The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2017

PiRate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Pitch a Perfect Game

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , — piratings @ 2:11 pm

A shout out to our Bracketology Gurus here at the PiRate Ratings.  The guys (and one gal) successfully/correctly selected all 68 teams this morning in our final Bracketology Report.

Way to go team!  We knew you could do it.

 

68 for 68–100%!!!

March 14, 2016

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2016–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners. The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams. If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.
If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 16 years, you will see only minor changes this year, as the PiRate Ratings have added only one minor statistical detail to our repertoire.
Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets. We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament. Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.

Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes. It is mechanical and has no real subjective data. It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.

THE FOUR FACTORS
Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric. He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball. Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost. Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate. Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics. We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% = (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:
(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%
Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)
If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:
500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions. Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:
(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:
(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100
((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.

Their formula was simply: FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.
Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were. If a team like Northern Iowa attempted just 50 field goals per game and won a lot of games by three or four points, going to the foul line many times late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.
A third group of statisticians, including we here at the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:
17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics
For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams. We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas. Here is what we found.

Scoring Margin
For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.
More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game. When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.
This is an obvious statistic here. If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, and the teams played comparable schedules, then team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics.
In the days of the 64 to 68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable. It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six or seven consecutive games.
This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

Last year, the four Final Four Teams had scoring margins of 21, 16, 15, and 9.

Field Goal Percentage Differential
Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic. Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing. 50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%. A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters. Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams. Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams.
This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years. Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range). In the years of the 64 to 68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor. In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field. For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had FG% Differentials of 11.4, 8.5, 7.3, and 6.1%

Rebound Margin
This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded. The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament. What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game. In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.
There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times! Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.
The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.). The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games. The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage. Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance. West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.

There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had positive Rebounding Margins of 7.4, 6.8, 6.2, and 6.0.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game
Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance. Any positive turnover margin is good here. If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin. Not all turnover margins are the same though. A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals. A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul. When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase. Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.
The criteria to look for here is any positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents. Give more weight to teams that average 7 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game. A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots. In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had Turnover Margins of +3.4, +2.6, +1.3, and -0.5 and average steals per game of 6.6, 5.7, 5.3, and 4.5. It was the fewest average steals per game for a Final Four group since steals have been kept as official statistics.

The All-Important R+T Margin
Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.” The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.
The R+T Formula for 2016 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin. The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above. These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed. We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U. The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors. We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

Last year’s Final Four Teams had R+T ratings of 22.9, 18.8, 17.7, and 16.0, making this the most accurate predictor for the season, like it has for most every season. There were two Power Conference teams with negative R+T numbers last year, Oklahoma State and St. John’s. We pegged these teams to lose immediately as 9-seeds against 8-seeds with positive R+T ratings, and they did just that.

Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength
Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or Stony Brook to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Baylor or Miami. And, of course, that is correct. We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.
Basically, the cut-off line for a Final Four team is 54.00, although there have been a few long shots like George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth that were below that mark. While the lowest National Champ was Florida in 2007 at 54.30, the average for the last dozen champions has been just over 58. Also, bear in mind that of the 16 winners since 2000, 6 came from the ACC, 4 from the Big East (none who are current members), 3 from the SEC, and one each from the American, Big 12, and Big Ten. The Pac-12 has not produced the national champion since Arizona in 1997.

Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor
This should be obvious. Except in the rarest of instances (like Dayton playing in a First Round Game last year), all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts. Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home. It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8. However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home. Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage. When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance. When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

New For 2016, Winning Streaks
We should have included this years ago. The NCAA Tournament Championship requires one team to win six consecutive games (seven if in the First Four) to become the champion. It requires the other Final Four teams to win four or five times to get to the Final Four. How often does a team get to the Final Four or win the title without having a long winning streak during the regular season? Not often , or to put it a better way, hardly ever.
When a team wins 10 consecutive games in the heart of their schedule, or to be more exact, against serious competition, or when they win 6 to 10 consecutive games more than once during the season, and the rest of our criteria shows them to be a contender (especially R+T and Schedule Strength), then this is one dangerous squad. Be wary picking against them in the early rounds and then go against them only when the other team looks lethal as well.

These are the basic PiRate criteria. You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included. Let’s look at some of these stats that the PiRates do not rely upon.

Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio
While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem. Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists. That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things. First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing. That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance). Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs. As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be in the NCAA Tournament. So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats. We would much rather go with a team that has 15 offensive rebound potential than a team that has assists on 80% of its made field goals. The NCAA Tournament is full of tough defenses, weird site lines, tight rims, and even tighter nerves, and the offensive put-back is an even more potent weapon, especially in the Round of 64, the Sweet 16, and the Final Four games. The Round of 32 and Elite 8 rounds tend to be less tense, because it is the second game on the playing floor for the participants.

Free Throw Shooting
You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not. It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this caveat to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games. However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots. Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls. For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25. The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75.

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst. That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important. Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March.

Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently get there by winning close games at the line. In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season. The referees let the teams play. So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path.

Ponder this: The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever. That team connected on just 63% of its free throws. They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press. In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

3-point shooting
You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage. Contrary to popular belief, you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the difference in points scored. If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points. Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals. A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket. If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game. It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament. A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win is not going to be around after the first weekend. To put it another way, teams that live and die by the outside shot will almost always die before they can get to the Final Four, if they cannot dominate inside.

One Big Star or Two Really Good Players
Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far. Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players. I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball. Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so. These teams are tough to stop. Usually, it is the mid-major teams that appear to be sleeper teams that could beat a favored opponent because they have one big talent that falls under this category. For instance, Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney this year fits that category.

If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side. It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year.
Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams for 2015-2016.

Offensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 926 1922 215 562 613 848 384 944 1328 423 162 2680
Austin Peay 920 1988 219 630 602 899 407 882 1289 490 242 2661
Baylor 903 1935 204 556 536 737 453 781 1234 425 260 2546
Buffalo 892 2037 253 750 600 845 417 913 1330 465 236 2637
Butler 868 1864 220 569 542 741 354 775 1129 317 210 2498
CSU Bakersfield 849 1881 174 506 465 712 401 825 1226 391 257 2337
California 867 1881 233 632 512 780 374 945 1319 403 136 2479
Chattanooga 869 1904 259 712 581 793 372 846 1218 422 265 2578
Cincinnati 823 1925 242 701 454 645 432 828 1260 354 254 2342
Colorado 842 1979 250 637 575 779 437 963 1400 442 172 2509
Connecticut 900 1959 239 660 457 581 322 920 1242 378 194 2496
Dayton 818 1780 215 620 491 730 317 919 1236 418 189 2342
Duke 826 1789 274 708 527 728 363 735 1098 293 190 2453
Fair. Dickinson 906 1958 230 633 451 645 338 736 1074 414 242 2493
Florida G. Coast 949 1991 176 493 466 720 392 935 1327 406 218 2540
Fresno St. 900 2073 212 620 549 793 404 874 1278 364 280 2561
Gonzaga 929 1910 258 682 514 676 350 957 1307 372 167 2630
Green Bay 1027 2294 246 703 648 984 451 909 1360 423 334 2948
Hampton 793 1911 203 659 529 805 438 853 1291 433 168 2318
Hawaii 843 1824 230 704 567 833 342 856 1198 423 252 2483
Holy Cross 737 1785 236 721 446 644 269 725 994 362 213 2156
Indiana 934 1864 316 762 449 621 385 811 1196 437 222 2633
Iona 888 1947 320 860 451 633 339 842 1181 409 242 2547
Iowa 855 1898 255 667 456 634 369 821 1190 323 211 2421
Iowa St. 998 1990 265 697 358 507 291 863 1154 370 197 2619
Kansas 951 1926 274 649 516 737 356 900 1256 408 225 2692
Kentucky 971 2029 236 637 531 777 442 876 1318 376 191 2709
Maryland 876 1794 252 673 506 666 304 867 1171 425 192 2510
Miami 837 1756 219 599 527 702 310 802 1112 341 194 2420
Michigan 898 1926 326 849 404 548 267 822 1089 333 188 2526
Michigan St. 979 2024 310 715 444 608 419 1005 1424 325 181 2712
Middle Tenn. 857 1902 260 673 425 689 341 879 1220 399 205 2399
North Carolina 1047 2187 183 583 520 705 477 916 1393 371 234 2797
Northern Iowa 801 1751 278 742 432 574 183 839 1022 334 193 2312
Notre Dame 869 1844 235 637 450 612 349 805 1154 311 179 2423
Oklahoma 884 1928 334 784 471 647 343 899 1242 415 221 2573
Oregon 933 1997 234 670 580 813 399 830 1229 393 259 2680
Oregon St. 786 1783 211 570 451 672 330 743 1073 355 231 2234
Pittsburgh 860 1871 201 578 512 679 410 812 1222 374 159 2433
Providence 833 1974 234 729 541 744 385 822 1207 380 219 2441
Purdue 934 1980 259 703 516 695 397 995 1392 406 145 2643
Seton Hall 872 1937 202 573 524 787 425 896 1321 457 240 2470
South Dakota St. 853 1891 245 686 566 766 370 881 1251 388 164 2517
Southern 887 1990 208 590 497 743 356 868 1224 382 254 2479
St. Joseph’s 926 2038 238 728 548 769 345 967 1312 344 175 2638
S. F. Austin 926 1915 254 691 477 653 380 750 1130 398 290 2583
Stony Brook 913 1917 217 584 415 618 400 866 1266 365 198 2458
Syracuse 766 1796 280 776 435 637 378 759 1137 388 259 2247
Temple 792 1957 251 739 362 529 358 818 1176 293 171 2197
Texas 789 1828 223 657 482 725 352 753 1105 332 165 2283
Texas A&M 906 2016 261 745 508 755 436 887 1323 401 235 2581
Texas Tech 760 1700 178 517 546 732 320 739 1059 371 182 2244
Tulsa 796 1793 216 656 486 717 313 773 1086 335 211 2294
UALR 836 1827 249 641 420 572 302 815 1117 347 216 2341
UNC-Asheville 877 1916 190 586 552 795 384 863 1247 430 307 2496
UNC-Wilm. 898 1971 219 651 520 741 384 819 1203 365 241 2535
USC 954 2085 260 675 500 737 396 906 1302 403 209 2668
Utah 928 1898 259 713 524 734 328 942 1270 418 183 2639
Vanderbilt 841 1826 270 695 504 721 304 930 1234 374 138 2456
VCU 953 2116 247 694 472 684 425 845 1270 389 299 2625
Villanova 905 1936 291 847 516 664 315 896 1211 378 229 2617
Virginia 849 1743 198 489 426 565 296 756 1052 310 181 2322
Weber St. 887 1831 287 768 548 810 291 983 1274 451 169 2609
West Virginia 927 2050 206 627 633 945 541 791 1332 476 338 2693
Wichita St. 801 1846 234 710 507 710 373 826 1199 318 231 2343
Wisconsin 751 1748 211 590 491 694 366 751 1117 351 188 2204
Xavier 876 1938 243 672 608 832 418 894 1312 408 234 2603
Yale 744 1580 181 484 436 658 379 752 1131 375 162 2105

Defensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 829 2007 201 626 415 587 313 711 1024 383 178 2274
Austin Peay 955 2088 269 824 450 640 365 830 1195 470 244 2629
Baylor 797 1794 228 622 463 664 306 666 972 452 220 2285
Buffalo 882 2044 251 740 540 756 368 861 1229 450 192 2555
Butler 764 1773 222 655 456 642 298 724 1022 407 141 2206
CSU Bakersfield 668 1708 187 585 499 722 339 758 1097 490 170 2022
California 762 1940 180 513 508 721 325 772 1097 321 170 2212
Chattanooga 829 1910 225 694 382 566 337 764 1101 484 216 2265
Cincinnati 722 1849 231 648 337 498 365 742 1107 444 165 2012
Colorado 829 1980 206 580 469 693 313 793 1106 365 246 2333
Connecticut 737 1931 232 709 439 667 379 785 1164 415 175 2145
Dayton 740 1829 234 671 392 595 284 782 1066 398 154 2106
Duke 817 1865 179 536 321 466 384 711 1095 367 134 2134
Fair. Dickinson 834 1845 239 676 597 854 409 825 1234 492 202 2504
Florida G. Coast 823 1986 217 719 462 676 361 800 1161 406 217 2325
Fresno St. 785 1879 245 743 580 837 355 882 1237 510 150 2395
Gonzaga 795 1992 198 666 398 565 333 734 1067 341 185 2186
Green Bay 981 2198 271 746 555 779 421 991 1412 590 202 2788
Hampton 794 1874 203 615 498 688 319 813 1132 388 179 2289
Hawaii 719 1806 199 632 491 691 310 740 1050 472 190 2128
Holy Cross 803 1755 264 724 429 593 305 872 1177 434 182 2299
Indiana 821 1859 200 583 363 545 327 637 964 418 195 2205
Iona 812 1929 247 696 486 699 383 816 1199 451 184 2357
Iowa 788 1901 228 735 326 479 375 773 1148 407 165 2130
Iowa St. 903 2075 249 740 344 502 382 776 1158 397 179 2399
Kansas 758 1913 208 631 508 705 356 729 1085 438 201 2232
Kentucky 782 1954 192 582 565 808 407 726 1133 420 145 2321
Maryland 798 1956 223 693 368 526 363 695 1058 370 207 2187
Miami 790 1839 184 548 374 529 330 708 1038 372 163 2138
Michigan 844 1896 240 695 366 504 296 826 1122 406 138 2294
Michigan St. 741 1966 193 639 480 669 320 707 1027 325 181 2155
Middle Tenn. 767 1799 213 620 507 757 298 848 1146 445 194 2254
North Carolina 838 2046 262 728 425 608 389 723 1112 447 196 2363
Northern Iowa 794 1884 239 740 312 431 307 849 1156 401 164 2139
Notre Dame 821 1918 246 655 371 515 367 715 1082 311 167 2259
Oklahoma 819 2024 241 709 375 553 382 780 1162 407 227 2254
Oregon 836 1970 243 670 435 623 375 744 1119 488 158 2350
Oregon St. 739 1732 222 675 469 678 355 786 1141 420 157 2169
Pittsburgh 781 1791 218 612 393 593 303 682 985 370 180 2173
Providence 850 1956 211 658 390 544 355 860 1215 482 196 2301
Purdue 794 2029 210 670 398 563 302 728 1030 320 204 2196
Seton Hall 790 1971 206 652 451 664 397 788 1185 450 238 2237
South Dakota St. 766 1843 198 599 507 709 307 766 1073 399 187 2237
Southern 814 1960 225 709 494 795 412 870 1282 469 179 2347
St. Joseph’s 875 2110 270 872 357 517 337 875 1212 389 156 2377
S. F. Austin 719 1642 165 511 418 637 309 711 1020 596 174 2021
Stony Brook 737 1824 208 636 348 489 293 722 1015 409 176 2030
Syracuse 759 1835 225 739 360 540 413 769 1182 434 208 2103
Temple 785 1884 189 601 399 539 347 877 1224 355 137 2158
Texas 754 1801 201 586 469 675 359 792 1151 400 145 2178
Texas A&M 783 1930 251 763 411 626 381 810 1191 488 172 2228
Texas Tech 758 1777 237 674 412 586 356 689 1045 396 197 2165
Tulsa 733 1760 235 647 459 613 338 808 1146 445 164 2160
UALR 664 1710 206 672 434 633 339 774 1113 464 132 1968
UNC-Asheville 802 1897 192 677 431 616 353 819 1172 519 222 2227
UNC-Wilmington 729 1748 171 507 657 933 362 808 1170 485 159 2286
USC 899 2153 239 740 430 613 424 825 1249 411 191 2467
Utah 873 2112 253 689 352 488 359 759 1118 355 216 2351
Vanderbilt 762 1974 176 603 455 675 388 804 1192 319 180 2155
VCU 818 1859 187 556 465 688 326 853 1179 525 194 2288
Villanova 764 1910 240 716 398 600 360 787 1147 471 199 2166
Virginia 687 1630 212 608 383 550 264 671 935 398 174 1969
Weber St. 850 2053 195 564 378 567 326 801 1127 373 197 2273
West Virginia 709 1658 199 599 648 909 295 750 1045 617 229 2265
Wichita St. 602 1565 187 577 505 705 260 791 1051 495 150 1896
Wisconsin 732 1705 189 499 413 584 295 722 1017 389 169 2066
Xavier 787 1894 241 766 458 651 319 753 1072 452 195 2273
Yale 625 1536 166 525 352 506 237 584 821 349 187 1768

 

