The Pi-Rate Ratings

June 1, 2014

PiRate College and Pro Football Coverage for 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — piratings @ 6:02 am

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings.  We have enjoyed our little respite from rating college and pro football and NCAA basketball, and we are ready to start up again for the 2014-15 season.

Due to heavy workloads, we will streamline our coverage some this year.  The August previews will basically just be statistical looks at the preseason without long-winded previews.

During the regular season, we will issue ratings and other tidbits, but we will no longer select games against the spread, since we do not have the 20-30 hours a week it takes to find our selections.

Look for our first conference reviews to run around Saturday, August 16, and our first NFL review to run around Wednesday, August 27.

We are considering adding a new twist this year.  Since we are members of both the Massey Comparison Rankings and The Prediction Tracker (links available to the side), we might create a new rating based on the most successful computer ratings, as sort of the Dow Jones Industrials of football ratings.

 

 

 

April 6, 2014

PiRate Ratings Preview of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

This has been one of the most interesting NCAA Tournaments in many years.  Never have both title game participants both enter the game with eight or more losses.  Kentucky with 10 and Connecticut with 8 make for the most total losses by title contenders at 18.  The same goes for highest combined seeds (UK-8/UConn-7).  Both teams failed to play in the NCAA Tournament at all last year, although Connecticut was ineligible due to academic progress issues.

 

The most interesting part of this equation for us involves the Huskies.  Connecticut has become the first team ever to make the Championship Game with a negative R+T rating.  R+T is a statistic that we invented.  It is similar to park-adjusted On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage in baseball.  It is a one-for-one adjustment to the number of extra scoring opportunities a team should expect to obtain in a game due to rebounds and turnovers, but with a higher emphasis on offensive rebounds and steals, which most frequently lead to easy scoring chances.

 

These schools squared off in the Final Four in 2011, which just so happened to be played in the Lone Star State.  Connecticut edged Kentucky by one point at Reliant Stadium in Houston.  No current Kentucky player was on the 2011 roster, while three Husky players saw action in that game.

 

Here is our look at the starting lineups.

 

Point Guard:

Kentucky—Andrew Harrison   #5        6-6, 215 Fr.

Connecticut—Shabazz Napier #13      6-1, 180 Sr.

Shooting Guard:

Kentucky—Aaron Harrison   #2        6-6, 218 Fr.

Connecticut—Ryan Boatright  #11      6-0, 168 Jr.

Small Forward:

Kentucky—James Young  #1        6-6, 215 Fr.

Connecticut—Niels Giffey #5        6-7, 205 Sr.

 

Power Forward:

Kentucky—Julius Randle    #30      6-9, 250 Fr.

Connecticut—DeAndre Daniels  #2    6-9, 195 Jr.

 

Center:

Kentucky—Dakari Johnson  #44      7-0, 265 Fr.

Connecticut—Phillip Nolan   #0        6-10, 212 So.

 

Reserves

Kentucky—Alex Poythress    #22      6-8, 239 So.

Kentucky—Marcus Lee     #00      6-9, 215 Fr.

Kentucky—Jarrod Polson  #3        6-2, 182 Sr.

Kentucky-Dominique Hawkins  #25      6-0, 193 Fr.

 

Connecticut—Lasan Kromah #20      6-6, 201 Jr.

Connecticut—Amida Brimah #35      7-0, 217 Fr.

Connecticut—Tyler Olander   #10      6-10, 230 Sr.

Connecticut—Terrence Samuel  #3        6-4, 190 Fr.

 

Here is our special statistical look at the game.

 

Stat Kentucky Connecticut
FG 986 949
FG-Att 2168 2109
3-Pt 198 281
Effective FG% 50.0 51.7
Def FG 911 860
Def FG-Att 2218 2195
Def 3-pt 216 236
Def Effective FG% 45.9 44.6
Offensive Reb 564 379
Opp. Def. Reb 768 863
Reb Rate 42.3 30.5
Opp. Off. Reb 429 482
Defensive Reb 1011 983
Opp. Reb Rate 29.8 32.9
Turnovers 468 447
Free Throw Attempts 1122 819
Turnover Rate 14.8 15.2
Opp. Turnovers 418 505
Opp. FT-Attempts 826 777
Opp. Turnover Rate 13.8 16.5
Free Throws Made 768 634
Free Throw Rate 29.5 24.7
Opp. FT-Made 567 519
Opp. FT Rate 21.8 20.1
Possessions/Game 66.8 65.8
R + T Rating 14.3 -1.1
Road/Neutral W-L 13-8 16-5
Strength of Schedule .5825 .5735
FG% Margin Score 3.54 6.13
Reb Rate Score 3.12 -0.59
TO Margin Score -0.37 0.49
FT Rate Score 1.27 0.77
PiRate Criteria Score 7.57 6.80
Predicted Score 69 67

 

April 4, 2014

PiRate Ratings Final Four Criteria Preview

We only made it to North Texas with one of our Final Four participants, and we did not pick Florida to win the National Championship, so this year is a bust. Nevertheless, we will go ahead and preview the remaining games.

