The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 24, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Games of Sat-Sun, March 24-25

Elite 8 Round

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Kansas St. Loyola-IL -0.1
Michigan Florida St. 3.0
Villanova Texas Tech 6.9
Kansas Duke -4.1

Elite 8 TV Schedule

Saturday, Mar 24, 2018
Time (EDT) Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:09 PM 9 Kansas St. 11 Loyola (Chi.) Atlanta TBS
8:49 PM 3 Michigan 9 Florida St. Los Angeles TBS
Sunday, Mar 25, 2018
Time (EDT) Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
2:20 PM 1 Villanova 3 Texas Tech Boston CBS
5:05 PM 1 Kansas 2 Duke Omaha CBS

Elite 8 Criteria Preview

Cinderella still remains in this tournament, even when there are just eight teams remaining.  Actually, there are two Cinderellas remaining, and one of them is now guaranteed to make the Final Four, as the two face off in Atlanta this evening.

The ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats keep defying the odds of 50+ years of past NCAA Tournament results.  Teams with terrible rebounding margins (Kansas State’s is -3.17 and with an R+T Rating [(R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T,  where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin] just barely above zero just don’t dance this far into the marathon.

Loyola is bucking the trend only minimally.  While they participate in one of the top 12 conferences, thus a Power Conference, the Ramblers’ overall strength of schedule is below the par of Final Four teams.  Even past Final Four Cinderellas like Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and George Mason had higher strengths of schedule, and former Missouri Valley Conference Final Four member Wichita State had a considerably higher strength of schedule when the Shockers made the national semifinals.

Florida State has tried on that slipper, but it is a tight fit.  The Seminoles are also a ninth seed, but it looks like the ACC teams were seeded a spot or two low this year.  The Seminoles have a brief history in the Final Four, getting to the title game, where they gave one of the best teams ever a real shock in the final, before losing to UCLA by five.  That was a Bruin team that outscored its opponents by a record 30+ points per game.

The Sunday schedule looks sane compared to the Saturday schedule.  Of the four teams playing on Sunday, the PiRate Rating Criteria correctly predicted three of the four to make it this far, and who knows what might have happened had Purdue’s Isaac Haas been able to play–it could have been a perfect four for four.

Nevertheless, Texas Tech is no slouch.  The Red Raiders play a difficult style of ball that is tough to match up against.  Coach Chris Beard takes from his past mentors, having been an assistant to Coach Bob Knight and Coach Tom Penders.  The Red Raiders play intelligently, and while they don’t run up and down the floor, they find ways to get open shots and to keep the opponent from getting too many on their side of the floor.

Villanova looks to be just as strong as the 2016 team that won the tournament.  The Wildcats have defeated teams playing different styles of ball, and they appear to be the most prepared to face whatever comes their way.  Looking at the criteria stats, there are three teams that we consider “complete teams,” in that they enjoy positive rebounding margins, turnover margins, average scoring margins, and they average more than 6 steals per game while giving up less than 6 steals per game.  Villanova is one of those three teams, and the Wildcats look to be the most complete of the three.

The Duke-Kansas match is the only one that the seed line got correct.  It is the only Elite 8 game that the PiRate Criteria also got correct.  The winner of this game will be crowned as the favorite to win it all, but if Villanova is there, it will set up a fantastic semifinal match, where the other side of the bracket will be overlooked.

Here are the Criteria Stats for the eight teams

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Duke Y 29-7 84-69 9.72 21.2 60.69
Florida St. Y 23-11 81-73 4.42 10.3 59.07
Kansas Y 30-7 81-71 8.26 5.3 61.50
Kansas St. Y 25-11 71-67 3.54 0.7 59.38
Loyola (Chi.) Y 31-5 72-62 9.80 6.8 51.89
Michigan Y 31-7 75-63 5.93 9.8 59.74
Texas Tech Y 27-9 75-65 5.13 14.5 60.35
Villanova Y 33-4 87-71 10.44 12.3 60.56


Here are the Detailed Criteria Matchups for the teams

Kansas St.  vs.  Loyola of Chicago

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas St. Y 25-11 71-67 3.54 0.7 59.38
Loyola (Chi.) Y 31-5 72-62 9.80 6.8 51.89
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas St. -3.17 7.94 5.75 2.78 56.4 52.9
Loyola (Chi.) 1.67 6.50 6.53 0.75 60.2 50.4

This is an interesting game, because history shows Kansas St. with criteria like this should come around as often as Halley’s Comet, while Loyola has a criteria that looks more like a Sweet 16 at best team.

Looking at the head-to-head stats, Loyola is superior in more of the key stats, but Kansas State has the big schedule strength advantage.  The outcome of this game will come down to whether the Wildcats can force the Ramblers into turnovers that they have not been committing so far in the Dance.  Loyola is playing confidently, and they have not been affected by the bright lights.  Assistant Coach Sister Jean may be the reason for that.

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but our criteria will not allow us to pick a team with an R+T Rating barely above 0.  Kansas State cannot continue to get out-rebounded by large amounts (double digits against Kentucky) and rely on steals and three-point shots to win.  It might work two or three times, but asking to make the Final Four without being able to rebound or really shoot well is asking way too much.   They have a puncher’s chance to win this game and become the weakest rebounding team in Final Four history, but we are going to favor the team that is closer to complete.



Michigan vs.  Florida St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Michigan Y 31-7 75-63 5.93 9.8 59.74
Florida St. Y 23-11 81-73 4.42 10.3 59.07
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Michigan 0.58 6.29 4.11 3.63 57.0 51.0
Florida St. 2.71 6.91 5.82 1.26 56.4 52.0

This looks like a complete toss-up game according to the statistics.  Both teams have favorable scoring margins, although Michigan’s is a bit better.  Both teams have decent true shooting percentage margins, R+T ratings, and Strengths of Schedule.  Florida State has the rebounding edge, but Michigan gets the turnover margin edge.

There is one secondary edge that the Wolverines have that the Seminoles lack.  The Maize and Blue have won 12 games in a row, and in that time, their rebounding has made a major leap forward.



Villanova vs. Texas Tech

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 33-4 87-71 10.44 12.3 60.56
Texas Tech Y 27-9 75-65 5.13 14.5 60.35
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Villanova 2.70 6.62 4.81 2.38 62.5 52.1
Texas Tech 4.11 7.19 5.94 2.67 55.8 50.7

Texas Tech has done an admirable job to get this far, and they will not go down without a fight, but their opponent has the criteria look of a Final Four team.  In fact, of the eight remaining teams, Villanova’s criteria best fits that of a Final Four team.

The Wildcats may eventually meet a team that is too strong on the boards for them to dominate on the scoreboard, but Texas Tech is most likely not that team.  The Red Raiders might win the rebounding numbers by a little, but we don’t think they can clean the glass, which is what it is going to take to stop VU.



Kansas  vs.  Duke

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas Y 30-7 81-71 8.26 5.3 61.50
Duke Y 29-7 84-69 9.72 21.2 60.69
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas 0.05 6.59 5.51 1.38 59.7 51.4
Duke 8.80 7.39 5.69 -0.39 58.8 49.1

What looks like the game of the Elite 8 Round may be exactly what has been advertised.  This should be an interesting game, because both teams have small Achilles’ Heels that a genius coaching staff and highly-skilled players can exploit.  Both teams have genius coaching staffs and highly-skilled players.

The glaring difference in this game is that Kansas’s liability is Duke’s biggest asset, whereas Duke’s liability is only a minor asset for KU.

