The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 3, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball National Championship Game Preview

Red-White-Blue Ratings

Monday, April 3
Team Team Red White Blue
North Carolina Gonzaga -3 -1 2

Team Stats Comparison

Team Offense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Gonzaga 38 1129 2222 278 730 621 864 366 1172 1538 434 263 3157
North Carolina 39 1200 2560 279 771 627 890 615 1088 1703 469 276 3306


Team Defense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Gonzaga 38 849 2326 219 743 410 620 414 851 1265 468 202 2327
North Carolina 39 962 2318 311 920 524 720 355 853 1208 530 247 2759


Team PPG Def PPG Mar. FG-Marg Rb-Marg TO-Marg R+T WLRd SOS Poss/G W L
Gonzaga 83.1 61.2 21.8 14.3 7.2 0.9 19.4 22-0 54.36 70.7 37 1
North Carolina 84.8 70.7 14.0 5.4 12.7 1.6 30.2 12-7 60.29 72.7 32 7


Four Factors Comparison

Gonzaga 57.1 41.2 30.1 26.1 14.2 15.2 23.0 15.3
North Carolina 52.3 48.2 41.9 24.6 13.6 16.6 22.1 18.5


PiRate Ratings Criteria Breakdown

Power Conference: Advantage–North Carolina

North Carolina is a member of the ACC, while Gonzaga is a member of the WCC.  The Tar Heels’ conference affiliation gives them an 8-point advantage over Gonzaga.

Strength of Schedule: Advantage–North Carolina

North Carolina’s schedule has been 10.3 points better than average through 39 games.  Gonzaga’s schedule has been 4.4 points better than average through 38 games.  This gives the Tar Heels the advantage by 6 points.

R+T Rating*: Advantage–North Carolina

North Carolina’s R+T of 30.2 is the best by far in all of Division 1 College Basketball, and it came shining through in their semifinal win over Oregon, where the Tar Heels forced a lot of early turnovers on the Ducks, and they cleaned the glass, especially when the game was on the line.

Gonzaga’s R+T of 19.4 earns an A+ grade, but when facing a team with an A+++ grade, the extra scoring opportunities the Bulldogs normally receive through rebounding prowess, turnover avoidance, and the ability to steal the ball and avoid having it stolen disappears.  The Tar Heels should receive the opportunity to score about 11 more points than Gonzaga through hustle stats.

Field Goal % Margin: Advantage Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s FG% margin of 14.3% is at the top of the charts.  It is why the Bulldogs have made it to this game.  North Carolina’s margin of 5.4% is just average for an NCAA Tournament team and below average for a Final Four team.  This is the stat that gives the Zags a fighting chance.

Expected Possessions Per Team: 72

North Carolina will do everything it can to speed up the pace of this game.  Even though Gonzaga’s pace is considerably above average, the Bulldogs can ill afford to get into a race horse pace in this game.  For every possession above 70 in this game, the Tar Heels will receive more and more benefit.


Gonzaga has a chance to win this game, but the Bulldogs will have to keep the ball out of the paint when North Carolina has the ball.  Having two quality post players gives the Zags a chance to do just that, but Carolina could get both Karnowski and Collins in foul trouble, and that would spell doom for the challenger.

If Jackson and Berry can knock down three-pointers at a rate above 37.5% (3 out of every 8), it will force Gonzaga to stretch their man-to-man defense just enough to open the inside for Meeks, Hicks, and Bradley, and Gonzaga’s inside defense may be strong, but it is not quick enough to handle the Tar Heel inside game.

North Carolina came within a second of winning the title last year.  Our PiRates here believe that Roy Williams will be cutting down the nets for his third time, passing his mentor in bringing title banners to Chapel Hill.

PiRate Prediction: North Carolina 89  Gonzaga 81


Note: This ends our sports coverage for Spring.  The PiRates will return to our ship and head out to sea once again, and we will return to land in August in time to begin previewing the 2017-18 college and NFL football seasons.

In our absence, some of our merry lasses may decide to post a story or two dealing with whatever floats their boats.

Enjoy a wonderful Spring and Summer, and we will be back for the football season.


March 31, 2017

PiRate Ratings Final Four Preview

PiRate Red-White-Blue Ratings

Saturday, April 1
Team Team Red White Blue
Gonzaga South Carolina 9 9 5
North Carolina Oregon 3 3 2

Tipoff Times

Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
Saturday, April 1
6:09 PM CBS Gonzaga vs. South Carolina
8:49 PM CBS North Carolina vs. Oregon

The Official Statistics 

Team Offense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Gonzaga 37 1100 2162 269 711 611 851 356 1141 1497 422 260 3080
Team Defense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Gonzaga 37 824 2260 212 723 394 598 401 828 1229 463 195 2254
Team Offense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
South Carolina 36 898 2132 241 715 595 853 451 857 1308 475 281 2632
Team Defense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
South Carolina 36 760 1909 199 668 618 855 391 873 1264 620 219 2337
Team Offense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
North Carolina 38 1175 2492 271 750 608 863 598 1062 1660 458 269 3229
Team Defense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
North Carolina 38 940 2260 304 894 499 692 343 822 1165 514 242 2683
Team Offense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Oregon 38 1069 2212 327 854 535 759 400 985 1385 438 248 3000
Team Defense G FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Oregon 38 907 2243 265 852 409 568 399 824 1223 504 179 2488

The Four Factors

Gonzaga 57.1 41.2 30.1 26.0 14.1 15.4 23.2 15.1
South Carolina 47.8 45.0 34.1 31.3 15.8 21.1 23.2 24.3
North Carolina 52.6 48.3 42.1 24.4 13.6 16.6 22.0 18.1
Oregon 55.7 46.3 32.7 28.8 14.5 16.7 20.5 15.6

FT* & DFT* use FT/100 Possessions as its metric formula


PiRate Ratings Criteria

Team PPG Def Mar. FG-Marg Reb-Marg TO-Marg R+T* WLRd SOS OPoss DPoss Poss/G
Gonzaga 83.2 60.9 22.3 14.4 7.2 1.1 19.8 21-0 54.36 2632 2606 70.8
South Carolina 73.1 64.9 8.2 2.3 1.2 4.0 10.3 11-7 56.96 2561 2544 70.9
North Carolina 85.0 70.6 14.4 5.6 13.0 1.5 30.7 15-7 59.00 2762 2760 72.7
Oregon 78.9 65.5 13.5 7.9 4.3 1.7 14.8 16-5 56.83 2611 2618 68.8

R+T*: For those of you new to the PiRate Ratings, the R+T rating is our own invention.  It is an attempt to estimate the potential number of points above or below average that a team is capable of scoring due to superior rebounding, forcing and avoiding turnover, and especially getting and avoiding steals, the most punishing of turnovers, as it almost always leads to points and/or fouls.  The number represents the potential points scored against an average team just from the hustle stats.  Thus, at 19.8, Gonzaga could be expected to score 20 points per game against an average team just from their rebounding margin and turnover margin, with an emphasis on steals margin.  The 20 points is figured based on extra scoring opportunities and includes the possibility that fast break shots might be missed and the team might turn the ball over with this added opportunity.

Anything over 15.0 is outstanding, while anything over 25.0 is super and a major contributor to winning a lot of games.

PiRate Ratings Criteria Comparisons

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

Power Conference: Reason–Since 1985 with the 64 or 68-team tournament, there have been 64 teams in the 32 National Championship Games.  60 of the 64 came from Power Conferences


Advantage–South Carolina, as the WCC is not a power conference, while the SEC is


Strength of Schedule: Reason–All National Champions since SOS records have been kept had SOS’s of 4 points better than average.  

Advantage–Slight to South Carolina.  Both teams qualify here, but USC’s SOS is about 2 1/2 points stronger per game on average.

R+T Rating: Reason–All Champions in since 2000 have had R+T above 10.0

Advantage: Gonzaga has a substantial advantage here, but South Carolina barely qualifies.  The Bulldogs should expect to have the chance to score 10 extra points from R+T Rating, meaning USC will have to make up for this with Field Goal margin.

Scoring Margin: Reason–Almost every team in the NCAA Championship Game throughout the history of the tournament have had scoring margins in excess of 8 points per game, and most had double-digit margins.

Advantage: Gonzaga has a substantial edge here, but USC also qualifies by the skin of their teeth.  Gonzaga’s 20+ scoring margin must be discounted a little due to their schedule, but we can adjust this to about 12 points if the Zags had played in the Pac-12.


Field Goal % Margin: Reason–Over 90% of all title participants have had FG% Margins in excess of 5% and a majority have had margins over 8%.  Teams with double digit margins have dominated title games when the opponent had margins under 5%.  There are exceptions, like 1985 when Villanova upset Georgetown.

Advantage: Major advantage to Gonzaga, as their FG% margin has the look of many of John Wooden’s UCLA teams.  USC does not qualify here with a FG% margin of just 2%.

PiRate Criteria Analysis: Except for conference class, Gonzaga has the look of a dominant national championship team.  However, class is just as important in college basketball as it is in horse racing.  A great horse from a small track that has several smaller stakes wins might have better numbers than the horses that run at Aqueduct and Santa Anita, and most of the time, these horses fail when running in a Grade 1 race.

Gonzaga is not your normal mid-major team.  They are more like Butler when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back title games and UNLV from 1990.  Gonzaga has the talent to win it all.  They have a dominant inside game and an underrated perimeter game.

South Carolina has a lot of heart, and their defense has stepped it up in the tournament.  The Gamecocks looked like this at the start of the season before injuries began to affect the perimeter defense.  Now, USC is fully healthy again, and the players remind us of the Gashouse Gang (The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals World Series Champions).  Opponents feel like they have gone 12 rounds with Joe Louis after 40 minutes of playing against them.

We expect South Carolina to keep this game close for the first 32 minutes or so, but after that Gonzaga’s superior inside strength will take its toll, as both teams tire late and begin to misfire from outside.

PiRate Ratings Criteria Prediction: Gonzaga 69  South Carolina 61


North Carolina vs. Oregon

Power Conference: Advantage–Very slight advantage to North Carolina, as the ACC is the equivalent of the AL East in Major League Baseball.  No Pac-12 team has won the title since Arizona 20 years ago.

