The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/bracketnomics-505-2011-edition/

 

12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

The Wildcats seek revenge today for their regional final exit of last year.  This Kentucky team has what last year’s team lacked—consistent outside shooting to complement their more than decent dribble-drive.  While not as talented, Coach John Calipari’s squad is more complete this year.  The Blue Misters are jelling at the right time, and we believe they will advance to the Sweet 16.

 

West Virginia is not as dominating inside as they were last year, and they might be a little to slow and methodical to compete against the quicker Wildcats.  Coach Bob Huggins will have a great gameplan ready, and we believe the Mountaineers will keep it close.

 

We see this as a game of spurts.  Kentucky will enjoy one spurt in both halves, and WVU will attempt to creep back in the game both times.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67

 

2:40 PM on CBS

Florida (15) vs. U C L A (-3)

The PiRate Criteria rates this game a giant mismatch, and we see no reason why not to agree. This would be a great game if all the former Bruins now playing in the NBA would have used their four years of eligibility.  However, this is more like the old Brubabes when schools fielded Freshmen and later Junior Varsity teams.  This UCLA team is better than Florida’s second team.  The Gators’ best players are still around, while UCLA’s best senior is the star of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Florida has a large quickness advantage, and they will win the hustle points.  This one should be out of hand by halftime or five minutes into the second half.

 

Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

This game will be one of the more interesting contests in the Round of 32.  Morehead State is an aggressive take-it-to-the-hoop and score or pass back for a three team.  The Racers have the closest thing to Elvin Hayes on their roster.  Kenneth Faried is much better than Dennis Rodman, but he is much thinner than Wes Unseld, and he has a better offensive game than both of those historically fantastic rebounders.  Faried can take it to the hoop, and he can pull up and fire from the foul line area, much like the great Hayes used to do with Houston and in the NBA.

 

Richmond will try to make this a game of the smart beating the strong, because the Spiders do not have much of an answer for Faried inside.  However, they enjoy a huge advantage on the perimeter.

 

This game will come down to this easy pointer: whichever team performs better at their strength and defends the other’s strength will win.  We think this one could end on a buzzer beater or go to overtime, but we will go with the chalk and take the higher PiRate score.

 

By the way, the last time an Ohio Valley Conference team advanced to the Sweet 16, it was Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers left the OVC more than two decades ago.

 

Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62

 

6:10 PM on TNT

San Diego State (19) vs. Temple (5)

If our criteria rating is going to be accurate this season, then we need to see the Aztecs play much better today than they did in a lackluster opening round win over Northern Colorado.  If San Diego State is firing on all cylinders, Temple has little or no chance in this game.

 

This Owl team is not quick enough or strong enough to battle this Aztec team if SDSU is playing just an average game.  If the Aztecs come out flat, Coach Fran Dunphy’s Owls could keep it close for 40 minutes and even be in striking distance.

 

Steve Fisher has been to the Final Four three times, and he knows how to prepare a team in tournament play.  He has enough talent to get there again, and we believe SDSU will play much better today against a much better opponent than Northern Colorado.  Remember this: Temple ran Duke of the Palestra floor less a month ago.  They have enough talent to win this game, but we do not see it happening.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

We know better than to count out a team coached by Brad Stevens.  However, Butler’s bubble is going to burst today.

 

Pittsburgh is just too talented to lose this game, even if Coach Jamie Dixon sometimes loses control of that talent.  The Panthers know what Butler can do, and they will be fired up for this game just as much as if they were playing Ohio State, Duke, or Kansas.

 

Butler is playing its best ball at the right time, but they are plainly outmanned against a superior team.  We expect the Bulldogs to keep it close and still have a chance with 10 minutes to go, but the Panthers will wear them down and pull away to what looks like an easier win than it was.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59

 

7:45 PM on CBS

B Y U (18) vs. Gonzaga (13)

When you penalize BYU for the loss of Brandon Davies, their criteria score drops by about five points.  This ironically makes this game a complete tossup.

 

Jimmer Fredette may be able to score 40-50 points in this game, but Gonzaga could place five players in double figures.  We tend to like the odds of five scorers outscoring one.

 

Coach Mark Few deserves high accolades for turning this Bulldog team around in midseason.  The Zags appeared to be NIT-bound, before they turned it up a notch and began playing the best basketball seen in Spokane since the days of Adam Morrison.

 

We believe Gonzaga is Sweet 16-bound, and we would not be surprised if they give Florida a great game in a potential matchup.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

This one is the other great game of the day.  How about Jacob Pullen versus Jordan Taylor, and Jon Leuer versus Curtis Kelly?  If you like great player matchups, then this is the game of the day for you.

 

Kansas State is a tad stronger on the perimeter and a tad quicker, while Wisconsin is a tad stronger inside.  We expect the tempo to be controlled by the Badgers, so the score will be one of the lowest of the day, if not the lowest.

 

We have no real favorite in this game, so we will stick with the PiRate Criteria scores.  Two points is not much; it equates to about a 55% chance of the favorite winning.

 

Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55

 

9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

Here we have our first game between teams from the same conference and teams that have already played against each other.  In their lone regular season contest in Cincinnati, the Huskies won on the road by eight points. 

 

Both teams play tenacious defense and rely on just a couple of players to lead on offense.  They know each other well, so it should be a high-spirited, tightly-fought game with a lot of excellent defensive possessions sprinkled with the occasional great offensive play.

 

Cincinnati will concentrate their efforts on stopping Kemba Walker, while the Huskies will try to keep the ball away from Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon.

 

This is the other game that could come down to a buzzer-beater, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Connecticut is about to explode and play like Husky teams of the past.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

Advertisements

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:01 pm

1. Which teams meet the upper range criteria in every category?  That means they outscored their opponents by eight or more per game; their field goal percentage was greater than 7.5% better than their opponents; they outrebounded their opponents by five or more per game; they forced at least three more turnovers per game than they committed; and they stole the ball 7.5 or more times per game.

 

ANSWER—No teams this year meet all the perfect criteria described above.  Six teams come close to meeting the perfect criteria, but all fall short in at least one statistic.  This means there is no clear-cut favorite—only six teams that most closely resemble the great champions of the past.  Of the six, three come from power conferences.  These three are Kansas, Ohio State, and Syracuse.

 

Kansas fails to meet the turnover margin requirement, but the Jayhawks surpass all the other qualifications.  Ohio State comes up a tad bit short in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and steals per game, but just misses in all three.  Syracuse misses in rebounding and turnover margin, but they Orangemen do not miss by much. 

 

2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?  Which teams have an incredibly low R+T Rating (<2.0)?

 

ANSWER—Three teams can immediately be eliminated due to negative R+T Ratings.  It comes as no surprise that Alabama State and Texas-San Antonio, two teams facing off in the First Round in Dayton, have negative R+T ratings.  The third team is Michigan.  The Wolverines were outrebounded by 1.9 boards per game, and they only had a +1.4 turnover margin with just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Five other teams finished with R+T ratings less than 2.0.  This usually means one and done for these teams, unless they have outstanding FG% margins or cupcake opponents with worse criteria numbers.  Those five teams are: Penn State, Richmond, St. Peter’s, UCLA, and UCSB.

 

3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?

 

ANSWER—We separate the contenders from the pretenders by looking at the total PiRate Criteria score and then looking to see if the high criteria scoring teams receive merit on every individual statistic.

 

Last year, Duke was head and heels better than the other 64 teams.  The Blue Devils had the highest score overall, and they satisfactorily rated in every PiRate category.

 

No teams appear to be as strong this year as the Blue Devils were last year, but nine teams meet most of the minimum requirements to be considered Final Four contenders this year.

 

It should come as no surprise that the top two teams, Ohio State and Kansas, rank at the top in the Criteria.  Kansas actually has the highest score of the 68 teams, a score of 23.  The Jayhawks outscored their opposition by 17.2 points, shot 11.7% better from the field than their opponents, and outrebounded their opponents by 7.8 boards per game.  These stats are worthy of a powerhouse.  However, KU enjoyed just a 0.9 turnover margin and stole the ball 7.9 times per game, giving the Jayhawks an R+T Rating of 9.5.  We tend to look for teams with an R+T Rating in excess of 10, so KU is not a great favorite to go all the way. 

 

Ohio State’s total Criteria score is 21, good for second best.  However, the Buckeyes enjoy an R+T Rating of 13.2, which is a number we really like in a Final Four contender.  This number correlates to 13 extra scoring opportunities that their opposition does not receive.  OSU outscores their opponents by 17.3 points per game, shot 6.9% better from the field than they allows, outrebounded their opponents by 4.9 per game, had a turnover margin of +4.8, and stole the ball 7.2 times per game. 

 

San Diego State comes in third with 19 total criteria points.  BYU, Pittsburgh, and Texas come in next with 18 points; the Panthers have an R+T rating above 10.  The other three teams with PiRate Criteria scores showing themselves to be strong contenders for a Final Four berth are Syracuse, Purdue, and Duke

 

Florida, North Carolina, and UNLV are actually almost in a statistical tie with Duke, meaning those three are dark horse candidates for the Final Four.