The Four Factors

Team EFG DEFG OR% DOR% TO% DTU% FT* DFT*  Streaks
Arizona 53.8 46.3 35.1 24.9 17.9 16.3 25.9 17.6 8 6
Austin Peay 51.8 52.2 32.9 29.3 19.6 18.8 24.1 18.0 6 2
Baylor 51.9 50.8 40.5 28.2 18.8 20.0 23.7 20.5 7 4
Buffalo 50.0 49.3 32.6 28.7 18.7 18.1 24.1 21.7 4 4
Butler 52.5 49.4 32.8 27.8 14.5 18.6 24.9 20.9 8 3
Cal State Bakersfield 49.8 44.6 34.6 29.1 17.7 22.3 21.0 22.7 6 6
California 52.3 43.9 32.6 25.6 17.7 14.1 22.5 22.3 12 3
Chattanooga 52.4 49.3 32.7 28.5 18.1 20.8 24.9 16.4 9 8
Cincinnati 49.0 45.3 36.8 30.6 16.4 20.5 21.1 15.6 7 4
Colorado 48.9 47.1 35.5 24.5 18.8 15.5 24.4 19.9 11 3
Connecticut 52.0 44.2 29.1 29.2 16.5 18.2 19.9 19.2 5 4
Dayton 52.0 46.9 28.8 23.6 18.8 17.9 22.0 17.6 9 5
Duke 53.8 48.6 33.8 34.3 14.2 17.7 25.5 15.5 7 5
Fairleigh Dickinson 52.1 51.7 29.1 35.7 17.7 21.1 19.3 25.6 5 3
Florida Gulf Coast 52.1 46.9 32.9 27.9 17.3 17.3 19.9 19.6 7 3
Fresno St. 48.5 48.3 31.4 28.9 15.1 21.0 22.8 23.9 9 5
Gonzaga 55.4 44.9 32.3 25.8 16.5 15.0 22.8 17.5 7 6
Green Bay 50.1 50.8 31.3 31.7 15.5 21.6 23.7 20.3 4 4
Hampton 46.8 47.8 35.0 27.2 18.9 17.1 23.1 21.9 6 5
Hawaii 52.5 45.3 31.6 26.6 18.4 20.6 24.6 21.4 8 6
Holy Cross 47.9 53.3 23.6 29.6 16.6 20.0 20.4 19.8 4 3
Indiana 58.6 49.5 37.7 28.7 19.8 18.9 20.3 16.4 12 5
Iona 53.8 48.5 29.4 31.3 17.6 19.4 19.5 20.9 8 5
Iowa 51.8 47.4 32.3 31.4 15.0 18.8 21.2 15.1 9 4
Iowa St. 56.8 49.5 27.3 30.7 16.0 17.0 15.5 14.8 9 3
Kansas 56.5 45.1 32.8 28.3 17.5 18.8 22.2 21.8 13 13
Kentucky 53.7 44.9 37.8 31.7 16.1 17.9 22.8 24.0 7 5
Maryland 55.9 46.5 30.4 29.5 19.0 16.7 22.7 16.6 8 5
Miami 53.9 48.0 30.5 29.2 16.1 17.4 24.9 17.5 8 5
Michigan 55.1 50.8 24.4 26.5 14.8 18.1 17.9 16.3 6 4
Michigan St. 56.0 42.6 37.2 24.2 14.6 14.2 20.0 21.0 13 9
Middle Tennessee 51.9 48.6 28.7 25.3 17.4 19.3 18.6 22.0 6 6
North Carolina 52.1 47.4 39.8 29.8 15.4 18.7 21.5 17.8 12 5
Northern Iowa 53.7 48.5 17.7 26.8 15.4 18.4 19.9 14.3 6 6
Notre Dame 53.5 49.2 32.8 31.3 14.8 14.8 21.5 17.6 4 3
Oklahoma 54.5 46.4 30.5 29.8 18.0 17.6 20.4 16.2 12 4
Oregon 52.6 48.6 34.9 31.1 16.5 20.5 24.4 18.3 8 6
Oregon St. 50.0 49.1 29.6 32.3 16.7 19.8 21.2 22.1 4 4
Pittsburgh 51.3 49.7 37.5 27.2 17.3 17.3 23.7 18.4 10 4
Providence 48.1 48.8 30.9 30.2 16.4 20.6 23.3 16.7 8 6
Purdue 53.7 44.3 35.3 23.3 17.5 13.8 22.2 17.2 11 5
Seton Hall 50.2 45.3 35.0 30.7 19.5 19.2 22.4 19.3 7 4
South Dakota St. 51.6 46.9 32.6 25.8 17.1 17.6 24.9 22.3 6 6
Southern 49.8 47.3 29.0 32.2 16.1 19.6 21.0 20.6 8 5
St. Joseph’s 51.3 47.9 28.3 25.8 14.3 16.2 22.8 14.8 7 7
Stephen F. Austin 55.0 48.8 34.8 29.2 17.7 26.7 21.3 18.7 20 5
Stony Brook 53.3 46.1 35.7 25.3 16.8 18.8 19.1 16.0 18 3
Syracuse 50.4 47.5 33.0 35.2 18.4 20.5 20.6 17.0 6 5
Temple 46.9 46.7 29.0 29.8 13.7 16.5 16.9 18.6 5 4
Texas 49.3 47.4 30.8 32.3 15.4 18.5 22.4 21.7 6 4
Texas A&M 51.4 47.1 35.0 30.0 17.1 20.9 21.7 17.6 10 8
Texas Tech 49.9 49.3 31.7 32.5 17.7 18.9 26.0 19.7 10 5
Tulsa 50.4 48.3 27.9 30.4 15.5 20.6 22.5 21.3 5 4
UALR 52.6 44.9 28.1 29.4 16.2 21.7 19.6 20.3 10 6
UNC-Asheville 50.7 47.3 31.9 29.0 18.4 22.0 23.6 18.3 5 5
UNC-Wilmington 51.1 46.6 32.2 30.7 15.8 21.0 22.6 28.4 11 5
USC 52.0 47.3 32.4 31.9 16.5 16.9 20.5 17.7 7 5
Utah 55.7 47.3 30.2 27.6 17.9 15.2 22.4 15.0 9 5
Vanderbilt 53.5 43.1 27.4 29.4 16.7 14.3 22.5 20.4 5 4
VCU 50.9 49.0 33.3 27.8 16.2 22.0 19.6 19.5 12 3
Villanova 54.3 46.3 28.6 28.7 16.3 20.4 22.3 17.3 9 7
Virginia 54.4 48.7 30.6 25.9 15.3 19.7 21.0 18.9 11 7
Weber St. 56.3 46.2 26.6 24.9 19.0 15.7 23.1 16.0 8 6
West Virginia 50.2 48.8 41.9 27.2 19.6 25.6 26.0 26.9 8 7
Wichita St. 49.7 44.4 32.0 23.9 14.9 23.2 23.8 23.7 12 6
Wisconsin 49.0 48.5 33.6 28.2 17.0 18.7 23.8 19.9 7 4
Xavier 51.5 47.9 35.7 26.3 17.6 19.3 26.2 19.6 12 5
Yale 52.8 46.1 39.4 24.0 19.9 18.5 23.1 18.6 12 5

 

PiRate Criteria

Team PPG DPPG Mar. FG-M Rb-M TO-M R+T WLRd SOS
Arizona 81.2 68.9 12.3 6.9 9.2 -1.2 20.3 8-7 54.69
Austin Peay 76.0 75.1 0.9 0.5 2.7 -0.6 7.3 11-10 48.15
Baylor 77.2 69.2 7.9 2.2 7.9 0.8 20.0 8-6 59.49
Buffalo 77.6 75.1 2.4 0.6 3.0 -0.4 9.3 10-9 53.77
Butler 80.6 71.2 9.4 3.5 3.5 2.9 14.6 8-7 54.61
Cal State Bakersfield 73.0 63.2 9.8 6.0 4.0 3.1 15.9 10-7 44.72
California 75.1 67.0 8.1 6.8 6.7 -2.5 13.9 5-10 58.52
Chattanooga 75.8 66.6 9.2 2.2 3.4 1.8 12.3 16-4 48.07
Cincinnati 73.2 62.9 10.3 3.7 4.8 2.8 17.2 8-7 54.70
Colorado 76.0 70.7 5.3 0.7 8.9 -2.3 16.6 6-10 56.45
Connecticut 73.4 63.1 10.3 7.8 2.3 1.1 9.4 9-7 55.70
Dayton 73.2 65.8 7.4 5.5 5.3 -0.6 14.1 11-4 55.73
Duke 79.1 68.8 10.3 2.4 0.1 2.4 7.3 7-6 58.97
Fairleigh Dickinson 77.9 78.3 -0.3 1.1 -5.0 2.4 -4.1 9-8 45.04
Florida Gulf Coast 77.0 70.5 6.5 6.2 5.0 0.0 12.8 4-9 45.65
Fresno St. 75.3 70.4 4.9 1.6 1.2 4.3 12.4 9-7 51.24
Gonzaga 79.7 66.2 13.5 8.7 7.3 -0.9 16.5 15-3 52.35
Green Bay 84.2 79.7 4.6 0.1 -1.5 4.8 6.8 12-9 48.08
Hampton 74.8 73.8 0.9 -0.9 5.1 -1.5 11.7 12-8 43.76
Hawaii 77.6 66.5 11.1 6.4 4.6 1.5 14.8 10-2 47.33
Holy Cross 65.3 69.7 -4.3 -4.5 -5.5 2.2 -5.2 6-13 45.37
Indiana 82.3 68.9 13.4 5.9 7.3 -0.6 17.3 8-7 53.79
Iona 79.6 73.7 5.9 3.5 -0.6 1.3 4.2 11-8 50.33
Iowa 78.1 68.7 9.4 3.6 1.4 2.7 9.5 8-8 56.69
Iowa St. 81.8 75.0 6.9 6.6 -0.1 0.8 4.1 7-9 58.96
Kansas 81.6 67.6 13.9 9.8 5.2 0.9 14.6 12-4 60.22
Kentucky 79.7 68.3 11.4 7.8 5.4 1.3 16.7 9-8 57.45
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.8 8.0 3.4 -1.7 7.8 9-7 56.77
Miami 75.6 66.8 8.8 4.7 2.3 1.0 9.5 10-6 58.22
Michigan 74.3 67.5 6.8 2.1 -1.0 2.1 4.9 9-8 55.96
Michigan St. 79.8 63.4 16.4 10.7 11.7 0.0 26.7 15-3 55.75
Middle Tennessee 72.7 68.3 4.4 2.4 2.2 1.4 9.1 13-6 50.23
North Carolina 82.3 69.5 12.8 6.9 8.3 2.2 22.4 13-5 57.74
Northern Iowa 68.0 62.9 5.1 3.6 -3.9 2.0 -1.9 11-9 53.34
Notre Dame 75.7 70.6 5.1 4.3 2.3 0.0 8.1 7-9 57.25
Oklahoma 80.4 70.4 10.0 5.4 2.5 -0.3 7.1 11-6 58.74
Oregon 78.8 69.1 9.7 4.3 3.2 2.8 14.4 10-6 60.01
Oregon St. 72.1 70.0 2.1 1.4 -2.2 2.1 2.4 5-9 58.77
Pittsburgh 76.0 67.9 8.1 2.4 7.4 -0.1 17.5 6-7 56.86
Providence 74.0 69.7 4.2 -1.3 -0.2 3.1 6.0 10-6 55.71
Purdue 77.7 64.6 13.1 8.0 10.6 -2.5 20.9 9-7 56.54
Seton Hall 74.8 67.8 7.1 4.9 4.1 -0.2 10.5 12-5 56.24
South Dakota St. 76.3 67.8 8.5 3.5 5.4 0.3 13.9 14-7 51.07
Southern 72.9 69.0 3.9 3.0 -1.7 2.6 3.6 10-11 42.66
St. Joseph’s 77.6 69.9 7.7 4.0 2.9 1.3 11.2 15-3 55.49
Stephen F. Austin 80.7 63.2 17.6 4.6 3.4 6.2 18.2 13-5 47.18
Stony Brook 76.8 63.4 13.4 7.2 7.8 1.4 20.7 11-5 48.19
Syracuse 70.2 65.7 4.5 1.3 -1.4 1.4 2.2 6-9 56.21
Temple 68.7 67.4 1.2 -1.2 -1.5 1.9 3.3 10-8 54.61
Texas 71.3 68.1 3.3 1.3 -1.4 2.1 3.3 6-9 59.88
Texas A&M 75.9 65.5 10.4 4.4 3.9 2.6 14.7 9-7 55.70
Texas Tech 72.4 69.8 2.5 2.0 0.5 0.8 4.3 5-9 58.94
Tulsa 74.0 69.7 4.3 2.7 -1.9 3.5 3.8 8-8 54.97
UALR 70.9 59.6 11.3 6.9 0.1 3.5 9.1 15-4 47.45
UNC-Asheville 75.6 67.5 8.2 3.5 2.3 2.7 11.2 11-8 47.21
UNC-Wilmington 79.2 71.4 7.8 3.9 1.0 3.8 10.6 13-5 51.21
USC 80.8 74.8 6.1 4.0 1.6 0.2 6.8 5-10 56.79
Utah 77.6 69.1 8.5 7.6 4.5 -1.9 9.4 10-7 59.33
Vanderbilt 76.8 67.3 9.4 7.5 1.3 -1.7 3.4 5-11 56.44
VCU 77.2 67.3 9.9 1.0 2.7 4.0 14.0 9-8 55.24
Villanova 77.0 63.7 13.3 6.7 1.9 2.7 10.0 14-4 58.54
Virginia 70.4 59.7 10.7 6.6 3.5 2.7 13.2 11-7 60.05
Weber St. 76.7 66.9 9.9 7.0 4.3 -2.3 9.0 13-7 45.32
West Virginia 79.2 66.6 12.6 2.5 8.4 4.1 25.3 13-6 58.59
Wichita St. 73.2 59.3 14.0 4.9 4.6 5.5 19.7 10-7 52.52
Wisconsin 68.9 64.6 4.3 0.0 3.1 1.2 11.1 7-7 58.14
Xavier 81.3 71.0 10.3 3.6 7.5 1.4 19.9 12-4 56.82
Yale 75.2 63.1 12.0 6.4 11.1 -0.9 23.4 10-6 49.48

If this data is a little overbearing, fret not Bracketaholics.  We will select bracket winners for you Tuesday afternoon so you can fill them out with some science and mathematics backing you up.

 

And, if you are like many of our old-time readers, some of who prefer to use our data when visiting Las Vegas (and who have to buy new shirts after they lose the one they had), we will have our Red-White-Blue computer-rated picks for the First Four games late tonight, and then the picks for the second round late Wednesday night after the last First Four game has concluded.

 

March 6, 2016

NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference Tournament Update: 3/6/16

Teams Earning Automatic Bids
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay (18-17)
Ivy League: Yale (22-6)

 

Automatic Bids To Be Awarded Today
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast vs. Stetson 12:30 PM ESPN2 *
Stetson is ineligible for the postseason. North Florida will go if the Hatters win.
 
Big South: Winthrop vs. UNC-Asheville 2:30 PM ESPN2
 
Missouri Valley: Evansville vs. Northern Iowa 2:00 PM on CBS

 

Results of Tournaments Played To Date

America East Conference Tournament Score
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
Quarterfinal Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
#8 UMBC (7-24) @ #1 Stony Brook (23-6) 76-86
#7 Hartford (9-22) @ #2 Albany (24-7) 68-59
#6 Maine (8-21) @ #3 Vermont (19-12) 82-99
#5 Binghamton (8-21) @ #4 New Hampshire (18-11) 51-56
   
Semifinal Round  
Monday, March 7  
#7 Hartford (10-22) @ #1 Stony Brook (24-6)  
#4 New Hampshire (19-11) @ #3 Vermont (20-12)  
   
Championship  
Saturday, March 12  
11:00 AM EST on ESPN2  
   
   
Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament  
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
Quarterfinal Round  
Tuesday, March 1  
G1: #8 USC-Upstate (10-21) @ #1 North Florida (21-10) 69-92
G2: #5 Kennesaw St. (11-19) @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast (17-13) 64-74
G3: #7 Stetson (10-21) @ #2 NJIT (17-13) 82-67
G4: #6 Lipscomb (11-20) @ #3 Jacksonville (16-15) 92-89
   
Semifinal Round  
Thursday, March 3  
#4 Florida Gulf Coast (18-13) @ #1 North Florida (22-10) 89-56
#7 Stetson (11-21) @ #6 Lipscomb (12-20) 96-75
   
Championship  
Sunday, March 6 12:30 PM on ESPN2  
#7 Stetson (12-21) @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast (19-13)  
   
Note: If Stetson wins the tournament, then North Florida will  
represent the A-Sun in the NCAA Tournament due to Stetson  
being ineligible for the postseason.  
   
   
Big South Conference Tournament  
Site: Buies Creek, NC (Campbell)  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Longwood (9-22) vs. #9 Charleston Southern (9-20) 75-69
G2: #7 Radford (16-14) vs. #10 Presbyterian (10-19) 64-65
G3: #6 Gardner-Webb (15-15) vs. #11 Campbell (12-17) 79-69
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G4: #1 High Point (20-9) vs. #8 Longwood (10-22) 89-78
G5: #4 UNC-Asheville (19-11) vs. #5 Liberty (13-18) 80-49
G6: #2 Winthrop (21-8) vs. #10 Presbyterian (11-19) 67-53
G7: #3 Coastal Carolina (18-10) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (16-15) 65-69
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#1 High Point (21-9) vs. #4 UNC-Asheville (20-11) 69-80
#2 Winthrop (22-8) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (17-15) 82-69
   
Championship  
Sunday, March 6  
#2 Winthrop (23-8) vs. #4 UNC-Asheville (21-11)  
   
   
Colonial Athletic Association Tournament  
Site: Baltimore  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Elon (16-15) vs. #9 Drexel (5-24) 56-57
G2: #7 Charleston (16-13) vs. #10 Delaware (7-22) 67-63
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G3: #1 Hofstra (22-8) vs. #9 Drexel (6-24) 80-67
G4: #4 James Madison (21-10) vs. #5 William & Mary (19-10) 64-79
G5: #2 UNC-Wilmington (22-7) vs. #7 Charleston (17-13) 66-64
G6: #3 Towson (20-11) vs. #6 Northeastern (17-14) 60-71
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
#1 Hofstra (23-8) vs. #5 William & Mary (20-10)  
#2 UNC-Wilmington (23-7) vs. #6 Northeastern (18-14)  
   
Championship  
Monday, March 7  
7:00 PM on NBC Sports Network  
   
   
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament  
Site: Albany (Siena)  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Rider (12-19) vs. #9 Quinnipiac (9-20) 60-57
G2: #7 Canisius (13-18) vs. #10 Niagara (7-24) 102-97
G3: #6 Manhattan (12-17) vs. #11 Marist (7-22) 81-63
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G4: #1 Monmouth (25-6) vs. #8 Rider (13-19) 59-48
G6: #2 Iona (19-10) vs. #7 Canisius (14-18) 71-55
   
Saturday, March 5  
G5: #4 Saint Peter’s (14-15) vs. #5 Fairfield (18-12) 64-55
G7: #3 Siena (20-11) vs. #6 Manhattan (13-17) 89-76
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
#1 Monmouth (26-6) vs. #4 Saint Peter’s (15-15)  
#2 Iona (20-10) vs. #3 Siena (21-11)  
   
Championship Round  
Monday, March 7  
7:00 PM on ESPN  
   
   
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament  
Site: St. Louis  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Loyola (Chi.) (14-16) vs. #9 Bradley (5-26) 74-66
G2: #7 MIssouri St. (12-18) vs. #10 Drake (7-23) 69-67
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G3: #1 Wichita St. (23-7) vs. #8 Loyola (Chi.) (15-16) 66-58
G4: #4 Northern Iowa (19-12) vs. #5 Southern Illinois (22-9) 66-60
G5: #2 Evansville (23-8) vs. #7 Missouri St. (13-18) 66-56
G6: #3 Illinois St. (18-13) vs. #6 Indiana St. (14-16) 57-65
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#1 Wichita St. (24-7) vs. #4 Northern Iowa (20-12) 52-57
#2 Evansville (24-8) vs. #6 Indiana St. (15-16) 68-42
   
Championship Game  
Sunday, March 6  
#2 Evansville (25-8) vs. #4 Northern Iowa (21-12)  
   
   
Northeast Conference  
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
G1: #8 Robert Morris (10-21) @ #1 Wagner (20-9) 50-59
G2: #5 Mount St. Mary’s (13-18) @ #4 St. Francis (Bklyn) (15-16) 60-51
G3: #7 St. Francis (Pa.) (13-16) @ #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (15-14) 72-74
G4: #6 Long Island (15-14) @ #3 Sacred Heart (12-17) 84-76
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#6 Long Island (16-14) @ #1 Wagner (21-9) 65-81
#5 Mount St. Mary’s (14-18) @ #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (16-14) 75-80
   
Championship  
Tuesday, March 8  
#2 Fairleigh Dickinson (17-14) at @1 Wagner (22-9)  
   
   
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament  
Site: Nashville  
   
1st Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
G1: #5 Tennessee Tech (19-10) vs. #8 Austin Peay (14-17) 72-92
G2: #6 Murray St. (16-13) vs. #7 Eastern Illinois (13-16) 78-62
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G3: #4 Tennessee St. (20-9) vs. #8 Austin Peay (15-17) 72-74
G4: #3 Morehead St. (18-11) vs. #6 Murray St. (17-13) 75-66
   
Semifinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G5: #1 Belmont (20-10) vs. #8 Austin Peay (16-17) 96-97
G6: #2 UT-Martin (18-13) vs. #3 Morehead St. (19-11) 83-70
   
Championship  
Saturday, March 5 6:00 PM on ESPN2  
#2 UT-Martin (19-13) vs. #8 Austin Peay (17-17) 73-83
   
   
Patriot League Tournament  
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
   
1st Round  
Monday, March 1  
G1: #9 Holy Cross (10-19) @ #8 Loyola (Md.) (9-20) 72-67
G2: #10 Lafayette (6-23) @ #7 Navy (18-13) 70-78
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Wednesday, March 3  
G3: #9 Holy Cross (11-19) @ #1 Bucknell (17-12) 77-72
G4: #5 Colgate (13-16) @ #4 Army (18-12) 69-82
G5: #6 American (11-18) @ #3 Boston U (18-13) 69-64
G6: #7 Navy (19-13) @ #2 Lehigh (15-14) 63-65
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
#9 Holy Cross (12-19) @ #4 Army (19-12)  
#6 American (12-18) @ #2 Lehigh (16-14)  
   
Championship  
Wednesday, March 9 @ Higher Seed  
7:30 PM on CBS Sports Network  
   
   
Southern Conference  
Site: Asheville, NC  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Samford (13-18) vs. #9 VMI (9-20) 92-85
G2: #7 Mercer (18-13) vs. #10 Citadel (10-21) 71-69
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G3: #1 Chattanooga (26-5) vs. #8 Samford (14-18) 59-54
G4: #4 Wofford (15-16) vs. #5 Western Carolina (15-16) 83-88
G5: #2 East Tennessee (21-10) Vs. Mercer (19-13) 81-65
G6: #3 Furman (17-14) vs. #6 UNC-Greensboro (14-17) 80-64
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
#1 Chattanooga (27-5) vs. #5 Western Carolina (16-16)  
#2 East Tennessee (22-10) vs. #3 Furman (18-14)  
   
