The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  A quick tutorial about Bracketnomics:  We have studied numerous statistical factors of all Final Four Teams from the 1950’s until 2011.  We isolated the statistical similarities of those teams and found certain shared statistical characteristics.  For the last eight years, we have been applying it to the NCAA teams trying to discover which ones shared these same statistics as the Final Four teams of yesteryear.  In five of the last seven years, we were pretty spot on with our selections.  For instance, in 2009, when Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State were listed as the heavy tri-favorites, our system showed Duke to be the top-rated team.  We went with Duke even though the Blue Devils were not being highly considered.  Now admittedly, we did not see Butler coming through to the Finals that year, or last year either, but we did rate Butler as one to watch to get to the Elite 8.

 

 

If you want all the details behind our PiRate Criteria Score, please refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/bracketnomics-505-2012-edition/

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Four teams from Ohio and 10 teams from the Industrial Midwest in the Sweet 16, draw similarities between the 2012 NCAA Tournament and the 2012 Presidential Election.  The road to the White House will run through the Industrial Midwest with Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin more than likely being the decisive states.  The road to New Orleans will also run through these same states.

 

Let’s take a look at the eight games to be played Thursday and Friday in the regional semifinals.

 

All times Eastern Daylight Time

 

Thursday, March 22

 

East Regional: Boston

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill “Man-to-Man” Raftery, and Lesley Visser

Network: CBS

 

7:15 PM

#1 Syracuse (33-2) vs. # 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score:  Syr 20.5  UW 17.7

Syracuse criteria score includes the loss of Fab Melo

 

We really like the chess match that this game should present Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.  The Orangemen will throw their 2-3 zone defense at the Badgers, and Wisconsin will need to have their X-zone continuity offense ready to counter it.  UW is a lot more comfortable with the swing offense, and their zone offense showed a lot of liabilities in the few minutes that Vanderbilt used a 2-3 zone at the end of the game.

 

The loss of Fab Melo still hurts Syracuse, but his replacements have taken up a good deal of the slack.  Syracuse had depth, and in the NCAA Tournament with all the extra-long media timeouts, depth is not as much of a concern.

 

The PiRate Criteria show Syracuse to have advantages in shooting percentage differential and turnover margin (plus steals), while Wisconsin has the rebounding advantage.  Because we do not believe the Badgers will be exploited via turnover margin, this game comes down to which team has the hotter shooting hand when they get open looks.  Syracuse is our answer to that question.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 66  Wisconsin 59

 

9:45 PM

#2 Ohio State (29-7) vs. #6 Cincinnati (26-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.8   UC 9.9

 

If you are 60 years or older, you may remember the last time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, you may remember the last two times.  For those under 60, here is a brief history of the NCAA Tournament in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

 

Possibly the best all-around basketball played in American history was Oscar Robertson.  He was the Willie Mays of basketball.  He could shoot from the outside, drive to the hoop, rebound, pass better than any current living player, play great defense, and pick up more steals than almost every team does today.

 

Official steals and assists were not kept as statistics in those days, but from a few unofficial statistics, Robertson probably enjoyed multiple games in college where he recorded a quadruple double—double figures in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.  Imagine Michael Jordan, LeBron James, John Stockton, and Dwayne Wade made into one player.

 

The Big “O” played college basketball at Cincinnati as a varsity player in the 1958, 59, and 60 seasons.  In 1959 and 1960, the Bearcats made it to the Final Four but lose both times in the semifinals to a great California team.

 

After Robertson left UC, the Bearcats were predicted to become a .500 team.  However, under new coach Ed Jucker, Cinti became the top defensive and rebounding team in the nation and proceeded to go to the Final Four in 1961, 62, and 63, becoming the first team to ever make it to five consecutive Final Fours.

 

Back to 1960, the Ohio State Buckeyes had enjoyed many great offensive teams, but poor defense had kept OSU from winning the Big Ten.  Coach Fred Taylor had recruited a fantastic class of players.  In fact, all five starters would play as regulars in the NBA after they graduated; two became all-pros and hall of famers; and one other would help lead his pro team to multiple NBA titles as a key guard.

 

That stellar starting quintet included Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfired, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts.  Some guy named Bobby Knight came off the bench.