Overall, we are 43-17 (72%) in the prediction of tournament games to this point.

Here is our preview of the National Semifinal round.

Time (ET) Team vs. Team
6:09 PM #1 Florida (36-2) vs. #7 Connecticut (30-8)
8:49 PM #2 Wisconsin (30-7) vs. #8 Kentucky (28-10)

Florida vs. Connecticut–Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Tie
Field Goal % Margin: Florida by 0.7
Rebound Margin: Florida by 13.6
Turnover Margin: Florida by 2.3
Steal Margin: Florida by 0.1
R+T Rating: Florida by 12.4

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Florida by 17
Predicted Score: Florida 75 Connecticut 58

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin—Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Wisconsin by 0.9
Field Goal % Margin: Wisconsin by 2.0
Rebound Margin: Kentucky by 11.5
Turnover Margin: Wisconsin by 3.4
Steal Margin: Wisconsin by 0.1
R+T Rating: Kentucky by 13.2

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Kentucky by 4
Predicted Score: Kentucky 71 Wisconsin 67

 

March 29, 2014

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Preview–March 29-30, 2014

Here are the matchups for The Elite 8 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four Elite 8 games are not going to be as exciting as a whole as the Sweet 16 games were, but there are still a couple of really good ones in our opinion. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Elite 8 Schedule

SATURDAY
6:09 PM EDT on TBS
South Region (MEMPHIS)—#1 Florida vs. #11 Dayton
Florida has significant advantages almost across the board, and this game looks like a mismatch for the top-seeded Gators. The FG% margins tilts strongly in UF’s favor, as well as the turnover margin difference. Rebounding gives a tiny edge to the Gators, and the R+T rating is basically a wash. Dayton would have to shoot lights out or Florida would have to be ice cold for this game to be close

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7      Predicted Score: Florida 71 Dayton 51

8:49 PM EDT on TBS
West Region (ANAHEIM)—#1 Arizona vs. #2 Wisconsin
Arizona has considerable advantages over the Badgers, but not as much as Florida’s advantages over Dayton. The Wildcats’ biggest advantage is in the R+T rating, where our formula states that ‘Zona will get nine extra scoring opportunities. The important note here as that we consider scoring opportunities to be different than possessions. By scoring opportunities, we refer to the high-percentage opportunity from offensive rebounds and steals where the offense has a considerable advantage over the defense.

Arizona also owns slight criteria advantages in FG% margin and rebounding, while turnover margin is a wash. The Badgers get a little advantage for schedule strength, but not enough to turn the tide in their favor.

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 2      Predicted Score: Arizona 75 Wisconsin 68

SUNDAY
2:20 PM EDT on CBS
East Region (NEW YORK CITY)—#4 Michigan St. vs. #7 Connecticut
Michigan State holds a decisive R+T rating in this game, and we figure the Spartans will get an extra eight scoring opportunities. MSU has a very slight advantage in FG% margin and a stronger rebounding margin advantage, while turnover margin is about even. Throw in a slight Spartan advantage in strength of schedule, and it adds up to Sparty cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden. Even a mild home court advantage does not tilt the game in UConn’s favor.

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 3      Predicted Score: Michigan St. 68 Connecticut 59

5:05 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region (INDIANAPOLIS)—#2 Michigan vs. #8 Kentucky
This is the biggest contrast game of the Elite 8, and it should be the most exciting of the four games. Michigan owns the FG% margin advantage, as well as the turnover margin advantage. In fact, Kentucky is the only team left with an effective FG% less than 50% and the only team with a negative turnover margin. These are usually indications that a team will lose in this round.

However, Michigan is the only team left in the field with a negative rebounding margin, while Kentucky has the best rebounding margin of the eight remaining teams. Kentucky’s unbelievable 14 extra scoring opportunities forecasted in this game is an eye-popping statistic reminiscent of the old UCLA teams during the Wooden dynasty, or in other words, an insurmountable advantage.

Michigan has a slight strength of schedule advantage in this game. Now, add one more little thing. Unlike most of the other victors in the tournament as a whole, Michigan has continued to maintain and even surpass their three-point shooting acumen. They have actually exceeded their regular season FG% criteria in the postseason. This is reminiscent of Butler during their back-to-back trips to the Championship Game. Could Michigan repeat this? That’s why this game is extremely close, and it should be the best of the weekend.