Championship  
Monday, March 7  
9:00 PM on ESPN2  
   
   
West Coast Conference Tournament  
Site: Las Vegas  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Loyola Marymount (13-16) vs. #9 San Diego (9-20) 64-61
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G2: #3 BYU (22-9) vs. #6 Santa Clara (11-19) 72-60
G3: #4 Pepperdine (17-12) vs. #5 San Francisco (15-14) 90-86
G4: #1 Saint Mary’s (24-4) vs. #8 Loyola Marymount (14-16) 60-48
G5: #2 Gonzaga (23-7) vs. #7 Portland (12-19) 92-67
   
Semifinal Round  
Monday, March 7  
#1 Saint Mary’s (25-4) vs. #4 Pepperdine (18-12)  
#2 Gonzaga (24-7) vs. #3 BYU (23-9)  
   
Championship  
Tuesday, March 8  
9:00 PM on ESPN  

 

Brackets For Tournaments Not Yet Underway

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Sites: Washington, DC
1st Round
Tuesday, March 8
G1: #12 North Carolina St. (15-16) vs. #13 Wake Forest (11-19)
G2: #11 Florida St. (18-12) vs. #14 Boston College (7-24)
 
2nd Round
Wednesday, March 9
G3: #8 Pittsburgh (20-10) vs. #9 Syracuse (19-12)
G4: #5 Duke (22-9) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #7 Clemson (17-13) vs. #10 Georgia Tech (18-13)
G6: #6 Virginia Tech (18-13) vs. G2 Winner
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G7: #1 North Carolina (25-6) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #4 Notre Dame (20-10) vs. G4 Winner
G9: #2 Virginia (24-6) vs. G5 Winner
G10: #3 Miami (24-6) vs. G6 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
G9 Winner vs. G10 Winner
 
Championship Round
Saturday, March 12
9:00 PM on ESPN
 
Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Site: Brooklyn
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #12 George Mason (11-20) vs. #13 St. Louis (10-20)
G2: #11 Duquesne (16-15) vs. #14 LaSalle (8-21)
 
2nd Round
Thursday, March 10
G3: #8 Fordham (17-12) vs. #9 Richmond (15-15)
G4: #5 George Washington (22-9) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #7 Rhode Island (17-14) vs. #10 U Mass (13-17)
G6: #6 Davidson (18-11) vs. G2 Winner
 
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 11
G7: #1 Dayton (24-6) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #4 St. Joseph’s (24-7) vs. G4 Winner
G9: #2 VCU (22-9) vs. G5 Winner
G10: #3 St. Bonaventure (22-7) vs. G6 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 12
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
G9 Winner vs. G10 Winner
 
Championship
Sunday, March 13
12:30 PM on CBS
 
 
Big 12 Conference Tournament
Site: Kansas City
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #8 Kansas St. (16-15) vs. #9 Oklahoma St. (12-19)
G2: #7 Texas Tech (19-11) vs. #10 TCU (11-20)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G3: #4 Texas (20-11) vs. #5 Baylor (21-10)
G4: #1 Kansas (27-4) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #2 West Virginia (24-7) vs. G2 Winner
G6: #3 Oklahoma (24-6) vs. #6 Iowa St. (21-10)
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
 
Championship Game
Saturday, March 12
6:00 PM on ESPN
 
 
Big East Conference Tournament
Site: New York
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #8 Georgetown (14-17) vs. #9 DePaul (9-21)
G2: #7 Marquette (19-12) vs. #10 St. John’s (8-23)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G3: #1 Villanova (27-4) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #4 Providence (22-9) vs. #5 Butler (21-9)
G5: #2 Xavier (26-4) vs. G2 Winner
G6: #3 Seton Hall (22-8) vs. #6 Creighton (18-13)
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
 
Championship Round
Saturday, March 12
5:30 PM on Fox
 
 
Big Sky Conference Tournament
Site: Reno, NV
 
1st Round
Tuesday, March 8
G1: #8 Portland St. (12-17) vs. #9 Northern Colorado (10-20)
G2: #5 North Dakota (15-14) vs. #12 Southern Utah (5-23)
G3: #7 Montana St. (14-16) vs. #10 Sacramento St. (13-16)
G4: #6 Eastern Washington (16-14) vs. #11 Northern Arizona (5-24)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G5: #1 Weber St. (23-8) vs. G1 Winner
G6: #4 Idaho St. (16-14) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #2 Montana (19-10) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #3 Idaho (20-11) vs. G4 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
8:45 PM on ESPNU
 
 
Big West Conference Tournament
Site: Anaheim
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
#4 UCSB (17-12) vs. #5 UC Davis (10-18)
#1 Hawaii (24-5) vs. #8 Cal St. Fullerton (10-19)
#2 UC-Irvine (24-8) vs. #7 Cal Poly (10-19)
#3 Long Beach St. (18-13) vs. #6 UC Riverside (14-18)
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
2nd Highest Remaining Seed vs. 3rd Highest Remaining Seed
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
11:30 PM on ESPN2
 
 
Conference USA Tournament
Site: Birmingham
 
1st Round
Tuesday, March 8
G1: #12 Florida Atlantic (7-24) vs. #13 UTSA (5-26)
 
2nd Round
Wednesday, March 9
G2: #8 Western Kentucky (16-15) vs. #9 North Texas (12-19)
G3: #5 Old Dominion (19-12) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #7 Charlotte (13-18) vs. #10 Rice (12-19)
G5: #6 UTEP (18-13) vs. #11 Florida Int’l (13-18)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G6: #1 UAB (26-5) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #4 Louisiana Tech (23-8) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #2 Middle Tennessee (21-9) vs. G4 Winner
G9: #3 Marshall (16-15) vs. G5 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
2:30 PM on Fox Sports 1
 
 
Horizon League Tournament
Site: Detroit
 
1st Round
Saturday, March 5
G1: #4 Green Bay (19-12) vs. #9 Cleveland St. (9-22)
G2: #5 Milwaukee (19-12) vs. #8 Northern Kentucky (9-20)
G3: #3 Wright St. (19-12) vs. #10 Illinois-Chicago (5-24)
G4: #6 Detroit (15-14) vs. #7 Youngstown St. (11-20)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Sunday, March 6
G5: G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner
G6: G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Monday, March 7
G5 Winner vs. #1 Valparaiso (26-5)
G6 Winner vs. #2 Oakland (21-10)
 
Championship
Tuesday, March 8
7:00 PM on ESPN
 
 
Mid-American Conference Tournament
Site: Cleveland, 1st Round at Higher Seed
 
1st Round
Monday, March 7
G1:#9 Toledo (17-14) at #8 Eastern Michigan (17-14)
G2: #12 Bowling Green (14-17) at #5 Kent St. (19-12)
G3: #10 Western Michigan (13-18) at #7 Northern Illinois (20-11)
G4: #11 Miami (O) (12-19) at #6 Ball St. (19-12)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G5: #1 Akron (24-7) vs. G1 Winner
G6: #4 Central Michigan (17-14) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #2 Ohio (20-10) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #3 Buffalo (17-14) vs. G4 Winner
 
Semfinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
 
Championship Round
Saturday, March 12
7:30 PM on ESPN
 
 
Mid-eastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Site: Norfolk, VA
 
1st Round
Monday, March 7
G1: #5 Savannah St. (14-14) vs. #12 Delaware St. (7-24)
G2: #6 North Carolina A&T (10-21) vs. #11 Coppin St. (8-21)
 
Tuesday, March 8
G3: #8 UM-Eastern Shore (10-21) vs. #9 Morgan St. (8-21)
G4: #7 UNC-Central (12-18) vs. #10 Howard (12-19)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Wednesday, March 9
G5: #1 Hampton (18-10) vs. G3 Winner
G6: #2 Norfolk St. (16-15) vs. G4 Winner
 
Thursday, March 10
G7: #3 South Carolina St. (17-13) vs. G2 Winner
G8: #4 Bethune-Cookman (14-17) vs. G1 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G8 Winner
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
 
Championship Game
Saturday, March 12
1:00 PM on ESPN2
 
 
Mountain West Conference Tournament
Site: Las Vegas
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #8 Wyoming (14-17) vs. #9 Utah St. (15-14)
G2: #7 UNLV (17-14) vs. #10 Air Force (14-17)
G3: #6 Colorado St. (16-15) vs. #11 San Jose St. (9-21)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G4: #1 San Diego St. (23-8) vs. G1 Winner
G5: #4 New Mexico (17-14) vs. #5 Nevada (18-12)
G6: #2 Fresno St. (22-9) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #3 Boise St. (20-11) vs. G3 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G4 Winner vs. G5 Winner
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
5:00 PM on CBS
 
 
Pac-12 Conference Tournament
Site: Las Vegas
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #8 Washington (17-13) vs. #9 Stanford (15-14)
G2: #5 Colorado (21-10) vs. #12 Washington St. (9-21)
G3: #7 USC (20-11) vs. #10 UCLA (15-16)
G4: #6 Oregon St. (18-11) vs. #11 Arizona St. (15-16)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G5: #1 Oregon (25-6) vs. G1 Winner
G6: #4 Arizona (24-7) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #2 Utah (24-7) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #3 California (22-9) vs. G4 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
10:15 PM on FS1
 
 
Southeastern Conference Tournament
Site: Nashville
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #12 Tennessee (13-18) vs. #13 Auburn (11-19)
 
2nd Round
Thursday, March 10
G2: #8 Florida (18-13) vs. #9 Arkansas (16-15)
G3: #5 Vanderbilt (19-12) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #7 Ole Miss (20-11) vs. #10 Alabama (17-13)
G5: #6 Georgia (17-12) vs. #11 Mississippi St. (14-16)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 11
G6: #1 Texas A&M (24-7) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #4 LSU (18-13) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #2 Kentucky (23-8) vs. G4 Winner
G9: #3 South Carolina (24-7) vs. G5 Winnerr
 
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 12
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
G8 Winner vs. G9 Winner
 
Championship
Sunday, March 13
2:00 PM on ESPN
 
 
Southland Conference Tournament
Site: Katy, TX
 
1st Round
Wednesday, March 9
G1: #5 Southeastern Louisiana (11-20) vs. #8 New Orleans (10-19)
G2: #6 McNeese St. (9-19) vs. #7 Nicholls St. (10-22)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G3: #4 Houston Baptist (16-15) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #3 Sam Houston (17-14) vs. G2 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
#1 Stephen F. Austin (25-5) vs. G3 Winner
#2 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (24-6) vs. G4 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
9:30 PM on ESPN2
 
 
Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament
Site: Houston
 
1st Round
Tuesday, March 8
G1: #7 Mississippi Valley St. (6-26) vs. #10 Grambling (7-23)
G2: #8 Alabama A&M (10-17) vs. #9 Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-24)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Wedneday, March 9
G3: #2 Alcorn St. (15-14) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #1 Texas Southern (17-13) vs. G2 Winner
 
Thursday, March 10
G5: #3 Jackson St. (17-14) vs. #6 Prairie View A&M (7-23)
G6; #4 Southern (19-12) vs. #5 Alabama St. (14-16)
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G3 Winner vs. G5 Winner
G4 Winner vs. G6 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
6:30 PM on ESPNU
 
 
Summit League Tournament
Site: Sioux Falls, SD
 
Quarterfinal Round
Saturday, March 5
G1: #1 IPFW (23-8) vs. #8 South Dakota (14-17)
G2: #2 South Dakota St. (23-7) vs. #7 Oral Roberts (14-16)
 
Sunday, March 6
G3: #4 IUPUI (13-18) vs. #5 North Dakota St. (18-12)
G4: #3 Omaha (18-12) vs. #6 Denver (15-14)
 
Semifinal Round
Monday, March 7
G5: G1 Winner vs. G3 Winner
G6: G2 Winner vs. G4 Winner
 
Championship
Tuesday, March 8
9:00 PM on ESPN2
 
Sun Belt Conference Tournament
Site: New Orleans
 
1st Round
Thursday, March 10
G1: #5 Georgia Southern (14-16) vs. #8 South Alabama (13-18)
G2: #6 Georgia St. (16-13) vs. #7 Texas St. (14-15)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Friday, March 11
G3: #4 UL-Lafayette (16-13) vs. G1 Winner
G4: #3 UT-Arlington (22-9) vs. G2 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Saturday, March 12
#1 UALR (27-4) vs. G3 Winner
#2 UL-Monroe (19-12) vs. G4 Winner
 
Championship
Sunday, March 13
1:00 PM on ESPN2
 
 
Western Athletic Conference Tournament
Site: Las Vegas
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G1: #4 Utah Valley (12-17) vs. #5 Missouri-KC (11-18)
G2: #2 Cal St. Bakersfield (21-8) vs. #7 Chicago St. (4-27)
G3: #3 Seattle (13-15) vs. #6 UT-Rio Grande Valley (8-21)
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
#1 New Mexico St. (22-9) vs. G1 Winner
G2 Winner vs. G3 Winner
 
Championship
Saturday, March 12
11:00 PM on ESPNU

 

The American Athletic Conference and Big Ten Conference brackets will be determined later today after their regular season schedules conclude.

 

 

 

 

March 5, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For March 5-6, 2016

We have reached that time. Starting tonight, invitations to the Big Dance will be handed out for the next eight days. By late tonight, at least one and possibly two schools will have earned their way into the NCAA Tournament.

The overwhelming theme to early conference tournaments so far is that teams in the bottom half of the standings are advancing to the semfinal and final rounds with regularity, something that further proves parity in this non-dominating season.

The 30-second clock was supposes to help the dominant teams control the game, but what has happened is that additional possessions and quicker pace has led to the top teams occasionally showing a vulnerability against the lesser-talented teams. Where in a slower-paced game, a dominating team could hold on and win by slowing the pace down when it was not their best shooting night, or a big underdog could not upset the better team even when having a hot shooting night, the extra 5 to 10 possessions per game has led to more parity.

Take a look at the low seeds that have advanced to the semifinal or final rounds of their conference tournaments.

#7 Hartford in America East into semifinals
#7 Stetson in Atlantic Sun Finals (Stetson is ineligible for postseason play)
#6 Gardner-Webb in Big South semifinals
#6 Indiana State in Missouri Valley Semifinals
#6 Long Island in Northeast semifinals
#8 Austin Peay in Ohio Valley Finals

Before we meet again on late Monday afternoon, two more conference tournament will have commenced. The Mid-American Conference Tournament begins Monday on campus sites, with the four winners advancing to Cleveland, where the final three rounds will be played. The Mid-eastern Athletic Conference Tournament will start in Norfolk, Virginia, where the top two seeds get double benefits. Top seed Hampton and second seed Norfolk State receive a bye, and if they win, they also get a day off prior to the semifinal round. For NSU, they get to host the tournament, and the Spartans are 9-2 at home this year.

 

In the Ivy League, Harvard upset Princeton last night, while Yale won easily at Cornell.  Yale finishes the season playing at tough third place Columbia tonight.  If the Bulldogs pull out a victory, they will win the Ivy League and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962.  If Columbia wins, and Princeton beats Dartmouth tonight and then defeat rival Penn, it will force a one-game playoff for the automatic bid to the Field of 68.

Here is how the in-play conference tournaments look through Friday night’s games.

American East Conference Tournament Score
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
Quarterfinal Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
#8 UMBC (7-24) @ #1 Stony Brook (23-6) 76-86
#7 Hartford (9-22) @ #2 Albany (24-7) 68-59
#6 Maine (8-21) @ #3 Vermont (19-12) 82-99
#5 Binghamton (8-21) @ #4 New Hampshire (18-11) 51-56
   
Semifinal Round  
Monday, March 7  
#7 Hartford (10-22) @ #1 Stony Brook (24-6)  
#4 New Hampshire (19-11) @ #3 Vermont (20-12)  
   
Championship  
Saturday, March 12  
11:00 AM EST on ESPN2  
   
   
Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament  
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
Quarterfinal Round  
Tuesday, March 1  
G1: #8 USC-Upstate (10-21) @ #1 North Florida (21-10) 69-92
G2: #5 Kennesaw St. (11-19) @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast (17-13) 64-74
G3: #7 Stetson (10-21) @ #2 NJIT (17-13) 82-67
G4: #6 Lipscomb (11-20) @ #3 Jacksonville (16-15) 92-89
   
Semifinal Round  
Thursday, March 3  
#4 Florida Gulf Coast (18-13) @ #1 North Florida (22-10) 89-56
#7 Stetson (11-21) @ #6 Lipscomb (12-20) 96-75
   
Championship  
Sunday, March 6 12:30 PM on ESPN2  
#7 Stetson (12-21) @ #4 Florida Gulf Coast (19-13)  
   
Note: If Stetson wins the tournament, then North Florida will  
represent the A-Sun in the NCAA Tournament due to Stetson  
being ineligible for the postseason.  
   
