The Pi-Rate Ratings

July 16, 2015

2015 Football Season Returns Soon

Filed under: 1 — Tags: , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:31 am

Welcome back football fans.  The PiRates are back at it working late nights compiling the 2015-16 college and NFL ratings.

Look for the new season to kick off in Mid-August, when we begin previewing each of the FBS conferences, one at a time, beginning with the lowest rated conference and ending with the highest rated conference.  Gee, can you guess which conference might be the tops?  Hint:  A current Big Ten coach once said that the three toughest leagues in American Football were the NFC, the AFC, and this conference.

It will come as no surprise which individual team is number one in the preseason, and it also will not be all that surprising when they debut with the highest preseason PiRate Rating since Nebraska began the 1995 season.  Hint:  Their third best quarterback might be a top Heisman Trophy contender if he played at any of the other 24 teams in the Top 25.

The NFL Ratings will appear after the final college conference preview, and this will lead up to the first week’s college schedule.

The Ratings and spreads each week will be available from our website at  This blog site will add extras, and if we can ever get the tabular format to align properly here, we will post the ratings and spreads here as well.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer, and remember to come back to this blog in Mid-August for our first conference preview.

May 1, 2015

PiRate Ratings Kentucky Derby Preview

Filed under: Horse Racing — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:45 pm

Kentucky Derby 141 has been handed over to American Pharoah by the public and the horse racing media, but when have either been correct on something they both agreed upon? If you said the 1977 Belmont Stakes, then you may be correct.

Here’s a little secret about this year’s Deby field: It may be the strongest since 1969 when Majestic Prince, Arts & Letters, Top Knight, and Dike chased away a lot of contenders. Those four quality horses represented half of what was a tiny eight-horse field.

With 19 probable starters now that El Kabeir is likely to scratch tomorrow morning after the deadline for another supplemental entry to make it into the field, there are upwards of seven or eight quality horses that could compete for the win at 10 furlongs.

The key to winning the Kentucky Derby as a fan is to pick a winner that will return you a good price. Betting the favorite and often the second best horse will not return a profit over time. Of course, selecting a 99-1 longshot is simply the same thing as donating your cash to the track.

The way to make money is to find a horse with odds of 5-1 or better and determine that he has a good chance of winning. If you have a game longshot in the 15-1 to 30-1 range, you might consider taking him to show or taking him across the board (win-place-show).

This year, we have many reasons to go against the favorite, but it is really hard to eliminate the next horse, because he looks like a real star. Let’s take a look at the horses in order of odds and tell you what we think. We do not recommend that you invest your money on what we have to say. For full disclosure, we will not lose a penny, because we will not wager a penny. For us, this is all about the race, no betting.

American Pharoah (5-2)

What’s to Like: With the exception of his first race, he has run away from the field every time, gaining in the stretch run without being asked to go by jockey Victor Espinoza. The Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby runs were similar to that of former Derby winner Smarty Jones.

He loves the Churchill Downs track as evidenced by his impressive five furlong workout in 58 and 2 earlier this week.

Ran the final 1/8 mile in 12-3 at the Arkansas Derby with Epsinoza not going to the whip.

Showed two different moves in a two-turn race.

Trainer Bob Baffert knows how to train Derby winners. Jockey Espinoza has two Derby wins, including last year aboard California Chrome.

What’s Not to Like: This horse has not been bred to run 10 furlongs on the first Saturday in May as a three year old with a high Dosage Index. Horses with his DI have won past Derbies, but at 5-2 odds, we do not like his pedigree.

Although he has not been asked to run full out in the stretch this year, his early and late pace are not among the best in this field.

Breaking from the 17-hole, he will have to use up a lot of energy to get to the first turn where he likes to be early in the race. It’s likely, he will use up too much energy if he gets up within a couple lengths of the leader at no more than four wide, and it’s unsure if he can win a race from well off the pace, especially when he will have to pass several horses.

His Beyer Speed Figures and Bris Speed Ratings are not as impressive as others, and his low odds make it easy to throw him out of our wagering strategy.

Analysis: He may prove to be another Smarty Jones and run away from the field, but American Pharoah is not our favorite or even a pick to finish in the top three.

Dortmund (3-1)

What’s to Like: This horse is 17 hands tall and is undefeated, having won three races as a two year old and three more this year. The great Seattle Slew was 16 hands tall, and he too was an undefeated colt when he won the Triple Crown.

He has been a little faster in successive races this year, showing a propensity to love increasing distances, and with his pedigree, he is bred to have good speed at 10 furlongs. In fact, his Dosage profile is similar to the entire lot of past Triple Crown winners.

He has shown an ability to get to the lead and wire the field and to also win by coming from off the pace, and he has two definite kicks in his races–one early and one in the stretch.

Jockey Martin Garcia has won big races on Bob Baffert horses in the past, with Lookin’ at Lucky winning the Preakness and the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

He has consistently posted Beyer Speed Figures and Bris Speed Figures strong enough to win the Kentucky Derby.

He has won a race at Churchill Downs, somethng that bodes well for a Derby horse.

His father is Big Brown–‘nuf ced

What’s Not to Like: Very little is not to like about this horse except that his odds are still too low to make money given his chances of not winning against his probable payout.

Even though he has won his most recent races in stretch runs, his speed in the final 1/8 of those races have been slower than American Pharoah–13 seconds in the Santa Anita Derby.

Extremly slow late pace in the SA Derby may hide the fact that this horse may not be fast enough to beat late charging horses with much better late speed

Analysis: At 3-1, he is too expensive for our tastes even if he has the stats of a winner. There are other horses in this field with impressive stats that will return a better bang for the buck.

Carpe Diem (8-1)

What’s to Like: Jockey John Velazquez has a past Derby win on Animal Kingdom, and Trainer Todd Pletcher has numerous Triple Crown race wins including a Kentucky Derby win with Super Saver.

Two for two as a three year old, including the Bluegrass Stakes.

Ran the final 1/8 in 12-4 in the Bluegrass win.

Has the classic Derby racing style–coming from off a pace but not from so many lengths that he will have to pass the entire field.

What’s Not to Like: His wins have not been all that impressive, and he did not look like the best horse in the Bluegrass.

His Beyer and Bris Speed numbers are decent but not as strong as other contenders.

His pedigree is acceptable, but he comes from a line that has not produced a Derby winner in numerous attempts.

Analysis: He could hit the board, but we do not give him a strong shot of wearing the roses.

Materiality (12-1)

What’s to Like: He too is undefeated with an upset win over Upstart in the Florida Derby.

He has two 9 furlong wins this year.

He’s another Pletcher horse with a quality jockey in Javier Castellano, who has a past Preakness and Breeder’s Cup Classic Championship.

He owns the top Beyer Speed Figure with a 110 in the Florida Derby, and his 105 Bris Speed rating is among the three best.

What’s Not to Like: He did not race as a two-year old, and no horse since the 19th century has won this race without running as a two-year old. It is asking too much for a horse to train up to this race starting this late in his career.

Like Dortmund, the late pace in his key prep was much too slow, and this horse will have to win from near the front of the pack. It’s likely, he will lose ground in the stretch.

His final 3/8 in the last two races are typical of a horse that will be out of gas in the stretch, further strengthening the liability just listed.

Analysis: A horse without two year old experience may win the Derby one day, but it will not be one that has our investment wagered on him winning.

Firing Line (12-1)

What’s to Like: Gary Stevens is the top active jockey in the nation.

He’s twice finished less than a length behind Dortmund in stakes races.

Has improved his speed ratings with each race and appears ready to run his best race on Saturday.

What’s Not to Like: It has been since March 22, since he last raced, 41 days.

He has not won a major prep race, with his last win coming in the Sunland Derby in New Mexico.

Analysis: It’s hard to see him in the winner’s circle, but it would not surprise us to see Firing Line hit the board.

Upstart (15-1)

What’s to Like: Even though he was a beaten favorite in his last race, his speed figures and class place him among the contenders.

What’s Not to Like: Appears to be best suited for shorter than 10f races.

Trainer and jockey have no Triple Crown wins.

Ran a rather slow final 1/8 mile in his top prep.

Analysis: There are better investment opportunities.

Frosted (15-1)

What’s to Like: Jockey Joel Rosario has a past Derby win on Orb in 2013.

Ran one of the best key prep races of the group with his victory in the Wood Memorial.

He’s a short closer, meaning he will come from off the pace but not from the back of the field, which has been successful more times in the Derby than any other style.

Ran a final 1/8 of 12-3 in the Wood.

What’s Not to Like: Looks like a possible bounce candidate after running the race of his career and improving on his speed ratings by a large number.

Has a tendency to get bumped by other horses, which has prevented him from contending in other races.

Lost twice against Upstart by considerable lengths.

Analysis: If he can return to his Wood form, he might be dangerous if he does not get boxed in at the mile pole. Look for him to be streaking by the 1/8 pole, but whether he has enough left in the tank to pass them all is a guess. He might be worth a shot to show.

International Star (20-1)

Analysis: This horse lacks the speed or the class to win this race, so there is no need to discuss his assets. He will be flying late in the race but figures to have too much ground to make up and better horses with closing speed ahead of him.

Mubtaahij (20-1)

Analysis: Until a horse shipping from the UAE wins this race, we will lay off him. However, he looked impressive winning two races at 9 1/2 furlongs.

Tencendur (30-1)

What’s to Like: Showed improved speed in his last race, a game second to Frosted in the Wood.

What’s Not to Like: Everything else.

Analysis: Not worth the 30-1 odds in our opinion.

Danzig Moon (30-1)

Analysis: He doesn’t have the figures of a winner, but of the longshots in the race, he piques our interest based on his pedigree and his second place finish in the Bluegrass with a nightmare trip.

Itsaknockout (30-1)

Analysis: Lacks the speed to compete.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (50-1)

Analysis: The race rabbit who will run the opening 1/4 in 22 and change and allow for a likely short closer to win this race unless the top two don’t bite and let him run away at the start.

Keen Ice (50-1)

Analysis: Although he won at Churchill Downs as a 2yo, that’s the only race he’s won.

War Story (50-1)

Analysis: Still eligible for one other than maiden races, which is only a tiny step better than Keen Ice.

Mr. Z (50-1)

Analysis: D. Wayne Lukas always finds a way to enter a horse, even if he might be slower than the pony that accompanies American Pharoah to the gate.

Frammento (50-1)

Analysis: Allowed into the race when Stanford scratched, he has just one career win, and he did not race well in his previous Chuchill start.

Our Pick to Win: This is the toughest Derby we have handicapped in more than a decade. We do not like the top two horses in this race, because they come from a pedigree with zero Kentucky Derby success. It may be a stretch, because of his lack of racing at age two, but we believe Materiality is the best horse in the field. At 12-1, he offers a lot of value, and he is our choice across the board (Win-Place-Show).

We do not like any of the exotic wagers in this race, because there are nine or 10 horses bunched together in the middle of the pack, and any could hit the board. It would require too many wagers.

If we had $100 to wager, we would go with $50 on Materiality to win and $25 to place and show.

April 6, 2015

NCAA National Championship Game By The Numbers

Duke (34-4) vs. Wisconsin (35-3)
CBS Television Tip Time: 9:18 PM EDT
Team Offense Duke Wisconsin
Field Goals 1075 989
Field Goal Attempts 2140 2054
3-Point Shots 279 281
3-Point Attempts 721 769
Free Throws 594 578
Free Throw Attempts 853 755
Offensive Rebounds 439 372
Defensive Rebounds 964 931
Turnovers 416 291
Steals 274 171
Possessions Per Game 66.4 59.8
Points Per Game 79.6 72.7
Team Defense Duke Wisconsin
Field Goals 937 872
Field Goal Attempts 2220 2041
3-Point Shots 192 198
3-Point Attempts 612 527
Free Throws 373 317
Free Throw Attempts 538 449
Offensive Rebounds 417 291
Defensive Rebounds 775 782
Turnovers 476 373
Steals 213 159
Possessions Per Game 66.7 59.9
Points Per Game 64.2 57.9
Four Factors Duke Wisconsin
Effective Field Goal % 56.8 55.0
Effective Field Goal %–Defense 46.5 47.6
Offensive Rebound Rate 36.2 32.2
Opponents Offensive Rebound Rate 30.2 23.8
Turnover Rate 16.5 12.5
Opponents Turnover Rate 18.8 16.0
Free Throw Rate* (FT/100 Poss.) 23.6 24.8
Opponents Free Throw Rate * 14.7 13.6
PiRate Criteria Factors Duke Wisconsin
Scoring Margin 15.4 14.8
Field Goal % Margin 8.0 5.4
Rebound Margin 5.6 5.4
Turnover Margin 1.6 2.1
R+T Rating # (see below for formula) 19.6 19.1
Won-Loss Away From Home 15-2 21-2
Schedule Strength (Per ESPN) 61.6 61.5
# R+T Rating components: Duke Wisconsin
Rebound Margin * 2 11.2 10.8
Average Steals * .5 3.6 2.2
6 – Opponents Average Steals 3.2 4.0
Turnover Margin 1.6 2.1
R+T Rating 19.6 19.1
PiRate Ratings
PiRate Red Wisc by 1
PiRate White Duke by 1
PiRate Blue Duke by 2

100 Computer Simulations

Duke Wins: 52

Wisconsin Wins: 48

Note: 9 Overtime Games 2 of which went to double overtime, and one to triple overtime

Average Score: Duke 70.7  Wisconsin 69.4

Outlier A: Duke 74  Wisconsin 58

Outlier B: Wisconsin 70  Duke 60

This concludes the PiRate Ratings College Basketball Coverage for the season.  We will return in a couple weeks to offer our take on the Kentucky Derby with an emphasis on the two possible super horses this year–Dortmund and Materiality.


March 31, 2015

Final Four Preview–Semifinals

Team Team Tip Time Network
Kentucky (38-0) Wisconsin (35-3) 6:09 PM EDT TBS
Duke (33-4) Michigan St. (27-11) 8:49 PM EDT TBS

Indianapolis will be rocking Saturday night as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four promises to be exciting with the potential for two close games.

The four teams share similar statistical competence where past National Champions have dominated, namely in rebounding.  As we told you a couple weeks ago, the one statistic that has 100% correlation with the National Champion is positive rebounding margin.  Since 1954, when complete rebounding statistics were archived, every National Champion has finished the season with positive rebounding margin.  This is not true for the other statistics, as we have crowned champions with negative field goal margin, negative turnover margin, and negative free throw margin.

This year is no different; the four combatants are all dominant rebounding teams, each outrebounding their opposition by more than five per game.

Looking back at the remaining Pirate Ratings Final Four Criteria, we have four teams that fit our mold like a glove.  All four have scoring margins greater than 8.0 per game, with three holding double-digit socring margins.  Two of the four hold 8% or greater field goal percentage margins, with one pushing that number into double digits.  Three of the four have better than 75% winning percentage away from their home floor, and all four have fat R+T ratings.

