The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 15, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Analysis 2022

Analytics Based Bracket Picking Method–Updated for 2022

Welcome to the PiRate Ratings Bracket Picking Analysis for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. If you read yesterday’s tutorial post and earned your PhD in Bracketnomics, then you are ready to see all the numbers and pick the brackets in your own way. We will show you our picks as well, but you might do better using our data than we do.

Let’s get right to it with the table of all the numbers. We have divided the numbers into the most important, the moderately important, the the extras used to find the winner in very close matchups.

Team–Most ImportantO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37
Akron11316646.835.730.746.939.7
Alabama149461.930.835.649.233.6
Arizona52058.235.434.541.935.1
Arkansas401658.430.730.846.437.9
Auburn24859.232.033.142.631.6
Baylor91461.134.636.349.528.5
Boise St.761755.834.830.647.635.0
Bryant15421843.730.833.346.232.2
Cal St. Fullerton14416447.533.030.547.536.0
Chattanooga589550.534.632.750.726.7
Colgate7920345.140.326.447.526.6
Colorado St.208355.535.822.050.430.4
Connecticut213558.535.337.942.830.6
Creighton1241858.630.728.643.526.0
Davidson1115252.538.623.848.032.0
Delaware10021248.335.227.047.033.9
Duke74457.636.831.846.928.6
Georgia St.20111448.932.934.343.829.3
Gonzaga1756.937.929.041.629.8
Houston101156.034.137.843.528.7
Illinois233060.736.733.445.431.7
Indiana912159.033.926.943.433.5
Iowa27759.032.132.150.030.4
Iowa St1511059.736.828.250.728.1
Jacksonville St.13217846.338.830.047.130.9
Kansas62961.835.533.447.932.8
Kentucky42760.234.937.947.127.2
Longwood11519143.338.034.651.834.9
Loyola (Chi.)422254.238.325.146.931.7
LSU89559.531.933.847.733.0
Marquette624659.334.722.446.226.8
Memphis503157.335.937.545.338.4
Miami (Fla.)1715757.035.323.453.928.8
Michigan199161.634.031.250.828.9
Michigan St.385360.837.830.747.930.4
Montana St.14712945.636.927.347.638.7
Murray St.354048.435.336.048.331.3
New Mexico St.877350.732.633.745.634.8
Norfolk St.19016041.334.830.544.537.7
North Carolina276458.036.230.448.329.6
Notre Dame298456.838.022.549.327.0
Ohio St.1313160.037.328.846.233.5
Providence317957.534.330.546.638.5
Purdue310060.039.135.249.236.3
Richmond6810454.833.722.450.030.9
Rutgers1074358.533.629.346.526.9
Saint Mary’s63957.335.027.846.023.9
Saint Peter’s2593448.335.332.043.537.1
San Diego St.157256.535.829.643.131.3
San Francisco451956.235.430.448.128.9
Seton Hall752659.034.033.044.731.4
South Dakota St.1222048.144.924.449.833.8
TCU802460.330.437.847.931.2
Tennessee36361.835.932.845.829.6
Texas321360.232.331.846.132.3
Texas A&M-CC28718140.233.535.349.936.7
Texas Southern27010744.531.733.845.232.7
Texas Tech65160.831.433.344.336.1
UAB288950.637.933.946.828.5
UCLA151259.435.129.847.336.8
USC474956.335.433.841.730.9
Vermont447445.936.424.644.926.4
Villanova82861.035.930.948.230.5
Virginia Tech185557.539.328.149.423.7
Wisconsin493860.131.225.949.932.3
Wright St.10826244.832.931.251.331.3
Wyoming546654.534.325.548.335.8
Yale20310349.033.025.750.632.6

O-Eff = Offensive efficiency & D-Eff = Defensive efficiency

SOS= PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule

37+ 3pt = The 3-point shooting percentage where 37% or above is the key number

OReb% = Offensive rebounding rate where 37% or above it also the key number

-45% vs. 2pt = Defensive 2-point field goal percentage where less than 45% is the key number FT Rate = the percentage of free throw attempts per field goal attempts, where again, above 37% is the key number

Team Moderately ImportantR + T New RateOld R+TScore MargFG% DiffWin StrkPre25Champions
Akron6.412.18.43.88T
Alabama4.97.53.60.64Yesx
Arizona7.017.917.110.911 & 9R T
Arkansas7.112.88.42.99 & 9Yesx
Auburn5.912.511.75.519YesR
Baylor11.417.412.93.915YesR
Boise St.11.215.07.92.214R T
Bryant1.76.45.22.49 & 7T
Cal St. Fullerton4.38.54.10.98T
Chattanooga8.715.210.14.65 & 5R T
Colgate1.78.595.115R T
Colorado St.-2.16.185.811x
Connecticut12.119.6103.55 & 5Yesx
Creighton-1.84.03.15.56x
Davidson2.712.16.86.415R
Delaware-3.61.33.94.15T
Duke4.112.713.17.27 & 7YesR
Georgia St.7.811.95.8-110T
Gonzaga7.221.822.514.817 & 6YesR T
Houston14.322.216.99.612 & 6YesR T
Illinois7.712.88.23.76YesR
Indiana1.87.85.66.86x
Iowa4.811.712.52.67 & 5T
Iowa St1.23.83.51.112x
Jacksonville St.3.410.67.16.410R
Kansas5.212.110.56.38 & 5YesR T
Kentucky15.724.113.57.47 & 6Yesx
Longwood14.920.311.22.611 & 8T
Loyola (Chi.)3.111.212.17.410T
LSU5.912.29.65.312x
Marquette-9.8-4.53.54.37x
Memphis6.711.777.56 & 6Yesx
Miami (Fla.)-5.01.33.81.29x
Michigan7.812.54.92.13Yesx
Michigan St.3.08.53.74.19x
Montana St.4.911.48.55.411 & 6R T
Murray St.15.224.0176.920 & 7R T
New Mexico St.8.114.58.36.610 & 5R T
Norfolk St.4.914.211.49.26 & 6R T
North Carolina10.015.75.81.96 & 5Yesx
Notre Dame-2.53.85.73.16 & 5x
Ohio St.-1.06.08.35.55Yesx
Providence2.17.44.82.68 & 8R
Purdue12.119.2116.68 & 6Yesx
Richmond-3.41.53.406T
Rutgers3.47.62.12.94x
Saint Mary’s7.313.29.33.77 & 6x
Saint Peter’s5.09.05.14.87T
San Diego St.4.410.57.65.16 & 5x
San Francisco8.714.210.13.310x
Seton Hall5.210.16.62.46 & 6x
South Dakota St.2.313.213.38.721R T
TCU12.516.93.11.87x
Tennessee8.513.910.437 & 5YesT
Texas7.210.18.72.96 & 5Yesx
Texas A&M-CC10.215.872.88T
Texas Southern4.78.43.74.16T
Texas Tech9.617.511.49.46x
UAB10.719.214.45.57T
UCLA5.717.311.63.46 & 5Yesx
USC6.312.86.76.513 & 6x
Vermont7.817.914.68.314 & 8R T
Villanova4.811.59.52.96 & 5YesT
Virginia Tech2.47.48.44.26 & 5T
Wisconsin3.47.34.2-1.47 & 6R
Wright St.1.85.34.41.57 & 5T
Wyoming1.48.77.54.48 & 6x
Yale-0.73.63.52.17T

R+T New Rate =The new R+T rating using rate stats over counting stats (still experimental)

Old R+T = The original R+T Rating where anything over 17.5 is exceptional, 15 to 17.5 is quite good, 12.5 to 15 is good, 8-12.5 is okay, 5-8 is fair, under 5 is poor, and negative is a loser

Score Marg = Scoring margin where over 8 is very good and over 10 is great

FG% Diff = Field Goal Percentage difference (Offense FG% – Defense FG%) where over 7 is very good and over 10 is exceptional

Win Strk = Best winning streak or streaks during the season (if a team didn’t win 6 in a row in the regular season, how will they do it against the best teams?)

Pre25 = Preseason Top 25 pick (almost every past national champion was in the preseason top 25)

Champions (R = regular season conference champion/co-champion & T = Conference Tournament Champion)

Team–ExtrasCoach Exp.Seniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?F/C 12/7?2 F/C 20/12?Dbl Fig#
Akron3023YY3
Alabama4221NN3
Arizona0111YY4
Arkansas4 E8511NN4
Auburn10 F4131YY4
Baylor9 CH23xNN3
Boise St.2511NY3
Bryant0511NN3
Cal St. Fullerton1421NY2
Chattanooga0511NN3
Colgate2423NN5
Colorado St.0241NN2
Connecticut3413YN3
Creighton9 E831xYY3
Davidson9 E8323YY4
Delaware032xNN4
Duke35 CH211YY5
Georgia St.1411NN3
Gonzaga21 2R221YY5
Houston17 F453NNY5
Illinois5411YY4
Indiana0421YY3
Iowa10211YY3
Iowa St3431NN2
Jacksonville St.3431NN3
Kansas22 CH521NY4
Kentucky20 CH241YY5
Longwood0321NN3
Loyola (Chi.)0521NN2
LSU0201YY4
Marquette8 F4211YN2
Memphis032xYY3
Miami (Fla.)9 F4311NN4
Michigan1 E8301YY4
Michigan St.23 CH33xNN1
Montana St.042xNN3
Murray St.2121YY3
New Mexico St.2321NY2
Norfolk St.1341NN3
North Carolina0213YY4
Notre Dame14 E8601YY3
Ohio St.6 E8411YY2
Providence5613NY4
Purdue13 E8311YY4
Richmond2 S16611YY3
Rutgers2411NN3
Saint Mary’s7 S1642xNN4
Saint Peter’s125xNN2
San Diego St.2511NN1
San Francisco0413YN3
Seton Hall4431NN1
South Dakota St.1131NN2
TCU12 E8131NN3
Tennessee25 F4131NN2
Texas4 2R62xNN3
Texas A&M-CC044xYY2
Texas Southern471xNN0
Texas Tech053xNN1
UAB2341NN4
UCLA12 F4431NN4
USC4 E8241YY4
Vermont3621NY2
Villanova17 CH431NN4
Virginia Tech6321NY3
Wisconsin3 S16221NN3
Wright St.4053YN3
Wyoming0301YY3
Yale2241NN2

Coach Exp = The number of past NCAA Tournament appearances for the head coach and if he got to the Sweet 6, Elite 8, Final 4, CHampionship or Runnerup

Seniors8/Juniors8 = The number of seniors or juniors among the current top 8 players (not as important with the extra Covid year)

1/3Clutch? = Does the team have 1 go to guy or 3 co-go to guys that can hit the crucial basket to win?

F/C 12/7 or 2F/C 20/12 = Does the team have an inside player that averages 12 points and 7 rebounds per game or two that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game?

DblFig# = The number of double figure scorers

Here is the PiRate Ratings Bracket

The event you’ve all been waiting for: I wish I could say it’s this feature, but your madness is directed at the actual games in March (and April).  Hopefully, this guide will guide you in filling out your brackets as we show you our analysis of the pertinent data.  Some of you will take our information and perform better with it making your own analysis.  Feel free to do so; we sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees.

Using our system laid out in Monday’s tutorial, we isolated on seven teams with National Championship Resumes in the 2022 NCAA Tournament plus one more team on the cusp.

Arizona

Baylor

Gonzaga

Houston

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

Almost National Championship Resume (1)

Auburn

It has been 31 tournaments since a team from outside the power conferences has won the national championship.  The Power Conference teams with the best resumes are:

Arizona

Baylor

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

Houston is a borderline power conference representative, but the American Athletic Conference is not what it once was.  With Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, the Cougars would be close to Gonzaga in overall power, but they have not been the same since their season-ending injuries.

Here is our take on the first round of the Tournament.  It is how we will fill out our bracket.  Every year, we receive a comment from somebody telling us how they used our data to outperform our bracket.

First Round NCAA Tournament Matchups

West Region

Gonzaga vs. Georgia St.: Not much to discuss here.  This should be a major blowout win for Gonzaga.  Georgia State will struggle to score points until the Bulldog reserves get mop-up duty, while the Zags could score close to 1.5 points per possession before the starters come out.

Boise St. vs. Memphis: As most 8/9 games should be, this is an interesting game where the two teams are evenly matched.  Memphis has oh so better key stats, and in close games, if the predicted weaker team has a considerably superior R+T rating, we will go with the underdog.  Boise State’s R+T is better but not by much.  We’ll go with Memphis is a close one.

Connecticut vs. New Mexico St.: New Mexico State  coach Chris Jans is our current number one mid-major head coach ready to be offered a big time job.  He has twice taken the Aggies to near major upsets in the opening round.  The last time NMSU was in this situation, they came within a blown referee’s call of upsetting Auburn.  The Tigers went to the Final Four that year.

However, this matchup with Connecticut is not favorable.  We are always leery of the Huskies.  They are the one school that has won the National Championship without having the proper analytical resume, and they have done it twice!  Their resume this year is very similar to the two times they won the title.  They are superior in all respects to the Aggies and should win by double digits.

Arkansas vs. Vermont: This game could be a lot closer than expected.  Vermont’s offense is just as efficient as Arkansas’s, and the Catamounts have a considerably better R+T rating.  A 12.5 points per game tougher schedule favors Arkansas by enough juice to emerge victorious, but it may be by single digits.

Alabama vs. Rutgers/Notre Dame: You get to wait until Thursday morning to submit your brackets, so you will know the winner of all the First Four games.  We can only predict it today.  We think Rutgers has a slight edge in the game in Dayton, because Notre Dame’s R+T rating is too low.  In early games, it doesn’t matter as much if the opponent’s R+T isn’t a good one, and Rutgers’ R+T is okay but not great.

When it comes to playing Alabama Friday, this may be one of the hardest games to figure.  Alabama plays like Tarzan one game and like Jane the next.  The Tide can score points when they are clicking, but they fail to click one game out of three.  Their R+T Rating is mediocre, and they don’t defend well in the paint.  The one superior factor in favor of the Tide is the nation’s strongest schedule.  Whichever team Bama plays in this game, they will have faced a stronger team in at least a dozen prior games.  We don’t expect Alabama to advance far in this tournament, but they should get out of this round with a win.

Texas Tech vs. Montana St.: They key to winning college basketball at the highest level is to have a superior offense and very good defense.  Texas Tech has the best defense in the nation with an average offense.  We don’t expect the Red Raiders to contend for the Final Four, but in early rounds, their resume is scary against teams not in power conferences.  

Montana State may stay in this game a little longer than expected, as Tech might struggle offensively at the start of the game until the nerves settle down.  Once Tech hits their stride, they will hold MSU to less than .8 points per possession for the middle 20-25 minutes of the game.  It might not look pretty, but TTU will eventually run away from the Bobcats.

Michigan St. vs. Davidson: Davidson has a little more overall talent now than they had when Steph Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite 8.  The difference is this Davidson team lacks the overall quickness to replicate the former success.  Additionally, they face a team that plays the same type of game as they do but with overall better athletes.

Michigan State has been upset early by teams that were quicker and unable to take advantage of the quickness.  DC cannot do this.  The Wildcats’ only chance is to hope to dominate in the paint both in points and rebounds, and The Spartans are not the team that will allow this.  Even though this is not the best inside presence during Tom Izzo’s reign in East Lansing, Sparty has just a little too much power for Davidson.  Michigan State will win by five to 12 points.

Duke vs. Cal St. Fullerton:  Coach K’s last team is really not talented enough to get to New Orleans this year, but the Blue Devils will likely play above their talent level until they are put out.  In this first game, the Blue Devils will score points rapidly against a weak team defense.  Fullerton won’t be able to keep the Blue Devil offense from getting easy shots inside of six feet.  Look for the Blue Devils to top their scoring average and coast to an easy victory in this round.

East Region

Baylor vs. Norfolk St.:  The MEAC representative has won opening round games in the Big Dance before, but it was as a #15 seed against a #2.  Norfolk State was oh so close to getting a #15 seed at the expense of Delaware, but they came up short.  In most recent years, the MEAC champ has been placed in Dayton.  Had NSU been put there this year, they would have been prohibitive favorites over any other 16-seed.  

The question now becomes, “can Nofolk State do what UMBC did against Virginia?”  The answer is “no”, because Baylor isn’t Virginia.  They are the defending champs, and even though the Bears are not as good as last year, they still have Final Four talent.  BU will win by around 20-25 points, more if the starters stay in longer than needed.

North Carolina vs. Marquette:  We can make this short and sweet–Marquette’s R+T is an eliminator.  ‘Nuf Sed.  They would be our pick to lose even if they were a top four seed.  Our number one rule is to play against a team with a negative R+T rating.

Saint Mary’s vs. Wyoming/Indiana: Like the region above, you will know who Saint Mary’s will be playing on Thursday.  Ironically, this play-in game may be the most exciting game before the Sweet 16.  There is very little difference between the Hoosiers and Cowboys.  Only because Indiana won’t travel very far to play this game will we give the nod to the Hoosiers.

On Thursday, Saint Mary’s will have a tough time avoiding the upset, because they are a tad weak offensively in the low post area.  Playing at home, the Gaels were able to withstand Gonzaga’s great inside presence, but in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, the Bulldogs exploited SMC over and over again in a double-digit win.  We will stil pick Saint Mary’s to win this game, because their opponent will have to fly from Dayton to Portland and play less than 48 hours after they played in Dayton.

UCLA vs. Akron: UCLA has national championship talent, but the Bruins have liabilities that can be exploited.  Unfortunately for the Zips, they do not have the necessary inside strength to exploit the Bruins.  They do have characteristics needed to keep a game with UCLA close for some time, but the Bruins will advance.

