The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 24, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 25-26, 2017

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:23 am

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Red-White-Blue Spreads *

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 25, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Clemson Florida St. -3 -1 -3
Pittsburgh North Carolina -10 -9 -6
North Carolina St. Virginia -8 -9 -9
Boston College Virginia Tech -6 -5 -2
Miami Duke -1 -1 -1
Connecticut SMU -6 -6 -4
TCU West Virginia -7 -7 1
Oklahoma St. Texas Tech 10 6 8
Iowa St. Baylor 3 2 -4
Texas Kansas -7 -6 -5
Oklahoma Kansas St. -1 -1 -2
St. John’s Georgetown 1 -1 -4
DePaul Seton Hall -5 -5 -7
Villanova Creighton 8 10 8
Providence Marquette 2 2 9
Minnesota Penn St. 10 9 11
Michigan Purdue -2 -1 -2
Maryland Iowa 7 8 9
Indiana Northwestern 3 6 8
Missouri St. Wichita St. -12 -9 -10
Northern Iowa Illinois St. -5 -3 -5
Stanford Oregon -7 -10 -8
Arizona UCLA 2 2 7
Arizona St. USC -3 -4 -4
Washington St. Washington 2 1 1
South Carolina Tennessee 6 5 4
Kentucky Florida 5 3 3
Ole Miss Missouri 11 10 10
Vanderbilt Mississippi St. 7 7 10
Georgia LSU 14 12 13
Texas A&M Alabama 4 3 6
Auburn Arkansas 1 1 -1
Gonzaga BYU 23 19 19
Saint Mary’s Santa Clara 17 18 19

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Louisville Syracuse 14 12 15
Notre Dame Georgia Tech 12 14 10
Central Florida Cincinnati -4 -5 -2
Xavier Butler 1 1 2
Michigan St. Wisconsin -1 -1 6
Nebraska Illinois 2 1 1


* Red, White, and Blue Ratings are 3 different algorithmic formulas using basketball’s Four Factors, Strength of Schedule, and where the game is played as the predominant data to come up with a game spread.  The Red and White Ratings closely mirror each other, while the Blue Rating uses considerably more data and is time-consuming to calculate.  Thus, we are limited with the amount of games we can predict.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. North Carolina
  3. Kansas
  4. Villanova
  5. Florida
  6. Kentucky
  7. Louisville
  8. West Virginia
  9. Wichita St.
  10. Oregon
  11. Duke
  12. Purdue
  13. UCLA
  14. Saint Mary’s
  15. Baylor
  16. Cincinnati
  17. Florida St.
  18. Wisconsin
  19. SMU
  20. Arizona
  21. Notre Dame
  22. Creighton
  23. Virginia
  24. Butler
  25. Oklahoma St.

ACC

  1. North Carolina
  2. Louisville
  3. Duke
  4. Florida St.
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Virginia
  7. Miami
  8. Syracuse
  9. Wake Forest
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Clemson
  12. Pittsburgh
  13. Georgia Tech
  14. North Carolina St.
  15. Boston College

Big 12

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas St.
  7. TCU
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Texas
  10. Oklahoma

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Xavier
  5. Marquette
  6. Providence
  7. Georgetown
  8. Seton Hall
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Purdue
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Michigan
  4. Minnesota
  5. Maryland
  6. Northwestern
  7. Michigan St.
  8. Indiana
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Pac-12

  1. Oregon
  2. UCLA
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. USC
  6. Utah
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Arizona St.
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.

SEC

  1. Florida
  2. Kentucky
  3. Arkansas
  4. South Carolina
  5. Vanderbilt
  6. Georgia
  7. Ole Miss
  8. Tennessee
  9. Alabama
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Auburn
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. Missouri
  14. LSU

Oh, have we got some great games for you this weekend

Every week, we seem to tell you there are some great games to watch for that weekend.  This one is no different.  There are more than enough interesting games this week for you to watch.  Most of the Bubble teams are playing, and we have the crucial ones you can see on TV or online.  Then, you have some big games where both teams will be in the NCAA no matter what, so these games are big just to see who looks the part.  You also have a couple of rival games, and in one case there is a low-major conference rivalry game that ended in a fight the last time the two teams played on the same court where they will play this weekend.  You will see that we have compared this game to the 1965 Giants and Dodgers, but at least no baseball bats will be present (at least we hope).

All Times Eastern      
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
Friday Night
7:00 PM Green Bay Oakland ESPNU 2nd place in Horizon on the line
7:00 PM Monmouth Siena ESPN2 Monmouth G Justin Robinson
8:00 PM Harvard Yale ESPN3 These two rivals will meet in Ivy Semis too
         
Saturday
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
12:00 PM Clemson Florida St. ACC Net. Must win for CU on the Bubble
12:00 PM Connecticut SMU CBS SMU vying for #3 Seed
1:00 PM New Hampshire Md.-Baltimore Co. ESPN3 AmEst #3 Seed to avoid Verm. til finals
2:00 PM Kentucky Florida CBS SEC Reg. Season Championhip on the line
2:00 PM TCU West Virginia ESPN TCU needs win for Bubble Advancement
2:00 PM Oklahoma St. Texas Tech ESPNU TTU needs win for Bubble Advancement
2:00 PM Northern Iowa Illinois St. CBSSN ISU trying to stay on good part of Bubble
2:00 PM Rhode Island VCU ESPN2 URI needs win stay at bottom of Bubble
2:00 PM Vermont Stony Brook ESPN3 Top 2 teams in AmEst–Title preview?
3:00 PM Villanova Creighton Fox Top 20 Matchup
4:00 PM Vanderbilt Mississippi St. ESPNU VU needs win to stay on Bubble
4:00 PM Michigan Purdue ESPN2 Mich. trying to stay on good part of Bubble
4:00 PM Miami (Fla.) Duke CBS Miami can clinch NCAA w/win
4:00 PM Stanford Oregon Pac-12 Net. Ducks competing for #2 Seed
4:00 PM Iowa St. Baylor ESPN Baylor competing for #2 Seed
4:00 PM Providence Marquette CBSSN Both teams on Bubble–Marq in better pos.
6:00 PM Oklahoma Kansas St. ESPNU KSU must win to stay in Bubble
7:00 PM Columbia Penn ESPN3 Last Ivy League Tournament spot on line
8:00 PM Indiana Northwestern Big 10 Net. IU loss could be final straw for Crean
8:15 PM Arizona UCLA ESPN Game of the Day
10:00 PM Gonzaga BYU ESPN2 Zags Last resume builder until WCCT
         
Sunday
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
1:00 PM UAB Middle Tennessee CBSSN MTSU slim chance for at-large if needed
2:00 PM Louisville Syracuse CBS Orange win secures NCAA bid
3:00 PM Central Florida Cincinnati CBSSN Will Tacko make Cinti Fall
3:30 PM Xavier Butler FS1 Game of the Day
4:00 PM Michigan St. Wisconsin CBS MSU win & on the “in” part of the Bubble
4:00 PM Iona Monmouth ESPN3 Mad Rivalry like 1965 Dodgers-Giants
6:30 PM Notre Dame Georgia Tech ESPNU Tech needs more W’s for NCAA bid

Conference Tournaments Begin Monday

One conference tournament commences play Monday night.  The Atlantic Sun Bracket is finalized, and the quarterfinal round begins on the 27th.  The A-Sun does not have one hosting site.  All games will be played on the home floor of the higher seed, and Florida Gulf Coast owns home court advantage throughout.

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament–Higher Seed at Home
Quarterfinal Round, Monday, February 27
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Florida Gulf Coast 23-7 vs. 8 Stetson 11-20 7:00 PM WatchESPN
2 Lipscomb 19-12 vs. 7 NJIT 11-19 8:00 PM WatchESPN
3 North Florida 13-18 vs. 6 Jacksonville 17-14 7:00 PM WatchESPN
4 USC-Upstate 17-14 vs. 5 Kennesaw St. 13-17 7:00 PM WatchESPN

 

 

February 20, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 20, 2017

Championship Fortnight starts in just one week! Can you believe it? It has been a quick season this year, and depending on where you live, the weather outside might make you feel like Major League Baseball opening day starts in just one week. However, the Spring-like temperatures and rain that has produced the early return of daffodils, honeysuckle, redbud tree blooms and the budding out of oak, hickory, and ash trees, and which has given the lawn services an early bonanza with grass-cutting galore, might fool some of the people into believing Spring has arrived a month early, but most of the people know the cold hard facts. Those poor little plants are going to be in for a rude awakening when the yet to arrive cold spell blankets them with a late snow or a hard freeze. It might be 75 degrees today, but by the 12th of March, there is sure to be a surprise or two or ten to the vegetation.

Just like the weather, the fortnight of conference championships in men’s college basketball will produce its own surprises by March 12, Selection Sunday. That low-major conference team that today has a three-game lead over its nearest rival may find itself becoming the recipient of not an automatic NCAA bid, but an automatic NIT bid, when the fourth place team gets hot for three days. That mid-major team that underachieved and struggled to finish fourth in its conference may be ready to put it all together and win three games in three days to save the coach’s job.

What about that team from the big conference that will go 7-11 or 5-13 or even 2-14 in league play and then get on a roll while the top teams enjoy byes? It has happened before. Connecticut got hot at the right time a few years back and won five games in five days. For good measure, the Huskies then won six more to take the national title back to Storrs.

Many of you readers were not yet born in 1976, but it was quite an interesting season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC had just seven teams then, as South Carolina had left the league and Georgia Tech had not yet joined. Of the seven teams, four were ranked in the top 20–North Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina St., and Wake Forest. It was a lean year in Durham, as Duke was the last place team. The Blue Devils would return to prominence in two more years.
Second to last place Virginia won just four ACC games during the regular season, but nobody, not even the ranked ACC teams, beat them by more than eight points. Top-seeded North Carolina, who has stayed in the Top 5 for the entire season, only beat UVA by two in Chapel Hill and by three in Charlottesville.
When the seven teams convened in Greensboro for the ACC Tournament, Virginia was faced with the task of having to beat the #3 seed and #15 nationally North Carolina St. in the quarterfinals, then most likely the #2 seed and #9 nationally Maryland in the semifinals, and then most likely top seed and #4 nationally North Carolina in the Championship Game. If the Cavs lost at all, not only would they not be in the NCAA Tournament in what was then just a 32-team field, but they would not make the NIT either.
Up to this point, no team with a conference record under .500 had ever won the ACC Tournament, and only one team had ever won it with a .500 mark in league play. In almost every season since the ACC formed in 1952-53, either the first or second place team had won the conference tournament.
On the opening night of the tournament, Virginia came out hustling on defense and controlling the boards. North Carolina State could not get uncontested shots and turned the ball over against the tough pressure man-to-man defense the Cavs played. It was a huge upset, as Virginia cruised to a 12-point victory to move into the semifinals. The other top teams relished the fact that the Wolf Pack had been put out, as State had recently been the dominant team in the league.
In the semfinals, Maryland was a prohibitive favorite over the Cavaliers, even though the Terps had needed to fight and claw their way to a three-point and eight-point victory. But, the Terps had played a tough overtime game over last place Duke the night before, and they came out a bit sluggish. Virginia, playing with nothing to lose, took command in the second half and pulled away to a double digit lead before Maryland cut it to eight points at the buzzer. Now UVA had made it to the finals, expected to be fodder for North Carolina and their cavalcade of star players, seven of whom would become future NBA players, including the entire starting five: Phil Ford, Walter Davis, Mitch Kupchak, Tom Lagarde, and John Kuester.
Virginia had a pair of future NBA players in Wally Walker and Marc Iavaroni, and on this afternoon, the Cavaliers got support from a host of players destined to work in the real world when they graduated. Coach Terry Holland kept possessions at a minimum, and Virginia once again played exceptional team defense, as the Cavaliers completed the sweep of top three teams, beating Carolina by five points to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a record of 16-11.

Lightning almost struck twice for the Cavs. In 1977, they finished just 2-10 in ACC play and once again faced a road where they would have to beat three ranked teams to win the ACC Tournament. They came really close, knocking off #2 seed Wake Forest and #3 seed Clemson before falling late to #1 seed North Carolina in the Championship Round.

So, if your team won just four conference games or even two this season, there is still hope. It can happen.

By this time next week, the Atlantic Sun will be set to begin conference tournament play, with the Big South and Patriot League just one day away from commencing play. You do not have to go searching for the conference tournament schedules, as we will have it all here for you.

Today, we give you the schedules for every conference tournament, as well as the list of who is ineligible (due to transitioning to Division 1, low Academic Progress Rate, or Infractions), and the format each conference tournament will have. For instance, if you see a conference tournament format of “12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (The top 4 teams receive 1st round byes),” then you know that on the opening day of the tournament, seed 5 will play 12, 6 will play 11, 7 will play 10, and 8 will play 9. The winners of those four games will then join the 4 receiving byes to continue play in the quarterfinals.

 

Conference Site Dates Format
America East Higher Seeds March 1, 6, 11 UMass-Lowell Ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
American Athletic Hartford, CT March 9-12 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 5 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic 10 Pittsburgh March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic Coast Brooklyn March 7-11 15 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-9 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic Sun Higher Seeds Feb 27, March 2 & 5 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Big 12 Kansas City March 8-11 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big East New York March 8-11 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big Sky Reno March 7, 9-11 N. Colorado Ineligible 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 5 get 1st round byes)
Big South Campus Sites (1) Feb 28, March 2-3,5 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big Ten Washington, D.C. March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Big West Anaheim, CA March 9-11 CSU-Northridge & Hawaii are ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Colonial Athletic North Charleston, SC March 3-6 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Conference USA Birmingham March 8-11 Top 12 Qualify 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Horizon Detroit March 3-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Ivy Philadelphia March 11-12 Top 4 Qualify 4 to 2 to 1
Metro Atlantic Albany March 2-6 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 ((top 5 get 1st round byes)
Mid-American Cleveland (2) March 6, 9-11 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Mideastern Athletic Norfolk, VA March 6-11 Savannah St. Ineligible 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Missouri Valley St. Louis March 2-5 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Mountain West Las Vegas (@UNLV) March 8-11 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 ((top 5 get 1st round byes)
Northeast Higher Seeds March 1, 4, 7 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Ohio Valley Nashville March 1-4 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 2 seeds get double bye/#3 & 4 get byes)
Pac-12 Las Vegas March 8-11 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Patriot Higher Seeds Feb 28, Mar 2, 5, 8 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Southeastern Nashville March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Southern Asheville, NC March 3-6 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Southland
Katy, TX
March 8-11
Abilene Chr. and Incarnate Word Ineligible Top 8 Qualify 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 2 seeds get double byes, #3 & 4 get 1st round bye)
       
Southwestern Athl. Houston (3) March 7, 10-11 Alcorn St. Ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Summit Sioux Falls, SD March 4-7 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Sun Belt New Orleans March 8, 10-12 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
West Coast Las Vegas March 3-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Western Athletic Las Vegas March 9-11 Grand Canyon Ineligible 7 to 4 to 2 to 1 (#1 seed gets bye to semifinals)
       
(1) Big South Tournament 1st round will be played at higher seeds. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played at #1 seed, and then the
championship game will be played on the home court of the higher seeded team
       
(2) The Mid-American 1st round will be played at higher seeds. The remaining 3 rounds will be played in Cleveland
       
(3) Southwestern Athletic Tournament 1st round will be played at higher seeds. Semifinals and Finals will be played in Houston

 

The Bracketology Gurus And Their Headaches
Our Gurus tell us this week that they are having a tough time with the Bubble. They tell us there is too much medicority this season, and that after the top 30 teams, there are about 120 others that differ by so little. You have teams with some nice talent but they have never put it all together. You have some teams like the 1976 Virginia team that have the potential to win, but they have lost a lot of close ones in conference play. Then, you had the committee putting out its list of top 16 teams last week, and it looked like they reverted to the old bracket-selection method where the RPI ratings mattered more than it should.

Our Conference Breakdown
It is our personal opinion that conference records should matter for something. If the 6th place team in one conference gets an at-large bid because they played a tough non-league schedule, while the 3rd place team in the same conference does not get a bid, this just seems foolish to us. The third place team played the same conference schedule as the 6th place team and finished three places ahead in the standings. For example, there are some bracketologists (not our gurus) that have Michigan seeded higher than Maryland due to having such a tough schedule. The Terps are 10-4 in the Big Ten, while Michigan is 7-7. And, Maryland won at Michigan! Worse, Michigan gets rewarded for playing a tougher Maryland than Maryland gets for playing a weaker Michigan. It is nonsense! Conference action should mean a lot more than it does, especially when you look at the power conferences. If a team finishes 3 games ahead of another team in one of these conferences, there should be no discussion about which team is better. The number three team in a power conference is always better than the number seven team, no matter what the RPI or any other rating says.

Now that our rant is over, let’s look at each conference.

THE ONE-BID LEAGUES

American East
Vermont 14-0/24-5
Stony Brook 12-2/17-10
Albany 9-5/18-11
UMBC 8-6/17-10
New Hampshire 8-6/17-11

Vermont’s 16-game winning streak has not come without some bumps in the road. The Catamounts close out the regular season with home games against Albany and Stony Brook, and just one more win or one Stony Brook loss will give Vermont home court advantage for the tournament. The Catamounts have outscored their conference foes in Burlington by an average of 17.2 points per game, so it is going to be quite a challenge for another team to keep the Catamounts out of the Dance. At 29-5, Vermont could move up to as high as a 10-seed and probably not lower than a 13-seed.

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast 11-2/22-7
Lipscomb 10-3/18-12
South Carolina Upstate 7-6/17-13
Kennesaw St. 7-6/13-16
North Florida 7-6/12-18

The A-Sun is another league where all conference tournament games are played on the home floor of the higher-seeded team. FGCU split with Lipscomb, but each team won on the other team’s home floor. Both the Eagles and Bisons have played well on the road this year, so home court advantage may not be all that pertinent if these two teams advance like they should.

Big Sky
North Dakota 12-3/17-8
Weber St. 11-3/16-9
Eastern Washington 10-4/18-9
Montana 9-6/14-14
Montana St. 9-6/14-14
Idaho 8-6/13-12

With 12 wins in their last 14, including a sweep of Weber State, North Dakota looks like a tough out, but the FIghting Hawks are not prohibitive favorites to grab the Big Sky Conference Tournament Title, just slight favorites. This league has some balance, and there are five or six rivals capable of beating UND. 10th place Northern Arizona at 4-10/7-20 beat North Dakota in Flagstaff after earlier in the season leading the Hawks in the second half in Grand Forks.

