The Pi-Rate Ratings

June 15, 2021

2021 College Football Season Historically Before It Happens

Hello out there in Pigskinville, especially all of our super fans of the Southeastern Conference. The PiRates have left the harbor in our vessel for 2021, hoping it will get us out into the shipping lanes for the 2021-2022 football season.

Needless to say, this has been the most difficult Spring for updating college football ratings in the 52 years that the ratings have existed. To be more exact, the PiRate Ratings have been utilizing the same formulas with off-season updates since 1996, as pre-Internet, our system was quite a bit more spartan in calculations. Since 1996, off-season updating has been a mechanical process that involved about 8 weeks of working an average of 20 hours per week in the early mornings and evenings, or roughy 160 hours to update 130 teams.

That dastardly little virus totally fouled up the process last year. At first, just a few dozen teams committed to playing a season. Then, it jumped to 76 then 90-something, and finally 127 of the 130 teams played football, even if they only played five games. Then, in the Spring the FCS played a season, but FBS Independent New Mexico State played two FCS games, getting blown out by Tarleton State and barely edging a fledgling program in Dixie State.

The question became, “How do we update teams that played between 0 and 12 games, including three teams that did not play, one of which played two FCS Spring games and trailed one of those teams 40-7 less than a minute into the second half?

Just coming up with an alternate one-year re-calculation that could be applied to our mechanical updating system took most of the Month of April, and applying the one-year substitute formulas in a process that maintained a level statistical playing field gobbled up all of May through Memorial Day weekend.

Alas, by June 5, we had the process finalized. However, acquiring the stats from all 130 FBS schools took another 10 days, with the acquisition of team #130, U Mass, coming this morning.

Now, the hard work begins today in earnest. At two teams per weekday, one in the early morning and one in the evening and four teams per weekend day, it will take a little over 7 weeks to finalize the preseason ratings for the 2021 college football season. Thus, we expect to be ready by August 10 and should begin our previews around Saturday, August 14 through 24. The season kicks off Saturday, August 28, with what is being called, “Week 0.”

The 2021 season is going to be somewhat like the 1946-1949 seasons. World War II led to many war veterans playing college football well into their 20’s. Oklahoma’s 1949 had more war veterans over the age of a normal college senior than they had correct age underclassmen. The Sooners won 31 games in a row during this era, and multiple players commented that playing football was much easier than fighting a war. That 1949 Sooner team could have had a speedy back from Commerce, OK, on the roster, but Mickey Mantle chose to play baseball after visiting Norman on a recruiting trip and discovering that there were men in the locker room, meaning he would see little action until they finally graduated about the time their children were entering grade school.

Because the NCAA granted an extra year for all college football players, the teams will be considerably more mature, both physically and mentally. Add into this equation the rule that has allowed all players a free transfer, and all of a sudden, the transfer list is more important than the freshmen recruiting list and maybe more important than the two year old recruiting list, or players ready to contribute. A relatively new stat that sort of mimics what we have been doing for several years is the returning production ratings made by Billy Connelly, now at ESPN. We don’t know how Billy plans to adjust his ratings, but the PiRates are giving considerable weight to transfers that expect to see extensive playing time. For instance, in less than 48 hours, Georgia picked up two transfers that figure to be major contributors. They previously had two other top-rated transfers. These four players make Georgia almost a full touchdown better than they would be using just returning production. Now, toss into this equation that a couple of point-changing transfers are still undecided on a 2021 team, and the possibility probability that some player or players will make an eleventh hour decision to transfer just before August practices commence, and we will be updating the updated ratings all summer. Our ratings are based on 100.0 being par. With 130 teams playing, the total for each of our three different ratings adds to 13,000. If a team is adjusted, then 129 other teams must adjust by a minute amount. By August, usually 15-20 teams have to be adjusted due to players leaving or entering programs at the last minute. That leads not to 15-20 updates but 15-20 updates of 130 teams.

We hope that our ratings continue to be as accurate as possible. In the past five years, our ratings have remained in the top 10% of all computer football ratings at the Prediction Tracker. Almost every year since we have been part of the Prediction Tracker, our ratings have finished in the top 5 against the Spread and for the all-important Mean Square Error, which basically calculates how close our spreads came to the actual margins. However, we suspect that the opening month of the college football season this year is going to be much more unpredictable than past seasons. We expect many of the computer ratings to begin the season behind the eight ball as the incredible amount of variables affect the game. Hopefully, our unique way of updating our ratings, with the extra attention to the transfer market along with the overall experience of teams that will have multiple six-year personnel, will allow us to get off to a fast start.

