The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 7, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 7, 2018

Today’s PiRate Ratings For Conference Tournament Games

Home Team Visitor  
or Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
LaSalle Massachusetts 4.1
George Washington Fordham 6.1
Florida St. Louisville 0.7
North Carolina St. Boston College 3.4
Virginia Tech Notre Dame -0.3
North Carolina Syracuse 7.9
Oklahoma St. Oklahoma -0.5
Texas Iowa St. 5.6
Georgetown St. John’s -3.1
Marquette DePaul 5.2
Florida Int’l. Southern Miss. 0.2
North Texas Louisiana Tech -1.9
UAB Florida Atlantic 9.0
Hampton Florida A&M 9.4
Bethune-Cookman Morgan St. 1.8
UNLV Air Force 9.4
Utah St. Colorado St. 5.7
Wyoming San Jose St. 12.6
Colorado Arizona St. -7.8
Stanford California 10.8
Washington Oregon St. -0.7
Oregon Washington St. 9.7
Bucknell Colgate 9.3
Georgia Vanderbilt 1.9
South Carolina Ole Miss 2.8
New Orleans Texas A&M-CC 2.9
Lamar Central Arkansas 0.8
Coastal Carolina Texas St. 1.2
Appalachian St. Little Rock 3.9
UL-Monroe Arkansas St. 2.4
Troy South Alabama 3.9

Games in RED are Championship Games for Automatic NCAA Tournament Bids.

Last Night’s Conference Tournament Championship Games

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament
Charleston 83 Northeastern 76 ot
Horizon League Tournament
Wright St. 74 Cleveland St. 57
Northeast Conference Tournament
Long Island 71 Wagner 61
Summit League Tournament
South Dakota St. 97 South Dakota 87
West Coast Conference Tournament
Gonzaga 74 BYU 54

Teams With Automatic Bids to the Dance

Team Bid Conf. W-L
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9

Conference Championship Games Scheduled For Wednesday

Patriot League Tournament
Championship–March 7
Time Home Visitors TV
7:30 PM #1 Bucknell #2 Colgate CBSSN


Conference Tournaments Beginning Today

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Washington, DC
First 4 Rounds EST/Championship EDT
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #12 LaSalle #13 Massachusetts  
8:30 PM #11 George Washington #14 Fordham  
Second Round–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 VCU #9 Dayton NBCSN
2:30 PM #5 George Mason LaSalle or UMass NBCSN
6:00 PM #7 Richmond #10 Duquesne NBCSN
8:30 PM #6 St. Louis GWU or Fordham NBCSN
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Rhode Island VCU or Dayton NBCSN
2:30 PM #4 St. Joseph’s GMU/LaSalle/UMass NBCSN
6:00 PM #2 St. Bonaventure Richmond or Duquesne NBCSN
8:30 PM #3 Davidson Stl/GWU/Fordham NBCSN
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM URI/VCU/Dayton StJo/GMU/LaSalle/UMass CBSSN
3:30 PM StBon/Rich/Duq Dav/Stl/GWU/Fordham CBSSN
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     CBS

Rhode Island is a lock to get into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team if the Rams do not win the conference tournament.  St. Bonaventure is most likely in as well, but the Bonnies could sure use a quarterfinal win to make it secure.  Davidson is a potential bid stealer.  The Wildcats are the hottest team in the league and sport the league’s top defense.  Davidson knocked off Rhode Island in the regular season finale.

A player to watch in this tournament is Justin Wilson of VCU.  Wilson has the talent and ability to carry his team to the semifinals, where the right matchup could produce a dark horse for the league title.

Big 12 Conference Tournament
Kansas City
All Times CST
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #8 Oklahoma St. #9 Oklahoma ESPNU
8:00 PM #7 Texas #10 Iowa St. ESPNU
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:30 AM #4 Kansas St. #5 TCU ESPN2
1:30 PM #1 Kansas Okla. St. or Oklahoma ESPN2
6:00 PM #2 Texas Tech Texas or Iowa St. ESPNU
8:00 PM #3 West Virginia #6 Baylor ESPNU
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Kan/Okl St/Okla Kan St. or TCU ESPN2
8:00 PM TTU/Tex/Iowa St. WVU or Baylor ESPN2
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM     ESPN

Kansas is aiming to secure a number one seed in the Big Dance, but the Jayhawks have been a bit inconsistent this year.  West Virginia swooned in the middle of the season, but the Mountaineers began to put it all together late in the season.  Kansas State, TCU, and Texas Tech had their moments during the season, but none of the three looked like a champion as March came marching in.  Oklahoma has taken on water to the point where a first-round loss to rival Oklahoma St. could sink the Sooners.  Texas and Baylor might need one tournament win to earn tournament lock status, while Iowa St. is really the only team that must win the automatic bid to get into the field of 68.  This should be one of the most exciting Big 12 Tournaments ever.

Big East Conference Tournament
New York City
All Times EST
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #8 Georgetown #9 St. John’s FS1
9:30 PM #7 Marquette #10 DePaul FS1
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Xavier G’Town or St. John’s FS1
2:30 PM #4 Creighton #5 Providence FS1
7:00 PM #2 Villanova Marq. or DePaul FS1
9:30 PM #3 Seton Hall #6 Butler FS1
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM Xavier/GTown/St. Johns Creighton or Providence FS1
9:00 PM Villa/Marq/DePaul S. Hall or Butler FS1
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM     Fox

Except for Georgetown and DePaul, any of the other eight teams in this league could win the conference tournament.  Villanova finished behind Xavier in the standings, but the Wildcats own the Musketeers.  St. John’s finished in a last place tie, but the Red Hawks beat Duke, Villanova, and Marquette in consecutive games.  So, it would not be all that shocking if SJU found the magic in MSG and make a run.

Conference USA Tournament
Frisco, TX
Top 12 Teams Qualify
All Times CST
Note: This facility splits into two separate courts until the semifinals
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #8 Florida Int’l. #9 Southern Miss. TBA
6:30 PM #5 UTSA #12 UTEP TBA
8:30 PM #7 North Texas #10 Louisiana Tech TBA
9:00 PM #6 UAB #11 Florida Atlantic TBA
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Middle Tennessee FIU or Southern Miss Stadium
6:30 PM #4 Marshall UTSA or UTEP Stadium
8:30 PM #2 Old Dominion N Tex or La Tech Stadium
9:00 PM #3 Western Kentucky UAB or FAU Stadium
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:30 PM     CBSSN

This should be an interesting tournament just for the logistics.  If you have ever attended a giant AAU tournament, you most likely have seen multiple courts set up with a curtain dividing the action.  This tournament is going to face something similar.  The event will take place where the Dallas Cowboys practice.  There’s nothing new about staging the Final Four in a domed stadium meant for football.  However, there will be two courts facing parallel to each other with a thick black curtain separating the games.  There will be no worries about the basketball rolling from one court to the other interrupting a game, because the courts will be set in opposite end zones.  However, there is no guarantee that the sounds from one court might be heard on the other court, especially referee whistles and scoreboard horns.

The tournament itself should be quite interesting.  Middle Tennessee romped over the rest of the league with the exception of Marshall.  Marshall’s style of play is totally different than all the other teams in the league and all but a few teams nationally.  The Thundering Herd are one of the most exciting teams to watch in all levels of basketball.

Even though they are highly ranked, Middle Tennessee is far from a lock to make the NCAA Tournament if they do not win the automatic bid.  The Blue Raiders are 49th in the RPI, 48th in predictive metrics, 3-3 in Quadrant 1 games, and 2-1 in Quadrant 2 games.  They are certainly on the Bubble.

Western Kentucky and Old Dominion are fairly evenly matched with enough talent to win the tournament and represent the league well in an opening round NCAA Tournament game.  UAB is the  only dark horse with the horses to pull off a couple of upset wins, but anything other than the top four seeds advancing to the semifinals would be shocking.


Mountain West Conference Tournament
Las Vegas
All Times PST
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:00 AM #8 UNLV #9 Air Force Stadium
1:30 PM #7 Utah St. #10 Colorado St. Stadium
4:00 PM #6 Wyoming #11 San Jose St. Stadium
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Nevada UNLV or Air Force CBSSN
2:30 PM #4 Fresno St. #5 San Diego St. CBSSN
6:00 PM #2 Boise St. Utah St. or Color. St. CBSSN
8:30 PM #3 New Mexico Wyoming or San Jose CBSSN
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM     CBS

If your favorite power conference team is in need of a new coach, then your school’s administration should keep a watch on this conference.  This is a league that features a lot of excellent coaches that could move on to big time schools and win big, much like the MAC in football.

At the top of this list are Nevada’s Eric Musselman, Boise State’s Leon Rice, Wyoming’s Allen Edwards, Fresno State’s Rodney Terry, and New Mexico’s Paul Weir.

Nevada has an NCAA bid locked up, but unless another team wins the MWC Tournament, this will be a one-bid league.  Boise State was on the Bubble at one time, but the Broncos’ resume, which includes a road win at Oregon  and home win over Loyola (Chi.) still might be a bit too thin.

San Diego State is like the snake in the grass that the mice cannot see.  The Aztecs can usually play great defense, but their offense is a bit too inconsistent.  This year, that is not the case, as their offense is rather strong, but their defense has not been up to recent standards.  However, SDSU enters this tournament riding a six-game winning streak with evidence that their defense is starting to come around.  Of all the dark horses in all the conferences, we believe the Aztecs are the most dangerous.


Pacific 12 Conference Tournament
Las Vegas
All Times PST
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Colorado #9 Arizona St. Pac12
2:30 PM #5 Stanford #12 California Pac12
6:00 PM #7 Washington #10 Oregon St. Pac12
8:30 PM #6 Oregon #11 Washington St. Pac12
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Arizona Colorado or Ariz. St. Pac12
2:30 PM #4 UCLA Stanford or Cal Pac12
6:00 PM #2 USC Wash or Oregon St. Pac12
8:30 PM #3 Utah Oregon or Wash St. FS1
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Ariz/Color/Ariz St UCLA/Stanford/Cal Pac12
8:30 PM USC/Wash/OreSt Utah/Oreg/WSU FS1
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     FS1

Will the on-court action be as exciting as the off-court action in this league?  Arizona had to withstand a lot of negative press and speculation about Coach Sean Miller and star player DeAndre Ayton.

Then, there is the case of the hottest team in November and early December becoming an also-ran in conference play, yet remaining on the Bubble.  In other years prior to the current set-up where last 10 or 12 games meant a lot, this metric is not considered by the Selection Committee.  Thus, Arizona State, 8-10 in the Pac-12 and tied for eighth, is still very much in consideration for an at-large bid, while Utah and Stanford, both 11-7 in the league are not seriously being considered.  Stanford swept ASU, clearly showing the world that they are a superior team, while Utah split with the Sun Devils.  It just goes to show that this current system, while being easy to understand, is seriously flawed.

Imagine if the San Diego Padres won series over the Cubs, Nationals, and Astros early in the season and led the NL West through the end of May and then swooned to a 83-79 finish, while the Dodgers go 92-70 but end up with losing records to the Cubs and Nats and lose their interleague series with Cleveland.  Would it be right for the Padres to go to the playoffs based on those April and May wins, while the Dodgers stay home, even if the Dodgers owned the Padres in head-to-head games?  This would be a joke!  But, in college basketball, it is hailed as the new genius way to determine who belongs in the Dance.

It is our opinion that conference standings mean something, in fact a lot more than most of the other factors used to pick at-large teams.  The third place team in a league is obviously better than the eighth place team in the same league.


Southeastern Conference Tournament
St. Louis
First 4 Rounds CST, Championship Game CDT
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #12 Georgia #13 Vanderbilt SECTV
8:30 PM #11 South Carolina #14 Ole Miss SECTV
Second Round–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Texas A&M #9 Alabama SECTV
2:30 PM #5 Missouri Georgia or Vandy SECTV
6:00 PM #7 Mississippi St. #10 LSU SECTV
8:30 PM #6 Arkansas S. Carolina or Ole Miss SECTV
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Auburn A&M or Alabama ESPN
2:30 PM #4 Kentucky Mizzou/UGa/Vandy ESPN
6:00 PM #2 Tennessee Miss St. or LSU SECTV
8:30 PM #3 Florida Ark/USC/Ole Miss SECTV
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM Aub/A&M/Alabama UK/MO/GA/VU ESPN
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM     ESPN

Co-champion Auburn is a wounder Tiger.  Without their one legitimate star inside presence, Anfernee McLemore, we do not see the Tigers making it to the Championship Game, and they could fall short of the Semifinals.

Co-champion Tennessee really only goes seven deep, which is okay in the NCAA Tournament, but having to win three games in three days will be tough.

Florida and Kentucky can always be counted to put it all together starting the second week of March.  The Gators and Wildcats have enough vulnerabilities this year that either team winning the tournament would be a mild surprise.

It is the next six teams in this league that should make this an exciting tournament.  Alabama is like the 33rd car in Indy Qualifying, always worried that another car might run an exceptional qualifying run and bump them from the field.  The Crimson Tide absolutely must win Thursday over Texas A&M to have any chance to make the field.  A win over Auburn on Friday would do the trick.

Who do we like in this tournament?  It all hinges on one player who has been in action for all of two minutes all season.  Will Michael Porter, Jr. return to action for Missouri?  If so, will he be able to play considerable minutes?  If so, then Missouri becomes our favorite to run the table and win the Arch Madness encore.  The Tigers are already strong enough to compete for the championship, so if Porter can come close to looking like he did when Missouri played Kansas in that pre-season charity game, the Tigers might capitalize on the return and cut down the nets in their home state.

Texas A&M is a team to watch.  The Aggies will have to fight off a feisty Alabama team playing for its tournament life.  An A&M win on Thursday would set up a quarterfinal game with an Auburn team that A&M handled in Auburn.