PiRate Criteria: Tie (to 2 decimals)      Predicted Score: Michigan 85 Kentucky 84 2ot

March 27, 2014

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview for Friday, March 28, 2014

Here are the matchups for Friday’s Sweet 16 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four games on Friday constitute the best four Sweet 16 games in one night in several years. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Sweet 16 Friday Schedule

7:15 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Michigan vs. Tennessee
Take your pick. Michigan has slight edges in field goal margin and turnover margin, but Tennessee has a decided edge on the glass. The strength of schedule makes the Wolverines an ever so slight favorite

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by less than 1    Predicted Score: Michigan 72  Tennessee 70

7:27 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Connecticut vs. Iowa St.
The teams are dead even in shooting margin. Neither can rebound the ball all that well, so this is a push as well. Turnover margin is no different, and the R+T ratings are exceptionally low for Sweet 16 teams. Rarely does a team with a low R+T make the Elite 8, but one must this year, and it will be the winner of this game.

PiRate Criteria: Iowa St. by less than 1   Predicted Score: Iowa St. 67  Connecticut 66

Approx. 9:45 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Louisville vs. Kentucky
Louisville has the best field goal margin ratings of any team remaining in the tournament, while Kentucky ranks near the bottom of Sweet 16 teams. The Wildcats are without a doubt the best rebounding team left in the tournament, but Louisville has the best turnover margin in the remaining field. Kentucky has considerably better R+T and schedule strength, which brings us back to square one—almost.

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 1 Predicted Score: Louisville 74  Kentucky 71

Approx. 9:57 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Virginia vs. Michigan St.
When you think of a Tom Izzo team, rebounding prowess immediately comes to mind. However, in this game, Virginia actually holds a slight edge. Michigan St., never the finesse team, actually has better shooting margin ratings than the Cavaliers. This game will be decided in the turnover margin, and UVA has the slight edge there.

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 1 Predicted Score: Virginia 58  Michigan St. 56

PiRate Ratings–Sweet 16 Preview for Thursday, March 27, 2014

Here are the matchups for Thursday’s Sweet 16 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.
Sweet 16 Thursday Schedule

7:15 PM EDT on CBS
South Region—Stanford vs. Dayton

Stanford will have a decided advantage on the boards, while almost all other criteria are about equal. Look for a close game, but the Cardinal will take advantage of a few extra opportunities in second chance points to pull it out in the end.

PiRate Criteria: Stanford by 1 Predicted Score: Stanford 72 Dayton 68

7:47 PM EDT on TBS
West Region—Wisconsin vs. Baylor

Baylor has the rebounding advantage, but Wisconsin has the turnover margin advantage. Shooting is about equal, but Wisconsin’s range of shooting is a little better. Baylor has the R+T advantage, so this game is a real tossup. The criteria score shows it to be a possible overtime game.

PiRate Criteria: Wisconsin by less than 1 Predicted Score: Wisconsin 64 Baylor 63

Approx. 9:30 PM EDT on CBS
South Region—Florida vs. U C L A

Florida has slightly superior numbers in shooting, defense, and rebounding, while UCLA has a little turnover margin advantage. The Gators have the R+T advantage as well, and this game looks to be the biggest mismatch of the night, even though it may not show that in the final score.

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 4 Predicted Score: Florida 69 UCLA 58

Approx. 10:17 PM EDT on TBS
West Region—Arizona vs. San Diego St.

This is an excellent contrast game. Arizona is a lot more physical, but San Diego St. is quite a bit quicker. If the game becomes a volleyball match inside, the Wildcats will be too strong for the Aztecs; but, if the game becomes a quicker-pace, running game, SDSU has the talent to actually run Arizona off the floor. The criteria tilt in favor of the number one seed advancing, and we will go with Arizona as the individual game pick tonight, but remember that we actually selected San Diego St. to be the surprise Final Four team in our original bracket selection.

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 2 Predicted Score: Arizona 75 San Diego St. 70

March 23, 2014

PiRate Ratings–College Basketball Report for Sunday, March 23, 2014

Record in Round 3 Saturday: 6-2  Total for Tournament: 33-7

 

The PiRate Criteria correctly picked 6 of 8 games on Saturday, bringing the total for the tournament to 33-7 for 82.5% accuracy.

