The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 18, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Monday, February 18, 2019

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 12:11 pm

February 18, 2019

Seed

School

Conf.

1

Gonzaga

West Coast

1

Duke

ACC

1

Virginia

ACC

1

Tennessee

SEC

2

Kentucky

SEC

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

2

Michigan

Big Ten

2

North Carolina

ACC

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Houston

American Athletic

3

Kansas

Big 12

3

Nevada

Mountain West

4

LSU

SEC

4

Marquette

Big East

4

Iowa St.

Big 12

4

Virginia Tech

ACC

5

Louisville

ACC

5

Iowa

Big Ten

5

Texas Tech

Big 12

5

Wisconsin

Big Ten

6

Villanova

Big East

6

Maryland

Big Ten

6

Florida St.

ACC

6

Kansas St.

Big 12

7

Cincinnati

American Athletic

7

Buffalo

Mid-American

7

Auburn

SEC

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

8

Wofford

Southern

8

Washington

Pac-12

8

Baylor

Big 12

8

Ole Miss

SEC

9

TCU

Big 12

9

Texas

Big 12

9

North Carolina St.

ACC

9

Utah St.

Mountain West

10

St. John’s 

Big East

10

Syracuse

ACC

10

Minnesota

Big Ten

10

Central Florida

American Athletic

11

Temple

American Athletic

11

Oklahoma

Big 12

11

Clemson

ACC

11

Ohio St.

Big Ten

11

Seton Hall

Big East

12

Alabama

SEC

12

Butler

Big East

12

Hofstra

Colonial

12

Lipscomb

Atlantic Sun

12

Virginia Commonwealth

Atlantic 10

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Belmont

Ohio Valley

13

Vermont

America East

13

Yale

Ivy League

14

Old Dominion

CUSA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit

14

UC Irvine

Big West

14

Northern Kentucky

Horizon

15

Texas St.

Sun Belt

15

Montana

Big Sky

15

Missouri St.

Missouri Valley

15

Radford

Big South

16

Bucknell

Patriot

16

Sam Houston St.

Southland

16

Rider

Metro Atlantic

16

Texas Southern

SWAC

16

St. Francis (PA)

Northeast

16

Norfolk St.

MEAC

 

First Four OUT

Indiana

Florida

Arizona St.

Furman

 

Next Four Out

Nebraska

Creighton

Davidson

Murray St.

 

Last Four IN

Ohio St.

Seton Hall

Alabama

Butler

 

Last Four BYES

Central Florida

Temple

Oklahoma

Clemson

 

First Four

For the first time this year, we have staggered the seed lines for the First Four games involving the final four at-large bids.  We have one game pitting 11-seeds and another game pitting 12-seeds.  This could change before Selection Sunday.

For your information, the First Four games have mostly  been with 11-seeds, but there have been 12-seeds, and even 13-seeds and 14-seeds earlier in this decade.

Because of the rule that no teams from the same conference can face off in the First Four games, we had to move two teams in the seed line to prevent a conference matchup in Dayton.

11-Seed Line: Ohio State vs. Seton Hall

12-Seed Line: Alabama vs. Butler

16-Seed Line: Rider vs. Norfolk St.

16-Seed Line: Texas Southern vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

 

There are four teams that if they lose in their conference tournament, they will still be an at-large entry, and their conference will improve from one to two bids.

Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference

Washington in the Pac-12 Conference

Wofford in the Southern Conference

Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference

 

There are four other Mid-Major teams that need to be in the discussion by the Selection Committee (in addition to the Mid-Majors already on our Bubble above).

Murray State (or Belmont) in the Ohio Valley Conference

Liberty (or Lipscomb) in the Atlantic Sun Conference

Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference

Toledo in the Mid-American Conference

 

 

 

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February 15, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Friday, February 15, 2019

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:28 pm

February 15, 2019

Seed

SCHOOL

Conf.

1

Duke

ACC

1

Virginia

ACC

1

Tennessee

SEC

1

Gonzaga

WCC

2

Kentucky

SEC

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

2

Michigan

Big Ten

2

North Carolina

ACC

3

Houston

AAC

3

Texas Tech

Big 12

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Nevada

MWC

4

Kansas

Big 12

4

LSU

SEC

4

Marquette

Big East

4

Louisville

ACC

5

Iowa St.

Big 12

5

Wisconsin

Big Ten

5

Villanova

Big East

5

Virginia Tech

ACC

6

Maryland

Big Ten

6

Cincinnati

AAC

6

Buffalo

MAC

6

Iowa

Big Ten

7

Florida St.

ACC

7

Kansas St.

Big 12

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

7

Auburn

SEC

8

Washington

Pac-12

8

Ole Miss

SEC

8

Baylor

Big 12

8

TCU

Big 12

9

Texas

Big 12

9

North Carolina St.

ACC

9

Utah St.

MWC

9

Central Florida

AAC

10

Florida

SEC

10

Oklahoma

Big 12

10

Clemson

ACC

10

Alabama

SEC

11

St. John’s

Big East

11

Ohio St.

Big Ten

11

Syracuse

ACC

11

Butler

Big East

11

Seton Hall

Big East

11

Minnesota

Big Ten

12

Wofford

SoCon

12

Lipscomb

ASUN

12

VCU

Atlantic 10

12

Hofstra

CAA

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Yale

Ivy League

13

Belmont

OVC

13

Vermont

America East

14

Old Dominion

C-USA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit League

14

Northern Kentucky

Horizon

14

UC Irvine

Big West

15

Texas St.

Sun Belt

15

Montana

Big Sky

15

Loyola (Chi)

MVC

15

Radford

Big South

16

Bucknell

Patriot

16

Abilene Christian

Southland

16

Quinnipiac

MAAC

16

Texas Southern

SWAC

16

St. Francis (PA)

NEC

16

Norfolk St.

MEAC

Last 4 Byes

Clemson

Alabama

St. John’s (NY)

Ohio St.

Last 4 In

Syracuse

Butler

Seton Hall

Minnesota

First 4 Out

Indiana

Temple

Seton Hall

UNC Greensboro

Next 4 Out

Florida

Nebraska

Creighton

Davidson

First Four Pairings

Syracuse vs. Seton Hall

Butler vs. Minnesota

Quinnipiac vs. Norfolk St.

Texas Southern vs. St. Francis (PA)

Beginning today, we are using all the same criteria being used by the Selection Committee to pick the bracket the way we believe the Committee will select.  Based on the Committee’s 16-team preview last weekend, we adjusted our bracket to try to mimic their actions.  The major adjustment was increasing the clout of strength of schedules.  Thus, we greatly downgraded all the Mid-Major and Low-Major contenders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Monday, February 11, 2019

February 11, 2019

Seed

SCHOOL

Conf.

1

Duke

ACC

1

Gonzaga

West Coast

1

Tennessee

SEC

1

Virginia

ACC

2

Kentucky

SEC

2

Michigan

Big Ten

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

2

North Carolina

ACC

3

Houston

American

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Marquette

Big East

3

Kansas

Big 12

4

Texas Tech

Big 12

4

Nevada

Mtn West

4

LSU

SEC

4

Louisville

ACC

5

Wisconsin

Big Ten

5

Iowa St.

Big 12

5

Iowa

Big Ten

5

Villanova

Big East

6

Kansas St.

Big 12

6

Virginia Tech

ACC

6

Buffalo

Mid-American

6

Maryland

Big Ten

7

Cincinnati

American

7

Florida St.

ACC

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

7

Ohio St.

Big Ten

8

Washington

Pac-12

8

Auburn

SEC

8

TCU

Big 12

8

Texas

Big 12

9

Baylor

Big 12

9

North Carolina St.

ACC

9

Ole Miss

SEC

9

St. John’s

Big East

10

Alabama

SEC

10

Syracuse

ACC

10

Nebraska

Big Ten

10

Florida

SEC

11

Oklahoma

Big 12

11

UNC Greensboro

SoCon

11

Clemson

ACC

11

Indiana

Big Ten

11

Central Florida

American

11

Utah St.

Mtn West

12

Wofford

SoCon

12

Lipscomb

Atlantic Sun

12

Virginia Commonwealth

Atlantic 10

12

Hofstra

Colonial

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Belmont

Ohio Valley

13

Yale

Ivy

13

Vermont

America East

14

Old Dominion

CUSA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit

14

Northern Kentucky

Horizon

14

UC Irvine

Big West

15

Montana

Big Sky

15

Texas St.

Sun Belt

15

Loyola (Chi)

Missouri Valley

15

Radford

Big South

16

Colgate

Patriot

16

Sam Houston St.

Southland

16

Rider

Metro Atlantic

16

Fairleigh Dickinson

Northeast

16

Texas Southern

Southwestern

16

Norfolk St.

Mideastern

First 4 Out

Butler

Temple

Creighton

Minnesota

Next 4 Out

Saint Mary’s

Toledo

San Francisco

Furman

Last 4 In

Clemson

Indiana

Central Florida

Utah St.

Last 4 Byes

Nebraska

Florida

Oklahoma

UNC Greensboro

 

First Four Games in Dayton

Clemson vs. Utah St.

Indiana vs. Central Florida

Rider vs. Norfolk St.

Fairleigh-Dickinson vs. Texas Southern

 

Adjustments Based on Selection Committee’s Reveal

Beginning today, some of our bracketology seedings have been affected by our reaction to the NCAA Selection Committee’s interpretation of the same data we look at.  As the season continues and we have time to look at each resume, we will begin to analyze the teams more based on what we believe the Selection Committee thinks rather than determining which teams deserve to be in the field based on the NCAA’s selection criteria.

When all is said and done, the Committee members vote on the teams in the dance, and human bias obviously comes into play.  Like the best political spin doctors, the committee can always spin the data in favor of teams they prefer to be in the field and then spin the data in opposition to teams they excluded.

 

February 8, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Friday, February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019

Seed

SCHOOL

Conf.

1

Virginia

ACC

1

Gonzaga

West Coast

1

Duke

ACC

1

Tennessee

SEC

2

Kentucky

SEC

2

Michigan

Big Ten

2

North Carolina

ACC

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

3

Virginia Tech

ACC

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Houston

American Athletic

3

Wisconsin

Big Ten

4

Iowa St.