Southland Conference Tournament
Katy, TX
Top 8 Teams Qualify
All Times CST
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #5 New Orleans #8 Texas A&M-CC ESPN3
7:30 PM #6 Lamar #7 Central Arkansas ESPN3
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #4 Sam Houston St. UNO or TAMCC ESPN3
7:30 PM #3 Stephen F. Austin Lamar or Cent. Ark. ESPN3
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #1 SE Louisiana SHSU/UNO/TAMCC ESPN3
7:30 PM #2 Nicholls St. SFA/Lamar/Cent. Ark. ESPN3
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM     ESPN2

How many times have you watched a classic horse race where an all-time favorite horse like American Pharoah or Secretariat is in third place entering the top of the stretch?  The champion may be down 4 or 5 lengths, and the horses leading him may have decent past performances that show they close well.  Still, all eyes are on the all-time great, because you just know the heroic equine is going to run a 11.4 final furlong and pass the two horses in front.

The Southland Conference has its Secretariat or Citation.  Stephen F. Austin enters the tournament as the number three seed, but the fans of top-seed Southeast Louisiana and second-seed Nicholls State will tell you that they fear the Lumberjacks.  SFA played the two co-champs in back-to-back games more than two months ago.  Since then, the Lumberjacks have improved by about 7-10 points.  SFA is the real favorite to win the tournament for the fourth time in five years.


Sun Belt Conference Tournament
New Orleans
First 3 Rounds CST, Championship Game CDT
First Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:30 AM #8 Coastal Carolina #9 Texas St. ESPN3
2:00 PM #5 Appalachian St. #12 Little Rock ESPN3
5:00 PM #7 UL-Monroe #10 Arkansas St. ESPN3
7:30 PM #6 Troy #11 South Alabama ESPN3
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:30 AM #1 UL-Lafayette CCU or Tex St. ESPN3
2:00 PM #4 UT-Arlington Appy St. or Little Rock ESPN3
5:00 PM #2 Georgia St. ULM or Arky St. ESPN3
7:30 PM #3 Georgia Southern Troy or USA ESPN3
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:30 AM ULL/CCU/Tex St UTA/Appy/Little Rock ESPN3
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     ESPN2

Louisiana Lafayette (We know they now call themselves just Louisiana, but until it is the household name we will still add “Lafayette”) is the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament and be a formidable first-round opponent, but it is not a foregone conclusion that the Ragin’ Cajuns will slaughter three opponents and earn the one bid that will go to the league.

ULL has an incredible offense and can light up the scoreboard, but occasional defensive lapses have led to giving up too many points.  Georgia State hung 106 points on them two weeks ago.  Panthers’ coach Ron Hunter knows how to prepare his teams for tournament play, and Georgia State should be considered a co-favorite.

Texas-Arlington is a team to watch in this tourney.  The Mavericks usually win the hustle stats, and those extra opportunities mean even more in March.


Conference Tournaments Continuing Today

All times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Second Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Florida St. #9 Louisville ESPN
2:00 PM #5 North Carolina St. #12 Boston College ESPN
7:00 PM #7 Virginia Tech #10 Notre Dame ESPN2
9:00 PM #6 North Carolina #11 Syracuse ESPN2
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Virginia Fla. St. or Louis. ESPN
2:00 PM #4 Clemson NCSt/BC ESPN
7:00 PM #2 Duke VaT/N.Dame ESPN
9:00 PM #3 Miami (Fla.) North Carolina or Syracuse ESPN
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM UVa/FSU/Louis. Clem/NCSt/BC TBA
9:00 PM Duke/VaT/ND Mia.UNC/Syr TBA
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM     ESPN


Mideastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Hampton #9 Florida A&M ESPN3
8:00 PM #2 Bethune-Cookman #7 Morgan St. ESPN3
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #3 Savannah St. #6 UNC-Central ESPN3
8:00 PM #4 North Carolina A&T #5 Norfolk St. ESPN3
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Hampton/FAMU NCAT/Norfolk St ESPN3
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     ESPN2



























March 13, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13 Update

Selection Sunday Is Here

Over the weekend, we here at the PiRate Ratings have been perusing all the statistical information relevant to our popular PiRate Bracket-picking criteria.  What began as a simple back-testing exercise six years ago has evolved into a lengthy formula that has proven to be rather accurate at isolating the real contenders from the pretenders.


We have determined which factors are important and which are irrelevant when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  Last year, with about 1,150 readers coming to our site to read the pre-tournament prediction, we shocked a lot of Blue Mist fanatics by predicting that their beloved Wildcats would fail to reach the Final Four.  We said the same thing about Kansas.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Wildcats and Jayhawks were on a collision course to play in one of those games of the century.


We crunched the numbers and predicted Coach K and Duke to win the title.  The choice was not popular.  We were told, sometimes not in the King’s English, how stupid our formula must be to take a not-so-great Duke team (when compared to the really good Duke teams in the past), and how our formula was full of baloney.  We had to laugh when one reader lambasted us using the same words he had used the year before when we tabbed North Carolina as a bigger favorite to win it all than Ronald Reagan was in the 1984 election.


For the record, we predicted Kansas and Memphis to make it to the finals in 2008, and we forecasted Florida and UCLA to meet for the championship in 2006.  We also told you to watch out for tiny George Mason that year as they had a criteria score that made them a contender to advance to the Elite Eight.


We made a handful of West Virginia fans happy when we called for the Mountaineers to win four games and crash the Final Four party.  We forecasted the Regional Final win over Kentucky before the play-in game tipped off.  On the bright side, for some fans from the Bluegrass, we correctly predicted Murray State to upset Vanderbilt in the first round.


This formula has its drawbacks as well as its benefits.  It is strictly a mechanical formula much like a stock screener.  It does not consider a lot of the intangibles, such as emotion, motivation, and intestinal fortitude.  Of course, it removes all the biases and looks only for the pertinent statistics that propelled past teams into the Final Four.


For instance, we missed on Butler last year.  We called for UTEP to upset the Bulldogs in the first round in what we thought was the best overall matchup of the first two days.  We missed on other first and second round games as well.  We explicitly state that this formula is geared toward finding the teams that can advance to the Elite Eight and Final Four and finding the team that best emulates past champions.


Remember this:  the 1927 New York Yankees, the best baseball team ever (better than the 1939 Yankees in our opinion), lost 44 games during the season.  28.6% of the time, an inferior team defeated the Bronx Bombers.  There are 32 games in the first round, so a record of 23-9 should be considered as dominating as the 1927 Yankees.


Let’s say that the top predictors can successfully pick 80% of the tournament games correctly when filling out their brackets.  Apply common mathematics to the 64 advancing teams after the First Four Round is played in Dayton, and that leaves you with 25.6 correct picks in the first round.  That means that 6.4 of the teams you picked are gone, so you cannot win any more games involving those exited teams.


In the second round, if you are fortunate to pick 80% correctly once again, 10.24 of the Sweet 16 will be teams you picked to make it to the second week of the tournament.  The other 5.76 teams still around are teams you did not pick, so they cannot help you in your brackets.  Remember, this amount is about the high end of the threshold for the best prognosticators.


Applying our 80% success rate in the next two rounds, 4.1 of our teams will make the Elite Eight, and 1.64 of our teams will make the Final Four.  You see just how difficult it can be to fill out your brackets.  It really gives you a headache when the junior executive’s sweet little secretary wins the office pool because she chose her teams based on the number of syllables in their name.  Pure luck sometimes wins over hard work.  That’s life.

We can tell you one thing about this year’s probable NCAA Tournament field.  It is not the most dominating field.  We have yet to finish collecting all the data we need to put numbers to the criteria, but we can tell you that we expect more first round and second round games to be decided in the final minutes than most years.  It makes for a great tournament to watch, but it makes for five headaches for the five of us to live up to our past successes.


Tonight, we will begin our NCAA Tournament coverage with a full explanation of our system.  Beginning Monday, we will start to analyze each of the four regionals and tell you which teams have the best chance of advancing to Houston’s Reliant Stadium.


Let’s take a look at some unfinished business.  There are four conference tournament championships on tap for today.  One of them can cause a chain reaction and force the bottom team on the bubble into the NIT.


Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

#1 North Carolina (26-6)  vs. #2 Duke (29-4)


It’s always great when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet in the American League Playoffs.  Well, it is great if you are not a fan of the other teams.  The Big Two from Tobacco Road meet for a third time this season in the rubber game.  It is the 30th time for both in the ACC Championship Game.


North Carolina blew a large lead at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February, but the Tar Heels breezed to a win at the Dean Dome last week to wrap up the regular season championship.  Carolina has not lost since that game at Duke, and the Tar Heels are on a 14-1 streak since mid-January.  It has not been easy for Coach Roy Williams and his team, as they have had to come back from double digit deficits in the second half of both of their tournament games.


Duke weathered a mighty scare when Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury in the quarterfinal game against Maryland, but Smith showed no signs that it affected him when he returned Saturday to score 27 points in an easy win over Virginia Tech.


This is definitely the game of the day as you prepare for the big announcements this evening.  Flip a coin.  This is a 50-50 affair.  We’ll go with the Tar Heels because they looked better overall down the stretch than the Blue Devils, but we have no real reason to pick one rival over the other.  It will come down to which team has a better shooting eye today and has the most rest.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

#3 Richmond (26-7)  vs. #9 Dayton (22-12)

1:00 PM EDT  CBS

Fans of Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Southern Cal, Alabama, and other bubble teams will be rooting like crazy for the Spiders today.  If Dayton upsets Richmond, the last team in the tournament will be exiled to the NIT.


Richmond has won six games in a row and 10 of 11.  The Spiders have outscored their opponents by 12 points per game in their current streak, and their Princeton-style offense has really jelled down the stretch.  Their defense has been as potent as their offense.  In the last four games, opponents have connected on just 35.3% of their shots.


Dayton connected on just 34.4% of their shots in a nine-point home loss to Richmond in the regular season.  The Flyers were in the middle of a 6-9 slide when they played Richmond in late January.


The Flyers came out flying in the A-10 Tournament.  In the first two rounds, Dayton couldn’t miss from outside.  Three-point barrages in both games gave the Flyers early double-digit leads.  Yesterday, the shots did not fall, but the Flyers held on with defense.


We do not expect Dayton to jump out to a big lead today.  In fact, we believe they will commit just enough errors for Richmond to exploit with their patient offense and help one bubble team stay alive.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

#1 Ohio State (31-2)  vs. #6 Penn State (19-13)

3:30 PM EDT  CBS

If this were only football, we would call this the game of the day.  Then, again, we would probably break out into a discussion about Joe Paterno and his squeaky clean history against Jim Tressel and his e-mail history.


On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, but in reality, Ohio State has not dominated this weekend, while Penn State has.


The Buckeyes are playing for the first overall seed.  A loss today would give that honor to Kansas.  Penn State appears to be in the Big Dance, but there is still a tiny pinhole of doubt.  A loss would leave the Nittany Lions at 19-14.


Ohio State struggled all day against Northwestern’s slowdown.  Penn State can slow this game down and play much better defense than the Wildcats.  We believe the big underdog has a legitimate chance to win the title.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

#1E  Florida (26-6)  vs. #2E  Kentucky (24-8)
1:00 PM EDT  ABC

Florida does not need much help to win this game and move up as high as a number two seed.  Kentucky’s lack of depth forced Coach John Calipari to stick with his starters long after he needed to do so yesterday, and two Wildcat starters exited the game with ankle injuries in the final minutes.


The worse of the two injuries belong to star Doron Lamb, and Lamb may or may not be available to play today.  Florida’s offense forces defenders to cover a lot of territory, and Lamb will not be able to play defense the way it is needed to stop the Gators’ offense.


We look for the Gators to put this game away in the first five minutes of the second half.


Check back just before the brackets are announced tonight.  We will have our bracket-picking primer online around 5:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

March 12, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 12 Update

Bucknell Joins The Dance Party

The Bucknell Bison earned the Patriot League’s automatic bid Friday with a 72-54 victory over Lafayette.  Versatile big man Mike Muscala led the Bison with 18 points while sharpshooter Bryson Johnson added 15.


Bucknell improved to 25-8 on the season.  They project to be a 12 or 13-seed.


12 More Bids To Go Out Saturday


This is the busiest day of the tournament schedule.  13 conferences will crown their champion, and four other conferences will conduct semifinal rounds.  All told, every single one of the 21 games scheduled will be televised nationally.  Do you have enough televisions and a good high-speed computer?


Here is a conference-by-conference look at all the action.


All Game Times EST


Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#1 North Carolina  61  #9 Miami  59

#4 Clemson  70  #5 Boston College  47

#2 Duke  87  #7 Maryland  71

#6 Virginia Tech  52  #3 Florida State  51 


Semifinal Round

#1 North Carolina (25-6)  vs. #4 Clemson (21-10)  1:30 PM  ESPN 

#2 Duke (28-4)  vs. #6 Virginia Tech (21-11)  3:45 PM  ESPN


All four teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament.  The Hokies secured a spot in the Dance with the nail-biting win over the Seminoles.


America East Conference

Championship Round

#5 Stony Brook (15-16)  at #2 Boston U (20-13)  12 Noon  ESPN2


Boston U won both regular season meetings.  The Terriers won 67-62 at home and 62-49 on the road.  They win with their defense, as they only shoot 40.6% from the field.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton  68  #1 Xavier  67

#12 St. Joseph’s  93  #4 Duquesne  90  ot

#2 Temple  96  #10 LaSalle  76

#3 Richmond  55  #6 Rhode Island 45


Semifinal Round

#9 Dayton (21-12)  vs. #12 St. Joseph’s (11-21)  1 PM  CBS College

#2 Temple (25-6)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  3:30 PM  CBS College


The Bubble teams will have to sweat it out all the way until Sunday.  At least one long shot will advance to the Championship Game.  Neither St. Joe’s nor Dayton is getting an at-large bid, and one of the two will be playing for an automatic bid Sunday.  Both Temple and Richmond are in the Dance.


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas  90  #5 Colorado  83

#2 Texas  70  #3 Texas A&M  58


Championship Game

#1 Kansas (31-2)  vs. #2 Texas (27-6)  6 PM  ESPN


The Jayhawks are still playing for the overall number one seed, while Texas is probably locked in on a number two seed.  However, with Notre Dame losing, a Longhorn win could put them in the conversation, especially if Duke does not win the ACC Tournament.


