The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 16, 2021

2021 Bracketnomics Report

For many of you, this is the only time of the year you visit the PiRate Ratings, as March Madness is your real holiday season.  If this is your first visit here, please be advised that we actively participate in rating college and NFL football as well as college basketball.  And, if you are a fan of tabletop baseball games, our Sabertooth Baseball Game is available for the low price of $7 while it is still on sale, when it will go back to $8.  If you have the dice and the playing surface, we send you all the cards, charts, and rules in a zip file for you to print.  Serious gamers tell us that they think our game is one of the most advanced strategic baseball games on the market with unique playing styles.  If we piqued your interest, check us out at https://sabertooth-baseball.square.site , or our blog at https://sabertoothbaseball.wordpress.com 

Now that we’ve heard from our sponsor, let’s get right to it.  First, what are Bracketnomics?  That’s our term we coined to describe how we use analytical data that has been backtested to try to determine which teams have the best set of statistical fingerprints when compared to national champions of the past.

The tutorial is quite easy to read, and if you haven’t read it, you can check it out here:  https://piratings.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/the-all-encompassing-master-bracketnomics-paradigm-2021/

If you have already read this or just want to go straight to picking your bracket, then here’s what you have been waiting for.

First, let’s start with a few bracket-picking strategies. It is obvious that picking a perfect bracket is about as likely as winning the Powerball and Megamillion lotteries in the same week where lightning strikes your air conditioner compressor and you find a four-leaf clover when you go outside to see why your A/C isn’t working.

It is, however, possible to win whatever bracket-picking contest you enter. We here have received dozens of comments through the years from readers telling us they won their office pools, and we have also heard from people that won pools from supermarket contests, radio station contests, and even one from a woman that won $1,000 from a modified Calcutta contest.

There are a few general keys to scoring high enough to win your bracket pool. First, you need to start by picking your national champion, Final Four, and Elite 8 in that order. Do not start with the opening round and just predict the winners. You will likely eliminate yourself before the Sweet 16 by picking a bunch of upset winners and arrive at the Sweet 16 with less than a half-dozen teams still alive.

Next, once you have your Elite 8, go into each sub-bracket that those 8 teams emerged and pick the best team that would give the Elite 8 team a tough Sweet 16 game. Now, you have your Sweet 16.

At this point, you need to pick most of the rest of the games by “the chalk.” Obviously, your Sweet 16 will have to win in the Rounds of 64 and 32. You can then maybe pick a couple upset winners in the first round and maybe one or two of your Sweet 16 teams will be a dark horse. However, as we see it, the teams considered dark horses really looked like the favorites in our method of picking games. In the past, we were all in on a George Mason team that ambushed the field to the Final Four. We said that Virginia Commonwealth was better than 20 seeds and did not deserve to be in the First Four, and the Rams went to the Final Four. We had Wichita State as a Final Four possible the year they went to the Final Four. And, we showed that Butler had a lot of the needed criteria to get deep into their tournaments. It isn’t fail-safe; we did not see Loyola making the Final Four, and we twice struck out with Connecticut teams that won their championships.

Our criteria relies on the percentages and uses past events to predict future possibilities. Math is not perfect in this respect. Think of it this way: Would you rather have Ty Cobb at bat with runners on second and third base and two outs in the last of the ninth, trailing by one run, or would you rather have Mario Mendoza at bat? The odds greatly favor the best hitter of all time, but there are some instances where Cobb might make an out on a hard line drive, while Mendoza delivers the game-winning hit on a bloop pop fly that finds grass between the infielder and outfielder. We’ll still go with Cobb, and that’s what our Bracketnomics attempt to be–the Ty Cobb of bracket-picking.

A lot of gurus will tell you how the #12 seed is the best upset spot, and they point to how many times the #12 seed has upset the #5 seed. Why does this happen? It is because the #12 seeds are often the best automatic qualifiers from mid-major conferences, and the Selection Committee did a poor job placing these teams this low. It is not a jinx, so don’t automatically advance a 12-seed unless you can see they were placed in the wrong seed line.

