Monday, April 06, 2009

NCAA Men's Basketball Finals


From Yahoo!...

Heels, Spartans find themselves in more than game

AP – North Carolina head coach Roy Williams, left, and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo chat before a television …

DETROIT – The bracket says North Carolina vs. Michigan State.

At times, though, the Tar Heels may feel like they're going up against something more than just another basketball team.

From the coach on down, the Spartans (31-6) know a win in the NCAA title game on a court 90 miles from their campus won't fix the state's economic freefall, won't put anybody back to work. But there will be 72,000 people in Ford Field, site of the Final Four, come Monday night. Most will be rooting for Michigan State.

And winning, as they say, can be contagious.

"When you go through hard times, you pray for something to get you out," Spartans guard Travis Walton said. "I'm sure they didn't pray for Michigan State to get to the Final Four or the national championship game, but they probably have been praying to have things to take their mind off of it."

Michigan ranks 51st out of 50 states (and District of Columbia) in the latest unemployment figures. Detroit is the hub of an auto industry on life support, a civic symbol of an economic system that has come off the tracks.

That's the backdrop for a game in which Michigan State finds itself a 7 1/2-point underdog against a Carolina team that has "national champs" practically inked across its uniforms.

Remember, this is the team that some thought could go undefeated this season when Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all decided to return after a bad loss to Kansas at last year's Final Four.

Undefeated was never on coach Roy Williams' list of goals. Winning a championship, though? Always.

"If you thought it was easy, you don't know what you're talking about," Williams said. "It's college basketball. There hasn't been an undefeated team since '76, and there have been some really, really good teams. I think this year there were eight or 10 teams or 12, I haven't studied it, that could be playing Monday night."

But it will be North Carolina (33-4), the preseason No. 1 and top seed in the South Regional, against Michigan State, a less-hyped and more overlooked No. 2 seed out of the Midwest.

Though Michigan State coach Tom Izzo won't sell his team short — "you don't get this far on grit," he said — he also knows the deal. This is a rematch of a game North Carolina won 98-63 on Dec. 3 in the same building. Anyone who turned the channel, or turned the page, on that one gets a pass. Izzo certainly has.

Michigan State was exhausted (fourth game in seven nights), injured (Goran Suton was out and Delvon Roe was hurting) and not playing near its current level back then, though the coach figures if the Spartans had been in better shape, they still would have lost by 20.

"If we play good and they play good, we're losing. That's the way I look at it," Izzo said. "I mean, I don't look at that in the negative. They are the best team in the country and have earned that ranking probably over the last year and a half."

And, as both coaches acknowledge, the Spartans have a knack for taking opponents out of their 'A' game. See Michigan State's 82-73 win over Connecticut on Saturday.

"I mean, they're not exactly Charlie's Donut Team," Williams said.

Williams figures if North Carolina plays poorly in the rematch, it won't be because of the crowd.

This is a team that loves playing in hostile environments and succeeds at it, too.

The Tar Heels have gone 67-14 away from home in the four years since Hansbrough and the seniors arrived in 2005, the season after Carolina's last championship. Hansbrough has never lost to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He's 5-2 in other road games in the state of North Carolina, 3-0 in Maui, 6-0 in Florida and, yes, 1-0 at Ford Field.

"I've tried to forget that whole week," Izzo said. "In fact, if you ask me, 2008 never happened. I'm trying to move ahead to 2009."

Led by Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, Walton, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, and steadily improving Raymar Morgan (18 points, nine rebounds in the win over Connecticut on Saturday), the Spartans are trying to close out 2009 with a flourish.

The game comes 30 years after Magic Johnson led MSU to its first championship in that historic meeting against Indiana State and Larry Bird. Like North Carolina, Michigan State is also going for its second title of the 2000s.

Mateen Cleaves led the 2000 title team. Though Izzo has been back to the Final Four three times since — for a total of five in 11 years — the Spartans haven't won another championship.

Getting this group a title is the real mission that concerns the coach.

"I mean, the state, this city, is very important to me," he said. "But the cause right now is for the Michigan State players to win a championship, and hopefully the repercussions from that will help a lot of people. It's a feel-good for a lot of people."

Williams, meanwhile, said he hasn't had time to discuss the country's economic situation since the Tar Heels beat Villanova 83-69 late Saturday night. It's simply not part of the scouting report.

"I do realize they have a cause. Well, we also have a cause, too," he said. "We want to win a national championship, period, the end. And if you would tell me that if Michigan State wins, it's gonna satisfy the nation's economy, then I'd say, 'Hell, let's stay poor for a little while longer.'"


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)