Big East Conference—New York City

Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #4 Syracuse  71  ot

#3 Louisville 83  #2 Notre Dame  77  ot 


Championship Game

#3 Louisville (25-8)  vs. #9 Connecticut (25-9)  9 PM  ESPN


Connecticut becomes the first team ever to play five games in five days in modern college basketball history.  Will they have anything left in the tank next week when it really counts?  Louisville’s win more than likely killed any chance for the Irish getting a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State  67  #8 Northwestern  61 ot

#4 Michigan  60  #5 Illinois  55

#7 Michigan State  74  #2 Purdue  56

#6 Penn State  36  #3 Wisconsin 33


Semifinal Round

#1 Ohio State (30-2)  vs. #4 Michigan (20-12)  1:40 PM  CBS

#6 Penn State (18-13)  vs. #7 Michigan State (19-13)  4 PM  CBS


Michigan State has now earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Penn State might move from the Bubble to in the tournament with a win over the Spartans.


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State  74  #7 UC-Riverside  63

#5 UC-Santa Barbara 83  #3 Cal State Northridge 63


Championship Game

#1 Long Beach State (22-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (17-13)  8 PM  ESPN2


Long Beach State won both meetings against the Gauchos in the regular season, and neither game was close.  The 49ers are not going to become another Butler or even repeat the exploits of Northern Iowa last year, but they could scare a favored team in the first round.  If UCSB wins, then they will make a quick exit in the first round.


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Memphis  76  #8 East Carolina  56

#3 U T E P  66  #2 Tulsa  54


Championship Game

#3 UTEP (25-8)  vs. #4 Memphis (24-9)  11:30 AM  CBS


The host Miners blew Memphis off the floor 74-47 in their only regular season meeting.  That game took place on this court.


Ivy League Playoff

Harvard (23-5)  vs. Princeton (24-6)  at Yale University  4 PM 


If Princeton wins a close game, there is an outside chance that the Ivy League could get two bids.


Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Semifinal Round

#6 Akron  79  #2 Western Michigan  68

#1 Kent State 79  #4 Ball State 68


Championship Game

#1 Kent State (23-10)  vs. #6 Akron (22-12)  6 PM  ESPN2


The winner goes dancing, while the loser can only hope for a trip to Madison Square Garden in late March.


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Semifinal Round

#4 Morgan State  61  #1 Bethune-Cookman  48

#2 Hampton  85  #6 Norfolk State  61


Championship Game

#2 Hampton (23-8)  vs. #4 Morgan State (17-13)  2 PM  ESPN2


Morgan State goes for a four-peat.  The Bears beat Hampton in the regular season 78-72.


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U  87  #5 New Mexico  76

#2 San Diego State  74  #3 UNLV 72


Championship Game

#1 B Y U  (30-3)  vs. #2 San Diego State (31-2)  7 PM  Versus


Is the third time the charm for San Diego State?  The Aztecs’ two losses were to the Cougars.  If they can hold Jimmer Fredette under 35 points, we have a feeling that SDSU will cut down the nets. 


Both teams are legitimate threats to make it to the Sweet 16 and possibly a round or two farther.


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona  67  #4 Southern Cal  62

#3 Washington 69  #7 Oregon 51


Championship Game

#1 Arizona (27-6)  vs. #3 Washington (22-10)  6 PM  CBS


This should be an exciting game, even though it will not greatly affect the NCAA Tournament seedings.


The two teams split the season series, but the Huskies came close to sweeping.  UW won by 17 at home and fell by a single point in Tucson.  We think this is a tossup game.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

Quarterfinal Round

1W  Alabama 65  4E Georgia 59  ot

2E  Kentucky  75  3W  Ole Miss 66

1E  Florida  85  5E  Tennessee  74

3E  Vanderbilt  87  2W  Mississippi State  81


Semifinal Round

1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. 2E  Kentucky (23-8)  1 PM  ABC

1E  Florida (25-6)  vs.  3E  Vanderbilt (23-9)  3:30 PM  ABC


Alabama played themselves into position to get one of the final at-large bids.  The Crimson Tide fans need to route against a Dayton or St. Joseph’s tournament championship in the Atlantic 10, because there is still little room for error for ‘Bama.


Kentucky looks unstoppable at times and then looks like a team that doesn’t belong in the tournament at others.  That’s what you get with a bunch of underclassmen and with no depth.


We believe this game will be close for most of the day, but the Wildcats will enjoy one nice spurt in both halves to hold off the Tide by six to 12 points.


Florida is playing about as well as either of their two National Champion teams.  It is hard to stop a team with five guys capable of scoring 20 points.  The Gators’ have few weaknesses.


Vanderbilt is a lot like Florida, but not as talented.  The Commodores have excellent outside shooters, but they cannot create their own shot like Florida’s outside shooters.  They have a couple of excellent inside scorers, but they can disappear against Florida’s inside players.  We look for the Gators to dominate this one from the beginning and win by double digits.


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Championship Game

#1 McNeese State (21-10)  vs. #7 UT-San Antonio (18-13)  4 PM  ESPN2


S W A C—Garland, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Alabama State  73  #1 Texas Southern  66

#6 Grambling  81  #2 Jackson State  75  ot


Championship Game

#4 Alabama State (16-17)  vs. #6 Grambling (12-20)  8:30 PM  ESPNU


The winner of this game can definitely plan on heading to Dayton for a First Four game.


W A C—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State  58  #8 San Jose State  54

#2 Boise State 81  #3 New Mexico State  63


Championship Game

#1 Utah State (29-3)  vs. #2 Boise State (20-11) 10 PM  ESPN2


Utah State is definitely in the Dance, so if the Broncos can pull off the big upset, another bubble will burst somewhere else.


Note: St. Mary’s defeated Weber State Friday night 77-54 in a non-conference game that was scheduled only two months ago.  The Gaels appear to be safe as an at-large team.

March 11, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 11 Update

Patriot League Championship—4:45 PM EST On ESPN2

#6 Lafayette (13-18)  at #1 Bucknell (24-8)


Lafayette makes an appearance in the conference championship game for the second consecutive year.  The Leopards fell to rival Lehigh last season and were tabbed the best team in the league in the preseason.  They took a step backward and tumbled to sixth in the league.


Bucknell closed 2010 with an 8-2 finish and returned all five starters and most of their key reserves.  The Bison continued to play top-notch ball and ran away with the Patriot League title.  Bucknell is on fire, having won nine games in a row by an average of 72-60 and 22 of their last 24 games.


The Bison swept the series against their Keystone State rival, winning 75-56 in Lewisburg and 74-69 in overtime at Easton.  Tonight’s game is on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, so Bucknell will enjoy the home court advantage.


In the earlier game in Lewisburg, Bucknell began the second half of a close game by going on a 20-3 run to put the game out of reach.  The Bison held Lafayette to 37% shooting and controlled the boards by 14.  In the game at Lafayette, Bucknell led 61-50 with four and a half minutes to go, but the Bison did not score another point in regulation.  Lafayette scored 11 consecutive points to force overtime and then briefly took a 64-61 lead at the start of the extra period.  The Leopards shot under 40% again and were outrebounded once again.


Bucknell goes just seven-deep, and all seven contribute to the offense.  Muscular big man Mike Muscala leads the way with 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  The 6-11 Muscala has recorded six double-doubles in the last 15 games.  Bryson Johnson is an excellent long-range shooter, and he shoots 47% from three-point range.  As a team, Bucknell shoots 40.6% from behind the arc.


Lafayette led the entire game at Holy Cross in the conference tournament quarterfinal.  The Leopards placed five players in double figure scoring, and they stole the ball nine times to knock off the Crusaders.  In the semifinal round at number two seed American, the Leopards trailed by two points in the final seconds when Jim Mower buried a three-pointer as the clock expired to seal a double overtime victory.


If the Leopards are to pull off the big upset and advance to a First Four game in Dayton next week, big man Jared Mintz will have to neutralize Muscala.  Mintz gives away two inches in height, but he has the power to hold his own inside.  Mintz leads the Leopards with a 15.8 point scoring average and 5.8 rebound average.  Mower averages 12.4 points per game.


Thursday’s Results And Friday’s Games With NCAA Tournament Repercussions

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#9 Miami  69  #8 Virginia  62

#5 Boston College  81  #12 Wake Forest  67

#7 Maryland  75  #10 North Carolina State  67

#6 Virginia Tech  59  #11 Georgia Tech  43


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Miami (19-13)  vs. #1 North Carolina (24-6)  12 Noon  ESPN2

#5 Boston College (20-11)  vs. #4 Clemson (20-10)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN2

#7 Maryland (19-13)  vs. #2 Duke (27-4)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (20-10)  vs. #3 Florida State (21-9)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN2


North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Clemson, and Boston College are in.  Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Miami are on the bubble.  Miami and Maryland must win today, or they are NIT-bound.  Virginia Tech is in a near must-win situation.  They are on the middle of the bubble.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

No Games Played Thursday

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton (20-12)  vs. #1 Xavier (24-6)  12 Noon  CBS College

#12 St. Joseph’s (10-21)  vs. #4 Duquesne (18-11)  2:30 PM  CBS College

#10 LaSalle (15-17)  vs. #2 Temple (24-6)  6:30 PM  CBS College

#6 Rhode Island (19-12)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  9 PM  CBS College


Xavier, Temple, and Richmond are in.  Duquesne must win the tournament to get in, so the bubble teams will be pulling for Dayton or Xavier to stop them in the semifinals.  Keep an eye on Rhode Island.  The Rams are capable of upsetting Richmond and Temple to get to the finals.


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Kansas  53  #9 Oklahoma State  52

#5 Colorado  87  #4 Kansas State  75

#2 Texas  74  #10 Oklahoma  54

#3 Texas A&M  86  #6 Missouri  71


Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas (30-2)  vs. #5 Colorado (21-12)  7 PM

#2 Texas (26-6)  vs. #3 Texas A&M (24-7)  9:30 PM


Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Kansas State, and Colorado are in.  The Buffalos secured their bid yesterday, so the rest of this tournament is all about the seedings.


Big East Conference—New York City

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #1 Pittsburgh  74

#4 Syracuse  79  #5 St. John’s  73

#2 Notre Dame  89  #7 Cincinnati  51

#3 Louisville  81  #11 Marquette  56


Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut (24-9)  vs. #4 Syracuse (26-6)  7 PM  ESPN

#2 Notre Dame (26-5)  vs. #3 Louisville (24-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN


11, yes 11, teams will receive invitations Sunday evening.  This is the strongest league not just this year, but maybe since the Big East placed three teams in the Final Four in 1985.  This should be a great finish to the tournament, and Notre Dame has a chance to move to a number one seed if the Irish win it.  Any one of these four could still be playing in late March.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern  75  #9 Minnesota  65

#7 Michigan State  66  #10 Iowa  61

#6 Penn State  61  #11 Indiana  55


Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State (29-2)  vs. #8 Northwestern (18-12) 12 Noon  ESPN

#4 Michigan (19-12)  vs. #5 Illinois (19-12)  Approx 2:20  ESPN

#2 Purdue (25-6)  vs. #7 Michigan State (18-13)  6:30 PM  Big Ten Network

#3 Wisconsin (23-7)  vs. #6 Penn State (17-13)  Approx. 8:45  Big Ten Network


Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois are in.  Michigan State can definitely punch a ticket with an upset over Purdue today, and they are still on the highest part of the bubble if they lose.  Northwestern and Penn State must win the tournament to get in, although the Nittany Lions could get in the discussion with a loss in the finals.  We would not be all that surprised if the Wildcats play Ohio State a close game, at least for 30 to 32 minutes.


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State 79  #8 UC-Irvine  72

#5 UC-Santa Barbara  79  #4 Pacific  67

#7 UC-Riverside  70  #2 Cal Poly  66  ot

#3 Cal State Northridge  75  #6 Cal State Fullerton  54


Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (21-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (16-13)  9:30 PM  ESPNU

#3 Cal State Northridge (14-17)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (12-18)  12 Midnight  ESPNU


The champion is the only team that will advance.  Long Beach State has a minimal at best chance of winning a first round game if they are the champion.


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina  75  #1 U A B  70  ot

#4 Memphis  66  #5 Southern Miss.  63

#3 U T E P  77  #6 Marshall  65

#2 Tulsa  81  #7 Rice  72


Semifinal Round

#2 Tulsa (19-12)  vs. #3 U T E P  (24-8)  3 PM 

#4 Memphis (23-9)  vs. #8 East Carolina (18-14)  5:30 PM


At this point, no team is guaranteed a spot in the Big Dance.  UAB played their way to the bottom half of the bubble with a loss to ECU.  Memphis and UTEP could possibly get into the conversation if they both advance to the championship game.  For now, we are projecting just the champion to make it into the tournament.  The host Miners enjoy a large home court advantage and should top Tulsa in a thriller today.


Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Western Michigan 67  #7 Bowling Green  56

#6 Akron  82  #3 Miami (O)  75  2ot

#1 Kent State  73  #8 Buffalo  62

#4 Ball State  76  #5 Ohio U  73  ot


Semifinal Round

#2 Western Michigan (20-11)  vs. #6 Akron (21-12)  7 PM

#1 Kent State (22-10)  vs. #4 Ball State (19-12)  9:30 PM


The MAC has been down in recent years, but the eventual champion of this tournament could be a formidable opponent as a number 13 or 14 seed for a better team in the first round. 


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Morgan State  77  #5 North Carolina A&T  59

#6 Norfolk State  55  #3 Coppin State 53


Semifinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman (21-11)  vs. #4 Morgan State (16-13)  6 PM

#2 Hampton (22-8) vs. #6 Norfolk State (12-19)  Approx. 8:15 PM


These teams are playing for a probable spot in the First Four.  The first semifinal will be a thriller; the top-seeded Wildcats face the three-time defending champion Bears.


Hampton has been a surprise team, and they should have an easier contest and be more rested for the championship.


