We hope you read yesterday’s tutorial on how the PiRate Ratings select their brackets and pick winners in each round of the NCCC Tournament. If not, here is a link to that informative post:
Once you have familiarized yourself with the “Four Factors” and the “PiRate Bracketnomics” Criteria, then everything you read here will be easily understood.
Today, we will look first at the Opening Round games in Dayton played tonight and tomorrow. Then, we will break down the 32 games Thursday in Friday in the Second Round. We will then choose our bracket the rest of the way for those looking to fill out their bracket all at once.
Finally, since hundreds of you recently discovered this page for the first time, we will bring up two controversial subjects we have discussed in the past–how to bring more excitement back to the college game, and how to change the NCAA Tournament so that great low and mid-major teams (like Murray State this year) cannot be eliminated by a major upset after going undefeated in their league.
Just another friendly reminder: See yesterday’s post for all the pertinent stats discussed in today’s preview.
All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time
OPENING ROUND–Dayton, OH
Tuesday, March 17
#16 Hampton (16-17) vs. #16 Manhattan (19-13)
Tip Time: 6:40 PM
Manhattan enjoys a small edge in E FG%, as Hampton’s opponents enjoyed a better rate than they did. Hampton has the edge in rebound rate, while Manhattan has a decided advantage in turnover rate, as their defense forces more turnovers per 100 possessions than average. Free throw rate is a wash.
In the early rounds, strength of schedule tends to play a more important role than in later rounds, and the reason is obvious. If a team gets to the Elite 8, they belong there regardless of schedule strength.
Manhattan enjoys a huge edge in strength of schedule; the Jaspers’ schedule was about nine points per game stronger.
Scoring Margin was not a strong factor for either team, but Hampton was actually outscored, which is a bad sign for making it past the opening round.
Neither team performed well in any of the other PiRate Criteria categories, as they both have negative field goal percentage margins; neither rebound the ball well; and both had losing records away from home.
Hampton only bests Manhattan in one category, but it is a big one–R+T. Thanks to a lot of steals, the Pirates get extra opportunities to score.
Red: Manhattan by 7
White: Manhattan by 6
Blue: Manhattan by 10
Bracketnomics Selection: Manhattan wins this one. One big factor hurting Hampton is the health of their top player. Dwight Meikle is nursing an injury to his ankle, and if he can play, he will not be 100%.
#11 BYU (25-9) vs. #11 Ole Miss (20-12)
Tip Time: 9:10 PM
Give Ole Miss a slight advantage in E FG%, but not enough to mean much. Likewise, BYU enjoys an equally slight Rebound Rate advantage, while Turnover Rate is virtually identical both offensively and defensively. BYU has a small Free Throw Rate advantage, but we heavily discount this factor in the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss had a more than six points per game more difficult schedule, which is considerable in this round, so BYU needs to have considerably better criteria grades to emerge as a favorite.
Scoring margin is a tie. The Cougars have a slight advantage in field goal percentage margin, a little stronger advantage in rebound margin, no advantage in turnover margin, and only a slight R+T advantage. Both teams were good but not great away from home, even though both saved their best for the toughest road game. Ole Miss came the closest to knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena, while BYU won at Gonzaga.
Red: BYU by 1
White: BYU by 2
Blue: Ole Miss by 1
Bracketnomics Selection: It’s close, but we will take BYU because Ole Miss ended the season in a swoon.
Wednesday, March 18
#16 North Florida (23-11) vs. #16 Robert Morris (19-14)
Tip Time: 6:40 PM
North Florida enjoys decided advantages in E FG% and Free Throw Rate and smaller advantages in Rebound Rate and Turnover Rate.
There is not much difference in schedule strength in this game. North Florida’s Four Factor dominance is confirmed in all PiRate Criteria, and most importantly, RMU has a negative R+T. Rule number one in PiRate Bracketonomics is to immediately eliminate any team with a negative R+T–‘nuf ced.
Red: N. Florida by 9
White: N. Florida by 5
Blue: N. Florida by 11
Bracketnomics Selection: North Florida looks to be a prohibitive favorite in this game, but we believe it will be closer than our criteria makes this game out to be. We will go with the Ospreys, but by single digits.
#11 Boise St. (25-8) AT #11 Dayton (25-8)
Tip Time: 9:10 PM
E FG% and Turnover Rate are close to equal between the two combatants. Boise State has a considerable Rebound Rate advantage, while Dayton has the clear Free Throw Rate advantage, which is not enough to offset BSU’s Rebound Rate Advantage. However, this game has one unique feature: Dayton has a huge Home Court Advantage.
Boise State would be the clear favorite in this game if it were not in Dayton, but the Broncos have to travel more than 1,650 air miles across multiple time zones, while DU’s players will sleep in their own beds.
The Broncos have a double digit scoring margin, while Dayton has a respectable 7.3 margin. FG% margin is the same. BSU enjoys the edge in rebounding margin, as the Flyers are -1.1 here. While TO Margin is equal, BSU has a nice 11.6 R+T rating to Dayton’s mediocre 4.2.
What tilts the game the other way is Dayton’s home court advantage as well as a nearly 8 points per game advantage in schedule strength.
Red: Dayton by 6
White: Dayton by 5
Blue: Dayton by 7
Bracketnomics Selection: Kudos should go to Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Mark Few disciple, for far exceeding expectations in this football oasis. Greener pastures are in his future should he decide to move up.
The Broncos did not deserve this fate, but they must take it. Unfortunately for Rice and company, Dayton will take this game and advance on to the East Region and the Second Round.
Thursday, March 19, 2015 & Friday, March 20, 2015
#1 Villanova (32-2) vs. #16 Lafayette (20-12)
Tip Time: Thursday, 6:50 PM
Lafayette has no chance in this game, but we will include all the stats to show you why. The Leopards’ defense is porous, and Villanova has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. This ‘Nova team is not a terror on the boards, but it is better than previous additions, while Lafayette is not a factor in this factor. Villanova’s defensive Turnover Rate is much superior to Lafayette’s, while the Wildcats blow the Leopards out of the water in Free Throw Rate.
Again, we probably do not need to bother showing you the differences here, but just in case you wanted to know, Villanova dominates here as well. The Wildcats’ PiRate Criteria us Final Four worthy and Elite 8 favoring with a scoring margin of more than 15 points per game, a field goal percentage margin of 6.5%, a rebounding margin of 2.3, a turnover margin of 3.4, an R+T of 12.1, a road W-L record of 15-2, and a very respectable strength of schedule.
Lafayette has a negative R+T, so this one looks like it will be over between the first and second TV timeout.
Red: Villanova by 32
White: Villanova by 27
Blue: Villanova by 28
Bracketnomics Selection: Villanova with a 99.9% chance of winning
#8 North Carolina St. (20-13) vs. #9 LSU (22-10)
Tip Time: Thursday, 9:10 PM
This shapes up to be an interesting game as all 8-9 seed games should be. LSU ever so slightly enjoys a minor E FG% advantage, while the same can be said about North Carolina State’s Rebound Rate advantage. Turnover Rate and Free Throw Rate are pushes. A favorite cannot be found here.