Big South
UNC-Asheville 14-2/22-7
Winthrop 13-3/21-6
Liberty 13-3/18-11
Gardner-Webb 9-7/16-13

This league may be just a small pond in the scheme of things, but there are a couple of potential piranhas swimming around in UNCA and Winthrop. If the top two teams meet in the championship game of the tournament, expect an exciting must-watch affair. They had to go to two overtimes when they played 11 days ago in Asheville, with UNCA winning 104-101.

Big West
UC Irvine 9-3/16-12
UC Davis 8-4/16-11
Long Beach St. 8-5/13-16
Cal St. Fullerton 7-5/13-12

UC-Irvine has not secured the top seed just yet, as the Anteaters close with three losable games in their last four. Long Beach and Fullerton are two teams of notice, as they have the talent to win the conference tournament and appear to be starting to gel at the right time.

Colonial Athletic
UNC Wilmington 13-3/24-5
College of Charleston 12-4/21-8
Towson St. 11-5/19-10
Elon 9-7/17-12
William & Mary 9-7/15-12

A month ago, it was a foregone conclusion that UNCW would waltz back to the NCAA Tournament, but the Seahawks hit a spell where they looked very vulnerable. They lost to three of the top contenders in William & Mary, Charleston, and Elon, and the William & Mary defeat was by 18 points. UNCW faces Towson State in Wilmington Thursday night, and a win will most likely secure the top-seed, but this conference tournament has become an interesting one to watch, as the Seahawks do not look like a sure thing now. Another thing that could distract UNCW is the fact that Coach Kevin Keatts is considered a strong candidate in the North Carolina State opening. That won’t be the only school that shows an interest in the former Louisville assistant with a proven record in recruiting.

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee 14-1/24-4
Louisiana Tech 12-3/20-8
Old Dominion 9-5/16-10
UTEP 9-5/11-15
Rice 8-6/18-9
Marshall 8-6/15-12

After a 14-1 run in their last 15 games, and with wins at Ole Miss and Belmont as well as a neutral site win in Nashville over UNC-Wilmington and a slaughter at home over Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee could almost be considered a legitimate at-large team should they fail to win the CUSA Tournament, but the Blue Raiders probably needed to add a road win over VCU, and they came up short. If they do win out to enter the Dance at 30-4, they could very well be the higher seed in their first tournament game. After losing by 10 at Middle, Louisiana Tech has quietly reeled off six consecutive wins to sew up second place in the league.

Horizon
Valparaiso 12-3/22-6
Oakland 11-4/21-7
Wright St. 10-5/19-9
Green Bay 10-5/16-11
Northern Kentucky 9-6/18-10

Oakland swept Valpo, winning both games by double digits, and the Grizzlies now own a six-game winning streak after yesterday’s victory over UIC. Wright St. is the other hot team with a four game winning streak and an 8-2 record in their last 10. Green Bay can go on big scoring spurts, and if they are hot for three days, they can put the rest of the field away. It should be an interesting semifinals and finals in the Horizon.

Ivy
Princeton 10-0/17-6
Harvard 8-2/16-7
Yale 6-4/14-9
Penn 4-6/11-12
Columbia 4-6/10-13
Cornell 3-7/7-18
Dartmouth 3-7/6-17
Brown 2-8/11-15

Why have we included all eight teams in this write-up? The inaugural Ivy League Tournament will be a four-team event. At the present time, Princeton and Harvard have wrapped up half the spots. Yale was almost safe until the Bulldogs stumbled against Princeton and Penn at home to fall out of race for the top. They are still a good bet to get to the Palestra. The fight for spot number four is up for grabs, and even last place Brown is still very much alive, since Columbia has taken a dive with four consecutive losses, while Penn has won four straight to pull into a tie for the fourth spot. This coming weekend is a big one, as Yale visits Harvard and Princeton visits Columbia Friday Night. Penn is on the road for games with Cornell and Columbia. Dartmouth gets two big home games, and by next Monday, a 3-7 team could be 5-7 with the number four spot in sight.

Metro Atlantic
Monmouth 15-2/23-5
Saint Peter’s 12-6/16-12
Iona 11-7/18-11
Siena 11-7/14-15
Canisius 10-8/17-12
Fairfield 9-8/14-12

With a 13-game winning streak, Monmouth has already clinched the regular season title for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Hawks looked like a team that could do a little damage in the NCAA Tournament. They beat UCLA USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown on the way to a 25-6 regular season record, but Iona beat them in the MAAC Tournament Championship Game, and Monmouth had to settle for an NIT berth, where they lost to George Washington in the second round. This year, the biggest wins the Hawks own are over Memphis and Princeton. Monmouth might win the MAAC Tournament, but this does not look like a team capable of winning in the NCAA Tournament. And, there are five other teams in the MAAC that could send the Hawks back to the NIT.

Mid-American
East
Akron 12-2/22-5
Ohio 9-5/17-8
Buffalo 9-5/15-12
Kent St. 7-7/15-12

West
Ball St. 8-6/17-10
Toledo 7-7/14-13

Akron looked invincible in league play until recently, and now the Zips have dropped two games, including a home game against Kent St. that ended Akron’s 30-game winning streak. The team that beat Akron last year in the MAC Championship Game is the hot team in the league. Buffalo has won six games in a row and eight out of ten with both of the losses coming on the road by one point. The Bulls might be the team to beat at this moment. The West Division is all aflutter. At one point in the season, Eastern Michigan was number one and Western Michigan was in last place. Now, EMU is in last, and WMU is in second just a game behind Ball St.

Mideastern Athletic
UNC-Central 11-1/20-6
Norfolk St. 11-2/14-13
Hampton 8-4/11-14
Morgan St. 8-4/11-14

UNC-Central gives the MEAC a fighting chance to avoid a first-four game in Dayton if the Eagles win the MEAC Tournament. If UNCC gets there, they will be quite a headache for their opening game opponent, because Coach LeVelle Moton’s teams play defense like the players are magnetized to their opponents. Central almost always finishes among the national leaders in points allowed and defensive FG%, and this year is no different. Norfolk State has made the 2017 MEAC race a two-team runaway, but they did not challenge Central in their only meeting this year.

Mountain West
Nevada 10-4/21-6
Boise St. 10-4/17-8
Colorado St. 10-4/18-9
New Mexico 9-6/16-11
San Diego St. 8-6/16-10
Fresno St. 8-7/16-11
San Jose St. 7-7/14-11

This will be a very interesting conference tournament, and there will be all kinds of gossip going on backstage and at official events. Colorado State is currently in a three-way tie for first in the MWC, but they could be forced into making a head coaching change. Larry Eustachy, the former Iowa State head coach who lost his job to do fraternizing with college coeds, has seen his name splattered throughout the news for allegations that he berated and belittled players, calling them all sorts of names. He already had a zero-tolerance policy in place in Fort Collins, so it could be reason to terminate his contract just as he has a team on the cusp of taking the top seed in the conference tournament.

There’s more to this league than just the controversy. Boise State coach Leon Rice is beginning to draw notice from bigger conference teams. There are rumors he could be in the mix at North Carolina State, but there will be other openings in March, and the former Gonzaga assistant will get serious consideration, after making the Broncos a perennial contender in the MWC. Another coach that could draw consideration for a higher-profile job is Nevada’s Eric Musselman, who also has experience coaching the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings in the NBA.

Then, there is the old man by the sea. San Diego State’s Steve Fisher has a national title and two other Final Fours in his past experience, and his Aztecs are starting to play like the defensive powerhouses in recent years that saw SDSU make it to the Elite 8. In their recent 14-point victory over Nevada, they held the Wolfpack under 30% shooting from the field.

Northeast
Mount St. Mary’s 13-3/15-14
Long Island 11-5/18-11
Wagner 10-6/14-12
St Francis (PA) 9-7/12-15
Fairleigh Dickinson 9-7/11-16

Mount St. Mary’s is up two games with two games to play, but one of those two games comes against second place LIU, so the Mountaineers still have a little bit of work to do to wrap up home court advantage throughout the tournament (All NEC Tournament games are played on the home floor of the higher seeds. Wagner has won six of their last seven, including a four-point win over MSM. The Seahawks beat Connectictut earlier this year, and they only lost at MSM by a point.

Ohio Valley
East
Belmont 14-1/20-5
Jacksonville St. 9-5/17-12
Morehead St. 9-5/13-14
Tennessee St. 8-7/17-11
Tennessee Tech 7-7/11-18

West
UT Martin 8-6/18-11
Murray St. 8-6/14-14
SE Missouri St. 8-6/13-16

Only the top eight teams qualify for the tournament, and as of this morning, the eight teams we have shown above seem to have their berths secured. Belmont’s lone loss came at Tennessee Tech. The Bruins have been in the Dance seven times in the last 11 years, but they are 0-7 in those seven trips. Jacksonville St. has played better away from home than at home, so this could be a plus for the Gamecocks. They did lose at Belmont by 17 points.

Patriot
Bucknell 13-3/21-8
Boston U. 11-5/16-12
Lehigh 10-6/16-11
Navy 10-6/15-13

Bucknell has impressive non-conference road wins against Vanderbilt and Richmond, but the Bison were swept by Lehigh. Although they will have home court advantage as long as they stay alive in the Patriot League Tournament, they are still vulnerable against teams that can dominate on the glass.

Southern
Furman 13-3/20-9
East Tennessee St. 12-3 /22-6
UNC-Greensboro 11-4/20-8
Chattanooga 10-5/19-8

It was a rude awakening as Furman’s 10-game winning streak ended with a 21-point home loss to UNCG Saturday. The Paladins must get over that one quickly, because they must travel to Johnson City to take on ETSU Wednesday night with first place up for grabs. Any of the top four could win this tournament, and the SoCon tends to come up with champions that were not the top seed.

Southland
New Orleans 11-3/16-9
Stephen F. Austin 10-4/15-11
Texas A&M-CC 9-5/16-9
Sam Houston St. 9-6/18-10
Houston Bapt. 8-6/13-12

Sam Houston had the lead in the SLC before losing four of their last five games. Meanwhile, the other contenders above have all enjoyed some nice winning streaks as the race heads into its final week. UNO and SFA have won four consecutive games. HBU has won five in a row, and TACC has a seven-game streak.

Southwestern Athletic
Texas Southern 11-2/15-11
Southern 9-5/13-14
Grambling 7-7/12-15
Jackson St. 7-7/11-16

The SWAC Champion is going to be in the First Four in Dayton unless multiple upset winners from other low-major conferences force them into the second round. The hottest team in the league is Alcorn State, as the Braves have a nine-game winning streak. Alas, they are ineligible for postseason play this season.

Summit
North Dakota St. 10-4/18-9
South Dakota 10-4/19-10
Denver 8-6/16-11
Fort Wayne 7-7/18-10
Omaha 7-7/14-13

South Dakota is peaking at the right time. The Coyotes look like the best team in the league in February, and the tournament will be played up the road in Sioux Falls, but USD will have a lot of competition in this competitive league.

Sun Belt
UT Arlington 10-3/20-6
Arkansas St. 10-4/19-8
Georgia Southern 10-4/17-10
Georgia St. 9-5/16-10
Texas St. 8-5/15-10

With a four-game winning streak and eight wins in the last nine outings, UTA has vaulted past its rivals into first place. The Mavericks have the signature win among the SBC teams this year, as they are the only team besides Gonzaga to have beaten Saint Mary’s. The last two conference tournament champions (UALR and Georgia State) went on to upset power conference teams in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Western Athletic
Cal St. Bakersfield 10-1/19-7
New Mexico St. 9-2/23-4
UM-Kansas City 7-4/15-13

In their current eight-game winning streak, CSUB has limited its opponents to just 59.3 points per game. Not only do the Roadrunners hold opponents to 38% shooting from the field, they win the battle of the boards and the turnover margin with consistency. It’s hard to beat a team when they only let you shoot one time per possession and keep you under 40% from the field. Bakersfield went on a 17-0 run to almost win at Arizona, and they led SMU in Dallas, before the Mustangs went on a run to win by six, so if the Roadrunners make the Dance, they will go down fighting, if they go down at all in their first game.

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES

American Athletic
In: SMU 14-1/24-4, Cincinnati 13-1/24-3
Bubble: None

Houston’s chance to move into consideration fell when they could not pull off the upset of SMU.

Atlantic 10
In: Dayton 12-2/21-5, VCU 12-2/22-5
Bubble: Rhode Island 9-5/17-9

URI won at George Mason over the weekend, and the Rams have a big game against VCU on Saturday.

Atlantic Coast
In: North Carolina 11-3/23-5, Louisville 10-4/22-5, Duke 10-4/22-5, Notre Dame 10-5/21-7, Florida St. 9-5/21-6, Virginia 8-6/18-8
Bubble: Miami 8-6/18-8, Virginia Tech 7-7/18-8, Georgia Tech 7-7/16-11, Syracuse 8-7/16-12, Wake Forest 6-9/15-12, Pittsburgh 4-10/15-12

The ACC figures to send nine teams to the Dance, and at the moment Miami and Virginia Tech are in as Bubble teams, while Georgia Tech is right there on the cut-off line with a few others. Check the seeding below to see if the Gurus agree.
Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Pitt look like strong NIT candidates at this time. The ‘Cuse has a strenuous closing schedule that includes games with Duke and Louisville, and the Orangemen will have to upset one of the two to have a chance.

Big 12
In: Kansas 12-2/24-3, Baylor 9-5/22-5, West Virginia 9-5/21-6, Iowa St. 9-5/17-9
Bubble: Oklahoma St. 7-7/18-9, TCU 6-8/17-10, Kansas St. 6-8/17-10, Texas Tech 5-9/17-10

Oklahoma State started the year in conference play at 0-6, and now the Cowboys look like Sweet 16 material. Coach Brad Underwood should receive consideration for National Coach of the Year in his first season in Stillwater. With a mediocre Bubble to say the least, it figures that the Big 12 will be a conference that can send a team with a losing league record to the Tournament. Texas Tech had a golden opportunity to move onto the good side of the Bubble after upsetting Baylor, but the Red Raiders could not complete the deal at West Virginia, following previous one-point losses the week before to TCU and Kansas. TTU must finish 3-1 in the league and then win at least a game in the B12 Tournament.

Big East
In: Villanova 13-2/26-2, Butler 10-5/21-6, Creighton 9-5/22-5
Bubble: Xavier 8-6/18-9, Marquette 7-7/16-10, Seton Hall 6-8/16-10

Injuries have hit this conference hard. Xavier looked like a Final Four contender before injuries to their top two players weakened the Musketeers to the point where they may have to sneak into the field. One of those injuries, to top player Trevon Bluiett, is not season-ending, so when (if) he returns to 100% health, Xavier should recover somewhat.

Marquette is right there in the final tier of teams hovering on the last in line. Coach Steve Wojciechowski has become the top former Coach K assistant, and when he finally lands a couple of aircraft carriers that can attack the glass, Marquette is going to return to its glory it acheived under Al McGuire–if another school doesn’t steal him away (like Duke if Coach K retires).

Big Ten
In: Wisconsin 11-3/22-5, Purdue 11-3/22-5, Maryland 10-4/22-5, Northwestern 9-5/20-7, Minnesota 8-6/20-7
Bubble: Michigan St. 8-6/16-11, Michigan 7-7/17-10

The Selection Committee did not think much of this league last week, and we have to believe that their feelings go deeper than just the top of the conference. If Wisconsin and Purdue did not garner four-seeds, it stands to reason that the Michigan teams are not in as of now. We do not think Michigan State is going to make it now after losing Eron Harris to a season-ending knee injury that looked gruesome in the Spartans’ loss to Purdue. Michigan hurt their chances in their overtime loss to Minnesota, and the Wolverines are going to have to win a couple of road games (close with 3 of 4 on the road) to get back in the good graces of the Dance judges.

Missouri Valley
Wichita St. 15-1/25-4
Illinois St. 15-1/23-5
In: Whichever team wins Arch Madness
Bubble: Whichever team does not win Arch Madness

If you put the top teams not in the Power Conferences and put them in a super Mid-Major league (Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Illinois State, Middle Tennessee, Monmouth, UNC-Wilmington, Boise St., and others), the two Valley teams would finish in the upper half of the standings and probably beat Gonzaga on their home floors. Both the Shockers and Redbirds are good enough to advance to the second weekend of the tournament, and the only reason they both won’t be in the NCAA Tournament would be political. The Committee will not be able to explain excluding one of the MVC powers over a 12 or 13-loss team from a power league. It would be a lot easier if both teams won out until the Championship Game of the MVC Tournament.

Pac-12
In: Arizona 14-1/25-3, Oregon 13-2/24-4, UCLA 11-3/24-3
Bubble: California 9-5/18-8, USC 8-6/21-6, Utah 8-7/17-10

When you live east of the Mississippi River, you sometimes discount the teams on the West Coast because you don’t always see these teams play. However, the Buckaroos on the PiRate Ship have tuned in enough games to hear Bill Walton in our sleep. The “Conference of Champions” has three really good teams, but all three must take a back seat to that team up in the Inland Empire of Northeast Washington. UCLA just abused rival USC over the weekend. While the City of Angels flooded from the heavy rains, UCLA clouded up and rained all over the Trojans in a 102-70 pasting.

The Trojans were not the only team to take a beating and hurt their at-large chances. Cal travelled across the Bay and lost to rival Stanford, while Utah most likely received a lethal dagger in their upset loss to an Oregon State team that entered the game with a record of 0-14/4-23.

Southeastern
In: Florida 12-2/22-5, Kentucky 12-2/22-5, South Carolina 10-4/20-7, Arkansas 9-5/20-7
Bubble: Alabama 9-5/16-10, Tennessee 7-7/15-12

We removed a couple teams from the Bubble list, as Georgia and Auburn failed to pick up victories they had to have. Alabama is not on a lot of other folks’ bubble, but the Crimson Tide has a favorable schedule that could find them 12-5/19-10 before their regular season finale at Tennessee. If Alabama wins out and then makes it to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, we feel that the Selection Committee would have to give Avery Johnson’s club serious consideration for one of the final spots in the Dance, especially if there are no big upset champions in other power leagues. Half of their losses came to teams that will be in the Tournament (Dayton, Oregon, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas).

Tennessee is in a position where they most likely must win out to finish 11-7/19-12, and then the Vols will have to win at least one SEC Tournament game. This means that only one of the two Bubble teams from the SEC actually has a chance to make the Tournament.

