Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics. If you are unfamiliar with PiRate Bracketnomics, refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/bracketnomics-505-2012-edition/
On Thursday, in the 16 games played, our system went 11-5, not bad but not good either. In past years, our system has improved as the field is whittled down. Let’s hope that trend continues.
This preview is being written on Friday morning, before Friday’s games were played. Check back tomorrow for previews of Sunday’s games.
Here is our 3rd Round Preview for games to be played Saturday, March 17, 2012.
12:15 PM CBS—East Regional
#1 Syracuse (32-2) vs. #8 Kansas St. (22-10)
PiRate Criteria Score: Syr 22.9 * KSU 14.0
* This figure does not include the loss of Fab Melo. Syracuse’s true number without Melo is 10.4.
Without Fab Melo, Syracuse is about as talented as a #8 or #9 seed. Kansas State is a #8 seed, but the Wildcats deserve to be a higher seed. Coach Frank Martin will design a game plan to get the ball inside the Orange zone defense, and once there, Jamar Samuels will have one of his better days this year.
Syracuse will have to force 17-20 turnovers to win this game without Melo, and we do not believe they will pull off that feat. Because Kansas State does not shoot well at the foul line, the final score may be closer than it should be. We believe the first number one seed will fall.
Prediction: Kansas State 72 Syracuse 66
2:45 PM CBS—East Regional
#2 Ohio St. (28-7) vs. #7 Gonzaga (26-6)
PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.0 Gonz 16.0
Ohio State is a bigger and better version of Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga did not match up all that well against Saint Mary’s this year.
This game will be one of spurts on both sides, because neither team is all that consistent. When they are hot, both can score 20 points in six minutes. When they are cold, both can be held scoreless for three or four minutes.
Gonzaga played lights out Thursday night against West Virginia, while Ohio State had a typical game. The Buckeyes’ typical game should be repeated, while the Bulldogs bounce, just like a horse that won a big race four weeks earlier.
Prediction: Ohio State 73 Gonzaga 62
5:15 PM CBS—West Regional
#3 Marquette (26-7) vs. #6 Murray St. (31-1)
PiRate Criteria Score: Marq 15.5 Murr 14.1
In 1966, tiny Texas Western entered the NCAA Tournament with just one loss. Nobody gave the Miners any chance to win the National Championship, let alone make it to the Final Four. Of course, we know what happened; TWU won the national title and forced many changes in Southern basketball.
Murray State is no Texas Western. It is going to strike midnight on this Cinderella on Saturday. Marquette is too strong and quick outside for the Racers to repeat their Thursday feat. Murray will need to dominate inside to have a fighting chance, and still Marquette should aggravate the Racers’ guards and keep the ball out of the low post all evening.
Prediction: Marquette 67 Murray St. 59
6:10 PM TNT—East Regional
#4 Wisconsin (25-9) vs. #5 Vanderbilt (25-10)
PiRate Criteria Score: Wis 17.2 Van 12.9
This will be an interesting game. Wisconsin will not turn the ball over, and the Badgers will play tenacious defense, especially on the perimeter. UW will not get many if any fast break points and will be patient on offense, taking mostly high percentage shots.
Vanderbilt will try to run and keep the game more up-tempo. The Commodores will get their fast break points, but they will commit 14-17 turnovers. Defensively, Vanderbilt can guard inside and on the wings, but they can be exploited our front.
This should be a close game that is not decided until the last two or three minutes and maybe in the final minute. When the going gets tough and the pressure is on, we will go with the team least likely to make a mistake.
Prediction: Wisconsin 65 Vanderbilt 61
7:10 PM TBS—South Regional
#4 Indiana (26-8) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (29-6)
PiRate Criteria Score: Ind 14.7 VCU 7.4
Can Virginia Commonwealth repeat what Butler did? Can the Rams make it two consecutive Final Fours as an underdog all the way?
Indiana is not a guarantee in this game, but we can find nothing in our ratings to see how VCU will pull off the upset. Indiana can handle pressure defense, and they can exploit presses with fast break points. VCU will need to force a lot of turnovers and pick up double digit steals to win this game, and the Hoosiers are not a team that will cough it up enough times.
This game will come down to shot selection. Indiana will play intelligently and shoot wisely, taking their time in the half-court and using their fast break opportunities. The big difference is in the pivot, where VCU has difficulties matching up against Cody Zeller. We tend to believe this game will be over before halftime.
Prediction: Indiana 73 VCU 59
7:45 PM CBS—South Regional
#1 Kentucky (33-2) vs. #8 Iowa St. (23-10)
PiRate Criteria Score: Kent 29.1 ISU 7.6
This game should be fun to watch just for the two great matchups. Anthony Davis versus Royce White and Scott Christopherson versus Doron Lamb will make this game worth watching. As for the final score, there is no doubt in our minds that the Wildcats will advance to the Sweet 16. Coach Cal got the players’ attention when they failed to show up against Vanderbilt.
The 1996 ‘Cats lost in the conference tournament to Mississippi State and ran off six relatively easy victories to win the National Championship. This team is more than capable of repeating that feat, although we believe there are a couple of teams better equipped to go all the way.
Prediction: Kentucky 74 Iowa St. 63
8:40 PM TNT—South Regional
#3 Baylor (28-7) vs. #11 Colorado (24-11)
PiRate Criteria Score: Bay 22.1 Col 7.0
The stars may be lining up perfectly for Baylor. The Bears could have a clear path to the Elite 8 and a date with Kentucky if they can play just up to their capabilities. Without having to come up with a Herculean effort, BU is capable of getting by Colorado and winning their Sweet 16 game against any of the possibilities.
Colorado won the Pac-12 Tournament with a defense that looked more like Alabama’s football defense in the National Championship Game. The Buffs pulled out an exciting thriller over UNLV, and we believe they have advanced as far as they can for this season.
Prediction: Baylor 67 Colorado 58
9:40 PM TBS—West Regional
#4 Louisville (27-9) vs. #5 New Mexico (28-6)
PiRate Criteria Score: Lou 15.7 NM 21.2
This is where we are picking a big upset. The seedings show it to be a #4-5 game, but in the minds of most basketball fans, a Lobo win would be a big upset.
Louisville has gotten by this year with really good defense and mediocre offense. That will only get a team so far, and rarely will a team with inconsistent offense make it to the Sweet 16.
New Mexico is capable of making a run to the Final Four. The Lobos play defense just as competently as UL, but they are much more consistent on offense. Additionally, UNM can battle inside with the Cardinals and neutralize any perceived advantage in the paint.
This game should be close, and in the final minutes, we will go with the team that has better shooters and more depth.
Prediction: New Mexico 62 Louisville 57