The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 4, 2022

Congratulations To The Kansas Jayhawks

Our hearty Buckaroo congratulations go out to Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks, winners of the 2022 College Basketball National Championship. We are happy for KU and their fans, but we are also happy to those of you that followed the Bracketnomics Analysis and took Kansas to win it all the day after Selection Sunday three weeks ago.

With the close of the college basketball season, the PiRates now get onto the ship and sail away until August. We will return around Friday, August 12, to begin the previews of the 2022 college football season. Until then, check out our brand new tabletop baseball game–Saberfast Baseball.

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Championship Game Preview

Monday, April 4, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
KansasNorth Carolina5.2

The Bracketnomics Review

For the second year in a row and 7th time in the last 11 years, our pre-tournament choice to win the National Championship has made the title game. Last year, we pegged Gonzaga to go all the way, and the Bulldogs came up one game short against Baylor.

This year, we selected Kansas as the team that most perfectly fit the bill in PiRate Bracketnomics. Obviously, you know already that this bracketnomics breakdown will favor Bill Self’s Jayhawks, because there was a reason we chose Kansas from among the 68 teams in the Big Dance to cut the nets down while “One Shining Moment” played on the screen. Let’s look at all the Bracketnomics Factors for this game, starting with the primary data.

B1: Offensive and Defensive Efficiency: Teams that finish in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and top 20 in defensive efficiency have a championship resume. Give a little more notice to the offensive efficiency.

Kansas Offensive Efficiency = 6 / North Carolina Offensive Efficiency = 18

Kansas Defensive Efficiency = 17 / North Carolina Defensive Efficiency = 39

Baylor Last Year: Offense 2 / Defense 22

Virginia in 2019: Offense 2 / Defense 5

Villanova 2018: Offense 1 / Defense 11

North Carolina 2017: Offense 9 / Defense 11

Villanova 2016: Offense 3 / Defense 5

Duke 2015: Offense 3 / Defense 11

You get the picture: Kansas fits the National Champions’ efficiency ratings criteria. North Carolina does not. The one caveat is that Connecticut twice won the title with efficiency ratings outside of the norm. No other team in the last 30 years won the title with numbers outside this norm. Kansas has the significant advantage.

B2: Schedule Strength: All national champions in the 64 to 68-team tournament era have had a schedule strength in the top 40 or above 55.0 in my PiRate Schedule Strength numbers.

Kansas has the #2 strength of schedule at 62.15. North Carolina has the #21 strength of schedule at 59.71. KU’s schedule has been about 2 1/2 points per game stronger than North Carolina’s, which is a minimal advantage.

B3: A 3-point percentage of 37% or better. This stat may need to be adjusted slightly down, because this percentage was first isolated before the 3-point line moved back a few inches.

Kansas 3 pt%: 36.1

North Carolina 3 pt%: 36.1

Obviously, this is a wash as both teams shoot the same percentage. Carolina takes more 3-pointers, but this factor only cares about percentages. If a team gets hot from behind the arc, the opponent must stretch its defense. If teams cannot hit from outside, opposing defenses can pack it in and take away the paint.

B4: Offensive Rebound %: The number 37 is important in multiple Bracketnomics factors. If a team has a 37% OReb%, they are getting 3 offensive rebounds for every 8 missed shots. In NCAA Tournament games, where teams tend to shoot below their average due to opposing defensive strength, getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances to score on a possession is vital.

Kansas OReb%: 33.2

North Carolina OReb%: 31.3

Neither team reaches the magic number of 37, but both are quite strong. Kansas has a very slight advantage, but when combined with a very slight schedule strength advantage, this stat is meaningful.

B5: Defensive 2-point Field Goal Percentage: When a team holds opponents to a 2-point field goal percentage below 45%, their defense is champion tough.

Kansas 2ptD%: 46.7

North Carolina 2ptD%: 47.6

Neither team reaches the magic number, but Kansas has the superior number (not by much). What this means is that the big men on both teams should score significant points in the paint, and the quick guards should get some open shots. It could mean that this game will see a higher score than the average championship game.

B6: FT Rate of 37 or better: When a team has a FT Rate (FTA/FGA) of 37 or higher, it means that their offense is potent and forces defensive players to foul a lot so as not to give up easy shots. Making foul shots is great, but forcing fouls is the key part. Not only does this get players in foul trouble, it indicates that the defense cannot properly guard the offense. Although it is not part of this factor, defensive FT Rate should be monitored, because low FT Rates mean the defense can stop offenses.

Kansas FT Rate: 32.7

North Carolina FT Rate: 30.3

Once again, neither team reaches the 37% mark, but once again, Kansas has the slight advantage.

