The Pi-Rate Ratings

October 12, 2017

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for October 12-14, 2017

Ouch!  We took it on the chin and everywhere else last week, as all four of our parlays went down in flames.  It wasn’t even close, as we were 0-4 quite quickly.

About all we accomplished in the last two weeks is that we now have two of our followers experimenting with their own formulas.  One is using IF bets, while the other is going with single games.  Neither of them accomplished what they hoped so far, but both are mathematically sound.  The issue is that there is a bit more parity in football this season, and the teams that you and we just know will win for sure go off at Money Line odds of -1000 or worse.  If you are totally sure that Ohio State will beat Nebraska, Mississippi State will beat BYU, Alabama will beat Arkansas, Oklahoma State will beat Baylor, Georgia will beat Missouri, South Florida will beat Cincinnati, Clemson will beat Syracuse, and Iowa State will beat Kansas, you can put down a wager on this parlay and feel about 85% confident you will win this wager.  And guess what you will receive for every $1 you wager on this “sure thing”?  If you bet $1 and win, you will receive $1.35 in winnings, which includes your original buck invested.  Yes, it would be a 35% return on your investment, and even Warren Buffett and Seth Klarman would accept a 35% ROI over 3 days in the investment.  But, they would still hold off on this one, because the Margin of Safety would not be there, and the chances of losing all of the investment would outweigh the chance to make a 35% profit in 3 days.

This week our little ship of buccaneers and queens of the sea were not in agreement on many supposed sure-thing winners that would allow us to construct parlays with odds of +120 or better.  We only came up with two parlays, one of which forced us to go four-deep in games.  We are in the hole a bit too much to risk additional funds on games we do not all believe can win.

We almost made a decision to double our investment on this week’s games, but the Captain warned us that doubling down almost always ballooned into something out of control.  If you lose $100 this week, bet $200 next week; if you lose again, then bet $400 the next week; then $800, $1,600, $3,200, etc.  If you get on a really cold streak, soon you are betting your house and car, and your family, and your kidney, etc.  So, we stick with equal unit wagers on all games.

REMEMBER THIS: We are playing with imaginary currency.  So, we actually could double down, because $200 of fake dough is equal to $100 of fake dough.  We do know that a large number of you reading this use the real stuff, so we are going to approach this weekly feature as if it was real.  Also, there are more than one of you that have told us that you modify our selections and our Ratings’ Spreads and actually do quite well with the data.  One of you has even told us about how you have been ultra successful, but we did not press this issue in order for you to keep your method private.  Any method that really works quickly doesn’t work once the world discovers the secret, because the odds then change, making the system worthless.

Here are our picks for this week.  We hope they are a tad better than worthless, but we have our doubts.

#1@ +170  
Must Win Must Lose
UL-Lafayette Texas St.
South Carolina Tennessee
San Diego St. Boise St.

 

#2 @ +137  
Must Win Must Lose
Miami (O) Kent St.
Temple Connecticut
Tulane Florida Int’l.
Houston Tulsa

 

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March 18, 2016

NCAA 3rd Round Picks–Saturday, March 19, 2016

Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Miami Wichita St. -1 2 -3
Duke Yale 4 6 11
Kentucky Indiana 2 1 3
Iowa St. UALR 6 6 8
Virginia Butler 7 6 9
Kansas Connecticut 7 4 15
Utah Gonzaga -2 -1 -1
North Carolina Providence 10 8 22

 

Saturday Schedule

Time (EDT) Network Higher Seed Lower Seed
12:10 PM CBS Miami (Fla.) Wichita St.
2:40 PM CBS Duke Yale
5:15 PM CBS Kentucky Indiana
6:10 PM TNT Iowa St. UALR
7:10 PM TBS Virginia Butler
7:45 PM CBS Kansas Connecticut
8:40 PM TNT Utah Gonzaga
9:40 PM TBS North Carolina Providence

 

March 16, 2016

PiRate Ratings For NCAA Tournament Round of 64

Thursday, March 17        
Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Kansas Austin Peay 22 23 31
Colorado Connecticut -3 -2 -4
Arizona Wichita St. 1 4 1
Miami Buffalo 12 13 14
Baylor Yale 3 3 11
Duke UNC-Wilmington 6 8 12
North Carolina Florida Gulf Coast 19 21 25
USC Providence 1 1 3
Indiana Chattanooga 10 8 11
Kentucky Stony Brook 11 10 10
Virginia Hampton 20 25 33
Texas Tech Butler -1 -1 -2
Purdue UALR 6 7 17
Iowa St. Iona 8 10 13
Seton Hall Gonzaga 1 -1 -1
Utah Fresno St. 7 8 15
     
Friday, March 18        
Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Maryland South Dakota St. 6 7 8
California Hawaii 5 6 11
Iowa Temple 8 6 9
Villanova UNC-Asheville 13 14 22
Oregon Holy Cross 22 25 35
St. Joseph’s Cincinnati 1 -2 1
Texas Northern Iowa 5 6 10
Texas A&M Green Bay 9 12 18
Oregon St. VCU -2 -4 -4
Oklahoma Cal State Bakersfield 11 13 20
Notre Dame Michigan 2 3 1
West Virginia Stephen F. Austin 6 8 12
Wisconsin Pittsburgh 1 1 -1
Xavier Weber St. 13 13 17
Dayton Syracuse -1 -1 2
Michigan St. Middle Tennessee 16 16 21

March 13, 2016

NCAA Men’s Basketball Conference Tournament Selection Sunday Update #1

The finish line is in site.  Our bracket geniuses have been working through the wee hours of the night, losing an hour of work time due to Daylight Savings Time, and breaking teams down to core parts.

 

As of this morning, with five games left to be played, the 32 Gurus agree on 64 of the 68 teams.  The Bubble has been reduced to 8 teams fighting for four slots.

 

We will release our final bracketology later this afternoon following the end of the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, where Memphis will force 32 Bracket Gurus to quickly re-adjust their brackets if the Tigers knock off Connecticut to earn an automatic bid.  Because our guys say UConn is already in the tournament, a Memphis win will bump one of the Bubble teams out of the dance.

