The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 20, 2019

20 Basketball Coaches Ready For Prime Time

Every year, as fans and administrators grieve over the fact that their school’s basketball team is in the middle of a crash and burn, attention turns to possible replacement candidates. When a team was expected to be better than the year before or even turn things around, but said team does not show the improvement or even takes a step back, media, fans, and administrators begin wondering if a coaching change is on the horizon.
We are sure there are readers here that fall into this category.


If you are a UCLA fan, you already have a coaching search underway. Fans at Wake Forest and Washington State may experience a coaching search in March. There can be somewhat unexpected coaching changes when a new athletics director comes in and want’s “his man” in the position. All it takes is a bad February and March for an unexpected change to be made. Then, there are always the unexpected dismissals, retirements, and lateral moves leaving power conference jobs open.


To become the head coach at a major power conference school, most of the time, the new coach must have head coaching experience at the college level. On the rare occasion, a top assistant can be the hire, but this usually happens when said assistant replaces a retiring sucessful coach, like when Chris Holtmann replaced Brandon Miller, who had replaced Brad Stevens at Butler.


At the present time, there are a couple dozen excellent potential candidates to move up to power conference schools if there is a job opening. By power conference, I refer to AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. That comes to 87 schools.
Today, the PiRate Ratings list 20 excellent coaches that we believe could take over a power conference basketball team and make it a successful choice. We set some criteria to make this list, so if a coach you think is deserving is not on this list, it could be that we did not include him because he failed to meet our criteria.

1. Age–We limited this list to coaches that will be under 50 years old on March 15, 2019. Yes, older coaches can still make a move upward past the age of 50. The PiRate Captain (me) is pushing 60, and I am not ready to be put out to pasture just yet. Still, most coaches that are going to move from low or mid-major schools to the Big Ten, Big 12, or ACC are going to be under the age of 50.

2. Past Division 1 head coaching experience or considered one of the three best power conference assistants–even if the coach is an assistant coach this year, he must have been a head coach in Division 1, unless he is considered to be the top in his class. We have included just one assistant with no previous college head coaching experience.

3. I must have seen him coach in person or on TV to see that this guy knows what he is doing. That means his team was prepared to win the game from the start, and the coach made adjustments that increased his team’s chances of winning more than the guy on the other bench.

4. He needs to have some sort of pedigree from a successful program other than his own.

5. Or, he needs to be a former power conference head coach that has been in the NBA and now needs a job.

With this criteria, here are the 20 best candidates to be given big pay raises to become power conference head coaches in 2019-20. We graded each coach on a scale of 1-100, and they had to earn a score of 90 or better to make this list. The #1 pick is not that far ahead of the #20 pick; all these men get A’s for coaching. They are presented in order of #20 to #1.


20. Jon Scheyer, Duke Associate Head Coach

Scheyer is one of two assistant coaches to make this list, because he is one of the top three assistants in college basketball. Scheyer combines top-flight recruiting ability along with the Duke system. He has more years in the Duke system than just about anybody other than Coach K himself, and he is ready to take over a program. He’s just 31, and more than likely, he will have to begin a few rungs down from the big-time. A short sojourn in the Colonial Athletic Association, Southern Conference, or Big South might be all he needs to end up at a big-time program, maybe even Duke when Coach K decides to do something else or nothing else. He still rates an A Grade on this list.

19. Mike Rhoades, Virginia Commonwealth

Rhoades has done something rarely done in modern basketball. He won at Rice. Prior to Rhoades, the Owls had won three CUSA games in two seasons with just nine overall wins. Rhoades won 12 games both of his first two years at Rice, and then his final Owls’ team won 23 games. The previous 23- win season was 1954. Since he left Houston, Rice has gone 14-36 through this weekend.

Rhoades comes from the Shaka Smart coaching tree, and his teams play a harassing defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots from the field. The Rams are 13-5 this year, giving up just 62.6 points per game, the lowest mark since Smart’s 2012 team gave up 60 with a 35-second shot clock instead of 30-second shot clock now. Rhoades will eventually become the next VCU coach to move up to a bigger program. It probably won’t be after this season, but give him time to put together a couple of 23-win seasons at VCU, and somebody will come calling.

18. Jeff Boals, Stony Brook

Steve Pikiell built up the Stony Brook program into a competitive winner, and it took Boals a couple of years to bring in an entirely new plan and four new starters from the best team in Seawolves history. Stony Brook was expected to finish in the lower half of the standings in Boals’ first year in Long Island, but the Seawolves surprised with a second place finish. After a down year last year, the Seawolves are back. They are 4-0 in the America East Conference and 16-3 overall, locked in a tight race with Vermont.
Boals comes from the Thad Matta coaching tree plus the Keith Dambrot (Akron) coaching tree. As an Akron assistant, he contributed to three 20-win seasons. Then, when he moved to Ohio State, the Buckeyes enjoyed their best years of the Matta era, including the Final Four, an Elite 8, and two Sweet 16 appearances in four seasons. Boals will probably need a year or two more to prove himself, but he is 46 and will fall off our criteria list in four years.

17. Casey Alexander, Lipscomb

Alexander is not well known outside of Nashville. He was a 16-year assistant at his alma mater to Coach Rick Byrd at Belmont, and he has followed in Byrd’s footsteps coaching down the street at Belmont’s arch-rival Lipscomb.

After guiding Lipscomb to their first ever NCAA Tournament last year, Alexander’s 2019 team is better. The Bisons have won at SMU and at TCU and have a narrow miss at Louisville. At 4-0 in the Atlantic Sun and 13-4 overall, the Bisons are the co-favorites along with Liberty to win the ASUN regular season and conference tournament championship.

Alexander is 46 years old, so his time is probably now if he is going to move up to a power conference school. The one big feather in his cap is that his Lipscomb team ranks among the nation’s leaders in tempo. Lipscomb averages 77 possessions per game.

16. Russ Turner, UC-Irvine

Turner has a very impressive coaching tree resume. He has assisted Dave Odom, Mike Montgomery, and the legendary Don Nelson (who comes from the Red Auerbach tree). Turner has excellent NBA contacts from his time with the Golden State Warriors, and he has shown in a short time in Irvine that he can organize and run a successful college program.

UCI had never been to the NCAA Tournament until Turner became head coach. The program had wallowed in mediocrity for eight years. After two seasons of putting the wheels in motion, the Anteaters began winning consistently and have won for seven consecutive years. Included in that streak is the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament bid where UCI did everything but upset Louisville in a two-point loss that saw many 50-50 calls go Louisville’s way.

This year, the Anteaters are 3-1 in the Big West and 15-5 overall. Like all of Turners’ teams, UCI plays tough defense and patient but smart offense. Turner gets more out of his talent than an average coach and his in-game adjustments frequently lead to the Anteaters winning toss-up games. Including in this year’s victims are Texas A&M and Saint Mary’s, both of whom fell to UCI on their home floors. Turner is ready to make that next move, and this could be the year. It doesn’t have to be a West Coast school.

15. Travis DeCuire, Montana

In baseball, the great Willie Mays was called a “5-tool player,” which meant he could hit, hit with power, run, field, and throw expertly. In basketball, I like to call a team that can do everything well a 5-tool team. That means, they can shoot, defend the shot, rebound on both ends of the floor, and force more turnovers than they commit. When a team enjoys an advantage in all five categories over its opposition, it becomes hard to beat them on a consistent basis.

Travis DeCuire’s teams are 5-tool teams. His current Montana Grizzlies squad shoots the ball well from inside and outside the arc and prevent the opposition from doing so. Montana wins the battle of the boards, and they force more turnovers than they commit. Because this current Grizzlies squad is quite experienced, look for Montana to be a force to be reckoned with in March. UM is 12-6 this year, one game behind leader Weber State in the Big Sky Conference. If Montana wins the automatic bid to the Big Dance, DeCuire might do the two-step to a bigger program like his predecessor Wayne Tinkle, who is doing a great job at Oregon State.

DeCuire has an excellent pedigree. Like Turner, he assisted Mike Montgomery. His tenure with Motgomery came at UC-Berkeley, when Cal enjoyed its best run of years since Pete Newell led the Bears to the Title. Additionally, DeCuire helped guide Old Dominion to success during the Blaine Taylor years.