West Coast
In: Gonzaga 16-0/28-0, Saint Mary’s 14-2/24-3
Bubble: None

Saint Mary’s wrapped up their at-large bid with an impressive weekend win at BYU. The only possible fly in the ointment would be if BYU, San Francisco, or Santa Clara played lights out and made a run to the WCC Tournament title, but at this point we think the San Diego Padres have a better chance of winning 110 games and then sweeping through to the World Series title than any team other than Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s has of winning the WCC Tournament.

The Bracketology Gurus Seeding For February 20, 2017
1. Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina
2. Baylor, Arizona, Oregon, Louisville
3. Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Florida St.
4. UCLA, West Virginia, Butler, Purdue
5. Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin
6. Creighton, SMU, Saint Mary’s, Maryland
7. Minnesota, South Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma St.
8. Dayton, VCU, Xavier, USC
9. Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Iowa St., Arkansas
10. Wichita St., Michigan, Michigan St., Kansas St.
11. Middle Tennessee, Marquette, California, Seton Hall, Syracuse
12. Illinois St., TCU, Boise St., UNC-Wilmington, UT-Arlington
13. Vermont, Monmouth, Florida Gulf Coast, Oakland
14. Belmont, UNC-Asheville, Princeton, Akron
15. Bucknell, Cal St. Bakersfield, South Dakota, East Tennessee St.
16. UC-Irvine, North Dakota, UNC-Central, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Southern, Mount St. Mary’s

First Four in Dayton
11: Seton Hall vs. Syracuse
12: TCU vs. Illinois St.
16: North Dakota vs. Mount St. Mary’s
16: Stephen F. Austin vs. Texas Southern

Last Four Byes
California, Marquette, Kansas St., Michigan St.

First Four Out
Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, Rhode Island

Next Four Out
Providence, Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee

Note: Georgia Tech, TCU, Syracuse, Seton Hall, and Illinois St. all finished within two points of each other in our Guru tabulation. We would call this a very close Bubble. Texas Tech and Wake Forest are only four and five points back. Now, you see why our baker’s dozen of Gurus have headaches. Maybe, the fact that all the flowers are blooming and the trees are budding as the temperature challenges 80 degrees has something to do with it as well, since the Guru that just texted said he has a runny nose, watery eyes, and needs a new box of tissues.

February 17, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 18-19, 2017

 

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 18, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Miami (Fla.) Clemson 3 5 5
North Carolina St. Notre Dame -7 -5 -4
Duke Wake Forest 9 11 10
Louisville Virginia Tech 14 14 15
Pittsburgh Florida St. -1 -5 -4
North Carolina Virginia 6 4 2
Cincinnati Tulsa 16 17 14
Houston SMU -1 1 -1
Baylor Kansas 2 2 7
Texas Kansas St. -1 1 2
West Virginia Texas Tech 14 12 9
Iowa St. TCU 8 8 4
Oklahoma St. Oklahoma 14 11 13
Seton Hall Villanova -7 -8 -5
Marquette Xavier 3 3 -1
Iowa Illinois 6 3 1
Purdue Michigan St. 13 13 8
Northwestern Rutgers 13 11 9
Ohio St. Nebraska 6 7 5
Wichita St. Northern Iowa 20 17 18
Oregon Colorado 12 15 18
Washington St. Arizona St. -2 -1 3
Washington Arizona -10 -10 -9
UCLA USC 12 12 9
Tennessee Missouri 14 12 15
Mississippi St. Florida -12 -11 -10
Alabama LSU 12 12 10
Texas A&M Auburn 4 4 8
Arkansas Ole Miss 7 7 5
Georgia Kentucky -7 -7 -4
Vanderbilt South Carolina -2 1 2
Gonzaga Pacific 34 27 29
BYU Saint Mary’s -3 -5 -5

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 19, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Georgia Tech Syracuse 1 -3 2
Butler DePaul 19 18 21
Creighton Georgetown 9 8 5
Wisconsin Maryland 7 8 4
Minnesota Michigan 4 1 6
Illinois St. Loyola (Chi.) 10 8 8
Oregon St. Utah -13 -10 -11

PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Kansas
  4. West Virginia
  5. Louisville
  6. North Carolina
  7. Florida
  8. Kentucky
  9. Virginia
  10. Duke
  11. Purdue
  12. Florida St.
  13. Baylor
  14. UCLA
  15. Wichita St.
  16. Oregon
  17. Saint Mary’s
  18. SMU
  19. Arizona
  20. Creighton
  21. Wisconsin
  22. Oklahoma St.
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Butler
  25. Notre Dame

 

ACC

  1. Louisville
  2. North Carolina
  3. Virginia
  4. Duke
  5. Florida St.
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Wake Forest
  8. Miami (Fla.)
  9. Clemson
  10. Syracuse
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. Pittsburgh
  14. North Carolina St.
  15. Boston College

Big 12

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. TCU
  7. Kansas St.
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Marquette
  5. Xavier
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Providence
  8. Georgetown
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Purdue
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Maryland
  4. Northwestern
  5. Minnesota
  6. Michigan
  7. Indiana
  8. Michigan St.
  9. Iowa
  10. Ohio St.
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Pac-12

  1. UCLA
  2. Oregon
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Utah
  6. USC
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Washington
  10. Arizona St.
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.

SEC

  1. Florida
  2. Kentucky
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. Tennessee
  6. Georgia
  7. Alabama
  8. Ole Miss
  9. Vanderbilt
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Auburn
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. Missouri
  14. LSU

Friday Night Games You Might Want To Watch

Don’t wait until Saturday to start following basketball games, because there are some interesting Friday night games this week.

Starting at 7 PM EST tonight, tune into ESPN2 to see Valparaiso visit Oakland in a battle of the top two teams in the Horizon League.  Alec Peters may be the best Mid-Major player you have not seen.  Peters averages 23.1 points per game and 10.7 rebounds a game for Valpo, and he is an excellent passer similar to Bill Walton in his UCLA days.

Earlier in the season, Oakland won by 12 at Valpo, never allowing the Crusaders to take a lead in the entire game.  Oakland guard Martez Walker put the game away in the opening minutes of the second half with a salvo of baskets while also being a force on the glass.

 

There are two important Ivy League games tonight.  Columbia visits Harvard in a game the Lions need to show they belong with the top three in the league.  Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are locks to make the four-team Ivy League Tournament, but Columbia still has work to do and has a weekend road set with Harvard and Dartmouth after losing at Penn and Princeton last weekend.  This game will be on ESPN3 at 7 PM EST.  Two more losses this weekend, and Columbia could be tied for fourth rather in fourth by two games over the lower division.

At 8 PM EST on ESPN3, Princeton visits Yale.  If the Tigers can get by the Bulldogs tonight, their chance of wrapping up the top seed in the Ivy League’s first ever tournament will be about 98%, since they already won at Harvard.  PU is riding an 11-game winning streak.

 

At 9 PM EST on ESPN2, Virginia Commonwealth visits Richmond in a big Atlantic 10 game.  VCU is in first place in the league, but the Rams need a resume boost to guarantee a possible at-large bid if they do not earn the automatic invitation.  Richmond has no signature wins, and the Spiders will have to run the table in the A-10 Tournament to get back to the Dance.

 

At 10 PM EST, California travels west across the Bay to take on Stanford at Maples Pavilion in a game that could move the Bears into safe at-large territory if they can take down their rival.  This game will air on FS1.  Coach Cuonzo Martin’s teams tend to become tougher defensively and gel as a team in the second half of the year, and this Bear team is 8-2 in its last 10 games with the two losses coming at Oregon and at Arizona.  Three weeks ago in Berkeley, 6-11 Ivan Rabb was unstoppable, hitting a couple of threes from the top of the key and getting some in-your-face baskets at the rim, as his 25 points destroyed the Cardinal.

 

Saturday’s Best Games

Kansas at Baylor 1 PM EST on CBS

Kentucky at Georgia 6 PM EST on ESPN

TCU at Iowa St. 6 PM EST on ESPNEWS

SMU at Houston 6 PM EST on ESPN2

Xavier at Marquette 8 PM EST on CBSSN

Virginia at North Carolina 8:15 PM EST on ESPN

USC at UCLA 10 PM EST on Pac-12 Network

Saint Mary’s at BYU 10 PM EST on ESPN2

 

Gonzaga 2017 vs. Wichita State 2014

Current undefeated and top-ranked Gonzaga reminds many fans of the 2014 Wichita State team that ran the table and earned the regular season number one ranking prior to entering NCAA Tournament action as the top seed.  That Shocker team beat only one top team that season, winning at Tennessee.  The Vols would go on to make the Sweet 16, before falling to Michigan by a bucket.

This year’s Gonzaga team has a slightly better schedule resume.  The Bulldogs own neutral court victories of Florida, Iowa State, and Arizona in an 8-day period just after Thanksgiving.  The Zags also swept top 20 Saint Mary’s by 23 and 10 points.

Let’s take a look at the Four Factors comparison between the two teams.

Effective Field Goal Percentage

Gonzaga has the clear advantage here.  The Bulldogs current EFG% is 58.1%.  Their regular FG% is 51.6%, and they are hitting 39% of their three-point attempts.  Defensively, GU gives up an EFG% of just 41.7%, for an EFG% margin of 16.4%, the best in the nation.

In 2014, Wichita State was quite good in this factor, but they were not as good as GU this year.  The Shockers’ EFG% was 52.6%, as there were games where they could not hit from outside 10 feet until the last 5-8 minutes of the second half.  Their defensive EFG% was very good at 44.6% for an EFG% margin of 8.0%.  It was not in the top 10 in the nation that year.

 

Turnover Rate

This factor is a wash between the two undefeated teams.  Gonzaga has a current TO rate of 13.8 and a defensive TO rate of 16.1 for a margin of 2.3%

Wichita State had a TO rate of 13.6 and a defensive TO rate of 16.3 for a margin of 2.7%.

 

Rebound Rate

This is where Wichita State had a major advantage.  The Shockers had an Offensive Rebound Rate of 35.0, which was very good, while their Defensive Rebound Rate was an excellent 26.0 for a Rebound Rate margin of 9.0%.  The Shockers did not have a dominant rebounder, but their three guards rebounded like power forwards.

 

Gonzaga has an Offensive Rebound Rate of 31.1 and a Defensive Rebound Rate of 27.0 for a Rebound Rate margin of 4.1.  The Bulldogs have won the battle of the boards in a large majority of their games thanks to the two-headed seven-foot dominators combining for 11 boards a game.  While the Bulldogs are quite good in this factor, Wichita State was dominant.

 

Free Throw Rate

This is the least important of the Four Factors, but it is still important just by being one of the four factors.  Gonzaga has one of the best FT Rate margins in the nation this year, and the reason is that opponents are forced to foul Gonzaga’s big dominating centers inside to prevent easy baskets.

GU’s offensive FT Rate is 22.9, and their defensive FT Rate is 15.3 for a FT Rate margin of 7.6%.  As good as this number is, 2014 Wichita State had one of the best FT Rates of all time.  Their Offensive FT Rate was 28.4, while their Defensive FT Rate was 18.8 for a FT Rate margin of 9.6%!

 

Other Factors

These factors were made under slightly different strengths of schedule.  Gonzaga’s current SOS averages about 2 points per game better than Wichita’s SOS from 2014.  This even includes Wichita’s game against Kentucky, which put an end to the undefeated season in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

The PiRate R+T ratings for both teams is a wash.  Gonzaga’s current R+T is 20.4, while Wichita State’s was 21.2.  Both teams received ample extra scoring opportunities due to superior rebounding and turnovers (with an emphasis on steals).

There is virtually no difference in quality depth, as both teams could go two deep at every position.

 

Wichita State’s Season Ended

The Shockers won their first NCAA Tournament game by 27 points over 16-seed Cal Poly.  Then they fell by 2 to Kentucky in the next round.  Kentucky won because Wichita State lacked the overall quickness to prevent numerous open shots by the Wildcats on both the perimeter and through penetration.  John Calipari adjusted well at halftime when Wichita State enjoyed a 6-point lead, and a 10-0 UK run in a three-minute stretch at the start of the second half gave Kentucky the lead.  Trailing by two with seven seconds left, Wichita State had a chance to tie or win the game, but Fred Van Vleet’s contested three-pointer from 21 feet out bricked off the backboard.

 

Gonzaga’s Vulnerability

It is difficult for some to understand that an undefeated team with a scoring margin of 23.8 points per game could really be vulnerable, but even the 1972 UCLA Bruins had a few liabilities.  Gonzaga is not unbeatable, as all college teams (even the UConn women’s team) can be defeated, even if it is not that likely.

A good pressure defense team can disrupt the Bulldogs enough to provide an opening to score some cheap baskets off steals and to force GU into foul trouble.  Florida almost had enough in the defensive tank to pull it off, but Gonzaga still won thanks to hot inside-outside shooting from Josh Perkins and Jonathan Williams, while the Bulldog defense stuck to the Gators like glue, forcing UF to shoot just 36.9% from the field and a pitiful 10.5% from behind the arc.

Gonzaga does not always put an opponent away once they have taken a double-digit lead.  They almost saw Iowa State come back from a 15-point halftime deficit and 18-point 2nd half deficit, as Iowa State’s Deonte Burton brought the Cyclones back to within a point with multiple chances to take the lead in the final minute.  ISU had a shot to win at the buzzer and could not get the shot off.  If GU does not help out on defense, a star player can possibly end the Bulldogs’ season in the Big Dance.

Our Take

We believe Gonzaga is clearly better than the 2014 Wichita State team.  If they enter the NCAA Tournament with a 33-0 record (which we believe is about 95% possible), they will obviously be a #1 seed.  The first game against a #16 seed should be no problem, and we cannot see any possible #8 or #9 seed finding a way to beat them two days later.

Once they get to the Sweet 16, there could be some teams capable of beating the Zags, but only if either Gonzaga lays a big egg or the opponent plays lights out.  The possible #4 or #5 seeds that could pose a problem for GU include West Virginia, Cincinnati, SMU, and South Carolina.  All four of these teams can force Gonzaga to turn the ball over and alter their offense to a point where they must shoot poor shots late in the shot clock.

If Gonzaga makes it to the Elite 8, there will be somebody like Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, Duke, or North Carolina in their path.  All of these teams can beat Gonzaga half the time, so it would be considered a 50-50 game against any of these teams.

Looking at the Final Four if GU finally makes it to there, we actually do not think the other potential number one seeds are the teams likely to beat the Bulldogs.  Villanova, Kansas, and Baylor will not match up well with GU.  It will be another team, like one of the teams mentioned in the Elite 8 paragraph that will stop the undefeated streak–if it is stopped.

 

Since Indiana last blitzed the field in 1975-76 (and Rutgers made it to the Final Four undefeated), Indiana State in 1979, UNLV in 1991, and Kentucky in 2015, made it to the Final Four unbeaten, and none of the three won the title.

Indiana State was clearly not up to Michigan State’s talent level as Larry Bird could not beat Magic Johnson plus Greg Kelser plus 5 or 6 other really good Spartans.

UNLV met a really good Duke team that probably would not have beaten the Runnin’ Rebels more than 2 times out of 10.  However, the Blue Devils had been dealt a major black eye with the worst ever National Championship Game loss to UNLV the year before, and they came out punching.

Kentucky ran up against a much more poised and mature Wisconsin team, one in which the Badgers players had ma lot more NCAA Tournament experience.  UW played a smart game; they forced Kentucky to beat them by doing something other than one-on-one dribble drives and feeds when faced with double-teams.  The UK players did not come out punching, and their defense was subpar that night.

In Gonzaga’s favor, they are not a one-man team like Indiana State (Carl Nicks was good but not a star).  They will not face an opponent that has a grudge from losing by 30+ points the last time they played, but Florida and Arizona might know a little more about what it will take to win if there is a rematch in the Dance.  The Bulldogs are not an inexperienced team lacking maturity that will fall to a more experienced, more mature team, because Mark Few has too many mature players on this team for that to happen.

If Gonzaga loses in the NCAA Tournament, it will be because the other team has equal or superior talent and plays well enough with that talent to win.  Otherwise, GU will become the next undefeated national champion.

The PiRates say that Gonzaga has a 1 in 12 chance of going 39-0 and winning the national title and maybe a 1 in 11.8 chance of just winning the national title.  We believe they have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the Final Four.

February 15, 2017

The Best of the Best and Where They Might Be Vulnerable–2nd Edition

A month ago, we showed you a couple dozen top college basketball teams’ advanced statistics and then tried to examine through those stats where each team might be vulnerable.  We found vulnerability with every team to some extent, so it is obvious that there is no clear-cut favorite to win the NCAA Championship.  The days of UCLA having a 95% chance of winning the title have come and gone.  The team with the most chance of winning it all this year might have something like a 7-8% chance of winning it all, while up to 20 teams may have 4% chances of cutting down the nets at University of Phoenix Stadium in The Valley of the Sun.

In our second edition of the Best of the Best, we see only minor changes from before.  While we hope all of you regularly read our little project, we know this is not so.  Therefore, we will bring the newcomers up to speed on how we operate here on the PiRate ship.

First, we are math geeks.  We have linear and boolean algebra experts helping us out, and our founder is an amateur mathlete and a professional in baseball analytics.  Fret not; you do not have to know algebra to enjoy this site.  We have done all the calculations.  We will show you some of the formulas that we use to come to our conclusions, but it won’t be on the test.  You get an A+ if you just show up (maybe that’s why we don’t teach at Cal Tech or M.I.T.).

The PiRates are proponents of the Four Factors in basketball.  We have found that with a little different emphasis in each of the factors, this set of data can be applied to the NBA, College, High School, Middle School, and even the kids’ youth leagues (although if somebody is using Four Factors’ data to coach a 5th and 6th grade team, they need to reconsider why they are coaching at all).

The Four Factors can really be considered Eight Factors, because they can be used to rate teams’ offense and defense.  When you subtract the defensive factor from the offensive factor in each of the four stats, you get a Four Factors margin (just like when you subtract points per game allowed from points per game scored, you get scoring margin).

Here are the Four Factors.  If you just want this week’s results, skip down to “BEST OF THE BEST”

  1. Effective Shooting Percentage
  2. Turnover Rate
  3. Offensive Rebounding Rate
  4. Free Throw Rate

1. Effective Shooting Percentage: (FG+(0.5*3pt))/FGA

The difference between regular field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage is that you count all made three-pointers as 1.5 made field goals.  So, if a team hits 25 of 55 shots and makes 6 three-pointers, their EFG% is: (25+(6*.05))/55 which equals 50.9%.