Strength of Schedule: Advantage–Slight edge to North Carolina by an average of about 2.2 points per game

R+T Rating: Advantage–North Carolina has the largest R+T Rating in all of Division 1, as they did last year when they came within a second of winning the title.  Oregon’s rating is almost 15, which means the Ducks are exceptional as well, just not as exceptional as UNC.  Also missing 6-10 Chris Boucher in this game should be somewhat important, and the  Tar Heels will have a decided rebounding advantage, a major component of R+T.

Scoring Margin: Advantage–A Push, as both teams have similar numbers.

Field Goal % Margin: Advantage–Oregon has a minor but definite advantage with numbers that look a little more like a Championship Game participant, but teams have won the title with the same margin as the Tar Heels.  

PiRate Criteria Analysis: All during this tournament, we have been concerned about Oregon missing Boucher, thinking that eventually the Duck frontcourt would wear down in the second games of the two previous weekends.  That did not happen, as the Ducks rallied and found another gear.  We are now ready to admit to this mistake.  Oregon can win all the marbles without Boucher.  However, this is the first game where their opponent has the scary frontcourt.  Oregon needs Boucher not because of depth, but because they need a 6-10 bruiser to bang it with Carolina’s titans.

North Carolina’s perimeter play has had the look of a national champion.  The guards stepped up on both sides of the ball late in the games with Arkansas and Kentucky, refusing to end the season.  Remember too that UNC feels slighted for last year.  They had the national championship trophy in grasp until a last second shot moved that trophy over to Villanova’s locker room.

PiRate Ratings Criteria Prediction: North Carolina 85  Oregon 75


4 Interesting Possible National Title Games

You the typical college basketball fan is guaranteed to have a great title game Monday night no matter who wins tomorrow.  Let’s look at each of the four possibilities.


Gonzaga vs. North Carolina:  These are the two teams that looked like the most dominant throughout most of the season.  Earlier in the season, when these teams were playing in tournaments against quality opposition, they won handily, dominating in all facets of the game.  Also, this represents the old guard of UNC against the upstart that has been threatening to get this far for years in Gonzaga.  

Gonzaga vs. Oregon: There has not been an all West Coast National Championship Game before.  Of course, until the age when more than one team per conference going to the Big Dance, it was not possible, as these two teams would have both been in the West Regional.  Still, it would be interesting to have two teams from the Pacific Northwest facing off in the title game.

South Carolina vs. North Carolina: Many of you have not experienced a Dodgers-Yankees or Giants–Yankees World Series.  In our opinion, nothing can beat a Dodgers-Yankees World Series.  This would be an equivalent.  These two teams were both in the ACC for many years until the Gamecocks became an Independent following the 1971 season (when they were the ACC Champions).  Two former South Carolina head coaches, Frank McGuire and Eddie Fogler, had North Carolina ties, and Fogler has been BFFs with Roy Williams for decades.

South Carolina vs. Oregon: A lot of people would find it very interesting if the Seattle Mariners played the Washington Nationals in the World Series.  Not having the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, or Giants would be a great change of pace.  The Cleveland-Chicago World Series last year did more for Major League Baseball than American Pharoh’s winning the Triple Crown in 2015.  A Gamecock-Duck National Championship Game could make fans of all Division 1 teams from Power Conferences believe their team could do it too.



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 23, 2017

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 Sweet 16 Criteria Reveal

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:00 am

If you get to start anew with your brackets in whatever pool you are playing in as a participant, we have updated our PiRate Ratings Criteria for the Sweet 16.
If you played along with us, you should have 10 teams left in your Sweet 16, having 26 of the 32 first round winners. If you are in a league where you get one point for each winner that goes from 64 to 32, and two points for every correct Sweet 16 team, then you should be sitting pretty with 46 points. Hopefully, we will help you score some 3-point winners the next two nights, whether you must stick with your original picks, or you get to start over with the 16 remaining teams.

To understand our methods if you don’t already know, refer to this primer:

Here is a breakdown of each game for the next two nights, followed by an update at how the Elite 8 and Final Four look using our criteria.

Oregon vs. Michigan
Power Conference: Both teams

Strength of Schedule: Very slight edge to Michigan, but not enough to matter much

R+T Rating: Large edge to Oregon, as the Ducks’ R+T is 14.7 to the Wolverines’ 3.2. This means that on average, Oregon will have an opportunity through superior rebounding, ball-steals, and overall turnover differential to outscore Michigan by 11.5 points. There is a caveat, as the Ducks are missing a key component in Chris Boucher.
Ability to Win Away from Home: Oregon 14-5/Michigan 11-8. The Ducks have a decent advantage here, but not enough to move this game to the win column.

Winning Streak(s): The Ducks won 17 games in a row at one point this season and eight in a row another time, while Michigan had two, five-game winning streaks. Once again, Oregon has the advantage here, but we cannot annoint the Ducks winners just yet. Not having Boucher removes a lot of these advantages three rounds into the Big Dance.

Since the strengths of schedule are similar, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: Michigan = 8.9, Oregon = 13.8, Ducks look better here
FG% Differential: Michigan = 1.9, Oregon = 7.8, Ducks look much better here, as UM fails to qualify
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 68

This is a tough game to figure out, because Boucher’s absence makes Oregon less than what the stats say. Still, the Ducks come out as the superior team based on how we use the criteria. In our original picks, we had Louisville knocking Oregon out of the tournament in this round, but the Cardinals were sent packing last weekend.

PiRate Criteria Pick: OREGON


Gonzaga vs. West Virginia
Power Conference: West Virginia is, Gonzaga is not. A slight edge to the Mountaineers

Strength of Schedule: WVU 55.55. Gonzaga 54.02, a slight edge to the Mountaineers

R+T Rating: WVU 19.1, Gonzaga 21.2, a push when SOS is applied

Ability to Win Away from Home: WVU 11-6, Gonzaga 19-0, even with SOS factored into the equation, Gonzaga has the advantage here.

Winning Streak(s): WVU 8 & 4, Gonzaga 29 & 5, Gonzaga enjoys a small advantage

We must handicap these stats with Gonzaga playing in a weaker conference and a slightly weaker schedule
Scoring Margin: WVU 15.3, Gonzaga 22.8, a push
FG% Differential: WVU 3.4, Gonzaga 14.5
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 71

This is where we see another #1 seed going down. Gonzaga’s main Achilles Heel is their conference, where the WCC has two other quality teams. Of course, teams like Butler, George Mason, VCU, and Wichita State have advanced to the Final Four, but the percentages say that these are exceptions and not the norm. When you are trying to win a contest by going with the percentages, you go with the norm unless you have a major reason not to do so. When looking at the obvious way this game will deviate from the norm, it comes from the vaunted WVU full-court press, something that Gonzaga has not faced from a quality team this year. It is our belief that GU will commit very few turnovers against the press and even capitalize with a couple of easy baskets, making it look like to the casual fan that the press is not working. However, we believe it will take the Bulldogs out of their offense just enough to cause them to rush and make poor shot selections, and it will also begin to wear their bigger, bulkier players down in the second half. A fatigued team is only a shell of itself, and once GU is fatigued, WVU will pull away and win this game.

PiRate Criteria Pick: WEST VIRGINIA

Kansas vs. Purdue
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: KU 58.11, PU 55.83, a decided advantage for the Jayhawks

R+T Rating: KU 12.3, PU 15.5, a credible advantage for the Boilermakers

Ability to Win Away from Home: KU 16-3, PU 12-5, a tiny advantage for KU

Winning Streak(s): KU 18 & 8, PU 7 & 6, KU has the advantage, but this isn’t overwhelming since PU has two 6+ streaks, and that is all we are looking for in this criterion

Since the strengths of schedule favor KU enough to matter, we must handicap the following stats.
Scoring Margin: KU 11.4, PU 12.6, with the handicap, KU has a minor advantage here
FG% Differential: KU 7.3, PU 6.4, a slight edge to the Jayhawks
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 72 which will favor KU in the 2nd half

In previous years where Purdue was very good, we would call for Kansas to easily win this game because in the past, Purdue did not own good R+T numbers. In fact, they were downright awful. However, this year is very different up in West Lafayatte, where Purdue has an R+T number strong enough to reach the Final Four. Unfortunately, Kansas has the criteria strong enough to win the National Championship, and thus we must go with the team that is only a tad better in this game. A Boilermaker win would not be a surprise at all, but we must go with the percentages.

PiRate Criteria Pick: KANSAS (but this should be an outstanding game)

Arizona vs. Xavier
Power Conference: Both (in recent years, we would discount the Pac-12 some, but not this year. Three league teams made the Sweet 16.

Strength of Schedule: Arizona 58.17, Xavier 58.70, a wash

R+T Rating: Arizona 18.0, Xavier 15.2, the Wildcats with an ever so slight advantage that is not enough to mean much

Ability to Win Away from Home: Arizona 17-3, Xavier 11-9, this is a big advantage for ‘Zona

Winning Streak(s): Arizona 15 & 6, Xavier 7 & 6, Another tiny advantage to the Wildcats

Since the strengths of schedule are almost identical, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: Arizona 11.0, Xavier 4.1, the Wildcats have a major advantage here, as XU’s scoring margin is well beneath the threshold of a Final Four contender.
FG% Differential: Arizona 6.0, Xavier 0.9, another big edge for Arizona
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 67

This one appears to be headed to a double-digit win for the higher-seeded team. Add on to the criteria the fact that Xavier has not been the same since Edmund Sumner was lost for the year at the end of January, and this game looks like a potential breeze for Arizona.
PiRate Criteria Pick: ARIZONA (by double digits)


North Carolina vs. Butler
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: UNC 59.00, BU 59.04, a total push

R+T Rating: UNC 31.1, BU 9.5, do we really need to go on after this criterion shows the Tar Heels with a chance on average to score 20 more points on rebounds, steals, and turnovers?

