The PiRate Ratings have been in existence for more than 40 years. Only in the last 14, have we included college basketball in our menu, and only in the last 11 years, have we presented this website to the public. In that time, there is one day each year where more people congregate to this site than on any other day. It’s not the Super Bowl week, or the eve of the New Year’s Day Bowl games. For many years running, it is this day and this entry that has brought more people here than any other. Bracket picking has become part of the American and even international culture to the point where people that do not normally follow basketball can be found filling out brackets like they are scratching the $2 lottery cards.
One day more than a decade ago, our founder had some time on his hands, and he started researching the past statistics of the NCAA Basketball Champions. Then, he began copying their statistics to a spreadsheet. It then expanded to include all the Final Four teams, and eventually included the top teams in the nation that lost unexpectedly.
What he discovered was that there were specific statistical similarities in the Final Four teams and National Champions of past years. Looking at that year’s NCAA Field, he isolated three of the Final Four teams by examining each team’s statistics and comparing them to Final Four teams of the past.
In 2006, this system found George Mason as a dark horse contender and in another medium, our founder wrote that the Patriots were a team to watch out for as a legitimate Final Four contender. Overnight, the system was “discovered” by other media outlets that brought our founder a lot of notoriety, and when he started this site, many that had followed him, or had seen his system reported on by Yahoo and Fox, came here.
Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the meat of this system. You can read about it more in depth in Monday’s submission: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/bracketnomics-505-the-advanced-level-course-in-bracket-picking-2/
These are our criteria points.
- A scoring margin of 8 or more points, with special credit going to 10 or more points
- A field goal % margin of 7.5% or more with special credit going to 10% or more
- A rebound margin of 5 or more
- A positive turnover margin (meaning they force more than they commit)
- An average of 7 or more steals per game
- An R+T Rating of 15 or more (the Bracketnomics 505 post for an explanation of R+T
- A member of a Power Conference and a Strength of Schedule of 54.00 or more
- A Won-Loss percentage in away and neutral games of 75% or more
- A 10-game winning streak or 2, 6-game winning streaks during the season
Let’s get to it. Here are the teams that qualify under each criterion. Remember, as you look at these statistical criteria, that there is a large caveat. The Stephen F. Austin’s and Stony Brook’s had schedules on average that were 10-15 points weaker than the Michigan State’s and Kansas’s. Do not look at this data and make conclusions that are not meant to be made. We will put the data into a bracket-picker for you at the conclusion.
|Stephen F. Austin||80.7||63.2||17.6|
|Cal State Bakersfield||73.0||63.2||9.8|
|South Dakota St.||76.3||67.8||8.5|
Field Goal % Margin
|South Dakota St.||5.4|
|Florida Gulf Coast||5.0|
|Stephen F. Austin||6.2|
|Cal State Bakersfield||3.1|
|South Dakota St.||0.3|
|Stephen F. Austin||9.1|
|Cal State Bakersfield||8.0|
If you read our post yesterday, you must know by now that the R+T rating is as valuable in the NCAA Tournament as raw meat at the tiger’s exhibit at the zoo. No team wins the national title with low R+T ratings, and teams with negative and very low R+T ratings exit the tournament quickly.
This season, no major conference teams enter the Dance with negative R+T ratings. However, there are a handful with low positive R+T ratings.
Unlike the other criteria, we include every team in this criterion. It is PiRate Gold. Basically, the higher the number, the more this team is likely to score easy baskets during the game and prevent the opponent from scoring. When players tend to be tight at the beginning of the tournament, R+T ratings can tell you which are most likely to get dunks and layups, two shots that stay true when outside jumpers and even close-in jumpers tend to be off. Also, when two excellent defensive teams face off against each other, and baskets are hard to come by, the high R+T teams will score some “cheap” points and most likely be the winner.