   
Big South Conference Tournament  
Site: Buies Creek, NC (Campbell)  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Longwood (9-22) vs. #9 Charleston Southern (9-20) 75-69
G2: #7 Radford (16-14) vs. #10 Presbyterian (10-19) 64-65
G3: #6 Gardner-Webb (15-15) vs. #11 Campbell (12-17) 79-69
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G4: #1 High Point (20-9) vs. #8 Longwood (10-22) 89-78
G5: #4 UNC-Asheville (19-11) vs. #5 Liberty (13-18) 80-49
G6: #2 Winthrop (21-8) vs. #10 Presbyterian (11-19) 67-53
G7: #3 Coastal Carolina (18-10) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (16-15) 65-69
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#1 High Point (21-9) vs. #4 UNC-Asheville (20-11)  
#2 Winthrop (22-8) vs. #6 Gardner-Webb (17-15)  
   
Championship  
Sunday, March 6  
2:30 PM on ESPN2  
   
   
Colonial Athletic Association Tournament  
Site: Baltimore  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Elon (16-15) vs. #9 Drexel (5-24) 56-57
G2: #7 Charleston (16-13) vs. #10 Delaware (7-22) 67-63
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G3: #1 Hofstra (22-8) vs. #9 Drexel (6-24)  
G4: #4 James Madison (21-10) vs. #5 William & Mary (19-10)  
G5: #2 UNC-Wilmington (22-7) vs. #7 Charleston (17-13)  
G6: #3 Towson (20-11) vs. #6 Northeastern (17-14)  
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner  
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner  
   
Championship  
Monday, March 7  
7:00 PM on NBC Sports Network  
   
   
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament  
Site: Albany (Siena)  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Rider (12-19) vs. #9 Quinnipiac (9-20) 60-57
G2: #7 Canisius (13-18) vs. #10 Niagara (7-24) 102-97
G3: #6 Manhattan (12-17) vs. #11 Marist (7-22) 81-63
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G4: #1 Monmouth (25-6) vs. #8 Rider (13-19) 59-48
G6: #2 Iona (19-10) vs. #7 Canisius (14-18) 71-55
   
Saturday, March 5  
G5: #4 Saint Peter’s (14-15) vs. #5 Fairfield (18-12)  
G7: #3 Siena (20-11) vs. #6 Manhattan (13-17)  
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
G4 Winner vs. G5 Winner  
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner  
   
Championship Round  
Monday, March 7  
7:00 PM on ESPN  
   
   
Missouri Valley Conference Tournament  
Site: St. Louis  
   
1st Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G1: #8 Loyola (Chi.) (14-16) vs. #9 Bradley (5-26) 74-66
G2: #7 MIssouri St. (12-18) vs. #10 Drake (7-23) 69-67
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G3: #1 Wichita St. (23-7) vs. #8 Loyola (Chi.) (15-16) 66-58
G4: #4 Northern Iowa (19-12) vs. #5 Southern Illinois (22-9) 66-60
G5: #2 Evansville (23-8) vs. #7 Missouri St. (13-18) 66-56
G6: #3 Illinois St. (18-13) vs. #6 Indiana St. (14-16) 57-65
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#1 Wichita St. (24-7) vs. #4 Northern Iowa (20-12)  
#2 Evansville (24-8) vs. #6 Indiana St. (15-16)  
   
Championship Game  
Sunday, March 6  
2:00 PM on CBS  
   
   
Northeast Conference  
Site: Campus Sites @ Higher Seeds  
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
G1: #8 Robert Morris (10-21) @ #1 Wagner (20-9) 50-59
G2: #5 Mount St. Mary’s (13-18) @ #4 St. Francis (Bklyn) (15-16) 60-51
G3: #7 St. Francis (Pa.) (13-16) @ #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (15-14) 72-74
G4: #6 Long Island (15-14) @ #3 Sacred Heart (12-17) 84-76
   
Semifinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
#5 Mount St. Mary’s (14-18) @ #1 Wagner (21-9)  
#6 Long Island (16-14) @ #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (16-14)  
   
Championship  
Tuesday, March 8  
7:00 PM on ESPN or ESPN2  
   
   
Ohio Valley Conference Tournament  
Site: Nashville  
   
1st Round  
Wednesday, March 2  
G1: #5 Tennessee Tech (19-10) vs. #8 Austin Peay (14-17) 72-92
G2: #6 Murray St. (16-13) vs. #7 Eastern Illinois (13-16) 78-62
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Thursday, March 3  
G3: #4 Tennessee St. (20-9) vs. #8 Austin Peay (15-17) 72-74
G4: #3 Morehead St. (18-11) vs. #6 Murray St. (17-13) 75-66
   
Semifinal Round  
Friday, March 4  
G5: #1 Belmont (20-10) vs. #8 Austin Peay (16-17) 96-97
G6: #2 UT-Martin (18-13) vs. #3 Morehead St. (19-11) 83-70
   
Championship  
Saturday, March 5 6:00 PM on ESPN2  
#2 UT-Martin (19-13) vs. #8 Austin Peay (17-17)  
   
   
Southern Conference  
Site: Asheville, NC  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Samford (13-18) vs. #9 VMI (9-20) 92-85
G2: #7 Mercer (18-13) vs. #10 Citadel (10-21) 71-69
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G3: #1 Chattanooga (26-5) vs. #8 Samford (14-18)  
G4: #4 Wofford (15-16) vs. #5 Western Carolina (15-16)  
G5: #2 East Tennessee (21-10) Vs. Mercer (19-13)  
G6: #3 Furman (17-14) vs. #6 UNC-Greensboro (14-17)  
   
Semifinal Round  
Sunday, March 6  
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner  
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner  
   
Championship  
Monday, March 7  
9:00 PM on ESPN2  
   
   
West Coast Conference Tournament  
Site: Las Vegas  
   
1st Round  
Friday, March 4  
G1: #8 Loyola Marymount (13-16) vs. #9 San Diego (9-20) 64-61
   
Quarterfinal Round  
Saturday, March 5  
G2: #3 BYU (22-9) vs. #6 Santa Clara (11-19)  
G3: #4 Pepperdine (17-12) vs. #5 San Francisco (15-14)  
G4: #1 Saint Mary’s (24-4) vs. #8 Loyola Marymount (14-16)  
G5: #2 Gonzaga (23-7) vs. #7 Portland (12-19)  
   
Semifinal Round  
Monday, March 7  
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner  
G2 Winner vs. G5 Winner  
   
Championship  
Tuesday, March 8  
9:00 PM on ESPN  

And, here are the brackets for the two tournaments beginning Monday.

 

Mid-American Conference Tournament
Site: Cleveland, 1st Round at Higher Seed
 
1st Round
Monday, March 7
G1:#9 Toledo (17-14) at #8 Eastern Michigan (17-14)
G2: #12 Bowling Green (14-17) at #5 Kent St. (19-12)
G3: #10 Western Michigan (13-18) at #7 Northern Illinois (20-11)
G4: #11 Miami (O) (12-19) at #6 Ball St. (19-12)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Thursday, March 10
G5: #1 Akron (24-7) vs. G1 Winner
G6: #4 Central Michigan (17-14) vs. G2 Winner
G7: #2 Ohio (20-10) vs. G3 Winner
G8: #3 Buffalo (17-14) vs. G4 Winner
 
Semfinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner
 
Championship Round
Saturday, March 12
7:30 PM on ESPN
Mid-eastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Site: Norfolk, VA
 
1st Round
Monday, March 7
G1: #5 Savannah St. (14-14) vs. #12 Delaware St. (7-24)
G2: #6 North Carolina A&T (10-21) vs. #11 Coppin St. (8-21)
 
Tuesday, March 8
G3: #8 UM-Eastern Shore (10-21) vs. #9 Morgan St. (8-21)
G4: #7 UNC-Central (12-18) vs. #10 Howard (12-19)
 
Quarterfinal Round
Wednesday, March 9
G5: #1 Hampton (18-10) vs. G3 Winner
G6: #2 Norfolk St. (16-15) vs. G4 Winner
 
Thursday, March 10
G7: #3 South Carolina St. (17-13) vs. G2 Winner
G8: #4 Bethune-Cookman (14-17) vs. G1 Winner
 
Semifinal Round
Friday, March 11
G5 Winner vs. G8 Winner
G6 Winner vs. G7 Winner
 
Championship Game
Saturday, March 12
1:00 PM on ESPN2

 

Now for our regular weekend fare.  The power conferences conclude their regular seasons this weekend, and there are still multiple conference tournament seedings and byes to be determined.

Here are this week’s Red, White, and Blue ratings

 

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, March 5, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Notre Dame North Carolina St. 8 8 7
Boston College Clemson -9 -11 -7
Florida St. Syracuse 4 3 3
Georgia Tech Pittsburgh 1 2 -2
Virginia Tech Miami (Fla.) -5 -5 -9
Duke North Carolina 1 2 -2
Virginia Louisville 6 5 6
TCU Oklahoma -12 -12 -14
Baylor West Virginia 1 1 -2
Texas Tech Kansas St. 5 5 10
Kansas Iowa St. 9 7 15
DePaul Seton Hall -10 -12 -8
Villanova Georgetown 15 13 13
St. John’s Providence -8 -12 -11
Butler Marquette 9 9 10
Xavier Creighton 10 9 12
Michigan St. Ohio St. 15 12 14
Rutgers Minnesota -5 -6 -3
Michigan Iowa -1 1 1
Arizona Stanford 12 12 10
USC Oregon -1 1 -5
UCLA Oregon St. 5 4 2
Arizona St. California -3 -3 -4
Utah Colorado 9 6 7
Tennessee Ole Miss 2 2 -1
Texas A&M Vanderbilt 4 5 4
Kentucky LSU 13 11 15
Mississippi St. Auburn 12 12 11
Georgia Alabama 5 6 4
Arkansas South Carolina 3 2 6
Missouri Florida -6 -8 -5

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, March 6, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Penn St. Illinois 3 2 3
Northwestern Nebraska 5 6 5
Indiana Maryland 6 4 7
Purdue Wisconsin 7 7 5

March 17, 2015

The PiRate Bracketnomics Bracket-Picking Guide: Rounds One & Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:38 am

We hope you read yesterday’s tutorial on how the PiRate Ratings select their brackets and pick winners in each round of the NCCC Tournament.  If not, here is a link to that informative post:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/bracketnomics-505-the-advanced-level-course-in-bracket-picking/

Once you have familiarized yourself with the “Four Factors” and the “PiRate Bracketnomics” Criteria, then everything you read here will be easily understood.

Today, we will look first at the Opening Round games in Dayton played tonight and tomorrow.  Then, we will break down the 32 games Thursday in Friday in the Second Round.  We will then choose our bracket the rest of the way for those looking to fill out their bracket all at once.

Finally, since hundreds of you recently discovered this page for the first time, we will bring up two controversial subjects we have discussed in the past–how to bring more excitement back to the college game, and how to change the NCAA Tournament so that great low and mid-major teams (like Murray State this year) cannot be eliminated by a major upset after going undefeated in their league.

Just another friendly reminder: See yesterday’s post for all the pertinent stats discussed in today’s preview.

All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time

OPENING ROUND–Dayton, OH

Tuesday, March 17

#16 Hampton (16-17) vs. #16 Manhattan (19-13)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Manhattan enjoys a small edge in E FG%, as Hampton’s opponents enjoyed a better rate than they did.  Hampton has the edge in rebound rate, while Manhattan has a decided advantage in turnover rate, as their defense forces more turnovers per 100 possessions than average.  Free throw rate is a wash.

PiRate Criteria

In the early rounds, strength of schedule tends to play a more important role than in later rounds, and the reason is obvious.  If a team gets to the Elite 8, they belong there regardless of schedule strength.

Manhattan enjoys a huge edge in strength of schedule; the Jaspers’ schedule was about nine points per game stronger.

Scoring Margin was not a strong factor for either team, but Hampton was actually outscored, which is a bad sign for making it past the opening round.

Neither team performed well in any of the other PiRate Criteria categories, as they both have negative field goal percentage margins; neither rebound the ball well; and both had losing records away from home.

Hampton only bests Manhattan in one category, but it is a big one–R+T.  Thanks to a lot of steals, the Pirates get extra opportunities to score.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Manhattan by 7

White: Manhattan by 6

Blue: Manhattan by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Manhattan wins this one.  One big factor hurting Hampton is the health of their top player.  Dwight Meikle is nursing an injury to his ankle, and if he can play, he will not be 100%.

#11 BYU (25-9) vs. #11 Ole Miss (20-12)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Give Ole Miss a slight advantage in E FG%, but not enough to mean much.  Likewise, BYU enjoys an equally slight Rebound Rate advantage, while Turnover Rate is virtually identical both offensively and defensively.  BYU has a small Free Throw Rate advantage, but we heavily discount this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

Ole Miss had a more than six points per game more difficult schedule, which is considerable in this round, so BYU needs to have considerably better criteria grades to emerge as a favorite.

Scoring margin is a tie.  The Cougars have a slight advantage in field goal percentage margin, a little stronger advantage in rebound margin, no advantage in turnover margin, and only a slight R+T advantage.  Both teams were good but not great away from home, even though both saved their best for the toughest road game.  Ole Miss came the closest to knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena, while BYU won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 2

Blue: Ole Miss by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: It’s close, but we will take BYU because Ole Miss ended the season in a swoon.

Wednesday, March 18

#16 North Florida (23-11) vs. #16 Robert Morris (19-14)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

North Florida enjoys decided advantages in E FG% and Free Throw Rate and smaller advantages in Rebound Rate and Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

There is not much difference in schedule strength in this game.  North Florida’s Four Factor dominance is confirmed in all PiRate Criteria, and most importantly, RMU has a negative R+T.  Rule number one in PiRate Bracketonomics is to immediately eliminate any team with a negative R+T–‘nuf ced.

PiRate Ratings

Red: N. Florida by 9

White: N. Florida by 5

Blue: N. Florida by 11

Bracketnomics Selection: North Florida looks to be a prohibitive favorite in this game, but we believe it will be closer than our criteria makes this game out to be. We will go with the Ospreys, but by single digits.

#11 Boise St. (25-8) AT #11 Dayton (25-8)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% and Turnover Rate are close to equal between the two combatants.  Boise State has a considerable Rebound Rate advantage, while Dayton has the clear Free Throw Rate advantage, which is not enough to offset BSU’s Rebound Rate Advantage.  However, this game has one unique feature: Dayton has a huge Home Court Advantage.

PiRate Criteria

Boise State would be the clear favorite in this game if it were not in Dayton, but the Broncos have to travel more than 1,650 air miles across multiple time zones, while DU’s players will sleep in their own beds.

The Broncos have a double digit scoring margin, while Dayton has a respectable 7.3 margin.  FG% margin is the same.  BSU enjoys the edge in rebounding margin, as the Flyers are -1.1 here.  While TO Margin is equal, BSU has a nice 11.6 R+T rating to Dayton’s mediocre 4.2.

What tilts the game the other way is Dayton’s home court advantage as well as a nearly 8 points per game advantage in schedule strength.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 6

White: Dayton by 5

Blue: Dayton by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: Kudos should go to Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Mark Few disciple, for far exceeding expectations in this football oasis.  Greener pastures are in his future should he decide to move up.

The Broncos did not deserve this fate, but they must take it.  Unfortunately for Rice and company, Dayton will take this game and advance on to the East Region and the Second Round.

SECOND ROUND

Thursday, March 19, 2015 & Friday, March 20, 2015

East Region

#1 Villanova (32-2) vs. #16 Lafayette (20-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 6:50 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

Lafayette has no chance in this game, but we will include all the stats to show you why.  The Leopards’ defense is porous, and Villanova has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.  This ‘Nova team is not a terror on the boards, but it is better than previous additions, while Lafayette is not a factor in this factor.  Villanova’s defensive Turnover Rate is much superior to Lafayette’s, while the Wildcats blow the Leopards out of the water in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Again, we probably do not need to bother showing you the differences here, but just in case you wanted to know, Villanova dominates here as well.  The Wildcats’ PiRate Criteria us Final Four worthy and Elite 8 favoring with a scoring margin of more than 15 points per game, a field goal percentage margin of 6.5%, a rebounding margin of 2.3, a turnover margin of 3.4, an R+T of 12.1, a road W-L record of 15-2, and a very respectable strength of schedule.

Lafayette has a negative R+T, so this one looks like it will be over between the first and second TV timeout.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Villanova by 32

White: Villanova by 27

Blue: Villanova by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: Villanova with a 99.9% chance of winning

#8 North Carolina St. (20-13) vs. #9 LSU (22-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:10 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

This shapes up to be an interesting game as all 8-9 seed games should be.  LSU ever so slightly enjoys a minor E FG% advantage, while the same can be said about North Carolina State’s Rebound Rate advantage.  Turnover Rate and Free Throw Rate are pushes.  A favorite cannot be found here.

PiRate Criteria

The Wolf Pack enjoys a tiny strength of schedule advantage of about three points per game.  That said, the rest of the criteria is a mixed bag.  Scoring margin is about the same.  LSU has a tiny field goal percentage margin edge.  NCSU returns the favor in rebounding margin.  Both teams have small negative turnover margins, while State has a small R+T edge.  LSU went 8-5 away from home, while the Wolf Pack suffered through a 7-9 record outside of Raleigh.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina St. by 1

White: North Carolina St. by 1

Blue: North Carolina St. by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: It is close, but North Carolina State gets the edge.  It doesn’t hurt that the Wolf Pack has the better backcourt.

#5 Northern Iowa (30-3) vs. #12 Wyoming (25-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 1:40 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

This game will trudge along at a snail’s pace, as neither team believes in pressing the tempo.  Thus, advantages will not be as great with the pace probably below 60 possessions for both teams.

Give a small edge in E FG% to NIU.  Because Wyoming is weak on the offensive glass, Northern Iowa gets the edge here as well.  Turnover Margin is close to equal, but the Panthers have the slight edge here.  Normally, we would heavily discount Free Throw Rate, but Northern Iowa is the best in the nation at defensive FT*.  They are the only team in the tournament with a Rate in single digits.  They commit few fouls, and when they do send an opposing player to the line, it is usually a player with a weak shooting percentage.

PiRate Criteria

Normally, a mid-major team’s downfall is a weak strength of schedule.  While UNI does not have a schedule strength of Iowa State, the Panthers’ SOS is still above the norm.  In this game, it is several points better than Wyoming’s SOS.

Northern Iowa’s criteria resume looks very Sweet 16 worthy if not Elite 8 worthy.  The Panthers enjoy a scoring margin of 15.5 points, a FG% margin of 9.1%, a rebounding margin of 2.4, a turnover margin of 0.8, and an R+T of 9.5.  Throw in a road record of 12-3, and Northern Iowa is the clear favorite in this game, as Wyoming has pedestrian numbers across the board and a mediocre 9-8 record away from Laramie.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Northern Iowa by 15

White: Northern Iowa by 13

Blue: Northern Iowa by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Northern Iowa is one 5-seed that will keep a 12-seed from pulling off an upset.  The Panthers should be a 3 or 4-seed.

#4 Louisville (24-8) vs. #13 UC-Irvine (21-12)

Tip Time: Friday, 4:10 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

Before delving into each factor, there is a large difference in schedule strength in this game, so large that the individual statistical components must be adjusted by about 17 points to compare the two teams.

UC-Irvine shoots the ball efficiently when they face opponents like UC-Santa Barbara.  Against the likes of Louisville, expect the Anteaters to struggle to get good looks for large parts of this game.  Thus, the E FG% goes to the Cardinals.

UL has a prohibitive advantage in Rebound Rate, even with UC-Irvine having 7 foot 6 inch titan Mamadou Ndiaye in the lineup.  Ndiaye plays less than 20 minutes per game and seldom gets into proper rebounding position, so UL will dominate the boards in this game.

While this is not Rick Pitino’s typically outstanding full court pressing team, Louisville has the big edge in Turnover Margin.  Ditto that for Free Throw Rate as well, so this looks to be a laugher.

PiRate Criteria

This area confirms the previous area.  UL dominates in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin, R+T, and winning percentage away from home.  While it does not look favorable for the Cardinals to make it to Indianapolis, they have an easy opening game this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Louisville by 17

White: Louisville by 14

Blue: Louisville by 22

Bracketnomics Selection: Louisville’s power game wears UCI down and leads to a double-digit win.

#6 Providence (22-11) vs. #11 Boise State or Dayton

Note: This preview includes Dayton as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Providence has an Achilles Heel that can be exploited by good teams, and the tournament is full of good teams.  The Friars are not an exceptionally talented shooting team with a weak E FG% of 48.6%.  They do not make up for this weakness with a terrific defensive E FG%, so this must be a game to look at the strength of the underdog.

Assuming Dayton wins on their home floor to advance to this game, the Flyers are definitely better in E FG%, which means they have a chance to pull off the upset.  Looking past this factor, Providence is going to enjoy a nice edge in Rebound Rate, but Dayton will offset a lot of that with the advantage in Turnover Rate as well as a little help in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Providence has one distinct advantage here, and that is schedule strength.  While Dayton has a strong schedule, Providence has one of the toughest in the tournament (5th best in the Dance).

Dayton’s rebounding margin liability will most likely prevent the Flyers from winning, unless Providence lays a total egg in field goal percentage.  Throw in a decided R+T advantage, and PU will benefit from something like 9 extra legitimate scoring opportunities.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 1 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

White: Providence by 3 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

Blue: Providence by 2 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 5)

Bracketnomics Selection: We will take Providence, but we are not strong in our belief.  Dayton coach Archie Miller took the Flyers a lot farther than where they were supposed to go last year.

#3 Oklahoma (22-10) vs. #14 Albany (24-8)

Tip Time: Friday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Like Providence, Oklahoma is not a particularly efficient shooting team, but unlike Providence, any Lon Kruger-coached team is going to be tough on the defensive side.  Albany is a little soft in this factor, so the Sooners enjoy a major advantage in the most important spot.

Rebounding Rate should not be a major decider in this game.  OU is not great here, while Albany is rather good for their level of play, but not for the Big Dance.  You can scratch off Turnover Rate here as well, not because both teams are weak, but because both are about average.  Albany has a liability in Free Throw Rate, as they give up too many points per 100 possessions here.  Oklahoma is not dominant here, but the Sooners should get to the line a little more than an average NCAA Tournament team gets to the line.

PiRate Criteria

There is a major advantage for Oklahoma in schedule strength of about 18 points.  Albany should probably be a 15-seed, but the bottom of the field is considerably weaker than average.

Factoring schedule strength into the other criteria areas, Albany has no advantage where they can exploit a Sooner weakness.  In other words, forget any possibility of an upset in this game, not the OU will get too much farther.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oklahoma by 18

White: Oklahoma by 16

Blue: Oklahoma by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: Boomer Sooner–Oklahoma will win this in something close to a blowout, but don’t expect OU to make it too far this year.  They can get to the Sweet 16, but that may be their ceiling for 2015.