Ability to Win Away from Home: UNC 13-7, BU 12-5, pretty much even here

Winning Streak(s): UNC 13 & 7, BU 12 & 5, another push

Since the strengths of schedule are identical, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: UNC 14.8, BU 7.8, Give the Heels a little more advantage here
FG% Differential: UNC 5.5, BU 3.7, more props for the Heels
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 70 (Butler will want to slow the pace, but they will have to play catchup)

Pirate Criteria Pick: NORTH CAROLINA

Baylor vs. South Carolina
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: BU 59.40, USC 56.23, the Bears have a little advantage here

R+T Rating: BU 19.3, USC 10.4, Baylor with decent advantage in this one

Ability to Win Away from Home: BU 12-5, USC 11-7, another tilt to the Bears

Winning Streak(s): BU 15 & 5, USC 8 & 5, BU with yet another advantage

Since the strengths of schedule favors Baylor, the following stats must be handicapped a little
Scoring Margin: BU 10.1, USC 7.9, the criteria keeps tilting green
FG% Differential: BU 7.2, USC 1.9, this continues the trend
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 67, Baylor will conrol the pace.

PiRate Criteria Pick: BAYLOR


Kentucky vs. UCLA
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: UK 58.63, UCLA 54.00, a nice advantage for the Wildcats, but UCLA still meets the minimum number for Final Four consideration, and remember UCLA won at Kentucky earlier this season

R+T Rating: UK 17.2, UCLA 10.9

Ability to Win Away from Home: UK 16-3, UCLA 14-3, nothing to learn here

Winning Streak(s): UK 13 & 7, UCLA 13 & 10, not much here either

We must handicap the following stats in UK’s favor fde to the strengths of schedule
Scoring Margin: UK 13.9, UCLA 15.0, basically a wash
FG% Differential: UK 5.4, UCLA 10.2, The Bruins pick up a big advantage here with Championship-caliber differential
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 74, expect the most up-tempo game of the Sweet 16, and it could even top 75.

Face it: this is the game that is going to make this round. The winner most likely plays North Carolina in the Elite 8, making for a fantastic 48-hours in Memphis, where they could move these games to the Liberty Bowl and still not have enough seats for the fans that want to get in. Think of this game like the second Ali-Frazier fight. Or, if you are a Bruin fan over the age of 55, be forewarned and remember that Houston beat your Bruins in the 1967-68 regular season before meeting up with the worst ever whipping by a number one team in the history of the game.

PiRate Criteria Pick: KENTUCKY — Until the Wildcats are knocked out of the tournament, they have the best resume when comparing it to past National Champions.


Florida vs. Wisconsin
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: Fla 59.34, UW 54.79, The Gators have a decided advantage

R+T Rating: Fla 3.3, UW 3.3 This is a dirty wash, as neither team can expect to be a Championship team with these R+T ratings.

Ability to Win Away from Home: Fla 17-7, UW 12-7, Florida played a lot of neutral site games near home when their arena was not ready following remodeling. This becomes a wash

Winning Streak(s): Fla. 9 & 7, UW 9 & 8, a wash

Since the strengths of schedule favor the Gators, the following stats must be handicapped in UF’s favor. Scoring Margin: UF 6.2, UW 9.2, a wash
FG% Differential: UF 4.6, UW 4.2, a small edge for the Gators
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 69 We look for the Badgers to slow the tempo a little

When Florida isn’t playing Vanderbilt, they look like Final Four contenders. Actually, two of the three losses to the Commodores came after the Gators lost John Egbunu for the season due to injury, and UF went from 23-5 to 24-8 after that loss. This discounts the Gators’ results enough to make up for the schedule strength favor. In other words, this is a game where you flip a coin. We do not use the Four Factors in this criteria selection process, but if we were to use them for this game, it would just add a bunch of balance, as the teams would come out dead even. We must select somebody to go on and lose to Baylor Sunday, and just because they have a little more recent NCAA Tournament success, we will go with the Badgers.

PiRate Criteria Pick: WISCONSIN –but this is really a tie

Elite 8 to Final Four
Baylor over Wisconsin
Arizona over West Virginia
Kentucky over North Carolina
Kansas over Oregon

Baylor over Arizona
Kentucky over Kansas

Kentucky over Baylor

Note: When we first revealed the criteria for all 68 teams in the dance, we listed the top 10 teams with the best matching criteria to past champions. The top 6 teams in this list, and 8 of the 10 made the Sweet 16. Here is that top 10 again.
1. Kentucky
2. North Carolina
3. Baylor
4. Arizona
5. West Virginia
6. Gonzaga
7. Louisville
8. Villanova
9. Kansas
10. Purdue


March 17, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Ratings for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Games

Saturday, March 18, 2017 NCAA Tournament Games

Team Team Red White Blue
West Virginia Notre Dame 6 4 1
Villanova Wisconsin 8 6 6
Gonzaga Northwestern 17 10 8
Florida St. Xavier 8 5 4
Butler Middle Tennessee 5 4 7
Arizona Saint Mary’s -2 -1 1
Florida Virginia 1 1 1
Purdue Iowa St. 1 2 1


Saturday’s TV Schedule

Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
12:10 PM CBS West Virginia vs. Notre Dame
2:40 PM CBS Villanova vs. Wisconsin
5:15 PM CBS Gonzaga vs. Northwestern
6:10 PM TNT Florida St. vs. Xavier
7:10 PM TBS Butler vs. Middle Tennessee
7:45 PM CBS Arizona vs. Saint Mary’s
8:40 PM TNT Florida vs. Virginia
9:40 PM TBS Purdue vs. Iowa St.



March 15, 2017

Red-White-Blue Ratings For Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Games


Team Team Red White Blue
Notre Dame Princeton 6 6 2
Virginia UNC-Wilmington 7 9 9
Butler Winthrop 10 9 10
Gonzaga South Dakota St. 24 21 15
West Virginia Bucknell 13 12 11
Florida East Tennessee St. 10 12 13
Minnesota Middle Tennessee 2 1 3
Northwestern Vanderbilt -1 -1 -5
Maryland Xavier -1 -1 -1
Villanova Mount St. Mary’s 22 23 21
Saint Mary’s VCU 5 6 4
Purdue Vermont 9 9 5
Florida St. Florida Gulf Coast 13 14 11
Wisconsin Virginia Tech 4 4 4
Arizona North Dakota 15 15 14
Iowa St. Nevada 6 6 6

March 14, 2017

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 Bracket Reveal & First Four Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:57 am

For those that just want to see our Red-White-Blue Ratings for the First Four, here they are.

Team Team Red White Blue
New Orleans Mount St. Mary’s 3 -1 1
Wake Forest Kansas St. 1 1 1
UNC-Central UC-Davis 4 3 6
Providence USC 1 1 1

Now, for the rest of you:

Welcome one and all to our annually most viewed edition of the PiRate Ratings.  We have been working diligently for the past 42 hours getting this edition of March Madness Bracketnomics ready for you.

If you are new to this site today, there is something you need to do, and even if you are not, you should take this advice.  Open another window and bring up our primer from yesterday where we explain how we have come up with the numbers that we will show you today.  The link to the primer is:

Before we begin picking winners in our bracket based on the PiRate Criteria, let us give you another little bit of advice in selecting your own brackets.

  1. Do not select a lot of early upsets.  Realize that nobody ever has picked a perfect bracket.  The chances are so slim that nobody may ever pick one!  The key to winning bracket contests where you must choose all the games at the beginning and do not get to select new winners after every round is to pick the National Champion, the Final Four, and the Elite 8 teams.  Realize that in about 95% of the cases, the Final Four teams come from one, two, three, or four seeds.  There will frequently be a seed lower than 4, but good luck trying to pick one.  What you will most likely do is remove one of the favorites to get there, so select very few upsets early.
  2. In the last 60+ years, only 2 times was the national champion a team from outside a major conference, and it has not happened since 1990.  So, go heavy on the best teams in the power conferences–Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC.  No Pac-12 team has won the title since Arizona beat Kentucky in 1997, so you might discount the Pac-12 a little.  No Big Ten team has won the title since Michigan State in 2000, so you might also want to discount the Big Ten a little.
  3. The most likely spots for upsets early come from 10-11-12 seed lines for good reason.  The top lower and mid-major teams usually end up on one of these seed lines, and in actuality, some of these teams would beat their higher-seed opponent 7 times out of 10.  In other words, these upsets are not really upsets.  They are incorrect seedings by the Committee.

Okay, we will leave the rest of that strategy up to you.  Let’s get to the Bracketnomics Facts for 2017


Who Has The Statistical Criteria That Looks Like A Final Four Team

This is an unusual year.  There are no teams closely similar to the Connecticut women’s team.  There is no obvious best team like in some years out of the past.  On the other hand, there are an inordinate amount of teams this year that look like they would have trouble winning the NIT 10 years ago.  There is parity by virtue of mediocrity.  The way the game is played in 2017, and with the 30-second shot clock, the game has become harder to isolate on just two or three teams and call them the heavy favorites to make the Final Four.

Let’s eliminate some teams so that what we have left is a much easier group to compare.

A. First, let’s forget the chance that a low-major or mid-major conference team will make the Final Four this year.  This does not include Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, or Wichita State, who we consider to be above mid-major.

B. Next, let’s take out any team that played a schedule too soft to prepare them for the top echelon of opponents.  From what’s left after (A), that will remove Wichita State and UCLA.

C. Next, let’s dump any team with a single-digit R+T rating after the Sweet 16 round.  Any single digit team in the Elite 8 gets knocked out, unless their opponent also has a single digit rating.  From this list of teams still in contention after (A) and (B), we now dump: South Carolina, Butler, Wake Forest, Arkansas, Minnesota, Michigan State, USC, Northwestern, Michigan, Notre Dame, Maryland, Marquette, Kansas State, Providence, Iowa State, Creighton, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech.

D. Let’s remove any teams that are missing key players and might be able to get to the Sweet 16 without these players, but they are most likely to bow out at this point when the competition is too strong.  Say good bye to Xavier and Oregon.  For now, Creighton and Florida stay in because they played a significant number of games without their key players.

Now we have a much more manageable list of Final Four and Elite 8 Contenders, down to just 21 teams.

But, we are not finished eliminating teams.  What about teams that have not played all that well away from home?  We can eliminate the 22-9 team that went 17-0 at home and 5-9 away from home, because these teams are not going to all of a sudden beat the nation’s finest teams away from their home floor, at least not 4 consecutive times.