PiRate Pick: DUKE









March 25, 2017

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Preview


Saturday, March 25
Team Team Red White Blue
Gonzaga Xavier 11 8 3
Kansas Oregon 6 3 3


Sunday, March 26
Team Team Red White Blue
Kentucky North Carolina 1 -2 -1
Florida South Carolina 6 7 5


PiRate Ratings National Championship Criteria Breakdown of the Elite 8

Gonzaga vs. Xavier

Power Conference: Xavier-Yes, Gonzaga-No    Favors Xavier

Strength of Schedule: Xavier 58.70, Gonzaga 54.02  Favors Xavier by a little

R+T Rating: Gonzaga 20.3, Xavier 14.4  Favors Gonzaga by a little

Scoring Margin: Gonzaga 22.3, Xavier 4.0  Favors Gonzaga by a good amount

FG% Differential: Gonzaga 14.5, Xavier 1.1  Favors Gonzaga by a lot

Road W-L: Gonzaga 20-0, Xavier 12-9   Favors Gonzaga by a good amount

Winning Streaks: Gonzaga 29 & 6, Xavier 7 & 6  Favors Gonzaga by a little

Expected Possessions in this Game: 69 per team  Favors neither team

Outcome: Gonzaga has everything going for it except conference strength and schedule.  If the Bulldogs had the same numbers and played in the Big East, they would have the perfect resume for a national champion.  However, there hasn’t been a national champion from outside a power conference since UNLV won in 1990, and before that, it was Texas Western in 1966.  Of course, non power conference teams have made it to the Final Four numerous times in the past decade.

Criteria Selection: GONZAGA 75  Xavier 70


Kansas vs. Oregon

Power Conference: Yes for Both   Favors neither team

Strength of Schedule: Kansas 58.11, Oregon 56.83  Only slightly favors Kansas

R+T Rating: Oregon 14.8,  Kansas 12.6  Only slightly favors Oregon

Scoring Margin: Oregon 13.5, Kansas 12.0  Not much difference

FG% Differential: Oregon 7.7, Kansas 7.5  A Push

Road W-L: Kansas 16-3, Oregon 15-5  This favors Kansas, but it is almost a home game for KU

Winning Streaks: Kansas 18 & 8, Oregon 17 & 8  A Push

Expected Possessions in this Game: 71  Slightly favors Kansas

Outcome: We have to include two extra criteria here.  Oregon’s stats must be slightly discounted due to the loss of Boucher, and Kansas is playing this game in their favorite venue not named Phog Allen Fieldhouse, earning about two points of home court advantage.   Otherwise, this game would be a tossup, and it still might be rather close.  However, watching what KU did to a quality Purdue team on this court Thursday night, it makes us wonder if any college team can beat Kansas in KC.  Oops!  That happened in the Big 12 Tournament, so think again–except not today.

Criteria Selection: KANSAS 83  Oregon 75


Florida vs. South Carolina

Power Conference: Yes for both and both in the SEC so this is a third game between these teams.  Both teams won the game on their home floor.

Strength of Schedule: Florida 59.34, South Carolina 56.23  A slight edge to the Gators

R+T Rating: Florida 11.1, South Carolina 10.4  About the same

Scoring Margin: Florida 11.9, South Carolina 8.3  A small edge to the Gators

FG% Differential: Florida 4.3, South Carolina 2.3  A small edge to the Gators

Road W-L: Florida 18-7, South Carolina 10-7, actually about the same as UF played a lot of early neutral site games in their own backyard while their gym was being refurbished

Winning Streaks: Florida 9 & 7, South Carolina 8 & 5

Expected Possessions in this Game: 71  Favors neither team

Outcome: South Carolina’s defense in their Sweet 16 game against Baylor was the best we have seen in a game this late into the Big Dance since Georgetown manhandled Kentucky in 1984, which comes on top of one of the best offensive performances in their win over Duke.  Can the Gamecocks do this to a team that is not just a conference foe, but a rather strong rival?  Florida might also be a tad fatigued coming off the overtime win over Wisconsin, but it helps that the Gators are facing a team they know about without having to look at the film for a long time.  This will be the most exciting game of this round, even more exciting than the big UK-UNC match, because this will have the feel of the 7th game of an NBA playoff series.

Criteria Selection: FLORIDA 67  South Carolina 64


Kentucky vs. North Carolina

Power Conference: Yes for both  Before the tourney started, the ACC might have gotten a little extra over the SEC, but with 3 of the Elite 8 from the SEC, it almost makes us think about the opposite

Strength of Schedule: North Carolina 59.00, Kentucky 58.63   A Push

R+T Rating: North Carolina 31.0,  Kentucky 17.1  UNC has the best R+T in NCAA basketball, but Kentucky’s is rather high as well, and in the course of this game, it will not give the Tar Heels a lot of advantage

Scoring Margin: North Carolina 14.7, Kentucky 13.8  Not enough difference to matter

FG% Differential: North Carolina 5.6,  Kentucky 5.2  A Push

Road W-L: Kentucky 17-3, North Carolina 14-7,  A slight edge to the Wildcats

Winning Streaks: Kentucky 14 & 7, North Carolina 13 & 7, While this looks like another push, Kentucky’s 14-game winning streak is ongoing, and there is a definite difference in the Wildcats’ performance in this streak, while Carolina played its best basketball in November and December

Expected Possessions in this Game: 74,  which favors Kentucky just like it did in December

Outcome: We selected Kentucky to run the table and win the National Championship before the NCAA Tournament started, and nothing has changed our beliefs that the Wildcats are the best team in the nation when they want to play up to their potential.  It can be difficult to motivate a stable full of future NBA Lottery picks, but Coach John Calipari is a master psychologist with an ability to coerce through his many talks with his players.  When any of the starters and a couple reserves can go off and score 25 points in a game, it is hard to prepare in advance.  Stop Monk, and someone else has a career night.

Criteria Selection: KENTUCKY 85  North Carolina 73

March 26, 2016

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Ratings

Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Oregon Oklahoma -1 -1 3
Kansas Villanova 1 -1 4
Virginia Syracuse 7 7 3
North Carolina Notre Dame 9 7 12

March 15, 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket Selection

The PiRate Ratings have been in existence for more than 40 years.  Only in the last 14, have we included college basketball in our menu, and only in the last 11 years, have we presented this website to the public.  In that time, there is one day each year where more people congregate to this site than on any other day.  It’s not the Super Bowl week, or the eve of the New Year’s Day Bowl games.  For many years running, it is this day and this entry that has brought more people here than any other.  Bracket picking has become part of the American and even international culture to the point where people that do not normally follow basketball can be found filling out brackets like they are scratching the $2 lottery cards.


One day more than a decade ago, our founder had some time on his hands, and he started researching the past statistics of the NCAA Basketball Champions.  Then, he began copying their statistics to a spreadsheet.  It then expanded to include all the Final Four teams, and eventually included the top teams in the nation that lost unexpectedly.


What he discovered was that there were specific statistical similarities in the Final Four teams and National Champions of past years.  Looking at that year’s NCAA Field, he isolated three of the Final Four teams by examining each team’s statistics and comparing them to Final Four teams of the past.


In 2006, this system found George Mason as a dark horse contender and in another medium, our founder wrote that the Patriots were a team to watch out for as a legitimate Final Four contender.  Overnight, the system was “discovered” by other media outlets that brought our founder a lot of notoriety, and when he started this site, many that had followed him, or had seen his system reported on by Yahoo and Fox, came here.


Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the meat of this system.  You can read about it more in depth in Monday’s submission:


These are our criteria points.

  1. A scoring margin of 8 or more points, with special credit going to 10 or more points
  2. A field goal % margin of 7.5% or more  with special credit going to 10% or more
  3. A rebound margin of 5 or more
  4. A positive turnover margin (meaning they force more than they commit)
  5. An average of 7 or more steals per game
  6. An R+T Rating of 15 or more (the Bracketnomics 505 post for an explanation of R+T
  7. A member of a Power Conference and a Strength of Schedule of 54.00 or more
  8. A Won-Loss percentage in away and neutral games of 75% or more
  9. A 10-game winning streak or 2, 6-game winning streaks during the season

Let’s get to it.  Here are the teams that qualify under each criterion.  Remember, as you look at these statistical criteria, that there is a large caveat.  The Stephen F. Austin’s and Stony Brook’s had schedules on average that were 10-15 points weaker than the Michigan State’s and Kansas’s.  Do not look at this data and make conclusions that are not meant to be made.  We will put the data into a bracket-picker for you at the conclusion.

Scoring Margin

Team PPG D PPG Mar.
Stephen F. Austin 80.7 63.2 17.6
Michigan St. 79.8 63.4 16.4
Wichita St. 73.2 59.3 14.0
Kansas 81.6 67.6 13.9
Gonzaga 79.7 66.2 13.5
Indiana 82.3 68.9 13.4
Stony Brook 76.8 63.4 13.4
Villanova 77.0 63.7 13.3
Purdue 77.7 64.6 13.1
North Carolina 82.3 69.5 12.8
West Virginia 79.2 66.6 12.6
Arizona 81.2 68.9 12.3
Yale 75.2 63.1 12.0
Kentucky 79.7 68.3 11.4
UALR 70.9 59.6 11.3
Hawaii 77.6 66.5 11.1
Virginia 70.4 59.7 10.7
Texas A&M 75.9 65.5 10.4
Connecticut 73.4 63.1 10.3
Cincinnati 73.2 62.9 10.3
Xavier 81.3 71.0 10.3
Duke 79.1 68.8 10.3
Oklahoma 80.4 70.4 10.0
VCU 77.2 67.3 9.9
Weber St. 76.7 66.9 9.9
Cal State Bakersfield 73.0 63.2 9.8
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.8
Oregon 78.8 69.1 9.7
Butler 80.6 71.2 9.4
Vanderbilt 76.8 67.3 9.4
Iowa 78.1 68.7 9.4
Chattanooga 75.8 66.6 9.2
Miami 75.6 66.8 8.8
South Dakota St. 76.3 67.8 8.5
Utah 77.6 69.1 8.5
UNC-Asheville 75.6 67.5 8.2
Pittsburgh 76.0 67.9 8.1
California 75.1 67.0 8.1


Field Goal % Margin

Team FG-M
Michigan St. 10.7
Kansas 9.8
Gonzaga 8.7
Purdue 8.0
Maryland 8.0
Kentucky 7.8
Connecticut 7.8
Utah 7.6
Vanderbilt 7.5


Rebound Margin

Team Rb-M
Michigan St. 11.7
Yale 11.1
Purdue 10.6
Arizona 9.2
Colorado 8.9
West Virginia 8.4
North Carolina 8.3
Baylor 7.9
Stony Brook 7.8
Xavier 7.5
Pittsburgh 7.4
Gonzaga 7.3
Indiana 7.3
California 6.7
Kentucky 5.4
South Dakota St. 5.4
Dayton 5.3
Kansas 5.2
Hampton 5.1
Florida Gulf Coast 5.0


Turnover Margin

Team TO-M
Stephen F. Austin 6.2
Wichita St. 5.5
Green Bay 4.8
Fresno St. 4.3
West Virginia 4.1
VCU 4.0
UNC-Wilmington 3.8
Tulsa 3.5
UALR 3.5
Cal State Bakersfield 3.1
Providence 3.1
Butler 2.9
Cincinnati 2.8
Oregon 2.8
Villanova 2.7
Iowa 2.7
UNC-Asheville 2.7
Virginia 2.7
Southern 2.6
Texas A&M 2.6
Fairleigh Dickinson 2.4
Duke 2.4
North Carolina 2.2
Holy Cross 2.2
Michigan 2.1
Texas 2.1
Oregon St. 2.1
Northern Iowa 2.0
Temple 1.9
Chattanooga 1.8
Hawaii 1.5
Syracuse 1.4
Middle Tennessee 1.4
Stony Brook 1.4
Xavier 1.4
St. Joseph’s 1.3
Iona 1.3
Kentucky 1.3
Wisconsin 1.2
Connecticut 1.1
Miami 1.0
Kansas 0.9
Iowa St. 0.8
Baylor 0.8
Texas Tech 0.8
South Dakota St. 0.3
USC 0.2



Team Avg. 
West Virginia 9.9
Green Bay 9.5
UNC-Asheville 9.3
Stephen F. Austin 9.1
VCU 8.8
Fresno St. 8.2
Syracuse 8.1
Cal State Bakersfield 8.0
Cincinnati 7.9
Baylor 7.9
Hawaii 7.9
Chattanooga 7.8
Oregon 7.6
Fairleigh Dickinson 7.6
Iona 7.6
UNC-Wilmington 7.5
Southern 7.5
Oregon St. 7.5
Xavier 7.3
Seton Hall 7.3
Wichita St. 7.2



If you read our post yesterday, you  must know by now that the R+T rating is as valuable in the NCAA Tournament as raw meat at the tiger’s exhibit at the zoo.  No team wins the national title with low R+T ratings, and teams with negative and very low R+T ratings exit the tournament quickly.

This season, no major conference teams enter the Dance with negative R+T ratings.   However, there are a handful with low positive R+T ratings.

Unlike the other criteria, we include every team in this criterion.  It is PiRate Gold.  Basically, the higher the number, the more this team is likely to score easy baskets during the game and prevent the opponent from scoring.  When players tend to be tight at the beginning of the tournament, R+T ratings can tell you which are most likely to get dunks and layups, two shots that stay true when outside jumpers and even close-in jumpers tend to be off.  Also, when two excellent defensive teams face off against each other, and baskets are hard to come by, the high R+T teams will score some “cheap” points and most likely be the winner.

Remember, like in all other criteria here, schedule strength and power conference membership are as equally important at R+T rating and must be considered as the co-primary factor.

Team R+T
Michigan St. 26.7
West Virginia 25.3
Yale 23.4
North Carolina 22.4
Purdue 20.9
Stony Brook 20.7
Arizona 20.3
Baylor 20.0
Xavier 19.9
Wichita St. 19.7
Stephen F. Austin 18.2
Pittsburgh 17.5
Indiana 17.3
Cincinnati 17.2
Kentucky 16.7
Colorado 16.6
Gonzaga 16.5
Cal State Bakersfield 15.9
Near Qualifiers  
Hawaii 14.8
Texas A&M 14.7
Butler 14.6
Kansas 14.6
Oregon 14.4
Dayton 14.1
VCU 14.0
Good R+T  
South Dakota St. 13.9
California 13.9
Virginia 13.2
Florida Gulf Coast 12.8
Fresno St. 12.4
Chattanooga 12.3
Hampton 11.7
St. Joseph’s 11.2
UNC-Asheville 11.2
Wisconsin 11.1
UNC-Wilmington 10.6
Seton Hall 10.5
Villanova 10.0
Best of the Rest  
Miami 9.5
Iowa 9.5
Utah 9.4
Connecticut 9.4
Buffalo 9.3
Middle Tennessee 9.1
UALR 9.1
Weber St. 9.0
Notre Dame 8.1
Maryland 7.8
Duke 7.3
Austin Peay 7.3
Oklahoma 7.1
Okay in Early Rounds  
USC 6.8
Green Bay 6.8
Providence 6.0
In Danger  
Michigan 4.9
Texas Tech 4.3
Iona 4.2
Iowa St. 4.1
Tulsa 3.8
Southern 3.6
Vanderbilt 3.4
Temple 3.3
Texas 3.3
Oregon St. 2.4
Syracuse 2.2
Quick Losers  
Northern Iowa -1.9
Fairleigh Dickinson -4.1
Holy Cross -5.2


Strength of Schedule

These are the teams from Power Conferences with SOS of 54.00 or better.  No National Champion has ever had a SOS under 54.00, and all but a small number of Final Four teams in the 64 to 68-team field have possessed SOS under 54.00.

