The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 23, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics For Sweet 16

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:42 am

The 2022 edition of the PiRate Bracketnomics fared rather well compared to a large number of other options when looking for bracket-filling strategies. Obviously, neither our system nor any others pick perfect brackets or even ones where we pick 15 of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16.

We still have three of our Final Four and five of our Elite 8 still alive, as well as our picks for the National Championship Game.

We did not pick Saint Peter’s to be the real shocker, so our system missed that one entirely this year. Kentucky’s numbers were just incredibly better than the Peacocks, but the Wildcats looked like deer in the headlights all night in that game. St. Peter’s looked like a clearly superior team when they dismissed Murray State two days later.

Miami of Florida and Iowa State were somewhat of a surprise to us as well, but the Hurricanes’ ball-hawking defense countered being outrebounded by 10 and nine in their two wins. Iowa State relied on excellent half-court defense to get to this round.

The Sweet 16 is like the advances round of TV game shows. You know the type. In the first round, the questions are a little easier, but after the commercial break, the next round brings more difficult questions, and the strong separate themselves from the weak. In the Sweet 16, usually seven of the eight winners will be clearly superior to their victims, while there will be one new surprise making the Elite 8. We previously pointed out that one team that does not have our acceptable national championship resume will sneak into the Final Four. It doesn’t always happen, but like UCLA last year, usually one team will win games three and four in their tournament to make it to the third weekend in the big dome stadium.

Let’s take a look at the most important Bracketnomics numbers for each of the 16 teams.

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Iowa St.160560.331.928.
Miami (Fla.)1812157.934.422.753.20.29-5.4-3.0
North Carolina204259.036.430.748.00.309.616.0
Saint Peter’s2252849.535.532.143.50.384.68.9
Texas Tech46161.

To briefly summarize what this data above means: O-Eff and D-Eff are the schedule strength-adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The fat numbers are to have an O-Eff in the top 10 and a D-Eff in the top 20.

SOS is our own PiRate Ratings strength of schedule. A SOS of 55.0 is the minimum number to be considered a real national title contender. Going back to the beginning of the then 64-team tournament format, no team with an SOS below 55.0 has won the title.

37+3pt is the threshold for three-point shooting percentage. If it is north of 37%, the team with this big number will force defenses to spread out and open up the middle for easy two-point shots. Overall 3-point percentages have dropped a little in the last few years since the stripe was moved back a few inches.

OReb% is the percentage of missed shots rebounded by the offense. 37% is also the beginning point of excellence. If a team rebounds three out of every eight shots they miss, they can shoot 40% from the field and still win. If this same team shoots 45%, they can cut down the nets after the final game.

-45% vs.2pt is the defensive field goal percentage inside the 3-point line. If a defense allows less than 45% of the 2-point shots to be made, they have a championship-level defense.

FT Rate37 is the free throw ratio. If a team takes 3 foul shot attempts for every 8 field goal attempts, this team has an offense that forces defenses to grab because the offense is too potent.

The last two columns are our own unique R+T ratings. The new one is rate based on Four Factors data, while the old one is a counting stat. We don’t yet have a threshold for the new R+T, but the old R+T has been helping us pick winners in the Big Dance for two decades. If the R+T is 15 or better, this is a team that consistently goes on big scoring spurts, the type that frequently puts games away. 12.5 to 15 is really good. 8 to 12.5 is fairly good. 5-8 is so-so. Under 5 is not good, and below 0 is a 100% no go for the Final Four.

Let’s take a look at the eight Sweet 16 games

Gonzaga vs. Arkansas: Gonzaga has the best overall Bracketnomics resume, as they did last year. Their schedule strength is a mild issue but well within the bounds of a potential national champion. Yet, the Bulldogs have not looked their best in either NCAA Tournament win. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is worth about 7-10 more points for his team than Penny Hardaway is for Memphis, and if that’s the case, The Razorbacks are good enough to pull off the big upset–if Gonzaga continues to play at a subpar level. There’s the rub. I don’t see Gonzaga coming out flat in this game. Their narrow escape in the Round of 32 should wake the Bulldogs up. Gonzaga’s numbers are clearly superior to Arkansas. Go with the Zags in a potential double digit win.