14. Matt McMahon, Murray St.

We almost had to reconsider his resume, only because in the past McMahon had spent most of his years as an assistant to Buzz Peterson, who did not have a stellar coaching career. Throw in one year with Michael White at Louisiana Tech, and it only increased his resume by a little, as White has not yet proven he is capable of succeeding at Florida. However, it’s his four years as an assistant here at Murray State that elevates McMahon onto the A grade coaches list. He was an assistant to Steve Prohm, who has proven himself to be one of the top 20 head coaches in college basketball, and that makes McMahon’s pedigree excellent.

As a head coach at Murray State, McMahon is proving that he is ready to take over a big time program. The Racers are the class of the league again this year after winning the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament last year. Murray sports a 6-0/15-2 record this year after going 26-6 last year. McMahon is ready to coach in the big time next year, and he could be in the mix at a Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC job. He rates an A grade, but he is not the top commodity in the Commonwealth. Read on to find out who rates ahead of him.

13. Chris Jans, New Mexico St.

This selection might be considered a tad controversial, but a man deserves a second chance when he has proven that he can defeat the demons of alcohol. If not for the past issue, Jans might be in the top three in this list. Before looking at the rest of his resume, I will mention that he was caught on video inebriated in a bar patting a woman on her rear end and using a bad word to describe another woman that tried to scold him for his actions. It cost him his job as a head coach at Bowling Green.

Let’s look at the rest of Jans’ resume. As an assistant coach, he worked with Gregg Marshall at Wichita State both before and after his incident at Bowling Green. He received Marshall’s endorsement when NMSU was considering him for its opening. He also worked under current Loyola Coach Porter Moser, when Moser was the head man at Illinois State.

Now for his results. Jans has been a head coach for eight prior seasons at multiple levels. At four different schools below D1, he went 159-45 in six seasons winning 22 or more games every year and winning more than 30 games twice. In his one year at Bowling Green, he led the Falcons to 21 wins and a third place finish in the MAC East Division.
Last year, in his first season in Las Cruces, Jans guided the Aggies to the WAC regular season and tournament championships and a 28-6 record. They are 15-4 so far this season, and a half-game back of the leaders at 4-1 in the WAC. Under Jans, NMSU plays a style similar to Wichita State. The Aggies almost always win the hustle points over their opponents, and to date they are +7.4 in rebounding margin and +2.2 in turnover margin (2.2 less than opponents). If you are familiar with the PiRate R+T rating, the Aggies current R+T is 13.9, which is good enough to get a WAC team to the Sweet 16.

If a school is willing to overlook the past, Jans could coach a big time program to a Final Four.

12. Joe Pasternack, UC-Santa Barbara

Pasternack proved his worth as an excellent tactician and game-preparation success, when he was the head coach at the University of New Orleans, when the Privateers were de-emphasizing their program following Hurricane Katrina. With players jumping off the ship continually to go to schools that were guaranteed to field a team the following year, Pasternack still produced competitive teams.

Following his tenure in the Crescent City, Pasternack was an assistant to Sean Miller at Arizona, the years in which the Wildcats won three Pac-12 Championships in four years. Before going to UNO, Pasternack was on Ben Braun’s staff at Cal, when the Bears went to multiple NCAA Tournaments.

As head coach at UCSB, Pasternack inherited a team that had finished 6-22 the year before. The change in the squad was incredible. In the previous year, UCSB finished at the bottom of the nation in field goal percentage at less than 38% and in three-point percentage at 29%. Pasternack’s team increased their field goal percentage and three-point percentage by almost 10%, and the Gauchos improved from 6-22 to 23-9.

UCSB is 14-3 so far this season, including a perfect 3-0 in the Big West. Their shooting percentages have taken a slight upward turn, but this year, their defense is fantastic, and the Gauchos will fight UC-Irvine for the title.

Pasternack is certainly ready to take over a major program. Tulane might become available, and I am sure there are people in New Orleans that would like to have Pasternack back in town.

11. Nathan Davis, Bucknell

Davis has an interesting coaching pedigree. His first division 1 assistant job found him serving under Don Devoe at Navy at the end of Devoe’s long tenure in college basketball. He was an assistant here at Bucknell for five years under Pat Flannery, and the Bison went to the NCAA Tournament a couple of times, including the team that upset Kansas.
Davis has won big as a head coach, first at Division 2 Randolph-Macon, and now at Bucknell.


At RMU, he won 141 games in six years and put teams in the D2 NCAA Tournament every season, one of which included a Final Four trip. At Bucknell, he is three for three in winning the conference championship, and his team is in first place this year as well. In road games against the big schools, his Bison teams have not backed down from NCAA Tournament teams. In 2017, Bucknell won at Vanderbilt. Last year, they came close at North Carolina and Maryland. In NCAA play, Bucknell came close to pulling off upsets of West Virginia and Michigan St. They led Ohio State in Columbus into the second half this year before losing by two.

Davis has shown he can take lesser talent and go toe-to-toe with big time programs. He’s ready to show his stuff at a big time program.

10. Earl Grant, Charleston

Seven years as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at both Winthrop and Wichita State are enough to make Grant a hot commodity. Add a few years under Brad Brownell at Clemson, and it makes Grant’s pedigree excellent. Throw in his recruiting results, and you have a potential superstar in the making before he ever serves as a head coach.

Now, let’s look at Grant’s results as a head coach. Grant took over a program that had been 14-18 the year before, and his first season was a rough one, as the Cougars had a tough adjustment to an all-out assault man-to-man defense. Charleston finished just 9-24. In year two, the players began to gel in the system, and Charleston improved to 17-14. Their two-point loss in the CAA Tournament Semifinals to eventual champion UNC-Wilmington was a heart-breaker, as they blew a double-digit lead in the second half to the tournament favorite.

In 2017, Charleston gave UNCW a run for their money in both the conference and tournament races. A 25-10 record included a trip to the NIT. Last year, Charleston broke through with both a conference and tournament championship. In the NCAA Tournament, they took Auburn to the final seconds before Auburn could secure the four-point victory, holding the Tigers to less than 36% shooting.

This year, Charleston is 14-6 with wins over Virginia Commonwealth and Memphis. The CAA is stacked at the top with good teams, so if the Cougars can win the tournament again and play well in the Big Dance, Grant could be in line for a bigger job, especially with his ability to recruit.

9. Luke Yaklich, Michigan assistant

This is the other top assistant that should get a head coaching offer soon. Yaklich is the reason Michigan’s defense improved by leaps and bounds. Previous John Beilein teams were all about beating opponents with three-point shooting and fast break scoring, but the Wolverines made it to the National Championship Game last year with their defense leading the way, and they have remained a defensive force this year with their fantastic start. When they finally lost this weekend at Wisconsin, it was their offense that let them down. The defense was still outstanding.

Yaklich will bring an intensity to any program, and his reputation should help him land enough talent to win as a major college head coach. Yaklich also had two years of assistant coaching experience under Mike Davis at Indiana.

8. Kyle Smith, San Francisco

Smith may be an unknown name to basketball fans outside of the Bay Area of San Francisco, but he has an impressive resume to date and should get the opportunity to either turn USF into the power it twice was or move to a big time program.
Smith got his coaching start under former UCLA star Brad Holland, when Holland coached at the University of San Diego. After a season as an assistant at Air Force under former Princeton starter Joe Scott, he served for a decade as an assistant to Randy Bennett at Saint Mary’s.

Smith’s first head coaching job was at one of the ten toughest places to win in Division 1. He took over the Columbia University program in 2010, the Lions had not enjoyed a winning season in Ivy League play for 18 years. He won immediately in upper Manhattan, guiding the program to a winning season in his first year. When he won 21 games in 2014, it was the first time since 1970 (when the program had its best ever player in future Laker all-star Jim McMillan) that a Columbia team had won 20 games. In his final year with the Lions, he set a record at the school with 25 wins plus the College Insiders Tournament Championship. Since Smith left Columbia, the Lions have returned to the bottom half of the Ivy League.

Smith has done a remarkable job at USF. He won 20 games his first year and 22 last year, both teams making appearances in the CBI tournament. This year, the Dons are 16-3 with losses to Buffalo, UCSB, and Gonzaga and wins over Stanford, Cal, Saint Mary’s, and BYU. The Dons could earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they can win at Saint Mary’s or at Gonzaga or make it to the WCC Championship Game with only two more losses.