Let’s now say bye bye to Florida State, Miami (Fla.), and Seton Hall, lowering the number to 19.

And, then there is the essential thing of having enough consistency to win four games in a row against quality competition.  We cannot keep any teams that did not sustain at least one long winning streak or two extended winning streaks.  Only West Virginia fails to meet this criterion from the remaining group, lowering our list to 18.

Now,  let’s look at how the remaining 18 teams rate in the criteria that matter.

Scoring Margin

There is a reason both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are still in this list.  They are serious contenders this year.  Gonzaga has the highest scoring margin and Saint Mary’s has the third highest among the 17 remaining teams.  From the list of 17, there are a couple teams that do not meet the 8 point minimum to be considered as a strong Final Four contender.  There are teams that make the Final Four with less than 8 point scoring margins, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and we are looking for angles that increase our percentage chance of hitting on Final Four teams.  It’s the end of the line here for Oklahoma State.


Field Goal Percentage Differential

Eventually, in order to get to the Final Four, a team is going to have to be superior when it comes to shooting and defending the shot, because eventually, being able to dominate the glass or force a lot of turnovers will not work against teams that can also rebound and force turnovers.  We are looking only for a difference of 5% or more to stay in the hunt for Final Four contention.  We must say adieu to three more teams that cannot meet this standard–Florida, Duke, and Wisconsin.  Now we have 14 teams on our list of Final Four contenders.


Rebound Margin

Remember that R+T rating is much more important than any of its components (Rebounding, Turnovers, and Steals), but for Final Four consideration, well over 90% of the past Final Four teams had positive rebound margin.  In what may help vindicate our selections to this point, all 14 teams remaining have positive rebounding margin.


Okay, Already, Who Is Left?

The following teams have resumes that could get them to the Final Four.  In alphabetical order, they are: Arizona, Baylor, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Purdue, Saint Mary’s, SMU, Villanova, Virginia, and West Virginia.  If our criteria is worth anything these years, we expect the Final Four to come from this list of teams.  But, we need to do better.  You cannot select 14 teams to make the Final Four or even Elite 8.


What we need to do now is look at each game as it is played.  It won’t help us to go with the 4 best resumes if these teams cannot all make the Final Four because they will play each other prior to that round.

Here is how we see the First Four games according to PiRate Criteria.  Note that our criteria and our Red-White-Blue Ratings have no real correlation, so the teams we predict to win may not be the same as the teams our criteria says will win.

First Four

New Orleans over Mount St. Mary’s

UNC-Central over UC-Davis

USC over Providence

Kansas St. over Wake Forest

Most brackets allow you to miss here without penalty and start in earnest at 64 teams, but we don’t go for that.

Round of 64

You will not see us picking many upsets in this round.  Remember the important factoid we revealed at the beginning: you win your bracket contests by getting your teams into the Elite 8, Final 4, and National Championship.  If you pick a lot of upsets, you are liable to have very few teams left by the Elite 8.

Villanova over New Orleans (Mount St. Mary’s)

Wisconsin over Virginia Tech

Virginia over UNC-Wilmington (upset possible, but we’ll take the Cavs)

Florida over East Tennessee (like a home game for the Gators)

SMU over USC in a rematch (also over Providence) near tossup vs. USC close to 50-50

Baylor over New Mexico St.

South Carolina over Marquette in close one that will be like home game for Gamecocks.

Duke over Troy

Gonzaga over South Dakota St.

Northwestern over Vanderbilt (close game)

Notre Dame over Princeton

West Virginia over Bucknell (not this year for Bison as Mountaineers are too physical)

Maryland over Xavier (Chris Mack becomes an early candidate for other big openings)

Florida State over Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU not as strong as their Sweet 16 team)

Saint Mary’s over VCU (Will Wade comes free for promotion to power conference team)

Arizona over North Dakota

Kansas over UNC-Central (UC-Davis)

Miami over Michigan State (MSU one and done two years in a row)

Iowa State over Nevada (but this one should be nip and tuck)

Purdue over Vermont (Boilermakers finally have the right type of resume to advance)

Creighton over Rhode Island (freeing up Dan Hurley if a big school wants him)

Oregon over Iona (loss of Chris Boucher does not hurt yet)

Oklahoma State over Michigan (This upset we will pick.  Cowboys have better criteria resume)

Louisville over Jacksonville State (UL almost has a home game in Indy)

North Carolina over Texas Southern

Seton Hall over Arkansas (should be physical and close)

Minnesota over Middle Tennessee (Blue Raiders are the Vegas favorite, but Gophers can exploit interior defense)

Butler over Winthrop (we would not be shocked if Butler has to rally to win this one)

Cincinnati over Kansas State (Wake Forest)

UCLA over Kent State

Wichita St. over Dayton (Will Archie Miller be the next NC State coach?)

Kentucky over Northern Kentucky (Norse would be happy with a lead at under 16 timeout in 1st half)


Round of 32

Villanova over Wisconsin

Virginia over Florida (should be very close, maybe overtime)

Baylor over SMU (this one should be a great game–Tim Jankovich in play at Illinois)

Duke over South Carolina (We don’t see Frank Martin leaving the Palmetto State unless he has 4 million reasons)

Gonzaga over Northwestern (Cinderella season ends here–no Cubs repeat in the Windy City)

West Virginia over Notre Dame (Irish wear down in the second half)

Florida State over Maryland

Arizona over Saint Mary’s (expect a hard-fought game but Gaels are outmanned)

Kansas over Miami (closer than expected)

Purdue over Iowa State (Boilermakers look impressive to this point)

Oregon over Creighton (Boucher’s absence felt but not enough for Ducks to lose)

Louisville over Oklahoma St. (Brad Underwood vs. Rick Pitino–Brilliant!)

North Carolina over Seton Hall

Butler over Minnesota (Should be a great game)

Cincinnati over UCLA (Bruins numbers padded by substandard overall schedule–not strong enough inside)

Kentucky over Wichita State (because Wildcat players appear to be on a mission and if so are the class of the field)


Sweet 16 to Elite 8

Villanova over Virginia (Cavs do not have enough offense to win at this point)

Baylor over Duke (Our big upset pick in this round, because Duke has holes Bears can exploit)

West Virginia over Gonzaga (Sorry Bulldog fans, WVU style of play is not what you want to face)

Arizona over Florida State (We expect Wildcats to win big in this one)

Kansas over Purdue (KU will have to play lights out to put Boilermakers away)

Louisville over Oregon (Boucher’s absence is too much to overcome in this round

North Carolina over Butler (If Heels are rolling at this point, then next round is actual title game)

Kentucky over Cincinnati (Should be ultra-physical and highly emotional game)


Elite 8 to Final Four

Unfortunately, at this point the top two teams in the field will meet

Baylor over Villanova (no repeat for Wildcats but a great game)

Arizona over West Virginia (Mountaineers run out of gas at this point)

Louisville over Kansas (Cards win a sloppy game)

Kentucky over North Carolina (This should have been the National Championship Game)


Final Four Semifinals

Baylor over Arizona (tough to go against a team playing in its home state)

Kentucky over Louisville (how much will this ticket cost)


National Championship

Kentucky over Baylor


The Kentucky criteria best matches that of past national champions.  Add to the fact that they have the most talent and a coach that can use the right psychology to motivate these future millionaires to play like their draft status is to be determined in this tournament, and we believe the Wildcats will cut the nets in Arizona.


Here is how the 14 top Pirate Criteria teams rank overall

  1. Kentucky
  2. North Carolina
  3. Baylor
  4. Arizona
  5. West Virginia
  6. Gonzaga
  7. Louisville
  8. Villanova
  9. Kansas
  10. Purdue
  11. Duke
  12. Cincinnati
  13. Saint Mary’s
  14. SMU


TV Schedule For First Four in Dayton

Day Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
Tuesday, March 14 6:40 PM truTV New Orleans vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Tuesday, March 14 9:10 PM truTV Wake Forest vs. Kansas St.
Wednesday, March 15 6:40 PM truTV UC-Davis vs. UNC-Central
Wednesday, March 15 9:10 PM truTV USC vs. Providence





March 7, 2017

Conference Tournament Update–Sunday, March 7, 2017

New Dance Partners

UNC-Wilmington won the Colonial Athletic Association once again, and the Seahawks seem to have recovered from their February swoon that saw them lose four times.  UNCW will be a formidable seed, be it from the 11, 12, or 13 hole.  Coach Kevin Keatts has established himself as a future star in the business, destined to end up at a power conference school.


Steve Forbes is quickly developing into a top-flight coach as well.  The former assistant at Tennessee under Bruce Pearl guided his East Tennessee State Buccaneers to the Southern Conference title last night, and this ETSU team has a lot of the traits that the Volunteers possessed when Pearl and Forbes were in Knoxville.  The Bucs will be a hard team for a 3 or 4-seed to get past in the second round.


Iona repeats as conference champions, as the Gaels fought off Siena in a close game to win the MAAC title on the loser’s home court.  The Gaels will be a 14 or 15-seed, but they look like a one and done team this year.

Tickets Punched So Far

Ohio Valley Conference: JACKSONVILLE ST. (20-14)
Big South Conference: WINTHROP (26-6)
Missouri Valley Conference: WICHITA ST. (30-4)
Atlantic Sun Conference: FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-7)
Colonial Athletic Association: UNC-WILMINGTON (29-5)
Southern Conference: EAST TENNESSEE ST. (27-7)
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: IONA (22-12)


Surprise Surprise–Last Place Team One Win Away From Dancing

The Horizon League had a couple of worthy teams this year that could have won an opening game in the NCAA Tournament.  Valparaiso looked like a Sweet 16 dark horse in early February, but the Crusaders lost a couple of games and then lost their version of Lebron and quickly exited the tournament in the opening game.  Oakland appeared to have an easy road to the Horizon championship, but the Grizzlies fell to a feisty Youngstown State team in their first game.

What’s left for the title game tonight?  Last-place and 23-loss Milwaukee has advanced to the championship game to face a Northern Kentucky team that picked the right time to play its best ball of the year.  The Norse ended the regular season on a roll and have parlayed that into where they are now one win away from making their first ever NCAA Tournament berth at the Division 1 level.  They were a dominant Division II team for more than a dozen years before moving up to the big time.