 

Here is today’s schedule

Time Network Conference Team vs. Team
12:30 PM CBS Atlantic 10 VCU vs. St. Joe’s
1:00 PM ESPN-2 Sun Belt UALR vs. UL-Monroe
1:00 PM ESPN SEC Texas A&M vs. Kentucky
3:15 PM ESPN American Connecticut vs. Memphis
3:30 PM CBS Big Ten Michigan St. vs. Purdue

 

Here is The Bubble in order of best to worst.  Thus, for now, the top four are in the tournament and headed to Dayton, while the bottom four are your #1 seeds in the NIT.  As only the Memphis outcome can affect this Bubble, South Carolina and Michigan are the teams worried the most, because one of the two will be squeezed out if Memphis wins.  The bottom four can do nothing now to work their way into the field if our Gurus are on target.

  1. Wichita St.
  2. Saint Bonaventure
  3. Michigan
  4. South Carolina
  5. Saint Mary’s
  6. San Diego St.
  7. Syracuse
  8. Vanderbilt

The final predicted field will be released as soon as we can tabulate the 32 Gurus’ selections following the Memphis-Connecticut game.

 

 

April 6, 2014

PiRate Ratings Preview of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

This has been one of the most interesting NCAA Tournaments in many years.  Never have both title game participants both enter the game with eight or more losses.  Kentucky with 10 and Connecticut with 8 make for the most total losses by title contenders at 18.  The same goes for highest combined seeds (UK-8/UConn-7).  Both teams failed to play in the NCAA Tournament at all last year, although Connecticut was ineligible due to academic progress issues.

 

The most interesting part of this equation for us involves the Huskies.  Connecticut has become the first team ever to make the Championship Game with a negative R+T rating.  R+T is a statistic that we invented.  It is similar to park-adjusted On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage in baseball.  It is a one-for-one adjustment to the number of extra scoring opportunities a team should expect to obtain in a game due to rebounds and turnovers, but with a higher emphasis on offensive rebounds and steals, which most frequently lead to easy scoring chances.

 

These schools squared off in the Final Four in 2011, which just so happened to be played in the Lone Star State.  Connecticut edged Kentucky by one point at Reliant Stadium in Houston.  No current Kentucky player was on the 2011 roster, while three Husky players saw action in that game.

 

Here is our look at the starting lineups.

 

Point Guard:

Kentucky—Andrew Harrison   #5        6-6, 215 Fr.

Connecticut—Shabazz Napier #13      6-1, 180 Sr.

Shooting Guard:

Kentucky—Aaron Harrison   #2        6-6, 218 Fr.

Connecticut—Ryan Boatright  #11      6-0, 168 Jr.

Small Forward:

Kentucky—James Young  #1        6-6, 215 Fr.

Connecticut—Niels Giffey #5        6-7, 205 Sr.

 

Power Forward:

Kentucky—Julius Randle    #30      6-9, 250 Fr.

Connecticut—DeAndre Daniels  #2    6-9, 195 Jr.

 

Center:

Kentucky—Dakari Johnson  #44      7-0, 265 Fr.

Connecticut—Phillip Nolan   #0        6-10, 212 So.

 

Reserves

Kentucky—Alex Poythress    #22      6-8, 239 So.

Kentucky—Marcus Lee     #00      6-9, 215 Fr.

Kentucky—Jarrod Polson  #3        6-2, 182 Sr.

Kentucky-Dominique Hawkins  #25      6-0, 193 Fr.

 

Connecticut—Lasan Kromah #20      6-6, 201 Jr.

Connecticut—Amida Brimah #35      7-0, 217 Fr.

Connecticut—Tyler Olander   #10      6-10, 230 Sr.

Connecticut—Terrence Samuel  #3        6-4, 190 Fr.

 

Here is our special statistical look at the game.

 

Stat Kentucky Connecticut
FG 986 949
FG-Att 2168 2109
3-Pt 198 281
Effective FG% 50.0 51.7
Def FG 911 860
Def FG-Att 2218 2195
Def 3-pt 216 236
Def Effective FG% 45.9 44.6
Offensive Reb 564 379
Opp. Def. Reb 768 863
Reb Rate 42.3 30.5
Opp. Off. Reb 429 482
Defensive Reb 1011 983
Opp. Reb Rate 29.8 32.9
Turnovers 468 447
Free Throw Attempts 1122 819
Turnover Rate 14.8 15.2
Opp. Turnovers 418 505
Opp. FT-Attempts 826 777
Opp. Turnover Rate 13.8 16.5
Free Throws Made 768 634
Free Throw Rate 29.5 24.7
Opp. FT-Made 567 519
Opp. FT Rate 21.8 20.1
Possessions/Game 66.8 65.8
R + T Rating 14.3 -1.1
Road/Neutral W-L 13-8 16-5
Strength of Schedule .5825 .5735
FG% Margin Score 3.54 6.13
Reb Rate Score 3.12 -0.59
TO Margin Score -0.37 0.49
FT Rate Score 1.27 0.77
PiRate Criteria Score 7.57 6.80
Predicted Score 69 67

 

April 4, 2014

PiRate Ratings Final Four Criteria Preview

We only made it to North Texas with one of our Final Four participants, and we did not pick Florida to win the National Championship, so this year is a bust. Nevertheless, we will go ahead and preview the remaining games.

Overall, we are 43-17 (72%) in the prediction of tournament games to this point.

Here is our preview of the National Semifinal round.

