The Pi-Rate Ratings

January 22, 2019

Fun Stuff For Stats Buffs-Part 3: Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Efficiency = Points scored per 100 possessions

Defensive Efficiency = Points allowed per 100 possessions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To calculate possessions, plug the numbers into the equation:

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

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

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

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

Let’s get back to the calculation.

Nevada scored 67 points on 73 possessions

67/73 = 0.918 or 91.8 points per 100 possessions

Air Force scored 52 points on 73 possessions

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Example 3: Michigan Wolverines to date

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

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

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

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

Michigan has scored 1,306 points in 18 games.

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

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

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

Michigan has surrendered 1,027 points in 18 games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example 4: Villanova 2018 season

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

Here are their pertinent stats to calculate efficiency.

Field Goal Attempts: 2,440

Opponents: 2,401

Free Throw Attempts: 718

Opponents: 641

Offensive Rebounds: 380

Opponents: 378

Turnovers: 426

Opponents: 512

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

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

Offensive Efficiency

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

Defensive Efficiency

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


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

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

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

2008: Kansas 124.0

2001: Duke 123.6

2018: Villanova 122.9

2010: Duke 122.1

2013: Louisville 121.8

2005: North Carolina 121.7

2012: Kentucky 121.5

2015: Duke 121.3 

2016: Villanova 120.9

2009: North Carolina 120.3

2007: Florida 120.1

2002: Maryland 119.6

2004: Connecticut 117.9

2006: Florida 117.1

2017: North Carolina 117.0

2011: Connecticut 115.8

2003: Syracuse 115.1

2014: Connecticut 111.6

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

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


2019 Top Efficiency

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

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

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


Individual Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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












February 3, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 4-5, 2017


Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 4, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Syracuse Virginia -7 -6 -9
Duke Pittsburgh 15 16 12
Boston College Louisville -15 -13 -15
North Carolina St. Miami (Fla.) -1 -1 1
Wake Forest Georgia Tech 11 12 11
North Carolina Notre Dame 9 8 9
Georgetown Seton Hall 3 3 7
DePaul Marquette -10 -8 -9
Creighton Xavier 6 5 5
Villanova St. John’s 17 19 19
Maryland Purdue -2 -3 1
Penn St. Rutgers 8 6 8
Illinois Minnesota -2 1 -1
Michigan Ohio St. 7 8 2
TCU Texas 8 6 5
Kansas Iowa St. 11 10 10
Baylor Kansas St. 9 9 14
West Virginia Oklahoma St. 11 13 7
Texas Tech Oklahoma 7 9 7
Oregon Arizona 2 4 5
Stanford Utah -3 -3 -2
Oregon St. Arizona St. -6 -2 -1
Washington St. USC -7 -8 -5
Washington UCLA -11 -10 -6
South Carolina Georgia 8 6 6
Vanderbilt Ole Miss 6 6 8
Mississippi St. Tennessee -4 -1 -6
Missouri Arkansas -6 -4 -3
Florida Kentucky 1 4 1
Alabama Auburn 6 7 9
LSU Texas A&M -3 -2 -6
Cincinnati Connecticut 14 14 14
Tulsa SMU -6 -6 -6
Gonzaga Santa Clara 27 20 23
San Diego Saint Mary’s -15 -16 -16


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 5, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Florida St. Clemson 8 6 8
Wisconsin Indiana 9 7 4
Iowa Nebraska 7 6 3
California Colorado 5 6 8

PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Louisville
  4. West Virginia
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Virginia
  9. Duke
  10. Florida
  11. Wisconsin
  12. Baylor
  13. Arizona
  14. Purdue
  15. UCLA
  16. Cincinnati
  17. Florida St.
  18. Oregon
  19. Creighton
  20. St. Mary’s
  21. Notre Dame
  22. SMU
  23. Butler
  24. South Carolina
  25. Wichita St.


  1. Louisville
  2. North Carolina
  3. Virginia
  4. Duke
  5. Florida St.
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Clemson
  8. Wake Forest
  9. Virgnia Tech
  10. Miami
  11. Syracuse
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Pittsburgh
  15. Boston College

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Xavier
  5. Marquette
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Georgetown
  8. Providence
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Maryland
  4. Northwestern
  5. Michigan St.
  6. Michigan
  7. Minnesota
  8. Indiana
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Big 12

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kansas
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas St.
  7. TCU
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas


  1. Arizona
  2. UCLA
  3. Oregon
  4. Utah
  5. USC
  6. California
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Arizona St.
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.


  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. Tennessee
  6. Georgia
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Alabama
  9. Auburn
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Ole Miss
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

Games You Will Want to Watch 

All Times Eastern Standard


Maryland vs. Purdue 12:00 PM on ESPN

Creighton vs. Xavier 3:00 PM on Fox

North Dakota St. vs. South Dakota 3:00 PM on ESPN3

Oregon vs. Arizona 4:00 PM on ESPN

North Carolina vs. Notre Dame 6:00 PM on ESPN

Harvard vs. Princeton 7:00 PM on ESPN3

Wichita St. vs. Illinois St. 8:00 PM on ESPN2

Florida vs. Kentucky 8:15 PM on ESPN


Wisconsin vs. Indiana 1:00 PM on CBS

The Groundhog may have seen his shadow to forecast 6 more weeks of winter, but cheer up.  Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training in 10 days.

New England 24  Atlanta 20

Use this at your own expense–we do not gamble.  Some experts are going heavy on the UNDER the last 36 hours, and computer sims say it is a sharp selection, but still we won’t wager a penny.

January 20, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For January 21-22, 2017

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, January 21, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Boston College North Carolina -17 -20 -15
Notre Dame Syracuse 10 9 10
Florida St. Louisville 2 1 2
North Carolina St. Wake Forest -1 1 -1
Virginia Georgia Tech 17 20 22
Duke Miami (Fla.) 10 11 14
Kansas Texas 17 19 15
Oklahoma Iowa St. -2 -4 -3
Texas Tech Oklahoma St. 3 5 3
Kansas St. West Virginia -4 -7 -1
TCU Baylor -1 -2 -6
Villanova Providence 17 19 15
DePaul Butler -13 -16 -17
Creighton Marquette 9 9 14
Rutgers Nebraska 1 -2 -6
Purdue Penn St. 14 16 14
Michigan Illinois 6 8 -1
Indiana Michigan St. 8 8 3
Minnesota Wisconsin -1 -4 5
Washington St. Colorado -5 -6 -7
UCLA Arizona 7 6 1
Oregon Stanford 15 18 14
Washington Utah -4 -3 -6
Oregon St. California -11 -14 -11
Florida Vanderbilt 14 14 11
Texas A&M Georgia 1 3 3
Missouri Ole Miss -3 -4 -8
Auburn Alabama 2 1 -2
Kentucky South Carolina 14 17 14
Tennessee Mississippi St. 7 5 10
Arkansas LSU 13 14 13
Gonzaga Portland 31 32 26


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, January 22, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Seton Hall St. John’s 9 10 10
Ohio St. Northwestern 1 2 2
Xavier Georgetown 10 10 7
Clemson Virginia Tech 6 8 8
USC Arizona St. 10 10 10


This Week’s PiRate Ratings Top 25 (A Four Factors Metric-Based Ranking)

  1. Villanova
  2. Kentucky
  3. Kansas
  4. Virgina
  5. North Carolina
  6. Gonzaga
  7. Louisville
  8. Wisconsin
  9. West Virginia
  10. Baylor
  11. Arizona
  12. Butler
  13. UCLA
  14. Creighton
  15. Oregon
  16. Florida St.
  17. Duke
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Florida
  21. Purdue
  22. St. Mary’s
  23. South Carolina
  24. SMU
  25. Kansas St.



  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. Louisville
  4. Florida St.
  5. Duke
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Clemson
  8. Miami (Fla)
  9. Wake Forest
  10. Syracuse
  11. Virginia Tech
  12. Pittsburgh
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Georgia Tech
  15. Boston College

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Butler
  3. Creighton
  4. Xavier
  5. Marquette
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Providence
  8. Georgetown
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Indiana
  4. Northwestern
  5. Minnesota
  6. Michigan St.
  7. Maryland
  8. Michigan
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Illinois
  11. Penn St.
  12. Nebraska
  13. Iowa
  14. Rutgers

Big 12

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Baylor
  4. Kansas St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Texas Tech
  7. TCU
  8. Oklahoma St.
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas


  1. Arizona
  2. UCLA
  3. Oregon
  4. Utah
  5. USC
  6. California
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Washington
  10. Arizona St.
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.


  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Georgia
  5. Arkansas
  6. Alabama
  7. Tennessee
  8. Mississippi St.
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Vanderbilt
  11. Ole Miss
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

Must Watch Games This Week


Notre Dame vs. Syracuse on ESPN at 12PM EST

Florida St. vs. Louisville on ESPN at 2PM EST

UCLA vs. Arizona on CBS at 4PM EST

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin on Big Ten Network at 4:30 PM EST

Kentucky vs. South Carolina on ESPN at 6PM EST

TCU vs. Baylor on ESPNU at 8PM EST



Ohio St. vs. Northwestern on ESPN at 1PM EST

Watch football afterwards


We hoped to have our first 30 Bracketology Guru report of the season today, but to date we have only received lists from 11 gurus.  Apparently, the guys and one gal prefer to wait until the weekend games have been played, so we will try to debut our annual bracketology report Tuesday.






January 16, 2017

The Best of the Best and Where They Might Be Vulnerable

Every year about this time, a group of anywhere from a half dozen to 30 college basketball teams rank as possible national title contenders.  In some years, only a handful of teams have reasonable title aspirations.  In some years, there are no clear cut favorites, and many teams could become Cinderella’s with the perfect fit for the glass slipper.

There has been a bit of a paradigm shift in college basketball the last two seasons.  It wasn’t much of a change, but lowering the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds has done a world of good for the game.  The 14% less time per possession has led to 8-12 more possessions per game for each team.  Teams that three years ago averaged 65 possessions per game are today pushing the ball to the tune of 80 possessions per game.

Contrary to what may have been predicted, offensive efficiency has not gone down.  It has gone up, because the layup and dunk off a fast break when the attacking team has a number’s advantage has led to more points per possession.  The offensive increase has once again made college basketball as exciting as it was in its hey days of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Also contrary to belief, the increased pace has not created a new UCLA dynasty in the men’s game like U Conn has done with the women’s side.  There are more than enough quality athletes throughout the nation and the world to make 100 teams competitive enough to win an NCAA Tournament game and 25 teams strong enough to reel off six consecutive wins after March 10.

We are not saying that the following 25 teams are the best 25 in the nation.  We have taken a sampling of the top teams from power conferences, the two or three current leaders from among the leagues just shy of being a power conference, as well as a couple of teams from mid-major conferences.

Today’s first look at the contenders will concentrate on showing you how the Four Factors and some of our own PiRate Ratings criteria can isolate where a contender might be vulnerable come NCAA Tournament time.  When it comes time for the teams to have one shining moment, the game changes a little.

In the past, teams that got to the Dance by beating opponents at the foul line sometimes floundered in the tournament, because officials let the players have a little more leeway before blowing their whistles.

Additionally, some teams that went 28-4 in the regular season but did so by running opponents out of the gym or holding onto the ball in a slower-paced offense found that quality opponents like they faced in the Dance did not succumb to their methods of operation.