The same thing can be said about the 11-seeds. In recent years, the Committee was a little more accurate placing powerful mid-major champions one seed higher than past years. A lot of these former superior 12-seeds are now superior 11-seeds. And, instead of playing 5-seeds, they are playing weaker 6-seeds. The plan stays the same–look at the criteria and let the criteria show you when the lower seeds are superior and actually the better team, meaning it won’t really be an upset at all.

The Best Criteria

As we looked at all the data, three teams emerged from the pack of 68 that have national championship looking criteria stats.  However, one of the teams is missing a key ingredient and will have to be discounted some for the loss of a key player.e

The overall best resumes belong to two #1 seeds, Gonzaga and Illinois.  The third team that has the look of a national champion is Michigan, but the Wolverines fall out of this category if Isaiah Livers cannot return by the Sweet 16 and play at somewhat close to 100% efficiency.

There is another group of teams that fall just short of national champion appearance.  These teams are below the championship line in one basic criterion or multiple smaller criteria.  These teams in alphabetical order are: Colorado, Houston, Texas, and Virginia.  We expect that maybe one of these four will sneak into the Final Four.

The next group back, the teams that are just behind the above group and have solid Sweet 16 appearance criteria with possible Elite 8 criteria are: Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Saint Bonaventure, San Diego St., USC, and Wisconsin.  We expect at least one of these six to make the Elite 8.

Then, there is a group of teams with considerable positive criteria along with a major negative criterion. These teams are also Sweet 16 worthy, and two could advance to the Elite 8 with one even sneaking into the Final Four. These teams may benefit from ideal brackets more than criteria, as you read the previews.

This year’s criteria was hard to calculate because of the lack of non-conference games.  Schedule strength had to be stressed even more than usual, or else we would have Colgate picked to go to the Final 4.  The Raiders are 14-1, and all of their games were against fellow Patriot League members; additionally, Colgate never played the other quality team in the league in Navy.

There was a slight issue with Gonzaga’s strength of schedule.  The Bulldogs’ total SOS was brought down due to the bottom teams in their conference.  However, they have wins over Iowa and West Virginia out of conference, and that allows us to accept Gonzaga’s schedule strength as the minimum needed to be considered for the national championship, and adequate for the Final Four.  They were supposed to play Baylor, but the Bears opted out of that game due to the virus.

Now, we will review each of the Round of 64 games using our criteria to pick the winner.  Note that we will have regular PiRate Rating spreads for these games on the day of the games.  Our PiRate Ratings are not used when picking winners in Bracketnomics.

First Four

If you are picking brackets, you can usually wait until these games have been played before picking your brackets.  The 16-seed winners will not really matter, as none of them stand a chance to knock off a 1-seed this year.  The 11-seed games will be important, so if you can, wait until those games have been played before submitting your brackets wherever you do.

16 Texas Southern vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s: Mount St. Mary’s defense will keep Texas Southern from getting a lot of good looks, and the Mount doesn’t foul a lot, so TSU will have a hard time scoring.  MSM’s R+T is a tad better too.

Prediction: Mount St. Mary’s

11 Drake vs. 11 Wichita St.: This should be a close game, as both teams have strengths that can be used to exploit the other team’s weaknesses.  Drake is clearly the better offensive team, while Wichita State has a smaller advantage on defense but considerable advantage on schedule strength.  Drake’s R+T rating is quite better, good enough that they might enjoy the game-clinching spurt in this one.

Prediction: Drake

16 Appalachian St. vs. 16 Norfolk St.: These are two teams that will be fighting tooth and nail for their chance to shine for one night, and this looks like a close one.  To select a winner here, we basically have to go with the team with fewer negatives.  Both are ripe with negatives, but in the end, Norfolk St. has the capability of speeding up the tempo and getting Appy State players in foul trouble.

Prediction: Norfolk St.