Time (ET) Team vs. Team
6:09 PM #1 Florida (36-2) vs. #7 Connecticut (30-8)
8:49 PM #2 Wisconsin (30-7) vs. #8 Kentucky (28-10)

Florida vs. Connecticut–Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Tie
Field Goal % Margin: Florida by 0.7
Rebound Margin: Florida by 13.6
Turnover Margin: Florida by 2.3
Steal Margin: Florida by 0.1
R+T Rating: Florida by 12.4

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Florida by 17
Predicted Score: Florida 75 Connecticut 58

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin—Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Wisconsin by 0.9
Field Goal % Margin: Wisconsin by 2.0
Rebound Margin: Kentucky by 11.5
Turnover Margin: Wisconsin by 3.4
Steal Margin: Wisconsin by 0.1
R+T Rating: Kentucky by 13.2

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Kentucky by 4
Predicted Score: Kentucky 71 Wisconsin 67

 

March 29, 2014

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Preview–March 29-30, 2014

Here are the matchups for The Elite 8 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four Elite 8 games are not going to be as exciting as a whole as the Sweet 16 games were, but there are still a couple of really good ones in our opinion. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Elite 8 Schedule

SATURDAY
6:09 PM EDT on TBS
South Region (MEMPHIS)—#1 Florida vs. #11 Dayton
Florida has significant advantages almost across the board, and this game looks like a mismatch for the top-seeded Gators. The FG% margins tilts strongly in UF’s favor, as well as the turnover margin difference. Rebounding gives a tiny edge to the Gators, and the R+T rating is basically a wash. Dayton would have to shoot lights out or Florida would have to be ice cold for this game to be close

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7      Predicted Score: Florida 71 Dayton 51

8:49 PM EDT on TBS
West Region (ANAHEIM)—#1 Arizona vs. #2 Wisconsin
Arizona has considerable advantages over the Badgers, but not as much as Florida’s advantages over Dayton. The Wildcats’ biggest advantage is in the R+T rating, where our formula states that ‘Zona will get nine extra scoring opportunities. The important note here as that we consider scoring opportunities to be different than possessions. By scoring opportunities, we refer to the high-percentage opportunity from offensive rebounds and steals where the offense has a considerable advantage over the defense.

Arizona also owns slight criteria advantages in FG% margin and rebounding, while turnover margin is a wash. The Badgers get a little advantage for schedule strength, but not enough to turn the tide in their favor.

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 2      Predicted Score: Arizona 75 Wisconsin 68

SUNDAY
2:20 PM EDT on CBS
East Region (NEW YORK CITY)—#4 Michigan St. vs. #7 Connecticut
Michigan State holds a decisive R+T rating in this game, and we figure the Spartans will get an extra eight scoring opportunities. MSU has a very slight advantage in FG% margin and a stronger rebounding margin advantage, while turnover margin is about even. Throw in a slight Spartan advantage in strength of schedule, and it adds up to Sparty cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden. Even a mild home court advantage does not tilt the game in UConn’s favor.

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 3      Predicted Score: Michigan St. 68 Connecticut 59

5:05 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region (INDIANAPOLIS)—#2 Michigan vs. #8 Kentucky
This is the biggest contrast game of the Elite 8, and it should be the most exciting of the four games. Michigan owns the FG% margin advantage, as well as the turnover margin advantage. In fact, Kentucky is the only team left with an effective FG% less than 50% and the only team with a negative turnover margin. These are usually indications that a team will lose in this round.

However, Michigan is the only team left in the field with a negative rebounding margin, while Kentucky has the best rebounding margin of the eight remaining teams. Kentucky’s unbelievable 14 extra scoring opportunities forecasted in this game is an eye-popping statistic reminiscent of the old UCLA teams during the Wooden dynasty, or in other words, an insurmountable advantage.

Michigan has a slight strength of schedule advantage in this game. Now, add one more little thing. Unlike most of the other victors in the tournament as a whole, Michigan has continued to maintain and even surpass their three-point shooting acumen. They have actually exceeded their regular season FG% criteria in the postseason. This is reminiscent of Butler during their back-to-back trips to the Championship Game. Could Michigan repeat this? That’s why this game is extremely close, and it should be the best of the weekend.

PiRate Criteria: Tie (to 2 decimals)      Predicted Score: Michigan 85 Kentucky 84 2ot

March 27, 2014

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview for Friday, March 28, 2014

Here are the matchups for Friday’s Sweet 16 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four games on Friday constitute the best four Sweet 16 games in one night in several years. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Sweet 16 Friday Schedule

7:15 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Michigan vs. Tennessee
Take your pick. Michigan has slight edges in field goal margin and turnover margin, but Tennessee has a decided edge on the glass. The strength of schedule makes the Wolverines an ever so slight favorite

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by less than 1    Predicted Score: Michigan 72  Tennessee 70

7:27 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Connecticut vs. Iowa St.
The teams are dead even in shooting margin. Neither can rebound the ball all that well, so this is a push as well. Turnover margin is no different, and the R+T ratings are exceptionally low for Sweet 16 teams. Rarely does a team with a low R+T make the Elite 8, but one must this year, and it will be the winner of this game.

PiRate Criteria: Iowa St. by less than 1   Predicted Score: Iowa St. 67  Connecticut 66

Approx. 9:45 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Louisville vs. Kentucky
Louisville has the best field goal margin ratings of any team remaining in the tournament, while Kentucky ranks near the bottom of Sweet 16 teams. The Wildcats are without a doubt the best rebounding team left in the tournament, but Louisville has the best turnover margin in the remaining field. Kentucky has considerably better R+T and schedule strength, which brings us back to square one—almost.

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 1 Predicted Score: Louisville 74  Kentucky 71

Approx. 9:57 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Virginia vs. Michigan St.
When you think of a Tom Izzo team, rebounding prowess immediately comes to mind. However, in this game, Virginia actually holds a slight edge. Michigan St., never the finesse team, actually has better shooting margin ratings than the Cavaliers. This game will be decided in the turnover margin, and UVA has the slight edge there.

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 1 Predicted Score: Virginia 58  Michigan St. 56

August 23, 2011

2011 Big East Conference Preview

2011 Big East Conference Preview

To some football analysts (so-called experts), the Big East Conference does not deserve and automatic bid to a BCS Bowl game.  Not since Louisville in 2006 has a team from this league won a BCS Bowl and finished in the top 5 in the same season.  It has been four seasons since the league champion won a bowl game (West Virginia over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl when they had Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine).  Cincinnati ran the table in 2009, but they showed they were not up to top tier standards when Florida blew them out 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl.