Final Four Offensive Statistics

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Duke 1049 2090 277 711 567 816 432 935 408 265
Kentucky  980 2096 200 577 676 933 485 975 402 248
Michigan St. 992 2126 287 743 441 698 427 998 427 199
Wisconsin 966 2006 274 752 560 733 360 909 281 170

Final Four Defensive Statistics

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Duke 915 2165 185 592 363 522 408 751 462 209
Kentucky  727 2068 168 629 425 650 451 730 523 181
Michigan St. 807 2054 222 702 565 783 371 840 409 208
Wisconsin 846 1987 195 522 308 439 285 766 367 154

Four Factors Statistics

Duke 56.8 46.5 36.5 30.4 16.6 18.7 23.1 14.7
Kentucky  51.5 39.2 39.9 31.6 16.4 21.4 27.5 17.4
Michigan St. 53.4 44.7 33.7 27.1 17.4 16.6 17.9 22.9
Wisconsin 55.0 47.5 32.0 23.9 12.4 16.1 24.6 13.5

PiRate Ratings Criteria Statistics for Final Four

Team PPG D PPG Mar. FG-M Rb-M TO-M R+T WLRd W-L SOS Poss.
Duke 79.5 64.3 15.2 7.9 5.6 1.5 16.6 14-2 33-4 61.8 66.3
Kentucky  74.6 53.9 20.8 11.6 7.3 3.2 22.4 18-0 38-0 58.7 64.6
Michigan St. 71.4 63.2 8.2 7.4 5.6 -0.5 13.9 13-6 27-11 67.0 64.7
Wisconsin 72.8 57.8 15.0 5.6 5.7 2.3 17.9 20-2 35-3 61.1 59.9

PiRate Ratings For Semifinal Round

Team Team Red White Blue
Kentucky Wisconsin 3 3 6
Duke Michigan St. 6 5 8

100 Computer Simulations For Semifinal Round

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin

Kentucky Wins: 94

Wisconsin Wins: 6

Average Score: Kentucky 71  Wisconsin 62

Outlier A: Kentucky 78  Wisconsin 62

Outlier B: Wisconsin 64  Kentucky 59

Duke vs. Michigan St.

Duke Wins: 84

Michigan St. Wins: 16

Average Score: Duke 77  Michigan St. 70

Outlier A: Duke 84  Michigan St. 62

Outlier B: Michigan St. 73  Duke 64

March 28, 2015

Elite 8 Preview

Filed under: Uncategorized — piratings @ 7:31 am

for elite eight picks go to this site

March 25, 2015

Sweet 16 Preview

It hasn’t been the best year for our methodology, as we have just 11 teams remaining in the Sweet 16, while we have six teams still alive in our Elite 8 predictions, and three of the Final Four.  At least, our two finalists are still alive.

If you get to pick games anew with each round, here is the updated review of our bracketnomics 505 selection method.  If you need a primer on what the data means, please refer back to the previous article titled, “Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking,”  published on March 16.

Sweet 16 Schedule–All Times Listed are Eastern Daylight Time
Region Seed Team W-L Seed Team W-L Day Time TV
Midwest 3 Notre Dame 31-5 7 Wichita St. 30-4 Thursday 7:15 PM CBS
West 1 Wisconsin 33-3 4 North Carolina 26-11 Thursday 7:47 PM TBS
Midwest 1 Kentucky 36-0 5 West Virginia 25-9 Thursday 9:45 PM CBS
West 2 Arizona 33-3 6 Xavier 23-13 Thursday 10:17 PM TBS
South 2 Gonzaga 34-2 11 UCLA 22-13 Friday 7:15 PM CBS
East 4 Louisville 26-8 8 North Carolina St. 22-13 Friday 7:37 PM TBS
South 1 Duke 31-4 5 Utah 26-8 Friday 9:45 PM CBS
East 3 Oklahoma 24-10 7 Michigan St. 25-11 Friday 10:07 PM TBS


Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Arizona 963 1971 184 508 655 925 398 946 401 261
Duke 1008 1989 266 683 531 771 415 890 391 251
Gonzaga 1035 1966 259 611 534 775 365 991 379 220
Kentucky 931 1999 192 554 636 881 464 923 381 237
Louisville 828 1930 191 621 491 736 432 844 394 272
Michigan St. 944 2009 269 693 417 662 402 946 410 193
N. C. St. 872 1994 227 641 489 713 424 909 368 135
North Carolina 1073 2253 176 501 559 796 517 996 477 248
Notre Dame 994 1951 289 742 539 728 294 877 339 247
Oklahoma 865 1980 232 671 481 652 375 919 412 235
UCLA 904 2032 220 593 500 739 428 900 423 234
Utah 828 1700 260 638 523 745 304 864 392 200
West Virginia 859 2084 225 704 560 844 562 678 440 372
Wichita St. 834 1868 236 652 486 696 400 809 320 244
Wisconsin 915 1905 255 713 517 679 344 869 267 162
Xavier 934 1960 231 649 553 759 356 895 435 216
Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Arizona 730 1855 191 580 472 681 273 740 502 168
Duke 872 2055 179 566 346 498 382 706 434 200
Gonzaga 794 2031 206 625 421 637 382 705 419 198
Kentucky 688 1958 162 600 404 618 425 696 503 172
Louisville 718 1838 171 580 406 618 379 800 487 198
Michigan St. 764 1935 214 674 531 738 342 790 393 200
N. C. St. 800 1998 209 631 483 685 395 818 344 186
North Carolina 863 2176 240 801 571 820 448 767 463 252
Notre Dame 895 2102 220 671 351 494 410 768 407 186
Oklahoma 772 2000 216 683 374 569 417 824 463 223
UCLA 828 1987 278 771 445 641 353 830 433 223
Utah 684 1787 166 528 402 591 304 864 394 189
West Virginia 738 1576 187 508 597 871 301 824 668 193
Wichita St. 661 1667 178 512 427 619 298 747 453 138
Wisconsin 796 1888 185 503 268 391 273 728 353 146
Xavier 864 1981 254 734 442 659 335 776 456 236


Arizona 53.5 44.5 35.0 22.4 16.6 20.9 27.1 19.6
Duke 57.4 46.8 37.0 30.0 16.8 18.5 22.8 14.8
Gonzaga 59.2 44.2 34.1 27.8 16.1 17.7 22.7 17.8
Kentucky 51.4 39.3 40.0 31.5 16.3 21.6 27.2 17.3
Louisville 47.8 43.7 35.1 31.0 17.6 21.7 21.9 18.1
Michigan St. 53.7 45.0 33.7 26.6 17.6 16.8 17.9 22.7
N. C. St. 49.4 45.3 34.1 30.3 16.2 15.1 21.5 21.3
North Carolina 51.5 45.2 40.3 31.0 18.4 17.9 21.6 22.1
Notre Dame 58.4 47.8 27.7 31.9 14.5 17.4 23.0 15.0
Oklahoma 49.5 44.0 31.3 31.2 17.7 20.0 20.7 16.1
UCLA 49.9 48.7 34.0 28.2 17.8 18.3 21.0 18.8
Utah 56.4 42.9 26.0 26.0 18.3 18.3 24.4 18.6
West Virginia 46.6 52.8 40.5 30.7 18.6 28.3 23.7 25.3
Wichita St. 51.0 45.0 34.9 26.9 15.1 21.4 22.9 20.2
Wisconsin 54.7 47.1 32.1 23.9 12.4 16.4 24.0 12.4
Xavier 53.5 50.0 31.4 27.2 18.1 18.9 23.0 18.3

PiRate Ratings Criteria

Team PPG D PPG Mar. FG-M Rb-M TO-M R+T WLRd W-L SOS Poss.
Arizona 76.8 59.0 17.8 9.5 9.2 2.8 26.2 10-3 33-3 58.1 67.0
Duke 80.4 64.8 15.5 8.2 6.2 1.2 17.5 12-2 31-4 61.3 66.6
Gonzaga 79.5 61.5 18.0 13.6 7.5 1.1 19.6 15-1 34-2 55.8 65.2
Kentucky 74.7 53.9 20.8 11.4 7.4 3.4 22.7 16-0 36-0 58.2 64.8
Louisville 68.8 59.2 9.6 3.8 2.9 2.7 12.6 10-3 26-8 66.3 65.9
Michigan St. 71.5 63.1 8.4 7.5 6.0 -0.5 14.7 11-6 25-11 66.2 64.8
N. C. St. 70.3 65.5 4.8 3.7 3.4 -0.7 8.8 9-9 22-13 67.5 65.0
North Carolina 77.9 68.6 9.3 8.0 8.1 -0.4 18.3 13-5 26-11 69.3 70.0
Notre Dame 78.2 65.6 12.6 8.4 -0.2 1.9 5.8 13-2 31-5 61.9 65.1
Oklahoma 71.9 62.8 9.1 5.1 1.6 1.5 7.5 8-7 24-10 66.4 68.4
UCLA 72.2 68.0 4.3 2.8 4.1 0.3 11.5 6-12 22-13 66.1 67.9
Utah 71.7 56.9 14.8 10.4 0.0 0.1 3.4 10-7 26-8 59.6 63.0
West Virginia 73.6 66.5 7.1 -5.6 3.4 6.7 19.3 13-6 25-9 65.4 69.5
Wichita St. 70.3 56.7 13.6 5.0 4.8 3.9 19.1 15-4 30-4 56.7 62.3
Wisconsin 72.3 56.8 15.5 5.9 5.9 2.4 18.4 18-2 33-3 60.2 59.7
Xavier 73.7 67.3 6.3 4.0 3.9 0.6 10.8 10-10 23-13 65.6 66.7

The PiRate Ratings

Team Team Red White Blue
Notre Dame Wichita St. 1 1 4
Wisconsin North Carolina 6 4 2
Kentucky West Virginia 13 11 12
Arizona Xavier 11 9 14
Gonzaga UCLA 10 8 5
Louisville North Carolina St. 4 2 -2
Duke Utah 3 3 9
Oklahoma Michigan St. 1 1 -2

Predicted Elite 8 Games

East: Michigan St. over Louisville

South: Duke over Gonzaga

Midwest: Kentucky over Notre Dame

West: Arizona over Wisconsin

Predicted Final 4 Games

Duke over Michigan St.

Kentucky over Arizona

Predicted National Championship Game

Kentucky over Duke

March 21, 2015

NCAA 3rd Round Preview, March 21, 2015

A couple of 14-seeds have not spoiled our brackets for the most part as 14 of our 16 teams picked to make it to the Sweet 16 are still around in the Round of 32, and all 8 of our Elite 8 teams are playing today or tomorrow.  Without further adieu, here is our look at the 3rd Round.

All times given are Eastern Daylight

Saturday, March 21

12:10 PM on CBS

#11 UCLA vs. #14 UAB

Four Factors+ PiRate Criteria: UCLA has decided R+T and Strength of Schedule advantages as well as advantages in rebounding and turnovers.

PiRate Red: UCLA by 10

PiRate White: UCLA by 6

PiRate Blue: UCLA by 4

Prediction: UCLA 71  UAB 65

2:40 PM on CBS

#1 Kentucky vs. #8 Cincinnati

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Kentucky has the advantage in every category except schedule strength, but the Bearcats’ advantage here is slim.

PiRate Red: Kentucky by 14

PiRate White: Kentucky by 14

PiRate Blue: Kentucky by 14

Prediction: Kentucky 68  Cincinnati 54

5:15 PM on CBS

#2 Arizona vs. #10 Ohio St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Arizona has a considerable rebounding advantage in this game, leading to a better R+T rating, but all other factors are close enough to be considered a wash.

PiRate Red: Arizona by 7

PiRate White: Arizona by 9

PiRate Blue: Arizona by 12

Prediction: Arizona 74  Ohio St. 65

6:10 PM on TNT

#6 Xavier vs. #14 Georgia St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria:The biggest discrepancy between these two teams is schedule strength, where the Musketeers’ schedule is about 13 points per game more difficult.  Georgia State’s only real advantage and where the Panthers can exploit XU is in turnover rate.  GSU must try to force Xavier into mistakes and then capitalize on points off turnovers, or Coach Ron Hunter will be wheeling himself home for his postponed surgery.

PiRate Red: Xavier by 8

PiRate White: Xavier by 5

PiRate Blue: Xavier by 9

Prediction: Xavier 68  Georga St. 61

7:10 PM on TBS

#1 Villanova vs. #8 North Carolina St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: This game could be closer than expected for longer than expected.  Villanova’s E FG%, TO Rate, and R+T ratings are plainly better than the Wolf Pack’s, but NC State’s schedule strength neutralizes a lot of these advantages.  This is the shakiest of the #1 seeds for the weekend, even though we expect the Wildcats to eventually win by double digits.

PiRate Red: Villanova by 11

PiRate White: Villanova by 10

PiRate Blue: Villanova by 13

Prediction: Villanova 76  North Carolina St. 65

7:45 PM on CBS

#4 Georgetown vs. #5 Utah

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: The criteria forecasts a tight game with Utah having a 52% chance of winning this game.  Georgetown’s schedule strength advantage makes Utah’s statistical advantages disappear, so this one comes down to R+T rating, which the Utes have a small advantage

PiRate Red: Utah by 3

PiRate White: Utah by 3

PiRate Blue: Utah by 4

Prediction: Utah 60  Georgetown 57

8:40 PM on TNT

#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Arkansas

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: The key stats here are that UNC should fare quite well against the Arkansas pressure defense, and the Tar Heels will dominate on the glass.  Sure, there will be a couple extra turnovers, but the Tar Heels will also benefit with extra layup opportunities.

PiRate Red: North Carolina by 2

PiRate White: North Carolina by 3

PiRate Blue: North Carolina by 7

Prediction: North Carolina 75  Arkansas 71

9:40 PM on TBS

#3 Notre Dame vs. #6 Butler

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Remember that our criteria does not factor into the equation any possible intangibles such as in-state rivalries (same will go for KU-Wichita).  So, adjust your personal predictions as you see fit.  Notre Dame has the most efficient field goal shooting team in the tournament, but their defense is not in the upper half, so the Irish can become vulnerable if their shots don’t fall.  It hasn’t happened in several weeks.  Butler has the clear rebounding advantage in this game, so once again the key is whether or not Notre Dame will give the Bulldogs many opportunities to rebound missed shots.

PiRate Red: Notre Dame by 2

PiRate White: Notre Dame by 3

PiRate Blue: Notre Dame by 5

Prediction: Notre Dame 74  Butler 71

Sunday, March 22, 2015

12:10 PM on CBS

#2 Virginia vs. #7 Michigan St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Michigan State’s perpetual rebounding dominance will face a stern test from an almost equally competent rebounding squad in the Cavaliers.  This is going to be an exciting, albeit slow-paced game.  UVA’s only clear advantage here is in TO rate, so Sparty has a fighting chance at an upset.