Big 12

4

Louisville

ACC

4

Nevada

Mtn West

4

Texas Tech

Big 12

5

LSU

SEC

5

Kansas

Big 12

5

Villanova

Big East

5

Auburn

SEC

6

Marquette

Big East

6

Maryland

Big Ten

6

Iowa

Big Ten

6

Cincinnati

American Athletic

7

Washington

Pac-12

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

7

Florida St.

ACC

7

Kansas St.

Big 12

8

Baylor

Big 12

8

Utah St.

Mtn West

8

North Carolina St.

ACC

8

Oklahoma

Big 12

9

Nebraska

Big Ten

9

Ohio St.

Big Ten

9

Texas

Big 12

9

St. John’s

Big East

10

TCU

Big 12

10

Ole Miss

SEC

10

Florida

SEC

10

Clemson

ACC

11

Alabama

SEC

11

Central Florida

American Athletic

11

Indiana

Big Ten

11

VCU

Atlantic 10

11

Syracuse

ACC

11

Temple

American Athletic

12

Buffalo

MAC

12

Wofford

SoCon

12

Lipscomb

Atl Sun

12

Hofstra

Colonial

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Belmont

Ohio Valley

13

Vermont

America East

13

Yale

Ivy League

14

Old Dominion

C-USA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit League

14

Montana

Big Sky

14

Northern Kentucky

Horizon

15

Texas St.

Sun Belt

15

UC Irvine

Big West

15

Radford

Big South

15

Loyola (Chi)

MVC

16

Bucknell

Patriot

16

Sam Houston

Southland

16

Rider

Metro Atlantic

16

Robert Morris

Northeast

16

Prairie View

SWAC

16

Norfolk St.

MEAC

First 4 Out

Minnesota

Creighton

Butler

Saint Mary’s

Next 4 Out

Davidson

UNC Greensboro

San Francisco

Toledo

Last 4 Byes

Florida

Clemson

Alabama

Central Florida

Last 4 In

Indiana

VCU

Syracuse

Temple

In Dayton

Indiana vs. Temple

Virginia Commonwealth vs. Syracuse

Rider vs. Norfolk St.

Prairie View vs. Robert Morris

 

Note: The Selection Committee will issue its original report for the top 4 seeds in each region on Saturday.  Based on what they reveal, the PiRates may or may not adjust their Bracketology report beginning Monday.

 

Note 2: Buffalo, Wofford, and Lipscomb  project as much higher seeds than #12, but in order to place no at-large team lower than #11, the three had to be lowered to #12.

February 7, 2019

A Look At All 32 Conferences For March Madness

Every year brings some form of a unique look to the college basketball season, so saying that 2019 is unique isn’t really saying much.  What is the uniqueness of 2019?

There is a greater than normal divide between the haves and have nots this season.  At the top, there are a small number of elite teams, and if the season continues to play on as is, picking the Final Four and Elite 8 in the tournament might be easier than in past years.  “Might” is a dangerous word.  Might could mean a repeat of 2008, when the Final Four had three number one seeds and one number two seed.  Might could also mean 2011 when Butler and Virginia Commonwealth both made the Final Four from the Mid-Major ranks.

Today, we will present you with the evidence and let you decide for yourself.  The one definite conclusion is that February and March is going to be quite exciting for basketball fans.  There will be more than 100 games worth watching that does not involve your favorite team.

This weekend, the Selection Committee will release its initial Top 16 teams (1-4 seeds), so we will break down every conference to tell you who we think is in line to be one of the great 68.  Here’s a league by league look of all 32 conferences–the one-bid leagues and the power leagues.

America East

One Big League

Vermont (8-1/18-5) is the clear cut favorite here, as the Catamounts totally demolished number two Stony Brook (7-2/19-5) by 21 points on the Sea Wolves home floor.  Last year’s Cinderella, Maryland-Baltimore Co. (6-3/14-10) has slowly and quietly moved up to third place, but this race is Vermont’s to lose.  This league plays its conference tournament at the higher seeds, so finishing first is really important.

 

American Athletic

Four Bids

Houston (8-1/21-1) is enjoying its best season since the Cougars had Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and company in the mid 1980’s, but make no mistake about it–this team is not anything like the Dunk-crazy Cougars of yore.  Houston might be Sweet 16 good this year with a stingy defense, but their own shooting liabilities will keep the Cougars from advancing to the Elite 8, and they will b–e vulnerable in the Round of 32.

Cincinnati (8-1/19-3) is on par to match last year’s showing.   The Bearcats were 30-4 entering The Big Dance last year.  After taking care of a much weaker Georgia State team in the first game, they blew a 22-point lead to Nevada and failed to make the Sweet 16.  It’s been seven years since Cinti last played in the Sweet 16, and 26 years since their last Elite 8 appearance.  The Bearcats will be vulnerable to a strong Packline defense or tough zone, because they are not the best perimeter shooting team and not strong enough on the offensive glass to offset that weakness with extra opportunities.

Central Florida (6-2/16-4) and Temple (7-3/17-6) have NCAA Tournament-worthy resumes, because there are not a lot of other high-quality teams.  Somebody has to fill out the at-large pool, so both schools should receive bids.

Memphis (5-4/13-9) is a bit inconsistent, but when the Tigers are clicking, they are good enough to sneak into the AAC Tournament finals.

 

Atlantic Coast

Eight or Nine Bids

Do nine ACC teams deserve bids this year? We say probably not, but as we said above, the Selection Committee has to find 36 at-large teams to fill the 68-team bracket, and there are not 36 teams better than the eighth or ninth best in the ACC.

Virginia (8-1/20-1) has 15 players with chips on their shoulders after becoming the first #1 seed to be embarrassed in the #1 vs. #16 game in the NCAA Tournament.  The Cavaliers are clearly better this year than last year, when they went 17-1 in the league and cruised to the ACC Tournament championship.  This team has improved offense, maybe slightly better defense, and more of a killer attitude.  TV Watching Alert: UVA hosts Duke Saturday and plays at North Carolina Monday.  If the Cavs are 10-1 on Tuesday morning, they have to be considered the overall favorite to go all the way this year.

Duke (8-1/20-2) also has the tools to win the National Championship.  After re-watching the loss in Hawaii to Gonzaga in November, we came away believing that Duke would beat the Zags nine times out of ten, and if there is a rematch, the Blue Devils might win by double digits five times out of ten.  The loss at home to Syracuse is the one that concerns us.  Duke shot a crazy 9 of 43 from the three-point line in that home game, and while the outside shooting has been much better since, we have to believe that Duke could be vulnerable against a team that can force them to beat them from outside.

North Carolina (8-1/18-4) is one of those teams that could force Duke to beat them from outside.  The Tar Heels have been a consistent power team under Roy Williams.  This year’s team has a +10.4 rebound margin and defends both inside the paint and on the perimeter much better than the average team.  Carolina’s liability is taking care of the ball, but it hasn’t been the reason they lost four times.  In the four losses, it was poor shooting that doomed the Tar Heels.  UNC and Duke do not meet until February 20, and then they play again to close out the regular season.

Louisville (8-2/17-6), Virginia Tech (7-3/18-4), and Syracuse (7-3/16-7) are basically safe bets to make the tournament, and all three bring distinct advantages that could help them make it to the Sweet 16.  Of the three, Louisville has the best chance to sneak into the Elite 8.

How many other teams get invited depend on how many teams win automatic bids from the power conferences that were not going to receive at-large bids.  With no upsets, then the ACC could go nine deep, and currently those three last bids would belong to Florida State (5-4/17-5), North Carolina State (4-6/16-7) and Clemson (4-5/14-8) in that order.  We believe that an 8-10 record this year will put an ACC team on the Bubble.

 

Atlantic Sun

One Bid (outside chance at two)

Lipscomb (10-0/19-4) is on the precipice of entering the Top 25, which of course does not mean anything with the Selection Committee, as AP ranking bears no weight on the process.  However, the Bisons currently rank #31 in the NET Ratings with two Quadrant 1 wins, and that not only bears weight, it is the number one criterion the Committee will use.  Should Lipscomb win out all the way to the Atlantic Sun title game and then lose a close one there, it will be difficult for the Committee to explain why they gave the Bisons the shaft at 27-5 with a top 30 NET Rating.

Liberty (9-1/20-5) is the clear number two team in this  league, but the Flames lost at home to Lipscomb by 20 points.  NJIT (6-3/18-6) has a 20-point loss to Liberty and 18-point loss to Lipscomb, so the hierarchy here is plain and simple.  Lipscomb will host all conference tournament games they play if they finish number one in the league, and the Bisons are clearly better than last year’s NCAA Tournament team that gave North Carolina fits for 30 minutes in the opening round.

 

Atlantic 10

One or Two Bids

Davidson (8-1/17-5) and Virginia Commonwealth (7-2/16-6) are both winning with defense this year.  Both teams could be like gnats for higher-seeded first round opponents, and if this league gets two bids, the at-large team might be forced to a First Four game in Dayton.  As of today, the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketology says that chances are better than 50-50 that only one team gets into the field, but if the Wildcats and Rams continue to win and run away from the rest of the league, both could move up high enough in the NET Ratings to get in.  Neither team’s current NETs are good enough today to get into the field as an at-large team.

 

Big East

Three Bids but Keep an Eye on a Possible Fourth

Why do we say “keep an eye on a possible fourth” bid in this league?  There is a bit of parity here, and we could easily see a team from outside the top three seeds winning the conference tournament title this year.

Villanova (10-0/19-4) is starting to look like they could make a run back to the Final Four this year with a great coach in Jay Wright and a roster that can take care of the ball and drain the three.  Still, this team is not dominant like the two recent national champs.

Marquette (8-2/19-4) has one of the most exciting players in the nation in Markus Howard, but the Golden Eagles cannot create extra scoring opportunities in a large enough volume to win more than a game in the Big Dance.