 

2011 does not look like the season where a Big East team challenges for a national title.  Things should change in 2012 when TCU joins the circuit.  For now, this season should be an excellent one for competition in the middle of the standings.  Last year, three teams finished tied for first at 5-2, and a fourth finished 4-3.  While we believe that one team may win the title going away this year, it isn’t impossible that another logjam at the top of the standings could be in the offing again this season.

 

Pittsburgh

Todd Graham takes over as head coach after winning at both Rice and Tulsa.  In Graham’s five years as a head coach, his teams have averaged more than 37 points per game, 287 passing yards per game, and 475 total yards per game.  In the last five years, Pitt has averaged less than 28 points per game, 208 passing yards per game, and 358 total yards per game.  To say that Panther fans are hyped is an understatement.

 

Graham’s first year at Heinz Field may not be as “offensive” as the fans expect, but there is enough talent to grab a piece of the Big East crown, especially since Pitt’s defense is going to be as good or better as last year’s stellar stop unit.

 

The offense will change from a multiple pro look to more of a spread look similar to that run by Auburn.  Piloting the new no-huddle, hurry-up attack is Tino Sunseri.  Sunseri completed 64.5% of his passes for 2,572 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, but those numbers will look like beginner’s numbers compared to what he should do this season.  He worked hard over the summer and now has better arm strength to go with a little more muscular frame.  Expect big things from Sunseri—maybe 3,500 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, as well as the possibility of national recognition.

 

The Panthers have to replace their leading receiver from last year, but this area is not much of a concern this year.  Mike Shanahan finished second with 49 receptions and 589 yards, while sophomore Devin Street proved to be a breakaway threat while grabbing 25 passes.  He started four times and played some at H-Back and some at wideout.  Hubie Graham will be the H-Back this year now that he is eligible after transferring from Illinois.

 

The running game will not suffer in the new offense.  Graham’s Tulsa teams averaged more than 200 yards rushing per game in his four years there.  Even with the loss of Dion Lewis, Pitt is in good shape here with the return of Ray Graham, who gained 922 yards while averaging better than six yards per try.  The one big question mark on this side of the ball is the depth at this position.

 

The Panthers are in good shape in the offensive trenches with seven quality players capable of starting.  Chris Jacobson is solid at one guard spot with Jordan Gibbs flanked outside him at tackle.  Ryan Turnley will move into the starting spot at center, while Lucas Nix will line up at either right guard or right tackle.  Depending on where Nix goes, either guard Corey King or tackle Greg Gaskin will fill out the line.

 

This offense might have a slight adjustment period getting used to the new offense, but once it gels, Pitt fans will get exactly what they were hoping for.  Pitt has averaged 35 points per game exactly one time in its entire history—1977.  We think this team is capable of achieving that mark in year one of the Graham regime.

 

We are even more optimistic on the stop side of the ball.  Not only is Pitt talented, all three units have quality depth.  This is hands down the best defense in the league, and the only reason Pitt may give up a few more yards and points per game this year is because the new offense will cause an extra 10 plays per game on average, about five more for the defense to be on the field.

 

The Panthers run a hybrid 3-4 defense that looks a lot like the old Oklahoma 5-2 defense of the 1970’s.  Pitt’s second team defensive line may be the second best D-line in the conference.  The first team line is composed of ends Aaron Donald and Chas Alecxih and nose tackle Myles Caragein.  Alecxih produced nine tackles for loss including 7 ½ sacks.  Donald played sparingly as a true freshman and proved to be a very capable pass rusher.  Caragein plugged the middle, allowing the inside linebackers to roam freely.

 

The four-man linebacker crew is without a doubt the best in the league.  Panther linebacker (a glorified term for a walkaway end) Brandon Lindsey could emerge as a Butkus and Bednarik Award contender.  Last year, he recorded 10 sacks and 17 ½ stops behind the line, the latter leading the Big East.  Inside linebacker Max Gruder finished second on the squad with 84 tackles.  His sidekick at the other inside linebacker position is Tristan Roberts, but he is being pushed hard by Shane Gordon.  Look for the two to split time here.  Spur linebackers (a combo linebacker and safety) Todd Thomas and Greg Williams will platoon the position.

 

More riches abound at the cornerback position.  Graham considers three players as regulars, even though just two can start.  Antwuan Reed, K’Waun Williams, and Buddy Jackson should force quarterbacks to look away from the sidelines or throw short.  Safety Jarred Holley led Pitt with five interceptions last year, and he will be joined by bandit safety (a hybrid safety/cornerback) Jason Hendricks.

 

Pitt gave up 19 points and 305 yards per game last year.  We believe those numbers will suffer slightly in the new up-tempo style, but don’t fret Panther fans; your team still has the top defense in the Big East.

 

If the offense can gel and play up to its potential in September, Pitt could actually contend for national honors.  We think the Panthers are a strong favorite to win the Big East with a decent shot at running the table in conference play.  Can the Panthers go 12-0?  It is a slight possibility.  There are four possible roadblocks.  A road game at Iowa could be tough on September 17.  The Hawkeyes are rebuilding, but they are always tough at Kinnick Stadium.  A week later, Notre Dame comes to Steeltown.  It should be the game of the week.  On October 15, Pitt entertains Utah, which is always dangerous.  Then, of course, there is the backyard brawl, and this year, Pitt travels to Morgantown to face West Virginia.  The Mountaineers could be in line to win the Big East with a win in this game, so it should be a great renewal of the rivalry with two teams capable of scoring a lot of points.

 

Cincinnati

We must admit that we were a bit surprised when our computer ratings spat out the Bearcats as the second best Big East team at the start of the 2011 season.  Coming off a 4-8 season under first year coach Butch Jones, the Bearcats will be much stronger on defense, but a rebuilding offensive line will make it hard to duplicate the offensive effectiveness of recent years.

 

The Bearcats are well-equipped at the offensive skill positions.  Quarterback Zach Collaros is one of four or five highly accomplished passers in the league.  Collaros passed for 2,902 yards and 26 touchdowns last year while finishing second on the team in rushing.