Through the years, we have given you our best advice toward football wagering–just don’t do it! At least, we ask that you do not use the PiRate Ratings as your source for gambling your mortgage payment away to corporations that build castles to the clouds in Nevada. We expect the underdogs to cover the spread more than typical in the first two weeks of the college season, unless the books lower lines and find enough people to wrongly choose the favorite. If you have the ability to wager early before the season commences and then play the other side in games where the lines appreciably move, you might be able to find some hot middles to play. Unless you know in advance which lines are likely to move by more than three points, it isn’t going to help you. But, if you have State U at -6 1/2 against Tech and wager on State U on August 12, and then on game week three weeks later, the line has moved to 9 1/2, and you can put the same wager amount on Tech, if you can find three or more of these games, this might be the year to play middles on the opening weekend. Still, we ask you to use some other means as your research if you must donate to Nevada corporations.

There is a group in the Caribbean that uses our ratings as a major part of their gaming selections. However, they have a large computer program that analyzes the spreads and our ratings, knowing when to play a minimal number of games that their program says to wager. They hit over 60% success against the spread, but their method is not possible to utilize unless you can immediately wager on certain line movements at an offshore book. There is also the issue of not just winning from an offshore book; you have to be able to collect from them as well, and some of them are hesitant to allow this.

We look forward to providing you with weekly entertainment. Expect the first conference ratings, preview, and predictions to publish around August 14. Thank you for your support.

If you are a tabletop baseball fan, our Sabertooth Baseball Games have been bases-clearing doubles down the line this Spring. We have an advanced version of great teams of all 16 franchises between 1920 and 1959, and we have a simpler, quicker playing game of all 20 franchises in existence in the early and mid-60’s, with teams between 1959 and 1972. Click on the link below for more information.

April 5, 2021

PiRate Ratings Championship Game Spread

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
GonzagaBaylor6.3

This concludes the PiRate Ratings coverage of college and professional sports until the 2021-2022 football season. We are headed out to sea for some R&R for the summer and hope to return with our preseason football coverage in August.

In the meantime, please give our sister site a look if you are into tabletop baseball gaming. Our game, Sabertooth Baseball, is getting rave reviews from patrons, some of whom own 20 different games. They say our game has more options than any other game marketed.

Check Out Sabertooth Baseball: https://sabertoothbaseball.wordpress.com

April 2, 2021

PiRate Ratings Final Four Preview

National Semifinals Spreads

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
GonzagaUCLA14.7
BaylorHouston1.4

PiRate Bracketnomics

Nearly three weeks ago, we excitedly released our 2021 Bracketnomics report believing we were on top of the NCAA Tournament and knowing which teams were the true contenders and which were the pretenders. We came up with our Final Four teams, and poof, two of them lost before the Sweet 16.

We gave you a list of Gonzaga, Illinois, and Michigan, qualifying Michigan based on whether Isaiah Livers could return and play after the Sweet 16, which he was unable to do. Next, we gave you a list of teams that had a strong resume that should contend for the Final 4, of which Houston was one of those teams. Finally, we gave you the list of the handful of teams that had Final 4-worthy resumes but not as strong as the half-dozen just above. In that group was Baylor.

Three of the remaining four teams meet the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics criteria to win a national championship. As for UCLA, they are an outlier with very little national championship statistical criteria. Even though we selected a couple of wrong championship-worthy teams, three of the four Final Four teams meet the Bracketnomics criteria we endorse. If Gonzaga, Houston, or Baylor win the title, then the Bracketnomics fundamentals will have proven valid for the season. Let’s look at the Semifinal Games and show you the Bracketnomics Criteria in total.

Efficiency Ratings

93% of all national champions since 1990 have finished in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and in the top 20 in defensive efficiency.

Offensive Efficiency Ratings

Baylor3
Gonzaga1
Houston7
UCLA13

Baylor, Gonzaga, and Houston qualify here. UCLA is just outside the criteria range.

Defensive Efficiency Ratings

Baylor28
Gonzaga5
Houston8
UCLA45

Gonzaga and Houston qualify here. Baylor semi-qualifies, because the 6.7% of the teams that won the national title that didn’t meet the defensive efficiency criterion (two times in 30 years), their defensive efficiency was in the top 40. UCLA once again does not qualify here. Because efficiency is the most important criterion, UCLA is not a Bracketnomics’ qualifier. If the Bruins win the title, they crush this system.