Likewise, some full court pressure teams that entered the Dance with large scoring margin advantages (often padded by beating poor teams by 40 points), found that quality ball-control teams did not turn the ball over and allow these teams to score in transition.  These pressing teams had little half-court offense and quickly fell to teams that turned the ball over 10 times per game.

Today, we look at 25 chosen teams to tell you where they can exploit other quality teams, and also where they are vulnerable.  As you will see in this first look, there are no teams today that are not totally vulnerable in some way.  Thus, there is no clear-cut favorite to cut down the nets in Phoenix on April 3.  In point of fact, as we see it today, there are a couple dozen quality teams capable of making the Final Four, and yet all of these teams have an Achilles’ Heel and could lose before the Sweet 16 commences.

Before we get into the meat of this report, there could be a few readers not totally familiar with the Four Factors in basketball.  It is not rocket science.  The Four Factors (applies to both offense and defense) are:

  1. Field Goal Efficiency
  2. Turnover Rate
  3. Offensive Reboundin Rate
  4. Free Throw Rate

Field Goal Efficiency: [FGM+(3ptM * 0.5)]/FGA

Where FGM is field goals made; 3ptM is three-pointers made; and FGA is field goals attempted.  If your favorite team attempted 60 shots in a game and made 28 of these shots with 8 coming as three-pointers, then their FG Efficiency is [28+(8*0.5)]/60 which equals .533 or 53.3%

The difference between the offensive FG efficiency and the defensive FG efficiency is the FG efficiency margin.  This is by far the most important contributory part to winning in basketball, which is obvious, since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket and score points, while limiting the opponents from putting the ball in the basket.

Turnover Rate:  TOV/100 Possessions figured as:  [TOV/(FGA+(FTA*0.475)+TOV]*100 and expressed as a percentage

This is a simple metric.  All it seeks to discover is how many turnovers does a team commit for every 1oo possessions.  There is a small adjustment in what qualifies as a possession for this metric as opposed to actual possessions.  Offensive rebounds are not factored into the possession counting here, as once a team secures an offensive rebound, they have already attempted a shot without committing a turnover.  The chance for a turnover after this is limited and can skew the real rate at which a team turns the ball over or forces their opponent to turn the ball over.

If your team committed 14 turnovers in a game in which they took 60 field goal attempts and 25 free throw attempts, their turnover rate for that game was: [14/(60+(25*.475)+14]*10o which comes to: 16.3%

Offensive Rebounding Rate: [OR/(OR+ Opponents’ DR)]*100, 

Where OR is offensive rebounds and DR is defensive rebounds.

If your team had 12 offensive rebounds, and their opponent had 32 defensive rebounds, your team’s offensive rebounding rate was: [12/(12+32)] * 100 which is 27.3%

Obviously, the compliment to this is defensive rebounding rate, which is the same formula applied to the opponents’ rebounding.

Free Throw Rate: FTM/100 Possessions or (FTM/[FGA+(FTA*0.475)-OR+TOV]) *100

There is a difference of opinion on how the expert analytics gurus figure this metric.  Some simple use FTA/FGA.  Some prefer FTM/FGA.  We have heard arguments in favor of both of these metrics, but we really liked a paper written by The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective’s John Ezekowitz, who argued for the metric we chose above in his February 21, 2011, paper entitled Re-examining The Four Factors: The Case For Free Throws Made Per 100 Possessions.

Putting It All Together

The key to the four factors is finding an algorithm in which the results of each team can be turned into some form of a rating or to produce a spread for a game between teams.  What good is it to know that Team A has X, Y, Z, and W rates in the four factors, and their opponent has a little better X and Z, and weaker Y and W rates.  So, where does that get us?  Only when the Four Factors can be turned into a rating of some sort is the data useful to the fan.

The PiRates tried for a few years to come up with an accurate rating from the Four Factors.  Our original mistake was assuming the different factors would not affect the college game any different than it does the NBA, where the numbers were determined to be 40% FG efficiency, 25% turnover rate, 20% offensive rebounding rate, and 15% free throw rate.

This did not make for an accurate rating when applied to college teams and uses to compare them in a point spread sort of way.  Whereas the NBA teams basically play equal schedules in terms of strengths of opponents (once enough games had been played), this cannot be said of the college game, where one team’s schedule could be as much as 20 points per game stronger than another team’s schedule.  Also, in the NBA, every team plays 41 home games and 41 road games.  The top college teams might schedule 19 home games, 3 neutral games, and just 9 road games.

We also realized that not all turnovers are the same.  A steal is worth more than any other type of turnover, because the ball remains live, and the defense frequently finds itself with a 2 on 1 or 3 on 2 fast break opportunity following a high percentage of their steals.  In the college game, more full court pressure can lead to steals that produce a lot of easy baskets, whereas in the NBA, this is a rare occurrence.

After much trial and error, we came up with three separate algorithms that when back-tested in past seasons produced acceptable predictive results.

Now, we can take a look at these 25 teams and make some assumptions based on their four factors data to date.  We can add some PiRate Rating data (like our unique R+T formula) to polish our beliefs.

The numbers you see below are our Blue Rating Scores for each of the Four Factors plus the Strength of Schedule score, the R+T rating, and the teams rating in true road and neutral games (neutral games when a team plays in another gym in their area against an out of town team does not count–like Kansas playing a Big East team in Kansas City).


Cincinnati: FG 6.4  TO 0.8  OR 0.6  FT 0.2  SOS 56.1  R+T 18.4 Rd W-L 4-2

The Bearcats do not excel in any one factor, but they are better than average in all factors.  Their SOS is good but not great, and their R+T rating is very good.  They will benefit from having extra scoring opportunities.  Cinti will run into trouble against big muscle teams from the power conferences, and they will struggle against teams that play choking man to man defense.  However, this team has enough talent to make it to the second weekend of the Big Dance.


Virginia: FG 12.0   TO 4.7   OR 4.3   FT -1.2   SOS 59.6   R+T 16.2   Rd W-L 6-1

The Cavaliers are going to be a tough out for any opponent in the NCAA Tournament.  Their style of defense will destroy teams that cannot shoot from the perimeter, and the Cavs will also exploit teams that do not have excellent passers.  To beat UVa, you must be able to pass the ball quick enough from the strong side to the weak side and then penetrate their interior defense for either an open look inside or a pass to a wide open three-point shooter.  Virginia will not beat itself.  Wisconsin and Arizona could be trouble for the Cavs, whereas Virginia could be a tough out for a team like Florida.

North Carolina: FG 6.4  TO 3.7   OR 17.4   FT 7.7   SOS 58.9   R+T 33.6   Rd W-L 7-3

The Tar Heels have the look of a Final Four team.  However, they have some small vulnerabilities.  First, they are not the best shooting team in Chapel Hill history, in fact far from it.  They do make up for this by being the best offensive rebounding team in college basketball.  They are not that shabby in the turnover department either, and thus, they have the best R+T rating in many years.  By the time the season moves into March, UNC will either be unbeatable and peaking at the right time or a major disappointment due to fatigue and injuries.  This is one team we cannot see losing prior to the Sweet 16, as they will be a 1 or 2 seed and no 15 or 16 seed can compete with them, with only a slim chance that a 7 or 8 seed can keep a game within single digits.

The team that beats UNC will be the team that can muscle their way under the basket and make the rebounding part of the equation only a minor Tar Heel victory.  Said team will also have to force the Heels into a few more turnovers than normal and produce some quick points off those turnovers.  West Virginia and Kentucky are the teams that will give UNC fits, while a great shooting team like UCLA or Gonzaga will find that they must do more than shoot lights out to beat this team.

Florida St.: FG 11.2   TO 2.8   OR 2.5   FT 2.4   SOS 58.6   R+T 15.6   Rd W-L 4-2

The Seminoles are going to be a tough match-up for teams outside the ACC that have never played against them.  Their style of play will lead to large victories in the early rounds of the tournament, but once FSU faces stiff competition, their inconsistent style of play will hurt their chances.  There will be many teams with a resume similar to theirs from amongst the power leagues.  FSU will be more like a poor man’s Kentucky.  They might win by 20-30 in the opening game, and they might make it to the Sweet 16 by way of a double digit win in their next game, but once they get to the Sweet 16, the Seminoles should be a quick out against a quality opponent like Villanova, Kansas, or Oregon.

Louisville: FG 6.5   TO 4.8  OR 7.9   FT 1.7   SOS 62.9   R+T 20.3   Rd W-L 5-2

Don’t dismiss this edition of Cardinals.  Rick Pitino knows how to coach in March, and there is enough talent at the Yum Center to guide UL to the Final Four.  The Cards have played a tough schedule to date and pulling off numbers like their current Four Factors against the opposition they have faced is a sign of a top 10 team.  In most years, these numbers would be the best in the nation, and even in a year where there are many great teams, these numbers stick out as among the best.

To beat the Cards, it is going to take a team that can shut off their inside game and force UL to beat them from the perimeter.  Not many teams can do this, but there are some potential teams out there that can send the Cards home, such as Virginia from their own league, Oregon, and Purdue.

Notre Dame: FG 8.5   TO 4.0   OR 0.2   FT 3.8   SOS 56.3   R+T 11.2   Rd W-L 5-2

The Fighting Irish have been consistently good for several years but with also a consistent liability.  Notre Dame has not been a dominant rebounding team since Digger Phelps retired.  While, the Irish have numbers strong enough to indicate they are Sweet 16 worthy, they do not have the dominating inside game that will get them to Phoenix.  A host of quality teams are out there that can hit the glass and limit ND to one shot per possession, and the Irish are bound to face one of them if they make it to the Sweet 16.  Baylor, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Kentucky could send Mike Brey’s bunch home to Indiana.  On the other hand, Notre Dame could be a tough opponent for UCLA, Villanova, or Maryland.

Big 12

West Virginia: FG 7.2    TO 16.0   OR 5.8   FT 5.1   SOS 53.7   R+T 27.2   Rd W-L 5-2

The jury is still out on this team, even though our PiRate Blue metrics say that Coach Bob Huggins has the currently top team in the land.  Huggie Bear’s Mountaineers have to prove they can sustain these fat metric ratings against the top teams.  WVU’s SOS is rather low for a Power Conference team, and they have yet to face Kansas or any tough team on enemy hardwood.  Their toughest road game to date came against Texas Tech, and they flunked that exam.

If WVU can keep their TO rate at astronomically high numbers and also maintain their better than average rebound rate, they are capable of making it to Phoenix.  Whereas many pressing teams eventually run into a team that does not fret the pressure and actually exploits it for points, WVU is more than your typical on the line/up the line gimmick defense.  This team can win by dominating on the glass, getting the ball inside for easy baskets, hitting the three, and playing strong half-court defense.  Once again, until they play Kansas a couple times, Kansas State on the road, as well as road trips to Iowa State and Baylor, it is too early to make a logical call on this team.

Baylor: FG 11.1   TO -0.2   OR 9.5   FT 8.1   SOS 61.8   R+T 20.5   Rd W-L 6-1


Scott Drew has been to the Elite 8 before, and this Baylor team looks like his next Elite 8 club.  Until the Bears face a team that can force the issue and pressure the ball, they look like a favorite to advance in each round.  As West Virginia showed, Baylor is not equipped to handle crazy pressure.  Other teams that might exploit this weakness include Virginia, Butler, Kentucky, and Florida.  And, if a mid-major like UNC-Wilmington or Middle Tennessee meets the Bears in the round of 32, Baylor will have to bring their A-game to avoid a major upset loss.

