There is a slew of bettable sports action going on this week, so let's get to it.
Pro basketball fans should be very happy with the Finals match-up between Dallas and Miami, instead of the same old tired teams we're used to seeing. The last year both teams reached the Finals for the very first time was way back in 1971, when the Baltimore Bullets lost to Milwaukee.
Prediction - Not knowing who won last night's game makes predicting at this moment a little awkward, but Dallas has had the more impressive season overall and deserves to win the championship. A key will be getting Miami's Shaquille O'Neal in foul trouble and shooting free throws, where he is mostly to blame for the Heat ranking next to last in the league. The Western Conference representative has won 6 of the last 7 titles. Dallas wins in 6.
In Game 1 Monday with six minutes to go and tied at 4, Carolina had overcome a 3-0 deficit and Edmonton had scored the first successful penalty shot in NHL Finals history, in what was beginning to be an incredibly wild series. Then the brutal side of hockey cropped up as Edmonton's MVP goaltender Dwayne Roloson was plowed into and lost for the series with torn knee ligaments. Carolina's game-winning goal would come with 30 seconds left on a horrendous mistake by back-up goalie Ty Conklin. The Oilers were still feeling the effects of those disasters in Game 2, as they were swallowed up by the Hurricanes 5-0.
Prediction - It is difficult to imagine any team overcoming a loss like Roloson. Hopefully the Oilers can make this a good series, but the pick now is Carolina in 5.
Amidst concerns about racism by fans, the much-anticipated World Cup of soccer begins today in Germany. The favorite, as always, is defending and 5-time champion Brazil.
Prediction - In 2002 playing on its home turf, South Korea surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals. In 1998 France hosted the tournament, and promptly won it. Although it isn't a great team, the pick is for Germany to continue that trend and win at home in a surprise.
USA - Having reached the quarter-finals four years ago and now being ranked a record No. 4 in the world, this United States team has high expectations. If the U.S. can advance out of what appears to be the tournament's most difficult first round group, a semi-final appearance is possible and would be a great accomplishment. More Americans would then further appreciate soccer, the most popular sport on earth.
Tomorrow afternoon the third and final jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown, the 138th running of the Belmont Stakes, takes place at Belmont Park in New York. Twelve horses are scheduled to race once around the track's huge one-and-a-half mile oval known for its wide, sweeping turns. Not much is up for grabs this time around, as both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners are not in the field. Of course, Derby winner Barbaro is just lucky to be alive after the Preakness, as it took seven doctors, a metal rod and 27 screws to reconstruct his shattered right rear leg.
Prediction - Showers are predicted all week, which increases the likelihood of an off track.
Win - Jazil; Place - Steppenwolfer; Show - Bob and John; Fourth - Bluegrass Cat.
Tennis' second major, the French Open from Roland Garros Stadium in Paris, concludes this weekend.
As predicted here, barring a massive upset, defending champ Rafael Nadal will meet world No. 1 Roger Federer in a dream of a men's final. Nadal was the pre-tourney pick because he has won five of their six meetings, including all the ones played on clay where he owns a record 58-match winning streak overall.
On the women's side 2003 and '05 champion Justine Henin-Hardenne was the pre-tourney choice here, and she should steamroll Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Final.
Arenabowl XX is Sunday, and like last year, it is being played in Las Vegas. It's good to see that professional sports can be played in Nevada and wagered on without cries of there being a possible fix. No prediction.
Golf's second major, the U.S. Open begins Thursday at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. With the tournament ending on Father's Day, and Tiger Woods not having played competitive golf since his father passed away, it would be an amazing chapter in his life story if he actually won it.
Because of the sheer number of players, predicting winners of golf tournaments is extremely difficult. Picking Woods is easy to do.