Strength of Schedule

All national champions in the last 30+ years have had a strength of schedule better than 5 points per game above average, or to clarify it, a score of 55.0 or better in our PiRate formula.

Final 4 SOS

Baylor59.3
Gonzaga59.2
Houston56.9
UCLA61.4

All four teams qualify with this criterion. The belief that Gonzaga did not play a hard enough schedule is 100% hogwash. Gonzaga defeated Virgina, Iowa, and West Virginia in addition to three wins over BYU. Wins over USC, Creighton, and Oklahoma by 17.7 points per game totally destroys the theory that the Bulldogs are not as strong as the best Power Conference teams.

PiRate R + T Ratings

If this is your first look at our site, the R+T rating is our creation. It measures a team’s ability and likelihood of enjoying a scoring run. Usually, NCAA Tournament games are decided when one team goes on a scoring run to secure the victory or to come from behind to win. This rating looks at the reasons why a team gets that spurt in a game. It happens with extra rebounding, steals, avoiding steals on offense, and turnovers. Because steals are more valuable than all other turnovers, they get their own piece in the formula.

R + T Rating = R + (.5S) + (6 – Opp. S) + T where R = Rebound Margin, S = Steals, and T = Turnover Margin

Historically, national champions are in the top quadrant in R+T ratings. In most years, the top quadrant begins around 12.5 to 15. In this Covid basketball season, the top quadrant line is 11.8 and the top 10% is 14.5.

Final 4 R+T

Baylor14.2
Gonzaga14.7
Houston18.3
UCLA8.3

Once again, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Houston qualify with this criterion, while UCLA does not. Houston’s R+T is typical of a team that puts a game away quickly when they get a spurt, but when you factor tougher schedules for Baylor and Gonzaga, the top three are basically equal, while UCLA is still not qualified.

Upperclassman Leadership

In 90% of the past 30 years, the national champion had multple upperclassmen (juniors & seniors) among their top eight players. When the game is on the line, an experienced 22-year old player is an adult that can handle pressure. An 18-year old freshman is still a teenager.

Final 4 Leaders

TeamSRJR
Baylor24
Gonzaga22
Houston32
UCLA04

All four teams have experienced leadership. UCLA has no seniors, and the loss of their one senior early in the season may be the only reason why the Bruins didn’t get to this point with a 26-4 record rather than 22-9. Houston having three seniors may have a unique advantage this year, since nobody received NCAA Tournament experience last year.

The Clutch Factor

There are going to be possessions in the Big Dance where a team must rely on a player or players to put the load on their shoulders and pick up the crucial basket, rebound, or defensive stop. Think of Reggie Jackson in October. All Final Four teams have had a Mr. March on their roster. Even surprise teams like Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason in this century have had at least one Mr. March on their roster. It must be close to impossible to get this far without that guy or guys. So, this factor is obvious for all four teams remaining.

Baylor3
Gonzaga3
Houston1
UCLA1

Baylor and Gonzaga have three Mr. March’s (Mr. April’s) on their roster. It is harder to stop three than it is one, but if the one’s are more like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or MJ, then the one’s can trump the threes. Unfortunately for Houston and UCLA, Baylor and Gonzaga’s three go-to guys are the players closest to the superstars. Here is where we begin to really separate the superior teams from the really good teams.

Three-point Percentage

This is one of two areas where we at the PiRate Ratings were late in endorsing. The reason for this is that prior to about 2015, college basketball teams were not up to snuff on analytics. Once mathematics became a large part of basketball strategy, the game experienced an evolution to where most teams now attempt to shoot the highest percentage two-point shots along with open three-point shots. All that matters is finding a 60% probable two-point shot and a 40% probable three-point shot. If a team can hit 37% from behind the arc, they must hit better than 55.5% from inside the arc to make two-point shooting worthwhile, and the same goes for holding the opponent below those numbers.

The key in this criterion is to have a team three-point percentage of 37.0 or better. Going 3 for 8 is just as acceptable as going 15 for 40. It’s the percentage that matters.

Final 4 3-pt%

Baylor41.1
Gonzaga37.1
Houston35.4
UCLA36.9

Baylor and Gonzaga shoot better than 37% from the 3-point line. UCLA is one made basket away from qualifying and thus would round up to 37%. Houston does not meet the criterion. In a game with Baylor, where the Bears are able to prevent the Cougars from getting multiple second chances, this could be a decider. Read on though to see the other side of this equation.

