By Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
1. Welcome into the first daylight savings time edition of The Numbers Game. For McKinney ISD students, this week has probably been filled with hours of outside activities, long walks in the park, and anything to enjoy this weather we have been having this week. Oh, I completely forgot it’s 2012. Let me try that again then. For McKinney ISD students, this week has probably been filled with hours of Nazi zombies on Xbox Live, texting your friends about how you could throw a party just like on Project X, and starting your countdown to when school starts back up five minutes after waking up on Monday morning, despite the fact that you have a whole week left of fun to have. Trust me kids I’ve been there, minus the whole Project X thing. I was back in the day of imagining your bachelor party being just like the one in The Hangover. Man, did I just date myself or what?
2. I have a lot I want to get into this week in the wonderful universe of sports, including exclusive TNG women’s NCAA tournament Final Four picks and the eventual National Champion. Everyone always talks about how awesome the men’s tourney is but never gives any love to the female basketball player, so I will change that today by spending a whole number on what should be a fantastic three weeks of women’s college basketball, especially if you play in Waco, Texas. How’s that for a tease? There is also the Black Friday-style shopping that has occurred in the NFL with free agency beginning on Tuesday, where we have seen teams throw around some insane cash to lure in players who probably aren’t worth the investment, (see Laurent Robinson to Jacksonville). In addition, I recap the segment The Sports Bruu Podcast covered last Monday when Steve, Matt, and myself looked at the Billboard No. 1 songs each year on our birthdays, and I will try to predict which artist will be No. 1 when my 21st birthday arrives in October. This and much, much more awaits you, so let’s get this thing going.
3. You know that an athlete is a quality human being on and off the field when they are given a $132 million dollar deal and no one really bats an eye. On Wednesday that human being was Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who signed a new eight-year deal with the Leos with $60 million guaranteed, the most for any player in NFL history. As a diehard Lions fan I have absolutely no problem with this whatsoever. In fact, I thought he was worth more than that. For a receiver to be as unselfish as he is and to not bring any drama into the locker room (i.e. Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, etc.), to then go out and put up All-Pro numbers with 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns, you simply cannot put a price on that. Last season I saw the connection get stronger and stronger each week between Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, and now with a full offseason and an opportunity to heal up that Achilles injury, we might be seeing the next Aikman-to-Irvin connection before our very eyes. Congrats Megatron. I believe you will be paying for dinner with the other receivers for the next eight years.
4. Watching my Twitter feed blow up just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday with free agency news and information from countless ESPN and NFL Network reporters and analysts was mind-blowing to say the least. I have always thought it was funny how many deals are announced mere minutes after the signing period begins, despite the fact that players and teams can’t talk until the March 13th date hits. Can you believe it that pro teams actually break the rules? But in all seriousness, some of the coin that was thrown around was just absolutely ridiculous. For example, let’s look at former Dallas Cowboy receiver Laurent Robinson, who signed a five-year, $32.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday. For Cowboy fans, you could argue that Robinson was the team’s best receiver in 2011, catching 54 balls for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. Robinson often became defenses main point of interest over the likes of Miles Austin and first round pick Dez Bryant, mostly because of his ability to keep plays alive and find holes in the coverage for Tony Romo to hit him with the ball. However, Robinson wasn’t even part of the active roster until September 20th, and has bounced around four organizations since his entrance into the league in 2007. Watching Robinson on a weekly basis in 2011 has led me to believe that he benefitted from having a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in Tony Romo and potential playmakers around him in the likes of Austin, Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten. Can Robinson step into the role of a No. 1 receiver on an NFL franchise and be worthy of his huge, long-term deal, or will this be another case of a player blossoming in a perfect environment with few expectations, only to be exposed when the pressure mounts from being anointed “the man”? Time will tell, but I feel like I would have waited for the market to settle just a little bit before making any serious moves towards a player like Robinson. I guess if you are the Jaguars, you are starving for any kind of playmaker to pair with running back Maurice Jones-Drew, even if that means giving a player a long-term contract based on one quality year. I hope all five of the Jaguar fans cracked a cold one for their newest playmaker. Fair warning: they don’t have a gigantic television screen hovering over the field. Boring, right?