The Wolf Pack enjoys a tiny strength of schedule advantage of about three points per game. That said, the rest of the criteria is a mixed bag. Scoring margin is about the same. LSU has a tiny field goal percentage margin edge. NCSU returns the favor in rebounding margin. Both teams have small negative turnover margins, while State has a small R+T edge. LSU went 8-5 away from home, while the Wolf Pack suffered through a 7-9 record outside of Raleigh.
Red: North Carolina St. by 1
White: North Carolina St. by 1
Blue: North Carolina St. by 2
Bracketnomics Selection: It is close, but North Carolina State gets the edge. It doesn’t hurt that the Wolf Pack has the better backcourt.
#5 Northern Iowa (30-3) vs. #12 Wyoming (25-9)
Tip Time: Friday, 1:40 PM
This game will trudge along at a snail’s pace, as neither team believes in pressing the tempo. Thus, advantages will not be as great with the pace probably below 60 possessions for both teams.
Give a small edge in E FG% to NIU. Because Wyoming is weak on the offensive glass, Northern Iowa gets the edge here as well. Turnover Margin is close to equal, but the Panthers have the slight edge here. Normally, we would heavily discount Free Throw Rate, but Northern Iowa is the best in the nation at defensive FT*. They are the only team in the tournament with a Rate in single digits. They commit few fouls, and when they do send an opposing player to the line, it is usually a player with a weak shooting percentage.
Normally, a mid-major team’s downfall is a weak strength of schedule. While UNI does not have a schedule strength of Iowa State, the Panthers’ SOS is still above the norm. In this game, it is several points better than Wyoming’s SOS.
Northern Iowa’s criteria resume looks very Sweet 16 worthy if not Elite 8 worthy. The Panthers enjoy a scoring margin of 15.5 points, a FG% margin of 9.1%, a rebounding margin of 2.4, a turnover margin of 0.8, and an R+T of 9.5. Throw in a road record of 12-3, and Northern Iowa is the clear favorite in this game, as Wyoming has pedestrian numbers across the board and a mediocre 9-8 record away from Laramie.
Red: Northern Iowa by 15
White: Northern Iowa by 13
Blue: Northern Iowa by 16
Bracketnomics Selection: Northern Iowa is one 5-seed that will keep a 12-seed from pulling off an upset. The Panthers should be a 3 or 4-seed.
#4 Louisville (24-8) vs. #13 UC-Irvine (21-12)
Tip Time: Friday, 4:10 PM
Before delving into each factor, there is a large difference in schedule strength in this game, so large that the individual statistical components must be adjusted by about 17 points to compare the two teams.
UC-Irvine shoots the ball efficiently when they face opponents like UC-Santa Barbara. Against the likes of Louisville, expect the Anteaters to struggle to get good looks for large parts of this game. Thus, the E FG% goes to the Cardinals.
UL has a prohibitive advantage in Rebound Rate, even with UC-Irvine having 7 foot 6 inch titan Mamadou Ndiaye in the lineup. Ndiaye plays less than 20 minutes per game and seldom gets into proper rebounding position, so UL will dominate the boards in this game.
While this is not Rick Pitino’s typically outstanding full court pressing team, Louisville has the big edge in Turnover Margin. Ditto that for Free Throw Rate as well, so this looks to be a laugher.
This area confirms the previous area. UL dominates in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin, R+T, and winning percentage away from home. While it does not look favorable for the Cardinals to make it to Indianapolis, they have an easy opening game this year.
Red: Louisville by 17
White: Louisville by 14
Blue: Louisville by 22
Bracketnomics Selection: Louisville’s power game wears UCI down and leads to a double-digit win.
#6 Providence (22-11) vs. #11 Boise State or Dayton
Note: This preview includes Dayton as the winner on Wednesday
Tip Time: Friday, 9:57 PM
Providence has an Achilles Heel that can be exploited by good teams, and the tournament is full of good teams. The Friars are not an exceptionally talented shooting team with a weak E FG% of 48.6%. They do not make up for this weakness with a terrific defensive E FG%, so this must be a game to look at the strength of the underdog.
Assuming Dayton wins on their home floor to advance to this game, the Flyers are definitely better in E FG%, which means they have a chance to pull off the upset. Looking past this factor, Providence is going to enjoy a nice edge in Rebound Rate, but Dayton will offset a lot of that with the advantage in Turnover Rate as well as a little help in Free Throw Rate.
Providence has one distinct advantage here, and that is schedule strength. While Dayton has a strong schedule, Providence has one of the toughest in the tournament (5th best in the Dance).
Dayton’s rebounding margin liability will most likely prevent the Flyers from winning, unless Providence lays a total egg in field goal percentage. Throw in a decided R+T advantage, and PU will benefit from something like 9 extra legitimate scoring opportunities.
Red: Dayton by 1 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)
White: Providence by 3 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)
Blue: Providence by 2 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 5)
Bracketnomics Selection: We will take Providence, but we are not strong in our belief. Dayton coach Archie Miller took the Flyers a lot farther than where they were supposed to go last year.
#3 Oklahoma (22-10) vs. #14 Albany (24-8)
Tip Time: Friday, 7:27 PM
Like Providence, Oklahoma is not a particularly efficient shooting team, but unlike Providence, any Lon Kruger-coached team is going to be tough on the defensive side. Albany is a little soft in this factor, so the Sooners enjoy a major advantage in the most important spot.
Rebounding Rate should not be a major decider in this game. OU is not great here, while Albany is rather good for their level of play, but not for the Big Dance. You can scratch off Turnover Rate here as well, not because both teams are weak, but because both are about average. Albany has a liability in Free Throw Rate, as they give up too many points per 100 possessions here. Oklahoma is not dominant here, but the Sooners should get to the line a little more than an average NCAA Tournament team gets to the line.
There is a major advantage for Oklahoma in schedule strength of about 18 points. Albany should probably be a 15-seed, but the bottom of the field is considerably weaker than average.
Factoring schedule strength into the other criteria areas, Albany has no advantage where they can exploit a Sooner weakness. In other words, forget any possibility of an upset in this game, not the OU will get too much farther.
Red: Oklahoma by 18
White: Oklahoma by 16
Blue: Oklahoma by 19
Bracketnomics Selection: Boomer Sooner–Oklahoma will win this in something close to a blowout, but don’t expect OU to make it too far this year. They can get to the Sweet 16, but that may be their ceiling for 2015.
#7 Michigan State (23-11) vs. #10 Georgia (21-11)
Tip Time: Friday, 12:40 PM
E FG% tilts in Michigan State’s favor, and when Sparty enjoys this advantage during the Tom Izzo era, they win most of the time, because MSU is always going to dominate the glass against good but not great opponents, of which Georgia is one. Even though the Bulldogs are tough in Rebound Rate, the Spartans are better by a large margin.