Dominant Insider Player(s)

Now that we told you the importance of 3-point shooting, now we switch and tell you it is also important to have a dominant inside player or players. A team doesn’t have to have Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Patrick Ewing inside these days to have a dominant inside game. All we are looking for is one player that can score in the low post and averages better than 12 points per game or two front court players that average better than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Final 4 Inside Dominance

Team1 @ 122 @ 20/12
BaylorNoNo
GonzagaYesYes
HoustonNoNo
UCLANoNo

This is the most glaring stat of the entire system. Gonzaga has a post player that averages more than 12 points per game, and the Bulldogs have two front court players that combine for better than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. The other three teams do not have a player that meets this criterion. It makes the Bulldogs prohibitive favorites, because this stat goes hand-in-hand with R+T and the prevention of R+T.

In past years, when a team of smaller players won the national championship, while they may not have had a 6 foot 10 inch monster in the middle, they did have a 6 foot 5 leaper that could score points inside and clean the boards with rebounds. The tiny 1964 UCLA Bruins with no starter over 6 foot 5 still dominated inside with three players that combined for 32.1 points and 17.8 rebounds per game. That tiny Bruin team outrebounded their opponents by more than 8 per game!

True Shooting Percentage Margin

True Shooting percentage is a new age metric that assigns point values to shot attempts. A free throw, a 2-point basket, and a 3-point basket obviously count for different values, so the ability to score points on a possession can be weighted. In essence, this is just another way to look at offensive and defensive efficiency, but it removes the schedule strength factor. Because all the Final 4 teams have adequate schedule strengths, this criterion may show a more accurate estimate. A double digit margin is a sign of a great team. A margin of 5.0-9.9% is really good.

Final 4 TS% Margins

TeamTS%OppMargin
Baylor58.552.06.5
Gonzaga63.449.813.6
Houston54.447.17.3
UCLA54.752.91.8

You see the obvious here. Gonzaga is far and away the superior team in this quartet. UCLA looks like a team that should have gone home by the Sweet 16. Baylor and Houston are extremely close.

Double Figure Scoring

In addition to having clutch players, it is great to have at least three players that average 10 or more points per game, preferably four players. A team with one or two big scorers is more likely to have an issue with both having “off nights” than a team with three double-figure scorers. A team with four double-figure scorers is unlikely to see all four players have an off night.

Final 4 DBL FIG

Baylor3
Gonzaga4
Houston3
UCLA4

Gonzaga and UCLA have the big four number, while Baylor and Houston have three. All four qualify here. Ironically, had UCLA’s senior star not been injured in game number eight, they would have had five double figure scorers and might have been as powerful as their 1995 national champions.

Offensive Rebounding Rate

Offensive rebounding is the key to having a superior R+T rating, and in the Final four, where all four teams have excellent team defenses, quite often the best offensive rebounding team gets that game-clinching spurt. ORR must also be used in conjunction with schedule strength.

Simply, ORR is the percentage of offensive rebounds a team gets off its missed shots. If a team misses 35 shots (FG and FT with a rebound) and gets 14 offensive rebounds, their ORR is 40.0 (14/35).

In the past, the key number has been 37.5% or three offensive rebounds for every eight missed shots. A team that could hit that mark frequently had an R+T north of 18. In recent years with more three-point shots and a prevalence of Pack-Line defenses, that number has been lowered to 35%. Any team that can retrieve 35% of its missed shots with a schedule strength in the top quadrant is going to be a tough out.

Final 4 ORR

Baylor36.1
Gonzaga30.4
Houston39.5
UCLA29.4

This is where Houston shines, and where the Cougars have their opening to upset Baylor. The issue is that Baylor has the next best ORR. Can Houston get enough offensive rebounds to account for their sub-standard three-point shooting? The probability is less than 50%.

Offensive rebounding is the closest vulnerability Gonzaga has. It is the only reason why at the beginning of March Madness that we had them as the second best overall criteria. However, UCLA has an ORR under 30.0, and that number is not indicative of a Final 4 team. If Gonzaga plays in the title game Monday night, their opponent will have one aspect of the game where they can exploit the Bulldogs’ lack of superiority. We won’t call it a weakness, because it is still better than average.

Two-point Percentage Defense

Two-point percentage is still highly important in the Big Dance. Teams still take 2/3 of their shot attempts inside the arc. The important number here is 45%. If a team holds their opponents under 45% from inside the arc, they are dangerous on the defensive side.