 

Overall, this is the weakest field by far in the six tournaments where we have ranked the teams according to our criteria.  Looking back, this could be the weakest field since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. 

 

North Carolina State, Kansas, and Villanova won national titles in the past with less than stellar numbers.  We do not have all the statistics from those years, so we cannot really calculate criteria numbers for those three champions.  Could this be a season in which one team gets hot for six games and comes from out of the pack to win it all?  It could happen, but we are sticking with this mechanical system and going with its results.  Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Texas appear to be the best PiRate Criteria matches to past Final Four teams, and they are the quartet we officially pick to make it to Houston.  Syracuse becomes the wildcard team that could sneak into the mix.

 

Here is a look at the First Four Round One games and the 32 second round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.

 

First Four Round

 

#16 Texas-San Antonio 19-13 (Elim) vs. #16 Alabama State 17-17 (Elim)

At first, we thought this was highly ironic, but upon further review, we consider it sort of a compliment.  These two teams both must be eliminated based on negative R+T ratings.  Of course, one of them must win this game so that they can advance to a 25-point or more loss in the next round.

 

Most of you filling out your brackets do not have to worry about these games in Dayton.  You get to turn in your choices after these games have been played.

 

UTSA has better criteria numbers after you factor out both teams’ R+T numbers. 

 

Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55

 

 

#12 U A B 22-8 (2) vs. #12 Clemson 21-11 (1)

If you have been following the “experts” since the pairings were announced Sunday evening, then you know that these two teams do not belong in the tournament in their opinion.  It is not our mission statement to declare which teams should and should not have been included in the Big Dance, but we will tell you that Harvard and Saint Mary’s enjoyed Criteria scores several points better than these two teams, while Colorado and Virginia Tech had equal numbers to these two.

 

This game should be as close as the criteria scores show.  UAB has a one-point advantage in the criteria, but the Blazers just do not excel in any stage of the game.  Clemson’s strong point is forcing turnovers by way of steals, and that leads to a lot of cheap baskets.  Cheap baskets pay off big time in the NCAA Tournament, so we will take the Tigers in this one.

 

Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67

 

#11 Southern Cal 19-14 (-1) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 23-11 (-1)

The winner of this game is going home two days later.  Neither team merits inclusion in the Big Dance this year. 

 

Southern Cal has no apparent weakness according to the PiRate Criteria.  In fact, they have a great resume—for an NIT team.

 

The Trojans outscore their opponents by four points per game, and they outshoot them by 3.3%.  They have a small rebounding margin of 1.2, and they have an even smaller turnover margin of 0.6.  They average six steals per game and have a R+T rating of 2.1.  On top of these modest numbers, their schedule was average.

 

VCU is much in the same boat as USC with two exceptions.  They have a negative turnover margin, but they also average 8.5 steals per game.

 

The only other difference in these teams is their records away from home.  USC won only 41% of their games, while VCU won 60%.

 

This one is quite tough to pick, but we will go with the Trojans due to their superior inside talent.  We expect USC to win the rebounding edge by at least five.

 

Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60

 

#16 UNC-Asheville 19-13 (-5) vs. #16 Arkansas-Little Rock 19-16 (-13)

Obviously, we have two teams that would not even merit NIT bids had they lost in the championship games of their conference tournaments.  UALR has one of the lowest Criteria Scores in the seven years we have been calculating this data.

 

UNC-Asheville actually has a couple of positive Criteria stats.  Their R+T is 5.5, which had it come against a more difficult schedule, would have made them worthy of becoming a possible team to watch in the Round of 64.

 

We will go with UNCA here, as schedule strength is about the same for both teams.

 

Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59

 

 

Second-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

#1 Ohio State 32-2 (21) vs. #16 UTSA (Elim)/Alabama State (Elim)

This game will be over quickly.  There will be no scare, not even for two TV timeouts.  The second highest Criteria score versus one of the teams with an R+T Rating of “Eliminate.”

 

The Buckeyes outscored their opponents by more than 17 points per game.  Their strength of schedule was 13 points better than UTSA and 16 points better than Alabama State. 

 

We will go under the theory that UTSA will be the opponent in this game.  Using our Criteria Rating, Ohio State figures to be 30-40 points better than UTSA.  Coach Thad Matta will definitely empty his bench early in this game, so the Buckeyes may “only win” by 25-30. 

 

Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50

 

#8 George Mason 26-6 (8) vs. #9 Villanova 21-11 (5)

George Mason is the higher seed in this game, so if they win, it cannot really be considered an upset.

 

Villanova was on course to be a four-seed when the Wildcats were 16-5 and contending for the Big East Conference regular season title.  The Wildcats could not compete down low against the more physical teams in their league.

 

George Mason has a higher PiRate Criteria Score, but it is not an insurmountable advantage.  The key stat for this game is the R+T Rating.  For GMU, it is 6.8.  For VU, it is 4.9.  Considering that Villanova played a harder schedule, these numbers basically cancel each other out, thus making this a tossup game.

 

There are two variables to consider here.  George Mason performed much better on the road, and Villanova is banged up a bit.

 

Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62

 

#5 West Virginia 20-11 (6) vs. #12 UAB (2)/Clemson (1)

We believe the Mountaineers will be facing Clemson in this game, but the prediction will hold up if they play UAB. 

 

West Virginia is not as good this season as last season, and the Mountaineers will not advance to the Final Four, or even the Elite Eight.  They are liable to be out by the end of the weekend.  However, they are strong enough to get into the Round of 32. 

 

The Mountaineers best attribute is that they put up decent numbers against one of the toughest schedules in the country.  Of the NCAA Tournament teams, only Georgetown played a tougher schedule.  They will have to limit turnovers, or else this game will be close and go down to the wire.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins will be able to keep the pace at a level he likes and not allow Clemson (or UAB) to force the Mountaineers into enough mistakes to turn the tide.

 

Prediction: West Virginia 69  Clemson 62 (Or UAB 58)

 

#4 Kentucky 25-8 (14) vs. #13 Princeton 25-6 (-2)

Princeton has pulled off the big upset in the past, and they came within a missed jumper at the buzzer of becoming the only #16 seed to beat a #1 seed.  However, that was two decades ago.  The Tigers have not been to the NCAA Tournament in seven years, and that big win over UCLA was 15 years ago. 

 

Kentucky is not the type of team that will allow Princeton’s style of play to affect their style of play.  The Wildcats should actually play better than their norm with fewer mistakes. 

 

We believe that Princeton will actually crumble under relentless man-to-man pressure and turn the ball over enough times in the opening minutes of the game to allow the Wildcats to open a quick double-digit lead.  This group of Cats tends to fiddle around a little once they get a quick double-digit lead and then play uninspired ball until the opponent makes a run.  Then, they go on the attack at the right time and put the game away.

 

Adolph Rupp had a team just like this in 1958.  They were called “The Fiddlin’ Five.”  They were also called National Champions.  We won’t go so far as to put UK into this category, but we will advance the Wildcats into the next round and then into the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59

 

#6 Xavier 24-7 (8) vs. #11 Marquette 20-14 (3)

If you are looking for a tough, hard-fought game with two Midwestern teams, then tune into this game Friday evening.

 

If the Musketeers were a little more competent at forcing turnovers, they could be a dark horse candidate to advance to the Elite Eight.  XU shoots the ball well and plays well on defense when it comes to preventing a lot of easy shots.  They do well on the boards, and against a team that cannot exploit their ball-handling and ball-hawking deficiencies, they will hold their own inside.  The only other possible problem for the Musketeers is a lack of depth, but in the NCAA Tournaments, TV timeouts are longer.  It is hard to wear a team down with such long breaks every four or so minutes.

 

Marquette does not have enough depth to take advantage of Xavier’s lack of depth, so this factor will become a non-factor.  The Golden Eagles got to this tournament due to their ability to put the ball into the basket.  Marquette needs to shoot better than 46% to win, while Xavier is adept at holding teams under 45% as a rule.

 

Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65

 

#3 Syracuse 26-7 (17) vs. #14 Indiana State 20-13 (-4)

Syracuse has been getting very little national exposure since their 18-0 start ended with an 8-7 finish.  The Orangemen are a team to watch in this tournament.  If not for a pedestrian 71% winning percentage away from the Carrier Dome, we would have them as one of the top four teams in this tournament.

 

Coach Jim Boeheim’s team outscores their opposition by 10.3 points per game; they outshoot them by 7.6%, and they outrebound them by 3.6 boards per game.  Their turnover margin is +1.9, and they averaged almost nine steals per game.  Their R+T Rating is 7.6, and their Strength of Schedule is somewhere between above-average and very good.  This is the Criteria Score of a team that will advance to the Sweet 16 and compete for an Elite Eight and Final Four berth.