B7: R+T Rating: If this is your first visit to this site, R+T Rating is a statistic created by the PiRate Ratings to estimate potential “spurtability.” This is an evolving statistic, as the formula has been tweaked a few times over the years, and at the present time, there are two different R+T ratings–one using rate stats and one using counting stats.

Kansas R+T Ratings: Rate 6.2/Counting 13.8

North Carolina R+T Ratings: Rate 10.1/Counting 16.7

At last, North Carolina has an edge in something, and it is an important edge and the one area where the Tar Heels could capitalize enough to win the game. With an estimated three additional potential scoring spurts, if just one of the spurts resembles the 11-0 run the Heels made in 90 seconds against Duke Saturday night, North Carolina could open a sizable lead if the game is close when it happens.

Secondary Bracketnomics Factors

Note: These factors are lesser in importance than the primary factors but still important

B8: Scoring Margin: National Champions have scoring margins of 8 or more points, and most have double-digit scoring margins. They get to this point by dominating opponents–not by winning a bunch of 2-point games.

Kansas Scoring Margin: 11.2

North Carolina Scoring Margin: 6.8

Kansas has the distinct advantage.

B9: Field Goal Percentage Margin: When a team shoots an overall FG% margin of 8% or more, they are dominating in the most important factor of the game–putting the ball in the basket and preventing the other team from doing so. It that margin is 10% or more, you are looking at a truly dominating team.

Kansas FG% Margin: 7.0

North Carolina FG% Margin: 2.6

Neither team reaches 8%, but Kansas is close, while UNC has a small positive margin. KU gets the advantage here.

B10: A Winning Streak of 10 or more games or two of 6 or more games. To be the national champion, a team must beat 6 (or 7) other tournament teams without losing. Should one expect a team to do this if they couldn’t beat 6 or 7 teams in a row during the regular season? If a team had a 10-game winning streak or two winning streaks of 6 or more games, they played consistently for long stretches.

Kansas currently has a 10-game winning streak and had an 8-game winning streak earlier in the season.

North Carolina had one 6-game winning streak at the end of the regular season when their at-large hopes were far back in Bubbleville. They have won 11 of their last 12 games.

Kansas gets the advantage here, but it is minor.

B11: A Regular Season or Conference Tournament Championship. Almost all past national champions won either their regular season or conference tournament championship.

Kansas was Big 12 co-champions and won the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

North Carolina did not win either.
Kansas gets the advantage here.

Tertiary Factors

Note: These factors are the least important of the Bracketnomics factors, but they are still useful, because they appear in past champion resumes.

B12: A Head Coach With Past NCAA Tournament Experience. If a coach has taken multiple teams to the NCAA Tournamnt and has enjoyed success when he got there, it is worth a little extra against coaches that do not have this experience.

Kansas Coach Bill Self is coaching in his 23rd NCAA Tournament and 3rd Championship Game.

North Carolina Coach Hubert Davis has considerable experience as a player and assistant coach, but this is his first year as a head coach.

Who was the last first year coach to coach his team for an entire season and win the NCAA Championship? It was Ed Jucker at Cincinnati in 1961. Kansas gets another small advantage.

B13: Player Experience: A team with a lot of upperclassmen with playing experience tends to perform better on the national stage than a team with mostly underclassmen. How many seniors and juniors are in the top 8 of the roster?

Kansas has 5 seniors and 2 juniors among their top 8.

North Carolina has 2 seniors and 1 junior among their top 8.

Yet again, KU has a small advantage, but their roster is older than an NBA expansion team.

B14: A Clutch Player or 3 Go-To Players: When a team needs a crucial score late in the game, do they have a player that can get if for them? Or, does the team have three players not afraid to shoot that shot? Think of Michael Jordan in the 1982 Championship Game or Keith Smart in the 1987 Championship Game. You have no doubt seen a team panic in the final seconds and not even get a real shot when they needed somebody to step up.

Kansas definitely has a clutch shooter not afraid to take the basketball and take that shot. Senior Ochai Agbaji will carry KU on his back in crucial moments and deliver the goods.

North Carolina has three players that can take this final shot, even if none are like Agbaji. Brady Manek and Caleb Love can score at the end of tight games–Manek from the outside and Love in the paint. Big man Armando Bacot is the key player that can tip in a missed shot to win at the buzzer.

This is a wash, as both teams can potentially win on buzzer beaters.

B15: A Dominating Inside Presence. Championship teams have a post player or multiple post players that can stop opponent penetration but more importantly can score and rebound in the paint. The key stats are for one post player to score 12 points and average 7 rebounds per game, or to have two big men team for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Kansas has two big men, David McCormack and Jalen Wilson, that team for 21.5 points and 14.4 rebounds per game. This meets the requirement.