Team SOS
Kansas 60.22
Virginia 60.05
Oregon 60.01
Texas 59.88
Baylor 59.49
Utah 59.33
Duke 58.97
Iowa St. 58.96
Texas Tech 58.94
Oregon St. 58.77
Oklahoma 58.74
West Virginia 58.59
Villanova 58.54
California 58.52
Miami 58.22
Wisconsin 58.14
North Carolina 57.74
Kentucky 57.45
Notre Dame 57.25
Pittsburgh 56.86
Xavier 56.82
USC 56.79
Maryland 56.77
Iowa 56.69
Purdue 56.54
Colorado 56.45
Vanderbilt 56.44
Seton Hall 56.24
Syracuse 56.21
Michigan 55.96
Michigan St. 55.75
Dayton 55.73
Providence 55.71
Connecticut 55.70
Texas A&M 55.70
St. Joseph’s 55.49
VCU 55.24
Tulsa 54.97
Cincinnati 54.70
Arizona 54.69
Butler 54.61
Temple 54.61


10-Game Winning Streak or 2, 6-Game Winning Streaks

Team Win Streaks
Stephen F. Austin 20 5
Stony Brook 18 3
Kansas 13 13
Michigan St. 13 9
Wichita St. 12 6
Indiana 12 5
North Carolina 12 5
Xavier 12 5
Yale 12 5
Oklahoma 12 4
California 12 3
VCU 12 3
Virginia 11 7
Purdue 11 5
UNC-Wilmington 11 5
Colorado 11 3
Texas A&M 10 8
UALR 10 6
Texas Tech 10 5
Pittsburgh 10 4
Chattanooga 9 8
Villanova 9 7
West Virginia 8 7
Arizona 8 6
Hawaii 8 6
Oregon 8 6
Providence 8 6
Weber St. 8 6
St. Joseph’s 7 7
Gonzaga 7 6
Cal State Bakersfield 6 6
Middle Tennessee 6 6
Northern Iowa 6 6
South Dakota St. 6 6


Won-Loss Record Away From Home Floor

Team Won Lost Pct
Gonzaga 15 3 83.3
Hawaii 10 2 83.3
Michigan St. 15 3 83.3
St. Joseph’s 15 3 83.3
Chattanooga 16 4 80.0
UALR 15 4 78.9
Villanova 14 4 77.8
Kansas 12 4 75.0
Xavier 12 4 75.0
Near Miss      
Dayton 11 4 73.3
North Carolina 13 5 72.2
Stephen F. Austin 13 5 72.2
UNC-Wilmington 13 5 72.2
Seton Hall 12 5 70.6
Okay in Early Rounds      
Stony Brook 11 5 68.8
Middle Tennessee 13 6 68.4
West Virginia 13 6 68.4
South Dakota St. 14 7 66.7
Weber St. 13 7 65.0
Oklahoma 11 6 64.7
Miami 10 6 62.5
Oregon 10 6 62.5
Providence 10 6 62.5
Yale 10 6 62.5
Virginia 11 7 61.1
Hampton 12 8 60.0
Cal State Bakersfield 10 7 58.8
Utah 10 7 58.8
Wichita St. 10 7 58.8
Iona 11 8 57.9
UNC-Asheville 11 8 57.9
Baylor 8 6 57.1
Green Bay 12 9 57.1
Connecticut 9 7 56.3
Fresno St. 9 7 56.3
Maryland 9 7 56.3
Purdue 9 7 56.3
Texas A&M 9 7 56.3
Temple 10 8 55.6
Northern Iowa 11 9 55.0
Duke 7 6 53.8
Arizona 8 7 53.3
Butler 8 7 53.3
Cincinnati 8 7 53.3
Indiana 8 7 53.3
Fairleigh Dickinson 9 8 52.9
Kentucky 9 8 52.9
Michigan 9 8 52.9
VCU 9 8 52.9
Buffalo 10 9 52.6
Austin Peay 11 10 52.4
Iowa 8 8 50.0
Tulsa 8 8 50.0
Wisconsin 7 7 50.0
Southern 10 11 47.6
Pittsburgh 6 7 46.2
Iowa St. 7 9 43.8
Notre Dame 7 9 43.8
Syracuse 6 9 40.0
Texas 6 9 40.0
Colorado 6 10 37.5
Oregon St. 5 9 35.7
Texas Tech 5 9 35.7
California 5 10 33.3
USC 5 10 33.3
Holy Cross 6 13 31.6
Vanderbilt 5 11 31.3
Florida Gulf Coast 4 9 30.8


Ranked by Criteria Met

After the number of criteria met, we have included “Alpha Dog” and repeated R+T ratings.  Alpha Dog refers to whether this team has played a difficult enough schedule and is a member of a power conference.  While there are cases where George Mason and Wichita State make the Final Four, the cases are very rare, and we go with the tendencies that have worked so well in the past.


The teams that qualify with 5 criteria and are also Alpha Dogs with qualifying R+T ratings have been highlighted in blue.  These are the top contenders this year.

Team Criteria Met Alpha Dog R+T
Xavier 8 Yes Yes
Kansas 7 Yes No
Michigan St. 7 Yes Yes
West Virginia 7 Yes Yes
Gonzaga 6 Yes Yes
Kentucky 6 Yes Yes
North Carolina 6 Yes Yes
Purdue 6 Yes Yes
Arizona 5 Yes Yes
Pittsburgh 5 Yes Yes
Stony Brook 5 No Yes
Villanova 5 Yes No
Baylor 5 Yes Yes
Chattanooga 5 No No
Cincinnati 5 Yes Yes
Hawaii 5 No No
Oregon 5 Yes No
Stephen F. Austin 5 No Yes
VCU 5 Yes No
California 4 Yes No
Colorado 4 Yes Yes
Connecticut 4 Yes No
Indiana 4 Yes Yes
South Dakota St. 4 No No
St. Joseph’s 4 Yes No
Texas A&M 4 Yes No
UALR 4 No No
Virginia 4 Yes No
Wichita St. 4 No Yes
Yale 4 No Yes
Cal State Bakersfield 4 No Yes
Butler 3 Yes No
Duke 3 Yes No
Iowa 3 Yes No
Maryland 3 Yes No
Miami 3 Yes No
Oklahoma 3 Yes No
Providence 3 Yes No
Texas Tech 3 Yes No
Utah 3 Yes No
Vanderbilt 3 Yes No
Oregon St. 3 Yes No
Syracuse 3 Yes No
UNC-Asheville 3 No No
UNC-Wilmington 3 No No
Iowa St. 2 Yes No
Michigan 2 Yes No
Middle Tennessee 2 No No
Temple 2 Yes No
Texas 2 Yes No
Tulsa 2 Yes No
USC 2 Yes No
Weber St. 2 No No
Wisconsin 2 Yes No
Fairleigh Dickinson 2 No No
Fresno St. 2 No No
Green Bay 2 No No
Iona 2 No No
Seton Hall 2 Yes No
Southern 2 No No
Dayton 1 Yes No
Florida Gulf Coast 1 No No
Hampton 1 No No
Holy Cross 1 No No
Northern Iowa 1 No No
Notre Dame 1 Yes No
Austin Peay 0 No No
Buffalo 0 No No


Xavier rates as the top contender, but we are a bit concerned about the Big East Conference remaining as a Power Conference.  While three other Big East teams made the tournament, this league has not fared well since the break-up of the teams that formed the American Conference.