 

Indiana State needs the return of Larry Bird to win this game.  They are too perimeter-oriented.  The Sycamores do not have the beef down low to contend in the paint, and even though Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, teams rarely beat the Orangemen by firing up 25 long-range bombs.

 

This one smells like a blowout.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62

 

#7 Washington 23-10 (13) vs. #10 Georgia 21-11 (2)

Washington is one of those teams that can play with anybody in this tournament—when they are playing up to their potential.  The Huskies could also exit in the first round if they play like they did the weekend they went to Oregon and Oregon State.

 

Georgia is much more consistent, but their best effort will not defeat the Huskies’ best effort.

 

Washington lacked the seasoned experience this season, and it showed when they ventured away from Seattle.  The Huskies lost to weaker opponents because they lacked the composure to win on foreign courts.  That changed when they arrived in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament.  Isaiah Thomas took over command of the team and led them to the tournament title.  This makes UW a scary and dangerous team capable of returning to the Sweet 16.

 

Georgia must really dominate the glass in this game, because we believe they will turn the ball over too many times against UW’s pressure man-to-man defense.  It is our opinion that the Bulldogs will play a little timidly at the start of this game and find themselves in a hole.

 

The Bulldogs had trouble against Alabama’s defense, and Washington is similar but with a much better offense.

 

Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70

 

#2 North Carolina 26-7 (15) vs. #15 Long Island 27-5 (-1)

 

Long Island is just the type of team that can forget that their opponent is a dynasty program that chews up and spits out little programs like this.

 

Teams from Brooklyn don’t intimidate easily, especially when they are led by a trio of Texans.  So, LIU will not be intimidated, but will they be talented enough to make a game of this contest?

 

That’s the rub.  They lack the defensive ability to slow down the Tar Heels, while Coach Roy Williams’ team will be able to hold the Blackbirds under their scoring average.  The big problem for LIU will be holding onto the ball, and we could see North Carolina forcing 20 turnovers in this game.  When the Tar Heels force more turnovers than they commit, they are almost unbeatable.  This game could be interesting for a short time, but it will eventually get out of hand.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70

 

West Regional

 

#1 Duke 30-4 (15) vs. #16 Hampton 24-8 (-8)

Duke has nothing to worry about here.  This will be like one of their November/December home games where they quickly put the cupcake away with a barrage of power and speed.  You know the type: a 37-point win over Princeton; a 34-point win over Miami of Ohio; a 52-point win over Colgate.

 

Hampton got to the Dance using an aggressive defense and three-point shooting barrage on offense.  Duke will not be affected by the defensive pressure, and they will cut off the open shots from the outside.  It will be a mercy killing, and it will be quick.  Look for the Blue Devils to be up by more than 15 points before the halfway point of the first half.  By the time Coach K empties the bench, the Blue Devils should be up by 25-30 points.

 

Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61

 

#8 Michigan 20-13 (Elim) vs. #9 Tennessee 19-14 (10)

Michigan is the highest-rated team that fails to meet our R+T Rating requirement, so the Wolverines are automatically tabbed as a first-round loser.

 

Coach Jim Beilein has been in a similar position before.  He guided a West Virginia team with not-so-flashy Criteria numbers to the Elite Eight, where they forced Louisville to come from 20 points down to rally for the victory.  That WVU team had one of the worst negative rebounding numbers of any team in Elite Eight history, but that team made few mistakes and had a nice turnover margin.

 

This Michigan team was only outrebounded by two a game, but they do not create enough extra possessions with their miniscule turnover margin of 1.4 and their average of just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Tennessee has been up and down, and the Volunteers are not going to make a repeat run to the Elite Eight this year.  However, Coach Bruce Pearl’s troops will control the boards in this game and maybe force more turnovers than they commit.  We figure that Tennessee will have 10 more opportunities to score in this game, and that is too many for the Wolverines to make up with their three-point shooting.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69

 

#5 Arizona 27-7 (3) vs. #12 Memphis 25-9 (-1)

Memphis was not going to earn an at-large bid this season had they failed to win the Conference USA Tournament.  They received an ideal first round opponent, and the Tigers actually have a fighting chance to pull off yet another classic #12-seed over #5-seed upset.

 

Arizona needs to pound the ball inside and rely on numerous offensive rebounds to win this game.  Other teams might be able to exploit Memphis’s poor ball-handling skills, but the Wildcats do not have the defensive acumen to take advantage here.

 

Memphis will try to make this an up-tempo game where they can neutralize Arizona’s height advantage inside.  It has a chance of working, but Arizona probably has too much power inside and just enough quickness to stop the Tigers’ transition game.

 

Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69

 

#4 Texas 27-7 (18) vs. #13 Oakland 25-9 (3)

This has become a popular upset pick in the media.  Oakland has generated a lot of positive press, and many “experts” are calling for the upset in this game.  We are not one of them.  Not only do we believe the Longhorns will take care of Oakland with relative ease in this game, we believe Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the next two or three rounds. 

 

Let’s look at Texas’ Criteria Rating.  At 18, the ‘Horns rate as our sixth best team in the tournament.  They have a 13.5 point scoring margin, a 7.1% field goal margin, a 6.6 rebounding margin, and a 1.2 turnover margin.  Their only Achilles Heel is a low amount of steals resulting in a R+T Rating of 8.3.  Had that number been above 10, we would be selecting Coach Rick Barnes’ team for the Final Four.

 

Oakland won this year with strong rebounding and an excellent ability to force their opponents into bad shots.  Center Keith Benson is a future NBA player, but he is not enough to propel the Golden Grizzlies into the next round.

 

Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65

 

#6 Cincinnati 25-8 (9) vs. #11 Missouri 23-9 (10)

On paper, this looks like the best game of this round between a team with contrasting styles.

 

Cincinnati is one of the top defensive teams in the tournament.  The Bearcats are tough inside, and they have quality depth to continue playing hard in the paint. 

 

Missouri uses the “40 minutes of Hell” approach that Coach Mike Anderson learned under his mentor Nolan Richardson.  The Tigers press full court and run the fast break as often as they get the chance.  They are perimeter-oriented and can score a lot of points in a hurry.

 

When we try to decide tossup games, we look to the all-important defense and rebounding stats, since that is what wins close games in the Big Dance. 

 

Missouri is vulnerable in both of these crucial areas.  They have given up a lot of cheap baskets this year when teams solved their press.  The Tigers were outrebounded by 1.7 boards per game.

 

Cincinnati owns a +2.7 rebounding margin, and the Bearcats held onto the ball quite competently.  We believe Coach Mick Cronin’s crew will advance.

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65

 

#3 Connecticut 26-9 (9) vs. #14 Bucknell 25-8 (-4)

Ask Kansas Coach Bill Self if it is wise to underestimate Bucknell.  The Bison know how to hold onto the ball and work for intelligent shots.  Give them an opening, and they can bury you with a high field goal percentage.

 

Connecticut did the unthinkable by winning five games in five days.  Their defense does not get the merit it deserves, because Kemba Walker gets more attention for his offensive antics.  The Huskies actually held teams under 40% from the field.

 

Coach Jim Calhoun knows how to prepare a team for tournament action.  He will have UConn ready for this game, and the Huskies will not overlook the Bison.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58

 

#7 Temple 25-7 (5) vs. #10 Penn State 19-14 (-1)

Temple’s score must be tempered by the fact that they are a wounded team coming into this tournament.  Two starters suffered injuries late in the season, and one is out for the remainder of the year, while the other may or may not be ready to play.  We must throw out Temple’s score of “5” in the PiRate Criteria, because 40% of the key players that produced that number will either not play or be greatly less effective.

 

Penn State is a lot like Southern Cal in this tournament.  The Nittany Lions have the look of a strong NIT team.  Aside from a so-so record against a strong schedule, they really have little to offer outside of one star player. 

 

We believe this Keystone State rivalry game will be close, and it could come down to the last shot.  Because the Owls are limping, we will go with the Big Ten representative.

 

Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56

 

#2 San Diego State 32-2 (19) vs. #15 Northern Colorado 21-10 (-6)

Most of you reading this probably cannot remember Texas Western University, but you may have scene the movie where the Miners were too quick for Kentucky and pulled off the big upset to win the 1966 National Championship.  Maybe some of you remember the Long Beach State 49ers ascension into the top 10 under Jerry Tarkanian and then Lute Olson.  Still more can remember when Tark the Shark moved to UNLV and turned the Runnin’ Rebels into a national power.

 

San Diego State is the next Western team to fit this bill.  The Aztecs are legitimate contenders to advance deep into this tournament.  They have few exploitable weaknesses, and they are the best team West of the Rockies.  Coach Steve Fisher knows how to get teams ready for tournament play, as he has three Final Fours on his resume and one National Championship.