St. John’s (5-5/17-6) owns two wins over Marquette plus a close loss at Villanova.  The Red Storm might need to upset ‘Nova at home a week from Sunday to move into safe at-large bid territory.  Having the conference tourney near home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn might help them get to the finals of the tournament.

So, which team might spoil the party in Brooklyn?  Take a look at Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas (5-5/15-8).  GU is not tournament worthy, and the big story here might be the former Knick great possibly bringing his alma mater to Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the NIT rather than earn a dance party invite.  However, Georgetown can score points in a hurry and in spurts, two things that help teams in tournament play.  Most of their losses have been really close and just a tad better play could turn those types of games into wins.  So, the Hoyas are our Dark Horse team to watch out for in the Big East Tournament.

 

Big Sky

One Bid

This is not a strong year in the near west.  Montana (8-2/15-6) is not as strong as last year’s conference championship team that challenged Michigan for a half in the Big Dance.  The Grizzlies can score points and light up the scoreboard, but they are likely to surrender 85 to 95 points to a power conference team in the opening round of the tournament.  Montana’s scoring success has more to do with the remainder of this league’s inability to play defense, and if any other Big Sky team wins the automatic bid, they will quickly exit in the opening round.

Northern Colorado and Weber St. have identical 8-3/14-8 records.  Weber State has one quality win, which was a shootout 113-103 victory over BYU, where they went off in the second half and scored 66 points.  That type of explosion could be scary in the conference tournament, but against even a middle of the pack Big Ten or ACC team, it isn’t going to happen.

 

Big South

One Bid

This league can consider avoiding a 16-seed that has to play in Dayton as the highest goal it can achieve this year, because the top teams in the Big South are not good enough to challenge against a #1 or #2 seed this year.   The automatic bid winner is likely looking at a 20-point or worse loss in the opening round of the Big Dance.

Radford (8-1/16-7) is the only team that would for sure could move up to a 15-seed.  The Highlanders are just good enough to make the first half of the Round of 64 game look competitive, but that’s about all.  If any other team wins the lone bid and avoids Dayton, it should be a lopsided loss, maybe 30-40 points lopsided.

 

Big Ten

Eight or Nine Bids

This is another case of having to take teams that don’t really belong in the field, but somebody has to fill the bottom of the at-large pool.  There is a chance that a 12-conference loss (Big Ten playing 20 conference games this year) team might still be in the hunt for an at-large bid if said team wins a couple of times in the Big Ten Tournament.

All is not well with the top of this league at the present time, so this could figure to be a disappointing showing from the league.  Michigan (10-2/21-2) has a great defense, but the Wolverines’ offense has disappeared in recent games, especially in two double-digit losses to Wisconsin and Iowa.  The Maize and Blue have a tough closing schedule, so we’ll get a chance to see if a great defense can compensate a mediocre offense in crunch time.  The Badgers come to Ann Arbor Saturday.

Purdue (9-2/16-6) was blown off the floor at Michigan State a month ago, but since then the Boilermakers have reeled off seven consecutive conference wins.  Past PU teams lacked the ability to dominate on the glass and force turnovers, but Matt Painter has been slowly building up a team that more resembles North Carolina than the former Boilermaker teams that failed time and time again in the NCAA Tournament against teams like North Carolina.  This Boilermaker squad is the most complete since the Lee Rose-led team made the Final Four in 1980.

Michigan State (9-3/18-5) is fading into the sunset due to the loss of Joshua Langford to a season-ending injury.  The Spartans were 11-2 in games he played, and they are still 7-3 since he went down, but they are missing his outside shooting touch.  Additionally, although this team can still bang it on the boards, they have ceded rebounding supremacy to the guys in West Lafayette, and they cannot take care of the rock against pressure defense.  Illinois forced 24 turnovers with 12 steals in their monumental upset of Sparty.  Michigan State could be vulnerable in an opening round game against somebody that can play pressure defense.

Wisconsin (9-3/17-6) is one of those teams that win ugly.  They play excellent possession basketball and slowly pull ahead where a six to eight point lead feels like a 15-point lead.  However, the Badgers have rebounding issues, and few teams ever advance past the Sweet 16 without being able to make hay on the glass.

Maryland (9-4/18-6) is a shoo-in to receive a bid, but the Terrapins allow opposing offenses to feel comfortable. What we mean by this is that they don’t gamble with defensive pressure (they don’t have the ability to do so), and the opponent doesn’t have to worry about getting beat with fast break points off turnovers.  The Terps will not be able to have any spurts against quality opposition, and like Wisconsin, have the wrong liability for Big Dance success.

Iowa (6-5/17-5) has the ability to score points in spurts, but the Hawkeyes don’t have the overall defense to do much damage in the NCAA Tournament.

Three other teams are in contention for at-large bids but not really worthy of making a typical field in other years.  Minnesota (6-6/16-7) would be a lower bubble team in many years from the past, and Coach Richard Pitino is on thin ice in the Cities, but the Gophers would be in the field if it were announced today.  UM’s final eight regular season games are as difficult as anybody in the league, and they could be looking at a 2-6 finish for an 8-12 conference record.  Pitino could be fired, and the team could make the Big Dance at the same time.

Ohio State (4-6/14-7) and Indiana (4-7/13-9) are the other two teams in contention for a Dance invitation.  The Buckeyes cannot shoot the ball well enough to win consistently, especially when they are not all that strong on the boards, and they don’t force a lot of turnovers.  Indiana can rebound a little better than the Buckeyes, but there are games where the Hoosiers act like they are trying to shoot a medicine ball into the hoop.

 

Big 12

Seven or Eight Bids

Any year that doesn’t find Kansas (6-4/17-6) at the top of this league has to be considered odd.  The Jayhawks last failed to finish first in the  Big 12 regular season in 2004.  KU sits in 4th place today 1 1/2 games behind their arch rival, and they could be looking at a final league record of 11-7.  Still, KU is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the 29th consecutive season.  And truth be known, Coach Bill Self’s squad just might advance farther into this year’s tournament than any other conference rival.

After starting 0-2 in the league, Kansas State (7-2/17-5) leads the league at the halfway point of the conference schedule.  The Wildcats are one dimensional–they win with defense and little offense.  They can force turnovers, but not enough to compensate for their lack of rebounding strength, and thus we don’t see KSU going very far in the 2019 Dance.

Iowa State (7-3/18-5) narrowly projects as the true best team in the Big 12 at this point in time, but our criteria for picking teams to advance deep into the tournament does not look good for the Cyclones, as they have rebounding issues.  Their three league losses came by a total of eight points, and rebounding issues hurt them in all three games.

Baylor (6-3/15-7) has a decent offense and can dominate on the glass against teams that do not rebound the ball expertly.  However, the Bears lack the defensive intensity to win consistently, and Coach Scott Drew’s teams have underachieved in the NCAA Tournament the last four times there, including losses to Yale and Georgia State.

Texas Tech (6-4/18-5) has lost four of their last seven games and looks to be treading water ever since their conference foes determined that the Red Raiders cannot beat them from the perimeter.  The better defensive power teams will clog the lane and continue to exploit this weakness, so TTU won’t make it to the Elite 8 this year and will be lucky to sneak into the Sweet 16.

Texas (5-5/13-10) looks iffy with their overall record, but the Longhorns are much better than their record looks this year.  UT owns wins over North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Baylor.  Their NET Rating is #38, and includes four Quadrant 1 wins and no bad losses.  If the Longhorns go 9-9 in the league, they will get into the field unless their Big 12 Tournament ends in a quarterfinal blowout loss.

TCU (4-5/16-6) and Oklahoma (3-7/15-8) don’t really belong in the NCAA Tournament, but they are both likely to get bids unless they totally tank the rest of the way.  A 7-11 record will likely mean having to play the opening day in the Big 12 Tournament, but this will help these teams get an extra win that could put them in the Field.

 

Big West

One Bid

There are two teams with enough quality talent and coaching to scare favored teams in the Big Dance, but only one will make the Field (unless there is a major shock in the conference tournament).

UC-Irvine (8-1/20-5) and UC Santa Barbara (6-2/17-5) are in a class by themselves compared to the rest of the league, and these two teams would produce an excellent conference championship game for viewers.

Irvine plays tough defense and handles the boards well, but the Anteaters don’t force turnovers, which has hurt them in their losses.  Road wins at Texas A&M and Saint Mary’s proves UCI can compete in an opening round game.

UCSB is similar to UCI in every department, maybe a little better on the boards and in forcing turnovers, but a little weaker offensively.  The Gauchos don’t own an impressive non-conference win, but they lost at Washington by four points.

 

Colonial Athletic

One Bid

You probably haven’t followed Hofstra (9-1/19-4) this year if you don’t follow the CAA.  The Pride won 16 games in a row before falling at number two Northeastern (7-3/13-9) last Saturday.  Hofstra is a solid club with no real weakness, but they lack the overall muscle and quickness to beat bigger more physical teams.  In other words, they have no real weakness against Mid Major and Low Major teams.  If the Pride win out until the conference championship game, and lose to finish at 29-5, they will still be an NIT team.

 

Conference USA

One Bid

North Texas (7-3/19-4) was looking like the class of the league this year until Old Dominion (8-3/18-6) came from the middle of the pack to the top with seven wins in eight games.  ODU won at Syracuse, so former Virginia star and coach Jeff Jones has a team capable of shocking a higher seed team if they get to the Dance.

Getting to the Dance won’t be that easy, because this league has some talented teams that have not put it all together this year.  About five other teams could peak at the right time and hoist the trophy in Frisco, Texas.  We think that as many as 10 different teams could win the automatic bid.  Keep an eye on Marshall (6-4/13-10) and Florida International (5-5/14-9).

 

Horizon

One Bid

Until this past week, this looked like a cake walk for Northern Kentucky (8-3/18-6), but the Norse went on the road and lost back-to-back games against middle of the pack teams.  Now, this race looks wide open.

Wright State (7-4/13-11) and Oakland (7-4/11-13) are just a game back of first now, but IUPUI (6-5/14-10) and Illinois-Chicago (6-5/12-12) are the two teams that topped NKU.

