|Games Scheduled for:||Saturday, February 18, 2017|
|North Carolina St.||Notre Dame||-7||-5||-4|
|West Virginia||Texas Tech||14||12||9|
|Wichita St.||Northern Iowa||20||17||18|
|Washington St.||Arizona St.||-2||-1||3|
|Games Scheduled for:||Sunday, February 19, 2017|
|Illinois St.||Loyola (Chi.)||10||8||8|
PiRate Ratings Top 25
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- Florida St.
- Wichita St.
- Saint Mary’s
- Oklahoma St.
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina
- Florida St.
- Notre Dame
- Wake Forest
- Miami (Fla.)
- Virginia Tech
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina St.
- Boston College
- West Virginia
- Oklahoma St.
- Iowa St.
- Kansas St.
- Texas Tech
- Seton Hall
- St. John’s
- Michigan St.
- Ohio St.
- Penn St.
- Arizona St.
- Washington St.
- Oregon St.
- South Carolina
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- Mississippi St.
Friday Night Games You Might Want To Watch
Don’t wait until Saturday to start following basketball games, because there are some interesting Friday night games this week.
Starting at 7 PM EST tonight, tune into ESPN2 to see Valparaiso visit Oakland in a battle of the top two teams in the Horizon League. Alec Peters may be the best Mid-Major player you have not seen. Peters averages 23.1 points per game and 10.7 rebounds a game for Valpo, and he is an excellent passer similar to Bill Walton in his UCLA days.
Earlier in the season, Oakland won by 12 at Valpo, never allowing the Crusaders to take a lead in the entire game. Oakland guard Martez Walker put the game away in the opening minutes of the second half with a salvo of baskets while also being a force on the glass.
There are two important Ivy League games tonight. Columbia visits Harvard in a game the Lions need to show they belong with the top three in the league. Princeton, Harvard, and Yale are locks to make the four-team Ivy League Tournament, but Columbia still has work to do and has a weekend road set with Harvard and Dartmouth after losing at Penn and Princeton last weekend. This game will be on ESPN3 at 7 PM EST. Two more losses this weekend, and Columbia could be tied for fourth rather in fourth by two games over the lower division.
At 8 PM EST on ESPN3, Princeton visits Yale. If the Tigers can get by the Bulldogs tonight, their chance of wrapping up the top seed in the Ivy League’s first ever tournament will be about 98%, since they already won at Harvard. PU is riding an 11-game winning streak.
At 9 PM EST on ESPN2, Virginia Commonwealth visits Richmond in a big Atlantic 10 game. VCU is in first place in the league, but the Rams need a resume boost to guarantee a possible at-large bid if they do not earn the automatic invitation. Richmond has no signature wins, and the Spiders will have to run the table in the A-10 Tournament to get back to the Dance.
At 10 PM EST, California travels west across the Bay to take on Stanford at Maples Pavilion in a game that could move the Bears into safe at-large territory if they can take down their rival. This game will air on FS1. Coach Cuonzo Martin’s teams tend to become tougher defensively and gel as a team in the second half of the year, and this Bear team is 8-2 in its last 10 games with the two losses coming at Oregon and at Arizona. Three weeks ago in Berkeley, 6-11 Ivan Rabb was unstoppable, hitting a couple of threes from the top of the key and getting some in-your-face baskets at the rim, as his 25 points destroyed the Cardinal.
Saturday’s Best Games
Kansas at Baylor 1 PM EST on CBS
Kentucky at Georgia 6 PM EST on ESPN
TCU at Iowa St. 6 PM EST on ESPNEWS
SMU at Houston 6 PM EST on ESPN2
Xavier at Marquette 8 PM EST on CBSSN
Virginia at North Carolina 8:15 PM EST on ESPN
USC at UCLA 10 PM EST on Pac-12 Network
Saint Mary’s at BYU 10 PM EST on ESPN2
Gonzaga 2017 vs. Wichita State 2014
Current undefeated and top-ranked Gonzaga reminds many fans of the 2014 Wichita State team that ran the table and earned the regular season number one ranking prior to entering NCAA Tournament action as the top seed. That Shocker team beat only one top team that season, winning at Tennessee. The Vols would go on to make the Sweet 16, before falling to Michigan by a bucket.