Smith is more than ready to guide a major program, and it could be any location. He’s won in the East, and he’s won in the West. Or, he could choose to stay by the Bay and bring USF back to the land of powerhouse basketball teams.

7. Steve Forbes, East Tennessee St.

Like Chris Jans at New Mexico State, Forbes has a little baggage in that he was on Bruce Pearl’s staff at Tennessee that was punished with infractions, leading to Pearl receiving a show-cause order to coach for a few years.
Like Jans, Forbes spent a few years getting back into the NCAA’s good graces as an assistant to Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. Before that, he simply won 91% of his games as head coach at a junior college in Florida.

Forbes brought the offensive genius and the full-court press of Pearl to Johnson City, combined with the pressure man-to-man defense of Marshall at Wichita State. The Buccaneers immediately improved when Forbes took over the program after Murray Bartow was forced out. ETSU improved from 16-14 to 24-12 and a second place Socon finish and near miss in the conference championship game. In year two, the Bucs went 27-8 and won the conference regular season and tournament, making a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, ETSU finished 25-9 and runner-up to UNC-Greensboro. The Bucs are 16-5 so far this season, but UNCG just knocked them off in Johnson City.


6. John Brannen, Northern Kentucky

Some of you may be asking who in the you know what is John Brannen? Brannen is the best coach in the Commonwealth not coaching at Rupp Arena. Brannen served as a top assistant to Anthony Grant at Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama, and he actually coached the two NIT games for the Crimson Tide in 2015 once Grant was dismissed. The Tide played its best game of the season under Brannen’s direction against Illinois in the NIT.

Brannen took the Northern Kentucky job after the Tide were knocked out in the following NIT round, and he quickly built the program in its infancy as a Division 1 program. In his second year with the Norse, NKU enjoyed its first ever winning season in D1. Brannen guided NKU to a 12-6 Horizon League record and third place finish, and then the Norse won the conference tournament, advancing to the NCAA Tournament . As a #15 seed, the Selection Committee placed them against #2 Kentucky, the big brother of the Commonwealth. Brannen’s team faced the heavily favored Wildcats without fear and stayed within contention for most of the night before losing by just nine points.
Last year, NKU had a better team, and the Norse won the Horizon League Championship with a 15-3 record, but they were upset in the conference tournament by a Cleveland State team they had blown out twice during the season.

This year, NKU looks even better yet. The Norse are currently leading the Horizon with a 6-1 record and are 16-4 overall. If Brannen sweeps the regular season and conference tournament titles, and then NKU has a decent showing against a heavily favored opponent, he could get a chance to become a power conference coach. He’s ready.


5. Ron Sanchez, Charlotte

How can I have somebody in his first year as a head coach so high? There are extenuating circumstances. Sanchez would have made this list last year as one of the top three assistants. Sanchez was the top assistant to Tony Bennett at Virginia and Washington State and Tony’s dad Dick also at Washington State. He knows the Pack-line defense as well as any other coach in America not named Bennett.

In his first head coaching job at Charlotte, the 49ers have only a 5-12 won-loss record and a 2-4 Conference USA mark. Again, this looks bad on the surface, but it is anything but. To implement a change in systems from what Charlotte used last year to what they are using this year, it is like Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense leaving Washington State’s football program and replaced by Army’s Jeff Monken and his triple option offense.
Sanchez has the 49ers running the new defense with rather good results, and Charlotte is getting better every game. They have won two of their last three games, and the two wins came against conference foes in the upper half of the league standings. Included in recent losses is a one-pointer to league leader Marshall.  Having watched the 49ers play, it is easy enough to see that with just a little more talent, Charlotte is going to become a force in CUSA.

Sanchez almost assuredly will not get any offers to coach a Power Conference team next year, but if there is a school out there that has some talent but seems to be needing better defensive structure, Sanchez would be an excellent dark horse candidate. He gets a coveted A+ grade here.


4. Fred Hoiberg, recently fired coach of the Chicago Bulls

There are always rumors that Brad Stevens will leave the Boston Celtics to come back to college ball or that Billy Donovan is just waiting for the right college job to open up, but we believe the next NBA guy to return to college will be the one that was just fired by the Bulls.

Hoiberg won big at Iowa State, going 99-40 in his final four seasons with four NCAA Tournament appearances at his alma mater. The Iowa State job will not be available in March, unless Steve Prohm takes an even more prestigious job. Hoiberg has already been rumored to be a front-runner for the UCLA job, and in my opinion, he deserves an A+ grade for the work he did at Iowa State.


3. Nate Oats, Buffalo

Oats isn’t just maintaining the success that former coach Bobby Hurley enjoyed in Buffalo. He’s taken the Bulls program and made it better with his own style. Oats comes from an interesting background. As an assistant at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, he worked for two intelligent long-time Wisconsin greats in Dave Vander Muelen and Pat Miller. Miller won the National Championship there. In Oats’ basketball DNA are traits of Dick Bennett’s defense which we now know as the Pack-line, and Bo Ryan’s offense and defense, as many coaches in Wisconsin use the same type of offense and defense. When you see a quality coach from Wisconsin, you know his teams will play excellent man-to-man defense, run a patient offense that uses a lot of screens, rebounds on the defensive end better than most, and takes care of the ball.

Oats’ Buffalo teams play at a quicker pace than the teams coached by Wisconsin coaches. The Bulls average 74 possessions per game, and they are exciting to watch at both ends of the floor. Oats has proven he can coach and has enjoyed success when Buffalo has played big name opponents. This year, Buffalo has wins at Syracuse and West Virginia.
Oats becomes the first of what I call the A++ grade coaches. He is a hot commodity, and he might be able to be a bit selective about where he wants to go, especially if Buffalo makes a run at 30 wins this year.


2. Wes Miller, UNC-Greensboro

The reason Steve Forbes is not higher on this list is because Miller is. The reason Miller isn’t even higher is that his pedigree only qualifies due to his college coach. Miller played for Roy Williams at North Carolina, and one of his three years as an assistant was under former Tar Heel Scott Cherry.

Miller did not really earn his position as head coach at UNCG. He became the acting head coach when Mike Dement was forced to resign in mid-season. Miller was only going to have the job until the end of the season. When he took over, UNCG was 0-3 in the conference and 2-8 overall. Under Miller, the team was totally different, and as they began to win in conference play, it became apparent that Miller might get the job. Win, Miller did, and when UNCG won seven games in a row, the Spartans went from last place to first place in the Southern Conference’s North Division.

Miller did not turn the program around overnight once he was named full time coach. Three rebuilding years finally led to the first real success in 2016, as UNCG went 10-8 in the league for a fifth place tie. The last three seasons have produced excellent results. The Spartans finished in a first place tie in 2017 with a 14-4 conference mark and then won the league outright last year at 15-3. Additionally, the Spartans won the Socon Tournament last year to advance to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 17 years. A furious second half comeback brought the Spartans within a whisker of upsetting Gonzaga in the Big Dance.

This year, Miller has solidified UNCG’s dominance in the Southern Conference. The Spartans are 6-1 in the league and 17-3 overall, which includes an impressive win at East Tennessee. Two of the losses were at Kentucky and at LSU, two NCAA Tournament worthy teams. UNCG led Kentucky in the second half of that game.
Miller is just 35 years old, and he has been rumored to be a leading contender to take over at his Alma Mater if Coach Williams retires. He rates as an A++ candidate.


1. Eric Musselman, Nevada

And now to the best coach in college basketball today, a coach in a league by himself. Yes, I say the best coach. He’s better than Coach K, better than John Calipari, better than Roy Williams, and better than Jay Wright.

Eric Musselman will win a national championship at a big time school like Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, or maybe UCLA if he ever gets one of these jobs. He could take a power conference team like Illinois or Wake Forest to the Final Four.
When you combine his ability to evaluate talent and recruit rare gems, his ability to prepare his team in advance to play, and his incredible ability to make in-game adjustments, you have the best overall head basketball coach in college since Dean Smith retired.

Let’s look at his pedigree. First, he was born to a father that was a successful, albeit controversial head coach in college and the NBA.  Eric was the head coach at Golden State and Sacramento in the NBA, doing better than he got credit for under difficult circumstances.