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#1 B Y U  64  #9 T C U  58

#5 New Mexico  67  #4 Colorado State 61

#2 San Diego State  64  #7 Utah  50

#3 U N L V  69  #6 Air Force 53


Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U (29-3)  vs. #5 New Mexico (21-11)  9 PM  CBS College

#2 San Diego State (30-2)  vs. #3 U N L V  (24-7)  11:30 PM  CBS College


BYU, San Diego State, and UNLV are in.  Colorado State played themselves into the NIT with the loss yesterday to New Mexico.  As for the Lobos, with a third win over BYU today, they could get into the conversation, but they probably need to earn the automatic bid to go dancing.


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Arizona 78  #9 Oregon State  69

#4 Southern Cal  70  #5 California  56

#7 Oregon  76  #2 U C L A  59

#3 Washington 89  #6 Washington State 87


Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona (26-6)  vs. #4 Southern Cal (19-13)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (21-10)  vs. #7 Oregon (16-16)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports


Arizona, UCLA, and Washington are in.  Oregon must win this tournament to get in.  As for Southern Cal, the Trojans might work their way into one of the final bubble spots with an upset over the top-seeded Wildcats tonight.  Last night’s battle of the Evergreen State was one of the most exciting of the tournament season with the Huskies coming from behind to knock off arch-rival Washington State by two.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia  69  #5W  Auburn  51

#3W  Ole Miss  66  #6E  South Carolina  55

#5E  Tennessee  74  #4W  Arkansas  68

#3E  Vanderbilt  62  #6W  L S U  50


Quarterfinal Round

#1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. #4E Georgia (20-10)  1 PM

#2E  Kentucky (22-8)  vs. #3W Ole Miss (20-12)  3:30 PM

#1E  Florida (24-6)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (19-13)  7:30 PM

#2W Mississippi State (17-13)  vs. #3E  Vanderbilt (22-9)  10 PM


Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt are definitely in.  Tennessee is probably in and would only be out if a lot of surprise winners win the remaining conference tournaments.  The Vols would safely secure a spot with a win over the Gators. 


The big game in all of college basketball today is the Georgia-Alabama game.  Call this an extra play-in game.  The winner survives to the Dance, while the loser will be hosting an NIT game next week.


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Semifinal Round

#1 McNeese State  91  #4 Texas State  83

#7 UT-San Antonio  79  #3 Sam Houston State 70


Championship Game on Saturday


S W A C—Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#4 Alabama State  81  #5 Alabama A&M 61

#6 Grambling  65  #3 Mississippi Valley  62


Semifinal Round

#2 Jackson State (17-14)  vs. #6 Grambling (11-20)  3:30 PM

#1 Texas Southern (19-11)  vs. #4 Alabama State (15-17)  9 PM


The Champion will probably be forced to play in the First Four.  Jackson State is on a mission after losing in the first round last year as the number one seed.


W A C—Las Vegas

Quarterfinal Round

#8 San Jose State  74  #4 Idaho 68

#3 New Mexico State  66  #6 Nevada  60


Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State (28-3)  vs. #8 San Jose State (17-14)  9 PM

#2 Boise State (19-11)  vs. #3 New Mexico State (16-16)  11:30 PM  ESPN2


Utah State is in and should be the higher seed in their first round game.  If the Aggies are upset, then one more bubble will burst.  The one WAC team that beat USU (Idaho) was knocked out of the conference tournament yesterday.

March 10, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 10 Update

Two Newest Dance Participants


Northeast Conference Championship

Long Island  85  Robert Morris  82 ot


In what may have been the most exciting championship game of the season, the home-standing Blackbirds and visiting Colonials exchanged leads all night.  Two missed three-point shots in the final seconds, one at the buzzer, was all that prevented this game from going to double overtime.


LIU opened with a cold shooting hand, and RMU took the lead.  Once the Blackbirds started hitting their shots, this became a game of runs.  LIU had the hot hand in the second half, but RMU kept getting enough offensive rebounds to keep the Colonials in the game.


Jamal Olasewere had a game-high 31 points to go with 11 rebounds; he scored seven points in the overtime.  Team leader Julian Boyd was held to just seven points, but the Blackbirds had excellent showings off the bench.  Jason Brickman tossed in 15 points and dished out eight big assists, while Kenny Onyechi added 13 points.


Russell Johnson and Velton Jones teamed up for 42 points for the losers.


LIU will be a formidable opponent for their favored foe in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Their style of play could cause severe matchup problems for a bigger, slower team, especially if that team is not the strongest ball-handling team.  If they were to be bracketed against BYU in the first round, it would be the thriller of the first round. 


Big Sky Conference Championship

Northern Colorado  65  Montana  60


This game was anticlimactic following the NEC Championship.  Montana kept the pace slow, and the Grizzlies shot out to a 7-0 lead in the first two and a half minutes.  UNC made a run to take its first lead at 17-16 on a three-point shot by Tate Unruh.


The lead switched hands several times the remainder of the half with the buzzer sending the teams to the locker tied at 31-31.


Montana maintained a small lead for most of the second half, until star guard Devon Beitzel took over.  His three-pointer at the 4:56 mark gave the Bears the lead for good.  Beitzel continued shooting and then forced Montana to foul him, and the Bears hung on to win.


Beitzel did not score until late in the first half, but the Big Sky Conference’s leading scorer finished with 27 points.


Montana center Brian Qvale hit a layup with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 62-60, but following two made Beitzel free throws, Art Steward committed a turnover to seal the game. 


Steward led the Grizzlies with 16 points, while Qvale added 11.


Northern Colorado will be one of those teams that will be glad just to be there at the NCAA Tournament.  The Bears should make a quick exit in game one, unless they are chosen as one of the First Four #16 seeds.


13 Automatic Qualifiers To Date

Team Conference Record
Arkansas-Little Rock Sunbelt 19-16
Belmont Atlantic South 30-4
Butler Horizon 23-9
Gonzaga West Coast 24-9
Indiana State Missouri Valley 20-13
Long Island Northeast 27-4
Morehead State Ohio Valley 24-9
Northern Colorado Big Sky 21-10
Oakland Summit 25-9
Old Dominion Colonial 27-6
St. Peter’s Metro Atlantic 20-13
UNC-Asheville Big South 19-13
Wofford Southern 21-12


No Championship Games Are Scheduled For Thursday


Wednesday’s Results/Thursday’s Schedule

All Times EST

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

1st Round

#8 Virginia (16-14)  vs. #9 Miami (Fla) (18-13)  12 Noon

#5 Boston College (19-11)  vs. #12 Wake Forest (8-23)  Approx. 2:15 PM

#7 Maryland (18-13)  vs. #10 North Carolina State (15-15)  7 PM  ESPN2

#6 Virginia Tech (19-10)  vs. #11 Georgia Tech (13-17)  Approx. 9:15 PM


Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

1st Round

#9 Oklahoma State  53  #8 Nebraska  52

#5 Colorado  77  #12 Iowa State  75

#10 Oklahoma  84  #7 Baylor  67

#6 Missouri  88  #11 Texas Tech  84


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Oklahoma State (19-12)  vs. #1 Kansas (29-2)  12:30 PM on ESPN2

#5 Colorado (20-12)  vs. #4 Kansas State (22-9)  3PM

#10 Oklahoma (14-17) vs. #2 Texas (25-6)  7 PM

#6 Missouri (23-9) vs. #3 Texas A&M (23-7)  9:30 PM


Big East Conference—New York City

2nd Round

#9 Connecticut  79  #8 Georgetown 62

#5 St. John’s  65  #13 Rutgers 63

#7 Cincinnati  87  #15 South Florida 61

#11 Marquette  67  #6 West Virginia  61


Quarterfinal Round

#9 Connecticut (23-9)  vs. #1 Pittsburgh (27-4)  12 Noon  ESPN

#5 St. John’s (21-10)  vs. #4 Syracuse (25-6)  Approx. 2:15 PM  ESPN

#7 Cincinnati (25-7)  vs. #2 Notre Dame (25-5)  7 PM  ESPN

#11 Marquette (20-13)  vs. #3 Louisville (23-8)  Approx. 9:15 PM  ESPN


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

1st Round

#8 Northwestern (17-12)  vs. #9 Minnesota (17-13)  2:30 PM  ESPN2

#7 Michigan State (17-13)  vs. #10 Iowa (11-19)  4:50 PM  ESPN2

#6 Penn State (16-13)  vs. #11 Indiana (12-19)  7:30 PM  Big Ten Network


Big West Conference—Anaheim

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Long Beach State (20-10)  vs. #8 UC-Irvine (13-18)  3 PM

#4 Pacific (16-14)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (15-13)  5:20 PM

#2 Cal Poly (15-14)  vs. #7 UC-Riverside (11-18)  9 PM

#3 Cal State Northridge (13-17)  vs. #6 Cal State Fullerton (11-19)  11:20 PM


Conference USA—El Paso, TX

1st Round

#8 East Carolina  78  #9 Central Florida  60

#5 Southern Miss.  63  #12 Tulane  47

#6 Marshall  97  #11 Houston  87

#10 Rice  58  #7 S M U  57


Quarterfinal Round

#8 East Carolina (17-14)  vs. #1 U A B  (22-7)  1PM  CBSC

#5 Southern Miss (22-9)  vs. #4 Memphis (22-9)  3:30 PM  CBSC

#6 Marshall (22-10)  vs. #3 U T E P  (23-8)  7:30 PM  CBSC

#10 Rice (14-17)  vs. #2 Tulsa (18-12)  10 PM  CBSC


M A C—Cleveland

Quarterfinal Round

#7 Bowling Green (14-18)  vs. #2 Western Michigan (19-11)  12 Noon

#6 Akron (20-12)  vs. #3 Miami (O) (16-15)  2:30 PM

#8 Buffalo (18-12)  vs. #1 Kent State (21-10)  7 PM

#5 Ohio U (18-14)  vs. #4 Ball State (18-12)  9:30 PM


M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Note: The MEAC has a unique scheduling format which rewards its top three seeds.  Thus, yesterday, there were both first round and quarterfinal round games scheduled.  The quarterfinal round concludes today.


1st Round

#6 Norfolk State  68  #11 Howard 53


Quarterfinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman  66  #9 South Carolina State 50

#2 Hampton  77  #10 Maryland-Eastern Shore  55


Quarterfinal Round Continues

#4 Morgan State (15-13)  vs. #5 North Carolina A&T (15-16)  8 PM

#3 Coppin State (16-13)  vs. #6 Norfolk State (11-19)  7 PM


Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

1st Round

#9 T C U  70  #8 Wyoming  61


Quarterfinal Round

#9 T C U (11-21)  vs. #1 Brigham Young (28-3)  3 PM

#5 New Mexico (20-11)  vs. #4 Colorado State (19-11)  5:30 PM

#7 Utah (13-17)  vs. #2 San Diego State (29-2)  9 PM

#6 Air Force (15-14)  vs. #3 U N L V  (23-7)  11:30 PM


Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

1st Round

#9 Oregon State 69  #8 Stanford 67

#7 Oregon 76  #10 Arizona State 69


Quarterfinal Round

#4 Southern Cal (18-13)  vs. #5 California (17-13)  3 PM  Fox Sports

#1 Arizona (25-6)  vs. #9 Oregon State (11-19)  5:30 PM  Fox Sports

#2 U C L A  (22-9)  vs. #7 Oregon (15-16)  9 PM  Fox Sports

#3 Washington (20-10)  vs. #6 Washington State (19-11)  11:30 PM  Fox Sports


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

1st Round

#4E  Georgia (20-10)  vs. #5W  Auburn (11-19)  1 PM

#3W  Ole Miss (19-12)  vs. #6E  South Carolina (14-15)  3:30 PM

#4W  Arkansas (18-12)  vs. #5E  Tennessee (18-13)  7:30 PM

#3W  Vanderbilt (21-9)  vs. #6E L S U  (11-20)  10 PM


Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 McNeese State 61  #8 Nicholls State 54

#4 Texas State 72  #5 Southeastern Louisiana 68

#7 Texas-San Antonio 97  #2 Northwestern State (LA) 96

#3 Sam Houston State 61  #6 Stephen F. Austin 45


Semifinal Round

#3 Sam Houston State (18-12)  vs. #7 Texas-San Antonio (17-13)  7 PM

#1 McNeese State (20-10)  vs. #4 Texas State (16-15)  9:30 PM


S W A C–Garland, TX

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Texas Southern 50  #8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 45

#2 Jackson State 50  #7 Prairie View 38


Quarterfinal Round Continues

#3 Mississippi Valley (13-18)  vs. #6 Grambling (10-20)  12:30 PM

#4 Alabama State (14-17)  vs. #5 Alabama A&M (13-14) 9 PM


W A C—Las Vegas

1st Round

#8 San Jose State 75  #5 Hawaii 74

#6 Nevada 90  #7 Fresno State 80


2nd Round

#4 Idaho (18-12)  vs. #8 San Jose State (16-14)  3 PM  ESPNU

#3 New Mexico State (15-16)  vs. #6 Nevada (13-18)  5:30 PM  ESPNU

March 9, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 9 Update

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:25 am

Three More Tickets Punched

Horizon League Championship

Butler 59  Milwaukee 44

 The Bulldogs held Milwaukee to 30% shooting from the field, and Matt Howard connected on seven of nine shots to pace Butler with 18 points, as the defending National Final runner-up earned another spot in the Big Dance.

 Summit League Championship

Oakland 90  Oral Roberts 76 

The Golden Grizzlies displayed a great offensive show with the aid of numerous first half steals by Drew Valentine and Reggie Hamilton to build a double-digit lead by the break.  After withstanding an early second half run by the Golden Eagles, Oakland pulled away to win the automatic bid.  

Keith Benson topped Oakland with 28 points and 14 rebounds.  Hamilton added 25 with six assists, while Will Hudson recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.


Sunbelt Conference Championship

U A L R  64  North Texas  63 

The Trojans won their first Sunbelt Championship and earned their first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1990.


SBC Player of the Year Solomon Bozeman drove from the backcourt to the left side of the top of the key and drained a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining to give UALR the decisive points.  Bozeman scored a game-high 20 points. 

North Texas had led by seven points with less than two minutes to go, but the Mean Green wilted under the Trojan pressure defense.  With one last chance to try to win, UNT committed a turnover on the inbounds pass. 