5. I didn’t watch much of the First Four games the past two nights, but I did catch that Lamar University lost to Vermont on Wednesday night, officially ending the magical run by the Cardinals who are led by the “worst group of seniors” in America. That last statement was made by head coach Pat Knight, son of Bob Knight, who seven games ago infamously called his seniors out for various mishaps, including hustle, effort, and even drugs. His rant has become a YouTube sensation and is worth the full 8-minute viewing, (the first two minutes can be heard on this week’s The Sports Bruu Podcast) but somehow Knight’s words completely altered the entire mindset of his team. So much so, that the Cardinals went on to run through the Southland Conference tournament and clinch a NCAA tournament. Despite the 71-59 loss to Vermont to eliminate them from the tournament, you have to be impressed with that group of seniors for standing up and playing hard after the comments made by Knight on Feb. 22. I didn’t think what Knight said was particularly out of bounds, but to challenge a bunch of 18-to-21 year-olds on a national stage and question their desire to win is a very risky endeavor. However, it appeared as though those men got better both on and off the court, and you can’t help but be truly impressed with that.
6. Here is a little picture to define the nature of being a New York sports fan. Enjoy.
7. March Madness has finally arrived, which means it’s time to play America’s favorite pastime: brackets! For the next three weeks you can walk up to almost anyone and ask them who they have in the Final Four, and they are guaranteed to do one of three things: pull out a folded up bracket from their pocket, load it up from an app on their cell phone, or tell you they are too cool for brackets and probably won’t even watch any of the games. I wonder if CJ Wilson is too cool for brackets? But I am going off on a tangent now and need to get back on point. On Monday, Steve and I discussed our Final Four picks in great detail, and for those who didn’t catch the show, (you can click here to get your full TSB podcast fix) I will give a quick sum of our expert analysis. Steve had Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Kansas making it to the Final Four, with Ohio State topping Kentucky to win the national championship. I went in a little different direction and chose Kentucky, Michigan State, Florida State, and Michigan to represent my Final Four in New Orleans, with good ole fashioned in-state rivalry in the national title game, where the Spartans of Michigan State would defeat their blue and gold friends from Michigan. All year long the Big Ten has been the best conference in the country, so having two teams from the conference should not be that big of a shock if it does occur. The reason the No. 4 seed Wolverines make my national championship game is because I love their ability to operate in the half-court offense and force turnovers from their opponent. With a +1.7 turnover margin and shooters making 8.2 3-pt FG per game, Michigan has the potential to be a dangerous team if they can find a hot hand early. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are going to need to get quality looks and take control on the game down the stretch, because to get out of that Midwest region with teams like North Carolina and Kansas who have a bit more size on a team like Michigan, they are going to have to rely on their shooters to carry them to New Orleans. For top-seed Michigan State, getting out of the West region will not be a simply task, starting with a potential Sweet 16 matchup with five-seed New Mexico or four-seed and Big East champion Louisville. But to win the Big Ten tournament and defeating Ohio State two out of three times means you have both a quality inside and outside game. The Spartans are led by big man Draymond Green, whose 16.1 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game make him one of the most dominating low-post presences in college basketball. Michigan State holds opponents to just a .378 shooting percentage, and will harass teams on the defensive side of the ball if opponents don’t have quality ball movement. I have watched both these teams quite a bit this season and was deeply impressed with each one, but if I had to say who I was more confident in making the Final Four, it would without question be Sparty.
8. Just a rule of thumb: the worse your bracket looks after the first four days, the better the tournament is. I love upsets more than you will ever know, so if 16-seed Long Island University is up on Michigan State with 1 minute left, you better believe I am going to be the biggest Blackbird fan in McKinney. I would love to win my bracket pool and I do hope that I am right about certain picks, but in my lifetime I would love to see a 16 seed defeat a 1 seed, even if it means my champion is gone. So here is a challenge to Long Island, UNC-Asheville, Vermont, and Western Kentucky: help a 20-year-old cross off something on his bucket list.
9. By the way, President Obama has North Carolina over Kentucky in his national title game. Carry on.
10. The McKinney Boyd baseball team took care of Garland with ease Tuesday night in a 15-0 win. The Broncos improved to 2-0 on the young District 10-5A campaign. Cameron Sweeney got the win on the hill for Boyd, while Evan Williams continued to swing a hot bat with a triple in the ballgame. The Broncos are off the rest of the week and will return to action next Tuesday when they host Garland Naaman Forest at 7 p.m. In District 10-4A, McKinney schools went 1-1 on Tuesday night. North won a nail bitter versus Richardson Pearce 2-0, led by the pitching of Will Shumate, while McKinney High suffered its second straight district loss to Rockwall-Heath by a score of 8-0. North is currently tied with Wylie for fourth place in District 10-4A with a 1-1 record, while MHS sits with Highland Park and Richardson Pearce in last place at 0-2. North travels to Rockwall-Heath Friday night at 7:30 p.m., while MHS hosts Rockwall on the same night and time.