11 Michigan St. vs. 11 UCLA:  This is a Michigan State squad lacking its typical inside dominance, while UCLA has very little inside game.  So, it’s more likely that this game will be decided on the perimeter.  UCLA is clearly superior from behind the arc, and Michigan State’s biggest issue this year has been with perimeter players that can take the three or drive quickly to the key.

Prediction: UCLA

SOUTH REGIONAL

1 Baylor vs. 16 Hartford: There’s nothing at all that shows us that Hartford has a chance in this game.  Baylor is superior across the board, so forget this being a UMBC-Virginia moment.  Baylor should lead by more than 30 when Scott Drew removes his starters.

Prediction: Baylor

8 North Carolina vs. 9 Wisconsin: Normally, we would find some fact or statistic to show the Tar Heels being superior to an opening round opponent, but this time, we cannot rationalize doing so.  Both teams are about equal defensively in preventing good shots by their opponents.  Wisconsin is clearly more efficient on offense.  Wisconsin is one of the most experienced teams in the field with six seniors among their top eight players, while UNC is one of the greenest with just one senior and one junior among their top eight.  Carolina has the power advantage in this game, but the Badgers will limit possessions, and they have the outside shooting advantage.  Carolina’s only hope is to get the pace up to more than 70 possessions per side, but we think the veteran Badger team will control the pace and have the advantage.

Prediction: Wisconsin

5 Villanova vs. 12 Winthrop: This is one of those momentum games by a lot of pundits.  They believe that with Villanova’s multiple injuries, this will be another #12 seed upset.  Are they correct?  Let’s take a look.

First, we have to discount Villanova due to their missing senior guard Collin Gillespie.  Additionally, guard Justin Moore will still be somewhat below par due to his severe ankle sprain.  Add to that fact that Winthrop has one of the most unique point forwards in the nation in Chandler Vaudrin.  Now, let’s look at the data.  Villanova enjoys an enormous inside advantage in this game, and their schedule strength is in a different time zone compared to Winthrop’s.  Wins over Southern Conference contenders UNC-Greensboro and Furman were nice, but they were 0-0 against power conference teams.  We expect VU’s two inside forces to get their share of points and force Winthrop to bring an extra defender into the paint, where ‘Nova’s third and fourth options on the perimeter should be good enough to knock down a few.

Prediction: Villanova

4 Purdue vs. 13 North Texas: This game could be close, for a half.  North Texas has the ability to stay within single digits for most of the day, but in the end, Purdue has a wide advantage in both schedule strength and R+T.  That almost always leads to a team going on a big run to put a game away.

Prediction: Purdue

6 Texas Tech vs. 11 Utah St.: Texas Tech is noted for their tough defense, but guess what?  Utah State’s defense is even better this year.  Utah State also has a supreme inside game and isn’t too shabby on the perimeter.  Texas Tech has issues scoring on offense, and we expect the Red Raiders will have foul trouble inside the paint.  Here is our first lower seed upset pick.

Prediction: Utah St.

3 Arkansas vs. 14 Colgate:  Here is where schedule strength is as important as class is in handicap horse races.  Arkansas is a Grade I champion, while Colgate is still eligible for non-winner’s of two allowance races.  The schedule strength favors Arkansas by more than a dozen points before looking at any other stats.  Arkansas’s offense is not superior, but it is very good.  Their defense is close to superior.  Colgate’s offense is good, but in the end, their defense isn’t going to slow down the Razorbacks enough times to keep this game close.  There are no criteria that show us that Colgate has a chance to find something to exploit in this game.  Add to the load our personal belief that Eric Musselman is one of the A++ basketball coaches, and this looks like a double-digit win.

Prediction: Arkansas

7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia Tech:  This game looks more like an 8-9 game than a 7-10 game, because it is close to dead even when looking at all the criteria.  Florida has a slight advantage with offensive and defensive efficiency and schedule strength, but VT rates better in R+T, which can override small schedule strength advantages.  Additionally, both schools have swooned in recent weeks, so what we are looking at here is who will be fodder in the next round?  We honestly say to pick the team you like in this one, because it is a 50-50 matchup.  When it’s 50-50, we look at the coaches.  Michael White has an Elite 8 appearance at Florida.  Mike Young had an incredible Wofford team in the Dance that beat Seton Hall and took Kentucky to the buzzer in the Round of 32.  