Last year, five Big East Teams made the NCAA Tournament.  St. John’s lost in the second round (round of 64) to San Diego State; Providence lost handily in their first game to Dayton; Butler lost in the third round to Notre Dame (round of 32); and 1-seed Villanova lost in the third round to North Carolina State.  Only Xavier made it to the Sweet 16, and the Musketeers had a relatively easy trip to the West Regional second weekend by defeating an Ole Miss team that just barely made the tournament as a play-in team from Dayton and then Georgia State after GSU upset Baylor.

We are not eliminating Xavier from consideration, but we are knocking them down a few notches.  Thus, our actual top-ranked team according to our Criteria ratings is Michigan State.

Now, before we drive you crazy, ponder this.  No Big Ten team has won the national title, since the Spartans pulled the trick in 2000.  Coach Tom Izzo has taken MSU to five subsequent Final Fours, and Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have made it to the Final Four in recent years.

Concerning the Big 12, overall number one seed Kansas does not qualify under the R+T rating.  However, the Jayhawks just barely miss out with an R+T of 14.6, and after a first game breeze, KU’s R+T rating could easily hit 15.  We are not going to dismiss Kansas because they come up short by a hair of having a great Final Four resume.

Bob Huggins has guided two teams to the Final Four, one at Cincinnati and one at West Virginia.  This year’s Mountaineer squad is better than the one he took to the Final Four and about on par with the great Bearcat team with Nick Van Exel, Corey Blount, Anthony Buford, and Herb Jones in 1992, where Cinti led Michigan in the second half before falling late by a couple points in the National Semifinals.

The shorter shot clock combined with Huggie Bear’s incredible full-court press makes the Mountaineers awfully dangerous against teams that have not previously played WVU.  There was a time when a long string of pressing teams won the national championship, but with slower paces, that style of play stopped being as effective.  Now, with the pace increased by about 7.5% thanks to the shorter shot clock, the press is a more potent weapon.  Even when a team breaks the press, they have less time to set up their offense and find a good shot.  The liability of pressing is that it can wear a team down, but WVU goes deep off the bench, and in the NCAA Tournament, media time outs are longer, allowing players more time to recover from fatigue.

Gonzaga made it to the Elite 8 last year, the zenith of the Mark Few era.  The Bulldogs did not win any big games this year until they finally bested Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament Championship.  The Zags have a very formidable frontcourt, but they fall well short in schedule strength, where there 52.35 reduces their criteria score down to Sweet 16 or worse status.

Kentucky and North Carolina are sitting pretty in the Criteria Ratings, as both meet 6 of the criteria, come from Big Conferences with high schedule strength, and most importantly, both merit recognition based on R+T ratings.  Being two of the most elite programs is not part of our criteria, but we also don’t totally exclude that fact.  They are the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals of college basketball.

Let’s look at how the PiRate Criteria see the brackets.  Wednesday night, after the last game in Dayton concludes, we will post our Red-White-Blue Picks for each game.  These are our everyday ratings and do not include the criteria listed herein.  These ratings use an algorithm incorporating the Four Factors.

As you will notice, while this season was tabbed a unique one with a lot of parity, we actually believe the top programs are more ready to dominate this tournament than in recent years.

First Four

Fairleigh Dickinson over Florida Gulf Coast

Wichita State over Vanderbilt

Southern over Holy Cross

Michigan over Tulsa


Round of 64

Kansas over Austin Peay

Colorado over Connecticut

Maryland over South Dakota St.

California over Hawaii (very close–almost a tossup)

Arizona over Wichita St. (or Vanderbilt)

Miami over Buffalo

Iowa over Temple

Villanova over UNC-Asheville

Oregon over Southern (or Holy Cross)

Cincinnati over St. Joseph’s [Lower Seed Picked]

Baylor over Yale

Duke over UNC-Wilmington (Criteria says this is closer than you might think)

Texas over Northern Iowa (very close)

Texas A&M over Green Bay

VCU over Oregon St. [Lower Seed Picked]

Oklahoma over Cal State Bakersfield (but watch out, CSUB has upset-worthy data)

North Carolina over Fairleigh Dickinson (or Florida Gulf Coast)

Providence over USC [Lower Seed Picked] (a weak game by criteria)

Indiana over Chattanooga (If UC still had Casey Jones, the Mocs would actually be favored)

Kentucky over Stony Brook (we do not see any chance that SBU will contend)

Michigan (or Tulsa) over Notre Dame [Lower Seed Picked] (Irish have lousy criteria numbers)

West Virginia over Stephen F. Austin (SFA got a lousy seed, as they are Sweet 16 worthy)

Pittsburgh over Wisconsin

Xavier over Weber St. (should be very ugly and possibly a 35+ point win)

Virginia over Hampton

Butler over Texas Tech [Lower Seed Picked]

Purdue over UALR

Iowa St. over Iona (expect a 90-80 type game)

Gonzaga over Seton Hall [Lower Seed Picked]

Utah over Fresno St. (could be close)

Syracuse over Dayton [Lower Seed Picked]

Michigan St. over Middle Tennessee


Round of 32

Kansas over Colorado (closer than expected)

California over Maryland

Arizona over Miami

Villanova over Iowa

Oregon over Cincinnati (almost dead even)

Baylor over Duke (Blue Devils missing defense in the paint)

Texas A&M over Texas

VCU over Oklahoma (big upset sends jump-shooting team home)

North Carolina over Providence

Kentucky over Indiana

West Virginia over Michigan

Xavier over Pittsburgh (should be excitingly close)

Virginia over Butler (should be close for 40 minutes)

Purdue over Iowa St.

Gonzaga over Utah (lowest seed in Sweet 16)

Michigan St. over Syracuse


Sweet 16

Kansas over California

Arizona over Villanova 

Baylor over Oregon (1 of 2 #1 seeds going out in this round)

VCU over Texas A&M

North Carolina over Kentucky (should be Final Four game)

West Virginia over Xavier (total toss-up and expected best game of the round)

Purdue over Virginia (2nd #1 seed going home in this round)

Michigan St. over Gonzaga


Elite 8

Kansas over Arizona

Baylor over VCU

West Virginia over North Carolina (3rd #1 seed departs)

Michigan St. over Purdue



Kansas over Baylor

Michigan St. over West Virginia


National Championship

Michigan St. over Kansas

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

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

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 30, 2013

Bracketnomics 2013: Elite 8–March 30-31, 2013

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:56 am

2013 NCAA Tournament— Elite 8 Schedule For Saturday, March 30-31, 2013


All times Eastern Daylight

Saturday, March 30, 2013





High Seed

Low Seed

4:30 PM



Washington, D. C.