Final 4 2pt D

Baylor48.6
Gonzaga46.5
Houston42.8
UCLA49.4

Now you see why we pegged Houston as a potential Final 4 team before the tournament commenced. Holding opponents to 42.8% from inside the arc, while also having a superior rebounding team has allowed the Cougars to make it this far. Baylor and UCLA just barely hold teams under 50% from inside the arc. Gonzaga is in the gray area between very good and great.

Free Throw Rate

We admit that we failed to fully grasp the importance of this metric until last year. For years, we talked about how every national champion for a long stretch in history had free throw percentages under 70%, basically in the bottom 50% in their season. The teams with the highest FT% didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, or they made quick exits. There was a reason for this. If these teams needed a high percentage to win, they seldom could use this against superior athletes that maybe didn’t shoot as well from the charity stripe.

We threw the baby out with the bath water! How naive we were for so many years. We even altered our idea of FT Rate, going with a different formula from the norm. Originally, FT Rate was simply FT attempts divided by FG attempts. Some heavy hitters in the basketball metrics world altered this to FT made divided by FG attempts. We endorsed an Ivy League math professor’s peer-reviewed thesis that showed FT divided by possessions was more valuable than the alternatives but still considerably less important that field goal accuracy, rebounding rates, and turnover rates.

Then, like a light bulb exploding above our heads, we began to rationalize why players foul and why they do not foul. Most of the fouls in college basketball happen because the offensive player is too talented for the defensive player to guard. Instead of giving up the easy basket, the defensive player will make contact with the offensive player, hoping the referees fail to notice.

The FT rate is thus very important, but FT% isn’t the reason. It tells us which team is hardest to guard and which defense is superior and does not need to foul to stop easy baskets. Thus, the original FTA/FGA is in fact the important equation to use here. Look for a team that has an offensive FT rate over 31% and a defensive FT rate under 31%. The farther away from 31%, the better.

Final 4 FT Rate

TeamO-RateD-Rate
Baylor26.731.0
Gonzaga35.625.3
Houston30.441.0
UCLA31.428.0

Once again, Gonzaga is clearly the best at these criteria. UCLA has ridden these criteria to five wins in the Dance. Baylor is vulnerable here with substandard stats on both sides of the ball. Houston has a major issue on the defensive side, where they obviously foul way too much. If the Cougars get in early foul trouble in the first half against Baylor, it will be curtains. Baylor doesn’t force fouls, so UH might be okay for one night.

A Head Coach With Past Final Four Experience

If a coach has past Final Four experience, his team usually comes out ready to play without the “tightness” many teams have at the beginning of games. These coaches are better equipped to handle all the extra intangibles that Final Four basketball brings. Obviously, all Final 4 coaches have winning Elite 8 experience, but the regional finals and national semifinals are world’s apart.

Final 4 Coaching

BaylorNo
GonzagaYes
HoustonYes
UCLANo

Kelvin Sampson made one Final Four with Oklahoma 19 years ago. He has the experience. Mark Few has taken Gonzaga to the national finals, where the Bulldogs lost by two. Neither Mick Cronin nor Scott Drew have been here before. Gonzaga and Houston get the gold in this criterion.

Conference Champions

Very rarely has the national champion not won either its regular season conference championship, or its conference tournament championship. It isn’t 100% indicative, but it is a strong factor.

Final 4 Champions

BaylorYes
GonzagaYes
HoustonYes
UCLANo

UCLA is the odd team out again. Baylor won the Big 12 Conference title. Houston won the American Athletic Conference Tournament after finishing second in the conference race. Gonzaga swept both the West Coast Conference regular season and conference tournament titles. UCLA won neither the Pac-12 regular season nor conference tournament titles.

Scoring Margin

This is the oldest metric that holds up throughout college basketball history. Better than 90% of all national champions have had scoring margins of 10.0 points or better. Lower that to 8.0 points or better, and you approach 100%. A large majority of national champions had scoring margins above 12 points, and a sizable number had better than 15-point margins.

Final 4 Scoring Margins

Baylor17.5
Gonzaga23.1
Houston19.0
UCLA5.3

Three teams satisfy this criterion. UCLA would be on par with David slewing two Goliaths to win the title. There isn’t any past basis to predict the Bruins defeating Gonzaga and the Baylor-Houston winner.

Field Goal Percentage Margin

We almost dismissed this criterion. It is old-hat, and there are newer metrics that rate this ability better. However, this stat still holds up from the 1930’s through today. Historically, the national champion has averaged better than 7.5% superiority in field goal percentage margin. The past net-cutters have frequently topped 10% in this statistic. Only the margin matters, so this can be 52% offense to 42% defense or 47% offense and 37% for defense or any other 10% margin.