 

Here are the matchups for Sunday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

2

Kansas

10

Stanford

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

8

Kentucky

CBS

5:15 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

6

North Carolina

CBS

6:10 PM

Midwest

11

Tennessee

14

Mercer

TNT

7:10 PM

South

4

U C L A

12

Stephen F. Austin

TBS

7:40 PM

West

3

Creighton

6

Baylor

truTV

8:40 PM

East

1

Virginia

8

Memphis

TNT

9:40 PM

West

1

Arizona

8

Gonzaga

TBS

 

 

Kansas vs. Stanford

Even without Joel Embiid, Kansas still holds an advantage on the glass and a large R+T advantage that will give the Jayhawks extra scoring chances.  KU moves to the Sweet 16.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kansas by 5                       Prediction: Kansas 74  Stanford 63

 

Wichita St. vs. Kentucky

It looks like this is the game where Wichita St. has met its match.  Kentucky holds a big advantage on the boards, and a decent advantage in schedule strength.  Wichita State has the shooting and defense advantage, while the turnover edge is minimal to the Shockers.  The key is Kentucky’s superior strength of schedule, enough to give the edge to the Wildcats.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2                   Prediction: Kentucky 62  Wichita St. 58

 

Iowa St. vs. North Carolina

Iowa St. must have an above-average shooting day to have a chance to move on.  North Carolina’s rebounding and R+T advantage is prohibitive, and the Tar Heels are not a bad shooting team.

 

PiRate Criteria: N. Carolina by 1                Predication: North Carolina 77  Iowa St. 74

 

Tennessee vs. Mercer

Two hot teams should make for a great contest.  Mercer is the better shooting team, but not by a lot.  Tennessee has a tiny defensive advantage.  All other statistical data is about equal, except that Tennessee has a much tougher strength of schedule, which is enough to tilt the game in their favor.

 

PiRate Criteria: Tennessee by 3                  Prediction: Tennessee 64  Mercer 57

 

UCLA vs. Stephen F. Austin

This is probably the most interesting game of Sunday.  SFA is no pushover, and the Lumberjacks proved it by defeating VCU.  UCLA has enough talent to make it to the Final Four, but whether the Bruins can remain consistent enough to do so is a question.  Most of the criteria data swing in SFA’s favor, but UCLA has a much better strength of schedule.  All told, the game should be very close, at least for 35 minutes.

 

PiRate Criteria: UCLA by 3                        Prediction: UCLA 66  Stephen F. Austin 59

 

Creighton vs. Baylor

Creighton is the best shooting team remaining in the tournament, but the Blue Jays R+T rating is typical of a team that does not make it to the Sweet 16.  Baylor has a considerable rebounding edge, but the Bears have liabilities in the turnover criteria, enough so that they are our underdog.

 

PiRate Criteria: Creighton by 2                  Prediction: Creighton 76  Baylor 71

 

Virginia vs. Memphis

Virginia is subtly really good with excellent criteria scores in every respect.  Memphis has good criteria scores in every respect, and the Tigers have a decent strength of schedule, just not enough to overcome the Cavaliers’ superiority across the board.

 

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 4                      Prediction: Virginia 65  Memphis 55

 

Arizona vs. Gonzaga

The Wildcats should take care of business and guarantee that all four top-seeds move on to the Sweet 16.  Gonzaga has a minor advantage in field goal margin, while Arizona has considerable advantage on the boards and decent advantage in turnover margin with a better strength of schedule.

 

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 3                      Prediction: Arizona 62  Gonzaga 56

March 22, 2014

PiRate Ratings 2014 NCAA Tournament–Round Three Preview

Record in Round 2: 26-6 (81.3%)   Total for Tournament: 26-6 (81.3%)

 

The PiRate Criteria held up quite well in the opening two rounds.  In our preliminary comments Monday, we mentioned six major conference teams that our criteria said were vulnerable to first game exits.  Of those six (Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.), five lost, with only UConn advancing.  We gave you five double-digit seeds that we thought could pull upsets in their first game (Harvard, Mercer, North Carolina Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin), and four of those teams beat their favored opponent.

 

Here are the matchups for Saturday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

Look for Sunday’s games to post here some time Saturday evening.

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

1

Florida

9

Pittsburgh

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

5

Saint Louis

CBS

5:15 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

7

Texas

CBS

6:10 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

12

North Dakota St.

TNT

7:10 PM

South

3

Syracuse

11

Dayton

TBS

7:45 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

7

Oregon

CBS

8:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

12

Harvard

TNT

9:40 PM

East

2

Villanova

7

Connecticut

TBS

 

 

Florida vs. Pittsburgh

This should be much closer than people might expect.  Florida has the advantage in shooting, but Pitt has the advantage on the boards.  The Gators have a slight edge in turnover margin, but Pitt has the R+T advantage.

 

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 1                       Prediction: Florida 66  Pittsburgh 62

 

Louisville vs. Saint Louis

Louisville has the advantages on all fronts—shooting, rebounding, turnover margin, and the all-important R+T advantage.  The Billikens’ only chance in this game is to control the tempo and take smart shots, hoping to catch UL on a cold-shooting afternoon.