Georgia cannot compensate for the rebounding advantage with superior Turnover Rate advantage, because MSU actually is a little better here as well. Only in Free Throw Rate does Georgia really dominate in this game, and you know how we feel about this factor in the NCAA Tournament.
The PiRate Criteria for this game does not exactly corroborate the Four Factors above, but Michigan State still has the advantage in every category but one. Georgia’s schedule strength is modestly better, mostly because the Bulldogs faced Kentucky twice.
Red: Michigan St. by 4
White: Michigan St. by 6
Blue: Michigan St. by 8
Bracketnomics Selection: Georgia will not be intimidated by Michigan State’s power game, because they faced the best power game in college basketball twice and did not blink. However, when the game is on the line, we like the Spartans chances in this one. We will take Michigan State to set up a fantastic game on Sunday.
#2 Virginia (29-3) vs. #15 Belmont (22-10)
Tip Time: Friday, 3:10 PM
Belmont is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the nation, albeit against much weaker competition than the likes of Virginia. The Cavaliers fall only behind Kentucky in defensive field goal efficiency. Turning the tables, Virginia is a better than average field goal efficiency team on offense, while Belmont is plain bad defensively in this important area.
The Rebound Rate advantage exceeds the Field Goal Efficiency advantage for the Cavaliers, while Belmont’s error-prone attack leads to a terrible Turnover Rate for a team in this field.
The strength of schedule difference in this game is huge. UVa has an advantage of about 15 points per game. Add into the equation a resume that looks like a typical Final Four team, and the Cavs look to roll in this one. Virginia is one of just four teams in this field that has double digit scoring and FG% margins. Their R+T is 20.5, one of just four in this stat as well.
Red: Virginia by 31
White: Virginia by 23
Blue: Virginia by 28
Bracketnomics Selection: There is no suspense for this game. Virginia could hold Belmont under 40 points and win by as many as 30-35 points. The big question mark is how healthy is star forward Justin Anderson? If he can return to something close to his old form, UVa could go all the way to Indianapolis.
#1 Duke (29-4) vs. #16 North Florida or Robert Morris
This preview includes North Florida as the winner on Wednesday
Tip Time: Friday, 7:10 PM
Duke has had a scare as a heavy favorite in their first NCAA Tournament game in the not too distant past. The Blue Devils survived a one-point nail-biter against Belmont. Can history repeat itself? Remember, this is a 1-16 game, and no 16-seed has ever defeated a 1-seed. Princeton almost beat Georgetown in 1989, losing when a last-second shot was blocked and a foul was not called.
Duke should not have much to worry about in this game, but North Florida could make this game interesting for a short time. Duke’s biggest advantage is in Rebound Rate, where North Florida is weak on the glass.
Does Duke have a Final Four resume here? Compared to Final Four teams in the 21st Century, the Blue Devils look similar. Their scoring margin is 15.0; their FG% margin is 7.3%; their rebound margin is 6.2; their turnover margin is 1.3, and their R+T is 17.7. Add a 10-2 record outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium and a strong schedule strength, and Coach K has a potential Final Four team. The only real weakness for the Dukies is that they are only very good in these criteria areas and not completely dominant in any. In a year, where another team is completely dominant, it may be their downfall.
Red: Duke by 30
White: Duke by 23
Blue: Duke by 27
Bracketnomics Selection: Duke will win this game with ease and then advance to the Sweet 16 with another relatively easy game on Sunday.
#8 San Diego St. (26-8) vs. #9 St. John’s (21-11)
Tip Time: Friday, 9:40 PM
The numbers here predict an ugly game with a low score. Neither team can throw the ball in the ocean at times. St. John’s is a little better offensively, but San Diego State is much better defensively.
Rebounding Rate is the next most important factor, and the Aztecs figure to own the glass in this game, partly due to their acumen and partly due to the Red Storm’s lack thereof.
The other two factors are a wash here.
St. John’s has a slightly stronger strength of schedule, just enough that it matters. This is about the only area where the Red Storm enjoys a decided advantage. SDSU gets the checkmark on their side of the ledger in scoring margin, FG% margin, rebounding margin, R+T, and road winning percentage.
Red: San Diego St. by 1
White: San Diego St. by 1
Blue: San Diego St. by 5
Bracketnomics Selection: We are going to add one out of criteria factor as our reason to pick San Diego State. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin comes from the Gene Keady coaching tree. Keady has been a St. John’s assistant under his student. Keady, and his coaching tree, is famous for greatly underachieving in the NCAA Tournament. This includes Matt Painter, Bruce Weber, and Kevin Stallings among others. These coaches do not choke; it’s just that their style of play goes against the grain and opposes the PiRate Criteria–not that these coaches deliberately attack us, but it is that we discovered that power teams that do not rely on finesse of assists and free throws are the teams that go deep in the tournament. It does not hurt that Steve Fisher has cut the nets down before, and his teams are the epitome of power basketball. SDSU wins this game, but they will not make it to the Sweet 16.
#5 Utah (24-8) vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin (29-4)
Tip Time: Thursday, 7:27 PM
SFA pulled off a big upset last year by dispensing with VCU, but the Lumberjacks drew a team that can neutralize their assets. Utah is a little better in offensive shooting efficiency and much better on the defensive side. The Utes can prevent SFA’s major asset, Rebound Rate, from being all that effective, because Utah is rather strong there as well. SFA forces a lot of turnovers, but Utah is not all that sloppy with the ball. Because Utah’s schedule was about 10-12 points per game stronger, the Utes have the tools to keep this 12-seed from pulling off the upset.
This is the only game in the second round where both teams enjoy scoring margins of more than 14 points. Utah also has a double digit FG% margin. The only area where the Lumberjacks have a clear advantage is road winning percentage. Utah was only 8-7 outside of SLC, while SFA went 14-3.
Red: Utah by 8
White: Utah by 7
Blue: Utah by 10
Bracketnomics Selection: Stephen F. Austin might beat other 5-seeds and even a couple of 4-seeds, but the Selection Committee chose the perfect foe for the Lumberjacks, almost as tough as if they selected paper versus rock instead of scissors versus rock. Utah wins.
#4 Georgetown (21-10) vs. #13 Eastern Washington (26-8)
Tip Time: Thursday, 9:57 PM
Georgetown’s E FG% on both offense and defense are about average, or slightly below average among the teams in this field. Eastern Washington has a high offensive E FG%, but their defensive rate is horrible. Georgetown’s Rebound Rate is about average, while EWU’s is weak. Neither team is exceptionally competent in Turnover Rate or Free Throw Rate.
In recent years, Georgetown did not cut the mustard in R+T rating, and they were the easy choice to lose early in the tournament. The Hoyas are better off this year, as this GU edition more closely resembles a GU team from the 1980’s than the 2010’s. Georgetown has credible numbers across the board here, with their only weak spot being winning percentage away from home. At 7-5, the Hoyas are not going to make it to Indianapolis, but they will not go home after one game.