Remember, like in all other criteria here, schedule strength and power conference membership are as equally important at R+T rating and must be considered as the co-primary factor.
|Stephen F. Austin||18.2|
|Cal State Bakersfield||15.9|
|South Dakota St.||13.9|
|Florida Gulf Coast||12.8|
|Best of the Rest|
|Okay in Early Rounds|
Strength of Schedule
These are the teams from Power Conferences with SOS of 54.00 or better. No National Champion has ever had a SOS under 54.00, and all but a small number of Final Four teams in the 64 to 68-team field have possessed SOS under 54.00.
10-Game Winning Streak or 2, 6-Game Winning Streaks
|Stephen F. Austin||20||5|
|Cal State Bakersfield||6||6|
|South Dakota St.||6||6|
Won-Loss Record Away From Home Floor
|Stephen F. Austin||13||5||72.2|
|Okay in Early Rounds|
|South Dakota St.||14||7||66.7|
|Cal State Bakersfield||10||7||58.8|
|Florida Gulf Coast||4||9||30.8|
Ranked by Criteria Met
After the number of criteria met, we have included “Alpha Dog” and repeated R+T ratings. Alpha Dog refers to whether this team has played a difficult enough schedule and is a member of a power conference. While there are cases where George Mason and Wichita State make the Final Four, the cases are very rare, and we go with the tendencies that have worked so well in the past.
The teams that qualify with 5 criteria and are also Alpha Dogs with qualifying R+T ratings have been highlighted in blue. These are the top contenders this year.
|Team||Criteria Met||Alpha Dog||R+T|
|Stephen F. Austin||5||No||Yes|
|South Dakota St.||4||No||No|
|Cal State Bakersfield||4||No||Yes|
|Florida Gulf Coast||1||No||No|
Xavier rates as the top contender, but we are a bit concerned about the Big East Conference remaining as a Power Conference. While three other Big East teams made the tournament, this league has not fared well since the break-up of the teams that formed the American Conference.
Last year, five Big East Teams made the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s lost in the second round (round of 64) to San Diego State; Providence lost handily in their first game to Dayton; Butler lost in the third round to Notre Dame (round of 32); and 1-seed Villanova lost in the third round to North Carolina State. Only Xavier made it to the Sweet 16, and the Musketeers had a relatively easy trip to the West Regional second weekend by defeating an Ole Miss team that just barely made the tournament as a play-in team from Dayton and then Georgia State after GSU upset Baylor.
We are not eliminating Xavier from consideration, but we are knocking them down a few notches. Thus, our actual top-ranked team according to our Criteria ratings is Michigan State.
Now, before we drive you crazy, ponder this. No Big Ten team has won the national title, since the Spartans pulled the trick in 2000. Coach Tom Izzo has taken MSU to five subsequent Final Fours, and Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have made it to the Final Four in recent years.
Concerning the Big 12, overall number one seed Kansas does not qualify under the R+T rating. However, the Jayhawks just barely miss out with an R+T of 14.6, and after a first game breeze, KU’s R+T rating could easily hit 15. We are not going to dismiss Kansas because they come up short by a hair of having a great Final Four resume.
Bob Huggins has guided two teams to the Final Four, one at Cincinnati and one at West Virginia. This year’s Mountaineer squad is better than the one he took to the Final Four and about on par with the great Bearcat team with Nick Van Exel, Corey Blount, Anthony Buford, and Herb Jones in 1992, where Cinti led Michigan in the second half before falling late by a couple points in the National Semifinals.
The shorter shot clock combined with Huggie Bear’s incredible full-court press makes the Mountaineers awfully dangerous against teams that have not previously played WVU. There was a time when a long string of pressing teams won the national championship, but with slower paces, that style of play stopped being as effective. Now, with the pace increased by about 7.5% thanks to the shorter shot clock, the press is a more potent weapon. Even when a team breaks the press, they have less time to set up their offense and find a good shot. The liability of pressing is that it can wear a team down, but WVU goes deep off the bench, and in the NCAA Tournament, media time outs are longer, allowing players more time to recover from fatigue.