Final 4 FG% Margin

Baylor5.4
Gonzaga13.3
Houston6.4
UCLA2.3

As you can see, Gonzaga is the only one of the four teams that meet this criterion. 13.3% is similar to the other undefeated national championship teams. The 1967, 1972, and 1973 UCLA teams that went 30-0 plus the 1976 32-0 Indiana team averaged 11.3% in FG% margin. Gonzaga’s 13.3 is higher than all four of these past greats.

Winning Streak(s)

A team must win six consecutive games (seven if playing in the First Four) to win the national championship. If the team couldn’t win six or seven games in a row during the regular season, you cannot expect them to do so in the Big Dance.

There are two key data points with this criterion. They are one 10-game winning streak or two six-game winning streaks.

Final 4 Winning Streaks

Baylor18
Gonzaga30
Houston11/8/7
UCLA7

Gonzaga’s 30-0 record easily qualifies the Bulldogs here. Baylor’s 18-game winning streak safely qualifies them. Houston has three winning streaks greater than 6 games, which also satisfies this criterion’s parameters. UCLA has one winning streak of 7 games, which came in 2020 with their former senior star playing. The Bruins do not qualify.

Summation

The most obvious information herein is that UCLA made it this far as one of the greatest outliers in tournament history. They barely survived their First Four play-in game with Michigan St. Their overtime win over Alabama was gifted by a terrible officiating mistake in regulation. Their Elite 8 win over Michigan was extremely lucky when Michigan had multiple opportunities to win in the last 30 seconds but basically crumbled under pressure. Using this criteria, Gonzaga should beat the Bruins by 15 or more points.

The Baylor-Houston game is not as cut and dry. Most pundits believe BU is unbeatable in this game, but we beg to differ. Houston is the underdog in this game, but Baylor is maybe a 55% to 45% favorite at best. Both the Bears and Cougars possess the criteria to make it to the National Championship Game.

If you are a Gonzaga fan, you might want to cheer for Baylor to win their semifinal game. While the Bears have an incredible criteria resume, Houston dominates in the one area where Gonzaga is vulnerable.

The 1927 New York Yankees are considered the best baseball team of all time by a majority of baseball experts. Yet ,that team had some weaknesses. Third baseman Jumpin’ Joe Dugan was a below average player at his position. Mark Koenig was an average shortstop. The three-man catching platoon was good but not great. However, that team had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, two of the top 10 players of all time. It had Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, and Bob Meusel, three additional stars that in other years could have been the best player on a pennant-winning team. The pitching staff didn’t get the accolades, but they were the best in the Major Leagues in 1927. The Pinstripes went 110-44 to win the AL Pennant and swept Pittsburgh in the World Series 4 games to none. That Pittsburgh team (actually Pittsburg in those days) was loaded with talent, including Big Poison and Little Poison in Paul and Lloyd Waner, in addition to Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, and three other hitters that had batting averages over .300.

The legendary sportswriters of the 1920’s noticed the Pirates players watching the Yankees take batting practice before the series began. Ruth sent towering home run shots over the very deep Forbes Field right-center field and center field walls well over 400 feet flights. Then, Gehrig stepped into the batter’s box and sent hard-hit balls that were not as high but looked like ropes going over those same spots in the deep wall. The Pirate players were in awe, but that was just two players.

Lazzeri, Meusel, and catcher Pat Collins then got into the batter’s box in succession batting from the right side. Each of the trio then sent balls rifling over the distant left-field wall, again over 400 feet blasts. The Pirate pitchers were mortified and totally psyched out. The Series was over before it started.

Is this Gonzaga team the 1927 Yankees on the college hardwoods? With all the games being played in the Indianapolis area, Baylor, Houston, and UCLA have had ample time to see Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs appear to be Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri. They have seen Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard look like Combs and Meusel.

It is our opinion that Gonzaga is more like the great UCLA national Champions than the 1991 UNLV, 1979 Indiana State, and 1976 Rutgers teams, the last three to make it to the Final four undefeated and not win the title. The hidden intimidation factor is worth 12 to 15 points in GU’s favor. Opponents will be fearful of giving up too many easy transition baskets to really crash their offensive boards, where GU can be exploited. They are likely to hurry their shots and shoot below their norms. Because the other teams in this tournament cannot properly match up with Timme and Kispert, we expect the inside defenders to experience foul trouble.

