The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 12, 2020

PiRate Ratings College Basketball For February 12, 2020

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:28 am

Wednesday’s Games

 

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Abilene Christian

Houston Baptist

16.6

American

Loyola (MD)

6.2

Army

Lafayette

-1.8

Auburn

Alabama

5.6

Binghamton

Stony Brook

-10.6

Bradley

Indiana St.

2.9

Butler

Xavier

6.3

Central Arkansas

New Orleans

4.7

Chattanooga

VMI

9.1

East Tennessee St.

Citadel

21.9

Evansville

Loyola (Chi)

-8.6

Georgia

South Carolina

2.6

Georgia Tech

Louisville

-5.6

Hartford

Albany

1.5

Hawaii

Long Beach St.

11.8

La Salle

Richmond

-4.7

Lehigh

Holy Cross

7.4

Miami (Fla.)

Boston College

5.4

Missouri St.

Drake

2.2

Navy

Bucknell

4.3

Niagara

Canisius

-0.8

Nicholls

Lamar

8.2

Northern Iowa

Illinois St.

16.1

Northwestern

Michigan

-6.3

Northwestern St.

Incarnate Word

9.5

Ohio St.

Rutgers

6.5

Oklahoma

Iowa St.

5.6

Oral Roberts

Omaha

7.4

Pittsburgh

Clemson

4.4

Samford

Furman

-12.4

San Jose St.

Fresno St.

-6.5

Seton Hall

Creighton

6.0

SMU

Connecticut

2.5

South Dakota

Western Illinois

14.2

South Florida

Houston

-6.6

Southeast Louisiana

Sam Houston St.

-9.8

St. John’s

Providence

1.8

Texas A&M

Florida

-5.6

Texas A&M-CC

Stephen F. Austin

-7.8

Tulane

Temple

-3.8

Tulsa

East Carolina

12.3

UAB

Middle Tennessee

8.2

UC Riverside

UC Irvine

-3.9

UMass Lowell

Maine

6.8

UNC Greensboro

Western Carolina

10.3

UNLV

Nevada

-1.3

Valparaiso

Southern Illinois

2.7

VCU

George Mason

14.4

Vermont

New Hampshire

15.7

Villanova

Marquette

2.8

West Virginia

Kansas

-0.9

Wofford

Mercer

8.3

 

Wednesday’s Top TV Games

Time (EST)

Network

Home

Visitor

6:30 PM

FS1

Seton Hall

Creighton

6:30 PM

CBSSN

Butler

Xavier

7:00 PM

ESPN+

West Virginia

Kansas

7:00 PM

BTN

Ohio St.

Rutgers

8:30 PM

FS1

Villanova

Marquette

 

The 25-Teams Could Win The NCAA Championship Myth

 

If you view a national basketball telecast this year, the so-called experts announcing the games repeatedly say that this season is different because there are no overly dominating teams in college basketball.  These scribes say that 25 different teams could be good enough to win the national championship.  Some even say that 40 different teams are talented enough to make the Final Four.

We at the PiRate Ratings tend to be contrarian in nature.  We just don’t buy these theories of parity.  Certainly, none of the teams in this year’s Top 10 appear to be as talented and dominant as any of the Top 10 teams of the past decade.  However, none of the teams outside of the Top 10 appear to be as talented as their counterparts of the past decade.

We do not see the parity that others see, and the analytics when compared on a one season basis, actually tell us that fewer than 10 teams this season have statistical resumes worthy of contending for a national championship.

If you have been reading our chicken scratch long enough, you obviously know that we value certain data when predicting the outcomes of college basketball games past the Ides of March.  We have looked at reams and reams of data dating back to the years where statistics were kept on these games and have identified consistencies in the champions that other teams could not match.

Namely, the ability to rebound the basketball on the offensive end and get extra shooting chances appears to be much more valuable in the Big Dance than it is in the regular season, because so many of the tournament teams are in the top group of defensive teams.  Additionally, being able to protect the ball and limit turnovers has become more and more important in the 21st Century, because the age of pressing full court for 40 minutes and then relying on fast breaks off these turnovers just doesn’t happen like it used to work when UCLA ran its incredible 2-2-1 press and Rick Pitino used his matchup press defense at Kentucky.  So many of the top teams have little to no problem defeating the press defense and exploiting it for points that this strategy has become a non-factor most of the time.