 

Ivy

One Bid

It is still just a one bid league, but the Ivy League has been improving a little bit per season in the last few years.  This could be the year where the champion gets a 14-seed and scares a 3-seed if not upsets them.

This should be a great weekend in Ivy League play as number one Princeton (4-0/12-5) visits number two Yale (3-1/13-4) on Friday night.  Harvard (3-1/10-7) hosts a pair of home games, and by Saturday night, there could be a three-way tie at the top at 5-1 in the league.  The Ivy League Tournament has moved away from the Palestra in Philadelphia this year, and it just so happens to be at Yale, where the Bulldogs are undefeated this season.

 

Metro Atlantic

One Bid

The MAAC will be in tight competition with a host of other low major leagues for one of the two 16-seeds that doesn’t include a trip to Dayton.  For any team in this league to move up to a 15-seed, it will take at least two other low major leagues to end up with surprise tournament champions with sub .500 records.

Rider (7-3/12-10) leads a field of six others that are not separated by much.  Monmouth (7-4/8-16), Quinnipiac (6-4/11-10), Siena (6-4/11-12), Canisius (6-4/9-13), and Iona (5-5/7-14) could play a round robin tournament and all finish 3-3.  Manhattan (5-6/7-16) was just 2-16 a couple weeks ago, so the Jaspers are actually the hottest team in this league at the present time.

 

Mid-American

One or Two bids

This is one of those leagues that teams like Oklahoma, Indiana, and North Carolina State will be paying close attention to come conference tournament time.  Buffalo (7-2/19-3) is almost a lock to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team if they do not win the automatic bid.  The Bulls are ranked 23rd in the NET ratings thanks to wins at West Virginia and Syracuse, but they are not the number one team in MAC standings or even in their own East Division.

Bowling Green (8-1/16-6) leads the Bulls by a game in the East thanks to a win over Buffalo in Bowling Green.  The Falcons close the regular season at Buffalo, and this could decide the overall top seed in the conference tournament.

On the other side of the ledger, Toledo (7-3/19-4) has won seven of their last eight games.  The Rockets play at Bowling Green Saturday.

 

Mideastern Athletic

One Bid

This league perpetually places its champion in the First Four in Dayton, but in our opinion, the MEAC teams are usually underrated.  In Norfolk State (8-0/13-10), the MEAC has another team capable of winning big in Dayton and then showing up with just enough clout to scare a 1-seed that may be overlooking the Spartans.

If Norfolk State wins the conference tournament, they will send a team to Dayton capable of shooting the other team out of the gym with a rain of three-pointers.  Derrick Jamerson, Jr. is in range the second he enters the arena, and he’s been the Steph Curry of the MEAC in conference play.  When you can hit 60% from behind the arc, you are more dangerous than Wilt Chamberlain inside the arc.   Teammate Nic Thomas tops 40% at the three-point line in conference play.  This is the MEAC’s best chance to knock off a heavily favored team since Hampton upset Iowa State in 2001.  The league needs some help though.  We believe Norfolk State has a chance against a couple of potential 2-seeds, but not any of the projected 1-seeds.  Of course, the Spartans have to get there first.

 

Missouri Valley

One Bid

This probably won’t be the year the Missouri Valley continues to shock the rest of the world by sending a team deep into the tournament like Loyola did last year or Wichita State did when the Shockers were part of this league.  The best the MVC can hope for this year is one victory.

Loyola (8-3/15-9) isn’t sneaking up on anybody this year.  The Ramblers are still a smart and patient team that works the ball for high percentage shots, but their defense is far off last year’s efficiency.  At best, Loyola is a slight favorite to win Arch Madness in St. Louis.

Drake (6-5/17-7) is in a three-way tie for third, but the Bulldogs are a disappointment this year with talent good enough to run away with the league crown.  They could be dangerous in St. Louis if they play a little smarter and don’t gift the ball to their opposition like they have done in recent weeks.

Illinois State (7-4/14-10) is playing a little above their projected potential, but the Redbirds do not figure to win three games in three days in St. Louis.

Missouri State (6-5/12-12) is the dangerous team from just off the pace and the one we believe will be ready to challenge Loyola at Arch Madness.  The Bears have improved by more than 10 points per game since Christmas, and Coach Dana Ford has a team built in the Gregg Marshall mode.  They will force turnovers that lead to cheap baskets, and their style of play could make Loyola hurry their offense just enough to throw them off.  Look at what MSU did to Loyola two weeks ago: The Bears won 70-35 with a 40-11 second half skunking.  Loyola got eight rebounds for the entire game and committed 14 turnovers.

 

Mountain West

Two or Three Bids

This is a league to monitor closely as the regular season winds down.  Might the Selection Committee go three deep into the MWC?  Are they certain to take two of the three deserving teams if Nevada wins the conference tournament?

Nevada (9-1/22-1) is a Final Four contender, because in Eric Musselman, they have the best overall coach in college basketball.  He’s worth an extra 6 to 8 points in a tournament game just by his ability to have his team prepared to stop the opponent and a strong eye for making in-game adjustments.  On paper, the Wolfpack does not have enough talent to go past the Sweet 16, but Musselman is like Brad Stevens.  He can lead Nevada to close wins at crunch time and move the team into the Elite 8 and even Final Four.

Utah State (8-2/18-5) is talented enough to be the MWC champion in most years.  The Aggies deserve an at-large bid if they cannot win the tournament.  Craig Smith built a great program at South Dakota, becoming the equal of South Dakota State, and in his first year at USU, he has taken a good team and made it better.  The may need to upset Nevada when the Wolfpack comes to town on March 2nd, but even if USU loses and finishes at least 14-4 in the league and advances to the MWC Championship Game, they should receive a ticket to the ball.   Their current NET rating is 33.

Fresno State (7-3/16-6) has a win at Utah State and followed up that big win by playing a close game in a loss to Nevada.  The Bulldogs will not get in as an at-large team, but they are the team most likely to knock off the top two teams in back-to-back days and pull off the upset.

 

Northeast

One Bid

We estimate that this league has about a 95% chance of making a visit to Dayton for the First Four, and quite frankly, it doesn’t look all that favorable for the champion to leave Dayton still in the tournament.

Robert Morris (7-3/12-11), Fairleigh-Dickinson (6-4/11-11), St. Francis (PA) (6-4/10-11), Sacred Heart (6-4/10-13), St. Francis (Bklyn) (5-5/13-10), Wagner (5-5/10-11), Bryant (5-5/8-13), and Long Island (4-6/10-12) should at the very least provide a balanced, excellent conference tournament, but this league plays all its tournament games at the higher seed’s home floor, so the parity will not be appreciated.

 

Ohio Valley

One Bid

While this is a definite one-bid league, there are four really good teams that could take that bid, and all four must be considered dangerous in an opening round game.  If one team gets hot enough to keep winning and enters the Dance with just one more loss than they have now, that team is likely to receive a 12-seed, where they just might be a tad better than their 5-seed opponent.  Here’s a look at those four tough teams.

Belmont (8-2/17-4) has been in this situation many times before.  The Bruins won at UCLA earlier this year, and they swept rival Lipscomb from the Atlantic Sun.  Belmont has won in the past at North Carolina, at Marquette, and lost at Duke by one point,  the second one-point loss to Duke, as a shot to beat the Blue Devils in a past NCAA Tournament game just barely missed a decade ago.  No Power Conference team will be glad if they face Belmont in a 5-12-seed game.

Murray State (8-2/17-4) has one of the top five players in college basketball in Ja Morant.  Morant might be the second or third pick in the 2019 NBA draft.  He averages better than 24 points per game and an amazing 10.3 assists per game.  He may be the best overall player in this league since Fly Williams in the early 1970’s.  Murray doesn’t have a big signature win this season, but they lost close games at Alabama and Auburn.  In the past, this Racers program has won as a #13 seed over Vanderbilt, as a #6 seed over Colorado State, and as a #14 seed over North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament.

Austin Peay (8-2/16-7) is the surprise team of the OVC this year.  The Governors have won 14 of 17 after a slow start.  APSU can steal the ball and take it to the hoop, and they get some hot shooting streaks, but they are probably one good rebounder short of being a threat to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Jacksonville State (8-2/16-7) plays a different style of ball compared to the other three co-leaders.  Their style of play is defense first, second, and third, and it took some time for this team to gel.  After an 0-3 start against three mediocre teams, the Gamecocks began playing better team defense, and the results began to show.  JSU swept Belmont, and they have the easiest finishing schedule of the four co-leaders.  Two years ago, the Gamecocks played admirably in a tournament loss to Louisville.  Coach Ray Harper took Western Kentucky to two past NCAA Tournaments putting a big scare into top-seeded Kansas in 2013.

 

Pac-12

One or Two Bids

Say it a’int so!  Could the Pac-12 really be just a one bid league?  The short answer is yes, if Washington wins the automatic bid.  The logical answer is that the elite will take care of their own, and even if there isn’t a deserving team, the Selection Committee will find some way to have a spokesperson spin the stats to come up with some invalid reason to include a second Pac-12 team.

Washington (9-0/18-4) owns an 11-game winning streak.  Seven of their nine league wins have been by double-digits, and none have been close enough to lose in the final minutes.  Their four non-conference losses came to teams that figure to make the NCAA Tournament, so the Huskies will get a bid even if they do not win the Pac-12 Tournament.  If they were to win out to finish 30-4, they still may do no better than earning a 5-seed.  They can shoot the ball accurately, but they are not as strong defensively.

Arizona State (6-3/15-6) is the best of the rest in the NET Ratings.   The Sun Devils come in at #61, which is actually too low to expect an at-large bid with so many potential at-large teams ahead of them.  However, because the Committee is likely to grasp at straws to keep a Power Conference from becoming a one-bid league, we believe ASU’s win over Kansas in December with wins over Mississippi State and Utah State will outweigh bad losses to Vanderbilt, Princeton, Utah, and Stanford.

Oregon State (6-3/14-7) has been a mild surprise this year and could be a dark horse candidate to steal the automatic bid.  On the other side of the equation, bad years by USC (6-4/13-10), Arizona (5-4/14-8), UCLA (5-5/12-11), and Oregon (5-5/14-9) have dragged this league down.  One of these underachievers could still get hot and win three games in three days in Vegas.