Today’s Tournament Schedule

Championship Games–NCAA Bid on the Line

Time (ET) Network Conference Team vs. Team
7:00 PM ESPN Horizon Northern Kentucky vs. Milwaukee
7:00 PM ESPN2 Northeast Mount St. Mary’s vs. St. Francis (PA)
9:00 PM ESPN2 Summit South Dakota St. vs. Omaha
9:00 PM ESPN West Coast Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s

Other Tournament Games

Time (ET) Network Conference Team vs. Team
12:00 PM ESPN2 ACC Clemson vs. North Carolina St.
2:00 PM ESPN2 ACC Wake Forest vs. Boston College
4:00 PM ESPN3 MEAC Delaware St. vs. Bethune-Cookman
5:35 PM Watch Big Sky Big Sky Portland St. vs. Northern Arizona
6:00 PM ESPN3 MEAC South Carolina St. vs. Florida A&M
7:00 PM ESPNU ACC Georgia Tech vs. Pittsburgh
7:00 PM Radio Only SWAC Alcorn St. * vs. Mississippi Valley
8:30 PM Radio Only SWAC Texas Southern vs. Alabama St.
8:30 PM Radio Only SWAC Southern vs. Jackson St.
8:35 PM Watch Big Sky Big Sky Sacramento St. vs. Idaho St.
9:00 PM Radio Only SWAC Prairie View A&M vs. Grambling
11:05 PM Watch Big Sky Big Sky Montana St. vs. Southern Utah

* Alcorn State is ineligible for postseason play, and if the Braves win the SWAC Tournament, regular season champion Texas Southern will get the automatic bid.


The Bubble

Keep an eye on the ACC Tournament opening round in Brooklyn.  All three games involve teams on the Bubble–Clemson plays in the first game, Wake Forest plays in the second game, and Georgia Tech plays in the third game.  All three must win today to stay on the Bubble, but a win will not get any of the three into the field.  They all need multiple wins to earn at-large bids.


Game of the Night

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s face off for a third time tonight, when the two Pacific powers meet in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship Game yet again.  Gonzaga has not looked like a Final Four team since losing to BYU in their regular season finale, while SMC looks like a team ready to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament with a stifling defense and improving offense.  If SMC pulls the upset tonight, Gonzaga could fall to a 2-seed, allowing Kentucky or Oregon to move up to a 1-seed.  SMC could move up to a 5 or even 4-seed with a win tongiht.




February 24, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 25-26, 2017

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:23 am

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Red-White-Blue Spreads *

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 25, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Clemson Florida St. -3 -1 -3
Pittsburgh North Carolina -10 -9 -6
North Carolina St. Virginia -8 -9 -9
Boston College Virginia Tech -6 -5 -2
Miami Duke -1 -1 -1
Connecticut SMU -6 -6 -4
TCU West Virginia -7 -7 1
Oklahoma St. Texas Tech 10 6 8
Iowa St. Baylor 3 2 -4
Texas Kansas -7 -6 -5
Oklahoma Kansas St. -1 -1 -2
St. John’s Georgetown 1 -1 -4
DePaul Seton Hall -5 -5 -7
Villanova Creighton 8 10 8
Providence Marquette 2 2 9
Minnesota Penn St. 10 9 11
Michigan Purdue -2 -1 -2
Maryland Iowa 7 8 9
Indiana Northwestern 3 6 8
Missouri St. Wichita St. -12 -9 -10
Northern Iowa Illinois St. -5 -3 -5
Stanford Oregon -7 -10 -8
Arizona UCLA 2 2 7
Arizona St. USC -3 -4 -4
Washington St. Washington 2 1 1
South Carolina Tennessee 6 5 4
Kentucky Florida 5 3 3
Ole Miss Missouri 11 10 10
Vanderbilt Mississippi St. 7 7 10
Georgia LSU 14 12 13
Texas A&M Alabama 4 3 6
Auburn Arkansas 1 1 -1
Gonzaga BYU 23 19 19
Saint Mary’s Santa Clara 17 18 19


Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Louisville Syracuse 14 12 15
Notre Dame Georgia Tech 12 14 10
Central Florida Cincinnati -4 -5 -2
Xavier Butler 1 1 2
Michigan St. Wisconsin -1 -1 6
Nebraska Illinois 2 1 1

* Red, White, and Blue Ratings are 3 different algorithmic formulas using basketball’s Four Factors, Strength of Schedule, and where the game is played as the predominant data to come up with a game spread.  The Red and White Ratings closely mirror each other, while the Blue Rating uses considerably more data and is time-consuming to calculate.  Thus, we are limited with the amount of games we can predict.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Top 25

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


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

Big 12

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

Big East

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

Big Ten

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


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


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

Oh, have we got some great games for you this weekend

Every week, we seem to tell you there are some great games to watch for that weekend.  This one is no different.  There are more than enough interesting games this week for you to watch.  Most of the Bubble teams are playing, and we have the crucial ones you can see on TV or online.  Then, you have some big games where both teams will be in the NCAA no matter what, so these games are big just to see who looks the part.  You also have a couple of rival games, and in one case there is a low-major conference rivalry game that ended in a fight the last time the two teams played on the same court where they will play this weekend.  You will see that we have compared this game to the 1965 Giants and Dodgers, but at least no baseball bats will be present (at least we hope).

All Times Eastern      
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
Friday Night
7:00 PM Green Bay Oakland ESPNU 2nd place in Horizon on the line
7:00 PM Monmouth Siena ESPN2 Monmouth G Justin Robinson
8:00 PM Harvard Yale ESPN3 These two rivals will meet in Ivy Semis too
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
12:00 PM Clemson Florida St. ACC Net. Must win for CU on the Bubble
12:00 PM Connecticut SMU CBS SMU vying for #3 Seed
1:00 PM New Hampshire Md.-Baltimore Co. ESPN3 AmEst #3 Seed to avoid Verm. til finals
2:00 PM Kentucky Florida CBS SEC Reg. Season Championhip on the line
2:00 PM TCU West Virginia ESPN TCU needs win for Bubble Advancement
2:00 PM Oklahoma St. Texas Tech ESPNU TTU needs win for Bubble Advancement
2:00 PM Northern Iowa Illinois St. CBSSN ISU trying to stay on good part of Bubble
2:00 PM Rhode Island VCU ESPN2 URI needs win stay at bottom of Bubble
2:00 PM Vermont Stony Brook ESPN3 Top 2 teams in AmEst–Title preview?
3:00 PM Villanova Creighton Fox Top 20 Matchup
4:00 PM Vanderbilt Mississippi St. ESPNU VU needs win to stay on Bubble
4:00 PM Michigan Purdue ESPN2 Mich. trying to stay on good part of Bubble
4:00 PM Miami (Fla.) Duke CBS Miami can clinch NCAA w/win
4:00 PM Stanford Oregon Pac-12 Net. Ducks competing for #2 Seed
4:00 PM Iowa St. Baylor ESPN Baylor competing for #2 Seed
4:00 PM Providence Marquette CBSSN Both teams on Bubble–Marq in better pos.
6:00 PM Oklahoma Kansas St. ESPNU KSU must win to stay in Bubble
7:00 PM Columbia Penn ESPN3 Last Ivy League Tournament spot on line
8:00 PM Indiana Northwestern Big 10 Net. IU loss could be final straw for Crean
8:15 PM Arizona UCLA ESPN Game of the Day
10:00 PM Gonzaga BYU ESPN2 Zags Last resume builder until WCCT
Time Home Visitor TV Why to Watch
1:00 PM UAB Middle Tennessee CBSSN MTSU slim chance for at-large if needed
2:00 PM Louisville Syracuse CBS Orange win secures NCAA bid
3:00 PM Central Florida Cincinnati CBSSN Will Tacko make Cinti Fall
3:30 PM Xavier Butler FS1 Game of the Day
4:00 PM Michigan St. Wisconsin CBS MSU win & on the “in” part of the Bubble
4:00 PM Iona Monmouth ESPN3 Mad Rivalry like 1965 Dodgers-Giants
6:30 PM Notre Dame Georgia Tech ESPNU Tech needs more W’s for NCAA bid

Conference Tournaments Begin Monday

One conference tournament commences play Monday night.  The Atlantic Sun Bracket is finalized, and the quarterfinal round begins on the 27th.  The A-Sun does not have one hosting site.  All games will be played on the home floor of the higher seed, and Florida Gulf Coast owns home court advantage throughout.

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament–Higher Seed at Home
Quarterfinal Round, Monday, February 27
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Florida Gulf Coast 23-7 vs. 8 Stetson 11-20 7:00 PM WatchESPN
2 Lipscomb 19-12 vs. 7 NJIT 11-19 8:00 PM WatchESPN
3 North Florida 13-18 vs. 6 Jacksonville 17-14 7:00 PM WatchESPN
4 USC-Upstate 17-14 vs. 5 Kennesaw St. 13-17 7:00 PM WatchESPN



February 20, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 20, 2017

Championship Fortnight starts in just one week! Can you believe it? It has been a quick season this year, and depending on where you live, the weather outside might make you feel like Major League Baseball opening day starts in just one week. However, the Spring-like temperatures and rain that has produced the early return of daffodils, honeysuckle, redbud tree blooms and the budding out of oak, hickory, and ash trees, and which has given the lawn services an early bonanza with grass-cutting galore, might fool some of the people into believing Spring has arrived a month early, but most of the people know the cold hard facts. Those poor little plants are going to be in for a rude awakening when the yet to arrive cold spell blankets them with a late snow or a hard freeze. It might be 75 degrees today, but by the 12th of March, there is sure to be a surprise or two or ten to the vegetation.

Just like the weather, the fortnight of conference championships in men’s college basketball will produce its own surprises by March 12, Selection Sunday. That low-major conference team that today has a three-game lead over its nearest rival may find itself becoming the recipient of not an automatic NCAA bid, but an automatic NIT bid, when the fourth place team gets hot for three days. That mid-major team that underachieved and struggled to finish fourth in its conference may be ready to put it all together and win three games in three days to save the coach’s job.

