March Madness 2015, First Weekend: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Thumbnail image for march_madness_bracket_flickr.jpg
Jason Dean via Flickr

How do you know a brand is damn near bulletproof?

When the functional quality of its product is mediocre, when the buildup to the part that matters is totally irrelevant, and when fans can count on one hand how many people they can name who are associated with the product, and yet you still bang out record television ratings....that's a bulletproof brand, my friends.

March Madness -- the tournament, the fanfare, the brand -- cannot be touched. To the average fans, the players are just a bunch of jerseys running around playing, not really playing all that well, and so long as there are games in March and those games have drama (actual and gambling-fabricated drama), people will watch.

They're watching this year in record numbers, and there's certainly been something for most everyone -- a decent amount of upsets, some feel good stories, and an upper tier that should eventually give us a pretty good Final Four, the road to which goes through Houston this week!

The first weekend had winners and losers. Let's look at the highlights....

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Dallas Sportscaster Destroys Cowboys for Greg Hardy Signing (w/ VIDEO)

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Shea Huening via flickr
On some level, the Ray Rice domestic violence case was supposed to be a turning point in how the NFL, and maybe we as fans of the NFL, viewed domestic violence. At least, that was the hope.

The fact that we saw the chilling video of Rice punching his fiancée in the face, and that then (and only then) was true unanimous outrage expressed, should've been a wake-up call that the issue of domestic violence can't just be some nebulous, violent-sounding noun. It's real. We shouldn't have to see it to want to seek justice. After all, Ray Rice had hit his fiancée and admitted to it long before we saw the video.

But if the Cowboys' signing of former Carolina pass rusher (and formerly convicted abuser) Greg Hardy is any indication, the lessons have not been learned. At least not in Dallas.

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March Madness 2015: State of Texas Plundered (and Friday's Best Bets!)

Categories: Game Time, Sports

jaubele1 via flickr
The brackets came out on Sunday, and when it was all said and done, the state of Texas got five teams into the field -- Texas, Baylor, Texas Southern, SMU, and Stephen F. Austin. As luck would have it, all five were playing within hours of each other on the opening day of the tournament Thursday.

And one by one, they all went down.

Texas crumbled against Butler. Baylor surrendered 13 straight points to close the game against Georgia State. Texas Southern was manhandled by Arizona. SMU was jobbed against UCLA. And finally, Stephen F. Austin, the last hope, went down fighting against Utah.

It was not our fair state's finest hour. Don't mess with Texas...except in basketball. There, you can totally mess with us.

Let's get to a few picks for Friday (and try to recover, since my performance picking games on Thursday mirrored the state of Texas' performance in playing them)....

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Fantasy Crime League Update: Ravens RB Pierce Nabs a DUI Charge, Gets Cut

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Thibous via Wikimedia Commons
Let me preface this post with the obvious statement that everybody, not just NFL players, should avoid getting in trouble with the law. That goes without saying.

However, given the high profile of NFL players and the offseason the league endured last year off the field, you would hope NFL players would be on an even more heightened alert crime-wise. And you would hope that, given Ray Rice's travails (and the Ravens lately, in general), a Baltimore Ravens running back would be super duper aware of refraining from criminal activities.

Especially, a Ravens running back who is clearly expendable and not the foreseen bellcow running back for 2015, since Justin Forsett just re-upped with the team for three years, $9 million.

So it begs the question -- why are you so stupid, Bernard Pierce?

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March Madness 2015: Predictions, Sleepers and Best Bets

Categories: Game Time, Sports

arbyreed via flickr creative commons
There aren't many specific days on the calendar that, professionally, I enjoyed more before I got into sports talk radio than I do now that I'm in sports talk radio. Generally speaking, almost every day at my job is way more fun, stimulating, and satisfyingly exhausting in my job now than it was in my pre-radio life.

(Telecom sales, in case you're wondering what my previous career was. Needless to say, I'm also more interesting at parties now, too.)

However, these next two days -- the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA basketball tournament -- were actually more fun before I got into radio, in large part because now I'm actually working during the games, which makes gambling on the games tricky and enjoying them damn near impossible.