Texas vs. Virginia Tech: Texas is the most vulnerable 6-seed in the tournament.  The Longhorns have not adjusted to Chris Beard’s system in year one, and there may be a little dissension within the ranks.  Virginia Tech is the exact opposite.  Mike Young was one of our A+ Mid-major coaches ready for the Big Time when he was at Wofford, and he has not disappointed in his short time in Blacksburg.  Virginia Tech’s players have totally bought in to the system and are peaking at the right time.

Our criteria shows this game to be close to a tossup.  The Hokies have the superior offense, but the Longhorns have the superior defense with more superiority than Va. Tech’s offensive superiority.   Texas has the edge in schedule strength and R+T rating, so we will pick the Longhorns in a squeaker, but this one is ripe for an upset if you are the type that goes for more upsets than average.

Purdue vs. Yale:  Yale caught Princeton on a cold shooting day and upset the Tigers to get a ticket to the Dance.  Their ticket is for one game.  Short of hitting about 15 three-point shots in 25 attempts, there is no way the Bulldogs can stop the inside dominance of the Boilermakers.  The two-headed monster in the low post will likely score 40 points and pull down 15-20 rebounds unless Coach Matt Painter goes to his third team.  While former Gene Keady assistants have never made it to the Final Four, and neither did Keady, those teams from the past did not have the R+T rating that this Purdue team has.  This is PU’s best chance to go to the Final Four since they did so under Lee Rose in 1980.

Murray St. vs. San Francisco: Now it’s time to upset a lot of people in the Bluegrass.  There are a lot of fans heading up to Indianapolis for the weekend hoping to see the two top teams from the Commonwealth face off.  Our criteria shows the Dons to be a slightly better team than the Racers, mostly because Murray State’s schedule was suspect.  USF played a schedule almost as strong as a Power Conference team, and they have multiple wins over teams in this tournament.  Murray State’s biggest win was against Memphis, when the Tigers were not playing well.  Their other big game was a double-digit loss to Auburn, when Auburn was getting ready to go on a run.

We think the schedule strength makes USF’s numbers superior, and we will go with the 10-seed to win in what will be considered an upset.  We think the Dons should be favored.

Kentucky vs. Saint Peter’s: One team in this game had a weak schedule, a weak offense, and a weak inside defense.  The other team had one of the strongest schedules in the nation, one of the best defenses, a very good offense, and the best inside presence in college basketball since Bill Walton.  I bet you can predict what the prediction is here–Kentucky by as many as Coach Cal wants to win by before he removes his key players.

South Region

Arizona vs. Wright St./Bryant: We expect Wright State to win the play-in game, but even if Bryant wins, the outcome of this game will remain the same.  Arizona is much too talented to lose this game, even if the Wildcats play their worst game of the season Friday.  The Wednesday night winner must fly from Dayton to San Diego on short notice to play a UA team that is well-rested and playing just a short flight from home.

Seton Hall vs. TCU: This one is another great tossup between the 8 and 9 seeds.  TCU has the superior R+T rating, and it may be where the game is decided—with one late spurt in the second half.  We’ll take the Horned Frogs in a close one. 

Houston vs. UAB: Poor UAB.  The Blazers actually have the talent and resume to get to the Sweet 16 as long as they have the right bracket.  This one is not the right bracket.  Even without two former starters that were injured weeks ago, Houston has enough talent to get to the Sweet 16, with a good chance to make the Elite 8, and a possible chance to return to the Final Four.  If they still had their two stars, they would be a strong Final Four selection.  The Cougars match up perfectly well with UAB and can neutralize the Blazers’ key attackers.

Illinois vs. Chattanooga: The Mocs have been the darling upset pick of a lot of national media members, but we’re here to say it isn’t going to happen.  Chattanooga enjoyed an incredible season in winning the regular and tournament championships.  They just don’t have the inside defense to slow down the Illini in the paint, and they are not likely to get the Illinois frontcourt into foul trouble.  The Mocs don’t have a pressing defense strong enough to force Illinois into turnovers, so the Illini should have little difficulty winning this game by double digits.

Colorado St. vs. Michigan: Here’s another 11-seed that is clearly better than the 6-seed.  Colorado State’s R+T rating is too low, especially for a Mid-major team playing a Power Conference opponent.  Only a complete meltdown by the Maize and Blue will prevent the Wolverines from advancing.

Tennessee vs. Longwood: Volunteer Head Coach Rick Barnes has been to 25 previous NCAA Tournaments with one Final Four appearance.  He believes his current team has what it takes to go to the Final Four this year.  Tennessee’s resume should get them to the Sweet 16, but they have vulnerabilities that other teams in the South Region can exploit.  Longwood isn’t one of them.  Their schedule strength is much too low to be a factor in this game, but if they hit a bunch of three-pointers, where they are better than average, they could keep the outcome under 20 points.

Ohio St. vs. Loyola (Chi.): Before looking at this game, be advised that Ohio State is really banged up with multiple injuries, and it is unsure if they will have their full roster available.  Also, understand that Loyola will have had 12 days between games and will be fully rested but possibly a little rusted.

Loyola’s offense will find the holes in the Buckeyes’ defense, especially if Ohio State has to play a short rotation that will tire in the second half.  The Ramblers’ defense is good enough to give Ohio State’s superior offense some trouble.  It may come down to spurtability, and Loyola is the hands-down superior team in R+T.  We think Sister Jean will be smiling.

Villanova vs. Delaware: We told you yesterday that usually there is one Final Four team that gets there from outside of the perfect resume world.  It was UCLA last year.  This year’s UCLA could easily be Villanova.  The Wildcats just barely miss out on having a Final Four resume, and they quite frankly have about the best possible bracket arrangement to boot.  

Delaware is disqualified from potential upset possibilities in multiple ways–R+T rating, defense on the perimeter and in the paint, schedule strength, no inside scoring dominance, etc.

Midwest Region

Kansas vs. Texas Southern/Texas A&M-CC: Even though it does not matter in your bracket contests, we believe Texas Southern will run Texas A&M-CC into the ground in Dayton.  TAMCC has the weakest schedule strength of any NCAA Tournament team in the last 22 years!  Texas Southern is playing much better basketball in March than they did before  New Year’s, and they are 18-5 in their last 23 games.  So, we are previewing TSU against Kansas in this game.

Okay, suspense over.  KU will blow out either Texas team in this game.  Neither of the 16-seeds has enough defense to stop the Jayhawks from running up a fat score.  

San Diego St. vs. Creighton: In all but one key metric, these teams are fairly evenly matched.  That key metric is the R+T rating, and the Aztecs have a considerable advantage.  We’ll take SDSU to win thanks to a late run.

Iowa vs. Richmond: Two happy teams on Sunday, but there will only be one happy team Thursday after these two play.  Richmond will have to slow this game down to about a 60 possession game to have a chance to sneak away with an upset, but the Spiders’ R+T rating doesn’t measure up to being a winner.  Iowa will cruise to a double-digit win.

Providence vs. South Dakota St.: Providence is the better overall team in the criteria, but South Dakota State has the one ace up their sleeve in an offense that can score a lot of points in a hurry.  If the Friars come out a little tight and aren’t playing the type of basketball they normally play, they could find themselves down by a lot of points early in the game and then struggle to get in synch and get back in the game.  SDSU has the type of team that comes out loose and ready to play no matter what the stage.  If this game was in Oklahoma City or Denver, we’d take the underdog.  Buffalo will be almost like a home game for Providence, so we think the Friars sneak away with a close win.

LSU vs. Iowa St.: LSU has to go with an interim head coach for the second time in the now concluded Will Wade era.  It pains me to say that I (the Captain) was Wade’s youth coach in the early 1990’s.

It is rare for a team that finished four games under .500 to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Big 12 was quite strong this year.  Cyclone Coach T.J. Otzelberger made the South Dakota State job what it is today, and he should eventually turn the corner in Ames.  Making the Big Dance this quickly is quite an accomplishment.  Doing damage in the Dance may be a year away.  Even with an interim coach, albeit one with lots of years experience as a head coach, LSU has superior numbers and should win by around ten points.

Wisconsin vs. Colgate: This is almost a home game for the Badgers.  It’s one thing to put a Duke or Carolina in Charlotte or Greensboro when either is a number one seed, but to put the Badgers less than 100 miles from home in Milwaukee as a 3-seed is totally different.  Poor Colgate.  The Raiders are actually one of a small handful of Low Major teams that have some talent with an outside chance at an upset, but not playing UW in Milwaukee.  Colgate may hit some three-pointers to keep the game within shouting distance, but the Badgers will take the cheese in this one.

USC vs. Miami (Fla.): Even though Miami has a short flight, while USC most go from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, there is a factor that can never be parsed.  Miami’s R+T rating is too poor to predict the Hurricanes to advance.  USC figures to have a double-digit spurt in this game, and the Trojans will advance.

Auburn vs. Jacksonville St.: There is only one fly in the ointment in saying this game should be a 30-point blowout.  JSU will be playing way over their heads to face off against an in-state rival that won’t play them in the regular season.  Coach Ray Harper is a strict disciplinarian, and his teams play intelligently and force the opponent to play that way or be exploited.

Auburn is not all that exploitable here.  The Tigers have been having shooting trouble as of late, but with the great front line, maybe the second best to Gonzaga’s, the Tigers will get numerous second and third shots on many possessions, and JSU will eventually fall by a lot of points.

Here’s how the rest of our bracket-picking goes.

Round of 32

Gonzaga over Memphis

Connecticut over Arkansas

Texas Tech over Alabama

Duke over Michigan St.

Baylor over North Carolina

UCLA over Saint Mary’s

Purdue over Texas

Kentucky over San Francisco

Arizona over TCU

Houston over Illinois

Tennessee over Michigan

Villanova over Loyola (Chi.)

Kansas over San Diego St.

Iowa over Providence

Wisconsin over LSU

Auburn over USC

Sweet 16

Gonzaga over Connecticut

Texas Tech over Duke

Baylor over UCLA

Kentucky over Purdue

Arizona over Houston

Villanova over Tennessee

Kansas over Iowa

Auburn over Wisconsin

Elite 8

Gonzaga over Texas Tech

Kentucky over Baylor

Villanova over Arizona

Kansas over Auburn

Final 4

Gonzaga over Kentucky

Kansas over Villanova

National Championship

Kansas over Gonzaga

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Tuesday, March 15, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
Texas SouthernTexas A&M–CC3.9
WyomingIndiana-4.6
VCUPrinceton7.3
VanderbiltBelmont2.4
OklahomaMissouri St.5.7
North TexasTexas St.8.1
XavierCleveland St.13.7
Texas A&MAlcorn St.19.1
Utah St.Oregon3.4
Washington St.Santa Clara4.3
ColoradoSt. Bonaventure4.4
Appalachian St.USC Upstate10.2
UTEPWestern Illinois6.6

Coming Around 4 PM EDT–Bracketnomics 2022, The Analysis to help you pick your brackets

March 14, 2022

Bracketnomics 2022

The All-Encompassing Master Bracketnomics Paradigm– Updated for  2022

Note: This Bracketnomics Tutorial makes past ones on our site obsolete.

Hello PiRate Ratings fans.  We here never take for granted just how intelligent the typical reader of this site is.  The contributors to this site are all geriatric lovers of mathematics, basically statistics.  Personally, I (The Captain of the Ship) learned to love math at an early age by calculating the Earned Run Averages of Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Dean Chance, and Gary Peters at a time when they were trying to stay under 2.00.  When Bob Gibson had that miraculous 1968 season, I convinced my classmates to get into baseball just for the stats.  This love for statistics led to me starting the PiRate Ratings in 1969 and becoming a Sabermetric baseball analyst in my 50’s, where I worked for a Major League team.  Additionally, it led to my designing an advanced strategy baseball game called, “Sabertooth Baseball” and an advanced strategy football game called, “PiRate Pro Football.”  If you are into tabletop baseball and want both a basic game and an advanced game, then check out our sister sites, https://sabertooth-baseball.square.site/  and https://pirate-football.square.site/ , where you can  purchase the games online.  We send you a Zip file of player cards, charts, directions, ballparks, and even managerial strategies used by the team.  You print them out and use dice to play the game.  Other games might cost $75-100 to purchase as a boxed game.  Printing the games yourself saves you $$$, and you can keep the charts and rules open on a computer if you don’t want to print them.  A new quick-playing version with easy rules will debut in April.  It’s called “Saberfast Baseball.”

Back to basketball and the real meat of today’s publication.  The PiRate Ratings have been isolating technical data and back-testing our theories as far back as there are statistics for college basketball.  Over the years, we have isolated certain data that serves as a winning NCAA Tournament team “fingerprint.”  We have noticed patterns where teams that made the Final 4 and won the championship shared similar stat profiles.  As basketball analytics came to be, we found new data that made the fingerprint much more accurate.  For several years, we enjoyed incredible success picking brackets, and many of our readers commented that they won their bracket contests.  Included in our selections were crazy things like picking George Mason to sneak into the Sweet 16, possibly make it to the Elite 8, and to actually be a dark horse to make the Final 4, which they did.  It was the next year that a link from a national sports journalist mentioned the PiRate Ratings in his bracket-picking feature, and overnight, this site became 50 times more popular, going from about 50 readers a day to 2,500.  Today, we average about 6,000 readers a day during college basketball season until Bracketnomics season.  The start of the NCAA Tournament for us is like April 15 for an accountant or the Christmas shopping season to a retailer.

In the early 2000’s, we discovered negative data that told us that certain teams were early upset possibilities.  We mentioned more than once that Georgetown and Vanderbilt, two highly-seeded teams, were likely to lose in the opening games to lower-ranked teams, because of our now famous “R+T” rating.  The Hoyas and Commodores both had poor R+T ratings those years, and they both lost just like we predicted.  When the best R+T teams won the national championship three consecutive years, you noticed and began putting the pressure on us to replicate our success. We received over 100 comments on our old site’s comment box saying that you had won your office pool or your other bracket contests.  One patron said she had never come close to winning when she participated in a pool at her office building, and she won the $150 prize for the first time, when she picked Duke, West Virginia, Kansas St., and Michigan St. to make the Final Four.  Kansas State lost to Cinderella Butler in the Elite 8, while the other three made the Final Four.  By the way, Butler was one of two Mid-Major teams we had picked to make the Sweet 16 that year, as we also selected Saint Mary’s to make the Sweet 16.  We did miss on Cornell and Northern Iowa also making the Sweet 16, but very few brackets had them as well, so a large number of our followers won their bracket contests that year.

Alas, like a hot player at the horse track, our system began to weaken a little over the years.  It wasn’t the statistics that led to the swoon; it was the change in the way the game was played.  Basketball analytics began to affect the game the same way that Money Ball affected baseball.  The Four Factors became the Weighted On Base Average of basketball.  And, then the NCAA changed the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.  That little five second change greatly altered the way basketball was played.  As a new addition, the changing of the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound has changed the metrics a little as well.

The last two years, we spent hour after hour re-tooling our system.  We didn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, but we altered how the data would be used.  New back-testing showed that our new data might be as accurate of a predictor as the original data.  We were three days away from releasing the tutorial in 2020, when THUD, the season came to an end four days before Selection Sunday.

Last year at the Indiana Extravaganza, we issued most of the new data and did fairly well, as it came down to Baylor and Gonzaga.  Unfortunately, the data showed Gonzaga as the top team, so we missed on the Championship Game, but once again, we received comments from you at our now discontinued second website that many of you won your bracket pool using our methods.  

It is time to reveal to you our updated Bracketnomics criteria for 2022.  After you read this, you have earned a PhD in Bracket-picking (or maybe in wasting time.)  Please enjoy this.  It is still experimental, so please do not use this information for potential financial investment purposes.  A free bracket-picking contest is okay.

Criteria #1: Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency, and True Shooting Percentage

This should be obvious.  The object of the game is to score points and prevent the other team from scoring points.  The way to score points is to put the ball in the basket, and the way to prevent points from being scored is to force the other team to not put the ball in the basket.  Because there is a way to score one point, two points, and three points, an overall all-encompassing percentage that includes points scored all three ways has been created.  It is called “True Shooting Percentage.”  Its formula is: (100 * Pts) / (2 * (FGA + (.475 * FTA)))

If a team scores 85 points and takes 65 field goal attempts and 25 free throw attempts, then plugging in the formula:  (100 * 85) / (2 * (65 + (.475 * 25))) = 55.3%

When a team has a true shooting percentage offense that is 10% or better than their defensive true shooting percentage, you are looking at a gem.

More importantly, there are offensive and defensive efficiency ratings adjusted by factoring schedule strength.  Look at the top 20 in both categories, making note of any team that appears in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  When a team appears in both top 20’s, they have Final 4 potential.  If a team appears in the top 10 in both, they have to be considered a strong contender to cut the nets down when they play “One Final Moment.”

If a team is in the top 10 in one category but not in the top 50 in the other, this team is good enough to get past the Sweet 16, and usually one Final Four team will have this characteristic, but only twice in the 21st Century (both times Connecticut) has the overall National Champion been outside the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  For what it’s worth, the Huskies moved into the top 20 during the tournament. Baylor was #2 in offense efficiency but #22 in defense efficiency, but their schedule strength was very high.  Gonzaga had better numbers last year at 1st in offense and 11th in defense.  Houston was 7th and 9th, while UCLA was that one outlier making the Final Four at 11 & 46.  The team they defeated for the Final Four spot, Michigan, was 9th and 4th.

