The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 5, 2021

PiRate Ratings Championship Game Spread


This concludes the PiRate Ratings coverage of college and professional sports until the 2021-2022 football season. We are headed out to sea for some R&R for the summer and hope to return with our preseason football coverage in August.

In the meantime, please give our sister site a look if you are into tabletop baseball gaming. Our game, Sabertooth Baseball, is getting rave reviews from patrons, some of whom own 20 different games. They say our game has more options than any other game marketed.

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April 2, 2021

PiRate Ratings Final Four Preview

National Semifinals Spreads


PiRate Bracketnomics

Nearly three weeks ago, we excitedly released our 2021 Bracketnomics report believing we were on top of the NCAA Tournament and knowing which teams were the true contenders and which were the pretenders. We came up with our Final Four teams, and poof, two of them lost before the Sweet 16.

We gave you a list of Gonzaga, Illinois, and Michigan, qualifying Michigan based on whether Isaiah Livers could return and play after the Sweet 16, which he was unable to do. Next, we gave you a list of teams that had a strong resume that should contend for the Final 4, of which Houston was one of those teams. Finally, we gave you the list of the handful of teams that had Final 4-worthy resumes but not as strong as the half-dozen just above. In that group was Baylor.

Three of the remaining four teams meet the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics criteria to win a national championship. As for UCLA, they are an outlier with very little national championship statistical criteria. Even though we selected a couple of wrong championship-worthy teams, three of the four Final Four teams meet the Bracketnomics criteria we endorse. If Gonzaga, Houston, or Baylor win the title, then the Bracketnomics fundamentals will have proven valid for the season. Let’s look at the Semifinal Games and show you the Bracketnomics Criteria in total.

Efficiency Ratings

93% of all national champions since 1990 have finished in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and in the top 20 in defensive efficiency.

Offensive Efficiency Ratings


Baylor, Gonzaga, and Houston qualify here. UCLA is just outside the criteria range.

Defensive Efficiency Ratings


Gonzaga and Houston qualify here. Baylor semi-qualifies, because the 6.7% of the teams that won the national title that didn’t meet the defensive efficiency criterion (two times in 30 years), their defensive efficiency was in the top 40. UCLA once again does not qualify here. Because efficiency is the most important criterion, UCLA is not a Bracketnomics’ qualifier. If the Bruins win the title, they crush this system.

Strength of Schedule

All national champions in the last 30+ years have had a strength of schedule better than 5 points per game above average, or to clarify it, a score of 55.0 or better in our PiRate formula.

Final 4 SOS


All four teams qualify with this criterion. The belief that Gonzaga did not play a hard enough schedule is 100% hogwash. Gonzaga defeated Virgina, Iowa, and West Virginia in addition to three wins over BYU. Wins over USC, Creighton, and Oklahoma by 17.7 points per game totally destroys the theory that the Bulldogs are not as strong as the best Power Conference teams.

PiRate R + T Ratings

If this is your first look at our site, the R+T rating is our creation. It measures a team’s ability and likelihood of enjoying a scoring run. Usually, NCAA Tournament games are decided when one team goes on a scoring run to secure the victory or to come from behind to win. This rating looks at the reasons why a team gets that spurt in a game. It happens with extra rebounding, steals, avoiding steals on offense, and turnovers. Because steals are more valuable than all other turnovers, they get their own piece in the formula.

R + T Rating = R + (.5S) + (6 – Opp. S) + T where R = Rebound Margin, S = Steals, and T = Turnover Margin

Historically, national champions are in the top quadrant in R+T ratings. In most years, the top quadrant begins around 12.5 to 15. In this Covid basketball season, the top quadrant line is 11.8 and the top 10% is 14.5.

Final 4 R+T


Once again, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Houston qualify with this criterion, while UCLA does not. Houston’s R+T is typical of a team that puts a game away quickly when they get a spurt, but when you factor tougher schedules for Baylor and Gonzaga, the top three are basically equal, while UCLA is still not qualified.

Upperclassman Leadership

In 90% of the past 30 years, the national champion had multple upperclassmen (juniors & seniors) among their top eight players. When the game is on the line, an experienced 22-year old player is an adult that can handle pressure. An 18-year old freshman is still a teenager.

Final 4 Leaders


All four teams have experienced leadership. UCLA has no seniors, and the loss of their one senior early in the season may be the only reason why the Bruins didn’t get to this point with a 26-4 record rather than 22-9. Houston having three seniors may have a unique advantage this year, since nobody received NCAA Tournament experience last year.

The Clutch Factor

There are going to be possessions in the Big Dance where a team must rely on a player or players to put the load on their shoulders and pick up the crucial basket, rebound, or defensive stop. Think of Reggie Jackson in October. All Final Four teams have had a Mr. March on their roster. Even surprise teams like Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason in this century have had at least one Mr. March on their roster. It must be close to impossible to get this far without that guy or guys. So, this factor is obvious for all four teams remaining.


Baylor and Gonzaga have three Mr. March’s (Mr. April’s) on their roster. It is harder to stop three than it is one, but if the one’s are more like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or MJ, then the one’s can trump the threes. Unfortunately for Houston and UCLA, Baylor and Gonzaga’s three go-to guys are the players closest to the superstars. Here is where we begin to really separate the superior teams from the really good teams.

Three-point Percentage

This is one of two areas where we at the PiRate Ratings were late in endorsing. The reason for this is that prior to about 2015, college basketball teams were not up to snuff on analytics. Once mathematics became a large part of basketball strategy, the game experienced an evolution to where most teams now attempt to shoot the highest percentage two-point shots along with open three-point shots. All that matters is finding a 60% probable two-point shot and a 40% probable three-point shot. If a team can hit 37% from behind the arc, they must hit better than 55.5% from inside the arc to make two-point shooting worthwhile, and the same goes for holding the opponent below those numbers.

The key in this criterion is to have a team three-point percentage of 37.0 or better. Going 3 for 8 is just as acceptable as going 15 for 40. It’s the percentage that matters.

Final 4 3-pt%


Baylor and Gonzaga shoot better than 37% from the 3-point line. UCLA is one made basket away from qualifying and thus would round up to 37%. Houston does not meet the criterion. In a game with Baylor, where the Bears are able to prevent the Cougars from getting multiple second chances, this could be a decider. Read on though to see the other side of this equation.

Dominant Insider Player(s)

Now that we told you the importance of 3-point shooting, now we switch and tell you it is also important to have a dominant inside player or players. A team doesn’t have to have Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Patrick Ewing inside these days to have a dominant inside game. All we are looking for is one player that can score in the low post and averages better than 12 points per game or two front court players that average better than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Final 4 Inside Dominance

Team1 @ 122 @ 20/12

This is the most glaring stat of the entire system. Gonzaga has a post player that averages more than 12 points per game, and the Bulldogs have two front court players that combine for better than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. The other three teams do not have a player that meets this criterion. It makes the Bulldogs prohibitive favorites, because this stat goes hand-in-hand with R+T and the prevention of R+T.

In past years, when a team of smaller players won the national championship, while they may not have had a 6 foot 10 inch monster in the middle, they did have a 6 foot 5 leaper that could score points inside and clean the boards with rebounds. The tiny 1964 UCLA Bruins with no starter over 6 foot 5 still dominated inside with three players that combined for 32.1 points and 17.8 rebounds per game. That tiny Bruin team outrebounded their opponents by more than 8 per game!

True Shooting Percentage Margin

True Shooting percentage is a new age metric that assigns point values to shot attempts. A free throw, a 2-point basket, and a 3-point basket obviously count for different values, so the ability to score points on a possession can be weighted. In essence, this is just another way to look at offensive and defensive efficiency, but it removes the schedule strength factor. Because all the Final 4 teams have adequate schedule strengths, this criterion may show a more accurate estimate. A double digit margin is a sign of a great team. A margin of 5.0-9.9% is really good.

Final 4 TS% Margins


You see the obvious here. Gonzaga is far and away the superior team in this quartet. UCLA looks like a team that should have gone home by the Sweet 16. Baylor and Houston are extremely close.

