The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 7, 2023

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Schedules

All Times Eastern Standard

America East Conference — Higher Seed Hosts

Semifinals (ESPN+)

#1 Vermont (21-10) vs. #5 Binghamton (13-17) 7 PM

#2 UMass Lowell (25-7) vs. #3 New Hampshire (15-14) 6 PM

Atlantic 10 Conference — Brooklyn

1st Round (ESPN+)

#12 Richmond (14-17) vs. #13 Massachusetts (15-15) 11:30 AM

#10 Saint Joseph’s (14-16) vs. #15 Loyola (MD) (10-20) 2 PM

#11 La Salle (13-18) vs. #14 Rhode Island (9-21) 4:30 PM

Atlantic Coast Conference — Greensboro, NC

1st Round (ACCN)

#12 Florida St. (9-22) vs. #13 Georgia Tech (14-17) 2PM

#10 Boston College (15-16) vs. #15 Louisville (4-27) 4:30 PM

#11 Virginia Tech (18-13) vs. #14 Notre Dame (11-20) 7 PM

Big Sky Conference — Boise, ID


#4 Montana (17-13) vs. #9 Northern Arizona (11-22) 8:30 PM ESPNU

#2 Montana St. (23-9) vs. #3 Weber St. (18-14) 11 PM ESPN2

Big West Conference — Henderson, NV (Las Vegas)

1st Round (ESPN+)

#8 Cal St. Bakersfield (10-21) vs. #9 Cal St. Northridge (7-24) 9 PM

#7 Long Beach St. (17-15) vs. #10 Cal Poly (7-24) 11:30 PM

Colonial Athletic Association — Washington, D.C.


#2 Charleston (30-3) vs. #4 UNC Wilmington (24-9) 7 PM

Horizon League — Indianapolis


#3 Cleveland St. (21-12) vs. #4 Northern Kentucky (21-12) 7 PM

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference — Atlantic City, NJ

1st Round (ESPN+)

#8 Mount St. Mary’s (12-19) vs. #9 Canisius (10-19) 5 PM

#7 Fairfield (13-17) vs. #10 Saint Peter’s (12-17) 7 PM

#6 Manhattan (12-17) vs. #11 Marist (10-19) 9 PM

Northeast Conference — Higher Seed Hosts


#1 Merrimack (17-16) vs. #2 Fairleigh Dickinson (19-14) 7 PM

Merrimack is not eligible for the NCAA Tournament

FDU has already won the league’s automatic bid

Southland Conference — Lake Charles, LA


#1 Texas A&M-CC (21-10) vs. #8 McNeese St. (11-22) 6:30 PM ESPNU

#2 Northwestern St. (21-10) vs. #7 New Orleans (12-19) 9PM ESPN+

Summit League — Sioux Falls, SD


#1 Oral Roberts (29-4) vs. #3 North Dakota St. (16-16) 9 PM

West Coast Conference — Las Vegas


#1 Saint Mary’s (26-6) vs. #2 Gonzaga (27-5) 9 PM

Western Athletic Conference — Las Vegas

1st Round (ESPN+)

#8 Cal Baptist (16-15) vs. #9 Abilene Christian (13-16) 3 PM

#5 Grand Canyon (20-11) vs. #12 UT-Arlington (11-20) 5 PM

#7 Tarleton (16-15) vs. #10 UT-Rio Grande Valley (15-16) 9 PM

#6 Stephen F. Austin (19-12) vs. #11 Utah Tech (13-18) 11 PM

This tournament is seeded by KenPom Ratings rather than standings

Still to Come Today: Updated Bracketology

August 16, 2022

Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

With all the rumored movement of teams from one conference to another, for now the Atlantic Coast Conference appears to be on solid ground. The league’s Grant of Rights deal with its members make it quite difficult, if not impossible for teams to exit the league. Under this deal, any team would have to forfeit all media revenue earned in another conference back to the ACC. An exit fee of $100 million or more would make leaving the ACC for the SEC or Big Ten financially unwise.

Of course, there are always loopholes that can be discovered by crafty legal departments, so impossible is not in the college football vocabulary. Impossible was a word associated with the words “beating Clemson” until last year. The Tigers failed to win the Atlantic Division for the first time 2014. Wake Forest was the surprise winner in the Atlantic, while Pittsburgh won the Coastal Division title. Wake Forest figured to be a contender for the division title again this year until last week, their starting quarterback, Sam Hartman, was ruled out indefinitely due to a non-football issue that required a surgical procedure. Hartman might return late in the season, but his loss will hit the Demon Deacons hard enough to take them out of the conference championship picture.

2022 will be the final year of divisional play in this league. Here are the preseason PiRate Ratings for the league.