Red: Georgetown by 17
White: Georgetown by 14
Blue: Georgetown by 14
Bracketnomics Selection: Finally, John Thompson III gets a win in the Dance.
#6 SMU (27-6) vs. #11 UCLA (20-13)
Tip Time: 3:10 PM
UCLA took the brunt of the criticism for making the tournament without possessing the proper credentials, but the Four Factors show the Bruins to be worthy of the Big Dance. However, SMU’s credentials are plainly better. Typically, Steve Alford’s teams play smart, finesse basketball, but this team does neither. The Bruins play more power basketball, which is what you look for in the NCAA Tournament, but they do not play it well enough to advance far.
SMU has a clear edge in E FG% and Rebound Rate, a minor advantage in FT Rate, while the teams are even in TO Rate.
The PiRate Criteria depicts UCLA as more of a NIT-worthy team. The Bruins were 4-12 away from Pauley Pavilion. SMU was 10-4 outside of Dallas. The Mustangs are close to being one of our surprise picks to contend for a Final Four berth. Their scoring margin is 9.7, and their FG% margin is 10.0%. Add a rebounding margin of 6.9, and an R+T of 16.8, and Coach Larry Brown’s squad only lacks in turnover margin, which is still positive at 0.2
Red: SMU by 6
White: SMU by 7
Blue: SMU by 9
Bracketnomics Selection: SMU only has to worry about UCLA’s players playing over their heads due to the negative criticism from the so-called experts. We’ll take the Mustangs.
#3 Iowa St. (25-8) vs. #14 UAB (19-15)
Tip Time: Thursday, 12:40 PM
Iowa State looks like a heavy favorite based on these factors, but what will happen if they do not trail by double digits in the first half? They are so accustomed to spotting a 10-15-point lead and then coming from behind, that they could literally panic if they have to play from the front.
The Cyclones are plainly better than UAB in offensive E FG% and somewhat better defensively. Their main issue is Rebound Rate, where opponents fared better than ISU. However, UAB cannot exploit this weakness. Turnover Rate favors the Cyclones, while FT Rate is close to even.
Iowa State looks more like a dominant team in this game when you look at these criteria. Scoring margin is not close, as ISU enjoys a margin close to 10, while UAB is just barely positive. FG% margin tilts the scale in ISU’s favor. Rebound margin is about even, while ISU dusts the Blazers in turnover margin, thanks to UAB having a negative number. UAB was just 3-8 away from home, while Iowa State was 7-5.
Red: Iowa St. by 18
White: Iowa St. by 18
Blue: Iowa St. by 16
Bracketnomics Selection: Iowa State should win this game quickly and hopefully learn that you can win by leading for close to 40 minutes rather than trail by 10 or more for 20.
#7 Iowa (21-11) vs. #10 Davidson (24-7)
Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM
Keep an eye on this game, as the underdog here has better numbers. Davidson enjoys a considerable E FG% offensively, but Iowa returns the favor defensively. The Hawkeyes have a slight Rebound Rate advantage, and Davidson has an even slighter Turnover Rate advantage. Iowa enjoys a large FT Rate advantage, but remember that we do not place much weight on this factor, and our criteria tells us to turn this to a negative if a team relies too much on free throw shooting, because referees call fewer fouls in the NCAA Tournament.
The criteria herein show this game to be a near tossup. Iowa wins the schedule strength battle but not by much. Davidson takes the scoring margin battle, but Iowa is rather strong here as well. Iowa has the rebounding margin advantage, while Davidson has the turnover margin edge. The Hawkeyes have a better R+T, but Davidson has a better road winning percentage. It is the closest game in this round when looking at just this section.
Red: Davidson by 1
White: Iowa by 1
Blue: Davidson by 1
Bracketnomics Selection: If you read yesterday’s post, you saw that we never use assist to turnover ratio and discount three-point shooting and excessive free throw shooting. Well…all three of these stats to ignore come into play here. Davidson can shoot lights out from behind the arc and enjoys an incredible assist to turnover ratio, while Iowa is the epitome of a get to the foul line and win with free throws team. If we were asked to select one game that could go to overtime, this is the game we would select. We are only going with Davidson because the need to get to the foul line is drastically challenged in this tournament.
#2 Gonzaga (32-2) vs. #15 North Dakota St. (23-9)
Tip Time: Friday, 9:50 PM
Gonzaga leads the nation in offensive E FG%, and they do it by getting a lot of easy two-point shots. Defensively, the Bulldogs are almost the equal of their terrific offense. North Dakota State is rather weak on both sides in this factor.
Gonzaga’s Rebound Rate is not as overpowering as the above factor, but it is still quite strong. The Bison Rebound Rate is their top factor, but it is not the equal of the Zags. The remaining two factors are not all that much of a factor in this game.
If you compare Gonzaga’s criteria with Kentucky’s, the Bulldogs are not that far behind the most dominant team in 20 years. Take a look:
Scoring margin–18.2; FG% margin–14.0%; Rebound margin–7.2; Turnover margin–1.1; R+T–19.0; Road W-L–13-1.
North Dakota State is not that bad for a low-major team, but they drew an impossible assignment in Gonzaga.
Red: Gonzaga by 30
White: Gonzaga by 28
Blue: Gonzaga by 24
Bracketnomics Selection: Gonzaga has taken a bad wrap for not advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in recent years. That could change this year. Gonzaga wins this game and empties the bench.
#1 Kentucky (34-0) vs. #16 Hampton or Manhattan
This review includes Manhattan winning Tuesday
Tip Time: Thursday, 9:40 PM
This is an obvious blowout game, so let’s focus on the Wildcats and their pursuit of history. We really cannot compare the Four Factors of Kentucky with those of San Francisco of 1956, UCLA of 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973, or Indiana of 1976, because there were no three-point shots for those past seasons, and we do not have exact rebounding splits or turnovers.
Kentucky’s E FG% is just average. The Wildcats do not win games by shooting lights out. However, their defensive E FG% is just plain scary. It is below 40%.
UK’s Rebound Rate is not what it probably should be. It is not the best in the tournament, and it is not even the best in the Midwest Region, as West Virginia has a better total rate.
The Wildcats have a spectacular Turnover Rate, but again West Virginia’s is better.
How many times have we told you to discount FT Rate? Well, forget that for Kentucky. They have the second best offensive FT Rate in the tournament, and there is reason to believe this statistic will actually mean something, as opponents will continue to foul their wide open shooters out of desperation.
What about Manhattan? The Jaspers have poor Rebound and Turnover Rates, and Kentucky will get about 15 to 20 additional scoring opportunities, as if they need them against this team.
Unlike the Four Factors, we can compare Kentucky’s PiRate Criteria to the crucial parts of the criteria of the past undefeated champions. Since there is no real need to compare it to Manhattan, let’s look at those incredible champs from the past and see how John Calipari’s crew stacks up.
