The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 14, 2017

Starting Times For NCAA Tournament Second Round Games

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 12:36 pm
Day Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
Thursday, March 16 12:15 PM CBS Notre Dame vs. Princeton
Thursday, March 16 12:40 PM truTV Virginia vs. UNC-Wilmington
Thursday, March 16 1:30 PM TNT Butler vs. Winthrop
Thursday, March 16 2:00 PM TBS Gonzaga vs. South Dakota St.
Thursday, March 16 2:45 PM CBS West Virginia vs. Bucknell
Thursday, March 16 3:10 PM truTV Florida vs. East Tennessee St.
Thursday, March 16 4:00 PM TNT Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee
Thursday, March 16 4:30 PM TBS Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt
Thursday, March 16 6:50 PM TNT Maryland vs. Xavier
Thursday, March 16 7:10 PM CBS Villanova vs. Mt. St. Marys/UNO
Thursday, March 16 7:20 PM TBS Saint Mary’s vs. VCU
Thursday, March 16 7:27 PM truTV Purdue vs. Vermont
Thursday, March 16 9:20 PM TNT Florida St. vs. Florida Gulf Coast
Thursday, March 16 9:40 PM CBS Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech
Thursday, March 16 9:50 PM TBS Arizona vs. North Dakota
Thursday, March 16 9:57 PM truTV Iowa St. vs. Nevada
Friday, March 17 12:15 PM CBS Michigan vs. Oklahoma St.
Friday, March 17 12:40 PM truTV Baylor vs. New Mexico St.
Friday, March 17 1:30 PM TNT Arkansas vs. Seton Hall
Friday, March 17 2:00 PM TBS Oregon vs. Iona
Friday, March 17 2:45 PM CBS Louisville vs. Jacksonville St.
Friday, March 17 3:10 PM truTV SMU vs. Providence/USC
Friday, March 17 4:00 PM TNT North Carolina vs. Texas Southern
Friday, March 17 4:30 PM TBS Creighton vs. Rhode Island
Friday, March 17 6:50 PM TNT Kansas vs. UNC-Cent./UC-Davis
Friday, March 17 7:10 PM CBS Dayton vs. Wichita St.
Friday, March 17 7:20 PM TBS Duke vs. Troy
Friday, March 17 7:27 PM truTV Cincinnati vs. Kan. St./Wake Forest
Friday, March 17 9:20 PM TNT Miami (Fla.) vs. Michigan St.
Friday, March 17 9:40 PM CBS Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky
Friday, March 17 9:50 PM TBS South Carolina vs. Marquette
Friday, March 17 9:57 PM truTV UCLA vs. Kent St.

January 17, 2017

NFL Ratings And Spreads For NFL Conference Championships: January 22, 2017


NFC Championship

Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers

Time: 3:05 PM EST

TV: Fox Sports Network

Radio: Westwood One  

Find Your Local Westwoon One Affiliate at:

Line: Atlanta by 4 1/2 or 5 (changing rapidly)

Total: 61

PiRate Ratings Spreads

PiRate: Atlanta by 7.4

Mean: Atlanta by 8.2

Bias: Atlanta by 7.7

PiRate Total: 67


100 Simulations

Atlanta wins: 56

Green Bay wins: 44

Average Score: Atlanta 34  Green Bay 32

Outlier A: Atlanta 45  Green Bay 23

Outlier B: Green Bay 48  Atlanta 27


AFC Championship

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Time: 6:40 PM EST


Radio: Westwood One  

Find Your Local Westwood One Affiliate at:


Line: New England by 5 1/2 or 6 (changing rapidly)

Total: 51


PiRate Ratings Spreads

PiRate: New England by 9.4

Mean: New England by 8.4

Bias: New England by 9.6

Total: 47


100 Simulations

New England wins 48

Pittsburgh wins 52

Average Score: New England 26  Pittsburgh 26

Outlier A: New England 41  Pittsburgh 20

Outlier B: Pittsburgh 24  New England 7

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:

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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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)


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


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)


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 19, 2013

Starting Times and Networks For NCAA Tournament First Two Rounds

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 4:19 am
Tuesday, March 19
Time Team Team Network
6:40 PM North Carolina A&T Liberty TRU-TV
9:10 PM St. Mary’s Middle Tennessee TRU-TV
Wednesday, March 20
Time Team Team Network
6:40 PM Long Island James Madison TRU-TV
9:10 PM La Salle Boise State TRU-TV
Thursday, March 21
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM Valparaiso Michigan State CBS
12:40 PM Bucknell Butler TRU-TV
1:40 PM Wichita State Pittsburgh TBS
2:10 PM New Mexico State St. Louis TNT
2:45 PM Memphis St. Mary’s/Middle Tennesse CBS
3:10 PM Davidson Marquette TRU-TV
4:10 PM Southern U Gonzaga TBS
4:40 PM Oregon Oklahoma State TNT
6:50 PM North Carolina A&T/Liberty Louisville TBS
7:15 PM South Dakota State Michigan CBS
7:20 PM Belmont Arizona TNT
7:27 PM California U N L V TRU-TV
9:20 PM Missouri Colorado State TBS
9:45 PM Akron Virginia Commonwealth CBS
9:50 PM Harvard New Mexico TNT
9:57 PM Montana Syracuse TRU-TV
Friday, March 22
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM Albany Duke CBS
12:40 PM Ole Miss Wisconsin TRU-TV
1:40 PM Temple North Carolina State TBS
2:10 PM Pacific Miami (Fla.) TNT
2:45 PM Cincinnati Creighton CBS
3:10 PM La Salle/Boise State Kansas State TRU-TV
4:10 PM Long Island/James Madison Indiana TBS
4:40 PM Colorado Illinois TNT
6:50 PM Florida Gulf Coast Georgetown TBS
7:15 PM Iona Ohio State CBS
7:20 PM Villanova North Carolina TNT
7:27 PM Northwestern State Florida TRU-TV
9:20 PM Oklahoma San Diego State TBS
9:45 PM Iowa State Notre Dame CBS
9:50 PM Western Kentucky Kansas TNT
9:57 PM Minnesota U C L A TRU-TV