ACC Preseason PiRate Ratings

Atlantic Division
NC State118.3117.3118.5118.0
Wake Forest113.9113.2113.2113.4
Florida St.111.7111.0110.9111.2
Boston College100.5102.5100.2101.1
Coastal Division
Miami (Fla.)115.1113.7114.9114.6
North Carolina108.0108.2107.5107.9
Virginia Tech100.9101.398.4100.2
Georgia Tech95.695.593.694.9

Preseason Official ACC Media Poll

#Atlantic1st PlaceOverall
2North Carolina St.44959
3Wake Forest6783
5Florida St.2509
6Boston College1469
#Coastal1st PlaceOverall
3North Carolina18823
5Virginia Tech3592
6Georgia Tech1343
North Carolina St.38
Wake Forest4
Florida St.2
North Carolina2
Boston College1
Poll Taken Prior To Hartman’s Non-Football Medical Condition

The PiRate Ratings are designed to look at just the next week’s schedule of games and not to use to look forward. Nevertheless, here are the predicted won-loss records for the league.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

North Carolina St.7-111-1
Wake Forest4-48-4
Florida St.4-47-5
Boston College1-74-8
Virginia Tech4-48-4
North Carolina4-47-5
Georgia Tech1-72-10

Clemson picked to win ACC Championship Game

January 21, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketology

4DukeTexas TechConnecticutXavier
5WisconsinTexasUCLAOhio St.
6Loyola (Chi.)AlabamaIowaIowa St.
7Michigan St.USCIndianaSeton Hall
9BYUSan Diego St.North CarolinaMiami (Fla.)
10Colorado St.DavidsonCreightonWake Forest
11Saint Mary’sBoise St.West VirginiaOregonFlorida St.
12Murray St.UABChattanoogaTCUSan Francisco
14WagnerGrand CanyonSouth Dakota St.Oakland
15LibertyTexas St.UC-IrvinePrinceton
16NavyMontana St.LongwoodNorfolk St.Texas A&M-CCTexas Southern

Last Four Byes: Wake Forest, Saint Mary’s, Boise St., West Virginia

Last Four In: Oregon, Florida St., TCU, San Francisco

First Four Out: Wyoming, Mississippi St., Texas A&M, Michigan

Next Four Out: Belmont, Arkansas, Dayton, Fresno St.

January 7, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketology–January 7, 2022

4IllinoisMichigan St.USCKentucky
5AlabamaUCLAConnecticutIowa St.
6WisconsinXavierOhio St.Texas Tech
7Loyola (Chi.)Seton HallBYUIndiana
8IowaColorado St.W. VirginiaN. Carolina
9OklahomaVa.TechSan FranciscoMississippi St.
10ProvidenceTCUFloridaWake Forest
11Saint Mary’sMichiganSan Diego St.MemphisTexas A&MClemson
14WagnerSouth Dakota St.NavyOakland
15Grand CanyonUC-IrvineLibertyPrinceton
16LouisianaWeber St.Nicholls St.Gardner-WebbTexas SouthernHoward

First Four Out

Florida St.

Next Four Out

Boise St.
Washington St.

Process: The PiRate Ratings use a combination of NET Rankings, Computer Rankings, Strength of Schedule, Strength of Wins, The Eye-Test, and unfortunately Politics to attempt to mimic what the NCAA Selection Committee does leading up to Selection Sunday.

January 1, 2022

PiRate Ratings–College Basketball Spreads

Saturday, January 1, 2022

TexasWest Virginia6.6
Wichita St.Memphis-1.7
South FloridaEast Carolina-0.3
Iowa St.Baylor-8.5
Seton HallVillanova-0.1
North Carolina St.Florida St.-4.5
UNLVSan Diego St.-4.1
Fresno St.Air Force16.0
KansasGeorge Mason20.0
RutgersCentral Connecticut20.5
Miami (Fla.)Wake Forest-0.6
Saint Mary’sSan Francisco2.2
OklahomaKansas St.8.0
NevadaNew Mexico11.1

August 19, 2021

Atlantic Coast Conference Preview

The Atlantic Coast Conference benefitted from Covid by gaining an extra playoff team last year.  With Notre Dame choosing to become a full member for the season, and then with the Irish running the table, topping Clemson, while Clemson won all its remaining games, when the Tigers took the rematch in the ACC Championship Game, it opened the door for two ACC teams to make the playoffs.  

Unfortunately for the league, Clemson was bombed by Ohio State and Notre Dame had no chance against Alabama in the semifinal round, as the two teams lost by a combined 38 points.

