OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Madness, Kaepernick and more sports

Colin Kaepernick surprised Bob McNair. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Without question this is the most mind-blowing tournament I have ever seen.  Brackets have been busted, hearts have been broken, buzzer beaters, No. 1 seeds eliminated.

The best story of March Madness is the Loyola Ramblers. And not just because of coach Porter Mosier’s kids who upset both Miami and Tennessee.  It’s the remarkable story of 98-year-young team chaplain and scout, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.

She is getting more press coverage than the players, posing for selfies and signing autographs.  Sister Jean, the team chaplain since 1994, has had a TV camera trained on her during games and has been mic’d up for her pregame prayers.

The national celeb plans to be with the 11th seeded Ramblers in Atlanta on Thursday night at the Sweet 16 in Atlanta, where they will face No. 7 seed Nevada in a South Region semi.

Coogs just miss

The UH Coogs finish the season 27-8 under coach Kelvin Sampson as a

buzzer beater keeps them from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen and a game against the Aggies. But I still cannot figure out why Sampson, a defensive minded coach did not put two players on the inbound pass.

Strange indeed.

But it’s a boost for Kelvin Sampson’s program, as they move into their new state of the art facility.

A&M moves on

The Aggies made it to the Sweet Sixteen doing it in a manner that Kevin Sumlin’s football teams could not: With defense.

Once again coach Billy Kennedy’s kids clean the glass, pulling down 84 percent of their shots against former defending champ North Carolina and Providence. The keys are 6-10, 241-pound sophomore Robert Williams and 6-10, 266 pound junior  center Tyler Davis.

So much for putting a lot of stock in your conference, where the Aggies finished seventh in the SEC

Rockets roll on

Like a well-oiled machine, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets continue to roll, even though they make a scary habit of letting teams get back into the games in the fourth quarter.  

The more you watch P.J. Tucker, the more you appreciate the unselfish play of the former Texas star.

Astros, Altuve stand tall

Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow rewarded superstar second baseman Jose Altuve by signing the MVP through the 2024 season. It’s a five year, $151 MILLION-dollar deal.

Crane is one again putting his money where his mouth is by paying guys who grew up in their farm system.  When he bought the club, it was bare bones payroll and 100 loss seasons. Crane lived up to his promise of taking care of his stars.

They did the deal quietly with the toughest agent in baseball, Scott Boras, representing the Venezuelan package of dynamite.

Net Gaines

Huge props to new Texans GM Brian Gaine.  Unlike his predecessor Rick Smith McNair, who treated the media as maggots, Brian had a press conference to discuss the first few days of free agency.

How refreshing.

Communicating with you the fans through the media rather than Slick Rick hiding in his imperial office. On the day they lost out on left tackle Nate Solder, Gaine added three offensive linemen.

And that was before the shocking signing of Tyrann Mathieu on a one-year deal. The hard-hitting safety declined a pay cut from Arizona. With the addition of the Honey Badger the Texans have upgraded the back end of the defense with a great player on a one year deal.  He gives defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel multiple options in the back end.

But the key to secondary is the play of former first round pick Kevin Johnson. The kid is blessed with talent but can’t stay healthy.

Still at odds

Colin Kaepernick was seen last Thursday working out at a local soccer field, then flew to New York to participate in the collusion case.  Bob McNair, was part of the NFL deposition. According to sources, the Texans owner was shocked at Kaepernick’s presence.

Not from an optics perception but who I still think McNair should let Gaines sign Kap.  His mobility is perfect to back up Deshaun Watson

Still Luv ya blue

Big thanks to Titans owner Amy Strunk for a first-class day of golf and dinner for ex-Oilers.  Warren Moon flew in from Seattle, Kevin Gilbride from the East coast and Dr. Doom, Robert Brazille, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

I had dinner with Rams legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.  He is like a little kid in the candy store with the acquisitions of Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters.  He’s never had a talent like the Chiefs former No. 1 pick.

Wade loves Watson and what Bill O’Brien did with him. “From the tape I saw the kid is destined for greatness. He has things that you can’t teach or coach.’’

Chirp!

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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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