If you have to give one of the two efficiency stats more weight than the other, it should be the offense and not the defense like one might think.  Basketball is an offensive game.  Baseball is a defensive game.  For our purposes, a team with an offensive efficiency in the top 10 and a defensive efficiency in the top 20 that has an above average schedule strength is pure gold.  If the team has a top 10 offensive efficiency and a top 50 defensive efficiency but has a schedule strength that is 10 points per game better than average, this team must also be considered.  

As you will see in our analysis tomorrow, four teams have both offense and defense efficiency ratings in the top 20.  Four additional teams have acceptable offense and defense efficiency ratings if additional information also shows they are worthy.  One of these eight teams is highly likely to win the National Championship, and three of these eight teams are likely to make the Final Four with one team from outside this group sneaking into the Final Four, possibly a Mid-Major.

Criteria #2: Experienced and Clutch Players

It is rare for a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores that have no key upperclassmen in their playing rotation to make it to the Final Four.  Also, there needs to be a go-to player that can put his team on his shoulders and score the ultra-high leverage points.  What we are looking for here is a roster where at least one of the top 8 players is an experienced upperclassman, preferably with past NCAA Tournament experience.  If a team has considerable experience, like 3 or more upperclassmen starters that also have past NCAA Tournament experience, watch for this team to play intelligently and not make killer mistakes.  

We are also looking for a player that wants the ball with his team down one point and 10 seconds left in the game, or it can be a trio of guys where any one of the three could hit the last-second shot, even if they don’t generate the big headlines.  Look at Kentucky in the John Calipari years.  He frequently had an all underclassmen roster with the only seniors on the roster being walk-ons.  This year’s Kentucky team has experience in the starting lineup and past NCAA Tournament experience as well.  Might the Wildcats be a team to consider advancing deep after missing the tournament last year?  Check back tomorrow.

Criteria #3: Frontcourt Hero

In recent years, hitting from downtown has been the popular way to win games in the regular season.  We used to tell you to throw out the perimeter team as one that could never advance deep into the tournament, but times have changed.  Three-point shooting is now the on-base percentage of basketball.  However, the inside force is still the slugging percentage of basketball.  For a team to win six times after the Ides of March, they must have at least one inside force that contributes a double figure scoring average and a good number average of rebounds.  We personally look for a forward or center that averages 12 or more points per game and 7 or more rebounds per game, or two inside men that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game (or a team with a player named Oscar Tshiebwe.)  If the team has one player that averages 14 points and 5 rebounds per game, and another player that averages 8 points and 7 rebounds per game, this is satisfactory.  That qualifies for enough inside force to win a close game when the opponent has the outside shooting advantage.

Criteria #4: Balance

This is an alternative to the team where one player can carry them to win after win.  If a team does not have a stud NBA Lottery pick on its roster, if they have a balanced team where four or more players average double figure scoring, it can be hard to shut them all down in a game.  One of the four is likely to have a hot hand.  It may not be as immediate, but sometimes the balanced team has the advantage if the one-star team’s star has his one off night of the season in the Sweet 16.  For instance,  #1 North Carolina lost in the 1984 NCAA Tournament when The General, Robert Montgomery Knight devised an excellent defensive game plan that shut Michael Jordan down and limited him to 13 points and four turnovers in his final college game, as Indiana won. 

Criteria #5: A head coach with NCAA Tournament experience, preferably winning Tournament experience

If the coach of a tournament team has taken a past team to the Final Four, he’s in elite company.  Treat this coach like royalty.  If the coach has taken a past team to the Elite 8, he’s almost as royal.  If a coach has taken past teams to multiple Sweet 16’s, then these coaches deserve bonus points.  All the 2021 Final Four head coaches had lengthy NCAA Tournament experience.

Criteria #6: Strength of Schedule

A team from one of the bottom 10 conferences might go 28-3 in the regular season, and possess all of the above criteria above (maybe not criteria #5).  But, this team has probably played 90% of its games against Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4 opponents, maybe all of its games against the bottom half.

Meanwhile, another team from one of the top three leagues might have stats that make you wonder why this team was invited to the Dance.  Schedule strength is the difference.  Annually, a team with a record like 19-14 from the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, or SEC gets an invitation to the tournament and wins a tournament game, while a team that went 29-4 and lost in the championship game of their low-major conference tournament is put in the NIT field, and a 30-4 low-major conference champion loses without really competing in their first round NCAA Tournament game.  

To win the NCAA Championship, a team must have defeated quality opposition and not just teams ranked lower than 250.  In the modern era, every team that has won the national championship had a schedule strength either in the top 40 or at least 8 points per game above average.  There have been multiple #1 seeds with schedule strengths below #40 or 8 points above average that did not make it to the Final 4, and every one that made it to the Final 4 failed to win the National Championship.  Butler in 2010 came within a couple inches of winning the title with a schedule strength outside the top 40.

Teams with weaker strengths of schedule can make it to the Final 4, but not very frequently.  To win four games in the Dance, a team usually has to be battle-tested.  If a mid-major has a schedule strength between 50 and 100, they have to be really strong in other criteria to pick to go to the Final 4.  In 2018, when Gonzaga advanced to the National Championship Game, their strength of schedule was in this range.  Butler’s strength of schedule was also in this range when they twice advanced to the Championship Game.  Loyola of Chicago just barely qualified. The last team not from a power conference (or top Independent in the years where there were 30 independents) to win the National Championship was UNLV in 1990, and before that, it was Texas Western in 1966.

Criteria #7: A Regular Season or Conference Tournament Champion

Rarely does a team win the national championship after not winning either their regular season or conference tournament championship.  It happens, but the conference championship and conference tournament championship teams have already proven they can win games when the money is on the line.

Criteria #8: Three-point Shooting Percentage

In the past, teams that relied on the three-point shot could be counted out after the Sweet 16.  That is no longer the case.  But, shooting three pointers is not the key; making them is the key.  It doesn’t matter how many of them a team takes, the percentage is the key.  Look for teams that hit 3 out of every 8, or to round it to a whole number, better than 37%.  3 of 8 from behind the arc is better than 5 of 9 inside in points per shot.

Criteria #9: Offensive Rebounding Percentage

One would think that a rebound is a rebound, but offensive rebounds lead to more points than defensive rebounds, obviously because an offensive rebound is made within shooting range of a team’s basket, while a defensive rebound is more than 50 feet away from a team’s basket.

The key number here is 37%.  If a team gets offensive rebounds on 37% or more of its missed shots, they are going to be tough to beat in the Big Dance.  Many times, close games are decided by key offensive rebounds in the final two minutes, even the final possession of games.  If a team has made it to the Sweet 16, if they can crash the offensive boards, they are dangerous.

Criteria #10: Defensive 2-Point Field Goal Percentage

After telling you that three-point shooting has become the rage these days, we’ve now mentioned having an inside scoring force, the ability to hit the offensive glass, and now we tell you not to look at three-point shooting percentage defense.  The ability to stop the close shots is much more important in tournament games.  About 60% of all field goal attempts are two-point attempts, and remember that an easy shot inside of five feet from the basket is still more important than an open three-point shot.  If a team has weak inside defense, and the opponent hits 10 baskets inside five feet of the basket, they are likely to consistently have a higher true shooting percentage than the team that averages eight made three-pointers per game.  Over the long haul, the three-point shooting magicians may have higher true shooting percentages, but their chances of having six consecutive higher true shooting percentages are much lower than the team that can get inside of five feet consistently and hit 12 of 18 shots in this high percentage zone.  

Look for a team with a defensive two-point shooting percentage lower than 45%.  Opponents will not be able to consistently score points against these teams.

Criteria #11: Free Throw Rate

We used to pan great free throw shooting teams, because they never won national championships.  In fact, for years, the national champion was always a sub-70% free throw shooting team.  None of the great UCLA teams during their 10-title run in 12 years shot 70% at the foul line.  We showed for years how the dominating power team that may have averaged 18 of 27 at the foul line only lost three points to the top free throw percentage team that went 21 of 27.  These sub-70% free throw shooting teams easily made up that three points and more by controlling the boards against the finesse teams.

Free Throw Rate doesn’t look at free throw percentage.  Drawing fouls on the defense is more important, and we’ve been late coming to this side of belief.  We believed for years that free throws made per 100 possessions was a more important way to measure free throw rate than the standard Free Throw Attempts divided by Field Goal Attempts.  But, the key part of this stat is getting to the foul line more than it is making the foul shots.  Obviously, it is not great to fail to score at the charity stripe, but the essence here is still the same; if a team has to make foul shots to win games, they aren’t going to do so six times in the NCAA Tournament.  But, if they get to the foul line with higher frequency, it means two things much more important than scoring free throws.  First, the opponents are likely to see key players sitting on the bench with foul trouble.  More importantly, a team that gets to the foul line frequently probably is too talented offensively for average and above average defenses to handle.  Why are most fouls committed?  They are committed when a defensive player cannot adequately guard the offensive player.  This is like in baseball when the top power hitters tend to draw the most walks, because pitchers will try to pick at the corners and keep the ball out of the sluggers’ best heat zones.  Those extra fouls are like the pitchers’ throwing four balls out of the strike zone.

The key stat to look for is a team with a FT Rate in excess of 37%.  Defensively, look for a team that has a FT Rate lower than 31%.  Those two stats tell you which offenses are dangerous and which defenses are tournament tough.

Criteria #12: The Old PiRate Data Still Matters

The old mainstay PiRate Ratings data still matters.  Those stats include:

  1. A scoring margin of 10 or more points for Final Four potential, and a scoring margin of 8 or more points for Sweet 16 and Elite 8 teams.  More than 80% of Final 4 teams across time have scoring margins of 10 points or more.  Don’t expect a team with a scoring margin of a few points to win four games in the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Field Goal % margin.  Look for teams that have a regular FG% that is 7.5% better than their Defensive FG%.  If that number is 10% or more, this is a tough team.  A team with a 48% FG% and 38% defensive FG% is a gem.
  3. Winning % away from home.  If a team won 75% of their games not played at home, they are tournament ready.  If a 25-8 team went 17-0 at home and 8-8 away from home, this team is a pretender.  A team has to win six consecutive games away from home to cut the nets, so don’t look at a .500 team away from home to beat six quality opponents.
  4. A lengthy winning streak during the season.  Do you really think a team that never won more than three consecutive games during the season will now win six in a row against better competition?  Most national champions had either a winning streak of 10 or more games or multiple winning streaks of six or more games.

Criteria #13: R+T ©

We saved this one for last.  It is our personal creation.  Way back in the early days of the career of one of our favorite college basketball analysts ever, Clark Kellogg, we heard him mention the term, “Spurtability.”  He explained that teams with spurtability tended to win more NCAA Tournament games than others.  A team that could go on a quick scoring run in a short time frequently won NCAA Tournament games.

Then, we remembered back to our youth, when the NCAA Tournament was the UCLA Invitational.  When UCLA beat Duke in the 1964 National Championship Game, they broke open a close game with a 16-0 run in just two and a half minutes!  This was before the three-point shot existed.  They scored 16 points in about 150 seconds by forcing Duke to turn the ball over against their scary 2-2-1 Zone Press, and they converted over and over with fast break baskets.  The game was over after this.  That wasn’t the only time that year that 30-0 UCLA did that.  Coach John Wooden, in a lecture given to amateur coaches in the 1980’s, said that the 1964 team had at least one run like this in all 30 games that year.

Take two teams evenly matched playing in the Elite 8.  Both are highly ranked and deserving of that ranking.  They are among the top teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and both played tough schedules.  With six minutes to go in the game Team A leads Team B by four points, when Team B goes on a 12-2 run in the next two minutes, forcing Team A to call timeout, as they now trail by six points with four minutes to go.  Team B holds on for the win.

Can we predict the probability that one team will enjoy a spurt like this, and the other team will not?  We think most teams can enjoy a spurt like this, but we believe we can estimate which teams have the best chance to go on a decisive game-winning spurt or more little spurts than the opponent.  That’s what the R+T rating calculates.

How does a team go on a big scoring run in a short time?  We will tell you up front that a 16 to 2 run rarely comes about from seven regular possessions by both teams, where the 16-point team scores four two-point baskets, two three-point baskets, and two free throws, while the other team scores just one basket and misses six other times down the floor, where no offensive rebounds or turnovers come into play.

The spurt almost always happens due to a combination of turnovers forced, especially steals, and controlling the boards at both ends.  Getting multiple second and third shots on offense and allowing one or no shot per possession on defense leads to these checkmate spurts.

Looking at a teams’ stats, winning the rebounding and turnover stats, or what some call the “Hustle Stats,” predicts a team’s chances of having a big spurt.  All that’s left is to come up with a formula for Spurtability, and that’s what our R+T rating is.  Our old formula, the one that is easy and quick to calculate, for years was:

(R * 2) + (S * 0.5) + (6 – Opp. S) + T

To explain: R = rebounding margin; S = average steals per game (and Opp. S = how many steals per game given up); and T = Turnover Margin.  Remember that fewer turnovers per game than committed is positive turnover margin, and more turnovers per game than forced is negative turnover margin.

Example:  Let’s Say that State U averages 38.6 rebounds per game and gives up 34.3 rebounds per game.  Their rebound margin is 4.3.  State averages 7.8 steals per game, and opponents steal the ball from State 5.1 times per game.  State averages 12.4 turnovers a game and forces 13.9 turnovers per game for a turnover margin of 1.5.  Now we have all the variables we need to calculate State’s R+T number.

(4.3 * 2) + (7.8 * 0.5) + (6 – 5.1) + 1.5  = 14.9

What this shows us is that State U has an R+T of 14.9 or an average of about 15 points per game in spurtability.

Is this good?  It is rather good but not national champion good.  In most years, a handful of teams in the NCAA Tournament will have R+T ratings above 20.  In several years, the team with the highest R+T rating among those teams from the Power Conferences has won the national championship.

One more thing about R+T ratings. Any time a team has a negative or really low positive R+T rating, throw them out immediately, even if they are a big-name team from a power conference.  Non-spurtability teams that have to win games by consistently winning more possessions in a half-court game are rarely going to make it past the Sweet 16.  One of the reasons the PiRate Ratings gained popularity was with our ability to predict higher-seed first round losers just by their having negative R+T ratings.  Two schools, Georgetown and Vanderbilt, earned three NCAA Tournament bids in an overlapping era between 2008 and 2013, and each time the Hoyas and Commodores had negative R+T ratings.  We picked against them in the first round in all six cases and went 6-0!  Georgetown lost as a #3 seed to Ohio U in 2010.  In 2011, they lost as a #6 seed to #11 VCU, in a game where the Rams R+T was 20+ points better.  In 2013, they were a 3-seed once again and lost to Florida Gulf Coast.

Vanderbilt had negative R+T ratings in 2008, 2010, and 2011.  In 2008 as a 4-seed, they lost to Siena.  In 2010, as a 4-seed, they lost to Murray St.  In 2011 as a 5-seed, they lost to Richmond.

On the other hand, in 2017, North Carolina finished the regular season ranked #6 in the nation with seven losses.  Villanova, Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, and Kansas were rated ahead of the Tar Heels in the polls, and most so-called experts were going with Kentucky, Kansas, and Villanova as the favorites to win the championship.  We begged to differ.  North Carolina had one of the highest R+T ratings since we began calculating the rating.  It was almost 30.  We picked the Tar Heels to win the title, and they did that by going on frequent scoring spurts in those six games.  The difference in the championship game was the R+T rating, as Carolina enjoyed huge advantages in rebounding and turnover rates.  Gonzaga clearly had the better shooting and free throw shooting that night.

Beginning in 2020, we originated a new R+T Rating that used rate stats rather than counting stats, because it is obvious that a team that outrebounds opponents 35 to 27 is better than a team that outrebounds opponents 45 to 36, and a team that misses a lot more shots has a lot more chances to grab offensive rebounds.

The new and improved R+T Rating is a multi-step process.    Here is the formula, and then we will explain it.

((R * 8) + ((S + T) * 4)) / 3.5

This formula now refers to Rate Stats.  The “R” in the formula now stands for Rebounding Rate margin.  This is a combination of both offensive and defensive rebounding rate and it is a deviation from the norm and not just a percentage.  The norm in our formula refers to the current median of the Division 1 teams (usually in the 27 to 29% range and 28.5 in 2022).  If a team has an offensive rebounding rate above this median number, it is above average, and if it is below this number, it is below average.  Thus, the norm for defensive rebounding rate is the opposite of the above number, (usually in the 71 to 73% range and 71.5 in 2022).  We then calculate our R part of the formula by taking each team’s offensive rate minus the norm plus their defensive rate minus the norm and then add the two results and divide by 2.

The rest of this formula uses the same process as above.  Take each team’s steal rate and calculate the difference from the median (9.4% in 2022) for both offense and defense, add the two results and divide by 2. 

Now, we need Turnover rates, both offensive and defensive (16.1% median in 2022).  Obviously, the lower the offensive turnover rate is, the better, and the higher the defensive turnover rate is, the better.  Sum the offensive and defensive differences from the median turnover rate and divide by 2: 

The 3.5 as the divisor is our constant that we hope makes a usable formula telling us the potential number of points a team has in spurtability.  We came to this number by back-testing actual scoring runs and then found the mean square error of actual scoring runs by the teams.

Fret not with the R+T calculations.  We have done all the work for you.  In our big reveal tomorrow, every team’s R+T number will be shown.

Extra Credit:  If you get to a point where flipping a coin is the last step before you choose a winner of a bracket, consider one interesting tidbit that may or may not have any real weight.  Teams with red color uniforms tend to have more fouls called on their players than teams with blue color uniforms.  Overall, teams that wear red tend to get whistled maybe one time more per game than teams that wear blue.  If you look at the national champions from history, many more teams had blue uniforms than had red uniforms.  Green can be counted with the blue, while orange can be counted with the red.  Usually, if the red or orange team is wearing its white uniforms, the calls don’t go against them quite as much.   