 

SDSU’s PiRate Criteria numbers are flashy.  Their scoring margin is 13.3 points per game.  Their FG% margin is 7.1%.  They outrebound their opposition by almost seven per game, and they force 1.6 more turnovers than they commit.  Their one weak spot is a pedestrian 6.2 steals average.  If they run up against a more powerful team inside, they could have trouble getting enough extra scoring opportunities.

 

Northern Colorado will not be one of those teams that can cause trouble for the Aztecs.  The Bears are a good rebounding team, but their rebounding prowess came against a schedule that rates 10 points weaker than San Diego State’s schedule.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51

 

Southwest Regional

#1 Kansas 32-2 (23) vs. #16 Boston U 21-13 (-11)

Kansas is a team on a mission.  The Jayhawks will not allow a repeat of what happened last year, and that extra incentive should be enough to send KU to Houston.

 

Kansas has the top PiRate Criteria Score this year.  They meet the basic requirements that most prior National Champions have met—scoring margin: 17.2; FG% margin: 11.7; Rebounding margin: 7.8; Turnover Margin: 0.9; Steals per game: 7.9; R+T Ratings: 9.5.

 

How do you beat this year’s KU team?  Kansas State and Texas pulled it off by matching up well inside and going head-to-head with them in the paint.

 

Boston U has the second lowest PiRate Criteria score of the 65 teams that have positive R+T Ratings.  The Terriers are way overmatched in this game, and they will have to be glad they just made it here.

 

Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62

 

#8 U N L V 24-8 (15) vs. #9 Illinois 19-13 (1)

If our ratings are worth their salt, then this game should not be all that close.  UNLV may be just the third best team in the Mountain West, but the MWC was better overall this year than the Pac-10.  Third best in the MWC makes the Runnin’ Rebels one of the dozen or so teams capable of making a two weekend run.

 

Coach Lon Kruger has taken two different teams to the Elite Eight (Kansas State and Florida).  His teams play intelligently without being flashy.

 

UNLV went 24-3 against teams not named Brigham Young or San Diego State.  They are not particularly strong on the boards, and this will eventually be their downfall.  The Rebels shoot the ball brilliantly, and they alter enough opponent shots to force a lower field goal percentage.  They also take care of the ball and do not make a lot of floor mistakes.

 

Illinois is an inconsistent, underachieving team.  This can be dangerous for the prognosticator, because it is difficult if not impossible to predict which schizophrenic state will appear for each game.

 

The Illini are not particularly strong on the glass or at taking care of the ball, and that is a recipe for disaster when the opponent is as good as UNLV.  Even if Illinois comes out playing their best basketball, it may not be enough to beat UNLV playing their typical game.

 

Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64

 

#5 Vanderbilt 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Richmond 26-7 (2)

Here is another game getting a lot of attention due to its upset potential.  Historically, the #12 seed produces the a lot of great upsets.

 

This game could go either way.  Both teams have exploitable weaknesses, and it just so happens that both teams’ have the assets capable of exploiting the other’s weaknesses.

 

Let’s start with Vanderbilt.  The Commodores are not particularly strong on the defensive perimeter.  Worthy opponents have been able to beat them off the drive and get a lot of open inside shots.  This weak perimeter defense has also led to frontcourt players having to help, thus leaving open holes near the basket.

 

Richmond’s offense is a modified version of the Princeton Offense.  The Spiders have the talent to get open shots inside and in the five to ten-foot range.

 

Richmond cannot rebound against more physical teams.  The Spiders make up for their rebounding liabilities by seldom throwing the ball away.

 

Vanderbilt has an excellent physical presence inside with three beefy players that can rebound the ball on offense and defense.

 

So, which team gets the edge in our PiRate Ratings?  We always look to defense in rebounding in tossup games.  Vanderbilt holds the rebounding edge, while Richmond holds the defensive edge.  It is basically a wash, so we have to look elsewhere.  While Richmond has been much better away from home, Vanderbilt’s schedule is seven points more difficult.  We’ll go with the power conference team, but not by much

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67

 

#4 Louisville 25-9 (12) vs. #13 Morehead State 24-9 (3)

This should be an interesting game, but in the end the big brothers are going to defeat their little brothers in this battle of two Bluegrass State teams.

 

40 years ago this week, another little brother upset a big brother on their way to a surprise appearance in the Final Four (later vacated).  In 1971, Western Kentucky did not just upset Kentucky, the Hilltoppers ran the Wildcats off the floor.  Can there be a repeat two score later?  No!

 

Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are vulnerable on the boards, and Morehead State has the nation’s best rebounder in the nation in Kenneth Faried.  However, the Eagles do not have enough talent or depth to keep up with Louisville.  They may emerge with a slight rebounding edge in this game, but it will not be enough to make up for all the open shots the Cardinals will get.

 

Louisville is going to run into trouble when they meet up with a team that can rebound and play credible defense.  That would be Kansas in the Sweet 16.  Until then, they have a relatively easy route to the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62

 

#6 Georgetown 21-10 (8) vs. #11 Southern Cal (-1)/Va. Commonwealth (-1)

Last year, we discussed Georgetown’s vulnerabilities and the probability that they would fail to make it past the first weekend.  We expected the Hoyas to fall as a favorite in their second game, but they were a one and done team.

 

This year’s team is not much better than last year’s Hoya team, but they received a much more favorable draw.

 

Coach John Thompson III’s Hoyas once again have a rather low R+T Rating thanks to a turnover margin of -1.9 and a low amount of steals per game.  They will exit from the tournament in the next round unless there is a monumental upset in their pairing.

 

Neither USC nor VCU has the talent to take advantage of Georgetown’s deficiencies.  The three teams combined have a R+T rating below Purdue’s.

 

One additional note: The Hoyas will be a tad bit better than their Criteria Score in the tournament.  Chris Wright suffered a hand fracture in the middle of the schedule, and he is expected to be near 100% for the tournament.  You have to add maybe one point to their Criteria Score, but that is not enough to put them over the top in their second game.

 

Prediction: Georgetown 69  Southern Cal 61 (or VCU 60)

 

#3 Purdue 25-7 (16) vs. #14 St. Peter’s 20-13 (-7)

If only… Purdue fans will never know just how good their team might have been with Robbie Hummel joining JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore playing together.  This would have been the best Boilermaker team since Rick Mount led Purdue to the Championship Game against UCLA in 1969.

 

The Boilermakers no longer have that one glaring weakness that Gene Keady’s teams had and thus prevented Purdue from getting past the second round.  This team does well on the boards like most of those past Purdue teams, but they are particularly strong when it comes to forcing turnovers and taking advantage by converting steals into points.  It is the way many teams go on runs that put opponents out of commission.

 

St. Peter’s just barely avoided being immediately eliminated with a negative R+T Rating.  They squeaked by at 0.1.  It might as well be a negative number, as the Peacocks were outrebounded by 0.4 per game and had a turnover margin of -0.9 against a schedule that was four points below average and seven points weaker than the schedule Purdue faced.

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56

 

#7 Texas A&M 24-8 (8) vs. #10 Florida State 21-10 (2)

The Big 12’s third best team has enough talent to challenge for a Sweet 16 berth.  We’ll leave the next round for another time and talk about this game.

 

The Aggies have no glaring weakness, and they have a few strengths, namely rebounding and defense (which wins games in the NCAA Tournament).  They are much like Kansas Lite.  A&M was not a team of surprises during the regular season.  They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and failed to upset the teams better than they were.  We expect the trend to continue.  They are better than the Seminoles.

 

Florida State does not take good care of the ball, and that costs them in confrontations against good opponents.  The Seminoles do not play particularly well away from Tallahassee, and they should be making a quick exit from the Dance.

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65

 

#2 Notre Dame 26-6 (11) vs. #15 Akron 23-12 (-9)

This is the best Irish team since Digger Phelps led Notre Dame in the late 1980’s.  Throw in the fact that this team has a chip on its shoulders following a first round exit last year, and the Irish have to be considered the Sweet 16 favorite in their four-team pairing this weekend.

 

The Irish finished the regular season with a scoring margin of 10.4 points per game.  Down the stretch, they went 7-2 against teams in this tournament.  The Selection Committee placed Notre Dame in a bracket that should provide a very memorable Sweet 16 contest against one of their most bitter arch-rivals.

 

Akron has a big seven-foot center, but the Zips do not rebound the ball all that well.  Zeke Marshall, the aforementioned big man, concentrates his efforts on blocking shots, and he frequently is not in position to rebound the ball.  So, the blocked shot frequently turns into a made basket off an offensive rebound.  The Zips did not fare well on the road this year, and with a considerably weaker schedule than average, this does not bode well.

 

Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57

 

Southeast Regional

#1 Pittsburgh 27-5 (18) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (-5)/U A L R (-13)

One of us here at the PiRate Ratings might be dating himself, but he sees a lot of the 1962 Cincinnati Bearcats in this year’s Pitt team.  The Panthers have a dominating inside power game that will pulverize any finesse team that cannot hit 10 three-pointers.  Neither UNCA nor UALR has a remote chance to make this game a close contest.