11. This is certainly destined to be another banner year for boys and girls soccer in McKinney as many teams find themselves at or very close to clinching district titles. In boys soccer, the Broncos have clinched the district championship in 10-5A with two games left to go. Boyd currently sits atop the standings with an impressive 11-1 district record, and will look to finish out strong when it comes back from spring break next Tuesday when Rowlett comes to town. In District 17-4A, North currently sits in second place with a 6-2-2 record after defeating third place Little Elm 1-0 on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs look to continue to hold that position when they host Prosper on senior night next Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. Lastly, McKinney High clinched the 17-4A title last Friday in its 1-0 shootout victory versus Sherman. Sophomore Jason Horvath and senior captains Derrick Horvath and JT Hawkins each made their shootout attempts, while senior goalkeeper Chuck Schober didn’t allow a Sherman shot to go through. The Lions became the first back-to-back district champs in program history, and now are gunning for the chance to finish undefeated in district with two games remaining. MHS returns to action next Tuesday night when they host Anna for senior night. Game time is 7:30 p.m. On the female side of the pitch, the Lady Broncos have a huge game next Tuesday night in District 10-5A as they host first place Rowlett, who was the only blemish this year on Boyd’s resume. A win over Rowlett will split the season series between the two teams with one game remaining for both schools. Rowlett sits atop the standing with a perfect 12-0 record, while the Lady Broncos currently sit at 11-1. Game time for the huge showdown is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. The drama continues for the two McKinney schools in District 17-4A, as MHS is one game ahead of its crosstown rival McKinney North with two games remaining. After an upset loss to Little Elm 2-1 on Tuesday night, the Lady Bulldogs stand at 8-2 in district play while the Lionettes hold the top spot at 9-1. North needs to beat Prosper and Denison next week and have the Lionettes lose to either Anna or Little Elm to force a one-game playoff for the district title. If you are a huge soccer fan, high school soccer in McKinney next week is the place to get your fill of some exciting action.
12. Let’s go ahead and keep the female mojo going as we transition into The Numbers Game exclusive preview of the 2012 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Now let’s get something straight here: I have watched absolutely zero women’s college hoops this year. Does that mean I can’t give my predictions? I’d like to think not because I do know a couple things about the women’s game. First, UConn is always in the Final Four. Second, if you have a player who is head and shoulders above everyone else and can dunk, you automatically slide into the national championship game. And lastly, having four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four is nothing weird or unlikely, so if all else fails just slide those one-seeds all the way through the dance. So without further ado, here are the Final Four picks that will meet in Denver on April 1st: one-seed Baylor, one-seed Stanford, one-seed Notre Dame, and one-seed Connecticut. Let’s just give that a second to sink in. Now onto the national championship: I have picked the Baylor Bears, led by 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner, to defeat the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to win the 2012 NCAA tournament. The 34-0 Bears will finish 40-0 come April 3rd, continuing to establish Baylor University as a dominant power in the world of women’s college hoops for many years to come. On that note, the exclusive TNG preview of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament has concluded. You can go print out your brackets now.
13. When I found this link to a website that shows you every Billboard No. 1 song on the day you were born, I thought that it was definitely worthy of being talked about and analyzed on The Sports Bruu Podcast last Monday. But due to technical difficulties the third segment was highly sketchy to say the least, so here is a little recap of my songs that were number one on the Billboard charts on my birthday, which is October 7th, 1991. Now for the first five years of my existence only two artists/bands appear on my list, that being Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. On the day I was born, Mariah Carey’s “Emotions” topped the charts, while Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” took top honors on my first birthday in 1992. The first song I truly recognize on the list is in 1996, my fifth birthday, when Los Del Rio’s chart-topper “Macarena” began its path towards becoming a prom-honored tradition for years and years to come. Now when I get to the 2000s, I have such timeless classics as “Goodies” by Ciara featuring Petey Pablo (13 years old), “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake (15 years old), and who could forget “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy (16 years old). Lastly, I officially became legal to vote and fight for my country when “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas ruled the charts. Now onto who I believe will be number one come October 7th, 2012, the day I officially turn 21 years old. I have given this quite a bit of thought and have come to the conclusion that the lovely Adele will grace the top of the charts in her special way of wishing me happy birthday. My second choice was Lil Wayne, if you were wondering. When I look back on these songs twenty years from now, I wonder how I will react when my kids hear “I’m bringing sexy back, yeah,” and call the song stupid and not “cool”. It must be fun getting older.