After Citation won the Triple Crown in horse racing in 1948, 25 years passed until the feat was replicated. Great horses like Northern Dancer and Majestic Prince couldn’t pull it off. When it finally happened again, the horse that did it was the 1927 Yankees of thoroughbred racing. Secretariat forced other trainers to alter how they ran their horses, and it still didn’t work. In the Belmont, Sham tried to run fast early to keep up with Secretariat, and Sham wore out. The greatest horse of the time period ran away with a 31-length victory totally obliterating the record time by multiple seconds!

Is Gonzaga about to become the Secretariat of this generation? The Bracketnomics criteria believe so.

March 29, 2021

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:38 am
FavoriteUnderdogSpread
HoustonOregon St.9.0
BaylorArkansas5.1
GonzagaUSC9.3
MichiganUCLA6.4

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Update

Houston, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Michigan are the four remaining teams that possess the analytics criteria that 93% of the last 30 national champions possessed. Gonzaga and Michigan have the overall best criteria, but most of Michigan’s statistical outcomes includes injured star Isaiah Livers. Houston lacks overall schedule strength, but a win tonight over Oregon State and then a Final Four win over Baylor would give the Cougars the last needed piece of the puzzle in a national title game. Baylor misses on only one main criteria point as well as a couple minor points.

Obviously, the Pac-12 strength of schedules needed to be tweeked upward by a few points, and the Covid issues probably disguised the league’s resurrection. The Big Ten and Big 12 were overrated this year, while the SEC and ACC were somewhat overrated. The fact that the Elite 8 has three Pac-12 teams, and one team each from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, West Coast, and American Athletic speaks a lot about the balance in basketball this year. The Western half of the country was the better half this year for the first time in more than a decade, maybe in the 21st Century.

March 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:13 am

Friday, March 26, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
Loyola (Chi.)Oregon St.6.5
BaylorVillanova5.2
ArkansasOral Roberts13.3
HoustonSyracuse7.0
GonzagaCreighton13.3
MichiganFlorida St.3.4
AlabamaUCLA5.7
USCOregon3.4

Bracketnomics Took A Beating

Like 99% of the public, our brackets are destroyed thanks to all the lower seeded teams winning in the first two rounds. Obviously, the Big Ten was highly overrated, and the Pac-12 was highly underrated. A lack of non-conference games this year made the schedule strengths too biased. There are only four teams in the Sweet 16 with resumes similar to past national champions.

Gonzaga is the only remaining team that meets 90% of the criteria of a national champion. Michigan would also meet the criteria, but their star playmaker is still injured and out. So, the Wolverines have to be discounted somewhat.

Baylor and Houston meet more than 75% of the criteria, but they are missing one key important stat. Connecticut is the only past national champion of the 21st Century to win the national title with this type of criteria.

If Gonzaga wins the title, then the bracketnomics data will have proven itself to be accurate for the year, even if our interpretation of the data was wrong. If Michigan, Houston, or Baylor wins the title, then it will be another Connecticut type of deal, where the criteria was valid but not identifiable enough to be considered a success. If anybody else cuts the nets, then the criteria failed for this year.

What should we make of this data this year? Do we throw this year out due to the highly dysfunctional season? So many games were cancelled this year, while other games were scheduled on as little as 48-72 hours notice. Included in the cancellations was a Gonzaga vs. Baylor game that should have been played, in all places, in Indianapolis in December!

One thing we will note in 2021-2022 is to consider the Big Ten Conference to be a tad overrated and the Pac-12 Conference a tad underrated. Maybe, it is time for “The Conference of Champions” to return to its prominence it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th Century.

What to Make of Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s strength of schedule just barely qualifies for national championship-worthy criteria. However, no team from outside the Power Conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC) has won the national championship since 1990, when UNLV cut down the nets. In three decades, Gonzaga came within a made basket, and Butler came within a rimmed out prayer of pulling off the Mid-Major miracle.

Gonzaga has been compared all season to the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table during the regular season with a scoring margin of close to 30 points, only to fall to Duke in the Final Four.

Could Gonzaga meet a power conference blue blood and meet the same fate as UNLV 30 years ago? Creighton would not be considered a blue blood, and we cannot see the Bulldogs losing Saturday. A win in the Sweet 16 would have GU playing a Pac-12 team in the Elite 8, either USC or Oregon. We cannot count either of these teams as a Duke-like blue blood.

In the National Semifinals, Gonzaga would face either Michigan, Florida State, UCLA, or Alabama. With Isaiah Livers able to play, Michigan would definitely be considered blue blood material. Florida State is in the blue blood neighborhood. UCLA and Alabama are both a little too green to be blue these days.