2021 should be back to normal for the league, but who knows if this will be the last time the 14 teams are together in one league, as of this writing, rumors are running rampant about a possible alliance between the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12, and other rumors have claimed that Clemson and Florida State would like to become members of the SEC.

At the ACC Preseason Meetings, the media voted their predictions for the 2021-2022 season.

Atlantic Division

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

1. Clemson – 1,028 (146)

2. NC State – 804 (1)

3. Boston College – 638

4. Florida State – 510

5. Wake Forest – 472

6. Louisville – 462

7. Syracuse – 202

Coastal Division

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

1. North Carolina – 979 (109)

2. Miami – 881 (28)

3. Virginia Tech – 582 (3)

4. Pitt – 576 (1)

5. Virginia – 540 (2)

6. Georgia Tech – 340 (4)

7. Duke – 218

Overall Champion

Clemson – 125

North Carolina – 16

Miami – 3

Virginia – 1

Georgia Tech – 1

NC State – 1

Clemson doesn’t rebuild; the Tigers reload with the next round of 4-star and 5-star talent.  Losing once in a generation quarterback Trevor Lawrence is not a reloadable possibility.  D.J. Ulagalelei is a brute force that could play tight end or linebacker.  He just happens to have an accurate arm and the intelligence to know where to throw the ball.  While he won’t put up Lawrence numbers, especially on the ground, he can lead Clemson back to the playoffs again.  Finding capable receivers will be a tougher task, but tight end Braden Galloway gives CU a big target in the middle of the field.

Coach Dabo Swinney has 10 defensive starters coming back this year, and one or two might lose starting status to even better players.  This should be the best defense in all of college football, led by one of the best defensive lines in many years.  Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy could easily make the 1st team All-American team.

Clemson also rates highly in its kicking games, as punter Will Spiers carried a 44 yard average, and placekicker B.T. Potter nailed a couple of 50-yard plus field goals and hit on 18 of 23 overall.

Clemson gets its toughest task in the regular season right off the bat, when they face Georgia in Charlotte on September 4.  If they get past their old rival, there’s no reason to think they cannot go undefeated until the Playoffs.

The race for second place in the Atlantic Division is wide open.  Five of the remaining six teams in the division could finish in second place.

Wake Forest had an outstanding offense and weak defense last year going 4-4 in the regular season before losing to Wisconsin in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.  An offense that scored 36 points per game and racked up 444 yards per game merely returns every starter this year and welcomes some fine new talent.  Coach Dave Clawson has this team flying under the radar.  Due to unfortunate injuries the last two seasons, there is loads of depth on board, and the Demon Deacons need only a slight improvement on the defensive side to contend for nine or ten wins.

North Carolina State didn’t play Clemson last year due to a Covid cancellation, and the Wolfpack didn’t play Notre Dame.  Their 8-4 record was helped by playing Duke, Syracuse, and Florida State.  This year, the Wolfpack have a better roster on both sides of the ball, and another 8-win season is quite possible, even with Clemson returning to the schedule.

Coach Dave Doeren must hope that quarterback Devin Leary can return from a season-ending leg injury and be the pre-injury passer he was in 2020, when he completed 60% of his passes for an average of 13.5 yards per completion.  Leary has three talented receivers coming back that combined for 118 receptions for 1,744 yards and 17 touchdowns.  Leary will have good protection as four offensive linemen starters are back.

The Wolfpack need to be a little stingier against the pass this year if they are to contend for second place in the Atlantic.  After giving up more than 240 passing yards and 415 total yards in 2020, NC State will have new defensive backs in the starting 11.

Jeff Hafley came to Boston College after producing a couple of outstanding defenses at Ohio State.  He took over a BC program that was falling back in the pack and in one year, he made the Eagles a tough out in the ACC.  While BC went 5-5 in the league and 6-5 overall, they lost to North Carolina by four, Clemson by six, Notre Dame by 14, and Virginia by 11.  

Hafley has a lot of talent returning on both sides of the ball, and in year two in Chestnut Hill, we expect the Eagles to earn a bowl bid and be in the hunt for an eight-win season.  By 2022, this team might be ready to compete for a division title.

Mike Norvell’s first season at Florida State would have been unforgettable if he hadn’t made headlines a couple of times.  A 3-6 included just one impressive win.  After losing to a Georgia Tech team still trying to transition to a pro-style offense from the triple option, the Seminoles were embarrassed by in-state rival Miami by six touchdowns.  Additional lopsided losses to Pittsburgh and Louisville showed the fans just how far this program had fallen since Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.

FSU may have benefitted the most from the Transfer Portal, as Norvell picks up several players that should become starters.  The only thing in the way of a winning season this year may be the schedule, as the Seminoles play Notre Dame and Florida out of conference as well as North Carolina and Miami from the Coastal Division.