He spent two years at Arizona State under Herb Sendek, and the Sun Devils won 43 games in those two years. A year as an assistant at LSU was the lone year that former coach Johnny Jones guided the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament, even though Jones had Ben Simmons the following year.

At Nevada, Musselman has brought in a lot of castoffs from other teams along with some fine recruits, and the Wolf Pack have been dominant from the start.
Taking over following a 10th place MWC finish and 9-22 record, Mussleman did a 180-degree turn in his first year and took Nevada to 24-14 record and fourth place finish in the league. The Wolf Pack earned an invitation to the CBI Tournament and won the event beating Morehead State.

In year two, Nevada won both the regular season and conference tournament championships, earning a trip to the Big Dance. Several times during the season, Nevada came from behind to beat teams with better overall talent.

Last year, the Wolf Pack won the regular season title again, but they were upset by San Diego State in the conference tournament. At 27-7, they earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Musselman guided the Wolf Pack to a comeback win over Texas in overtime in the opening game. Then, after trailing big favorite Cincinnati by 22 points midway through the second half, Nevada took total control of the game at both ends of the floor and posted one of the greatest comeback wins in tournament history. As good as Musselman was, he could not beat Sister Jean’s power, and the Wolf Pack lost to Loyola of Chicago in the Sweet 16 round.

This year, Nevada is one of the top two teams in the West. The Wolf Pack are 18-1 and ranked in the top 10. Nevada has joined Gonzaga and Buffalo as the three top teams not in a power conference.

Musselman has been rumored to be in the mix for the vacant UCLA job, but the big money names in Los Angeles will probably force AD Dan Guerrero to go after a bigger name, which will be a big mistake. If the Bruins want to return to the top of the West, they need to hire Musselman. If they don’t, then some other school will exploit yet another bad move in Westwood and gobble up a potential national champion coach.


Coming Monday, January 21: An updated PiRate Ratings and an updated Bracketology report.  There was quite a bit of change over the weekend.

March 21, 2011

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview

Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

Team W – L Pts FG% Reb TO Stl R+T SOS Road% PiRate #
Arizona 29-7 8.7 2.5 3.6 -0.1 5.2 4.52 55 63 4
Brigham Young 32-4 14.1 4.0 3.0 3.5 8.0 9.72 58 86 18
Butler 25-9 7.8 1.5 2.9 1.7 6.0 5.35 54 65 4
Connecticut 28-9 7.7 3.5 4.8 0.3 6.5 5.27 60 75 11
Duke 32-4 17.1 7.1 3.1 2.7 7.3 7.83 58 79 17
Florida 28-7 9.1 4.2 6.0 0.3 5.9 6.42 60 78 15
Florida State 23-10 7.3 7.7 4.6 -0.8 8.5 5.34 54 61 5
Kansas 34-2 17.1 11.8 7.9 0.8 7.8 9.40 59 95 23
Kentucky 27-8 12.2 6.9 4.0 1.5 5.3 5.91 60 60 16
Marquette 22-14 7.0 2.9 2.7 2.1 7.3 6.38 57 44 3
North Carolina 28-7 9.0 4.7 6.5 0.7 6.1 7.52 60 65 16
Ohio State 34-2 18.0 7.6 4.9 4.8 7.1 13.08 58 88 23
Richmond 28-7 9.2 6.0 -1.9 2.1 6.0 1.12 52 81 3
San Diego State 34-2 13.2 7.1 6.9 1.6 6.2 9.28 58 95 19
V C U 25-11 3.9 2.0 2.1 -0.6 8.3 0.90 54 65 -1
Wisconsin 25-8 9.9 1.8 3.8 2.1 3.5 5.56 57 53 9

 All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

PiRate Criteria Numbers Updated To Reflect 1st Three Round Results

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7:15 PM on CBS 

West Regional @ Anaheim

#2 San Diego State 34-2 (19) vs. #3 Connecticut 28-9 (11)

Connecticut faces the first team in the tournament that has the defensive capacity to slow down Kemba Walker.  If Walker has a below-average game, the Huskies’ shooting percentage will head too far south, because UConn does not shoot all that well.


The Aztecs can make life miserable on opposing shooters, so if they contain Walker, SDSU has the advantage at the other four positions on the floor.  Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas remind us somewhat of former UCLA greats Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe.


The Aztecs’ eventual downfall may come when they are exploited by a defense that forces them to beat them from outside.  Connecticut just may be able to pull that off, so this game cannot be considered a slam dunk for the #2 seed Aztecs.


Prediction: San Diego State 67  Connecticut 61


7:27 PM on TBS 

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 28-7 (15) vs. #3 Brigham Young 32-4 (18)

This one should be interesting, as Florida tries to get revenge for a first round overtime loss to BYU last year.


We did not have much faith in the Cougars after Brandon Davies was dismissed for the season.  BYU recovered in the second and third rounds, and the 22-point win over Gonzaga was quite impressive.


Still, we discount the Cougars by three points with the absence of Davies.  This makes this game a tossup in our eyes. 


Florida is playing inspired ball, but we still do not believe the Gators are on par with their prior two national champion teams.  Offensively, the Gators spread the ball around, and all five starters typically score double figure points.  Defensively, they are underneath, and they frequently find ways to pressure the ball out front.  However, the top defender, Kenny Boynton, may not be 100% in this game.  He has an important assignment.


That assignment happens to be guarding Jimmer Fredette.  If Fredette tops 30 points without taking 30 shots to do so, the Cougars could easily give the Mountain West Conference a second team in the Elite Eight.


We are split on this game, and we did not come to a conclusion which way to go.  So, we will stick with the higher-rated PiRate Criteria score and go with the Cougars.


Prediction: B Y U 82  Florida 78


9:45 PM on CBS

West Regional @ Anaheim

#1 Duke 32-4 (17) vs. #5 Arizona 29-7 (4)

With Kyrie Irving back in the fold, Duke has the best eight-deep roster in the nation.  We believe the Blue Devils are the third best team in the Sweet 16 with Irving back.  He scored 25 points in the two games in Charlotte in just 41 minutes, and he picked up some rebounds as well.


The Blue Devils’ only thing close to a liability is their defense at forward.  Kyle Singler, Miles Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly have trouble against sneaky fast opponents.


Arizona’s forwards have that quickness.  Derrick Williams is as important to the Wildcats as Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette are to their teams.  Jesse Perry only averages seven points per game, but he can take it to the basket against a slower defender.


Arizona’s weakness is their defense against power offense.  Duke’s slower forwards as well as center Mason Plumlee can take advantage of the Wildcats’ defensive deficiencies. 


Coach K deserves to be compared with John Wooden.  Wooden’s UCLA teams won four games in the NCAA Tournament to win the championship in a field of 22-25 teams.  Krzyzewski’s have been forced to win six in a field of 64, 65, and 68.  We believe he is worth an extra five to 10 points, and we will select Duke to make it to the Elite Eight.


Prediction: Duke 77  Arizona 68


9:57 PM on TBS

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#4 Wisconsin 25-8 (9) vs. #8 Butler 25-9 (4)

Pick against Butler at your own risk.  If the Bulldogs can beat Pittsburgh, there is no reason to believe they cannot return to the Final Four.


We did not believe Wisconsin could make it to the Sweet 16 either.  As many readers know, we have ties to U Dub, and this group of Badgers did not look strong enough to us to make it to the second week of the tournament.


The PiRate Criteria indicates that Wisconsin is the favorite, but with our internal numbers that we do not advertise, we rate this game as a 50-50 affair.


Butler has the experience in close games.  They keep finding a way to win.  However, Wisconsin is one of those tough teams that can neutralize what has been working for Coach Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs.


This game could very well come down to the final few possessions, and the winner may struggle to top 55 points.  We do not see any more than 100 field goal attempts, and as few as eight players could score points in this game.


Matt Howard can force Wisconsin to bring a big man outside, and that will allow Andrew Smith to work with a little more clearance inside.  If Shelvin Mack keeps his hot streak going, Butler can win this one.


If Howard is not on target, and the Badgers do not have to respect his outside shooting ability, Coach Bo Ryan’s team will pack it in, control the boards, and then work patiently to set up Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer.  The tandem could score 40 points with the rest of the team adding just 15, and it could be enough to win this game.