#7 Michigan State (23-11) vs. #10 Georgia (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% tilts in Michigan State’s favor, and when Sparty enjoys this advantage during the Tom Izzo era, they win most of the time, because MSU is always going to dominate the glass against good but not great opponents, of which Georgia is one.  Even though the Bulldogs are tough in Rebound Rate, the Spartans are better by a large margin.

Georgia cannot compensate for the rebounding advantage with superior Turnover Rate advantage, because MSU actually is a little better here as well.  Only in Free Throw Rate does Georgia really dominate in this game, and you know how we feel about this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria for this game does not exactly corroborate the Four Factors above, but Michigan State still has the advantage in every category but one.  Georgia’s schedule strength is modestly better, mostly because the Bulldogs faced Kentucky twice.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Michigan St. by 4

White: Michigan St. by 6

Blue: Michigan St. by 8

Bracketnomics Selection: Georgia will not be intimidated by Michigan State’s power game, because they faced the best power game in college basketball twice and did not blink.  However, when the game is on the line, we like the Spartans chances in this one.  We will take Michigan State to set up a fantastic game on Sunday.

#2 Virginia (29-3) vs. #15 Belmont (22-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Belmont is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the nation, albeit against much weaker competition than the likes of Virginia.  The Cavaliers fall only behind Kentucky in defensive field goal efficiency.  Turning the tables, Virginia is a better than average field goal efficiency team on offense, while Belmont is plain bad defensively in this important area.

The Rebound Rate advantage exceeds the Field Goal Efficiency advantage for the Cavaliers, while Belmont’s error-prone attack leads to a terrible Turnover Rate for a team in this field.

PiRate Criteria

The strength of schedule difference in this game is huge.  UVa has an advantage of about 15 points per game.  Add into the equation a resume that looks like a typical Final Four team, and the Cavs look to roll in this one.  Virginia is one of just four teams in this field that has double digit scoring and FG% margins.  Their R+T is 20.5, one of just four in this stat as well.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Virginia by 31

White: Virginia by 23

Blue: Virginia by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: There is no suspense for this game.  Virginia could hold Belmont under 40 points and win by as many as 30-35 points.  The big question mark is how healthy is star forward Justin Anderson?  If he can return to something close to his old form, UVa could go all the way to Indianapolis.

South Region

#1 Duke (29-4) vs. #16 North Florida or Robert Morris

This preview includes North Florida as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 7:10 PM

TV: CBS

4 Factors

Duke has had a scare as a heavy favorite in their first NCAA Tournament game in the not too distant past.  The Blue Devils survived a one-point nail-biter against Belmont.  Can history repeat itself?  Remember, this is a 1-16 game, and no 16-seed has ever defeated a 1-seed.  Princeton almost beat Georgetown in 1989, losing when a last-second shot was blocked and a foul was not called.

Duke should not have much to worry about in this game, but North Florida could make this game interesting for a short time.  Duke’s biggest advantage is in Rebound Rate, where North Florida is weak on the glass.

PiRate Criteria

Does Duke have a Final Four resume here?  Compared to Final Four teams in the 21st Century, the Blue Devils look similar.  Their scoring margin is 15.0; their FG% margin is 7.3%; their rebound margin is 6.2; their turnover margin is 1.3, and their R+T is 17.7.  Add a 10-2 record outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium and a strong schedule strength, and Coach K has a potential Final Four team.  The only real weakness for the Dukies is that they are only very good in these criteria areas and not completely dominant in any.  In a year, where another team is completely dominant, it may be their downfall.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Duke by 30

White: Duke by 23

Blue: Duke by 27

Bracketnomics Selection: Duke will win this game with ease and then advance to the Sweet 16 with another relatively easy game on Sunday.

#8 San Diego St. (26-8) vs. #9 St. John’s (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:40 PM

TV: CBS

4 Factors

The numbers here predict an ugly game with a low score.  Neither team can throw the ball in the ocean at times.  St. John’s is a little better offensively, but San Diego State is much better defensively.

Rebounding Rate is the next most important factor, and the Aztecs figure to own the glass in this game, partly due to their acumen and partly due to the Red Storm’s lack thereof.

The other two factors are a wash here.

PiRate Criteria

St. John’s has a slightly stronger strength of schedule, just enough that it matters.  This is about the only area where the Red Storm enjoys a decided advantage.  SDSU gets the checkmark on their side of the ledger in scoring margin, FG% margin, rebounding margin, R+T, and road winning percentage.

PiRate Ratings

Red: San Diego St. by 1

White: San Diego St. by 1

Blue: San Diego St. by 5

Bracketnomics Selection: We are going to add one out of criteria factor as our reason to pick San Diego State.  St. John’s coach Steve Lavin comes from the Gene Keady coaching tree.  Keady has been a St. John’s assistant under his student.  Keady, and his coaching tree, is famous for greatly underachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  This includes Matt Painter, Bruce Weber, and Kevin Stallings among others.  These coaches do not choke; it’s just that their style of play goes against the grain and opposes the PiRate Criteria–not that these coaches deliberately attack us, but it is that we discovered that power teams that do not rely on finesse of assists and free throws are the teams that go deep in the tournament.  It does not hurt that Steve Fisher has cut the nets down before, and his teams are the epitome of power basketball.  SDSU wins this game, but they will not make it to the Sweet 16.

#5 Utah (24-8) vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin (29-4)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

SFA pulled off a big upset last year by dispensing with VCU, but the Lumberjacks drew a team that can neutralize their assets.  Utah is a little better in offensive shooting efficiency and much better on the defensive side.  The Utes can prevent SFA’s major asset, Rebound Rate, from being all that effective, because Utah is rather strong there as well.  SFA forces a lot of turnovers, but Utah is not all that sloppy with the ball.  Because Utah’s schedule was about 10-12 points per game stronger, the Utes have the tools to keep this 12-seed from pulling off the upset.

PiRate Criteria

This is the only game in the second round where both teams enjoy scoring margins of more than 14 points.  Utah also has a double digit FG% margin.  The only area where the Lumberjacks have a clear advantage is road winning percentage.  Utah was only 8-7 outside of SLC, while SFA went 14-3.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Utah by 8

White: Utah by 7

Blue: Utah by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Stephen F. Austin might beat other 5-seeds and even a couple of 4-seeds, but the Selection Committee chose the perfect foe for the Lumberjacks, almost as tough as if they selected paper versus rock instead of scissors versus rock.  Utah wins.

#4 Georgetown (21-10) vs. #13 Eastern Washington (26-8)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Georgetown’s E FG% on both offense and defense are about average, or slightly below average among the teams in this field.  Eastern Washington has a high offensive E FG%, but their defensive rate is horrible.  Georgetown’s Rebound Rate is about average, while EWU’s is weak.  Neither team is exceptionally competent in Turnover Rate or Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

In recent years, Georgetown did not cut the mustard in R+T rating, and they were the easy choice to lose early in the tournament.  The Hoyas are better off this year, as this GU edition more closely resembles a GU team from the 1980’s than the 2010’s.  Georgetown has credible numbers across the board here, with their only weak spot being winning percentage away from home.  At 7-5, the Hoyas are not going to make it to Indianapolis, but they will not go home after one game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Georgetown by 17

White: Georgetown by 14

Blue: Georgetown by 14

Bracketnomics Selection: Finally, John Thompson III gets a win in the Dance.

#6 SMU (27-6) vs. #11 UCLA (20-13)

Tip Time: 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

UCLA took the brunt of the criticism for making the tournament without possessing the proper credentials, but the Four Factors show the Bruins to be worthy of the Big Dance.  However, SMU’s credentials are plainly better.  Typically, Steve Alford’s teams play smart, finesse basketball, but this team does neither.  The Bruins play more power basketball, which is what you look for in the NCAA Tournament, but they do not play it well enough to advance far.

SMU has a clear edge in E FG% and Rebound Rate, a minor advantage in FT Rate, while the teams are even in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria depicts UCLA as more of a NIT-worthy team.  The Bruins were 4-12 away from Pauley Pavilion.  SMU was 10-4 outside of Dallas.  The Mustangs are close to being one of our surprise picks to contend for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.7, and their FG% margin is 10.0%.  Add a rebounding margin of 6.9, and an R+T of 16.8, and Coach Larry Brown’s squad only lacks in turnover margin, which is still positive at 0.2

PiRate Ratings

Red: SMU by 6

White: SMU by 7

Blue: SMU by 9

Bracketnomics Selection: SMU only has to worry about UCLA’s players playing over their heads due to the negative criticism from the so-called experts.  We’ll take the Mustangs.

#3 Iowa St. (25-8) vs. #14 UAB (19-15)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Iowa State looks like a heavy favorite based on these factors, but what will happen if they do not trail by double digits in the first half?  They are so accustomed to spotting a 10-15-point lead and then coming from behind, that they could literally panic if they have to play from the front.

The Cyclones are plainly better than UAB in offensive E FG% and somewhat better defensively.  Their main issue is Rebound Rate, where opponents fared better than ISU.  However, UAB cannot exploit this weakness.  Turnover Rate favors the Cyclones, while FT Rate is close to even.

PiRate Criteria

Iowa State looks more like a dominant team in this game when you look at these criteria.  Scoring margin is not close, as ISU enjoys a margin close to 10, while UAB is just barely positive.  FG% margin tilts the scale in ISU’s favor.  Rebound margin is about even, while ISU  dusts the Blazers in turnover margin, thanks to UAB having a negative number.  UAB was just 3-8 away from home, while Iowa State was 7-5.

PiRate Ratings

Red:  Iowa St. by 18

White: Iowa St. by 18

Blue: Iowa St. by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Iowa State should win this game quickly and hopefully learn that you can win by leading for close to 40 minutes rather than trail by 10 or more for 20.

#7 Iowa (21-11) vs. #10 Davidson (24-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM

TV: TNT

4 Factors

Keep an eye on this game, as the underdog here has better numbers.  Davidson enjoys a considerable E FG% offensively, but Iowa returns the favor defensively.  The Hawkeyes have a slight Rebound Rate advantage, and Davidson has an even slighter Turnover Rate advantage.  Iowa enjoys a large FT Rate advantage, but remember that we do not place much weight on this factor, and our criteria tells us to turn this to a negative if a team relies too much on free throw shooting, because referees call fewer fouls in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The criteria herein show this game to be a near tossup.  Iowa wins the schedule strength battle but not by much.  Davidson takes the scoring margin battle, but Iowa is rather strong here as well.  Iowa has the rebounding margin advantage, while Davidson has the turnover margin edge.  The Hawkeyes have a better R+T, but Davidson has a better road winning percentage.  It is the closest game in this round when looking at just this section.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Davidson by 1

White: Iowa by 1

Blue: Davidson by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: If you read yesterday’s post, you saw that we never use assist to turnover ratio and discount three-point shooting and excessive free throw shooting.  Well…all three of these stats to ignore come into play here.  Davidson can shoot lights out from behind the arc and enjoys an incredible assist to turnover ratio, while Iowa is the epitome of a get to the foul line and win with free throws team.  If we were asked to select one game that could go to overtime, this is the game we would select.  We are only going with Davidson because the need to get to the foul line is drastically challenged in this tournament.

#2 Gonzaga (32-2) vs. #15 North Dakota St. (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:50 PM

TV: TNT

4 Factors

Gonzaga leads the nation in offensive E FG%, and they do it by getting a lot of easy two-point shots.  Defensively, the Bulldogs are almost the equal of their terrific offense.  North Dakota State is rather weak on both sides in this factor.

Gonzaga’s Rebound Rate is not as overpowering as the above factor, but it is still quite strong.  The Bison Rebound Rate is their top factor, but it is not the equal of the Zags.  The remaining two factors are not all that much of a factor in this game.

PiRate Criteria

If you compare Gonzaga’s criteria with Kentucky’s, the Bulldogs are not that far behind the most dominant team in 20 years.  Take a look:

Scoring margin–18.2; FG% margin–14.0%; Rebound margin–7.2; Turnover margin–1.1; R+T–19.0; Road W-L–13-1.

North Dakota State is not that bad for a low-major team, but they drew an impossible assignment in Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Gonzaga by 30

White: Gonzaga by 28

Blue: Gonzaga by 24

Bracketnomics Selection: Gonzaga has taken a bad wrap for not advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in recent years.  That could change this year.  Gonzaga wins this game and empties the bench.

Midwest Region

#1 Kentucky (34-0) vs. #16 Hampton or Manhattan

This review includes Manhattan winning Tuesday

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:40 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

This is an obvious blowout game, so let’s focus on the Wildcats and their pursuit of history.  We really cannot compare the Four Factors of Kentucky with those of San Francisco of 1956, UCLA of 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973, or Indiana of 1976, because there were no three-point shots for those past seasons, and we do not have exact rebounding splits or turnovers.

Kentucky’s E FG% is just average.  The Wildcats do not win games by shooting lights out.  However, their defensive E FG% is just plain scary.  It is below 40%.

UK’s Rebound Rate is not what it probably should be.  It is not the best in the tournament, and it is not even the best in the Midwest Region, as West Virginia has a better total rate.

The Wildcats have a spectacular Turnover Rate, but again West Virginia’s is better.

How many times have we told you to discount FT Rate?  Well, forget that for Kentucky.  They have the second best offensive FT Rate in the tournament, and there is reason to believe this statistic will actually mean something, as opponents will continue to foul their wide open shooters out of desperation.

What about Manhattan?  The Jaspers have poor Rebound and Turnover Rates, and Kentucky will get about 15 to 20 additional scoring opportunities, as if they need them against this team.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike the Four Factors, we can compare Kentucky’s PiRate Criteria to the crucial parts of the criteria of the past undefeated champions.  Since there is no real need to compare it to Manhattan, let’s look at those incredible champs from the past and see how John Calipari’s crew stacks up.

Scoring Margin:  Kentucky’s is 20.9.  Entering the tournaments, 1976 Indiana’s was 19.1; 1973 UCLA’s was 22.1; 1972 UCLA’s was 32.2; 1967 UCLA’s was 26.2; 1964 UCLA’s was 20.5; 1957 North Carolina’s was 14.7; and 1956 San Francisco’s was 18.0.

FG% Margin: Kentucky’s is 11.4%, which is definitely National Championship-worthy.  Of the undefeated champs from the past, only the 1972 and 1973 UCLA teams bested this with marks just over 12%.

Rebounding Margin: Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by 7.4 per game.  This is better than 1976 Indiana’s 6.0, but below all the other undefeated champions, even the 1964 UCLA team with no starter over 6′-05″.  This statistic is where the Alcindor (Jabbar) and Walton teams at UCLA dominated with huge margins, and where the Bill Russell USF team won the battle by more than 17 per game.  If Kentucky is to face defeat, their opponent will have to be able to rebound.

UK’s turnover margin is a very respectable 3.4.  We do not have turnover margins for the other teams, but from memory, we remember that UCLA forced a lot of turnovers and picked up a lot of steals from their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press, but they also committed more turnovers than average due to full-time up-tempo play.  For instance, the 1972 squad played at a pace of about 90 possessions per game, whereas Kentucky today averages less than 65 possessions per game (unfortunately, this is a sign of the times, as college basketball on average sees 25% less action than it did in the first half of the 1970s.

The Cats’ R+T is 22.9, second best in this tournament.  Obviously, they have an undefeated record away from Rupp Arena, and many would say they played better on the road than at home.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kentucky by 34

White: Kentucky by 28

Blue: Kentucy by 32

Bracketnomics Selection: In Las Vegas, Kentucky is Even Money to win the tournament, and that could be an underlay.  In horse racing parlance, they should have 1-9 odds on the tote board.  What is scary is that the gaudy statistics they compiled do not show just how strong this team can be.  The players actually underperformed for a good part of the year, as if they were saving their energy for now.  This team has talent good enough to beat the New York Knicks in a best of seven tournament.

It may surprise you, but this will not be the first team with five starters that will start in the NBA.  It has happened before, and both schools made the Final Four during the time the NBA players were starting.  All five of 1976 Indiana’s starters (Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Bobby Wilkerson, and Quinn Buckner) started games in the NBA.  6th man Wayne Radford also played for pay for a season.

Ohio State’s starting five in 1960 (Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts) pulled off the feat as well.  Lucas and Havlicek are Hall of Famers.

Both Indiana and Ohio State won the title.  This bodes well for Kentucky.

#8 Cincinnati (22-10) vs. #9 Purdue (21-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:10 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

It’s one thing for 8-9 games to be close, but this is ridiculous.  These teams mirror each other in offensive and defensive E FG%, Rebound Rate, and Turnover Rate.  Cincinnati does not foul much, but in the Big Dance, the zebras will not whistle Purdue for many fouls either.  No favorite can be picked on this criteria.

PiRate Criteria

The results here are mixed as well.  Purdue has the better strength of schedule by about 5 points per game.  Cinti enjoys the advantage in scoring margin, FG% margin, and rebound margin, but not by a large amount.  Both teams have negative turnover margins and mediocre records away from home, so whoever wins Thursday will be a double digit loser on Saturday.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Purdue by 2

White: Cincinnati by 3

Blue: Cincinnati by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: Matt Painter is a Keady disciple, but this Purdue team is not pure finesse relying on assists and foul shooting opportunities to win.  However, the team is not fantastic in the power game.

Cincinnati has had issues this year with their coach sidelined for health reasons.  They have been playing for Mick Cronin all year, even though Larry Davis is the coach on the sidelines.  A visit from Cronin should pump the Bearcats up a little.

Both teams play tough defense, and the winner of this game could be the first to 55 points.  We’ll go with Cincinnati to win in a 55-53 type game.

#5 West Virginia (23-9) vs. #12 Buffalo (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:10 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

On paper, this looks like the game with the most chance of a 12-seed upsetting a 5-seed, but at the same time, this also looks like the team most capable of putting a scare into Kentucky in a Sweet 16 game.

West Virginia might be 27-5 or 28-4 if the Mountaineers could shoot straight.  Their E FG% is the worst in the field.  Buffalo is weak on the offensive side of this factor, but the Bulls are stronger on the defensive side.

Shooting aside, WVU is scary good elsewhere, which is why Coach Bob Huggins has guided his Alma Mater back into the field.  WVU’s Rebound Rates are 40.9 on offense and 30.9 on defense, and their TO rates are 18.7 on offense and 28.2 on defense.  In other words, they may not shoot straight and give up too many easy shots, but they will get so many more opportunities to score than their opponent, they can still win.

Buffalo can neutralize West Virginia’s top assets, because the Bulls are quite good in Rebound and TO rates too.

PiRate Criteria

The good ole PiRate Criteria shows this game to be a lot closer than most fans realize.  Don’t discount Buffalo’s chances.  Remember, this team actually led Kentucky at halftime at Rupp Arena.  The Bulls will not be intimidated.

WVU has a slim schedule strength advantage and even slimmer scoring margin advantage.  Buffalo stampeded the Mountaineers in FG% margin, as WVU has a -5.7% rate, something that foretells a short stay this year.

Rebound and TO margins tilt in favor of WVU, but not by all that much, as Buffalo has good numbers here.  WVU’s exceptional R+T number of 19.4 is a result of their excellent “On the line and up the line” pressure defense that produces 7 steals per game and causes opponents to rush shots before they have established proper offensive rebounding angles.

PiRate Ratings

Red: West Virginia by 5

White: West Virginia by 5

Blue: West Virginia by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: If you are going to pick a 12-seed in your bracket to win, this is probably your best shot.  However, the criteria says that West Virginia has about a 70% chance of winning this game.  The Mountaineers have a lot of flaws and will not make it to the Final Four, but they are the wildcard team that can force Kentucky out of its normal pace of play.  Unlike Arkansas that caused the Cats some trouble with their “40 minutes of Hell,” WVU can play volleyball on the backboard and keep Kentucky from dominating on the boards, while still forcing turnovers.  Keep an eye on a possible Sweet 16 game between these two teams, but WVU is certainly no sure thing to make it that far.  Just one God-awful shooting night will doom the Mountaineers back to the mountains.