Double Figure Scoring

In addition to having clutch players, it is great to have at least three players that average 10 or more points per game, preferably four players. A team with one or two big scorers is more likely to have an issue with both having “off nights” than a team with three double-figure scorers. A team with four double-figure scorers is unlikely to see all four players have an off night.

Final 4 DBL FIG


Gonzaga and UCLA have the big four number, while Baylor and Houston have three. All four qualify here. Ironically, had UCLA’s senior star not been injured in game number eight, they would have had five double figure scorers and might have been as powerful as their 1995 national champions.

Offensive Rebounding Rate

Offensive rebounding is the key to having a superior R+T rating, and in the Final four, where all four teams have excellent team defenses, quite often the best offensive rebounding team gets that game-clinching spurt. ORR must also be used in conjunction with schedule strength.

Simply, ORR is the percentage of offensive rebounds a team gets off its missed shots. If a team misses 35 shots (FG and FT with a rebound) and gets 14 offensive rebounds, their ORR is 40.0 (14/35).

In the past, the key number has been 37.5% or three offensive rebounds for every eight missed shots. A team that could hit that mark frequently had an R+T north of 18. In recent years with more three-point shots and a prevalence of Pack-Line defenses, that number has been lowered to 35%. Any team that can retrieve 35% of its missed shots with a schedule strength in the top quadrant is going to be a tough out.

Final 4 ORR


This is where Houston shines, and where the Cougars have their opening to upset Baylor. The issue is that Baylor has the next best ORR. Can Houston get enough offensive rebounds to account for their sub-standard three-point shooting? The probability is less than 50%.

Offensive rebounding is the closest vulnerability Gonzaga has. It is the only reason why at the beginning of March Madness that we had them as the second best overall criteria. However, UCLA has an ORR under 30.0, and that number is not indicative of a Final 4 team. If Gonzaga plays in the title game Monday night, their opponent will have one aspect of the game where they can exploit the Bulldogs’ lack of superiority. We won’t call it a weakness, because it is still better than average.

Two-point Percentage Defense

Two-point percentage is still highly important in the Big Dance. Teams still take 2/3 of their shot attempts inside the arc. The important number here is 45%. If a team holds their opponents under 45% from inside the arc, they are dangerous on the defensive side.

Final 4 2pt D


Now you see why we pegged Houston as a potential Final 4 team before the tournament commenced. Holding opponents to 42.8% from inside the arc, while also having a superior rebounding team has allowed the Cougars to make it this far. Baylor and UCLA just barely hold teams under 50% from inside the arc. Gonzaga is in the gray area between very good and great.

Free Throw Rate

We admit that we failed to fully grasp the importance of this metric until last year. For years, we talked about how every national champion for a long stretch in history had free throw percentages under 70%, basically in the bottom 50% in their season. The teams with the highest FT% didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, or they made quick exits. There was a reason for this. If these teams needed a high percentage to win, they seldom could use this against superior athletes that maybe didn’t shoot as well from the charity stripe.

We threw the baby out with the bath water! How naive we were for so many years. We even altered our idea of FT Rate, going with a different formula from the norm. Originally, FT Rate was simply FT attempts divided by FG attempts. Some heavy hitters in the basketball metrics world altered this to FT made divided by FG attempts. We endorsed an Ivy League math professor’s peer-reviewed thesis that showed FT divided by possessions was more valuable than the alternatives but still considerably less important that field goal accuracy, rebounding rates, and turnover rates.

Then, like a light bulb exploding above our heads, we began to rationalize why players foul and why they do not foul. Most of the fouls in college basketball happen because the offensive player is too talented for the defensive player to guard. Instead of giving up the easy basket, the defensive player will make contact with the offensive player, hoping the referees fail to notice.

The FT rate is thus very important, but FT% isn’t the reason. It tells us which team is hardest to guard and which defense is superior and does not need to foul to stop easy baskets. Thus, the original FTA/FGA is in fact the important equation to use here. Look for a team that has an offensive FT rate over 31% and a defensive FT rate under 31%. The farther away from 31%, the better.

Final 4 FT Rate


Once again, Gonzaga is clearly the best at these criteria. UCLA has ridden these criteria to five wins in the Dance. Baylor is vulnerable here with substandard stats on both sides of the ball. Houston has a major issue on the defensive side, where they obviously foul way too much. If the Cougars get in early foul trouble in the first half against Baylor, it will be curtains. Baylor doesn’t force fouls, so UH might be okay for one night.

A Head Coach With Past Final Four Experience

If a coach has past Final Four experience, his team usually comes out ready to play without the “tightness” many teams have at the beginning of games. These coaches are better equipped to handle all the extra intangibles that Final Four basketball brings. Obviously, all Final 4 coaches have winning Elite 8 experience, but the regional finals and national semifinals are world’s apart.

Final 4 Coaching


Kelvin Sampson made one Final Four with Oklahoma 19 years ago. He has the experience. Mark Few has taken Gonzaga to the national finals, where the Bulldogs lost by two. Neither Mick Cronin nor Scott Drew have been here before. Gonzaga and Houston get the gold in this criterion.

Conference Champions

Very rarely has the national champion not won either its regular season conference championship, or its conference tournament championship. It isn’t 100% indicative, but it is a strong factor.

Final 4 Champions


UCLA is the odd team out again. Baylor won the Big 12 Conference title. Houston won the American Athletic Conference Tournament after finishing second in the conference race. Gonzaga swept both the West Coast Conference regular season and conference tournament titles. UCLA won neither the Pac-12 regular season nor conference tournament titles.

Scoring Margin

This is the oldest metric that holds up throughout college basketball history. Better than 90% of all national champions have had scoring margins of 10.0 points or better. Lower that to 8.0 points or better, and you approach 100%. A large majority of national champions had scoring margins above 12 points, and a sizable number had better than 15-point margins.

Final 4 Scoring Margins


Three teams satisfy this criterion. UCLA would be on par with David slewing two Goliaths to win the title. There isn’t any past basis to predict the Bruins defeating Gonzaga and the Baylor-Houston winner.

Field Goal Percentage Margin

We almost dismissed this criterion. It is old-hat, and there are newer metrics that rate this ability better. However, this stat still holds up from the 1930’s through today. Historically, the national champion has averaged better than 7.5% superiority in field goal percentage margin. The past net-cutters have frequently topped 10% in this statistic. Only the margin matters, so this can be 52% offense to 42% defense or 47% offense and 37% for defense or any other 10% margin.

Final 4 FG% Margin


As you can see, Gonzaga is the only one of the four teams that meet this criterion. 13.3% is similar to the other undefeated national championship teams. The 1967, 1972, and 1973 UCLA teams that went 30-0 plus the 1976 32-0 Indiana team averaged 11.3% in FG% margin. Gonzaga’s 13.3 is higher than all four of these past greats.

Winning Streak(s)

A team must win six consecutive games (seven if playing in the First Four) to win the national championship. If the team couldn’t win six or seven games in a row during the regular season, you cannot expect them to do so in the Big Dance.

There are two key data points with this criterion. They are one 10-game winning streak or two six-game winning streaks.

Final 4 Winning Streaks


Gonzaga’s 30-0 record easily qualifies the Bulldogs here. Baylor’s 18-game winning streak safely qualifies them. Houston has three winning streaks greater than 6 games, which also satisfies this criterion’s parameters. UCLA has one winning streak of 7 games, which came in 2020 with their former senior star playing. The Bruins do not qualify.


The most obvious information herein is that UCLA made it this far as one of the greatest outliers in tournament history. They barely survived their First Four play-in game with Michigan St. Their overtime win over Alabama was gifted by a terrible officiating mistake in regulation. Their Elite 8 win over Michigan was extremely lucky when Michigan had multiple opportunities to win in the last 30 seconds but basically crumbled under pressure. Using this criteria, Gonzaga should beat the Bruins by 15 or more points.