Prediction: Wisconsin 55  Butler 54


Friday, March 25, 2011


7:15 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 28-7 (16) vs. #11 Marquette 22-14 (3)

We do not believe the Tar Heels are Final Four candidates this season.  No matter which team wins the game in the adjacent bracket, we see the Tar Heels losing in the Elite Eight.  However, the margin should be slim.


This is the Sweet 16 game, and Coach Roy Williams’ team is more than talented enough to advance to Sunday.  With the outside shooting of Kendall Marshall and Leslie McDonald combined with the take-it-to-the-hoop skills of Harrison Barnes and John Henson and the mandatory doubling down on big center Tyler Zeller, North Carolina will score a lot of points in this game.


Marquette’s only hope is for three players to be hot from the field, because Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles will have to outscore North Carolina to win this game.


Marquette cannot go head-to-head inside and win this game.  They will have to hit 50% from the field to keep this game close.  From among Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Dwight Buycks three of these players will need to score 15-25 points each.  We see the Golden Eagles coming up short in this one.


Prediction: North Carolina 82  Marquette 79


7:27 PM on TBS

Southwest Regional @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 34-2 (23) vs. #12 Richmond 29-7 (3)

Richmond apparently was seeded a few spots to low.  The Spiders have shown that the Atlantic 10 Conference is just below the top six or seven conferences in the nation and well above the average mid-major league.


Chris Mooney’s team can shoot the ball and prevent the opponent from shooting the ball.  With an inside-outside punch in big forward Justin Harper and sharpshooting guard Kevin Anderson, Richmond can score points consistently, albeit at a slower pace. 


Two things will do the Spiders in Friday night.  They are vulnerable against power teams and teams that can get on the boards for offensive rebounds.  Xavier and Old Dominion showed the blueprint for beating Richmond.


Kansas can take that blueprint and build a super foundation.  The Jayhawks are the best passing team in the tournament, and Coach Bill Self’s big men know how to move and get open to receive those passes.  Marcus and Markieff Morris can hit the boards at both ends, and Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor know how to get the ball to them.  KU will advance to play for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.


Prediction: Kansas 73  Richmond 62


9:45 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#1 Ohio State 34-2 (23) vs. #4 Kentucky 27-8 (16)

This is the first contest in the tournament where both teams are rated worthy of making the Elite Eight. 


Ohio State has actually moved a couple of percentage points ahead of Kansas for the top overall Criteria score.  The Buckeyes are strong where Kentucky is strong, but Coach Thad Matta’s team also has strength were Kentucky has been vulnerable.  Tough perimeter defense forced George Mason to wilt in the Round of 32, and in William Buford, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty, Ohio State can cut off the perimeter game of most teams. 


With the great Jared Sullinger roaming the low post and baseline areas, Kentucky has to dedicate a big man to roam with him.  That will be the Wildcats’ downfall Friday night.  If Terrence Jones is forced to guard Sullinger, expect Josh Harrellson to have a hard time defending the paint against Ohio State’s quicker forwards and slashing guards.  If Harrellson goes out to guard Sullinger, he will have a hard time guarding the nation’s top big man.  Coach John Calipari will have to pick his poison.


Kentucky will need a great night from Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.  If the two players and Darius Miller do not combine for 50 points, Kentucky will be heading back to Lexington, and the sports fans in the Commonwealth can turn their attention to Uncle Mo and the first Saturday in May.

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Kentucky 69


9:57 PM on TBS

#10 Florida State 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth 25-11 (-1)

This game guarantees that one double-digit seed will make it to the Elite Eight, and Kansas fans must be quite happy about it.


We have two teams that have found a new gear in their engine at the most opportune time.  VCU was not even supposed to be in this tournament after failing to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.  Instead, the Rams just became the first team to win three NCAA Tournament games in less than a week since Texas Western in 1966.  Texas Western went on to upset Kentucky and win the National Championship.  VCU is not Texas Western.  That TWU (Now UTEP) team was rated in the top five in the nation.


Florida State has not been to the Final Four since Hugh Durham took the Seminoles to the 1972 National Title game.  This team is not in that FSU team’s league.


So, what do we have here?  Florida State is a team that in most years would have been fortunate to win one game.  VCU is a team that in most years would probably be playing this week for a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semi-finals.


VCU has a negative PiRate Criteria score, but it is moving close to zero.  Still, we cannot recall a negative criteria score making it to the Elite Eight.


Note: Both FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton and VCU Coach Shaka Smart are being mentioned as possible candidates for the vacant Tennessee job.


Prediction: Florida State 65  Virginia Commonwealth 60


Coming Saturday Morning: We will preview the Southeast and West Regional Final games.

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


First Four Round


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55



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

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


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


Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60


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

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


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


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


Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59



Second-Round Games


East Regional


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65


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

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


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


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


This one smells like a blowout.


Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62


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

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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70


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


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


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


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


Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70


West Regional


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

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


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


Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51


Southwest Regional

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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62


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

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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65


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

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


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


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


Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57


Southeast Regional

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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



Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70


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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66


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

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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63


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

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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60


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

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


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


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


Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54




Our Bracket


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


Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State


Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga


Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida


Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh


National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

March 13, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13 Update

Selection Sunday Is Here

Over the weekend, we here at the PiRate Ratings have been perusing all the statistical information relevant to our popular PiRate Bracket-picking criteria.  What began as a simple back-testing exercise six years ago has evolved into a lengthy formula that has proven to be rather accurate at isolating the real contenders from the pretenders.


We have determined which factors are important and which are irrelevant when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  Last year, with about 1,150 readers coming to our site to read the pre-tournament prediction, we shocked a lot of Blue Mist fanatics by predicting that their beloved Wildcats would fail to reach the Final Four.  We said the same thing about Kansas.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Wildcats and Jayhawks were on a collision course to play in one of those games of the century.


We crunched the numbers and predicted Coach K and Duke to win the title.  The choice was not popular.  We were told, sometimes not in the King’s English, how stupid our formula must be to take a not-so-great Duke team (when compared to the really good Duke teams in the past), and how our formula was full of baloney.  We had to laugh when one reader lambasted us using the same words he had used the year before when we tabbed North Carolina as a bigger favorite to win it all than Ronald Reagan was in the 1984 election.


For the record, we predicted Kansas and Memphis to make it to the finals in 2008, and we forecasted Florida and UCLA to meet for the championship in 2006.  We also told you to watch out for tiny George Mason that year as they had a criteria score that made them a contender to advance to the Elite Eight.


We made a handful of West Virginia fans happy when we called for the Mountaineers to win four games and crash the Final Four party.  We forecasted the Regional Final win over Kentucky before the play-in game tipped off.  On the bright side, for some fans from the Bluegrass, we correctly predicted Murray State to upset Vanderbilt in the first round.


This formula has its drawbacks as well as its benefits.  It is strictly a mechanical formula much like a stock screener.  It does not consider a lot of the intangibles, such as emotion, motivation, and intestinal fortitude.  Of course, it removes all the biases and looks only for the pertinent statistics that propelled past teams into the Final Four.


For instance, we missed on Butler last year.  We called for UTEP to upset the Bulldogs in the first round in what we thought was the best overall matchup of the first two days.  We missed on other first and second round games as well.  We explicitly state that this formula is geared toward finding the teams that can advance to the Elite Eight and Final Four and finding the team that best emulates past champions.


Remember this:  the 1927 New York Yankees, the best baseball team ever (better than the 1939 Yankees in our opinion), lost 44 games during the season.  28.6% of the time, an inferior team defeated the Bronx Bombers.  There are 32 games in the first round, so a record of 23-9 should be considered as dominating as the 1927 Yankees.


Let’s say that the top predictors can successfully pick 80% of the tournament games correctly when filling out their brackets.  Apply common mathematics to the 64 advancing teams after the First Four Round is played in Dayton, and that leaves you with 25.6 correct picks in the first round.  That means that 6.4 of the teams you picked are gone, so you cannot win any more games involving those exited teams.


In the second round, if you are fortunate to pick 80% correctly once again, 10.24 of the Sweet 16 will be teams you picked to make it to the second week of the tournament.  The other 5.76 teams still around are teams you did not pick, so they cannot help you in your brackets.  Remember, this amount is about the high end of the threshold for the best prognosticators.