 

Isaiah Pead returns to his running back spot after gaining 1,029 yards at a 6.6 yards per attempt rate.  He did not start every game, so he could push that number over 1,200 yards this season.  True freshman Jameel Poteat could see extensive action in a backup role.

 

Bearcat receivers finished one-two in receptions in the Big East last year, and number two is back for an encore.  D. J. Woods was good for 57 catches and 898 yards with eight touchdowns.  Junior college transfer Kenbrell Thompkins should inherit the spot vacated by Armon Binns.

 

It is the blocking corps that worries us and makes us wonder if our computer didn’t byte on a bad bit when it calculated Cinti’s rating.  Only two starters return to the line.  One of those is tackle Alex Hoffman, a 2nd Team All-Big East selection last year.

 

UC averaged 27 points and 417 yards per game last year.  We expect those numbers to drop a little bit this year.  Look for 24-25 points and 375 yards.

 

After Pittsburgh, the Bearcats may have the best defense this season (West Virginia may have something to say about that).  The top 11 tacklers and 17 of the top 18 from 2010 are back.  15 players that started at some point will contend for the 11 starting positions.

 

The four-man defensive line will be strong.  Tackles Derek Wolfe and John Hughes will be tough to run on, while end Brandon Mills will contend for the conference lead in sacks and tackles for loss.

 

J. K. Schaffer and Maalik Bomar led the team with 111 and 70 tackles respectively.  The two linebackers combined for 17 ½ tackles for loss.

 

In the backfield, UC is stocked with depth albeit not quite up to par with the secondary at Pitt.  The Bearcats did not stop many passes last year, and if they are to live up to this rating, they must improve on their 2010 showing.  The entire two-deep returns and adds juco star Maclcolm Murray, who could crack the starting lineup by the season opener.  True freshman Trenier Orr is working his way up the depth chart.

 

The Bearcats gave up 28 points and 370 yards per game last year.  It should be easy besting those numbers this year with all the experience and depth.  If UC can shave a touchdown and 50 yards off those numbers, they might be able to live up to our lofty expectations.

 

Cinti’s non-conference schedule features two very winnable games, one possible trap game, and two games against teams that should be favored to beat the Bearcats.  All five of these games precede the Big East schedule.  If UC is 4-1 headed into the off week of October 8, the rest of the league better beware.  The Bearcats host West Virginia, but they must face Pittsburgh and South Florida on the road.  A 5-2 league mark is possible.

 

West Virginia

Welcome back to our prime time soap opera.  In today’s episode, Bill tries to go behind Dana’s back to spread nasty rumors and get him fired, but he gets caught and Bill loses his job.

 

Yes, that soap opera was no fantasy story.  Former coach Bill Stewart really did try to get his future replacement, Dana Holgorsen, fired by feeding a media source information to try to slander his offensive coordinator.  Instead, it was Stewart that was sent packing.  Holgorsen now ascends to head coach a year earlier than expected.

 

Holgorsen authored the offensive revival at Oklahoma State, after tutoring Case Keenum as OC at Houston and serving on Mike Leach’s Texas Tech staff.  The explosive spread offense used by the Mountaineers during the Rich Rodriguez era will return in spades this year.  However, WVU’s defense will take a major step backward.

 

Geno Smith may not be the running threat that Pat White was, but he has a better arm.  Smith tossed for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes in 2010.  Those numbers led the league in passing efficiency.  WV averaged about 32 passes per game last year; that number could top 40 this year.  Smith could easily top 3,500 yards passing.

 

Smith has three excellent options to fire his passes to this year.  Tavon Austin, Brad Starks, and Stedman Bailey teamed for 101 receptions 1,421 yards, and 16 touchdowns last year.  Starks could lose his starting spot to Ryan Nehlen, and we could see this trio topping 150 receptions, 2,000 yards, and 20 touchdowns this year.

 

Noel Devine is no longer around in the Mountaineer backfield after it seemed like he was there for a decade.  His replacement will be a three-headed monster known as Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, and Vernard Roberts.  All three are true freshmen, so there will be a decline at this position.

 

The offensive line had to do some shuffling following the Spring Game injury of 2nd Team All-Big East guard Josh Jenkins.  The best center in the league returns in Joe Madsen.  Don Barclay returns at left tackle after earning 1st Team All-Big East accolades in 2010.

 

The Mountaineers’ offense ground to a near halt at times last year.  In a period of four weeks, WVU scored just 14, 13, and 17 points against three conference opponents.  Expect a dramatic increase in offensive production this year.  The Mountaineers could top 30 points and 425 yards per game in year one of the Holgorsen era.

 

Now, to the defense:  West Virginia’s stop troops were almost as tough as TCU’s last year.  The Mountaineers gave up just 13.5 points, 86 rushing yards, and 261 total yards last year.  This year’s defense is missing five all-conference players and seven starters overall.  Factoring into the equation the real possibility that the new offense will not produce long, time-consuming drives (WVU ran 105 more scrimmage plays than their opponents) and cause this team to defend as much as a dozen more scrimmage plays this year, WVU will not come close to matching their 2010 numbers.

 

One starter returns to the front line of the 3-3-5 defense, but the designated pass rusher from last year gives WVU the equivalent of two starting ends returning.  Julian Miller earned a spot on the 2nd Team All-Big East list after coming up with 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks.  Bruce Irvin led the league with 14 sacks and also made the 2nd Team All-Big East list.

 

The biggest rebuilding will take place in the second line of defense, as middle linebacker Najee Goode is the only holdover.  Goode contributed 8 ½ tackles for loss.

 

The back line is the strength of this side of the ball.  Safety Terence Garvin led the team with 76 tackles.  Cornerback Keith Tandy finished tied for first in the league with 17 passes defended.  Six of those were interceptions, and it earned him a 1st Team All-Big East Selection.

 

How much the defense regresses will determine how far WVU falls in the standings.  They tied for first last year.  We could see them challenging for first again this year, but we believe they will probably come in two games back and in third.  The Mountaineers will pick up three or four non-conference wins (LSU and Maryland on the schedule), so Holgorsen will guide his forces back to a bowl game.