The Baylor-Houston game is not as cut and dry. Most pundits believe BU is unbeatable in this game, but we beg to differ. Houston is the underdog in this game, but Baylor is maybe a 55% to 45% favorite at best. Both the Bears and Cougars possess the criteria to make it to the National Championship Game.

If you are a Gonzaga fan, you might want to cheer for Baylor to win their semifinal game. While the Bears have an incredible criteria resume, Houston dominates in the one area where Gonzaga is vulnerable.

The 1927 New York Yankees are considered the best baseball team of all time by a majority of baseball experts. Yet ,that team had some weaknesses. Third baseman Jumpin’ Joe Dugan was a below average player at his position. Mark Koenig was an average shortstop. The three-man catching platoon was good but not great. However, that team had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, two of the top 10 players of all time. It had Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, and Bob Meusel, three additional stars that in other years could have been the best player on a pennant-winning team. The pitching staff didn’t get the accolades, but they were the best in the Major Leagues in 1927. The Pinstripes went 110-44 to win the AL Pennant and swept Pittsburgh in the World Series 4 games to none. That Pittsburgh team (actually Pittsburg in those days) was loaded with talent, including Big Poison and Little Poison in Paul and Lloyd Waner, in addition to Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, and three other hitters that had batting averages over .300.

The legendary sportswriters of the 1920’s noticed the Pirates players watching the Yankees take batting practice before the series began. Ruth sent towering home run shots over the very deep Forbes Field right-center field and center field walls well over 400 feet flights. Then, Gehrig stepped into the batter’s box and sent hard-hit balls that were not as high but looked like ropes going over those same spots in the deep wall. The Pirate players were in awe, but that was just two players.

Lazzeri, Meusel, and catcher Pat Collins then got into the batter’s box in succession batting from the right side. Each of the trio then sent balls rifling over the distant left-field wall, again over 400 feet blasts. The Pirate pitchers were mortified and totally psyched out. The Series was over before it started.

Is this Gonzaga team the 1927 Yankees on the college hardwoods? With all the games being played in the Indianapolis area, Baylor, Houston, and UCLA have had ample time to see Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs appear to be Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri. They have seen Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard look like Combs and Meusel.

It is our opinion that Gonzaga is more like the great UCLA national Champions than the 1991 UNLV, 1979 Indiana State, and 1976 Rutgers teams, the last three to make it to the Final four undefeated and not win the title. The hidden intimidation factor is worth 12 to 15 points in GU’s favor. Opponents will be fearful of giving up too many easy transition baskets to really crash their offensive boards, where GU can be exploited. They are likely to hurry their shots and shoot below their norms. Because the other teams in this tournament cannot properly match up with Timme and Kispert, we expect the inside defenders to experience foul trouble.

After Citation won the Triple Crown in horse racing in 1948, 25 years passed until the feat was replicated. Great horses like Northern Dancer and Majestic Prince couldn’t pull it off. When it finally happened again, the horse that did it was the 1927 Yankees of thoroughbred racing. Secretariat forced other trainers to alter how they ran their horses, and it still didn’t work. In the Belmont, Sham tried to run fast early to keep up with Secretariat, and Sham wore out. The greatest horse of the time period ran away with a 31-length victory totally obliterating the record time by multiple seconds!

Is Gonzaga about to become the Secretariat of this generation? The Bracketnomics criteria believe so.

March 29, 2021

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:38 am
HoustonOregon St.9.0

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Update

Houston, Baylor, Gonzaga, and Michigan are the four remaining teams that possess the analytics criteria that 93% of the last 30 national champions possessed. Gonzaga and Michigan have the overall best criteria, but most of Michigan’s statistical outcomes includes injured star Isaiah Livers. Houston lacks overall schedule strength, but a win tonight over Oregon State and then a Final Four win over Baylor would give the Cougars the last needed piece of the puzzle in a national title game. Baylor misses on only one main criteria point as well as a couple minor points.

Obviously, the Pac-12 strength of schedules needed to be tweeked upward by a few points, and the Covid issues probably disguised the league’s resurrection. The Big Ten and Big 12 were overrated this year, while the SEC and ACC were somewhat overrated. The fact that the Elite 8 has three Pac-12 teams, and one team each from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, West Coast, and American Athletic speaks a lot about the balance in basketball this year. The Western half of the country was the better half this year for the first time in more than a decade, maybe in the 21st Century.

March 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:13 am

Friday, March 26, 2021

Loyola (Chi.)Oregon St.6.5
ArkansasOral Roberts13.3
MichiganFlorida St.3.4

Bracketnomics Took A Beating

Like 99% of the public, our brackets are destroyed thanks to all the lower seeded teams winning in the first two rounds. Obviously, the Big Ten was highly overrated, and the Pac-12 was highly underrated. A lack of non-conference games this year made the schedule strengths too biased. There are only four teams in the Sweet 16 with resumes similar to past national champions.

Gonzaga is the only remaining team that meets 90% of the criteria of a national champion. Michigan would also meet the criteria, but their star playmaker is still injured and out. So, the Wolverines have to be discounted somewhat.

Baylor and Houston meet more than 75% of the criteria, but they are missing one key important stat. Connecticut is the only past national champion of the 21st Century to win the national title with this type of criteria.

If Gonzaga wins the title, then the bracketnomics data will have proven itself to be accurate for the year, even if our interpretation of the data was wrong. If Michigan, Houston, or Baylor wins the title, then it will be another Connecticut type of deal, where the criteria was valid but not identifiable enough to be considered a success. If anybody else cuts the nets, then the criteria failed for this year.

What should we make of this data this year? Do we throw this year out due to the highly dysfunctional season? So many games were cancelled this year, while other games were scheduled on as little as 48-72 hours notice. Included in the cancellations was a Gonzaga vs. Baylor game that should have been played, in all places, in Indianapolis in December!

One thing we will note in 2021-2022 is to consider the Big Ten Conference to be a tad overrated and the Pac-12 Conference a tad underrated. Maybe, it is time for “The Conference of Champions” to return to its prominence it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th Century.

What to Make of Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s strength of schedule just barely qualifies for national championship-worthy criteria. However, no team from outside the Power Conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC) has won the national championship since 1990, when UNLV cut down the nets. In three decades, Gonzaga came within a made basket, and Butler came within a rimmed out prayer of pulling off the Mid-Major miracle.

Gonzaga has been compared all season to the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table during the regular season with a scoring margin of close to 30 points, only to fall to Duke in the Final Four.

Could Gonzaga meet a power conference blue blood and meet the same fate as UNLV 30 years ago? Creighton would not be considered a blue blood, and we cannot see the Bulldogs losing Saturday. A win in the Sweet 16 would have GU playing a Pac-12 team in the Elite 8, either USC or Oregon. We cannot count either of these teams as a Duke-like blue blood.

In the National Semifinals, Gonzaga would face either Michigan, Florida State, UCLA, or Alabama. With Isaiah Livers able to play, Michigan would definitely be considered blue blood material. Florida State is in the blue blood neighborhood. UCLA and Alabama are both a little too green to be blue these days.

The Championship Game would present a potential opponent in Baylor that would be a true blue blood team this year. Syracuse might be a powder blue blood with their matchup zone so hard to prepare for when teams have not faced it before.

However, we here on the PiRate ship do not see Gonzaga as the UNLV team three decades later. We see this Bulldogs team more like the 1964 UCLA Bruins 57 years later. By this, we do not refer to playing style. The two teams couldn’t be any more different. Coach John Wooden’s first national champions were small in size; no starter was taller than 6 foot 5 inches. Gonzaga has size and muscle inside.

The 1964 Bruins used a devastating 2-2-1, 3/4 court zone press and occasionally a 1-2-1-1 full court zone press to force tempo and turnovers, while Gonzaga uses a standard half-court defense that relies on pressuring the ball and forcing poor shots, where they can control the boards and run the fast break and secondary break for cheap baskets and then hit the offensive glass for additional chances.

Where the two teams are quite similar is their method for winning games. In going 30-0 in 1964, UCLA put every game away with a 2 to 3 minute scoring run. The best example occurred in the national title game, where a favored Duke team, with two 6 foot 10 inch starters towering over the Bruins, fell under pressure in just 2 1/2 minutes, as the Bruins ran off 16 points in a row.