 

Patriot

One Bid

A few weeks ago, it looked like there might be a changing of the guard in this league, but as January gave way to February, a familiar name was back on top of the league standings.  Bucknell (9-2/15-8) has won eight of nine games to pass Lehigh (8-3/15-7) for first place in a league where the higher seed team hosts each tournament game.  Bucknell has won seven of the last eight Patriot League regular season titles.  This does not look like a year where the Bison will pull off another upset tournament win.

 

Southeastern

Seven or Eight Bids

This is an interesting year in the SEC.  Tennessee (9-0/21-1) is number one in the nation with a resume that screams Final Four.  The Vols have one of the best Field Goal percentage differentials in a long time at +12%.  At 83.2%, the all-time SEC conference games record for team free throw percentage is in site, and the Big Orange are among the national leaders in all games.  UT is +6 in rebounding margin and +3 in turnover margin, and they have two potential All-Americans on their roster in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.  And, they can go eight deep with no drop in production.

So, what is the one Tennessee weakness?  They aren’t Kentucky (8-1/19-3).  The Wildcats weren’t really Kentucky  until the second week of January, but since then, they are more like the Fabulous Five of Adolph Rupp in the late 1940’s.  The Wildcats’ defense has been second to none since Coach John Calipari did his annual Svengali mind-control on his players to get them on the same page.  Kentucky opponents in SEC play are scoring less than 60 points per game in 68 possessions per game, while the Cats are scoring 75 points per game.  UK and UT must still face off twice.  The first game comes in Lexington on February 16, and the second one in Knoxville on March 2.

LSU (8-1/18-4) could sneak past both top teams with the schedule working in the Tigers’ favor.  The Bayou Bengals have to play at Kentucky, but they catch the Cats just before Tennessee comes to Rupp Arena.  Then, they host Tennessee just after the Vols play at Kentucky.  It isn’t likely, but LSU could sneak into first place if they can knock off Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Florida in Gainesville.  They should finish no lower than 14-4 in the league and 15-3 is possible.  The Tigers are one of three teams with Final 4 talent and coaching in this league.

Auburn (5-4/16-6) would love their record in most years, but in 2019, this is a disappointment.  The Tigers can score points quickly and shoot teams out of the gym, but on some nights they give up points just as easily and get shot out of the gym.  They resort to a lot of fouling when their pressure defense doesn’t shut down their opponent.  Auburn could be looking at 10-8 or 11-7, both good enough this year to get them in the NCAA Tournament, but we don’t see their stay to be long.

Six teams are still competing for a probable three bids, four at most.  South Carolina (6-3/11-11) has the best conference record of the half-dozen but the least chance to make the field.  The Gamecocks will have to go 6-3 in the second half of the season with a road win against Mississippi State and a home win over Alabama or Ole Miss to have any chance at all.

Alabama (5-4/14-8) beat Kentucky and has four winnable conference road games remaining on their schedule.  The Tide got better in February and March under Coach Avery Johnson last year, and if the repeat that performance, they will get a bid to the Dance for the second consecutive year.

Two teams, Mississippi State (4-5/16-6) and Florida (4-5/12-10) have failed to live up to expectations, although one or both could still make the NCAA Tournament.  Miss. State has one real signature win over Cincinnati with multiple close losses to other NCAA Tournament contenders.  The Bulldogs host Kentucky Saturday followed by Alabama.  If they win both games, then watch out for this team.  The schedule gets easier for the rest of the month before road games against Auburn and Tennessee back-to-back could be trouble.  The Maroons need another five conference wins down the stretch plus one more in the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Florida has played a tough schedule, but the Gators are on the verge of playing themselves out of the field after losing five of their last eight games.  The Gators’ offense is not fluid, and it leads to too many poor choices.  The Gators don’t have a lot of muscle inside, so bad shot choices lead to defensive rebounds for the opponents.  Coach Michael White could find himself on the hot seat in Alligator Alley if UF finished under .500 in league play and misses a dancing opportunity.

Two teams, Ole Miss (5-4/15-7) and Arkansas (5-4/14-8) have overachieved an unexpectedly find themselves in contention for a bid to the Dance.  Ole Miss was picked to finish 13th or 14th by most SEC media and possibly suffer a 20-loss season.  First year coach Kermit Davis, Jr. has been a big plus in Oxford.  His teams have competed much the same way that Davis’s Middle Tennessee teams won in CUSA: hustle points.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson has one 4-star player on his roster, but he’s done an incredible job getting the Razorbacks to use his system and play above their talent level.  A January malaise ended with a win over LSU followed by a come-from-behind win over lowly Vanderbilt.  If Arky continues to improve, 11-7 is still possible, while 10-8 is more probable, but 10-8 is likely to get the Razorbacks a bid.

 

Southern

One Bid

Just like the Ohio Valley Conference, the Socon probably deserves an extra bid this year, but it won’t be in the mail.  Only the team that cuts down the nets in Asheville, North Carolina, will see its name called on Selection Sunday.

Just like the OVC, there are four strong teams in the Socon that could win an opening round game in the NCAA Tournament.  The interesting thing about this league is that you have four distinct styles employed by the coaches of this contending quartet.

Wofford (11-0/19-4) coach Mike Young took the Terriers to four NCAA Tournaments in a six-year period, and his current squad is the best since his 2009 team narrowly lost to heavily favored Wisconsin in the first round.  This team knows how to take smart shots and rarely gets out of character.  They control the boards by limiting the number of defensive rebound opportunities for their opponents, and they take care of the ball.  To beat the Terriers, a team has to limit mistakes and play their best defense.

UNC-Greensboro (9-1/20-3) played close games at LSU and Kentucky and even led the Wildcats in the second half.  They  might be the best of the bunch against high-level competition, but Wofford sure has their number.  Earlier this year, the Terriers barked their way to a 29-point victory.

East Tennessee State (9-2/19-5) can present opponents with tough game preparation issues on short notice.  The Buccaneers have won 11 out of their last 12 games and are hitting their stride at the right time.  They host Wofford tonight in a crucial game.

Furman (7-4/18-5) began the season looking like the team to beat in this league, as the Palladins were 12-0 and ranked #23 in the AP poll.  That included a win over Villanova.  Since then, Fuman is just 6-5 and trending downward.

 

Southland

One Bid

This league has been trending downward since Brad Underwood left Stephen F. Austin.  Instead of having a potential Sweet 16 team, the SLC has a definite #16-seed this year.

Sam Houston State (10-0/15-8) can blow this race apart with a win at second place Abilene Christian (8-2/19-4) on Saturday.  SHSU must play more of its remaining games against the upper half of the league on the road, and if ACU beats the Bearkats Saturday, the Wildcats might overtake them down the stretch.

New Orleans (8-3/13-9) host Sam Houston in a few weeks, and the Privateers own a four-game winning streak.  UNO is still in the regular season conference race.

 

Summit

One Bid

As usual, South Dakota State (9-1/19-6) is the team to beat this year, but the Jackrabbits won’t walk over the opposition in this league.  SDSU knows how to score points, and they are a threat to top 90 every night.  They even gave Nevada a close game, before losing by four points.  The Jackrabbits probably had a better team last year when they lost to Ohio State in the first round of the tournament, and they are now 0-5 in the Big Dance.

Omaha (7-2/13-9) has won 10 of 12 games.  The Mavericks host SDSU next weekend, and the conference race could become a two or three-team dash to the finish.  No matter which team wins the regular season, the conference tournament remains in Sioux Falls, which always helps SDSU.

One of these years, Purdue-Fort Wayne is going to put together a run in early March and earn their first NCAA Tournament bid.  The Mastodons have always had a potent offense under Coach Jon Coffman, and in the past they have two wins over Big Brother Indiana, but the Mastodons have tended to wear down in the last weeks of the season.  They tabbed the one league loss on SDSU, and it wasn’t even close, as PFW won 104-88.

 

Sun Belt

One Bid

This is a probable six-team race for the lone automatic bid.  No team is dominant over the other five among the top half-dozen, but current number one Georgia State (7-3/16-7) has a veteran coach in Ron Hunter that has taken this team and IUPUI to the NCAA Tournament in the past.  The Panthers swept the regular season and conference tournament last year, but this team has a serious rebounding liability.  We don’t see Ga State winning three consecutive games in New Orleans.

Texas State (6-3/17-5) split with Georgia State and appeared to be in command in the league before losing back-to-back games to Georgia Southern and Texas-Arlington.  This throws the league up for grabs.

The other four contenders are: Coastal Carolina (6-3/12-9), Texas-Arlington (6-3/10-12), Georgia Southern (6-4/14-9), and Louisiana-Monroe (5-5/12-10).  CCU is the hottest of the bunch with five consecutive wins, but the Chanticleers also have the toughest remaining schedule.

 

Southwest Athletic

One Bid

Gone are the days when this league’s top team was probably one of the 50 best in the nation.  There were seasons in which Alcorn State beat SEC teams and took a top-seeded LSU team down to the wire in the NCAA tournament after beating South Alabama in the opening round.

The legendary Ben Jobe guided Southern to a big upset over Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament.  There were years where not only did the SWAC tournament champion avoid a trip to Dayton, they avoided the 16-seed line altogether.

Times have been tough on this league in recent years.  Member teams have to be vagabonds and play most of November and December on the road, as their schools collect checks from big time programs just to keep going.

Thus, no team begins conference play with a decent record.  Some teams in the past have competed for the regular season title after losing all their non-conference games.

The SWAC is a little improved this season, and a couple of teams have reached .500 after beginning deep in the hole.  Prairie View (9-0/11-11) actually has a 10-game winning streak going.  The Panthers have been taking care of the ball and forcing a lot of turnovers that lead to easy baskets, and they give the league its best chance to advance past Dayton this year.  One big plus is this team is chock full of upperclassmen that go 10-deep in juniors and seniors.

Texas Southern (6-3/11-11) has enjoyed the most success in this league in recent years, and the Tigers are the leading contender to PVAM.  TSU hosts Prairie View on Saturday, and the winner will have a plus .500 overall record.