11 Automatic Qualifiers To Date

Team Conference Record
Arkansas-Little Rock Sunbelt  19-16
Belmont  Atlantic South 30-4
Butler  Horizon 23-9
Gonzaga West Coast 24-9
Indiana State  Missouri Valley  20-13
Morehead State  Ohio Valley  24-9
Oakland  Summit  25-9
Old Dominion Colonial 27-6
St. Peter’s Metro Atlantic 20-13
UNC-Asheville Big South 19-13
Wofford Southern 21-12


Two Tickets To Be Punched Tonight

Big Sky Tournament Championship @ 9PM ET On ESPN2

#2 Montana (21-9) at #1 Northern Colorado (20-10)


Semifinal Round

Montana 57  Weber State 40

Northern Colorado 73  Northern Arizona 70


These two split their regular season series with Northern Colorado winning 63-45 in Greeley, and Montana winning 55-42 in Missoula.  Tonight’s game will be played at Butler-Hancock Hall in Greeley, so Northern Colorado will enjoy the home court advantage. 

This game is a great study in contrasts.  Northern Colorado is a quicker team, but Montana is a stronger team.  Northern Colorado has one exceptionally dominant player, while Montana has more, albeit less exceptional, weapons.


The Bears’ offense runs through 6-1 senior guard Devon Beitzel.  Beitzel averages a league-best 21 points per game, and he is deadly at the free throw line, where he connects on 91% of his tosses. 

The rest of the team collectively shoots under 41% from the field and commits more turnovers than assists, so if the Grizzlies can stop Beitzel, or at least limit his touches, they have a chance of defending their crown.


Montana has the dominant big man in the conference in 6-11/260 senior center Brian Qvale.  If the Grizzlies can keep this game a half-court affair, they stand a great chance of winning with Qvale plugging the middle on defense and controlling the boards at both ends of the court.  Qvale averages 15 points and nine boards a game, and he had a double-double with 16 points and 17 rebounds in the semifinal round.  Montana likes to limit possessions, so those numbers are even more impressive than they look. 

In the win over UNC, Montana held the Bears to 23.3% shooting, while they shot just 32.6% in the loss at Greeley.


It is our opinion that the visiting number two seed will pull off the mild upset over the host numbone seed, but it is not a strong feeling. 

 Northeast Conference Tournament Championship @ 7PM ET On ESPN2

#3 Robert Morris (18-13) at #1 Long Island (26-5)

Semifinal Round

Long Island 69  Central Connecticut 67

Robert Morris 64  Quinnipiac 62

Brooklyn has not been this excited over one of their own sports teams since the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series.  Long Island is one of the most exciting teams in the nation, and their 26-5 record has throngs of Brooklynites cramming into the Wellness, Recreation, and Athletic Center.  The WRAC holds just 2,500 seats, but you can bet that more than that amount will find their way into the game tonight, as they “Pack the WRAC.” 

Those fans will be converging to the corner of Ashland and Dekalb tonight, dressed in all white, to watch what could be a blowout win for their team.   

LIU is on a roll.  The Blackbirds have won 12 games in a row (longest current streak in the nation) and 20 of their previous 21 games.  They average almost 83 points per game.  The Blackbirds have exceptional depth with eight players capable of scoring 15 or more points. 


The Blackbirds pose difficult matchups with their roster, as they rely on quick guards and medium-sized forwards with great leaping ability to play at a fast pace.  There is no center on the roster, but the two 6-7 forwards have controlled the boards in most games this year. 

Those forwards are Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere, who team up for 25.4 points and 15.7 rebounds per game.

 5-10 backup guard Jason Brickman plays just 22 minutes per game, but he leads the team with 5.3 assists per game.  When he comes in the game, the pace picks up, and the Blackbirds shoot a lot of threes in transition.


Robert Morris is definitely not cannon fodder.  The Colonials are the two-time defending NEC Tournament champions, and they believe they can three peat even on the road in hostile conditions. 

The Colonials have won eight games in a row, relying on a stellar defense that limits possessions and pressures the guards.  They are missing their leading scorer, as 5-9 guard Karon Abraham’s season ended two weeks ago with a torn Achilles Tendon.  On the positive side, Abraham missed RMU’s win at LIU on December 2, as he was serving a multi-game suspension. 

Velton Jones and Russell Johnson will have to shine tonight for the Colonials to pull off the upset.  The duo are the only double figure scorers left, but both shoot less than 39% from the field. 

Without Abraham, RMU shoots just 33.7% from behind the arc, so the only way they can possibly win tonight is to replicate the formula that was successful more than three months ago—control the tempo and prevent LIU from getting off any uncontested three-pointers. 

We believe this game will begin slowly with RMU taking the lead in the early stages.  Somewhere in the first half, LIU will go on one of their patented runs and gain the lead.  Then, a second spurt will give them a commanding lead.  RMU might cut into that lead, but we believe in the end, the Blackbirds will be celebrating at the WRAC.  We do not believe the Brooklynites will be crying “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”  This will be like October of 1955 in the borough.


Yesterday’s Other Tournament Results

Atlantic 10 Conference

First Round

LaSalle 75  St. Bonaventure 73  2ot

St. Joseph’s 71  George Washington 59  ot

Rhode Island 70  St. Louis 61

Dayton 78  U Mass 50


Big East Conference

First Round

Connecticut 97  DePaul 71

Rutgers 76  Seton Hall 70 ot

South Florida 70  Villanova 69

Marquette 87  Providence 66 


First Round

Bowling Green 74  Northern Illinois 54

Ohio U 74  Toledo 57

Akron 67  Eastern Michigan 53

Buffalo 64  Central Michigan 50



First Round

MD-Eastern Shore 87  F A M U 85  2ot

S. C. State 64  Delaware State 59 

Ivy League Playoff Set

Princeton defeated rival Penn 70-58 last night in Philadelphia, forcing a one-game playoff for the Ivy League’s automatic berth.  Princeton (24-6) will take on co-champion Harvard (23-5) Saturday afternoon at 4PM Eastern Time.  The game will be played at Yale University in New Haven, CT, and it can be seen live on

Princeton has appeared in all seven Ivy League tiebreaking playoff games in the history of the league.  This is Harvard’s first Ivy League basketball championship of any kind.  The Crimson last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1946. 

There is a chance that the loser of this game could hold a slim chance of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Harvard is ranked #35 in the RPI, while Princeton is ranked #49.  Harvard has two wins over top 50 teams as well as three losses.  Their biggest win was at Boston College.  Princeton has just one win against the top 50 and two losses.  For the Ivy to earn two bids, the Tigers have to win Saturday and hope Harvard’s high RPI is enough to earn the second bid. 

Conference Tournaments In Action Today

Big 12 Conference

Tournament Site: Kansas City

1st Round Games

#8 Nebraska (19-11) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-12)  12:30 PM ET

#5 Colorado (19-12) vs. #12 Iowa State (16-15)  3 PM ET

#7 Baylor (18-12) vs. #10 Oklahoma (13-17)  7PM ET

#6 Missouri (22-9) vs. #11 Texas Tech (13-18) 9:30 PM ET 

Big East Conference

Tournament Site: New York City

2nd Round Games

#8 Georgetown (21-9) vs. #9 Connecticut (22-9)  12 Noon ET on ESPN

#5 St. John’s (20-10) vs. #13 Rutgers (15-16)  Approx. 2:15 PM ET on ESPN

#7 Cincinnati (24-7) vs. #15 South Florida (10-22)  7 PM ET on ESPN

#6 West Virginia (20-10) vs. #11 Marquette (19-13)  Approx. 9:15 PM ET on ESPN 

Conference USA

Tournament Site: El Paso, TX

1st Round Games

#8 East Carolina (16-14) vs. #9 Central Florida (19-10)  1 PM ET

#5 Southern Miss (21-9) vs. #12 Tulane (13-16)  3:30 PM ET

#6 Marshall (21-10) vs. #11 Houston (12-17)  7:30 PM ET

#7 S M U (17-13) vs. #10 Rice (13-17)  10 PM ET 


Tournament Site: Winston-Salem, NC

Note: The MEAC has a unique way of scheduling their tournament.  As a result, one first round game will be played today as well as two quarterfinal round games.  The other two quarterfinal round games will be played Thursday. 

1st Round

#6 Norfolk State () vs. #11 Howard ()  3 PM ET

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Bethune-Cookman (20-11) vs. #9 South Carolina State (10-21)  7 PM ET

#2 Hampton (21-8) vs. #10 Maryland-Eastern Shore (9-21)  9:30 PM ET 

Mountain West Conference

Tournament Site: Las Vegas

1st Round

#8 Wyoming (10-20) vs. #9 T C U (10-21)  5 PM ET 

Pac-10 Conference

Tournament Site: Los Angeles

1st Round

#8 Stanford (15-15) vs. #9 Oregon State (10-19)  9 PM ET on Fox Sports Net

#7 Oregon (14-16) vs. #10 Arizona State (12-18)  11:30 PM ET on Fox Sports Net 

Southland Conference

Tournament Site: Katy, TX (Houston Area)

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Northwestern State (LA) (18-13) vs. #7 Texas-San Antonio (16-13)  1 PM ET

#3 Sam Houston (17-12) vs. #6 Stephen F. Austin (18-10)  3:30 PM ET

#1 McNeese State (19-10) vs. #8 Nicholls State (14-13)  7 PM ET

#4 Texas State (15-15) vs. #5 Southeastern Louisiana (15-13)  9:30 PM ET 


Tournament Site: Garland, TX (Dallas-Ft. Worth Area) 

Quarterfinal Round

#2 Jackson State (16-14) vs. #7 Prairie View (10-21)  12:30 PM ET

#1 Texas Southern (18-11) vs. #8 Arkansas-Pine Bluff (7-23)  9 PM ET


Tournament Site: Las Vegas

1st Round

#5 Hawaii (18-11) vs. #8 San Jose State (15-14)  3 PM ET

#6 Nevada (12-18) vs. #7 Fresno State (14-16)  5:30 PM ET

March 8, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 8 Update


The Four Newest Dance Invitees

Did you see those conference championship games last night?  Was this the Monday Night Fights or basketball?  There were more cut men and cut women than in your average boxing card.


When it is all or nothing for these smaller conferences, you get what we saw last night—teams playing like their lives were on the line.


Colonial Athletic Association

Old Dominion 70

Virginia Commonwealth 65


Old Dominion 27-6


The Monarchs are capable of making a semi-surprise run in the Big Dance.  They lead the nation in rebounding margin, and they can score points in the paint. 


Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

St. Peter’s 62

Iona 57


St. Peter’s 20-13


The Peacocks beat Alabama earlier in the season, and their defense could keep them within striking defense in an opening round game, but we cannot see SPC advancing to the second round.


Southern Conference

Wofford 77

College of Charleston 67


Wofford 21-12


The Terriers finally beat the Cougars (we predicted this yesterday), and they will not roll over and play dead in the first round.  This team returns to the Dance for the second consecutive season, and they will not back down.  They may not advance, but they will not be in awe of their heavily favored first round opponent.


West Coast Conference

Gonzaga 75

Saint Mary’s 63


Gonzaga 24-9


This edition of Zags may not be the most talented in the Coach Mark Few era, but they are playing their best ball at the right time.  It will depend on their bracket, but this team has Sweet 16 potential.


Three More Invitations Go Out Tonight

By 11:15 PM Eastern Time tonight, we will know the names of three more NCAA Tournament participants.  Let’s break down these games.


Horizon League Championship @ 9PM ET on ESPN

Butler (22-9)  at  Milwaukee (19-12)


Butler defeated Cleveland State in the semifinal round Saturday evening, while Milwaukee topped Valparaiso.  During the regular season, Milwaukee swept the Bulldogs, winning 76-52 at home and 86-80 in overtime on the road.  The top-seeded Panthers host this game.


Both teams are red hot coming into this title match.  Milwaukee has gone 10-1 in their last 11 games, and the only loss was in the Bracketbuster to Buffalo.  Their defense is what got them here, as they shoot only 43% from the field and 65% at the foul line.


Three Panthers average double figures in scoring, led by Anthony Hill.  Hill averages just under 16 points per game, but he broke out with a 24-point, 11-rebound performance in the semifinal game against Valpo.  Kaylon Williams is the X-factor for Panthers.  He can score when needed, rebound with the big men, and run the offense.  He recorded a triple-double earlier in the season against Butler (10 points-10 rebounds-10 assists), and he added a double-double in the second win over the Bulldogs.


Butler missed Gordon Hayward even more than most experts predicted.  The Bulldogs played a tough pre-conference schedule and limped into February.  With their backs against the wall, they reeled off eight consecutive victories to get to the title game tonight.


Most basketball fans know Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack from last year’s team that made the surprise run to the National Championship Game.  The duo has teamed for 32 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this year.  However, it has been the emergence of 6-11 sophomore center Andrew Smith that has allowed Butler to turn things around and look like a force to be reckoned with once again.  Smith averaged 11 points per game over the second half of the season.  In the eight game winning streak, he has averaged 32 minutes per game and pulled down close to eight rebounds per game.  His 63% field goal percentage has forced defenses to stop him first, giving Howard and Mack more room to get open.  Smith was a non-factor in the two games against Milwaukee, and he is the key to tonight’s game.  If he plays 32 minutes and gets double figure points and eight rebounds, Butler will be cutting down the nets yet again.


Summit League Championship @ 9PM ET on ESPN2

Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Oakland (24-9)  vs. Oral Roberts (19-14)


If you like high-scoring, fast-paced games, you will definitely clear your schedule to view this one.  Oakland is the second best offensive team in the nation, averaging 86 points per game (92 ppg in their last 10 games).  The Grizzlies connect on close to 50% of their field goal attempts, and they tend to hit spurts where they score 10 points in two minutes.  Oral Roberts averages 81 points per game and has no qualms running with Oakland.


Both teams are riding major winning streaks entering tonight’s title game.  Oakland has won 17 of their last 18 games, while the Golden Eagles have won 10 in a row.  In the regular season, Oakland won both high-scoring games, but both were nail-biters that went down to the wire. 