Kansas: FG 11.2   TO 1.7   OR 6.2  FT 0.1   SOS 59.1   R+T 16.4   Rd W-L  4-1

The Jayhawks have been flying under the radar if that is possible, but now that KU has ascended to the top of the charts, they will be on the center stage every game they occupy the penthouse.  Bill Self always has a contender in Lawrence, so this should come as no surprise when we say that the Jayhawks have the right stuff to make it all the way to the Final Four.  They can shoot the ball with the best of them, and they can defend the ball with the best of them.  They are not world-beaters anywhere else, but their other metrics are quite strong.  And, they have produced these numbers against a very good schedule.  KU has another big bonus, something they had when they won the title back in 1988.  With a star like Frank Mason III, teams will have to concentrate and dedicate another defender to stop this star.  That might work against some teams, but KU has five or six other players that can carry the team, so it is impossible to really double up on Mason.  If you are old enough to remember 1988, this reminds us of Danny Manning.

Big East

Villanova: FG 12.1   TO 1.6   OR 4.1    FT 9.6   SOS 61.1    R+T 16.1    Rd W-L 8-1

The Wildcats have proven so far this year to be good enough to repeat as National Champions, and in point of fact, at this point in the season compared to last year, they are a better team.  The rub is that so are about 30 other dominating teams.  VU has been putting teams away by getting their regulars into foul trouble from making quick moves to the basket.  Unlike other teams with very high FT rates, they are less likely to suffer from how the game is called differently in the Big Dance, because officials will blow their whistles on drives to the basket that produce contact.

Considering ‘Nova has put up these gaudy numbers against A+ competition, and they have an 8-1 record away from Philly, they are more than capable of making it back to Phoenix.  But, as Alabama just found out in football, getting back to the title game and winning it, are in different universes.  Villanova wants no part of North Carolina in a rematch.

Creighton: FG 12.5   TO 2.7   OR -3.4   FT 2.7    SOS 58.8   R+T 7.3    Rd W-L 7-0

Every year, one or two highly-rated teams gets sent home from the Dance early by a mid-major team that can exploit the power team’s weakness.  Creighton has the resume of a power team that could be susceptible to an early round loss.  Their negative rebounding rate might be covered up by other assets during the regular season, but come tournament time, just about every opponent they might face will be able to exploit this poor metric.  If their TO rate was really good, they could overcome this liability, but this is not the case, as the Blue Jays are just average or a little below in this department as well.  Their R+T rating is too low to make it to the Elite 8, and the Sweet 16 is their ceiling.  If they make it to the Sweet 16, teams like Baylor, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Kentucky can beat them by double digits.

Butler: FG 6.5   TO 5.1   OR 0.1   FT 2.1   SOS 61.3  R+T 10.0   Rd W-L 5-3

When Butler made back-to-back appearances in the National Championship Game, their Four Factors numbers were consistently good but not outstanding in any category.  This Butler team has somewhat inconsistent numbers compared to those Bulldog teams, but at the same time, they are stronger in the turnover rates and have played a much tougher schedule to date than those teams that won five tournament games.

Butler is probably a little too inconsistent this year to win five games and make it to the championship.  They might be better equipped to beat a North Carolina or Kansas than the 2010 and 2011 teams, but this Bulldog edition could easily stub its toe right out of the gates and not get a chance to upset teams like the 2010 and 2011 teams did (Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida).

Big Ten

The Big Ten has been able to make it to the Final Four multiple times in recent years, but no league team has cut down the nets since Michigan State in 2000 (Maryland was in the ACC when they won in 2002).  There are a couple teams this year capable of giving it a good try.

Wisconsin: FG 8.9  TO 3.9  OR 15.9   FT 2.6    SOS 52.7  R+T 28.8   Rd W-L 4-3

The Badgers have played a rather weak schedule to date, and that could send their current numbers much lower once the better Big Ten opponents have been faced away from Madison.  With Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, and Nigel Hayes, the Badgers have a trio of quality players good enough to carry them to the Final Four.  In past years, overall team speed was an issue with this team, but the Badgers have quickness, finesse, and power this year.  UW has been much, much better at home than away from home, and a lot of teams that go 18-0 at home and 9-6 away from home leave the Dance early.  A quality team that is headed to the Elite 8 usually wins 70% or more of its games away from home, and UW is just 4-3 at this point.  Of course, those three losses came to Creighton, North Carolina, and Purdue.  Recent road wins against Marquette and Indiana could be an indication that UW is on the verge of breaking out and becoming a serious contender.

Maryland: FG 6.1  TO 0.5   OR 3.4  FT 7.5  SOS 56.4   R+T 8.8  Rd W-L 6-0

An aside: Back in the days when only one team per conference went to the NCAA Tournament, Maryland had a team that was good enough to win the national championship but was just a couple points away from getting a chance to play in it.  The 1974 Terrapins went 23-5.  Their five losses represent the best five-loss team in history.  Loss number one came at the hands of #1 UCLA in Pauley Pavillion to open the season (Bruins had won more than 70 consecutive games), in a game in which the officiating was very generous to the Bruins and yet UM lost by just one point and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer.  Loss number two came at North Carolina State, who had won 35 of its previous 36 games (lone loss to UCLA) and who would be the eventual national champs.  This loss was a six-point loss, and the Terps led this game into the second half before a Wolf Pack rally won it for the home team.  Loss number three came on the road against #4 North Carolina, yet another contest where UM had a chance to win until late in the second half.  The Terps only home loss came against NC State, who by now would not lose again until the following season.  This loss to the Pack was another close affair with UM losing by six after leading in the second half.  You can probably guess where loss number five came.  Once again, NC State topped UM in the ACC Championship Game in what is probably the best every ACC Title game.  State won by a score of 103-100 in overtime.  Maryland’s 23 wins were mostly lopsided affairs.  Even the two other contests against North Carolina were not close, as the Terps won by 11 in College Park and by 20 in Greensboro in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

What has that got to do with this year’s Terp team?  Nothing, except this year’s UM team will be in the Big Dance even if they do not win the Big Ten Tournament or the regular season title.  However, this year’s UM team is primed to be an early round upset loser, because it is nowhere near as talented as that 1974 team that featured John Lucas, Tom McMillen, and Len Elmore.  That UM team out-shot quality opposition by 11%, out-rebounded them by 11 per game, and outscored them by 17 points per game.

Purdue: FG 10.1  TO -0.7  OR 10.5  FT 8.3   SOS 55.9  R+T 19.7   Rd W-L 5-2

We could give another history lesson on this Big Ten team.  Purdue has been to the Final Four twice before, but both times, it was with teams that played an entirely different style of basketball from this team and from all the teams during the Gene Keady era.

We have a lot of respect for Coach Keady and his successful disciples, including current Boilermaker coach Matt Painter.  However, history has not been kind to the “Keady system” in NCAA Tournament history.  Purdue never made it to the Final Four with all the highly-ranked teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s and seldom made it past the second game.  Case in point, last year, the Boilermakers left the Dance immediately, losing to Arkansas-Little Rock in their first game.

Why is it that Purdue has under-performed so consistently for so many years?  Coach Keady and his disciples strongly advocate an intelligent offensive half-court set and tough man-to-man defense to prevent good shots.  That works well in the regular season, as teams like this routinely play smart ball and beat all the teams they are supposed to beat, and even upset some better teams.  But, when you get into the second week of March, the opposition is usually as good as you at shooting and preventing good shots.  Games are more frequently decided by which team gets more opportunities to shoot.  Thus rebounding and turnover margin play significantly more important roles than they do in the regular season.  Purdue has not been a consistently tough team on the boards, and they do not pressure the passing lanes.

This year’s Boilermaker squad is one of the best rebounding teams in Mackey Arena in a long time, but once again, PU is stinking it up in the turnover rate metric.  The rebounding strength could get Painter’s squad past the first game and maybe even into the Sweet 16, but when the Boilermakers run into a team like Butler, Kentucky, or Florida, or even a Mid-major like UNC-Wilmington or Middle Tennessee, they are going to have a tough time advancing.  And, should they find West Virginia in their bracket…..


UCLA: FG 14.2   TO 0.3   OR -1.0   FT 3.2   SOS 53.4   R+T 10.0   Rd W-L 8-1

This might be the most exciting team to watch, but this UCLA team suffers from the same issues that Purdue suffers from as stated above.  When the Bruins are hot, they can put any team away, and their win at Kentucky showed this.  However, they will run into defenses that can slow them down when they get to March, and the Bruins do not have what it takes to get additional scoring chances through rebounding and turnover margin.  Additionally, the Bruins have played a lot of cupcakes this year, and a lot of their shooting stats have been aided by playing weak defensive teams.  Until they are ousted thought, Lonzo Ball and company promise to give the fan his or her money’s worth.

Oregon: FG 10.2   TO 3.0   OR 7.5   FT 6.5   SOS 57.1   R+T 19.5   Rd W-L 5-2

The Ducks could be a contender for the Final Four.  After a slow start, Oregon has now won 14 consecutive games and looks like the team the pundits expected they would be this season.  The Ducks have a really tough closing stretch in the regular season with seven consecutive tough games between February 4 and 25.  Included in this slate is a three-game stretch against Arizona, UCLA, and USC, with the latter two on the road.  If Oregon can come through this three-week stretch without injuries or undue fatigue, this team can repeat its performance of last year and maybe make it one round past what it did last year.  That would mean they make it to Phoenix.

Arizona: FG  8.3  TO 0.6   OR 7.3   FT 10.4   SOS 58.1   R+T 20.2   Rd W-L 5-2

At first glance, Arizona’s numbers don’t look much different than Oregon’s above.  Look a little closer.  This is a team that relies a bit too much on free throw rate and is vulnerable against a team that can pressure the ball and force turnovers.  Arizona wants no part of West Virginia, but they could fall prey to a lesser pressure team or a team that turns the ball over less than 10 times a game like Virginia.  In their loss to Gonzaga, the Wildcats turned the ball over nine times in the first half and didn’t shoot well, and Gonzaga pulled out to a double digit lead.  Arizona did get to the foul line several times, but they missed too many foul shots to get back in the game.  This is likely to happen to them in an NCAA Sweet 16 game if UA makes it that far.


Kentucky: FG  9.1  TO 6.7   OR 7.4   FT 4.7   SOS 61.1   R+T 22.3   Rd W-L 6-1

This is always a tough team to figure out.  Annually, John Calipari recruits the top talent in the nation to Lexington, and Kentucky has better talent than every team on its schedule.  However, that talent is almost always freshmen, and even five McDonald’s All-Americans as college freshmen are bound to play a bit inconsistently.  On any given night, these future NBA stars are liable to blow out an average team by 30 to 40 points.  On any given night, these future NBA stars are liable to fiddle around and allow a mediocre team to stay in contention.

In Kentucky’s favor, these freshmen will have 33 to 35 games of experience by the time the NCAA Tournament begins, and the Wildcats will have a 1 or 2 seed, able to get to the Sweet 16 just by showing up.  Once at the Sweet 16, this team will have the talent and tools to keep winning, but they will still be just raw enough to lay an egg and go home with a disappointing loss.

It will take a muscle team to beat Kentucky, one that can throw its weight around on the glass, make their fouls count more like unnecessary roughness penalties in football, and has the ability to outscore the Wildcats from behind the arc.