Grambling (5-4/11-11) is the other team at .500.  The Tigers have the best defense in the league, and both of the top two must still come to the Assembly Center in February.

 

Western Athletic

One Bid

New Mexico State (7-1/18-4) is just one place below Arizona State in the NET Ratings, but the Sun Devils are at-large contenders, while the Aggies are not.  Backroom politics will keep an at-large WAC team out of the tournament while giving the Pac-12 team every opportunity to crash the Dance.

Two wins over New Mexico and a close loss to Kansas will not be enough on the Aggie resume if NMSU does not grab the automatic bid.  NMSU has the muscle to compete on the boards against a power conference opponent, and they would be a tough out against a third or fourth best team from the Big Ten or SEC.

One of these years, Grand Canyon (7-1/14-7) will break through and win the WAC Tournament.  The Antelopes lost by just two points at NMSU and have a rematch with the Aggies at home on Saturday.  They play tough defense, and in recent games, their offense is starting to look just as tough, as they have outscored opponents by an average of 80-57 in their last four games.

Don’t eliminate Cal State Bakersfield (6-2/15-7) from consideration.  The Roadrunners can pound the glass and force turnovers with a plus defense.  Their problem is that they don’t shoot the ball all that well.  However, if they were to get hot at the right time, they have the defense to carry them to the WAC Championship Game.

Because there are three good teams in the WAC, the race for the top seed will be important, as the number two and number three teams will then likely meet in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

 

West Coast

One or Two Bids

This league will become an automatic two bid league if somebody other than the one power pulls off the conference tournament upset.  If said superpower wins the automatic bid, then this league could get the shaft on Selection Sunday.

That superpower is Gonzaga (8-0/21-2).  The Bulldogs own the WCC, and their ownership may be invincible this year.  Their average scoring margin in conference play is 29.1 points per game.  They host San Francisco tonight and then Saint Mary’s on Saturday, and they still have to play at Saint Mary’s, but the Zags might win all three games by a combined 60 points.

San Francisco (5-3/17-5) has fallen to #50 in the NET Ratings, while Saint Mary’s (5-3/14-9) is #47.  For either team to receive serious at-large consideration, they have to beat Gonzaga.

BYU (6-3/14-10) is the actual current number two team in the league, and the Cougars don’t even figure in the NIT Bracketology at the present time.

February 4, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Monday, February 4, 2019

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:11 pm

February 4, 2019

Seed

SCHOOL

Conf.

1

Virginia

ACC

1

Gonzaga

West Coast

1

Duke

ACC

1

Tennessee

SEC

2

Michigan

Big Ten

2

Kentucky

SEC

2

Houston

American

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

3

Virginia Tech

ACC

3

North Carolina

ACC

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Wisconsin

Big Ten

4

Iowa St.

Big 12

4

Nevada

Mountain West

4

Louisville

ACC

4

Texas Tech

Big 12

5

Kansas

Big 12

5

Marquette

Big East

5

Villanova

Big East

5

LSU

SEC

6

Auburn

SEC

6

Iowa

Big Ten

6

Buffalo

MAC

6

Maryland

Big Ten

7

Cincinnati

American

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

7

Washington

Pac-12

7

Baylor

Big 12

8

Kansas St.

Big 12

8

Florida St.

ACC

8

Nebraska

Big Ten

8

North Carolina St.

ACC

9

Ohio St.

Big Ten

9

TCU

Big 12

9

Oklahoma

Big 12

9

Utah St.

Mountain West

10

Ole Miss

SEC

10

Florida

SEC

10

Texas

Big 12

10

Syracuse

ACC

11

Indiana

Big Ten

11

Central Florida

American

11

St. John’s

Big East

11

Alabama

SEC

11

Clemson

ACC

11

Minnesota

Big Ten

12

Wofford

Southern

12

Lipscomb

Atlantic Sun

12

Virginia Commonwealth

Atlantic 10

12

Hofstra

Colonial

13

Belmont

Ohio Valley

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Vermont

America East

13

Yale

Ivy League

14

Old Dominion

CUSA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit

14

Texas St.

Sun Belt

14

Montana

Big Sky

15

Radford

Big South

15

Northern Kentucky

Horizon

15

UC Irvine

Big West

15

Loyola (Chi.)

Missouri Valley

16

Lehigh

Patriot

16

Abilene Christian

Southland

16

Rider

Metro Atlantic

16

Fairleigh Dickinson

Northeast

16

Texas Southern

SWAC

16

Norfolk St.

MEAC

Last 4 Byes

Texas

Syracuse

Indiana

Central Florida

 

Last 4 In

St. John’s

Alabama

Clemson

Minnesota

First 4 Out

Saint Mary’s (CA)

San Francisco

UNC Greensboro

Temple

Next 4 Out

Butler

Arkansas

Northwestern

Creighton

First Four Round at Dayton

16 Rider vs. 16 Norfolk St.

16 Fairleigh-Dickinson vs. 16. Texas Southern

11 St. John’s vs. 11 Minnesota

11 Alabama vs. 11 Clemson

(yes, those two again without Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa)

 

Slight Changes Implemented This Week

Beginning with this edition of PiRate Ratings Bracketology, we begin to incorporate our speculation into potential political preference for power conference teams over mid-major teams.  We call this the Saint Mary’s Rule.

What do we mean by Saint Mary’s Rule?  It’s when you have a 30-6 SMC team with a win over Gonzaga, and you find some way to explain why UCLA, Syracuse, and Arizona State deserved to be in the field with inferior resumes.

We know the real reason.  It’s the fake golden rule–he with the gold makes the rules.  So, we theorize that any Mid-Major team on the Bubble without heavy evidence backing their being given a ticket to dance is going to get the shaft by the Committee, while an 8-10 conference record from a Major Conference will get into the field.

And, who have we jilted this week in our Saint Mary’s Rule elimination–none other than Saint Mary’s, along with conference rival San Francisco.  In their place, we jumped Clemson and Minnesota into the field.

In coming Bracketology reports, we will begin to add another rule–any team from a power conference with a .500 conference mark or better and at least an average schedule strength must be included in the field ahead of any Mid-Major at-large team.

Eventually, we will expand this rule to any power conference team with no more than two more conference losses than conference wins with a strong schedule and at least one conference tournament win.  For example, if a Big Ten team goes 8-10 and then gets to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, they will jump over a 30-win team from the 20th best conference but not the automatic qualifier.

January 28, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Monday, January 28, 2019

January 28, 2019

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Seed Line

Seed

SCHOOL

Conf.

1

Virginia

ACC

1

Gonzaga

WCC

1

Duke

ACC

1

Michigan

Big Ten

2

Tennessee

SEC

2

Michigan St.

Big Ten

2

Houston

AAC

2

Kentucky

SEC

3

North Carolina

ACC

3

Virginia Tech

ACC

3

Purdue

Big Ten

3

Louisville

ACC

4

Wisconsin

Big Ten

4

Iowa St.

Big 12

4

LSU

SEC

4

Kansas

Big 12

5

Nevada

MWC

5

Texas Tech

Big 12

5

Marquette

Big East

5

Buffalo

MAC

6

Villanova

Big East

6

Maryland

Big Ten

6

Cincinnati

AAC

6

Oklahoma

Big 12

7

Nebraska

Big Ten

7

Auburn

SEC

7

Mississippi St.

SEC

7

TCU

Big 12

8

NC State

ACC

8

Iowa

Big Ten

8

Washington

Pac-12

8

Florida St.

ACC

9

Kansas St.

Big 12

9

Ole Miss

SEC

9

Florida

SEC

9

Ohio St.

Big Ten

10

Utah St.

MWC

10

UCF

AAC

10

Indiana

Big Ten

10

Baylor

Big 12

11

Texas

Big 12

11

Alabama

SEC

11

San Francisco

WCC

11

Syracuse

ACC

11

St. John’s 

Big East

11

Butler

Big East

12

Wofford

SoCon

12

Lipscomb

ASUN

12

Hofstra

CAA

12

Murray St.

OVC

13

VCU

Atlantic 10

13

Yale

Ivy League

13

New Mexico St.

WAC

13

Vermont

America East

14

Northern Ky.

Horizon

14

Texas St.

Sun Belt

14

North Texas

C-USA

14

South Dakota St.

Summit League

15

Radford

Big South

15

Montana

Big Sky

15

Drake

MVC

15

UC Irvine

Big West

16

Lehigh

Patriot

16

Rider

MAAC

16

Abilene Christian

Southland

16

St. Francis (NY)

NEC

16

Texas Southern

SWAC

16

Norfolk St.

MEAC

 

Last Four IN

San Francisco

Syracuse

St. John’s

Butler

USF vs. Butler and Syracuse vs. St. John’s in Dayton First Four

 

Last Four BYES

Indiana

Baylor

Texas

Alabama

 

First Four OUT

Minnesota

UNC-Greensboro

Memphis

Saint Mary’s

 

Next Four OUT

Northwestern

Creighton

Clemson

Temple

 

#16 Seeds Headed to Dayton

Abilene Christian vs. Norfolk St.

St. Francis (NY) vs. Texas Southern

 

Bids By Conference

Conference Bids
Big Ten 9
ACC 8
SEC 8
Big 12 8
Big East 4
AAC 3
MWC 2
West Coast 2
One Bid Leagues 24

 

The Top Mid-Majors

We include the West Coast and Mountain West Conferences to be Major Conferences.

Top Mid-Majors
5 Buffalo MAC
12 Wofford SoCon
12 Lipscomb ASUN
12 Hofstra CAA

 

Changes to This Week’s Bracketology Report 

Beginning this week, we move the last four at-large seeds to the 11-seed line, because in almost every year in the past, the last four in the tournament were seeded #11.  Personally, we feel like this is a disservice to some of the #12 mid-major seeds.  Hofstra, Lipscomb, and Wofford are more deserving of higher seeds that where we have placed them on the 12-line, but moving any of the three upward would force us to move one of the last four at-large teams below the 11-seed line.