 

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 8                   Prediction: Louisville 71  Saint Louis 57

 

Michigan vs. Texas

Michigan has a considerable shooting advantage, but Texas should capitalize on numerous extra scoring opportunities thanks to a superior R+T advantage.  This one will provide the viewer with an extreme contrast where the finesse team plays the power team.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by 2                    Predication: Michigan 72  Texas 68

 

San Diego St. vs. North Dakota St.

North Dakota St. is the best shooting team in the tournament, but San Diego St. is one of the top defensive teams in the Dance.  The Aztecs’ biggest assets are their ability to force opponents into turnovers and into taking poor shots.

 

PiRate Criteria: San Diego St. by 3             Prediction: San Diego St. 78  North Dakota St. 71

 

Syracuse vs. Dayton

Syracuse could have a bad shooting night, but the Orange should still prevail.  Their major advantage on the glass combined with Dayton’s propensity to get sloppy handling the ball at times, should be the difference inthis game.

 

PiRate Criteria: Syracuse by 2                    Prediction: Syracuse 64  Dayton 58

 

Wisconsin vs. Oregon

This game is the closest of the Saturday games according to PiRate Criteria.  Shooting ability is even; rebounding is as well.  Oregon’s defense is better at forcing turnovers, but Wisconsin is one of the best at not turning the ball over.  A slight advantage in schedule strength tilts this game to the Badgers.

 

PiRate Criteria: Wisconsin by less than 1   Prediction: Wisconsin 68  Oregon 67

 

Michigan St. vs. Harvard

Michigan St. has small advantages across the board thanks to a much more difficult schedule.  Harvard could keep it close for some time, but the Spartans will eventually pull away to a comfortable margin.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 6              Prediction: Michigan St. 74  Harvard 62

 

Villanova vs. Connecticut

Connecticut has a negative R+T rating, and we cannot select any negative R+T team to win after the round of 64.  Villanova should neutralize UConn’s rebounding strength in the middle.

 

PiRate Criteria: Villanova by 4                   Prediction: Villanova 74  Connecticut 64

March 17, 2014

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Preview–Opening and Second Rounds

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ March Madness Bracketnomics Edition.

 

We coined the term “Bracketnomics,” several years ago to refer to the analytic way of looking at picking teams in your brackets.  While we have never come close to picking every game correctly, we have had a lot of success picking the national champion and Final Four participants.

 

What do we look for when we pick our winners?  It is easier to tell you what we do not pick.  Many of you may be familiar or not at all familiar with something called “The Four Factors.”  This is a very accurate predictor of NBA Games both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  It works to a point in the NCAA regular season.  However, it has many drawbacks in the NCAA Tournament.

 

For various reasons, the NCAA Tournament is an entirely different type of game compared to the regular season.  First and foremost, all teams are playing on foreign hardwood.  Sure, some teams have an advantage of mileage over others, but the gymnasium they will play in leads to no real home court advantage.  If Kentucky has 10,000 fans screaming, “Go Big Blue!” at a crucial point in the second half, this might fire up the team for a possession or two, but the Rupp Arena floor means a lot more to the Wildcats than the cheer that they receive in every road game with all their thousands of followers.  The playing floor, backboards, rims, and sightlines are much more valuable to the home team than the screaming fans.

 

The timeouts in the games are longer than normal timeouts, so substitution patterns are different, even if teams stick to the regular format.  If a team sends in its top two subs at the 13-minute mark of the first half and then plays these subs for six minutes, the two starters will be out at least two minutes longer in actual time and may possible need more time getting their heads back into the game.  Just two extra minutes of rest can cause different reactions, both positive and negative.

 

The obvious difference in the NCAA Tournament games are the elimination fear.  Because the players know the next loss is the last game of the season, and in some cases the last of their career, nerves play a much bigger factor in these games.  It is different in the NBA Playoffs where one loss does not end a season.

 

We could go on and one, but by now you should realize the differences as well.  Thus, the so-called “Four Factors” do not fit into the standard box.  We must come up with Big Dance Steps, or the factors that give us an insight into picking winners.

 

Over the years, we have isolated statistical tendencies that have helped us select winners in the NCAA Tournament.  We have looked at statistics of past champions and Final Four participants and have found certain similarities in these teams.

 

 

1. First and foremost, we look for teams that played better than average schedules.  It is obvious that a team can play 20 patsies and run up some really gaudy stats.  We look for teams that played tough schedules and reward them for that, but we do not totally eliminate mid-major teams that performed excellently against a mid-major schedule.  The best team in the land may play an average schedule, but they would still be the best team.  We have a metric that factors in the SOS into an equation.

