The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 13, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 13 Update

Selection Sunday Is Here

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

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

1:00 PM EDT  ESPN

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

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

1:00 PM EDT  CBS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

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

3:30 PM EDT  CBS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

March 12, 2011

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–March 12 Update

Bucknell Joins The Dance Party

The Bucknell Bison earned the Patriot League’s automatic bid Friday with a 72-54 victory over Lafayette.  Versatile big man Mike Muscala led the Bison with 18 points while sharpshooter Bryson Johnson added 15.

 

Bucknell improved to 25-8 on the season.  They project to be a 12 or 13-seed.

 

12 More Bids To Go Out Saturday

 

This is the busiest day of the tournament schedule.  13 conferences will crown their champion, and four other conferences will conduct semifinal rounds.  All told, every single one of the 21 games scheduled will be televised nationally.  Do you have enough televisions and a good high-speed computer?

 

Here is a conference-by-conference look at all the action.

 

All Game Times EST

 

Atlantic Coast Conference—Greensboro, NC

Quarterfinal Round

#1 North Carolina  61  #9 Miami  59

#4 Clemson  70  #5 Boston College  47

#2 Duke  87  #7 Maryland  71

#6 Virginia Tech  52  #3 Florida State  51 

 

Semifinal Round

#1 North Carolina (25-6)  vs. #4 Clemson (21-10)  1:30 PM  ESPN 

#2 Duke (28-4)  vs. #6 Virginia Tech (21-11)  3:45 PM  ESPN

 

All four teams are safely in the NCAA Tournament.  The Hokies secured a spot in the Dance with the nail-biting win over the Seminoles.

 

America East Conference

Championship Round

#5 Stony Brook (15-16)  at #2 Boston U (20-13)  12 Noon  ESPN2

 

Boston U won both regular season meetings.  The Terriers won 67-62 at home and 62-49 on the road.  They win with their defense, as they only shoot 40.6% from the field.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference—Atlantic City, NJ

Quarterfinal Round

#9 Dayton  68  #1 Xavier  67

#12 St. Joseph’s  93  #4 Duquesne  90  ot

#2 Temple  96  #10 LaSalle  76

#3 Richmond  55  #6 Rhode Island 45

 

Semifinal Round

#9 Dayton (21-12)  vs. #12 St. Joseph’s (11-21)  1 PM  CBS College

#2 Temple (25-6)  vs. #3 Richmond (24-7)  3:30 PM  CBS College

 

The Bubble teams will have to sweat it out all the way until Sunday.  At least one long shot will advance to the Championship Game.  Neither St. Joe’s nor Dayton is getting an at-large bid, and one of the two will be playing for an automatic bid Sunday.  Both Temple and Richmond are in the Dance.

 

Big 12 Conference—Kansas City

Semifinal Round

#1 Kansas  90  #5 Colorado  83

#2 Texas  70  #3 Texas A&M  58

 

Championship Game

#1 Kansas (31-2)  vs. #2 Texas (27-6)  6 PM  ESPN

 

The Jayhawks are still playing for the overall number one seed, while Texas is probably locked in on a number two seed.  However, with Notre Dame losing, a Longhorn win could put them in the conversation, especially if Duke does not win the ACC Tournament.

 

Big East Conference—New York City

Semifinal Round

#9 Connecticut  76  #4 Syracuse  71  ot

#3 Louisville 83  #2 Notre Dame  77  ot 

 

Championship Game

#3 Louisville (25-8)  vs. #9 Connecticut (25-9)  9 PM  ESPN

 

Connecticut becomes the first team ever to play five games in five days in modern college basketball history.  Will they have anything left in the tank next week when it really counts?  Louisville’s win more than likely killed any chance for the Irish getting a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Big Ten Conference—Indianapolis

Quarterfinal Round

#1 Ohio State  67  #8 Northwestern  61 ot

#4 Michigan  60  #5 Illinois  55

#7 Michigan State  74  #2 Purdue  56

#6 Penn State  36  #3 Wisconsin 33

 

Semifinal Round

#1 Ohio State (30-2)  vs. #4 Michigan (20-12)  1:40 PM  CBS

#6 Penn State (18-13)  vs. #7 Michigan State (19-13)  4 PM  CBS

 

Michigan State has now earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Penn State might move from the Bubble to in the tournament with a win over the Spartans.

 

Big West Conference—Anaheim

Semifinal Round

#1 Long Beach State  74  #7 UC-Riverside  63

#5 UC-Santa Barbara 83  #3 Cal State Northridge 63

 

Championship Game

#1 Long Beach State (22-10)  vs. #5 UC-Santa Barbara (17-13)  8 PM  ESPN2

 

Long Beach State won both meetings against the Gauchos in the regular season, and neither game was close.  The 49ers are not going to become another Butler or even repeat the exploits of Northern Iowa last year, but they could scare a favored team in the first round.  If UCSB wins, then they will make a quick exit in the first round.