 

Pitt outscored their opposition by 13.1 points per game.  This stat looks even better when you factor in that they compiled this gaudy stat playing in a league that produced 11 NCAA Tournament teams.  The Panthers outshot their opponents by 7.6%, and they totally dominated the glass with a 10.4 rebounding advantage.  If you are thinking the way to beat them is to play a packed in zone, think again.  Ashton Gibbs can bury you from outside with his near 50% three-point accuracy, and Brad Wannamaker can still get the ball inside to one of the bruisers waiting to punish you with a thunder dunk.

 

Only a negative turnover margin prevents the Panthers from being there with Kansas as a co-favorite for winning all the marbles.

 

Pitt’s cupcake opponent will have to be happy with winning their First Four game, because they will be humiliated in this game.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 78  UNC-Asheville 54 (or UALR 48)

 

#8 Butler 23-9 (7) vs. #9 Old Dominion 27-6 (10)

This is the second best matchup in this round, and the winner will put a scare into Pittsburgh in the next round and even have a decent shot at the upset.

 

Butler is now the hunted rather than the hunter.  The Bulldogs will not sneak up on anybody this year.  More importantly, they are not as talented as they were last year.  The Bulldogs fared much better on the road last year than this season.  However, down the stretch, Butler started to look like a team proficient enough to get past the first weekend once again.

 

Old Dominion has the talent to advance past the first weekend as well.  The Monarchs are a miniature version of Pittsburgh, the team they would face in the next round should they win this game.

 

ODU is the nation’s number one rebounding team with a +12.2 margin.  The Monarchs’ schedule was not outstanding, but it was on par with several teams from the so-called power conferences, and they finished 6-4 against teams in this tournament.  This is a better ODU team than the one that upset Notre Dame in the first round last year, and this game should be one you do not want to miss.

 

 

Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime

 

#5 Kansas State 22-10 (9) vs. #12 Utah State 30-3 (14)

This is the one game where a number 12 seed winning would not really be all that much of an upset.  Utah State should have been a top eight seed in this tournament.  If we were conspiracy buffs, we would say that the Selection Committee searched for a team that the Aggies do not match up with all that well and placed them in this spot to verify their actions.

 

Kansas State does not take care of the ball well enough to advance very deep into this tournament, but their first game opponent cannot take advantage of that weakness.

 

Utah State has dominated their opponents by forcing them to play a patient half-court game with very little scoring in transition.  They prefer to work the ball patiently for a good shot and then force opponents to take a low-percentage shot.  Thus, the Aggies outrebound their opponents, but they do so by forcing more bad shots than by out-leaping their opponents.

 

Kansas State has the talent to force Utah State to play at a quicker tempo and force them to defend one-on-one.  Jacob Pullen is a poor man’s (and smaller) Derrick Rose.  He can break down most opponents off the dribble, and he should be able to force USU to resort to some type of combination defense to keep him from going wild.

 

What scares us most about Utah State is that they had two opportunities to show they are deserving of their lofty ranking.  They lost to BYU and to Georgetown, and they never really threatened to pull of the upset in either game.

 

This is one game where we are going to go against our own chalk.  Kansas State’s schedule was seven points tougher, and the Wildcats can exploit the Aggies’ weaknesses.

 

Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63

 

#4 Wisconsin 23-8 (7) vs. #13 Belmont 30-4 (9)

This game has become the most-picked upset special around the nation.  Belmont is being compared with Butler of last year.  The Bruins are lofty of all this attention-gathering admiration, but Wisconsin is not the Washington Generals.

 

Belmont has the highest scoring margin in the nation at 18.4 points per game.  The Bruins outshot their opposition by 5.7% per game, and they took a lot of three-point attempts.  They outrebounded their opponents by 3.9, and they had an eye-popping 5.3 turnover margin.  They share the top steals per game average in this tournament with Missouri at 9.7, and their R+T Rating is the best in the tournament at 16.2 (three better than number two Ohio State).

 

Of course, these statistics were compiled against inferior competition.  Belmont’s schedule strength is nine points below the national average and a dozen below their first round opponent.  Against the opponents that made it to this tournament, they were 1-3.  They beat Alabama State by 13.  The three losses were on the road to in-state rivals Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt, but they led in the second half of those games.

 

The last time Belmont was in the Big Dance, the Bruins came within a missed last shot of sending Duke home.   

 

Wisconsin was not expected to be this good in 2011.  This was supposed to be a minor rebuilding season for the Badgers.  The Badgers usually run Coach Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense with great efficiency, rarely turning the ball over.  They outscored their opponents by 9.9 points per game, and they outshot they outrebounded them by 3.8 boards per game. 

 

The Badgers have been a hot and cold team this year.  When they have been hot, they have been nearly unbeatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  When they have been cold, they have been easily beatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  They finished the season as cold as ice, so the Badgers must be considered a slight underdog in this game.

 

Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70

 

#6 St. John’s 21-11 (9) vs. #11 Gonzaga 24-9 (13)

Here is a game where we believe the seedings should be switched.  Gonzaga has been here enough times to be considered a regular in the NCAA Tournament, like Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, and Connecticut.  This makes a baker’s dozen consecutive appearances in the Big Dance for the Bulldogs. 

 

In past years, Gonzaga had a big scorer that could take over games.  Adam Morrison comes to mind.  This year, the Zags are more difficult to prepare for, because they are more team-oriented.  There is not a big star on the roster, but all five starters are capable of taking the team on his shoulders with a hot night.

 

In their nine-game winning streak to close the season, Gonzaga eliminated Saint Mary’s from the Dance party with two victories.  The Bulldogs scoring margin in those nine games was 76-58.  This is a good team playing its best ball of the year, and we expect Coach Mark Few to win yet another NCAA Tournament game.

 

St. John’s comes into the tournament minus one of its stars.  Starting forward D. J. Kennedy went down for the season with a knee injury in the Big East Tournament, and the Red Storm is now suspect in the paint.  Their Criteria Score of nine should be discounted by two to three points.  It is enough to take this contest from tossup status to near-comfortable status for Gonzaga.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66

 

#3 Brigham Young 30-4 (18) vs. #14 Wofford 21-12 (-1)

So, you didn’t get a chance to see Pete Maravich play at LSU in 1968, 1969, or 1970, eh?  We must admit that nobody will ever be the collegiate equal for Maravich, but Jimmer Fredette may be the closest thing to him.

 

Throw out the floppy socks and floppy Beatles haircut and throw out some of the most unbelievable passes in the history of the game (so unbelievable that Maravich’s teammates frequently could not see them coming), and Fredette is not that far behind Maravich.

 

The sports nation will be turning its eyes to this game just to see if Fredette can make a run at a single game scoring mark.  If we remember correctly, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr set the mark back in 1970 with 61 points against Ohio U in a regional qualifier game.

 

BYU may have been a strong Final Four contender had Brandon Davies not loved his girlfriend so much.  The Cougars averaged 8.7 fewer points per game once Davies was suspended. 

 

Wofford will not be able to take much advantage of Davies’ absence.  The Terriers fared well in all PiRate Criteria categories, but they did not meet even the minimum “numbers to look for” in any category, and their schedule strength was five points below the norm. 

 

Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63

 

#7 U C L A 22-10 (-3) vs. #10 Michigan State 19-14 (1)

If only this were a few years ago.  Neither of these historically dominating teams is going to make waves in this year’s tournament, and the winner will be around for just one more game.

 

UCLA would be a national title contender if Kevin Love had stuck around for four years.  Imagine Love as a senior on this team.  Can you say Bill Walton-like numbers?  Alas, the Bruins must get by with a couple of well above-average forwards instead of the best three-man tandem in the nation.

 

The Bruins have the worst turnover margin of any team in this tournament.  At -3.4, UCLA would need to dominate on the boards, and while they usually win that battle, it is anything but dominating.

 

Michigan State’s one asset year in and year out under Coach Tom Izzo has been their rebounding acumen.  For most teams, a +4.3 edge on the boards would be considered outstanding, but in East Lansing, this is considered a down year. 

 

Neither team has done all that well away from their home court this season, and there really is only one stat where one team stands out ahead of the other.  MSU’s schedule was four points tougher than UCLA’s schedule.  That’s our spread for this game.  

 

Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60

 

#2 Florida 26-7 (15) vs. #15 UC-Santa Barbara 18-13 (-10)

The Gators looked like a potential Final Four team in the last month, at least when they were not playing Kentucky.  UCSB is not Kentucky. 

 

Florida tends to commit too many floor mistakes to win four games in this year’s tournament.  They have enough talent to get through the first weekend, but we do not see the Gators extending their stay after that.

 

UCSB upset Long Beach State to get here, and the Gauchos are one of the weakest teams in the tournament according to our Criteria Score.  With negative rebounding and turnover margins, they just barely escape automatic elimination with a R+T rating of 0.3. 