This year’s Gonzaga team has a slightly better schedule resume. The Bulldogs own neutral court victories of Florida, Iowa State, and Arizona in an 8-day period just after Thanksgiving. The Zags also swept top 20 Saint Mary’s by 23 and 10 points.
Let’s take a look at the Four Factors comparison between the two teams.
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Gonzaga has the clear advantage here. The Bulldogs current EFG% is 58.1%. Their regular FG% is 51.6%, and they are hitting 39% of their three-point attempts. Defensively, GU gives up an EFG% of just 41.7%, for an EFG% margin of 16.4%, the best in the nation.
In 2014, Wichita State was quite good in this factor, but they were not as good as GU this year. The Shockers’ EFG% was 52.6%, as there were games where they could not hit from outside 10 feet until the last 5-8 minutes of the second half. Their defensive EFG% was very good at 44.6% for an EFG% margin of 8.0%. It was not in the top 10 in the nation that year.
This factor is a wash between the two undefeated teams. Gonzaga has a current TO rate of 13.8 and a defensive TO rate of 16.1 for a margin of 2.3%
Wichita State had a TO rate of 13.6 and a defensive TO rate of 16.3 for a margin of 2.7%.
This is where Wichita State had a major advantage. The Shockers had an Offensive Rebound Rate of 35.0, which was very good, while their Defensive Rebound Rate was an excellent 26.0 for a Rebound Rate margin of 9.0%. The Shockers did not have a dominant rebounder, but their three guards rebounded like power forwards.
Gonzaga has an Offensive Rebound Rate of 31.1 and a Defensive Rebound Rate of 27.0 for a Rebound Rate margin of 4.1. The Bulldogs have won the battle of the boards in a large majority of their games thanks to the two-headed seven-foot dominators combining for 11 boards a game. While the Bulldogs are quite good in this factor, Wichita State was dominant.
Free Throw Rate
This is the least important of the Four Factors, but it is still important just by being one of the four factors. Gonzaga has one of the best FT Rate margins in the nation this year, and the reason is that opponents are forced to foul Gonzaga’s big dominating centers inside to prevent easy baskets.
GU’s offensive FT Rate is 22.9, and their defensive FT Rate is 15.3 for a FT Rate margin of 7.6%. As good as this number is, 2014 Wichita State had one of the best FT Rates of all time. Their Offensive FT Rate was 28.4, while their Defensive FT Rate was 18.8 for a FT Rate margin of 9.6%!
These factors were made under slightly different strengths of schedule. Gonzaga’s current SOS averages about 2 points per game better than Wichita’s SOS from 2014. This even includes Wichita’s game against Kentucky, which put an end to the undefeated season in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
The PiRate R+T ratings for both teams is a wash. Gonzaga’s current R+T is 20.4, while Wichita State’s was 21.2. Both teams received ample extra scoring opportunities due to superior rebounding and turnovers (with an emphasis on steals).
There is virtually no difference in quality depth, as both teams could go two deep at every position.
Wichita State’s Season Ended
The Shockers won their first NCAA Tournament game by 27 points over 16-seed Cal Poly. Then they fell by 2 to Kentucky in the next round. Kentucky won because Wichita State lacked the overall quickness to prevent numerous open shots by the Wildcats on both the perimeter and through penetration. John Calipari adjusted well at halftime when Wichita State enjoyed a 6-point lead, and a 10-0 UK run in a three-minute stretch at the start of the second half gave Kentucky the lead. Trailing by two with seven seconds left, Wichita State had a chance to tie or win the game, but Fred Van Vleet’s contested three-pointer from 21 feet out bricked off the backboard.