 

Conference USA—El Paso, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Memphis  76  #8 East Carolina  56

#3 U T E P  66  #2 Tulsa  54

 

Championship Game

#3 UTEP (25-8)  vs. #4 Memphis (24-9)  11:30 AM  CBS

 

The host Miners blew Memphis off the floor 74-47 in their only regular season meeting.  That game took place on this court.

 

Ivy League Playoff

Harvard (23-5)  vs. Princeton (24-6)  at Yale University  4 PM  ESPN3.com 

 

If Princeton wins a close game, there is an outside chance that the Ivy League could get two bids.

 

Mid-American Conference—Cleveland

Semifinal Round

#6 Akron  79  #2 Western Michigan  68

#1 Kent State 79  #4 Ball State 68

 

Championship Game

#1 Kent State (23-10)  vs. #6 Akron (22-12)  6 PM  ESPN2

 

The winner goes dancing, while the loser can only hope for a trip to Madison Square Garden in late March.

 

M E A C—Winston-Salem, NC

Semifinal Round

#4 Morgan State  61  #1 Bethune-Cookman  48

#2 Hampton  85  #6 Norfolk State  61

 

Championship Game

#2 Hampton (23-8)  vs. #4 Morgan State (17-13)  2 PM  ESPN2

 

Morgan State goes for a four-peat.  The Bears beat Hampton in the regular season 78-72.

 

Mountain West Conference—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 B Y U  87  #5 New Mexico  76

#2 San Diego State  74  #3 UNLV 72

 

Championship Game

#1 B Y U  (30-3)  vs. #2 San Diego State (31-2)  7 PM  Versus

 

Is the third time the charm for San Diego State?  The Aztecs’ two losses were to the Cougars.  If they can hold Jimmer Fredette under 35 points, we have a feeling that SDSU will cut down the nets. 

 

Both teams are legitimate threats to make it to the Sweet 16 and possibly a round or two farther.

 

Pac-10 Conference—Los Angeles

Semifinal Round

#1 Arizona  67  #4 Southern Cal  62

#3 Washington 69  #7 Oregon 51

 

Championship Game

#1 Arizona (27-6)  vs. #3 Washington (22-10)  6 PM  CBS

 

This should be an exciting game, even though it will not greatly affect the NCAA Tournament seedings.

 

The two teams split the season series, but the Huskies came close to sweeping.  UW won by 17 at home and fell by a single point in Tucson.  We think this is a tossup game.

 

Southeastern Conference—Atlanta

Quarterfinal Round

1W  Alabama 65  4E Georgia 59  ot

2E  Kentucky  75  3W  Ole Miss 66

1E  Florida  85  5E  Tennessee  74

3E  Vanderbilt  87  2W  Mississippi State  81

 

Semifinal Round

1W  Alabama (21-10)  vs. 2E  Kentucky (23-8)  1 PM  ABC

1E  Florida (25-6)  vs.  3E  Vanderbilt (23-9)  3:30 PM  ABC

 

Alabama played themselves into position to get one of the final at-large bids.  The Crimson Tide fans need to route against a Dayton or St. Joseph’s tournament championship in the Atlantic 10, because there is still little room for error for ‘Bama.

 

Kentucky looks unstoppable at times and then looks like a team that doesn’t belong in the tournament at others.  That’s what you get with a bunch of underclassmen and with no depth.

 

We believe this game will be close for most of the day, but the Wildcats will enjoy one nice spurt in both halves to hold off the Tide by six to 12 points.

 

Florida is playing about as well as either of their two National Champion teams.  It is hard to stop a team with five guys capable of scoring 20 points.  The Gators’ have few weaknesses.

 

Vanderbilt is a lot like Florida, but not as talented.  The Commodores have excellent outside shooters, but they cannot create their own shot like Florida’s outside shooters.  They have a couple of excellent inside scorers, but they can disappear against Florida’s inside players.  We look for the Gators to dominate this one from the beginning and win by double digits.

 

Southland Conference—Katy, TX

Championship Game

#1 McNeese State (21-10)  vs. #7 UT-San Antonio (18-13)  4 PM  ESPN2

 

S W A C—Garland, TX

Semifinal Round

#4 Alabama State  73  #1 Texas Southern  66

#6 Grambling  81  #2 Jackson State  75  ot

 

Championship Game

#4 Alabama State (16-17)  vs. #6 Grambling (12-20)  8:30 PM  ESPNU

 

The winner of this game can definitely plan on heading to Dayton for a First Four game.

 

W A C—Las Vegas

Semifinal Round

#1 Utah State  58  #8 San Jose State  54

#2 Boise State 81  #3 New Mexico State  63

 

Championship Game

#1 Utah State (29-3)  vs. #2 Boise State (20-11) 10 PM  ESPN2

 

Utah State is definitely in the Dance, so if the Broncos can pull off the big upset, another bubble will burst somewhere else.

 

Note: St. Mary’s defeated Weber State Friday night 77-54 in a non-conference game that was scheduled only two months ago.  The Gaels appear to be safe as an at-large team.

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