PiRate Red: Virginia by 7

PiRate White: Virginia by 4

PiRate Blue: Virginia by 6

Prediction: Virginia 66  Michigan St. 60

2:40 PM on CBS

#1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Duke can hold the Aztecs under 40% shooting and then retrieve a majority of the missed shots, and SDSU cannot really force the Blue Devils out of their comfort zone, so this game looks like an easy victory for Coach K and co.

PiRate Red: Duke by 9

PiRate White: Duke by 8

PiRate Blue: Duke by 12

Prediction: Duke 71  San Diego St. 61

5:15 PM on CBS

#2 Kansas vs. #7 Wichita St.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Unfortunately, neither team is as strong as they once were, but this should still be the most exciting game of the round.  The most glaring statistic for this game is that KU has the toughest schedule strength in the Dance, while Wichita’s is near the bottom of the remaining teams.  Thus, the Jayhawks’ stats were compiled against teams that were on average about a dozen points per game better than the opponents the Shockers played.  If Wichita State is to pull off the upset, they will have to win the turnover battle by 3 or more, and Ron Baker will have to rediscover his shooting accuracy in a hurry.

PiRate Red: Kansas by 1

PiRate White: Kansas by 1

PiRate Blue: Kansas by 5

Prediction: Kansas 70  Wichita St. 68

6:10 PM on TNT

#3 Oklahoma vs. #11 Dayton

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria:  An aside to the criteria for a moment.  This is a great example of how the pace of the college game has slowed and become dull compared to how the game was played in the past.  Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger has been leading college teams since the 1980’s, when he started at Pan American.  Kruger’s philosophy of the game was handed to him by his college coach Jack Hartman, who demanded tough man-to-man defense and deliberate patterned offense.  Kruger’s teams have played the same consistent style of ball throughout his 30+ year career.  When he started out, his teams were considered slow-paced compared to the rest of college basketball, but now this same style of play is near the top in pace!  68 possessions per game represented the bottom 10% then, and it now represents the top 10%.

As for this game, both teams are similar with similar positives and negatives.  For instance, both teams are rather strong on the boards and not so strong forcing turnovers.  Only the Sooners’ superior strength of schedule gives them an overall advantage, and we are a little leery of the Big 12 after Baylor, Iowa State, Texas, and Oklahoma State all lost with superior schedule strengths.  And, it is hard to discount a Miller brother in the Big Dance.

PiRate Red: Oklahoma by 3

PiRate White: Oklahoma by 5

PiRate Blue: Oklahoma by 3

Prediction: Oklahoma 79  Dayton 76

7:10 PM on TBS

#2 Gonzaga vs. #7 Iowa

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: The so-called experts believe that Gonzaga is a “paper lion” and very vulnerable to exiting the tournament in the opening weekend once again.  We do not buy into that argument this season, as the Bulldogs are solid and deep, much deserving of their seed.  Yes, the Hawkeyes dismantled Davidson like they were Kentucky, but consistency has not been a descriptive term for this year’s team.  Gonzaga holds a decisive E FG% advantage in this game, and Iowa does not have enough R+T (cheap basket opportunities) to counter this superiority.

PiRate Red: Gonzaga by 10

PiRate White: Gonzaga by 5

PiRate Blue: Gonzaga by 10

Prediction: Gonzaga 78  Iowa 70

7:45 PM on truTV

#1 Wisconsin vs. #8 Oregon

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: If you watched the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game between Oregon and Arizona, then you saw the Ducks’ main liability.  Arizona was too strong inside for Oregon to stop, while the Ducks did not get too many easy looks at their basket.  Wisconsin is similar to Arizona, and the same advantages apply here.  The Badgers should have little trouble advancing to the Sweet 16, but the Pac-12 did go 4-0 in the second round.

PiRate Red: Wisconsin by 12

PiRate White: Wisconsin by 9

PiRate Blue: Wisconsin by 8

Prediction: Wisconsin 73  Oregon 63

8:40 PM on TNT

#4 Maryland vs. #5 West Virginia

Note: This is a rivalry game so intangibles should be considered when you select your winner.  These teams have not played each other in more than 10 years, but they have a long history.  The players might not feel it, but the fans certainly will.

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: It’s all about the press for the Mountaineers.  If the opponent has difficulty getting into their offense or turns the ball over, then WVU exploits the miscue for points.  When the opponent defeats the press for either an easy score or to the point where they can run their offense, then Huggy Bear’s team does not fare well.  Maryland appears to be the type of team that can withstand the pressure and get decent shots thanks to a couple of stars.  However, the criteria here shows a split decision.

PiRate Red: West Virginia by 1

PiRate White: West Virginia by 2

PiRate Blue: Maryland by 2

Prediction: West Virginia 74  Maryland 73 ot

9:40 PM on TBS

#4 Louisville vs. #5 Northern Iowa

Four Factors + PiRate Criteria: Louisville is going to have up to a half dozen extra scoring opportunities in this game thanks to rebounding and turnover rate edges, but the Cardinals are not all that accurate shooting, while NIU is rather competent here.  The Panthers will not be intimidated by the Cardinals, and UL is missing key parts of their machinery.  Again, this is a split decision in the criteria and ratings.

PiRate Red: Northern Iowa by 1

PiRate White: Northern Iowa by 2

PiRate Blue: Louisville by 3

Prediction: Northern Iowa 55  Louisville 54

March 17, 2015

The PiRate Bracketnomics Bracket-Picking Guide: Rounds One & Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:38 am

We hope you read yesterday’s tutorial on how the PiRate Ratings select their brackets and pick winners in each round of the NCCC Tournament.  If not, here is a link to that informative post:

Once you have familiarized yourself with the “Four Factors” and the “PiRate Bracketnomics” Criteria, then everything you read here will be easily understood.

Today, we will look first at the Opening Round games in Dayton played tonight and tomorrow.  Then, we will break down the 32 games Thursday in Friday in the Second Round.  We will then choose our bracket the rest of the way for those looking to fill out their bracket all at once.

Finally, since hundreds of you recently discovered this page for the first time, we will bring up two controversial subjects we have discussed in the past–how to bring more excitement back to the college game, and how to change the NCAA Tournament so that great low and mid-major teams (like Murray State this year) cannot be eliminated by a major upset after going undefeated in their league.

Just another friendly reminder: See yesterday’s post for all the pertinent stats discussed in today’s preview.

All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time


Tuesday, March 17

#16 Hampton (16-17) vs. #16 Manhattan (19-13)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Manhattan enjoys a small edge in E FG%, as Hampton’s opponents enjoyed a better rate than they did.  Hampton has the edge in rebound rate, while Manhattan has a decided advantage in turnover rate, as their defense forces more turnovers per 100 possessions than average.  Free throw rate is a wash.

PiRate Criteria

In the early rounds, strength of schedule tends to play a more important role than in later rounds, and the reason is obvious.  If a team gets to the Elite 8, they belong there regardless of schedule strength.

Manhattan enjoys a huge edge in strength of schedule; the Jaspers’ schedule was about nine points per game stronger.

Scoring Margin was not a strong factor for either team, but Hampton was actually outscored, which is a bad sign for making it past the opening round.

Neither team performed well in any of the other PiRate Criteria categories, as they both have negative field goal percentage margins; neither rebound the ball well; and both had losing records away from home.

Hampton only bests Manhattan in one category, but it is a big one–R+T.  Thanks to a lot of steals, the Pirates get extra opportunities to score.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Manhattan by 7

White: Manhattan by 6

Blue: Manhattan by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Manhattan wins this one.  One big factor hurting Hampton is the health of their top player.  Dwight Meikle is nursing an injury to his ankle, and if he can play, he will not be 100%.

#11 BYU (25-9) vs. #11 Ole Miss (20-12)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Give Ole Miss a slight advantage in E FG%, but not enough to mean much.  Likewise, BYU enjoys an equally slight Rebound Rate advantage, while Turnover Rate is virtually identical both offensively and defensively.  BYU has a small Free Throw Rate advantage, but we heavily discount this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

Ole Miss had a more than six points per game more difficult schedule, which is considerable in this round, so BYU needs to have considerably better criteria grades to emerge as a favorite.

Scoring margin is a tie.  The Cougars have a slight advantage in field goal percentage margin, a little stronger advantage in rebound margin, no advantage in turnover margin, and only a slight R+T advantage.  Both teams were good but not great away from home, even though both saved their best for the toughest road game.  Ole Miss came the closest to knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena, while BYU won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 2

Blue: Ole Miss by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: It’s close, but we will take BYU because Ole Miss ended the season in a swoon.

Wednesday, March 18

#16 North Florida (23-11) vs. #16 Robert Morris (19-14)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

North Florida enjoys decided advantages in E FG% and Free Throw Rate and smaller advantages in Rebound Rate and Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

There is not much difference in schedule strength in this game.  North Florida’s Four Factor dominance is confirmed in all PiRate Criteria, and most importantly, RMU has a negative R+T.  Rule number one in PiRate Bracketonomics is to immediately eliminate any team with a negative R+T–‘nuf ced.

PiRate Ratings

Red: N. Florida by 9

White: N. Florida by 5

Blue: N. Florida by 11

Bracketnomics Selection: North Florida looks to be a prohibitive favorite in this game, but we believe it will be closer than our criteria makes this game out to be. We will go with the Ospreys, but by single digits.

#11 Boise St. (25-8) AT #11 Dayton (25-8)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% and Turnover Rate are close to equal between the two combatants.  Boise State has a considerable Rebound Rate advantage, while Dayton has the clear Free Throw Rate advantage, which is not enough to offset BSU’s Rebound Rate Advantage.  However, this game has one unique feature: Dayton has a huge Home Court Advantage.

PiRate Criteria

Boise State would be the clear favorite in this game if it were not in Dayton, but the Broncos have to travel more than 1,650 air miles across multiple time zones, while DU’s players will sleep in their own beds.

The Broncos have a double digit scoring margin, while Dayton has a respectable 7.3 margin.  FG% margin is the same.  BSU enjoys the edge in rebounding margin, as the Flyers are -1.1 here.  While TO Margin is equal, BSU has a nice 11.6 R+T rating to Dayton’s mediocre 4.2.

What tilts the game the other way is Dayton’s home court advantage as well as a nearly 8 points per game advantage in schedule strength.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 6

White: Dayton by 5

Blue: Dayton by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: Kudos should go to Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Mark Few disciple, for far exceeding expectations in this football oasis.  Greener pastures are in his future should he decide to move up.

The Broncos did not deserve this fate, but they must take it.  Unfortunately for Rice and company, Dayton will take this game and advance on to the East Region and the Second Round.


Thursday, March 19, 2015 & Friday, March 20, 2015

East Region

#1 Villanova (32-2) vs. #16 Lafayette (20-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 6:50 PM


4 Factors

Lafayette has no chance in this game, but we will include all the stats to show you why.  The Leopards’ defense is porous, and Villanova has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.  This ‘Nova team is not a terror on the boards, but it is better than previous additions, while Lafayette is not a factor in this factor.  Villanova’s defensive Turnover Rate is much superior to Lafayette’s, while the Wildcats blow the Leopards out of the water in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Again, we probably do not need to bother showing you the differences here, but just in case you wanted to know, Villanova dominates here as well.  The Wildcats’ PiRate Criteria us Final Four worthy and Elite 8 favoring with a scoring margin of more than 15 points per game, a field goal percentage margin of 6.5%, a rebounding margin of 2.3, a turnover margin of 3.4, an R+T of 12.1, a road W-L record of 15-2, and a very respectable strength of schedule.

Lafayette has a negative R+T, so this one looks like it will be over between the first and second TV timeout.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Villanova by 32

White: Villanova by 27

Blue: Villanova by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: Villanova with a 99.9% chance of winning

#8 North Carolina St. (20-13) vs. #9 LSU (22-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:10 PM


4 Factors

This shapes up to be an interesting game as all 8-9 seed games should be.  LSU ever so slightly enjoys a minor E FG% advantage, while the same can be said about North Carolina State’s Rebound Rate advantage.  Turnover Rate and Free Throw Rate are pushes.  A favorite cannot be found here.

PiRate Criteria

The Wolf Pack enjoys a tiny strength of schedule advantage of about three points per game.  That said, the rest of the criteria is a mixed bag.  Scoring margin is about the same.  LSU has a tiny field goal percentage margin edge.  NCSU returns the favor in rebounding margin.  Both teams have small negative turnover margins, while State has a small R+T edge.  LSU went 8-5 away from home, while the Wolf Pack suffered through a 7-9 record outside of Raleigh.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina St. by 1

White: North Carolina St. by 1

Blue: North Carolina St. by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: It is close, but North Carolina State gets the edge.  It doesn’t hurt that the Wolf Pack has the better backcourt.

#5 Northern Iowa (30-3) vs. #12 Wyoming (25-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 1:40 PM


4 Factors

This game will trudge along at a snail’s pace, as neither team believes in pressing the tempo.  Thus, advantages will not be as great with the pace probably below 60 possessions for both teams.

Give a small edge in E FG% to NIU.  Because Wyoming is weak on the offensive glass, Northern Iowa gets the edge here as well.  Turnover Margin is close to equal, but the Panthers have the slight edge here.  Normally, we would heavily discount Free Throw Rate, but Northern Iowa is the best in the nation at defensive FT*.  They are the only team in the tournament with a Rate in single digits.  They commit few fouls, and when they do send an opposing player to the line, it is usually a player with a weak shooting percentage.

PiRate Criteria

Normally, a mid-major team’s downfall is a weak strength of schedule.  While UNI does not have a schedule strength of Iowa State, the Panthers’ SOS is still above the norm.  In this game, it is several points better than Wyoming’s SOS.

Northern Iowa’s criteria resume looks very Sweet 16 worthy if not Elite 8 worthy.  The Panthers enjoy a scoring margin of 15.5 points, a FG% margin of 9.1%, a rebounding margin of 2.4, a turnover margin of 0.8, and an R+T of 9.5.  Throw in a road record of 12-3, and Northern Iowa is the clear favorite in this game, as Wyoming has pedestrian numbers across the board and a mediocre 9-8 record away from Laramie.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Northern Iowa by 15

White: Northern Iowa by 13

Blue: Northern Iowa by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Northern Iowa is one 5-seed that will keep a 12-seed from pulling off an upset.  The Panthers should be a 3 or 4-seed.

#4 Louisville (24-8) vs. #13 UC-Irvine (21-12)

Tip Time: Friday, 4:10 PM


4 Factors

Before delving into each factor, there is a large difference in schedule strength in this game, so large that the individual statistical components must be adjusted by about 17 points to compare the two teams.

UC-Irvine shoots the ball efficiently when they face opponents like UC-Santa Barbara.  Against the likes of Louisville, expect the Anteaters to struggle to get good looks for large parts of this game.  Thus, the E FG% goes to the Cardinals.

UL has a prohibitive advantage in Rebound Rate, even with UC-Irvine having 7 foot 6 inch titan Mamadou Ndiaye in the lineup.  Ndiaye plays less than 20 minutes per game and seldom gets into proper rebounding position, so UL will dominate the boards in this game.