Scoring Margin: Kentucky’s is 20.9. Entering the tournaments, 1976 Indiana’s was 19.1; 1973 UCLA’s was 22.1; 1972 UCLA’s was 32.2; 1967 UCLA’s was 26.2; 1964 UCLA’s was 20.5; 1957 North Carolina’s was 14.7; and 1956 San Francisco’s was 18.0.
FG% Margin: Kentucky’s is 11.4%, which is definitely National Championship-worthy. Of the undefeated champs from the past, only the 1972 and 1973 UCLA teams bested this with marks just over 12%.
Rebounding Margin: Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by 7.4 per game. This is better than 1976 Indiana’s 6.0, but below all the other undefeated champions, even the 1964 UCLA team with no starter over 6′-05″. This statistic is where the Alcindor (Jabbar) and Walton teams at UCLA dominated with huge margins, and where the Bill Russell USF team won the battle by more than 17 per game. If Kentucky is to face defeat, their opponent will have to be able to rebound.
UK’s turnover margin is a very respectable 3.4. We do not have turnover margins for the other teams, but from memory, we remember that UCLA forced a lot of turnovers and picked up a lot of steals from their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press, but they also committed more turnovers than average due to full-time up-tempo play. For instance, the 1972 squad played at a pace of about 90 possessions per game, whereas Kentucky today averages less than 65 possessions per game (unfortunately, this is a sign of the times, as college basketball on average sees 25% less action than it did in the first half of the 1970s.
The Cats’ R+T is 22.9, second best in this tournament. Obviously, they have an undefeated record away from Rupp Arena, and many would say they played better on the road than at home.
Red: Kentucky by 34
White: Kentucky by 28
Blue: Kentucy by 32
Bracketnomics Selection: In Las Vegas, Kentucky is Even Money to win the tournament, and that could be an underlay. In horse racing parlance, they should have 1-9 odds on the tote board. What is scary is that the gaudy statistics they compiled do not show just how strong this team can be. The players actually underperformed for a good part of the year, as if they were saving their energy for now. This team has talent good enough to beat the New York Knicks in a best of seven tournament.
It may surprise you, but this will not be the first team with five starters that will start in the NBA. It has happened before, and both schools made the Final Four during the time the NBA players were starting. All five of 1976 Indiana’s starters (Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Bobby Wilkerson, and Quinn Buckner) started games in the NBA. 6th man Wayne Radford also played for pay for a season.
Ohio State’s starting five in 1960 (Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts) pulled off the feat as well. Lucas and Havlicek are Hall of Famers.
Both Indiana and Ohio State won the title. This bodes well for Kentucky.
#8 Cincinnati (22-10) vs. #9 Purdue (21-12)
Tip Time: Thursday, 7:10 PM
It’s one thing for 8-9 games to be close, but this is ridiculous. These teams mirror each other in offensive and defensive E FG%, Rebound Rate, and Turnover Rate. Cincinnati does not foul much, but in the Big Dance, the zebras will not whistle Purdue for many fouls either. No favorite can be picked on this criteria.
The results here are mixed as well. Purdue has the better strength of schedule by about 5 points per game. Cinti enjoys the advantage in scoring margin, FG% margin, and rebound margin, but not by a large amount. Both teams have negative turnover margins and mediocre records away from home, so whoever wins Thursday will be a double digit loser on Saturday.
Red: Purdue by 2
White: Cincinnati by 3
Blue: Cincinnati by 1
Bracketnomics Selection: Matt Painter is a Keady disciple, but this Purdue team is not pure finesse relying on assists and foul shooting opportunities to win. However, the team is not fantastic in the power game.
Cincinnati has had issues this year with their coach sidelined for health reasons. They have been playing for Mick Cronin all year, even though Larry Davis is the coach on the sidelines. A visit from Cronin should pump the Bearcats up a little.
Both teams play tough defense, and the winner of this game could be the first to 55 points. We’ll go with Cincinnati to win in a 55-53 type game.
#5 West Virginia (23-9) vs. #12 Buffalo (23-9)
Tip Time: Friday, 2:10 PM
On paper, this looks like the game with the most chance of a 12-seed upsetting a 5-seed, but at the same time, this also looks like the team most capable of putting a scare into Kentucky in a Sweet 16 game.
West Virginia might be 27-5 or 28-4 if the Mountaineers could shoot straight. Their E FG% is the worst in the field. Buffalo is weak on the offensive side of this factor, but the Bulls are stronger on the defensive side.
Shooting aside, WVU is scary good elsewhere, which is why Coach Bob Huggins has guided his Alma Mater back into the field. WVU’s Rebound Rates are 40.9 on offense and 30.9 on defense, and their TO rates are 18.7 on offense and 28.2 on defense. In other words, they may not shoot straight and give up too many easy shots, but they will get so many more opportunities to score than their opponent, they can still win.
Buffalo can neutralize West Virginia’s top assets, because the Bulls are quite good in Rebound and TO rates too.
The good ole PiRate Criteria shows this game to be a lot closer than most fans realize. Don’t discount Buffalo’s chances. Remember, this team actually led Kentucky at halftime at Rupp Arena. The Bulls will not be intimidated.
WVU has a slim schedule strength advantage and even slimmer scoring margin advantage. Buffalo stampeded the Mountaineers in FG% margin, as WVU has a -5.7% rate, something that foretells a short stay this year.
Rebound and TO margins tilt in favor of WVU, but not by all that much, as Buffalo has good numbers here. WVU’s exceptional R+T number of 19.4 is a result of their excellent “On the line and up the line” pressure defense that produces 7 steals per game and causes opponents to rush shots before they have established proper offensive rebounding angles.
Red: West Virginia by 5
White: West Virginia by 5
Blue: West Virginia by 4
Bracketnomics Selection: If you are going to pick a 12-seed in your bracket to win, this is probably your best shot. However, the criteria says that West Virginia has about a 70% chance of winning this game. The Mountaineers have a lot of flaws and will not make it to the Final Four, but they are the wildcard team that can force Kentucky out of its normal pace of play. Unlike Arkansas that caused the Cats some trouble with their “40 minutes of Hell,” WVU can play volleyball on the backboard and keep Kentucky from dominating on the boards, while still forcing turnovers. Keep an eye on a possible Sweet 16 game between these two teams, but WVU is certainly no sure thing to make it that far. Just one God-awful shooting night will doom the Mountaineers back to the mountains.
#4 Maryland (27-6) vs. #13 Valparaiso (28-5)
Tip Time: 4:40 PM
The criteria for this game indicates a possible upset, as Valpo is a lot better than a typical 13-seed. Maryland has not danced in five seasons, but the Terrapins have enough talent to make it to a second week in the tournament. It should be an entertaining game according to these factors.
Both teams are better than average in E FG%, with 50%+ offensive and 45% defensive percentages. Maryland is not an exceptional rebounding team, which is proven by their negative Rebound Rate (29.2 Offense and 30.4 Defense), while Valpo is quite competent on the boards, albeit against weaker competition.