What about that team from the big conference that will go 7-11 or 5-13 or even 2-14 in league play and then get on a roll while the top teams enjoy byes? It has happened before. Connecticut got hot at the right time a few years back and won five games in five days. For good measure, the Huskies then won six more to take the national title back to Storrs.

Many of you readers were not yet born in 1976, but it was quite an interesting season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC had just seven teams then, as South Carolina had left the league and Georgia Tech had not yet joined. Of the seven teams, four were ranked in the top 20–North Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina St., and Wake Forest. It was a lean year in Durham, as Duke was the last place team. The Blue Devils would return to prominence in two more years.
Second to last place Virginia won just four ACC games during the regular season, but nobody, not even the ranked ACC teams, beat them by more than eight points. Top-seeded North Carolina, who has stayed in the Top 5 for the entire season, only beat UVA by two in Chapel Hill and by three in Charlottesville.
When the seven teams convened in Greensboro for the ACC Tournament, Virginia was faced with the task of having to beat the #3 seed and #15 nationally North Carolina St. in the quarterfinals, then most likely the #2 seed and #9 nationally Maryland in the semifinals, and then most likely top seed and #4 nationally North Carolina in the Championship Game. If the Cavs lost at all, not only would they not be in the NCAA Tournament in what was then just a 32-team field, but they would not make the NIT either.
Up to this point, no team with a conference record under .500 had ever won the ACC Tournament, and only one team had ever won it with a .500 mark in league play. In almost every season since the ACC formed in 1952-53, either the first or second place team had won the conference tournament.
On the opening night of the tournament, Virginia came out hustling on defense and controlling the boards. North Carolina State could not get uncontested shots and turned the ball over against the tough pressure man-to-man defense the Cavs played. It was a huge upset, as Virginia cruised to a 12-point victory to move into the semifinals. The other top teams relished the fact that the Wolf Pack had been put out, as State had recently been the dominant team in the league.
In the semfinals, Maryland was a prohibitive favorite over the Cavaliers, even though the Terps had needed to fight and claw their way to a three-point and eight-point victory. But, the Terps had played a tough overtime game over last place Duke the night before, and they came out a bit sluggish. Virginia, playing with nothing to lose, took command in the second half and pulled away to a double digit lead before Maryland cut it to eight points at the buzzer. Now UVA had made it to the finals, expected to be fodder for North Carolina and their cavalcade of star players, seven of whom would become future NBA players, including the entire starting five: Phil Ford, Walter Davis, Mitch Kupchak, Tom Lagarde, and John Kuester.
Virginia had a pair of future NBA players in Wally Walker and Marc Iavaroni, and on this afternoon, the Cavaliers got support from a host of players destined to work in the real world when they graduated. Coach Terry Holland kept possessions at a minimum, and Virginia once again played exceptional team defense, as the Cavaliers completed the sweep of top three teams, beating Carolina by five points to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a record of 16-11.

Lightning almost struck twice for the Cavs. In 1977, they finished just 2-10 in ACC play and once again faced a road where they would have to beat three ranked teams to win the ACC Tournament. They came really close, knocking off #2 seed Wake Forest and #3 seed Clemson before falling late to #1 seed North Carolina in the Championship Round.

So, if your team won just four conference games or even two this season, there is still hope. It can happen.

By this time next week, the Atlantic Sun will be set to begin conference tournament play, with the Big South and Patriot League just one day away from commencing play. You do not have to go searching for the conference tournament schedules, as we will have it all here for you.

Today, we give you the schedules for every conference tournament, as well as the list of who is ineligible (due to transitioning to Division 1, low Academic Progress Rate, or Infractions), and the format each conference tournament will have. For instance, if you see a conference tournament format of “12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (The top 4 teams receive 1st round byes),” then you know that on the opening day of the tournament, seed 5 will play 12, 6 will play 11, 7 will play 10, and 8 will play 9. The winners of those four games will then join the 4 receiving byes to continue play in the quarterfinals.


Conference Site Dates Format
America East Higher Seeds March 1, 6, 11 UMass-Lowell Ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
American Athletic Hartford, CT March 9-12 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 5 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic 10 Pittsburgh March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic Coast Brooklyn March 7-11 15 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-9 get 1st round byes)
Atlantic Sun Higher Seeds Feb 27, March 2 & 5 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Big 12 Kansas City March 8-11 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big East New York March 8-11 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big Sky Reno March 7, 9-11 N. Colorado Ineligible 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 5 get 1st round byes)
Big South Campus Sites (1) Feb 28, March 2-3,5 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Big Ten Washington, D.C. March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Big West Anaheim, CA March 9-11 CSU-Northridge & Hawaii are ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Colonial Athletic North Charleston, SC March 3-6 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Conference USA Birmingham March 8-11 Top 12 Qualify 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Horizon Detroit March 3-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Ivy Philadelphia March 11-12 Top 4 Qualify 4 to 2 to 1
Metro Atlantic Albany March 2-6 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 ((top 5 get 1st round byes)
Mid-American Cleveland (2) March 6, 9-11 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Mideastern Athletic Norfolk, VA March 6-11 Savannah St. Ineligible 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Missouri Valley St. Louis March 2-5 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Mountain West Las Vegas (@UNLV) March 8-11 11 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 ((top 5 get 1st round byes)
Northeast Higher Seeds March 1, 4, 7 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Ohio Valley Nashville March 1-4 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 2 seeds get double bye/#3 & 4 get byes)
Pac-12 Las Vegas March 8-11 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
Patriot Higher Seeds Feb 28, Mar 2, 5, 8 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Southeastern Nashville March 8-12 14 to 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get double byes/5-10 get 1st round byes)
Southern Asheville, NC March 3-6 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Katy, TX
March 8-11
Abilene Chr. and Incarnate Word Ineligible Top 8 Qualify 8 to 6 to 4 to 2 to 1 (Top 2 seeds get double byes, #3 & 4 get 1st round bye)
Southwestern Athl. Houston (3) March 7, 10-11 Alcorn St. Ineligible 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Summit Sioux Falls, SD March 4-7 Top 8 Qualify 8 to 4 to 2 to 1
Sun Belt New Orleans March 8, 10-12 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 4 get 1st round byes)
West Coast Las Vegas March 3-7 10 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1 (top 6 get 1st round byes)
Western Athletic Las Vegas March 9-11 Grand Canyon Ineligible 7 to 4 to 2 to 1 (#1 seed gets bye to semifinals)
(1) Big South Tournament 1st round will be played at higher seeds. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played at #1 seed, and then the
championship game will be played on the home court of the higher seeded team
(2) The Mid-American 1st round will be played at higher seeds. The remaining 3 rounds will be played in Cleveland
(3) Southwestern Athletic Tournament 1st round will be played at higher seeds. Semifinals and Finals will be played in Houston


The Bracketology Gurus And Their Headaches
Our Gurus tell us this week that they are having a tough time with the Bubble. They tell us there is too much medicority this season, and that after the top 30 teams, there are about 120 others that differ by so little. You have teams with some nice talent but they have never put it all together. You have some teams like the 1976 Virginia team that have the potential to win, but they have lost a lot of close ones in conference play. Then, you had the committee putting out its list of top 16 teams last week, and it looked like they reverted to the old bracket-selection method where the RPI ratings mattered more than it should.

Our Conference Breakdown
It is our personal opinion that conference records should matter for something. If the 6th place team in one conference gets an at-large bid because they played a tough non-league schedule, while the 3rd place team in the same conference does not get a bid, this just seems foolish to us. The third place team played the same conference schedule as the 6th place team and finished three places ahead in the standings. For example, there are some bracketologists (not our gurus) that have Michigan seeded higher than Maryland due to having such a tough schedule. The Terps are 10-4 in the Big Ten, while Michigan is 7-7. And, Maryland won at Michigan! Worse, Michigan gets rewarded for playing a tougher Maryland than Maryland gets for playing a weaker Michigan. It is nonsense! Conference action should mean a lot more than it does, especially when you look at the power conferences. If a team finishes 3 games ahead of another team in one of these conferences, there should be no discussion about which team is better. The number three team in a power conference is always better than the number seven team, no matter what the RPI or any other rating says.

Now that our rant is over, let’s look at each conference.


American East
Vermont 14-0/24-5
Stony Brook 12-2/17-10
Albany 9-5/18-11
UMBC 8-6/17-10
New Hampshire 8-6/17-11

Vermont’s 16-game winning streak has not come without some bumps in the road. The Catamounts close out the regular season with home games against Albany and Stony Brook, and just one more win or one Stony Brook loss will give Vermont home court advantage for the tournament. The Catamounts have outscored their conference foes in Burlington by an average of 17.2 points per game, so it is going to be quite a challenge for another team to keep the Catamounts out of the Dance. At 29-5, Vermont could move up to as high as a 10-seed and probably not lower than a 13-seed.

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast 11-2/22-7
Lipscomb 10-3/18-12
South Carolina Upstate 7-6/17-13
Kennesaw St. 7-6/13-16
North Florida 7-6/12-18

The A-Sun is another league where all conference tournament games are played on the home floor of the higher-seeded team. FGCU split with Lipscomb, but each team won on the other team’s home floor. Both the Eagles and Bisons have played well on the road this year, so home court advantage may not be all that pertinent if these two teams advance like they should.

Big Sky
North Dakota 12-3/17-8
Weber St. 11-3/16-9
Eastern Washington 10-4/18-9
Montana 9-6/14-14
Montana St. 9-6/14-14
Idaho 8-6/13-12

With 12 wins in their last 14, including a sweep of Weber State, North Dakota looks like a tough out, but the FIghting Hawks are not prohibitive favorites to grab the Big Sky Conference Tournament Title, just slight favorites. This league has some balance, and there are five or six rivals capable of beating UND. 10th place Northern Arizona at 4-10/7-20 beat North Dakota in Flagstaff after earlier in the season leading the Hawks in the second half in Grand Forks.

Big South
UNC-Asheville 14-2/22-7
Winthrop 13-3/21-6
Liberty 13-3/18-11
Gardner-Webb 9-7/16-13

This league may be just a small pond in the scheme of things, but there are a couple of potential piranhas swimming around in UNCA and Winthrop. If the top two teams meet in the championship game of the tournament, expect an exciting must-watch affair. They had to go to two overtimes when they played 11 days ago in Asheville, with UNCA winning 104-101.