 

2. Second, we look for teams that can win away from home.  If a team goes 22-8, with a home record of 18-1 and a record away from home (away and neutral games) of 4-7, this team is not ready to win six consecutive games, or even four, away from home.

 

Once we have isolated the teams that have played an above average schedule and have enjoyed some success away from home, we look at these vital statistics:

 

3. Scoring Margin—anything that is 8 or more is important.  We really like a scoring margin at 10 or more, as all but one of the 21st Century champions have entered the Big Dance with a double digit scoring margin.  If a team has a 15-point or better scoring margin, and they satisfy the strength of schedule and road won-loss criteria, then watch out!  They are talented and have a killer attitude.

 

2. Field Goal Percentage Margin—this is a team’s offensive field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage times 100.  The key here is a margin of +7.5% or better.

 

3. Rebounding Margin—a team with a rebounding margin of 5.0 or more has a chance to overcome a bad shooting game or a turnover-prone game.  We use a metric that factors the type of rebounds, as an offensive rebound leads to more potential points in a possession than a defensive rebound.  Many offensive rebounds become put-back baskets.

 

4. Turnover Margin—similar to rebounding margin, but we have a weighted scale here.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 3.0 or more, then any positive turnover margin is sufficient.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 0.1 to 2.9, then a turnover margin of 3.0 or better is required.  And, if a team does not out-rebound its opponents, they must have a turnover margin of 5.0 or more.

 

5. Average Steals Per Game—if the rebound is gold, the steal is platinum.  We consider a steal to be worth more than a defensive rebound.  When a team steals the ball, chances are highest for a fast break score.   Any team that averages 7.5 or more steals per game will have several cheap basket opportunities.  Any team with double digit steals per game will be monsters in the tournament, if they can hold their own on the boards.

 

6. The PiRate R+T Rating—if rebound margin is gold, and steals are platinum, then our R+T rating is rhodium.  This rating combines rebounding margin, turnover margin, and steals per game into one sabermetric-type rating, similar to any of several baseball ratings (like Wins Above Replacement).  The current formula uses an advanced formula, but you don’t have to bother with trying to figure these out for all 68 teams.  We have done that for you.  What we isolate are the teams with an R+T rating of 5.0 or better, paying extra attention to 10.0 or better.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are going home quickly even if they are a number 3 seed playing a number 14 seed, which is exactly what happened in 2010, when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating and not only was upset by Ohio U in the opening round, they were blown out of the gym.

 

The 2014 Field of 68

1. Which teams qualify on all of our stat requirements?

 

For the second consecutive season, none of the 68 teams qualify on all the statistical requirements that we look for in a clear cut national champion.  A couple teams came close this year.  Actually, the most perfect fits this year are a handful of mid-major and low-major teams missing in the all important strength of schedule criteria.  What does this tell us?  This could be another year where a team like George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and Wichita St. crashes the party at the Final Four.  Butler came within a couple inches of beating Duke for the title not too many years ago.  Could a Cinderella break through and win it all this year?  We are not calling for it, but it would be no big surprise this year, because there are not many teams with the quality of past Final Four participants.

 

 

2. Which major conference teams appear vulnerable based negative R+T ratings?

 

This is another reason why some smaller teams may have better chances this year.  A record six major conference teams possess negative R+T ratings this year.  These six are very ripe for upset losses early in the tournament.  Keep an eye on: Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.  Of these six, Oklahoma St. and Arizona St. have abnormally negative R+T numbers, both at -4.5.  Basically, their opponents are getting about 4 ½ extra opportunities to score points in high percentage situations.  In the Big Dance, that is usually lethal.

 

 

4. Which less famous teams have criteria that shows they could upset a single-digit seed in the second round?

 

As we have said already, there are many smaller teams capable of winning a second round game and some capable of getting to the Sweet 16.  It depends on your definition of smaller team to decide if you might go with one of these teams to make the Elite 8 and Final Four.  Is Wichita St. a smaller team?  They are undefeated and ranked number two as a #1-seed.  How about Gonzaga?  They have been among the chosen “Few” for so long, can we really consider their winning tournament games a surprise?

 

Of the teams we really consider to be sleeper teams, keep an eye out on these six teams:

Harvard, Mercer, New Mexico St., North Carolina-Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin.  These half-dozen teams have the talent to get hot and knock off a favored opponent.  If their schedules were just a tad tougher, we might even select one of these six to sneak past the Sweet 16 into the Elite 8.

 

 

6. So, who do we pick for the National Champion?

We have been playing with this decision all day.  One team has the look of a National Champion more than any of the other 67, but their strength of schedule bothers us a little this year, unlike last year.

 

However, we are going to go with this team, because their statistical criteria is the closest thing to a perfect fit without being a perfect fit.