While this is not Rick Pitino’s typically outstanding full court pressing team, Louisville has the big edge in Turnover Margin.  Ditto that for Free Throw Rate as well, so this looks to be a laugher.

PiRate Criteria

This area confirms the previous area.  UL dominates in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin, R+T, and winning percentage away from home.  While it does not look favorable for the Cardinals to make it to Indianapolis, they have an easy opening game this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Louisville by 17

White: Louisville by 14

Blue: Louisville by 22

Bracketnomics Selection: Louisville’s power game wears UCI down and leads to a double-digit win.

#6 Providence (22-11) vs. #11 Boise State or Dayton

Note: This preview includes Dayton as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Providence has an Achilles Heel that can be exploited by good teams, and the tournament is full of good teams.  The Friars are not an exceptionally talented shooting team with a weak E FG% of 48.6%.  They do not make up for this weakness with a terrific defensive E FG%, so this must be a game to look at the strength of the underdog.

Assuming Dayton wins on their home floor to advance to this game, the Flyers are definitely better in E FG%, which means they have a chance to pull off the upset.  Looking past this factor, Providence is going to enjoy a nice edge in Rebound Rate, but Dayton will offset a lot of that with the advantage in Turnover Rate as well as a little help in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Providence has one distinct advantage here, and that is schedule strength.  While Dayton has a strong schedule, Providence has one of the toughest in the tournament (5th best in the Dance).

Dayton’s rebounding margin liability will most likely prevent the Flyers from winning, unless Providence lays a total egg in field goal percentage.  Throw in a decided R+T advantage, and PU will benefit from something like 9 extra legitimate scoring opportunities.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 1 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

White: Providence by 3 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

Blue: Providence by 2 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 5)

Bracketnomics Selection: We will take Providence, but we are not strong in our belief.  Dayton coach Archie Miller took the Flyers a lot farther than where they were supposed to go last year.

#3 Oklahoma (22-10) vs. #14 Albany (24-8)

Tip Time: Friday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Like Providence, Oklahoma is not a particularly efficient shooting team, but unlike Providence, any Lon Kruger-coached team is going to be tough on the defensive side.  Albany is a little soft in this factor, so the Sooners enjoy a major advantage in the most important spot.

Rebounding Rate should not be a major decider in this game.  OU is not great here, while Albany is rather good for their level of play, but not for the Big Dance.  You can scratch off Turnover Rate here as well, not because both teams are weak, but because both are about average.  Albany has a liability in Free Throw Rate, as they give up too many points per 100 possessions here.  Oklahoma is not dominant here, but the Sooners should get to the line a little more than an average NCAA Tournament team gets to the line.

PiRate Criteria

There is a major advantage for Oklahoma in schedule strength of about 18 points.  Albany should probably be a 15-seed, but the bottom of the field is considerably weaker than average.

Factoring schedule strength into the other criteria areas, Albany has no advantage where they can exploit a Sooner weakness.  In other words, forget any possibility of an upset in this game, not the OU will get too much farther.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oklahoma by 18

White: Oklahoma by 16

Blue: Oklahoma by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: Boomer Sooner–Oklahoma will win this in something close to a blowout, but don’t expect OU to make it too far this year.  They can get to the Sweet 16, but that may be their ceiling for 2015.

#7 Michigan State (23-11) vs. #10 Georgia (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% tilts in Michigan State’s favor, and when Sparty enjoys this advantage during the Tom Izzo era, they win most of the time, because MSU is always going to dominate the glass against good but not great opponents, of which Georgia is one.  Even though the Bulldogs are tough in Rebound Rate, the Spartans are better by a large margin.

Georgia cannot compensate for the rebounding advantage with superior Turnover Rate advantage, because MSU actually is a little better here as well.  Only in Free Throw Rate does Georgia really dominate in this game, and you know how we feel about this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria for this game does not exactly corroborate the Four Factors above, but Michigan State still has the advantage in every category but one.  Georgia’s schedule strength is modestly better, mostly because the Bulldogs faced Kentucky twice.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Michigan St. by 4

White: Michigan St. by 6

Blue: Michigan St. by 8

Bracketnomics Selection: Georgia will not be intimidated by Michigan State’s power game, because they faced the best power game in college basketball twice and did not blink.  However, when the game is on the line, we like the Spartans chances in this one.  We will take Michigan State to set up a fantastic game on Sunday.

#2 Virginia (29-3) vs. #15 Belmont (22-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Belmont is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the nation, albeit against much weaker competition than the likes of Virginia.  The Cavaliers fall only behind Kentucky in defensive field goal efficiency.  Turning the tables, Virginia is a better than average field goal efficiency team on offense, while Belmont is plain bad defensively in this important area.

The Rebound Rate advantage exceeds the Field Goal Efficiency advantage for the Cavaliers, while Belmont’s error-prone attack leads to a terrible Turnover Rate for a team in this field.

PiRate Criteria

The strength of schedule difference in this game is huge.  UVa has an advantage of about 15 points per game.  Add into the equation a resume that looks like a typical Final Four team, and the Cavs look to roll in this one.  Virginia is one of just four teams in this field that has double digit scoring and FG% margins.  Their R+T is 20.5, one of just four in this stat as well.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Virginia by 31

White: Virginia by 23

Blue: Virginia by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: There is no suspense for this game.  Virginia could hold Belmont under 40 points and win by as many as 30-35 points.  The big question mark is how healthy is star forward Justin Anderson?  If he can return to something close to his old form, UVa could go all the way to Indianapolis.

South Region

#1 Duke (29-4) vs. #16 North Florida or Robert Morris

This preview includes North Florida as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 7:10 PM


4 Factors

Duke has had a scare as a heavy favorite in their first NCAA Tournament game in the not too distant past.  The Blue Devils survived a one-point nail-biter against Belmont.  Can history repeat itself?  Remember, this is a 1-16 game, and no 16-seed has ever defeated a 1-seed.  Princeton almost beat Georgetown in 1989, losing when a last-second shot was blocked and a foul was not called.

Duke should not have much to worry about in this game, but North Florida could make this game interesting for a short time.  Duke’s biggest advantage is in Rebound Rate, where North Florida is weak on the glass.

PiRate Criteria

Does Duke have a Final Four resume here?  Compared to Final Four teams in the 21st Century, the Blue Devils look similar.  Their scoring margin is 15.0; their FG% margin is 7.3%; their rebound margin is 6.2; their turnover margin is 1.3, and their R+T is 17.7.  Add a 10-2 record outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium and a strong schedule strength, and Coach K has a potential Final Four team.  The only real weakness for the Dukies is that they are only very good in these criteria areas and not completely dominant in any.  In a year, where another team is completely dominant, it may be their downfall.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Duke by 30

White: Duke by 23

Blue: Duke by 27

Bracketnomics Selection: Duke will win this game with ease and then advance to the Sweet 16 with another relatively easy game on Sunday.

#8 San Diego St. (26-8) vs. #9 St. John’s (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:40 PM


4 Factors

The numbers here predict an ugly game with a low score.  Neither team can throw the ball in the ocean at times.  St. John’s is a little better offensively, but San Diego State is much better defensively.

Rebounding Rate is the next most important factor, and the Aztecs figure to own the glass in this game, partly due to their acumen and partly due to the Red Storm’s lack thereof.

The other two factors are a wash here.

PiRate Criteria

St. John’s has a slightly stronger strength of schedule, just enough that it matters.  This is about the only area where the Red Storm enjoys a decided advantage.  SDSU gets the checkmark on their side of the ledger in scoring margin, FG% margin, rebounding margin, R+T, and road winning percentage.

PiRate Ratings

Red: San Diego St. by 1

White: San Diego St. by 1

Blue: San Diego St. by 5

Bracketnomics Selection: We are going to add one out of criteria factor as our reason to pick San Diego State.  St. John’s coach Steve Lavin comes from the Gene Keady coaching tree.  Keady has been a St. John’s assistant under his student.  Keady, and his coaching tree, is famous for greatly underachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  This includes Matt Painter, Bruce Weber, and Kevin Stallings among others.  These coaches do not choke; it’s just that their style of play goes against the grain and opposes the PiRate Criteria–not that these coaches deliberately attack us, but it is that we discovered that power teams that do not rely on finesse of assists and free throws are the teams that go deep in the tournament.  It does not hurt that Steve Fisher has cut the nets down before, and his teams are the epitome of power basketball.  SDSU wins this game, but they will not make it to the Sweet 16.

#5 Utah (24-8) vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin (29-4)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

SFA pulled off a big upset last year by dispensing with VCU, but the Lumberjacks drew a team that can neutralize their assets.  Utah is a little better in offensive shooting efficiency and much better on the defensive side.  The Utes can prevent SFA’s major asset, Rebound Rate, from being all that effective, because Utah is rather strong there as well.  SFA forces a lot of turnovers, but Utah is not all that sloppy with the ball.  Because Utah’s schedule was about 10-12 points per game stronger, the Utes have the tools to keep this 12-seed from pulling off the upset.

PiRate Criteria

This is the only game in the second round where both teams enjoy scoring margins of more than 14 points.  Utah also has a double digit FG% margin.  The only area where the Lumberjacks have a clear advantage is road winning percentage.  Utah was only 8-7 outside of SLC, while SFA went 14-3.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Utah by 8

White: Utah by 7

Blue: Utah by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Stephen F. Austin might beat other 5-seeds and even a couple of 4-seeds, but the Selection Committee chose the perfect foe for the Lumberjacks, almost as tough as if they selected paper versus rock instead of scissors versus rock.  Utah wins.

#4 Georgetown (21-10) vs. #13 Eastern Washington (26-8)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Georgetown’s E FG% on both offense and defense are about average, or slightly below average among the teams in this field.  Eastern Washington has a high offensive E FG%, but their defensive rate is horrible.  Georgetown’s Rebound Rate is about average, while EWU’s is weak.  Neither team is exceptionally competent in Turnover Rate or Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

In recent years, Georgetown did not cut the mustard in R+T rating, and they were the easy choice to lose early in the tournament.  The Hoyas are better off this year, as this GU edition more closely resembles a GU team from the 1980’s than the 2010’s.  Georgetown has credible numbers across the board here, with their only weak spot being winning percentage away from home.  At 7-5, the Hoyas are not going to make it to Indianapolis, but they will not go home after one game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Georgetown by 17

White: Georgetown by 14

Blue: Georgetown by 14

Bracketnomics Selection: Finally, John Thompson III gets a win in the Dance.

#6 SMU (27-6) vs. #11 UCLA (20-13)

Tip Time: 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

UCLA took the brunt of the criticism for making the tournament without possessing the proper credentials, but the Four Factors show the Bruins to be worthy of the Big Dance.  However, SMU’s credentials are plainly better.  Typically, Steve Alford’s teams play smart, finesse basketball, but this team does neither.  The Bruins play more power basketball, which is what you look for in the NCAA Tournament, but they do not play it well enough to advance far.

SMU has a clear edge in E FG% and Rebound Rate, a minor advantage in FT Rate, while the teams are even in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria depicts UCLA as more of a NIT-worthy team.  The Bruins were 4-12 away from Pauley Pavilion.  SMU was 10-4 outside of Dallas.  The Mustangs are close to being one of our surprise picks to contend for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.7, and their FG% margin is 10.0%.  Add a rebounding margin of 6.9, and an R+T of 16.8, and Coach Larry Brown’s squad only lacks in turnover margin, which is still positive at 0.2

PiRate Ratings

Red: SMU by 6

White: SMU by 7

Blue: SMU by 9

Bracketnomics Selection: SMU only has to worry about UCLA’s players playing over their heads due to the negative criticism from the so-called experts.  We’ll take the Mustangs.

#3 Iowa St. (25-8) vs. #14 UAB (19-15)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Iowa State looks like a heavy favorite based on these factors, but what will happen if they do not trail by double digits in the first half?  They are so accustomed to spotting a 10-15-point lead and then coming from behind, that they could literally panic if they have to play from the front.

The Cyclones are plainly better than UAB in offensive E FG% and somewhat better defensively.  Their main issue is Rebound Rate, where opponents fared better than ISU.  However, UAB cannot exploit this weakness.  Turnover Rate favors the Cyclones, while FT Rate is close to even.

PiRate Criteria

Iowa State looks more like a dominant team in this game when you look at these criteria.  Scoring margin is not close, as ISU enjoys a margin close to 10, while UAB is just barely positive.  FG% margin tilts the scale in ISU’s favor.  Rebound margin is about even, while ISU  dusts the Blazers in turnover margin, thanks to UAB having a negative number.  UAB was just 3-8 away from home, while Iowa State was 7-5.

PiRate Ratings

Red:  Iowa St. by 18

White: Iowa St. by 18

Blue: Iowa St. by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Iowa State should win this game quickly and hopefully learn that you can win by leading for close to 40 minutes rather than trail by 10 or more for 20.

#7 Iowa (21-11) vs. #10 Davidson (24-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM


4 Factors

Keep an eye on this game, as the underdog here has better numbers.  Davidson enjoys a considerable E FG% offensively, but Iowa returns the favor defensively.  The Hawkeyes have a slight Rebound Rate advantage, and Davidson has an even slighter Turnover Rate advantage.  Iowa enjoys a large FT Rate advantage, but remember that we do not place much weight on this factor, and our criteria tells us to turn this to a negative if a team relies too much on free throw shooting, because referees call fewer fouls in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The criteria herein show this game to be a near tossup.  Iowa wins the schedule strength battle but not by much.  Davidson takes the scoring margin battle, but Iowa is rather strong here as well.  Iowa has the rebounding margin advantage, while Davidson has the turnover margin edge.  The Hawkeyes have a better R+T, but Davidson has a better road winning percentage.  It is the closest game in this round when looking at just this section.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Davidson by 1

White: Iowa by 1

Blue: Davidson by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: If you read yesterday’s post, you saw that we never use assist to turnover ratio and discount three-point shooting and excessive free throw shooting.  Well…all three of these stats to ignore come into play here.  Davidson can shoot lights out from behind the arc and enjoys an incredible assist to turnover ratio, while Iowa is the epitome of a get to the foul line and win with free throws team.  If we were asked to select one game that could go to overtime, this is the game we would select.  We are only going with Davidson because the need to get to the foul line is drastically challenged in this tournament.

#2 Gonzaga (32-2) vs. #15 North Dakota St. (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:50 PM


4 Factors

Gonzaga leads the nation in offensive E FG%, and they do it by getting a lot of easy two-point shots.  Defensively, the Bulldogs are almost the equal of their terrific offense.  North Dakota State is rather weak on both sides in this factor.

Gonzaga’s Rebound Rate is not as overpowering as the above factor, but it is still quite strong.  The Bison Rebound Rate is their top factor, but it is not the equal of the Zags.  The remaining two factors are not all that much of a factor in this game.

PiRate Criteria

If you compare Gonzaga’s criteria with Kentucky’s, the Bulldogs are not that far behind the most dominant team in 20 years.  Take a look:

Scoring margin–18.2; FG% margin–14.0%; Rebound margin–7.2; Turnover margin–1.1; R+T–19.0; Road W-L–13-1.