Gonzaga has this same ability to take a three-point lead and make it a 15-point lead in just a couple minutes of playing time. Their game against BYU in the West Coast Conference Championship Game is a testament to this ability. BYU held a 10-point lead and looked like they were going to do what Saint Mary’s had done in the prior WCC Championship Game. Then, in very little clock time, GU went from 10 down to 10 up, and the game was over.

There is another team remaining with the same ability to go on a major game-clinching scoring run, and that is Houston. Funny how comparing Gonzaga to UCLA brings Houston into the conversation, as Houston and UCLA conjure up memories of past titanic rivals like Dempsey-Tunney, Affirmed-Alydar, and New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Houston is most definitely not considered the favorite to make it to the National Championship Game. They still have to solve the Syracuse zone and then possibly beat the most underrated team in the field in Loyola of Chicago or the team that found lightning in a bottle in Oregon State. Then, they most likely have to dismiss Baylor to make it to their third national championship game in the school’s history.

A Houston-Gonzaga national championship tilt would be quite memorable, and it would be one where both teams enjoy scoring runs that make the outcome unpredictable.

March 21, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Sunday, March 21, 2021

VillanovaNorth Texas5.7
ArkansasTexas Tech1.9
FloridaOral Roberts9.9
IllinoisLoyola (Chi.)6.2
Oklahoma St.Oregon St.5.6
West VirginiaSyracuse2.8

March 19, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Friday, March 19, 2021

WisconsinNorth Carolina0.3
PurdueNorth Texas7.4
Texas TechUtah St.2.3
FloridaVirginia Tech2.1
Ohio St.Oral Roberts16.1
Loyola (Chi.)Georgia Tech2.7
TennesseeOregon St.7.6
Oklahoma St.Liberty8.2
San Diego St.Syracuse2.8
West VirginiaMorehead St.11.6
HoustonCleveland St.17.9

March 12, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Friday, March 12, 2021

Team 1Team 2Spread
Wichita St.South Florida8.9
MemphisCentral Florida6.2
Virginia (forfeit due to Covid)Georgia Tech1.3
Florida St.North Carolina1.4
BaylorOklahoma St.8.0
Seton HallGeorgetown2.2
Southern UtahMontana St.6.0
Eastern WashingtonMontana5.4
PurdueOhio St.-1.6
UCSBUC Davis10.7
UC-IrvineUC Riverside-0.9
Western Ky.UAB0.1
Louisiana TechNorth Texas0.4
Saint Peter’sFairfield5.8
Coppin St.Morgan St.-3.5
North Carolina A&T (forfeit due to Covid)Norfolk St.-4.6
San Diego St.Nevada7.2
Utah St.Colorado St.1.8
OregonOregon St.7.0
AlabamaMississippi St.9.6
LSUOle Miss3.4
NichollsNorthwestern St.8.2
Abilene ChristianLamar14.4
Jackson St.Texas Southern-1.5
Prairie View A&MGrambling5.8
Grand CanyonSeattle6.0
Utah ValleyNew Mexico St.-3.5

Conference Tournaments Update

America East Conference

Championship Game–Saturday, March 13, 11 AM, ESPN2

6 U Mass-Lowell at 4 Hartford

American Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals–Friday, March 12 @ Fort Worth, TX

1 Wichita St. vs. 8 South Florida 

4 SMU vs. 5 Cincinnati Friday

2 Houston vs. 10 Tulane

3 Memphis vs. 6 Central Florida 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Semifinals, Friday, March 12

1 Virginia vs. 4 Georgia Tech (Georgia Tech wins by forfeit)

2 Florida St. vs. 6 North Carolina

Atlantic 10 Conference

Championship Game–Sunday, March 14, 1PM, CBS @ Dayton, OH

1 Saint Bonaventure vs. 2 Virginia Commonwealth

Big East Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ New York, NY

5 Seton Hall vs. 8 Georgetown

2 Creighton vs. 3 Connecticut

Big Sky Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Boise, ID

1 Southern Utah vs. 5 Montana St.

2 Eastern Washington vs. 6 Montana

Big Ten Conference

Quarterfinals–Friday, March 12 @ Indianapolis, IN

1 Michigan vs. 8 Maryland

4 Purdue vs. 5 Ohio St.

2 Illinois vs. 7 Rutgers

3 Iowa vs. 6 Wisconsin

Big 12 Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Kansas City, MO

1 Baylor vs. 5 Oklahoma St.

2 Kansas vs. 3 Texas

Big West Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Las Vegas

1 UCSB vs. 5 UC-Davis

2 UC-Irvine vs. 3 UC-Riverside

Conference USA

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Frisco, TX (Dallas Cowboys Practice Facility)

1E Western Kentucky vs. 2W UAB 

1W Louisiana Tech vs. 3W North Texas

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Semifinals, Friday, March 12 @ Atlantic City, NJ

5 Niagara vs. 9 Iona

3 St. Peter’s vs. 7 Fairfield

Mid-American Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Cleveland

1 Toledo vs. 5 Ohio U

2 Buffalo vs. 3 Akron 

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Semifinals, Friday, March 12 @ Norfolk, VA

1N Coppin St. vs. 3N Morgan St.

1S North Carolina A&T vs. 2N Norfolk St. (Norfolk St. wins by forfeit)

Mountain West Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Las Vegas

1 San Diego St. vs. 5 Nevada

2 Utah St. vs. 3 Colorado St.

Pac-12 Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Las Vegas

1 Oregon vs. 5 Oregon St.

2 USC vs. 3 Colorado

Patriot League

Championship Game, Sunday March 14, 12 PM EST, CBSSN

9 Loyola (MD) at 2 Colgate

Southeastern Conference

Quarterfinals–Friday, March 12 @ Nashville, TN

1 Alabama vs. 9 Mississippi St. 

4 Tennessee vs. 5 Florida

2 Arkansas vs. 7 Missouri

3 LSU vs. 6 Ole Miss

Southland Conference

Semifinals–Friday, March 12 @ Katy, TX (Greater Houston)

1 Nicholls vs. 4 Northwestern St.

2 Abilene Christian vs. 6 Lamar

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Semifinals, Friday, March 12 @ Birmingham, AL

1 Prairie View A&M vs. 4 Grambling

2 Jackson St. vs. 3 Texas Southern 

Western Athletic Conference

Quarterfinals–Thursday, March 11 @ Las Vegas

1 Grand Canyon vs. 5 Seattle 

2 Utah Valley vs. 3 New Mexico St.

Automatic Qualifiers

Liberty 23-5

Winthrop 23-1

Loyola (Chi.) 24-4

Morehead St. 23-7

UNC-Greensboro 21-8

Appalachian St. 17-11

Drexel 12-7

Cleveland St. 19-7

Mount St. Mary’s 12-10

Oral Roberts 16-10

Gonzaga 26-0

March 7, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Sunday, March 7, 2021

East CarolinaCincinnati-0.5
LibertyNorth Alabama14.3
BaylorTexas Tech9.4
Michigan St.Michigan-10.3
MarylandPenn St.2.3
James MadisonElon6.2
NortheasternWilliam & Mary8.7
North Carolina CentralSouth Carolina St.8.6
Loyola (Chi.)Drake4.6
Oregon St.Oregon-4.2
Georgia St.Louisiana3.8
Appalachian St.Coastal Carolina-3.8
UNCGEast Tennessee St.2.2
Oral RobertsNorth Dakota8.0
North Dakota St.Missouri-Kansas City4.4

Today’s Conference Tournament Action


Jacksonville, 2PM EST, ESPN

1 Liberty vs. 5 North Alabama

Liberty has already clinched an automatic bid , as UNA is ineligible due to their transition phase to Division 1


12 PM , ESPN

3 Campbell at 1 Winthrop

Colonial Athletic Quarterfinals

At James Madison in Harrisonburg, VA

1 James Madison vs. 8 Elon

4 Hofstra vs. 5 Delaware

2 Northeastern vs. 7 William & Mary

3 College of Charleston vs. 6 Drexel


Saint Louis, 2 PM EST, CBS

1 Loyola (Chi.) vs. 2 Drake

Southern Conference Semifinals

Asheville, NC

1 UNC-Greensboro vs. 5 East Tennessee St.

6 VMI vs. 7 Mercer

Summit League 2nd Half of Quarterfinals

at Sioux Falls, SD

4 Oral Roberts vs. 5 North Dakota

3 North Dakota St. vs. 6 Missouri-Kansas City

Sun Belt Conference Semifinals

at Pensacola, FL

1E Georgia St. vs. 2W Louisiana

2E Coastal Carolina vs. 4E Appalachian St.