Florida: FG 3.1  TO 6.6  OR 1.7   FT 8.9   SOS 63.0   R+T 11.4   Rd W-L 8-3

Here is a really interesting team.  At first glance, this Florida team looks like many of the Florida teams under former coach Billy Donovan.  The Gators’ ball-hawking defense tends to lead to more scoring opportunities for the orange and blue than for their opponents.  However, the really good Gator teams under Donovan played incredible half-court defense.  This Gator team is a bit weak defending inside, and that will be their downfall in March.  The Gators are adequate but not great shooting the ball, and when they don’t force a turnover, they are not great at stopping the ball from going through the opponents’ basket.

One thing in UF’s favor is their schedule has prepared them to play top-flight teams.  Outside of the league Florida played Seton Hall, Miami, Gonzaga, Florida State, and Duke.

South Carolina: FG 7.8   TO 4.9   OR 4.6   FT -5.4   SOS 56.2   R+T 13.9   Rd W-L 4-2

You have to look at South Carolina’s statistics a bit differently than just viewing their numbers.  This is a tale of two teams.  There is the USC team that is 11-0 when its best player, Sindarius Thornwell has been healthy enough to play, and there is the USC team that is 3-3 when Thornwell has not played.

The bad news for SEC teams is that Thornwell is close to 100% well again, and the Gamecocks are 4-0 in the league because of it.  A healthy Thornwell is a threat to record a triple double or score 20 points and pull down a dozen boards, while playing exemplary defense.

If the Gamecocks stay healthy this year, they look like a near lock to make the Dance, and once they get there, we have faith in Coach Frank Martin that they will play multiple games.  USC’s defense is tournament worthy, and they have just enough offense to pull away in the second half.  Their major liability is at the foul line, where they commit more than an average number of fouls.  However, this stat suffered considerably during Thornwell’s absence.  Since his return, the Gamecocks have a much better showing.

The Rest

Gonzaga: FG 15.6  TO 1.6   OR  2.6  FT 5.6   SOS 55.9  R+T 16.9   Rd W-L 7-0

Gonzaga faces a similar task that Wichita State faced in 2014, when they went 34-0 in the regular season.  The Bulldogs are the last undefeated team standing at 17-0, and the way they dominated St. Mary’s Saturday night, many sports professionals are calling for an undefeated regular season.  They still have to go to St. Mary’s, and they have to play at BYU, so they could still lose one or two regular season games this year.

Gonzaga has been a number one seed before as well as the top-ranked team in the nation, and things did not go all that well for the Bulldogs.  In 2013, the Zags entered NCAA Tournament play with a 31-2 record.  They almost became the first number one seed to lose to a 16-seed, when they had to hold on to narrowly edge Southern University in the Round of 64.  Then, GU fell in the Round of 32 to Wichita State, and the Shockers rolled to the Final Four from there.

Might things be different this year for Mark Few’s squad?  Gonzaga looks a lot like UCLA.  They are not quite as good shooting the ball, but they are a tad better defending the ball.  They are considerably better on the boards, but by the time the Dance begins to tap, their strength of schedule will have dropped to a point where they may not be ready to face a quality team in the Sweet 16.  The Kyle Wiltjer Gonzaga team that made it to the Elite 8 was more equipped for the tournament than this year’s squad, so we believe Gonzaga will fall in the Sweet 16 round.

Nevada: FG 5.4   TO -1.8   OR 3.5   FT 9.8   SOS 52.3   R+T 8.0   Rd W-L 8-3

If you consider Gonzaga not to be a mid-major, then Nevada is the best non Power Conference team in the West this year, but the Wolfpack are a paper tiger.  They do not have the numbers to be a serious contender like some former Mountain West Conference teams in the past.  Their low R+T number coming from a below average schedule strength means Nevada is likely to exit the Dance quickly and by double digits.  We wanted to include them here today so you can compare them to the two mid-majors most likely to advance to the second weekend this year.

UNC-Wilmington: FG 3.8   TO 7.1   OR 3.7   FT -2.0  SOS 51.2   R+T 12.9  Rd W-L 9-2

UNCW gave Duke a big scare last year in the Round of 64, and this year’s team is better, capable of making a run to the Sweet 16.  Coach Kevin Keatts is a Rick Pitino disciple, and we would not be shocked to see Keatts taking over a big time program sooner rather than later.  He has all the tools to be a star on the big stage, and his team plays like it deserves a shot on basketball’s Broadway.

UNCW’s biggest liability is their negative FT rate.  This has come about because the Seahawks commit a lot of fouls with their pressure defense.  We tend to believe that some of this has been because they have played a lot of games on the road, where the officials whistled them for more fouls than they would have received had they been at home.  When the NCAA Tournament begins, a lot of the plays in which they might have been whistled for a foul in the regular season will no longer draw a foul call.

UNCW is the poor man’s West Virginia, and they could easily be this year’s Stephen F. Austin.  Beware if your favorite big time program makes the Tournament and they draw this team, and your team is like Purdue, Baylor, UCLA, Arizona, or Creighton.  The Seahawk press can produce a quick burst of points and put your team behind the eight ball.

Middle Tennessee: FG 3.7  TO 5.0  OR 7.4  FT -2.5  SOS 56.3  R+T 17.5  Rd W-L 8-1

If you like UNCW’s chances, then you’ll love Middle Tennessee’s chances this year.  This is the CUSA team that upset Michigan State in last year’s tournament, and this year’s Blue Raider squad is maybe 10 points better than last year’s group.  Middle Tennessee actually played UNCW over the Thanksgiving holiday and beat the Seahawks by five.  The Blue Raiders went on the road to Ole Miss and destroyed the Rebels in the first half with a 29-point halftime lead before coasting to a 15-point win.  They repeated the performance against SEC neighbor Vanderbilt winning by 23 and never being challenged.

The Blue Raiders could have 30 wins when the NCAA Tournament begins, and it would not surprise us if they receive a seed as high as 9 or 10.  Of course, this would mean they would play a 1 or 2 seed in the Round of 32 should they win their first game.  The Blue Raiders’ fans should root for your team to draw a team like Purdue, Notre Dame, Creighton, Butler, or Maryland in the first game and not someone like West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, or Kentucky.  Of course, these teams are most likely to be encountered after the opening game, which means the Blue Raiders should be a hot pick in the Round of 64.

We did not include the 25 best teams in this presentation.  There are many other quality teams like Indiana, Duke, Miami, TCU, Xavier, Akron, Illinois State, California, Utah, USC, and New Mexico State.

We hope you enjoyed this piece and learned a little about how the Four Factors has been part of the new analytical study of basketball.

Coming Friday: We take our next stab at the Field of 68, and if we can get our gurus to send us the information in time, we will debut our annual Bracketology Guru report.  Shout out to the Gurus that have not done so–please return the email we sent you to tell us if you plan to participate this year.  If we do not have enough information to debut our guru composite, we will attempt to select 68 teams ourselves.

January 13, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For January 14-15, 2017

PiRate Red-White-Blue Spreads For The Weekend

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, January 14, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Clemson Virginia -1 -4 -6
Louisville Duke 4 1 4
Pittsburgh Miami (Fla.) 5 1 7
North Carolina Florida St. 9 8 3
Virginia Tech Notre Dame 6 -1 -1
Syracuse Boston College 8 14 9
Kansas Oklahoma St. 10 13 14
Texas West Virginia -16 -15 -6
Kansas St. Baylor 1 -4 -9
TCU Iowa St. 2 -1 3
Oklahoma Texas Tech 6 -4 -2
Georgetown Connecticut 15 8 9
Providence Seton Hall -3 -1 -1
St. John’s Villanova -4 -15 -16
Butler Xavier 3 4 8
Marquette DePaul 19 17 13
Penn St. Minnesota 2 -4 -4
Michigan Nebraska 1 9 1
Illinois Maryland 1 1 6
California Washington St. 13 17 19
Utah UCLA -11 -8 -1
Stanford Washington 2 4 10
Oregon Oregon St. 27 26 26
Florida Georgia 11 12 10
Mississippi St. Texas A&M 3 -1 -6
LSU Alabama 7 -2 -3
Kentucky Auburn 23 24 23
Arkansas Missouri 15 16 15
South Carolina Ole Miss 9 8 6
Vanderbilt Tennessee -1 2 6
Games Scheduled for: Sunday, January 15, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
North Carolina St. Georgia Tech 14 11 14
Indiana Rutgers 16 18 19
Ohio St. Michigan St. 4 2 -4
Northwestern Iowa 1 6 8
Colorado USC 1 -1 4


The PiRate Top 25 For January 13, 2017

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kansas
  3. Kentucky
  4. Villanova
  5. Virginia
  6. North Carolina
  7. Gonzaga
  8. UCLA
  9. Florida St.
  10. Baylor
  11. St. Mary’s
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Louisville
  14. Duke
  15. Butler
  16. Arizona
  17. Florida
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Creighton
  20. Oregon
  21. Notre Dame
  22. Purdue
  23. Xavier
  24. Wichita St.
  25. Iowa St.


  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. Florida St.
  4. Louisville
  5. Duke
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Clemson
  8. Virginia Tech
  9. Miami (Fla)
  10. Wake Forest
  11. Pittsburgh
  12. Syracuse
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Georgia Tech
  15. Boston College

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Butler
  3. Creighton
  4. Xavier
  5. Seton Hall
  6. Marquette
  7. Providence
  8. Georgetown
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Minnesota
  4. Michigan St.
  5. Indiana
  6. Northwestern
  7. Michigan
  8. Maryland
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Big 12

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kansas
  3. Baylor
  4. Iowa St.
  5. Kansas St.
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Oklahoma St.
  8. TCU
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas


  1. UCLA
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. California
  5. USC
  6. Utah
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Washington
  10. Arizona St.
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.


  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Georgia
  5. Arkansas
  6. Alabama
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Vanderbilt
  9. Tennessee
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Mississippi St.
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

Games To Watch This Weekend Because They Will Be Fun To Watch

Best 3 Saturday

Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s   (ESPN2 at 10 PM EST)

Butler vs. Xavier   (Fox Sports 1 at 2 PM EST)

Clemson vs. Virginia  (WatchESPN at 12:00 PM EST)

Best of The Rest

Louisville vs. Duke   (ESPN at 12:00 PM EST)

North Carolina vs. Florida St.  (ESPN at 2 PM EST)

Kansas St. vs. Baylor   (ESPNU at 4:30 PM EST)

Utah vs. UCLA   (Pac-12 Network at 6 PM EST)

Princeton vs. Yale   (ESPN3 at 8 PM EST)

Coming Next Week–We take the top national contenders and break down what area of the game an opponent must master in order to beat each one.  We’ll use our Four Factors Algorithms to analyze where each of the top teams might have an Achilles Heel, and maybe which teams have no apparent weakness.

January 6, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For January 7-8, 2017

Early Look At Mid and Low Major Conferences
As we take our first look at the conferences that should receive just one NCAA Tournament bid, we are in total agreement among the lot of us that 22 leagues will definitely produce just one tournament team–the winner of their conference tournament, or in the case of the Ivy League, the regular season conference championship, and it is likely that a 23rd league will receive just one bid.

Let’s take a look at the 23 probable one-bid leagues.

America East
Vermont, MD.-Baltimore Co., UMass-Lowell, and Stony Brook are tied for first, but only with 1-0 conference marks. Vermont is 11-5 overall, with two losses to top 25 teams.

Atlantic Sun
Conference play has yet to begun, but Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville look strong in the pre-conference. FGCU lost at Michigan State by just one point, while Jacksonville sports the top won-loss record at 12-5. We believe overall that this league is stronger than it has been in recent years, but no at-large bid is possible this year.