We’ve never used this factor in picking brackets or any regular season game for that matter, but it is good for a laugh.

January 26, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Wednesday, January 26, 2022

HomeVisitorsSpread
TennesseeFlorida6.7
USC UpstateWinthrop-4.3
XavierProvidence7.6
ButlerCreighton-4.4
MichiganNorthwestern8.2
CharlotteOld Dominion2.2
MaineNew Hampshire-11.2
MaristSaint Peter’s3.6
LafayetteBoston University-5.6
South FloridaSMU-8.3
LehighArmy-1.1
AmericanHoly Cross4.7
BucknellNavy-9.9
LongwoodNorth Carolina A&T7.9
High PointRadford3.3
Charleston SouthernPresbyterian-6.0
CampbellHampton11.0
Virginia TechMiami6.3
North CarolinaBoston College12.4
Stony BrookVermont-7.2
UMBCNJIT7.6
HartfordBinghamton3.5
UMass LowellAlbany4.4
ValparaisoBradley-2.3
EvansvilleNorthern Iowa-10.0
La SalleMassachusetts-1.5
George MasonSt. Bonaventure-1.9
Saint Joseph’sDuquesne4.6
ChattanoogaWofford6.0
FurmanVMI9.6
East Tennessee St.UNC Greensboro2.5
The CitadelWestern Carolina5.9
South CarolinaVanderbilt1.6
MississippiArkansas-5.4
Oklahoma St.Iowa St.3.2
Wichita St.Central Florida2.7
LamarTarleton St.-7.4
UT Rio Grande ValleyAbilene Christian-5.6
West VirginiaOklahoma1.5
Illinois St.Drake-3.7
Saint LouisGeorge Washington17.1
SamfordMercer-0.5
Seton HallMarquette5.6
DavidsonVCU4.1
IndianaPenn St.7.5
LSUTexas A&M11.7
TulaneTulsa2.9
Notre DameNC St.5.9
Georgia TechFlorida St.-4.7
Washington St.Utah8.2
California BaptistSam Houston0.1
SeattleStephen F. Austin3.7
Utah St.San Diego St.0.2

Teams With National Championship Bracketnomics Data

Every year at March Madness time, our Bracketnomics publication is our most viewed feature of the year. We use many factors that back-testing have showed that past national champions resembled. If for example every national champion since 1995 had a certain minimum offensive rebounding percentage, and additionally, 25 of the last 26 national champions had a certain maximum defensive 2-point field goal percentage, we would look for the teams in this year’s field that also possess those stats. It isn’t that easy, as many of our variables are multi-variable formulas such as a combination of multiple factors met on a certain scale of minimums and maximums based on the result of a key variable or variables.

Now, that we have probably confused you with a bunch of gobbledygook, you want to know which teams meet the criteria the most through January 26.

There are a half dozen teams that meet the basic criteria today. Here they are, alphabetically.

Arizona, Auburn, Baylor, Gonzaga, Houston, and Villanova are the super six as of today, but Baylor and Villanova have better criteria ratings than the other four.

We will continue to monitor these statistics for the next month and have them ready to go as teams win automatic bids. Then, on the Monday and Tuesday after Selection Sunday, we will have an all-inclusive Bracketnomics Report with all the pertinent data.

December 27, 2021

PiRate Ratings–College Basketball 2021-22 Debut

Welcome bask to the PiRate Ratings College Basketball coverage for 2021-22. We are excited about a few new changes and the resumption of some old methods here this year. Today, we start our coverage with two posts. This one will include our initial ratings for the season of the 358 Division 1 teams. The post coming later today will include our opening Bracketology for the season.

Every week until Conference Tournament Championships commence, we plan on releasing updated ratings on Monday and Friday mornings (hopefully before Noon Eastern Time). We will issue updated Bracketology on Monday afternoons through Mid-February, at which time the updates will increase to two per week until March. Once the conference tournaments commence and surprise winners and losers emerge, we will begin to update the Bubble daily.

During the week, we will issue spreads of games between Power Conference teams. Because our method for coming up with game spreads is somewhat labor intensive and not 100% mechanical, it takes too long to calculate spreads on every game. Our method involves a game-specific home court advantage for each game, because when teams play more than once a week and fatigue must be adjusted for the road team in every game. Toss in the Covid issue, and home court advantage can move to 8-10 points. If the home team is in trouble, the visiting team might actually get points!

Also from time to time, we will issue commentary or analysis of the game. Our annual publication of top Low-Major and Mid-Major head coaches and top assistant coaches ready for the big time has been one of our most read annual publications, and because so many of the guys on our list are now coaching at big time schools, we expect this year’s edition will be expanded some. Expect that post in Mid-January.

By far our most read posts every year are our “Bracketnomic” reports for March Madness. We use technical data that has been back-tested for more than two decades, with some data back-tested to 1939, to attempt to isolate the true contenders for the National Championship. Baylor and Gonzaga were both on that list last year. Our own creation, The R+T Rating, has helped us locate favorites ripe for early NCAA Tournament upsets, and it has helped us locate sleeper teams that could surprise. In the past, we saw George Mason as a sleeper when they sneaked into the Final Four. We saw the same with Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler. But, there was a year where we not only picked 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast to upset 2-seed Georgetown, we said it could be by double digits. When FGCU ran the Hoyas into the ground that night, our ratings briefly received a national accolade, and many of you reading this today became subscribers to this site.

Without further adieu, here are our opening ratings for 2021-22. Thank you for stopping by. We hope you stick around for the season.

PiRate Ratings

#TeamPiRateConference
1Gonzaga122.6West Coast
2Baylor121.1Big 12
3Arizona120.7Pac-12
4Purdue120.3Big Ten
5Houston120.0American Athletic
6Kansas119.5Big 12
7Duke118.6Atlantic Coast
8LSU118.1Southeastern
9Tennessee117.9Southeastern
10UCLA117.5Pac-12
11Auburn117.4Southeastern
12Kentucky117.3Southeastern
13Illinois116.9Big Ten
14Alabama116.1Southeastern
15Villanova115.9Big East
16Ohio St.115.7Big Ten
17Michigan St.115.4Big Ten
18Michigan115.3Big Ten
19USC114.9Pac-12
20Texas Tech114.9Big 12
21Iowa114.8Big Ten
22Connecticut114.6Big East
23Texas114.5Big 12
24Xavier114.5Big East
25Seton Hall114.4Big East
26Virginia Tech113.8Atlantic Coast
27Florida113.6Southeastern
28Indiana113.3Big Ten
29Memphis113.3American Athletic
30Loyola Chicago113.1Missouri Valley
31BYU112.6West Coast
32Oklahoma112.3Big 12
33North Carolina112.0Atlantic Coast
34Colorado St.111.6Mountain West
35Florida St.111.6Atlantic Coast
36Wisconsin111.3Big Ten
37West Virginia111.3Big 12
38Arkansas111.2Southeastern
39San Francisco111.2West Coast
40Mississippi St.110.8Southeastern
41Clemson110.8Atlantic Coast
42Saint Mary’s110.8West Coast
43Northwestern110.8Big Ten
44Oklahoma St.110.7Big 12
45UAB110.5Conference USA
46San Diego St.110.0Mountain West
47Washington St.109.9Pac-12
48Louisville109.8Atlantic Coast
49Providence109.7Big East
50Iowa St.109.6Big 12
51Utah St.109.5Mountain West
52Maryland109.3Big Ten
53Boise St.109.1Mountain West
54UCF109.1American Athletic
55Belmont109.0Ohio Valley
56Oregon108.9Pac-12
57Creighton108.9Big East
58Davidson108.6Atlantic 10
59TCU108.5Big 12
60Richmond108.4Atlantic 10
61SMU108.4American Athletic
62Wichita St.108.4American Athletic
63Wake Forest108.2Atlantic Coast
64St. Bonaventure108.0Atlantic 10
65Murray St.107.9Ohio Valley
66Texas A&M107.8Southeastern
67Notre Dame107.8Atlantic Coast
68Minnesota107.7Big Ten
69Cincinnati107.7American Athletic
70Saint Louis107.6Atlantic 10
71St. John’s107.5Big East
72Utah107.5Pac-12
73DePaul107.4Big East
74Marquette107.4Big East
75Virginia107.3Atlantic Coast
76VCU107.3Atlantic 10
77Kansas St.107.2Big 12
78Syracuse107.2Atlantic Coast
79Rhode Island107.1Atlantic 10
80Buffalo107.1Mid-American
81South Dakota St.107.0Summit
82Penn St.107.0Big Ten
83Missouri St.107.0Missouri Valley
84Fresno St.106.9Mountain West
85Vanderbilt106.8Southeastern
86Wyoming106.7Mountain West
87Nevada106.7Mountain West
88Drake106.6Missouri Valley
89Iona106.6Metro Atlantic
90Colorado106.4Pac-12
91Santa Clara106.3West Coast
92Louisiana Tech105.8Conference USA
93Stanford105.7Pac-12
94Chattanooga105.7Southern
95Arizona St.105.7Pac-12
96Toledo105.7Mid-American
97South Carolina105.6Southeastern
98North Texas105.6Conference USA
99Ohio105.4Mid-American
100UC Irvine105.4Big West
101Vermont105.4America East
102Dayton105.3Atlantic 10
103Wofford105.2Southern
104Rutgers105.1Big Ten
105Miami FL105.0Atlantic Coast
106Mississippi104.8Southeastern
107Towson104.8Colonial Athletic
108New Mexico St.104.8Western Athletic
109Monmouth104.7Metro Atlantic
110N.C. State104.5Atlantic Coast
111Western Kentucky104.5Conference USA
112Georgia Tech104.4Atlantic Coast
113Wagner104.4Northeast
114Butler104.4Big East
115California104.3Pac-12
116Hofstra104.2Colonial Athletic
117Furman104.0Southern
118Abilene Christian103.9Western Athletic
119Grand Canyon103.7Western Athletic
120Northern Iowa103.7Missouri Valley
121Oakland103.5Horizon
122Georgetown103.5Big East
123Loyola Marymount103.2West Coast
124George Mason103.1Atlantic 10
125Utah Valley103.1Western Athletic
126UNLV102.9Mountain West
127Liberty102.7Atlantic Sun
128Boston College102.6Atlantic Coast
129Colgate102.6Patriot League
130Akron102.6Mid-American
131Southern Utah102.5Big Sky
132Princeton102.5Ivy League
133Navy102.4Patriot League
134Massachusetts102.2Atlantic 10
135Jacksonville St.102.2Atlantic Sun
136Southern Illinois102.1Missouri Valley
137UC Santa Barbara102.1Big West
138UC Riverside102.0Big West
139Nebraska101.9Big Ten
140Tulsa101.8American Athletic
141Oral Roberts101.6Summit
142James Madison101.5Colonial Athletic
143Weber St.101.5Big Sky
144Texas St.101.5Sun Belt
145Northeastern101.5Colonial Athletic
146Morehead St.101.5Ohio Valley
147Bradley101.4Missouri Valley
148Yale101.3Ivy League
149Miami OH101.3Mid-American
150Oregon St.101.2Pac-12
151Georgia St.101.2Sun Belt
152South Alabama101.1Sun Belt
153Cleveland St.101.1Horizon
154Marshall101.1Conference USA
155Kent St.101.0Mid-American
156Temple101.0American Athletic
157East Tennessee St.100.8Southern
158Boston University100.6Patriot League
159Stephen F. Austin100.6Western Athletic
160Bowling Green100.6Mid-American
161Delaware100.3Colonial Athletic
162Rice100.3Conference USA
163Washington100.3Pac-12
164Brown100.1Ivy League
165Missouri100.1Southeastern
166Eastern Kentucky100.1Atlantic Sun
167Tulane99.9American Athletic
168Pittsburgh99.9Atlantic Coast
169Appalachian St.99.9Sun Belt
170Coastal Carolina99.8Sun Belt
171Fairfield99.8Metro Atlantic
172Drexel99.6Colonial Athletic
173Harvard99.6Ivy League
174Florida Gulf Coast99.5Atlantic Sun
175Saint Joseph’s99.5Atlantic 10
176Texas Southern99.5Southwestern Athletic
177Georgia99.4Southeastern
178Montana St.99.4Big Sky
179Wright St.99.4Horizon
180North Dakota St.99.4Summit
181Charleston99.3Colonial Athletic
182Winthrop99.3Big South
183Seattle99.3Western Athletic
184UNC Greensboro99.2Southern
185UTEP99.2Conference USA
186East Carolina99.1American Athletic
187Longwood99.1Big South
188Old Dominion99.1Conference USA
189Tarleton St.99.1Western Athletic
190San Diego99.1West Coast
191Louisiana99.0Sun Belt
192Western Illinois98.9Summit
193Valparaiso98.9Missouri Valley
194Charlotte98.9Conference USA
195Duquesne98.8Atlantic 10
196Montana98.8Big Sky
197Indiana St.98.8Missouri Valley
198Campbell98.7Big South
199Middle Tennessee98.6Conference USA
200Niagara98.6Metro Atlantic
201New Hampshire98.5America East
202Cal St. Fullerton98.4Big West
203Northern Colorado98.3Big Sky
204Florida Atlantic98.2Conference USA
205Georgia Southern98.1Sun Belt
206Stony Brook98.1America East
207Cornell98.1Ivy League
208UC Davis98.0Big West
209Marist98.0Metro Atlantic
210Cal Baptist97.9Western Athletic
211UMass Lowell97.9America East
212Fordham97.8Atlantic 10
213Eastern Washington97.7Big Sky
214Detroit Mercy97.7Horizon
215UMKC97.6Summit
216Nicholls St.97.6Southland
217Mercer97.6Southern
218Northern Kentucky97.5Horizon
219Saint Peter’s97.5Metro Atlantic
220Jacksonville97.5Atlantic Sun
221Penn97.5Ivy League
222Louisiana Monroe97.5Sun Belt
223New Mexico97.5Mountain West
224Bellarmine97.5Atlantic Sun
225FIU97.4Conference USA
226Gardner Webb97.3Big South
227VMI97.2Southern
228Illinois St.97.1Missouri Valley
229Arkansas St.97.1Sun Belt
230Howard97.0Mideastern Athletic
231Sam Houston St.96.9Western Athletic
232Hawaii96.8Big West
233Bryant96.8Northeast
234Cal St. Bakersfield96.6Big West
235UMBC96.5America East
236Youngstown St.96.5Horizon
237South Florida96.5American Athletic
238Pepperdine96.4West Coast
239UNC Asheville96.2Big South
240Jackson St.96.1Southwestern Athletic
241Quinnipiac95.8Metro Atlantic
242Dartmouth95.8Ivy League
243UT Arlington95.8Sun Belt
244Pacific95.7West Coast
245Troy95.5Sun Belt
246South Dakota95.5Summit
247Samford95.4Southern
248La Salle95.4Atlantic 10
249Evansville95.3Missouri Valley
250UC San Diego95.3Big West
251The Citadel95.2Southern
252Portland St.95.1Big Sky
253Manhattan95.1Metro Atlantic
254St. Francis PA95.0Northeast
255Illinois Chicago95.0Horizon
256Norfolk St.94.9Mideastern Athletic
257Stetson94.9Atlantic Sun
258LIU94.9Northeast
259George Washington94.8Atlantic 10
260Southern94.8Southwestern Athletic
261Tennessee Tech94.4Ohio Valley
262Radford94.4Big South
263Milwaukee94.3Horizon
264Ball St.94.3Mid-American
265Merrimack94.2Northeast
266Portland94.2West Coast
267North Alabama94.1Atlantic Sun
268Purdue Fort Wayne94.0Horizon
269Kennesaw St.94.0Atlantic Sun
270Loyola MD93.9Patriot League
271Prairie View A&M93.8Southwestern Athletic
272High Point93.7Big South
273Lipscomb93.5Atlantic Sun
274Eastern Michigan93.5Mid-American
275Army93.4Patriot League
276NJIT93.4America East
277North Carolina A&T93.4Big South
278Long Beach St.93.4Big West
279San Jose St.93.3Mountain West
280Canisius93.3Metro Atlantic
281Austin Peay93.3Ohio Valley
282Presbyterian93.3Big South
283Texas A&M Corpus Chris93.2Southland
284Elon93.2Colonial Athletic
285Sacred Heart93.2Northeast
286North Florida93.1Atlantic Sun
287Hartford93.1America East
288UNC Wilmington93.0Colonial Athletic
289Albany93.0America East
290UT Rio Grande Valley92.9Western Athletic
291St. Thomas92.8Summit
292Siena92.7Metro Atlantic
293Air Force92.7Mountain West
294SIU Edwardsville92.5Ohio Valley
295Western Carolina92.5Southern
296Southern Miss92.4Conference USA
297Rider92.4Metro Atlantic
298Mount St. Mary’s92.4Northeast
299Cal Poly92.1Big West
300New Orleans92.1Southland
301Robert Morris92.0Horizon
302Dixie St.91.9Western Athletic
303Tennessee St.91.8Ohio Valley
304Cal St. Northridge91.8Big West
305Alcorn St.91.6Southwestern Athletic
306Lafayette91.5Patriot League
307Florida A&M91.5Southwestern Athletic
308Binghamton91.4America East
309Coppin St.91.2Mideastern Athletic
310Southeastern Louisiana91.1Southland
311Sacramento St.91.0Big Sky
312UTSA91.0Conference USA
313Bucknell90.9Patriot League
314Idaho St.90.7Big Sky
315Lamar90.7Western Athletic
316Green Bay90.7Horizon
317Little Rock90.7Sun Belt
318Northern Arizona90.6Big Sky
319McNeese St.90.4Southland
320St. Francis NY90.3Northeast
321Southeast Missouri St.90.2Ohio Valley
322North Carolina Central90.2Mideastern Athletic
323Morgan St.90.0Mideastern Athletic
324Northern Illinois89.7Mid-American
325American89.6Patriot League
326Lehigh89.4Patriot League
327Denver89.1Summit
328Maryland Eastern Shore88.9Mideastern Athletic
329USC Upstate88.8Big South
330Tennessee Martin88.6Ohio Valley
331Central Michigan88.6Mid-American
332Grambling St.88.5Southwestern Athletic
333Hampton88.4Big South
334Western Michigan88.3Mid-American
335Idaho88.1Big Sky
336Northwestern St.87.3Southland
337South Carolina St.87.2Mideastern Athletic
338Alabama A&M87.1Southwestern Athletic
339Central Connecticut86.9Northeast
340Nebraska Omaha86.9Summit
341William & Mary86.8Colonial Athletic
342Fairleigh Dickinson86.7Northeast
343Alabama St.86.7Southwestern Athletic
344North Dakota86.6Summit
345Holy Cross86.5Patriot League
346Bethune Cookman86.0Southwestern Athletic
347Columbia85.9Ivy League
348Central Arkansas85.5Atlantic Sun
349Charleston Southern85.2Big South
350Incarnate Word85.1Southland
351Houston Baptist84.7Southland
352Maine84.4America East
353Eastern Illinois84.3Ohio Valley
354Chicago St.82.7Western Athletic
355IUPUI82.6Horizon
356Arkansas Pine Bluff82.3Southwestern Athletic
357Delaware St.78.8Mideastern Athletic
358Mississippi Valley St.74.3Southwestern Athletic