Automatic Qualifiers

Liberty 22-5

Morehead St. 23-7

March 4, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Thursday, March 4, 2021

MassachusettsSaint Joseph’s4.7
DaytonRhode Island0.8
George MasonGeorge Washington6.6
East CarolinaCentral Florida-1.7
LibertyKennesaw St.19.1
North FloridaNorth Alabama2.0
LipscombFlorida Gulf Coast3.9
BaylorOklahoma St.11.0
West VirginiaTCU14.2
Texas TechIowa St.15.8
Weber St.Northern Colorado10.6
Portland St.Southern Utah-2.0
MichiganMichigan St.13.7
Florida AtlanticMiddle Tennessee7.1
QuinnipiacSaint Peter’s-2.7
North Carolina CentralFlorida A&M-0.4
BradleySouthern Illinois4.2
Northern IowaIllinois St.2.5
Utah St.Wyoming14.7
Jacksonville St.Murray St.-0.1
Eastern KentuckyAustin Peay3.3
ColoradoArizona St.11.0
Prairie View A&MSouthern5.7
Texas SouthernAlcorn St.9.8
GramblingAlabama St.8.4
Jackson St.Alabama A&M7.9
San FranciscoSan Diego7.4
Santa ClaraPortland12.5

Conference Tournament Update

America East

Semifinals, Saturday, March 6 at higher seed home court

#1 UMBC vs. #6 U Mass-Lowell

#2 Vermont vs. #4 Hartford

Atlantic Sun

Quarterfinal Round Tonight (All Games in Jacksonville)

#1 Liberty vs. #8 Kennesaw St.

#4 North Florida vs. #5 North Alabama

#2 Bellarmine vs. #7 Stetson

#3 Lipscomb vs. #6 Florida Gulf Coast

Atlantic 10

2nd Round Tonight (All Games in Richmond)

#8 Richmond vs. #9 Duquesne

#5 Massachusetts vs. #13 Saint Joseph’s

#7 Dayton vs. #10 Rhode Island

#6 George Mason vs. #11 George Washington

Big South

Semifinals Tonight at Higher Seed Home Floor

#1 Winthrop vs. #5 Longwood

#2 Radford vs. #3 Campbell

Colonial Athletic

First Round, Saturday, March 6 at Harrisonburg, VA

#8 Elon vs. #9 Towson

#7 William & Mary vs. #10 UNC-Wilmington

Horizon League

Semifinals, Monday, March 8 at Indianapolis

#1 Cleveland St. vs. #8 Milwaukee

#3 Oakland vs. #4 Northern Kentucky

Missouri Valley

1st Round, Tonight at Saint Louis

#8 Bradley vs. #9 Southern Illinois

#7 Northern Iowa vs. #10 Illinois St.


Semifinals, Saturday, March 6, at higher seeds home court

#1 Wagner vs. #4 Mount St. Mary’s

#2 Bryant vs. #3 Sacred Heart

Ohio Valley

Quarterfinals continue, Tonight at Evansville, IN

#4 Jacksonville St. vs. #5 Murray St.

#3 Eastern Kentucky vs. #6 Austin Peay

Patriot League

Quarterfinals, Saturday, March 6 at Higher Seed Home Courts

#1 Navy vs. #9 Loyola (MD)

#4 Army vs. #5 American

#2 Colgate vs. #7 Boston U

#3 Lafayette vs. #6 Bucknell


1st Round, Friday, March 5, at Asheville, NC

#8 The Citadel vs. #9 Western Carolina

#7 Mercer vs. #9 Samford

Summit League

1st Round, Saturday March 6 and Sunday March 7 at Sioux Falls, SD

#1 South Dakota St. vs. #8 Omaha

#4 Oral Roberts vs. #5 North Dakota

#2 South Dakota vs. #7 Western Illinois

#3 North Dakota St. vs. #6 Kansas City

Sun Belt Conference

1st Round, Friday, March 5, at Pensacola, FL

#4W Arkansas St. vs. #5E Georgia Southern

#3E South Alabama vs. #6W Louisiana-Monroe

#4E Appalachian St. vs. #5W Little Rock

#3W UT-Arlington vs. #6E Troy

West Coast

1st Round, Tonight at Las Vegas

#8 San Francisco vs. #9 San Diego

#7 Santa Clara vs. #10 Portland

March 1, 2021

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Preview

Some conference tournaments are already in progress, but no multi-bid conference tournaments have tipped off yet.  In the past, we tried to show you where to watch the conference tournaments, but it is quite easy to find that information on the Internet.  Starting this season, we will tell you the things you won’t easily find until the tournaments actually commence.  This year, not all conferences are holding their usual formats.  Some leagues are going with fewer teams and fewer days.  

We will tell you when and where each tournament will be played along with a bracket if the tournament is set.  Then, we will tell you the better “Bracketnomics” data.  We will explain our 2021 Bracketnomics criteria just before the NCAA Tournament begins play in a couple weeks. So without further adieu, let’s start the previews.

American Athletic Conference

Dates: March 11-14

Site: Fort Worth, TX

Teams participating: 11 in a regular format where 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9 in the first round and then the three winners play the top 3 seeds in the quarterfinals (3 vs. 6 or 11, 2 vs. 7 or 10, and 1 vs. 8 or 9).

Houston is the only team guaranteed a spot in the field, but Wichita St. has been moving up on the better side of the Bubble in recent weeks.  Memphis is making a late charge to get into consideration, but the Tigers don’t have enough games to impress the Selection Committee.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Houston has  many of the basic data needed to advance to the Elite 8.  Their schedule is a tad weak, so calling the Cougars a Final Four contender is a bit hard.  Maybe their schedule strength will improve enough if they can beat Wichita St. in the AAC Tournament and then beat a couple of tough teams in the Big Dance.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Dates: March 9-13

Site: Greensboro, NC

Teams participating: All 15 in a regular format with teams 10-15 playing in the opening round (10-15, 11-14, 12-13), and teams 5 through 9 plus the three winners in round one playing in the second round, while teams 1-4 receive double byes.

A four game winning streak has moved Georgia Tech up onto the good side of the Bubble, while a tough overtime loss to Louisville, has moved Duke down into a situation Mike Krzyzewski has not dealt with before–looking at the Dance from outside the ballroom window.  A late surge by North Carolina St. has given Kevin Keatts’ Wolf Pack a puncher’s chance if they can win their final three games against beatable opposition.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Believe it or not, but as of today, no ACC teams have bracketnomic criteria tailor-made to advance to the Final  4.  Florida St. has a great offense but not great defense.  Virginia is very good offensively and good defensively but not exactly good enough at either.  Virginia Tech looks like a team that will not get to the Sweet 16.  Louisville and Clemson lack the offensive firepower.  North Carolina’s offense is better than UL and CU, but not Final 4 worthy.  Duke isn’t playing defense this year.

America East Conference

Dates: February 27 – March 13

Site: Higher Seed for remainder of tournament

Teams participating: There are 4 teams left.  UMass Lowell has eliminated Stony Brook and New Hampshire to advance to the semifinals as the #7 seed.  They now face #1 seed UMBC in Baltimore this Saturday.  On the other side of the bracket, #4-seed Hartford topped Binghamton and Albany and will venture to Vermont on Saturday.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Vermont has much better credentials than UMBC, but the Catamounts are not talented enough to make it to the Sweet 16.  One win would still be remarkable.

