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Michigan State Got Help from the Refs

As good of a program as Michigan State is, you figure they wouldn’t need much help to take care of the second place team from the WAC — one that went 22-12 in the regular season. That wasn’t the case on Friday night when Michigan State never held more than a four point lead in the final 10 minutes of their game with New Mexico State. Things were interesting down the stretch with the Spartans pulling it out 70-67. The outcome would have been more in question had Michigan State not received favorable and surprising calls from the refs. The foul disparity over the final seven minutes in the game was 7-3 in favor of Michigan State. Several of the calls on New Mexico State were ticky-tacky hand checking fouls including the two called on Jahmar Young that fouled him out of the game. Any coincidence Young is New Mexico State’s highest scorer? Probably not.

It also was quite odd that the refs called a lane violation on New Mexico State on Raymar Morgan’s second free throw attempt with 20 seconds left (pictured). Morgan missed the free throw but the violation allowed him to shoot again. He made the shot which put the Spartans up 70-67. The second chance make forced the Aggies to take a low percentage three pointer to tie instead of a higher-percentage shot in the paint. They missed a couple of desperation heaves and lost the game. New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies knows they got screwed: “You know, I wish [the lane violation] would have gone uncalled in this particular instance. In Ray’s opinion, he felt he should call it. We would have had a much different approach to the last few seconds. I think I would have had something designed to get us to the foul line at least.” I’m not saying New Mexico State would have won the game, I just wish it were called more evenly down the stretch.

New CBS Boss Button Has a Dilbert Feel

This time of year the almighty “Boss Button” is a huge item of contention. Last year we criticized CBS’ March Madness on Demand Boss Button because of the content on the page. If anyone were to look at the screen closely, they would have seen that the content was all sports-related rather than business-related. A month ago, we got on NBC for their Olympics Boss Button because launching the boss page makes it look like you’re working on a computer that has Windows 7. Obviously that would clash on a Mac so it wasn’t very versatile. This year’s CBS Boss Button is much like last year’s — it will do the trick from afar but you’re burned if anyone sees it from within five feet. Part of the reason is because there’s a Dilbert cartoon strip on the side, ostensibly because this year’s creator of the boss button is Scott Adams, the founder of Dilbert. Here’s what the bad boy looks like:

You also better hope you have a tiny computer monitor because that image only stretches about 12″ wide. That doesn’t exactly provide the best look if you’re on a 17″ screen.

Why Your March Madness Bracket Sucks

Ah March Madness, the time of year when we scramble to finish our brackets confident that we have chosen the biggest upset in the history of college basketball. We stand assured that our number 16 seed will take it all the way. We ignore the “you are insane” looks we receive from friends and co-workers when we submit our bracket and prepare our windpipes to laugh at them because we were once doubted. Then, inevitably, we get knocked out in the first round.

I’ve been doing my research because I too want to be the psychic of NCAA tournament predictions picking Murray State and Old Dominion, so I figured there must be some tips to follow. Surely, someone must know the answer as to how to my bracket better and my wallet bigger. There’s lots of tips out there and I’ve complied what I think the best ones. Basically, if you didn’t follow these, your bracket might suck.

1. Use your head, not your heart

Just because you like a school, or you have a connection to it (a family member goes there, you’re an alumni) does not mean that they will win anything. Do your homework and make sure that emotions are not outweighing logic.

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LBS Expert 2010 NCAA Tournament Picks

For the 2011 Tournament Picks, go Here

Yes, we obviously use the term “expert” quite lightly. The only thing we’re experts in knowing is that the tournament is unpredictable and that Cornell is not going to the Elite Eight. Anyway, you want expert March Madness picks for 2010? Here are the LBS 2010 NCAA Tournament Picks, broken down by bracket (you’ll have to click on each region two times to enlarge, once after you get to the next screen):

I have Kansas over Kentucky in the championship game. If you’re also wondering why I took chalk to the Final Four it’s because the Midwest Region got stacked with the toughest teams leaving the South and West void of difficult challengers to Duke and Syracuse. To me, it’s Kansas and Kentucky in a class by themselves with everyone else at least a step below. Even though I’ve been touting Kentucky the entire season, I feel that they have a few minor weaknesses whereas I can’t find any with Kansas. Kentucky’s weaknesses are limited to sometimes free throw shooting (see DeMarcus Cousins vs. Tennessee both games) and outside shooting (12-73 on threes during a four-game SEC stretch). I think Kentucky has the talent and weapons to overcome these deficiencies against anyone except Kansas. I’d also give the coaching nod to Bill Self over Calipari for in-game adjustments. I welcome all comments regarding the picks.

Mid-Major vs. Mid-Major Complaint Is B.S.

Ever since the NCAA tournament brackets for 2010 were released on Sunday, I kept reading a complaint that too many mid-majors were playing each other. The argument is that the beauty of the tourney is watching the little guys knock off the big guys, seeing David slay Goliath. Moreover, the feeling is that the tourney wants bigger-name schools to advance, presumably to draw better ratings. I think all you have to do is examine the tournament field and you can tell that this complaint is utter nonsense and nothing other than complaining for the sake of complaining, likely because you were going to complain about this “issue” regardless of what brackets the committee spit out.