Prediction: Virginia Tech

2 Ohio St. vs. 15 Oral Roberts: Oral Roberts is the only one of the 68 teams in this field with a negative R+T rating.  Our prime rule is to immediately eliminate any NCAA Tournament team with a negative R+T rating.  There are no exceptions to this rule, so even if ORU was playing one of the 16-seeds in this round, we would be selecting the opponent.  As Royal Rooter King Michael McGreevy would have replied, “‘Nuf ced.”

Prediction: Ohio St. has the potential to win by 35 points.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

1 Illinois vs. 16 Drexel: You know the answer here, so let’s break down the Illini a little to show you why they have the criteria of a national champion.

National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.

National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Illinois’s scoring margin is 12.2 in a year where the Big Ten was the top-ranked overall league.

National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Illinois is 7th offensively and 5th defensively.

National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Illinois has two seniors and three juniors in their top eight.

Add to this a team with a +37% 3-point accuracy; two inside players that combine for more than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game; an offense that forces defenses to foul too much; a defense that does not foul too much; a top-10 schedule strength, and one of the few 20+ R+T Ratings in this tournament.  

10 out of the last 13 years, a #1 seed won the national title, and Illinois is a #1 seed playing just one state away from home.  Other than having a coach that has not been past the Round of 32, and a slightly under the championship norm offensive rebounding rate, this team looks like past national champions.

Prediction: Illinois by whatever spread they want to name.

8 Loyola (Chi.) vs. 9 Georgia Tech: Oh, this one should be a grand one to watch!  Not only is it an evenly-matched game, it is evenly matched with both teams having decided advantages over the other in various criteria.  That usually leads to an exciting 40 minutes with lots of plot twists.  In other words, plan on watching this game.  Let’s break this one down.  Georgia Tech has the definite offensive efficiency advantage, but Loyola has the number one defensive efficiency in the entire nation!  Loyola is one of a very few teams to have a double-digit true shooting percentage margin.  The Rambler TS% is 59.8% and they allow 48.7%.  

Georgia Tech has three players that can put away an opponent, while Loyola is more of a team approach type of winner.  In the clutch, go with a team with three potential dagger-makers.  Georgia Tech has a slightly stronger schedule, but Loyola has superior R+T numbers, and for that reason, the scales slightly tip past balanced.

Prediction: Loyola (Chi.)

5 Tennessee vs. 12 Oregon St.: We expect the winner of this game to have a tough time advancing to the Sweet 16 for multiple reasons.  Tennessee is one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams in the field, if not the most.  An excellent defensive effort will give the Vols a big win, and then an egg-laying offensive effort will get them beat the next game.  The problem is that the players seem to lack direction against changing defenses.

Oregon St. was a model of excellent consistency for 120 minutes at the Pac-12 Tournament, holding the pace to less than 65 possessions per game, and winning by making very few mistakes.  By mistakes, we don’t refer to turnovers, but more to smart shot selection and excellent team defense.  That team defense thing is kryptonite to Tennessee.

The question is which Vols team shows up?  Will it be the team that disposed of Kansas like they were a division 2 team, or will it be the team that acted like it didn’t know the object of the game in the second half of the SEC Tournament semifinals?  We’ll say that for one game, UT will play up to their potential.

Prediction: Tennessee

4 Oklahoma St. vs. 13 Liberty: Liberty was a real victim of Covid-19 in 2020.  The Flames were good enough to make the Sweet 16 last year.  This year’s team is not on that same level of competence.  The biggest factor in this game is the humongous schedule strength advantage the Cowboys have.  On that alone, OSU is 18 points better before the opening tip.  They also have the top clutch player in the Dance in Cade Cunningham, who is better than Kemba Walker, who took Connecticut to the national title when the Huskies did not have national title criteria.

Prediction: Oklahoma St.