Atlantic 10 Conference

Dates: March 3-6, 14

Site: Richmond, VA with championship game in Dayton, OH

Teams participating: All 14 teams will play in a regularly-seeded tournament with the 11 & 14 and 12 & 13 seeds playing in the first round, and seeds 5-10 plus the two first round winners playing in the second round, while seeds 1-4 receive double byes.

Both Richmond and VCU will be hosting the early rounds, and each will play on the other’s home court.  Because there are games tonight just 48 hours before the A-10 Tourney tips off, the brackets are still not set.  

Favorable Bracketnomics: St. Bonaventure, Richmond,  and Saint Louis have stats typical of teams that can win an opening round and possible second game.  Schedule strength is weak for both teams, but this is a weird year with Covid, so schedule strength may be out of whack until the Sweet 16.

Atlantic Sun Conference

Dates: March 3-7

Site: Jacksonville (at North Florida and Jacksonville)

Teams participating: 9 in a regular seeding with #8 & 9 playing to get to the quarterfinals.  Bellarmine, not eligible for the NCAA Tournament as a first-year Division 1 team, is eligible for the A-Sun Tournament, and they might be considered the co-favorite with Liberty.  LU has about a 90% chance of getting the league’s automatic bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  None this year.  This is not a strong enough Liberty team to compete for an opening round upset.  Bellarmine might have had a slightly better chance had they been eligible.

Big 12 Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Kansas City

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with teams 7-10 playing in the first round and teams 1-6 receiving byes to the semifinals.

Favorable Bracketnomics: First, and most importantly, Baylor does not have a grand resume of bracketnomically-favorable data.  The Bears give up points in the paint too easily, and their long layoff has removed a lot of the polish from this team.  Unless something changes between today and Selection Sunday, we will be looking at other teams that can knock out BU as early as the Round of 32 or Sweet 16.

West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Texas have resumes that shout Sweet 16 with a chance to make it to the Elite 8 and even sneak into the Final 4, but none of the three have championship resumes as of today.  Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. are a tad weaker in criteria.

As for Kansas, watch out!  The Jayhawks’ offense is inconsistent.  If the wrong offense shows up, the Jayhawks could be upset early in the tournament.  The win over Baylor shows the nation that this team has talent enough to beat anybody at the Phog, but away from home like in the blowout loss to Tennessee, KU may be more chalk than rock.

Big East

Dates: March 10-13

Site: New York City (Madison Square Garden)

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular format where 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9 in the first round and then the three winners play the top 3 seeds in the quarterfinals (3 vs. 6 or 11, 2 vs. 7 or 10, and 1 vs. 8 or 9).

Villanova, Creighton, and Seton Hall have seen their best games appear farther and farther away from the present.  UConn is looking better and better as each week passes.  Xavier is on the Bubble and may have a chance to earn a spot in the Dance after other bubblers have lost recently.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Villanova’s offense is stellar, but they play matador defense a bit too much.  Rarely does a team with their defensive efficiency make it to the Final 4, and it is less than 50-50 that playing the same way will get the Wildcats past the Sweet 16.

Creighton doesn’t have enough muscle inside to advance past the Sweet 16.  They give up too many easy inside baskets and cannot rebound well enough to compete against power opposition like what is played in the Big Ten and Big 12.

UConn doesn’t have a terrific resume either, but the Huskies can score cheap baskets in low possession games.

Big Sky Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Boise, ID

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular bracket with teams 1-5 receiving byes to the quarterfinals and teams 6-11 playing in an opening round.

Eastern Washington, Southern Utah, and Weber St. have been dominating the rest of the league in the last five weeks.  One of these three should win the automatic bid in Boise.  None of the three have enough defensive mite to win a game in the Big Dance.

Favorable Bracketnomics: None

Big South Conference

Dates: February 27-March 7

Sites: Higher seed home courts

Teams participating: This tournament has already begun, and they are down to 8.  The top 8 seeds remain with Hampton and High Point winning opening round games.  Top seed Winthrop is a prohibitive favorite.  4-seed UNC-Asheville is the team that beat Winthrop this year, but we don’t see a semifinal repeat if the two meet.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Winthrop could be a 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but their criteria is hard to judge  as their only quality wins came against UNC-Greensboro and Furman, neither of which can be confused for Virginia or Florida.  The Eagles could actually be an easy win for a 4-seed opponent.

Big Ten Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Indianapolis

Teams participating: 14 in a regular format with #11 & #14 and #12 & #13 playing in the opening round, seeds 5-10 plus the two opening round winners playing in the second round, and then the top 4 seeds receiving double byes.

Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, and Maryland have made it to the safe status for the Big Dance.  Rutgers is close to earning its way in.  Indiana and Minnesota have fallen off the dance floor; both could be looking for new coaches in March.  Michigan St. has work to do to get in after falling to Maryland yesterday.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Michigan has a close to perfect resume as of today.  If the tournament began today, the Wolverines would be our favorite to win the National Championship.  In fact, looking at their data, it resembles that of past champions like North Carolina, Duke, and UCLA.

Illinois also has a Final 4 worthy resume as of today.  Purdue and Maryland have resumes that look like potential Elite 8 teams.  On the other hand, Iowa, Ohio St., and Wisconsin have chinks in their armors and are upset prone prior to the Elite 8 as of today.

Big West Conference

Dates: March 9-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with #7 & 10 and #8 & 9 playing in the opening round, while teams 1-6 receive byes in one of 5 tournaments to be held in Vegas.

In the past, this has been the UC-Irvine Invitational, but this tournament is open for new championship blood this year.  UCSB was cruising along with a long winning streak until UC-Riverside broke it with a win Saturday after almost doing the trick the night before.  UC-Davis is the hot team at this point, but the Aggies lost almost as many games to Covid as they played.

Favorable Bracketnomics: UCSB actually has decent enough data to contend for a first round upset bid against the right #2 or #3 seed.

Colonial Athletic Association

Dates: March 6-9

Site: Harrisonburg, VA (James Madison)

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format.  This tournament is now set.  In round 1, #7 William & Mary faces #10 UNC-Wilmington, and #8 Elon faces #9 Towson.  The 7-10 winner will play #2 Northeastern and the 8-9 winner will play top-seed and host James Madison in the quarterfinals.

Favorable Bracketnomics: #6 Drexel is our dark horse to sneak into the CAA Finals against JMU, but nobody has a worthy set of statistical data to win a game in the Big Dance.

Conference USA

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Frisco, TX (Cowboys’ practice field with two adjacent gyms)

Teams participating: 14 divided into two divisions.  The opening round will see seeds 6 & 7 from the same divisions playing each other.  The winners will play the #3 seeds from the opposite divisions.  4 N will play 5 S with the winner playing 1 S, and 4 S will play 5 N with the winner playing 1 N.  2 S will play 3 N and 2 N will play 3 S.

This is a wide open tournament.  In the North Division, Western Kentucky and Old Dominion are 1 & 2 with back to back games still to be played at Western.  Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and UAB are alive for the top South Division seed.  Marshall is #3 in the North, but the Thundering Herd are a force to be reckoned with and could sneak into the CUSA Championship Game.

Favorable Bracketnomics: North Texas and La. Tech have talented defenses.  Marshall has a fantastic offense.  Western Kentucky is solid but not spectacular on both sides of the court.  The league champion could foreseeably win one game in the Big Dance, but this isn’t a Sweet 16 year for this league.

Horizon League

Dates: February 25-March 9

Sites: Quarterfinals at Higher Seeds Then Indianapolis

Teams Participating: This tournament began last Thursday with Detroit beating Robert Morris, Youngstown St. beating Illinois-Chicago, Purdue Fort Wayne beating Green Bay, and Milwaukee beating IUPUI. 