Louisville took a step back in Scott Satterfield’s second year after going 8-5 in 2019.  He also antagonized fans and maybe the administration by lobbying for the South Carolina job that he did not get.  This program is one to watch to see if Satterfield still owns the locker room.  If not, UL may be headed for trouble.  The Cardinals have lost some key players to transfer in the past couple of years too, so this may be the do or die season for Satterfield.  If he can work the same magic he worked at Appy State, UL might turn things around, but it’s not a guarantee.

Syracuse went 10-3 in 2018, and Coach Dino Babers appeared to be the second coming of Mike Leach.  Since then, the Orange are 6-17.  Last year, the Air Raid offense never took off.  Scoring just 17.8 points per game and totaling just 265 total yards per game, third weakest in the nation.  The squad is much more experienced this year, but SU doesn’t look like a team capable of coming out of the basement.

The Coastal Division has a clear-cut favorite for the first time in many years, but it isn’t a slam dunk like the Atlantic Division.

North Carolina went 11-1 in 1997 and finished sixth in the polls in Coach Mack Brown’s last season during his first tenure in Chapel Hill.  The Tar Heels have not finished in the top ten since.  However, they made it back to the top ten after starting the 2020 season 3-0.  When a team with a great coach coming off a decent year returns one of the top five quarterbacks in the nation plus the entire offensive line, it is a good bet that this team will light up the scoreboard.  UNC averaged 42 points per game last year.  Is it possible, the Tar Heels could approach 50 points per game this year?  It isn’t impossible, and if they do score 50 points per game, QB Sam Howell will be invited to New York in December.  Only a defense that had some issues with the pass last year could prevent North Carolina from competing for the ACC Championship.  Clemson should be able to outscore them in a potential conference championship game.

Miami of Florida will be there waiting to replace North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game if the Tar Heels’ defense isn’t up to the task.  The Hurricanes’ defense will be strong enough to make Manny Diaz’s third team a big winner in Coral Gables.  With quarterback D’Eriq King returning after proving to be a dual threat in the new spread offense, Miami should score a few more points per game than they did last year.  

The Hurricanes get the optimum test to open the season, as they face defending national champion Alabama in Atlanta.  Nick Saban won’t allow his team to overlook Miami, but even so, Miami might scare the Crimson Tide for a quarter or two.

After the top two in the Coastal, there is a major dropoff to the next tier.  Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Pittsburgh are fairly evenly matched, and they are likely to split the games between them while losing to the two heavyweights.  

Justin Fuente has been at Virginia Tech for five years and owns a 38-26 record in Blacksburg.  He is on a very hot seat after going 5-6 last year.  We will note that legendary coach Frank Beamer was 22-32-1 in his first five years.

Virginia Tech must rebuild on offense, which was the strongpoint of the season last year.  The Hokies lost starting quarterback Hendon Hooker via the Transfer Portal and star running back Khalil Herbert to the NFL.  It looks like 2021 will be the decisive year in Blacksburg for Fuente.  If the Hokies go 6-6 or 7-5, it might not be enough for him to keep this job.

Virginia won the Coastal Division title in a small surprise in 2019, but Covid ruined the Cavaliers’ ability to play consistently last year, and they fell to 4-5 in the league.  Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s Cavs did enjoy a four-game winning streak in late October and November, including wins over North Carolina and Boston College.

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong also led the team in rushing last year; he played behind an inexperienced line and didn’t have a go-to running back last year.  Armstrong will have to wait until November for his best target to be available.  Wideout Lavel Davis Jr. is rehabbing from an ACL injury suffered in Spring practice.  Davis averaged 25.8 yards per catch last year after scoring two touchdowns on four receptions in his college debut against Duke.  A healthy Davis could be the difference in the final two games of the season against the other two teams in this tier in the Coastal Division.

Every year, the PiRate Ratings don’t seem to give Pat Narduzzi’s Pittsburgh Panthers a lot of respect.  While the ratings are based on certain data, there must be something Narduzzi and his coaching staff do to produce a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Once again, the Panthers’ are looking at a mediocre start to their season, but this year the first four games are all winnable, and three of the four are basically sure things.  Playing Syracuse from the Atlantic, as well as the expected bottom tier teams in the Coastal gives Pitt a chance to win three or four conference games and make a small bowl.

Pitt plays an old style of football.  Their defense leads the way, while their offense is pedestrian but makes fewer mistakes than a wide open offense.  Last year, Pitt led the ACC in rushing yards allowed and finished second in total yards allowed, but offensively the Panthers finished near the bottom.