Applying our 80% success rate in the next two rounds, 4.1 of our teams will make the Elite Eight, and 1.64 of our teams will make the Final Four.  You see just how difficult it can be to fill out your brackets.  It really gives you a headache when the junior executive’s sweet little secretary wins the office pool because she chose her teams based on the number of syllables in their name.  Pure luck sometimes wins over hard work.  That’s life.

We can tell you one thing about this year’s probable NCAA Tournament field.  It is not the most dominating field.  We have yet to finish collecting all the data we need to put numbers to the criteria, but we can tell you that we expect more first round and second round games to be decided in the final minutes than most years.  It makes for a great tournament to watch, but it makes for five headaches for the five of us to live up to our past successes.


Tonight, we will begin our NCAA Tournament coverage with a full explanation of our system.  Beginning Monday, we will start to analyze each of the four regionals and tell you which teams have the best chance of advancing to Houston’s Reliant Stadium.


Let’s take a look at some unfinished business.  There are four conference tournament championships on tap for today.  One of them can cause a chain reaction and force the bottom team on the bubble into the NIT.


Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

#1 North Carolina (26-6)  vs. #2 Duke (29-4)


It’s always great when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet in the American League Playoffs.  Well, it is great if you are not a fan of the other teams.  The Big Two from Tobacco Road meet for a third time this season in the rubber game.  It is the 30th time for both in the ACC Championship Game.


North Carolina blew a large lead at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February, but the Tar Heels breezed to a win at the Dean Dome last week to wrap up the regular season championship.  Carolina has not lost since that game at Duke, and the Tar Heels are on a 14-1 streak since mid-January.  It has not been easy for Coach Roy Williams and his team, as they have had to come back from double digit deficits in the second half of both of their tournament games.


Duke weathered a mighty scare when Nolan Smith went down with a toe injury in the quarterfinal game against Maryland, but Smith showed no signs that it affected him when he returned Saturday to score 27 points in an easy win over Virginia Tech.


This is definitely the game of the day as you prepare for the big announcements this evening.  Flip a coin.  This is a 50-50 affair.  We’ll go with the Tar Heels because they looked better overall down the stretch than the Blue Devils, but we have no real reason to pick one rival over the other.  It will come down to which team has a better shooting eye today and has the most rest.


Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

#3 Richmond (26-7)  vs. #9 Dayton (22-12)

1:00 PM EDT  CBS

Fans of Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Southern Cal, Alabama, and other bubble teams will be rooting like crazy for the Spiders today.  If Dayton upsets Richmond, the last team in the tournament will be exiled to the NIT.


Richmond has won six games in a row and 10 of 11.  The Spiders have outscored their opponents by 12 points per game in their current streak, and their Princeton-style offense has really jelled down the stretch.  Their defense has been as potent as their offense.  In the last four games, opponents have connected on just 35.3% of their shots.


Dayton connected on just 34.4% of their shots in a nine-point home loss to Richmond in the regular season.  The Flyers were in the middle of a 6-9 slide when they played Richmond in late January.


The Flyers came out flying in the A-10 Tournament.  In the first two rounds, Dayton couldn’t miss from outside.  Three-point barrages in both games gave the Flyers early double-digit leads.  Yesterday, the shots did not fall, but the Flyers held on with defense.


We do not expect Dayton to jump out to a big lead today.  In fact, we believe they will commit just enough errors for Richmond to exploit with their patient offense and help one bubble team stay alive.


Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

#1 Ohio State (31-2)  vs. #6 Penn State (19-13)

3:30 PM EDT  CBS

If this were only football, we would call this the game of the day.  Then, again, we would probably break out into a discussion about Joe Paterno and his squeaky clean history against Jim Tressel and his e-mail history.


On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, but in reality, Ohio State has not dominated this weekend, while Penn State has.


The Buckeyes are playing for the first overall seed.  A loss today would give that honor to Kansas.  Penn State appears to be in the Big Dance, but there is still a tiny pinhole of doubt.  A loss would leave the Nittany Lions at 19-14.


Ohio State struggled all day against Northwestern’s slowdown.  Penn State can slow this game down and play much better defense than the Wildcats.  We believe the big underdog has a legitimate chance to win the title.


Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

#1E  Florida (26-6)  vs. #2E  Kentucky (24-8)
1:00 PM EDT  ABC

Florida does not need much help to win this game and move up as high as a number two seed.  Kentucky’s lack of depth forced Coach John Calipari to stick with his starters long after he needed to do so yesterday, and two Wildcat starters exited the game with ankle injuries in the final minutes.


The worse of the two injuries belong to star Doron Lamb, and Lamb may or may not be available to play today.  Florida’s offense forces defenders to cover a lot of territory, and Lamb will not be able to play defense the way it is needed to stop the Gators’ offense.


We look for the Gators to put this game away in the first five minutes of the second half.


Check back just before the brackets are announced tonight.  We will have our bracket-picking primer online around 5:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

April 4, 2010

The NCAA Championship Game–Butler vs. Duke

All The Marbles

Will Coach K Earn His Fourth Set Of Agates?

It started with 65; it’s down to two.  When they NCAA Tournament’s 2010 brackets were released three weeks ago, we here at the PiRate Ratings told you that our criteria showed that Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse were not going to make it to the final round.  We selected Duke based on a criteria score that blew the other teams out of the water.

Well, we are one win away from being able to say we have selected the national champion five times in the last six years, missing only on Florida in 2006. 

Before we break down the stats, let’s take a quick look something.  We’re talking about Duke here.  Consider this about this Blue Devil basketball team.  Their coach is with one of the best around.  Consider that this Duke team has two of the best inside players in the game and a couple of wing players that can shoot lights out.  Throw in a reserve who might be a star in the NBA in a few years, and this team looks unbeatable.

Now the opponent is coming into this game on a very long winning streak, longer than any team in many years.  This opponent is a bit undersized compared to Duke, but they have a unique style of play.  This opponent wins games with a huge spurt or two.  Except for those spurts, they appear to be little better than an above-average team.

Wait a minute!  We don’t want to mislead you here.  We’re not talking about 2010.  We’re talking about 1964.  That’s right.  In 1964, Duke had a sure-championship team with a top-notch coach in Vic Bubas, who had already guided Duke to a Final Four.  That team had two talented post players in 6-10 twin towers Jay Buckley and Hack Tison.  Wing player Jeff Mullins was a deadly shooter who could take it inside and finish the fast break.  On the bench, sophomore Jack Marin would be an NBA star in the latter part of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  That Blue Devil team looked unbeatable.

Their opponent was a small team with no starter over 6-5.  They came into the championship game on a 29-game winning streak.  They played a unique style of ball, pressing all over the floor and running the fast break on every opportunity.  They relied on a couple of spurts in every game, and the rest of the time, they basically played teams evenly.  That team, of course, was UCLA, and it was the first of 10 national champions produced by the legendary Wizard of Westwood—John Wooden.

Can Butler become the 2010 alternative to UCLA of 1964?  Their unique style of ball is completely different from Wooden’s Bruins, but it produces the same results.  Rather than rely on quick spurts in two minutes (UCLA scored 16 consecutive points on Duke in less than two minutes just before the end of the first half), Butler’s defense has long stretches where it holds opponents scoreless or to just a couple of points. 

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, this is not 1964.  This Duke team is closer in comparison to the 1970 UCLA team, the one that had Henry Bibby, John Vallely, Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, and Steve Patterson.  That Bruin team pounded opponents inside with brute force and stung them from outside with great perimeter shooting.  Thus, we strongly believe we will have successfully picked yet another national champion when the clock strikes zero.

Before getting to the PiRate Data which will predict the outcome of the game, let’s take a look at the position by position matchups.  We are guessing that the two Butler players who left the Michigan State game (Mack & Howard) will both be available to play but neither will be 100%.

Point Guard

                   Duke: John Scheyer                    Butler: Shelvin Mack

Neither player is your atypical point guard.  Both can lead their respective teams in scoring in any game and will come down the floor and pop a three point attempt before setting up any offensive play.

Scheyer is the better of the two when it comes to natural point guard duties, and he adds something extra—a rebounding force.

Mack suffered from dehydration in Saturday’s semifinal game, and he will be better hydrated for this game.  However, he won’t be 100%.