The defensive equivalent uses the same formula, and the difference between the offensive and defensive EFG% is the EFG% margin.

2. Turnover Rate (TOV/100 Possessions not including offensive rebounds)

The TOV Rate is the number of turnovers committed per every 100 possessions (and forced per 100 possessions for the defensive factor).  You can accurately measure possessions in college basketball by using the following formula.

FGA+(.475*FTA)+TO-Off. Rebounds

However for TOV Rate, we remove the offensive rebounds because it skews the rate.  When a team gets an offensive rebound, they almost always get another shot attempt and do not hold the ball long enough to commit additional turnovers at the same rate that they do in a possession not involving an offensive rebound.

If a team commits 14 turnovers in a game in which they had 69 possessions but with 8 offensive rebounds, their TOV Rate for the game is: 14/61, which comes to 23%

3. Offensive Rebound Rate: (Off. Rebounds/(Off. Rebounds + Opponents’ Def. Rebounds)

This is basically the percentage of offensive rebounds a team retrieves off its own missed shots.  If a team has 35 total missed shots in a game where a rebound is then retrieved by one team or the other, and they finish with 8 offensive rebounds, their Offensive Rebound Rate is: 8/35, which comes to 22.9%.

The defensive counterpart to this is Defensive Rebound Rate.  If a team’s opponent has 38 total missed shots in a game where there were rebounds retrieved by one team or the other, and the opponent finished with 6 offensive rebounds, then the team’s defensive rebound rate is: 6/38, which comes to 15.8%.  The rebound rate margin would be: 22.9-15.8 or 7.1%.

If you count the two examples, in standard parlance the better rebounding team won the battle of the boards 40-33.

4. Free Throw Rate 

The basketball math experts disagree on how to calculate this rating.  Some believe that just getting fouled is all that matters, since each foul makes it one foul closer to an opposing player becoming disqualified.  Others believe that this rate should be the percentage of free throw attempts to field goal attempts.  Others say, it should be made free throws per field goal attempts.

We disagree with these beliefs.  These numbers can easily become skewed when a team plays enough close games with the lead in the final minutes.  Said team may not attempt another field goal, while the opponent fouls them on purpose to stop the clock and hope this team misses foul shots.

Let’s say Florida leads South Carolina, Alabama. Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Tennessee by a few points in every game as the clock reaches 2 minutes.  These other teams foul the Gators’ players on purpose in hopes that the shots will be missed, and they can come down the floor and hit buckets to win the game or force overtime.

At the same time, Kentucky plays these same five teams and leads by 20 with 2 minutes to play.  These opponents do not need to foul at this point, as the reserves are ready to come in and try to get in the scorebook.  Are we to believe that Florida is a more effective free throw shooting team, simply because their opponents can still win in the final 2 minutes, so they will purposely foul, while there would be no use in fouling Kentucky with the Wildcats up 20.

So, what is the answer?  We must admit that there is no way to fully eliminate the intentional fouling in multiple close games, but at least we reduce it as much as possible.  And, we use made free throws to at least show that it is important to make them, especially in those close games.

We go with: (FT/100 Possessionsand this time we include offensive rebounds, because defenses frequently foul following an offensive rebound.

If a team makes 17 foul shots in a game in which they had 71 possessions, their Free Throw Rate is 17/71, which is 23.9%.

 

Now What

We take the stats (offense and defense) for each team we evaluate.  We have an algorithm (formula) that we use that gives different weight to each of the factors.  The weights differ depending on whether it is NBA, NCAA, High School, Middle School, or Youth.  Turnover margin matters less in the NBA than it does in college, and it matters more the lower you go down, until by the time you reach the 5th and 6th grade, it is the most important factor of all (so if you coach 5th and 6th grade basketball, you should do what you can to force as many turnovers as possible and then create the fastest offense you can have so as not to commit too many turnovers–think about a 10-second offense).

Now, you should have picked up on the apparent weaknesses of the Four Factors for college basketball.  By now, you have probably thought that Gonzaga’s stats might look a lot better than Wisconsin’s stats, because the Bulldogs play a much weaker conference schedule than the Badgers.  We use the strengths of schedule for every team to adjust their factors to a point where we hope we have found a happy midpoint to show what each teams’ stats might be against average competition.

Also, think about a team that plays 18 home games, 4 neutral site games, and 9 road games, versus another team that plays 14  home games, 3 neutral site games, and 14 road games.  We adjust for this as well.

As a point of fact, we treat schedule strength and ability to win away from home (nobody plays at home in the Big Dance) as importantly as a good horse handicapper treats class in a horse race.  The mid-major and low-major teams are like claiming and allowance horses, while the power leagues are like stakes-racing horses.  North Carolina is the horse that runs in the Breeder’s Cup Classic, while Cal State Bakersfield is still a maiden until it wins its small track maiden claiming race at WAC Downs.  We know which horse is going to finish ahead of the other as long as it does not throw his jockey.  The stakes horse finishes 20 lengths ahead.

R+T

The last component in our best of the best look is something we trademarked at the PiRate Ratings.  R+T is a combination of rebounding, turnovers, and steals.  It reveals how many extra shooting opportunities a team might have against any type of opponent.  To have a really good R+T number, a team must be equally competent in rebounding, forcing turnovers while not committing many, and by getting steals.

The formula is: (Rebound Margin * 2) + (Steals per Game * 0.5) + (6 – Opponents’ Steals per Game) + (Turnover Margin)

If a team has an R+T rating better than 20, then they can overcome a cold shooting night and still win an NCAA Tournament game over a team with an R+T rating below 10.  If a team has an R+T rating in the 28-35 range, they will be very difficult to beat if they also come from a power conference and wins consistently away from home.  If you find a team from one of the top leagues with an R+T over 28 and said team wins 75% of its games away from home, you have a team that frequently wins four games and makes the Final Four.

To the contrary, if you find a team that looks really good on paper, and they have a gaudy won-loss record, but their R+T rating is under 8, watch out.  All it takes is one cold shooting night or one hot shooting night from the opponent. and this team can go home.

And, if you find a power league team with a negative R+T rating, give great consideration toward picking the Cinderella underdog to pull off the upset in the Big Dance.  A majority of the higher seed power conference teams with negative R+T ratings actually lose in their first tournament game.  It does not happen that often, but ask Georgetown fans about Florida Gulf Coast and Virginia Commonwealth.  Ask Vanderbilt fans about Siena, Richmond, and Murray State.  Ask Purdue fans about Arkansas-Little Rock.  In all these cases, the favorite had a lousy R+T rating, while the underdog had decent or even very good R+T ratings.  The low R+T teams can win in the regular season against lesser-quality teams, but in the Big Dance, that stuff doesn’t cut it.  It is vital to get extra scoring opportunities while limiting them to your opponents.

Now it’s time for the reveal.

BEST OF THE BEST

We look at 28 teams this week.  As before, we have selected three mid-major teams as possible upset winners in an opening game if they get the right draw.  We do not include #1 Gonzaga as a mid-major.

We are listing these teams alphabetically.  The first four columns have already been adjusted using our algorithm.

Team FG TO OR FT SOS R+T Road  W-L% Poss/G
Arizona 3.3 0.1 1.1 1.0 57.8 18.3 75.00 66.9
Baylor 4.7 -0.4 1.4 0.3 61.7 17.3 72.73 65.6
Butler 1.8 1.0 0.1 0.2 60.4 9.4 66.67 67.7
Cincinnati 5.0 1.0 0.7 0.0 54.9 18.0 70.00 67.1
Creighton 5.6 0.5 -0.7 0.2 57.3 4.2 90.91 72.9
Duke 4.1 0.4 0.7 0.7 58.5 15.1 63.64 70.7
Florida 3.3 1.1 0.5 0.8 59.4 13.3 77.78 71.5
Florida St. 4.4 0.8 0.3 0.1 58.8 13.4 50.00 73.4
Gonzaga 8.5 0.5 0.6 0.7 54.3 20.1 100.00 70.9
Kansas 4.2 0.2 0.7 0.1 59.9 12.1 83.33 72.6
Kentucky 3.2 1.1 0.9 0.4 60.2 17.7 72.73 76.6
Louisville 3.7 1.0 1.2 0.1 61.0 19.9 66.67 69.6
Middle Tenn. 3.1 1.0 0.9 -0.3 50.9 16.3 84.62 66.3
North Carolina 2.1 0.8 2.6 0.6 59.1 31.6 61.54 74.2
Notre Dame 3.2 0.7 -0.4 0.3 58.1 5.2 54.55 68.7
Oklahoma St. 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.1 59.6 13.4 58.33 73.9
Oregon 5.2 0.6 0.7 0.5 58.4 15.6 63.64 69.6
Purdue 5.5 -0.3 1.3 0.8 56.6 18.0 72.73 71.2
SMU 3.9 0.5 2.2 0.7 54.0 26.7 63.64 63.7
South Carolina 2.4 1.3 0.5 -0.2 56.8 11.4 70.00 71.4
St. Mary’s 5.8 -0.2 2.0 0.3 54.0 20.7 90.00 60.4
UCLA 6.7 0.0 0.0 0.3 52.5 10.3 83.33 75.2
UNC-Wilm. 2.0 1.3 0.6 -0.3 50.2 12.4 73.33 72.7
Villanova 5.2 0.4 0.4 0.9 57.9 13.9 85.71 65.8
Virginia 5.3 1.1 0.9 -0.2 59.8 17.0 66.67 61.8
West Virginia 2.6 2.7 0.7 0.2 55.4 20.9 63.64 73.9
Wichita St. 5.5 1.0 1.5 0.5 49.8 23.6 75.00 70.5
Wisconsin 3.3 0.8 1.8 0.4 54.1 22.4 72.73 65.9

Vulnerabilities

Arizona: The Wildcats do not have the look of a Final Four contender at this point.  They do not have a glaring weakness, but their strengths lack muscle.  Their TO and OR numbers would be adequate if they had a better EFG% margin, but teams with their resume seldom win four games in the NCAA Tournament.  They do have a decent road win-loss record, and it includes a win at Pauley Pavilion.

Baylor: The Bears are very vulnerable to pressure defenses, as their game against West Virginia showed.  BU turns the ball over just a little too much and then does not force many turnovers on their defensive end.  A strong schedule predicts that they should slide through to the Sweet 16, but after that point, any pressure defense from a quality team is going to make the going tough for BU.

Butler: In December and early January, it looked like this Bulldog edition could contend for a deep run in the Dance.  Now, it looks more like Butler could be a team to watch out for an opening game upset.  They might handle pressure defenses better than most other tournament teams, but the Bulldogs lack enough rebounding strength and do not shine in the EFG% department.  It may be a stretch for this team to make the Sweet 16, and it is 50-50 as of now whether they can get to the Round of 32 if they fall to a 5-seed.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are somewhat of a mystery.  They looked like an Elite 8 team and Final Four contender until they took a trip to Dallas, where SMU stopped the UC offense and won an ugly contest.  It’s a good bet that the Bearcats and Mustangs will meet again in the AAC Championship Game.  If Cinti enters the Big Dance playing at their peak, then the Bearcats should move on to the Sweet 16 with a chance to advance past that if they get a good draw and do not have to face a North Carolina, Villanova, Florida, or Oregon, teams with the right type of offense to hurt the Bearcats.

Creighton: This one is cut and dry.  The Blue Jays look like a team that will lose its first game in the NCAA Tournament.  They do not rebound the ball well enough to advance, and their R+T is the lowest of the 28 teams we have featured today.  We expect Creighton to go home quickly in the Dance, and a team like Monmouth, Wichita State, Middle Tennessee, or Bucknell could possibly dominate them in the Round of 64.

Duke: Coach K is back on the sideline, and there is going to be some silent gossip going around that he might be thinking about retiring.  So, his players might pick up on this and play the best they can play.  It won’t take much for this team to move into the Final Four discussion.  Duke is a better version of Arizona this season.  The Blue Devils’ numbers are just enough better to move from a Sweet 16 to an Elite 8 and better team.  The one thing that bothers us is that Duke has not always been sharp away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Florida: A month ago, we considered Florida a two and out team at best.  The Gators have started to turn things around this year, and their numbers are improving as the season continues.  They are not West Virginia when it comes to pressure defense, but they are better than most of the rest in that regard.  A dominant rebounding team may give the Gators fits.  An exceptional record away from home and a tough schedule indicates that the Gators are a force to be reckoned with and a Final Four contender this year.

Florida St: The Seminoles have begun to swoon a bit, and with every successive road game in the ACC, they look more vulnerable than the previous game.  Winning big at home and then losing on the road does not lead to a lot of success in the NCAA Tournament.  However, a few well-timed ACC road wins and a run in the ACC Tournament could give FSU a resume not that different than that of Duke..

Gonzaga: In case you didn’t know, technically a West Coast Conference team has won the NCAA Championship before.  When San Francisco won back-to-back championships in 1955 and 1956, they were a member of the California Basketball Association, which would be renamed the West Coast Athletic Conference in 1957.  This Bulldog team is different from others that did not make the Final Four, namely they are quite strong defending in the paint and then preventing offensive rebounds.  Opponents do not shoot the ball with much success against the GU defense, while the Bulldogs have a strong shooting offense.  However, they have yet to face a really quality pressure defense, and they could be somewhat vulnerable to a West Virginia, Florida, or even a South Carolina.

Kansas: This is not Bill Self’s best Kansas team, but if you watch this Jayhawk team play, you can see a winning attitude, where KU seems to find a way to win games.  A strong schedule and very successful road record tells us that Self definitely has a Final Four contender.  We think that the Jayhawks will meet their match in an Elite 8 matchup, because teams with this resume seldom get lucky more than once, and KU may need a little luck against other power teams.

Kentucky:  Don’t underestimate John Calipari’s ability to get a bunch of 5-star players to play cohesively as a team.  It isn’t easy.  The Wildcats could easily become a group of future first round picks that do not hustle, and even let up so as not to suffer an injury just before the draft.  Then again, this team has had bouts of inconsistency.  When the players are on their game, there are few teams (maybe no other teams) that can match up with them on talent alone.  When they are acting like they have ADHD, they are vulnerable even to mediocre .500 teams.  We won’t dismiss, Cal’s kids, because their resume says they have Final Four numbers.  They also have the fastest pace of any team that will be in the Dance, and they could wear opponents down.

Louisville: A little dissension can become a lot of dissension in a hurry, and recent troubles involving players on this team could come back to hurt the Cardinals.  UL looked like a team headed to Spring Break in their loss to Virginia when not at full strength.  When they are on their game, they are the best team in the Commonwealth, and that says they are a Final Four contender.

Middle Tennessee: The top mid-major team will not be overlooked this year, when they trounced Michigan State in the opening game last year.  The Blue Raiders are a better team in 2017 than they were in 2016, so it is not unthinkable to say they are a sweet 16 contender.  Their pressure man-to-man defense creates a lot of turnovers with easy scoring opportunities thanks to some quick perimeter players.  Their big liability is their schedule strength, as it is too low for a team to think about advancing past the sweet 16.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels looked like the best team by far back before New Year’s.  They still look like one of the best, but their EFG% margin has fallen a bit too much, while their incredible rebounding prowess has weakened a little.  We are not saying that UNC is doomed to lose in a big upset, but we are saying they could fall in a mild upset, but not until the Elite 8 round.  If we had to choose one team with the absolute best resume of a national champion, North Carolina would be surely be one of those teams in the discussion thanks to the Heels owning the best R+T rating; they are the only team with an R+T in excess of 28.  It will take a team that can shoot lights out from outside and put up a good fight inside to beat UNC, but there are a half-dozen or so teams this year that can do it.

Notre Dame: For the same reason as Creighton, we do not see a deep run for the Fighting Irish this year.  They cannot hold their own on the backboards, and they do not dominate teams in the field goal department.  and, they are not a team capable of forcing a lot of turnovers.  Their current R+T is the second worst in this field.  They do not look like a sweet 16 team.

Oklahoma St.: Brad Underwood was not supposed to get the Cowboys to the Dance in year one in Stillwater.  We’re not sure this OSU team could beat Underwood’s Stephen F. Austin team from last year, but the Cowboys have improved their resume the most in the last month.  If they continue to improve, then they will be a dangerous team in mid-March.  When Underwood gets his type of player on campus, watch out!

Oregon: Which Oregon team will show up in March–The team that beat Arizona by a million points, or the team that blew a 19-point lead to UCLA?   If basketball were all about shooting and defending the shot with no rebounding or turnovers, the Ducks would be a national title contender.  Still, this team would not surprise us if they cruise to the sweet 16 and survive to the elite 8 like last year.

Purdue: In past years, Gene Keady coaching tree members have under-performed in the NCAA Tournament, and they all share something in common.  These coaches stress half-court defense and prefer not to pressure the ball and play in the passing lanes.  They train their players to play smart and not take many chances, trying to win a game one possession at a time.  These coaches should have become football coaches.  In the NCAA Tournament, a team needs to have a way to get extra shooting opportunities, when they run up against an opponent that can shoot better than they can.  Purdue has its best chance in a long time to break that bad streak this year, not because the Boilermakers can force a lot of turnovers (which they cannot).  PU is such a dominating rebounding team that they can get those extra chances by taking multiple shots per possession.  We think PU has its best shot to get past the first weekend to the sweet 16 and maybe elite 8.  Still, the Boilermakers are not in the same class with the final four contenders.

SMU: Tim Jankovich served as an assistant under multiple NCAA Tournament coaches including two that have championship rings–Bill Self and Larry Brown.  Jankovich has a sleeper in Dallas this year.  SMU excels in all four phases of the game.  A schedule that is on the lower side of strength when compared to ACC, Big 12, and SEC teams, and a road record that is not indicative of winning 4 NCAA Tournament games probably foretells an exit in the Sweet 16 or round of 32.

South Carolina: Just getting to the NCAA Tournament after a long drought should be enough for Gamecock fans this year.  USC does not possess a Final Four resume, and it is debatable if what they have is strong enough to predict a sweet 16 appearance.  Their R+T is 11.0, which is okay in the first game and better than average for a second game, but the entire range of data puts them in the same boat as Arizona.