North Dakota State is not that bad for a low-major team, but they drew an impossible assignment in Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Gonzaga by 30

White: Gonzaga by 28

Blue: Gonzaga by 24

Bracketnomics Selection: Gonzaga has taken a bad wrap for not advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in recent years.  That could change this year.  Gonzaga wins this game and empties the bench.

Midwest Region

#1 Kentucky (34-0) vs. #16 Hampton or Manhattan

This review includes Manhattan winning Tuesday

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:40 PM


Four Factors

This is an obvious blowout game, so let’s focus on the Wildcats and their pursuit of history.  We really cannot compare the Four Factors of Kentucky with those of San Francisco of 1956, UCLA of 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973, or Indiana of 1976, because there were no three-point shots for those past seasons, and we do not have exact rebounding splits or turnovers.

Kentucky’s E FG% is just average.  The Wildcats do not win games by shooting lights out.  However, their defensive E FG% is just plain scary.  It is below 40%.

UK’s Rebound Rate is not what it probably should be.  It is not the best in the tournament, and it is not even the best in the Midwest Region, as West Virginia has a better total rate.

The Wildcats have a spectacular Turnover Rate, but again West Virginia’s is better.

How many times have we told you to discount FT Rate?  Well, forget that for Kentucky.  They have the second best offensive FT Rate in the tournament, and there is reason to believe this statistic will actually mean something, as opponents will continue to foul their wide open shooters out of desperation.

What about Manhattan?  The Jaspers have poor Rebound and Turnover Rates, and Kentucky will get about 15 to 20 additional scoring opportunities, as if they need them against this team.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike the Four Factors, we can compare Kentucky’s PiRate Criteria to the crucial parts of the criteria of the past undefeated champions.  Since there is no real need to compare it to Manhattan, let’s look at those incredible champs from the past and see how John Calipari’s crew stacks up.

Scoring Margin:  Kentucky’s is 20.9.  Entering the tournaments, 1976 Indiana’s was 19.1; 1973 UCLA’s was 22.1; 1972 UCLA’s was 32.2; 1967 UCLA’s was 26.2; 1964 UCLA’s was 20.5; 1957 North Carolina’s was 14.7; and 1956 San Francisco’s was 18.0.

FG% Margin: Kentucky’s is 11.4%, which is definitely National Championship-worthy.  Of the undefeated champs from the past, only the 1972 and 1973 UCLA teams bested this with marks just over 12%.

Rebounding Margin: Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by 7.4 per game.  This is better than 1976 Indiana’s 6.0, but below all the other undefeated champions, even the 1964 UCLA team with no starter over 6′-05″.  This statistic is where the Alcindor (Jabbar) and Walton teams at UCLA dominated with huge margins, and where the Bill Russell USF team won the battle by more than 17 per game.  If Kentucky is to face defeat, their opponent will have to be able to rebound.

UK’s turnover margin is a very respectable 3.4.  We do not have turnover margins for the other teams, but from memory, we remember that UCLA forced a lot of turnovers and picked up a lot of steals from their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press, but they also committed more turnovers than average due to full-time up-tempo play.  For instance, the 1972 squad played at a pace of about 90 possessions per game, whereas Kentucky today averages less than 65 possessions per game (unfortunately, this is a sign of the times, as college basketball on average sees 25% less action than it did in the first half of the 1970s.

The Cats’ R+T is 22.9, second best in this tournament.  Obviously, they have an undefeated record away from Rupp Arena, and many would say they played better on the road than at home.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kentucky by 34

White: Kentucky by 28

Blue: Kentucy by 32

Bracketnomics Selection: In Las Vegas, Kentucky is Even Money to win the tournament, and that could be an underlay.  In horse racing parlance, they should have 1-9 odds on the tote board.  What is scary is that the gaudy statistics they compiled do not show just how strong this team can be.  The players actually underperformed for a good part of the year, as if they were saving their energy for now.  This team has talent good enough to beat the New York Knicks in a best of seven tournament.

It may surprise you, but this will not be the first team with five starters that will start in the NBA.  It has happened before, and both schools made the Final Four during the time the NBA players were starting.  All five of 1976 Indiana’s starters (Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Bobby Wilkerson, and Quinn Buckner) started games in the NBA.  6th man Wayne Radford also played for pay for a season.

Ohio State’s starting five in 1960 (Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts) pulled off the feat as well.  Lucas and Havlicek are Hall of Famers.

Both Indiana and Ohio State won the title.  This bodes well for Kentucky.

#8 Cincinnati (22-10) vs. #9 Purdue (21-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:10 PM


Four Factors

It’s one thing for 8-9 games to be close, but this is ridiculous.  These teams mirror each other in offensive and defensive E FG%, Rebound Rate, and Turnover Rate.  Cincinnati does not foul much, but in the Big Dance, the zebras will not whistle Purdue for many fouls either.  No favorite can be picked on this criteria.

PiRate Criteria

The results here are mixed as well.  Purdue has the better strength of schedule by about 5 points per game.  Cinti enjoys the advantage in scoring margin, FG% margin, and rebound margin, but not by a large amount.  Both teams have negative turnover margins and mediocre records away from home, so whoever wins Thursday will be a double digit loser on Saturday.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Purdue by 2

White: Cincinnati by 3

Blue: Cincinnati by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: Matt Painter is a Keady disciple, but this Purdue team is not pure finesse relying on assists and foul shooting opportunities to win.  However, the team is not fantastic in the power game.

Cincinnati has had issues this year with their coach sidelined for health reasons.  They have been playing for Mick Cronin all year, even though Larry Davis is the coach on the sidelines.  A visit from Cronin should pump the Bearcats up a little.

Both teams play tough defense, and the winner of this game could be the first to 55 points.  We’ll go with Cincinnati to win in a 55-53 type game.

#5 West Virginia (23-9) vs. #12 Buffalo (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:10 PM


Four Factors

On paper, this looks like the game with the most chance of a 12-seed upsetting a 5-seed, but at the same time, this also looks like the team most capable of putting a scare into Kentucky in a Sweet 16 game.

West Virginia might be 27-5 or 28-4 if the Mountaineers could shoot straight.  Their E FG% is the worst in the field.  Buffalo is weak on the offensive side of this factor, but the Bulls are stronger on the defensive side.

Shooting aside, WVU is scary good elsewhere, which is why Coach Bob Huggins has guided his Alma Mater back into the field.  WVU’s Rebound Rates are 40.9 on offense and 30.9 on defense, and their TO rates are 18.7 on offense and 28.2 on defense.  In other words, they may not shoot straight and give up too many easy shots, but they will get so many more opportunities to score than their opponent, they can still win.

Buffalo can neutralize West Virginia’s top assets, because the Bulls are quite good in Rebound and TO rates too.

PiRate Criteria

The good ole PiRate Criteria shows this game to be a lot closer than most fans realize.  Don’t discount Buffalo’s chances.  Remember, this team actually led Kentucky at halftime at Rupp Arena.  The Bulls will not be intimidated.

WVU has a slim schedule strength advantage and even slimmer scoring margin advantage.  Buffalo stampeded the Mountaineers in FG% margin, as WVU has a -5.7% rate, something that foretells a short stay this year.

Rebound and TO margins tilt in favor of WVU, but not by all that much, as Buffalo has good numbers here.  WVU’s exceptional R+T number of 19.4 is a result of their excellent “On the line and up the line” pressure defense that produces 7 steals per game and causes opponents to rush shots before they have established proper offensive rebounding angles.

PiRate Ratings

Red: West Virginia by 5

White: West Virginia by 5

Blue: West Virginia by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: If you are going to pick a 12-seed in your bracket to win, this is probably your best shot.  However, the criteria says that West Virginia has about a 70% chance of winning this game.  The Mountaineers have a lot of flaws and will not make it to the Final Four, but they are the wildcard team that can force Kentucky out of its normal pace of play.  Unlike Arkansas that caused the Cats some trouble with their “40 minutes of Hell,” WVU can play volleyball on the backboard and keep Kentucky from dominating on the boards, while still forcing turnovers.  Keep an eye on a possible Sweet 16 game between these two teams, but WVU is certainly no sure thing to make it that far.  Just one God-awful shooting night will doom the Mountaineers back to the mountains.

#4 Maryland (27-6) vs. #13 Valparaiso (28-5)

Tip Time: 4:40 PM


Four Factors

The criteria for this game indicates a possible upset, as Valpo is a lot better than a typical 13-seed.  Maryland has not danced in five seasons, but the Terrapins have enough talent to make it to a second week in the tournament.  It should be an entertaining game according to these factors.

Both teams are better than average in E FG%, with 50%+ offensive and 45% defensive percentages.  Maryland is not an exceptional rebounding team, which is proven by their negative Rebound Rate (29.2 Offense and 30.4 Defense), while Valpo is quite competent on the boards, albeit against weaker competition.

Neither squad receives stars for Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is where Maryland gets a huge advantage.  The Terps schedule was about 12 points per game tougher than the Crusaders.  This is probably enough to make UM a big enough favorite in this game, but Valpo is talented enough to have a chance here.  If the Crusaders’ turnover margin wasn’t negative (as is Maryland’s), we would actually come out and pick Valpo to win this game, but the SOS tilts too heavily in UM’s favor.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Maryland by 7

White: Maryland by 5

Blue: Maryland by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: We have to take the Big Ten runnerup here, even though we feel Valparaiso has a fighting chance at the upset.

#6 Butler (22-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:45 PM


Four Factors

Don’t confuse this Butler team with the squads that advanced to the National Championship Game two consecutive seasons, but don’t confuse this Texas team for most of Rick Barnes’ past great Longhorn squads.  These two teams look like fodder for the victor’s opponent in the next round.

Neither team shoots the ball all that well, and unlike West Virginia, they only dominate in one of the extra opportunity factors.  Both teams are very good on the glass, but neither team forces turnovers or limits them on their offensive side of the ball.  Texas has the advantage in defensive E FG%, while Butler neutralizes it with better Rebound Rates.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike many of these early games, strength of schedule will not be a factor in this game, as they are roughly the same.  Scoring margins are close.  Texas has better FG% and rebounding margins, but Butler returns the favor with better turnover margin and R+T, as UT has a -3.7 TO margin (tied for worst in the Tournament).  Butler went 7-4 outside of Indianapolis, while Texas was just 6-8 away from Austin.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Butler by 2

White: Texas by 1

Blue: Butler by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: Technically, this is the double digit seed with the best chance of winning their first game, but we like the Bulldogs chances in this game.  Our selection is Butler.

#3 Notre Dame (29-5) vs. #14 Northeastern (23-11)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:15 PM (the first game of the Field of 64)


Four Factors

Notre Dame has the second best offensive E FG% in the Dance, just narrowly falling below Gonzaga.  Northeastern is no slouch, shooting well from inside and outside.

Northeastern could actually win the rebounding war in this game, but Notre Dame will exploit Northeastern’s liability of committing too many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

Beginning with schedule strength, Notre Dame starts this game 8 points better, and the Huskies do not have enough talent to overcome that number.  The Irish’s scoring margin of 13.2 and FG% margin of 8.3make for a strong combination when you factor in their tough schedule.  Their R+T of just 6.5 will be their downfall later in the tournament, but they will get by rather easily in this game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Notre Dame by 18

White: Notre Dame by 17

Blue: Notre Dame by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: The Fighting Irish have been underachievers in the NCAA Tournament for more than two decades.  They have not advanced to the Sweet 16 in a dozen seasons, and they have not appeared in the Final Four in 36 years.

In 1974, their best ever team, the squad that ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, was upset by a weaker Michigan team.  So, this affliction spreads out over decades.

This Irish team has the talent to at least advance to the Sweet 16, and if Notre Dame does not get there, Coach Mike Brey is going to be blamed for something much more infectious than he caused.  At least Notre Dame will win their opening game, which is better than the Irish fared last year.

#7 Wichita State (28-4) vs. Indiana (20-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:45 PM


Four Factors

This is not the Wichita State team of last year or the year before, but the Shockers must not be discounted.  Their resume resembles a Final Four team’s resume.  On the other hand, Indiana’s resume looks more like a NIT team than a NCAA Tournament team.

Wichita State has exemplary offensive and defensive E FG% numbers, while Indiana has exceptional offensive and horrible defensive numbers.  If the Shockers take away the Hoosiers’ fast break and early offense opportunities with their “play angry” style, IU will have a tough time scoring enough points to win this game, because the Hoosiers will give up too many easy baskets.

Indiana has credible Rebound Rates on both sides of the ball, but their Turnover Rate is not strong.  The Shockers enjoy large advantages in both factors.

PiRate Criteria

Across the board, Wichita State bests Indiana in all PiRate Criteria save one–schedule strength.  And, that advantage is small.  Wichita State is one of a handful of teams with a 20 or better R+T rating, and when you combine that with high-quality defense and a good road record (13-4), you have a team capable of getting hot and going on a run.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wichita State by 8

White: Wichita State by 8

Blue: Wichita State by 6

Bracketnomics Selection: Wichita State will limit Indiana’s ability to get open looks from outside and prevent the Hoosiers from utilizing their greatest strength.  For seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, this is a tourney experienced roster with a chips on its shoulders.  Watch out for Wichita State.  They do have a huge axe to grind with a particular undefeated team that spoiled their undefeated season last year.

#2 Kansas (26-8) vs. #15 New Mexico State (23-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:15 PM (first game of the day)


Four Factors

Kansas is limping into this tournament.  The Jayhawks are not really deserving of a 2-seed, as Iowa State should have jumped them.  Lucky for Coach Bill Self and his troops, KU gets a patsy in their first game, and the Jayhawks hope to use it as a bounce back opportunity.

The overwhelming statistic that shows up here is the most lopsided difference in schedule strength, giving KU a 20-point cushion to start.  NMSU has decent numbers, especially in Rebound and Turnover Rate, but their weak schedule strength gives the Aggies little credibility.

PiRate Criteria

The results here mimic the Four Factor results.  Kansas has pedestrian PiRate Criteria with average scoring and field goal margins, decent rebounding margin, and a poor, negative turnover margin.  New Mexico State’s criteria numbers looks better, but the SOS is too weak for it to matter.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kansas by 18

White: Kansas by 16

Blue: Kansas by 18

Bracketnomics Selection: If Kansas loses this game, it will be a bigger upset than when the Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa, but not as big as when the Jayhawks lost to Bucknell.  On second thought, a KU loss would not be totally shocking.  Still, we will play the chalk and pick KU to breeze in this game, setting up a round of 32 match they do not want to face.

West Region

#1 Wisconsin (31-3) vs. #16 Coastal Carolina (24-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:20 PM


Four Factors

Wisconsin is solid across the board with E FG% of 54.6 offensively and 46.7 defensively; Rebound Rates of 31.9 offensively and 23.7 defensively; and Turnover Rates of 12.4 offensively and 16.7 defensively.  Additionally, they are the second best team in this field at avoiding fouls, so the Badgers are not a team that will beat themselves.