March 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  A quick tutorial about Bracketnomics:  We have studied numerous statistical factors of all Final Four Teams from the 1950’s until 2011.  We isolated the statistical similarities of those teams and found certain shared statistical characteristics.  For the last eight years, we have been applying it to the NCAA teams trying to discover which ones shared these same statistics as the Final Four teams of yesteryear.  In five of the last seven years, we were pretty spot on with our selections.  For instance, in 2009, when Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State were listed as the heavy tri-favorites, our system showed Duke to be the top-rated team.  We went with Duke even though the Blue Devils were not being highly considered.  Now admittedly, we did not see Butler coming through to the Finals that year, or last year either, but we did rate Butler as one to watch to get to the Elite 8.



If you want all the details behind our PiRate Criteria Score, please refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at:



Four teams from Ohio and 10 teams from the Industrial Midwest in the Sweet 16, draw similarities between the 2012 NCAA Tournament and the 2012 Presidential Election.  The road to the White House will run through the Industrial Midwest with Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin more than likely being the decisive states.  The road to New Orleans will also run through these same states.


Let’s take a look at the eight games to be played Thursday and Friday in the regional semifinals.


All times Eastern Daylight Time


Thursday, March 22


East Regional: Boston

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill “Man-to-Man” Raftery, and Lesley Visser

Network: CBS


7:15 PM

#1 Syracuse (33-2) vs. # 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score:  Syr 20.5  UW 17.7

Syracuse criteria score includes the loss of Fab Melo


We really like the chess match that this game should present Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.  The Orangemen will throw their 2-3 zone defense at the Badgers, and Wisconsin will need to have their X-zone continuity offense ready to counter it.  UW is a lot more comfortable with the swing offense, and their zone offense showed a lot of liabilities in the few minutes that Vanderbilt used a 2-3 zone at the end of the game.


The loss of Fab Melo still hurts Syracuse, but his replacements have taken up a good deal of the slack.  Syracuse had depth, and in the NCAA Tournament with all the extra-long media timeouts, depth is not as much of a concern.


The PiRate Criteria show Syracuse to have advantages in shooting percentage differential and turnover margin (plus steals), while Wisconsin has the rebounding advantage.  Because we do not believe the Badgers will be exploited via turnover margin, this game comes down to which team has the hotter shooting hand when they get open looks.  Syracuse is our answer to that question.


Prediction: Syracuse 66  Wisconsin 59


9:45 PM

#2 Ohio State (29-7) vs. #6 Cincinnati (26-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.8   UC 9.9


If you are 60 years or older, you may remember the last time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, you may remember the last two times.  For those under 60, here is a brief history of the NCAA Tournament in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.


Possibly the best all-around basketball played in American history was Oscar Robertson.  He was the Willie Mays of basketball.  He could shoot from the outside, drive to the hoop, rebound, pass better than any current living player, play great defense, and pick up more steals than almost every team does today.


Official steals and assists were not kept as statistics in those days, but from a few unofficial statistics, Robertson probably enjoyed multiple games in college where he recorded a quadruple double—double figures in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.  Imagine Michael Jordan, LeBron James, John Stockton, and Dwayne Wade made into one player.


The Big “O” played college basketball at Cincinnati as a varsity player in the 1958, 59, and 60 seasons.  In 1959 and 1960, the Bearcats made it to the Final Four but lose both times in the semifinals to a great California team.


After Robertson left UC, the Bearcats were predicted to become a .500 team.  However, under new coach Ed Jucker, Cinti became the top defensive and rebounding team in the nation and proceeded to go to the Final Four in 1961, 62, and 63, becoming the first team to ever make it to five consecutive Final Fours.


Back to 1960, the Ohio State Buckeyes had enjoyed many great offensive teams, but poor defense had kept OSU from winning the Big Ten.  Coach Fred Taylor had recruited a fantastic class of players.  In fact, all five starters would play as regulars in the NBA after they graduated; two became all-pros and hall of famers; and one other would help lead his pro team to multiple NBA titles as a key guard.


That stellar starting quintet included Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfired, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts.  Some guy named Bobby Knight came off the bench.


In 1960, Ohio State lost a couple of close games prior to the Big Ten schedule and went through the conference like a hot knife through butter.  Once, the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament, they recorded four blowout wins to take the title.


In 1961, Ohio State had an even better team than the 1960 champions, with almost the entire roster returning.  The Buckeyes ran the table in the regular season, finishing 24-0.  Cincinnati, of course, lost the Big O and their coach.  Lo and behold, the Bearcats lost three early games and then finished with a long winning streak, moving up to number two in the nation at 23-3.


Both teams continued to win in the tournament, making it to the Championship Game, where Cincinnati pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever pulled by the nation’s number two team.


The following year, the Bearcats were even better.  They lost twice during the regular season, but they played a very difficult schedule.


Ohio State was not as strong as 1961, but with Havlicek and Lucas now seniors, the Buckeyes were the class of the Big Ten once again, finishing with a 23-1 record.


It was almost a foregone conclusion that there would be a rematch in the Championship, and the two Ohio teams did not disappoint.  Cincinnati won again in another mild upset.


The Bearcats were supposed to have their best team in 1963.  They went 25-1 during the regular season.  They were the odds-on favorite to become the first team to win the NCAA Championship three years running.


A team from Chicago came out of nowhere to upset the apple cart.  Loyola, a team filled with a roster of African-American players from the South, where they could not play in the SEC or ACC, proved to be the Bearcats’ equal.  They took the title game to overtime and then pulled off the big upset in what would be the last Final Four before the dawn of the UCLA dynasty.