#4 Maryland (27-6) vs. #13 Valparaiso (28-5)

Tip Time: 4:40 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

The criteria for this game indicates a possible upset, as Valpo is a lot better than a typical 13-seed.  Maryland has not danced in five seasons, but the Terrapins have enough talent to make it to a second week in the tournament.  It should be an entertaining game according to these factors.

Both teams are better than average in E FG%, with 50%+ offensive and 45% defensive percentages.  Maryland is not an exceptional rebounding team, which is proven by their negative Rebound Rate (29.2 Offense and 30.4 Defense), while Valpo is quite competent on the boards, albeit against weaker competition.

Neither squad receives stars for Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is where Maryland gets a huge advantage.  The Terps schedule was about 12 points per game tougher than the Crusaders.  This is probably enough to make UM a big enough favorite in this game, but Valpo is talented enough to have a chance here.  If the Crusaders’ turnover margin wasn’t negative (as is Maryland’s), we would actually come out and pick Valpo to win this game, but the SOS tilts too heavily in UM’s favor.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Maryland by 7

White: Maryland by 5

Blue: Maryland by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: We have to take the Big Ten runnerup here, even though we feel Valparaiso has a fighting chance at the upset.

#6 Butler (22-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:45 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Don’t confuse this Butler team with the squads that advanced to the National Championship Game two consecutive seasons, but don’t confuse this Texas team for most of Rick Barnes’ past great Longhorn squads.  These two teams look like fodder for the victor’s opponent in the next round.

Neither team shoots the ball all that well, and unlike West Virginia, they only dominate in one of the extra opportunity factors.  Both teams are very good on the glass, but neither team forces turnovers or limits them on their offensive side of the ball.  Texas has the advantage in defensive E FG%, while Butler neutralizes it with better Rebound Rates.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike many of these early games, strength of schedule will not be a factor in this game, as they are roughly the same.  Scoring margins are close.  Texas has better FG% and rebounding margins, but Butler returns the favor with better turnover margin and R+T, as UT has a -3.7 TO margin (tied for worst in the Tournament).  Butler went 7-4 outside of Indianapolis, while Texas was just 6-8 away from Austin.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Butler by 2

White: Texas by 1

Blue: Butler by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: Technically, this is the double digit seed with the best chance of winning their first game, but we like the Bulldogs chances in this game.  Our selection is Butler.

#3 Notre Dame (29-5) vs. #14 Northeastern (23-11)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:15 PM (the first game of the Field of 64)

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Notre Dame has the second best offensive E FG% in the Dance, just narrowly falling below Gonzaga.  Northeastern is no slouch, shooting well from inside and outside.

Northeastern could actually win the rebounding war in this game, but Notre Dame will exploit Northeastern’s liability of committing too many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

Beginning with schedule strength, Notre Dame starts this game 8 points better, and the Huskies do not have enough talent to overcome that number.  The Irish’s scoring margin of 13.2 and FG% margin of 8.3make for a strong combination when you factor in their tough schedule.  Their R+T of just 6.5 will be their downfall later in the tournament, but they will get by rather easily in this game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Notre Dame by 18

White: Notre Dame by 17

Blue: Notre Dame by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: The Fighting Irish have been underachievers in the NCAA Tournament for more than two decades.  They have not advanced to the Sweet 16 in a dozen seasons, and they have not appeared in the Final Four in 36 years.

In 1974, their best ever team, the squad that ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, was upset by a weaker Michigan team.  So, this affliction spreads out over decades.

This Irish team has the talent to at least advance to the Sweet 16, and if Notre Dame does not get there, Coach Mike Brey is going to be blamed for something much more infectious than he caused.  At least Notre Dame will win their opening game, which is better than the Irish fared last year.

#7 Wichita State (28-4) vs. Indiana (20-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:45 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

This is not the Wichita State team of last year or the year before, but the Shockers must not be discounted.  Their resume resembles a Final Four team’s resume.  On the other hand, Indiana’s resume looks more like a NIT team than a NCAA Tournament team.

Wichita State has exemplary offensive and defensive E FG% numbers, while Indiana has exceptional offensive and horrible defensive numbers.  If the Shockers take away the Hoosiers’ fast break and early offense opportunities with their “play angry” style, IU will have a tough time scoring enough points to win this game, because the Hoosiers will give up too many easy baskets.

Indiana has credible Rebound Rates on both sides of the ball, but their Turnover Rate is not strong.  The Shockers enjoy large advantages in both factors.

PiRate Criteria

Across the board, Wichita State bests Indiana in all PiRate Criteria save one–schedule strength.  And, that advantage is small.  Wichita State is one of a handful of teams with a 20 or better R+T rating, and when you combine that with high-quality defense and a good road record (13-4), you have a team capable of getting hot and going on a run.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wichita State by 8

White: Wichita State by 8

Blue: Wichita State by 6

Bracketnomics Selection: Wichita State will limit Indiana’s ability to get open looks from outside and prevent the Hoosiers from utilizing their greatest strength.  For seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, this is a tourney experienced roster with a chips on its shoulders.  Watch out for Wichita State.  They do have a huge axe to grind with a particular undefeated team that spoiled their undefeated season last year.

#2 Kansas (26-8) vs. #15 New Mexico State (23-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:15 PM (first game of the day)

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Kansas is limping into this tournament.  The Jayhawks are not really deserving of a 2-seed, as Iowa State should have jumped them.  Lucky for Coach Bill Self and his troops, KU gets a patsy in their first game, and the Jayhawks hope to use it as a bounce back opportunity.

The overwhelming statistic that shows up here is the most lopsided difference in schedule strength, giving KU a 20-point cushion to start.  NMSU has decent numbers, especially in Rebound and Turnover Rate, but their weak schedule strength gives the Aggies little credibility.

PiRate Criteria

The results here mimic the Four Factor results.  Kansas has pedestrian PiRate Criteria with average scoring and field goal margins, decent rebounding margin, and a poor, negative turnover margin.  New Mexico State’s criteria numbers looks better, but the SOS is too weak for it to matter.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kansas by 18

White: Kansas by 16

Blue: Kansas by 18

Bracketnomics Selection: If Kansas loses this game, it will be a bigger upset than when the Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa, but not as big as when the Jayhawks lost to Bucknell.  On second thought, a KU loss would not be totally shocking.  Still, we will play the chalk and pick KU to breeze in this game, setting up a round of 32 match they do not want to face.

West Region

#1 Wisconsin (31-3) vs. #16 Coastal Carolina (24-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:20 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

Wisconsin is solid across the board with E FG% of 54.6 offensively and 46.7 defensively; Rebound Rates of 31.9 offensively and 23.7 defensively; and Turnover Rates of 12.4 offensively and 16.7 defensively.  Additionally, they are the second best team in this field at avoiding fouls, so the Badgers are not a team that will beat themselves.

Coastal Carolina is typical of a Cliff Ellis coached team.  At Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama, and even tiny Cumberland College, his teams have won by dominating on the boards, sometimes finding athletic players lacking shooting acumen.  This CCU team is not a first-class shooting outfit, but they are not inept.

The difference in schedule strength is a little too much to overcome, but if CCU can limit turnovers and have a better than typical shooting night, this game could be uncomfortably close for a longer than expected time.

PiRate Criteria

The numbers here validate our belief that this game could be closer than expected.  UW’s scoring margin is 15.8, but CCU’s is 10.0.  Wisconsin enjoys a tiny FG% margin advantage, but Coastal has the advantage in rebound margin.  The Badgers make hay with their gaudy won-loss record away from the Kohl Center, where UW is 16-2 outside of Madtown.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wisconsin by 14

White: Wisconsin by 17

Blue: Wisconsin by 12

Bracketnomics Selection:  Last year, Coastal Carolina led Virginia by five points at the half, and they outrebounded the Cavs for the game, falling by 11 points.  We believe the Chanticleers might get behind early and then mount a furious comeback to make this game interesting, before UW pulls away in the last quarter of the game.  Wisconsin will win, but Badger fans might fret for a few minutes.

#8 Oregon (25-9) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 6:50 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

Talk about two teams just happy to be dancing, we are not enthused with either squad in this game and expect the victor to be easy pickings for Wisconsin on Sunday.

Oregon wins ugly in the baseball vernacular.  The Ducks are not pretty and have serious flaws that can be exploited by muscular teams.  Oklahoma State got their invitation solely on the basis of playing in the strongest conference this year.

E FG%  is even in this game.  Rebound Rate goes to Oregon only because the Cowboys cannot rebound, while OSU gets the TO Rate advantage because Oregon does not force many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

There is no need to delve too deeply here, because Oklahoma State has a negative R+T rating, which immediately eliminates the Cowboys.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oregon by 1

White: Oregon by 1

Blue: Oregon by 3

Bracketnomics Selection:  We automatically rule out any team with a negative R+T rating except in the rare instance when both teams in a game have negative R+Ts.  Oregon wins, and it helps our belief that the Ducks enter this tournament playing their best ball of the year, while OSU limps into the Dance.

#5 Arkansas (26-8) vs. #12 Wofford (28-6)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:50 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

The factors here do not give Arkansas all that big of an advantage, but as you will read below, we expect the Hogs to muddy up the Terriers Thursday night.

Arky has one of the best TO rates in the nation with their 94-foot defense that stresses getting into passing lanes.  This is the only factor where Arkansas has a decided advantage in this game.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria is close to even with the exception of schedule strength, where the Razorbacks enjoy the edge by about 10 points.  Remember that Wofford won at North Carolina State earlier this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arkansas by 12

White: Arkansas by 11

Blue: Arkansas by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Here is the real key in this game: Wofford does not handle full-court pressure well when applied by teams that routinely press and know what they are doing.  The Terriers faced the other great pressing team in this field, West Virginia, earlier this season and wilted under the pressure, committing 21 turnovers and watching WVU pick up 12 steals.  Arkansas will tighten the screws the moment Wofford turns the ball over the first time against the press, and Arkansas will run away quickly with a 10-point or more spurt.  Give the Razorbacks a win to set up a much tougher third round game.

#4 North Carolina (24-11) vs. #13 Harvard (22-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

North Carolina enjoys healthy E FG% and Rebound rate advantages here, and Harvard barely gets the TO Rate advantage.  Because the Tar Heels strength of schedule is about 12 points better than Harvard’s, UNC has little to worry about.

PiRate Criteria

To say that this great program could sneak up and surprise in this tournament sounds odd, but North Carolina has the horses to compete for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.5, just barely missing out on double digits.  They enjoy a FG% margin of 7.7 and a rebound margin of 8.2 with a nice 18.7 R+T and a 11-5 record outside of the Dean Dome.

Harvard has won games in the last two tournaments, and North Carolina once lost as the top seed in a region to an Ivy League team (Penn in 1979), but history will not repeat this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina by 14

White: North Carolina by 16

Blue: North Carolina by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  North Carolina used to make it a habit of always getting to the Sweet 16.  Habits have a way of returning, and this one will this year.

#6 Xavier (21-13) vs. #11 BYU or Ole Miss

This one is tricky.  BYU is only a slight pick to knock off Ole Miss in Dayton, and the outcome of the next game changes based on which team faces Xavier.  If Ole Miss wins, we select Xavier to defeat the Rebels in this game, but if BYU wins in Dayton, the Cougars are our choice over the Musketeers in this game.  We are not going to show the results for both possibilities and only preview a Xavier-BYU contest.  Remember, should Ole Miss beat BYU, then take Xavier in this game.

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:10 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

We will cut to the chase here.  Xavier’s transition defense is suspect, and BYU is the best team in the nation to exploit that liability.  While the Musketeers are rather strong offensively in E FG%, they are porous defensively, and BYU has the tools to hurt Xavier in this category.

Rebound and Turnover Rates are close to equal, so this game figures to be interesting.

PiRate Criteria

Xavier wins the schedule strength battle but not by enough points to annount the Musketeers the winner.  BYU tops XU in winning percentage away from home (73-44%), and remember that the Cougars won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 3

Blue: BYU by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: This game should be played at the fastest pace of any West Region game, as both teams get about 70 possessions.  If any game tops 160 total points in this round, it will be this one, and we expect BYU to come out on top.

#3 Baylor (24-9) vs. #14 Georgia State (24-9)

Tip Time: Thursday, 1:40 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

The schedule strength difference is too much for the underdog to overcome, and this game will be as dull as the BYU-Xavier game will be exciting.  Baylor’s zone defense will allow Georgia State to get hot from outside and make this game close or throw up bricks and make it a quick blowout.

GSU has three players capable of competing in the Big 12, two of whom have Power 6 Conference playing time, and one of whom has Final Four playing experience.  They will not be intimidated, but overall, the talent is not there to pull off the upset.

BU will wipe the backboard clean in this game, as the large Rebound Rate discrepancy means the Bears will get at least a dozen extra scoring chances.

The Panthers rely on Turnover Rate to even out their poor Rebound Rate, but Baylor is not prone to get sloppy with the ball.  The Bears went 3-0 against West Virginia and their pressure defense.

PiRate Criteria

More of the same from above, Baylor’s rebound margin is 8.0, while GSU has a negative margin.  BU’s R+T of 19.2 and SOS in the top 20 in the nation makes the Bears capable of making it to the Elite 8.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Baylor by 12

White: Baylor by 10

Blue: Baylor by15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Baylor will win this game, and it will be messy with a final score in the 60-45 range.

#7 VCU (26-9) vs. #10 Ohio State (23-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:40 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

Okay, so you just have to pick an underdog to win a second round game?  Well, you found it here my friend, because Ohio State should be the 7-seed and VCU should be the 11-seed.  The numbers just don’t show how the Rams can win.

VCU is the only 1 through 8 seed in the tournament with a weaker offensive E FG% than their defensive E FG%.  Since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket, and generally the better shooting team wins when you get to tournament time, we fail to see how the Rams can advance very far when their defense may not cause much panic.

Ohio State is above average in both offensive and defensive E FG%.  The Buckeyes are better in Rebound Rate and not that far behind VCU in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is exactly equal, so the rest of the criteria here tells a lot.  Scoring margin favors Ohio State (13.5 to 7.0).  The Buckeyes clean up in FG% margin, as VCU’s is negative, while OSU’s is 8.0.  Additionally, VCU has a negative rebounding margin, while the Buckeyes have a +3 margin.  The only part of this criteria where VCU is better is in road won-loss percentage.  VCU went 14-5, while Ohio State was just 5-8.  Of course, playing on the road in the Big Ten is quite a bit harder than playing on the road in the A-10.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Ohio State by 4

White: Ohio State by 5

Blue: Ohio State by 7

Bracketnomics Selection:  When Urban Meyer was the Florida football coach, the Gators won both the football and basketball national title in the same school year.  Meyer just won the football championship at Ohio State.  Can history repeat itself?  Sorry Buckeye fans, it isn’t going to happen this year, but 66 other teams can say the same thing if they do not wear blue and white with the letters “U” and “K” on their ball caps.  Ohio State wins this game, and it isn’t an upset in our mind.  Now, if the Buckeyes can make it to the Sweet 16, that will be one incredible upset.

#2 Arizona (31-3) vs. #15 Texas Southern (22-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:10 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

Can a top 10 team not be given enough respect?  Definitely, because Arizona is our real number two team in the nation.

The Wildcats look like a Final Four team in our eyes and statistical fog.  Their E FG% are 53.6 (O) and 44.3 (D).  Their Rebound Rate of 34.1 (O) and 22.3 (D) tops Michigan State.  Their Turnover Rate is not that much behind Arkansas, so this team is solid across the board.

Texas Southern should be glad to be here and  fortunate not to be forced into making a stop in Dayton first.  The Tigers have no chance of winning this game with weak numbers and an equally weak schedule strength.

PiRate Criteria

Let’s focus on Arizona’s Criteria numbers versus Wisconsin and Kentucky, since this game could be a 40-point blowout if ‘Zona chooses to run up the score.

First, the SOS of the three behemoths are about equal, all good but not great (but then, they lose some by not being able to play themselves).

Arizona’s scoring margin is 17.8 ( UW 15.8/UK 20.9). Their FG% margin is 9.8 (UW 6.1/UK 11.4).  Their Rebound margin is 8.8 (UW 6.0/UK 7.4).  Their TO margin is 2.9 (UW 2.6/UK 3.4), and their R+T is 25.4 (UW 18.8/UK 22.0).  Coach Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the top contender to Kentucky, and we will have to closely peruse the data should the two teams meet.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arizona by 42

White: Arizona by 35

Blue: Arizona by 51

Bracketnomics Selection:  It has been a long time since a Pac-12 team made it to the Final Four (UCLA in 2008).  Arizona lost a close Elite 8 game last year to Wisconsin, and the Wildcats could get their revenge before the Badgers get that opportunity to do the same to Kentucky.

The Rest of the Bracket 

You have our second round winners.  Now, let’s take it all the way to the end.

Third Round

Villanova over North Carolina St.

Northern Iowa over Louisville

Oklahoma over Providence

Virginia over Michigan State

Duke over San Diego State

Utah over Georgetown

Iowa State over SMU

Gonzaga over Iowa

Kentucky over Cincinnati

West Virginia over Maryland

Notre Dame over Butler

Wichita State over Kansas

Wisconsin over Oregon

North Carolina over Arkansas

Baylor over BYU

Arizona over Ohio State

Sweet 16

Villanova over Northern Iowa

Virginia over Oklahoma

Duke over Utah

Gonzaga over Iowa State

Kentucky over West Virginia

Wichita State over Notre Dame

Wisconsin over North Carolina

Arizona over Baylor

Elite 8

Virginia over Villanova

Duke over Gonzaga

Kentucky over Wichita State

Arizona over Wisconsin

Final 4

Duke over Virginia

Kentucky over Arizona

Championship

Kentucky goes 40-0

A Proposal To Change The NCAA Tournament Format

Murray State was one of many teams that dominated their conference during the season and then lost when all the marbles were on the line.  The Racers would have been a formidable 12-seed had they defeated Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conferent Tournament Championship.  Belmont figures to be out of the tournament with a quick blowout loss to Virginia.

It isn’t the best way to feature the low and mid-major conferences, where one bid is all they will receive.  What if there was a better way to host the NCAA Tournament, where the Murray State’s of the world got their chance, and where teams like Colorado State also had a chance to prove they belong in the Dance?

We have solved this riddle.  Our proposal is to expand the field to 80 teams but at the same time, divide the early rounds into two tournaments.

The first division would include 48 teams from the top 8 conferences, which can almost always be the same 8 every year (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, and either the AAC, A-10 or MVC).

The second division would include 32 teams from the remaining conferences with automatic bids awarded to their conference tournament champions and tat-large bids awarded to the 10 or so best remaining low and mid-major teams.  Thus Murray State, UNC Central, and St. Francis (NY) would still get in after being upset in their league tournament.

The 32 low and mid-majors would be seeded into four, eight team regions and play four rounds from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 remaining teams.  Each of these four would then advance to the Sweet 16.

The 48 Power teams would be seeded into four, 12-team regions and play three rounds from 48 to 24 to 12 remaining teams.  Each of these 12 would also advance to the Sweet 16, at which point the tournament would continue as it does now.

This proposal allows the top low and mid-major teams to get hot and show up in the Sweet 16 with momentum without penalizing the teams from the power conferences.

What do you think?  If you like this idea, call in your favorite Sports Talk Shows and let them know.

Fixing The Boredom Issue

As we alluded to this fact earlier, college basketball has seen a reduction of about 25% of total possessions since the early 1970s.  In the early 1970’s most teams averaged 85 to 90 possessions per game, whereas that average is down to about 60 to 65 today.

College football has become so exciting because the game is more wide open today than it has ever been with teams  averaging 75 to 100 plays per game compared to 55 to 65 plays per game 50 years ago.

