OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: On the NCAAs, NFL free agents and more

Barry Warner weighs in on a variety of subjects. Barry Warner

Here’s a quick history of the growth that has turned into a humongous revenue generator for schools, Vegas and folks who gamble with several high dollar pools:

In 1963, the first of John Wooden’s magical run of 10 championships during a 12-year run, the NCAA Tournament field was 25 teams. In 1975, it became 32 teams

In 1979, the NCAA added eight more to make it a 40-team field.  The next season eight more teams were added, making it 48. Five years later it became 64. From 2001-2010 it was 65, and in 2011 it expanded to its current 68.  And coaches are still screaming that is not enough.

That is the reason why the hypocrites and the NCAA has millions of reasons to look the other way about the manner in which “student-athletes” are treated. The suits -- Who are they trying to kid? These guys are semi pros, getting money under the table from both agents and sneaker companies.

The suits made a profit of $105 million in 2017. Television rights packages with CBS and Turner accounted for more than $800 million of its revenue, so do not expect Jim Nantz, Charles Barkley or their broadcast colleagues dispatched to the tournament sites over the next three weeks to harp on how college basketball isn’t perfect. The networks have agreed to pay $8.8 billion to be the mouthpiece of the Division I men’s basketball tournament through 2032.

That buys silence.

But it gives non-sports fans three weeks of excitement and passion.

 It’s always challenging during the three weeks of March Madness, with everyone giddy over Cinderella teams, picking their brackets, the Big Dance, diaper dandies and buzzer beaters.

Then the announcers try to make the kid who hit the buzzer beater the same as the kid playing the trumpet in the school’s band.

 I spoke with Jim Nantz Friday night. After catching up on family, I asked my longtime friend how they were going to handle the crap about the Feds and semi-pro programs. “It’s a studio show topic,” he said. “We might mention it once in a game, should it involve a coach whose team is on the court.”  Jim confided that he was more nervous about the UH-Wichita State game than usual. “Hard to believe, but in my entire career I have never called a game involving my alma mater.”

TEXANS

Even though the Texans need a tight end, they will not make an attempt to sign Jimmy Graham.  His productivity has declined along with lack of blocking. But they will open the checkbook and probably overpay for the Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, a 6-8, 320 pounder. Same with his teammate corner Malcom Butler...

Once free agency starts tomorrow at 3 p.m. it will be interesting to see where Kirk Cousins signs.  After that the rest of the quarterback dominoes will fall into place.

NFL  TRADES

Alief’s Michael Bennett being traded to Eagles adds more versatility for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.  It also puts pressure on the Giants, whose offensive line is like the Texans, to draft a tackle high...

Wade Phillips has become the Father Flannigan of coordinators. The trade for uber talented but at times knucklehead Marcus Peters  may put the kid in the Pro Bowl. That was followed by the Aquib Talib deal with the Broncos. It clears space for the Broncos to be a player for overrated Kirk Cousins...

Props to controversial corner Richard Sherman for cutting a free agent deal without an agent. He saved himself $210,000 on the guaranteed $7 million dollar first-year deal.  That will go higher if both he and the Niners achieve incentives. Why don’t more guys represent themselves? It’s not that complicated, especially with players being privy to all deals.

It perpetuates the “dumb jock” theory.

ASTROS  

Astros made the traditional White House visit.  Even though the First Tweeter (and in my mind a complete buffoon), showed how loosely he plays with the facts.

President Donald Trump once again showed his ignorance by referring to Game 7 ‘’as one of the greatest baseball games ever seen.”

You can’t make this stuff up!

A pair of the Astros did not make the trip.  Both Carlos Correa and Ken Giles had family obligations, according to the team.  Read into that whatever you want. They certainly have the right to make their individual silent protests. Call me a cynic but my guess is that like Carlos Beltran there was more to the story.

Right after the series, Beltran said skipping the White House has nothing to do with Trump. The veteran has been unhappy with the administration’s response to his native Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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