Now, back to 2012.  The hype for this game should come close to equaling the hype of your typical Ohio State-Michigan football game.  These teams will be fired up more than your average Sweet 16 team, and it will be extremely hard-fought and physical.  After the game settles down, Ohio State will prove to be the superior team.  The Buckeyes come out on top in field goal differential and rebounding margin, while they are equal to the Bearcats in turnover margin.  Cincinnati enjoys a better steals rating, but Ohio State has played a schedule that is on average about 4.5 points tougher.


Prediction: Ohio State 75  Cincinnati 66


West Regional: Phoenix

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, and Marty Snider

Network: TBS


7:47 PM

#1 Michigan State (29-7) vs. #4 Louisville (28-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 28.9  UL 15.8


Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino know what it takes to get a team to the Final Four and win the national title.  Izzo has the better roster this year, so the Spartans have the advantage.


Looking at the Criteria scores, Michigan State wins in field goal percentage margin, wins big in rebounding margin, and enjoys a slight advantage in strength of schedule.  Louisville has the advantage in turnover margin and steals, and enjoys a very slightly better winning percentage away from home.


This will be an interesting game, and it is close to a tossup.  The key will be how Michigan State handles the Cardinal pressure and whether UL can keep the ball out of Draymond Green’s hands as the shot clock winds down.  We believe Louisville will come up short.


Prediction: Michigan State 69  Louisville 61


10:17 PM

#3 Marquette (27-7) vs. #7 Florida (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: MU 16.4  UF 15.4


Florida had the easiest path of any of the 16 teams still around.  The Gators won two blowout games to get to the Sweet 16, but neither opponent could exploit their inside weakness.


Marquette is not flashy, but Coach Buzz Williams gets the maximum effort out of his squad.  MU does not have an overly muscular team, but they can get the job done inside.  They were outrebounded by a tiny amount against a slate of some of the best rebounding teams in the nation.


Additionally, the Marquette backcourt matches up well with the Gator backcourt.  Florida will still win the battle of three-pointers, but our criteria actually discounts that rating in favor of locating teams that can score cheap baskets and second-chance points by controlling the boards.  The Marquette backcourt plays better defense and generates a lot of steals that lead to cheap baskets.


This game has the smallest criteria difference in the Sweet 16, and it could easily go either way.  It is basically a 51% to 49% advantage for Marquette. 


Prediction: Marquette 64  Florida 62


Friday, March 23, 2012


South Regional: Atlanta

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Tracy Wolfson

Network: CBS


7:15 PM

#3 Baylor (29-7) vs. #10 Xavier (23-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: BU 21.8  XU 8.6


A lot of other pundits are starting to jump on the Baylor Bearwagon.  Coach Scott Drew has built a team that has Final Four statistical qualities. 


Of the 16 teams remaining, Xavier’s Criteria Score ranks number 15.  The Musketeers have reached the end of the line.


Baylor bests XU in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin (Xavier has a negative margin), strength of schedule, and record away from home.  This game could get out of hand, but we believe Xavier has Tu advantages.  Tu Holloway should keep the Musketeers within striking distance.


Prediction: Baylor 73  Xavier 66


9:45 PM

#1 Kentucky (34-2) vs. #4 Indiana (27-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.5  IU 16.9


Kentucky lost their only regular season game on a last second jumper in Bloomington.  This game does not need extra pressure added on, but it will.


These teams do not like each other.  They have been rivals for decades; each school believes their state plays the best basketball in the nation (neither are correct).


Adolph Rupp did not like Bob Knight.  Knight did not like Joe B. Hall.  Indiana fans today hate John Calipari.  Tom Crean once coached as an assistant in the Commonwealth. 


We believe this game will be close for the first eight to 12 minutes, before the Wildcats begin to go on a run and put it out of reach just before halftime.


With uncertainties in the roster at North Carolina, Kentucky assumes the top spot in the PiRate Criteria Score.  The Wildcats have considerable advantages over Indiana in scoring margin, field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.  Blue Mist gets its revenge and heads to the Elite 8, as they paint Atlanta blue and make this almost a home game.


Prediction: Kentucky 80  Indiana 68


Midwest Regional: St. Louis

Announcers: Marv “Yessss” Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager

Network: TBS


7:47 PM

#1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. #13 Ohio U (29-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 32.0 *  OU 6.5

* Without Kendall Marshall, the Tar Heels’ score drops by 12.5 points to 19.5; this assumes that John Henson has no ill effects left from his injury.


All is not lost in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels are losing a lot with Kendall Marshall unable to go in this game.  Let’s take a look at some stats.


Marshall averages 33 minutes of playing time per game.  His likely replacement, Stilman White, averages 4.3 minutes per game.


Marshall connects on 46.7% of his field goal attempts.  White connects on only 23.8%.  Marshall’s three-point shooting accuracy is a tad over 35%, which is not exceptional, but White shoots only 20% from behind the arc.  Marshall averages nearly 10 assists per game, while White has 19 assists all season!  What’s worse is that there is no true point guard to back up White.  Justin Watts can move from forward to guard, but he is not a perimeter player that a Final Four team needs to have on the floor in the backcourt.


The Tar Heels are not in dire straits here.  They benefit from playing the weakest team left in the field.  North Carolina’s second five could compete with Ohio and have a 50-50 chance of winning this game. 


The Tar Heels’ strength of schedule is 10 points per game better than the Bobcats.  Yet, they enjoy a 2 to 1 advantage in scoring margin.  UNC has considerable advantages in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.


We have to discount the Tar Heels by 12.5 Criteria points without the top point guard in the tournament.  If Marshall can play Sunday and be anywhere close to 75% effective, he can lead his team to New Orleans.  If not, this could be Roy Williams’ last win of the season.


Prediction: North Carolina 77  Ohio U 62


10:17 PM

#2 Kansas (29-6) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (24-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0  NCSU 13.4


We have to make an admission here.  Coach Mark Gottfried is a former friend of our founder.  However, we strictly go by Criteria scores when we make our predictions, even though some of us will be rooting for the Wolf Pack.