Coastal Carolina is typical of a Cliff Ellis coached team.  At Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama, and even tiny Cumberland College, his teams have won by dominating on the boards, sometimes finding athletic players lacking shooting acumen.  This CCU team is not a first-class shooting outfit, but they are not inept.

The difference in schedule strength is a little too much to overcome, but if CCU can limit turnovers and have a better than typical shooting night, this game could be uncomfortably close for a longer than expected time.

PiRate Criteria

The numbers here validate our belief that this game could be closer than expected.  UW’s scoring margin is 15.8, but CCU’s is 10.0.  Wisconsin enjoys a tiny FG% margin advantage, but Coastal has the advantage in rebound margin.  The Badgers make hay with their gaudy won-loss record away from the Kohl Center, where UW is 16-2 outside of Madtown.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wisconsin by 14

White: Wisconsin by 17

Blue: Wisconsin by 12

Bracketnomics Selection:  Last year, Coastal Carolina led Virginia by five points at the half, and they outrebounded the Cavs for the game, falling by 11 points.  We believe the Chanticleers might get behind early and then mount a furious comeback to make this game interesting, before UW pulls away in the last quarter of the game.  Wisconsin will win, but Badger fans might fret for a few minutes.

#8 Oregon (25-9) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 6:50 PM


Four Factors

Talk about two teams just happy to be dancing, we are not enthused with either squad in this game and expect the victor to be easy pickings for Wisconsin on Sunday.

Oregon wins ugly in the baseball vernacular.  The Ducks are not pretty and have serious flaws that can be exploited by muscular teams.  Oklahoma State got their invitation solely on the basis of playing in the strongest conference this year.

E FG%  is even in this game.  Rebound Rate goes to Oregon only because the Cowboys cannot rebound, while OSU gets the TO Rate advantage because Oregon does not force many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

There is no need to delve too deeply here, because Oklahoma State has a negative R+T rating, which immediately eliminates the Cowboys.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oregon by 1

White: Oregon by 1

Blue: Oregon by 3

Bracketnomics Selection:  We automatically rule out any team with a negative R+T rating except in the rare instance when both teams in a game have negative R+Ts.  Oregon wins, and it helps our belief that the Ducks enter this tournament playing their best ball of the year, while OSU limps into the Dance.

#5 Arkansas (26-8) vs. #12 Wofford (28-6)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:50 PM


Four Factors

The factors here do not give Arkansas all that big of an advantage, but as you will read below, we expect the Hogs to muddy up the Terriers Thursday night.

Arky has one of the best TO rates in the nation with their 94-foot defense that stresses getting into passing lanes.  This is the only factor where Arkansas has a decided advantage in this game.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria is close to even with the exception of schedule strength, where the Razorbacks enjoy the edge by about 10 points.  Remember that Wofford won at North Carolina State earlier this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arkansas by 12

White: Arkansas by 11

Blue: Arkansas by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Here is the real key in this game: Wofford does not handle full-court pressure well when applied by teams that routinely press and know what they are doing.  The Terriers faced the other great pressing team in this field, West Virginia, earlier this season and wilted under the pressure, committing 21 turnovers and watching WVU pick up 12 steals.  Arkansas will tighten the screws the moment Wofford turns the ball over the first time against the press, and Arkansas will run away quickly with a 10-point or more spurt.  Give the Razorbacks a win to set up a much tougher third round game.

#4 North Carolina (24-11) vs. #13 Harvard (22-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM


Four Factors

North Carolina enjoys healthy E FG% and Rebound rate advantages here, and Harvard barely gets the TO Rate advantage.  Because the Tar Heels strength of schedule is about 12 points better than Harvard’s, UNC has little to worry about.

PiRate Criteria

To say that this great program could sneak up and surprise in this tournament sounds odd, but North Carolina has the horses to compete for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.5, just barely missing out on double digits.  They enjoy a FG% margin of 7.7 and a rebound margin of 8.2 with a nice 18.7 R+T and a 11-5 record outside of the Dean Dome.

Harvard has won games in the last two tournaments, and North Carolina once lost as the top seed in a region to an Ivy League team (Penn in 1979), but history will not repeat this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina by 14

White: North Carolina by 16

Blue: North Carolina by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  North Carolina used to make it a habit of always getting to the Sweet 16.  Habits have a way of returning, and this one will this year.

#6 Xavier (21-13) vs. #11 BYU or Ole Miss

This one is tricky.  BYU is only a slight pick to knock off Ole Miss in Dayton, and the outcome of the next game changes based on which team faces Xavier.  If Ole Miss wins, we select Xavier to defeat the Rebels in this game, but if BYU wins in Dayton, the Cougars are our choice over the Musketeers in this game.  We are not going to show the results for both possibilities and only preview a Xavier-BYU contest.  Remember, should Ole Miss beat BYU, then take Xavier in this game.

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:10 PM


Four Factors

We will cut to the chase here.  Xavier’s transition defense is suspect, and BYU is the best team in the nation to exploit that liability.  While the Musketeers are rather strong offensively in E FG%, they are porous defensively, and BYU has the tools to hurt Xavier in this category.

Rebound and Turnover Rates are close to equal, so this game figures to be interesting.

PiRate Criteria

Xavier wins the schedule strength battle but not by enough points to annount the Musketeers the winner.  BYU tops XU in winning percentage away from home (73-44%), and remember that the Cougars won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 3

Blue: BYU by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: This game should be played at the fastest pace of any West Region game, as both teams get about 70 possessions.  If any game tops 160 total points in this round, it will be this one, and we expect BYU to come out on top.

#3 Baylor (24-9) vs. #14 Georgia State (24-9)

Tip Time: Thursday, 1:40 PM


Four Factors

The schedule strength difference is too much for the underdog to overcome, and this game will be as dull as the BYU-Xavier game will be exciting.  Baylor’s zone defense will allow Georgia State to get hot from outside and make this game close or throw up bricks and make it a quick blowout.

GSU has three players capable of competing in the Big 12, two of whom have Power 6 Conference playing time, and one of whom has Final Four playing experience.  They will not be intimidated, but overall, the talent is not there to pull off the upset.

BU will wipe the backboard clean in this game, as the large Rebound Rate discrepancy means the Bears will get at least a dozen extra scoring chances.

The Panthers rely on Turnover Rate to even out their poor Rebound Rate, but Baylor is not prone to get sloppy with the ball.  The Bears went 3-0 against West Virginia and their pressure defense.

PiRate Criteria

More of the same from above, Baylor’s rebound margin is 8.0, while GSU has a negative margin.  BU’s R+T of 19.2 and SOS in the top 20 in the nation makes the Bears capable of making it to the Elite 8.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Baylor by 12

White: Baylor by 10

Blue: Baylor by15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Baylor will win this game, and it will be messy with a final score in the 60-45 range.

#7 VCU (26-9) vs. #10 Ohio State (23-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:40 PM


Four Factors

Okay, so you just have to pick an underdog to win a second round game?  Well, you found it here my friend, because Ohio State should be the 7-seed and VCU should be the 11-seed.  The numbers just don’t show how the Rams can win.

VCU is the only 1 through 8 seed in the tournament with a weaker offensive E FG% than their defensive E FG%.  Since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket, and generally the better shooting team wins when you get to tournament time, we fail to see how the Rams can advance very far when their defense may not cause much panic.

Ohio State is above average in both offensive and defensive E FG%.  The Buckeyes are better in Rebound Rate and not that far behind VCU in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is exactly equal, so the rest of the criteria here tells a lot.  Scoring margin favors Ohio State (13.5 to 7.0).  The Buckeyes clean up in FG% margin, as VCU’s is negative, while OSU’s is 8.0.  Additionally, VCU has a negative rebounding margin, while the Buckeyes have a +3 margin.  The only part of this criteria where VCU is better is in road won-loss percentage.  VCU went 14-5, while Ohio State was just 5-8.  Of course, playing on the road in the Big Ten is quite a bit harder than playing on the road in the A-10.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Ohio State by 4

White: Ohio State by 5

Blue: Ohio State by 7

Bracketnomics Selection:  When Urban Meyer was the Florida football coach, the Gators won both the football and basketball national title in the same school year.  Meyer just won the football championship at Ohio State.  Can history repeat itself?  Sorry Buckeye fans, it isn’t going to happen this year, but 66 other teams can say the same thing if they do not wear blue and white with the letters “U” and “K” on their ball caps.  Ohio State wins this game, and it isn’t an upset in our mind.  Now, if the Buckeyes can make it to the Sweet 16, that will be one incredible upset.

#2 Arizona (31-3) vs. #15 Texas Southern (22-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:10 PM


Four Factors

Can a top 10 team not be given enough respect?  Definitely, because Arizona is our real number two team in the nation.

The Wildcats look like a Final Four team in our eyes and statistical fog.  Their E FG% are 53.6 (O) and 44.3 (D).  Their Rebound Rate of 34.1 (O) and 22.3 (D) tops Michigan State.  Their Turnover Rate is not that much behind Arkansas, so this team is solid across the board.

Texas Southern should be glad to be here and  fortunate not to be forced into making a stop in Dayton first.  The Tigers have no chance of winning this game with weak numbers and an equally weak schedule strength.

PiRate Criteria

Let’s focus on Arizona’s Criteria numbers versus Wisconsin and Kentucky, since this game could be a 40-point blowout if ‘Zona chooses to run up the score.

First, the SOS of the three behemoths are about equal, all good but not great (but then, they lose some by not being able to play themselves).

Arizona’s scoring margin is 17.8 ( UW 15.8/UK 20.9). Their FG% margin is 9.8 (UW 6.1/UK 11.4).  Their Rebound margin is 8.8 (UW 6.0/UK 7.4).  Their TO margin is 2.9 (UW 2.6/UK 3.4), and their R+T is 25.4 (UW 18.8/UK 22.0).  Coach Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the top contender to Kentucky, and we will have to closely peruse the data should the two teams meet.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arizona by 42

White: Arizona by 35

Blue: Arizona by 51

Bracketnomics Selection:  It has been a long time since a Pac-12 team made it to the Final Four (UCLA in 2008).  Arizona lost a close Elite 8 game last year to Wisconsin, and the Wildcats could get their revenge before the Badgers get that opportunity to do the same to Kentucky.

The Rest of the Bracket 

You have our second round winners.  Now, let’s take it all the way to the end.

Third Round

Villanova over North Carolina St.

Northern Iowa over Louisville

Oklahoma over Providence

Virginia over Michigan State

Duke over San Diego State

Utah over Georgetown

Iowa State over SMU

Gonzaga over Iowa

Kentucky over Cincinnati

West Virginia over Maryland

Notre Dame over Butler

Wichita State over Kansas

Wisconsin over Oregon

North Carolina over Arkansas

Baylor over BYU

Arizona over Ohio State

Sweet 16

Villanova over Northern Iowa

Virginia over Oklahoma

Duke over Utah

Gonzaga over Iowa State

Kentucky over West Virginia

Wichita State over Notre Dame

Wisconsin over North Carolina

Arizona over Baylor

Elite 8

Virginia over Villanova

Duke over Gonzaga

Kentucky over Wichita State

Arizona over Wisconsin

Final 4

Duke over Virginia

Kentucky over Arizona


Kentucky goes 40-0

A Proposal To Change The NCAA Tournament Format

Murray State was one of many teams that dominated their conference during the season and then lost when all the marbles were on the line.  The Racers would have been a formidable 12-seed had they defeated Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conferent Tournament Championship.  Belmont figures to be out of the tournament with a quick blowout loss to Virginia.

It isn’t the best way to feature the low and mid-major conferences, where one bid is all they will receive.  What if there was a better way to host the NCAA Tournament, where the Murray State’s of the world got their chance, and where teams like Colorado State also had a chance to prove they belong in the Dance?

We have solved this riddle.  Our proposal is to expand the field to 80 teams but at the same time, divide the early rounds into two tournaments.

The first division would include 48 teams from the top 8 conferences, which can almost always be the same 8 every year (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, and either the AAC, A-10 or MVC).

The second division would include 32 teams from the remaining conferences with automatic bids awarded to their conference tournament champions and tat-large bids awarded to the 10 or so best remaining low and mid-major teams.  Thus Murray State, UNC Central, and St. Francis (NY) would still get in after being upset in their league tournament.

The 32 low and mid-majors would be seeded into four, eight team regions and play four rounds from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 remaining teams.  Each of these four would then advance to the Sweet 16.

The 48 Power teams would be seeded into four, 12-team regions and play three rounds from 48 to 24 to 12 remaining teams.  Each of these 12 would also advance to the Sweet 16, at which point the tournament would continue as it does now.

This proposal allows the top low and mid-major teams to get hot and show up in the Sweet 16 with momentum without penalizing the teams from the power conferences.

What do you think?  If you like this idea, call in your favorite Sports Talk Shows and let them know.

Fixing The Boredom Issue

As we alluded to this fact earlier, college basketball has seen a reduction of about 25% of total possessions since the early 1970s.  In the early 1970’s most teams averaged 85 to 90 possessions per game, whereas that average is down to about 60 to 65 today.

College football has become so exciting because the game is more wide open today than it has ever been with teams  averaging 75 to 100 plays per game compared to 55 to 65 plays per game 50 years ago.

We have heard numerous basketball fans admit they cannot watch full games any more, because the marathon of dribbling for no apparent reason has ruined the experience for them.  This dribbling has been referred to as “false offense,” because while one player dribbles for 10 seconds, the other four players act like totem poles and do not move.  And for this, you delve out $30 to $50 for a ticket to see 25% less action?

This can be fixed by getting rid of that 10 seconds of dribbling.  The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, but this will only add about five more possessions.  Institute a 24-second shot clock, and watch that 10 seconds of dribbling disappear.  Teams are already running their offenses in 24-second blocks once they have finished showing off their dribbling skills.

Additionally, a 24-second clock would lead to more coaches realizing that full court pressure would be an excellent strategy.  If it did not produce a turnover, it would leave the opponents about 16 seconds to get a shot off.  This rules change will bring up-tempo basketball back to the college game where teams average 80-100 points per game rather than 50-70.

March 16, 2015

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2015–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners.  The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.  

If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 15 years, you will see a noticeable difference this year, as the PiRate Ratings have incorporated the infamous “Four Factors” into our bracket selection tutorial.

Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets.  We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament.  Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.  Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes.  It is mechanical and has no real subjective data.  It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.


Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric.  He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball.  Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost.  Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate.  Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics.  We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% =  (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA  where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:

(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%

Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)

If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:

500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions.  Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:

(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:

(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100

((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.  Their formula was simply:

FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.

Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were.  If a team like Virginia attempted just 42 field goals and led an opponent by three or four points late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.

A third group of statisticians, including the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:

17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics

For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams.  We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas.  Here is what we found.

  1. Scoring Margin

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Field Goal Percentage Differential

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

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

  1. Rebound Margin

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

There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times!  Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.