Advantage: Duke

Shooting Guard

                   Duke: Nolan Smith                     Butler: Ronald Nored

Nored is not much of an offensive threat, but he is a fairly good defensive player, especially in Butler’s help and recover defense.  He is a plus at the free throw line, but unless the Bulldogs are trying to nurse a small lead in the final minutes, this won’t come into play.

Smith is a stud.  He can drain the three and take a defender to the basket on the drive.  He will dominate Nored in this game, and this will be one of the areas where the Blue Devils will exploit.

Advantage: Duke


Small Forward

                   Duke: Kyle Singler                      Butler: Gordon Hayward

This is the matchup of the game.  Both teams’ best players square off.  The only chance Butler has of keeping the game close and having a chance to win is if Hayward is red hot and gets open shots, while Singler is ice cold, much like he was when Duke edge Baylor in the South Regional Finals.

We think Singler has a little more speed, but Hayward is a little more consistent.

Advantage: Tossup


Power Forward

          Duke: Lance Thomas                            Butler: Willie Veasley

The stats on paper point to a Butler advantage in this game, but Thomas has been a rebounding machine in this tournament.  While Singler, Scheyer, and Smith have been firing shots at rapid pace, Thomas has been banging like Charles Barkley and has been pulling down a large number of offensive rebounds.  If you’ve read any about our PiRate Criteria, you know how much we award an offensive rebound that leads to points.  It is not just gold; it is platinum.

Veasley isn’t chopped liver, and he could easily score 10-15 points in this game, but if Thomas gets four or more offensive rebounds, it won’t matter.

Advantage: Duke



                   Duke: Brian Zoubek                    Butler: Matt Howard

When Thomas isn’t pulling down offensive rebounds, Zoubek is.  In fact, the big 7-1 center just may be the best offensive rebounder in college ball.  He won’t scare Butler offensively, but because he is a coordinated seven-footer, the Bulldogs have to prevent him from getting the ball in low.  That will allow the perimeter players to get open.

Howard suffered a mild concussion against Michigan State and is considered a game-time decision on whether he can play.  We expect he will play but will not be very effective.

Advantage: Duke



These teams remind us of teams from yesteryear in that neither relies all that much on depth.  Both go only eight deep for the most part, and none of the reserves on either side is likely to step up and have a big game.

Butler’s three contributing reserves will need to play much better against Duke than they did against Michigan State.  Zach Hahn is the best three-point shooter on either team, but he looked like he came in from the crowd rather than the bench in the semifinal game.  If he could play 12 minutes and hit two or three from behind the arc, it could give BU a shot in the arm and fire the rest of the team up.

Duke has three capable reserves that could start for half of the teams in college basketball.  If Andre Dawkins ever find “it,” he is going to be a real star.  He plays schizophrenically; he’s either the next Grant Hill or the next Benny Hill, and you never know what you are going to get.  The Plumlee Brothers, Miles and Mason are very consistent and supply positive minutes when they are in the game.

Advantage: Duke

NCAA National Championship Game

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Tipoff: 9:21 EDT


Butler Bulldogs (33-4) vs. Duke Blue Devils (34-5)






Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
1 Shelvin Mack G 6-3 215 So Starter Status Unsure after injury vs. MSU
2 Shawn Vanzant G 6-0 172 Jr Key Reserve
3 Zach Hahn G 6-1 176 Jr Plays In Every Game
5 Ronald Nored G 6-0 174 So Starter
11 Alex Anglin G/F 6-5 177 Jr Seldom Plays
14 Nick Rodgers G 6-2 168 Sr Seldom Plays
20 Gordon Hayward G/F 6-9 207 So Starter
21 Willie Veasley G/F 6-3 206 Sr Starter
22 Grant Leiendecker G 6-5 182 Jr Seldom Plays
24 Avery Jukes F 6-8 215 Sr Plays In Every Game
30 Emerson Kampen C 6-9 189 Fr Seldom Plays
32 Garrett Butcher F 6-7 209 So Seldom Plays
33 Chase Stigall G 6-4 195 Fr Seldom Plays
44 Andrew Smith C 6-11 239 Fr Plays Considerable Time
54 Matt Howard F 6-8 230 Jr Starter Status Unsure after injury vs. MSU
HC Brad Stevens          
Ast Matthew Graves          
Ast Terry Johnson          

Micah Shrewsbury




Record:33-4, 18-0 Horizon      
Colors: Blue & White      
Opponent But Opp  
Davidson 73 62  
at Northwestern 67 54  
at Evansville 64 60  
Minnesota (Anaheim) 73 82  
UCLA (Anaheim) 69 67  
Clemson (Anaheim) 69 70  
at Ball State 59 38  
Valparaiso 84 67  
Georgetown (at NYC) 65 72  
Ohio State 74 66  
Xavier 69 68  
at Alabama-Birmingham 57 67  
UW-Green Bay 72 49  
UW-Milwaukee 80 67  
at Wright State 77 65  
at Detroit 64 62 ot
Cleveland State 64 55  
Youngstown State 91 61  
at Loyola of Chicago 48 47  
at Illinois-Chicago 84 55  
at UW-Green Bay 75 57  
at UW-Milwaukee 73 66  
Detroit 63 58  
Wright State 74 62  
Loyola of Chicago 62 47  
at Youngstown State 68 57  
at Cleveland State 70 59  
Illinois-Chicago 73 55  
Siena (Bracketbuster) 70 53  
at Valparaiso 74 69  
UW-Milwaukee (Horizon Trn) 68 59  
Wright State (Horizon Trn) 70 45  
UTEP (NCAA) 77 59  
Murray State (NCAA) 54 52  
Syracuse (NCAA) 63 59  
Kansas State (NCAA) 63 56  
Michigan State (NCAA Final 4) 52 50  



Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Gordon Hayward 33.3 15.6 8.3 47.2 29.9 82.2 61 30 39
Shelvin Mack 30.9 14.2 3.7 45.7 38.9 73.4 113 5 50
Matt Howard 25.4 11.6 5.2 48.5 27.3 79.0 30 23 22
Willie Veasley 31.2 10.0 4.3 49.4 36.0 65.5 33 9 43
Ronald Nored 30.1 6.0 2.9 40.8 18.2 62.3 135 4 66
Zach Hahn 15.6 4.9 0.9 43.0 40.9 92.9 24 0 13
Shawn Vanzant 14.6 2.8 1.7 32.1 30.4 72.5 45 6 15
Avery Jukes 10.4 2.7 1.2 37.6 34.4 69.4 5 5 6
Garrett Butcher 5.6 0.5 1.0 19.4 11.1 33.3 1 1 2
Team Stats But Opp              
Points 69.0 59.4              
FG% 44.5 41.5              
3PT % 34.2 31.8              
FT% 73.8 68.0              
Rebounds 32.6 29.9              
Turnovers 12.1 14.0              
Steals 7.1 5.3              
Blocks 2.3 3.1              
Off. Rebound % 29.7                
Possessions/G * 64.9                
Offensive Rebound % = Off. Reb/(Off. Reb + Opp. Def Reb + Opp. Dead Ball Def Reb)  
* Avg Possessions estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds      





No. Name Pos Ht Wt Yr Status
2 Nolan Smith G 6-2 185 Jr Starter
3 Seth Curry G 6-1 175 So Does Not Play
5 Mason Plumlee F 6-10 230 Fr Key Reserve
12 Kyle Singler F 6-8 230 Jr Starter
13 Olek Czyz F       Seldom Plays
20 Andre Dawkins G 6-4 190 Fr Key Reserve
21 Miles Plumlee F 6-10 240 So Key Reserve
30 Jon Scheyer G 6-5 190 Sr Starter
34 Ryan Kelly F 6-10 220 Fr Key Reserve
41 Jordan Davidson G 6-1 180 Sr Seldom Plays
42 Lance Thomas F 6-8 225 Sr Starter
51 Steve Johnson F 6-5 210 Jr Seldom Plays
52 Todd Zafirovski F 6-8 240 Fr Does Not Play
53 Casey Peters G 6-4 185 Jr Seldom Plays
55 Brian Zoubek C 7-1 260 Sr Starter
HC Mike Krzyzewski          
Ast Steve Wojciechowski          
Ast Chris Collins          
Ast Nate James          