Kansas now enjoys the best PiRate Criteria Score in the Midwest Regional, as long as North Carolina does not have Marshall.  The Jayhawks almost qualify for a point of home-court advantage, as they will come in droves across the state of Missouri to St. Louis.


Kansas actually comes out ahead in every criteria category in this game.  When that happens, it almost always leads to a double-digit win for the team with the better Criteria Score.


North Carolina State has given North Carolina fits, and we believe Gottfried will have his players charged and ready to go.  We do not see this game getting out of hand, but we do not see KU losing.  There will be plenty of Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU echoing through the rafters.


Prediction: Kansas 73  North Carolina State 64

March 17, 2012

NCAA Tournament Third Round Preview–Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  If you are unfamiliar with PiRate Bracketnomics, refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at:


On Friday, in the 16 games played, our system went a lousy 9-7, but then the higher ranked team went 8-8, so we did one better than the chalk. 


Here is our 3rd Round Preview for games to be played Sunday, March 18, 2012.


All times Eastern Daylight Time


12:15 PM  CBS 

Midwest Regional

#3 Georgetown (24-8) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (23-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: GU 18.4  NCSU 12.7

Georgetown has a little bit too much strength inside and excellent defense both inside and outside for the Wolf Pack in this game.  The Hoyas match up with NCSU about the same way Florida State did a few weeks back.  FSU controlled the game in Raleigh, and the Hoyas will control this one.  However, they will never really pull away, and it should be within striking distance until the last couple of minutes.


Prediction: Georgetown 68  North Carolina St. 60


2:45 PM  CBS

West Regional

#1 Michigan St. (28-7) vs. #9 St. Louis (26-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 27.4  STL 14.2

Rick Majerus has taken teams with this much talent deep into the NCAA Tournament.  He did it at Ball State more than two decades ago.  He did it at Utah more than a decade ago.  Can he repeat it a third time with the Billikens?


We say not this year.  Beating Memphis was nice, but SLU will not knock off this number one seed.  Michigan State has what it takes to make it to New Orleans, and with Missouri out of the bracket, the Spartans have a relatively easy road to the Final Four.


Prediction: Michigan St. 65  St. Louis 51


5:15 PM  CBS

Midwest Regional

#1 North Carolina (30-5) vs. #8 Creighton (29-5)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 31.1*  CU 15.1

* Without John Henson, subtract 4.6 points from UNC

Without Henson, the Tar Heels are beatable, but Creighton is not the team that will do it.  Kansas and Georgetown have what it takes to knock off a Henson-less Carolina team, but Coach Roy Williams has enough McDonald’s All-Americans on his roster to win this game.


Dylan McDermott cannot score 35 points against the Tar Heels, and he will have to top that for the Blue Jays to be in this one at the end. 


Prediction: North Carolina 85  Creighton 69


6:10 PM  TNT

West Regional

#7 Florida (24-10) vs. #15 Norfolk St. (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: UF 13.6  NSU -2.9

Norfolk State’s big upset over Missouri made headlines for just an hour or so, as the Spartans were pushed aside by Lehigh.  The way NSU beat Missouri shows that they must be respected, even with a negative PiRate Criteria score, mostly due to a weaker schedule than most NCAA Tournament teams.


Florida looked more like the team that started 19-4 than the team that finished 4-6 in the blowout win over Virginia.  We would have believed that the Gators would have been too quick for the Spartans, but Norfolk proved that they could handle the lightning quick Missouri team.  Florida can play halfcourt defense a little better than Missouri, and the Gators can shoot the outside shot better.  Additionally, Florida will hold its own on the boards in this game, and we believe Coach Billy Donovan has righted the Gator ship, and the orange and blue will continue to play like they did in the 19-4 start.


Prediction: Florida 84  Norfolk St. 72


7:10 PM   TBS

Midwest Regional

#12 South Florida (22-13) vs. #13 Ohio U (28-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: USF 5.1  OU 6.5

This is the first of two Cinderella game.  It is one of two third round games between double-digit seeds, and it should be a fantastic one to watch.


These teams know how to play patient, deliberate ball and tough defense.  One spurt could be enough to turn this game in the spurting team’s favor.  In the end, we will go with the team that we think has the better inside game, and that is the Bobcats.


Prediction: Ohio U 62  South Florida 59


7:45 PM  truTV

South Regional

#10 Xavier (22-12) vs. #15 Lehigh (27-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: XU 6.2  LU 5.7

This is the second of the Cinderella games mathcing teams that are double-digit seeds.  Lehigh pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA play in 20 plus years, and the Mountain Hawks have a decent shot at pulling off a second upset in this almost tossup game.


Xavier is as physical as Duke, but the Musketeers are not as refined in the finer points of the game.  However, they play much rougher than the Blue Devils, and Lehigh may have a tough time countering that.


Lehigh’s big star C. J. McCollum may be tough to defend, because Xavier’s guards are either too small (Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons), or Coach Chris Mack will have to put a forward (Dezmine Wells) on him.  It should make for a close game.


Prediction: Xavier 67  Lehigh 61


8:40 PM  TNT

Midwest Regional

#2 Kansas (28-6) vs. #10 Purdue (22-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0  PU 8.8

Purdue does not have the defensive acumen to slow the Jayhawks down.  Kansas has enough defense to slow down Purdue, and the Jayhawks’ offense is competent enough to score consistently.


KU will eventually have trouble with a team that can wear the Jayhawks down due to KU’s bench liabilities.  Purdue is not the team that can exploit that weakness.


Prediction: Kansas 77  Purdue 64


9:40 PM  TBS

East Regional

#3 Florida St. (25-9) vs. #6 Cincinnati (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: FSU 14.8  UC 9.3


This used to be a nice little rivalry in the old Metro Conference days.  On Sunday, the rivalry will rekindle, and basketball fans will be treated to a rough and tumble game.