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

  1. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

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

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

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

The R+T Formula for 2015 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin.  The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

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

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

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast.  FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

  1. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

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

  1. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

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

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

  1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

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

  1. Free Throw Shooting

You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not.  It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this to the NCAA Tournament.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. 3-point shooting

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

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

  1. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

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

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

Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams.  Hopefully, they will align properly on your computer, as we had issues getting the alignment to work here.  Our provider is not really set up for tabular posts, and that is our problem and not theirs.

Offense Statistics

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 706 1605 197 547 487 640 320 756 374 181
Arizona 908 1855 172 478 611 874 368 898 381 244
Arkansas 932 2083 227 648 562 776 442 774 399 264
Baylor 794 1831 229 607 476 710 485 808 413 261
Belmont 831 1746 321 841 400 579 301 763 439 205
Boise St. 809 1768 291 738 426 581 286 800 339 201
Buffalo 817 1878 193 567 573 794 412 818 361 244
Butler 777 1771 184 514 488 718 390 785 364 204
BYU 948 2032 85 734 660 859 415 895 402 257
Cincinnati 716 1581 161 483 403 598 351 744 409 210
Coastal Carolina 808 1841 221 621 529 769 440 873 393 232
Davidson 877 1861 337 849 386 543 325 789 297 170
Dayton 750 1620 213 605 538 789 245 796 379 230
Duke 944 1880 250 648 522 755 401 831 371 237
E. Washington 951 1981 335 832 509 704 341 814 367 216
Georgetown 750 1650 181 521 511 728 347 742 392 240
Georgia 728 1673 180 524 551 800 348 869 408 179
Georgia St. 854 1778 163 492 504 693 309 773 352 300
Gonzaga 973 1856 242 593 502 726 347 940 359 211
Hampton 753 1847 187 615 523 802 404 820 469 220
Harvard 650 1493 141 399 420 589 304 695 342 204
Indiana 899 1930 308 764 451 631 395 792 379 167
Iowa 758 1776 181 545 524 703 401 805 361 211
Iowa St. 916 1908 257 703 497 714 314 870 364 209
Kansas 822 1869 198 528 579 804 402 888 435 222
Kentucky  883 1884 185 529 596 825 439 859 361 223
Lafayette 851 1744 257 622 415 542 272 720 351 179
Louisville 783 1827 181 595 468 709 413 808 378 266
LSU 868 1902 184 543 438 636 388 865 468 235
Manhattan 733 1686 209 615 561 808 333 691 464 259
Maryland 741 1693 241 647 570 753 302 855 397 160
Michigan St. 901 1912 256 663 386 610 390 891 395 181
N. C. St. 820 1875 219 606 464 679 400 849 347 131
New Mexico St. 788 1692 160 435 524 755 414 756 459 209
North Carolina 1019 2144 167 484 522 746 488 948 444 233
North Dakota St. 714 1659 220 579 417 602 271 803 312 153
North Florida 872 1858 308 788 522 721 326 851 417 213
Northeastern 811 1670 200 515 510 703 284 843 467 181
Northern Iowa 735 1523 242 609 445 613 239 778 346 196
Notre Dame 945 1853 281 716 509 688 283 831 319 234
Ohio St. 916 1886 225 605 445 656 372 811 373 257
Oklahoma 818 1874 216 629 450 612 351 868 388 221
Oklahoma St. 706 1607 216 618 459 632 238 730 380 245
Ole Miss 788 1850 207 612 541 695 397 805 363 211
Oregon 937 2031 248 688 447 588 359 877 401 195
Providence 808 1830 161 520 540 761 398 791 391 238
Purdue 801 1768 191 571 515 752 388 810 432 180
Robert Morris 802 1798 211 555 462 647 344 759 454 282
San Diego St. 756 1805 178 556 411 653 413 784 386 236
SMU 812 1695 138 384 529 750 378 833 417 226
St. John’s 808 1831 195 552 468 676 329 803 342 239
S.F. Austin 894 1819 257 666 577 786 402 745 464 252
Texas 779 1787 206 607 478 659 410 900 420 124
Texas Southern 794 1789 180 562 550 831 386 788 445 209
UAB 820 1907 187 563 514 694 403 841 461 225
UC-Irvine 830 1799 212 544 368 539 320 849 382 189
UCLA 849 1927 205 564 473 700 406 847 392 226
Utah 788 1624 247 611 484 692 296 821 366 190
Valparaiso 817 1780 224 593 446 658 386 859 413 198
VCU 872 2076 283 828 510 778 431 809 372 338
Villanova 861 1833 306 787 565 777 351 819 369 265
Virginia 761 1644 162 449 407 563 329 829 304 179
West Virginia 813 1975 213 669 527 798 539 638 418 350
Wichita St. 784 1756 224 619 439 638 380 758 301 225
Wisconsin 860 1793 237 663 487 638 322 823 252 154
Wofford 800 1745 215 572 463 672 310 792 371 223
Wyoming 726 1573 200 620 445 629 212 813 380 189
Xavier 885 1870 214 613 517 713 340 844 411 207


Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 672 1600 243 666 340 486 259 665 399 153
Arizona 686 1752 181 581 440 636 258 710 481 159
Arkansas 824 1914 212 600 525 736 402 800 543 188
Baylor 716 1782 191 637 368 570 367 663 404 211
Belmont 828 1832 232 675 363 514 319 726 411 212
Boise St. 710 1712 188 611 381 544 276 729 419 158
Buffalo 773 1831 230 697 409 618 358 774 436 197
Butler 701 1684 175 571 381 561 260 708 403 175
BYU 858 1972 211 643 540 770 354 788 449 224
Cincinnati 654 1678 184 560 277 427 347 589 390 177
Coastal Carolina 691 1766 231 718 422 604 305 722 394 191
Davidson 779 1769 175 582 405 636 337 749 365 159
Dayton 731 1738 181 571 367 541 309 768 449 172
Duke 829 1931 171 534 335 483 357 670 415 188
E. Washington 876 1953 268 697 484 676 353 796 417 187
Georgetown 650 1614 203 566 501 709 338 665 420 192
Georgia 707 1826 200 647 440 626 353 729 355 194
Georgia St. 667 1749 237 735 482 683 398 704 500 154
Gonzaga 737 1917 191 589 406 615 372 669 395 191
Hampton 744 1801 188 546 568 827 367 826 461 178
Harvard 587 1471 159 486 327 484 268 623 368 156
Indiana 875 1925 194 591 413 617 359 724 357 200
Iowa 701 1788 211 652 367 522 354 718 400 195
Iowa St. 842 2012 245 697 357 488 358 786 427 186
Kansas 780 1977 195 631 444 664 415 751 398 216
Kentucky  651 1836 156 570 377 581 398 647 478 159
Lafayette 850 1864 263 698 415 542 370 687 354 190
Louisville 676 1740 160 547 393 603 362 763 463 191
LSU 796 1986 180 575 395 597 427 753 439 262
Manhattan 710 1630 145 450 595 846 351 740 531 221
Maryland 756 1910 223 713 352 533 374 733 372 180
Michigan St. 728 1821 208 643 492 686 312 738 377 194
N. C. St. 757 1877 195 588 450 640 370 770 331 176
New Mexico St. 727 1725 120 409 384 557 329 618 434 179
North Carolina 818 2056 227 763 531 773 416 734 435 234
North Dakota St. 697 1668 206 556 369 497 237 771 338 146
North Florida 851 1971 172 549 430 633 389 767 420 217
Northeastern 848 1905 191 555 323 470 289 674 342 240
Northern Iowa 641 1638 197 624 167 221 287 652 372 163
Notre Dame 847 1984 213 647 325 463 384 725 384 176
Ohio St. 743 1833 221 694 350 502 370 718 484 166
Oklahoma 727 1888 197 637 357 546 399 785 443 209
Oklahoma St. 646 1620 176 519 464 678 349 722 426 185
Ole Miss 708 1771 245 703 499 729 374 740 405 161
Oregon 853 2025 215 652 484 697 399 790 395 190
Providence 742 1762 210 631 467 679 331 730 430 188
Purdue 724 1807 196 560 485 696 365 684 385 228
Robert Morris 778 1835 222 664 457 690 424 756 482 216
San Diego St. 659 1750 172 567 317 456 339 748 451 184
SMU 671 1768 258 803 372 548 350 632 423 220
St. John’s 768 1895 221 675 407 619 431 822 423 165
S.F. Austin 712 1627 150 451 555 800 312 656 571 196
Texas 686 1862 200 575 421 637 367 668 298 209
Texas Southern 850 1930 188 550 405 629 410 749 419 220
UAB 824 1960 206 635 447 653 411 780 452 210
UC-Irvine 716 1823 179 527 445 644 373 746 375 191
UCLA 779 1866 259 729 428 611 331 793 416 207
Utah 643 1681 152 477 384 569 313 640 373 176
Valparaiso 670 1762 219 667 397 565 319 687 404 223
VCU 794 1835 223 648 482 694 359 928 566 205
Villanova 752 1856 186 603 380 563 369 724 483 192
Virginia 578 1600 177 584 289 447 267 641 341 163
West Virginia 697 1488 173 473 572 833 285 778 628 185
Wichita St. 617 1551 161 469 391 576 272 698 426 127
Wisconsin 742 1771 170 442 254 373 256 686 339 135
Wofford 715 1715 170 551 433 613 292 762 435 180
Wyoming 692 1725 210 612 309 444 290 733 370 178
Xavier 814 1862 242 693 430 641 314 746 440 221

Four Factors

Albany 50.1 49.6 32.5 25.5 19.1 20.2 24.8 17.3
Arizona 53.6 44.3 34.1 22.3 16.7 21.1 26.8 19.3
Arkansas 50.2 48.6 35.6 34.2 16.6 22.6 23.3 21.8
Baylor 49.6 45.5 42.2 31.2 19.7 19.3 22.7 17.6
Belmont 56.8 51.5 29.3 29.5 20.3 19.0 18.5 16.7
Boise St. 54.0 47.0 28.2 25.7 16.2 19.8 20.3 18.0
Buffalo 48.6 48.5 34.7 30.4 16.4 19.8 26.0 18.6
Butler 49.1 46.8 35.5 24.9 17.4 19.3 23.4 18.2
BYU 48.7 48.9 34.5 28.3 16.6 18.5 27.2 22.2
Cincinnati 50.4 44.5 37.3 31.8 21.3 20.3 21.0 14.4
Coastal Carolina 49.9 45.7 37.9 25.9 18.2 18.4 24.5 19.7
Davidson 56.2 49.0 30.3 29.9 14.2 17.4 18.5 19.3
Dayton 52.9 47.3 24.2 28.0 17.8 21.0 25.3 17.2
Duke 56.9 47.4 37.4 30.1 16.8 18.7 23.6 15.1
E. Washington 56.5 51.7 30.0 30.2 15.7 17.8 21.7 20.7
Georgetown 50.9 46.6 34.3 31.3 19.2 20.7 25.0 24.6
Georgia 48.9 44.2 32.3 28.9 19.3 16.7 26.1 20.7
Georgia St. 52.6 44.9 30.5 34.0 16.4 23.0 23.4 22.2
Gonzaga 58.9 43.4 34.2 28.4 16.2 17.7 22.7 18.2
Hampton 45.8 46.5 32.8 30.9 20.5 20.2 22.8 24.8
Harvard 48.3 45.3 32.8 27.8 18.9 20.4 23.2 18.2
Indiana 54.6 50.5 35.3 31.2 17.1 16.1 20.4 18.6
Iowa 47.8 45.1 35.8 30.5 17.4 19.2 25.3 17.6
Iowa St. 54.7 47.9 28.5 29.2 15.8 18.5 21.6 15.4
Kansas 49.3 44.4 34.9 31.8 19.0 17.5 25.4 19.5
Kentucky  51.8 39.7 40.4 31.7 16.4 21.8 27.1 17.2
Lafayette 56.2 52.7 28.4 33.9 16.9 16.8 19.9 19.7
Louisville 47.8 43.4 35.1 30.9 17.8 21.8 22.0 18.5
LSU 50.5 44.6 34.0 33.0 20.5 19.2 19.2 17.3
Manhattan 49.7 48.0 31.0 33.7 21.1 24.0 25.5 26.9
Maryland 50.9 45.4 29.2 30.4 18.5 17.2 26.6 16.3
Michigan St. 53.8 45.7 34.6 25.9 17.9 17.0 17.5 22.2
N. C. St. 49.6 45.5 34.2 30.4 16.2 15.5 21.6 21.0
New Mexico St. 51.3 45.6 40.1 30.3 21.9 20.7 25.0 18.3
North Carolina 51.4 45.3 39.9 30.5 18.1 17.8 21.3 21.7
North Dakota St. 49.7 48.0 26.0 22.8 15.7 16.9 21.0 18.4
North Florida 55.2 47.5 29.8 31.4 18.2 18.2 22.8 18.7
Northeastern 54.6 49.5 29.6 25.5 21.4 15.7 23.3 14.8
Northern Iowa 56.2 45.1 26.8 26.9 18.0 20.4 23.2 9.1
Notre Dame 58.6 48.1 28.1 31.6 14.4 17.4 23.0 14.7
Ohio St. 54.5 46.6 34.1 31.3 17.0 22.1 20.2 16.0
Oklahoma 49.4 43.7 30.9 31.5 17.6 20.2 20.4 16.3
Oklahoma St. 50.7 45.3 24.8 32.3 18.5 21.1 22.4 23.0
Ole Miss 48.2 46.9 34.9 31.7 16.9 18.9 25.2 23.2
Oregon 52.2 47.4 31.2 31.3 17.0 16.8 19.0 20.6
Providence 48.6 48.1 35.3 29.5 17.9 19.7 24.7 21.4
Purdue 50.7 45.5 36.2 31.1 19.9 17.8 23.7 22.5
Robert Morris 50.5 48.4 31.3 35.8 20.5 21.7 20.9 20.6
San Diego St. 46.8 42.6 35.6 30.2 18.5 21.7 19.7 15.3
SMU 52.0 45.2 37.4 29.6 19.9 20.1 25.3 17.7
St. John’s 49.5 46.4 28.6 34.9 15.8 19.4 21.6 18.7
S.F. Austin 56.2 48.4 38.0 29.5 20.6 25.2 25.6 24.5
Texas 49.4 42.2 38.0 29.0 19.9 14.2 22.7 20.1
Texas Southern 49.4 48.9 34.0 34.2 19.8 18.7 24.5 18.1
UAB 47.9 47.3 34.1 32.8 20.1 19.6 22.4 19.3
UC-Irvine 52.0 44.2 30.0 30.5 18.0 17.6 17.4 20.9
UCLA 49.4 48.7 33.9 28.1 17.5 18.6 21.1 19.1
Utah 56.1 42.8 31.6 27.6 18.1 18.5 23.9 19.1
Valparaiso 52.2 44.2 36.0 27.1 19.5 19.1 21.0 18.8
VCU 48.8 49.3 31.7 30.7 15.6 23.9 21.4 20.3
Villanova 55.3 45.5 32.7 31.1 16.6 21.6 25.4 17.0
Virginia 51.2 41.7 33.9 24.4 16.1 18.1 21.6 15.3
West Virginia 46.6 52.7 40.9 30.9 18.7 28.2 23.6 25.7
Wichita St. 51.0 45.0 35.3 26.4 15.2 21.5 22.2 19.8
Wisconsin 54.6 46.7 31.9 23.7 12.4 16.7 24.0 12.5
Wofford 52.0 46.6 28.9 26.9 17.5 20.2 21.8 20.1
Wyoming 52.5 46.2 22.4 26.3 18.6 18.4 21.8 15.3
Xavier 53.0 50.2 31.3 27.1 18.0 19.2 22.7 18.8