Teams with excellent offensive efficiency, very good defensive efficiency, an ability to hold onto the ball, and a highly-ranked offensive rebounding rate rise above the rest when there are just 68 teams remaining in contention for the title.  Additionally, teams that lack this ability to rebound on the offensive end or limit turnovers have been vulnerable to early round upsets, as was seen multiple times with teams like Georgetown and Vanderbilt in the past decade, two notorious teams that were excellent offensive efficiency teams, very good defensive efficiency teams, but lousy offensive rebounding teams with no turnover margin advantage.

When you combine the teams that possess excellent offensive efficiency, very good defensive efficiency, strong rebounding ability with decent turnover prevention, and then said team has played a schedule that ranks in the top 35% of college basketball (basically a Power Conference), these are the teams that have National Championship Resumes.

By now, we hope you are wondering how many teams currently fit this National Championship footprint?  How many have excellent offensive efficiency, very good defensive efficiency, highly-ranked offensive rebounding ability, and a good rate of taking care of the rock?

The answer is far from the 25 to 40 teams that the hardwood pundits claim.  As of Wednesday, February 12, there are only 3 teams that possess these national championship worthy resumes.

Those three teams are: Duke, Gonzaga, and San Diego State.  Gonzaga and San Diego State just barely qualify on the basis of schedule strength, and unfortunately for the Aztecs in the Mountain West Conference, their remaining schedule might lower their overall schedule strength to remove SDSU from this list.

Because the West Coast Conference is abnormally stronger this season, Gonzaga still has enough games against opponents that will maintain the Bulldogs’ schedule strength above the line needed to qualify.

So, the next time you hear that this could be the year that somebody like Penn State or Rutgers makes an unexpected run to the national title, or that this is the year the Pac-12 returns to prominence with Oregon or Arizona winning it all, refer them to this data that says this is not so.  For now, we would tend to believe that Duke and Gonzaga are runaway top contenders.  We aren’t saying that somebody else might get hot and move into the field of legitimate contenders, since there is a month to go until Selection Sunday, but when somebody says that 25 teams today are good enough to win the title, laugh at the statement and educate them in the analytics of long historical importance.

Let’s take a look at the supposed biggest dark horse national champion in the last 60 years.  The infamous 1966 Texas Western Miners (UTEP today) pulled off the monumental upset over the mighty Kentucky Wildcats.  Was Texas Western a use anomaly that year?  Did they come from out of nowhere to upset the trends and blow this theory apart?

Quite the opposite.  The issue that year wasn’t the mathematics; it was the publicity.  Texas Western was no dark horse.  Let’s take a look at the stats available to us.

First, let’s start with the obvious.  What was the Miners strength of schedule?  They were an independent in 1966, which in those days was the largest group of all.  There were close to 50 Division I Independents then, and they included some of the top teams in the nation like former National Champion Loyola of Chicago, future National Runner-up Dayton, Providence, Houston, and Syracuse.

Texas Western finished the regular season with a 23-1 record and were ranked #3 in the polls.  When has the #3-ranked team ever been considered a dark horse or surprise team?  Just because the Nabobs of the Eastern Elite Media didn’t dub the Miners with their accolades, it did not make the Miners a dark horse.

The Miners played one Top 10 team in the regular season.  They slaughtered Iowa by 18 points.  They beat a host of above average teams by well above average margins and blew out the rest of the teams on their schedule until the final game.   They lost by two at Seattle, when the Chieftains were still a strong program and just seven years removed from appearing in the National Championship Game.

The issue with the established press is that all these TW wins came against teams west of the Mississippi River.  The media didn’t realize that the Miners had outrebounded their opponents by an average of 51.5 to 36.2 in their 24 regular season games.  They didn’t know that the Miners had one of the toughest defenses in the nation, limiting opponents to an estimated 79 points per 100 possessions (not exact because offensive rebounds and turnovers were not official stats then),  They didn’t see that the Miners were quite efficient for the day with an estimated 99 points per 100 possessions.  Remember that there was no three-point line then, and anything over 85 points per 100 possessions was above average.  That Texas Western team also took good care of the ball.  They had exceptional ball handlers in Bobby Joe Hill, Willie Worsley, and Orsten Artis.