We expect a defensive struggle with low shooting percentages and low scoring.  Rebounding will be the decisive statistic in this game, and Cinti cannot go head-to-head with the Seminoles.


Prediction: Florida St. 64  Cincinnati 58

March 16, 2012

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Round of 32–Games of Saturday, March 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:06 pm

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  If you are unfamiliar with PiRate Bracketnomics, refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at:


On Thursday, in the 16 games played, our system went 11-5, not bad but not good either.  In past years, our system has improved as the field is whittled down.  Let’s hope that trend continues. 


This preview is being written on Friday morning, before Friday’s games were played.  Check back tomorrow for previews of Sunday’s games.


Here is our 3rd Round Preview for games to be played Saturday, March 17, 2012.


12:15 PM  CBS—East Regional

#1 Syracuse (32-2) vs. #8 Kansas St. (22-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Syr 22.9 *  KSU 14.0

* This figure does not include the loss of Fab Melo.  Syracuse’s true number without Melo is 10.4.


Without Fab Melo, Syracuse is about as talented as a #8 or #9 seed.  Kansas State is a #8 seed, but the Wildcats deserve to be a higher seed.  Coach Frank Martin will design a game plan to get the ball inside the Orange zone defense, and once there, Jamar Samuels will have one of his better days this year.


Syracuse will have to force 17-20 turnovers to win this game without Melo, and we do not believe they will pull off that feat.  Because Kansas State does not shoot well at the foul line, the final score may be closer than it should be.  We believe the first number one seed will fall.


Prediction:  Kansas State 72  Syracuse 66


2:45 PM  CBS—East Regional

#2 Ohio St. (28-7) vs. #7 Gonzaga (26-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.0  Gonz 16.0


Ohio State is a bigger and better version of Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga did not match up all that well against Saint Mary’s this year.


This game will be one of spurts on both sides, because neither team is all that consistent.  When they are hot, both can score 20 points in six minutes.  When they are cold, both can be held scoreless for three or four minutes.


Gonzaga played lights out Thursday night against West Virginia, while Ohio State had a typical game.  The Buckeyes’ typical game should be repeated, while the Bulldogs bounce, just like a horse that won a big race four weeks earlier.


Prediction: Ohio State 73  Gonzaga 62


5:15 PM  CBS—West Regional

#3 Marquette (26-7) vs. #6 Murray St. (31-1)

PiRate Criteria Score: Marq 15.5  Murr 14.1


In 1966, tiny Texas Western entered the NCAA Tournament with just one loss.  Nobody gave the Miners any chance to win the National Championship, let alone make it to the Final Four.  Of course, we know what happened; TWU won the national title and forced many changes in Southern basketball.


Murray State is no Texas Western.  It is going to strike midnight on this Cinderella on Saturday.  Marquette is too strong and quick outside for the Racers to repeat their Thursday feat.  Murray will need to dominate inside to have a fighting chance, and still Marquette should aggravate the Racers’ guards and keep the ball out of the low post all evening.


Prediction: Marquette 67  Murray St. 59 


6:10 PM  TNT—East Regional

#4 Wisconsin (25-9) vs. #5 Vanderbilt (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Wis 17.2  Van 12.9


This will be an interesting game.  Wisconsin will not turn the ball over, and the Badgers will play tenacious defense, especially on the perimeter.  UW will not get many if any fast break points and will be patient on offense, taking mostly high percentage shots.


Vanderbilt will try to run and keep the game more up-tempo.  The Commodores will get their fast break points, but they will commit 14-17 turnovers.  Defensively, Vanderbilt can guard inside and on the wings, but they can be exploited our front.


This should be a close game that is not decided until the last two or three minutes and maybe in the final minute.  When the going gets tough and the pressure is on, we will go with the team least likely to make a mistake.


Prediction:  Wisconsin 65  Vanderbilt 61


7:10 PM  TBS—South Regional

#4 Indiana (26-8) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (29-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: Ind 14.7  VCU 7.4


Can Virginia Commonwealth repeat what Butler did?  Can the Rams make it two consecutive Final Fours as an underdog all the way?


Indiana is not a guarantee in this game, but we can find nothing in our ratings to see how VCU will pull off the upset.  Indiana can handle pressure defense, and they can exploit presses with fast break points.  VCU will need to force a lot of turnovers and pick up double digit steals to win this game, and the Hoosiers are not a team that will cough it up enough times.


This game will come down to shot selection.  Indiana will play intelligently and shoot wisely, taking their time in the half-court and using their fast break opportunities.  The big difference is in the pivot, where VCU has difficulties matching up against Cody Zeller.  We tend to believe this game will be over before halftime.


Prediction: Indiana 73  VCU 59


7:45 PM  CBS—South Regional

#1 Kentucky (33-2) vs. #8 Iowa St. (23-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Kent 29.1  ISU 7.6


This game should be fun to watch just for the two great matchups.  Anthony Davis versus Royce White and Scott Christopherson versus Doron Lamb will make this game worth watching.  As for the final score, there is no doubt in our minds that the Wildcats will advance to the Sweet 16.  Coach Cal got the players’ attention when they failed to show up against Vanderbilt. 


The 1996 ‘Cats lost in the conference tournament to Mississippi State and ran off six relatively easy victories to win the National Championship.  This team is more than capable of repeating that feat, although we believe there are a couple of teams better equipped to go all the way.


Prediction: Kentucky 74  Iowa St. 63


8:40 PM  TNT—South Regional

#3 Baylor (28-7) vs. #11 Colorado (24-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: Bay 22.1  Col 7.0


The stars may be lining up perfectly for Baylor.  The Bears could have a clear path to the Elite 8 and a date with Kentucky if they can play just up to their capabilities.  Without having to come up with a Herculean effort, BU is capable of getting by Colorado and winning their Sweet 16 game against any of the possibilities.