At this point in the season, we are still almost entirely basing our seedings on the NCAA Net Ratings.  Once the season progresses into Mid-February and then March, we will begin to add “politics” into our selections as we believe the Selection Committee will do.  It is our opinion that eventually, a second Pac-12 team will be added to the field even if it is not deserving.  The Committee will find a way to explain why they artificially added one of the Arizona’s or Oregon, using the exact opposite logic they will use to explain why a more deserving team from a Mid-Major conference did not get in.

At this point in the season, there are teams with nice NET ratings that are buried deep in their own conference standings.

In the ACC, Florida State is currently tied for 8th place in the league with a 3-4 record, while Pittsburgh is in 11th place at 2-5.  Could the Committee chose an ACC team that goes 7-11 in league play?  Syracuse made the field last year at 8-10.

Oklahoma and Texas are currently tied for 7th in the Big 12 with 3-4 conference records.  They both got in the field last year at 8-10, and this year’s league race is tight.  12-6 could earn a piece of the league title, and we could see the top 8 teams finishing within 4 games of each other, maybe even just 3 games.

The Big East is in a bit of trouble, even with the reigning NCAA Champion residing in this league.  Villanova (7-0) and Marquette (7-1) have lapped the field.  No other team has a break-even conference record.  Georgetown, Providence, and Creighton are each 3-4.  St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Butler are all 3-5.  This league has sent teams with .500 conference records in recent years, but not an 8-10 team.

The Big Ten ranks at the top of the food chain this year, so it should be a given that a 9-9 conference record will get in the Dance.  This is quite a change from last year, where Nebraska did not get in after going 13-5 in the league.  Take note that the last Big Ten team to get into the NCAA Tournament with an 8-10 conference record was Minnesota in 2013.

The Mountain West has been a multiple-bid league for all but one year in recent history, and the league has sent as many as five teams in a season in this past decade.  With Nevada contending for a top 10 finish, and with Utah State staying in good graces with the NET Ratings, this looks like a two-bid league with an outside chance for a third team to get in if somebody other than Nevada or Utah State wins the automatic bid.  Fresno State, UNLV, and Boise State have the talent to win the conference tournament, and you can never rule out San Diego State with their defense from winning three games in three days.

About the Pac-12: Washington has taken command of the conference race by starting 7-0 in the league.  Mike Hopkins is doing his best Jim Boeheim impersonation in Seattle.  However, it is not like the rest of the league is chopped liver.  Down years from Oregon and UCLA have hurt the league, but USC and Arizona State are good enough to make the tournament, and Arizona has talent that needs to gel.  We cannot see any scenario where only one team makes the Big Dance from the “League of Champions.”  Expect at least two and maybe three Pac-12 teams to get into the field.

Auburn was ranked #7 in the nation earlier this year, but the Tigers are fading into the bottom half of the SEC standings.  At 2-4 in the league, Auburn is tied for 9th in the league. We see no more than 8 SEC teams making the field, and it could be just 7, so the Tigers have a lot of work to do to secure a spot in the field.  Their next three games are at home, so they could be 5-4 in the league when they go to LSU on February 9.

A stranger team in the SEC is South Carolina.  The Gamecocks are 5-1 in the league, but 5-8 outside of league play.  At 10-9, they do not show up favorably in the NET ratings, but this team could easily go 12-6 or better in the SEC.  USC already has wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, and Florida, the last coming in Gainesville.  A win tomorrow night over #1 Tennessee would make it awfully tough on the Selection Committee to ignore a team that would be 6-1 in the SEC with four wins over ranked opponents.  If USC wins tomorrow night, they have a path to 14-4 in the SEC, and 19-12 overall before the conference tournament begins.  Frank Martin can squeeze wins out of lesser talent, and with a roster stacked with 3-star players, he must be given credit for beating teams on the road that had 4-star and 5-star players on their roster.

We treat the West Coast Conference as a major conference because Gonzaga has been a 1-seed multiple times, and Saint Mary’s has been in the Elite 8.  We won’t include San Francisco’s past national championships and additional Final Four seasons, because that was another era.  However, the Dons may be on the precipice of earning an at-large bid this year.  Saint Mary’s is a bit down this year, but don’t count the Gaels out yet.  And, with BYU and San Diego looking tough this year, five strong teams, with the cream of the crop being a top 5 squad, means the WCC should be a multiple bid league again in 2019.

 

Coming tomorrow: We take an in-depth look at the top Mid-Major teams and conference races.  We hope if you are a basketball fanatic that you have taken time to watch some outstanding and exciting games.  There are multiple Mid-Major conferences with must-see competition.

 

 

 

January 22, 2019

Fun Stuff For Stats Buffs-Part 3: Efficiency

Before getting into the meat of this final installment, I must apologize in advance for the brevity in this last segment.  Time constraints have made it impossible to thoroughly peruse individual offensive and defensive efficiency.

That may be a good thing for you the reader, because you can read the dictionary about as quickly as you can go through all the steps involved in calculating individual efficiency.  Suffice it to say that there are several parts to this calculation.  One must have a lengthy formula on a spreadsheet where a player’s and his team’s statistics can be inputted, and the spreadsheet spits out the numbers.

If you really want to know the entire process, then you absolutely must purchase the book by the number one authoritative source on the matter.

The book is: Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis by Dean Oliver.  You might be able to find it in a library, as it is included in the catalog of more than 750 libraries throughout the nation, more than likely at a local college or university library near you.

Just to show you how involved the formulas are, it takes 18 separate calculations from start to finish for each player’s offensive number and almost as many for his defensive number.

The NCAA Selection Committee will use Team Offensive Efficiency and Team Defensive Efficiency in their process of picking the at-large teams and seeding all 68 teams.  This is rather simple and can be explained briefly.

Offensive Efficiency = Points scored per 100 possessions

Defensive Efficiency = Points allowed per 100 possessions.

In the 21st Century, possessions are kept as a statistic, but if you cannot find this number, you can estimate it very accurately by this formula.

Team Possessions = FG Attempts + (.475* FT Attempts) – Offensive Rebounds + Turnovers

In the NBA, substitute .44 for .475 in FT Attempts.

Obviously, round the product from the Free Throw Attempts formula to the nearest whole number.

Let’s look at some examples for a game, a season to date, and some past seasons.

Example #1. Nevada vs. Air Force, January 19, 2019

Nevada defeated Air Force 67-52 last Saturday in Reno.  The Wolfpack totally shut down the Falcons’ offense, while Air Force played capable defense on the perimeter, forcing Nevada players to hurry their three-point shots.

For the game, Nevada had 57 total field goal attempts, 23 free throw attempts, 9 offensive rebounds, and 14 turnovers.

To calculate possessions, plug the numbers into the equation:

57 + (.475 * 23) -9 + 14 = 73

For Air Force, their stat line included 51 total field goal attempts, just 9 free throw attempts, 3 offensive rebounds, and 21 turnovers.

51 + (.475 * 9) -3 + 21 = 73

Possessions must be equal or off by one or two between the teams, because after one team completes a possession, the other team gets the ball.  Two is the most advantageous one team can have over the other in possessions.  This comes about when the team that gets the opening tap also gets the last possession of the first half, as well as the first and last possession of the game.  It happens very rarely, because in order to have the first and last possession of both halves, there must be an odd number of jump ball calls in the first half so that the team that got the opening tap also gets the first possession of the second half..

Let’s get back to the calculation.

Nevada scored 67 points on 73 possessions

67/73 = 0.918 or 91.8 points per 100 possessions

Air Force scored 52 points on 73 possessions

52/73 = .712 or 71.2 points per 100 possessions

 

Example #2: Gonzaga vs. San Francisco, January 12, 2019

In this key West Coast Conference game with first place in the league on the line, Gonzaga went to the Bay and beat the Dons 96-83.

Gonzaga: 69 FGA, 21 FTA, 12 Off Reb, 4 TOV

69 + (.475 * 21) – 12 + 4 = 71 possessions

USF: 69 FGA, 25 FTA, 14 Off Reb, 5 TOV

69 + (.475 * 25) – 14 + 5 = 72 possessions

Gonzaga 96 points on 71 possessions = 1.352 points per possession or 135.2 points per 100 possessions.

San Francisco 83 points on 72 possessions = 1.153 points per possession or 115.3 points per 100 possessions.

 

Example 3: Michigan Wolverines to date

Michigan used to win games by three-point barrages and fast break points and limited defense.  Then, after assistant coach Luke Yaklich came to Ann Arbor to install his multiple defenses, the Maize and Blue became just as tough on the defensive side if not better defensively.

So far this year, the Wolverines have these offensive and defensive stats through 18 games.

Offense: 1,021 FGA, 318 FTA, 165 Off. Rebounds, 175 Turnovers in 18 games

1021 + (.475 * 318) – 165 + 175 = 1,182 total possessions and 65.7 possessions per game.

Michigan has scored 1,306 points in 18 games.

1,306 / 1,182 * 100 = 110.5 points per 100 possessions.

Michigan’s Defense has given up: 1,003 FGA, 210 FTA, 142 off. Rebounds, and  237 turnovers.

1,003 + (.475 * 210) – 142 + 237 = 1,198 total possessions and 66.6 possessions per game.

Michigan has surrendered 1,027 points in 18 games.

1,027 / 1,198 * 100 = 85.7 points per 100 possessions.

A raw point spread between two teams can be estimated by combining their offensive and defensive points 100 possessions and factoring in strengths of schedule and home court advantage.

Let’s look at State vs. Tech in an imaginary matchup.

State has an offensive efficiency of 110 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 90 points per 100 possessions against a schedule 3 points weaker than average.  They average 76 possessions per game, and their home court advantage is worth 3 points.

Tech has an offensive efficiency of 102 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 99 points per 100 possessions against a schedule 8 points better than average.  They average 66 possessions per game.

For the year in question, the national average for possessions is 70 per game, so State plays at a tempo of about 8.6% above average, while Tech plays at a tempo of about 5.7% below average.  Because it is easier for one team to slow pace down more than it is for another team to speed pace up (unless they press full court for most of the game), it can be estimated that this game will have about 69 possessions.

If State outscores its opponents by 20 points per 100 possessions, in 69 possessions, this equates to 13.8 points.