 

Connecticut

2010 was the cherry on top season for the Huskies, as Randy Edsall guided UConn to the conference title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.  Edsall left for Maryland, and the new man is former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni.  Pasqualoni won 107 games in 14 years at Syracuse, including four Big East Championships.  The ‘Cuse went to bowl games nine times in the 14 seasons.

 

The cupboard is not bare in Huskietown, but there is quite a bit of rebuilding to do, especially on offense where five starters have departed and one unit has been decimated with the loss of four key parts.

 

That one unit comes on the offensive side of the ball, where UConn already faced some major losses.  Starting Wide receiver Michael Smith led the Huskies last year with 46 receptions and 615 yards.  He was declared academically ineligible.  Three more receivers expected to figure in the mix all quit.  Gone are Malik Generett, Gerrard Sheppard, and Leon Kinnard.  That leaves just six receivers on the roster, and two of those six are nursing minor injuries.  Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore are capable second and third options, but now they will have to become the feature receivers.

 

Just who will throw the passes is still a mystery.  As late as mid-August, Pasqualoni had not settled on a starting quarterback.  True freshman Michael Nebrich appears to have a slight edge over redshirt freshman Scott McCummings, but sophomore Michael Box and junior Johnny McEntee are also in the mix.  Nebrich will probably be under center when Connecticut hosts Fordham on September 1.  Last year’s co-quarterbacks did not produce bang-up numbers, so the eventual starter will not be that far behind what they had and could even be a little better.

 

The news is not as good at the running back position.  Jordan Todman has used of his eligibility after rushing for a conference-leading 1,695 yards with 14 touchdowns.  Number two rusher Robbie Frey is also missing.  Former Southern Cal fullback D. J. Shoemate takes over as the starter after rushing for 115 yards in limited action last year.  Shoemate had a problem holding onto the ball and was relegated to the bench.

 

The brightest spot of the offense is a talented and experienced offensive line.  Center Moe Petrus has been a 1st Team All-Big East pick in the past.  Tackle Mike Ryan made the 1st Team all-conference squad last year.

 

Connecticut will make a lot more mistakes on this side of the ball this season.  The Huskies limited mistakes last year, finishing the season +12 in turnover margin.  Don’t expect a repeat, even with a defense that could be just as good or even better than last year.  Look for about 20-24 points and 275-300 total yards out of this offense.

 

If the Huskies can plug some holes at linebacker, the defense could be a major plus in 2011.  UConn gave up 22 points and 367 yards per game last year, but it was a hit or miss season.  Against the weaker teams, the defense shut them down.  Against the stronger teams, the defense faltered.  Oklahoma, Michigan, Rutgers, and West Virginia combined to gain 1,864 yards (466/g), while the other nine opponents totaled 2,904 yards (323/g).

 

In the trenches, tackles Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin return as starters.  They combined for 15 stops for loss.  Reyes was able to intercept two passes and knock away four others.  End Jesse Joseph returns after leading the team with 8 ½ sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

 

The secondary returns intact with cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz looking to top their production of 2010 when they teamed for 20 passes defended.  Safeties Jerome Junior and Harris Agbor round out the secondary.

 

Only one experienced player returns at linebacker, and a freshman could actually become one of the new starters.  Sio Moore is the lone holdover from last year.  He was selected to the All-Big East 2nd Team after he recorded 110 tackles with 11 ½ stops for loss.

 

It is hard to predict what we believe the defense will allow this season.  It all hinges on what the offense does.  If Shoemate can hang onto the ball and produce a year similar to what Todman produced, Connecticut could control the clock, and the defense could be okay.  If the offense never gets untracked and cannot keep the defense off the field, the defense could take a step backward even with all the returning players.  We believe in finding a happy medium and will call for numbers just a little weaker than last season.

 

UConn benefitted from having a lot of scoring punch in their special teams last year.  Kicker Dave Teggart connected on all 36 of his point after attempts as well as 25 of 31 field goal attempts.  He was two for two beyond 50 yards.  Kick Returner Nick Williams averaged an eye-popping 35+ yards per return with two touchdowns.  Both specialists return and could be a major factor once again.

 

The schedule will save the Huskies this year.  The non-conference slate includes games with Fordham, Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Buffalo, and Western Michigan.  The Huskies will do no worse than 4-1 in these games.  With Syracuse, Rutgers, and Louisville visiting Rentschler Field, UConn will win the two conference games they need to return to a bowl game.  It will not be a BCS Bowl this year.

 

South Florida

The Bulls finished 3-4 in league play last year, 3-4 in 2009, and 2-5 in 2008.  They have finished with winning records the past three years thanks to a non-conference record of 16-2.  Second year coach Skip Holtz lost half of his 2010 starters, but his main returnee is causing him sleepless nights.

 

Quarterback B. J. Daniels is nursing an injured hamstring.  The third year starter does not have much depth backing him up.  Without him, USF is not going to move the ball through the air and will be less predictable on the ground.  Daniels did not have a stellar sophomore year after having a breakout year as a redshirt freshman.  If he cannot go at the start of the season, backup Bobby Eveld will get the nod.  Eveld completed 56% of his 75 passes, but behind him are a couple of true freshmen who are not ready to play at the BCS level.

 

Holtz’s top receiver from last year has used up his eligibility.  Dontavia Bogan led the team with 47 receptions, 19 more than the next guy.  That guy was Evan Landi, who returns after averaging close to 14 yards on his 28 receptions.  Former starter Sterling Griffin missed all of last year, and he should give Daniels or Eveld a decent second option.  Griffin caught 14 passes in 2009.

 

The backfield shows promise even if it does not return its starter from last year.  Demetrius Murray returns after rushing for 542 yards and four scores, but he could be supplanted by former Colorado Buffalo top recruit Darrell Scott.  Scott is eligible after sitting out last year.

 

The offensive line has to replace three starters.  The two returning starters are guards Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren. 

 

USF averaged 24 points and just over 300 yards per game last year.  It was considered a major underachievement.  Even with the loss of personnel and the injury to Daniels, we have to believe that the Bulls will be able to better those stats.  Look for 25-28 points and 325-350 total yards in 2011.

