The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 2, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For The NCAA Tournament Championship Game, Monday, April 2, 2018

PiRate Rating Spread for The NCAA Championship Game

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Villanova Michigan 6.8

 

And Then There Were Two

The Pirate Ratings Analytics Criteria to the National Championship Game

Michigan Wolverines Head Coach John Belein compared Villanova to a college version of the Golden State Warriors.  Villanova Coach Jay Wright did not return the favor, but even before Beilein spoke, we had already thought of this game as the college equivalent of Game 7 of the Warriors and Celtics.  The Warriors have the top offense in the Association, while the Celtics have the top defense.  Golden State speeds up the pace, while Boston slows it down.

What can we learn from the two games the Celtics and Warriors have played against each other this year?  Both teams won by four points on their home floor.  The game in Boston was played at a pace the Celtics like and Warriors dislike.  The game in Oakland was played at the exact opposite pace.

Michigan and Villanova will square off in San Antonio on a neutral floor.  Michigan won its semifinal game playing at a snail’s pace that the Wolverines prefer, 69 possessions.  They averaged a point per possession and held Loyola to .83 points per possession.

Villanova won its semifinal game playing at a quicker pace, although not as quickly as they desired in their win over Kansas.  Their 71 possessions looks little different from Michigan’s 69, but a couple factors lowered this number.  First, once VU extended the lead to 15 points, they slowed the pace down.  Second, Kansas looked lost after the initial barrage, and they slowed the pace down trying to throw off the Wildcats.

Tonight, we expect Michigan to slow the pace down and keep total possessions under 70, but will this be effective?  We think it will be partially effective, and the excellent contrasts in playing styles should lead to a much closer than expected outcome.  In fact, we think this game has the potential to be undecided in the final minutes.  It would not surprise us at all if it went to overtime.  In other words, while it wouldn’t be completely shocking for this game to be one-sided, we believe the chances that either team wins by double digits is rather low.  We expect the final margin to be less than 10 points for the eighth consecutive Championship Game.

Let’s look at the analytics for tonight.

First, the game tips at 9:20 PM EDT/8:20 PM in San Antonio and will air on TBS and not CBS.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 35-4 87-70 10.38 12.8 61.22
Michigan Y 33-7 74-63 5.74 9.9 60.14

Both teams are members of power conferences and have double digit scoring margins, which almost all national champions in the past 65 years have shared.

The Strengths of Schedules are not identical, but they are very close.  Villanova only receives a minimum positive adjustment to the rest of their stats based on an advantage of 1.08 points per game. (Our SOS is a combination of 3 factors and not identical to others you may see on the Internet)

Villanova has the decided edge in True Shooting Percentage Margin.  The formula we use for TS% is: (100*Pts)/(2*(fga+(.475*fta))).  (Again, others may use a different formula, but we believe this is the best one to use for college basketball.)

Villanova has a decided but not overwhelming R+T Rating advantage in this game.  R+T is a PiRate Original Rating with this formula: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  The number estimates how many extra scoring opportunities per game a team may obtain compared to an average team, and the difference, after factoring schedule strength, allows us to estimate how much better one team has over the other in going on spurts of 8 points or better.  In the NCAA Tournament, most winning teams enjoy at least one more 8-point spurt than the losing team.

Overall, these first set of analytics favors Villanova, but the margin of error does not make the Wildcats a slam-dunk selection to win.

Offense Defense
Team Pts FGA FTA TS% Pts FGA FTA TS%
Villanova 3384 2383 698 62.3 2745 2346 623 52.0
Michigan 2957 2280 699 56.6 2517 2169 643 50.9

This group of stats shows us that Villanova is the superior offensive team, while Michigan enjoys the defensive edge, but by less than VU has the offensive edge.  In a seven-game series, this would definitely tilt the outcome in Villanova’s favor.  For one night, VU is still favored, but this is not an insurmountable advantage.  The pace should fall closer to Michigan’s average of 66 possessions per game than Villanova’s 71 possessions per game, or at least through 40 minutes if the game has an extra session or two or three.

Team W1 W2 L12 Reb Stl Opp Stl TO
Villanova 13 10 11-1 3.03 6.51 4.79 2.26
Michigan 14 7 12-0 0.58 6.38 4.18 3.73

Almost every national champion has had one double-digit winning streak or two winning streaks of 6 or more games each.  Both teams double qualify here.  Michigan’s 14-game streak is active, while Villanova’s #2 streak of 10 games is also active.  What this says is that both teams are peaking at the right time, and you will be the beneficiary of an outstanding game.

Villanova has the rebounding advantage in this game, but it comes with a major caveat.  Michigan is all over the road in their games, and we believe it has more to do with game strategy than inconsistency.  When the Wolverines have faced dominant rebounding teams, like Michigan State, they have actually won the battle of the boards.  When they have faced teams that force turnovers or rarely commit turnovers, the Wolverines usually get outrebounded but keep the turnover battle close or even in their favor.

Also, Villanova tends to win rebounding battles by getting to loose balls quicker rather than pound the glass for success.

Everything else in this section is a wash.

There is a reason why we believe Michigan will make this game extremely close, and even have a fair chance to win.  The Wolverines are perceived to be slow and to lack quickness.  We disagree.  Actually, we believe Michigan can hold their own in a faster-paced game, and the numbers give us reason to believe.  Michigan has played four games this year with a pace more than 10% quicker than their norm.  The Wolverines went 3-1 inthese games, losing only at North Carolina.  In fact, Michigan beat Sparty in East Lansing in a game with a fast pace, and they won by double digits.  We have known for years that superior defensive teams actually gain superiority as possessions increase, while inferior defensive teams gain an advantage by slowing the pace down, as smaller sample size tends to lead to more deviation, while moving closer to the norm as sample size increases.  In this case, sample size is the number of possessions.

Conclusion 

You should be able to easily diagnose this game from the analytical data.  Both teams are playing their best ball of the season.  Both teams have assets that can exploit an average team or a superior team, while both teams have few liabilities.

It is obvious that Villanova is more superior than Michigan, but not by enough points to make them the easy favorite to win this game.  If they played 100 times, Villanova might win 58 to 63 times, so the Wildcats don’t have that much more chance to win one game on one night on a stage like the Championship Game provides.

This game will likely come down to the winning team having one more hot player or one less cold player.  Moritz Wagner was one reason Michigan beat Loyola.  Overall team defense was the other.

Eric Paschall burned the nets and torched Kansas, but overall it was a team offensive effort that led Villanova to its semifinal win.

We expect the Wildcats to bounce a little and not be as effective shooting three-pointers tonight, while at the same time, we believe Omari Spellman will contain Wagner better than Loyola’s defenders could.

What this means is that we expect offensive efficiency to be down for both teams, and we believe that Villanova will get one extra scoring spurt in this game than Michigan, probably coming in the second half somewhere either side of the six-minute mark in the game.  Michigan will mount a comeback that will fall just a tad short.

PiRate Prediction: Villanova 74  Michigan 69

 

 

 

 

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