St. Mary’s: In a typical year, the Gaels might be considered the darling of the best of the rest conferences.  SMC has advanced to the sweet 16 before, and it would not be a major shock if they do so again this year with an incredible defense, a decent group of rebounders, and a tough road team.  Like Gonzaga, they do not have an overwhelmingly strong schedule.

UCLA: The Bruins can shoot an opponent out of a gym in two minutes, but other than that, they do not shine in the other departments.  They play better on the road than they do at home, and they play at a pace that can cause a lot of problems for teams that do not have a lot of depth or conditioning.  However, in the Big Dance, most teams have ample supplies of both as well as competent defenses.  Because UCLA cannot rebound or force turnovers well enough, this does not look like their year.  A run to the sweet 16 could be bumpy, and if they sons of Westwood make it that far, they should be an underdog in that game.

UNC-Wilmington: The Seahawks are starting to fade, and now it is only a 50-50 chance they will win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and earn a spot in the NCAA field.  A month ago, they were on par with Middle Tennessee as the top mid-Major threat.  This is the one team in this field that is hurt by fouling too much, and it comes because the players are getting hurt when opponents break their pressure defense.  Still, UNCW could recover and be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.  They have the confidence.

Villanova: The last team to repeat as National Champions was Duke in 1992 and 1993.  Before that, you have to go back to UCLA in 1967-68-69-70-71-72-and 73.  The Wildcats could be the next one to do it, because this team is even better than last year’s champion.  VU wins on the road against quality competition, and while they are not exceptionally strong in the R+T department, they are adequate.  The Wildcats will have trouble with a Kentucky, West Virginia, or even against a Middle Tennessee or Wichita St.  However, we expect VU to be in the elite 8 with a chance to make it back to the Final Four.

Virginia: Teams that play like Virginia seldom win the NCAA Tournament.  They always seem to run up against a team that can score on a couple of cheap baskets, and they cannot make up the difference in the remaining amount of time.  UVA has good numbers in all but their free throw rate.  The Cavaliers have played a tough schedule, but we do not believe they can win four games against NCAA Tournament-caliber teams.  We expect the Cavs to be put out as early as the second game and most likely in the sweet 16.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are going to embarrass their early round opponents, possibly winning their first two games by a combined 50 points.  Then, they are going to run into trouble in either the sweet 16 or elite 8, when they face a team that does not wilt to their defensive pressure and one that can dominate them on the glass.  WVU’s biggest liability is that they don’t shoot the ball all that well.  They can still beat an average team while having an awful shooting night, because they can get 10 extra good shooting opportunities.  A team like Kentucky or North Carolina will turn the tables and embarrass the Mountaineers.

Wichita St.: The Shockers shocked the world with a Final Four trip and then shocked the world the following year by going undefeated in the regular season with a team that looked like it could contend for the title.  WSU ran up against an underrated Kentucky team that advanced to the national title game.  This year’s team is somewhere in between those two teams from their past.  Coach Greg Marshall has a team with no apparent weakness.  The only fly in the ointment is that this team has played a weak slate, and it is going to come back to haunt them when they face a power conference opponent like Duke or Baylor.

Wisconsin: The Badgers are the Midwest version of Arizona this year.  They have decent numbers in all respects, and they have played well on the road.  However, the Big Ten is definitely down this year.  We do not see a repeat of a couple years ago for the Badgers.  UW is no better than a sweet 16 team for now.

 

 

February 13, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 13, 2017

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:27 am

Sunday Excitement

Before we get started with today’s Bracketology Gurus report, we ask you which TV game this weekend became the most exciting one of all.  We hear some of you voting for the Virginia Tech-Virginia game Sunday, the Gonzaga-St. Mary’s game and Kansas-Texas Tech game Saturday, and a smattering of votes for games in leagues that some of you like over others, maybe the ACC or Big Ten.

If you found us for the first time today, you must know that we have esoteric tastes on the PiRate ship.  Our founder contacted this writer around 5PM Sunday to tell us that we had just missed the best game of the weekend, and probably 99.9% of the college basketball fandom didn’t even know the game he watched was televised.

The Captain told us that we should have watched the Vermont-Maryland-Baltimore County game yesterday.  He tuned in to see if how this Catamount team compared to former coach Tom Brennan’s last team in the Green Mountain State.  That team upset Syracuse in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Captain was very impressed with both teams yesterday and became an instant admirer of UMBC’s little sparkplug, K.J. Maura.  The 5 foot 8 inch and 140 pound Maura was overlooked by all major college teams and had to go the junior college route to make it to the low-major Terriers.  Yesterday, Maura was all over the gym, leading UMBC to an almost incredible comeback after trailing by 18 points in the second half.  The Terriers cut the Vermont lead down to two points with less than 30 seconds to go, and after a steal of an inbound pass, they had plenty of time to set up a final shot, but panic set in leading to an off-balance shot, when Maura was one pass away ready to force the action.  Still, UMBC had a chance to send the game into overtime with 2.1 seconds left on the clock.  A deflected inbound pass found Maura with the ball at halfcourt with the final second on the clock quickly ticking down to goose eggs.  Maura threw up a 46 1/2 foot prayer that was almost answered TWICE!  The ball kicked off the front of the rim and then bounced straight up about 13 feet up from the floor.  In what seemed like 5 seconds to the fans, gravity finally sent the ball toward Earth as the red light illuminated the board like a diner billboard advertising the daily special.  It looked like the pumpkin might drop in the basket, but it fell behind the backboard, giving the win to the Catamounts.

When we tell you avid basketball fans to give the low major and mid major conferences a chance, we really mean it.  Some of the most exciting games are in these mass media ignored leagues.  The Mother Ship will hype these leagues during Championship Week, but you should watch some of these league’s games now when the teams are fighting for spots in the standings, where as opposed to the big conferences, many of the lower leagues value the standings by awarding home games to the superior seeds.

Oh, and the Vermont-UMBC game had the great John Feinstein as the color commentator.  His Schtick reminds our founder of Vin Scully doing a basketball game–great stories with great commentary.

*********

BRACKETOLOGY For 2/13/17

27 days from today, we will know the magic 68 teams that can still win the national championship.  27 days out, our Bracketology Gurus have come to a consensus on 53 of the expected 68 that will receive invitations to the Dance.  15 teams could not receive 100% of the Guru vote.  We will call all the teams that received votes but did not receive a unanimous consensus as our Bubble for the week.  The 15-highest vote-receiving Bubble teams are in the Field of 68 for now, while the rest of the Bubble teams are basically NIT teams for now.

Once again, the Gurus come within one vote of agreeing that 22 conferences will send just one representative to the NCAA Tournament, with the lone dissenter believing that the Missouri Valley Champion runner-up will be a #1 seed in the NIT.  We will go with 22 one-bid leagues and include two Valley teams in the Dance.

ONE-BID LEAGUES

America East: Vermont 13-0/23-5

Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast 9-2/20-7

Big Sky: Weber St. 10-2/15-8

Big South: UNC-Asheville 12-2/20-7

Big West: UC-Davis 8-2/16-9

Colonial: UNC-Wilmington 11-3/22-5

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee 12-1/22-4

Horizon: Valparaiso 11-2/21-5

Ivy: Princeton 8-0/15-6

Metro Atlantic: Monmouth 13-2/21-5

Mid-American: Akron 11-1/21-4

Mideastern Athletic: UNC-Central 9-1/18-6

Mountain West: Boise St. 9-3/16-7

Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s 12-2/14-13

Ohio Valley: Belmont 12-1/18-5

Patriot: Bucknell 11-2/19-7

Southern: Furman 11-2/18-8

Southland: New Orleans 10-3/15-9

Southwestern Athletic: Texas Southern 10-1/14-10

Summit: North Dakota St. 9-3/17-8

Sun Belt: Arkansas St. 9-3/18-7

Western Athletic: Cal State Bakersfield 8-1/17-7

 

The Bubble

Math can be a funny thing sometimes if you are a math geek.  While 15 teams made this week’s PiRate Bracketology Gurus Bubble List, a few of them actually finished with a better seed than a few of the teams that were consensus picks.  The reason for this is that a couple of the teams that did not receive consensus selection were seeded considerably higher than some of the consensus teams in a three or four of the dozen Guru’s lists.  We expect that in the next few weeks, this will work itself out, and there will be a consensus Bubble in early March.

In order, here is this week’s Bubble.  The top 15 in this Bubble make the Dance this week, while number 16 starts the group of first teams out.

  1. Virginia Commonwealth 10-2/20-5
  2. Miami (Fla.) 6-6/16-8
  3. Michigan St. 7-5/15-10
  4. Michigan 6-6/16-9
  5. TCU 6-6/17-8
  6. California 9-4/18-7
  7. Syracuse 8-5/16-10
  8. Minnesota 6-6/18-7
  9. MVC #2 (Illinois St. for now  13-1/21-5)
  10. Kansas St. 5-7/16-9
  11. Oklahoma St. 5-7/16-9
  12. Georgia Tech 6-6/15-10
  13. Seton Hall 5-7/15-9
  14. Marquette 6-7/15-10
  15. Arkansas 7-5/18-7
  16. Wake Forest 6-7/15-10
  17. USC 8-5/21-5
  18. Indiana 5-8/15-11
  19. Tennessee 6-6/14-11
  20. Rhode Island 8-4/16-8
  21. Auburn 5-7/16-9
  22. Pittsburgh 3-9/14-11
  23. Clemson 3-9/13-11
  24. Providence 5-8/15-11
  25. Utah 8-5/17-8
  26. Richmond 9-3/15-9
  27. Texas Tech 4-8/16-9
  28. Alabama 7-5/14-10
  29. Houston 9-4/18-7
  30. Ole Miss 6-6/15-10

As you can see, the Bubble has a lot of teams that really should not even be part of the conversation, but this is one of those seasons where 25 teams are really good and the next 55 teams are rather mediocre.  The law of averages would have us believe that one of these mediocre teams will enter the Field of 68 with 12 or more losses and then advance to the Elite 8 and maybe even steal a spot in the Final Four.  Kansas 27-11 (1988), Villanova 25-10 (1985), and North Carolina State 26-10 (1983) from the past even won the whole thing with a lot more losses than the top teams that fell by the wayside those three seasons.

Here is the seed list for all 68 teams

Teams in CAPS represent selected Conference Champion of One Bid League

1–Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor

2–North Carolina, Florida St., Louisville, Oregon

3–Virginia, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky

4–Duke, West Virginia, Butler, UCLA

5–Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Purdue

6–SMU, Creighton, Maryland, South Carolina

7–Dayton, Xavier, Northwestern, St. Mary’s

8–Iowa St., VCU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan St.

9–Virginia Tech, TCU, Michigan, California

10–Syracuse, Minnesota, Wichita St., Kansas St.

11–Oklahoma St., Illinois St., MIDDLE TENNESSEE, Georgia Tech, Seton Hall

12–UNC-WILMINGTON, AKRON, VALPARAISO, Marquette, Arkansas

13–VERMONT, MONMOUTH, BOISE ST., BELMONT

14–FLORIDA-GULF COAST, PRINCETON, BUCKNELL, ARKANSAS ST.

15–UNC-ASHEVILLE, FURMAN, NORTH DAKOTA ST., CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD

16-NEW ORLEANS, TEXAS SOUTHERN, WEBER ST., CAL-DAVIS, UNC-CENTRAL, MOUNT ST. MARY’S

 

First Four in Dayton

16-Weber St. vs. Mount St. Mary’s

16-Cal-Davis vs. UNC-Central

12-Marquette vs. Arkansas

11-Georgia Tech vs. Seton Hall

 

Last Four Byes

Illinois St.

Oklahoma St.

Kansas St.

Minnesota

 

First Four Out

Wake Forest

USC

Indiana

Tennessee

 

Next Four Out

Rhode Island

Auburn

Clemson

Pittsburgh

Coming Mid-week: We take our next look at the top teams that we consider to be real title contenders and apply our 4 Factors Data and PiRate Ratings Criteria to see which teams have staying power.  Does Gonzaga have what it takes to give Mark Few his first Final Four appearance, or are the Bulldogs headed for an early stumble?  Can Kentucky meld into a real team of character rather than 7 youthful characters and make a run to the title?  Could this be Coach K’s final season in Durham, and could he repeat the performance of John Wooden and go out on top?  Or, is there another team lurking behind the current contenders that may not be getting its due?  Find the answers, or at least our version of the answers, in our next report.  Time permitting, it will be published Wednesday late afternoon (Eastern Time).

February 10, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 11-12, 2017

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 11, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Wake Forest North Carolina St. 12 10 11
Pittsburgh Syracuse -1 -2 2
Duke Clemson 10 12 10
Louisville Miami 14 11 13
Georgia Tech Boston College 9 6 7
Notre Dame Florida St. 1 4 1
West Virginia Kansas St. 12 12 5
Baylor TCU 9 10 13
Texas Tech Kansas -4 -2 -4
Oklahoma St. Texas 15 12 11
Iowa St. Oklahoma 12 12 11
St. John’s Seton Hall 1 -1 -2
Georgetown Marquette 1 2 7
DePaul Creighton -13 -11 -15
Xavier Villanova -1 -2 1
Providence Butler -1 -1 -2
Rutgers Minnesota -5 -3 -7
Illinois Penn St. 4 5 7
Maryland Ohio St. 8 6 6
Michigan St. Iowa 6 8 11
Utah Washington 14 13 15
Arizona St. Stanford 2 2 -3
Arizona California 8 8 7
USC Oregon -4 -5 -7
Florida Texas A&M 16 17 12
Alabama Kentucky -8 -4 -5
Missouri Vanderbilt -4 -3 -7
Tennessee Georgia 7 7 7
Ole Miss Auburn 4 4 7
Mississippi St. South Carolina -5 -3 -5
LSU Arkansas -4 -4 -1
St. Mary’s Gonzaga -8 -1 -1

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 12, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Virginia Tech Virginia -6 -7 -9
SMU Cincinnati 5 3 3
Indiana Michigan 4 4 8
Wisconsin Northwestern 8 9 14
UCLA Oregon St. 28 26 20
Colorado Washington St. 13 14 11

PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Kansas
  4. Virginia
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Louisville
  7. North Carolina
  8. West Virginia
  9. Baylor
  10. Florida St.
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Florida
  13. Kentucky
  14. St. Mary’s
  15. Duke
  16. Purdue
  17. SMU
  18. UCLA
  19. Wichita St.
  20. Creighton
  21. Arizona
  22. Maryland
  23. Oregon
  24. Butler
  25. Dayton

ACC

  1. Virginia
  2. Louisville
  3. North Carolina
  4. Florida St.
  5. Duke
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Wake Forest
  8. Clemson
  9. Syracuse
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Miami
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Pittsburgh
  15. Boston College

Big 12

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas St.
  7. TCU
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Dayton
  5. Xavier
  6. Marquette
  7. Seton Hall
  8. Georgetown
  9. Providence
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Maryland
  4. Northwestern
  5. Minnesota
  6. Michigan
  7. Indiana
  8. Michigan St.
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Pac-12

  1. UCLA
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. USC
  5. Utah
  6. California
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Arizona St.
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.

SEC

  1. Florida
  2. Kentucky
  3. South Carolina
  4. Tennessee
  5. Georgia
  6. Arkansas
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Auburn
  9. Alabama
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

A Great Weekend For Watching Hoops on TV

The Following Games are listed in order of the most exciting and important and not in order of tip-off time

All times given are Eastern Standard

SATURDAY

St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga  8:15 PM on ESPN

Xavier vs. Villanova  2:30 PM on Fox

Notre Dame vs. Florida St. 6:00 PM on ESPN

USC vs. Oregon  10:30 PM on Pac-12 Network

Alabama vs. Kentucky  1:00 PM on CBS

Texas Tech vs. Kansas  2:00 PM on ESPN

Princeton vs. Columbia  6:00 PM  For those that have purchased Ivy League Live Sports Access: http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/princeton/game/columbia-at-princeton-on-02112017

 

SUNDAY

SMU vs. Cincinnati  4:00 PM on ESPN

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia  6:30 PM on ESPNU

Indiana vs. Michigan  1:00 PM on CBS

Wisconsin vs. Northwestern  6:30 PM on Big Ten Network

 

February 6, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 6, 2017

In the height of the Vietnam War, a slogan went around the nation that became a bumper sticker and was emblazoned on t-shirts. It went, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” The slogan became so popular that it became a movie starring Tony Curtis and a cast of popular actors and actors from the late 1960’s.

Suppose they gave a 68-team tournament and 50 teams not deserving of the honor accepted invitations? While the former slogan led to a funny movie, the latter slogan will lead to a diluted NCAA Tournament this season. Back in the 1960’s, there was no set number of teams invited to the NCAA Tournament, or as this writer remembers it, “The UCLA Invitational.” The tournament would invite 22, 23, 24, or 25 teams in those days, depending on how many they felt deserved the invitations. You had automatic qualifiers from the major conferences of the day, which numbered about 17, and then there were about 50 independent teams.

In some years, just five independents had resumes worthy of playing in the tournament. In others, a dozen teams were worthy, but the NCAA maxed out the number at 25, so only eight of the dozen received bids.

The best conferences, by virtue of their won-loss record in the most previous tournaments, received byes in advance of the tournament selection, meaning they began in the Sweet 16. The ACC, Big Ten, Big Eight, SEC, and Pac-8 (AAWU) basically retained byes every year, whereas the Southwest Conference, Missouri Valley, Southern, Middle Atlantic and other strong conferences of the day had to begin in an opening round (play-in) to make the Sweet 16.

There were many years when top 10 teams did not get into the NCAA Tournament, and even a year where the arguably number two team did not get in. Only the conference champions made the NCAA Tournament of that time, and a number two team many times was good enough to be a Final Four contender but had to settle for the NIT or nothing at all.

In 1971, Southern Cal went 24-2 with multiple future NBA stars on their roster. Unfortunately, the two Trojan losses came to number one UCLA. USC stayed home in the postseason as a top 5 team.

The NCAA Tournaments in those days had its share of blowout games, especially when UCLA played their Sweet 16 game. The old PCAA or WCAC (two leagues that no longer exist) provided fodder for the Bruins. Frequently, the opponent would stall in the pre-shot clock days, but it did not matter, as the Bruins would win 50-39 over a lightweight that never had a chance.

What can we take from the current and the past and plan something better for the future? The 1971 USC’s should not have been punished for being the possible second best team in the nation and not having a postseason to continue playing. However, inviting a team that finished in the bottom half of their league standings to the tournament is just as wrong. Why invite a team that goes 7-11 in league play and finishes the regular season at 19-14? This team doesn’t even deserve to be in the NIT.