 

Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54

 

 

 

Our Bracket

 

You have seen the 32 teams that we believe will win the second round games.  Here is how we fill out the rest of our bracket.

 

Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State

 

Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga

 

Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida

 

Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh

 

National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

April 1, 2010

A PiRate Look At The Final Four

The PiRate All-Inclusive Look At The Final Four

Rosters, Stats, Results, PiRate Criteria Scores, and Analysis

National Semifinals

Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010

Place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Our PiRate NCAA Tournament Criteria correctly picked half the field this year, getting it right with Duke and West Virginia.  We just missed getting three as Butler edged our pick from the West Regional, Kansas State, in the Elite 8.

Our overall number one pick and selection to win the Big Dance back when the field was announced is still going strong, and if the Blue Devils win it all Monday night, the PiRate picking formula will have succeeded in picking the National Champion for the fourth time in five years.

If the NCAA Tournament expands to 96 teams as it looks like might happen, we aren’t sure we will be able to handle the extra work to get this published.  33 extra teams might just be too much to get ready in a couple days.  To tell you the truth, 96 teams would be too much to keep our attention.  We would forget the first three rounds and do something else.  Heck, we might forget the tournament altogether.

Okay, let’s get down to the meat of this edition—The National Semifinal Round.

Game One: 6:07 PM EDT

 

Butler Bulldogs (32-4) vs. Michigan State Spartans (28-8)

 

Butler

 

Roster

No. Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
1 Shelvin Mack G 6-3 215 So Starter
2 Shawn Vanzant G 6-0 172 Jr Key Reserve
3 Zach Hahn G 6-1 176 Jr Plays In Every Game
5 Ronald Nored G 6-0 174 So Starter
11 Alex Anglin G/F 6-5 177 Jr Seldom Plays
14 Nick Rodgers G 6-2 168 Sr Seldom Plays
20 Gordon Hayward G/F 6-9 207 So Starter
21 Willie Veasley G/F 6-3 206 Sr Starter
22 Grant Leiendecker G 6-5 182 Jr Seldom Plays
24 Avery Jukes F 6-8 215 Sr Plays In Every Game
30 Emerson Kampen C 6-9 189 Fr Seldom Plays
32 Garrett Butcher F 6-7 209 So Seldom Plays
33 Chase Stigall G 6-4 195 Fr Seldom Plays
44 Andrew Smith C 6-11 239 Fr Plays Considerable Time
54 Matt Howard F 6-8 230 Jr Starter
HC Brad Stevens          
Ast Matthew Graves          
Ast Terry Johnson          
Ast Micah Shrewsbury          

 

Record:32-4, 18-0 Horizon      
Colors: Blue & White      
       
Opponent But Opp  
Davidson 73 62  
at Northwestern 67 54  
at Evansville 64 60  
Minnesota (Anaheim) 73 82  
UCLA (Anaheim) 69 67  
Clemson (Anaheim) 69 70  
at Ball State 59 38  
Valparaiso  84 67  
Georgetown (at NYC) 65 72  
Ohio State 74 66  
Xavier 69 68  
at Alabama-Birmingham 57 67  
UW-Green Bay 72 49  
UW-Milwaukee 80 67  
at Wright State 77 65  
at Detroit 64 62 ot
Cleveland State 64 55  
Youngstown State 91 61  
at Loyola of Chicago 48 47  
at Illinois-Chicago 84 55  
at UW-Green Bay 75 57  
at UW-Milwaukee 73 66  
Detroit 63 58  
Wright State 74 62  
Loyola of Chicago 62 47  
at Youngstown State 68 57  
at Cleveland State 70 59  
Illinois-Chicago 73 55  
Siena (Bracketbuster) 70 53  
at Valparaiso 74 69  
UW-Milwaukee (Horizon Trn) 68 59  
Wright State (Horizon Trn) 70 45  
UTEP (NCAA) 77 59  
Murray State (NCAA) 54 52  
Syracuse (NCAA) 63 59  
Kansas State (NCAA) 63 56  

 

Stats

 

Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Gordon Hayward 33.1 15.5 8.2 47.4 29.5 82.7 61 28 37
Shelvin Mack 31.0 14.2 3.8 45.5 38.6 73.6 112 5 49
Matt Howard 25.7 11.8 5.3 49.4 27.3 79.2 30 23 21
Willie Veasley 31.1 10.1 4.3 49.8 36.9 64.7 33 9 39
Ronald Nored 29.9 6.0 2.9 41.8 18.2 61.2 133 4 63
Zach Hahn 15.8 5.1 0.9 43.9 42.0 92.9 24 0 13
Shawn Vanzant 14.5 2.8 1.7 32.1 30.4 73.5 43 6 15
Avery Jukes 10.1 2.7 1.2 39.2 37.9 69.4 5 5 5
Garrett Butcher 5.6 0.5 1.0 19.4 11.1 33.3 1 1 2
                   
                   
Team Stats But Opp              
Points 69.4 59.6              
FG% 44.9 41.5              
3PT % 34.5 31.7              
FT% 73.9 68.3              
Rebounds 32.6 29.7              
Turnovers 12.2 13.9              
Steals 7.0 5.3              
Blocks 2.3 3.0              
Off. Rebound % 27.5                
Possessions/G * 65.1                
                   
* Possessions/G estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds      

 

PiRate Criteria Score

 

Stat Butler
Scoring Margin 9.8
Points 3
FG% Margin 3.40%
Points 0
Rebound Margin 3.2
Points 1
Turnover Margin 1.7
Points 1
R+T * 6.06
Road W-L 15-4
Points 3
Schedule Strength 6.65
   
Sub-total 20.71
   
Butler Gets an extra 2 points for quasi-home court advantage
Total 22.71

 

* R+T is a formula that combines rebounding margin and turnover margin.  It is weighted
to give turnover margin a little more clout and steals even more clout based on the fact that
turnovers, especially steals, produce a higher percentage of easy fast break points than do most rebounds.
         
R+T Formula: R+T= (.2S * 1.2T)+ R
R = Rebounding Margin, T = Turnover Margin, S = Avg. Steals per Game
If Turnover Margin is a negative number, then Steals are dropped from the formula

 

 

 

 

Michigan State

 

Roster

No. Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
1 Kalin Lucas G 6-0 190 Jr Injured–Out For Season
2 Raymar Morgan F 6-8 230 Sr Starter
3 Chris Allen G 6-3 205 Jr Key Reserve
10 Delvon Roe F 6-8 230 So Starter
13 Austin Thornton G 6-5 220 So Plays Some in Every Game
15 Durrell Summers G 6-4 205 Jr Starter
20 Mike Kebler G 6-4 205 Jr Plays Infrequently
22 Isaiah Dahlman G 6-6 195 Sr Plays Infrequently
23 Draymond Green F 6-6 235 So Plays as Much as a Starter
25 Jon Crandell F 6-8 230 Sr Seldom Plays
34 Korie Lucious G 5-11 170 So Starter–replaced Lucas
40 Tom Herzog C 7-0 250 Jr Seldom Plays
41 Garrick Sherman C 6-10 235 Fr Plays Some in Every Game
44 Anthony Ianni C 6-9 260 Jr Does Not Play
50 Derrick Nix C 6-8 280 Fr Starter
HC Tom Izzo          
Ast Mark Montgomery          
Ast Dwayne Stephens          
Ast Mike Garland          

 

Record:28-8, 14-4 Big Ten      
Colors: Green & White      
       
Opponent MSU Opp  
Florida Gulf Coast 97 58  
Gonzaga 75 71  
Toledo (Legends Classic) 75 62  
Valparaiso (Legends Classic) 90 60  
Florida (Legends Classic) 74 77  
U Mass (Legends Classic) 106 68  
at North Carolina (ACC/Big Ten) 82 89  
Wofford 72 60  
at Citadel 69 56  
Oakland 88 57  
I P F W 80 58  
at Texas 68 79  
Texas-Arlington 87 68  
at Northwestern 91 70  
Wisconsin 54 47  
at Iowa 71 53  
Minnesota 60 53  
Illinois 73 63  
Iowa 70 63  
at Minnesota 65 64  
at Michigan 57 56  
Northwestern 79 70  
at Wisconsin 49 67  
at Illinois 73 78  
Purdue 64 76  
at Penn State 65 54  
at Indiana 72 58  
Ohio State 67 74  
Penn State 67 65  
Michigan 64 48  
Minnesota (Big Ten Trn) 67 72  
New Mexico State (NCAA) 70 67  
Maryland (NCAA) 85 83  
Northern Iowa (NCAA) 59 52  
Tennessee (NCAA) 70 69  

 

