September 26, building to a championship game December 19. 

*In MLB, the Philadelphia Phillies announced two positive tests to non-players in the wake of last weekend’s exposure to the Miami Marlins. That led to the postponement of this weekend’s series against Toronto. Both the Marlins and Phils will have missed at least a week of action if they’re able to return after the weekend. 

*Thursday’s NBA opener saw the Utah Jazz (plus 2.5) rallied to knock off the New Orleans Pelicans 106-104. Utah won the fourth quarter 27-17. Zion Williamson played 15 minutes for the Pellies, failing to grab a single rebound while posting a plus/minus of -16.The Jazz dominated inside play, outshooting New Orleans 58% to 46% on two-point shots, and winning free throws 24/28 to 13/18. The Pelicans kept it close by hitting three extra treys.

In the nightcap, the Los Angeles Lakers (-5) beat the Clippers 103-101. Anthony Davis scored 34 points in 35 minutes for the winners. Paul George scored 30, Kawhi Leonard 28 for the shorthanded Clippers. On the night, two underdogs and two Unders get the money.  

*Thursday’s WNBA saw market title favorite Seattle get bullied by defending champ Washington 89-71. The Mystics were 7-point underdogs. That continued the early-season trend of final margins missing point spreads by large margins. 

We promised earlier this week to put together estimated “market” Power Ratings for the league. These are based on recent spreads. But…again…the market has been way off reality. Keep that in mind if you’re handicapping the league. 

“Market” Power Ratings: Seattle 90, Los Angeles 87, Chicago 84, Las Vegas 84, Washington 83, Phoenix 83, Dallas 81, Minnesota 80, Connecticut 80, Indiana 78, Atlanta 75, New York 75. Expect exciting basketball when the top contenders square off. 

*Saturday’s NHL slate features five openers in best-of-five qualifying rounds. The New York Rangers vs. Carolina starts things off at noon ET on the NBC Sports Network. 

Earlier this week, we didn’t get a chance to post early lines in the “seeding” games set for Sunday and Monday. Let’s remedy that now. Odds from Circa Sports. Sunday, Boston is -130 over Philadelphia (plus 115), with a total of 5.5 (Under -130); Colorado is -115 over St. Louis (even), with a total of 5.5. Monday, Vegas is -130 over Dallas (plus 115), with a total of 5.5 (Under -135); Tampa Bay is -125 over Washington (plus 110), with a total of six. 

Thanks to all of you who have been reading throughout the month of July. Your daily sports betting schedules are now packed. Fingers crossed that they stay that way. Keep watching VSiN programming for great tips and information from our hosts and guests. And, please make use of the variety of handicapping resources updated daily at our website.  

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