There are roughly 20 teams every year that really deserve to be on the national stage when the title is on the line. Sure, you have your upsets, but when a #15 upsets a #2, all that has done has removed a really good team from the later part of the tournament. The #15 almost always goes down by a large number in the next game.

And, yes, a George Mason, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth makes a deep run every five or so years. So, there are some good low-major teams that occasionally deserve to be on display.

How best can the fans and teams be serviced so that the really good teams do not have to go through a gauntlet of low-major opponents, but at the same time, have a system in place that allows the low majors to compete?

We at the PiRate Ratings have been toying with an idea for a couple of years, refining it a little each year. Here is how we believe the tournament could be changed to make it more exciting for the low major teams, while at the same allows the major conference teams to face off without having to go through a low-major opponent first.

Here’s how we would do it, and it would add four additional teams to bring the total to 72:

Divide the NCAA Tournament into two brackets
1. An upper bracket with the 24 best teams from the major conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC). The national champion has come from teams in these conferences every year since UNLV won in 1990.

2. A lower bracket that includes the 25 conference champions from the remaining conferences plus the 23 best remaining teams, regardless of their conference.

3. The upper bracket 24 would play one round to reduce to 12 teams, each seeded 1-2-3 in one of the four regionals

4. The lower bracket 48 would be seeded into 4, 12-team sections or subregionals to the upper bracket regionals. The top four teams in each subregion would receive byes to the second round, while the 5-12 teams in the four regions would play in the first round.

5. The four regions would go from 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1.

6. The winners of the four regions would then join the 12 upper bracket winners to make the Sweet 16.

7. Each region would have one “cinderella” and three power conference teams remaining.

8. The power 24 would have to win five times to become the national champion, while the other 48 would have to win seven or eight games depending on seed, but at least four of these teams would now make the Sweet 16 every year and win three or four tournament games.

Let’s use some pretend teams as an example for the 2019-20 season.
Let’s say that Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 and enters the Big Dance at 30-4. They are seeded #1 in the Midwest Regionals in Kansas City. At the same time, Virginia finished in fourth place in the ACC with an overall 26-8. They are seeded #6 in the Midwest. Oklahoma State and Virginia would face off, and the winner would advance to the Sweet 16. The #2 and #5 teams and #3 and #4 teams would play in this same region in a triple header. The other three regions would do the same #1 vs. #6, #2 vs. #5, and #3 vs. #4.

A week earlier, the lower bracket would start play. Let’s say your team is the Summit League champion South Dakota who finished the regular season as probably the best low major team with an overall record of 31-3. They are seeded number one in the lower bracket Midwest Sub-region. They get a bye, while #5 seed Northern Iowa (25-9) plays #12 seed UT-Arlington (an upset winner in the conference tournament and just 14-18 overall). Northern Iowa then trounces UTA and advances to play South Dakota. South Dakota proceeds to beat Northern Iowa. They follow it up with two more victories over mid-majors to win the Midwest Sub-region and advance to the Sweet 16. They face Oklahoma St. in the next round.

We have heard other possibilities like moving the top 8 conferences into a super league with the top 16 teams from this group facing off in playoffs similar to the NBA playoffs. How would you like a best of 7 North Carolina-Kansas finals instead of one game? Might a 7-game series between these two teams or Kentucky vs. Villanova, UCLA vs. Duke, or any other series final between dynasty schools shatter all types of viewer records?

Back to the present–the above is just a pipe dream, but sometimes the dreamers create something incredible for the world. Let’s look at the 2017 NCAA Tournament contenders. Conference Championship Fortnight is fast approaching.
ONE BID LEAGUES

America East
Vermont 10-0/20-5
Stony Brook 8-2/13-10
UMBC 7-3/16-7

The Vermont winning streak has now stretched to a dozen games following two double-digit victories during the week. The Catamounts close with four home games, one road game against a weak conference foe, and one road game against UMBC. If they win out to improve to 29-5 by Selection Sunday, it would not be a push to see the Catamounts seeded as high as 11. They have no major wins, but they competed against teams that will be in the Dance.

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast 8-1/19-6
Lipscomb 7-2/15-11
South Carolina St. 5-4/15-11
North Florida 5-4/10-16
Kennesaw St. 5-4/11-14

The top two teams have pulled away from the pack with a couple of really good weeks of actions. FGCU has won five games in a row, while Lipscomb’s winning streak is now four games. FGCU has the best defense in the league, while Lipscomb has the best offense. The Eagles have been here before and even made the Sweet 16 under former coach Andy Enfield. As for the Bisons, they have made the NIT and CIT in the past, but the last time they played for a chance to win the national title was win they were the Duke of the NAIA.

Big Sky
Weber St. 9-1/14-7
Eastern Washington 8-3/16-8
North Dakota 8-3/13-8
Idaho 7-4/12-10

Weber St. has now won 12 of 13 games, and if they keep winning and earn the automatic bid, the Wildcats may be able to avoid having to begin in Dayton. Weber St. leads the nation in 3-point percentage at 43.1%, and they don’t lead by taking a conservative amount of bombs. They make almost 10 per game. Senior guard Jeremy Senglin has hit close to half of his three-pointer, and he leads the Wildcats with a 21-point average. A weak rebounding frontcourt will doom WSU against the big boys, and you can never fully count on three-point shooting to carry you through a conference tournament, so keep an eye on the other contenders in this league.

It counts as just one win, but Eastern Washington comes off an historic record-breaking night. The Eagles met Portland State Saturday and played a triple overtime affair that ended with a 130-124 victory. Teammates Jacob Wiley and Bogdan Bliznyuk did something that may never again be replicated: they both scored 45 points in the game, while combining for 27 rebounds. They also both played 53 of a possible 55 minutes, and EWU could be vulnerable in the second half of their next game at North Dakota on Thursday. Second place will be on the line.

Big South
Winthrop 10-2/18-5
UNC-Asheville 10-2/18-7
Liberty 10-2/15-10

What was once an automatic given that UNC-Asheville would win the conference in both the regular season and the postseason conference tournament has now become anything but that. This is the best three-team race in the low-major conferences, and there is no clear choice as to which team is best. UNCA still has home games with the other two contenders, so the Bulldogs may have a slight advantage for the top seed. In this league, the number one seed gets to play at home throughout the tournament.

Big West
UC-Davis 6-2/14-9
UC-Irvine 6-3/13-12
Cal State Northridge 6-4/10-13
Hawaii 5-4/11-11 is ineligible

No Big West team has played consistently enough to make much noise in the Big Dance this year. UC-Davis lost to a 6-win Cal Poly team last week. Irvine has dropped three games in a row. Northridge fell at home to a Hawaii team that all of a sudden looks like the best team in the league but one that cannot compete for the bid due to ineligibility. Senior guard Noah Allen has been hot as of late, scoring at a better than 23 points per game clip in the most previous seven contests.

Colonial
UNC-Wilmington 10-2/21-4
College of Charleston 10-2/19-6
Elon 7-5/15-10
Towson 7-5/15-10
William & Mary 7-5/13-10

A couple weeks ago, UNCW was close to earning a spot on the bubble if they needed an at-large invitation to the Dance. However, the Seahawks have hit a rough patch, losing by 18 at William and Mary, and then dropping a home game to Charleston due to a late defensive lapse that allowed Charleston to get a basket and foul shot at the end to win the game.

Now, this has become a definite one-bid league. Neither Wilmington nor Charleston can improve their resumes enough to move into contention to become a bubble team. In fact, neither co-leader can be considered a heavy favorite to win the conference tournament, because there is some quality in the next group of teams, as William and Mary’s domination of Wilmington proves.

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee 10-1/20-4
Louisiana Tech 8-3/16-8
Old Dominion 7-4/14-9
UAB 7-4/14-10

Middle Tennessee was in the same, or even better, boat as UNCW. If the Blue Raiders had won out in the regular season, there would have been a fair chance that they could have still gotten into the field of 68 if they had been upset in the CUSA Championship Game. Losing to UTEP has basically popped MTSU’s bubble. If they want another chance to upset a big team like they did last year when they raced past Michigan State, they will have to win the conference tournament.

This year, there is a lot of quality talent all the way down to the 10th place team, so the conference tournament is going to be quite interesting. Keep and eye on two teams well back in the pack that could gel into winning units in March. Marshall tends to wear teams down in the second halves of games, and they could take advantage of their helter-skelter philosophy against an inferior conditioned opponent in the semifinals and finals of the tournament. Western Kentucky has under-performed to date, and the Hilltoppers could decide to put it together when they arrive in Birmingham for the conference tourney.

Horizon
Valparaiso 9-2/19-5
Green Bay 9-3/15-9
Oakland 8-4/18-7

Here is one more league where the leader was positioning for at-large contention, but like the previous two conference leaders, Valpo went down hard at Green Bay on Saturday, losing by 17 points. If the Crusaders win out from here but lose in the Horizon League Championship Game, they would be 28-6 with one win over a team that was in the top 25 (Rhode Island) at the time they played. A case could be made for Valpo, but we believe politics would send a power conference team into the Dance ahead of the Crusaders.

Ivy
Princeton 5-0/12-6
Yale 5-1/13-6
Harvard 4-2/12-7
Columbia 4-2/10-9

Mark it down–the four top teams above have basically already clinched the four spots in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra in Philadelphia. There is still time for the two-loss teams to catch Princeton for the top seed, but it really matters very little how the four teams will be seeded on a neutral floor that will not have the home team Penn Quakers present. The winner of the automatic bid should be a quick out this year, as none of the Ivy League teams have exceptional and experienced talent. Harvard has the most talent, but their top two players are inconsistent freshmen.

Metro Atlantic
Monmouth 11-2/19-5
Iona 9-4/16-8
Saint Peter’s 8-5/12-11
Canisius 7-6/14-10
Siena 7-6/10-14

This year’s Monmouth team is a little less talented overall than the one that deserved to be an at-large team last year. However, the 2017 Hawks may get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament as the MAAC champion, when last year’s team was capable of winning a game or two or three. This year’s team would have to be hitting on all cylinders to win a game.

The path to the Dance is not a simple one for Coach King Rice and his team. Their old nemesis, Iona, is playing the best basketball of any league team at this time, and Monmouth still has to pay a visit to New Rochelle, where Monmouth ended a long Gael home winning streak last year. Iona then won at Monmouth and beat Monmouth again in the MAAC Tournament finals.

St. Peter’s has given Monmouth fits this year. The Peacocks bested Monmouth by 10 in Jersey City, and they almost completed the sweep before losing in OT at Monmouth Friday night.

Mid-American
Akron 9-1/19-4
Ohio 6-4/14-7
Ball St. 6-4/14-8
Northern Illinois 6-4/14-9
4 others at 5-5

Akron is the favorite to win the conference tournament, but the Zips are only marginal favorites in a league where teams from just off the lead tend to win the conference tournament. The team nobody wants to see in its bracket is Central Michigan, because if the Chippewas are hot, they can shoot teams out of the gym in a matter of a couple minutes. No other Division I team in recent memory has had two 5-9 guards in the starting lineup. Also, no other DI has had a player averaging over 30 points per game and another at more than 20 per game. In CMU’s case, the two 5-9 guards are the two high scorers in question. Marcus Keene tops 30 points per game, while Braylon Rayson tops 20. Keene has the lone 50-point game in NCAA play this year.

Mideastern Athletic
North Carolina Central 7-1/16-6
Morgan St. 7-2/10-12
Norfolk St. 7-2/10-13
Savannah St. 7-3/10-13 is ineligible

UNC-Central and Norfolk St. continued to extend lengthy winning streaks last week, with UNCC’s hitting seven games and NSU’s reaching six. We believe that UNC-Central has the capability of pulling off a major upset in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the conference tournament and move up to a #15 or even #14 seed. The Eagles play tough half-court defense; they hold their own on the boards for a team that is more of a ball-hawking defense. Most of all, they have held their own against power conference teams, winning at Missouri and almost winning at Ohio State and LSU.

Mountain West
Boise St. 8-3/15-7
Nevada 7-3/18-5
Colorado St. 7-4/15-9
New Mexico 7-5/14-10

Leon Rice is a poor man’s Mark Few. The Boise State coach has made the Broncos a consistent big winner in his seven years in The Potato Republic. Had the Broncos been able to hold onto a lead against Oregon earlier in the season, they could be on the bubble, as they did beat SMU in the pre-conference schedule.

Nevada was 16-3 a couple weeks ago, which included a double-digit win at Boise State, but the Wolfpack have cooled off in the last fortnight. Coach Eric Musselman does not look like a former NBA head coach due to his height (5-7) and his weight (150), but he makes up for it with his brain (Einsteinian). When Musselman left assistant positions at Arizona State and LSU, the teams regressed quite a bit from the way they were when he was there. In just a year and a half in the biggest little town in America, the biggest little coach has proven that he is ready for a big contract reward at a big power conference school.

Northeast
Mount St. Mary’s 10-2/12-13
St. Francis PA 8-4/11-12
Fairleigh Dickinson 8-4/10-13
Long Island 7-5/14-11

It will be close to a miracle if the eventual champion of this league avoids an opening round game in Dayton. At the moment, the top of the league is swooning, while the middle of the pack is gaining. It should make for an excellent conference tournament that is up for grabs, but it also should make for a quick exit for the eventual champion when the center jump circle logo changes from NEC to NCAA. Although the tournament is played at the higher seeded home courts, the home court advantanges in this league are not all that advantageous.

Ohio Valley
Belmont 11-0/17-4
Morehead St. 7-3/11-12
UT-Martin 7-4/17-9
Jacksonville St. 7-4/15-11
Murray St. 6-4/12-12

Belmont has run away with the regular season race, as the Bruins have a commanding 3 1/2 game lead in their division. The Bruins have won 13 games in a row, and their four losses are to Vanderbilt, Florida, Rhode Island, and Middle Tennessee. Belmont cannot get in as an at-large team, as they have not beaten a top 50 team. The Bruins have outscored their conference foes by more than 13 points per game, so it will take either a monumental effort by a rival or a total collapse by the Bruins (and maybe both) for another team to get the automatic bid. The Bruins know how to get to the Dance; they have been there seven times in the last 11 years. One of these years, they are going to upset somebody with their hot inside-outside shooting. Belmont has led both Duke and Virginia in the second half of NCAA Tournament games, and they have won at North Carolina, so they will not feel intimidated in the Dance.

Patriot
Bucknell 10-1/18-6
Boston 8-4/13-11
Navy 8-4/13-11
Lehigh 7-5/13-10

Like Belmont, Bucknell has been the dominant team in their league. Additionally, the Bison have two NCAA first round wins (Arkansas and Kansas) in this century. This year, Bucknell has wins at Vanderbilt and at home against Richmond, but that is not enough to merit at-large consideration.

Lehigh beat Bucknell in Lewisburg, so the home court advantage that goes to the top seed is not that strong. In fact, Bucknell has been the top seed five times in the last six years and only twice won the conference tournament. Overall, the top seed has won just half of the conference tournaments in this century.

Southern
Furman 9-2/16-8
East Tennessee St. 8-2/18-5
Chattanooga 8-3/17-6
UNC-Greensboro 8-4/17-8

This league is undervalued this year. The top four contenders all have enough talent to get past a higher-seed in the Round of 64, and it would not be a major surprise if the SoCon representative sneaks into the Sweet 16.

ETSU has the resume of the team with the most chance of winning in the Big Dance, as the Buccaneers have no real weaknesses. Coach Steve Forbes, a former assistant to Bruce Pearl at Tennessee, has his team playing with the same hustle that made the Volunteers an SEC power during his time in Knoxville. ETSU has a nice rebounding advantage over their opponents, but the key to their exceptional defense and fast break comes from the pressure defense that allows the Bucs to steal eight passes a night.

Chattanooga has not yet played up to its potential, as former star Casey Jones has not returned to the form that made him the best player in the league prior to a season-ending injury last year. At the time, Jones had an unbelievable 6 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. This year, he has more turnovers than assists.

Southland
Sam Houston St. 8-3/17-7
New Orleans 8-3/13-9
Stephen F. Austin 7-4/12-11
Lamar 6-4/14-9

The co-leader can hear footsteps. With Brad Brownell no longer lurking on the sidelines at SF Austin, it appeared that somebody else would win the SLC for a change. When SFA began the season at 1-2 in league play and 6-9 overall, the Lumberjacks were dismissed as a rebuilding team with a new coach that needed seasoning.

Since then, SFA is 6-2, and all of a sudden the Lumberjacks are just one game behind the top two. The top two must still play the Lumberjacks before the SLC Tournament begins, so the top seed is definitely up for grabs.

Southwestern Athletic
Texas Southern 9-1/13-10
Southern 6-4/10-13
Alcorn St. 7-3/10-11 is ineligible
Under former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, Texas Southern has won either the regular season or SWAC tournament four consecutive years, so it should come as no surprise that the Tigers are the class of the league once again this year. TSU is 0-6 in NCAA Tournament history, and unless they receive a ticket to Dayton to play in the Opening Round, they are likely to fall to 0-7, if they make it back this year.

Summit
North Dakota St. 7-3/15-8
Denver 7-4/15-9
South Dakota 7-4/16-10
Omaha 6-5/13-11
Fort Wayne 5-5/16-8

North Dakota State has come back to the pack with successive losses. The most recent one was at home to South Dakota in a game that was not close following an 18-0 USD run in the first half. This should be an entertaining conference tournament, and current fifth place team Fort Wayne has shown that this league has merit. They are mediocre in league play, but the Mastodons beat Indiana out of conference. This could be the league with the best overall home court advantage in college basketball.

Sun Belt
Arkansas St. 8-2/17-6
Georgia St. 8-2/15-7
Georgia Southern 8-2/15-8
UT-Arlington 7-3/17-6
Texas St. 6-4/13-9
Coastal Carolina 6-4/11-12

Georgia State and Arkansas State have long winning streaks (7 & 6 respectively), but the two teams are only slight favorites to make it to the final round of the SBC Tournament. The SBC Tournament will take place in New Orleans, and it will be a truly neutral site. UTA has the big non-conference win, as the Mavericks’ 14-point win at St. Mary’s might look really good if the Gaels beat Gonzaga in Moraga this weekend.

Western Athletic
New Mexico St. 8-0/22-2
Cal State Bakersfield 6-1/15-7
Grand Canyon 4-3/15-9 is ineligible as a transitioning team to D1.