I guess my point is, tomorrow and Friday, from 11 a.m. until the nighttime, if you're playing hooky and watching all the games, be as thankful as I am the other 363 days out of the year.

Now onto my picks...

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March Madness 2015: Five Teams That Can Beat Kentucky

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Jason Dean via Flickr creative commons
break out your brackets!
As of this typing, we are getting close to the 24 hour countdown to the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament (the real beginning, not the phony baloney First Four they plunk down in Dayton for two days every year), so it's about to fill out your brackets.

The tournament always has at least a few teams who are head and shoulders above the field, but this is one of those rare years where the three weeks are being treated as more of a coronation than a competition.

Pretty much everyone with a pen, a bracket, and a pulse expects John Calipari's Kentucky team to cut down the nets in a few weeks in Indianapolis. How prohibitive a favorite are they? Well, the latest odds on winning the whole thing look like this:

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Vince Wilfork Signs With the Houston Texans

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Andrew Campbell via Wikimedia Commons
Teams go through the NFL offseason working their plan, which ultimately means some combination of signing their own free agents, pilfering a few free agents from other teams, and managing the salary cap with restructures and releases.

They do their best, looking for any sign that they can that things are moving in the right direction, that there's a belief these moves are leading somewhere.

The Texans have retained a handful of their own free agents (Kareem Jackson, Derek Newton, and Ryan Mallett, notably) and lifted a couple from other teams (Rahim Moore, Brian Hoyer). On Monday afternoon, they got their first sign that maybe this thing is moving in the right direction, as veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork signed a two year deal to join the Texans in 2015.

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A.J. Hinch's Second Chance With the Astros Comes at a Great Time

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Courtesy of the Houston Astros
A.J. Hinch likes the cards he's been dealt.
It was an off day in early July 2010, ironically a day after a win, that A.J. Hinch found out he was being relieved of his duties as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team was 31-48 at the time, going nowhere. The Diamondbacks were only a little more than a year into Hinch's first tenure as a manager at any level but still decided it was time to cut bait.

At the time of his firing, Hinch was 34 years old, the youngest manager in the big leagues. When you're young and you succeed, you're labeled "precocious," but when you're young and you fail, you're labeled "impulsive." A.J. Hinch knows this firsthand.

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Free Agent Wide Receiver Cecil Shorts III Is Visiting the Texans

Categories: Game Time, Sports

Graphic by Monica Fuentes
For a 9-7 team where the arrow is presumably pointed up and the feelings are (mostly) warm and fuzzy, the Texans have a fairly lengthy shopping list. Even after re-signing most of their prominent free agents and filling an important need by upgrading the safety position last week, there are still holes.

And there is one really, really glaring hole that would be glaring even if they hadn't released Andre Johnson last week (and let him saunter into the Colts' headquarters and ink a three-year deal).

The Texans need wide receivers...and I don't just mean "need" the way that most teams need a body or two to fill out a reasonable training camp depth chart. I mean "need" as in "if the season started today, Keshawn Martin would be starting at wide receiver for this team." That's horrifying.

The Texans will almost assuredly address this roster crater in the draft, but free agency must also be an avenue for them as well. And it appears they're working it.

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Houston Texans Safety Swap: Rahim Moore In, Kendrick Lewis Gone

Categories: Game Time, Sports

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For the Houston Texans, the 2015 free agency period has largely been about taking care of their own, making sure that they keep foundational pieces in place to continue building toward "something."

Kareem Jackson got his deal done (4 years, $34 million, $20 million guaranteed). Derek Newton got his deal done (5 years, $26 million, $10 million guaranteed). Ryan Mallett is coming back on a "prove it to me" deal for two years. Even the stark, raving Tarpamaniacs got some satisfaction with special teams ace Jeff Tarpinian back on a one year deal!

It took the texans a few days to go seeking upgrades to positions by going outside the organization, but it finally happened late last week as safety Rahim Moore became a Houston Texan.

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