We have heard numerous basketball fans admit they cannot watch full games any more, because the marathon of dribbling for no apparent reason has ruined the experience for them.  This dribbling has been referred to as “false offense,” because while one player dribbles for 10 seconds, the other four players act like totem poles and do not move.  And for this, you delve out $30 to $50 for a ticket to see 25% less action?

This can be fixed by getting rid of that 10 seconds of dribbling.  The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, but this will only add about five more possessions.  Institute a 24-second shot clock, and watch that 10 seconds of dribbling disappear.  Teams are already running their offenses in 24-second blocks once they have finished showing off their dribbling skills.

Additionally, a 24-second clock would lead to more coaches realizing that full court pressure would be an excellent strategy.  If it did not produce a turnover, it would leave the opponents about 16 seconds to get a shot off.  This rules change will bring up-tempo basketball back to the college game where teams average 80-100 points per game rather than 50-70.

March 16, 2015

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2015–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners.  The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.  

If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 15 years, you will see a noticeable difference this year, as the PiRate Ratings have incorporated the infamous “Four Factors” into our bracket selection tutorial.

Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets.  We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament.  Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.  Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes.  It is mechanical and has no real subjective data.  It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.

THE FOUR FACTORS

Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric.  He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball.  Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost.  Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate.  Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics.  We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% =  (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA  where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:

(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%

Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)

If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:

500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions.  Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:

(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:

(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100

((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.  Their formula was simply:

FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.

Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were.  If a team like Virginia attempted just 42 field goals and led an opponent by three or four points late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.

A third group of statisticians, including the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:

17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics

For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams.  We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas.  Here is what we found.

  1. Scoring Margin

For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.  Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.

More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.

This is an obvious statistic here.  If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, and the teams played comparable schedules, then team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics.

In the days of the 64 to 68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six or seven consecutive games.

This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

  1. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams.

This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years.  Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64 to 68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

  1. Rebound Margin

This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded.  The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament.  What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game.  In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.

There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times!  Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage.  Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

  1. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance.  Any positive turnover margin is good here.  If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin.  Not all turnover margins are the same though.  A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals.  A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul.  When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase.  Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.

The criteria to look for here is a positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents.  Give more weight to teams that average 7.5 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game.  A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots.  In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

  1. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “MoneyballFormula.”  The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.

The R+T Formula for 2015 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin.  The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U.  The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors.  We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast.  FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

  1. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or Wofford to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Iowa St. or Notre Dame.  And, of course, that is correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  We use three different SOS ratings to come up with an average, and then we plug it into a formula that gives extra points for teams with tough schedules, while taking away points from teams with easy schedules.

  1. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances (like Dayton playing in a First Round Game this year), all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.  When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

These are the basic PiRate criteria.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

  1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem.  Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists.  That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things.  First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing.  That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance).  Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs.  As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be in the NCAA Tournament.  So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats.

  1. Free Throw Shooting

You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not.  It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this to the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games.  However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls.  For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75.

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March.

Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently get there by winning close games at the line.  In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season.  The referees let the teams play.  So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path.

Ponder this:  The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever.  That team connected on just 63% of its free throws.  They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press.  In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

  1. 3-point shooting

You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the difference in points scored.  If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points.  Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals.  A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket.  If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game.  It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament.  A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win is not going to be around after the first weekend.

  1. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far.  Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players.  I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball.  Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so.  If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side.  It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year.

Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams.  Hopefully, they will align properly on your computer, as we had issues getting the alignment to work here.  Our provider is not really set up for tabular posts, and that is our problem and not theirs.

Offense Statistics

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 706 1605 197 547 487 640 320 756 374 181
Arizona 908 1855 172 478 611 874 368 898 381 244
Arkansas 932 2083 227 648 562 776 442 774 399 264
Baylor 794 1831 229 607 476 710 485 808 413 261
Belmont 831 1746 321 841 400 579 301 763 439 205
Boise St. 809 1768 291 738 426 581 286 800 339 201
Buffalo 817 1878 193 567 573 794 412 818 361 244
Butler 777 1771 184 514 488 718 390 785 364 204
BYU 948 2032 85 734 660 859 415 895 402 257
Cincinnati 716 1581 161 483 403 598 351 744 409 210
Coastal Carolina 808 1841 221 621 529 769 440 873 393 232
Davidson 877 1861 337 849 386 543 325 789 297 170
Dayton 750 1620 213 605 538 789 245 796 379 230
Duke 944 1880 250 648 522 755 401 831 371 237
E. Washington 951 1981 335 832 509 704 341 814 367 216
Georgetown 750 1650 181 521 511 728 347 742 392 240
Georgia 728 1673 180 524 551 800 348 869 408 179
Georgia St. 854 1778 163 492 504 693 309 773 352 300
Gonzaga 973 1856 242 593 502 726 347 940 359 211
Hampton 753 1847 187 615 523 802 404 820 469 220
Harvard 650 1493 141 399 420 589 304 695 342 204
Indiana 899 1930 308 764 451 631 395 792 379 167
Iowa 758 1776 181 545 524 703 401 805 361 211
Iowa St. 916 1908 257 703 497 714 314 870 364 209
Kansas 822 1869 198 528 579 804 402 888 435 222
Kentucky  883 1884 185 529 596 825 439 859 361 223
Lafayette 851 1744 257 622 415 542 272 720 351 179
Louisville 783 1827 181 595 468 709 413 808 378 266
LSU 868 1902 184 543 438 636 388 865 468 235
Manhattan 733 1686 209 615 561 808 333 691 464 259
Maryland 741 1693 241 647 570 753 302 855 397 160
Michigan St. 901 1912 256 663 386 610 390 891 395 181
N. C. St. 820 1875 219 606 464 679 400 849 347 131
New Mexico St. 788 1692 160 435 524 755 414 756 459 209
North Carolina 1019 2144 167 484 522 746 488 948 444 233
North Dakota St. 714 1659 220 579 417 602 271 803 312 153
North Florida 872 1858 308 788 522 721 326 851 417 213
Northeastern 811 1670 200 515 510 703 284 843 467 181
Northern Iowa 735 1523 242 609 445 613 239 778 346 196
Notre Dame 945 1853 281 716 509 688 283 831 319 234
Ohio St. 916 1886 225 605 445 656 372 811 373 257
Oklahoma 818 1874 216 629 450 612 351 868 388 221
Oklahoma St. 706 1607 216 618 459 632 238 730 380 245
Ole Miss 788 1850 207 612 541 695 397 805 363 211
Oregon 937 2031 248 688 447 588 359 877 401 195
Providence 808 1830 161 520 540 761 398 791 391 238
Purdue 801 1768 191 571 515 752 388 810 432 180
Robert Morris 802 1798 211 555 462 647 344 759 454 282
San Diego St. 756 1805 178 556 411 653 413 784 386 236
SMU 812 1695 138 384 529 750 378 833 417 226
St. John’s 808 1831 195 552 468 676 329 803 342 239
S.F. Austin 894 1819 257 666 577 786 402 745 464 252
Texas 779 1787 206 607 478 659 410 900 420 124
Texas Southern 794 1789 180 562 550 831 386 788 445 209
UAB 820 1907 187 563 514 694 403 841 461 225
UC-Irvine 830 1799 212 544 368 539 320 849 382 189
UCLA 849 1927 205 564 473 700 406 847 392 226
Utah 788 1624 247 611 484 692 296 821 366 190
Valparaiso 817 1780 224 593 446 658 386 859 413 198
VCU 872 2076 283 828 510 778 431 809 372 338
Villanova 861 1833 306 787 565 777 351 819 369 265
Virginia 761 1644 162 449 407 563 329 829 304 179
West Virginia 813 1975 213 669 527 798 539 638 418 350
Wichita St. 784 1756 224 619 439 638 380 758 301 225
Wisconsin 860 1793 237 663 487 638 322 823 252 154
Wofford 800 1745 215 572 463 672 310 792 371 223
Wyoming 726 1573 200 620 445 629 212 813 380 189
Xavier 885 1870 214 613 517 713 340 844 411 207

Defense

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 672 1600 243 666 340 486 259 665 399 153
Arizona 686 1752 181 581 440 636 258 710 481 159
Arkansas 824 1914 212 600 525 736 402 800 543 188
Baylor 716 1782 191 637 368 570 367 663 404 211
Belmont 828 1832 232 675 363 514 319 726 411 212
Boise St. 710 1712 188 611 381 544 276 729 419 158
Buffalo 773 1831 230 697 409 618 358 774 436 197
Butler 701 1684 175 571 381 561 260 708 403 175
BYU 858 1972 211 643 540 770 354 788 449 224
Cincinnati 654 1678 184 560 277 427 347 589 390 177
Coastal Carolina 691 1766 231 718 422 604 305 722 394 191
Davidson 779 1769 175 582 405 636 337 749 365 159
Dayton 731 1738 181 571 367 541 309 768 449 172
Duke 829 1931 171 534 335 483 357 670 415 188
E. Washington 876 1953 268 697 484 676 353 796 417 187
Georgetown 650 1614 203 566 501 709 338 665 420 192
Georgia 707 1826 200 647 440 626 353 729 355 194
Georgia St. 667 1749 237 735 482 683 398 704 500 154
Gonzaga 737 1917 191 589 406 615 372 669 395 191
Hampton 744 1801 188 546 568 827 367 826 461 178
Harvard 587 1471 159 486 327 484 268 623 368 156
Indiana 875 1925 194 591 413 617 359 724 357 200
Iowa 701 1788 211 652 367 522 354 718 400 195
Iowa St. 842 2012 245 697 357 488 358 786 427 186
Kansas 780 1977 195 631 444 664 415 751 398 216
Kentucky  651 1836 156 570 377 581 398 647 478 159
Lafayette 850 1864 263 698 415 542 370 687 354 190
Louisville 676 1740 160 547 393 603 362 763 463 191
LSU 796 1986 180 575 395 597 427 753 439 262
Manhattan 710 1630 145 450 595 846 351 740 531 221
Maryland 756 1910 223 713 352 533 374 733 372 180
Michigan St. 728 1821 208 643 492 686 312 738 377 194
N. C. St. 757 1877 195 588 450 640 370 770 331 176
New Mexico St. 727 1725 120 409 384 557 329 618 434 179
North Carolina 818 2056 227 763 531 773 416 734 435 234
North Dakota St. 697 1668 206 556 369 497 237 771 338 146
North Florida 851 1971 172 549 430 633 389 767 420 217
Northeastern 848 1905 191 555 323 470 289 674 342 240
Northern Iowa 641 1638 197 624 167 221 287 652 372 163
Notre Dame 847 1984 213 647 325 463 384 725 384 176
Ohio St. 743 1833 221 694 350 502 370 718 484 166
Oklahoma 727 1888 197 637 357 546 399 785 443 209
Oklahoma St. 646 1620 176 519 464 678 349 722 426 185
Ole Miss 708 1771 245 703 499 729 374 740 405 161
Oregon 853 2025 215 652 484 697 399 790 395 190
Providence 742 1762 210 631 467 679 331 730 430 188
Purdue 724 1807 196 560 485 696 365 684 385 228
Robert Morris 778 1835 222 664 457 690 424 756 482 216
San Diego St. 659 1750 172 567 317 456 339 748 451 184
SMU 671 1768 258 803 372 548 350 632 423 220
St. John’s 768 1895 221 675 407 619 431 822 423 165
S.F. Austin 712 1627 150 451 555 800 312 656 571 196
Texas 686 1862 200 575 421 637 367 668 298 209
Texas Southern 850 1930 188 550 405 629 410 749 419 220
UAB 824 1960 206 635 447 653 411 780 452 210
UC-Irvine 716 1823 179 527 445 644 373 746 375 191
UCLA 779 1866 259 729 428 611 331 793 416 207
Utah 643 1681 152 477 384 569 313 640 373 176
Valparaiso 670 1762 219 667 397 565 319 687 404 223
VCU 794 1835 223 648 482 694 359 928 566 205
Villanova 752 1856 186 603 380 563 369 724 483 192
Virginia 578 1600 177 584 289 447 267 641 341 163
West Virginia 697 1488 173 473 572 833 285 778 628 185
Wichita St. 617 1551 161 469 391 576 272 698 426 127
Wisconsin 742 1771 170 442 254 373 256 686 339 135
Wofford 715 1715 170 551 433 613 292 762 435 180
Wyoming 692 1725 210 612 309 444 290 733 370 178
Xavier 814 1862 242 693 430 641 314 746 440 221

Four Factors

Team EFG DEFG OR% DOR% TO% DTO% FT* DFT*
Albany 50.1 49.6 32.5 25.5 19.1 20.2 24.8 17.3
Arizona 53.6 44.3 34.1 22.3 16.7 21.1 26.8 19.3
Arkansas 50.2 48.6 35.6 34.2 16.6 22.6 23.3 21.8
Baylor 49.6 45.5 42.2 31.2 19.7 19.3 22.7 17.6
Belmont 56.8 51.5 29.3 29.5 20.3 19.0 18.5 16.7
Boise St. 54.0 47.0 28.2 25.7 16.2 19.8 20.3 18.0
Buffalo 48.6 48.5 34.7 30.4 16.4 19.8 26.0 18.6
Butler 49.1 46.8 35.5 24.9 17.4 19.3 23.4 18.2
BYU 48.7 48.9 34.5 28.3 16.6 18.5 27.2 22.2
Cincinnati 50.4 44.5 37.3 31.8 21.3 20.3 21.0 14.4
Coastal Carolina 49.9 45.7 37.9 25.9 18.2 18.4 24.5 19.7
Davidson 56.2 49.0 30.3 29.9 14.2 17.4 18.5 19.3
Dayton 52.9 47.3 24.2 28.0 17.8 21.0 25.3 17.2
Duke 56.9 47.4 37.4 30.1 16.8 18.7 23.6 15.1
E. Washington 56.5 51.7 30.0 30.2 15.7 17.8 21.7 20.7
Georgetown 50.9 46.6 34.3 31.3 19.2 20.7 25.0 24.6
Georgia 48.9 44.2 32.3 28.9 19.3 16.7 26.1 20.7
Georgia St. 52.6 44.9 30.5 34.0 16.4 23.0 23.4 22.2
Gonzaga 58.9 43.4 34.2 28.4 16.2 17.7 22.7 18.2
Hampton 45.8 46.5 32.8 30.9 20.5 20.2 22.8 24.8
Harvard 48.3 45.3 32.8 27.8 18.9 20.4 23.2 18.2
Indiana 54.6 50.5 35.3 31.2 17.1 16.1 20.4 18.6
Iowa 47.8 45.1 35.8 30.5 17.4 19.2 25.3 17.6
Iowa St. 54.7 47.9 28.5 29.2 15.8 18.5 21.6 15.4
Kansas 49.3 44.4 34.9 31.8 19.0 17.5 25.4 19.5
Kentucky  51.8 39.7 40.4 31.7 16.4 21.8 27.1 17.2
Lafayette 56.2 52.7 28.4 33.9 16.9 16.8 19.9 19.7
Louisville 47.8 43.4 35.1 30.9 17.8 21.8 22.0 18.5
LSU 50.5 44.6 34.0 33.0 20.5 19.2 19.2 17.3
Manhattan 49.7 48.0 31.0 33.7 21.1 24.0 25.5 26.9
Maryland 50.9 45.4 29.2 30.4 18.5 17.2 26.6 16.3
Michigan St. 53.8 45.7 34.6 25.9 17.9 17.0 17.5 22.2
N. C. St. 49.6 45.5 34.2 30.4 16.2 15.5 21.6 21.0
New Mexico St. 51.3 45.6 40.1 30.3 21.9 20.7 25.0 18.3
North Carolina 51.4 45.3 39.9 30.5 18.1 17.8 21.3 21.7
North Dakota St. 49.7 48.0 26.0 22.8 15.7 16.9 21.0 18.4
North Florida 55.2 47.5 29.8 31.4 18.2 18.2 22.8 18.7
Northeastern 54.6 49.5 29.6 25.5 21.4 15.7 23.3 14.8
Northern Iowa 56.2 45.1 26.8 26.9 18.0 20.4 23.2 9.1
Notre Dame 58.6 48.1 28.1 31.6 14.4 17.4 23.0 14.7
Ohio St. 54.5 46.6 34.1 31.3 17.0 22.1 20.2 16.0
Oklahoma 49.4 43.7 30.9 31.5 17.6 20.2 20.4 16.3
Oklahoma St. 50.7 45.3 24.8 32.3 18.5 21.1 22.4 23.0
Ole Miss 48.2 46.9 34.9 31.7 16.9 18.9 25.2 23.2
Oregon 52.2 47.4 31.2 31.3 17.0 16.8 19.0 20.6
Providence 48.6 48.1 35.3 29.5 17.9 19.7 24.7 21.4
Purdue 50.7 45.5 36.2 31.1 19.9 17.8 23.7 22.5
Robert Morris 50.5 48.4 31.3 35.8 20.5 21.7 20.9 20.6
San Diego St. 46.8 42.6 35.6 30.2 18.5 21.7 19.7 15.3
SMU 52.0 45.2 37.4 29.6 19.9 20.1 25.3 17.7
St. John’s 49.5 46.4 28.6 34.9 15.8 19.4 21.6 18.7
S.F. Austin 56.2 48.4 38.0 29.5 20.6 25.2 25.6 24.5
Texas 49.4 42.2 38.0 29.0 19.9 14.2 22.7 20.1
Texas Southern 49.4 48.9 34.0 34.2 19.8 18.7 24.5 18.1
UAB 47.9 47.3 34.1 32.8 20.1 19.6 22.4 19.3
UC-Irvine 52.0 44.2 30.0 30.5 18.0 17.6 17.4 20.9
UCLA 49.4 48.7 33.9 28.1 17.5 18.6 21.1 19.1
Utah 56.1 42.8 31.6 27.6 18.1 18.5 23.9 19.1
Valparaiso 52.2 44.2 36.0 27.1 19.5 19.1 21.0 18.8
VCU 48.8 49.3 31.7 30.7 15.6 23.9 21.4 20.3
Villanova 55.3 45.5 32.7 31.1 16.6 21.6 25.4 17.0
Virginia 51.2 41.7 33.9 24.4 16.1 18.1 21.6 15.3
West Virginia 46.6 52.7 40.9 30.9 18.7 28.2 23.6 25.7
Wichita St. 51.0 45.0 35.3 26.4 15.2 21.5 22.2 19.8
Wisconsin 54.6 46.7 31.9 23.7 12.4 16.7 24.0 12.5
Wofford 52.0 46.6 28.9 26.9 17.5 20.2 21.8 20.1
Wyoming 52.5 46.2 22.4 26.3 18.6 18.4 21.8 15.3
Xavier 53.0 50.2 31.3 27.1 18.0 19.2 22.7 18.8

PiRate Ratings Essential Information For Bracketnomicss

Pos = Possessions Per game (and Defensive Possessions)

PM = Scoring Margin

FGM = Field Goal % Margin

RbM = Rebound Margin

TOM = Turnover Margin

RT = R + T Score

Rd = Won-Loss away from home

SOS = Strength of Schedule (ESPN’s version)