Things might be a bit different in 2021 as quarterback Kenny Pickett is a fifth year senior and has gotten better every year.  Having star receiver Jordan Addison return with him means the Panthers should see improved numbers in the passing game.  Unfortunately, Pitt lost their starting defensive ends from last year, two players that combined for 16 ½ sacks and 27 ½ tackles for loss.  The Panthers still have a talented trio of starting linebackers, including Cam Bright, who had 8 ½ sacks last year.

Duke suffered through a miserable 2020 season that saw the Blue Devils go 1-9 in league play and 2-9 overall.  2021 doesn’t look to be very promising, as the Blue Devils lost more experience than any team in the league.  The offense led the nation in turnovers, and even though the former quarterback responsible for 21 of those 39 has transferred out of the program, Duke might commit fewer turnovers this year but gain many fewer yards with a junior who threw 25 passes last year, mostly of the three and four yard variety.  Additionally, the offensive line must be rebuilt, and rather than suffer through fumbles and interceptions, sacks might be the new liability this year.

Coach David Cutcliffe must also rebuild his defense, but there’s nowhere to go but up, after Duke finished last in the league in scoring defense.  The only reason why the Blue Devils didn’t give up the most total yards is that opponents found it easy to run the ball against them.  Duke finished dead last in rushing defense, so opponents didn’t throw the ball as often as they did against other teams.

Here are the preseason PiRate Ratings for the ACC:

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division
Wake Forest108.0106.7108.3107.7
NC State106.5105.8105.9106.1
Boston College104.7105.3105.7105.2
Florida St.103.4103.6103.5103.5

Coastal Division
North Carolina116.4116.7119.9117.7
Miami (Fla.)117.1116.1117.7116.9
Virginia Tech106.4104.9104.7105.3
Georgia Tech98.098.398.398.2

ACC Averages104.9105.0105.3105.0

The PiRate Ratings are designed to be effective for the next week’s slate of games and not to be used to look forward.  Nevertheless, we predict the won-loss records just for fun.

Atlantic Coast AtlanticConf.Overall
Boston College5-39-3
Wake Forest5-38-4
North Carolina St.4-47-5
Florida St.3-55-7

Atlantic Coast CoastalConf.Overall
North Carolina7-111-2
Miami (Fla.)7-110-2
Virginia Tech4-46-6
Georgia Tech2-64-8

* Clemson picked to win ACC Championship Game

March 19, 2021

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:27 pm

Saturday, March 20, 2021

GonzagaNorfolk St.29.8
KansasEastern Washington9.6
IowaGrand Canyon15.6
MichiganTexas Southern24.9
LSUSt. Bonaventure0.2
Florida St.UNCG10.0
TexasAbilene Christian7.2

March 3, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:40 am

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

La SalleSaint Joseph’s0.6
George WashingtonFordham4.3
TulaneWichita St.-4.5
Notre DameNC St.2.4
Florida St.Boston College14.9
Seton HallConnecticut0.2
St. John’sProvidence2.6
Eastern WashingtonIdaho St.13.7
Penn St.Minnesota3.1
North Carolina A&TSouth Carolina St.12.0
North Carolina CentralFlorida A&M0.4
Colorado St.New Mexico18.8
UNLVSan Diego St.-12.3
BelmontSIU Edwardsville16.4
Morehead St.Southeast Missouri St.8.7
UtahOregon St.3.8
Boston ULehigh7.2
Texas A&MMississippi St.-3.7
Sam Houston St.Texas A&M-CC14.7
New OrleansNorthwestern St.3.0
Houston BaptistIncarnate Word0.4
Central ArkansasSoutheast Louisiana1.5
Stephen F. AustinAbilene Christian-3.1

February 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Bracketology


1GonzagaBaylorMichiganOhio St.
3West VirginiaHoustonFlorida St.Oklahoma
6Texas TechPurdueColoradoClemson
7Oklahoma St.FloridaMissouriBYU
8RutgersVirginia TechLSULoyola (Chi.)
9UCLASan Diego St.OregonMaryland
10North CarolinaBoise St.LouisvilleDrake
11VCUSt. BonaventureColorado St.Connecticut
12ToledoWestern Ky.Seton HallXavierIndianaGeorgia Tech
14Wright St.LibertyFurmanAbilene Christian
15IonaVermontE. WashingtonGrand Canyon
16James MadisonS. Dakota St.Texas St.Prairie ViewWagnerN.C. A&T

First 8 Out

69Michigan St.
70Wichita St.
74Utah St.
76Ole Miss

Conference Tournaments underway!

With March getting ready to come in like a lion, here’s a look at each of the conferences heading into conference tournament play.