Just how good is New Mexico State? The Aggies have very little competition in the WAC this year, and NMSU could easily run the table to the Big Dance. At 30-2, their resume would have very little to elevate the Aggies up to a single-digit seed. They did trounce Arizona State in Tempe, but that is not a big deal this year. The Aggies will get a shot in the arm soon when guard Sidy N’Dir returns to action following a ligament tear early this year. If N’Dir can return close to form, NMSU could be a dangerous dark horse against an unsuspecting higher seed.

ONE OR TWO BID LEAGUE
Missouri Valley
The Missouri Valley Conference comes in as a split decision this week among our gurus. Of the 12 participating contributors, six had the MVC as a one-bid league, while six had two teams making the Dance.

Wichita St. 11-1/21-4
Illinois St. 11-1/19-5

If you looked at the scoreboard late Saturday night or Sunday, and you saw the score of the rematch between Wichita State and Illinois State, you might be thinking we are crazy that ISU is still in the discussion. If you didn’t see the result, Wichita embarrassed the Redbirds to the tune of a 86-45 pasting. The Shockers opened an early second half 30-point lead and then extended it to 40 with 2:41 remaining in the game.

So how can Illinois State still be in the discussion? First of all, margin of victory does not count, which is why you will see that Clemson is still a Bubble team after losing by even more to Florida State yesterday. Second, ISU is still tied for first in a league that has had a recent Final Four participant and undefeated number one team entering the NCAA Tournament. And, should the two teams keep winning and meet for a rubber match in the finals of Arch Madness, the loser of that game would definitely be in the mix. Finally, there just are not a lot of great middle of the pack teams in the major conferences this year. It is a lean year, so the MVC has a good chance at sending two teams to the Field of 68.

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES
American Athletic
In
Cincinnati 10-0/21-2
SMU 10-1/20-4

Contending
Houston 7-4/16-7
Memphis 7-4/17-7

Atlantic 10
In
Dayton 8-2/17-5
VCU 8-2/18-5

Contending
Richmond 8-3/14-9
Rhode Island 7-3/15-7

Atlantic Coast
In
North Carolina 9-2/21-4
Florida St. 8-3/20-4
Louisville 7-3/19-4
Virginia 7-3/17-5
Syracuse 7-4/15-9
Duke 6-4/18-5
Notre Dame 6-5/17-7
Virginia Tech 5-5/16-6
Miami 5-5/15-7
Clemson 3-7/13-9

Contending
Wake Forest 5-6/14-9
Georgia Tech 5-6/13-10
North Carolina St. 3-8/14-10

Big 12
In
Kansas 8-2/20-3
Baylor 7-3/20-3
West Virginia 6-4/18-5
Iowa St. 6-4/14-8
TCU 5-5/16-7
Kansas St. 5-5/16-7
Oklahoma St. 4-6/15-8

Contending
Texas Tech 4-6/16-7

Big East
In
Villanova 9-2/22-2
Xavier 7-3/17-6
Creighton 7-4/20-4
Butler 7-4/18-5
Marquette 6-5/15-8

Contending
Seton Hall 4-6/14-8
Georgetown 4-7/13-11

Big Ten
In
Wisconsin 9-1/20-3
Maryland 8-2/20-3
Purdue 8-3/19-5
Northwestern 7-3/18-5
Michigan St. 6-4/14-9
Minnesota 4-6/16-7
Indiana 5-6/15-9

Contending
Michigan 4-6/14-9
Illinois 3-8/13-11

Pacific 12
In
Oregon 10-1/21-3
Arizona 10-1/21-3
UCLA 8-3/21-3
USC 7-4/20-4
California 8-3/17-6

Contending
Utah 6-5/16-8

Southeastern
In
South Carolina 9-1/19-4
Florida 8-2/18-5
Kentucky 8-2/18-5
Arkansas 6-4/17-6

Contending
Alabama 6-4/13-9
Tennessee 5-5/13-10
Auburn 4-6/15-8
Georgia 4-6/13-10

Here is the consensus field of 68 from our Gurus

Seed Team Conf.
1 Villanova B E
1 Gonzaga WCC
1 Kansas B12
1 Baylor B12
2 Louisville ACC
2 North Carolina ACC
2 Florida St. ACC
2 Oregon P12
3 Arizona P12
3 Kentucky SEC
3 Virginia ACC
3 West Virginia B12
4 UCLA P12
4 Wisconsin BTen
4 Cincinnati AAC
4 Florida SEC
5 Butler B E
5 Creighton B E
5 Duke ACC
5 Purdue BTen
6 Maryland BTen
6 South Carolina SEC
6 St. Mary’s WCC
6 Xavier B E
7 Notre Dame ACC
7 Northwestern BTen
7 SMU AAC
7 USC P12
8 Virginia Tech ACC
8 Iowa St. B12
8 Dayton A10
8 Minnesota BTen
9 VCU A10
9 Michigan St. BTen
9 Oklahoma St. B12
9 Marquette B E
10 Kansas St. B12
10 Middle Tennessee CUSA
10 TCU B12
10 Indiana BTen
11 Clemson ACC
11 Wichita St. MVC
11 Miami ACC
11 UNC-Wilmington CAA
12 Arkansas SEC
12 New Mexico St. WAC
12 California P12
12 Nevada MWC
12 Akron MAC
12 Vermont AEast
13 Monmouth MAAC
13 Valparaiso Horiz
13 Illinois St. MVC
13 Syracuse ACC
14 Belmont OVC
14 Princeton Ivy
14 Florida Gulf Coast ASun
14 Arkansas St. SBC
15 Bucknell Pat
15 East Tennessee St. Sou
15 Winthrop BSth
15 North Dakota St. Summ
16 Texas Southern SWAC
16 Sam Houston St. SLC
16 Weber St. BSky
16 UC-Davis BWst
16 UNC-Central MEAC
16 Mount St. Mary’s NEC

The Last 8 In

TCU

Indiana

Clemson

Miami

Arkansas

California

Illinois St.

Syracuse

 

First Four Out

Seton Hall

Michigan

Wake Forest 

Texas Tech

 

Dayton Bound

Arkansas vs. Miami

California vs. Clemson

Weber St. vs. Mount St. Mary’s

UNC-Central vs. UC-Davis

February 3, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 4-5, 2017

 

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 4, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Syracuse Virginia -7 -6 -9
Duke Pittsburgh 15 16 12
Boston College Louisville -15 -13 -15
North Carolina St. Miami (Fla.) -1 -1 1
Wake Forest Georgia Tech 11 12 11
North Carolina Notre Dame 9 8 9
Georgetown Seton Hall 3 3 7
DePaul Marquette -10 -8 -9
Creighton Xavier 6 5 5
Villanova St. John’s 17 19 19
Maryland Purdue -2 -3 1
Penn St. Rutgers 8 6 8
Illinois Minnesota -2 1 -1
Michigan Ohio St. 7 8 2
TCU Texas 8 6 5
Kansas Iowa St. 11 10 10
Baylor Kansas St. 9 9 14
West Virginia Oklahoma St. 11 13 7
Texas Tech Oklahoma 7 9 7
Oregon Arizona 2 4 5
Stanford Utah -3 -3 -2
Oregon St. Arizona St. -6 -2 -1
Washington St. USC -7 -8 -5
Washington UCLA -11 -10 -6
South Carolina Georgia 8 6 6
Vanderbilt Ole Miss 6 6 8
Mississippi St. Tennessee -4 -1 -6
Missouri Arkansas -6 -4 -3
Florida Kentucky 1 4 1
Alabama Auburn 6 7 9
LSU Texas A&M -3 -2 -6
Cincinnati Connecticut 14 14 14
Tulsa SMU -6 -6 -6
Gonzaga Santa Clara 27 20 23
San Diego Saint Mary’s -15 -16 -16

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 5, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Florida St. Clemson 8 6 8
Wisconsin Indiana 9 7 4
Iowa Nebraska 7 6 3
California Colorado 5 6 8

PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Louisville
  4. West Virginia
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Virginia
  9. Duke
  10. Florida
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Baylor
  13. Arizona
  14. Purdue
  15. UCLA
  16. Cincinnati
  17. Florida St.
  18. Oregon
  19. Creighton
  20. St. Mary’s
  21. Notre Dame
  22. SMU
  23. Butler
  24. South Carolina
  25. Wichita St.

ACC

  1. Louisville
  2. North Carolina
  3. Virginia
  4. Duke
  5. Florida St.
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Clemson
  8. Wake Forest
  9. Virgnia Tech
  10. Miami
  11. Syracuse
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Pittsburgh
  15. Boston College

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Xavier
  5. Marquette
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Georgetown
  8. Providence
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Maryland
  4. Northwestern
  5. Michigan St.
  6. Michigan
  7. Minnesota
  8. Indiana
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Big 12

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kansas
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas St.
  7. TCU
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas

Pac-12

  1. Arizona
  2. UCLA
  3. Oregon
  4. Utah
  5. USC
  6. California
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Arizona St.
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.

SEC

  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. Tennessee
  6. Georgia
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Alabama
  9. Auburn
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Ole Miss
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

Games You Will Want to Watch 

All Times Eastern Standard

SATURDAY

Maryland vs. Purdue 12:00 PM on ESPN

Creighton vs. Xavier 3:00 PM on Fox

North Dakota St. vs. South Dakota 3:00 PM on ESPN3

Oregon vs. Arizona 4:00 PM on ESPN

North Carolina vs. Notre Dame 6:00 PM on ESPN

Harvard vs. Princeton 7:00 PM on ESPN3

Wichita St. vs. Illinois St. 8:00 PM on ESPN2

Florida vs. Kentucky 8:15 PM on ESPN

SUNDAY

Wisconsin vs. Indiana 1:00 PM on CBS

The Groundhog may have seen his shadow to forecast 6 more weeks of winter, but cheer up.  Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training in 10 days.

New England 24  Atlanta 20

Use this at your own expense–we do not gamble.  Some experts are going heavy on the UNDER the last 36 hours, and computer sims say it is a sharp selection, but still we won’t wager a penny.

February 1, 2017

NFL Ratings And Spreads For Super Bowl LI: February 1, 2017

We present our Super Bowl LI preview a few days later than originally planned, but we decided that 100 computer simulations were not enough.  Over the last several days, we have visited the big bits and bytes to run numerous simulations on the big game.  We stopped at 10,000, the going rate among other simulators out there.

After running the first 100, we recorded the results to see how much different the results from 10,000 simulations.  What we found was that one metric definitely and consistently came through in both 100 and 10,000 sims that could be used by somebody unconcerned with losing a lot of their investment.  See below for the shocking revelation concerning this game and the Las Vegas Books.

Let’s get on with the data.

Super Bowl LI

Date: Sunday, February 5, 2017

Time: 6:30 PM EST

Place: Houston, TX

TV: Fox Sports

Radio: Westwood One

Find Your Affiliate Here

Online: Foxsports.com

AFC Champion: New England Patriots 16-2-0

NFC Champion: Atlanta Falcons 13-5-0

 

Las Vegas Info

Current Line (2/1/17 @ 10AM EST): New England by 3

Totals Line: 59

Money Line: New England -155, Atlanta +135

 

PiRate Ratings

PiRate: New England by 2.4

Mean: New England by 0.6

Bias: New England by 3.2

Average: New England by 2

Total: 60

 

10,000 Simulations

The winner when we simulated 100 times was the same as the winner when we simulated 10,000 times.  The average margin minimally changed between 100 and 10,000 sims.

The standard deviation went down a little with 10,000 sims, but that was to be expected with so many more sims.

What surprised us was the definite deviation between the Total Points and the Vegas Total, and it is so wide that we felt compelled to highlight this even though we BEG you not to bet on this game using our data and cannot stress enough that we bet $0 on sporting events.

 

Wins: New England 53.9%  Atlanta 46.1%

Percentage going to overtime: 0.87%

Average Score: New England 24.3  Atlanta 23.2  ***47.5 points***

St Deviation: 7.3 (almost 2 deviations difference in Vegas Total)

Outlier A: New England 34  Atlanta 7

Outlier B: Atlanta 29  New England 10

Percentage of outcomes under 59 total points: 87.78%

If you haven’t caught on, the computer simulator says that about 7 out of every 8 times these two teams would face off in Houston, the total score would be less than 59 points.

This disagrees with our own PiRate Rating expected total of 60, but our totals have been totally pitiful this year.  I would trust this simulator over our own ratings.

 

So, we would make the UNDER 59 our best advice for this game, but once again we beg, urge, and plead with you not to wager money using the information we supply to you.  We are in this just for fun.

January 31, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For January 31, 2017

The end of January means the NCAA Tournament Bracketology report begins to get serious. Many teams have now played themselves into the Dance short of pulling a 1964 Philadelphia Phillies collapse. Many teams now know that their only hope is to win their conference tournament. They may have actually already thrown in the towel until then.

Then, you have about 30 to 40 teams that are in the hoops Twilight Zone as the Ground Hog prepares for his big day. These three dozen or so teams are the infamous Bubblers. From this group, about a dozen will receive invitations, while the rest will have to make due with the NIT. Of course, with every 11-20 team that gets hot for four days and becomes quick-exit fodder for a high seed, one of those bubbles will pop.

As for our Gurus, we have made some major changes. Because not all of our Gurus from last season returned this year, and because we decided to stop including seven bracketologists due to ridiculous brackets (like including two Ivy League teams in last year’s bracket), we have reduced our numbers to just 11 Gurus this week. However, we are attempting to include five more nationally renowned Gurus,  a quintet of rather accurate Bracketologists, as soon as next week. One new Guru has already agreed to join us, and his bracketology ratings are included in this report.

Once again, the Guru Composite shows 22 conferences that will send just one team to the tournament. That leaves 46 teams from among the remaining 10 leagues, so that means 36 at-large teams will be needed if the one-bid leagues stay consistent. As of this week, there are 54 teams competing for those 36 spots, meaning 18 will be disappointed. This number of disappointments will go up as surprise conference champions emerge from the 10 top leagues.

ONE-BID LEAGUES
American East
At 8-0/18-5, Vermont has lapped the field with road wins over Stony Brook 6-2/11-10, New Hampshire 5-3/14-8, and Albany 4-4/13-10, three of the next four teams. The Catamounts also beat UMBC 5-3/14-7, but it was at home. The Retrievers host Vermont on Sunday, February 12. Vermont has a 14.3 points per game scoring margin in A-East play.

Atlantic Sun
Two teams have pulled away from the pack in the last two weeks. Florida Gulf Coast 7-1/18-6 and Lipscomb 6-2/14-11 have shown they are the class of the league this year. The always competitive FGCU won at Lipscomb in early January, and the two play on Thursday, February 9, in Fort Myers. FGCU has won 11 of their last 12 games.

Big Sky
After a 2-6 start, Weber State has won 10 of 11 games to improve to 7-1/12-7. The Wildcats are heavy favorites to earn what should be a number 16 seed and possible demotion to Dayton in the opening round. Top contenders include North Dakota 7-3/12-8 and Eastern Washington 6-3/14-8.

Big South
The race is wide open with three co-leaders at the moment. Winthrop 8-2/16-5, UNC-Asheville 8-2/16-7, and Liberty 8-2/13-10 are two games clear of the field, but the hot team in the league at the end of Janaury is High Point 6-4/12-10. The Panthers own a five-game winning streak that includes a comeback overtime win at Winthrop.

Big West
An off year in the league makes for excellent parity, as five teams could still win the regular season title. UC-Davis 5-1/13-8 has the lead, but it is precarious. Hot on the Aggies’ heels are UC-Irvine 6-2/13-11, Cal State Northridge 5-3/9-12, Long Beach State 4-3/9-14, and UC Riverside 4-3/6-12. Long Beach State is our choice to become the eventual representative, but the Gurus go with the top team at the time of their reports, so UC Davis will be the team listed in our report.

Colonial Athletic
UNC-Wilmington 9-1/20-3 proved they could be defeated in league play last week, as William & Mary 6-4/12-9 rode the arms of Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon to shoot the Seahawks out of Kaplan Arena. Other top contenders in the CAA include College of Charleston 8-2/17-6, Elon 6-4/14-9, and Northeastern 6-4/13-9. Still, it will be a major surprise if UNCW doesn’t threepeat in the CAA Tournament.

Conference USA
It is now a near metaphysical certitude that Middle Tennessee State 9-0/19-3 is the top mid-major team in the land this year (this statement is true only if you consider the Missouri Valley and West Coast Conferences to be Power Conferences with multiple bids forthcoming from both leagues). The Blue Raiders have double digit wins over three top contenders, UAB 7-2/14-8, Louisiana Tech 6-3/14-8, and Marshall 6-3/13-9. MTSU has yet to play Old Dominion 6-3/13-8. Kermit Davis’s squad faces a three-game road gauntlet in the second half of the month against Western Kentucky, Marshall, and UAB, one of whom is sure to give the Blue Raiders a loss. If Middle runs the table and then wins the CUSA Tournament, at 31-3, they would have to be favored to make it to the Sweet 16 a year after trouncing Michigan State in the Round of 64.

Horizon
Valparaiso won the regular season title a year ago but suffered an upset in the conference tournament and had to make do with the NIT. This year, the Crusaders 8-1/18-4 have a new coach in Matt Lotich, but they still have the top player in the league in Alex Peters, who averages 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. Valpo’s path to the top seed will not be easy, though, as Green Bay 7-3/13-9 and Oakland 6-4/16-7 get to host the Crusaders in February. Oakland previously won at Valpo.

Ivy
With the inaugural Ivy League Tournament just 39 days away, it’s all about finishing in the top four, since the first Ivy League tourney will have just four participants. If you ask us, and since you are reading this, you have in essence asked us, the four teams that will make it to the Palestra on March 11 have already been determined. Princeton 3-0/10-6, Harvard 3-1/11-6, Yale 3-1/11-6, and Columbia 3-1/9-8 were the top four teams last year, and they appear to be so again. None of this quartet appears to be talented enough to get past the Round of 64.

Metro Atlantic
They don’t have the resume they had last year when they felt they were jilted by the Big Guys that look out for the Big Guys, but Monmouth 10-2/18-5 is starting to look like a prohibitive favorite in the MAAC. The Hawks have outscored their opponents by 15 points per game in their eight game winning streak. Iona 8-4/15-8 and St. Peter’s 8-4/12-10 are the top two contenders.