PiRate Ratings Essential Information For Bracketnomicss

Pos = Possessions Per game (and Defensive Possessions)

PM = Scoring Margin

FGM = Field Goal % Margin

RbM = Rebound Margin

TOM = Turnover Margin

RT = R + T Score

Rd = Won-Loss away from home

SOS = Strength of Schedule (ESPN’s version)

Albany 61.3 61.6 65.5 60.2 5.3 2.0 4.8 0.8 14.3 12-5 24-8 43.3
Arizona 67.2 67.0 76.4 58.6 17.8 9.8 8.8 2.9 25.4 8-3 31-3 58.4
Arkansas 70.8 70.7 78.0 70.1 7.9 1.7 0.4 4.2 9.4 7-5 26-8 64.2
Baylor 63.5 63.3 69.5 60.3 9.2 3.2 8.0 -0.3 19.2 6-5 24-9 65.1
Belmont 67.5 67.8 74.5 70.3 4.1 2.4 0.6 -0.9 2.9 7-8 22-10 45.6
Boise St. 63.5 64.0 70.8 60.3 10.5 4.3 2.5 2.4 11.6 9-5 25-8 51.9
Buffalo 68.9 68.8 75.0 68.3 6.7 1.3 3.1 2.3 12.1 10-7 23-9 57.2
Butler 65.2 65.4 69.6 61.2 8.4 2.2 6.5 1.2 17.9 7-4 22-10 66.4
BYU 71.4 71.6 77.7 72.6 5.1 3.1 4.9 1.4 14.5 8-3 25-9 58.9
Cincinnati 60.1 60.1 62.4 55.3 7.1 6.3 5.0 -0.6 13.1 6-5 22-10 57.8
Coastal Carolina 65.4 64.9 71.7 61.7 10.0 4.8 8.7 0.0 21.1 8-7 24-9 40.2
Davidson 67.4 67.7 79.9 69.0 10.9 3.1 0.9 2.2 7.6 9-4 24-7 56.5
Dayton 64.5 64.7 68.2 60.9 7.3 4.2 -1.1 2.1 4.2 6-7 25-8 60.3
Duke 66.9 67.2 80.6 65.6 15.0 7.3 6.2 1.3 17.7 10-2 29-4 62.0
E. Washington 68.9 68.8 80.8 73.6 7.1 3.2 0.2 1.5 5.5 11-6 26-8 42.5
Georgetown 65.8 65.6 70.7 64.6 6.1 5.2 2.8 0.9 10.1 7-5 21-10 68.9
Georgia 66.0 66.4 68.3 64.2 4.2 4.8 4.2 -1.7 9.5 8-5 21-11 68.3
Georgia St. 65.2 65.9 72.0 62.2 9.8 9.9 -0.6 4.5 9.2 10-8 24-9 46.9
Gonzaga 65.1 65.7 79.1 60.9 18.2 14.0 7.2 1.1 19.0 13-1 32-2 56.3
Hampton 69.5 69.3 67.2 68.0 -0.8 -0.5 0.9 -0.2 5.6 7-12 16-17 37.0
Harvard 62.4 62.1 64.2 57.2 6.9 3.6 3.7 0.9 12.5 9-4 22-7 49.3
Indiana 67.1 67.2 77.5 71.4 6.1 1.1 3.2 -0.7 8.1 4-7 20-13 64.8
Iowa 64.7 65.1 69.4 61.9 7.5 3.5 4.2 1.2 12.8 7-4 21-11 63.7
Iowa St. 69.6 70.1 78.4 69.3 9.1 6.2 1.2 1.9 7.9 7-5 25-8 67.7
Kansas 67.2 66.9 71.2 64.7 6.5 4.5 3.6 -1.1 9.1 6-6 26-8 71.2
Kentucky  64.6 64.5 74.9 54.0 20.9 11.4 7.4 3.4 22.9 14-0 34-0 58.5
Lafayette 65.0 65.8 74.2 74.3 -0.1 3.2 -2.0 0.1 -1.1 9-7 20-12 44.0
Louisville 66.5 66.5 69.2 59.5 9.7 4.0 3.0 2.7 12.8 8-3 24-8 66.7
LSU 71.4 71.3 73.7 67.7 6.0 5.6 2.3 -0.9 5.1 8-5 22-10 62.7
Manhattan 68.8 69.1 69.9 67.5 2.4 -0.1 -2.1 2.1 1.0 8-9 19-13 46.0
Maryland 65.0 65.5 69.5 63.2 6.2 4.2 1.5 -0.8 5.2 9-4 27-6 65.0
Michigan St. 64.9 65.1 71.9 63.4 8.5 7.1 6.8 -0.5 16.0 9-6 23-11 65.0
N. C. St. 65.0 64.9 70.4 65.4 5.0 3.4 3.3 -0.5 8.8 7-9 20-13 66.8
New Mexico St. 63.5 63.5 68.5 59.3 9.2 4.4 6.8 -0.8 16.5 7-8 23-10 44.1
North Carolina 70.1 69.8 77.9 68.4 9.5 7.7 8.2 -0.3 18.7 11-5 24-11 68.6
North Dakota St. 62.1 62.7 64.5 61.5 3.0 1.3 2.1 0.8 8.8 7-9 23-9 42.6
North Florida 67.4 67.7 75.7 67.8 7.9 3.8 0.6 0.1 4.1 11-9 23-11 41.1
Northeastern 64.3 64.2 68.6 65.0 3.6 4.0 4.8 -3.7 7.6 13-8 23-11 49.5
Northern Iowa 58.2 55.4 65.4 49.9 15.5 9.1 2.4 0.8 9.5 12-3 30-3 55.6
Notre Dame 65.2 64.8 78.8 65.6 13.2 8.3 0.1 1.9 6.5 11-2 29-5 61.1
Ohio St. 66.6 66.2 75.8 62.3 13.5 8.0 2.9 3.4 14.0 5-8 23-10 63.4
Oklahoma 68.8 68.5 71.9 62.8 9.2 5.1 1.1 1.7 6.8 6-7 22-10 66.7
Oklahoma St. 66.1 65.1 67.3 62.3 5.0 4.1 -3.3 1.5 -1.2 4-9 18-13 65.8
Ole Miss 67.1 67.1 72.6 67.5 5.1 2.6 2.8 1.3 11.1 10-4 20-12 65.7
Oregon 69.2 69.2 75.6 70.7 4.8 4.0 1.4 -0.2 5.9 7-6 25-9 63.7
Providence 66.2 66.2 70.2 65.5 4.7 2.0 3.9 1.2 12.8 8-6 22-11 68.1
Purdue 65.7 65.4 69.9 64.5 5.4 5.2 4.5 -1.4 9.4 7-8 21-12 66.0
Robert Morris 67.1 67.3 69.0 67.7 1.3 2.2 -2.3 0.8 -0.1 9-8 19-14 43.6
San Diego St. 61.4 61.1 61.8 53.1 8.6 4.2 3.2 1.9 12.4 10-6 26-8 56.1
SMU 63.3 63.7 69.4 59.8 9.7 10.0 6.9 0.2 16.8 10-4 27-6 58.1
St. John’s 67.7 68.2 71.2 67.6 3.6 3.6 -3.8 2.5 -0.5 5-8 21-11 63.7
S.F. Austin 68.3 68.7 79.5 64.5 14.9 5.4 5.4 3.2 18.0 14-3 29-4 43.6
Texas 63.9 63.5 67.9 60.4 7.5 6.8 8.3 -3.7 14.5 6-8 20-13 67.6
Texas Southern 66.0 65.8 68.2 67.4 0.7 0.3 0.4 -0.8 2.7 13-11 22-12 40.5
UAB 67.5 68.0 68.9 67.7 1.2 1.0 1.6 -0.3 6.0 3-8 19-15 52.4
UC-Irvine 64.2 64.6 67.9 62.3 5.6 6.9 1.5 -0.2 5.9 7-9 21-12 50.8
UCLA 68.0 67.9 72.0 68.0 4.0 2.3 3.9 0.7 11.7 4-12 20-13 65.9
Utah 63.2 62.9 72.1 56.9 15.2 10.3 5.1 0.2 13.9 8-7 24-8 59.0
Valparaiso 64.2 64.1 69.8 59.3 10.5 7.9 7.2 -0.3 16.5 13-4 28-5 46.4
VCU 68.2 67.8 72.5 65.5 7.0 -1.3 -1.3 5.5 7.8 14-5 26-9 63.4
Villanova 65.3 65.8 76.3 60.9 15.4 6.5 2.3 3.4 12.1 15-2 32-2 59.8
Virginia 59.0 58.9 65.3 50.7 14.7 10.2 7.8 1.2 20.5 14-2 29-3 61.2
West Virginia 69.8 69.6 73.9 66.8 7.1 -5.7 3.6 6.6 19.4 11-6 23-9 65.8
Wichita St. 61.9 61.8 69.7 55.8 13.9 4.9 5.3 3.9 20.0 13-4 28-4 56.1
Wisconsin 59.6 59.7 71.9 56.1 15.8 6.1 6.0 2.6 18.8 16-2 31-3 59.9
Wofford 62.5 63.2 67.0 59.8 7.2 4.2 1.4 1.9 8.7 15-5 28-6 47.5
Wyoming 60.0 59.3 61.7 56.0 5.7 6.0 0.1 -0.3 3.4 8-7 25-9 48.8
Xavier 67.0 67.4 73.6 67.6 5.9 3.6 3.6 0.9 10.7 8-10 21-13 66.4

Coming tomorrow, we look at each game in the opening round and round two, picking the winners and then picking the entire bracket.

March 15, 2015

Bracketology Update for Sunday Morning, March 15, 2015

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:16 am

Sunday, March 15, 2015.  Note to Ole Miss, Indiana, Boise St., Temple, UCLA, Miami, and even Murray St.: BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!

The 21st Century Roman-like Senate meets today to decide your fate, and it looks like most if not all of you will be judged by a modern day conspiratorial conclave led by today’s Brutus and Cassius.  Your fate will be a stabbing in the back, and this day will launch the great Civil War known as the NCAA Tournament, where the next Augustus could be sitting in a chair in the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville this afternoon, wearing Royal Blue with the letter “K” emblazoned upon it.

We are down to just five games before the Selection Committee reveals the official brackets at 6PM EDT today.  The Sun Belt Conference Championship Game features top seed Georgia State and top challenger Georgia Southern.  If State wins, their seed could be as high as 13, while Southern would receive a 14 or 15 seed if they pull off the upset.

The Atlantic 10 Championship Game could be the most exciting of the quintet today, with Virginia Commonwealth and Dayton facing off in Brooklyn.  When these two played a couple weeks back, a missed VCU crip shot off an offensive rebound was all that separated the combatants from going to overtime.

Kentucky and Arkansas face off in the SEC Championship Game.  A Wildcat win leaves everything the same as it is now, while an Arkansas upset would only life the Razorbacks up one seeding slot if anything.

Wisconsin looks to wrap up a number one seed, as the Badgers face Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.  The Spartans are starting to look like some of Coach Tom Izzo’s better teams that played volleyball on the backboards until the ball went in the hoop.  Wisconsin has a habit of playing 10 minutes where they could outscore not even Kentucky, but also the Atlanta Hawks, but then they have a five-minute stretch where they would be outscored by not only Maine but by La Follette High in Madison.

The fifth game is the key game for the Selection Committee, because two teams stand to be affected by the outcome.  Connecticut faces SMU in the American Athletic Conference Championship in Hartford, and the Huskies are tough to beat at home and in March.  Should U Conn come through and win another tournament title when they were a middle of the pack team, then one team currently penciled into the dance will see the eraser remove their name and send it over to the NIT Selection Committee.

It is still early on Sunday morning, so I apologize that I have not heard from all my bracketologist friends that send me their data.  They are entitled to a late Saturday night, and if they were like most of us, they were up late watching the Pac-12, Big West, and WAC Championship Games.

Before we show you our current Bracketology, here are the PiRate Ratings for today’s five games.

Team               Team                         Red    White    Blue
Kentucky         Arkansas                     14        11        15
Wisconsin       Michigan St.                  7          6          4
Connecticut     SMU                            -4        -1          1
Georgia St.     Georgia Southern        10         5          8

VCU                Dayton                           1         1         -1

The Bubble

We do not have all our bracketologists reporting this morning, but from what we do have, it all boils down to four teams.  Connecticut is the key here.  If the Huskies win today, then two of the other three in this list see their bubble burst.  If SMU defeats U Conn, then only one bubble bursts, thanks to Wyoming winning the MWC title last night.

We will offer our opinion of what information we have from the 11 geniuses that have sent in their data.

The teams in trouble are Indiana, Ole Miss, BYU, and Temple in that order.  The consensus among the group of 11 is that Indiana was ousted by Wyoming’s win last night and Ole Miss stands to go bust should Connecticut win today.  One caveat: the three most accurate of our 26 experts have yet to send in their information today.

Here are the consensus seeds according to the 11 Bracketologists we do have this morning.

1 Kentucky
1 Villanova
1 Wisconsin
1 Duke
2 Virginia
2 Arizona
2 Gonzaga
2 Kansas
3 Iowa St.
3 Maryland
3 Notre Dame
3 Baylor
4 Oklahoma
4 North Carolina
4 Northern Iowa
4 Louisville
5 Arkansas
5 West Virginia
5 Wichita St.
6 Utah
6 Providence
6 Georgetown
6 Butler
7 Michigan St.
7 San Diego St.
7 Oregon
8 Xavier
8 Iowa
8 St. John’s
8 Ohio St.
9 Cincinnati
9 N. C. St.
9 Dayton
9 Oklahoma St.
10 Davidson
10 Georgia
10 Texas
10 Colorado St.
11 LSU
11 Purdue
11 Wyoming
11 Boise St.
11 BYU
12 Temple
12 Ole Miss
12 Buffalo
12 S. F. Austin
12 Wofford
13 Valparaiso
13 Harvard
13 Georgia St.
13 UC Irvine
14 Northeastern
14 Albany
14 New Mexico St.
14 E. Washington
15 N. Dakota St.
15 Belmont
15 UAB
15 Coastal Carolina
16 Texas Southern
16 Lafayette
16 North Florida
16 Manhattan
16 Robert Morris
16 Hampton

First 4 Out
Murray St.

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