 

The defense has some holes to fill as well.  Gone are last year’s top tackler and tackler for lost yardage, co-top sack producer, and top passes defender.  Six starters return, and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder should find enough talent to mold a decent stop unit.

 

The biggest rebuilding job is in the trenches where three of four defensive linemen must be replaced.  Nose tackle Cory Grissom is the lone returnee.  At about 320 pounds, he can control two gaps on the line, but he will not make many tackles.  The true star of this unit is likely to be end Ryne Giddins.  In limited action as a redshirt freshman last year, he made six tackles for loss with 3 ½ sacks.

 

Linebackers Sam Barrington and DeDe Lattimore return after combining for 134 stops.  At the Sam Linebacker position, Reshard Cliett and Curtis Weatherspoon are likely to share reps this year.

 

The secondary is in good hands with the return of three starters, but none of the trio can be considered a game-changer.  Cornerback Quenton Washington recorded 59 tackles last year, but he only intercepted one pass.  Free safety Jerrell Young intercepted three passes to lead the team in 2010.

 

The Bulls don’t open the season with a cupcake like other teams.  They face Notre Dame in South Bend.  Other non-league tilts include three cupcakes—Ball State, Florida A&M, and UTEP.  The Bulls host Miami in November, and who knows how the Hurricanes will be playing by this point of the season.  They could even be facing the “death penalty” and players could be jumping off ship by this time.  Even if USF finishes below .500 in the league this year, they can return to bowl eligibility once again.

 

Syracuse

Coach Doug Marrone pulled off the biggest surprise of the league last year.  His Orangemen beat South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Rutgers to finish with SU’s first winning Big East record since 2004.  The Orangemen played in their first bowl since that season and defeated Kansas State in the most exciting bowl game of the season—the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

 

SU won with their defense in 2010, but that defense was decimated by graduation losses.  Only five starters return, and one of those will miss the first game and maybe more.  All is not gloom and doom, because they get back two key players that missed most of last year.

 

It is the secondary where all this good and bad news resides.  Free safety Phillip Thomas suffered a broken jaw and will miss at least the season opener.  Thomas is the leading returning tackler with 92.  Shamarko Thomas returns to the strong safety position.  He finished fourth with 67 tackles last year.  The two players returning from injuries should be the starting cornerbacks.  Kevyn Scott has 17 starts under his belt, while Ri’Shard Anderson saw action in seven games two years ago as a freshman.

 

Two new starters will open up at linebacker, one of whom could be a true freshman.  Marquis Spruill is the lone returning starter; he registered nine tackles for loss in 2010.

 

Up front, two defensive linemen return.  End Mikhail Marinovich recorded just three sacks and needs to improve on that number.  His counterpart, Chandler Jones, is the star of the stop side.  Jones earned 2nd team all-conference honors after recording four sacks, 9 ½ total tackles for loss, and five additional QB hurries.  He also knocked away four passes.

 

After giving up just 19 points and 300 yards last year, look for those numbers to head south in 2011.  We foresee the ‘Cuse giving up 23-28 points and about 340 yards per game.

 

The offense really did not improve much upon 2009’s production, increasing scoring by just a point per game while actually gaining fewer yards.  This year, The Orangemen should produce the most points and yards in at least seven years. 

 

There is one big distraction as this team enters fall drills.  Speedy receiver Marcus Sales is suspended indefinitely following a drug arrest.  His trial does not begin until February of 2012, so he could play the 2011 season.  Whether or not Marrone allows him to participate is another question.  Sales had 26 receptions with a 16 yard average per catch.  Syracuse still has some quality receivers on hand.  Van Chew led the team with 41 receptions.  Alec Lemon caught 32 passes.  Both players should add to their totals this season.  Tight end Nick Provo is a proven option in the middle, and he should see more passes come his way this year after grabbing 33 receptions.

 

Quarterback Ryan Nassib returns for his junior season, his second as a starter.  Nassib passed for 2,300+ yards with 19 touchdowns.  Nassib will throw more passes this season, and he should top 2,500 yards.

 

The running game will miss star back Delone Carter, who departs after rushing for more than 1,200 yards last year.  Antwon Bailey rushed for 554 yards and a couple of scores with a 4.9 yard per carry average.  He is strictly a speed back, so when SU needs to pound the ball and convert short yardage situations, expect true freshman Adonis Ameen-Moore to see a lot of action.

 

Four starters return to the offensive line, led by tackle Justin Pugh.  Pugh earned 2nd Team All-Big East accolades last year.  Guard Andrew Tiller could be on the cusp of making an all-conference team.

 

Syracuse is known for having great place kickers.  Ross Krautman is the current top kicker in the Big East.  He nailed 18 of 19 field goal attempts last year, including 6 of 7 from beyond 40 yards.

 

We see the ‘Cuse averaging about 24-27 points and 325-350 yards per game this year.  They will fall in the conference standings, but there is still a chance the Orangemen can become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.  Four of five non-conference games are winnable, with Wake Forest, Rhode Island, and Toledo visiting the Carrier Dome.  A visit to Tulane is winnable as well, while the trip to Southern Cal should be a losing proposition.  The Orangemen should only need two conference wins to get to six.  Rutgers, USF, and Cincinnati visit the Carrier Dome.  SU could win two of those games.

 

Rutgers

After five consecutive winning seasons and four consecutive bowl wins, the Scarlet Knights took a step backward last year, finishing with just four wins.  RU coach Greg Schiano made some changes, gutting the Spread Formation and bringing in former Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti.  The Knights will switch back to a pro-style offense this year.

 

Rutgers’ biggest problem on offense last year was pass protection.  The offensive line gave up an unbelievable 61 sacks!  That is no typo.  Louisville dumped RU QBs nine times.  Army’s double eagle flex did the trick eight times.  The number was seven for both Pitt and Cincinnati.

 

Cignetti was a quarterback coach with the Saints and 49ers, and he will spend extra time tutoring RU quarterback Chas Dodd.  The sophomore started the final eight games and passed for 1,637 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Should Dodd need to be replaced, two freshmen could be in line as the next two options. 