PiRate Ratings Alphabetically

TeamPiRate
Abilene Christian103.9
Air Force92.7
Akron102.6
Alabama116.1
Alabama A&M87.1
Alabama St.86.7
Albany93.0
Alcorn St.91.6
American89.6
Appalachian St.99.9
Arizona120.7
Arizona St.105.7
Arkansas111.2
Arkansas Pine Bluff82.3
Arkansas St.97.1
Army93.4
Auburn117.4
Austin Peay93.3
Ball St.94.3
Baylor121.1
Bellarmine97.5
Belmont109.0
Bethune Cookman86.0
Binghamton91.4
Boise St.109.1
Boston College102.6
Boston University100.6
Bowling Green100.6
Bradley101.4
Brown100.1
Bryant96.8
Bucknell90.9
Buffalo107.1
Butler104.4
BYU112.6
Cal Baptist97.9
Cal Poly92.1
Cal St. Bakersfield96.6
Cal St. Fullerton98.4
Cal St. Northridge91.8
California104.3
Campbell98.7
Canisius93.3
Central Arkansas85.5
Central Connecticut86.9
Central Michigan88.6
Charleston99.3
Charleston Southern85.2
Charlotte98.9
Chattanooga105.7
Chicago St.82.7
Cincinnati107.7
Clemson110.8
Cleveland St.101.1
Coastal Carolina99.8
Colgate102.6
Colorado106.4
Colorado St.111.6
Columbia85.9
Connecticut114.6
Coppin St.91.2
Cornell98.1
Creighton108.9
Dartmouth95.8
Davidson108.6
Dayton105.3
Delaware100.3
Delaware St.78.8
Denver89.1
DePaul107.4
Detroit Mercy97.7
Dixie St.91.9
Drake106.6
Drexel99.6
Duke118.6
Duquesne98.8
East Carolina99.1
East Tennessee St.100.8
Eastern Illinois84.3
Eastern Kentucky100.1
Eastern Michigan93.5
Eastern Washington97.7
Elon93.2
Evansville95.3
Fairfield99.8
Fairleigh Dickinson86.7
FIU97.4
Florida113.6
Florida A&M91.5
Florida Atlantic98.2
Florida Gulf Coast99.5
Florida St.111.6
Fordham97.8
Fresno St.106.9
Furman104.0
Gardner Webb97.3
George Mason103.1
George Washington94.8
Georgetown103.5
Georgia99.4
Georgia Southern98.1
Georgia St.101.2
Georgia Tech104.4
Gonzaga122.6
Grambling St.88.5
Grand Canyon103.7
Green Bay90.7
Hampton88.4
Hartford93.1
Harvard99.6
Hawaii96.8
High Point93.7
Hofstra104.2
Holy Cross86.5
Houston120.0
Houston Baptist84.7
Howard97.0
Idaho88.1
Idaho St.90.7
Illinois116.9
Illinois Chicago95.0
Illinois St.97.1
Incarnate Word85.1
Indiana113.3
Indiana St.98.8
Iona106.6
Iowa114.8
Iowa St.109.6
IUPUI82.6
Jackson St.96.1
Jacksonville97.5
Jacksonville St.102.2
James Madison101.5
Kansas119.5
Kansas St.107.2
Kennesaw St.94.0
Kent St.101.0
Kentucky117.3
La Salle95.4
Lafayette91.5
Lamar90.7
Lehigh89.4
Liberty102.7
Lipscomb93.5
Little Rock90.7
LIU94.9
Long Beach St.93.4
Longwood99.1
Louisiana99.0
Louisiana Monroe97.5
Louisiana Tech105.8
Louisville109.8
Loyola Chicago113.1
Loyola Marymount103.2
Loyola MD93.9
LSU118.1
Maine84.4
Manhattan95.1
Marist98.0
Marquette107.4
Marshall101.1
Maryland109.3
Maryland Eastern Shore88.9
Massachusetts102.2
McNeese St.90.4
Memphis113.3
Mercer97.6
Merrimack94.2
Miami FL105.0
Miami OH101.3
Michigan115.3
Michigan St.115.4
Middle Tennessee98.6
Milwaukee94.3
Minnesota107.7
Mississippi104.8
Mississippi St.110.8
Mississippi Valley St.74.3
Missouri100.1
Missouri St.107.0
Monmouth104.7
Montana98.8
Montana St.99.4
Morehead St.101.5
Morgan St.90.0
Mount St. Mary’s92.4
Murray St.107.9
N.C. State104.5
Navy102.4
Nebraska101.9
Nebraska Omaha86.9
Nevada106.7
New Hampshire98.5
New Mexico97.5
New Mexico St.104.8
New Orleans92.1
Niagara98.6
Nicholls St.97.6
NJIT93.4
Norfolk St.94.9
North Alabama94.1
North Carolina112.0
North Carolina A&T93.4
North Carolina Central90.2
North Dakota86.6
North Dakota St.99.4
North Florida93.1
North Texas105.6
Northeastern101.5
Northern Arizona90.6
Northern Colorado98.3
Northern Illinois89.7
Northern Iowa103.7
Northern Kentucky97.5
Northwestern110.8
Northwestern St.87.3
Notre Dame107.8
Oakland103.5
Ohio105.4
Ohio St.115.7
Oklahoma112.3
Oklahoma St.110.7
Old Dominion99.1
Oral Roberts101.6
Oregon108.9
Oregon St.101.2
Pacific95.7
Penn97.5
Penn St.107.0
Pepperdine96.4
Pittsburgh99.9
Portland94.2
Portland St.95.1
Prairie View A&M93.8
Presbyterian93.3
Princeton102.5
Providence109.7
Purdue120.3
Purdue Fort Wayne94.0
Quinnipiac95.8
Radford94.4
Rhode Island107.1
Rice100.3
Richmond108.4
Rider92.4
Robert Morris92.0
Rutgers105.1
Sacramento St.91.0
Sacred Heart93.2
Saint Joseph’s99.5
Saint Louis107.6
Saint Mary’s110.8
Saint Peter’s97.5
Sam Houston St.96.9
Samford95.4
San Diego99.1
San Diego St.110.0
San Francisco111.2
San Jose St.93.3
Santa Clara106.3
Seattle99.3
Seton Hall114.4
Siena92.7
SIU Edwardsville92.5
SMU108.4
South Alabama101.1
South Carolina105.6
South Carolina St.87.2
South Dakota95.5
South Dakota St.107.0
South Florida96.5
Southeast Missouri St.90.2
Southeastern Louisiana91.1
Southern94.8
Southern Illinois102.1
Southern Miss92.4
Southern Utah102.5
St. Bonaventure108.0
St. Francis NY90.3
St. Francis PA95.0
St. John’s107.5
St. Thomas92.8
Stanford105.7
Stephen F. Austin100.6
Stetson94.9
Stony Brook98.1
Syracuse107.2
Tarleton St.99.1
TCU108.5
Temple101.0
Tennessee117.9
Tennessee Martin88.6
Tennessee St.91.8
Tennessee Tech94.4
Texas114.5
Texas A&M107.8
Texas A&M Corpus Chris93.2
Texas Southern99.5
Texas St.101.5
Texas Tech114.9
The Citadel95.2
Toledo105.7
Towson104.8
Troy95.5
Tulane99.9
Tulsa101.8
UAB110.5
UC Davis98.0
UC Irvine105.4
UC Riverside102.0
UC San Diego95.3
UC Santa Barbara102.1
UCF109.1
UCLA117.5
UMass Lowell97.9
UMBC96.5
UMKC97.6
UNC Asheville96.2
UNC Greensboro99.2
UNC Wilmington93.0
UNLV102.9
USC114.9
USC Upstate88.8
UT Arlington95.8
UT Rio Grande Valley92.9
Utah107.5
Utah St.109.5
Utah Valley103.1
UTEP99.2
UTSA91.0
Valparaiso98.9
Vanderbilt106.8
VCU107.3
Vermont105.4
Villanova115.9
Virginia107.3
Virginia Tech113.8
VMI97.2
Wagner104.4
Wake Forest108.2
Washington100.3
Washington St.109.9
Weber St.101.5
West Virginia111.3
Western Carolina92.5
Western Illinois98.9
Western Kentucky104.5
Western Michigan88.3
Wichita St.108.4
William & Mary86.8
Winthrop99.3
Wisconsin111.3
Wofford105.2
Wright St.99.4
Wyoming106.7
Xavier114.5
Yale101.3
Youngstown St.96.5

PiRate Ratings By Conference

America East
TeamRating
Vermont105.4
New Hampshire98.5
Stony Brook98.1
UMass Lowell97.9
UMBC96.5
NJIT93.4
Hartford93.1
Albany93.0
Binghamton91.4
Maine84.4

American Athletic
TeamRating
Houston120.0
Memphis113.3
UCF109.1
SMU108.4
Wichita St.108.4
Cincinnati107.7
Tulsa101.8
Temple101.0
Tulane99.9
East Carolina99.1
South Florida96.5

Atlantic 10
TeamRating
Davidson108.6
Richmond108.4
St. Bonaventure108.0
Saint Louis107.6
VCU107.3
Rhode Island107.1
Dayton105.3
George Mason103.1
Massachusetts102.2
Saint Joseph’s99.5
Duquesne98.8
Fordham97.8
La Salle95.4
George Washington94.8

Atlantic Coast
TeamRating
Duke118.6
Virginia Tech113.8
North Carolina112.0
Florida St.111.6
Clemson110.8
Louisville109.8
Wake Forest108.2
Notre Dame107.8
Virginia107.3
Syracuse107.2
Miami FL105.0
N.C. State104.5
Georgia Tech104.4
Boston College102.6
Pittsburgh99.9

Atlantic Sun
TeamRating
Liberty102.7
Jacksonville St.102.2
Eastern Kentucky100.1
Florida Gulf Coast99.5
Jacksonville97.5
Bellarmine97.5
Stetson94.9
North Alabama94.1
Kennesaw St.94.0
Lipscomb93.5
North Florida93.1
Central Arkansas85.5

Big 12
TeamRating
Baylor121.1
Kansas119.5
Texas Tech114.9
Texas114.5
Oklahoma112.3
West Virginia111.3
Oklahoma St.110.7
Iowa St.109.6
TCU108.5
Kansas St.107.2

Big East
TeamRating
Villanova115.9
Connecticut114.6
Xavier114.5
Seton Hall114.4
Providence109.7
Creighton108.9
St. John’s107.5
DePaul107.4
Marquette107.4
Butler104.4
Georgetown103.5

Big Sky
TeamRating
Southern Utah102.5
Weber St.101.5
Montana St.99.4
Montana98.8
Northern Colorado98.3
Eastern Washington97.7
Portland St.95.1
Sacramento St.91.0
Idaho St.90.7
Northern Arizona90.6
Idaho88.1

Big South
TeamRating
Winthrop99.3
Longwood99.1
Campbell98.7
Gardner Webb97.3
UNC Asheville96.2
Radford94.4
High Point93.7
North Carolina A&T93.4
Presbyterian93.3
USC Upstate88.8
Hampton88.4
Charleston Southern85.2

Big Ten
TeamRating
Purdue120.3
Illinois116.9
Ohio St.115.7
Michigan St.115.4
Michigan115.3
Iowa114.8
Indiana113.3
Wisconsin111.3
Northwestern110.8
Maryland109.3
Minnesota107.7
Penn St.107.0
Rutgers105.1
Nebraska101.9

Big West
TeamRating
UC Irvine105.4
UC Santa Barbara102.1
UC Riverside102.0
Cal St. Fullerton98.4
UC Davis98.0
Hawaii96.8
Cal St. Bakersfield96.6
UC San Diego95.3
Long Beach St.93.4
Cal Poly92.1
Cal St. Northridge91.8

Colonial Athletic
TeamRating
Towson104.8
Hofstra104.2
James Madison101.5
Northeastern101.5
Delaware100.3
Drexel99.6
Charleston99.3
Elon93.2
UNC Wilmington93.0
William & Mary86.8

Conference USA
TeamRating
UAB110.5
Louisiana Tech105.8
North Texas105.6
Western Kentucky104.5
Marshall101.1
Rice100.3
UTEP99.2
Old Dominion99.1
Charlotte98.9
Middle Tennessee98.6
Florida Atlantic98.2
FIU97.4
Southern Miss92.4
UTSA91.0

Horizon
TeamRating
Oakland103.5
Cleveland St.101.1
Wright St.99.4
Detroit Mercy97.7
Northern Kentucky97.5
Youngstown St.96.5
Illinois Chicago95.0
Milwaukee94.3
Purdue Fort Wayne94.0
Robert Morris92.0
Green Bay90.7
IUPUI82.6

Ivy League
TeamRating
Princeton102.5
Yale101.3
Brown100.1
Harvard99.6
Cornell98.1
Penn97.5
Dartmouth95.8
Columbia85.9

Metro Atlantic
TeamRating
Iona106.6
Monmouth104.7
Fairfield99.8
Niagara98.6
Marist98.0
Saint Peter’s97.5
Quinnipiac95.8
Manhattan95.1
Canisius93.3
Siena92.7
Rider92.4


Mid-American
TeamRating
Buffalo107.1
Toledo105.7
Ohio105.4
Akron102.6
Miami OH101.3
Kent St.101.0
Bowling Green100.6
Ball St.94.3
Eastern Michigan93.5
Northern Illinois89.7
Central Michigan88.6
Western Michigan88.3

Mideastern Athletic
TeamRating
Howard97.0
Norfolk St.94.9
Coppin St.91.2
North Carolina Central90.2
Morgan St.90.0
Maryland Eastern Shore88.9
South Carolina St.87.2
Delaware St.78.8

Missouri Valley
TeamRating
Loyola Chicago113.1
Missouri St.107.0
Drake106.6
Northern Iowa103.7
Southern Illinois102.1
Bradley101.4
Valparaiso98.9
Indiana St.98.8
Illinois St.97.1
Evansville95.3

Mountain West
TeamRating
Colorado St.111.6
San Diego St.110.0
Utah St.109.5
Boise St.109.1
Fresno St.106.9
Wyoming106.7
Nevada106.7
UNLV102.9
New Mexico97.5
San Jose St.93.3
Air Force92.7

Northeast
TeamRating
Wagner104.4
Bryant96.8
St. Francis PA95.0
LIU94.9
Merrimack94.2
Sacred Heart93.2
Mount St. Mary’s92.4
St. Francis NY90.3
Central Connecticut86.9
Fairleigh Dickinson86.7

Ohio Valley
TeamRating
Belmont109.0
Murray St.107.9
Morehead St.101.5
Tennessee Tech94.4
Austin Peay93.3
SIU Edwardsville92.5
Tennessee St.91.8
Southeast Missouri St.90.2
Tennessee Martin88.6
Eastern Illinois84.3

Pac-12
TeamRating
Arizona120.7
UCLA117.5
USC114.9
Washington St.109.9
Oregon108.9
Utah107.5
Colorado106.4
Stanford105.7
Arizona St.105.7
California104.3
Oregon St.101.2
Washington100.3

Patriot League
TeamRating
Colgate102.6
Navy102.4
Boston University100.6
Loyola MD93.9
Army93.4
Lafayette91.5
Bucknell90.9
American89.6
Lehigh89.4
Holy Cross86.5

Southeastern
TeamRating
LSU118.1
Tennessee117.9
Auburn117.4
Kentucky117.3
Alabama116.1
Florida113.6
Arkansas111.2
Mississippi St.110.8
Texas A&M107.8
Vanderbilt106.8
South Carolina105.6
Mississippi104.8
Missouri100.1
Georgia99.4

Southern
TeamRating
Chattanooga105.7
Wofford105.2
Furman104.0
East Tennessee St.100.8
UNC Greensboro99.2
Mercer97.6
VMI97.2
Samford95.4
The Citadel95.2
Western Carolina92.5

Southland
TeamRating
Nicholls St.97.6
Texas A&M Corpus Chris93.2
New Orleans92.1
Southeastern Louisiana91.1
McNeese St.90.4
Northwestern St.87.3
Incarnate Word85.1
Houston Baptist84.7

Southwestern Athletic
TeamRating
Texas Southern99.5
Jackson St.96.1
Southern94.8
Prairie View A&M93.8
Alcorn St.91.6
Florida A&M91.5
Grambling St.88.5
Alabama A&M87.1
Alabama St.86.7
Bethune Cookman86.0
Arkansas Pine Bluff82.3
Mississippi Valley St.74.3

Summit
TeamRating
South Dakota St.107.0
Oral Roberts101.6
North Dakota St.99.4
Western Illinois98.9
UMKC97.6
South Dakota95.5
St. Thomas92.8
Denver89.1
Nebraska Omaha86.9
North Dakota86.6

Sun Belt
TeamRating
Texas St.101.5
Georgia St.101.2
South Alabama101.1
Appalachian St.99.9
Coastal Carolina99.8
Louisiana99.0
Georgia Southern98.1
Louisiana Monroe97.5
Arkansas St.97.1
UT Arlington95.8
Troy95.5
Little Rock90.7

West Coast
TeamRating
Gonzaga122.6
BYU112.6
San Francisco111.2
Saint Mary’s110.8
Santa Clara106.3
Loyola Marymount103.2
San Diego99.1
Pepperdine96.4
Pacific95.7
Portland94.2

Western Athletic
TeamRating
New Mexico St.104.8
Abilene Christian103.9
Grand Canyon103.7
Utah Valley103.1
Stephen F. Austin100.6
Seattle99.3
Tarleton St.99.1
Cal Baptist97.9
Sam Houston St.96.9
UT Rio Grande Valley92.9
Dixie St.91.9
Lamar90.7
Chicago St.82.7

April 2, 2021

PiRate Ratings Final Four Preview

National Semifinals Spreads

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
GonzagaUCLA14.7
BaylorHouston1.4

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

Baylor3
Gonzaga1
Houston7
UCLA13

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

Defensive Efficiency Ratings

Baylor28
Gonzaga5
Houston8
UCLA45

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

Baylor59.3
Gonzaga59.2
Houston56.9
UCLA61.4

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

Baylor14.2
Gonzaga14.7
Houston18.3
UCLA8.3

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

TeamSRJR
Baylor24
Gonzaga22
Houston32
UCLA04

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.