3-Marquette (26-8)

4-Syracuse (29-9)

7:05 PM



Los Angeles

2-Ohio St. (29-7)

9-Wichita St. (29-8)

Sunday, March 31, 2013





High Seed

Low Seed

2:20 PM



Arlington, TX

3-Florida (29-7)

4-Michigan (29-7)

5:05 PM




1-Louisville (32-5)

2-Duke (30-5)

Tournament Total: 36-20Sweet 16 Record: 3-5 (almost totally busted)

Teams Remaining In Bracket: 2 of 8 (Only Louisville left of Final 4 choices, but they were our pick to go all the way)

Interesting Note: It is still possible that Ohio State and Michigan could meet in the National Championship Game. It would be an interesting rivalry game.

PiRate Criteria Stats (See our explanation on how we select our brackets at:  )
























































Ohio St.


















Wichita St.









Game Previews

Marquette vs. Syracuse

When these two teams played in Milwaukee in late February, Syracuse was going through a swoon in which they lost four of five games.  The Orangemen blew a second half lead when Marquette began collapsing the SU zone defense and passing to the gaps for open jumpers.  Marquette forced the issue once Syracuse widened the zone, with Golden Eagle players driving the gaps and drawing fouls.  MU ended up 29-35 at the line, while the Orangemen were just 5-7.  Davante Gardner, benched by Coach Buzz Williams, came into the game a couple minutes into the opening half and scored a career-high 26 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field and an almost perfect 12-13 at the line.  Still, Marquette won at home by just three points, 74-71.

Expect different results in this game.  Remember, games are officiated differently, and no team will get 35 free throw attempts or have the benefit of getting “homer” calls.

This time, on a neutral floor, we expect the result to be different.  The ‘Cuse is a different team than the one that lost in Milwaukee five weeks ago.  Coach Jim Boeheim’s team enjoys an R+T number that equates to four extra scoring chances, and Syracuse has a better field goal percentage margin.  These advantages were accumulated while SU was playing a schedule that was more than a point per game better than Marquette.

PiRate Pick: Syracuse 70  Marquette 61



Ohio St. vs. Wichita St.

WichitaState looked like a Final Four team in their Sweet 16 win over La Salle, as well as previous wins over Pittsburgh and Gonzaga.  Meanwhile, OhioState has been quite fortunate to escape with wins in their last two games after trouncing Iona in their first tournament game.

This game should be another tight affair, as the two teams match up evenly.  OhioState has a slight, almost inconsequential, edge in field goal percentage margin.  WichitaState has a decided advantage in rebounding margin, but OhioState has a marked advantage in turnover margin.  However, the Buckeyes do not generate a lot of steals, and WichitaState has the R+T advantage by more than two extra scoring chances.  The boys from Columbus take the upper hand due to a considerably stronger strength of schedule, to the tune of almost five points per game.  Coach Thad Matta’s team is also the better team away from home, and that tilts the scale in his favor.


PiRate Pick: Ohio St. 78  Wichita St. 73  



Florida vs. Michigan

Someone must be looking down from above on Gator coach Billy Donovan.  The two teams that Florida would have struggled against, Georgetown and Kansas, were eliminated before Florida was forced to play them.  The Gators faced a Minnesota team that lacked the quickness and outside shooting ability to challenge them.  They got the weakest team in the Sweet 16 instead of the Hoyas or even San DiegoState.  Now, they face a Michigan team that cannot defend well enough to stop the Gator’s halfcourt attack, while Kansas could have shut them down.

Florida will reach another Final Four because they have superior PiRate Criteria numbers across the board.  The Gators enjoy a field goal margin advantage of 3.8%, a rebounding margin advantage of 1.7 per game, a turnover margin advantage of 0.2 (basically a wash but UF has the edge), a steals advantage of 1.1, which gives the Gators an R+T advantage of more than two additional scoring chances.  Add a slightly more difficult strength of schedule, and an infinitesimal advantage in winning percentage away from home, and the Gators have too much going in their favor.  Michigan’s only chance is to bomb away from three-point land, but Florida is one of the toughest teams against the three-pointer.


PiRate Pick: Florida 79  Michigan 67



Louisville vs. Duke

In the Sweet 16, we had a rematch of the 1987 National Championship Game.  Now, we get a rematch of the 1986 National Championship Game.  Syracuse avenged their last-second loss to Indiana and won their Sweet 16 game over the Hoosiers.  Does that mean, we are going with Duke to avenge their title loss?  Not on your life.  Louisville remains our choice to cut down the nets in Atlanta, and our PiRate criteria shows the Cardinals to be a solid but not spectacular pick in this game.

Duke owns two advantages over Rick Pitino’s squad.  The Blue Devils have a slightly better field goal percentage margin and a decent strength of schedule edge.  Louisville owns the rest of the criteria advantages—by 4.7 on the boards, by 2.8 in turnover margin, by 4.4 in steals, by almost nine more scoring chances in R+T, and by 7% in winning percentage away from home.


PiRate Pick: Louisville 77  Duke 70


Check back Thursday, April 4 for our Final 4 Preview

March 24, 2012

NCAA Men’s Tournament Elite 8 Preview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:23 am

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



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



Six of the eight remaining teams in the Big Dance own 30 or more wins.  All of the sleepers are gone, and this is one of the strongest quarterfinals in years.


Here are the PiRate Criteria Scores for each of the Elite 8






FG% Diff





Rd W-L















































North Carolina









Ohio St.




















All times Eastern Daylight Time


Saturday, March 24


East Regional: Boston

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

Network: CBS


4:30 PM

#1 Syracuse (34-2) vs. #2 Ohio State (30-7)

PiRate Criteria Score:  Syr 20.5  OSU 28.8

Syracuse criteria score now includes the loss of Fab Melo


Syracuse will feel the effect of not having Melo for this game.  Ohio State will enjoy a decisive advantage on the boards, and the Buckeyes will be able to take care of the ball, thus thwarting Syracuse’s number one asset.


We do not see this game getting out of hand, and we believe the Orangemen will stay within contention.  However, the Buckeyes are too strong inside, and this game will be decided in the paint.


Prediction: Ohio State 74  Syracuse 69


West Regional: Phoenix

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

Network: TBS


7:05 PM

#4 Louisville (29-9) vs. #7 Florida (26-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: UL 15.8  Florida 15.4


It’s teacher vs. student in this pure tossup game.  The PiRate Criteria scores differ by just 0.4, which means we believe this game to be a 50-50 proposition.  The only reason we are going with the Cardinals is that they are the team with the 0.4 point advantage.


Both teams share minor advantages in different Criteria areas.  Florida has a small advantage in scoring margin, rebounding margin, and turnover margin.  Louisville has a small advantage in field goal margin, steals, strength of schedule, and record away from home.


Prediction: Louisville 65  Florida 64 OT


Friday, March 23, 2012


South Regional: Atlanta

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Tracy Wolfson

Network: CBS


2:20 PM

#1 Kentucky (35-2) vs. #3 Baylor (30-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.5  BU 21.8 


Baylor actually matches up quite well with Kentucky, but with North Carolina not at 100%, the Wildcats are the class of the remaining octet.


Both teams own double-digit scoring margins, but Kentucky has the highest in the field at 17.6.  The Wildcats’ field goal margin difference is +11.7, which is very indicative of a Final Four team.  The Blue Misters’ rebounding margin is 7.3, to 5.5 for Baylor.  Turnover margin is the same for both teams, while Baylor owns a slight advantage in the steals department and a slightly tougher strength of schedule.