One-Bid Leagues

America East: Maryland-Baltimore Co. & Vermont are tied at 10-4 in the league. The teams split a weekend series in Maryland. Vermont is the team more likely to contend in a #15 vs. #2 seed game in the NCAA Tournament.

Atlantic Sun: Liberty is 10-2 in the league but not as strong as last year’s team. Bellarmine is not eligible for the NCAA Tournament but will play in the A-Sun tournament. If they win, then Liberty gets the automatic bid. Lipscomb is 9-5 in the league and the hottest team of the contenders.

Big Sky: There will be many mid-major and low-major tournaments this year that should be wide open. This is one. Eastern Washington at 11-2 in conference play currently leads for the top seed, with Southern Utah (9-2) and Weber St. (10-3) vying for second place. Weber St. is probably the best of the three, but we wouldn’t be shocked if Montana (just 6-9 in the league) sneaks into the semifinals with a chance to win it from well back in the field.

Big South: Winthrop ran way with the league title and has lapped the field. At 17-1/20-1, the Eagles are contending for a #12 seed. If anybody else wins, it’s 16-seed almost for sure. Winthrop will be the biggest favorite to win their conference tournament, even more than Gonzaga.

Big West: UCSB will end UC-Irvine’s reign as regular season champions. The Gauchos (12-2/16-3) will still likely have to face either UCI (9-4/12-8) or UC Riverside (7-4/10-6) in the Big West Championship Game.

Colonial: It’s a down year in the CAA. In past years, four or five teams had the talent to do damage in a Round of 64 game. This year, we don’t see a win in the cards for this league. James Madison (8-1/13-5) and Northeastern (8-2/9-8) are the leading contenders for the automatic bid.

Conference USA: This is a conference with at least five teams talented enough to upset a higher seeded team in the Big Dance. Western Kentucky (8-2/15-5) has been at the top of the league all year. North Texas (8-2/12-6) and UAB (10-4/18-5) have been right there with the Hilltoppers. Louisiana Tech (10-4/17-6) and Marshall (6-4/12-5) are the hot contenders late in the season. Marshall may be the best of the bunch.

Horizon: This has been a two-team race like Easy Goer and Sunday Silence in past Triple Crown horse racing. Wright St. and Cleveland St. share the conference lead at 16-4. The only other team in the picture is Detroit at 10-6. WSU or CSU could win an opening round game in the Dance.

Metro Atlantic: This looks like a three-team race for the MAAC automatic bid. Siena (9-3) has led the league most of the season, with Monmouth (10-6) trailing. But, Iona (6-3) has started playing again after a long Covid layoff. They have an experienced tournament coach in New Rochelle; if you didn’t know, Rick Pitino is in charge, and the Gaels are the team to beat in our opinion. For declaration purposes, Monmouth coach King Rice is a friend of the PiRate Captain, and he’s rooting for the Hawks to fly high.

Mid-American: Of all the conference tournaments, this one historically has been the most exciting, because rarely has there been a clear-cut favorite. More teams from back in the pack have won this tourney in our memories than any other league. Toledo (13-3/18-6) has led the West all year with no competition, but the East looks like the 1967 American League pennant race. Akron (12-4/14-5) leads Ohio (9-3/13-6) only because of more games played. Kent St. (11-5/14-6) and Buffalo (9-5/11-7) are right there. Any of these five could win the lone bid, and then again, someone from back in the pack could do it again. Toledo could be a #12 seed if they win out.

Mideastern: This league has been really hit by Covid issues, with two teams choosing not to play and a third opting out in mid-season. North Carolina A&T (6-1) has been in first place all year. Norfolk St. (8-4) may be a little better come March. But, Morgan St. (6-4) is coming on strong and might be the true favorite to take the MEAC Tournament. The winner is looking squarely at a 16-seed play-in game.

Northeast: The NEC usually places their automatic qualifier in the Dayton play-in game for a 16-seed. The only difference this year, is the game will be played in the Hoosier State. Wagner (11-4) leads Bryant (9-4) with the rest of the field out of the race. Bryant might be the better team.

Ohio Valley: Belmont looked unbeatable in this league, until the Bruins went up to Eastern Kentucky and found out how tough the Colonels are on their home, even with no fans. Belmont (18-1/24-2) now must face an even tougher Morehead St. team (16-3 in the OViC) tomorrow. This league tournament is no longer just a rubber stamp for Belmont. The Morehead/EKU winner in a likely semifinal game will have a 40% chance of knocking out the Bruins.