Colorado won the Pac-12 Tournament with a defense that looked more like Alabama’s football defense in the National Championship Game.  The Buffs pulled out an exciting thriller over UNLV, and we believe they have advanced as far as they can for this season.


Prediction: Baylor 67  Colorado 58


9:40 PM  TBS—West Regional

#4 Louisville (27-9) vs. #5 New Mexico (28-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: Lou 15.7  NM 21.2


This is where we are picking a big upset.  The seedings show it to be a #4-5 game, but in the minds of most basketball fans, a Lobo win would be a big upset.


Louisville has gotten by this year with really good defense and mediocre offense.  That will only get a team so far, and rarely will a team with inconsistent offense make it to the Sweet 16.


New Mexico is capable of making a run to the Final Four.  The Lobos play defense just as competently as UL, but they are much more consistent on offense.  Additionally, UNM can battle inside with the Cardinals and neutralize any perceived advantage in the paint.


This game should be close, and in the final minutes, we will go with the team that has better shooters and more depth.


Prediction: New Mexico 62  Louisville 57

March 14, 2011

Starting Times and Networks For NCAA Rounds One and Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:24 pm

Here is a list in order of starting times of the First Four and Second Round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

All Times EDT
Tuesday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
6:30 PM UNC-Asheville Arkansas-Little Rock truTV
9:00 PM Alabama-Birmingham Clemson truTV
Wednesday’s Games
6:30 PM Texas-San Antonio Alabama State truTV
9:00 PM Southern Cal Virginia Commonwealth truTV
Thursday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM West Virginia U A B/Clemson Winner CBS
12:40 PM Butler Old Dominion truTV
1:40 PM Louisville Morehead State TBS
2:10 PM Temple Penn State TNT
2:45 PM Kentucky Princeton CBS
3:10 PM Pittsburgh UNCA/UALR Winner truTV
4:10 PM Vanderbilt Richmond TBS
4:50 PM San Diego State Northern Colorado TNT
6:50 PM Florida U C-Santa Barbara TBS
7:15 PM Brigham Young Wofford CBS
7:20 PM Connecticut Bucknell TNT
7:27 PM Wisconsin Belmont truTV
9:20 PM U C L A Michigan State TBS
9:45 PM St. John’s Gonzaga CBS
9:50 PM Cincinnati Missouri TNT
9:57 PM Kansas State Utah State truTV
Friday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM Texas Oakland CBS
12:40 PM Michigan Tennessee truTV
1:40 PM Notre Dame Akron TBS
2:10 PM George Mason Villanova TNT
2:45 PM Arizona Memphis CBS
3:10 PM Duke Hampton truTV
4:10 PM Texas A&M Florida State TBS
4:40 PM Ohio State UTSA-Alabama State Winner TNT
6:50 PM Kansas Boston U TBS
7:15 PM North Carolina Long Island CBS
7:20 PM Purdue St. Peter’s TNT
7:27 PM Xavier Marquette truTV
9:20 PM U N L V Illinois TBS
9:45 PM Washington Georgia CBS
9:50 PM Georgetown USC/VCU Winner TNT
9:57 PM Syracuse Indiana State truTV

January 17, 2011

The PiRate Ratings’ NFL Playoffs Edition–Conference Championships

Sunday, January 23, 2011

3:00 PM EST on Fox-TV

Green Bay Packers (12-6-0) at Chicago Bears (12-5-0)


Pirate:       Green Bay 113.7           Chicago 104.1

Mean:        Green Bay 111.4           Chicago 103.8

Bias:           Green Bay 109.7          Chicago 104.5

HFA:                                                          Chicago     0.6


Vegas:        Green Bay by 3

Totals:       43 ½


PiRate:      GB by 9.0

Mean:        GB by 7.0

Bias:           GB by 4.6


100 Simulations:         GB 54  Chi 46

Avg. Sim Score              GB 20.2  Chi 17.9

Outlier A:                         GB 27  Chi 0

Outlier B:                         Chi 19  GB 3


5 PiRates Pick vs. Spread:   GB – 4         Chi – 1

5 PiRates Pick vs. Totals:    Und – 3      Ovr – 2

6:30 PM EST on CBS-TV

New York Jets (13-5-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4-0)



Pirate:       Pittsburgh 107.8         New York 106.1

Mean:        Pittsburgh 108.0        New York 106.8

Bias:           Pittsburgh 109.1         New York 106.7

HFA:          Pittsburgh     3.6


Vegas:        Pittsburgh by 3 ½

Totals:       38 ½


PiRate:       Pit by 5.3

Mean:         Pit by 4.8

Bias:            Pit by 6.0


100 Simulations:         Pit 51  NYJ 49

Avg. Sim Score              Pit 24.2  NYJ 23.7

Outlier A:                         Pit 31  NYJ 13

Outlier B:                         NYJ 34  Pit 12

Note:                             Seven games decided in OT, including one that was decided with 2:17 left in the

second overtime


5 PiRates Pick vs. Spread:   Pit – 3        NYJ – 2

5 PiRates Pick vs. Totals:    Ovr – 4       Und – 1


We do not have official picks during the Playoffs, but here is our Unofficial picks for this week:

1. Green Bay & Chicago Under 21 ½ (Halftime Line)

2. Green Bay -3 vs. Chicago

3. Pittsburgh & New York Jets Over 19 ½ (Halftime Line)

4. Pittsburgh & New York Jets Over 38 ½

5. 10-point Teaser Parlay

1 Green Bay & Chicago OVER 33 ½

2 Green Bay +7 Chicago

3 Pittsburgh & New York Jets OVER 28 ½

February 3, 2010

PiRate Super Bowl Preview

The Particulars

Super Bowl XLIV—New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts

Date: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami

Turf: Natural Grass

Kickoff: Approximately 6:25 PM EST

TV: CBS (Pre-game coverage begins at 12:00 Noon)

Radio: Westwood One (go to for an interactive map of radio affiliates)

Forecast: Partly Cloudy with a 10% chance of rain and temperatures in the upper 60’s at kickoff falling to the lower 60’s by the end of the game.