Mid-American
With each passing week, Akron 8-0/18-3 distances themselves from the rest of the league. The Zips have opened up a three-game lead over the pack in the MAC, with a pair of 6-10 dominators inside in Kwan Cheatham, Jr. and Isaiah Johnson teaming to average 28 points and 15 rebounds per game. Akron is not an at-large candidate at this point, as the Zips have no Top 100 wins along with a nasty loss to Youngstown State, who rates below #250. Additionally, even though they have run the table in the first half of the conference schedule, the Zips are not blowing opponents away. So, keep an eye on four teams all with 5-3 conference marks (Ohio, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois). The MAC Tournament is usually chock full of upsets, and if we had to pick a team today, we would go with EMU.

Mideastern Athletic
Four teams have moved to the top of the pack, and the quartet is red hot with a combined 20-game winning streak. The second half of the 2017 MEAC race promises to be about as exciting as a low-major conference race can be, and if you have access to this league’s televised games, you will be entertained with some exciting basketball.

Morgan State 7-1/10-11 has a great inside/outside presence teaming for 42 points per game in wing man Tiwian Kendley and post man Philip Carr. The Bears are led by former Cal head coach Todd Bozeman with former Michigan head coach Brian Ellerbe as his top assistant. MSU may not have the talent to compete for a Sweet 16 bid, but the Bears will not be an easy out if they make the round of 64.

The remaining hot teams in the MEAC include UNC-Central 6-1/15-6, Savannah State 7-2/10-12, and Norfolk State 6-2/9-13. Savannah State games are some of the most exciting on the hardwoods in America. There is a good chance that one team will top 100 points when the Tigers play, but it could be SSU or the opposition.

Mountain West
Any chance for mulitple bids from the MWC crashed and burned in the last week as the top contenders suffered losses. It makes for a wide open regular season race as well as a wide open conference tournament with all the marbles up for grabs. Nevada 7-2/18-4 has led all the way, but the Wolf Pack have no signature wins that can get them into the Dance, as their lone game against a top 50 opponent was an 18-point loss to Saint Mary’s. Boise State 6-3/13-7 has a win over SMU, but the Broncos are not close to the Bubble. Five other teams have the talent to eeke through a three-day marathon and earn the automatic bid.

Northeast
In the last three weeks, Mount St. Mary’s 9-1/11-12 has emerged as the clear choice to win the regular season title and the favorite to earn the lone bid. Bryant 5-5/8-15 is well back in the pack, but the Bulldogs already have a win over MSM and plays the Mountaineers a second time Thursday night in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.

Ohio Valley
Like their CUSA Counterpart in the same Metropolitan Area (MTSU), Belmont 10-0/16-4 is pulling away from the field like Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes. The Bruins own a 12-game winning streak. They put that streak on the line Thursday night, when the Bruins venture to Murrary, Kentucky, to take on West Division co-leader Murray State 6-3/12-11. Belmont beat the other co-leader Southeast Missouri 6-3/11-13 by double digits and own a 13.4 ppg scoring margin in OVC play.

Patriot
Bucknell 9-1/17-6 is the favorite but not overwhelming favorite to win the Patriot League’s lone bid this year. Even though the top seed gets to host every game in the postseason tournament, Bucknell’s long league loss came at home to Lehigh 6-4/12-9. Besides these two teams, five other teams have the talent to win the tournament. Navy and Boston U are tied for second at 7-3/12-10, with Loyola (MD), Holy Cross, and Colgate tied at 5-5 in league play. If a team other than Bucknell wins the conference tournament, they better be prepared for a trip to Dayton.

Southern
This league is on a mini-upswing, but no team has an at-large shot this year. East Tennessee 7-2/17-5, Furman 7-2/14-8, UNC-Greensboro 7-3/16-7, and Chattanooga 6-3/15-6 could all be formidbale underdogs in the Round of 64.

Southland
For Sam Houston 7-2/16-6, the sum of their whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Bearkats have raced to the top of the league with a seven-game winning streak even though the team lacks a go-to star. Instead, they play a stifling tough defense and rarely give up a second shot to the opponents on a possession. SHSU has pulled even with New Orleans 7-2/12-8 in the standings, which includes a win at Lakefront Arena in NO over the Privateers.

Southwestern Athletic
Five lopsided losses to top 50 teams means that Texas Southern 8-1/12-10 is not likely to challenge a #1 or 2 seed in the Round of 64, but if the Tigers can earn the automatic bid, they should be able to avoid an opening round game in Dayton. Alcorn State 6-3/9-11 has won four games in a row. The Braves lost to TSU at home on a buzzer-beater, and that is all that has kept ASU out of a first place tie in the SWAC.

Summit
They may be the third place team in the league at the present time, but Fort Wayne 5-4/16-7 has the big out of conference win over Indiana. The Mastodons get the teams ahead of them in the standings in Forth Wayne in February, and it would not surprise us if FW moved to the top in time to secure the number one seed. Don’t expect North Dakota State 7-1/15-6, and South Dakota 6-3/15-9 to lay down and cede first place to the Mastodons. The Bison and Coyotes are tough teams, and they won’t wither when they go to Hilliard Gates Sports Center in February.

Sun Belt
How about a six-team race where the best resume belongs to the fourth place team. Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, and Georgia State lead the way with 7-2 SBC records. UT-Arlington 6-3/16-6 is tied for fourth with Texas State 6-3/13-8. UTA has that nice resume with a 14-point win over Saint Mary’s. It is not enought to propel the Mavericks into the Bubble picture.

Western Athletic
A 19-game winning streak and a perfect 7-0 record in league play is not enough to push New Mexico State 7-0/21-2 into the Bubble talk. Our own opinion is that the Aggies deserve equal billing with Wichita State at this juncture. Neither team has a bad loss, and neither team has a top 50 win.

The Aggies are 1-1 against the next 50 teams (a win and loss against rival New Mexico), while Wichita State is still winless to team number 100. NMSU presents some matchup issues for opponents, so if the Agiiges get into the Dance, they could be a hot underdog in the Round of 64.
Cal State Bakersfield 5-1/14-7 is the principal contender to NMSU, but in this league the Roadrunners are almost like the Washington Generals and not a true contender. The lack of competition is what will hurt NMSU’s seeding if they run the table and enter the Dance at 30-2.

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES
American Athletic
Cincinnati 8-0/19-2 is a sure thing now after beating Xavier and padding its resume. Can the Bearcats contend for the Final Four? Cinti dominates in everything but foul shooting, but in the NCAA Tournament, referees tend to call fewer fouls, and this will help UC in two ways–they won’t take as many foul shots, and they will be able to get away with increased physical play, where they can exploit finesse teams.

SMU 8-1/18-4 should receive an at-large bid if the Mustangs do not win the AAC Tournament. SMU has six top 100 wins and no losses outside of the top 100.

Memphis 6-3/16-6 and Houston 6-4/15-7 are squarely on the Bubble, while Tulsa 6-2/12-8 has moved into position to earn a Bubble spot if the Golden Hurricane can go 2-2 in their four future games against the top two teams.

Atlantic 10
Dayton 6-2/15-5 and VCU 6-2/16-5 would be in the Dance if the season ended today, but the two teams are not locks for the Tournament yet. In fact, neither is in first place in the A-10, as Richmond 7-2/13-8 has stormed to the top by a half-game. The Spiders were never in their game at Dayton earlier this year, losing by 16, and they have yet to face VCU, so it is likely that VCU or Dayton will eventually take the top two seeds.

A three-way tie at 5-3 for fourth place exists between LaSalle, Rhode Island, and St. Bonaventure. Rhode Island has a win against Cincinnati, and the Rams have been in the top 25 this year. They could still work their way back into at-large status.

Atlantic Coast
Figuring out the possible number of ACC teams headed Dancing this year has almost become a cottage industry. At one time, many pundits believed 11 teams would earn invitations to the Tournament. We never agreed with that number, and now the so-called experts are coming around to our belief that the ACC will send eight or nine to the tourney.

Seven teams are basically sure things at this point. North Carolina 7-2/19-4, Virginia 6-2/16-4, Florida St. 6-3/18-4, Louisville 6-3/18-4, Notre Dame 6-4/17-6, and Duke 5-4/17-5 are locks at this point. Virginia Tech 5-4/16-5 is in short of a major collapse. Six other ACC teams are still alive, but we believe that at most, three of the six will be happy in Mid-March. Those six teams are: Georgia Tech 5-4/13-8, Syracuse 5-4/13-9, Miami 4-4/14-6, North Carolina St. 3-6/14-8, Wake Forest 3-6/12-9, and Clemson 2-6/12-8. We do not see an ACC team getting an at-large bid with a conference record weaker than 8-10 or with more than 13 overall losses by Selection Sunday.

Big 12
The Big 12 was supposed to blitz the SEC Saturday in the 10-game challenge. Forecasters called for eight and even nine wins out of the 10 games, but when the dust cleared Saturday night, the leagues finished in a 5-5 standoff. Surprisingly, those five winning SEC teams did not include Kentucky.

How does this affect the Big 12’s NCAA Tournament outlook? We have reduced the number of expected representatives by one this week, reducing the number from eight to seven. Kansas 7-1/19-2 moved into a comfortable top-seed position with its win at Kentucky. Baylor 7-1/20-1 stayed on the top line with their big comeback win at Ole Miss. West Virginia 5-3/17-4 held on to edge Texas A&M at home and stay in contention for a number two or three seed. Five teams will compete for the other four likely at-large bids, with one probably facing some disappointment. Iowa St. 5-3/13-7 and Kansas St. 4-4/15-6 are the top contenders, so it is more than likely going to come down to two teams from among Texas Tech 3-5/15-6, TCU 3-5/14-7, and Oklahoma St. 3-6/14-8, and one of these teams could be facing an opening round game in Dayton.

Big East
We added a sixth team to the Big East riches as the ACC and Big 12 lost teams. The league that produced the 2016 champion might have three teams with Final Four potential and five teams with Sweet 16 talent. Start with the reigning national champs, Villanova 7-2/20-2. Also close to sure things are Butler 7-3/18-4 and Creighton 6-3/19-3. Xavier 5-3/15-6 and Marquette 5-4/14-7 are in good shape but still have work to do to become locks.

Three more teams, Providence 4-6/14-9, St. John’s 4-6/10-13, and Seton Hall 3-5/13-7, still have NCAA Tourney aspirations, while Georgetown 3-6/12-10 has not been completely eliminated.

Big Ten
The Big Ten took a big hit in the football season with the league losing out in the Playoff race and performing poorly in the bowls. The great fans in the Upper Midwest hoped that basketball season would give the league a chance to redeem itself for the poor results on the gridiron, but there are few teams in this league that look like they are headed to the Sweet 16.

One of those teams that does look Sweet 16 secure is Wisconsin 7-1/18-3, currently tied for first in the league with Maryland 7-1/19-2. The Terps’ nasty losses to Pittsburgh and Nebraska leave a little doubt in the mind of our Gurus and thus cannot be considered a Sweet 16 lock. They will be dancing for sure though.

We are moving Northwestern 7-2/18-4 into the safely in the Tournament status. Maybe it is a year for long Chicago curses to be broken, as the Wildcats look certain to break through with their first ever NCAA Tournament bid, leaving no room for doubt. Joining NU in near lock status is Purdue 6-3/17-5.

Six more teams are competing for what we believe to be four more bids. If the season ended today, Michigan St. 5-4/13-9, Indiana 4-5/14-8, Michigan 4-5/14-8, and Minnesota 3-6/15-7 would get the four at-large bids, while Illinois 3-6/13-9 and Ohio St. 3-6/13-9 would be on the outside looking in. Iowa, Penn St., and Nebraska are actually ahead of Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio State in the conference standings at 4-5, but their resumes are not tourney-worthy at this time.

Missouri Valley
There is not a consensus among all the Gurus here, but a majority of six Gurus say two MVC teams will get bids.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written before we had all 11 Guru results submitted. At the time there were 7 Guru reports available, it looked like the Shockers would be in their Field, but the final four Gurus omitted WSU in their brackets.

Illinois State 10-0/18-4 has a one-game edge on Wichita St. 9-1/19-4, but the Redbirds win over the Shockers came in Bloomington-Normal. The two teams meet again in Wichita this Saturday in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 at 8PM EST. If you are a rabid basketball fan, be sure to tune into this game to see two aggressive defenses battle it out. We believe there will be a third match between these two Valley behemoths at Arch Madness in early March. The loser should still get into the Field of 68 if they have no other conference losses or maybe one additional loss.

Keep an eye on Loyola of Chicago 6-4/16-7. Maybe, it is a year meant to be for Chicagoans. The Ramblers have been to just one NCAA Tournament since legendary coach George Ireland had a dynasty in the 1960s. We’re not saying this current cache of Ramblers is to be compared to the Leslie Hunter and Vic Rouse teams, but this is Loyola’s best team since the Alfredrick Hughes and Andre Moore team scared the Pat Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas for 30 minutes plus in the 1985 Sweet 16.

Pac-12
Arizona 9-0/20-2 marched through Los Angeles, sweeping USC and UCLA like General Sherman marched through Georgia. The Wildcats are clearly the second best team in the West, and they can solidify a hold on a two-seed if they go to Oregon 8-1/19-3 this Saturday night and take care of the Ducks. The game will be televised on ESPN at 4 PM EST, and it should be as exciting as the Kansas-Kentucky game was this past Saturday.

UCLA 6-3/19-3 has dropped back-to-back games to Arizona and USC 5-4/18-4, as the Wildcats and Trojans exploited the Bruins’ defensive liabilities and softness in the paint. As for the Trojans, Andy Enfield’s team has a slight bubble advantage over Utah and California, both 6-3/15-6. The league should get four teams minimum, but we do not see all six of these squads going Dancing. The bottom half of this league is really week this year, and it is going to hurt strengths of schedule if any contender loses to one of the bottom six.

Southeastern
At the start of the season, the SEC was considered just a two-bid league this year. Then, eventually, it became a three-bid league, and now it is most likely a four-bid league. Could a fifth bid be forthcoming before the bids go live? It is highly possible as seven or eight teams are still in contention for the fourth bid, and a fifth bid would not be out of the ordinary.

Start with Kentucky and South Carolina, both 7-1/17-4. The Wildcats have the better overall resume, but the Gamecocks are not that far behind. Add sure thing Florida 6-2/16-5 as team number three.

After that, there is a logjam vying for the fourth bid, but first among equals goes to Arkansas 5-3/16-5. The Razorbacks left the Big 12-SEC Challenge with their tails between their legs, and the 28-point loss to Oklahoma State certainly dimmed their rising star. It has allowed teams like Alabama 6-2/13-7, Georgia, 4-4/13-8, Mississippi State 4-4/13-7, and Tennessee 4-4/12-9 to move into contention to be in contention. The Volunteers were picked to finish 13th in the league by many publications, so kudos go to Coach Rick Barnes, who should compete with USC coach Frank Martin for Coach of the Year honors. If Tennessee had held onto leads in the final 30 seconds against Oregon in Hawaii and North Carolina at the Dean Dome, the Vols would be at the top of the Bubble and looking like a seed high enough to avoid playing in Dayton.

West Coast
Gonzaga 10-0/22-0 deserves its number one ranking. The Bulldogs have not fatten up just on cream puffs. Included in their 22 wins are neutral site victories over Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, and Iowa State, as well as wins at home over St. Mary’s and Akron, all current top 50 teams. They have gone 15-0 against teams rated under 100, but their average margin of victory in those wins has been 30 points per game. You would expect a number one team to beat a lower-ranked team by 30 points.

St. Mary’s 9-1/19-2 belongs in the field on its own merits. The Gaels have defeated Dayton at Dayton and have a 6-2 record against top 100 teams. One of those two losses is a defeat at Gonzaga, and SMC still has a home date with the Bulldogs to try to even the score.

Brigham Young 7-3/16-7 is not in contention for an at-large bid at this time, but the Cougars still have a chance to make some noise, as they have home dates against the top two teams in the month of February (as well as a return trip to Gonzaga in the regular season finale.) BYU hosts Gonzaga Thursday night at 11 PM EST in a game that will air on ESPN2.

THIS WEEK’s BRACKETOLOGY GURU REPORT

Seed Team Conf.
1 Baylor B12
1 Kansas B12
1 Villanova B E
1 Gonzaga WCC
2 Louisville ACC
2 Arizona P12
2 North Carolina ACC
2 Kentucky SEC
3 Virginia ACC
3 Florida State ACC
3 Butler B E
3 Oregon P12
4 West Virginia B12
4 UCLA P12
4 Wisconsin BTen
4 Cincinnati AAC
5 Maryland BTen
5 Duke ACC
5 Creighton B E
5 Florida SEC
6 Notre Dame ACC
6 Purdue BTen
6 South Carolina SEC
6 St. Mary’s (CA) WCC
7 Southern Methodist AAC
7 Xavier B E
7 Northwestern BTen
7 USC P12
8 Virginia Tech ACC
8 Minnesota BTen
8 Dayton A10
8 Marquette B E
9 Michigan State BTen
9 Iowa State B12
9 Arkansas SEC
9 Virginia Commonwealth A10
10 Middle Tennessee CUSA
10 Kansas State B12
10 NC-Wilmington CAA
10 Illinois State MVC
11 Clemson ACC
11 Miami (FLA.) ACC
11 Oklahoma State B12
11 Georgia Tech ACC
12 Indiana BTen
12 TCU B12
12 Michigan BTen
12 Texas Tech B12
12 Nevada MWC
12 Valparaiso Hor
13 Akron MAC
13 New Mexico State WAC
13 Vermont AEast
13 Monmouth MAAC
14 Belmont OVC
14 Florida Gulf Coast ASun
14 E. Tennessee State Sou
14 Georgia Southern SBC
15 Winthrop BSth
15 Bucknell Pat
15 Princeton Ivy
15 North Dakota State Summ
16 Sam Houston State SLC
16 Texas Southern SWAC
16 Weber State BSky
16 North Carolina Central MEAC
16 Mount St. Mary’s NEC
16 UC Irvine BWest

First Four Participants

12-Seeds: Texas Tech, Michigan, TCU, Indiana (last 4 in)

16-Seeds: UC-Irvine, Mount St. Mary’s, UNC-Central, and Weber St.

First Four Out

69 Seton Hall

70 Wichita St.

71 Tennessee

72 Richmond

Next Four Out

73 California

74 Georgetown

75 Wake Forest

76 Utah

The Bubble Contenders

North Carolina St.

Houston

Memphis

Rhode Island

Providence

Illinois

Ohio St.

Georgia

Alabama

 

 

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