Out of the field of 65, 33 teams are “mid-majors,” which I classify as non-BCS schools. Inevitably, these schools will have to face each other. Moreover, if you’re rewarding the smaller-schools for having good seasons, then you have to give them a high seed, and they will accordingly be matched up with another small school. That’s what happened with New Mexico, Temple, Butler, and Xavier. Drop those teams down in seeding and then you’re really being unfair, but at least you get a mid-major against a BCS school, right? Pointing out the few mid-major vs. mid-major matchups also ignores the several other cases where mid-majors play BCS schools in the first round. So Gonzaga playing Florida State, Xavier getting Minnesota, Notre Dame drawing Old Dominion, BYU getting Florida, Houston drawing Maryland, and San Diego State having a chance to upset Tennessee means nothing? There are several more cases where mid-majors have a chance to upset a BCS school than vice versa.

Out of the 32 first-round games, 22 are BCS vs. mid-majors, five BCS vs. BCS games, and five mids vs. mids. The only matchups I can really see a legit complaint for are the 7-10 game of Richmond/St. Mary’s and the 8-9 game of UNLV/Northern Iowa. I don’t see two games out of 32 being a trend, nor problem, nor something worthy of a complaint. If anything, I think it’s good to have a few mids-vs.-mids games to ensure at least one mid moves on. Moreover, I like seeing the 8-9, 7-10 BCS vs. BCS games because it allows us the chance to compare the strength of conferences. Who doesn’t look at Cal vs. Louisville as the Pac-10 against the Big East and the Oklahoma State against Georgia Tech as the Big 12 vs. the ACC? That’s part of the beauty of the tournament, too.

Sources:
Dear Non-BCS Schools: $!#@ You. Love, NCAA [Basketball Prospectus]

UCLA Snubbed by the N.I.T.

Quit your whining, UConn and Carolina fans, a UCLA fan wishes to opine. In what completes the most disappointing season for Bruin basketball in the Ben Howland era, UCLA stumbled out of the gate and bumbled to a 14-18 record. Forget making it to the Big Dance, the losing season left the Bruins far short of even qualifying for the N.I.T., where 32 teams battle for the right to be called the 66th best team in the country. Adding insult to injury is that our three top players are with other teams — Jrue Holiday is on the 76ers, Chace Stanback is starring for UNLV, and Drew Gordon is playing for team Mom.

Though I can hardly blame Howland for Holiday’s exile to the NBA — Darren Collison’s return for a senior season screwed up the point guard and scholarship situation — it’s difficult to fathom that the program sunk to these depths and that the season was only saved by an equally pathetic conference. Adding up the evidence however, can present a potentially ugly issue at hand. Is it any coincidence that Jordan Farmar and J’rue Holiday left early for the NBA and that Stanback and Gordon both transferred out of the program? I think it’s fair to say that both Farmar and Holiday could have built up their draft stocks by staying an extra year but they chose not to. Stanback could have been unhappy with playing time and Gordon could have been a “me first” jerk, but I think there is an underlying tie that might bind all four: UCLA is not a place where one can showcase his offensive talent.

Sure, UCLA has produced loads of talent for the NBA the past few years — Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Darren Collison certainly fit that bill, not to mention Farmar and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but the program seems to lack a true scorer. Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson appear to be the cornerstones of a tough frontcourt around whom the program can build the next three years. The question is if the Bruins need more guys like Mbah a Moute who took pride in defense and were willing to do the dirty work the way Nelson appears to be doing, or do the Bruins need to open up offensively to attract the elite scoring guards? I think the answer is a little of column A and a little of column B and it better happen fast. One year of this was unbearable. Two years is inexcusable. Three is fireable. Here’s to a turnaround in ’10-’11.

Crazy Jay Bilas Has Cornell in Elite Eight

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense before in my life but I haven’t seen as many ridiculous notions as the one Jay Bilas suggested on Selection Sunday. Analyzing the brackets for ESPN, Bilas revealed his pick of Cornell to reach the Elite Eight in the East Region. I know March Madness got its nickname because of the improbable upsets in the tourney and the insanity it causes for fans making picks, but nonetheless I think it’s nothing short of absurd to say Cornell will reach the Elite Eight.

Can they beat Temple in the first round? Possibly. Wisconsin in the second round? Unlikely — not the way the Badgers play defense. If they got some help from Wofford, yeah, Cornell could reach the Sweet Sixteen, but I doubt that would happen. Then, should Cornell reach said Sweet Sixteen, they would theoretically have to beat Kentucky to reach the Elite Eight. That would never happen in the college basketball universe as I know it.

I know March is about picking upsets and finding sleepers, but calling Cornell to the Elite Eight is something reserved for Ivan from Ithaca who calls my radio show, not supposed credible analysts like Jay Bilas. I know ESPN encourages their analysts to go out on a limb with predictions but it should never get to the point where it hurts one’s credibility as this likely will for Bilas. If Jay turns out to be correct, I’ll rename this site Jay Bilas Sports for a week and apologize to the man personally. If not, I reserve the right to question Bilas’ credibility moving forward. By the way, Jay, the reason why everyone’s picking chalk isn’t necessarily because they’re afraid of picking upsets; it’s because all the good teams got jammed in the Midwest for some inexcusable reason.