North Carolina meets this requirement both ways. Bacot averages 16.3 and 13.1, while Bacot and Manek team for 31.5 and 19.0.

While both teams satisfy this requirement, Carolina has the overall advantage with Bacot, but only if he is close to 100% after spraining an ankle Saturday night.

B16: 4 Double Figure Scorers. When a team has 4 or more players that average double figure points per game, you might be able to stop one or two, but more than likely one or two will have a big game. If a team has only one big scorer, slowing him down can crush that team’s offense.

Both teams have 4 double figure scorers, and this has the look of a game that should be a bit higher scoring than an average National Championship Game.

Final Judgment

Both teams have avenues to exploit the other team, but Kansas has more assets and less liabilities in this game. We selected the Jayhawks to go all the way three weeks ago, and we’re sticking by that choice. Our game prediction is:

Kansas 81 North Carolina 75

April 1, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Final Four

Saturday, April 2, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
DukeNorth Carolina3.8
KansasVillanova2.0

Bracketnomics

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Duke14558.937.031.646.628.63.612.3
North Carolina183959.336.131.047.530.110.116.7
Kansas71861.835.533.147.032.96.213.8
Villanova91761.435.731.148.030.14.110.9

Duke vs. North Carolina

For so many years, there was a chance that the two two rivals in college basketball would meet in the Final Four.

Personally, in 1982, I held 4 tickets to the Mideast Regional at Vanderbilt University when the NCAA Selection Committee had placed Kentucky and Louisville on a collision course in the second round after Kentucky dismissed Middle Tennessee State in the first round. The two Bluegrass rivals had not met for 25 years, and here they were just two days away from the most colossal game in the tournament since Houston and UCLA played in 1968. Alas, tiny MTSU upset Kentucky, and the value of those four tickets went from new car purchase to nice dinner purchase.

What does that have to do with this game in New Orleans? Absolutely nothing, but it allows me to stall a bit. This game is not easy to figure. Duke has the overall most efficient offense in college basketball, while Carolina is in the top 20 in offensive efficiency but since February, the Tar Heels are in the top five. Carolina’s defense is marginally better than Duke’s, but it isn’t all that much. Carolina has a little better offense at forcing fouls on the defense and a little better R+T Rating, but how much extra do you give Duke for trying to send Coach K out a winner?

In 1975, Kentucky clearly had better overall talent and should have beaten UCLA, but the Bruins played close to their top potential for the retiring Coach Wooden. The last time these two teams played, Carolina spoiled Coach K’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Additionally, the Tar Heels did not win the regular season or conference tournament in the ACC, while Duke won the regular season title. PiRate Bracketnomics values a conference champion over a non-champion in tossup games, so the edge goes to Duke to make it to the Championship Game on Monday night.

Kansas vs. Villanova

The PiRate Bracketnomics System correctly picked Kansas and Villanova to make the Final Four before the tournament began. We also picked Kansas to cut down the nets in New Orleans, so you know who we are selecting in this game.

Now, let’s look at why. First, Villanova is missing a key player in Justin Moore from an already small playing rotation. Now for the numbers. Kansas has a very slim advantage in offensive efficiency, offensive rebounding rate, defensive 2-point field goal percentage, and R+T Ratings. Strength of schedule is basically dead even, so with the injury to Moore, KU becomes a 4 or 5 point favorite.

March 29, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , — piratings @ 4:44 am
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
XavierSt. Bonaventure-0.2
Texas A&MWashington St.0.8

March 28, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Monday, March 28, 2022

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , — piratings @ 7:00 am
Monday, March 28, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
South AlabamaCoastal Carolina3.5

Fresno St.

Southern Utah

8.8

March 27, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Sunday, March 27, 2022

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:00 am
Sunday, March 27, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
North CarolinaSaint Peter’s9.6
KansasMiami (Fla.)8.8

March 26, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Saturday, March 26, 2022

Saturday, March 26, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
VillanovaHouston-2.1
DukeArkansas3.7
Southern UtahPortland3.7

Elite 8 Bracketnomics Analysis

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Villanova83060.80.36031.248.60.306.511.6
Houston101056.50.34537.744.00.2914.122.0
Duke44358.20.37031.946.40.293.912.3
Arkansas541458.20.30429.946.50.386.912.7
North Carolina204259.00.36430.748.00.309.616.0
Saint Peter’s2252849.50.35532.143.50.384.68.9
Kansas62661.80.36033.547.10.326.213.3
Miami (Fla.)1812157.90.34422.753.20.29-5.4-3.0

Villanova vs. Houston: Houston has a more perfect Final Four Bracketnomics resume, but there is a caveat. The Cougars accumulated some of this resume with two former starters that were both lost for the season due to injuries.