It is difficult for some to understand that an undefeated team with a scoring margin of 23.8 points per game could really be vulnerable, but even the 1972 UCLA Bruins had a few liabilities. Gonzaga is not unbeatable, as all college teams (even the UConn women’s team) can be defeated, even if it is not that likely.
A good pressure defense team can disrupt the Bulldogs enough to provide an opening to score some cheap baskets off steals and to force GU into foul trouble. Florida almost had enough in the defensive tank to pull it off, but Gonzaga still won thanks to hot inside-outside shooting from Josh Perkins and Jonathan Williams, while the Bulldog defense stuck to the Gators like glue, forcing UF to shoot just 36.9% from the field and a pitiful 10.5% from behind the arc.
Gonzaga does not always put an opponent away once they have taken a double-digit lead. They almost saw Iowa State come back from a 15-point halftime deficit and 18-point 2nd half deficit, as Iowa State’s Deonte Burton brought the Cyclones back to within a point with multiple chances to take the lead in the final minute. ISU had a shot to win at the buzzer and could not get the shot off. If GU does not help out on defense, a star player can possibly end the Bulldogs’ season in the Big Dance.
We believe Gonzaga is clearly better than the 2014 Wichita State team. If they enter the NCAA Tournament with a 33-0 record (which we believe is about 95% possible), they will obviously be a #1 seed. The first game against a #16 seed should be no problem, and we cannot see any possible #8 or #9 seed finding a way to beat them two days later.
Once they get to the Sweet 16, there could be some teams capable of beating the Zags, but only if either Gonzaga lays a big egg or the opponent plays lights out. The possible #4 or #5 seeds that could pose a problem for GU include West Virginia, Cincinnati, SMU, and South Carolina. All four of these teams can force Gonzaga to turn the ball over and alter their offense to a point where they must shoot poor shots late in the shot clock.
If Gonzaga makes it to the Elite 8, there will be somebody like Louisville, Kentucky, Florida, Virginia, Duke, or North Carolina in their path. All of these teams can beat Gonzaga half the time, so it would be considered a 50-50 game against any of these teams.
Looking at the Final Four if GU finally makes it to there, we actually do not think the other potential number one seeds are the teams likely to beat the Bulldogs. Villanova, Kansas, and Baylor will not match up well with GU. It will be another team, like one of the teams mentioned in the Elite 8 paragraph that will stop the undefeated streak–if it is stopped.
Since Indiana last blitzed the field in 1975-76 (and Rutgers made it to the Final Four undefeated), Indiana State in 1979, UNLV in 1991, and Kentucky in 2015, made it to the Final Four unbeaten, and none of the three won the title.
Indiana State was clearly not up to Michigan State’s talent level as Larry Bird could not beat Magic Johnson plus Greg Kelser plus 5 or 6 other really good Spartans.
UNLV met a really good Duke team that probably would not have beaten the Runnin’ Rebels more than 2 times out of 10. However, the Blue Devils had been dealt a major black eye with the worst ever National Championship Game loss to UNLV the year before, and they came out punching.
Kentucky ran up against a much more poised and mature Wisconsin team, one in which the Badgers players had ma lot more NCAA Tournament experience. UW played a smart game; they forced Kentucky to beat them by doing something other than one-on-one dribble drives and feeds when faced with double-teams. The UK players did not come out punching, and their defense was subpar that night.
In Gonzaga’s favor, they are not a one-man team like Indiana State (Carl Nicks was good but not a star). They will not face an opponent that has a grudge from losing by 30+ points the last time they played, but Florida and Arizona might know a little more about what it will take to win if there is a rematch in the Dance. The Bulldogs are not an inexperienced team lacking maturity that will fall to a more experienced, more mature team, because Mark Few has too many mature players on this team for that to happen.
If Gonzaga loses in the NCAA Tournament, it will be because the other team has equal or superior talent and plays well enough with that talent to win. Otherwise, GU will become the next undefeated national champion.
The PiRates say that Gonzaga has a 1 in 12 chance of going 39-0 and winning the national title and maybe a 1 in 11.8 chance of just winning the national title. We believe they have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the Final Four.