Oakland has a tall and short combination that has done a lot of the damage on opponents.  6-11 center Keith Benson is the best player in the league.  Benson averages 17.7 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He showed he can do it against the big schools, as he had 17 points and 12 rebounds in a close loss to Michigan State and 26 points and 10 rebounds in a big win at Tennessee. 


5-11 guard Reggie Hamilton is a threat to top 20 points any night.  He is quick and can get open without help from screens.


Oral Roberts has a star in its own right.  Dominique Morrison averages just under 20 points per game, and he doesn’t need to heave up 25 shots per game to get those points.  Morrison shoots 51.3% from the field, 40% from behind the three-point line, and 78.4% at the foul line.  He scored 56 points in the two games against Oakland.


This should be a great game, and we don’t believe Oakland is that much of a favorite.  ORU has been to the Big Dance four times in the last six years, while Oakland is the defending tournament champion.  We expect the winner to top 90 points in this game, and it is too close to call.  We say Oakland has about a 54% chance and Oral Roberts a 46% chance of winning.


Sunbelt Conference Championship @ 7PM ET on ESPN2

Site: Hot Springs, AR


North Texas (22-10)  vs. U A L R (18-16)


On paper this looks like a mismatch, even though the teams finished one game apart in the regular season.  North Texas finished fourth in the West with an 8-8 league mark, while Little Rock finished fifth at 7-9.


North Texas was one of the biggest underachievers this season.  The Mean Green returned four starters from their 2010 conference champion team and were expected to win again this year with the best backcourt and one of the best frontcourts in the league.  Instead, a 3-9 swoon in the middle of the season placed them out of contention for the West crown.  Since that awful slide, UNT has recovered with five consecutive victories.


6-5 senior guard Tristan Thompson has led the way for the Mean Green in the tournament, scoring 80 points in the first three games.  He has done a lot of the damage at the foul line, where he is 31-35 in Hot Springs, including an unbelievable 20-20 performance in the win over top-seed Florida Atlantic.  Thompson combines a quick move to the basket with a sweet shot from outside.  Beefy forward George Odufuwa averages 11 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, and UALR has a tough matchup problem against him.


The Trojans dropped both regular season games to North Texas, mostly because they could not compete under the basket.  Their chance to win this game will come down to limiting possessions and trying to win 55-50.  They have won three games in the tournament by getting to the foul line and hitting foul shots, while using the clock and taking 30 seconds to shoot on most possessions.  UALR’s big star in this tournament has been senior guard Solomon Bozeman.  Like Thompson, Bozeman has gotten to the free throw line and made the most of his opportunities.  He has connected on 37 of 42 attempts including an eye-popping 19 of 22 against Middle Tennessee last night.


We expect a low-possession, low-scoring game.  There may be fewer than 100 field goal attempts tonight.  North Texas has been there before, while UALR has never won the Sunbelt Conference Tournament.  We think that trend will continue, but it wouldn’t surprise us if this game stays relatively close for the entire 40 minutes.  We could see North Texas winning 60-54.


The Other Tournaments In Action Today


Atlantic 10 Conference

First Round At Higher Seed Home Court


#9 Dayton (19-12) at #8 U Mass (15-14)  9PM ET on CBSC

#12 St. Joseph’s (9-21) at #5 George Washington (17-13)  7PM ET on CBSC

#10 LaSalle (14-17) at #7 St. Bonaventure (16-13)  5 PM ET on CBSC

#11 St. Louis (12-18) at #6 Rhode Island (18-12)  7 PM ET no TV


Big East Conference

Madison Square Garden in New York City


#16 Depaul (7-23) vs. #9 Georgetown (21-9) 12 Noon ET on ESPN2

#13 Rutgers (14-16) vs. #12 Seton Hall (13-17) Approx. 2:15 PM ET on ESPN2

#15 South Florida (9-22) vs. #10 Villanova (21-10) 7PM ET on ESPNU

#14 Providence (15-16) vs. #11 Marquette (18-13) Approx 9:15 ET on ESPNU


Big Sky Conference

Semifinal Round At Higher Seed Home Court

#3 Weber State (18-11) at #2 Montana (20-9)

#4 Northern Arizona (19-11) at #1 Northern Colorado (19-10)


Mid-American Conference

1st Round At Higher Seed Home Court  All Games At 7PM ET


#10 Northern Illinois (9-20) at #7 Bowling Green (13-18)

#11 Eastern Michigan (9-21) at #6 Akron (19-12)

#9 Central Michigan (10-20) at #8 Buffalo (17-12)

#12 Toledo (4-27) at #5 Ohio U (17-14)


Mideastern Athletic Conference

Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC


#9 South Carolina State (9-21) vs. #8 Delaware State (9-20)  9PM ET

#10 Maryland-Eastern Shore (8-21) vs. #7 Florida A&M (12-19)  6:30 PM ET


Note: One more 1st round game Wednesday plus two quarterfinal games



March 4, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Very Few Bubble Spots Left


With conference tournament play underway, not much has changed yet in the NCAA Tournament picture.  At least two dozen teams remain on a bubble that may have room to admit nine of those teams at the most.  With every multiple bid conference tournament that produces an upset winner, one more bubble will burst.


As we see it today, 16 conferences will definitely send just one team to the NCAA Tournament.  Six other leagues have a chance to send two teams, but they could send just one team if the favorite wins their tournament or loses in an early round and gets eliminated.  That brings the subtotal to 22 definite bids.


We believe 37 teams have already met the minimum requirement to receive a bid to the tournament no matter how they perform in their conference tournament.  The subtotal now numbers 59.


That leaves just nine spots left, and up to six of those could go to those leagues mentioned above that could send a second team.  The bubble has a very thin skin.


Let’s take a conference-by-conference look at the prospects and suspects.


Definite One Bid Leagues

These leagues will send only their automatic qualifier to the Big Dance.  The team we list here have not earned a spot, since no conference tournament championships have been played.  That will change in 24 hours.


America East

Vermont 22-7


Atlantic Sun

Belmont 28-4


Big Sky

Northern Colorado 19-10


Big South

Coastal Carolina 28-4


Big West

Long Beach State 20-10



Fairfield 23-6



Kent State 20-10



Hampton 21-8



Long Island 25-5


Ohio Valley

Murray State 23-7


Patriot League

Bucknell 23-8



College of Charleston 22-9



Stephen F. Austin 18-9



Texas Southern 17-11



Oakland 22-9



Florida Atlantic 21-9


Possible Two Bid Leagues If Favorite Loses In Final Round

These conferences have a chance to send a second team if the favorite is upset in the championship game.  If the favorite wins the automatic bid, that conference will send just one team.


Conference USA

U A B  21-7


UTEP 22-8, Southern Miss. 21-8, and Memphis 21-9 probably do not have the resumes to earn an at-large bid, but if any of these win the tournament, UAB could and probably will earn an at-large spot.  We will place allot one bubble spot for these three teams, because two will not get a spot.


Horizon League

Butler 21-9


Cleveland State 25-7 is close to becoming a bubble team, but we believe the Vikings must win the tournament.  Butler has the credentials to get in if they lose in the finals or to CSU in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs better plan on winning the league tournament, because they are vulnerable if there are two or three upsets in other tournaments.


Ivy League

Regular Season Champion


Either Harvard 21-5 or Princeton 22-5 will win the Ivy this year.  Currently, Princeton leads Harvard by half a game (10-1 to 10-2).  Princeton finishes out the season with three road games.  The Tigers play at Dartmouth tonight and at Harvard tomorrow night.  They finish at Penn on Tuesday.  Harvard hosts Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night.  There is a good chance that both contenders will finish 12-2, forcing a playoff game later in the week.  If Harvard loses a playoff, they would be 23-6.  Princeton would be 24-6 if they lost the playoff.  Both teams have RPIs in the 40’s, so there is a small chance that both teams could receive bids.


Missouri Valley

Missouri State 23-7


Wichita State 23-7 had a chance to wrap up a safe position, but the Shockers lost in the Bracketbuster.  This league laid an egg in the Bracketbuster and watched the Colonial take over the title of best mid-major.  Still, if somebody other than Missouri State wins the tournament, the Valley could send a second team.


West Coast

St. Mary’s 23-7


Gonzaga 22-9 has played a relatively tough schedule and owns wins over a couple of top 50 teams, but we do not believe the Bulldogs are in line for an at-large bid.  We will anoint them as conference tournament favorites, and if the Zags beat SMU in the championship game, the Gaels should be in decent shape for an at-large bid.



Utah State 27-3 is ranked in the Top 25 and has an RPI of 18.  The Aggies are going dancing even if they lose in the WAC Tournament.  


Teams That Are Locks

These teams are going to the Big Dance even if they lose the rest of their regular season games.



Duke 27-3

North Carolina 23-6

Florida State 20-9


Atlantic 10

Xavier 23-6

Temple 23-6

Richmond 23-7


Big East

Pittsburgh 26-4

Notre Dame 24-5

Louisville 23-7

Syracuse 24-6

St. John’s 19-10

West Virginia 19-10

Cincinnati 23-7

Georgetown 21-8

Connecticut 21-8

Villanova 21-9


Big Ten

Ohio State 28-2

Purdue 25-5

Wisconsin 23-6


Big 12

Kansas 28-2

Texas 24-6

Texas A&M 22-7

Kansas State 21-9

Missouri 22-8



George Mason 25-5

Old Dominion 24-6


Mountain West

B Y U 27-3

San Diego State 28-2

U N L V 22-7



Arizona 24-6

U C L A 21-9

Washington 20-9



Florida 23-6

Kentucky 21-8

Vanderbilt 21-8

Georgia 20-9

Tennessee 18-12


Das Bubble

If a team has an asterisk (*) after its name, then we feel they are on the top side of the bubble.  If a team has an “x” after its name, then we feel they are on the bottom of the bubble and need to win some big games to have any chance.


As of today, as many as nine bubble teams could earn a bid.



Virginia Tech 19-9

Clemson 19-10 *

Boston College 18-11 *


Clemson takes on Virginia Tech Saturday, and the winner will enter the ACC Tournament as a definite high bubble team.  We believe two of these three teams will get a bid.


Atlantic 10

Duquesne 18-10 x (100 RPI)

Dayton 19-11 x (81 RPI)


These teams have played themselves out of serious contention for an at-large bid.  If either gets hot and wins their season finale and then loses in the conference championship game, then that team could be back on the bubble.  Duquesne closes at Richmond, and a win there would mean a lot.  Dayton finishes at George Washington, which would be a quality win but not as impressive as a DU win at Richmond.


Big East

Marquette 18-12 *


Marquette may be at the top of the bubble.  The Big East Tournament will be stronger than some of the NCAA regionals, and it may only take one tournament win to get them in the field.


Big Ten

Michigan State 17-12

Illinois 18-12

Michigan 18-12


The Spartans venture to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines Saturday, and the winner will enter the Big Ten tournament near the top of the bubble.


Illinois hosts Indiana tomorrow, and this is a must-win game for the Illini.  We believe they will have to make it to the semifinal round in the conference tournament to be on the good side of the bubble.


Big 12

Baylor 18-11

Nebraska 19-10 x

Colorado 18-12


Baylor, 6-8 since starting 12-3, hosts Texas tomorrow, and the Bears must win that one and then at least two in the Big 12 Tournament.  If they lose to the Longhorns, then BU will have to win the automatic bid.


Nebraska plays at Colorado tomorrow.  Even if the Cornhuskers win to sweep the Buffalos, they may have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.


Colorado is 4-8 in their last 12 after starting 14-4.  They will have to beat Nebraska and then win at least three in the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid.  



Drexel 20-9 x  61 RPI

Virginia Commonwealth 21-10 x  62 RPI

Hofstra 20-10 x  78 RPI


Conference USA

U T E P  22-8 x

Memphis 21-9 *

Southern Miss 21-8 *


We believe that one of these three teams will play their way into an at-large bid if they do not win the automatic bid.  



Cleveland State 25-7


As we mentioned above, Cleveland State is on the bubble and could possibly receive an at-large bid if they upset Butler in the conference tournament semifinals but fail to win the championship.


Ivy League



If Harvard and Princeton both finish 12-2 in the league and face off in a playoff for the Ivy League championship, we believe the loser will still have an outside shot at receiving an at-large bid.



Washington State 19-10

The Cougars have a shot at grabbing an at-large bid if they beat UCLA to end the regular season and win a game in the conference tournament.  Two wins in the Pac-10 tourney would move them to the plus side of the bubble.



Alabama 19-10


The Crimson Tide must beat Georgia tomorrow and then get to the Final round of the SEC Tournament to have a shot at an at-large bid.


Visit this site after Midnight Eastern Time Friday, March 4/Saturday March 5 for an update on the conference tournaments and a preview of two more tournaments commencing on Satuday.

February 25, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

80 Teams Vying For 68 Spots Before Conference Upsets Upset The Apple Cart


As we approach the eve of the first conference tournaments, we here at the PiRate Ratings have crunched the numbers and come to a consensus on 80 total teams that are either locks to get into the Big Dance, just one or two wins away, on the bubble, or in the conversation for a possible at-large bid from a smaller conference.


Of course, there will be some conference tournament upsets, and with each upset, one bubble will burst.


Today, as we break down each category, we will focus on the bubble teams plus three special cases from smaller conferences.  Unlike other sites, we factor in what we perceive to be back-room politics into our equation.  A team like Kentucky in an off-year will still always receive preferential treatment over a team like Cleveland State or Southern Mississippi, and the committee can always reverse engineer enough data to support their decision.