Villanova has a better schedule strength and a better three-point shooting percentage, while Houston holds the R+T edge. It is so close to call, but the general rule of thumb is to go with the better R+T rating in tossup games. By a thin hair, the pick is Houston to repeat as a Final Four team.

Duke vs. Arkansas: It appears as if the Atlantic Coast Conference was quite underrated this year. Three of the Elite 8 are ACC teams. Duke showed a lot of toughness beating the number one defensive team in the nation Thursday night. Of course, Arkansas beat the number one team overall, and it did not look like a fluke.

Duke is close to having an ideal Final Four resume. The key here is that the Blue Devils have a considerably better Final Four resume than Arkansas, and they add two intangibles. First, they are playing for Coach K to go out a champion like John Wooden. Second, the ACC may need a few extra points in schedule strength. Duke is the choice.

North Carolina vs. Saint Peter’s: What we have here is a total monkey wrench in the Bracketnomics system. Saint Peter’s is not supposed to be here. I am not saying that no mid-major team should ever be in the Elite 8. It’s just that the Peacocks, with this resume, do not fit like past mid-major teams like George Mason, Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler. If Saint Peter’s makes the Final Four, the Bracketnomics System will be a total failure, because there isn’t any justification that says the Peacocks should make the Final Four.

How did this tiny commuter school located on both sides of what was once the Lincoln Highway in Jersey City get to the Elite 8? Beating Kentucky was “The Mouse That Roared.” This was not one of those all freshmen teams with no tournament experience. Beating Murray State wasn’t as surprising as we thought the Racers had failed to beat a really quality team. Beating Purdue was almost as shocking as beating Kentucky, but we have noted that Gene Keady and his disciples have never had great success in the NCAA Tournamnent, as Steve Lavin and Kevin Stallings also had issues with teams trying to win half-court possessions at the expense of forcing the issue and accumulating great R+T rating scores.

Now comes a North Carolina team that at one point this year lost to Kentucky by more than 30 points and looked like an NIT team but all of a sudden caught fire and slaughtered Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Coach K’s final home game. North Carolina looked like a national championship team in the Sweet 16, and Hubert Davis must be given all kinds of credit for guiding the Tar Heels from probable NIT to probable Final Four. I am going with the Tar Heels to set up the incredible top rivalry game in the Final Four. Saint Peter’s has a slightly better defensive efficiency, and their guards are incredibly deceptively better than a Metro Atlantic team, but the Peacocks’ schedule strength does not measure up to Final Four standards. What we’re looking at is an allowance horse champion trying to beat a Grade 1 Stakes winner in the Florida Derby with a trip to Churchill Downs on the line. For the sake of this system, the pick is North Carolina.

Kansas vs. Miami (Fla): After Selection Sunday, when we presented our massive Bracketnomics release, Kansas was our choice to go all the way and win the National Championship. The Jayhawks are halfway to the prize, but KU hasn’t won their games as convincingly as I hoped. Now the Jayhawks face a team that can attack them in a different way with Larranaga’s Runts. Miami is another team that the Bracketnomics say should not be here. Their R+T rating is the absolute lowest in R+T history of any Elite 8 team. In fact, they were not supposed to make it past the Round of 32 with this R+T rating.

In every facet that matters, KU has the advantage. This game should be a double-digit win for the Jayhawks, but with KU not clicking on all cylinders and Miami playing at its peak in the obviously underrated ACC, this game looks painfully closer than it should be. The pick is Kansas, but it may be one of those ugly wins.

March 25, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday, March 25, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
PurdueSaint Peter’s13.1
KansasProvidence7.9
UCLANorth Carolina4.1
Miami (Fla.)Iowa St.0.2

March 24, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Thursday, March 24, 2022

Thursday, March 24, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
GonzagaArkansas10.2
VillanovaMichigan4.0
DukeTexas Tech-0.2
ArizonaHouston1.3

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
Arizona71958.135.334.541.70.356.617.6
Arkansas541458.230.529.946.50.386.912.7
Duke44358.237.031.946.40.293.912.3
Gonzaga1957.237.429.241.60.317.021.2
Houston101056.534.237.744.00.2914.122.0
Iowa St.160560.331.928.150.60.281.33.9
Kansas62661.836.033.547.10.326.213.3
Miami (Fla.)1812157.934.422.753.20.29-5.4-3.0
Michigan197761.833.930.950.50.307.112.3
North Carolina204259.036.430.748.00.309.616.0
Providence325857.635.030.447.00.382.78.4
Purdue28960.138.835.148.70.3911.819.3
Saint Peter’s2252849.535.532.143.50.384.68.9
Texas Tech46161.032.233.244.00.366.318.1
UCLA121359.435.331.747.30.3010.516.9
Villanova83060.836.231.248.60.306.511.6

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.

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