The Championship Game would present a potential opponent in Baylor that would be a true blue blood team this year. Syracuse might be a powder blue blood with their matchup zone so hard to prepare for when teams have not faced it before.

However, we here on the PiRate ship do not see Gonzaga as the UNLV team three decades later. We see this Bulldogs team more like the 1964 UCLA Bruins 57 years later. By this, we do not refer to playing style. The two teams couldn’t be any more different. Coach John Wooden’s first national champions were small in size; no starter was taller than 6 foot 5 inches. Gonzaga has size and muscle inside.

The 1964 Bruins used a devastating 2-2-1, 3/4 court zone press and occasionally a 1-2-1-1 full court zone press to force tempo and turnovers, while Gonzaga uses a standard half-court defense that relies on pressuring the ball and forcing poor shots, where they can control the boards and run the fast break and secondary break for cheap baskets and then hit the offensive glass for additional chances.

Where the two teams are quite similar is their method for winning games. In going 30-0 in 1964, UCLA put every game away with a 2 to 3 minute scoring run. The best example occurred in the national title game, where a favored Duke team, with two 6 foot 10 inch starters towering over the Bruins, fell under pressure in just 2 1/2 minutes, as the Bruins ran off 16 points in a row.

Gonzaga has this same ability to take a three-point lead and make it a 15-point lead in just a couple minutes of playing time. Their game against BYU in the West Coast Conference Championship Game is a testament to this ability. BYU held a 10-point lead and looked like they were going to do what Saint Mary’s had done in the prior WCC Championship Game. Then, in very little clock time, GU went from 10 down to 10 up, and the game was over.

There is another team remaining with the same ability to go on a major game-clinching scoring run, and that is Houston. Funny how comparing Gonzaga to UCLA brings Houston into the conversation, as Houston and UCLA conjure up memories of past titanic rivals like Dempsey-Tunney, Affirmed-Alydar, and New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Houston is most definitely not considered the favorite to make it to the National Championship Game. They still have to solve the Syracuse zone and then possibly beat the most underrated team in the field in Loyola of Chicago or the team that found lightning in a bottle in Oregon State. Then, they most likely have to dismiss Baylor to make it to their third national championship game in the school’s history.

A Houston-Gonzaga national championship tilt would be quite memorable, and it would be one where both teams enjoy scoring runs that make the outcome unpredictable.

March 22, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 4:59 am

Monday, March 22, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
GonzagaOklahoma16.0
CreightonOhio6.2
USCKansas2.2
IowaOregon6.5
MichiganLSU5.5
ColoradoFlorida St.1.1
UCLAAbilene Christian4.3
AlabamaMaryland6.0

March 21, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Sunday, March 21, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
BaylorWisconsin5.4
VillanovaNorth Texas5.7
ArkansasTexas Tech1.9
FloridaOral Roberts9.9
IllinoisLoyola (Chi.)6.2
Oklahoma St.Oregon St.5.6
West VirginiaSyracuse2.8
HoustonRutgers7.1

March 19, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:27 pm

Saturday, March 20, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
GonzagaNorfolk St.29.8
OklahomaMissouri0.9
CreightonUCSB6.6
VirginiaOhio6.1
USCDrake5.1
KansasEastern Washington9.6
OregonVCU0.7
IowaGrand Canyon15.6
MichiganTexas Southern24.9
LSUSt. Bonaventure0.2
ColoradoGeorgetown4.6
Florida St.UNCG10.0
BYUUCLA3.9
TexasAbilene Christian7.2
ConnecticutMaryland2.2
AlabamaIona19.2

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Friday, March 19, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
BaylorHartford22.0
WisconsinNorth Carolina0.3
VillanovaWinthrop8.1
PurdueNorth Texas7.4
Texas TechUtah St.2.3
ArkansasColgate8.4
FloridaVirginia Tech2.1
Ohio St.Oral Roberts16.1
IllinoisDrexel20.5
Loyola (Chi.)Georgia Tech2.7
TennesseeOregon St.7.6
Oklahoma St.Liberty8.2
San Diego St.Syracuse2.8
West VirginiaMorehead St.11.6
RutgersClemson1.9
HoustonCleveland St.17.9

March 18, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

NCAA First Four

Team 1Team 2Spread
Mount St. Mary’sTexas Southern1.3
DrakeWichita St.2.0
Norfolk St.Appalachian St.0.3
UCLAMichigan St.0.7
Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.