Baylor3
Gonzaga3
Houston1
UCLA1

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%

Baylor41.1
Gonzaga37.1
Houston35.4
UCLA36.9

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
BaylorNoNo
GonzagaYesYes
HoustonNoNo
UCLANoNo

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

TeamTS%OppMargin
Baylor58.552.06.5
Gonzaga63.449.813.6
Houston54.447.17.3
UCLA54.752.91.8

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

Baylor3
Gonzaga4
Houston3
UCLA4

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

Baylor36.1
Gonzaga30.4
Houston39.5
UCLA29.4

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

Baylor48.6
Gonzaga46.5
Houston42.8
UCLA49.4

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

TeamO-RateD-Rate
Baylor26.731.0
Gonzaga35.625.3
Houston30.441.0
UCLA31.428.0

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

BaylorNo
GonzagaYes
HoustonYes
UCLANo

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

BaylorYes
GonzagaYes
HoustonYes
UCLANo

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

Baylor17.5
Gonzaga23.1
Houston19.0
UCLA5.3

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

Baylor5.4
Gonzaga13.3
Houston6.4
UCLA2.3

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

Baylor18
Gonzaga30
Houston11/8/7
UCLA7

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.

Summation

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
FavoriteUnderdogSpread
HoustonOregon St.9.0
BaylorArkansas5.1
GonzagaUSC9.3
MichiganUCLA6.4

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

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
Loyola (Chi.)Oregon St.6.5
BaylorVillanova5.2
ArkansasOral Roberts13.3
HoustonSyracuse7.0
GonzagaCreighton13.3
MichiganFlorida St.3.4
AlabamaUCLA5.7
USCOregon3.4

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 16, 2021

2021 Bracketnomics Report

For many of you, this is the only time of the year you visit the PiRate Ratings, as March Madness is your real holiday season.  If this is your first visit here, please be advised that we actively participate in rating college and NFL football as well as college basketball.  And, if you are a fan of tabletop baseball games, our Sabertooth Baseball Game is available for the low price of $7 while it is still on sale, when it will go back to $8.  If you have the dice and the playing surface, we send you all the cards, charts, and rules in a zip file for you to print.  Serious gamers tell us that they think our game is one of the most advanced strategic baseball games on the market with unique playing styles.  If we piqued your interest, check us out at https://sabertooth-baseball.square.site , or our blog at https://sabertoothbaseball.wordpress.com 

Now that we’ve heard from our sponsor, let’s get right to it.  First, what are Bracketnomics?  That’s our term we coined to describe how we use analytical data that has been backtested to try to determine which teams have the best set of statistical fingerprints when compared to national champions of the past.

The tutorial is quite easy to read, and if you haven’t read it, you can check it out here:  https://piratings.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/the-all-encompassing-master-bracketnomics-paradigm-2021/

If you have already read this or just want to go straight to picking your bracket, then here’s what you have been waiting for.

First, let’s start with a few bracket-picking strategies. It is obvious that picking a perfect bracket is about as likely as winning the Powerball and Megamillion lotteries in the same week where lightning strikes your air conditioner compressor and you find a four-leaf clover when you go outside to see why your A/C isn’t working.

It is, however, possible to win whatever bracket-picking contest you enter. We here have received dozens of comments through the years from readers telling us they won their office pools, and we have also heard from people that won pools from supermarket contests, radio station contests, and even one from a woman that won $1,000 from a modified Calcutta contest.

There are a few general keys to scoring high enough to win your bracket pool. First, you need to start by picking your national champion, Final Four, and Elite 8 in that order. Do not start with the opening round and just predict the winners. You will likely eliminate yourself before the Sweet 16 by picking a bunch of upset winners and arrive at the Sweet 16 with less than a half-dozen teams still alive.

Next, once you have your Elite 8, go into each sub-bracket that those 8 teams emerged and pick the best team that would give the Elite 8 team a tough Sweet 16 game. Now, you have your Sweet 16.

At this point, you need to pick most of the rest of the games by “the chalk.” Obviously, your Sweet 16 will have to win in the Rounds of 64 and 32. You can then maybe pick a couple upset winners in the first round and maybe one or two of your Sweet 16 teams will be a dark horse. However, as we see it, the teams considered dark horses really looked like the favorites in our method of picking games. In the past, we were all in on a George Mason team that ambushed the field to the Final Four. We said that Virginia Commonwealth was better than 20 seeds and did not deserve to be in the First Four, and the Rams went to the Final Four. We had Wichita State as a Final Four possible the year they went to the Final Four. And, we showed that Butler had a lot of the needed criteria to get deep into their tournaments. It isn’t fail-safe; we did not see Loyola making the Final Four, and we twice struck out with Connecticut teams that won their championships.

Our criteria relies on the percentages and uses past events to predict future possibilities. Math is not perfect in this respect. Think of it this way: Would you rather have Ty Cobb at bat with runners on second and third base and two outs in the last of the ninth, trailing by one run, or would you rather have Mario Mendoza at bat? The odds greatly favor the best hitter of all time, but there are some instances where Cobb might make an out on a hard line drive, while Mendoza delivers the game-winning hit on a bloop pop fly that finds grass between the infielder and outfielder. We’ll still go with Cobb, and that’s what our Bracketnomics attempt to be–the Ty Cobb of bracket-picking.

A lot of gurus will tell you how the #12 seed is the best upset spot, and they point to how many times the #12 seed has upset the #5 seed. Why does this happen? It is because the #12 seeds are often the best automatic qualifiers from mid-major conferences, and the Selection Committee did a poor job placing these teams this low. It is not a jinx, so don’t automatically advance a 12-seed unless you can see they were placed in the wrong seed line.

The same thing can be said about the 11-seeds. In recent years, the Committee was a little more accurate placing powerful mid-major champions one seed higher than past years. A lot of these former superior 12-seeds are now superior 11-seeds. And, instead of playing 5-seeds, they are playing weaker 6-seeds. The plan stays the same–look at the criteria and let the criteria show you when the lower seeds are superior and actually the better team, meaning it won’t really be an upset at all.

The Best Criteria

As we looked at all the data, three teams emerged from the pack of 68 that have national championship looking criteria stats.  However, one of the teams is missing a key ingredient and will have to be discounted some for the loss of a key player.e

The overall best resumes belong to two #1 seeds, Gonzaga and Illinois.  The third team that has the look of a national champion is Michigan, but the Wolverines fall out of this category if Isaiah Livers cannot return by the Sweet 16 and play at somewhat close to 100% efficiency.

There is another group of teams that fall just short of national champion appearance.  These teams are below the championship line in one basic criterion or multiple smaller criteria.  These teams in alphabetical order are: Colorado, Houston, Texas, and Virginia.  We expect that maybe one of these four will sneak into the Final Four.

The next group back, the teams that are just behind the above group and have solid Sweet 16 appearance criteria with possible Elite 8 criteria are: Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Saint Bonaventure, San Diego St., USC, and Wisconsin.  We expect at least one of these six to make the Elite 8.

Then, there is a group of teams with considerable positive criteria along with a major negative criterion. These teams are also Sweet 16 worthy, and two could advance to the Elite 8 with one even sneaking into the Final Four. These teams may benefit from ideal brackets more than criteria, as you read the previews.

This year’s criteria was hard to calculate because of the lack of non-conference games.  Schedule strength had to be stressed even more than usual, or else we would have Colgate picked to go to the Final 4.  The Raiders are 14-1, and all of their games were against fellow Patriot League members; additionally, Colgate never played the other quality team in the league in Navy.

There was a slight issue with Gonzaga’s strength of schedule.  The Bulldogs’ total SOS was brought down due to the bottom teams in their conference.  However, they have wins over Iowa and West Virginia out of conference, and that allows us to accept Gonzaga’s schedule strength as the minimum needed to be considered for the national championship, and adequate for the Final Four.  They were supposed to play Baylor, but the Bears opted out of that game due to the virus.

Now, we will review each of the Round of 64 games using our criteria to pick the winner.  Note that we will have regular PiRate Rating spreads for these games on the day of the games.  Our PiRate Ratings are not used when picking winners in Bracketnomics.

First Four

If you are picking brackets, you can usually wait until these games have been played before picking your brackets.  The 16-seed winners will not really matter, as none of them stand a chance to knock off a 1-seed this year.  The 11-seed games will be important, so if you can, wait until those games have been played before submitting your brackets wherever you do.

16 Texas Southern vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s: Mount St. Mary’s defense will keep Texas Southern from getting a lot of good looks, and the Mount doesn’t foul a lot, so TSU will have a hard time scoring.  MSM’s R+T is a tad better too.

Prediction: Mount St. Mary’s

11 Drake vs. 11 Wichita St.: This should be a close game, as both teams have strengths that can be used to exploit the other team’s weaknesses.  Drake is clearly the better offensive team, while Wichita State has a smaller advantage on defense but considerable advantage on schedule strength.  Drake’s R+T rating is quite better, good enough that they might enjoy the game-clinching spurt in this one.

Prediction: Drake

16 Appalachian St. vs. 16 Norfolk St.: These are two teams that will be fighting tooth and nail for their chance to shine for one night, and this looks like a close one.  To select a winner here, we basically have to go with the team with fewer negatives.  Both are ripe with negatives, but in the end, Norfolk St. has the capability of speeding up the tempo and getting Appy State players in foul trouble.

Prediction: Norfolk St.

11 Michigan St. vs. 11 UCLA:  This is a Michigan State squad lacking its typical inside dominance, while UCLA has very little inside game.  So, it’s more likely that this game will be decided on the perimeter.  UCLA is clearly superior from behind the arc, and Michigan State’s biggest issue this year has been with perimeter players that can take the three or drive quickly to the key.

Prediction: UCLA

SOUTH REGIONAL

1 Baylor vs. 16 Hartford: There’s nothing at all that shows us that Hartford has a chance in this game.  Baylor is superior across the board, so forget this being a UMBC-Virginia moment.  Baylor should lead by more than 30 when Scott Drew removes his starters.

Prediction: Baylor

8 North Carolina vs. 9 Wisconsin: Normally, we would find some fact or statistic to show the Tar Heels being superior to an opening round opponent, but this time, we cannot rationalize doing so.  Both teams are about equal defensively in preventing good shots by their opponents.  Wisconsin is clearly more efficient on offense.  Wisconsin is one of the most experienced teams in the field with six seniors among their top eight players, while UNC is one of the greenest with just one senior and one junior among their top eight.  Carolina has the power advantage in this game, but the Badgers will limit possessions, and they have the outside shooting advantage.  Carolina’s only hope is to get the pace up to more than 70 possessions per side, but we think the veteran Badger team will control the pace and have the advantage.

Prediction: Wisconsin

5 Villanova vs. 12 Winthrop: This is one of those momentum games by a lot of pundits.  They believe that with Villanova’s multiple injuries, this will be another #12 seed upset.  Are they correct?  Let’s take a look.

First, we have to discount Villanova due to their missing senior guard Collin Gillespie.  Additionally, guard Justin Moore will still be somewhat below par due to his severe ankle sprain.  Add to that fact that Winthrop has one of the most unique point forwards in the nation in Chandler Vaudrin.  Now, let’s look at the data.  Villanova enjoys an enormous inside advantage in this game, and their schedule strength is in a different time zone compared to Winthrop’s.  Wins over Southern Conference contenders UNC-Greensboro and Furman were nice, but they were 0-0 against power conference teams.  We expect VU’s two inside forces to get their share of points and force Winthrop to bring an extra defender into the paint, where ‘Nova’s third and fourth options on the perimeter should be good enough to knock down a few.

Prediction: Villanova

4 Purdue vs. 13 North Texas: This game could be close, for a half.  North Texas has the ability to stay within single digits for most of the day, but in the end, Purdue has a wide advantage in both schedule strength and R+T.  That almost always leads to a team going on a big run to put a game away.

Prediction: Purdue

6 Texas Tech vs. 11 Utah St.: Texas Tech is noted for their tough defense, but guess what?  Utah State’s defense is even better this year.  Utah State also has a supreme inside game and isn’t too shabby on the perimeter.  Texas Tech has issues scoring on offense, and we expect the Red Raiders will have foul trouble inside the paint.  Here is our first lower seed upset pick.

Prediction: Utah St.

3 Arkansas vs. 14 Colgate:  Here is where schedule strength is as important as class is in handicap horse races.  Arkansas is a Grade I champion, while Colgate is still eligible for non-winner’s of two allowance races.  The schedule strength favors Arkansas by more than a dozen points before looking at any other stats.  Arkansas’s offense is not superior, but it is very good.  Their defense is close to superior.  Colgate’s offense is good, but in the end, their defense isn’t going to slow down the Razorbacks enough times to keep this game close.  There are no criteria that show us that Colgate has a chance to find something to exploit in this game.  Add to the load our personal belief that Eric Musselman is one of the A++ basketball coaches, and this looks like a double-digit win.

Prediction: Arkansas

7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia Tech:  This game looks more like an 8-9 game than a 7-10 game, because it is close to dead even when looking at all the criteria.  Florida has a slight advantage with offensive and defensive efficiency and schedule strength, but VT rates better in R+T, which can override small schedule strength advantages.  Additionally, both schools have swooned in recent weeks, so what we are looking at here is who will be fodder in the next round?  We honestly say to pick the team you like in this one, because it is a 50-50 matchup.  When it’s 50-50, we look at the coaches.  Michael White has an Elite 8 appearance at Florida.  Mike Young had an incredible Wofford team in the Dance that beat Seton Hall and took Kentucky to the buzzer in the Round of 32.  

Prediction: Virginia Tech

2 Ohio St. vs. 15 Oral Roberts: Oral Roberts is the only one of the 68 teams in this field with a negative R+T rating.  Our prime rule is to immediately eliminate any NCAA Tournament team with a negative R+T rating.  There are no exceptions to this rule, so even if ORU was playing one of the 16-seeds in this round, we would be selecting the opponent.  As Royal Rooter King Michael McGreevy would have replied, “‘Nuf ced.”

Prediction: Ohio St. has the potential to win by 35 points.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

1 Illinois vs. 16 Drexel: You know the answer here, so let’s break down the Illini a little to show you why they have the criteria of a national champion.

National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.

National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Illinois’s scoring margin is 12.2 in a year where the Big Ten was the top-ranked overall league.

National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Illinois is 7th offensively and 5th defensively.

National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Illinois has two seniors and three juniors in their top eight.

Add to this a team with a +37% 3-point accuracy; two inside players that combine for more than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game; an offense that forces defenses to foul too much; a defense that does not foul too much; a top-10 schedule strength, and one of the few 20+ R+T Ratings in this tournament.  

10 out of the last 13 years, a #1 seed won the national title, and Illinois is a #1 seed playing just one state away from home.  Other than having a coach that has not been past the Round of 32, and a slightly under the championship norm offensive rebounding rate, this team looks like past national champions.

Prediction: Illinois by whatever spread they want to name.

8 Loyola (Chi.) vs. 9 Georgia Tech: Oh, this one should be a grand one to watch!  Not only is it an evenly-matched game, it is evenly matched with both teams having decided advantages over the other in various criteria.  That usually leads to an exciting 40 minutes with lots of plot twists.  In other words, plan on watching this game.  Let’s break this one down.  Georgia Tech has the definite offensive efficiency advantage, but Loyola has the number one defensive efficiency in the entire nation!  Loyola is one of a very few teams to have a double-digit true shooting percentage margin.  The Rambler TS% is 59.8% and they allow 48.7%.  