If Tech outscores its opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions, in 69 possessions, this equates to 2.07 points.

To this point, State looks like an 11.73 point favorite over Tech, but this is not the case.  Schedule strength and home court advantage must be included.

If Tech’s schedule on average has been about 11 points tougher per game than State, you then add those 11 points in Tech’s favor.  Now, the State’s advantage has been reduced to 0.73 points.  Tech’s home court advantage is 3 points, so the expected outcome would be State by 3.73, or 4 points.

This is a crude method once used by the PiRate Ratings, as the Blue Rating.  We no longer use this method, as there are more accurate ways to determine pointspreads, namely using algorithms of the Four Factors with schedule strengths, home court advantage, and road team disadvantage.

Example 4: Villanova 2018 season

The Wildcats won their second national championship in three years last season, finishing with a 36-4 record.  They scored 3,463 points and allowed 2,807 points in 40 games.

Here are their pertinent stats to calculate efficiency.

Field Goal Attempts: 2,440

Opponents: 2,401

Free Throw Attempts: 718

Opponents: 641

Offensive Rebounds: 380

Opponents: 378

Turnovers: 426

Opponents: 512

Possessions: 2,440 + (.475 * 718) – 380 + 426 = 2,827 (70.7 possessions per game)

Opponents: 2,401 + (.475 * 641) – 378 + 512 = 2,839 (71.0 possessions per game)

Offensive Efficiency

3,463/2,827 * 100 = 122.5 points per 100 possessions

Defensive Efficiency

2,807/2839 * 100 = 98.9 points per 100 possessions

 

How does this compare to past national champions?  Because offensive rebounding stats were not officially kept until this century, it can only be estimated for the 20th Century.  No doubt the UCLA teams of 1967 thru 1969 and 1972 and 1973 would be off the charts great, as the Bruins dominated in every aspect of the game during their dynasty years.

There are some very fine teams that won championships in recent years, so let’s look at the national champions during this time.  The number shown is the total scoring margin per 100 possessions.  Of course, schedule strength is not equal for these teams, but on the whole, there is not a lot of difference, as these champions all played schedules between 5 and 10 points above the national average.

When adjusted to schedule strength, here are the 10 best teams in the 21st Century using the PiRate Ratings formula.

2008: Kansas 124.0

2001: Duke 123.6

2018: Villanova 122.9

2010: Duke 122.1

2013: Louisville 121.8

2005: North Carolina 121.7

2012: Kentucky 121.5

2015: Duke 121.3 

2016: Villanova 120.9

2009: North Carolina 120.3

2007: Florida 120.1

2002: Maryland 119.6

2004: Connecticut 117.9

2006: Florida 117.1

2017: North Carolina 117.0

2011: Connecticut 115.8

2003: Syracuse 115.1

2014: Connecticut 111.6

Note that the national champions through these seasons were not necessarily the highest rated team by efficiency.  For instance, Connecticut was not considered a factor at the end of the 2011 regular season.  They finished tied for 9th in the Big East, and thus they had to play in the opening round of the conference tournament.  To win the conference tournament, they would have to do something never done before or since–win five games in five days.  The Huskies became the big story of Championship Week win Coach Jim Calhoun rode his star guard Kemba Walker to the title, winning five games in five days at Madison Square Garden, as Walker performed for his friends and family from the Bronx, averaging 26 points per game by taking it to the hoop and drawing enough fouls to shoot 54 free throws in just five games.

The Huskies were on a roll, and they won six more games in the Big Dance.  They finished 11-0 and still only rose to 15.8 points better than average against an average schedule.  Before this 11-game streak, UConn was just 9-9 in the conference.  However, the Huskies had played a very difficult schedule that included 18 ranked opponents, in which they went 12-6 in those games.  All nine of their losses came to NCAA Tournament teams, so strength of schedule was terribly important in factoring their adjusted efficiency.

 

2019 Top Efficiency

By now, you must want to know which teams are at the top in total efficiency?  It should come as no surprise that the NET Ratings and the Efficiency Ratings are about the same.

Virginia, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Tennessee are at the tops in adjusted efficiency, or to put it bluntly, what the NCAA Selection Committee will look at.  Likewise, these are also the top five teams in NET Ratings, so if the Selection Committed picked the bracket today, four of these five would be your number one seeds, and the fifth would be the top number two seed.

This doesn’t mean that one of these five teams will win the national championship, but the odds are that from this group of five, there is about a 50-50 chance that one will win the title.  Of course, this is only a mid-season ranking.  The ranking on March 17.

 

Individual Efficiency

I won’t begin to explain individual offensive and defensive efficiency, as my only recommendation it to read Basketball on Paper, as Oliver is the Bill James (or Tom Tango) of basketball analysis.

Let me just list which players from the power conferences rate at the top.

Can you guess who is the current number one player in efficiency?  I bet if you had one free guess to win a car on a game show, you’d win the car.

The best player in college ball today is the best player in total efficiency.  It comes as no surprise that Duke’s Zion Williamson is number one, and he is far ahead of the field.  Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke is a distant number two, and Wisconin’s Ethan Happ is almost as far being Clarke in third place as Clarke is behind Williamson.

Before you think that this rating is due to just these three players being great, let me add that their coaches and teammates are also important in this rating.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski has produced a lot of highly efficient players.  Sure, most of them were McDonald’s All-Americans, but there are some of these 5-star players in recent history that are not all that efficient.

Vanderbilt’s Simi Shittu was the Number 7 overall player in this current freshman class, a 5-star McDonald’s All-American.  The Commodores are one of the least efficient teams from a Power Conference, and Shittu’s numbers have headed south once SEC play began, and the opposition quickly learned his liabilities.  Shittu actually owns a negative offensive efficiency rating through 17 games, and an even worse rating in five conference games, as he has negative efficiency in both offense and defense.  It doesn’t help his efficiency when he has a 7.8% three-point accuracy, low free throw percentage, and a high turnover percentage.  I have heard comparisons made to former St. John’s 5-star player Wayne McKoy from the 1970’s, when McKoy went from top player in the freshman class to never playing in the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 11, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 11 , 2018

Sunday’s PiRate Ratings Spreads for Conference Tournament Championships

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Harvard Penn -1.4
Rhode Island Davidson 2.8
Tennessee Kentucky 1.1
Georgia St. Texas-Arlington 0.9
Cincinnati Houston 4.8

 

Sunday’s Conference Championship Schedule

All Times EDT

Time Conference Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM Ivy League Harvard Penn ESPN2
1:00 PM Atlantic 10 Rhode Island Davidson CBS
1:00 PM Southeastern Tennessee Kentucky ESPN
2:00 PM Sun Belt Georgia St. Texas-Arlington ESPN2
3:30 PM American Cincinnati Houston CBS

Note:  Our Final Bracket Gurus Bracketology prediction will appear on this site roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Atlantic 10 Championship Game.  Davidson is a potential bid-stealer, and until our gurus know whether they have earned an automatic bid or have been eliminated, they cannot fix the Bubble.  There are about a half-dozen teams that will sweat it out during today’s Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship.

Teams That Have Earned Automatic Bids Through Sunday, 6:00 AM EDT

Team Bid Conf. W-L Avg Score
Arizona AUTO P12 27-7 81-71
Bucknell AUTO Patriot 25-9 81-73
Buffalo AUTO MAC 26-8 85-77
Cal St. Fullerton AUTO BWest 20-11 73-72
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7 75-69
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4 85-67
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13 80-76
Kansas AUTO B12 27-7 82-71
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9 83-78
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16 78-77
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5 72-62
Marshall AUTO CUSA 24-10 84-79
MD-Baltimore Co. AUTO AE 24-10 73-71
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7 75-64
Montana AUTO BSky 26-7 78-69
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5 77-66
New Mexico St. AUTO WAC 28-5 76-65
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12 67-64
San Diego St. AUTO MWC 22-10 77-68
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6 85-74
Stephen F. Austin AUTO SLC 28-6 78-68
Texas Southern AUTO SWAC 15-19 78-80
UNC-Central AUTO MEAC 19-15 70-71
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7 74-62
Villanova AUTO BE 30-4 87-71
Virginia AUTO ACC 31-2 68-53
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9 72-66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracketology Late Night Update–March 10-11 , 2018

The Bracket Gurus are burning the midnight oil and pouring more coffee as they try to determine who the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee will invite into the Dance, and who will not hear the phone ring on Sunday.

At this point last year, most of the gurus were 100% in agreement on about 66 teams with only three teams really fighting for the final two spots.

There is a bit more dissension this season.  There are six teams seriously in the final discussion for three spots, but this will all change is Davidson beats Rhode Island on Sunday.  The Gurus are 100% in agreement in their belief that St. Bonaventure is in, so the Atlantic 10 could move from two to three teams if the Wildcats upset the Rams.

The teams that need to be worried about Davidson winning include Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Saint Mary’s, Louisville, and Middle Tennessee State.  The Gurus are close to eliminating Marquette, Baylor, and Syracuse, but these teams still appear on exactly one Guru list (three different Gurus have one each of the three).

Check back tomorrow after the conclusion of the Atlantic 10 Championship Game.  Within about 30 minutes of the outcome, we will publish our final Bracket Gurus report in full.  The pressure is on our Gurus.  Last year, they correctly picked all 68 teams in the field, and also correctly picked 61 teams on the correct seed line or just one seed off.

Teams In The Field as of Saturday Night, 11:59 PM EST

Team Bid Conf. W-L
Bucknell AUTO Patriot 25-9
Buffalo AUTO MAC 26-8
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13
Kansas AUTO B12 27-7
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5
Marshall AUTO CUSA 24-10
MD-Baltimore Co. AUTO AE 24-10
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7
Montana AUTO BSky 26-7
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5
New Mexico St. AUTO WAC 28-5
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12
San Diego St. AUTO MWC 22-10
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6
Stephen F. Austin AUTO SLC 28-6
Texas Southern AUTO SWAC 15-19
UNC-Central AUTO MEAC 19-15
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7
Villanova AUTO BE 30-4
Virginia AUTO ACC 31-2
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9
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