Neither squad receives stars for Turnover Rate.
Strength of schedule is where Maryland gets a huge advantage. The Terps schedule was about 12 points per game tougher than the Crusaders. This is probably enough to make UM a big enough favorite in this game, but Valpo is talented enough to have a chance here. If the Crusaders’ turnover margin wasn’t negative (as is Maryland’s), we would actually come out and pick Valpo to win this game, but the SOS tilts too heavily in UM’s favor.
Red: Maryland by 7
White: Maryland by 5
Blue: Maryland by 7
Bracketnomics Selection: We have to take the Big Ten runnerup here, even though we feel Valparaiso has a fighting chance at the upset.
#6 Butler (22-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13)
Tip Time: Thursday, 2:45 PM
Don’t confuse this Butler team with the squads that advanced to the National Championship Game two consecutive seasons, but don’t confuse this Texas team for most of Rick Barnes’ past great Longhorn squads. These two teams look like fodder for the victor’s opponent in the next round.
Neither team shoots the ball all that well, and unlike West Virginia, they only dominate in one of the extra opportunity factors. Both teams are very good on the glass, but neither team forces turnovers or limits them on their offensive side of the ball. Texas has the advantage in defensive E FG%, while Butler neutralizes it with better Rebound Rates.
Unlike many of these early games, strength of schedule will not be a factor in this game, as they are roughly the same. Scoring margins are close. Texas has better FG% and rebounding margins, but Butler returns the favor with better turnover margin and R+T, as UT has a -3.7 TO margin (tied for worst in the Tournament). Butler went 7-4 outside of Indianapolis, while Texas was just 6-8 away from Austin.
Red: Butler by 2
White: Texas by 1
Blue: Butler by 4
Bracketnomics Selection: Technically, this is the double digit seed with the best chance of winning their first game, but we like the Bulldogs chances in this game. Our selection is Butler.
#3 Notre Dame (29-5) vs. #14 Northeastern (23-11)
Tip Time: Thursday, 12:15 PM (the first game of the Field of 64)
Notre Dame has the second best offensive E FG% in the Dance, just narrowly falling below Gonzaga. Northeastern is no slouch, shooting well from inside and outside.
Northeastern could actually win the rebounding war in this game, but Notre Dame will exploit Northeastern’s liability of committing too many turnovers.
Beginning with schedule strength, Notre Dame starts this game 8 points better, and the Huskies do not have enough talent to overcome that number. The Irish’s scoring margin of 13.2 and FG% margin of 8.3make for a strong combination when you factor in their tough schedule. Their R+T of just 6.5 will be their downfall later in the tournament, but they will get by rather easily in this game.
Red: Notre Dame by 18
White: Notre Dame by 17
Blue: Notre Dame by 19
Bracketnomics Selection: The Fighting Irish have been underachievers in the NCAA Tournament for more than two decades. They have not advanced to the Sweet 16 in a dozen seasons, and they have not appeared in the Final Four in 36 years.
In 1974, their best ever team, the squad that ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, was upset by a weaker Michigan team. So, this affliction spreads out over decades.
This Irish team has the talent to at least advance to the Sweet 16, and if Notre Dame does not get there, Coach Mike Brey is going to be blamed for something much more infectious than he caused. At least Notre Dame will win their opening game, which is better than the Irish fared last year.
#7 Wichita State (28-4) vs. Indiana (20-13)
Tip Time: Friday, 2:45 PM
This is not the Wichita State team of last year or the year before, but the Shockers must not be discounted. Their resume resembles a Final Four team’s resume. On the other hand, Indiana’s resume looks more like a NIT team than a NCAA Tournament team.
Wichita State has exemplary offensive and defensive E FG% numbers, while Indiana has exceptional offensive and horrible defensive numbers. If the Shockers take away the Hoosiers’ fast break and early offense opportunities with their “play angry” style, IU will have a tough time scoring enough points to win this game, because the Hoosiers will give up too many easy baskets.
Indiana has credible Rebound Rates on both sides of the ball, but their Turnover Rate is not strong. The Shockers enjoy large advantages in both factors.
Across the board, Wichita State bests Indiana in all PiRate Criteria save one–schedule strength. And, that advantage is small. Wichita State is one of a handful of teams with a 20 or better R+T rating, and when you combine that with high-quality defense and a good road record (13-4), you have a team capable of getting hot and going on a run.
Red: Wichita State by 8
White: Wichita State by 8
Blue: Wichita State by 6
Bracketnomics Selection: Wichita State will limit Indiana’s ability to get open looks from outside and prevent the Hoosiers from utilizing their greatest strength. For seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, this is a tourney experienced roster with a chips on its shoulders. Watch out for Wichita State. They do have a huge axe to grind with a particular undefeated team that spoiled their undefeated season last year.
#2 Kansas (26-8) vs. #15 New Mexico State (23-10)
Tip Time: Friday, 12:15 PM (first game of the day)
Kansas is limping into this tournament. The Jayhawks are not really deserving of a 2-seed, as Iowa State should have jumped them. Lucky for Coach Bill Self and his troops, KU gets a patsy in their first game, and the Jayhawks hope to use it as a bounce back opportunity.
The overwhelming statistic that shows up here is the most lopsided difference in schedule strength, giving KU a 20-point cushion to start. NMSU has decent numbers, especially in Rebound and Turnover Rate, but their weak schedule strength gives the Aggies little credibility.
The results here mimic the Four Factor results. Kansas has pedestrian PiRate Criteria with average scoring and field goal margins, decent rebounding margin, and a poor, negative turnover margin. New Mexico State’s criteria numbers looks better, but the SOS is too weak for it to matter.
Red: Kansas by 18
White: Kansas by 16
Blue: Kansas by 18
Bracketnomics Selection: If Kansas loses this game, it will be a bigger upset than when the Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa, but not as big as when the Jayhawks lost to Bucknell. On second thought, a KU loss would not be totally shocking. Still, we will play the chalk and pick KU to breeze in this game, setting up a round of 32 match they do not want to face.
#1 Wisconsin (31-3) vs. #16 Coastal Carolina (24-9)
Tip Time: Friday, 9:20 PM
Wisconsin is solid across the board with E FG% of 54.6 offensively and 46.7 defensively; Rebound Rates of 31.9 offensively and 23.7 defensively; and Turnover Rates of 12.4 offensively and 16.7 defensively. Additionally, they are the second best team in this field at avoiding fouls, so the Badgers are not a team that will beat themselves.
Coastal Carolina is typical of a Cliff Ellis coached team. At Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama, and even tiny Cumberland College, his teams have won by dominating on the boards, sometimes finding athletic players lacking shooting acumen. This CCU team is not a first-class shooting outfit, but they are not inept.
The difference in schedule strength is a little too much to overcome, but if CCU can limit turnovers and have a better than typical shooting night, this game could be uncomfortably close for a longer than expected time.