 

And that team is: LOUISVILLE!  Yes, we are going with the Cardinals to repeat.  The Midwest Region is ridiculously strong this year.  So many pundits believe this was done to get rid of Wichita St., before the Shockers can get to Arlington in April.  We see no roadblocks in UL’s march to the Sweet 16.  Neither Manhattan, St. Louis, NC St.,  or Xavier have the abilities to stop the Cards.

 

The Sweet 16 game could be the toughest one Rick Pitino’s troops must conquer, as they will most likely play Wichita St. or Kentucky.  I would guess UL would rather play UK than a WSU team looking for revenge from last year’s Final Four semifinal.  The other side of the Midwest bracket should provide little resistance for the Cards.  Michigan and Duke have glaring weaknesses the Cardinals can exploit.

 

Who else looks like Final Four participants to us?  Read on.

 

 

NCAA Tournament Schedule for Opening and Second Rounds

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

6:40 PM

South

16

Albany

16

Mount St. Mary’s

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

12

North Carolina St.

12

Xavier

truTV

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

6:40 PM

Midwest

16

Cal Poly

16

Texas Southern

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

11

Iowa

11

Tennessee

truTV

 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

12:15 PM

South

6

Ohio St.

11

Dayton

CBS

12:40 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

15

American

truTV

1:40 PM

South

8

Colorado

9

Pittsburgh

TBS

2:10 PM

East

5

Cincinnati

12

Harvard

TNT

2:45 PM

South

3

Syracuse

14

Western Michigan

CBS

3:10 PM

West

7

Oregon

10

B Y U

truTV

4:10 PM

South

1

Florida

16

Albany/Mount St. Mary’s

TBS

4:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

13

Delaware

TNT

6:55 PM

East

7

Connecticut

10

St. Joseph’s

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

15

Wofford

CBS

7:20 PM

Midwest

5

Saint Louis

12

North Carolina St./Xavier

TNT

7:27 PM

West

5

Oklahoma

12

North Dakota St.

truTV

9:25 PM

East

3

Villanova

14

Milwaukee

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

7

Texas

10

Arizona St.

CBS

9:50 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

13

Manhattan

TNT

9:57 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

13

New Mexico St.

truTV

 

Friday, March 21, 2014

12:15 PM

Midwest

3

Duke

14

Mercer

CBS

12:40 PM

West

6

Baylor

11

Nebraska

truTV

1:40 PM

South

7

New Mexico

10

Stanford

TBS

2:10 PM

West

1

Arizona

16

Weber St.

TNT

2:45 PM

Midwest

6

Massachusetts

11

Iowa/Tennessee

CBS

3:10 PM

West

3

Creighton

14

UL-Lafayette

truTV

4:10 PM

South

2

Kansas

15

Eastern Kentucky

TBS

4:40 PM

West

8

Gonzaga

9

Oklahoma St.

TNT

6:55 PM

East

8

Memphis

9

George Washington

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

16

Cal Poly/Texas Southern

CBS

7:20 PM

East

6

North Carolina

11

Providence

TNT

7:27 PM

South

5

V C U

12

Stephen F. Austin

truTV

9:25 PM

East

1

Virginia

16

Coastal Carolina

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

8

Kentucky

9

Kansas St.

CBS

9:50 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

14

North Carolina-Central

TNT

9:57 PM

South

4

U C L A

13

Tulsa

truTV

 

Here are our picks for the first two rounds.  Of course, we will update the ratings and pick anew after round two with picks for Saturday on Friday night and picks for Sunday on Saturday night.

 

The spreads given here are devised from our PiRate Scores using our analytic formula that combines all our statistical criteria into a number.  The bigger the spread between the two teams, the more certain we are about the winner of a game.

 

***** These are not point spread predictions *****

They are criteria spread differences.  A difference of 1-3 represents a probable single-digit victory.  Be weary of a spread of just one point, as this is close to a tossup game.  A spread difference of 4 to 6 is on par with a 10-15 point victory.  A spread difference of 7 to 9 indicates a 15-22 point victory, and a spread difference of 10 or more indicates a blowout is possible.