Team Pos DPos PPG D PPG PM FGM RbM TOM RT Rd W-L SOS
Albany 61.3 61.6 65.5 60.2 5.3 2.0 4.8 0.8 14.3 12-5 24-8 43.3
Arizona 67.2 67.0 76.4 58.6 17.8 9.8 8.8 2.9 25.4 8-3 31-3 58.4
Arkansas 70.8 70.7 78.0 70.1 7.9 1.7 0.4 4.2 9.4 7-5 26-8 64.2
Baylor 63.5 63.3 69.5 60.3 9.2 3.2 8.0 -0.3 19.2 6-5 24-9 65.1
Belmont 67.5 67.8 74.5 70.3 4.1 2.4 0.6 -0.9 2.9 7-8 22-10 45.6
Boise St. 63.5 64.0 70.8 60.3 10.5 4.3 2.5 2.4 11.6 9-5 25-8 51.9
Buffalo 68.9 68.8 75.0 68.3 6.7 1.3 3.1 2.3 12.1 10-7 23-9 57.2
Butler 65.2 65.4 69.6 61.2 8.4 2.2 6.5 1.2 17.9 7-4 22-10 66.4
BYU 71.4 71.6 77.7 72.6 5.1 3.1 4.9 1.4 14.5 8-3 25-9 58.9
Cincinnati 60.1 60.1 62.4 55.3 7.1 6.3 5.0 -0.6 13.1 6-5 22-10 57.8
Coastal Carolina 65.4 64.9 71.7 61.7 10.0 4.8 8.7 0.0 21.1 8-7 24-9 40.2
Davidson 67.4 67.7 79.9 69.0 10.9 3.1 0.9 2.2 7.6 9-4 24-7 56.5
Dayton 64.5 64.7 68.2 60.9 7.3 4.2 -1.1 2.1 4.2 6-7 25-8 60.3
Duke 66.9 67.2 80.6 65.6 15.0 7.3 6.2 1.3 17.7 10-2 29-4 62.0
E. Washington 68.9 68.8 80.8 73.6 7.1 3.2 0.2 1.5 5.5 11-6 26-8 42.5
Georgetown 65.8 65.6 70.7 64.6 6.1 5.2 2.8 0.9 10.1 7-5 21-10 68.9
Georgia 66.0 66.4 68.3 64.2 4.2 4.8 4.2 -1.7 9.5 8-5 21-11 68.3
Georgia St. 65.2 65.9 72.0 62.2 9.8 9.9 -0.6 4.5 9.2 10-8 24-9 46.9
Gonzaga 65.1 65.7 79.1 60.9 18.2 14.0 7.2 1.1 19.0 13-1 32-2 56.3
Hampton 69.5 69.3 67.2 68.0 -0.8 -0.5 0.9 -0.2 5.6 7-12 16-17 37.0
Harvard 62.4 62.1 64.2 57.2 6.9 3.6 3.7 0.9 12.5 9-4 22-7 49.3
Indiana 67.1 67.2 77.5 71.4 6.1 1.1 3.2 -0.7 8.1 4-7 20-13 64.8
Iowa 64.7 65.1 69.4 61.9 7.5 3.5 4.2 1.2 12.8 7-4 21-11 63.7
Iowa St. 69.6 70.1 78.4 69.3 9.1 6.2 1.2 1.9 7.9 7-5 25-8 67.7
Kansas 67.2 66.9 71.2 64.7 6.5 4.5 3.6 -1.1 9.1 6-6 26-8 71.2
Kentucky  64.6 64.5 74.9 54.0 20.9 11.4 7.4 3.4 22.9 14-0 34-0 58.5
Lafayette 65.0 65.8 74.2 74.3 -0.1 3.2 -2.0 0.1 -1.1 9-7 20-12 44.0
Louisville 66.5 66.5 69.2 59.5 9.7 4.0 3.0 2.7 12.8 8-3 24-8 66.7
LSU 71.4 71.3 73.7 67.7 6.0 5.6 2.3 -0.9 5.1 8-5 22-10 62.7
Manhattan 68.8 69.1 69.9 67.5 2.4 -0.1 -2.1 2.1 1.0 8-9 19-13 46.0
Maryland 65.0 65.5 69.5 63.2 6.2 4.2 1.5 -0.8 5.2 9-4 27-6 65.0
Michigan St. 64.9 65.1 71.9 63.4 8.5 7.1 6.8 -0.5 16.0 9-6 23-11 65.0
N. C. St. 65.0 64.9 70.4 65.4 5.0 3.4 3.3 -0.5 8.8 7-9 20-13 66.8
New Mexico St. 63.5 63.5 68.5 59.3 9.2 4.4 6.8 -0.8 16.5 7-8 23-10 44.1
North Carolina 70.1 69.8 77.9 68.4 9.5 7.7 8.2 -0.3 18.7 11-5 24-11 68.6
North Dakota St. 62.1 62.7 64.5 61.5 3.0 1.3 2.1 0.8 8.8 7-9 23-9 42.6
North Florida 67.4 67.7 75.7 67.8 7.9 3.8 0.6 0.1 4.1 11-9 23-11 41.1
Northeastern 64.3 64.2 68.6 65.0 3.6 4.0 4.8 -3.7 7.6 13-8 23-11 49.5
Northern Iowa 58.2 55.4 65.4 49.9 15.5 9.1 2.4 0.8 9.5 12-3 30-3 55.6
Notre Dame 65.2 64.8 78.8 65.6 13.2 8.3 0.1 1.9 6.5 11-2 29-5 61.1
Ohio St. 66.6 66.2 75.8 62.3 13.5 8.0 2.9 3.4 14.0 5-8 23-10 63.4
Oklahoma 68.8 68.5 71.9 62.8 9.2 5.1 1.1 1.7 6.8 6-7 22-10 66.7
Oklahoma St. 66.1 65.1 67.3 62.3 5.0 4.1 -3.3 1.5 -1.2 4-9 18-13 65.8
Ole Miss 67.1 67.1 72.6 67.5 5.1 2.6 2.8 1.3 11.1 10-4 20-12 65.7
Oregon 69.2 69.2 75.6 70.7 4.8 4.0 1.4 -0.2 5.9 7-6 25-9 63.7
Providence 66.2 66.2 70.2 65.5 4.7 2.0 3.9 1.2 12.8 8-6 22-11 68.1
Purdue 65.7 65.4 69.9 64.5 5.4 5.2 4.5 -1.4 9.4 7-8 21-12 66.0
Robert Morris 67.1 67.3 69.0 67.7 1.3 2.2 -2.3 0.8 -0.1 9-8 19-14 43.6
San Diego St. 61.4 61.1 61.8 53.1 8.6 4.2 3.2 1.9 12.4 10-6 26-8 56.1
SMU 63.3 63.7 69.4 59.8 9.7 10.0 6.9 0.2 16.8 10-4 27-6 58.1
St. John’s 67.7 68.2 71.2 67.6 3.6 3.6 -3.8 2.5 -0.5 5-8 21-11 63.7
S.F. Austin 68.3 68.7 79.5 64.5 14.9 5.4 5.4 3.2 18.0 14-3 29-4 43.6
Texas 63.9 63.5 67.9 60.4 7.5 6.8 8.3 -3.7 14.5 6-8 20-13 67.6
Texas Southern 66.0 65.8 68.2 67.4 0.7 0.3 0.4 -0.8 2.7 13-11 22-12 40.5
UAB 67.5 68.0 68.9 67.7 1.2 1.0 1.6 -0.3 6.0 3-8 19-15 52.4
UC-Irvine 64.2 64.6 67.9 62.3 5.6 6.9 1.5 -0.2 5.9 7-9 21-12 50.8
UCLA 68.0 67.9 72.0 68.0 4.0 2.3 3.9 0.7 11.7 4-12 20-13 65.9
Utah 63.2 62.9 72.1 56.9 15.2 10.3 5.1 0.2 13.9 8-7 24-8 59.0
Valparaiso 64.2 64.1 69.8 59.3 10.5 7.9 7.2 -0.3 16.5 13-4 28-5 46.4
VCU 68.2 67.8 72.5 65.5 7.0 -1.3 -1.3 5.5 7.8 14-5 26-9 63.4
Villanova 65.3 65.8 76.3 60.9 15.4 6.5 2.3 3.4 12.1 15-2 32-2 59.8
Virginia 59.0 58.9 65.3 50.7 14.7 10.2 7.8 1.2 20.5 14-2 29-3 61.2
West Virginia 69.8 69.6 73.9 66.8 7.1 -5.7 3.6 6.6 19.4 11-6 23-9 65.8
Wichita St. 61.9 61.8 69.7 55.8 13.9 4.9 5.3 3.9 20.0 13-4 28-4 56.1
Wisconsin 59.6 59.7 71.9 56.1 15.8 6.1 6.0 2.6 18.8 16-2 31-3 59.9
Wofford 62.5 63.2 67.0 59.8 7.2 4.2 1.4 1.9 8.7 15-5 28-6 47.5
Wyoming 60.0 59.3 61.7 56.0 5.7 6.0 0.1 -0.3 3.4 8-7 25-9 48.8
Xavier 67.0 67.4 73.6 67.6 5.9 3.6 3.6 0.9 10.7 8-10 21-13 66.4

Coming tomorrow, we look at each game in the opening round and round two, picking the winners and then picking the entire bracket.

March 17, 2013

Bracketnomics 2013–A statistical look at bracket selection

Bracketnomics 505—2013 Edition

The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.

Think of the criteria in this tutorial as the equivalent of those past performances.  The R+T rating is akin to the Beyer Speed Figure Rating.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are like a horse with a 60 Speed Fig in a race where the other horses all have multiple 100+ Figs.

Here is a general explanation of our past performance criteria.  Don’t worry about compiling all these statistics yourself.  All you need to do is check back with the PiRate Ratings Tuesday morning for an in-depth look at the Field of 68.

 1. Scoring Margin

For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.  Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. 

Make a separate list of teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 10 or more points per game and a third list of teams that outscored opponents by an average of 15 or more points per game.  More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.

This is an obvious statistic here.  If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics. 

In the days of the 64-68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six consecutive games. 

This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams. 

This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years.  Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64-68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

3. Rebound Margin

This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded.  The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament.  What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game.  In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage.  Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance.  Any positive turnover margin is good here.  If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin.  Not all turnover margins are the same though.  A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals.  A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul.  When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase.  Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.  So, this system counts a steal as being worth 1.33 rebounds.

The criteria to look for here is a positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents.  Give more weight to teams that average 7.5 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game.  A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots.  In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

5. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.”  The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.

The current R+T Formula for 2013 is: (R * 1.5) + (6.0 – S) + (0.2 * S) + (1.8 * T), where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

 

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 10 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away.

When this stat is 5 to 9, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win. 

When this stat is 3 to 5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin. 

When this stat is 0 to 3, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U.  The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors.  We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

6. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Albany or Northwestern State to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Louisville or Ohio State.  And, of course, that is correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  Here is how we do it.  Look at the Strength of schedule for every team in the Field.  You can find SOS on many websites, such as the RPI at CBS Sports.  Take the decimal difference for each team in the Field and multiply that by 100.  For example, if Team A’s SOS is .6044 and Team B’s is .5777, the difference times 100 is 2.67.  So, Team A’s schedule was 2.67 points (or round it to 3) per game tougher than Team B’s.  Use this in head-to-head contests for every game in your bracket.

7. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances, all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.  When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

These are the seven basic PiRate criteria.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem.  Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists.  That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things.  First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing.  That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance).  Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs.  As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be.  So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats.

2. Free Throw Shooting

Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games.  However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls.  For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75. 

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March. 

Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently get there by winning close games at the line.  In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season.  The referees let the teams play.  So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path. 

Ponder this:  The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever.  That team connected on just 63% of its free throws.  They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press.  In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

3. 3-point shooting

You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the difference in points scored.  If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points.  Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals.  A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket.  If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game.  It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament.  A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win is not going to be around after the first weekend.

4. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far.  Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players.  I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball.  Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so.  If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side.  It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year. 

 

Putting It All Together

If you know us here at the PiRate Ratings, we are all about putting stats into a mathematical formula to try to pick winners.  That is what we have done for the last decade, and we have isolated the top teams in the tournament more than half the time.  In the last 12 years, our top-rated team has won the championship seven times,  our second highest-rated team won the title three times, and our third-highest rated team won it once.  The only miss was with Connecticut in 2011.

 

Check back at this site Monday night, March 18, after 10 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and we will have our ratings for all 68 teams in the Dance.

 

Enjoy!

March 20, 2011

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

 

12:15 PM on CBS

North Carolina (15) vs. Washington (13)

CBS gives you the most exciting 3rd round game to start off your Sunday.  These teams can get up and down the floor and score quickly.  We expect it to be more like the late 1960’s when North Carolina and Davidson met in the NCAA Tournament for a couple of historic games.

 

The Tar Heels are the slight favorite, but this game could go either way.  When you have two teams capable of topping 85 points, it comes down to which team can control the boards and force more turnovers.  North Carolina should win the battle on the boards, but Washington should win the turnover battle and force more steals.

 

We thought about taking the Huskies, but Coach Roy Williams has a long history of getting to the Sweet 16, while Coach Lorenzo Romar has a shorter history of doing so.

 

We think this will still be undecided with five minutes to go, but the Tar Heels have three go-to guys that can win this game (Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, while UW has two (Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning).  Three to two odds makes for a 60% chance that nothing will be finer in Carolina today.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 83  Washington 76

 

2:45 PM on CBS

Duke (15) vs. Michigan (Elim)

Shortly after we released the 68-team preview last week, the news that Kyrie Irving was ready to play once again changed Duke’s criteria score.  We have not set way to add points in cases like this; we have to make a semi-educated guess.  Before Irving went down to injury, Duke was 8-0, outscoring opponents by a score of 89-66.  He returned to play against Hampton, so in the nine games in which he has contributed, Duke’s average scoring margin is 89-64.  We figure Irving’s presence makes Duke seven to 10 points better.  That would place their PiRate Criteria score right there with Kansas for the top spot.

 

Michigan caught the biggest break in this tournament.  They played a Tennessee team that completely quit once a six-point Volunteer lead was wiped away.  The Wolverines outscored Tennessee 52-16 the final 24 minutes of their game.

 

Duke will not wilt if Michigan erases a six-point Blue Devil lead.  This team is better than last year’s national champion with Irving teaming up with Nolan Smith.  Last year’s champion was a little stronger inside, but with Irving, Smith, Kyle Singler, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins, Coach Mike Krzyzewski has too many weapons to completely stop.

 

Michigan relies on three-point shooting and great penetration.  Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Junior can take the maize and blue on their shoulders and make life miserable for opposing teams that are not overly aggressive defensively.  Duke is not one of those teams.

 

The Blue Devils will stifle the Michigan offense and score enough fast break points and second-chance points to win this one by double digits.

 

Prediction: Duke 76  Michigan 61

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Ohio State (21) vs. George Mason (8)

George Mason has done it before.  The Colonials knocked off Connecticut and North Carolina among others when they made their historic run to the Final Four in 2006.  This GMU team has more talent and almost as much experience, making the Colonials a legitimate contender to advance to the Sweet 16.

 

One problem for GMU: they are facing the team with the second best PiRate Criteria score.  Ohio State has too much firepower for Coach Jim Larranaga to pull magic out of a hat again.

 

Jared Sullinger is too strong and quick inside for the Colonials to stop, and Ryan Pearson will not be able to have a big game against the Buckeyes’ inside defense.  Jon Diebler and William Buford will see a lot of open looks from outside, and we cannot see both having an off day.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 74  George Mason 59

 

6:10 PM on TNT

Texas (18) vs. Arizona (3)

The Longhorns almost could not hold onto a big lead in their first game, while Arizona never could break away from Memphis in theirs.

 

We believe Texas will be more focused on this game and put together 40 minutes of total basketball.  The Longhorns present tough matchup problems with four starters that are great combo inside-outside players.  When they get their mind into the game, they can control a game at both ends of the floor.

 

Jordan Hamilton, Gary Johnson, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph should be focused after watching a huge lead against Oakland almost evaporate entirely in the final minutes.

 

Arizona benefitted from playing a weak second-round opponent.  The Wildcats are not back to where they were in the Lute Olson days.  In Derrick Williams, they have an inside player that can dominate in the paint, but he can be neutralized by an opponent that gets the Wildcats into a running transition game.

 

Texas is not a pure running team, but the Longhorns can take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.  They will do so today.

 

Prediction: Texas 78  Arizona 65

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Purdue (16) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (-1)

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart may be on the radar of two or three big-time coaching searches.  The second year coach has proven to be an excellent tournament tactician.

 

This Ram team does not figure to advance into the second week of the tournament, because in the past, teams with negative PiRate Critieria scores only made it to the Sweet 16 if their first two opponents had either negative scores or ELIM scores.

 

Purdue is only 11-6 since their 15-1 start.  If E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson do not combine for at least 35 points and 20 rebounds, the Boilermakers can be beaten.  We tend to believe that both stars will shine brightly today, and the lads from West Lafayette will be preparing for a mighty rivalry game later in the week.

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  V C U 64

 

7:45 PM on truTV

Syracuse (17) vs. Marquette (3)

When a conference places 11 teams in the Big Dance, it goes that there could be matchups of teams from that conference facing off in earlier rounds.  For the second time this weekend, the Big East has another “conference game” in the NCAA Tournament.

 

In the regular season, Marquette won a close game in Milwaukee, 76-70.  It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Orangemen following an 18-0 start.  Once the ‘Cuse got over their midseason swoon, they recovered to win six in a row before meeting the hot Huskies from Connecticut in the Big East Tournament.

 

Is a 14-loss team good enough to advance to the Sweet 16?  This is not your father’s Marquette teams.  Bo Ellis, Lloyd Walton, Dean Meminger, and Butch Lee are not walking through that door.  Al McGuire won’t be receiving a couple of technical fouls.

 

The Golden Eagles have one thing going for them; they know how to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense.  They should get enough open looks to keep this game close, and if they can come close on the boards, they will be there at the end.

 

We expect a close game, but Syracuse will dictate the tempo.  Expect a lower-scoring game, with Syracuse’s Rick Jackson being just a little too much for Marquette’s interior defense to handle.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 68  Marquette 62

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas (23) vs. Illinois (1)

Kansas remembers well what happened one year ago just down I-44 in OKC from where they are playing today.  The Jayhawks exited the tournament as one of the co-favorites to win it all, when Northern Iowa pulled off a major shocker.

 

We do not see KU meeting a similar fate in Tulsa today.  This team is loaded with talent, both inside and outside, and they have no major liabilities to be exploited.  Markieff and Marcus Morris are the best set of twins in college basketball since the Van Arsdale brothers (Dick and Tom) in the 1960’s. The two combine for 31 points and 15+ rebounds per game.  Off the bench, beefy Thomas Robinson provides extra inside punch.

 

The taller of the twins, Markieff can set up outside and bury the three-pointer or pass high-low to his brother.  It is hard to stop both, so opponents have to sell out to stop the inside threat first.

 

Illinois greatly underachieved this season.  The Illini should have contended for second place in the Big Ten and should have won five or six additional games.  A team talented enough to beat North Carolina by 12 points as well as Oakland, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Penn State handily also lost to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana.  For the Illini to have a chance in this game, they will have to penetrate the KU defense and force fouls.  For two reasons, we do not believe that will work today.  First, the officiating in this tournament has been very relaxed.  Second, we do not believe Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey can get through the front line of defense enough times to change the outcome of the game.

 

Prediction: Kansas 80  Illinois 68

 

9:45 PM on TBS

Notre Dame (11) vs. Florida State (2)

Too bad this one isn’t being played at the Fiesta Bowl.  These former football rivals will meet in Chicago where the St. Patrick’s Day celebrants should be back to normal today.  We consider Notre Dame to have a slight near-home court advantage, and the Irish really do not need anything extra to win this game.

 

Florida State gets extra points for Chris Singleton’s return from injury.  However, Singleton scored just five points and grabbed just two rebounds in 16 minutes of play in the win over Texas A&M; this was not very Kyrie Irving-like.  He is not ready to take the Seminoles on his shoulders and lead them into the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 65  Florida State 59

 

Coming Later This Week: We will update the PiRate Criteria Scores based on the two games each of the Sweet 16 teams playe

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

 

12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67

 

2:40 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62

 

6:10 PM on TNT

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59

 

7:45 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55

 

9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

First Four Round

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59

 

 

Second-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

This one smells like a blowout.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70

 

West Regional

 

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51

 

Southwest Regional

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57

 

Southeast Regional

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54

 

 

 

Our Bracket

 

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

 

Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State

 

Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga

 

Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida

 

Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh

 

National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

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