Absolute Locks—These 25 Teams Are In The Dance

Figures shown are conference and overall record, RPI, and strength of schedule

When two teams have the same RPI, they are tied

TEAM                         Record                      RPI      SOS

Duke                           12-1/26-2                       5        33

North Carolina            11-2/21-6                     12        15

Xavier                         12-1/21-6                     24        47

Temple                        11-2/21-6                     32        79

Pittsburgh                    13-2/25-3                       6        25

Notre Dame                11-4/22-5                     10        31

Louisville                    10-5/21-7                     23        23

St. John’s                    10-5/18-9                     15          4

Syracuse                      10-6/23-6                     17        24

Georgetown                10-6/21-7                       7          2

Villanova                       9-6/21-7                     27        35

Connecticut                   8-7/20-7                     19        12

Ohio State                   13-2/26-2                       2        26

Purdue                         12-3/23-5                     23        18

Wisconsin                    11-4/21-6                     13        29

Texas                           12-1/24-4                       9        20

Kansas                         11-2/26-2                       1        13

Texas A&M                  9-4/22-5                     29        53

Missouri                        8-5/22-6                     30        68

San Diego State          12-1/27-1                       4        38

B Y U                         12-1/26-2                       3        22

Arizona                       12-3/23-5                     14        48

Florida                         11-2/22-5                     11          9

Kentucky                      7-6/19-8                     16        17

Vanderbilt                     8-5/20-7                     22        19


Near Locks—These 12 Teams Need One Or Two More Wins To Be In The Dance

TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Florida State               9-4/22-5                       51        100

Cincinnati                    9-6/22-6                       35          88

West Virginia              8-7/17-10                     20           3

Kansas State               7-6/19-9                       28            7

Michigan State            8-7/16-11                     37            5

Missouri State             14-3/22-7                     46        138

Wichita State              14-3/23-6                     47        108

U N L V                      9-5/21-7                       25          28

Washington                 10-5/19-8                     36          63

U C L A                      11-4/20-8                     38          50

Tennessee                    7-6/17-11                     31            1

Utah State                   12-1/25-3                     18        111


3 Teams That Could Get In The Conversation From A Non-Power Conference

(If they win out in the regular season and then lose in their conference tournament finals)


TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Belmont                      18-1/26-4                     50        237

Oakland                      16-1/21-9                     58        132

Ivy League 2nd Place

   Harvard                    9-1/20-4                       42        176

   Princeton                  8-1/20-5                       55        195


14 Conferences That Will Send Only Their Automatic Bid Champion

Conference                              Top Team                    Won-Loss

America East                           Vermont                        13-2/22-6                  

Big Sky                                   Montana                        12-3/20-8

Big South                                Coastal Carolina            15-2/25-4

Big West                                 Long Beach State       12-2/18-10

M A A C                                 Fairfield                        14-2/22-5

M A C                                     Kent State                     10-3/19-9

Northeast                                Long Island                   15-2/23-5

Ohio Valley                             Murray State                 13-4/22-7

Patriot                                     Bucknell                        12-1/21-8

Southern                                  College of Charleston   14-3/22-8

Southland                                McNeese State                9-4/17-9

S W A C                                 Texas Southern           13-1/15-10 

Sunbelt                                    Florida Atlantic             12-3/20-9


26  Teams On The Bubble (absolutely must win the big games and not be upset)

TEAM                         Record                        RPI      SOS

Virginia Tech              8-5/18-8                       63        109                                         

Clemson                      7-6/18-9                       65          84

Maryland                     7-6/18-10                     80          75

Boston College           6-7/16-11                     49          16

Miami (Fla)                 5-8/17-11                     67          46

Richmond                   10-3/21-7                     62        130

Marquette                    8-7/17-11                     51          27

Baylor                         6-7/17-10                     87          64

Nebraska                     6-7/18-9                       77          74

Colorado                     6-7/17-11                     84          81

Illinois                         7-8/17-11                     39          11

Minnesota                   6-9/17-10                     48          32

Penn State                   8-8/15-12                     53            6

Michigan                     7-9/17-12                     66          21

V C U                         12-5/21-9                     53        115

Drexel                         10-7/19-9                     60        110

U A B                         9-4/19-7                       34          52

Memphis                     9-4/21-7                       33          40

Southern Miss.            9-4/21-6                       41          99

Butler                          12-5/20-9                     45          80

Cleveland St.              12-5/23-7                     42        107

Colorado St.                8-5/18-9                       44          37

Georgia                       7-6/18-9                       40          29

Alabama                      11-2/19-8                     74        139

Gonzaga                      10-3/20-9                     64          78

St. Mary’s                   10-3/22-7                     56        121


As we see it, there are 51 spots basically secured at this point.  14 will go to low-major conference automatic qualifiers.  37 will go to teams that have basically already stamped their dance ticket. 


17 spots are still up for grabs.  The current bubble plus the three low-major teams that could earn an at-large bid totals to 29 teams.  For each conference tournament in which there is an upset champion that would not have been an at-large candidate, one more bubble will burst.


Conference tournament play begins next week, and we will be here to cover it in depth.  Check back daily once the first tournaments are set to begin.  We will have the schedules for all the games and relay the results.


This all leads up to our most read story of every year.  On the Monday following Selection Sunday, we will preview the First Four games at Dayton.  On the Wednesday prior to the first regional games, we will preview all 64 remaining teams and show you our fantastic formula for picking the real contenders while dismissing the pretenders.  Our PiRate Ratings Bracketology Formula has been very successful since it was implemented five years ago.


PiRate Ratings This Week

Let us look PiRate Rating Style at eight of the top teams this week.  For those of you that have not discovered our rating criteria, you can read all about it in our past college basketball stories.


Team Pts. Margin FG Margin Rb Margin TO Margin
Duke 19.0 8.1 3.6 3.6
Florida 9.2 3.8 6.4 0.6
Xavier 8.0 6.3 3.8 0.6
Pittsburgh 14.2 7.4 11.2 0.3
Ohio State 17.6 6.3 4.3 5.7
Kansas 12.6 12.6 7.4 1.6
S. D. State 13.8 7.8 6.8 2.3
Utah State 13.8 8.5 8.7 0.0


Team Stl R+T SOS Road W-L PiRate #
Duke 7.8 10.3 .5696 10-2 22
Florida 6.3 7.3 .5944 9-2 14
Xavier 5.5 4.6 .5577 8-5 8
Pittsburgh 5.0 11.6 .5798 9-2 20
Ohio State 7.7 14.8 .5786 8-2 21
Kansas 8.6 10.7 .5917 11-1 26
S. D. State 5.9 10.1 .5667 14-1 22
Utah State 4.6 9.6 .5245 9-3 14


Any team with a PiRate Criteria number above 20 must be considered a legitimate candidate for the Elite 8.  A score between 10 and 20 is usually good enough to make it to the Sweet 16, depending on their opposition’s score.  Xavier’s current score of 8 is really only good enough for Two and Out.  The Musketeers are not currently considered to be the Butler of 2011.


Florida’s score of 14 indicates the Gators could be gone after two games if they draw a tough opponent.  The SEC does not currently have a legitimate Elite 8 team and in an at-worst scenario, all teams could be gone before the Sweet 16.


Utah State is in the same boat with Florida.  The Aggies look good enough to contend for a deep run in the tournament, but it would require them to play pretenders.  At 14, they should be considered at best a Sweet 16 participant and possibly a Two and Out team.


San Diego State’s score indicates that the Aztecs are a force to be reckoned with.  If they draw a #1 or #2 seed, they could be in line for a run to the Final Four if their schedule does not find them playing a Kansas in the Elite 8.

February 18, 2011

Bracketbuster Preview and Conference Races

It’s Bracket Buster Weekend, and the folks at ESPN have an interesting slate of televised games.  Since the televised schedule for these games was released in late January, some of the teams involved have gone in the tank.  So, some of the games will not really matter.  However, there are a couple of really good games, and we believe in at least one and maybe two cases, both teams could earn at-large bids if they do not gain automatic bids.   


Today, we here at the PiRate Ratings will give you a preview of each televised game.  Following the preview, we will take our weekly look at each conference’s NCAA Tournament contenders and then present to you five bubble teams for comparison.


Last week we concentrated on the leagues that will send only their automatic bid winner to the Dance.  We reintroduced the PiRate Criteria formula, but we forgot one component.  So, here in a nutshell is the formula again.


1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin


2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0


3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0


4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0


5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin.

If Turnover margin is 0 or negative, then change the formula a little to this: [R + ({.2*S} + {1.2*T})] 

This is done so as not to penalize a team with negative turnover margin but a lot of steals per game.


Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

*** Completely eliminate *** from consideration all teams with a negative R+T


6. Schedule Strength

Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by and multiple it by 100.  For example, Team A with an SOS of .5252 has a schedule 7 points weaker than Team B with an SOS of .5921 ([(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7).

The Average SOS for teams in the top 40 is about .5880.  When you factor in the automatic bids from teams outside of the top 40, that number is about .5500.  So, take each teams SOS rating and take 100 times the difference from .5500 as the number for this item.


Example: if State U has a SOS of .5743, the difference is .0243; multiply by 100, and the result is 2.43 which rounds to 2.  If Tech has a SOS of .4878, the difference is -.0622; multiple by 100, and the result is -6.22 which rounds to -6.


7. Record Away From Home (road + neutral)

3 points for 75%+ winning percentage

2 points for 60-74% winning percentage

1 point for 51-59% winning percentage

0 points for 50% winning percentage

-2 points for less than 50% winning percentage



Let us take a look at the Bracket Buster. 


Friday, Feb. 18 (all times Eastern)
7 p.m. (ESPN2) – VCU (12-4/20-8) at Wichita State (13-3/22-5)


Team Virginia Commonwealth Wichita State
W-L 12-4/20-8 13-3/22-5
RPI 64 48
PPG Margin 4.7 12.2
FG% Margin -1.6 6.9
Reb Margin -3.5 9.3
TO Margin 3.9 -0.8
Stl/G 9.0 5.4
R+T 6.4 9.4
SOS .5124 .5215
Road W-L 9-6 8-4
PiRate # -3 9

Big Wins: VCU—UCLA       Wichita State—Virginia


VCU has lost three of their last five games, putting the Rams on the bad side of the bubble.


Wichita State lost narrowly to Connecticut and also lost to San Diego State and Missouri State.  The Shockers are on the middle of the bubble.  Their PiRate score of 9 shows they have a legitimate chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.



9 p.m. (ESPNU)—Kent State (8-3/17-8) at Drexel (9-7/17-9)

Team Kent State Drexel
W-L 8-3/17-8 9-7/17-9
RPI 94 81
PPG Margin 4.8 4.2
FG% Margin 2.9 1.6
Reb Margin 0.5 9.4
TO Margin 1.1 -1.8
Stl/G 8.1 4.0
R+T 2.6 8.0
SOS .4957 .5105
Road W-L 6-7 7-7
PiRate # -7 0


Big Wins: Kent—None          Drexel—Louisville, Old Dominion


Kent State’s best win was over #109 Iona.  We do not see any at-large bids going to team that have no top 100 wins.  Losses to Florida, UAB, and Cleveland State will not be good enough, and a road win in this game will do little to help.  Kent State must gain an automatic bid.  Their PiRate score of -7 puts them squarely within the parameters of the lesser post-season tournaments (NIT, College Insider Tournament {CIT}, or College Basketball Invitational {CBI}) .


Drexel is on the outside of the bubble, but they can work their way into the low rung by winning out.  The Dragons lost to Syracuse and George Mason.  Drexel shoots a poor 31.1% from behind the arc, but opponents shoot only 28%.  As you may know, we do not factor three-point percentage in the PiRate formula, as it has shown no positive relationship to advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, Feb. 19
11 a.m. (ESPNU)—Hofstra (12-4/18-9) at Wright State (10-7/17-12) 

Team Hofstra Wright State
W-L 12-4/18-9 10-7/17-12
RPI 87 115
PPG Margin 1.2 2.7
FG% Margin 0.6 -3.0
Reb Margin -4.7 -3.8
TO Margin 2.2 3.9
Stl/G 6.7 6.3
R+T -1.2 [ELIMINATE] 2.1
SOS .5134 .5173
Road W-L 9-6 5-10
PiRate # -4 ELIMINATE -8


Big Wins: Hofstra—Drexel, George Mason               Wright State—Oakland, Butler


Hofstra has a negative R+T rating, so they would be considered easy first-round cannon fodder in the NCAA Tournament.  Of course, the PiRate Rating does not apply to regular season games, so they could easily beat Wright State tomorrow.


Wright State is not under consideration for an at-large bid, so this game is a dud.  It may be interesting, but both will have to win an automatic bid to get into the Dance.


1 p.m. (ESPNU)—Austin Peay (11-5/17-11) at Fairfield (14-2/21-5) 

Team Austin Peay Fairfield
W-L 11-5/17-11 14-2/21-5
RPI 132 101
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 3.6 4.2
Reb Margin 0.1 3.5
TO Margin 3.7 1.5
Stl/G 8.9 7.3
R+T 8.0 6.1
SOS .4821 .4465
Road W-L 9-8 11-3
PiRate # 1 -3


Big Wins: APSU—Morehead State               Fairfield—Vermont


Austin Peay was cruising at the first of conference play, but they have split their last 10 games.  They have no chance at garnering an at-large invitation, but they have a positive PiRate number.  Should they win the automatic bid, they could make their first round game very interesting.


Fairfield started 1-3 and has gone 20-2 since.  Their schedule is one of the weakest in the nation, and their gaudy numbers must be severely discounted.  The Stags are overwhelming favorites to win the MAAC Tournament and gain the automatic bid, but should they end up in the NIT, they have a chance to get to MSG.


3 p.m. (ESPNU)—Iona (11-5/17-10) at Liberty (13-3/19-9) 

Team Iona Liberty
W-L 11-5/17-10 13-3/19-9
RPI 112 131
PPG Margin 8.7 3.7
FG% Margin 2.5 0.4
Reb Margin 0.6 6.8
TO Margin 3.0 -0.9
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 6.0 7.1
SOS .4938 .4685
Road W-L 9-8 7-7
PiRate # 2 -6


Big Wins: Iona—Richmond               Liberty—None


Here are two more teams going nowhere unless they earn automatic bids.  Iona lost by six to Syracuse, so if the Gaels upset Fairfield to win the MAAC automatic bid, with their positive PiRate number, they could cause trouble for a higher-seeded opponent.


Liberty’s best win came against #170 UNC-Asheville.  They lost to Notre Dame by 21 and to George Mason by 30.  They will not be on the NIT’s radar if they fail to win the Big South’s automatic bid.