Record: 34-5, 13-3 ACC    
Colors: Royal Blue & White    
Opponent Duke Opp
UNC Greensboro 96 62
Coastal Carolina (Pre NIT) 74 49
Charlotte (Pre NIT) 101 59
Radford 104 67
Arizona State (Pre NIT @NYC) 64 53
Connecticut (Pre NIT @ NYC) 68 59
at Wisconsin (ACC/B10) 69 73
St. John’s 80 71
Gardner-Webb 113 68
Gonzaga (at NYC) 76 41
Long Beach State 84 63
Penn 114 55
Clemson 74 53
Iowa State (at Chicago) 86 65
at Georgia Tech 67 71
Boston College 79 59
Wake Forest 90 70
at N. C. State 74 88
at Clemson 60 47
Florida State 70 56
at Georgetown 77 89
Georgia Tech 86 67
at Boston College 66 63
at North Carolina 64 54
Maryland 77 56
at Miami (FL) 81 74
Virginia Tech 67 55
Tulsa 70 52
at Virginia 67 49
at Maryland 72 79
North Carolina 82 50
Virginia (ACC Tournament) 57 46
Miami (FL) (ACC Tournament) 77 74
Georgia Tech (ACC Tournament) 65 61
Ark. Pine Bluff (NCAA) 73 44
California (NCAA) 68 53
Purdue (NCAA) 70 57
Baylor (NCAA) 78 71
West Virginia (NCAA Final 4) 78 57


Player Min/G Pts Reb FG% 3pt % FT% Ast Bk Stl
Jon Scheyer 36.7 18.3 3.5 39.9 38.7 88.0 189 8 64
Kyle Singler 35.8 17.6 6.9 41.2 39.6 79.6 94 30 40
Nolan Smith 35.4 17.5 2.8 44.4 39.9 79.9 110 9 45
Brian Zoubek 18.3 5.5 7.7 63.5 0.0 55.4 38 29 27
Miles Plumlee 16.5 5.3 5.0 56.8 100.0 66.1 12 25 19
Lance Thomas 25.1 4.7 4.9 43.3 0.0 74.3 36 8 22
Andre Dawkins 12.8 4.6 1.2 40.0 38.3 73.5 13 2 11
Mason Plumlee 14.5 3.8 3.2 46.2 25.0 54.3 30 30 18
Ryan Kelly 6.5 1.2 1.1 35.6 26.3 66.7 13 14 8
Team Stats Duke Opp              
Points 77.4 61.0              
FG% 44.1 40.3              
3PT % 38.7 28.1              
FT% 76.1 68.7              
Rebounds 39.1 32.7              
Turnovers 10.9 14.3              
Steals 6.6 6.3              
Blocks 4.0 4.0              
Off. Rebound % ^ 40.3                
Possessions/G * 67.2                
^ Offensive Rebound % = Off. Reb/(Off. Reb + Opp. Def Reb + Opp. Dead Ball Def Reb)  
* Avg Possessions estimated and based on this formula        
FG attempts + (.5* FT attempts) + Turnovers – Offensive Rebounds      



PiRate Criteria Comparison


Stat Duke Pts Butler Pts
Scoring Margin 16.4 5 9.6 3
FG% Margin 3.80% 0 3.00% 0
Rebound Margin 6.4 3 2.7 0
Turnover Margin 3.4 3 1.9 1
R+T * 11.79 11.79 5.94 5.94
Road W-L 17-5 3 16-4 3
Schedule Strength 61.05 11.05 60.62 10.62
Total Duke 36.8 Butler * 25.6
* Butler Receives 2 extra points for quasi-home team advantage
Duke has a PiRate Criteria Advantage of 11.2 points
This Computes To An Overall Advantage of 15 points
* R+T is a formula that combines rebounding margin and turnover margin.  It is weighted  
to give turnover margin a little more clout and steals even more clout based on the fact that  
turnovers, especially steals, produce a higher percentage of easy fast break points.  
R+T Formula: R+T= (.2S * 1.2T)+ R  
R = Rebounding Margin, T = Turnover Margin, S = Avg. Steals per Game  
If Turnover Margin is a negative number, then Steals are dropped from the formula  
  PiRate Prediction    
  Duke 70    
  Butler 55    


April 1, 2010

A PiRate Look At The Final Four

The PiRate All-Inclusive Look At The Final Four

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

National Semifinals

Date: Saturday, April 3, 2010

Place: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

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

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

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

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

Game One: 6:07 PM EDT


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





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


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




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


PiRate Criteria Score


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


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





Michigan State



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


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



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


PiRate Criteria Score


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Michigan State 63  Butler 56


Game Two: 8:47 PM EDT


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





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




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



PiRate Criteria Score

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



West Virginia



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


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



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


PiRate Criteria Score

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


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

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

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

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

Prediction: Duke 73  West Virginia 65


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

March 28, 2010

Sunday’s Regional Final Games

Sunday’s Regional Finals

Advanced Level Bracketnomics


The PiRate NCAA Tournament Criteria Formula worked like a charm in Friday night’s regional semifinal games.  Let’s see how it applies to Sunday’s regional final games.

South Regional


#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #3 Baylor (26.04)

We have been split whether to issue Baylor a partial home court advantage for this game, but we have decided to leave it as a 100% neutral game.  Baylor will have more fans for sure, but it won’t be like it would be if Duke were playing Kentucky in Nashville or Indianapolis.  The advantage for Baylor will be negligible.

Both teams in this game have crucial assets that prove to be winning tickets in games of this magnitude.  For Baylor, the Bears hit over 48% of their field goal attempts and give up less than 38%.  They have a scoring margin in double digits, and they control the boards by more than five per game.

For Duke, the Blue Devils outscore their opposition by 16 points per game and outrebound them by almost six per game.  The Dukies enjoy one of the best R+T* ratings in the nation, coming in at 11.64.  This number is so high because not only is their rebounding margin great, their turnover margin is also terrific at +3.7.  When a team consistently wins the battle of the boards and the turnover margin by healthy amounts, they have to really throw up bricks and give up easy layups to lose.

The two teams’ strengths of schedule are a wash—there isn’t even a half-point’s difference.  This game should be a see-saw affair with neither team pulling away until maybe the final minutes.  We’re going to stick with our pre-tournament favorite to win it all and take Coach K and company to earn the trip to Indianapolis.

Prediction: Duke 70  Baylor 63


Midwest Regional


#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl faced a serious dilemma when he dismissed star forward Tyler Smith from the squad at the end of December.  His team also played a couple weeks without the services of three other players.  Yet, the Volunteers upset undefeated and number one Kansas in their next game.  While fans and media were expecting the orange and white to crumble to a losing SEC record, Pearl changed their style of play to a more conservative approach and guided the Vols to double-digit wins in the conference.  This marks the farthest Tennessee has ever advanced in the Big Dance.

Michigan State under Coach Tom Izzo has made a habit of making it this far and farther.  The Spartans made it to the Championship Game last year.  Now, Izzo is facing the same dilemma Pearl faced in December.  He must get by without the services of his top player—Kalin Lucas.

The Spartans edged Northern Iowa in their first game without Lucas, but they face a team in the regional finals that will definitely exploit Lucas’s loss.  Tennessee can pressure the perimeter in the frontcourt and force MSU to work the shot clock to its final seconds.  The Spartans will have to force up some shots against the Volunteers’ defense.

Michigan State can still win this game if the Spartans shoot 38%.  They will definitely win the rebounding battle in this game.  However, Tennessee will force more turnovers and pick up a couple of cheapie baskets.  It is more likely that the Vols will enjoy some type of scoring spurt in this game.  Since it is most likely to be a limited possession game, just one spurt of eight to 10 points will be enough to advance Pearl’s club to the school’s first Final Four bid in history.

Prediction: Tennessee 64  Michigan State 59


* For an explanation of R+T as well as the rest of the PiRate Criteria, go to:



Coming Thursday: An in-depth look at the Final Four with expanded coverage.  We will have a one-stop look at the four teams, including rosters, statistics, schedules, the entire PiRate formulas, and of course, our predictions.

March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview


From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


East Regional


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

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

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


Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64


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

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

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

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

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66


South Regional


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

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

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

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

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71


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

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

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

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67


Midwest Regional


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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63


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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51



West Regional


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

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

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

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

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60


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

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

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

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

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61


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


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