Georgia Tech has three players that can put away an opponent, while Loyola is more of a team approach type of winner.  In the clutch, go with a team with three potential dagger-makers.  Georgia Tech has a slightly stronger schedule, but Loyola has superior R+T numbers, and for that reason, the scales slightly tip past balanced.

Prediction: Loyola (Chi.)

5 Tennessee vs. 12 Oregon St.: We expect the winner of this game to have a tough time advancing to the Sweet 16 for multiple reasons.  Tennessee is one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams in the field, if not the most.  An excellent defensive effort will give the Vols a big win, and then an egg-laying offensive effort will get them beat the next game.  The problem is that the players seem to lack direction against changing defenses.

Oregon St. was a model of excellent consistency for 120 minutes at the Pac-12 Tournament, holding the pace to less than 65 possessions per game, and winning by making very few mistakes.  By mistakes, we don’t refer to turnovers, but more to smart shot selection and excellent team defense.  That team defense thing is kryptonite to Tennessee.

The question is which Vols team shows up?  Will it be the team that disposed of Kansas like they were a division 2 team, or will it be the team that acted like it didn’t know the object of the game in the second half of the SEC Tournament semifinals?  We’ll say that for one game, UT will play up to their potential.

Prediction: Tennessee

4 Oklahoma St. vs. 13 Liberty: Liberty was a real victim of Covid-19 in 2020.  The Flames were good enough to make the Sweet 16 last year.  This year’s team is not on that same level of competence.  The biggest factor in this game is the humongous schedule strength advantage the Cowboys have.  On that alone, OSU is 18 points better before the opening tip.  They also have the top clutch player in the Dance in Cade Cunningham, who is better than Kemba Walker, who took Connecticut to the national title when the Huskies did not have national title criteria.

Prediction: Oklahoma St.

6 San Diego St. vs. 11 Syracuse: Syracuse has been in this situation before where they were on the Bubble getting into the field and then won a game or two.  They made the Final Four as a 10-seed.  Their matchup zone defense can be trouble for teams that have not seen it live, and most teams that play the ‘Cuse in the Rounds of 64 and 32 have not seen another team use it.  That can make a difference in closely-matched teams.

San Diego State’s man-to-man defense is not something Syracuse has seen either.  It is nothing like Virginia’s or other ACC defenses.  In a normal year, Duke’s defense might look something like that, but the Orangemen will be just as unsure attacking the Aztecs as SDSU is attacking the zone.  Syracuse has a stronger schedule strength, but not that much stronger, while SDSU has the better R+T Rating, enough to make the difference.

Prediction: San Diego St.

3 West Virginia vs. 14 Morehead St.: In recent years, Belmont and Murray St. have pulled off big upsets from the Ohio Valley Conference.  Ten years ago, this team knocked off Louisville in the opening round.  Can lightning strike twice?  About as often as it does, so don’t expect the Eagles to soar over the Mountaineers.  The schedule strength advantage is considerable at 13+ points.  The inside advantage will be almost as strong, and WVU will get many extra opportunities to score in this game.  Unless Morehead shoots lights out from three, this will be a mismatch.

Prediction: West Virginia

7 Clemson vs. 10 Rutgers:   These are very similar teams when looking at their criteria.  There isn’t much to separate them.  Rutgers has a slightly better offensive efficiency rating.  They are basically equal defensively.  Clemson has the better frontcourt and more likely to get more first chance points in the paint.  Neither team is adequate enough to get to the Sweet 16 with their R+T Ratings.  In the end, we go with the better offense in this one.

Prediction: Rutgers

2 Houston vs. 15 Cleveland St.: This is the best Houston team since Phi Slama Jama made it to consecutive national title games in 1983 and 1984.  Two years ago, a #3-seed Houston team easily advanced to the Sweet 16 and then took Kentucky to the final horn.  This team is a tad better overall, but more importantly, this regional is lacking in teams that excel where Houston is vulnerable.  Houston could win this game by 30-35 points, but Kelvin Sampson will probably empty his bench earlier than normal, allowing Cleveland State to make the final score look less embarrassing.  Only if CSU can get three or four Cougar players in early foul trouble can they keep this one close.

Prediction: Houston

West Regional

1 Gonzaga vs. 16 Norfolk St.: Rather than show you how Gonzaga could win this game by 40 or more, let’s show you their criteria so you can compare it to Illinois.  

A.  National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.  Gonzaga would have to break a 31-year trend.

B.  National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Gonzaga’s scoring margin is 23.0, which is far and away the best in the nation.  UNLV’s was 15 when they won the 1990 title.

C.  National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Gonzaga is number one on offense and number 10 on defense, a definite look of a national champion.

D.  National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Gonzaga has two seniors and two juniors in their top eight.

E.  Gonzaga’s 3-point percentage is 36.5%, which is a fraction under the 37% floor most champions have had.  They have three players that can be counted on to win a game on the final possession.  They have two inside stars that can dominate a game in the paint.  While the Bulldogs’ schedule is a tad weaker than a typical national champion schedule, they did beat Iowa and West Virginia on the road, and a cancelled game against Baylor would have given them a championship worthy schedule.

Prediction: Gonzaga by a very large margin

8 Oklahoma vs. 9 Missouri: These former Big 8/Big 12 rivals used to have some great conference games, and this one should be a lot like those great ones from the past.  Oklahoma has the better offensive efficiency, while defensive efficiency is about equal.  Missouri has the advantage inside and a slightly better strength of schedule.  There isn’t much difference when looking at the rest, but Missouri is one of the few teams that has a +37% free throw rate; however, their defensive FT rate is too high.

Prediction: Oklahoma

5 Creighton vs. 12 UCSB: On the surface, this looks like a potential double-digit win for the higher seed, even when considering the high number of 12-seed upsets in the past.  Crieghton’s offensive efficiency rating is high enough to consider the Blue Jays an Elite 8 contender, and their defensive efficiency rating is strong enough to move Creighton into the next round.  However, there has been an issue with the head coach, and Creighton did not look like the same team after the dissension between players and coach came to a head.  

UCSB is not an easy mark.  The Gauchos have an inside presence typical of a first round winner.  They are a senior-laden squad, and their R+T rating is almost 20, which is another sign of a potential upset winner in the Round of 64.  When a team has a huge R+T rating advantage over their opponent, the next thing to compare are the two schedule strengths.  In this case, Creighton has a modestly better SOS, not enough to overcome a large R+T disadvantage. Remember that UC-Irvine from the same Big West Conference beat a 4-seed in the 2019 Dance.

Prediction: UCSB gets the upset

4 Virginia vs. 13 Ohio U: Ohio has a top 40 offense, but their defense is too weak to stop an ACC team like Virginia.  This will be more of a half-court game, where the fast break is an afterthought.  Virginia will win more than half of the possessions, probably something like 55% of them, and in a 62 possession game for both teams, that comes out to 68 possessions for the Cavs and 56 possessions for the Bobcats.  A 12-possession win with about 1.1 points per possession means a 13-point win.

Prediction: Virginia

6 USC vs. 11 Drake: This game could be a faster-paced replica of the UVa-Ohio game.  USC and Drake both have very strong offensive efficiency ratings, but Drake’s defensive efficiency is below the threshold of a winning tournament team.  USC will dominate inside in this game, and Drake will have to hit close to half their three-point shots to keep this one close.  USC has one of the highest foul-drawing offenses, and the Trojans should get a lot of “and 1’s” in this game.

Prediction: USC

3 Kansas vs, 14 Eastern Washington: This Kansas team does not have the overall offense to advance to the Final Four, and they may struggle making the Sweet 16.  KU’s offensive efficiency is vulnerable against a quality defensive team.  Eastern Washington is not that team with a porous defense compared to this field.  Superior schedule strength and a somewhat better R+T makes this game a solid one in the Big 12 team’s favor.

Prediction: Kansas

7 Oregon vs. 10 VCU: This should be an interesting game.  Oregon’s exceptional offensive efficiency faces VCU’s exceptional defensive efficiency.  The schedule strength is dead even, so we look at the R+T ratings, and it favors the Ducks by one scoring spurt.

Prediction: Oregon

2 Iowa vs. 15 Grand Canyon: Iowa is oh so close to having Final Four criteria.  Their offense trails only Gonzaga, but their defensive efficiency is #50, just outside the threshold for national champion qualification.  Grand Canyon actually holds a substantial R+T Rating advantage, so we must look at the schedule strength to see if it can be sustained.  It cannot in this case, as Iowa’s schedule is almost 15 points stronger per game.

Prediction: Iowa

EAST REGIONAL

1 Michigan vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s:  Even at less than full strength, Michigan is much too strong for a Northeast Conference opponent.  The Wolverines’ have top 10 offense and defense efficiency ratings, while the Mount has the lowest offensive efficiency in the tournament.  Their defensive efficiency is the ninth lowest in the field.  If the Wolverines can get through this first weekend, there is a chance that Isaiah Livers can return and contribute.

Prediction: Michigan

8 LSU vs. 9 Saint Bonaventure:  LSU has a top five offensive efficiency rating, but their defense is below par for any more than a win or two at best.  St. Bonaventure could be a surprise winner, and they could give Michigan a run for their money in a Round of 32 game if they can get past LSU.

This game should stay close like an 8-9 game should, and it is almost a 50-50 guess when applying our criteria.  LSU’s schedule strength is slightly stronger, but The Bonnies have a clear R+T advantage.

Prediction: Saint Bonaventure

5 Colorado vs. 12 Georgetown: It was the worst of times early in the year at 5-10 and the best of times late in the year at 8-2 for the Georgetown Hoyas.  If GU is going to continue to play like they did in the latter part of the schedule, their overall criteria must be looked at in a different light.  The trouble here for Patrick Ewing is the opponent in this game.  Colorado is very close to being considered an Elite 8 dark horse.  The Buffs have an offensive efficiency rating in the top 20, and their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 30.  CU also has the R+T Ratings advantage.

Prediction: Colorado

4 Florida St. vs. 13 UNC-Greensboro: Florida State is another team just shy of the typical criteria of a Final Four team.  The Seminoles are a worthy Sweet 16 team with an offensive efficiency rating in the top 10.  Their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 50, which is just outside of Final 4 worthy. The Seminoles could beat a Michigan team without Livers.

UNCG would be totally outmanned in this game if it wasn’t for a very good R+T rating, and even though FSU’s schedule strength is better, it is not enough to make this game a slam dunk runaway win.  UNCG could keep this close for more minutes than the Seminoles like.

Prediction: Florida St.

6 BYU vs. 11 UCLA: A lot of national talk show hosts and guests believe BYU was given a higher seed than they deserved.  Some people believe that they should have been a 9, 10, or even an 11 seed.  We don’t share that opinion.  BYU actually has the stronger schedule strength, as they have played the number one team three times and won at Utah State and San Diego State.  BYU has the better R+T Rating in this game as well, and the Cougars are substantially better defensively than the Bruins.

Prediction: BYU

3 Texas vs. 14 Abilene Christian: Abilene Christian will be playing for more than a spot in the Round of 32.  Beating Texas would be as special as Texas making the Final Four.  However, this Longhorns squad is tough, tough enough to become Shaka Smart’s second Final Four team, even though it would require one big upset and maybe one minor upset.

Texas has an offensive efficiency rating just outside the top 20 and a defensive efficiency rating in the 30’s.  With a schedule strength that is 16 points stronger than ACU’s, the slight R+T Rating advantage of the Wildcats is nullified.

Prediction: Texas

7 Connecticut vs. 10 Maryland: As hot as Georgetown was at the end of the season, they did lose twice to Connecticut.  The Huskies are another team with efficiency ratings and schedule strength strong enough to be considered a dark horse for advancing to the Sweet 16 and possibly the Elite 8.

Maryland will not be an automatic win for UConn.  In fact, this game is barely past toss-up.  UConn’s offensive efficiency is 24 and their defensive efficiency is 25, but Maryland’s offensive efficiency is just a little lower at 42 with a defensive efficiency almost exactly the same as the Huskies.  Connecticut’s biggest advantage in this game is the R+T Rating, which is slightly offset by Maryland’s somewhat stronger schedule strength.

Prediction: Connecticut

2 Alabama vs. 15 Iona: Can Rick Pitino work his magic and pull of a major upset?  Don’t bet on it.  His Iona Gaels have the sixth weakest offensive efficiency rating and eighth weakest defensive efficiency rating in the tournament.  Meanwhile, Alabama has more than enough superior criteria numbers to win this game with ease, even if their three-point shots don’t fall.  Iona will have a tough time scoring points in this game.

Prediction: Alabama

Those are our Round of 64 picks.  Now, we will finish it up by picking the rest of the bracket using Bracketnomics.

Round of 32

Baylor over Wisconsin

Purdue over Villanova

Arkansas over Utah St.

Ohio St. over Virginia Tech

Illinois over Loyola (Chi.)

Oklahoma St. over Tennessee

West Virginia over San Diego St.

Houston over Rutgers

Gonzaga over Oklahoma

Virginia over UCSB

USC over Kansas

Iowa over Oregon

Michigan over Saint Bonaventure

Florida St. over Colorado

Texas over BYU

Alabama over Connecticut

Sweet 16

Baylor over Purdue

Ohio St. over Arkansas

Illinois over Oklahoma St.

Houston over West Virginia

Gonzaga over Virginia

Iowa over USC

Michigan over Florida St. (if Livers returns)

Texas over Alabama

Elite 8

Ohio St. over Baylor

Illinois over Houston

Gonzaga over Iowa

Texas over Michigan

National Semifinals

Illinois over Ohio St.

Gonzaga over Texas

National Championship

Illinois over Gonzaga *

Note: If Gonzaga defeats Oklahoma, Virginia, and Iowa to get to the Final 4, their Strength of Schedule will then be above the minimum threshold needed to win all the marbles.

Here is a look at each team’s criteria. Maybe you can see something we didn’t see!

Criteria A: The Biggies

TeamO-EffD-EffSOSR + T
Abilene Christian1573044.115.8
Alabama34261.07.3
Appalachian St.22720547.75.2
Arkansas351458.814.2
Baylor34458.218.2
BYU282659.014.1
Clemson992060.64.3
Cleveland St.19912148.93.7
Colgate4314047.716.2
Colorado172958.014.5
Connecticut242558.714.8
Creighton144058.44.5
Drake1912050.716.9
Drexel9524747.19.3
E. Washington8615247.95.0
Florida403760.04.3
Florida St.104859.011.3
Georgetown854161.07.5
Georgia Tech275258.82.8
Gonzaga11057.822.0
Grand Canyon1427446.921.2
Hartford25412745.20.7
Houston81655.527.0
Illinois7562.820.8
Iona21016145.412.1
Iowa25061.411.6
Kansas59661.311.9
Liberty5216844.312.6
Loyola (Chi)49153.016.2
LSU512560.76.1
Maryland422761.82.3
Michigan6761.815.0
Michigan St.983261.35.9
Missouri515861.53.5
Morehead St.2147248.77.5
Mount St. Mary’s28713646.214.8
Norfolk St.20421943.48.0
North Carolina531560.421.5
North Texas1194253.89.2
Ohio St.47958.48.7
Ohio U2917457.58.4
Oklahoma365359.46.2
Oklahoma St.542262.06.1
Oral Roberts7428548.5-2.3
Oregon167657.19.2
Oregon St.6511757.96.0
Purdue232361.614.2
Rutgers751862.22.5
San Diego St.441155.917.3
St. Bonaventure381756.814.1
Syracuse228958.74.2
Tennessee71458.910.7
Texas213661.210.4
Texas Southern23623643.313.9
Texas Tech332459.713.2
UCLA268654.312.5
UCSB668253.419.2
UNCG1296750.815.0
USC301958.716.9
Utah St.112854.623.7
VCU1171257.45.1
Villanova96859.211.2
Virginia123358.98.5
Virginia Tech555456.58.8
West Virginia116562.111.4
Wichita St.5610356.62.3
Winthrop1207045.324.0
Wisconsin321361.74.1

Glossary:

O-Eff: Offensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and most top 10

D-Eff: Defensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and all top 50

SOS: The PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule. All past national champions were higher than 56.0, and most were 60.0 and higher. Usually, one Final Four team has an SOS between 50 and 56.

R+T Rating: The PiRate Ratings estimate of “spurtability.” The higher the number, the more likely a team will enjoy the better scoring spurt. However, this rating goes hand-in-hand with SOS, so it must be handicapped on a per game basis while comparing schedule strengths. All national champions have had R+T ratings above 12.0, and most were over 15.0. A team with an R+T rating above 15.0 and SOS above 60.0 is tournament tough. If in turn, this team has a top 10 O-Eff and top 20 D-Eff, they are going to advance very far into the Dance. Teams with R+T ratings under 5.00 are in trouble after the first round.