Big Sky
Eastern Washington, Southern Utah, and Weber State have begun the conference race at 2-0, with Montana a half-game back at 2-1. EWU owns a hot home court advantage, and they already have four overtime wins in their 15 games played.

Big South
With losses by 55 to Creighton, 37 to George Mason, and 31 to Texas Tech, you would not expect Longwood to be on top in the conference race at 3-0, but the Lancers from tiny Farmville, Virginia, own first place by themselves by a game over Radford, UNC-Asheville, Winthrop, Campbell, and Liberty. UNCA lost at Ohio State by a bucket.

Big West
It’s a down year in this league, as no team looks capable of avoiding a 15 or 16-seed. Most of the members in this league perform poorly away from home, and we expect this year’s race to be won with a record as low as 10-6. UC-Irvine, Long Beach State, and UC-Davis appear to be the top teams, but there is not much separating the teams at this point. While somewhat mediocre, this league could put on one of the most exciting conference tournament’s this season.

Colonial Athletic
UNC-Wilmington is on the cusp of competing for a spot on the bubble, but at this point, it looks like they would have to win the CAA Tournament to get into the Big Dance. The Seahawks join Charleston, Northeastern, and James Madison at 3-0 in league play. Northeastern is the hot team at this point. The Huskies have won six games in a row, including four on the road, with one of those coming at Michigan State.

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee is 2-0 in the league and 12-3 overall, as well as 2-0 against SEC teams, but the Blue Raiders would be a long shot in the at-large sweepstakes this year. If Middle wins the automatic bid with a record in the vicinity of 29-5, they could receive an 11 seed and possibly a 10 seed. Chief challengers to the Blue Raiders this year are Marshall, Louisiana Tech, and Western Kentucky. Keep an eye on Marshall, as their unique fast-paced philosophy can give the Thundering Herd a big advantage against teams lacking depth, especially at conference tournament time.

No, it’s not a Super Bowl preview, but Oakland and Green Bay look like the top two teams in this league. Actually, both of these teams are close runners-up to Valparaiso at this point. The Crusaders are 1-0 in the conference and 11-3 overall, with wins over Alabama, BYU, and Rhode Island. Northern Kentucky and Wright State have shown signs of moving up into the top tier with the big three.

This is still the one holdout league that does not sanction a post-season conference tournament. Thus, one hot team can become the first official invitee to the Big Dance, but in recent years, this has not happened. There is no clear-cut favorite to win the crown as the first conference games commence next weekend. Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Penn look to be the leading contenders at this point, but this group is not setting the woods on fire.

Metro Atlantic
After a sluggish first month of the season, Canisius has found its groove. The Golden Griffins have reeled off seven consecutive wins, averaging 88.6 points per game. With approaching road games with Iona and Fairfield, if Canisius wins both, they will be in the driver’s seat in the MAAC. Pre-season favorite Monmouth has not been as strong as expected and just lost three games in a row. Still, you cannot dismiss the Hawks, as they have non-conference win over Memphis and an overtime loss to South Carolina. Monmouth beat Canisius and can gain command by pulling off the sweep when they face them in Buffalo on January 16.

The MAC once was worthy of multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament, but in recent years, this league has been down some. Akron, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan have separated a bit from the rest of the pack in this league, and these three top contenders are just talented enough to compete in the Round of 64. Home court advantanges are rather strong in this league, so expect the teams to beat up on each other, leaving no team with a conference mark better than 14-4.

Mideastern Athletic
The MEAC has frequently been given #15 and #16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but this league consistently produces teams capable of pulling off huge upsets. The league does not get the credit it deserves, because the teams tend to begin the season slowly and develop as the year progresses. We like what UNC-Central has done to this point, and it would not surprise us if the Eagles make a run to 20 regular season wins. UNCC won at Missouri and led at LSU by as much as 13, before the Tigers came back to win in the final minute.

Missouri Valley
This is a caveat one-bid league. Wichita State would be on the bubble if the Shockers won 25 games but not the MVC Tournament title. However, at this point, we do not see a serious contender to knock WSU off the perch at Arch Madness. Illinois State currently shares first with the Shockers with a 3-0 league mark, but WSU looks to be double digits better than any league opponent. Sure, some team is liable to upset the Shockers, but we don’t see WSU losing more than two conference games, and they have as good a chance at running the table in the league as the do at losing twice.

Mountain West
The MWC has taken quite a tumble this year, as this looks like a sure one-bid league. Nevada and Boise State are this year’s quality clubs, but they do not have at-large approved resumes. Normal power San Diego State has begun league play at 0-2, so this does not look like the Aztecs’ year.

It looks like a strong possibility that the conference tournament champion in this league will be headed to the opening round (first four) in Dayton. The NEC is rather weak this year, even though second division Wagner has a win at Connecticut. Fairleigh Dickinson has a game and a half lead in the race with a perfect 3-0 mark, but the Knights tumbled off their horses outside of league play. Keep an eye on Long Island. The Blackbirds are just 9-7 and 2-1 in the league, but most of their losses have been close, and they did beat St. John’s.

Ohio Valley
In past years, both Murray State and Belmont have done quite well in NCAA Tournament play. The two contenders already have moved to the top of the standings in their respective divisions, and it looks like they might square off when the bid is on the line in March.

Bucknell and Boston U are tied at 3-0 in league play with Loyola (MD), Holy Cross, and Lafayette a game back at 2-1. Lehigh looked like a top contender in the preseason, taking Xavier to the final gun before losing by 3 and winning at Mississippi State, but the Mountain Hawks lost at home to Loyola to fall to 1-2 in league play.

This will be an exciting conference race with five teams competing for the regular season title. Furman, East Tennessee, Chattanooga, Samford, and UNC-Greensboro are about equal, and the five could stay within two games of each other all season. A multiple tie in the 14-4 and 13-5 range is quite possible.

Stephen F. Austin has lost the magic, as it left town for Stillwater, Oklahoma. Now, this league is wide open. New Orleans, and Nicholls State, two teams not expected to contend for league honors, currently are unbeaten in league play.

Southwestern Athletic
In recent years, the SWAC champion has known it would be headed to Dayton, and chances are strong that could happen again this year. In recent years, multiple league members have been ineligible for postseason play due to low APR scores, but that number has been reduced to just Alcorn State this year, and the Braves are an also-ran in the SWAC this year. Jackson State and Texas Southern have begun league play at 2-0, with Arkansas Pine-Bluff at 1-0. Grambling and Southern are 1-1, and most of their out of conference losses have been closer than normal for this league. We believe Southern might be the best representative for this league this year.

Bigger schools better keep an eye on this league. Whoever draws the conference tournament champion better not overlook their opponent, because their is quality in numbers in the Summit League this season. North Dakota State got hot at the right time, and the Bison are 3-0 in league play. Fort Wayne can play quality defense, bang the boards, and run the fast break like a team from the 1970’s. The Mastodons beat Indiana and gave a good game against Notre Dame. They can score points in spurts, and they average close to 90 points per game.

Sun Belt
UT-Arlington is off to a 12-3 start with a 2-0 mark in conference play. Included in those dozen wins is a big upset of Saint Mary’s, but as each day passes, that win does not look so much like an upset, just more like one really good team beating another really good team. Still, the Mavericks do not have enough on their resume to contend for a bubble spot. Arkansas State is also 2-0 in the league, but the Red Wolves do not have a signature win that gives them a shot at the bubble. Their win at Georgetown could look better in March than it does now, but still we see only one team making the dance from this league.

Western Athletic
New Mexico State is 1-0/14-2, but the Aggies’ best win is only against Arizona State. This is not enough to merit bubble consideration, so if NMSU runs the table in the league and then loses in the WAC Finals, they could be NIT bound at 30-3. UT Rio Grande Valley is a hot team with seven wins in eight games, and the Vaqueros can fill the nets with buckets, but they don’t play enough defense to do damage in the Dance.

Multiple Bid Leagues
45 bids remain after the 23 one bid leagues are accounted for. Those 45 bids will go to nine conferences, an average of five per league. Of course, some of the nine leagues will receive just two or three bids, unless an upset winner earns the automatic bid. Let’s look at those now.

American Athletic
Cincinnati and SMU appear to be in good shape for now. The Bearcats (2-0/12-2) are ranked in the top 25 and have a win at Iowa State. Cinti can strengthen their hold on an at-large bid with a win at Houston (3-0/12-3) tomorrow. SMU (3-0/13-3) currently owns a nine-game winning streak, but they have yet to record a win over a top 25 team (they have yet to play one). They do own a win over Pittsburgh as well as losses to Michigan and USC. Central Florida is in the mix at 3-0/12-3. They present a monster matchup problem with 7 foot 6 inch center Tacko Fall hitting 80% of his shots (95% are within a foot of the basket or dunks) and pulling down double digit rebounds while playing a one-man zone in the low post.

Atlantic 10
Dayton and Rhode Island look like the class of the league at this point, but both teams have a watchful eye on VCU. Two of the three should make the Dance, and it is possible that this league will send a third team there as well, but for now, we are sticking with two for sure.

West Coast
Gonzaga and St. Mary’s should both get bids, but SMC cannot afford to slip and lose more than two conference games. A win at Dayton is not enough to guarantee the Gaels an at-large bid. They will have to go 12-2 in league play or beat Gonzaga one time out of three.

39 Bids Left for 6 Power Leagues
Of the remaining six power leagues, we will give only 3 bids to the SEC. Kentucky, Florida, and one other team from among South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama should receive bids.
The Pac-12 will send 3 or 4 teams. UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon look good at this point, while USC and California vying for a possible fourth bid.

We are going with 5 Big East bids: Villanova, Xavier, Butler, Creighton, and Marquette.

6 bids go to the Big Ten: Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and either Northwestern, Ohio State, or Michigan State.

The Big 12 could send 8 teams dancing: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU, and Oklahoma State would all be in the tournament if the season ended today.

The ACC will reign supreme in this year’s Dance Party. As of this moment, we have an incredible 10 teams in the tournament: Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest all have tourney-worthy resumes.

This brings us to 65 bids. The remaining three bids are reserved for three possible conference tournament surprise winners. If the three do not emerge, then the at-large possibles to secure the bids would come from a pool of these teams: an additional SEC team from the group of Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama; yet another ACC team from among Syracuse, North Carolina State, and Pittsburgh; Houston from the AAC; an additional Big Ten team from the group of Northwestern, Michigan State, and Ohio State; an additional Pac-12 team from the USC/Cal pairing; and Wichita State, should the Shockers finish highly-ranked but fail to win the MVC Tournament.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Top 10
1. West Virginia
2. Villanova
3. Kentucky
4. Baylor
5. Kansas
6. Duke
7. North Carolina
8. Gonzaga
10. Virginia

1. Duke
2. North Carolina
3. Virginia
4. Louisville
5. Florida State
6. Clemson
7. Notre Dame
8. Miami (FL)
9. Virginia Tech
10. Wake Forest
11. Pittsburgh
12. Syracuse
13. North Carolina St.
14. Georgia Tech
15. Boston College

Big 12
1. West Virginia
2. Baylor
3. Kansas
4. Texas Tech
5. Iowa St.
6. Kansas St.
7. Oklahoma St.
8. TCU
9. Oklahoma
10. Texas

Big East
1. Villanova
2. Xavier
3. Butler
4. Creighton
5. Marquette
6. Seton Hall
7. Georgetown
8. Providence
9. St. John’s
10. DePaul

Big Ten
1. Purdue
2. Wisconsin
3. Michigan
4. Indiana
5. Minnesota
6. Northwestern
7. Michigan St.
8. Ohio St.
9. Maryland
10. Illinois
11. Iowa
12. Nebraska
13. Penn St.
14. Rutgers

2. Arizona
3. Oregon
4. USC
5. California
6. Utah
7. Colorado
8. Stanford
9. Arizona St.
10. Washington
11. Washington St.
12. Oregon St.