14. I am definitely one of those music fans who latch onto an artist and listen to them for like two straight weeks nonstop, then suddenly get tired of them and put them down for months. Right now, Frank Ocean is making his rounds through my iPod and performing quite nicely if I might say so myself. If you have heard any of his music on the radio, it is most likely a song called “Novacane,” which while it does have a really catchy melody and beat, doesn’t compare with some of the other tracks off of his mixtape entitled “Nostalgia”. My favorite two tracks are “Strawberry Swing” and “Swim Good” because it shows off Ocean’s writing ability and use of vivid imagery and extended metaphors. Frank Ocean is an R&B singer who definitely goes off the cuff a little bit and gets alternative at times, one of the main reasons he signed with one of the most notorious rap groups in the country in Odd Future. The mixtape “Nostalgia” is free to download on the Internet and is worth a good listen if you are into a little different style of music. Fair warning: the album is explicit so proceed with caution.
15. I was right about two predications going into the NBA season; the Clippers were going to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the West and that the Mavs would be average team with a chance to be as high as a fifth-seed. The Mavs are brutally painful to watch right now, and they better hope that when Delonte West returns from his broken finger that he can provide a spark off the bench at the point guard position. I hope they can manage to bring either Dwight Howard or Deron Williams in here next offseason, or the choice to not resign Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, and Deshaun Stevenson and try to make another run at a title with that same core group will be magnified to the highest degree. But for this season it appears as though the wheels are falling off for the Dallas Mavericks, the biggest evidence of this coming when Jason Terry told a SI.com writer that the Mavs simply aren’t a team. I understand that, especially when the only player who knows he is for sure a part of the future plans in Big D is the Big German. I hope the Mavs can somehow find a way to figure this thing out in the next twenty or so games and just find a way to make the postseason, but I wouldn’t expect another magical run through the Western Conference in 2012.
16. Despite their 5-2 loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday night, the Stars have been playing some great hockey the past couple weeks, jumping up all the way to third in the Western Conference after a 10-1-1 stretch through their last 12 games. I attended the game last Saturday night when Dallas hosted the Anaheim Ducks, and I have to say that I was highly impressed with the large turnout the Stars got from their fans. Earlier in the season I went to a game and witnessed one of the lowest crowd attendances in Stars history, so to see Dallas sports fans, bandwagon or not, come out to support their local team, it is very exciting. And for those who don’t know, goalie Kari Lehtonen is legit. For a kid who loved Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour growing up, Lehtonen is a great presence to have between the pipes for the Stars as they make their final playoff push. Who would have thought that the Stars would have a greater chance of making the postseason than the Mavs with one month to go in the season?
17. Did you know that every Monday a brand new episode of The Sports Bruu Podcast premieres exclusively on TownSquareBuzz.com? That my friends, is the shameless plug of the week.
18. Here is my dream scenario: Peyton Manning signs with the Denver Broncos, who then trade a very frustrated Tim Tebow to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fourth-round pick. In training camp, Tebow is forced to battle it out with Blaine Gabbert and recently acquired Chad Henne. However, when injuries to Gabbert and Henne force Tebow into the game, Marion Barber doesn’t run out of bounds to stop the clock, his kicker doesn’t make an insane 59-yard field goal, and his defense can’t bail him out every single game, so Tebow becomes exposed and a certain man on ESPN can finally shut up about what a great quarterback Tim is. But dreams rarely come true, you know?
19. I believe it is time to close up shop on this week’s edition of The Numbers Game. Next week the Sweet 16 matchups will be determined, the NBA trade deadline will be about a week old, and NFL free agency will have settled down just a bit, so there will be plenty to talk about next Thursday. I also will announce my official World Series predictions for the 2012 season, which I will tease by saying that this matchup may be the lowest-rated Series for FOX in their history of covering the games. How’s that for a weeklong tease? Follow me @TSBSportsBruu. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.