PORT ARTHUR —
Apparently the guys who post odds in Las Vegas are seeing something in the Houston Astros that I’m missing. RJ Bell of Pregame.com recently posted his over/under win totals for MLB teams and has the number on first-year manager Terry Porter’s no-name Minute Maid Park outfit at a surprisingly high 59.5 wins. Bell knows his stuff, but the 2013 Astros have less talent and are playing in a tougher division than the 55 and 56-win Houston teams of the past two years. Anybody who is headed for Vegas please call me. I need to get down on the under . . . One of the most insane photos coming out of NBA All-Star week in Houston was a shot of former Rockets great Yao Ming standing next to the Texans JJ Watt after the two were introduced and had lunch together. The 6-6, 290-pound Watt looked like an average-size kid alongside the 7-6, 320-pound “Great Wall.” After they had lunch, Watt tweeted, “Have a feeling he could knock down a pass or two.” . . . The Rockets, by the way, are said to be strongly considering retiring Yao’s number. Despite being hobbled by foot injuries that cut short his career, it’s certainly not hard to make a case that Yao is deserving. Plus honoring him with a retired jersey makes good business sense. He’d join an elite Rockets fraternity that includes only Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich.
It’s bad enough that Pat Knight’s second Lamar University basketball team took a 3-21 record into Saturday night’s game against McNeese State, but what may be even worse is that the average margin of those 21 losses has been 21.3 points, and that only three of the losses have been by less than double digits. Also tough to defend is the fact that four of LU’s nine Southland foes — Stephen F. Austin by 36, Northwestern State by 28 and 22, Central Arkansas by 29 and Sam Houston by 38 — have posted their all-time most one-sided wins over the current Cardinals. So did former Southland foe Arkansas St. (40 points) . . . Because of their grinding style of play, it’s difficult to determine how good former Billy Tubbs assistant Danny Kaspar’s Stephen F. Austin team is. But you have to give SFA credit for two very impressive stats for a Southland Conference team. Entering Saturday’s game against Southeastern Louisiana with a 21-2 record, Kaspar’s team ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (49.7) and is a lofty No. 72 in the RPI. If the Lumberjacks don’t stumble against SLC foes, win their Bracketbuster game at Long Beach State Friday night and prevail in the league tourney, they could get as high as a No. 13 seed in the NCAAs. Only two Texas schools — Baylor (52) and Texas A&M (67) have a higher RPI than SFA. Texas is No. 148 . . . Mike James, who helped LU win the SLC tourney last year, continues to post good numbers playing pro basketball in Europe. James was the teams leading scorer with a 19.1 average in nine games for KK Zagreb in the Croatian League, while making 54 percent of his field goal attempts. In his first game last week with Kazrin/Galil Elion in the Israeli League, James scored 25 points and had five rebounds and five assists in a 96-85 victory.
Each year after collegiate football signing classes are completed and rated, Sports Illustrated reviews classes from three years prior and adjusts those ratings based on results from the recently completed season. Former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has reason to have mixed feelings about the new numbers on his Aggie recruits of 2010. Originally listed No. 17 by Rivals.com, the class jumped to No. 1 based on what happened in the 2012 season. Keep in mind that was not the Johnny Manziel class, but the group signed one year before the Heisman Trophy winner landed in College Station. The reason Sherman should have mixed feelings is that SI’s Andy Staples concluded, “This means Mike Sherman and his staff recruited some talent but they didn’t coach it very well.” Texas’ Mack Brown can certainly relate . . . A most interesting sidebar to the latest football recruiting class was the number of sons of former high profile professional athletes in all sports. Sons of NFL dads who signed were Deion Sanders Jr. with SMU, Nick Montana (Joe Montana) with Tulane and Kelvin Taylor (Fred Taylor) with Florida. Two NBA all-time greats were contributors with David Robinson’s son Corey signing with Notre Dame and Karl Malone’s son K.J. opting for LSU. Notre Dame also landed Torri Hunter Jr., son of four time baseball All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter who currently plays for the Detroit Tigers . . . Most unusual story among the football signings was that of Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster. Not long after the Auburn, Ala., schoolboy star signed, authorities arrested his dad, Danny Foster, who had eluded capture for 16 years. Foster’s alleged crime? Shooting his estranged wife while she was holding her 18-month-old son, Rueben, who was injured by bullet fragments. The mother survived the shooting.
Hard to believe Dallas Cowboy football coach Jason Garrett’s nose didn’t grow several feet during a Thursday press conference in which he tried to sell the idea that the firing of six coaches, including his brother, and the hiring of several new ones who are somewhat baffling choices, was a collaborative effort with owner Jerry Jones. Let’s see if Jason’s still selling that manure when he gets fired about 10 games into the 2013 season when Jethro’s latest brainstorm proves to be another dud . . . Props to San Antonio Express-News columnist Buck Harvey for a recent two-sentence quote that puts into perfect perspective why a team as mediocre on the field year after year as the Cowboys continues to get so much media attention. “Jerry Jones has propped up the aura with his stadium,” wrote Harvey. “But mostly the Cowboys have become the Kardashians of the NFL, with no discernible talent, famous for being famous.” Wow! At the very least, it’s easy to buy into Kim and her mother as soulmates with Jethro . . . Fans of Texans’ running back Arian Foster may want to tune in to the TV show Hawaii 5-0 Monday night. Foster, while he was in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, taped a segment for the popular police show. The acting demands couldn’t have been too tough. His character is that of a star football player. Foster, who is somewhat of a renaissance man, does have acting aspirations after his playing days.
It was mentioned in this space last week that Texans’ owner Bob McNair had once again raised ticket prices almost 10 percent. At least the fans will be getting some bang for their buck, as four playoff teams led, by four of the NFL’s top QBs, play at Reliant next fall. That group includes New England (Tom Brady), Denver (Peyton Manning), Seattle (Russell Wilson) and Indianapolis (Andrew Luck). Sounds like the Texans will be hosting some prime-time games on NBC and ESPN. It also sounds like winning at home won’t be anywhere close to automatic . . . Inability to watch the Rockets and Astros in Southeast Texas because Comcast SportsNet Houston hasn’t been able to work out a carriage arrangement with Time Warner, DirecTV or Dish has been well documented. Comcast’s absence, meanwhile, hit a lot closer to home Saturday afternoon when the network carried the Lamar-McNeese State game from the Montagne Center. While I doubt many Southeast Texans would have wasted their time watching two of the worst teams in college basketball go at each other, they should have had the option . . . Until a better example comes along, Daniel Holmqvist of Sweden gets this vote as the toughest woman in sports. A rookie on the Ladies European Golf Tour, Holmqvist felt stabbing pain in her ankle on the fourth hole of a pre-qualifier for the season’s opening event. She looked down, killed a spider attached to her leg and thought she’d been bitten by a black widow. Rather than wait for medical attention, Holmqvist took out a golf tee, sliced the wound open and squeezed out what she thought was venom. Then, trailed by medical personnel, she played 14 more holes and shot a 74. Turns out the spider was a “redback”, which is a species of the widow spider. Its bites have never led to a death, but usually cause pain in the area of the bite, as well as through the abdomen, chest and neck. The bites also lead to muscular weakness, nausea and vomiting. Fortunately for Holmqvist, her worst symptoms were dizziness and fatigue. Unfortunately, her courageous effort wasn’t enough to qualify to the tournament.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com.