5 p.m. (ESPN2)—Missouri State (13-3/21-6) at Valparaiso (11-4/19-8)

Team Missouri State Valparaiso
W-L 13-3/21-6 11-4/19-8
RPI 49 54
PPG Margin 7.9 6.5
FG% Margin 2.5 6.3
Reb Margin 3.3 0.8
TO Margin 0.5 1.4
Stl/G 4.7 8.3
R+T 3.9 3.6
SOS .5121 .5308
Road W-L 7-5 9-6
PiRate # -1 2


Big Wins: MSU—Northern Iowa, Wichita State       Valpo—Oakland, Cleveland State, and Butler


This will be an interesting game.  Both teams are squarely on the bubble, and the winner should move up enough to be considered on the good side of the bubble. 


Missouri State plays smart basketball.  Their two best shooters take 23% of their shots.  A relatively low R+T rating and lower than average SOS give them a negative PiRate Rating.  Their only chance to advance to the weekend in the NCAA Tournament is a first round game with an opponent with a negative R+T rating.


Valparaiso goes nine-deep, and seven of the nine are competent rebounders.  They could scare a higher-seeded team in the opening round and possibly have a chance at an upset.  However, they don’t have a good enough rating to advance to the Sweet 16.  They still have work to do before they are guaranteed an at-large bid.


5 p.m. (ESPNU)—Vermont (13-2/22-5) at Charleston (12-2/19-7) 

Team Vermont College of Charleston
W-L 13-2/22-5 13-2/20-7
RPI 74 77
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 6.8 3.6
Reb Margin 6.2 -0.4
TO Margin 0.9 0.9
Stl/G 5.4 6.4
R+T 7.4 1.0
SOS .4693 .4885
Road W-L 10-4 10-6
PiRate # 0 -5


Big Wins: Vermont—Iona                  C of C—Coastal Carolina, Tennessee


This is the best Vermont team since the Catamounts upset Syracuse in the opening round of the 2005 tourney.  Still, with a PiRate rating of 0, they would have to face a higher-seeded team with a negative R+T Rating to have a shot at an upset this year.  Additionally, they are far back on the bubble and will most likely need to earn the automatic bid to get there.


College of Charleston is much in the same boat as Vermont, but whereas the Catamounts are the prohibitive favorite to secure the America East’s automatic bid, C of C is not even a small favorite to win the Southern Conference’s bid because North Division co-leader Chattanooga is hosting the SoCon Tournament.


7 p.m. (ESPN2)—George Mason (14-2/22-5) at Northern Iowa (10-6/19-9)

Team George Mason Northern Iowa
W-L 14-2/22-5 10-6/19-9
RPI 20 79
PPG Margin 13.0 4.0
FG% Margin 7.7 -1.2
Reb Margin 3.0 -0.3
TO Margin 2.6 2.3
Stl/G 6.9 4.8
R+T 7.3 2.3
SOS .5470 .5146
Road W-L 9-5 7-7
PiRate # 13 -8


Big Wins: GMU—Harvard, Duquesne, Drexel, James Madison, Hofstra, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth                                   Northern Iowa—New Mexico, Wichita State, and Missouri State


Could George Mason do it again?  The Patriots made a surprise run to the 2006 Final Four by upsetting Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut.  This year’s team could be better than that team.  With a 13 PiRate Rating, they have the numbers to get to the Sweet 16 and have a shot at the Elite Eight, and even another Final Four possibility.


Northern Iowa is not the team they were a year ago when they upset Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  This team is likely not to earn an at-large bid and will be third choice at best to win the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis.


9 p.m. (ESPN2)—Utah State (12-1/24-3) at Saint Mary’s (10-2/22-5)

Team Utah State Saint Mary’s
W-L 12-1/24-3 10-2/22-5
RPI 25 39
PPG Margin 13.9 15.3
FG% Margin 8.4 6.2
Reb Margin 8.9 5.6
TO Margin 2.0 2.2
Stl/G 4.5 7.0
R+T 11.1 9.3
SOS .5075 .5086
Road W-L 8-3 9-5
PiRate # 15 11


Big Wins: USU—Long Beach State              SMU—St. John’s, Long Beach State, and Gonzaga.


If you only plan on watching one Bracketbuster game, this is the one to watch.  Both teams are above the bubble; they are both close to lock status.  This game will be all about seeding.  The winner should find themselves a favorite in the opening round of the Big Dance.


Utah State lost at BYU by six and lost at Georgetown.  They don’t really have a big signature win this year, and this game gives them that opportunity.  The Aggies have balanced scoring with seven different players capable of leading the way.  Their 15 PiRate Rating indicate they are a strong contender for the Sweet 16 and even beyond.


Saint Mary’s was not too far from doing what Butler did last year.  This team was not supposed to be nearly as good as that one, but the Gaels find themselves in control in the WCC.  They rarely have an off-night shooting, and they can light up the scoreboard.    Their 11 PiRate Rating gives them a shot at returning to the Sweet 16.


11 p.m. (ESPN2)—Montana (11-3/19-7) at Long Beach State (11-2/16-10)

Team Montana Long Beach State
W-L 11-3/19-7 11-2/16-10
RPI 109 100
PPG Margin 8.5 9.0
FG% Margin 7.9 0.4
Reb Margin 2.3 2.9
TO Margin 1.1 -1.6
Stl/G 6.7 6.1
R+T 4.1 2.2
SOS .4635 .5109
Road W-L 6-6 8-8
PiRate # -3 -3


Big Wins: Montana—UCLA              LBSU—None


This is another game where neither team has any chance of earning an at-large bid, while both teams are the favorites to win their respective league’s post-season tournament and automatic bid.


Montana has come from behind to race past Northern Colorado and Weber State to take command in the Big Sky Conference race.  Their schedule is exceptionally weak.  Ten of the Grizzlies’ wins have come against teams ranked #250 or worse in the RPI.


Long Beach State has five double figure scorers.  Five of their 10 losses came to teams that could be in the Big Dance (San Diego State, Washington, Utah State, North Carolina, and Saint Mary’s).  With a negative PiRate Rating, their only shot at playing two games in the NCAA Tournament would be to face an opening round opponent with a negative R+T Rating.


Sunday, Feb. 20
1 p.m. (ESPN2)—Cleveland State (12-4/23-5) at Old Dominion (12-4/21-6)


Team Cleveland State Old Dominion
W-L 12-4/23-5 12-4/21-6
RPI 34 31
PPG Margin 9.3 6.7
FG% Margin 3.4 2.4
Reb Margin 0.9 11.1
TO Margin 2.7 -0.7
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 5.8 11.7
SOS .5165 .5460
Road W-L 9-4 9-4
PiRate # 4 9


Big Wins: CSU—Kent State, Valparaiso                   ODU—Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, George Mason, Hofstra, James Madison, and VCU


Here we have two teams that appear to be in great shape for an at-large bid should they fail to win the automatic bid from their conference.


You will want to watch this Sunday game, because Cleveland State plays a pressure-type game similar to Marquette when Al McGuire was head coach.  The Vikings’ star is Norris Cole, who can shoot, drive, pass, and play defense better than most others.


Old Dominion has played the equivalent schedule of a major conference team.  Short of a major collapse, the Monarchs are close to a lock for an at-large bid.  Their only liability is weak outside shooting.  However, they are among the best rebounding teams in the nation, and they don’t allow many open shots.  Expect a low-scoring, but high-action game.


The Who’s In Game


America East:  (1)—The conference tournament champion will get the lone bid.  Vermont is too far down the list to steal an at-large bid from a major conference.  However, the Catamounts should win this automatic bid.



Atlantic 10: (2 or 3)—Xavier and Temple should get bids, and if another team wins the league tournament, three invitations could be extended. 

BUBBLE—Dayton and Richmond


Atlantic Coast: (3-6)—Duke and North Carolina are sure things, but after that there is a logjam.  At least one other ACC team will get a bid, and Boston College is the leader of the pack.  For this week’s story, we will consider the Eagles in and not on the bubble.

BUBBLE—Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami


Atlantic Sun: (1)—There is a remote possibility that Belmont could enter the conversation for an at-large bid should the Bruins win out but come up a game short in the conference tournament, but for now, we believe only one team will represent the A-Sun.  If Belmont does not win the automatic bid, it will be a major upset.



Big 12: (5-7)—The top two teams have been dominating, while the rest of the pack has been beating each other up.  Kansas, Texas, and Texas A&M are locks, while Missouri and Kansas State are in good shape.

BUBBLE—Oklahoma State and Baylor


Big East: (9-11)—The Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden could actually be more potent than one or two of the NCAA Regionals.  At least nine teams must be considered realistic contenders for a Final Four spot.  Those nine shoo-ins for a bid are: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, St. John’s, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville. 

BUBBLE—Cincinnati and Marquette


Big Sky: (1)—There is no chance for an at-large invitation from this conference.  Montana is the top team in the league, but the Grizzlies are not strong favorites.


Big South: (1)—Coastal Carolina is a bit too far back in the RPI ratings to move onto the bubble, but the Chanticleers are overwhelming favorites to win the automatic bid.


Big Ten: (4-8)—The second most powerful conference to the Big East, this conference could land as many as eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.  Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois are in as of today.  The four bubble teams’ schedules are among the strongest of all bubble teams.

BUBBLE—Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan


 Big West: (1)—Long Beach State is too far back to make up enough ground; their bubble will burst if the 49ers do not win the conference tournament in nearby Anaheim.


Colonial: (2 or 3)—George Mason and Old Dominion are both near-locks, and we have them in the field.  If another team pulls off the upset in the conference tournament, this league will have three representatives.  Virginia Commonwealth has a chance to move onto the bubble, especially if they win at Wichita State tonight.


Conference USA: (2-5)—UAB and Memphis have earned a spot in the Dance if they continue to play at their same pace.  Three other teams are on the bubble with legitimate shots at playing their way into the at-large group.

BUBBLE—Southern Mississippi, UTEP, and Marshall


Horizon: (1-3)—We are rather confident that at least two teams will earn bids from the Horizon League, but we have two of them listed as bubble teams for now.  Cleveland State is ranked high enough to be ahead of the bubble for now.

BUBBLE—Butler and Valparaiso


IVY: (1 or 2)The Ivy League has never sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament, but there is a very outside chance that it could happen this year.  There is no conference tournament, so the regular season champion gets the automatic bid.  Princeton (9-0) leads Harvard (9-1) and Yale (5-3).  The Tigers play at Yale and Brown, while Harvard plays at Cornell and Columbia this weekend.  Yale hosts Penn tomorrow night after facing Princeton tonight.  The number two team needs to be at least 11-3 to be a serious contender for an at-large bid.

BUBBLE—Harvard/Princeton whichever finishes second


MAAC:(1)—Fairfield is not in contention for an at-large bid, so the Stags will have to win the conference tournament to get into the Dance.


MAC: (1)—This once proud conference has joined the field of also-rans.  No MAC team ranks in the top 90 in the RPI ratings.  Miami (Ohio), Kent State, and Buffalo are the top three contenders for the automatic bid.


MEAC: (1)—Morgan State is not a sure thing this year, not even the top favorite.  Hampton is playing well enough to avoid a First Four game.


Missouri Valley: (1 or 2)—The MVC is a tad bit down this season.  The conference tournament champion could be the only team to emerge with a bid, if it is the regular season champion and if the numbers two and three teams lose before reaching the championship round.  Wichita State appears to be the favorite for now, but that could change.

BUBBLE—Missouri State and Northern Iowa


Mountain West: (3-5)—Not only could the MWC earn five bids, two teams could be number one or two seeds!  BYU and San Diego State have proven themselves this season.  They are currently number two and three respectively in the RPI Ratings.  UNLV is maybe the lowest-ranked team in the near-lock range.  The bubble aligns just behind the Rebels.

BUBBLE—Colorado State and New Mexico


Northeast: (1)—Long Island is ranked #98 in the RPI, but that is too low to qualify for bubble status.  The Blackbirds will only go dancing if they win the conference tournament.


Ohio Valley: (1)—Murray State and Morehead State are tied at 12-4.  Morehead has won eight games in a row, including an impressive win at rival Eastern Kentucky.  The Eagles’ big man, Kenneth Faried, averages 17.5 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.


Pac-10: (2-4)—Arizona is the only sure thing, but for this week’s list, we will include UCLA as well.  This league still has a long way to go to regain its lost prestige.

BUBBLE—Washington and Washington State


Patriot: (1)—Bucknell is the favorite over American, but it is not by much. 


Southeastern: (4-6)—There is no dominant team in the SEC this year, and the conference tournament should be almost as entertaining as the Big East Tournament.  Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee are in.  One or two more could work their way in.

BUBBLE—Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss


Southern: (1)—There is no Stephen Curry-led Davidson teams in the league this year.  Chattanooga must be considered the slight favorite, because the Mocs host the SoCon Tournament.  Western Carolina, College of Charleston, Wofford, and Furman are the top contenders.


Southland: (1)—This is the most open race for the lone automatic bid.  The SLC sends the top eight teams to its conference tournament, and there is not much difference in the top eight.  Draw one out of a hat.


SWAC: (1)—This league has become a regular in the play-in round, and with it now expanded to the First Four, you can expect to see the SWAC representative in Dayton again this season.  Texas Southern and Jackson State are the only two teams with won-loss records above .500.


Summit: (1)—Oakland is the highest-rated team not on our bubble.  At #73, we just do not believe the Golden Grizzlies can lose another game and have a shot at an at-large bid.


Sunbelt: (1)—Florida Atlantic represents the SBC’s only chance to avoid a #15 or #16 seed.  This league is suffering through an off year.


West Coast: (1 or 2)—Saint Mary’s is a lock for an at-large bid.  If they should happen to lose in the WCC Tournament, this league will send two teams. 



WAC: (1 or 2)—Utah State is in the same boat as Saint Mary’s, but it will be a much bigger upset if the Aggies do not waltz through their conference tournament and earn the automatic bid.


According to our math, we have 57 spots going to automatic bids and locks for at-large bids.  That leaves 11 spots for upset conference tournament winners and the bubble.

Older Posts »

Blog at