Villanova vs. Michigan: There is an interesting set of data for this game, where both teams have advantages and disadvantages. Michigan has a better inside presence, and the Wolverines figure to capitalize inside with a few extra baskets in their offensive halfcourt. Villanova’s overall offense is a bit too strong for Michigan’s defense, so the Wildcats’ perimeter is going to penetrate Michigan’s defense for easier shots than Michigan figures to take. Overall, Villanova has a slight advantage in the Bracketnomics data, but the advantage is slim. Let’s go with the Wildcats in a close one.

Duke vs. Texas Tech: Duke’s excellent offense faces Texas Tech’s number one defense–this should make for an exciting game. Usually, when a superior offense plays a superior defense, if all else is equal the superior offense wins more often than not. All else is not equal. If not for this being Coach K’s final year, and it looks like Duke has been benefiting from more than 50% of the 50-50 calls, this would be an easy selection, as the Red Raiders have a better overall team. On a Sweet 16 stage, maybe the referees will be more likely to get calls made correctly with hopes of being chosen for the Final Four, so Duke won’t get that benefit. If so, this might be the finale for Coach K. Texas Tech is just a bit better.

Arizona vs. Houston: What we have here is a failure to see a decisive favorite. Both teams have Final Four resumes and are clearly better than most of the other teams left in the Big Dance. The only issue in this game is the fact that a portion of Houston’s great numbers came with the addition of two former key starters that were lost to season-ending injuries earlier in the season. With their roster intact, this might have been the Houston team to do what Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney couldn’t do in the late 1960’s or what Phi Slama Jama couldn’t do in the mid 1980’s. Arizona doesn’t have the same amount of tournament experience that Houston has, as the Cougars made the Final Four last year. That’s the one thing that concerns us. Kelvin Sampson knows how to prepare a team to pay on the big stage. Arizona is the better team, but Sampson is worth a few extra points–just enough to have a 50-50 shot at the mild upset. I have to pick somebody here, but honestly, it can only be a hunch, as the Bracketnomics show this game as dead even. I’ll go with Sampson to defeat the Pac-12 Goliath by one or two points or in overtime.

Purdue vs. Saint Peter’s: Saint Peter’s has played incredible defense in their two wins, and if they could stop Oscar Tshiebwe and company, they have a chance to limit Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. But, doing so might allow Jaden Ivey to showcase his exceptional talents on the big stage. Purdue has not made the Final Four during the Gene Keady-Matt Painter era. The Boilermakers in the past had issues with R+T Ratings. This Purdue team does not have that issue, and they might run over the Peacocks like a runaway train. I think Cinderella experiences Midnight in this round, and Purdue wins by double digits.

Kansas vs. Providence: Ed Cooley has done an incredible job at Providence, but he is facing a team coming to its peak in efficiency, and Kansas is clearly the superior team across the board. With Remy Martin at full strength, the Jayhawks are better than their Bracketnomics Data indicates. Martin makes KU the best team in the Dance, and I expect Rock Chalk Jayhawk to keep advancing.

UCLA vs. North Carolina: College basketball royalty clashes in this one, and I don’t see this game being a mismatch like the 1968 National Championship Game. Looking at the Bracketnomics data, the two teams are evenly matched. There are secondary and tertiary data in this science, including tournament experience by players and coach. In all but one respect, the Bruins have the advantage in these extras.

Carolina’s one advantage is having an inside force that can dominate in the paint. Mick Cronin is coaching in his 13th NCAA Tournament and coming off a Final Four appearance with most of his key contributors returning. Hubert Davis is coaching in his first NCAA Tournament. That’s enough to pick UCLA to return to the Elite 8.

Miami (Fla.) vs. Iowa St.: This is the unique game in this round, as neither team has an acceptable Final Four Bracketnomics Resume. As previously mentioned, usually one of the four teams in the Final Four does not have the blueprint we use to pick our brackets. At least one team will make the Elite 8.

Iowa State has struggled to generate offense for long stretches of games, and they have had to rely on their defense to keep games close until the offense got on track. Miami’s small but very quick roster might be able to force the Cyclones into playing a style of ball they are not equipped to play. Let’s go with the U to become Elite. Jim Larranaga took George Mason to a Final Four.


  1. You forgot to mention the Kansas game.

    Comment by Tony Bianco — March 24, 2022 @ 7:32 am

  2. I just saw it, nevermind.

    Comment by Tony Bianco — March 24, 2022 @ 7:33 am

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