Criteria B

TeamSeniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?37+ 3ptF/C 12+ ppg2 F/C 20/12?
Abilene Christian23035.3YesNo
Alabama41137.8NoNo
Appalachian St.22331.7NoNo
Arkansas32133.9YesNo
Baylor24341.8NoNo
BYU32137.8NoNo
Clemson32034.6YesNo
Cleveland St.33131.9NoNo
Colgate32340.2NoNo
Colorado52136.7NoNo
Connecticut23133.6NoNo
Creighton32137.0NoNo
Drake43037.0NoNo
Drexel22137.2YesYes
E. Washington23135.4YesYes
Florida05135.7YesNo
Florida St.24139.0YesYes
Georgetown31136.6YesYes
Georgia Tech42334.9YesNo
Gonzaga22336.5YesYes
Grand Canyon50033.2YesYes
Hartford14032.7NoNo
Houston22136.1NoNo
Illinois23137.6YesYes
Iona30137.2NoNo
Iowa21138.6YesYes
Kansas22No34.4YesYes
Liberty23No39.1NoNo
Loyola (Chi)50No36.8YesNo
LSU04335.0YesYes
Maryland23034.6NoNo
Michigan51138.7YesYes
Michigan St.13032.0YesNo
Missouri42132.0YesYes
Morehead St.14No35.1YesYes
Mount St. Mary’s15133.7NoNo
Norfolk St.41136.8NoNo
North Carolina11No31.7YesYes
North Texas32137.6NoYes
Ohio St.24136.5YesYes
Ohio U13334.4YesYes
Oklahoma42133.8NoNo
Oklahoma St.11133.8NoNo
Oral Roberts22139.0YesYes
Oregon42139.4YesNo
Oregon St.32133.0NoNo
Purdue03130.7YesYes
Rutgers24131.1NoNo
San Diego St.52139.5YesNo
St. Bonaventure07037.5NoNo
Syracuse12333.7YesYes
Tennessee21133.8NoNo
Texas32136.2NoNo
Texas Southern35129.6NoYes
Texas Tech13134.6NoNo
UCLA14139.0NoNo
UCSB41333.7YesYes
UNCG24130.0NoNo
USC32134.6YesYes
Utah St.14133.6YesYes
VCU21132.9NoNo
Villanova23035.2YesYes
Virginia32138.1YesYes
Virginia Tech21134.5YesYes
West Virginia14138.7YesYes
Wichita St.23134.9NoNo
Winthrop24No35.3YesNo
Wisconsin60136.0YesNo

Glossary:

Seniors 8 & Juniors 8: These are the numbers of seniors and juniors in each teams’ top 8 players. Typically, the more experienced teams have the maturity to win close games in high leverage situations. Many times, these players have “been there” before. The best example of this is Georgetown’s Fred Brown. As a sophomore in the 1982 National Championship Game against North Carolina, the last possession of the game was too high leverage for an underclassman to handle. He made a serous unforced gaffe, and Carolina won. Two years later, the senior Brown was like a coach on the floor, as he helped the Hoyas win their lone national championship.

1/3 Clutch?: Successful tournament teams need an anchor that can pick up the tough points at crunch time or steal a pass on defense and key a spurt. If there isn’t one star, a team can get by with a trio of semi-clutch players. Either one is fine, so you want to see a “1” or “3” here and not a “0.” A team with a “0” doesn’t mean that they don’t have a player that can hit the last-second winning shot. Think of two pinch-hitters in baseball. Our clutch player is the PH that hits .300, and not .250 like the “0” clutch team PH.

37+ 3pt: In recent years with Four Factors’ data driving the way teams play, 3-point percentages have mattered more and more. It’s not the number of treys knocked down that matter; it’s the percentage that counts. If a team hits 37% or better from behind the arc, it forces defenses to stop them, and it opens up the middle. A 40% 3-point shooter is as effective as a 60% 2-point shooter.

F/C 12+ ppg / 2 F/C 20/12?: This can be an either or thing but if both criteria are met, it strengthens the deal. National championship and Final 4 teams can be perimeter-oriented, but they still need to have at least one inside player that scored 12 or more points per game, or two frontcourt players that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. The deeper the tournament progresses, the better the team defenses get. Teams that live by the jump shot and have no inside options tend to die by the jump shot before the Final 4. Teams that are dominant in the paint tend to be more consistent.

Criteria C

TeamTS MargDbl Fig#OReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37DFT Rat <31
Abilene Christian55.2-49.5331.745.035.039.4
Alabama54.2-48.9431.546.428.631.9
Appalachian St.52.5-50.9429.948.134.324.3
Arkansas55.0-50.6431.746.932.729.4
Baylor59.3-52.1337.548.127.031.6
BYU58.2-49.7328.745.327.429.5
Clemson53.4-51.8126.647.523.629.5
Cleveland St.53.3-53.0330.950.832.037.1
Colgate59.6-48.4428.149.431.125.1
Colorado56.3-51.0330.846.429.928.0
Connecticut52.9-50.4336.645.629.636.9
Creighton57.0-49.9524.846.126.925.7
Drake57.3-51.54*31.648.224.428.6
Drexel57.6-53.0429.450.428.627.2
E. Washington57.4-50.2523.447.230.327.3
Florida56.2-51.3430.748.433.934.8
Florida St.57.5-51.1335.544.232.736.3
Georgetown53.3-50.7432.447.430.325.9
Georgia Tech56.6-54.9424.750.829.028.9
Gonzaga63.3-50.4430.446.836.625.9
Grand Canyon57.4-47.4332.244.132.228.5
Hartford53.3-50.0324.850.728.725.0
Houston55.2-46.7339.642.929.741.6
Illinois58.3-49.8333.045.439.230.4
Iona55.1-50.5333.445.836.146.4
Iowa57.3-50.5330.745.832.022.7
Kansas53.3-50.0431.345.530.626.4
Liberty60.9-49.6223.846.523.727.2
Loyola (Chi)59.8-48.7125.344.731.421.7
LSU56.4-51.7431.551.334.029.2
Maryland56.1-51.0320.645.833.625.9
Michigan58.2-48.4329.442.329.024.5
Michigan St.51.5-52.0130.448.231.437.1
Missouri54.3-52.4328.648.237.536.4
Morehead St.55.1-49.2324.447.336.023.1
Mount St. Mary’s51.5-49.4231.645.629.724.6
Norfolk St.53.9-51.4228.947.438.540.7
North Carolina51.6-51.4341.246.834.827.1
North Texas57.2-50.3428.345.327.431.4
Ohio St.57.3-52.4329.150.535.034.0
Ohio U58.1-54.7528.851.229.830.2
Oklahoma54.1-51.7327.346.329.222.8
Oklahoma St.55.5-50.6231.946.736.330.5
Oral Roberts58.2-52.1223.847.227.332.3
Oregon56.6-53.6528.350.026.827.1
Oregon St.53.9-53.8230.151.934.037.7
Purdue54.5-51.5232.249.732.230.4
Rutgers52.1-51.3327.447.427.633.2
San Diego St.56.2-50.2229.043.734.531.9
St. Bonaventure53.6-48.2533.645.127.928.3
Syracuse54.5-51.7330.249.228.325.0
Tennessee54.2-49.9331.444.835.131.2
Texas55.9-50.4331.345.834.036.7
Texas Southern52.6-49.5332.745.338.332.9
Texas Tech53.7-51.3333.644.839.236.5
UCLA55.2-53.9530.249.432.628.0
UCSB57.9-50.9329.446.034.227.1
UNCG50.6-52.0131.948.521.830.6
USC54.5-48.7235.642.237.524.7
Utah St.53.3-49.2335.742.930.125.7
VCU55.0-49.8228.645.934.035.4
Villanova56.3-54.0428.051.030.025.8
Virginia58.9-51.1323.146.122.024.5
Virginia Tech55.3-51.6228.447.633.230.9
West Virginia53.0-53.0435.551.328.319.8
Wichita St.51.4-49.0230.647.136.528.4
Winthrop56.3-51.9435.549.235.733.9
Wisconsin53.0-51.1223.747.127.028.5

Glossary:

TS Marg.: True shooting % margin. The numbers shown are the offensive TS% followed by the defensive TS%. This is a secondary criterion already factored in the efficiency numbers but can be used to look at when efficiency numbers are close to even. A good margin is 6% or more.

Dbl Fig #: The number of players averaging double figure scoring. If a team has four players that score 10-20 points per game, it is seldom that all four can be shut down in a game. If they have three players, they are still okay. Two or less usually indicates a bit of trouble to get to the Final 4.

-45% vs. 2: This criterion looks for teams that hold opponents under 45% on 2-point shots. While 3-point percentage is a key offensive stat, stopping two-point shots is the defensive key. Most national champions met this criterion, and almost every Final 4 team that did not meet this criterion lost if their opponent did meet it. It is still important in earlier rounds.

FT Rate 37 & DFT Rat <31: Making a lot of free throws is nice and can secure a small lead late in a game. However, there are two much more important foul stats. A team that gets to the foul line a lot prior to the final two minutes of games gets there because they have a superior offense that is hard to defend and thus is fouled more than average. Additionally, more fouls lead to foul trouble and automatic bench time for key players. Likewise, a team with a low defensive FT rate is a sign of a strong team defense. FT Rate 37 means a team with an offensive FT Rate (FTA/FGA) of 37.0 or better, while DFT Rat <31 means a team with a defensive FT rate under 31.0.

There is a caveat here: As the game becomes more and more of a three-point shooting game, fouling drops. That happened this year, as total fouls called has dropped. For this season, look at teams with 33.3% or better FT Rates and 28% or lower defensive FT Rates.

Criteria D

TeamChampionsCoach Exp.Score MargFG% DiffWin Strk
Abilene ChristianYes6417.16.08
AlabamaYes329.82.610
Appalachian St.Yes996.4-0.64
ArkansasNo1611.74.09
BaylorYes818.06.018
BYUNo9910.27.35
ClemsonNo163.30.95
Cleveland St.Yes990.92.99
ColgateYes6417.79.113
ColoradoNo329.73.56
ConnecticutNo327.92.95
CreightonNo328.77.06
DrakeNo9912.77.218
DrexelYes994.73.64
E. WashingtonYes998.65.39
FloridaNo84.24.34
Florida St.No88.67.65
GeorgetownYes990.70.94
Georgia TechYes325.51.58
GonzagaYes223.013.226
Grand CanyonYes6414.511.59
HartfordYes992.61.65
HoustonYes819.77.78
IllinoisYes3212.28.77
IonaYes16.34.66
IowaNo3211.95.56
KansasNo17.33.48
LibertyYes3215.38.212
Loyola (Chi)Yes416.09.811
LSUNo166.84.45
MarylandNo163.84.75
MichiganYes9910.98.911
Michigan St.No1-1.6-0.16
MissouriNo161.71.86
Morehead St.Yes995.45.712
Mount St. Mary’sYes991.42.14
Norfolk St.Yes996.03.26
North CarolinaNo16.32.03
North TexasYes998.66.64
Ohio St.No166.33.67
Ohio UYes997.64.56
OklahomaNo45.62.15
Oklahoma St.No994.25.56
Oral RobertsYes996.02.24
OregonYes47.03.78
Oregon St.Yes642.4-0.43
PurdueNo84.83.75
RutgersNo641.83.16
San Diego St.Yes6413.56.814
St. BonaventureYes6410.16.17
SyracuseNo15.12.63
TennesseeNo49.34.57
TexasYes46.44.16
Texas SouthernYes645.15.29
Texas TechNo29.63.34
UCLANo164.32.37
UCSBYes9913.76.513
UNCGYes647.21.07
USCNo169.77.37
Utah St.No6411.05.711
VCUNo646.54.67
VillanovaNo18.40.49
VirginiaYes18.16.47
Virginia TechNo326.63.34
West VirginiaNo45.2-1.44
Wichita St.Yes995.00.58
WinthropYes9912.73.016
WisconsinNo165.3-0.25

Glossary

Champions: This refers to a team that won either their regular season conference championship or their postseason conference tournament. Since 1990, 29 of 30 national champions met this criterion.

Coach Exp.: How far has the head coach advanced in the past? When looking at fairly evenly matched teams, a coach with more Dance experience can be the difference. A first-timer may make that crucial mistake that allows the opponent to have that brief scoring run.

Score Marg.: Something like 95% of all national champions had double digit scoring margins. This goes back to the very beginning of the tournament in the 1930s. 98% had scoring margins in excess of 7.5 points per game. Teams with scoring margins in excess of 15 points that come from a power conference are 100% legit powers, so keep that in mind. Mid-majors with 15+ point scoring margins have to be carefully scrutinized. If their power conference opponent played other mid-majors and did not win by an average as high as the Mid-major in the tournament, that means something.

FG% Diff: In the eight-decade history of the tournament, more Final 4 teams had FG% differences in excess of 7.5% than not and a great number had double-digit margins. If a team shot 48% from the field and gave up 38% from the field and played in a power conference, they are truly tough. A team with a double digit FG% difference that played a tough schedule can overcome a lower than average R+T rating, but usually they will run into a team with a superior R+T rating also with a tough SOS, and that’s the end for the lower R+T team.

Win Strk: Should we expect a team to win six straight tournament games if they did not win six straight regular season games? Most of the past champions actually had 10 or more game winning streaks or multiple streaks of 6 or more. Above, where you see numbers in bold, the teams had a second winning streak of 6 or more games in addition to the number shown.

March 14, 2021

Sunday Morning Bracketology

Preliminary to Final Prediction

The PiRates have been busy these last 12 hours rearranging the seed lines and replacing unfortunate at-large teams that were bumped twice yesterday, as Georgetown and Oregon State crashed the Dance party with impressive wins.

Five games remain to be played before the regular season comes to an end, and all five games could affect the final seed lines:

In the first game today, if Colgate beats Loyola of Maryland, the Raiders could move up one line, but the bigger possibility is the movement of more than a dozen seeds if Loyola pulls the upset. Colgate figures to be a 13 or 14 seed, but Loyola would be a 16 seed with a win. Colgate is somewhat of another issue, because the Raiders are a Top 10 team according to the NET Ratings, but they did so by facing no serious competition from top 100 teams. We believe the Committee will overrule their own criteria and send Colgate down the seed line.

In game two, St. Bonaventure faces VCU for the Atlantic 10 Championship. We believe both teams are locks to get into the Dance, but the winner and loser could be one seed apart. Or, the Committee might decide that this game doesn’t really matter and keep the two teams where they have them today. This is highly likely, and we are using that belief in our second to last seeding prediction. The Committee will be faced with an afternoon headache, where many teams will have to be shifted to accommodate a potential bid-thief. In fact, they will have two different brackets and keep one depending on what happens later in the day.

LSU and Alabama face off in what brings up memories of the Game of the Year in football, but this is the SEC Basketball Championship Game. Alabama has a sliver of hope to move to the 1-seed line with an impressive win and an Illinois loss in the Big Ten, but we believe they are probably locked in at the 2-seed line. However, should LSU pull off the upset, the Tigers might move up one line and knock somebody back a line.

The big mover and shaker game is the American Athletic Conference Championship Game this afternoon. Cincinnati could steal a bid away with an upset of Houston, and at the same time knock the Cougars down a spot in the seedings. If Houston wins, then everything is copacetic.

Because it will be the last game of the day, and both teams are rather secure in their destinies, we believe the Big Ten Conference Championship Game will be meaningless toward the final seedings. Illinois has done the work to earn a 1-seed, while Ohio State has worked their way back to a 2-seed. The Committee will not have time to alter their brackets at this point, so they will choose to ignore this game.

The important news then is who are the teams on the Bubble? Rather than announce 68 teams like in other years, the Committee will announce 72 teams, the regular 68 plus four alternates in case teams like Virginia and Kansas cannot field rosters for the tournament.

As we see it this morning, Drake is the last team in the field, currently an 11-seed looking at a First Four game against possibly UCLA. Should Cincinnati upset Houston today, the Bearcats would be looking at a 12 or 13-seed, and Drake would be dropped to the alternate pool, while Boise St. or Saint Louis would be dropped from the alternate pool to the NIT. Other teams just on the thin line include Utah State and Syracuse, two teams we show in the First Four, and Wichita State and Colorado State, two teams we show in the alternate list.

The First Four seedings moved from 12 to 11 last night when Georgetown and Oregon State kicked through the Dance hall door. The Hoyas and Beavers cannot be 11 seeds. We slotted them both on the 12-seed line, but we are not totally convinced yet that they will remain there. Doing a little research, the last time a power conference team with a similar record crashed the party like this, Georgia earned a 14-seed. Because teams like Colgate, Winthrop, UNCG, and UCSB are capable of moving up a line, there is a chance for chaos if Cincinnati wins today, because the Bearcats are not deserving of a 12-seed and maybe not even a 13-seed.

Here is how our field looks this morning with Cincinnati not in the Tournament.

Date3/14/2021Morning Edition
SeedTeamTeamTeamTeamTeamTeam
1GonzagaBaylorIllinoisMichigan
2Ohio St.AlabamaIowaHouston
3Oklahoma St.ArkansasKansasTexas
4West VirginiaPurdueFlorida St.Virginia
5TennesseeVillanovaCreightonUSC
6ColoradoTexas TechLSUMissouri
7BYUOklahomaOregonConnecticut
8ClemsonSan Diego St.WisconsinFlorida
9Virginia TechLoyola (Chi.)RutgersNorth Carolina
10Georgia TechSt. BonaventureMarylandVCU
11LouisvilleMichigan St.UCLASyracuseUtah St.Drake
12Oregon St.GeorgetownUCSBWinthrop
13Ohio ULibertyUNCGNorth Texas
14ColgateMorehead St.Abilene ChristianE. Washington
15Cleveland St.DrexelGrand CanyonIona
16Oral RobertsHartfordNorfolk St.Mount St. Mary’sTexas SouthernAppalachian St.

Four Alternates

69Wichita St.
70Colorado St.
71Saint Louis
72Boise St.

Note: We have already begun putting our

Bracketnomics Data into a spreadsheet, and we will

have it completed late tonight. We will then spend

Monday looking at the data and be ready to reveal

our opinions on the field on Tuesday. Look for our

annually most read post to publish

Tuesday afternoon, approximately 3 PM Eastern

Daylight Time, giving you plenty of time to read and

then fill out the brackets in your competitions.

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