Big West
UC Irvine 9-3/16-12
UC Davis 8-4/16-11
Long Beach St. 8-5/13-16
Cal St. Fullerton 7-5/13-12

UC-Irvine has not secured the top seed just yet, as the Anteaters close with three losable games in their last four. Long Beach and Fullerton are two teams of notice, as they have the talent to win the conference tournament and appear to be starting to gel at the right time.

Colonial Athletic
UNC Wilmington 13-3/24-5
College of Charleston 12-4/21-8
Towson St. 11-5/19-10
Elon 9-7/17-12
William & Mary 9-7/15-12

A month ago, it was a foregone conclusion that UNCW would waltz back to the NCAA Tournament, but the Seahawks hit a spell where they looked very vulnerable. They lost to three of the top contenders in William & Mary, Charleston, and Elon, and the William & Mary defeat was by 18 points. UNCW faces Towson State in Wilmington Thursday night, and a win will most likely secure the top-seed, but this conference tournament has become an interesting one to watch, as the Seahawks do not look like a sure thing now. Another thing that could distract UNCW is the fact that Coach Kevin Keatts is considered a strong candidate in the North Carolina State opening. That won’t be the only school that shows an interest in the former Louisville assistant with a proven record in recruiting.

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee 14-1/24-4
Louisiana Tech 12-3/20-8
Old Dominion 9-5/16-10
UTEP 9-5/11-15
Rice 8-6/18-9
Marshall 8-6/15-12

After a 14-1 run in their last 15 games, and with wins at Ole Miss and Belmont as well as a neutral site win in Nashville over UNC-Wilmington and a slaughter at home over Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee could almost be considered a legitimate at-large team should they fail to win the CUSA Tournament, but the Blue Raiders probably needed to add a road win over VCU, and they came up short. If they do win out to enter the Dance at 30-4, they could very well be the higher seed in their first tournament game. After losing by 10 at Middle, Louisiana Tech has quietly reeled off six consecutive wins to sew up second place in the league.

Valparaiso 12-3/22-6
Oakland 11-4/21-7
Wright St. 10-5/19-9
Green Bay 10-5/16-11
Northern Kentucky 9-6/18-10

Oakland swept Valpo, winning both games by double digits, and the Grizzlies now own a six-game winning streak after yesterday’s victory over UIC. Wright St. is the other hot team with a four game winning streak and an 8-2 record in their last 10. Green Bay can go on big scoring spurts, and if they are hot for three days, they can put the rest of the field away. It should be an interesting semifinals and finals in the Horizon.

Princeton 10-0/17-6
Harvard 8-2/16-7
Yale 6-4/14-9
Penn 4-6/11-12
Columbia 4-6/10-13
Cornell 3-7/7-18
Dartmouth 3-7/6-17
Brown 2-8/11-15

Why have we included all eight teams in this write-up? The inaugural Ivy League Tournament will be a four-team event. At the present time, Princeton and Harvard have wrapped up half the spots. Yale was almost safe until the Bulldogs stumbled against Princeton and Penn at home to fall out of race for the top. They are still a good bet to get to the Palestra. The fight for spot number four is up for grabs, and even last place Brown is still very much alive, since Columbia has taken a dive with four consecutive losses, while Penn has won four straight to pull into a tie for the fourth spot. This coming weekend is a big one, as Yale visits Harvard and Princeton visits Columbia Friday Night. Penn is on the road for games with Cornell and Columbia. Dartmouth gets two big home games, and by next Monday, a 3-7 team could be 5-7 with the number four spot in sight.

Metro Atlantic
Monmouth 15-2/23-5
Saint Peter’s 12-6/16-12
Iona 11-7/18-11
Siena 11-7/14-15
Canisius 10-8/17-12
Fairfield 9-8/14-12

With a 13-game winning streak, Monmouth has already clinched the regular season title for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Hawks looked like a team that could do a little damage in the NCAA Tournament. They beat UCLA USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown on the way to a 25-6 regular season record, but Iona beat them in the MAAC Tournament Championship Game, and Monmouth had to settle for an NIT berth, where they lost to George Washington in the second round. This year, the biggest wins the Hawks own are over Memphis and Princeton. Monmouth might win the MAAC Tournament, but this does not look like a team capable of winning in the NCAA Tournament. And, there are five other teams in the MAAC that could send the Hawks back to the NIT.

Akron 12-2/22-5
Ohio 9-5/17-8
Buffalo 9-5/15-12
Kent St. 7-7/15-12

Ball St. 8-6/17-10
Toledo 7-7/14-13

Akron looked invincible in league play until recently, and now the Zips have dropped two games, including a home game against Kent St. that ended Akron’s 30-game winning streak. The team that beat Akron last year in the MAC Championship Game is the hot team in the league. Buffalo has won six games in a row and eight out of ten with both of the losses coming on the road by one point. The Bulls might be the team to beat at this moment. The West Division is all aflutter. At one point in the season, Eastern Michigan was number one and Western Michigan was in last place. Now, EMU is in last, and WMU is in second just a game behind Ball St.

Mideastern Athletic
UNC-Central 11-1/20-6
Norfolk St. 11-2/14-13
Hampton 8-4/11-14
Morgan St. 8-4/11-14

UNC-Central gives the MEAC a fighting chance to avoid a first-four game in Dayton if the Eagles win the MEAC Tournament. If UNCC gets there, they will be quite a headache for their opening game opponent, because Coach LeVelle Moton’s teams play defense like the players are magnetized to their opponents. Central almost always finishes among the national leaders in points allowed and defensive FG%, and this year is no different. Norfolk State has made the 2017 MEAC race a two-team runaway, but they did not challenge Central in their only meeting this year.

Mountain West
Nevada 10-4/21-6
Boise St. 10-4/17-8
Colorado St. 10-4/18-9
New Mexico 9-6/16-11
San Diego St. 8-6/16-10
Fresno St. 8-7/16-11
San Jose St. 7-7/14-11

This will be a very interesting conference tournament, and there will be all kinds of gossip going on backstage and at official events. Colorado State is currently in a three-way tie for first in the MWC, but they could be forced into making a head coaching change. Larry Eustachy, the former Iowa State head coach who lost his job to do fraternizing with college coeds, has seen his name splattered throughout the news for allegations that he berated and belittled players, calling them all sorts of names. He already had a zero-tolerance policy in place in Fort Collins, so it could be reason to terminate his contract just as he has a team on the cusp of taking the top seed in the conference tournament.

There’s more to this league than just the controversy. Boise State coach Leon Rice is beginning to draw notice from bigger conference teams. There are rumors he could be in the mix at North Carolina State, but there will be other openings in March, and the former Gonzaga assistant will get serious consideration, after making the Broncos a perennial contender in the MWC. Another coach that could draw consideration for a higher-profile job is Nevada’s Eric Musselman, who also has experience coaching the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings in the NBA.

Then, there is the old man by the sea. San Diego State’s Steve Fisher has a national title and two other Final Fours in his past experience, and his Aztecs are starting to play like the defensive powerhouses in recent years that saw SDSU make it to the Elite 8. In their recent 14-point victory over Nevada, they held the Wolfpack under 30% shooting from the field.

Mount St. Mary’s 13-3/15-14
Long Island 11-5/18-11
Wagner 10-6/14-12
St Francis (PA) 9-7/12-15
Fairleigh Dickinson 9-7/11-16

Mount St. Mary’s is up two games with two games to play, but one of those two games comes against second place LIU, so the Mountaineers still have a little bit of work to do to wrap up home court advantage throughout the tournament (All NEC Tournament games are played on the home floor of the higher seeds. Wagner has won six of their last seven, including a four-point win over MSM. The Seahawks beat Connectictut earlier this year, and they only lost at MSM by a point.

Ohio Valley
Belmont 14-1/20-5
Jacksonville St. 9-5/17-12
Morehead St. 9-5/13-14
Tennessee St. 8-7/17-11
Tennessee Tech 7-7/11-18

UT Martin 8-6/18-11
Murray St. 8-6/14-14
SE Missouri St. 8-6/13-16

Only the top eight teams qualify for the tournament, and as of this morning, the eight teams we have shown above seem to have their berths secured. Belmont’s lone loss came at Tennessee Tech. The Bruins have been in the Dance seven times in the last 11 years, but they are 0-7 in those seven trips. Jacksonville St. has played better away from home than at home, so this could be a plus for the Gamecocks. They did lose at Belmont by 17 points.

Bucknell 13-3/21-8
Boston U. 11-5/16-12
Lehigh 10-6/16-11
Navy 10-6/15-13

Bucknell has impressive non-conference road wins against Vanderbilt and Richmond, but the Bison were swept by Lehigh. Although they will have home court advantage as long as they stay alive in the Patriot League Tournament, they are still vulnerable against teams that can dominate on the glass.

Furman 13-3/20-9
East Tennessee St. 12-3 /22-6
UNC-Greensboro 11-4/20-8
Chattanooga 10-5/19-8

It was a rude awakening as Furman’s 10-game winning streak ended with a 21-point home loss to UNCG Saturday. The Paladins must get over that one quickly, because they must travel to Johnson City to take on ETSU Wednesday night with first place up for grabs. Any of the top four could win this tournament, and the SoCon tends to come up with champions that were not the top seed.

New Orleans 11-3/16-9
Stephen F. Austin 10-4/15-11
Texas A&M-CC 9-5/16-9
Sam Houston St. 9-6/18-10
Houston Bapt. 8-6/13-12

Sam Houston had the lead in the SLC before losing four of their last five games. Meanwhile, the other contenders above have all enjoyed some nice winning streaks as the race heads into its final week. UNO and SFA have won four consecutive games. HBU has won five in a row, and TACC has a seven-game streak.

Southwestern Athletic
Texas Southern 11-2/15-11
Southern 9-5/13-14
Grambling 7-7/12-15
Jackson St. 7-7/11-16

The SWAC Champion is going to be in the First Four in Dayton unless multiple upset winners from other low-major conferences force them into the second round. The hottest team in the league is Alcorn State, as the Braves have a nine-game winning streak. Alas, they are ineligible for postseason play this season.