 

If Dodd can get adequate pass protection, he will have a stable of quality receivers to choose from.  Mark Harrison, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Coleman, Quron Pratt, and Tim Wright and tight end D. C. Jefferson make the receiving corps as strong as any in the league.  Harrison showed breakaway ability last year when he caught 44 passes for 829 yards and nine touchdowns.  Sanu was more of a possession receiver, and he also caught 44 passses.

 

On paper, the running game appeared to be weak, but it was not so.  Factoring out sacks, the backs averaged 4.2 yards per rush.  Fullback Joe Martinek could be an important key this season.  In the new offense, he will block for a quartet of excellent backs.  Jeremy Deering may miss the start of the season with a head injury, after he averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year.  However, a true freshman may be the featured back this year.  Savon Huggins rushed for 1,891 yards and 35 touchdowns as a high school senior.  Jawan Jamison and De’Antwan Williams will see action.

 

The offensive line has nowhere to go but up, and with four starters returning, it will be improved.  Guard Desmond Wynn is the best of the bunch; his counterpart could be former prized recruit Antwan Lowery over returning starter Art Forst.  Desmond Stapleton and Andre Civil will man the tackle positions, while David Osei will be the new center.

 

Rutgers’ offense should make strides toward becoming powerful this year, but there will be some adjusting with the new offense.  Look for about 25-30 points and 375-400 yards per game.

 

Rutgers will need to outscore opponents to win, because their defense is going to resemble Swiss cheese at times.  The Scarlet Knights gave up 27 points and 375 yards per game last year, and with six key players gone, that number could weaken in 2011.

 

The strongest unit on defense will be at linebacker.  Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene return after teaming for 156 tackles with 8 ½ for losses. 

 

Up front, Rutgers uses a 4-man line, but one of the ends is more of a linebacker than a true end.  Marvin Booker and Ka’Lial Glaud will probably alternate at that hybrid position.  At the other end position, Manny Abreu has a leg up on Marcus Thompson and Micheal Larrow, but as of this writing, Larrow is the only healthy player of the three. 

 

The secondary is deep with average talent.  Cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones will be challenged by Mason Robinson and Marcus Cooper.  Safeties Duron Harmon and David Rowe make this unit deep albeit not outstanding.

 

With an offense that might hold onto the ball a little longer, RU could improve a little bit on the defensive side.  Still, this defense is anything but dominating, and the Scarlet Knights will have weeks where opponents torch them for 30-40 points.

 

The schedule is manageable, and RU could actually eke out enough wins to become bowl eligible.  Non-conference tilts with North Carolina Central, Ohio U, Navy, Army, and North Carolina are all winnable, but four of those opponents are dangerous. 

 

Louisville

Charlie Strong’s first year at UL was a success; he guided the Cardinals to a 7-6 record and bowl win.  If he repeats that effort in 2011, he should receive votes for National Coach of the Year!

 

UL has endured major losses on both sides of the ball, and it looks to us as though the Cards are headed back to the basement this year.

 

Just three starters return to an offense that was credible but not spectacular a year ago.  The Cards’ two-man quarterback tandem both moved on, and the new quarterback figures to be Will Stein.  Stein threw a grand total of 14 passes last year, completing nine for just 72 yards.  True freshman Teddy Bridgewater is the QB of the future.

 

Stein has some talent at the receiver position.  Josh Bellamy is an All-American trash-talker, but he may be able to back it up.  He snatched 29 passes and scored five touchdowns last year.  Andrell Smith and Michaelee Harris will be aided by promising true freshman Eli Rogers.

 

The big loss on offense is at running back, where Bilal Powell leaves after rushing for more than 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Victor Anderson replaces Powell; he rushed for 286 yards last year.

 

The offensive line has just one returning starter, and he is center Mario Benavides.  No other offensive lineman on the roster has ever started a game, so the Cards could have some troubles moving the ball this season.

 

After averaging 26 points and 370 yards a game last year, the drop could be as far as 17 to 20 points and 300-325 yards this season.

 

While seven starters return on the defensive side, the Cards took a major hit on this side of the ball with the departure of six of the top 10 tacklers.  The biggest concern is in the trenches, even though three starters return.  Ends B. J. Butler and Greg Scruggs combined for just 37 tackles, and Butler missed Spring Practice with an injury.  The Cards will miss designated pass rusher Rodney Gnat and his team-leading nine sacks.

 

Linebackers Daniel Brown and Dexter Heyman combined for 14 ½ tackles for loss, but neither will challenge for 1st Team All-Big East honors.

 

Safeties Hakeem Smith and Shenard Holton led the Cards with 88 and 74 tackles respectively.  They combined for just one interception.  Cornerback appears to be a major liability.  Johnny Patrick was high NFL draft choice after leading the conference with 17 passes defended.  Expected starter Darius Ashley was picked up twice on DUIs and is indefinitely suspended. 

 

Louisville will have a difficult time avoiding the Big East cellar.  However, there is still a small chance the Cards could become bowl eligible.  The non-conference slate gives them a small chance to win five games and a decent chance to win four.  UL plays Murray State, Florida International, Kentucky, Marshall, and North Carolina.  If they can win at least four of those five, they could go 2-5 in the league and repeat at 6-6 in the regular season.

 

2011 Big East Conference Media Poll

Team

1st Place Votes

Points

West Virginia

21

188

Pittsburgh

2

162

South Florida

1

151

Syracuse

 

98

Cincinnati

 

96

Connecticut

 

76

Louisville

 

60

Rutgers

 

33

 

 

2011 Big East Conference PiRate Ratings

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

Pittsburgh

111.5

7-0/11-1

Cincinnati

108.7

3-4/6-6

West Virginia

106.6

5-2/8-4

Connecticut

102.1

3-4/7-5

S. Florida

101.4

5-2/9-3

Syracuse

94.8

2-5/6-6

Rutgers

94.5

1-6/6-6

Louisville

92.2

2-5/5-7

 

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

 

12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67

 

2:40 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62

 

6:10 PM on TNT

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59

 

7:45 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55

 

9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

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