 

Opening Round ( @ Dayton)

Albany  over  Mount St. Mary’s  by 4

Xavier  over  North Carolina St. by 3

Cal Poly over Texas Southern by 2

Tennessee over Iowa by 3

 

Second Round

 

East Region

Virginia over Coastal Carolina by 10

Memphis over George Washington by 1

Harvard over Cincinnati by less than 1

Michigan St. over Delaware by 7

North Carolina over Providence by 7

North Carolina Central over Iowa St. by 1 (Upset)

Connecticut over St. Joseph’s by 2

Villanova over Milwaukee by 11

 

South Region

Florida over Albany by 13

Pittsburgh over Colorado by 1

Virginia Commonwealth over Stephen F. Austin by 1

U C L A over Tulsa by 1

Ohio St. over Dayton by 3

Syracuse over Western Michigan by 2 (could be much closer than expected)

New Mexico over Stanford by 5

Kansas over Eastern Kentucky by 12

 

Midwest Region

Wichita St. over Cal Poly by 13

Kentucky over Kansas St. by 9

Saint Louis over Xavier by 2

Louisville over Manhattan by 9

Tennessee over Massachusetts by 3

Duke over Mercer by 2 (Could be similar to Duke-Belmont from the past)

Texas over Arizona St. by less than 1 (almost dead even)

Michigan over Wofford by 3

 

West Region

Arizona over Weber St. by 7

Gonzaga over Oklahoma St. by 3

North Dakota St. over Oklahoma by 3 (Upset)

San Diego St. over New Mexico St. by less than 1 (close to even)

Baylor over Nebraska by 6

Creighton over UL-Lafayette by 5

B Y U over Oregon by 2 (maybe the most exciting 2nd round game)

Wisconsin over American by 8

 

For those that are filling out the entire bracket, here are our picks as of tonight

 

Advancing to the Sweet 16

Virginia

Michigan St.

North Carolina

Villanova

Florida

U C L A

Syracuse

Kansas

Wichita St.

Louisville

Duke

Texas

Arizona

San Diego St.

Baylor

Wisconsin

 

The Elite 8

Michigan St.

Villanova

Florida

Syracuse

Louisville

Duke

San Diego St.

Wisconsin

 

The Final 4

Michigan St.

Florida

Louisville

San Diego St. (our sleeper Final Four team)

 

Championship Game

Michigan St.

Louisville

 

Champion

Louisville

March 16, 2014

Bracketnomics–PiRate Style

Bracketnomics 505—2014 Edition

The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.

Think of the criteria in this tutorial as the equivalent of those past performances.  The R+T rating is akin to the Beyer Speed Figure Rating.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are like a horse with a 60 Speed Fig in a race where the other horses all have multiple 100+ Figs.

Here is a general explanation of our past performance criteria.  Don’t worry about compiling all these statistics yourself.  All you need to do is check back with the PiRate Ratings Tuesday morning for an in-depth look at the Field of 68.

 1. Scoring Margin

For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.  Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. 

More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.

This is an obvious statistic here.  If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics. 

In the days of the 64-68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six consecutive games. 

This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams. 

This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years.  Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64-68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

3. Rebound Margin

This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded.  The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament.  What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game.  In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage.  Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance.  Any positive turnover margin is good here.  If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin.  Not all turnover margins are the same though.  A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals.  A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul.  When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase.  Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.  So, this system counts a steal as being worth 1.33 defensive rebounds.   

The criteria to look for here is a positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents.  Give more weight to teams that average 7.5 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game.  A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots.  In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

5. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.”  The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.

The current R+T Formula for 2014 uses an advanced metric that involves multiple factors that give extra weight to an ability to get offensive rebounds and steals over other turnovers, while preventing the other team from getting offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers.

In 2014 terms, look for teams with R+T ratings at 6.5 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away.

When this stat is 3.5 to 6.5, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win. 

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U.  The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors.  We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

6. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or North Dakota St. to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Iowa St. or Ohio State.  And, of course, that is correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  We use three different SOS ratings to come up with an average, and then we plug it into a formula that gives extra points for teams with tough schedules, while taking away points from teams with easy schedules.

 7. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances, all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.  When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

These are the seven basic PiRate criteria.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem.  Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists.  That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things.  First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing.  That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance).  Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs.  As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be.  So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats.

2. Free Throw Shooting

Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games.  However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls.  For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75. 

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March. 

Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently get there by winning close games at the line.  In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season.  The referees let the teams play.  So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path. 

Ponder this:  The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever.  That team connected on just 63% of its free throws.  They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press.  In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

3. 3-point shooting

You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the difference in points scored.  If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points.  Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals.  A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket.  If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game.  It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament.  A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win is not going to be around after the first weekend.

4. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far.  Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players.  I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball.  Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so.  If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side.  It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year. 

 

Putting It All Together

If you know us here at the PiRate Ratings, we are all about putting stats into a mathematical formula to try to pick winners.  That is what we have done for the last decade, and we have isolated the top teams in the tournament more than half the time.  In the last 13 years, our top-rated team has won the championship eight times,  our second highest-rated team won the title three times, and our third-highest rated team won it once.  The only miss was with Connecticut in 2011.

 

Check back at this site Monday night, March 17, after 11:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and we will have our ratings for all 68 teams in the Dance.

 

Enjoy!

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