 

In 1960, Ohio State lost a couple of close games prior to the Big Ten schedule and went through the conference like a hot knife through butter.  Once, the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament, they recorded four blowout wins to take the title.

 

In 1961, Ohio State had an even better team than the 1960 champions, with almost the entire roster returning.  The Buckeyes ran the table in the regular season, finishing 24-0.  Cincinnati, of course, lost the Big O and their coach.  Lo and behold, the Bearcats lost three early games and then finished with a long winning streak, moving up to number two in the nation at 23-3.

 

Both teams continued to win in the tournament, making it to the Championship Game, where Cincinnati pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever pulled by the nation’s number two team.

 

The following year, the Bearcats were even better.  They lost twice during the regular season, but they played a very difficult schedule.

 

Ohio State was not as strong as 1961, but with Havlicek and Lucas now seniors, the Buckeyes were the class of the Big Ten once again, finishing with a 23-1 record.

 

It was almost a foregone conclusion that there would be a rematch in the Championship, and the two Ohio teams did not disappoint.  Cincinnati won again in another mild upset.

 

The Bearcats were supposed to have their best team in 1963.  They went 25-1 during the regular season.  They were the odds-on favorite to become the first team to win the NCAA Championship three years running.

 

A team from Chicago came out of nowhere to upset the apple cart.  Loyola, a team filled with a roster of African-American players from the South, where they could not play in the SEC or ACC, proved to be the Bearcats’ equal.  They took the title game to overtime and then pulled off the big upset in what would be the last Final Four before the dawn of the UCLA dynasty.

 

Now, back to 2012.  The hype for this game should come close to equaling the hype of your typical Ohio State-Michigan football game.  These teams will be fired up more than your average Sweet 16 team, and it will be extremely hard-fought and physical.  After the game settles down, Ohio State will prove to be the superior team.  The Buckeyes come out on top in field goal differential and rebounding margin, while they are equal to the Bearcats in turnover margin.  Cincinnati enjoys a better steals rating, but Ohio State has played a schedule that is on average about 4.5 points tougher.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 75  Cincinnati 66

 

West Regional: Phoenix

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, and Marty Snider

Network: TBS

 

7:47 PM

#1 Michigan State (29-7) vs. #4 Louisville (28-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 28.9  UL 15.8

 

Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino know what it takes to get a team to the Final Four and win the national title.  Izzo has the better roster this year, so the Spartans have the advantage.

 

Looking at the Criteria scores, Michigan State wins in field goal percentage margin, wins big in rebounding margin, and enjoys a slight advantage in strength of schedule.  Louisville has the advantage in turnover margin and steals, and enjoys a very slightly better winning percentage away from home.

 

This will be an interesting game, and it is close to a tossup.  The key will be how Michigan State handles the Cardinal pressure and whether UL can keep the ball out of Draymond Green’s hands as the shot clock winds down.  We believe Louisville will come up short.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 69  Louisville 61

 

10:17 PM

#3 Marquette (27-7) vs. #7 Florida (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: MU 16.4  UF 15.4

 

Florida had the easiest path of any of the 16 teams still around.  The Gators won two blowout games to get to the Sweet 16, but neither opponent could exploit their inside weakness.

 

Marquette is not flashy, but Coach Buzz Williams gets the maximum effort out of his squad.  MU does not have an overly muscular team, but they can get the job done inside.  They were outrebounded by a tiny amount against a slate of some of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

 

Additionally, the Marquette backcourt matches up well with the Gator backcourt.  Florida will still win the battle of three-pointers, but our criteria actually discounts that rating in favor of locating teams that can score cheap baskets and second-chance points by controlling the boards.  The Marquette backcourt plays better defense and generates a lot of steals that lead to cheap baskets.

 

This game has the smallest criteria difference in the Sweet 16, and it could easily go either way.  It is basically a 51% to 49% advantage for Marquette. 

 

Prediction: Marquette 64  Florida 62

 

Friday, March 23, 2012

 

South Regional: Atlanta

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Tracy Wolfson

Network: CBS

 

7:15 PM

#3 Baylor (29-7) vs. #10 Xavier (23-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: BU 21.8  XU 8.6

 

A lot of other pundits are starting to jump on the Baylor Bearwagon.  Coach Scott Drew has built a team that has Final Four statistical qualities. 