The Numbers

Vegas Lines: Indianapolis by 4 ½, 5, and 5 ½

Offshore Lines: Indianapolis by 4 ½, 5, 5 ½, and 6

Totals: 56 ½ and 57 (both Vegas and Offshore)

Best New Orleans Money Line: +185 (MGM Mirage)

Best Indianapolis Money Line: -190 (Bodog)

100 Computer Simulations: Indianapolis 59  New Orleans 41

Average Sim Score: Indianapolis 30.2  New Orleans 25.6

Outlier Sim Score A: Indianapolis 41  New Orleans 17

Outlier Sim Score B: New Orleans 38  Indianapolis 23

An Explanation Of The Following Three Pro Football Ratings


The PiRate Rating


The NFL version of the PiRate Ratings was not the same as the collegiate version from 1979 to 2008.  The NFL version strictly used a statistical formula that could be reproduced by anybody who knew the equations used to devise the formula.  No subjective data was used.  Starting in 2009, a new PiRate formula was created and back-tested to 1999.  The results produced a more accurate rating.  This new formula is a close cousin to the formula used for years in the college PiRate formula.


The new formula begins with the previous season ending ratings with adjustments for experience, personnel aging, new coaching, injuries, and a couple dozen intangibles.  As the season progresses, the previous season’s results have less of an impact to where it has little effect by mid-October.  


The Mean Rating


Just like the PiRate Ratings, the NFL Mean Ratings are not the same as the collegiate version.  The NFL Mean Ratings consist of a dozen different calculations.  Three calculations consist of different ways to look at point differential and strength of schedule.  Five calculations look at yards gained and allowed rushing and passing and special teams play with the strength of the opponents’ rushing and passing.  Point values are assigned based on each set of data.  The remaining four ratings are my old four pro ratings from the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The 12 ratings are given equal weight, and then I take the average (mean) to get the rating.


The Bias Rating


The Bias Ratings consist of five of the components of The Mean Ratings.  The five ratings are not given equal weight.  The five ratings are weighted at 37.5%, 25%, 12.5%, 12.5%, and 12.5%.  I have back tested these ratings and found that this weighting gives the rating its best predictive percentage.

PiRate Rating Spread: Indianapolis by 1.3                  

Mean Rating Spread: New Orleans by 0.1

Bias Rating Spread: New Orleans by 5.0


Note: For the 2009 season, the Bias Rating was the most accurate, picking the winner against the spread almost 70% of the time.


It’s being billed as Peyton Manning versus Drew Brees.  Football historians compare this game to the 1998 Super Bowl between Denver’s John Elway and Green Bay’s Brett Favre.  For those older readers, you might better compare these two gunslingers to the quarterbacks of Super Bowl II.  Manning is Bart Starr, while Brees is Daryle Lamonica. 

Manning is the mechanical quarterback.  Just wind him up, send him out there, and he operates like a machine.  If he throws 30 passes, 29 of them will look the same, and maybe one will be altered a tad.  He’ll complete better than 60% of his passes, three or more of which will go for 25 or more yards.

Brees tends to be more of a gambler.  He might force a throw for the reward of a long gain.  He will average more yards per completion and will most certainly connect for more than one touchdown.

All this comparison stuff is great for nostalgia buffs, but if you really want to know how this game will turn out, you are looking in the wrong direction.  Manning and Brees are not like the starting pitchers of game seven of the World Series. 

This game, like almost every NFL game, will be decided in the trenches.  If Brees and Manning are perfect on every throw, what will it matter if their offensive lines cannot protect them against the opposing defensive lines?  So what if either passer finishes the game 18 of 18 for 220 yards and three touchdowns, but gets sacked eight times and loses three fumbles because his offensive line cannot protect him?  I dare say, the other team will score at least three touchdowns off these turnovers.

What if none of the rushing plays work because there is no blocking?  It matters not how great the running backs play if they simultaneously receive the handoff and the defensive hit. 

What if the receivers continually break free and find themselves wide open, but the quarterbacks don’t get the time to set up and find them? 

Yes, the major discussion of this game needs to center on the four interior units plus the linebacker trios.  Knowing which team has the advantage in these areas will lead you to your Super Bowl Champion.

Let’s get something straight before we begin comparing players.  It is totally ridiculous the way most of the nation’s media waste their time and yours telling you which team has the better center, the better middle linebacker, the better tight end, etc.  Who cares if Reggie Wayne is somewhat more talented at wide receiver than Devery Henderson?  Tell me, at what point in this game will Wayne and Henderson be opposite each other on a scrimmage play?

There is only one way for the serious student of the game to analyze the talent by position.  Compare the offensive line to the opposing defensive line.  Compare the passing game to the opposing pass defense.  It is foolish to compare one wide receiver to one cornerback.  On the surface, that may sound like the way to go, but on most passing plays that cornerback may not be the defender who must break up a pass to that receiver.  Thus, we must compare the entire secondary to the entire receiving unit.

Without further adieu, here are the unit breakdowns according to the PiRates.

Running Game vs. Run Defense

When Indianapolis Runs

The Colts’ offensive line is better suited to block for the pass than the run.  However, when the Colts need one or two yards to convert a first down or to cross the goalline, the offensive line succeeds more than it fails.  Some of this success can be attributed to the threat of a Manning pass, but give the Colts a little credit for their short running game.  A two yard run on 3rd and one is much more successful than a seven yard run on 2nd and 10.  Rushing averages can be misleading.  It’s the number of successful running plays that matter.

The Saint’s run defense is underrated, maybe even more than the Colts’ running game.  Yes, New Orleans gave up more than 120 yard rushing per game, but if you throw out a couple of bad games, the Saints played well in this area.  In the playoffs, they have not been exploited by the opposition’s running game.