The quarterfinals commence tomorrow with #1 Cleveland St. hosting Purdue Fort Wayne. #2 Wright St. hosting Milwaukee, #3 Oakland hosting Youngstown St., and #4 Northern Kentucky hosting Detroit.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Wright St. has the clear-cut best potential data for the NCAA Tournament, but the Raiders will not get an at-large bid if they don’t win the Horizon Tournament.  Cleveland St. and Detroit have just enough talent to upset the Raiders in this tournament, but neither has the criteria to make any damage in the Big Dance.  Wright St. just barely qualifies as a potential first round upset winner.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Dates: March 8-13

Site: Atlantic City, NJ

Teams participating: 11 teams in a regular seeding with the top 5 seeds receiving byes and teams 6-11 playing in an opening round.

Siena, Iona, and Monmouth have been pacing this race for most of the year, but there is no clear-cut favorite in this tournament.  Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels might have the best chance of pulling off a first round upset in the Big Dance, but the MAAC is not likely to produce a winner in the Round of 64.

Favorable Bracketnomics: None

Mid-American Conference

Dates: March 11-13

Site: Cleveland

Teams participating: The top 8 in a regular seed format.

Toledo, Akron, Kent St., Buffalo, Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (O), and Ball St. will be the 8 teams getting into the tournament, and probably 6 of the 8 could win this tournament.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Toledo has a potent offense, but their defense isn’t quite tournament tough.  The Rockets might be a 12-seed and no worse than a 13-seed, and they would be a scary first round opponent for a 4 or 5.

Buffalo can get the ball up the court and score quickly, and their defense is better overall than Toledo.  The Bulls are not as potent overall, but if they were to get in as a probable 13 or 14 seed, they could give the favored opponent a good game in the Round of 64.

Mideastern Athletic Conference

Dates: March 7-13

Site: Norfolk, VA (round 1 at higher seed)

Teams participating: The MEAC Tournament has been modified with three teams not playing due to Covid opt-outs.  The MEAC split into North and South Divisions to minimize travel, and the tournament will keep the divisional seeding.  The first round game, to be played at the higher-seed’s home court will pit the #4 South seed playing the #3 South seed.  In the quarterfinals, 3N plays 2S, and 1N plays the winner of the first round game.  In the semifinals, 1 N plays the winner of the 3N/2S game, while 1S plays the winner of the other quarterfinal (2N, 3S, or 4N).

While North Carolina A&T has had the best overall record all year, Norfolk St. is the host team for this tournament, and the Spartans will be the team to beat.  Morgan St. may be the best overall team, but unless the Bears can move up to the North 1-seed, they will have to win an extra game that the top two seeds won’t in order to get the automatic bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics: There is no such thing as a favorable bracketnomic for this conference, as the best this league can hope for is an avoidance of the dreaded 16-seed play-in game.  Norfolk St. and Morgan St., in theory, have slim chances to avoid the bottom four seeds and become a regular 16-seed or even 15-seed, if they win out in the regular season and take the automatic bid at the conference tournament.  They would then need help from other low-major conferences with tournament winners from back in the pack.

Missouri Valley Conference

Dates: March 4-7

Site: Saint Louis (Arch Madness)

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with 7 & 10 and 8 & 9 playing in the first round, while the top 6 receive byes to the quarterfinals.

This is an important tournament.  The Valley currently has two teams that look like near safe locks to get into the Big Dance.  Loyola of Chicago and Drake both have the needed resumes to receive at-large bids.  In recent years, a regular season also-ran has pulled off the upset in Saint Louis, and if one of the co-favorites fails to make the Championship Game, while an also-ran wins the automatic bid, that upset loser will be in jeopardy of missing out on getting into the field.

3-seed Missouri St. looks like the team with the best chance to sneak into the finals, but the Bears would have to beat a 24-3 Drake team to do it.  If you are looking for a surprise team, then take a gander at 8-seed Bradley.  The Braves would have to win four games in four days to pull off the trick, and it would include a quarterfinal upset of Loyola.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Loyola has the most efficient defense in college basketball this year, and their offense is strong but not strong enough to be considered a real contender for the Final 4.  However, their criteria at the moment is better than the criteria of their actual Final 4 surprise team of a few years back.

That said, Drake has a much better offense than Loyola, while their defense is a tad suspect.  The Bulldogs don’t look like a Final 4 team either, but in the early rounds, the strong offense tends to top a team with a strong defense, if the weak defense matches up against a weak offense.

Mountain West Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 11 teams in a standard format with the top five seeds receiving first round byes, while the 6-11 seeds play (6-11, 7-10, 8-9)

Brian Dutcher deserves some national coach of the year votes this year, after losing the best players off last year’s team and then after starting slowly, coming on strong with a 10-game winning streak that propelled the Aztecs from middle of the pack to the top of the MWC.  SDSU will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.

How many teams get in the Big Dance from this league is a mystery.  Colorado St. and Boise St. are deserving.  On paper, Utah St. looks to be a tad better overall than CSU and BSU, but their overall resume isn’t as impressive.  The Aggies have work to do in this tournament in order to impress the Selection Committee, and at a minimum, USU may need to make it to the Championship Game and definitely must win its final two regular season games.

Favorable Bracketnomics: All four of the top teams have the bracketnomic criteria to advance to the Sweet 16 under the right circumstances, but none of the four have strong enough offenses to advance past that round.  Additionally, SDSU, CSU, and BSU lack the inside muscle to win against power conference teams that get to the Sweet 16.  Utah St. actually has the best Bracketnomic resume today, and they may not even get an invitation.

Northeast Conference

Dates: March 6 & 9

Sites: Higher seed

Teams participating: just the top 4 this year.  The NEC greatly truncated their conference tournament, limiting it to the top four seeds.  Bryant had clinched a top 2 seed and home game in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs’ season is now in jeopardy after positive Covid tests.  Wagner, Mount St. Mary’s, and Sacred Heart have clinched spots in the tournament, so the league must now make a determination on whether its best team can participate.

Favorable Bracketnomics: While no team comes close to having the right stuff to advance in the Dance, Bryant’s fast pace could have made an opening round game interesting and given the Bulldogs the favorite status if forced to play in the 16-seed play-in game.  Without Bryant, the automatic qualified can almost be guaranteed a spot in that play-in game as the underdog.

Ohio Valley Conference

Dates: March 3-6

Site: Evansville, IN

Teams participating: The top 8 only in a standard format with 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, and 2-7 in the quarterfinals.

Belmont looked like the sure winner and possible #12 seed in the Field of 68 until closing with a lost weekend in the Kentucky mountains, as top contenders Eastern Kentucky and Morehead St. trounced the Bruins.

For years, this tournament was held in Nashville, where the hometown Bruins had the edge.  Now, that it has moved to Evansville, the Kentucky teams have had the edge, but obviously this year it will be purely neutral.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  Belmont does not have the criteria to pull off an upset in the NCAA Tournament.  Morehead St. has slightly better criteria at the moment, while Eastern Kentucky is the potentially most dangerous team in a round of 64 game thanks to their unorthodox style of play.  However, Jacksonville St. and Murray St. cannot be counted out to pull off an upset or two and make it to the finals of the OVC Tournament.  This tournament should be one of the most exciting to watch, but it doesn’t look like the year that an OVC team advances to the Round of 32.

Pacific 12 Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 11 (Arizona ineligible) in a regular format with the top five teams receiving first round byes, while the 6-11 seeds play an opening round game (6-11. 7-10, 8-9)

The Pac-12 has been down for a generation, mostly because UCLA is no longer the UCLA of the 20th Century.  Oregon is the only league team to advance to the Final four in a dozen years.

UCLA, Oregon, and USC are still contending for the regular season title, while Colorado is mathematically alive.  Stanford has lost three games in a row to fall off the Bubble and will now have to earn the automatic bid to make the Field.

Favorable Bracketnomics: UCLA, USC, Oregon, and Colorado all have criteria favorable of making the Sweet 16, but none of the quartet looks like a Final 4 team.  UCLA, Colorado, and Oregon are too generous in the paint, while USC has begun to swoon at the wrong time.

Patriot League

Dates: March 3-6-10-14

Sites: Higher Seed Home Floors

Teams participating: 10 teams in a regular format where the top 6 receive byes to the quarterfinals while 7 plays 10 and 8 plays 9 in the first round.