1. Kentucky
2. Florida
3. South Carolina
4. Arkansas
5. Georgia
6. Alabama
7. Tennessee
8. Vanderbilt
9. Texas A&M
10. Ole Miss
11. LSU
12. Auburn
13. Mississippi St.
14. Missouri

This Weekend’s Spreads

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, January 7, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Syracuse Pittsburgh 4 4 -4
Duke Boston College 24 28 24
Florida St. Virginia Tech 8 10 13
Georgia Tech Louisville -12 -16 -19
Notre Dame Clemson 3 5 5
North Carolina North Carolina St. 14 15 9
West Virginia TCU 13 15 6
Kansas St. Oklahoma 9 8 9
Baylor Oklahoma St. 10 11 21
Kansas Texas Tech 11 11 13
Iowa St. Texas 11 11 8
Georgetown Butler -3 -4 -1
Seton Hall DePaul 14 15 16
Providence Dayton -1 1 -4
Xavier St. John’s 14 16 15
Villanova Marquette 11 13 19
Penn St. Michigan St. -1 -3 -4
Michigan Maryland 6 7 -1
Indiana Illinois 10 11 2
Washington Oregon St. 10 12 10
Arizona St. Utah -1 -2 -2
Washington St. Oregon -11 -16 -19
Arizona Colorado 12 11 15
Georgia Missouri 14 14 17
South Carolina Texas A&M 7 5 8
LSU Mississippi St. 6 4 11
Florida Tennessee 12 12 15
Auburn Ole Miss 3 1 -6
Alabama Vanderbilt 3 3 1
Kentucky Arkansas 16 17 17


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, January 8, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Nebraska Northwestern 1 -2 4
Purdue Wisconsin 4 3 7
Iowa Rutgers 9 10 8
Minnesota Ohio St. 6 6 13
Virginia Wake Forest 10 15 12
UCLA Stanford 19 18 8
USC California 4 2 1

December 29, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For December 29, 2016

Welcome to the PiRate Ratings’ return to college basketball coverage.  There are changes in the numbers this season, and we are excited to debut our annual Red-White-and-Blue Ratings for the 2016-17 college basketball season.

First, we have tweaked our Blue formula algorithm this year by giving a little more emphasis to true shooting percentage and the complimentary defensive metric in limiting shooting percentage.  In recent seasons, turnover margin has begun to mean a little bit less than it did a decade ago, and there are fewer truly dominant rebounding teams out there.  So, the college game for the time being is all about making shots and preventing the other team from making shots.  It sounds silly, as that should be all that matters (hitting baskets and stopping the other team from making them), but turnovers and rebounds gives teams more opportunities to take shots and make shots, while reducing the number of opportunities teams give to their opponents.  Rebounding and turnover rates are still vital, as we merely reduced the percentage of the total contribution by a couple basis points.

Next up, we plan on totally revising our NCAA  Tournament Bracketology data this season.  Our old formula has been performing with mediocre results in recent years, and we have decided to go 80% Four Factors and 20% PiRate Criteria this season and see what happens.  The R+T factor will still be part of our presentation, as it is still very effective at weeding out pretenders from contenders.

Until the Big Dance, we will concentrate our efforts on conference games and big non-conference games between teams from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC.  Because we have to input the stats for every team for every game, it is not possible to do this for every Division I game.  But, because all we need for our ratings are the current updated stats, we can always rate any game, thus, if we want to rate a Missouri Valley Conference big game, we can add it to the slate.

Additionally, following the New Year’s, expect our chosen selections to run just one day a week, most likely Friday, and it will include that weekend’s games.  We will also provide commentary on the entire division, as we tend to receive a lot of readership when we report on the low-major and mid-major conferences.

Let’s get started with this week’s pre-New Year’s report.

PiRate Top 10

thru games of 12/28/16

  1. Villanova
  2. Virginia
  3. Duke
  4. West Virginia
  5. Kansas
  6. Baylor
  7. North Carolina
  8. Louisville
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Kentucky


  1. Virginia
  2. Duke
  3. North Carolina
  4. Louisville
  5. Florida St.
  6. Clemson
  7. Notre Dame
  8. Miami
  9. Virginia Tech
  10. Syracuse
  11. Wake Forest
  12. Pittsburgh
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Georgia Tech
  15. Boston College

This league is so loaded this year that #13 North Carolina State is strong enough to compete for the SEC Championship.  Only the bottom two are considered out of the running for an NCAA  Tournament bid.

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Butler
  3. Xavier
  4. Creighton
  5. Marquette
  6. Seton Hall
  7. Georgetown
  8. Providence
  9. St. John’s
  10. DePaul

Until they lose, reigning national champion Villanova rules the roost in the league and nationally.  The Wildcats had a close one last night against the cellar dweller, but one game does not knock them off their perch, as long as it is a win.  As of today, it looks like five teams would make the Dance.

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Michigan
  4. Indiana
  5. Northwestern
  6. Ohio St.
  7. Maryland
  8. Minnesota
  9. Michigan St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Nebraska
  13. Penn St.
  14. Rutgers

It looks like Northwestern is in line to finally make it to the Big Dance.  A strong 12-2 start for the Wildcats needs only a winning conference record and one conference tournament win to get that elusive bid.

Big 12

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kansas
  3. Baylor
  4. Texas Tech
  5. Kansas St.
  6. Iowa St.
  7. TCU
  8. Oklahoma St.
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas

Yes, the Longhorns and Sooners bring up the rear as conference play is set to begin.  The other 8 teams look to be NCAA Tournament bound as of today with the top 3 teams the equal of the top three in the ACC.


  1. UCLA
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. USC
  5. Colorado
  6. California
  7. Utah
  8. Stanford
  9. Washington
  10. Arizona St.
  11. Oregon St.
  12. Washington St.

Even with UCLA’s last second loss at Oregon, the Bruins stay atop the Pac-12 standings.  This league looks like a 4 or 5-bid league as of now.


  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. South Carolina
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Arkansas
  6. Georgia
  7. Ole Miss
  8. Alabama
  9. Tennessee
  10. Vanderbilt
  11. Auburn
  12. LSU
  13. Mississippi St.
  14. Missouri

Kentucky and Florida rank well ahead of the other dozen in this league this year.  South Carolina, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Georgia sit on a separate shelf above the remaining eight teams.  This could be as little as a two-bid league but no more than a four-bid league as of now.

Low and Mid-Major Teams in the mix for at-large bids

It is getting more difficult to label Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s as Mid-Major teams.  The two WCC powers are both in our top 25 teams this week.

Cincinnati out of the American Conference is really a power team, even though the AAC has lost some prestige.  SMU is in the same boat, but the Mustangs need to do a little more work to be a for sure at-large team this year.

Wichita State has earned the same privilege as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.  The Shockers belong in the list of at-large possibles.

The only real low-major team in consideration for a possible at-large bid would be UNC-Wilmington from the Colonial Athletic Association.  UNCW has the talent to get to the Sweet 16, and they scared the daylights out of Duke in the NCAA Tournament last year.

This Week’s Selections

Normally, this would be a list for Saturday/Sunday games, but due to the New Year’s Holiday, we are beginning with a list of Thursday games.  Once again, we will concentrate only on the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC conference games, as well as any games among highly ranked teams.

Each Rating is derived from the Four Factors with separate algorithmic equations.  An explanation of the Four Factors follows below.

Games Scheduled for: Thursday, December 29, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Texas A&M Tennessee 8 11 9
Auburn Georgia 1 2 -3
Ole Miss Kentucky -12 -7 -8
LSU Vanderbilt 2 5 -3
Arkansas Florida -1 -4 -7
St. John’s Butler -6 -8 -11
Gonzaga Pepperdine 25 24 28
Loyola Marymount Saint Mary’s -10 -11 -14

The Four Factors in basketball are:

  1. Effective Field Goal Percentage
  2. Turnover Rate
  3. Offensive Rebounding Rate
  4. Free Throw Rate

These factors apply to both offense and defense, so in effect each team has Eight Factors.

Effective Field Goal Percentage

[FG +(0.5*3pt)]/FGA (expressed as a percentage)

Where FG is field goals made, 3pt is 3-point shots made, and FGA is field goal attempts

If a team makes 25 of 55 field goals and sinks 6 three-pointers, their EFG% is:

[25+(0.5*6)]/55 = 50.9% or 50.9

Turnover Rate

TOV/[FGA+(0.475*FTA)+TOV] (expressed as a percentage)

Where TOV is turnovers, FGA is Field Goal Attempts, and FTA is Free Throw Attempts

If a team commits 12 turnovers, takes 55 field goal attempts and 23 free throw attempts, their turnover rate is:


Offensive Rebounding %

OR/(OR+Opponents DR) (expressed as a percentage)

Where OR is offensive rebounds and DR is defensive rebounds

If a team gets 8 offensive rebounds, and their opponents get 26 defensive rebounds, their Offensive Rebounding % is:

8/(8+26) = 23.5%

Free Throw Rate

Basketball analytics gurus differ on how to rate this stat.  We align with those that favor free throws made per 100 possessions.

FT/[FGA+(0.475*FTA)+TOV-OR] (expressed as a percentage)

Where FT is Free throws made, FGA is field goal attempts, TOV is turnovers, and OR is offensive rebounds

If a team made 17 out of 23 free throw attempts with 55 field goal attempts, 12 turnovers, and 8 offensive rebounds, their FT Rate is:

17/[55+(0.475*23)+12-8] = 24.3%

The Red, White, and Blue Ratings use these statistics (both offensively and defensively) for the first 8 parts of the equation.  Part Number 9 is Strength of Schedule, and each rating adjusts a little differently for this.  Part Number 10 is Home Court Advantage (as well as occasional away from home disadvantage for teams that play much worse away from home than at home).

These 10 parts are then put through three separate algorithms to come up with three different ratings.  The difference in the ratings is the spread for the game.


February 26, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 27-28, 2016

It is about that time.  In just four days, the first conference tournaments will commence, starting the Championship Fortnight and another three weeks of March Madness (bleeding into April) that basketball junkies wait for each year like it is a month of Black Fridays for shopaholics.

Yes, you can feel the symptoms coming on.  Thousands upon thousands of basketball fans will begin to falsely raise the reported cases of influenza on days in which their team is playing a weekday game during working hours.  Call it 8th-seeditis, a malady that can last one or two days when a fan’s favorite team must play that 2:00 PM game on Thursday and possibly Friday if they win the first game.

We here at the PiRate Ratings can no longer provide our doctor’s notes to your employer.  We can no longer buy that much ink, so you will have to go to your local walk-in clinic on the eve of your team of choice’s run.


Here is your appetizer course.   These 11 leagues kick things off next week with conference tournament action.