The numbers here validate our belief that this game could be closer than expected. UW’s scoring margin is 15.8, but CCU’s is 10.0. Wisconsin enjoys a tiny FG% margin advantage, but Coastal has the advantage in rebound margin. The Badgers make hay with their gaudy won-loss record away from the Kohl Center, where UW is 16-2 outside of Madtown.
Red: Wisconsin by 14
White: Wisconsin by 17
Blue: Wisconsin by 12
Bracketnomics Selection: Last year, Coastal Carolina led Virginia by five points at the half, and they outrebounded the Cavs for the game, falling by 11 points. We believe the Chanticleers might get behind early and then mount a furious comeback to make this game interesting, before UW pulls away in the last quarter of the game. Wisconsin will win, but Badger fans might fret for a few minutes.
#8 Oregon (25-9) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-13)
Tip Time: Friday, 6:50 PM
Talk about two teams just happy to be dancing, we are not enthused with either squad in this game and expect the victor to be easy pickings for Wisconsin on Sunday.
Oregon wins ugly in the baseball vernacular. The Ducks are not pretty and have serious flaws that can be exploited by muscular teams. Oklahoma State got their invitation solely on the basis of playing in the strongest conference this year.
E FG% is even in this game. Rebound Rate goes to Oregon only because the Cowboys cannot rebound, while OSU gets the TO Rate advantage because Oregon does not force many turnovers.
There is no need to delve too deeply here, because Oklahoma State has a negative R+T rating, which immediately eliminates the Cowboys.
Red: Oregon by 1
White: Oregon by 1
Blue: Oregon by 3
Bracketnomics Selection: We automatically rule out any team with a negative R+T rating except in the rare instance when both teams in a game have negative R+Ts. Oregon wins, and it helps our belief that the Ducks enter this tournament playing their best ball of the year, while OSU limps into the Dance.
#5 Arkansas (26-8) vs. #12 Wofford (28-6)
Tip Time: Thursday, 9:50 PM
The factors here do not give Arkansas all that big of an advantage, but as you will read below, we expect the Hogs to muddy up the Terriers Thursday night.
Arky has one of the best TO rates in the nation with their 94-foot defense that stresses getting into passing lanes. This is the only factor where Arkansas has a decided advantage in this game.
The PiRate Criteria is close to even with the exception of schedule strength, where the Razorbacks enjoy the edge by about 10 points. Remember that Wofford won at North Carolina State earlier this year.
Red: Arkansas by 12
White: Arkansas by 11
Blue: Arkansas by 15
Bracketnomics Selection: Here is the real key in this game: Wofford does not handle full-court pressure well when applied by teams that routinely press and know what they are doing. The Terriers faced the other great pressing team in this field, West Virginia, earlier this season and wilted under the pressure, committing 21 turnovers and watching WVU pick up 12 steals. Arkansas will tighten the screws the moment Wofford turns the ball over the first time against the press, and Arkansas will run away quickly with a 10-point or more spurt. Give the Razorbacks a win to set up a much tougher third round game.
#4 North Carolina (24-11) vs. #13 Harvard (22-7)
Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM
North Carolina enjoys healthy E FG% and Rebound rate advantages here, and Harvard barely gets the TO Rate advantage. Because the Tar Heels strength of schedule is about 12 points better than Harvard’s, UNC has little to worry about.
To say that this great program could sneak up and surprise in this tournament sounds odd, but North Carolina has the horses to compete for a Final Four berth. Their scoring margin is 9.5, just barely missing out on double digits. They enjoy a FG% margin of 7.7 and a rebound margin of 8.2 with a nice 18.7 R+T and a 11-5 record outside of the Dean Dome.
Harvard has won games in the last two tournaments, and North Carolina once lost as the top seed in a region to an Ivy League team (Penn in 1979), but history will not repeat this year.
Red: North Carolina by 14
White: North Carolina by 16
Blue: North Carolina by 15
Bracketnomics Selection: North Carolina used to make it a habit of always getting to the Sweet 16. Habits have a way of returning, and this one will this year.
#6 Xavier (21-13) vs. #11 BYU or Ole Miss
This one is tricky. BYU is only a slight pick to knock off Ole Miss in Dayton, and the outcome of the next game changes based on which team faces Xavier. If Ole Miss wins, we select Xavier to defeat the Rebels in this game, but if BYU wins in Dayton, the Cougars are our choice over the Musketeers in this game. We are not going to show the results for both possibilities and only preview a Xavier-BYU contest. Remember, should Ole Miss beat BYU, then take Xavier in this game.
Tip Time: Thursday, 4:10 PM
We will cut to the chase here. Xavier’s transition defense is suspect, and BYU is the best team in the nation to exploit that liability. While the Musketeers are rather strong offensively in E FG%, they are porous defensively, and BYU has the tools to hurt Xavier in this category.
Rebound and Turnover Rates are close to equal, so this game figures to be interesting.
Xavier wins the schedule strength battle but not by enough points to annount the Musketeers the winner. BYU tops XU in winning percentage away from home (73-44%), and remember that the Cougars won at Gonzaga.
Red: BYU by 1
White: BYU by 3
Blue: BYU by 2
Bracketnomics Selection: This game should be played at the fastest pace of any West Region game, as both teams get about 70 possessions. If any game tops 160 total points in this round, it will be this one, and we expect BYU to come out on top.
#3 Baylor (24-9) vs. #14 Georgia State (24-9)
Tip Time: Thursday, 1:40 PM
The schedule strength difference is too much for the underdog to overcome, and this game will be as dull as the BYU-Xavier game will be exciting. Baylor’s zone defense will allow Georgia State to get hot from outside and make this game close or throw up bricks and make it a quick blowout.
GSU has three players capable of competing in the Big 12, two of whom have Power 6 Conference playing time, and one of whom has Final Four playing experience. They will not be intimidated, but overall, the talent is not there to pull off the upset.
BU will wipe the backboard clean in this game, as the large Rebound Rate discrepancy means the Bears will get at least a dozen extra scoring chances.
The Panthers rely on Turnover Rate to even out their poor Rebound Rate, but Baylor is not prone to get sloppy with the ball. The Bears went 3-0 against West Virginia and their pressure defense.
More of the same from above, Baylor’s rebound margin is 8.0, while GSU has a negative margin. BU’s R+T of 19.2 and SOS in the top 20 in the nation makes the Bears capable of making it to the Elite 8.
Red: Baylor by 12
White: Baylor by 10
Blue: Baylor by15
Bracketnomics Selection: Baylor will win this game, and it will be messy with a final score in the 60-45 range.
#7 VCU (26-9) vs. #10 Ohio State (23-10)
Tip Time: Thursday, 4:40 PM
Okay, so you just have to pick an underdog to win a second round game? Well, you found it here my friend, because Ohio State should be the 7-seed and VCU should be the 11-seed. The numbers just don’t show how the Rams can win.
VCU is the only 1 through 8 seed in the tournament with a weaker offensive E FG% than their defensive E FG%. Since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket, and generally the better shooting team wins when you get to tournament time, we fail to see how the Rams can advance very far when their defense may not cause much panic.