Stats

Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Kalin Lucas-Inj. 31.1 14.8 1.9 45.3 35.4 77.2 131 2 40
Morgan Raymar 27.3 11.5 6.2 53.5 31.3 68.1 62 24 37
Durrell Summers 25.9 11.2 4.6 45.3 35.9 80.3 31 3 25
Draymond Green 25.4 9.8 7.8 52.7 13.3 68.3 111 32 44
Chris Allen 25.7 8.5 2.9 43.0 39.8 73.3 73 3 16
Delvon Roe 20.6 6.5 5.0 55.9 0.0 66.1 41 34 31
Korie Lucious 22.5 5.4 1.7 33.7 30.8 73.7 114 5 26
Derrick Nix 7.8 2.4 2.1 50.7 0.0 27.1 8 6 7
Garrick Sherman 7.2 1.9 1.6 58.8 0.0 55.6 3 5 4
Austin Thornton 5.7 1.1 1.1 35.0 20.0 100.0 9 0 3
                   
                   
Team Stats MSU Opp              
Points 72.4 64.1              
FG% 47.2 40.8              
3PT % 34.3 33.1              
FT% 68.8 70.9              
Rebounds 38.6 29.9              
Turnovers 13.8 12.5              
Steals 6.6 6.4              
Blocks 3.3 2.6              
Off. Rebound % 39.9                
Possessions/G * 67.2                
                   
* Avg Possessions estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds      

 

PiRate Criteria Score

 

Stat Michigan St.
Scoring Margin 8.3
Points 3
FG% Margin 6.40%
Points 1
Rebound Margin 8.1
Points 3
Turnover Margin -1.3
Points -2
R+T * 6.54
Road W-L 13-6
Points 2
Schedule Strength 8.74
   
Total 22.28

 

 

Analysis: First things first.  Butler is not a surprise team in the Final Four, or at least not a surprise in that they come from a smaller conference.  UNLV was once a small team from a small conference that made four trips to the Final Four and won the most lopsided Championship Game ever.  Marquette was a small Midwestern school that became a national power in the late 1950’s through the late 1970’s.

Butler is no different than UNLV or Marquette.  The Bulldogs have been as powerful as a Villanova, Ohio State, or Tennessee in recent years.  They have been a regular fixture, like Gonzaga.

Throw in some home-town advantage, and it’s easy to see why the Bulldogs are actually favored in this game.  There is one problem.  They have very little inside depth to match up with the Spartans’ inside game.

Michigan State won’t have their all-star playmaker Kalin Lucas on hand, but the Spartans will be able to cover that weakness up against Butlers’ gamble-free defense.  Lucious has been more than adequate as a play-maker in Lucas’s place, and Green, Allen, and Morgan have become competent runners of the offense as point forwards.

Most Final Four games are decided by guard play, but we see this game being the exception.  We believe the outcome hinges on the performances of the teams’ frontcourts.  Butler has Howard and Hayward and little else, so neither player can afford to get into foul trouble. 

The Spartans, as usual, dominate on the glass in most games.  In addition to Morgan, Green, and Roe, guards Summers and Allen can rebound like forwards.  Izzo has more options in reserve inside. 

The Criteria show this game to be a tossup, and thus a clear-cut favorite cannot be established.  However, all five of us lean toward the Spartans to win based on their superiority inside.

Prediction: Michigan State 63  Butler 56

 

Game Two: 8:47 PM EDT

 

Duke Blue Devils (33-5) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (31-6)

 

Duke

 

Roster

No. Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
2 Nolan Smith G 6-2 185 Jr Starter
3 Seth Curry G 6-1 175 So Does Not Play
5 Mason Plumlee F 6-10 230 Fr Key Reserve
12 Kyle Singler F 6-8 230 Jr Starter
13 Olek Czyz F       Seldom Plays
20 Andre Dawkins G 6-4 190 Fr Key Reserve
21 Miles Plumlee F 6-10 240 So Key Reserve
30 Jon Scheyer G 6-5 190 Sr Starter
34 Ryan Kelly F 6-10 220 Fr Key Reserve
41 Jordan Davidson G 6-1 180 Sr Seldom Plays
42 Lance Thomas F 6-8 225 Sr Starter
51 Steve Johnson F 6-5 210 Jr Seldom Plays
52 Todd Zafirovski F 6-8 240 Fr Does Not Play
53 Casey Peters G 6-4 185 Jr Seldom Plays
55 Brian Zoubek C 7-1 260 Sr Starter
HC Mike Krzyzewski          
Ast Steve Wojciechowski          
Ast Chris Collins          
Ast Nate James          
 Record: 33-5, 13-3 ACC      
Colors: Royal Blue & White      
       
Opponent Duke Opp  
UNC Greensboro 96 62  
Coastal Carolina (Pre NIT) 74 49  
Charlotte (Pre NIT) 101 59  
Radford 104 67  
Arizona State (Pre NIT @NYC) 64 53  
Connecticut (Pre NIT @ NYC) 68 59  
at Wisconsin (ACC/B10) 69 73  
St. John’s 80 71  
Gardner-Webb 113 68  
Gonzaga (at NYC) 76 41  
Long Beach State 84 63  
Penn 114 55  
Clemson 74 53  
Iowa State (at Chicago) 86 65  
at Georgia Tech 67 71  
Boston College 79 59  
Wake Forest 90 70  
at N. C. State 74 88  
at Clemson 60 47  
Florida State 70 56  
at Georgetown 77 89  
Georgia Tech 86 67  
at Boston College 66 63  
at North Carolina 64 54  
Maryland 77 56  
at Miami (FL) 81 74  
Virginia Tech 67 55  
Tulsa 70 52  
At Virginia 67 49  
at Maryland 72 79  
North Carolina 82 50  
Virginia (ACC Tournament) 57 46  
Miami (FL) (ACC Tournament) 77 74  
Georgia Tech (ACC Tournament) 65 61  
Ark. Pine Bluff (NCAA) 73 44  
California (NCAA) 68 53  
Purdue (NCAA) 70 57  
Baylor (NCAA) 78 71  
                   

 

 

Stats

Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Jon Scheyer 36.7 18.2 3.6 39.5 38.1 88.2 183 8 62
Kyle Singler 35.7 17.6 6.9 40.9 39.1 79.4 89 30 40
Nolan Smith 35.4 17.4 2.8 44.4 39.6 78.3 104 9 45
Brian Zoubek 18.1 5.5 7.6 63.2 0.0 55.4 35 29 27
Miles Plumlee 16.6 5.4 5.1 56.6 100.0 66.1 12 25 18
Lance Thomas 24.9 4.8 4.9 43.2 0.0 74.3 36 8 21
Andre Dawkins 12.9 4.7 1.2 40.0 38.3 73.5 13 2 11
Mason Plumlee 14.7 3.8 3.3 46.2 28.6 54.3 30 29 17
Ryan Kelly 6.6 1.2 1.1 35.6 26.3 66.7 13 14 8
                   
                   
Team Stats Duke Opp              
Points 77.4 61.1              
FG% 43.9 40.2              
3PT % 38.2 27.8              
FT% 76.1 68.5              
Rebounds 39.3 32.8              
Turnovers 11.1 14.4              
Steals 6.7 5.4              
Blocks 4.1 4.0              
Off. Rebound % ^ 40.3                
Possessions/G * 67.5                
                   
^ Offensive Rebound % is based on this formula          
Offensive Rebounds/(Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds + Defensive Dead Ball Rebounds)  
                   
* Avg Possessions estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds 

 

     

PiRate Criteria Score

Stat Duke
Scoring Margin 16.3
Points 5
FG% Margin 3.70%
Points 0
Rebound Margin 5.9
Points 3
Turnover Margin 3.3
Points 3
R+T * 11.21
Road W-L 16-5
Points 3
Schedule Strength 10.39
   
Total 35.6

 

 
   

West Virginia

 

Roster

No. Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
1 Da’Sean Butler F 6-7 230 Sr Starter
2 Cam Thoroughman F 6-7 240 Jr Plays Some in Every Game
3 Devin Ebanks F 6-9 215 So Starter
4 Jonnie West G 6-3 195 Jr Seldom Plays–Son of Jerry West
5 Kevin Jones F 6-8 250 So Starter
12 Kenny Ross G 6-0 175 Fr Does Not Play
15 Bryan Lowther G 6-6 215 Fr Does Not Play
20 Cam Payne G 6-4 225 So Seldom Plays
21 Joe Mazzulla G 6-2 200 Jr Starter in Replace of Bryant
25 Darryl Bryant G 6-2 200 So Broken Bone in Foot Will Try To Play
30 Danny Jennings F 6-8 260 Fr Plays Infrequently
32 Dalton Pepper G 6-5 215 Fr Plays Infrequently
33 Casey Mitchell G 6-4 225 Jr Key Reserve
35 Wellington Smith F 6-7 245 Sr Starter
41 John Flowers F 6-7 215 Jr Key Reserve
42 Deniz Kilicli F 6-9 260 Fr Plays Infrequently

 