Starting Tuesday, March 1

Conference Site Dates Format
Atlantic Sun
Higher Seeds
March 1, 3, 6
Stetson Ineligible. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Seed Home Seed Visitor Time TV
1 North Florida 8 USC Upstate 7:30 PM ESPN3
2 N.J.I.T. 7 Stetson 7:30 PM ESPN3
3 Jacksonville 6 Lipscomb 7:00 PM ESPN3
4 Florida-G.C. 5 Kennesaw St. 7:05 PM ESPN3


Conference Site Dates Format
Patriot Higher Seeds March 1, 3, 6, 9 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

Final standings are not set as this league still has one set of games to play.  Bucknell and Lehigh have clinched two of the four quarterfinal home seeds, while Boston U, Army, Navy, and Colgate are contending for the other two spots.

Holy Cross has clinched the 9th seed, and Lafayette has clinched the 10th seed, and both teams will play Tuesday night on the road.

Loyola of Maryland will host a First Round game Tuesday night as either the 7th or 8th seed.

American and Navy can both be the 7th seed and face a First Round game at home.  American can move up to a 6th seed or fall as far as an 8th seed, while Navy can still earn anywhere from a 3rd to 7th seed.

First Round and Quarterfinal games will be available through the Patriot League TV Network at:


Starting Wednesday, March 2

Conference Site Dates Format
America East Higher Seeds March 2, 7, 12 UMass-Lowell Ineligible. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

Stony Brook has clinched the regular season title and at worst a bid to the NIT, but they are the heavy favorite in this league.  The Seawolves have home court advantage throughout the tournament.  Albany has clinched the second seed and will host a quarterfinal round game and a semifinal round game should they advance.

New Hampshire and Vermont are currently tied for third, but Vermont holds the tiebreaker for the 3rd seed should the two remain tied.

There are too many variables to include in this write-up for the final four spots.  Hartford, Maine, and Binghamton are currently tied for 5th with UMBC one game back in last place.

All Quarterfinal and Semifinal Round games will be available on ESPN3.


Conference Site Dates Format
Northeast Higher Seeds March 2, 5, 8 Top 8 Qualify. 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

Bryant and Central Connecticut have already been eliminated from the field as the 9th and 10th place teams in a league where only the top 8 make the tournament.

Wagner clinched the regular season title and will be the 1st seed.  There are 32 different scenarios involving the other six teams, much too many to list here.  Sacred Heart, St. Francis (Bklyn), Fairleigh-Dickinson, and Mount St. Mary’s all have a chance to earn the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seeds.  Sacred Heart and FDU cannot drop lower than a 4th seed.

Long Island, Mount St. Mary’s, St. Francis (Bklyn), and St. Francis (Pa)  can earn the 5th or 6th seed.

St. Francis (PA), Long Island and Robert Morris can drop to the 7th seed, while LIU and RMU can both be the 8th seed, but SFP can drop no lower than a 7th seed.

All Quarterfinal Round games will be available through NEC Frontrow:


Conference Site Dates Format
Ohio Valley Nashville March 2-5 Top 8 Qualify. 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 

Belmont once again has secured the regular season championship and will be the top seed.  The Bruins and the 2nd Seed will both earn a double bye to the Semifinal Round.

In the Opening Round on Wednesday, the 5th seed will play the 8th seed at 7:00 PM EST, and the 6th seed will play the 7th seed at 9:00 PM EST.  The winner of the first game will advance to face the 4th Seed on Thursday, and the winner of the second game will play the 3rd Seed on Thursday.  On Friday, Belmont will play the team that advances from the 4-5-8 side of the bracket, while the 2nd Seed will play the team that advances from the 3-6-7 side of the bracket.

Seven of the eight teams have clinched a spot in the tournament.  Besides Belmont, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, UT-Martin, Morehead State, Murray State, and Eastern Illinois will be headed to Nashville.

One spot remains open to be decided between Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky, both currently tied at 6-9 in the OVC.  EKU holds the tiebreaker edge, but the Colonels play at 10-5 Tennessee Tech tomorrow, while Austin Peay hosts 2-13 SEMO.

All 1st Round and Quarterfinal Round games will be available through the OVC Digital Network:

Starting Thursday, March 3

Conference Site Dates Format
Big South Buies Creek, NC March 3-6 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

First Round games on Thursday will pit the 6th seed against the 11th seed; the 7th seed against the 10th seed; and the 8th seed against the 9th seed.

Opening Round games will be available at Big South Sports Network:

Quarterfinal Round games will be available at ESPN3.  #1 will play #8 or 9, #2 will play #7 or 10, #3 will play #6 or 11, and #4 will play #5.

Currently, Winthrop, High Point, and UNC-Asheville are tied for first with Coastal Carolina one game back and still alive for the top seed.

Campbell is the host team for this tournament.


Conference Site Dates Format
Metro Atlantic Albany March 3-7 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

The MAAC plays a 20-game conference schedule, and there are still two games left for most of the teams.  Monmouth once held a firm grasp on the top spot as well as a decent chance at earning an at-large NCAA Tournament bid should they come up short, but the Hawks are limping to the finish line and are in danger of missing out altogether.  A 16-point home loss to Iona makes the Gaels the hot team in the MAAC.  Iona has won seven of eight games to move within striking distance of the regular season title, even though Monmouth concludes with home games over bottom division Rider and Niagara.

Don’t discount Siena.  The Saints are the host team for the MAAC Tournament, and at 12-7 in league play, they are the lone team to defeat Iona during the Gaels’ run.

Fairfield is the other hot team in league play.  The Stags have won six games in a row, including an impressive decision over Siena.

First Round games on Thursday will only be available to subscribers to MAAC TV, which charges a fee for games:

Quarterfinal Round games on Friday will air on ESPN3.


Conference Site Dates Format
Missouri Valley St. Louis March 3-6 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

It’s called, “Arch Madness,” and the MVC Tournament is always exciting, even when 1st seed Wichita State is dominating.  This year’s Arch Madness promises to continue in the excitement department, because even if the Shockers win their Quarterfinal and Semifinal Round games with ease, their Championship Game opponent promises to be up to the task to give WSU a good game on CBS on Sunday.

Evansville and Illinois State are currently tied for second and can only play Wichita in the Championship Round.  Both teams competed against the Shockers in the regular season with ISU winning in Normal.  The Redbirds close out the regular season facing Wichita State on Senior Day for their fabulous guards, so the Purple Aces have a better chance of earning the number two seed, but not an easy chance, as they close at home with Northern Iowa.

UNI and Southern Illinois are limited to the 4th and 5th seeds, and no matter which team finishes where, in order to get to the Finals, they will have to play Wichita State (unless the shockers lose to the 8 or 9 seed in the Quarterfinals).

The First Round and Quarterfinal Round games will air on the MVC TV Network:


Starting Friday, March 4

Conference Site Dates Format
Colonial Athl. Baltimore March 4-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

UNC-Wilmington and Hofstra are tied for first with one game remaining in the regular season for both.  The rivals split their regular season series winning on the other team’s home floor.  With numerous possibilities in this weekend’s games, Hofstra has a slightly better chance than UNCW of earning the top seed if the two teams remained tied.

William & Mary and Towson are currently tied for 3rd with James Madison one game behind in 5th.  Towson wins all ties for the #3 seed, so W&M can only take the 3rd seed by winning at JMU while Towson loses at UNCW.

All First Round and Quarterfinal Round Games will air on CAA TV:


Conference Site Dates Format
Southern Asheville, NC March 4-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

Chattanooga once had this race in the bag, even with the loss of their best player since early in the season.  The Mocs have now dropped two of their previous four games to fall back within range of East Tennessee with two conference games left to be played.

Furman and Wofford are tied for third and will finish third and fourth in either order.  The Paladins have the better chance of getting the 3rd seed.

Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro are tied for 5th, and both teams end the year playing their best ball.  UNCG won at Chattanooga by 15.

Mercer was once in contention for the regular season SoCon title, but the Bears have lost six straight games to fall to seventh place with a Sunday finale at Greensboro.

The tournament is in Asheville, which should be beneficial for WCU coming from nearby Cullowhee.

All 1st Round and Quarterfinal Round games will air on ESPN3.


Conference Site Dates Format
West Coast Las Vegas March 4-5, 7-8 Pacific is Ineligible  9 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1

If BYU beats Gonzaga, and San Francisco upsets Saint Mary’s, it will create a 3-way tie for first between BYU, SMC, and GU.  The tiebreaker would then give the regular season title and top seed to BYU, since they were 1-1 against fourth place Pepperdine, while SMC was swept by the Waves.

Gonzaga and BYU must win the tournament to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Saint Mary’s has a slim chance to earn an at-large bid should the Gaels win their regular season finale and make it to the Championship Game, but they better not count on it.

This is one of four tournaments taking place in Las Vegas.

The First Round game and two of the Quarterfinal Round games will air on BYU TV:

The other two Quarterfinal Round games (#2 vs. #7 & #1 vs. #8 or 9) will air on ESPN2.


Here are this week’s Red-White-Blue Picks of the Top Conferences

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 27, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Boston College Georgia Tech -9 -12 -7
Syracuse North Carolina St. 6 7 10
Miami (Fla.) Louisville 3 2 5
Florida St. Notre Dame -1 -1 -2
Virginia North Carolina 2 3 3
Kansas Texas Tech 12 9 11
Texas Oklahoma -2 -1 1
Oklahoma St. West Virginia -5 -6 -4
Iowa St. Kansas St. 10 8 12
TCU Baylor -6 -7 -7
Georgetown Butler 1 1 -2
Marquette Villanova -8 -7 -5
Providence DePaul 13 16 14
Northwestern Rutgers 16 18 17
Purdue Maryland 4 4 3
Utah Arizona 2 1 4
Stanford UCLA 1 2 3
Georgia Ole Miss 3 5 -1
Mississippi St. South Carolina 2 -1 3
Vanderbilt Kentucky 1 2 -2
Missouri Texas A&M -9 -10 -8
Alabama Auburn 10 11 9
Tennessee Arkansas 3 2 4
LSU Florida 2 1 4


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 28, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Pittsburgh Duke -2 -2 -4
Wake Forest Virginia Tech 1 1 -2
Seton Hall Xavier -1 1 -4
Creighton St. John’s 16 18 20
Michigan St. Penn St. 20 18 22
Ohio St. Iowa -4 -2 -5
Wisconsin Michigan 5 6 4
Illinois Minnesota 6 7 9
Colorado Arizona St. 6 7 10
Oregon St. Washington St. 12 14 11
California USC 6 6 5
Oregon Washington 10 8 7

February 19, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 20-21, 2016

They are in the stretch.  In less than two weeks, the first conference tournaments will begin, and three weeks from Sunday, we will know which 68 teams will play meaningful games into the third week of March.

Before we look at this weekend’s Red, White, and Blue ratings’ selections, let’s take a closer look at “The Bubble.”

As of today, we estimate that 24 teams are currently part of “The Bubble.”  Of those 24 teams, 14 of them are currently listed as “in the Dance,” and 10 are listed as NIT-Bound.

There is a catch here.  The good side of The Bubble tends to shrink as conference tournament play continues.  Whereas some teams play their way onto The Bubble and into the discussion, the number of available places for Bubble teams shrinks when a team not in the discussion gets hot and wins an automatic bid, reducing the number of spots for teams in the gray area.

As a for instance, let’s say that North Carolina State upsets three teams and wins the ACC Tournament this year.  The Wolf Pack would obviously receive an automatic bid, while the other big ACC teams already considered in the field but not as a Bubble team also receive bids.  This causes one Bubble team that is listed as in to be bumped to see their bubble burst.

Here is a look at our 24 Bubblers, showing which 14 would be drinking at the Dance bubbler today.

If you don’t know what a bubbler is, ask somebody from Wisconsin.