Ohio State is above average in both offensive and defensive E FG%. The Buckeyes are better in Rebound Rate and not that far behind VCU in TO Rate.
Strength of schedule is exactly equal, so the rest of the criteria here tells a lot. Scoring margin favors Ohio State (13.5 to 7.0). The Buckeyes clean up in FG% margin, as VCU’s is negative, while OSU’s is 8.0. Additionally, VCU has a negative rebounding margin, while the Buckeyes have a +3 margin. The only part of this criteria where VCU is better is in road won-loss percentage. VCU went 14-5, while Ohio State was just 5-8. Of course, playing on the road in the Big Ten is quite a bit harder than playing on the road in the A-10.
Red: Ohio State by 4
White: Ohio State by 5
Blue: Ohio State by 7
Bracketnomics Selection: When Urban Meyer was the Florida football coach, the Gators won both the football and basketball national title in the same school year. Meyer just won the football championship at Ohio State. Can history repeat itself? Sorry Buckeye fans, it isn’t going to happen this year, but 66 other teams can say the same thing if they do not wear blue and white with the letters “U” and “K” on their ball caps. Ohio State wins this game, and it isn’t an upset in our mind. Now, if the Buckeyes can make it to the Sweet 16, that will be one incredible upset.
#2 Arizona (31-3) vs. #15 Texas Southern (22-12)
Tip Time: Thursday, 2:10 PM
Can a top 10 team not be given enough respect? Definitely, because Arizona is our real number two team in the nation.
The Wildcats look like a Final Four team in our eyes and statistical fog. Their E FG% are 53.6 (O) and 44.3 (D). Their Rebound Rate of 34.1 (O) and 22.3 (D) tops Michigan State. Their Turnover Rate is not that much behind Arkansas, so this team is solid across the board.
Texas Southern should be glad to be here and fortunate not to be forced into making a stop in Dayton first. The Tigers have no chance of winning this game with weak numbers and an equally weak schedule strength.
Let’s focus on Arizona’s Criteria numbers versus Wisconsin and Kentucky, since this game could be a 40-point blowout if ‘Zona chooses to run up the score.
First, the SOS of the three behemoths are about equal, all good but not great (but then, they lose some by not being able to play themselves).
Arizona’s scoring margin is 17.8 ( UW 15.8/UK 20.9). Their FG% margin is 9.8 (UW 6.1/UK 11.4). Their Rebound margin is 8.8 (UW 6.0/UK 7.4). Their TO margin is 2.9 (UW 2.6/UK 3.4), and their R+T is 25.4 (UW 18.8/UK 22.0). Coach Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the top contender to Kentucky, and we will have to closely peruse the data should the two teams meet.
Red: Arizona by 42
White: Arizona by 35
Blue: Arizona by 51
Bracketnomics Selection: It has been a long time since a Pac-12 team made it to the Final Four (UCLA in 2008). Arizona lost a close Elite 8 game last year to Wisconsin, and the Wildcats could get their revenge before the Badgers get that opportunity to do the same to Kentucky.
The Rest of the Bracket
You have our second round winners. Now, let’s take it all the way to the end.
Villanova over North Carolina St.
Northern Iowa over Louisville
Oklahoma over Providence
Virginia over Michigan State
Duke over San Diego State
Utah over Georgetown
Iowa State over SMU
Gonzaga over Iowa
Kentucky over Cincinnati
West Virginia over Maryland
Notre Dame over Butler
Wichita State over Kansas
Wisconsin over Oregon
North Carolina over Arkansas
Baylor over BYU
Arizona over Ohio State
Villanova over Northern Iowa
Virginia over Oklahoma
Duke over Utah
Gonzaga over Iowa State
Kentucky over West Virginia
Wichita State over Notre Dame
Wisconsin over North Carolina
Arizona over Baylor
Virginia over Villanova
Duke over Gonzaga
Kentucky over Wichita State
Arizona over Wisconsin
Duke over Virginia
Kentucky over Arizona
Kentucky goes 40-0
A Proposal To Change The NCAA Tournament Format
Murray State was one of many teams that dominated their conference during the season and then lost when all the marbles were on the line. The Racers would have been a formidable 12-seed had they defeated Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conferent Tournament Championship. Belmont figures to be out of the tournament with a quick blowout loss to Virginia.
It isn’t the best way to feature the low and mid-major conferences, where one bid is all they will receive. What if there was a better way to host the NCAA Tournament, where the Murray State’s of the world got their chance, and where teams like Colorado State also had a chance to prove they belong in the Dance?
We have solved this riddle. Our proposal is to expand the field to 80 teams but at the same time, divide the early rounds into two tournaments.
The first division would include 48 teams from the top 8 conferences, which can almost always be the same 8 every year (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, and either the AAC, A-10 or MVC).
The second division would include 32 teams from the remaining conferences with automatic bids awarded to their conference tournament champions and tat-large bids awarded to the 10 or so best remaining low and mid-major teams. Thus Murray State, UNC Central, and St. Francis (NY) would still get in after being upset in their league tournament.
The 32 low and mid-majors would be seeded into four, eight team regions and play four rounds from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 remaining teams. Each of these four would then advance to the Sweet 16.
The 48 Power teams would be seeded into four, 12-team regions and play three rounds from 48 to 24 to 12 remaining teams. Each of these 12 would also advance to the Sweet 16, at which point the tournament would continue as it does now.
This proposal allows the top low and mid-major teams to get hot and show up in the Sweet 16 with momentum without penalizing the teams from the power conferences.
What do you think? If you like this idea, call in your favorite Sports Talk Shows and let them know.
Fixing The Boredom Issue
As we alluded to this fact earlier, college basketball has seen a reduction of about 25% of total possessions since the early 1970s. In the early 1970’s most teams averaged 85 to 90 possessions per game, whereas that average is down to about 60 to 65 today.
College football has become so exciting because the game is more wide open today than it has ever been with teams averaging 75 to 100 plays per game compared to 55 to 65 plays per game 50 years ago.
We have heard numerous basketball fans admit they cannot watch full games any more, because the marathon of dribbling for no apparent reason has ruined the experience for them. This dribbling has been referred to as “false offense,” because while one player dribbles for 10 seconds, the other four players act like totem poles and do not move. And for this, you delve out $30 to $50 for a ticket to see 25% less action?
This can be fixed by getting rid of that 10 seconds of dribbling. The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, but this will only add about five more possessions. Institute a 24-second shot clock, and watch that 10 seconds of dribbling disappear. Teams are already running their offenses in 24-second blocks once they have finished showing off their dribbling skills.
Additionally, a 24-second clock would lead to more coaches realizing that full court pressure would be an excellent strategy. If it did not produce a turnover, it would leave the opponents about 16 seconds to get a shot off. This rules change will bring up-tempo basketball back to the college game where teams average 80-100 points per game rather than 50-70.