North Dakota St. 10-4/18-9
South Dakota 10-4/19-10
Denver 8-6/16-11
Fort Wayne 7-7/18-10
Omaha 7-7/14-13

South Dakota is peaking at the right time. The Coyotes look like the best team in the league in February, and the tournament will be played up the road in Sioux Falls, but USD will have a lot of competition in this competitive league.

Sun Belt
UT Arlington 10-3/20-6
Arkansas St. 10-4/19-8
Georgia Southern 10-4/17-10
Georgia St. 9-5/16-10
Texas St. 8-5/15-10

With a four-game winning streak and eight wins in the last nine outings, UTA has vaulted past its rivals into first place. The Mavericks have the signature win among the SBC teams this year, as they are the only team besides Gonzaga to have beaten Saint Mary’s. The last two conference tournament champions (UALR and Georgia State) went on to upset power conference teams in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Western Athletic
Cal St. Bakersfield 10-1/19-7
New Mexico St. 9-2/23-4
UM-Kansas City 7-4/15-13

In their current eight-game winning streak, CSUB has limited its opponents to just 59.3 points per game. Not only do the Roadrunners hold opponents to 38% shooting from the field, they win the battle of the boards and the turnover margin with consistency. It’s hard to beat a team when they only let you shoot one time per possession and keep you under 40% from the field. Bakersfield went on a 17-0 run to almost win at Arizona, and they led SMU in Dallas, before the Mustangs went on a run to win by six, so if the Roadrunners make the Dance, they will go down fighting, if they go down at all in their first game.


American Athletic
In: SMU 14-1/24-4, Cincinnati 13-1/24-3
Bubble: None

Houston’s chance to move into consideration fell when they could not pull off the upset of SMU.

Atlantic 10
In: Dayton 12-2/21-5, VCU 12-2/22-5
Bubble: Rhode Island 9-5/17-9

URI won at George Mason over the weekend, and the Rams have a big game against VCU on Saturday.

Atlantic Coast
In: North Carolina 11-3/23-5, Louisville 10-4/22-5, Duke 10-4/22-5, Notre Dame 10-5/21-7, Florida St. 9-5/21-6, Virginia 8-6/18-8
Bubble: Miami 8-6/18-8, Virginia Tech 7-7/18-8, Georgia Tech 7-7/16-11, Syracuse 8-7/16-12, Wake Forest 6-9/15-12, Pittsburgh 4-10/15-12

The ACC figures to send nine teams to the Dance, and at the moment Miami and Virginia Tech are in as Bubble teams, while Georgia Tech is right there on the cut-off line with a few others. Check the seeding below to see if the Gurus agree.
Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Pitt look like strong NIT candidates at this time. The ‘Cuse has a strenuous closing schedule that includes games with Duke and Louisville, and the Orangemen will have to upset one of the two to have a chance.

Big 12
In: Kansas 12-2/24-3, Baylor 9-5/22-5, West Virginia 9-5/21-6, Iowa St. 9-5/17-9
Bubble: Oklahoma St. 7-7/18-9, TCU 6-8/17-10, Kansas St. 6-8/17-10, Texas Tech 5-9/17-10

Oklahoma State started the year in conference play at 0-6, and now the Cowboys look like Sweet 16 material. Coach Brad Underwood should receive consideration for National Coach of the Year in his first season in Stillwater. With a mediocre Bubble to say the least, it figures that the Big 12 will be a conference that can send a team with a losing league record to the Tournament. Texas Tech had a golden opportunity to move onto the good side of the Bubble after upsetting Baylor, but the Red Raiders could not complete the deal at West Virginia, following previous one-point losses the week before to TCU and Kansas. TTU must finish 3-1 in the league and then win at least a game in the B12 Tournament.

Big East
In: Villanova 13-2/26-2, Butler 10-5/21-6, Creighton 9-5/22-5
Bubble: Xavier 8-6/18-9, Marquette 7-7/16-10, Seton Hall 6-8/16-10

Injuries have hit this conference hard. Xavier looked like a Final Four contender before injuries to their top two players weakened the Musketeers to the point where they may have to sneak into the field. One of those injuries, to top player Trevon Bluiett, is not season-ending, so when (if) he returns to 100% health, Xavier should recover somewhat.

Marquette is right there in the final tier of teams hovering on the last in line. Coach Steve Wojciechowski has become the top former Coach K assistant, and when he finally lands a couple of aircraft carriers that can attack the glass, Marquette is going to return to its glory it acheived under Al McGuire–if another school doesn’t steal him away (like Duke if Coach K retires).

Big Ten
In: Wisconsin 11-3/22-5, Purdue 11-3/22-5, Maryland 10-4/22-5, Northwestern 9-5/20-7, Minnesota 8-6/20-7
Bubble: Michigan St. 8-6/16-11, Michigan 7-7/17-10

The Selection Committee did not think much of this league last week, and we have to believe that their feelings go deeper than just the top of the conference. If Wisconsin and Purdue did not garner four-seeds, it stands to reason that the Michigan teams are not in as of now. We do not think Michigan State is going to make it now after losing Eron Harris to a season-ending knee injury that looked gruesome in the Spartans’ loss to Purdue. Michigan hurt their chances in their overtime loss to Minnesota, and the Wolverines are going to have to win a couple of road games (close with 3 of 4 on the road) to get back in the good graces of the Dance judges.

Missouri Valley
Wichita St. 15-1/25-4
Illinois St. 15-1/23-5
In: Whichever team wins Arch Madness
Bubble: Whichever team does not win Arch Madness

If you put the top teams not in the Power Conferences and put them in a super Mid-Major league (Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Illinois State, Middle Tennessee, Monmouth, UNC-Wilmington, Boise St., and others), the two Valley teams would finish in the upper half of the standings and probably beat Gonzaga on their home floors. Both the Shockers and Redbirds are good enough to advance to the second weekend of the tournament, and the only reason they both won’t be in the NCAA Tournament would be political. The Committee will not be able to explain excluding one of the MVC powers over a 12 or 13-loss team from a power league. It would be a lot easier if both teams won out until the Championship Game of the MVC Tournament.

In: Arizona 14-1/25-3, Oregon 13-2/24-4, UCLA 11-3/24-3
Bubble: California 9-5/18-8, USC 8-6/21-6, Utah 8-7/17-10

When you live east of the Mississippi River, you sometimes discount the teams on the West Coast because you don’t always see these teams play. However, the Buckaroos on the PiRate Ship have tuned in enough games to hear Bill Walton in our sleep. The “Conference of Champions” has three really good teams, but all three must take a back seat to that team up in the Inland Empire of Northeast Washington. UCLA just abused rival USC over the weekend. While the City of Angels flooded from the heavy rains, UCLA clouded up and rained all over the Trojans in a 102-70 pasting.

The Trojans were not the only team to take a beating and hurt their at-large chances. Cal travelled across the Bay and lost to rival Stanford, while Utah most likely received a lethal dagger in their upset loss to an Oregon State team that entered the game with a record of 0-14/4-23.

In: Florida 12-2/22-5, Kentucky 12-2/22-5, South Carolina 10-4/20-7, Arkansas 9-5/20-7
Bubble: Alabama 9-5/16-10, Tennessee 7-7/15-12

We removed a couple teams from the Bubble list, as Georgia and Auburn failed to pick up victories they had to have. Alabama is not on a lot of other folks’ bubble, but the Crimson Tide has a favorable schedule that could find them 12-5/19-10 before their regular season finale at Tennessee. If Alabama wins out and then makes it to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, we feel that the Selection Committee would have to give Avery Johnson’s club serious consideration for one of the final spots in the Dance, especially if there are no big upset champions in other power leagues. Half of their losses came to teams that will be in the Tournament (Dayton, Oregon, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas).

Tennessee is in a position where they most likely must win out to finish 11-7/19-12, and then the Vols will have to win at least one SEC Tournament game. This means that only one of the two Bubble teams from the SEC actually has a chance to make the Tournament.

West Coast
In: Gonzaga 16-0/28-0, Saint Mary’s 14-2/24-3
Bubble: None

Saint Mary’s wrapped up their at-large bid with an impressive weekend win at BYU. The only possible fly in the ointment would be if BYU, San Francisco, or Santa Clara played lights out and made a run to the WCC Tournament title, but at this point we think the San Diego Padres have a better chance of winning 110 games and then sweeping through to the World Series title than any team other than Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s has of winning the WCC Tournament.

The Bracketology Gurus Seeding For February 20, 2017
1. Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina
2. Baylor, Arizona, Oregon, Louisville
3. Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Florida St.
4. UCLA, West Virginia, Butler, Purdue
5. Virginia, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Wisconsin
6. Creighton, SMU, Saint Mary’s, Maryland
7. Minnesota, South Carolina, Northwestern, Oklahoma St.
8. Dayton, VCU, Xavier, USC
9. Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Iowa St., Arkansas
10. Wichita St., Michigan, Michigan St., Kansas St.
11. Middle Tennessee, Marquette, California, Seton Hall, Syracuse
12. Illinois St., TCU, Boise St., UNC-Wilmington, UT-Arlington
13. Vermont, Monmouth, Florida Gulf Coast, Oakland
14. Belmont, UNC-Asheville, Princeton, Akron
15. Bucknell, Cal St. Bakersfield, South Dakota, East Tennessee St.
16. UC-Irvine, North Dakota, UNC-Central, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Southern, Mount St. Mary’s

First Four in Dayton
11: Seton Hall vs. Syracuse
12: TCU vs. Illinois St.
16: North Dakota vs. Mount St. Mary’s
16: Stephen F. Austin vs. Texas Southern

Last Four Byes
California, Marquette, Kansas St., Michigan St.

First Four Out
Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, Rhode Island

Next Four Out
Providence, Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee

Note: Georgia Tech, TCU, Syracuse, Seton Hall, and Illinois St. all finished within two points of each other in our Guru tabulation. We would call this a very close Bubble. Texas Tech and Wake Forest are only four and five points back. Now, you see why our baker’s dozen of Gurus have headaches. Maybe, the fact that all the flowers are blooming and the trees are budding as the temperature challenges 80 degrees has something to do with it as well, since the Guru that just texted said he has a runny nose, watery eyes, and needs a new box of tissues.

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