Team Conf. Overall RPI Vs. T50  Vs.T100 Rd RPI L12 Seed Weekend
Connnecticut 9-4 19-7 36 3-3 7-7 21 9-3 7 at Cincinnati
Providence 7-7 19-8 37 2-5 8-5 13 5-7 7 OFF
Syracuse 8-6 18-9 39 5-6 7-8 43 8-4 8 vs. Pitt.
Colorado 8-6 19-8 33 3-7 7-8 38 7-5 8 at UCLA
Pittsburgh 7-6 18-7 41 2-5 5-7 5 6-6 9 at Syracuse
Wisconsin 8-5 16-10 48 4-5 8-6 24 8-4 9 vs. Illinois
Seton Hall 8-5 18-7 44 1-4 7-7 41 7-5 10 at St. John’s
Michigan 9-5 19-8 54 1-3 8-8 42 7-5 10 at Maryland
Oregon St. 6-7 15-9 32 6-5 8-9 60 5-7 10 at Oregon
Texas Tech 6-7 16-9 28 5-7 7-8 61 5-7 11 at Okla. St.
Cincinnati 9-5 19-8 60 3-4 5-7 34 8-4 12 Vs. U Conn
Temple 10-3 16-9 66 4-5 6-7 96 9-3 12 at Houston
Butler 7-7 18-8 58 2-6 6-7 28 7-5 12 at Villanova
Alabama 7-6 16-9 30 4-5 7-8 35 7-5 12 vs. Miss. St.
Tulsa 9-5 17-9 45 2-4 6-8 55 9-3 1st out at Cent. Fla.
Clemson 9-5 16-10 89 5-5 7-7 99 8-4 2nd out vs. N. C. St.
Saint Mary’s 12-3 21-4 67 0-1 4-2 97 9-3 3rd out at Gonzaga
Florida St. 6-8 16-10 61 2-7 7-10 68 6-6 4th out at Va. Tech
LSU 9-4 16-10 81 3-5 6-7 50 7-5 5th out at Tennessee
Vanderbilt 7-6 15-11 62 3-7 4-9 75 7-5 6th out vs. Georgia
St. Bonaventure 9-4 17-7 49 2-2 4-5 71 8-4 7th out at Dayton
Geo. Washington 8-5 19-7 46 2-3 4-4 76 7-5 8th out at U Mass
Creighton 8-6 17-10 83 2-6 4-9 77 7-5 9th out OFF
Washington 7-7 15-11 73 5-5 10-12 53 5-7 10thout vs. Stanford


Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 20, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Louisville Duke 3 4 6
North Carolina Miami (Fla.) 6 6 3
Syracuse Pittsburgh 6 5 7
Virginia Tech Florida St. -3 -3 -5
Clemson North Carolina St. 4 5 2
Georgia Tech Notre Dame -2 -1 -4
Texas Baylor 5 6 5
West Virginia Oklahoma 4 4 6
Kansas St. Kansas -5 -2 -7
Iowa St. TCU 17 18 15
Oklahoma St. Texas Tech -1 -2 -2
Georgetown Xavier -4 -3 -8
DePaul Marquette -2 -5 -3
Villanova Butler 11 10 12
Rutgers Penn St. -6 -7 -4
Nebraska Ohio St. 3 1 2
Indiana Purdue 5 3 6
Washington Stanford 7 7 8
Oregon Oregon St. 10 8 11
UCLA Colorado 5 3 2
South Carolina Florida 2 2 3
Vanderbilt Georgia 8 6 3
Alabama Mississippi St. 6 6 7
Auburn Ole Miss -4 -5 -3
Tennessee LSU 1 1 3
Texas A&M Kentucky 1 3 -3
Arkansas Missouri 10 10 8
Gonzaga Saint Mary’s 6 6 6


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 21, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Wake Forest Boston College 9 10 8
St. John’s Seton Hall -12 -14 -15
Maryland Michigan 3 8 9
Wisconsin Illinois 11 11 10
USC Utah 6 6 5
Washington St. California -9 -10 -6

February 12, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 13-14, 2016

We have received some emails from some of our subscribers asking if we can explain a little about the Four Factors and how we use them to construct ratings.  While our algorithm is our secret recipe, and we obviously cannot reveal the numbers, we can show you a little about how it works, which is the basis of our Red Rating.

Pirate Red: An algorithm using the Four Factors adjusted to strength of schedule and home/neutral/road splits.

The Four Factors include:

Effective Field Goal Percentage by offense and defense: (FG+(3pt*0.5))/FGA

Example: Oklahoma Offense– (674+(252*0.5))/1426 = 56.1%

Oklahoma Defense– (605+(169*0.5))/1514 = 45.5%

Oklahoma Effective Field Goal % Difference 56.1-45.5 = 10.6%

Oklahoma EFG% Adjusted for SOS = 10.6% *1.076 = 11.4% better than average or about 13.2 raw points better than average based on our algorithm.  We adjust this rating for home and road games, as the Sooners enjoy a home court advantage while suffering a little road court disadvantage.

Offensive Rebounding Rate & Opponents’ Offensive Rebounding Rate: Off. Reb./(Off. Reb. + Opponents Def. Reb)

Example: Michigan State Offensive Rebounding Rate: 313/(313+528) = 37.2%

Michigan State Opponents Offensive Rebounding Rate: 234/(234+752) =23.7%

Michigan State Rebounding Rate Difference  37.2-23.7 = 13.5%

Michigan State Rebounding Rate % Adjusted for SOS = 13.5%*1.064 = 14.4% better than average or about 10.6 raw points better than average based on our algorithm.  We adjust this rating for home and road games, just like above with Oklahoma.

Turnover Rate for each team and their opponents: TO/Possessions

Example: Stephen F. Austin Turnover Rate: 279/1553 = 18.0%

Stephen F. Austin’s Opponents’ Turnover Rate: 413/1551 = 26.6%

Possessions differ by one or two per game depending on who wins the opening tip and who has the last possession of a half.

Stephen F. Austin Turnover Rate Difference 26.6-18.0 = 8.6%

Stephen F. Austin Turnover Rate Adjusted for SOS = 8.6*.924 = 7.9% better than average or about 5.2 raw points better than average based on our algorithm.  As you can see in this example, SFA’s schedule is considerably weaker than average, so some of their advantage has been removed.

We then adjust for home/road splits like above.

Free Throw Rate: FT/Possessions

This is where we differ from most of the other Four Factors followers.  The regular formula used by others is FTA/FGA.  We believe this formula overstates the actual rate due to many college games where teams are forced to foul at the end.  Thus a team might hold onto a 7 to 10 point lead with 5 minutes left in the game and then work the clock down to the last few seconds.  In that same game, the opponent might be forced to foul in the last 2 minutes.  Thus, field goal attempts would be down and free throw attempts would be up.  What if the leading team blows a lot of free throws, allowing the trailing team to come from behind to win?

The stats for the team that blew the lead would be inflated.  What if instead of taking 55 field goal attempts with 22 free throw attempts had they not slowed the pace down and not gone to the foul line almost every possession in the end of the game, they ended up taking just 49 field goal attempts and 32 free throw attempts, making just 4 of 10 of those foul shots under pressure when they blew the game?

Using the regular FT Rate, the team that blew the game had a 65.3 FT Rate but had the game been normal without the slowing down and multiple fouls, the team’s FT Rate would have been 40.0.  That’s a difference of more than 25%, which is huge, and it led you to believe that the eventual losing team was better off to slow the game down and force fouls.

We use Free throws made per possession.  Let’s look at that same game again.  First, instead of each team having 70 possessions in the game, the slowdown lowered that number to each having 68 possessions, not much, but still worth mentioning.

The team that ended up taking 32 free throw attempt made 20 in the 68 possessions.  Using our method, their FT Rate was 29.4%.  Going under the theory that they would have taken 10 fewer free throw attempt (the 4 of 10 they shot when the other team fouled at the end), they would have been 16 of 22 in a 70-possession game, which figures to 22.9%.  Instead of 25% difference, we now have just 6.5% difference, and that is about what the extra fouls by the opponent benefited this team.  Even though they hit just 4 of 10 of the extra foul shots, there were 5 extra fouls committed, and somebody on the other team probably fouled out, hurting the other team.

Once again, the PiRate Rating Formula for FT Rate is: FT Made/Possessions

Example: South Carolina: 480/1793 = 26.8%  as opposed to 50.4% the other way

South Carolina Opponents: 365/1793 = 20.4% as opposed to 39.1% the other way.

USC FT Rate Difference = 6.4% our way as opposed to 11.3% the other way, which overstates the Gamecocks’ advantage due to their numerous games in which they were fouled at the end of close games.  In their most recent game, USC went to the foul line five different times in the last 57 seconds of the game, due to LSU fouling.

South Carolina FT Rate adjusted for SOS = 6.4*1.038 = 6.6% better than average or about 2.8 points better than average before adjusting for home and road splits.  Had we used the standard FT Rates, USC’s adjusted points would have been inflated by 2.2 additional points, which is 2.2 points more than they deserve to have.

Putting It All Together

We plug each of the Four Factors’ results for the two teams playing and then we adjust by giving the home team their advantage based on their data while deducting from the road team based on their data.  In some cases, the home team might actually have an overall disadvantage in some cases, but it is rare.

We then come out with a base number for each team.  The difference is not the pointspread just yet.  We have to include a constant that we correlate based on back-testing to come up with the most accurate predictive model.

How has it performed so far?  This is just the second season we have done this, and because it is quite labor intensive, as we have to plug in new stats for each team for each game, we can only do this for the power conferences–ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC, plus the occasional big game, like SMU vs. Gonzaga this weekend.

Last year, in Todd Beck’s Prediction Tracker, our Red and White Ratings finished 1-2 overall.  To date this season, the White-Red Ratings are currently 1-2 overall.


Here are this week’s selections.

Games Schedule for: Saturday, February 13, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Notre Dame Louisville 2 1 -3
North Carolina St. Wake Forest 8 8 4
Clemson Georgia Tech 4 3 6
Duke Virginia 4 4 5
West Virginia TCU 18 19 24
Oklahoma St. Kansas St. 2 1 3
Oklahoma Kansas 5 6 8
Baylor Texas Tech 8 6 7
Iowa St. Texas 7 6 3
Providence Georgetown 4 5 8
Butler Xavier 2 2 -1
Marquette Creighton -2 -1 -4
Villanova St. John’s 26 27 25
Michigan Purdue -1 -1 -3
Rutgers Ohio St. -10 -13 -11
Nebraska Penn St. 8 8 10
Maryland Wisconsin 11 9 7
Northwestern Illinois 6 7 5
Colorado Washington 4 5 7
Stanford Oregon -7 -4 -6
California Oregon St. 8 8 10
South Carolina Kentucky 1 2 3
LSU Texas A&M 1 1 1
Ole Miss Arkansas 2 1 3
Missouri Tennessee -5 -4 -4
Florida Alabama 10 11 8
Auburn Vanderbilt -8 -9 -3
Mississippi St. Georgia 5 1 3
SMU Gonzaga 5 6 -2


Games Schedule for: Sunday, February 14, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
North Carolina Pittsburgh 13 11 12
Boston College Syracuse -10 -13 -12
Florida St. Miami (Fl.) -1 -1 -1
Michigan St. Indiana 8 7 8
Iowa Minnesota 24 22 28
Utah Washington St. 13 14 14
Arizona USC 7 6 8
Arizona St. UCLA 4 4 2


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