Patriot: Colgate is in the top 20 of the NET ratings, the one data point that the NCAA Selection Committee places as the primary seeding factor. At 11-1 overall, all their games were played in the league. Four of those games came against Army, where the Raiders won three but lost once at home to the Black Knights. Colgate is an enigma. We don’t understand why they are rated so highly with no non-conference games, because the Patriot League is not highly-rated. Navy at 10-1/13-2 looks like a better team, and Army 6-6/10-7 already knows they can beat the heavy favorite. Colgate could be a 12-seed if they win out, and in this case, their 5-seed opponent will not be on upset alert.

Southern: This league has produced multiple bids in the past, but it won’t happen this year. There are five good but not great teams in contention, and the eventual winner will not be highly regarded as an upset special possibility. Furman (10-4/16-7) is methodically better than average but not flashy. They stay on an even keel with talent not quite as deep as the other contenders, but with more consistency. UNCG (12-5/17-8) plays a style of play that opponents don’t like to face, but when a team is solid handling the ball, the Spartans are not that hard to beat. Wofford (11-5/14-8) has been a snake in the tall grass, sneaking into the top of the league. East Tennessee St. (8-6/12-10) is a mere shell of its former self left by Steve Forbes, while Chattanooga (9-7/18-7) has been a major underperformer since New Year’s Day.

Southland: The potential seeding of this league took a big turn last week, when Stephen F. Austin decided to become ineligible this year rather than next year. What would have been an incredible 4-team scramble has lost one of its scramblers. Abilene Christian (11-1/19-3) is a team no Power Conference opponent wants to see in their bracket. The Wildcats are really tough on the defensive side of the ball, and a poor passing team can turn ACU into an efficient offensive puncher, because the Wildcats can intercept passes like the 1963 Chicago Bears! Sam Houston (11-2/17-7) and Nicholls (11-2/14-6) are the top contenders without SFA.

Summit: This should be another wide open conference tournament with four co-favorites. South Dakota (10-3/12-9), North Dakota St. (10-4/12-10), South Dakota St. (7-3/13-6) and Oral Roberts (8-5/11-10) are on close to equal terms at the end of February. We think SDSU is the favorite to win the tournament.

Sun Belt: This league is slowly falling in overall strength, and it is in danger of joining the NEC, MEAC, and SWAC in the annual play-in round for a 16-seed. Texas St. (10-3/16-6) has held the SBC lead for several weeks, but South Alabama (10-5/16-8), Louisiana (9-6/15-7), and Georgia St. (6-4/12-5) are lurking close behind. We like GSU from this group to win the conference tournament.

Southwestern: Covid may have helped this league a tad. The co-leaders, Prairie View (9-0/10-4) and Jackson St. (7-0/7-5) don’t play each other in the regular season. It could lead to a SWAC title game between two undefeated teams in conference play, making it one of the most exciting of the postseason. Texas Southern (6-3/9-8) is the dark horse.

Western: After the MEAC, the WAC has been next most affected by Covid issues. Technically, UT Rio Grande Valley leads the league today at 2-0 in the WAC and 9-4 overall. But, Grand Canyon (7-1/13-4) is two games ahead in the won-loss, even if UTRGV is 1.000 in percentage. Utah Valley is third at 6-3 in the WAC, but we wouldn’t rule out New Mexico St. (3-5/6-6). The Aggies not only couldn’t play home games, they couldn’t even return home during the shutdown of the Land of Enchantment. Chris Jans is the type of coach that can motivate and use the right strategy to win this tournament.

Multi-Bid Leagues

American: Houston is a lock, but the Cougars are in second place in the AAC to a Wichita St. team that beat them. WSU is likely to earn the top seed in the AAC Tournament, and the Shockers are on the Bubble and need a little more to add to their resume. Memphis has more than enough talent to win the tournament, but the Tigers don’t play cohesively.

Atlantic Coast: In the past, any team with a winning record in conference play was close to assured of earning a bid. Syracuse went 10-8 in 2017 and didn’t get a bid. This year, Florida St., Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Louisville, and Clemson are Dancing. Duke, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina St., in that order, are still in contention. We think the Seminoles are strong enough to advance past the Sweet 16.

Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure and VCU share the lead at 10-3, and the Bonnies and Rams are close to becoming locks for the Big Dance. Richmond, at 6-3, has been on the Bubble for most of the season. Saint Louis (4-4) has suffered the same fate as New Mexico State, missing weeks of scheduled games. The Billikens may be the best team in the league if they have completely dusted off the cobwebs in March.

Big 12: Undefeated Baylor probably won’t enter the Big 12 Tournament without a blemish. The Bears could even have two league losses. BU is still rusty from a long layoff, and they must play at Kansas, at West Virginia, and at home against Oklahoma St. and Texas Tech. This league is probably set in tournament teams. Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma St. should be in the field. TCU is too far back to sneak into the field without earning the automatic bid.

