The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 29, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For December 29, 2016

Welcome to the PiRate Ratings’ return to college basketball coverage.  There are changes in the numbers this season, and we are excited to debut our annual Red-White-and-Blue Ratings for the 2016-17 college basketball season.

First, we have tweaked our Blue formula algorithm this year by giving a little more emphasis to true shooting percentage and the complimentary defensive metric in limiting shooting percentage.  In recent seasons, turnover margin has begun to mean a little bit less than it did a decade ago, and there are fewer truly dominant rebounding teams out there.  So, the college game for the time being is all about making shots and preventing the other team from making shots.  It sounds silly, as that should be all that matters (hitting baskets and stopping the other team from making them), but turnovers and rebounds gives teams more opportunities to take shots and make shots, while reducing the number of opportunities teams give to their opponents.  Rebounding and turnover rates are still vital, as we merely reduced the percentage of the total contribution by a couple basis points.

Next up, we plan on totally revising our NCAA  Tournament Bracketology data this season.  Our old formula has been performing with mediocre results in recent years, and we have decided to go 80% Four Factors and 20% PiRate Criteria this season and see what happens.  The R+T factor will still be part of our presentation, as it is still very effective at weeding out pretenders from contenders.

Until the Big Dance, we will concentrate our efforts on conference games and big non-conference games between teams from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC.  Because we have to input the stats for every team for every game, it is not possible to do this for every Division I game.  But, because all we need for our ratings are the current updated stats, we can always rate any game, thus, if we want to rate a Missouri Valley Conference big game, we can add it to the slate.

Additionally, following the New Year’s, expect our chosen selections to run just one day a week, most likely Friday, and it will include that weekend’s games.  We will also provide commentary on the entire division, as we tend to receive a lot of readership when we report on the low-major and mid-major conferences.

Let’s get started with this week’s pre-New Year’s report.

PiRate Top 10

thru games of 12/28/16

  1. Villanova
  2. Virginia
  3. Duke
  4. West Virginia
  5. Kansas
  6. Baylor
  7. North Carolina
  8. Louisville
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Kentucky


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

This league is so loaded this year that #13 North Carolina State is strong enough to compete for the SEC Championship.  Only the bottom two are considered out of the running for an NCAA  Tournament bid.

Big East

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

Until they lose, reigning national champion Villanova rules the roost in the league and nationally.  The Wildcats had a close one last night against the cellar dweller, but one game does not knock them off their perch, as long as it is a win.  As of today, it looks like five teams would make the Dance.

Big Ten

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

It looks like Northwestern is in line to finally make it to the Big Dance.  A strong 12-2 start for the Wildcats needs only a winning conference record and one conference tournament win to get that elusive bid.

Big 12

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

Yes, the Longhorns and Sooners bring up the rear as conference play is set to begin.  The other 8 teams look to be NCAA Tournament bound as of today with the top 3 teams the equal of the top three in the ACC.


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

Even with UCLA’s last second loss at Oregon, the Bruins stay atop the Pac-12 standings.  This league looks like a 4 or 5-bid league as of now.


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

Kentucky and Florida rank well ahead of the other dozen in this league this year.  South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Georgia sit on a separate shelf above the remaining eight teams.  This could be as little as a two-bid league but no more than a four-bid league as of now.

Low and Mid-Major Teams in the mix for at-large bids

It is getting more difficult to label Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s as Mid-Major teams.  The two WCC powers are both in our top 25 teams this week.

Cincinnati out of the American Conference is really a power team, even though the AAC has lost some prestige.  SMU is in the same boat, but the Mustangs need to do a little more work to be a for sure at-large team this year.

Wichita State has earned the same privilege as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.  The Shockers belong in the list of at-large possibles.

The only real low-major team in consideration for a possible at-large bid would be UNC-Wilmington from the Colonial Athletic Association.  UNCW has the talent to get to the Sweet 16, and they scared the daylights out of Duke in the NCAA Tournament last year.

This Week’s Selections

Normally, this would be a list for Saturday/Sunday games, but due to the New Year’s Holiday, we are beginning with a list of Thursday games.  Once again, we will concentrate only on the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC conference games, as well as any games among highly ranked teams.

Each Rating is derived from the Four Factors with separate algorithmic equations.  An explanation of the Four Factors follows below.

Games Scheduled for: Thursday, December 29, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Texas A&M Tennessee 8 11 9
Auburn Georgia 1 2 -3
Ole Miss Kentucky -12 -7 -8
LSU Vanderbilt 2 5 -3
Arkansas Florida -1 -4 -7
St. John’s Butler -6 -8 -11
Gonzaga Pepperdine 25 24 28
Loyola Marymount Saint Mary’s -10 -11 -14

The Four Factors in basketball are:

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

These factors apply to both offense and defense, so in effect each team has Eight Factors.

Effective Field Goal Percentage

[FG +(0.5*3pt)]/FGA (expressed as a percentage)

Where FG is field goals made, 3pt is 3-point shots made, and FGA is field goal attempts

If a team makes 25 of 55 field goals and sinks 6 three-pointers, their EFG% is:

[25+(0.5*6)]/55 = 50.9% or 50.9

Turnover Rate

TOV/[FGA+(0.475*FTA)+TOV] (expressed as a percentage)

Where TOV is turnovers, FGA is Field Goal Attempts, and FTA is Free Throw Attempts

If a team commits 12 turnovers, takes 55 field goal attempts and 23 free throw attempts, their turnover rate is:


Offensive Rebounding %

OR/(OR+Opponents DR) (expressed as a percentage)

Where OR is offensive rebounds and DR is defensive rebounds

If a team gets 8 offensive rebounds, and their opponents get 26 defensive rebounds, their Offensive Rebounding % is:

8/(8+26) = 23.5%

Free Throw Rate

Basketball analytics gurus differ on how to rate this stat.  We align with those that favor free throws made per 100 possessions.

FT/[FGA+(0.475*FTA)+TOV-OR] (expressed as a percentage)

Where FT is Free throws made, FGA is field goal attempts, TOV is turnovers, and OR is offensive rebounds

If a team made 17 out of 23 free throw attempts with 55 field goal attempts, 12 turnovers, and 8 offensive rebounds, their FT Rate is:

17/[55+(0.475*23)+12-8] = 24.3%

The Red, White, and Blue Ratings use these statistics (both offensively and defensively) for the first 8 parts of the equation.  Part Number 9 is Strength of Schedule, and each rating adjusts a little differently for this.  Part Number 10 is Home Court Advantage (as well as occasional away from home disadvantage for teams that play much worse away from home than at home).

These 10 parts are then put through three separate algorithms to come up with three different ratings.  The difference in the ratings is the spread for the game.


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