Record: 31-6, 13-5 Big East      
Colors: Old Gold & Blue      
       
Opponent WVU Opp  
Loyola of Md 83 60  
Citadel (at Charleston, WV) 69 50  
Long Beach State (Anaheim) 85 62  
Texas A&M (Anaheim) 73 66  
Portland (Anaheim) 84 66  
Duquesne 68 39  
Coppin State 69 43  
at Cleveland State 80 78  
Ole Miss 76 66  
at Seton Hall 90 84 ot
Marquette 63 62  
at Purdue 62 77  
Rutgers 86 52  
at Notre Dame 68 70  
at South Florida 69 50  
Syracuse 71 72  
Marshall (at Charleston, WV) 68 60  
Ohio State 71 65  
at Depaul 62 46  
Louisville 77 74  
Pittsburgh 70 51  
at St. John’s 79 60  
Villanova 75 82  
at Pittsburgh 95 98 3ot
at Providence 88 74  
Seton Hall 75 63  
at Connecticut 62 73  
Cincinnati 74 68  
Georgetown 81 68  
at Villanova 68 66 ot
Cincinnati (Big East Trn) 74 68  
Notre Dame (Big East Trn) 53 51  
Georgetown (Big East Trn) 60 58  
Morgan State (NCAA) 77 50  
Missouri (NCAA) 68 59  
Washington (NCAA) 69 56  
Kentucky (NCAA) 73 66  

 

Stats

Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Da’Sean Butler 36.0 17.4 6.3 41.6 35.7 78.3 117 15 36
Kevin Jones 32.9 13.7 7.2 52.4 40.6 67.6 40 33 22
Devin Ebanks 34.1 12.0 8.2 45.3 10.0 76.8 82 23 36
Darryl Bryant 24.3 9.3 2.2 34.6 31.5 75.7 108 1 25
Wellington Smith 23.0 6.5 4.1 46.0 35.3 59.5 46 36 27
Casey Mitchell 8.3 3.8 0.9 32.1 30.2 84.2 13 0 10
Deniz Kilicli 6.6 3.4 0.9 50.0 0.0 55.6 1 0 0
Dalton Pepper 7.8 3.2 0.6 37.1 33.3 72.7 16 1 4
John Flowers 14.4 3.0 2.4 43.6 31.8 46.8 45 28 21
Joe Mazzulla 15.6 2.6 1.8 36.7 12.5 57.1 85 1 24
                   
Team Stats WVU Opp              
Points 72.8 63.1              
FG% 43.1 41.3              
3PT % 33.6 31.6              
FT% 70.3 67.8              
Rebounds 38.9 32.3              
Turnovers 11.9 13.6              
Steals 5.7 6.2              
Blocks 4.1 3.0              
Off. Rebound % 38.8                
Possessions/G * 65.8                
                   
* Avg Possessions estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds      

 

PiRate Criteria Score

Stat WVU
Scoring Margin 9.7
Points 3
FG% Margin 0.18%
Points 0
Rebound Margin 6.9
Points 3
Turnover Margin 2.7
Points 1
R+T * 7.45
Road W-L 19-4
Points 3
Schedule Strength 10.96
   
Total 28.41

 

Analysis: Most fans, prognosticators, and pundits believe this is the real championship game between the two best teams left in the tournament.  We cannot disagree, as the criteria scores show both to be better than the other two teams.  What it should be is a more interesting game.  West Virginia’s 1-3-1 zone defense is a throwback to an earlier time when there was no three-point line.  Its natural weakness is on deep sides, where really good outside shooters can load up on three-point shots against it.  WVU rebounds exceptionally well out of this zone defense, thanks to the size and quickness of the three big men—Butler, Jones, and Ebanks.

Duke’s inside game isn’t as quick as the Mountaineers, but it could be even stronger.  Zoubek, Singler, and the Plumlee brothers know how to throw around their muscle.  This should make the inside game a wash.

We believe the Blue Devils will win this game because of their exceptional backcourt.  Scheyer and Smith will find the seams in the Mountaineer zone and hit crucial three-pointers throughout the game.  Singler will get into the act as well.

West Virginia’s only hope is that Butler (Da’Sean and not the school from Indianapolis) will have one of those terrific games.  He can keep WVU in it, but in the end we believe the Blue Devils will have just a little too many weapons.

Prediction: Duke 73  West Virginia 65

 

Coming Sunday—A look at the big game for all the marbles.

March 26, 2010

A PiRate Preview of Saturday’s Regional Final Games

 

Saturday’s Regional Finals

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Thursday night’s regional semifinal games proved that the PiRate NCAA Tournament formula is based on sound principles.  The teams that earned the most scoring opportunities won the games, even though they didn’t all shoot better from the field or at the charity stripe.

By more scoring opportunities, we refer to the team that fares better in controlling the boards and in turnovers.  As we have previously stated, a turnover created is worth a little more than a rebound, and a steal is worth more than any other turnover.

Butler stole the ball 13 times and ended with a +11 turnover margin against Syracuse.  The Orangemen won the battle of the boards by six, but that left the Bulldogs with a huge R+T advantage.

West Virginia dominated Washington on the glass, winning the rebounding margin by 16.  They won the turnover battle in almost a wash, and when a team has a +16 rebounding advantage with equalization in turnovers, they win about 98% of the time.

Kansas State and Xavier played possibly the best game in the entire tournament so far.  The Wildcats were outrebounded by two but had a +4 turnover margin.  They only picked up four steals, so they enjoyed only a marginal scoring opportunity advantage.  Thus, you had a terrific, nail-biter.

Kentucky dominated Cornell in the R+T rating, and the Wildcats proved that 3-point and free throw shooting isn’t as important as number of scoring opportunities when you make it this far.  UK made just 2 of 16 from behind the arc and hit just 16 of 26 from the foul line.

Here is the PiRate preview for Saturday’s two regional final games.  We will preview Sunday’s games tomorrow.

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #2 West Virginia (29.08)

Look at those criteria scores.  14/100’s of a point converts to less than a one-point edge for the Wildcats.

Yes friends, this is going to be a great game between teams that should be playing each other every year. 

We see three keys to this game.  First, will West Virginia be able to get the ball inside against Kentucky’s inside defenders and force fouls from DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton?  Second, will Kentucky’s perimeter shooters, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and even big man Patrick Patterson, be able to force WVU to play honest defense and lesson their ability to cheat inside?  Third, and maybe most importantly, will West Virginia’s forwards, Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Devin Ebanks be able to match Cousins, Orton, and Patterson on the glass?

Kentucky had been hitting well from outside prior to the Cornell game.  They got the open shots and couldn’t sink them.  If they repeat that performance, Wall, Cousins, Patterson, and Bledsoe may be multi-millionaires before they take another shot in an official game.

West Virginia is used to winning games where they shoot around 40%.  Kentucky has done it too.  This game is going to come down to the inside muscle game.  The team with the most offensive put backs is going to win.  If Cousins stays out of foul trouble, he will see to it that the blue and white win that battle.

We expect WVU to slow down the pace and attack inside-out.  60 points could be enough to win it; we believe the Blue Mist will have one second-half spurt to sew this game up.

Prediction: Kentucky 62  West Virginia 55

 

 

West Regional

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Kansas State just barely survived and advanced Thursday night, and they could be in line to bounce somewhat.  Butler is in the same situation; they had a draining game with Syracuse.  We look for this one to be sloppy and low-scoring with defense being at a premium.

It’s hard to pick against a team that last lost prior to Christmas and plays about as well as a team as the best Indiana teams under Bob Knight.

There are a couple of important keys in this game.  The only way Butler can win is to force more turnovers again like they did against Syracuse.  Kansas State will make their share of mistakes, but they make a lot of them in the commission of trying to run and get easy baskets.  We don’t think the Bulldogs will get to exploit this part of the game.

The other key is the Kansas State inside game.  KSU has too many horses inside for BU.  The Bulldogs will wear down inside against the Wildcats quartet of big men.  Jamar Samuels, Curtis Kelly, Dominique Sutton, and Luis Colon will combine for about 100 minutes of playing time in this game, and they will combine for 25 rebounds or more.  Butler just doesn’t have enough inside to match that.  Post man Matt Howard is foul prone, and he is likely to miss a good chunk of this game trying to prevent KSU’s big men from getting offensive rebounds and second chance points.

What’s tough here is that Kansas State’s top scorers are their two perimeter stars.  Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente usually combine for 35 points per game, and if they top 30 in this game, the Wildcats will be headed to the Final Four for the first time since Tex Winter and his triple post (since renamed triangle) offense knocked off defending national champion Texas Western and Wichita State to advance against undefeated UCLA in 1964.

Prediction: Kansas State 64  Butler 54

 

Check back with us Saturday afternoon for a preview of Sunday’s Elite 8 South and Midwest Regional Final games.

 

March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

 

From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by cbssports.com, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64

 

#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66

 

South Regional

 

#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71

 

#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67

 

Midwest Regional

 

#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63

 

#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51

 

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61

 

Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.