Big East: Villanova and Creighton are locks, while Seton Hall, Connecticut, and Xavier still have work to do before they are safely in the field. Xavier faces a must-win game at home against Creighton tomorrow.

Big Ten: This league is still in a state of flux. The teams that were close to being safe at the back of the field have done everything they could to play themselves out, while Michigan St., once given up for dead, has done everything to play themselves in.

As of today, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio St., Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue are locks. The Big Ten will probably get nine teams in the field. Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan St., Indiana, and Minnesota are competing for three bids. If Indiana or Minnesota fall short, there could be a coaching availability or two in the Big Ten in March.

Missouri Valley: With Wichita State relocated to the AAC, one would think the days of the venerable Valley earning multiple bids was over. Guess again. Drake and Loyola are close to sure things before Arch Madness starts in Saint Louis. There is even a scenario where if one of the two co-leaders loses in the semifinals of the conference tournament, and the other loses in the finals, that three teams could earn spots in the Field of 68.

Mountain West: How about four MWC teams in the Big Dance? San Diego St. is one of the hottest teams in the nation at the end of February. They’ve made a move like Whirlaway, swatting their long tail at the rest of the field as the Aztecs head to the finish line gaining distance from the place and show teams.

Boise St. and Colorado St. have tournament-worthy resumes, while Utah St. is now well back on the bad side of the Bubble. The Aggies need to win the conference tournament. Watch out for Steve Alford’s Nevada Wolfpack! Nevada has won four consecutive ga,es to move into fifth place.

Pac-12: What looked like a five-bid league has lessened to four bids and a prayer. USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado have done enough to win bids. Stanford has lost five of nine games, including two in a row to teams they needed to beat. The Cardinal need to win at USC next Wednesday, or they may be forced to win the Pac-12 Tournament to get in.

Southeastern: Don’t count out Kentucky just yet! The Wildcats (7-7/8-13) look like the team they were supposed to be. UK cannot earn an at-large bid with just three regular season games remaining, but once they get to Nashville, The Music City turns into the Bluegrass City. Calipari’s Cats can win four games in four days.

Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Florida, and Tennessee are in the field. Missouri was in for sure, but losses in four of their last five has created a shadow of doubt. Ole Miss has moved a half-game ahead of Mizzou in the league. The Tigers must close with Florida and LSU, while Ole Miss gets two games against last place Vanderbilt and a home game with Kentucky.

If there is a dark horse possibility in the SEC, then Georgia and Mississippi St. can stake claims to it. If Ole Miss and Missouri falter at the finish, the two Bulldogs can get into contention by winning out headed to Nashville.

West Coast: Gonzaga has yet to face any real competition. The Bulldogs look like the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table to the Final Four without opposition. Then, the Runnin’ Rebels ran into a Duke team that had not forgotten the 30+-point loss dealt to them in 1990’s Championship. The Bulldogs look like a potential run-the-table team, more like John Wooden’s UCLA teams than the 1991 UNLV team. Outside of the WCC, Gonzaga easily dismissed Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa, and Virginia. Normally, this would have been enough to show the nation that the Zags were without a doubt the best team in the nation. Had Baylor not cancelled their scheduled game, Gonzaga might be sitting with the appropriate strength of schedule typical of a national champion in our Bracketnomics criteria.

BYU is the other team with an NCAA Tournament guarantee. The Cougars have been distant number two to Gonzaga, but at 9-3/18-5, BYU has a win at San Diego St.

February 24, 2021

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Spreads

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

DavidsonSt. Bonaventure-1.0
George MasonGeorge Washington6.5
Saint Joseph’sDayton-8.8
La SalleDuquesne-4.3
South FloridaTemple3.8
Wake ForestClemson-6.0
VirginiaNC St.8.7
Miami (Fla.)Florida St.-12.5
North CarolinaMarquette8.9
ButlerSeton Hall-6.7
Southern UtahNorthern Arizona11.8
Ball St.Kent St.-4.6
UNC CentralNorth Carolina A&T2.8
Norfolk StDelaware St.14.2
Air ForceNew Mexico0.1
UNLVFresno St.5.8
Boston UniversityHoly Cross5.4
Loyola (MD)American3.6
Mississippi St.South Carolina3.5
FurmanThe Citadel12.8
UNCGWestern Carolina11.9
Northwestern St.Stephen F. Austin-7.4
SE LouisianaMcNeese4.2
Texas A&M-CCNew Orleans-0.4
NichollsHouston Baptist10.5
Incarnate WordLamar4.5
Abilene ChristianSam Houston St.8.1
SouthernAlabama A&M6.4
Alcorn St.Alabama St.5.7
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