 

Of the 16 teams remaining, Xavier’s Criteria Score ranks number 15.  The Musketeers have reached the end of the line.

 

Baylor bests XU in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin (Xavier has a negative margin), strength of schedule, and record away from home.  This game could get out of hand, but we believe Xavier has Tu advantages.  Tu Holloway should keep the Musketeers within striking distance.

 

Prediction: Baylor 73  Xavier 66

 

9:45 PM

#1 Kentucky (34-2) vs. #4 Indiana (27-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.5  IU 16.9

 

Kentucky lost their only regular season game on a last second jumper in Bloomington.  This game does not need extra pressure added on, but it will.

 

These teams do not like each other.  They have been rivals for decades; each school believes their state plays the best basketball in the nation (neither are correct).

 

Adolph Rupp did not like Bob Knight.  Knight did not like Joe B. Hall.  Indiana fans today hate John Calipari.  Tom Crean once coached as an assistant in the Commonwealth. 

 

We believe this game will be close for the first eight to 12 minutes, before the Wildcats begin to go on a run and put it out of reach just before halftime.

 

With uncertainties in the roster at North Carolina, Kentucky assumes the top spot in the PiRate Criteria Score.  The Wildcats have considerable advantages over Indiana in scoring margin, field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.  Blue Mist gets its revenge and heads to the Elite 8, as they paint Atlanta blue and make this almost a home game.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 80  Indiana 68

 

Midwest Regional: St. Louis

Announcers: Marv “Yessss” Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager

Network: TBS

 

7:47 PM

#1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. #13 Ohio U (29-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 32.0 *  OU 6.5

* Without Kendall Marshall, the Tar Heels’ score drops by 12.5 points to 19.5; this assumes that John Henson has no ill effects left from his injury.

 

All is not lost in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels are losing a lot with Kendall Marshall unable to go in this game.  Let’s take a look at some stats.

 

Marshall averages 33 minutes of playing time per game.  His likely replacement, Stilman White, averages 4.3 minutes per game.

 

Marshall connects on 46.7% of his field goal attempts.  White connects on only 23.8%.  Marshall’s three-point shooting accuracy is a tad over 35%, which is not exceptional, but White shoots only 20% from behind the arc.  Marshall averages nearly 10 assists per game, while White has 19 assists all season!  What’s worse is that there is no true point guard to back up White.  Justin Watts can move from forward to guard, but he is not a perimeter player that a Final Four team needs to have on the floor in the backcourt.

 

The Tar Heels are not in dire straits here.  They benefit from playing the weakest team left in the field.  North Carolina’s second five could compete with Ohio and have a 50-50 chance of winning this game. 

 

The Tar Heels’ strength of schedule is 10 points per game better than the Bobcats.  Yet, they enjoy a 2 to 1 advantage in scoring margin.  UNC has considerable advantages in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.

 

We have to discount the Tar Heels by 12.5 Criteria points without the top point guard in the tournament.  If Marshall can play Sunday and be anywhere close to 75% effective, he can lead his team to New Orleans.  If not, this could be Roy Williams’ last win of the season.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 77  Ohio U 62

 

10:17 PM

#2 Kansas (29-6) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (24-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0  NCSU 13.4

 

We have to make an admission here.  Coach Mark Gottfried is a former friend of our founder.  However, we strictly go by Criteria scores when we make our predictions, even though some of us will be rooting for the Wolf Pack.

 

Kansas now enjoys the best PiRate Criteria Score in the Midwest Regional, as long as North Carolina does not have Marshall.  The Jayhawks almost qualify for a point of home-court advantage, as they will come in droves across the state of Missouri to St. Louis.

 

Kansas actually comes out ahead in every criteria category in this game.  When that happens, it almost always leads to a double-digit win for the team with the better Criteria Score.

 

North Carolina State has given North Carolina fits, and we believe Gottfried will have his players charged and ready to go.  We do not see this game getting out of hand, but we do not see KU losing.  There will be plenty of Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU echoing through the rafters.

 

Prediction: Kansas 73  North Carolina State 64

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