Prediction: Kentucky 80  Baylor 71   


Midwest Regional: St. Louis

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

Network: TBS


5:05 PM

#1 North Carolina (32-5) vs. #2 Kansas (30-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 32.0 *  KU 24.0

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


As of this writing on late Friday night, it does not look like Kendall Marshall will be able to play in this game, and even if he plays, he will not dish for 10 assists, and he will commit a couple of extra turnovers.


Even if Marshall plays, we are going with the Jayhawks to beat the team we picked to win it all before the tournament started.  Missing a 100% Marshall is like the New York Giants playing in the Super Bowl without Eli Manning.


Prediction: Kansas 69  North Carolina 62

March 26, 2011

PiRate Ratings Elite Eight Preview For Saturday-Sunday, March 26-27, 2011

It hasn’t been pretty for our PiRate Criteria Ratings this year.  We are down to one team left in our Final Four bracket, but at least it is the team we picked to win it all.  Kansas is our last hope, but if the Jayhawks can get by Virginia Commonwealth, they will be two wins away from keeping our successful record of picking the national champion before the tournament begins intact.


We are shocked that a team with a negative PiRate Criteria score is still around, and even more surprised that the team has had to win one extra game to get to this point.  We are almost as shocked to see Arizona in the Elite Eight with a score of just four points, and we are semi-surprised to see Butler back in the Elite Eight with a rating of four.  The Bulldogs’ 2010 PiRate Criteria score was 10 points higher than it is today, and they were actually favored to beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16 by our ratings.


PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS


Saturday, March 26, 2011

4:30 PM EDT—Southeast Regional Final @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 29-7 (15) vs. #8 Butler 26-9 (4)

Position Florida Butler
Coach Billy Donovan Brad Stevens
Center (32) Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr.–11.2/5.4  58.4% FG (44) Andrew Smith 6-11 So.–8.9/5.4  62.2% FG ***Probable***
Forward (23) Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr.–8.9/6.1 (54) Matt Howard 6-8 Sr.–16.8/7.8  44.4%  3pt
Forward (25) Chandler Parsons 6-10 Sr.–11.5/7.8  3.8 ast (33) Chase Stigall 6-4 So.–4.0/1.8
Guard (1) Kenny Boynton 6-2 So.–14.1/1.4  82.1% FT (1) Shelvin Mack 6-3 Sr.–15.6/4.3  3.6 ast
Guard (11) Erving Walker  5-8 Jr.–14.8/3.0  3.4 ast (2) Shawn Vanzant 6-0 Sr.–8.1/3.1  42.3% 3 pt
6th (4) Patric Young 6-9 Fr. F/C–3.4/3.8  56.8% FG (23) Khyle Marshall 6-7 Fr. F–5.8/3.7
7th (5) Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Fr. G–2.5/1.5  1.7 ast (5) Ronald Nored 6-0 Jr.–5.3/3.0  2.5 ast


PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Florida Butler
Pts 9.1 7.8
FG% 4.2 1.5
Reb 6.0 2.9
TO 0.3 1.7
Stl 5.9 6.0
R+T 6.42 5.35
SOS 60 54
Road% 79 67
PiRate # 15 4


Can Butler do it again?  It does not appear highly probable, but then the Bulldogs have made a science out of making the improbable probable. 


If the Bulldogs are to have any chance in this game, big man Andrew Smith must be able to play at close to 100%.  Smith sprained his ankle in the Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin, and after he exited the game, Butler almost blew a 20-point lead.  It is the emergence of Smith as a key player that has fueled Butler’s long winning streak.  He has led the team in both steals and blocked shots in the winning streak.


When Smith is patrolling under the basket, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack get more open looks.  The duo will need to combine for 40+ points in this game, and they will need to connect on better than 50% of their two-point shots and better than 40% of their three-point shots for Butler to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.


When Florida won the National Championship in 2007, their toughest game may have been their Sweet 16 game against Butler.  That Gator team benefitted from having five starters that could score 20 points in a game.  Coach Donovan’s club moves the ball quickly and the players without the ball keep their defender occupied.  Not the most consistent team defensively, the Gators tend to play in spurts.  At times, they are tough on opponents, and at times, opponents get a lot of open looks. 


To beat Florida, the key is to penetrate the perimeter defense and take a lot of shots in the 5-10 foot range.  Butler may lack the quickness to get into that inside zone, especially if Smith is not able to occupy 1 ½ defenders.


The Southeastern Conference was supposed to be down again this year, and the early NCAA Tournament exits of Tennessee, Georgia, and Vanderbilt supposedly proved this point.  However, the SEC could very well place two teams in the Final Four this year.


Prediction: Florida 69  Butler 60


7:05 PM EDT—West Regional Final @ Anaheim

#3 Connecticut 29-9 (11)  vs. #5 Arizona 30-7 (4)

Position Connecticut Arizona
Coach Jim Calhoun Sean Miller
Center (35) Charles Okwandu 7-0 Sr.–2.9/2.8 (23) Derrick Williams 6-8 So.–19.5/8.4  60.2% FG/60.3% 3pt
Forward (34) Alex Oriakhi 6-9 So.–9.7/8.7  1.6 Blk (33) Jesse Perry 6-7 Jr.–6.4/4.4
Forward (22) Roscoe Smith 6-8 Fr.–6.5/5.2  1.2 Blk (44) Solomon Hill 6-6 So.–8.1/4.6  78.0% FT
Guard (3) Jeremy Lamb 6-5 Fr.–10.9/4.3  79.6% FT (21) Kyle Fogg 6-3 Jr.–8.1/1.8  2.6 Ast
Guard (15) Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr.–24.0/5.4  4.5 ast/1.9 stl (12) Lamont Jones 6-0 So.–9.7/1.6  2.5 Ast/82.8% FT
6th (13) Shabazz Napier 6-0 Fr. G–7.9/2.3  3.1 Ast (3) Kevin Parrom 6-6 So. G/F–7.8/3.4  2.0 Ast/42.2% 3pt
7th (4) Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 6-7 So. F–6.0/2.7  81.5% FT (42) Jamelle Horne 6-7 Sr. F–6.2/3.3  40.8% 3pt

PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Connecticut Arizona
Pts 7.7 8.7
FG% 3.5 2.5
Reb 4.8 3.6
TO 0.3 -0.1
Stl 6.5 5.2
R+T 5.27 4.52
SOS 60 55
Road% 76 67
PiRate # 11 4


Two teams with one dominant player and a host of above-average complimentary players should make for an interesting game.  Unfortunately, the teams’ key players will not face off against each other, as Walker is the play-maker for UConn, and Williams is the big man for ‘Zona.


On closer inspection, we took a look at Connecticut’s season in three parts.  The Huskies looked like a Final Four team in two of those three parts.  They began the season 10-0, including a blowout win over Kentucky in Hawaii.  They had a lackluster 11-9 middle.  Then, they caught lightning in a bottle, winning five games in five days to take the Big East Tournament title and won three games in the Big Dance to come into this game riding an eight-game winning streak.  Once again, they have looked like a Final Four team.


Arizona entered this tournament with a 4-3 mark in its final seven games.  The Wildcats narrowly escaped with wins over Memphis and Texas in the first week, but then they blew defending champion Duke off the floor Thursday night.  They dominated the Blue Devils inside and forced Duke to beat them from over the top.  Duke could not get enough good outside shots in the second half, and Arizona cruised to an easy win.