Indianapolis will run the ball about 24 times for 80 yards in this game.  If Joseph Addai consistently picks up three yards when the Colts need two or two yards when the Colts need one, I don’t see the Saints holding Indy under 28 points.  Those 80 yards could be big if they are the right 80.  If on the other hand, Addai picks up 20 yard on two separate attempts and then consistently gains two yards when the Colts need three and one when they need two, the Saints will exploit Manning’s one weakness and hold Indy under 24 points.  Our guess is the extremes will be split.  Addai will be about 50% successful, and Manning will be able to move his troops on half of their possessions.

When New Orleans Runs

The Saints have quality and depth in this department.  Their offensive line consistently opens enough running space, that it really doesn’t matter who totes the pigskin.  Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks will be the two best interior linemen on the field Sunday.  The Colts will have a hard time consistently stopping the inside running game, as middle linebacker Gary Brackett and defensive tackles Daniel Muhr and Antonio Johnson will need a lot of help here.  It will force Indianapolis to gamble with stunts and blitzes, leaving them vulnerable to quick hitters to the perimeter.

In past Super Bowls, teams that could consistently run the ball between the tackles have controlled the clock and kept their defense fresh.  I believe the Saints will run the ball about 22 times for 95 yards.  That comes out to a 4.3 yard rushing average.  I expect the Saints to pick up 40 yards in two of those attempts, so in the other 20 attempts, New Orleans should gain about 55 yards.  That’s just a 2.8 yard per carry average.  However, in about eight attempts, the Saints will be in a situation where one yard is needed to either convert a first down or score.  If they pick up that yard seven of the eight times, that will leave 48 yards for the other 12 attempts—the ones that will be vital in this game.  At four yards per carry in these attempts, Mardi Gras might begin around 9PM Sunday night.

Passing Game vs. Pass Defense

When Indianapolis Passes

Indianapolis’s pass blocking is second to none in the NFL.  Even so, they aren’t infallible.  The Jets forced Manning to the ground several times in the first half in the AFC Championship Game, and the Saints will affect his rhythm enough to force Manning into at least one mistake.  However, New Orleans could put themselves into a situation where they win most of the battles but lose the war if they become intent on getting into Manning’s head.  The warning that they are coming after him may not be the smartest ploy.  This pre-game threatening has backfired in past Super Bowls.  In the very first Super Bowl in Los Angeles in January of 1967, Kansas City’s Fred “The Hammer” Williamson told the press that he would put the hammer to Green Bay’s receivers and knock Carroll Dale and Boyd Dowler.  Dowler indeed left the game with an injury early in that Super Bowl, but Williamson had nothing to do with it.  Veteran Max McGee came off the bench with a hangover and promptly caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.  As for Williamson, he was knocked unconscious in the fourth quarter when Green Bay running back Donnie Anderson banged his knee into the Hammer’s helmet.

As for this game, I expect Manning to play like a superstar.  He may go down a few times, but Manning knows how to take a dive better than Sonny Liston.  He won’t be injured, and he won’t pull a Favre and throw a dumb pass while under pressure.  If the Saints blitz too much, expect Manning to burn them with a big six on a long pass.

When New Orleans Passes

The strongest asset with the Saints’ passing game is its versatility.  Seven different Saints’ receivers caught 35 or more passes this season.  He can go deep to game breakers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson.  Tight end Jeremy Shockey commands attention in the middle zones, and a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage to Reggie Bush can quickly turn into a 20-yard gain.  Indianapolis cannot decide to stop one player and shut the New Orleans passing game down.

What hurts the Colts the most in this game are the hurts themselves.  End Dwight Freeney, their best pass rusher by a long stretch, has a severe ankle sprain that will greatly limit his effectiveness.  He might be able to hold his own against the run, but rushing the passer will be a tough assignment.   Cornerback Jerraud Powers is still questionable after suffering a foot injury against the Ravens and missing the game with the Jets.  The Colts have very little secondary depth, and no other linemen on the roster can begin to replace the effectiveness of Freeney.  Thus, I believe Brees will enjoy an excellent day, as the Colts may be forced to gimmickry to slow down the passing game.  Look for Brees to throw for 300+ yards in this game.

Special Teams Play

Special teams play is usually equalized in the Super Bowl.  Sure, you have your last second heroics in Jim O’Brien’s “kick heard ‘round the world” in Super Bowl V, and the missed chip shot field goal by Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV.  However, all in all, I don’t expect this game to be decided by special teams play.  

If one team returns kicks to the 30, while the other returns them to the 20, we’re talking one completed pass play’s worth of difference.  If one team has a net punting average of 42 yards, and the other just 38 yards, we’re talking a difference of one running play. 

The one true special teams stat that matters in this game will be which team kicks off the most.

Who Wins?

This is one tough game to predict.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the injury status of Freeney and Powers is still a concern, and both of these players need to be at least 75% effective if the Colts really do deserve to be the favorites.  If neither can effectively play, and I expect both to play, the Saints should be favored by up to a touchdown.

As I write this today, I expect New Orleans to prevail in an exciting game.  With the best quarterback in modern day football and A+ pass blocking, one can never count out the Colts’ offense as long as there is time on the clock.  However, the opposing offense isn’t chopped liver.  They will exploit the liabilities brought on by the injuries, and they don’t need much help to hang 35 points on the board.

My advice for those who must get action on this game is to find the most points you can get and take the underdog Saints and those points.  If you want to play the totals, look to the first half line.  There is always a chance the teams will begin playing a little tight and need a quarter to get their offenses really going.  At 28 ½ for a first half total, I see value in the UNDER here.  I wouldn’t play with the game total.  Miami is prone to pop-up showers, even in the dry season.  It has rained frequently, and there is a chance of rain.  

The Five PiRates Predict: New Orleans 30  Indianapolis 27

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