Gonzaga made it to the Elite 8 last year, the zenith of the Mark Few era. The Bulldogs did not win any big games this year until they finally bested Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament Championship. The Zags have a very formidable frontcourt, but they fall well short in schedule strength, where there 52.35 reduces their criteria score down to Sweet 16 or worse status.
Kentucky and North Carolina are sitting pretty in the Criteria Ratings, as both meet 6 of the criteria, come from Big Conferences with high schedule strength, and most importantly, both merit recognition based on R+T ratings. Being two of the most elite programs is not part of our criteria, but we also don’t totally exclude that fact. They are the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals of college basketball.
Let’s look at how the PiRate Criteria see the brackets. Wednesday night, after the last game in Dayton concludes, we will post our Red-White-Blue Picks for each game. These are our everyday ratings and do not include the criteria listed herein. These ratings use an algorithm incorporating the Four Factors.
As you will notice, while this season was tabbed a unique one with a lot of parity, we actually believe the top programs are more ready to dominate this tournament than in recent years.
Fairleigh Dickinson over Florida Gulf Coast
Wichita State over Vanderbilt
Southern over Holy Cross
Michigan over Tulsa
Round of 64
Kansas over Austin Peay
Colorado over Connecticut
Maryland over South Dakota St.
California over Hawaii (very close–almost a tossup)
Arizona over Wichita St. (or Vanderbilt)
Miami over Buffalo
Iowa over Temple
Villanova over UNC-Asheville
Oregon over Southern (or Holy Cross)
Cincinnati over St. Joseph’s [Lower Seed Picked]
Baylor over Yale
Duke over UNC-Wilmington (Criteria says this is closer than you might think)
Texas over Northern Iowa (very close)
Texas A&M over Green Bay
VCU over Oregon St. [Lower Seed Picked]
Oklahoma over Cal State Bakersfield (but watch out, CSUB has upset-worthy data)
North Carolina over Fairleigh Dickinson (or Florida Gulf Coast)
Providence over USC [Lower Seed Picked] (a weak game by criteria)
Indiana over Chattanooga (If UC still had Casey Jones, the Mocs would actually be favored)
Kentucky over Stony Brook (we do not see any chance that SBU will contend)
Michigan (or Tulsa) over Notre Dame [Lower Seed Picked] (Irish have lousy criteria numbers)
West Virginia over Stephen F. Austin (SFA got a lousy seed, as they are Sweet 16 worthy)
Pittsburgh over Wisconsin
Xavier over Weber St. (should be very ugly and possibly a 35+ point win)
Virginia over Hampton
Butler over Texas Tech [Lower Seed Picked]
Purdue over UALR
Iowa St. over Iona (expect a 90-80 type game)
Gonzaga over Seton Hall [Lower Seed Picked]
Utah over Fresno St. (could be close)
Syracuse over Dayton [Lower Seed Picked]
Michigan St. over Middle Tennessee
Round of 32
Kansas over Colorado (closer than expected)
California over Maryland
Arizona over Miami
Villanova over Iowa
Oregon over Cincinnati (almost dead even)
Baylor over Duke (Blue Devils missing defense in the paint)
Texas A&M over Texas
VCU over Oklahoma (big upset sends jump-shooting team home)
North Carolina over Providence
Kentucky over Indiana
West Virginia over Michigan
Xavier over Pittsburgh (should be excitingly close)
Virginia over Butler (should be close for 40 minutes)
Purdue over Iowa St.
Gonzaga over Utah (lowest seed in Sweet 16)
Michigan St. over Syracuse
Kansas over California
Arizona over Villanova
Baylor over Oregon (1 of 2 #1 seeds going out in this round)
VCU over Texas A&M
North Carolina over Kentucky (should be Final Four game)
West Virginia over Xavier (total toss-up and expected best game of the round)
Purdue over Virginia (2nd #1 seed going home in this round)
Michigan St. over Gonzaga
Kansas over Arizona
Baylor over VCU
West Virginia over North Carolina (3rd #1 seed departs)
Michigan St. over Purdue
Kansas over Baylor
Michigan St. over West Virginia
Michigan St. over Kansas