What are we to make of Colgate?  The Raiders, winners of 10 consecutive games and mostly by lopsided scores, are in the top 10 of the very important Net Ratings, made more important this year with the limited interconference play.  On Net Ratings alone, Colgate would be deserving of the highest seed ever given to a Patriot League team, maybe a 6 or 7 seed!  There is no way the Committee can do this, considering that the Raiders have played no non-conference games, and the Patriot isn’t the Big Ten.  Navy has a win over Georgetown, but beating GU doesn’t move the needle much these days.  Army pinned the only league losses on the Raiders and Midshipmen, and the Black Knights would be the serious spoiler in the conference tournament.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  Not a chance to make the Sweet 16.  If Colgate wins the bid, the Raiders might have a good showing and keep an opening round game close enough to pull out an upset, but they won’t be in the Sweet 16.  Nobody else in this league can win anything more than a possible play-in game, but the Patriot League should avoid the 16-seed line, unless a bottom-seed like Lehigh or Holy Cross pulls off a huge upset.

Southeastern Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Nashville

Teams participating: 13 (Auburn ineligible) in a regular format where #12 & 13 play on opening night, with the winner facing #5 the next day, while 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9.  The top 4 seeds receive double byes.

Alabama clinched the top seed, but the Crimson Tide are starting to look like a somewhat fatigued team.  Arkansas and Florida are close to securing double byes, while the last double bye is still up for grabs between LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Missouri.

You haven’t seen Kentucky in this group, and the Wildcats will have to win four games in four days to earn an automatic bid.  This team lacks the consistency to do this, and the Blue Mist will have to wait a year to make its next appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee and Missouri, two teams that looked like locks in early February, now find themselves needing to do a little work to guarantee dance tickets.  Ole Miss took a crucial bad loss over the weekend and will have to win their final two regular season games and then make it to the SEC Tournament finals to have a chance at an at-large bid.

Favorable Bracketnomics: When Alabama’s three-point shots are falling, they can play Michigan and Gonzaga to a close and competitive game.  When their shots aren’t falling, they can lose at home to Vanderbilt.  Don’t expect the Tide’s shots to fall for four games in a row against NCAA-level defenses.  Additionally, Alabama gives up too much inside defensively, and they cannot rebound well enough to make up for poor shooting games.  Count the Tide out at the Sweet 16.

Arkansas has what Alabama lacks, but Arkansas lacks what Alabama has.  The Razorbacks could also make it to the Sweet 16 this year, but that’s as far as we can see them progressing.

Florida is on the periphery in a lot of criteria, but the Gators come up short in most of them.  A big stretch finish with a conference tournament win could move the Gators’ data into the Elite 8 status, but as of now, we don’t even show them as a strong Sweet 16 candidate.

LSU and Tennessee have been much too inconsistent, and both teams are below .500 in recent weeks.  This looks like a wait-until-next-year scenario for this league.

Southern Conference

Dates: March 5-8

Site: Asheville, NC

Teams participating: 10 in a regular format with teams 1-6 receiving byes to the quarterfinals and teams 7-10 playing a first round.

This race was nip and tuck for weeks with multiple teams holding the top spot at times. UNCG finally won the regular conference championship in the final weekend, while Wofford came on strong to sneak into the number two slot.  UNCG definitely has the easier pass to the title game than Furman and Wofford.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Not this year.  None of the teams in the SoCon have favorable resumes at this time.  It’s not likely the league will produce a tournament win.

Southland Conference

Dates: March 10-14

Site: Katy, TX  (greater Houston)

Teams participating: The top 8 (Stephen F. Austin ineligible) in a ladder system, where the #5 & 8 and the #6 & 7 play in the opening round; the #5/8 winner faces #4 and the #6/7 winner plays #3 in the next round, and the #1 and 2 teams receive byes to the semifinals.

With Stephen F. Austin becoming ineligible 10 days ago, it threw a giant wrench into the workings of the potentially best conference tournament.  Four teams clearly separated from the pack, and a final four of SFA, Abilene Christian, Sam Houston, and Nicholls would have been the best this tournament has ever seen.  

Favorable Bracketnomics: Abilene Christian’s defense is no piece of cake to attack, but the Wildcats lack the offensive firepower to be anything more than a game first round loser.  Sam Houston and Nicholls most likely would go down much easier in a Round of 64 game.

Southwestern Athletic Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Birmingham

Teams participating: The top 8 seeds in a standard 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7 format

Covid may turn out to help the SWAC, because there is a chance that two league teams will finish conference play undefeated.  If Prairie View and Jackson St. keep winning, and the two teams meet for the automatic bid, there’s even a chance that the winner could become the first SWAC team in years to avoid that play-in game.

Favorable Bracketnomics: The bad news is that not playing in a play-in game would eliminate this league’s chances to at least see their representative win a tournament game.  The two top contenders are fairly adequate defensively, but neither has the offensive efficiency to score 65 points against a 1-seed much less compete.

Summit League

Dates: March 6-9

Site: Sioux Falls, SD

Teams participating: 8 in a regular 1-8, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7 format

South Dakota St. won its final two regular season games to sneak past #2 South Dakota and #3 North Dakota St.  Oral Roberts had a strong final close to earn the #4 seed.  One of these four teams should cut the nets at the Falls.

Favorable Bracketnomics: South Dakota St. and Oral Roberts have just enough offensive efficiency to make an opening round game as a #14 seed interesting versus a #3 seed.  Neither look strong enough to pull off the upset, but a respectable 10-15 point loss wouldn’t be out of the question.

Sun Belt Conference

Dates: March 5-8

Site: Pensacola, FL

Teams participating: 12 in a divisional setting.  Games will be played in two arenas.  The top two teams in both divisions receive first round byes.  In the opening round, 4W Arkansas St. plays 5E Georgia Southern, with the winner playing 1E Georgia St.  4E Appalachian St. plays 5W Little Rock with the winner playing 1W Texas St.  3E South Alabama plays 6W UL-Monroe, with the winner playing 2W Louisiana, and 3W UT-Arlington plays 6E Troy with the winner playing 2E Coastal Carolina.

Favorable Bracketnomics: The only favorable possibility here is avoiding a 16-seed, especially a play-in game.  Texas St. and Coastal Carolina have the most favorable data, but neither can challenge a Michigan, Gonzaga, Baylor, Ohio St., Illinois, or Iowa.

West Coast Conference

Dates: March 4-9

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 10 but seeded totally different from any other conference tournament ever.  The league is going to seed its teams in the order that basketball analytics’ Einstein Ken Pomeroy rates them by adjusted win percentage.  It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that Gonzaga and BYU will be the top two seeds.

Favorable Bracketnomics:  It is no surprise that Gonzaga has one of the three best overall bracketnomics criteria today.  They have the look of an all-time great team not much different than the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table to the Final 4 before losing to eventual champion Duke in a major upset.

BYU also has a favorable criteria.  The Cougars are not Final 4 worthy, but they have a Sweet 16 criteria and even a potential Elite 8 set of data.

Western Athletic Conference

Dates: March 10-13

Site: Las Vegas

Teams participating: 6 (all that are eligible)  The number 3 team will play the number 6 team, with the winner advancing to play the number 2 team.  The number 4 team will play the number 5 team, with the winner facing the number 1 team.

This league has been hit hard by Covid cancellations, and multiple teams are not yet eligible to go to the NCAA Tournament, so this once proud league that had the likes of Arizona, Arizona St, Utah, and BYU has been reduced to Grand Canyon, Utah Valley, California Baptist, and UT Rio Grande Valley.  Still, there are two schools with Final Four banners in their gyms in Seattle and New Mexico St.

Favorable Bracketnomics: Nobody this year has a resume anything close to what New Mexico St. had last year when the tournament was cancelled.  The Aggies had a Sweet 16 resume in 2020, but they will have to come up with a monumental performance from one of the bottom four seeds to win the WAC Tournament.  If anybody other than GCU wins the tournament, they are looking at a 16-seed play-in game.

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