We believe that Connecticut’s backcourt is not that far from Duke’s in total talent, but the Huskies are much stronger inside where it counts.  Connecticut should win the battle of the boards in this game and pound on Derrick Williams enough to throw him off his game.  Arizona has overachieved getting to this point.  The Wildcats will be back in 2011-12 as a top contender for the Final Four, but they will have to settle for Elite Eight this year.


Prediction: Connecticut 74  Arizona 66


Sunday, March 27, 2011

2:20 PM EDT—Southwest Regional Final @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 35-2 (23) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 27-11 (-1)

Position Kansas Virginia Commonwealth
Coach Bill Self Shaka Smart
Center (21) Markieff Morris 6-10 Jr.–13.6/8.2  59.6% FG/42.1% 3pt (21) Jamie Skeen 6-9 Sr.–15.1/7.3  1.1 Blk
Forward (22) Marcus Morris 6-9 Jr.–17.1/7.4  57.7% FG (20) Bradford Burgess 6-6 Jr.–14.4/6.2  42.3% 3pt
Forward (14) Tyrel Reed 6-3 Sr.–9.7/3.1  80.2% FT (50) Ed Nixon 6-4 Sr.–7.2/2.6  1.9 Ast
Guard (12) Brady Morningstar 6-4 Sr.–7.3/2.2  3.3 Ast/42.2% 3pt (32) Brandon Rozzell 6-2 Sr.–11.8/2.3  1.4 Stl
Guard (10) Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 Jr.–9.1/1.9  4.6 Ast (12) Joey Rodriguez 5-10 Sr.–10.6/3.2  5.1 Ast/81.8% FT
6th (32) Josh Selby 6-2 Fr. G–8.2/2.3  2.2 Ast (23) Rob Brandenburg 6-2 Fr. G–5.2/1.8
7th (00) Thomas Robinson 6-9 So.–7.8/6.6  60.1% FG (10) Darius Theus 6-3 So. G–3.1/1.6  2.1 Ast

PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Kansas V C U
Pts 17.1 3.9
FG% 11.8 2
Reb 7.9 2.1
TO 0.8 -0.6
Stl 7.8 8.3
R+T 9.4 0.9
SOS 59 54
Road% 95 66
PiRate # 23



This looks like an even bigger mismatch than Kansas’s Sweet 16 game, but VCU plays a feisty brand of basketball and can pull games out at the end with their pressure and herky-jerky style of play.


We anointed Kansas as our pick for the National Champion when the brackets came out two weeks ago, and the Jayhawks are the final power team we have left in the tournament.  KU possesses the same criteria as most of the past national champions.  The last team not to meet our minimum criteria that eventually won the national championship was this very same Kansas team in 1988.  We believe that on Sunday, the Jayhawks will restore some normalcy to this season’s Big Dance and prove to be the one Fred Astaire among a bunch of wannabes.


Kansas will not wilt under the pressure defense applied by VCU.  In fact, it will lead to a bunch of easy looks and a high shooting percentage.  The Jayhawks pass the ball like teams from the past, and they know how to hit open shots.  With Josh Selby possibly coming out of his shooting slump, we just cannot see another team defeating them this season.


For VCU, their real challenge will begin after the season ends.  Shaka Smart is certain to be in the mix in a number of vacant coaching jobs.  Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and others will be interested.


Prediction: Kansas 77  VCU 62


Sunday, March 27, 2011

5:05 PM EDT—East Regional Final @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 29-7 (16) vs. #4 Kentucky 28-8 (16)

Position North Carolina Kentucky
Coach Roy Williams John Calipari
Center (44) Tyler Zeller 7-0 Jr.–15.6/7.2  54.0% FG (55) Josh Harrellson 6-10 Sr.–7.5/8.8  1.6 Blk/61.2% FG
Forward (31) John Henson 6-10 So.–11.9/10.1  3.3 Blk (3) Terrence Jones 6-8 Fr.–15.9/8.7  1.9 Blk/1.6 Ast/1.1 Stl
Forward (40) Harrison Barnes 6-8 Fr.–15.6/5.8  1.4 Ast (34) DeAndre Liggins 6-6 Jr.–8.7/4.2  2.5 Ast/1.1 Stl
Guard (1) Dexter Strickland 6-3 So.–7.4/3.1  2.2 Ast (1) Darius Miller 6-7 Jr.–11.1/4.6  1.7 Ast
Guard (5) Kendall Marshall 6-3 Fr.–6.2/2.1  6.2 Ast (12) Brandon Knight 6-3 Fr.–17.2/3.8  4.2 Ast/79.9% FT
6th (2) Leslie McDonald 6-4 So. G–7.1/2.2  (20) Doron Lamb 6-4 Fr. G–12.4/2.0  1.7 Ast
7th (25) Justin Knox 6-9 Sr. F–4.5/3.2  (30) Eloy Vargas 6-10 Fr. F/C–1.6/2.0


PiRate Criteria Stats

Team N. Carolina Kentucky
Pts 9 12.2
FG% 4.7 6.9
Reb 6.5 4
TO 0.7 1.5
Stl 6.1 5.3
R+T 7.52 5.91
SOS 60 60
Road% 66 61
PiRate # 16 16


What we have here is the basketball equivalent of the Dodgers versus the Yankees.  Two of the top programs of all time face off for the second time this season.  In December, North Carolina edged the Wildcats by a deuce in Chapel Hill.


The Criteria score shows this game to be a tossup, but all five of us at the PiRate Ratings believe Kentucky is the clear-cut choice in this game.  John Calipari is on the verge of getting his third different school into the Final Four.  His teams always play better against an opponent once they have faced that opponent.  Against Florida, they learned after the first game how to slow down the Gators.  They learned how to stop them cold after the second game, and in the event they see them a fourth time, they will repeat it again.  That is getting a bit too far ahead.


North Carolina lacks the quickness to stop the Kentucky penetration, and if the Blue Mist hits at least 35% of their three-pointers in this game, they will advance to the Final Four.


North Carolina has a decided depth advantage, but the Tar Heels are not as deep as they once were.  With the longer time outs in this tournament, Kentucky can get by with six key players.


We see this game as one of spurts.  The Tar Heels will have two or three spurts, but Kentucky will have three or four.  We believe that UK will take the lead for good with five or six minutes left in the game.


Prediction: Kentucky 78  North Carolina 72

March 21, 2011

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview

Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

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

 All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

PiRate Criteria Numbers Updated To Reflect 1st Three Round Results

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7:15 PM on CBS 

West Regional @ Anaheim

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

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


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


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


Prediction: San Diego State 67  Connecticut 61


7:27 PM on TBS 

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: B Y U 82  Florida 78


9:45 PM on CBS

West Regional @ Anaheim

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

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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Duke 77  Arizona 68


9:57 PM on TBS

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Wisconsin 55  Butler 54


Friday, March 25, 2011


7:15 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: North Carolina 82  Marquette 79


7:27 PM on TBS

Southwest Regional @ San Antonio

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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Kansas 73  Richmond 62


9:45 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

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

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


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


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


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

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Kentucky 69


9:57 PM on TBS

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


Prediction: Florida State 65  Virginia Commonwealth 60


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

March 28, 2010

Sunday’s Regional Final Games

Sunday’s Regional Finals

Advanced Level Bracketnomics


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

South Regional


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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Duke 70  Baylor 63


Midwest Regional


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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Tennessee 64  Michigan State 59


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



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

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