Texas Western began tournament play with an easy 15-point victory over Oklahoma City, holding the Chiefs 25 points under their average of nearly 100 points per game.  The Miners dominated on the glass and proved to be much too quick for the Chiefs, fouling out four of OKC’s starters.

In the second round, TW had to go to overtime to beat the favored Cincinnati Bearcats.  Cincinnati actually controlled the boards, but the Miners won with steals and not turning the ball over.  It was the only game where the other team won the rebounding war, but the difference in turnovers was huge.

In the Midwest Regional Final, Texas Western faced a favored Kansas team that featured all-American center Walt Wesley and 1st team all-Big 8 guard Jo Jo White.  The press basically advanced the Jayhawks to the Final Four before this game began, but the Miners proved to be too quick for the slower KU team.  TW won the rebounding and turnover battle, and Kansas’s two stars were matched by the Miners’ balance.  On to the Final Four in College Park, Maryland, went the Miners, finally playing games in the East.

The Final Four was nothing like it is today.  The University of Maryland’s gymnasium was no 70,000-seat dome stadium. Cole Field House seated about 12,000.  However, the press made a big deal out of half of this field.  The Eastern Region Champion Duke Blue Devils, the number two team in the nation placed the Mideast Region Champion Kentucky Wildcats, the number one team in the nation.  The winner of this game would then win the National Championship Game the next night against the winner of the other semifinal game.  Texas Western and Utah were there too.

The semifinal games were both close.  Kentucky came from behind to nip Duke, while Texas Western stayed ahead of Utah most of the game but never ran away from the Utes, thanks to superstar forward Jerry Chambers keeping the Utes in the game.

The Championship Game was considered an afterthought.  The mighty Wildcats of Kentucky were basketball royalty with their Baron, Adolph Rupp.  Texas Western was this tiny school from El Paso with a coach that had learned the game from the great Hank Iba, but they were almost as much a patsy for Kentucky’s soon to be fifth national title as the Washington Generals were for the Harlem Globetrotters.

There were some astute professional gamblers that knew what was really about to happen.  Kentucky’s players were quite talented.  They could shoot the ball about as competently as any team in the history of the game, and with Louie Dampier and Pat Riley on the perimeter, they could quickly shoot a weaker opponent out of the gym.  Kentucky’s devastating 1-3-1 zone trap defense had forced numerous opponents out of their normal offense, where they either turned the ball over or took a hurried shot.  It had worked like a charm 27 times out of 28.  Ironically, just like Texas Western, Kentucky only lost their regular season finale at Tennessee, a team that would win the SEC the following year.

The “Sharp” gamblers knew something that most of the rest of the nation and just about all of the Eastern Establishment media did not know.  Texas Western was much quicker than Kentucky.  Their man to man defense was stronger than Kentucky’s 1-3-1 zone trap, and it did not surrender a handful of easy buckets like the gambling press.

In the opening minutes of the game, neither team could find the range, but Kentucky’s fast break led to a couple of baskets.  Additionally in the first part of the game Kentucky enjoyed a huge rebounding edge, as the Wildcats missed multiple offensive tips.  Texas Western scored on some lob passes over the zone for easy layups, and even though they were a tad sloppy with the ball, they limited turnovers, being called for a couple of travelling violations but not giving UK easy breakaway baskets off steals.

The key sequence of the game was when Kentucky’s Tommy Kron dribbled the ball up the floor guarded man to man and then from the blind-side, Bobby Joe Hill came in and stole the ball, driving for an easy layup.  The play tightened the screws on the favored Wildcats.  On the very next possession, star guard Louie Dampier brought the ball up the middle of the floor, and Hill pressured him to the left.  As Dampier attempted to cross over, Hill stole the ball again and drove for another easy basket.

Texas Western never relinquished the lead the rest of the night.  As the game continued, Kentucky only had one shooting opportunity per possession, while Texas Western had second and third chances.  Thunderous dunks by power player David Latin allowed the patient Miners to keep the lead.  Kentucky had chances to tie or take the lead, but every time, the Texas Western defense held and secured the rebound.

Can San Diego State be this year’s Texas Western?  Can Gonzaga finally get over the hump and win the National Championship?  Will Coach Mike Krzyzewski win another national championship?  If we had to predict the champion today, we believe these are the only three possible teams that could go from 68 to 1.  Duke has the perfect resume this year.  We’ll see if anybody else joins the group of championship-worthy teams in the final four weeks before Selection Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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