6 San Diego St. vs. 11 Syracuse: Syracuse has been in this situation before where they were on the Bubble getting into the field and then won a game or two.  They made the Final Four as a 10-seed.  Their matchup zone defense can be trouble for teams that have not seen it live, and most teams that play the ‘Cuse in the Rounds of 64 and 32 have not seen another team use it.  That can make a difference in closely-matched teams.

San Diego State’s man-to-man defense is not something Syracuse has seen either.  It is nothing like Virginia’s or other ACC defenses.  In a normal year, Duke’s defense might look something like that, but the Orangemen will be just as unsure attacking the Aztecs as SDSU is attacking the zone.  Syracuse has a stronger schedule strength, but not that much stronger, while SDSU has the better R+T Rating, enough to make the difference.

Prediction: San Diego St.

3 West Virginia vs. 14 Morehead St.: In recent years, Belmont and Murray St. have pulled off big upsets from the Ohio Valley Conference.  Ten years ago, this team knocked off Louisville in the opening round.  Can lightning strike twice?  About as often as it does, so don’t expect the Eagles to soar over the Mountaineers.  The schedule strength advantage is considerable at 13+ points.  The inside advantage will be almost as strong, and WVU will get many extra opportunities to score in this game.  Unless Morehead shoots lights out from three, this will be a mismatch.

Prediction: West Virginia

7 Clemson vs. 10 Rutgers:   These are very similar teams when looking at their criteria.  There isn’t much to separate them.  Rutgers has a slightly better offensive efficiency rating.  They are basically equal defensively.  Clemson has the better frontcourt and more likely to get more first chance points in the paint.  Neither team is adequate enough to get to the Sweet 16 with their R+T Ratings.  In the end, we go with the better offense in this one.

Prediction: Rutgers

2 Houston vs. 15 Cleveland St.: This is the best Houston team since Phi Slama Jama made it to consecutive national title games in 1983 and 1984.  Two years ago, a #3-seed Houston team easily advanced to the Sweet 16 and then took Kentucky to the final horn.  This team is a tad better overall, but more importantly, this regional is lacking in teams that excel where Houston is vulnerable.  Houston could win this game by 30-35 points, but Kelvin Sampson will probably empty his bench earlier than normal, allowing Cleveland State to make the final score look less embarrassing.  Only if CSU can get three or four Cougar players in early foul trouble can they keep this one close.

Prediction: Houston

West Regional

1 Gonzaga vs. 16 Norfolk St.: Rather than show you how Gonzaga could win this game by 40 or more, let’s show you their criteria so you can compare it to Illinois.  

A.  National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.  Gonzaga would have to break a 31-year trend.

B.  National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Gonzaga’s scoring margin is 23.0, which is far and away the best in the nation.  UNLV’s was 15 when they won the 1990 title.

C.  National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Gonzaga is number one on offense and number 10 on defense, a definite look of a national champion.

D.  National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Gonzaga has two seniors and two juniors in their top eight.

E.  Gonzaga’s 3-point percentage is 36.5%, which is a fraction under the 37% floor most champions have had.  They have three players that can be counted on to win a game on the final possession.  They have two inside stars that can dominate a game in the paint.  While the Bulldogs’ schedule is a tad weaker than a typical national champion schedule, they did beat Iowa and West Virginia on the road, and a cancelled game against Baylor would have given them a championship worthy schedule.

Prediction: Gonzaga by a very large margin

8 Oklahoma vs. 9 Missouri: These former Big 8/Big 12 rivals used to have some great conference games, and this one should be a lot like those great ones from the past.  Oklahoma has the better offensive efficiency, while defensive efficiency is about equal.  Missouri has the advantage inside and a slightly better strength of schedule.  There isn’t much difference when looking at the rest, but Missouri is one of the few teams that has a +37% free throw rate; however, their defensive FT rate is too high.

Prediction: Oklahoma

5 Creighton vs. 12 UCSB: On the surface, this looks like a potential double-digit win for the higher seed, even when considering the high number of 12-seed upsets in the past.  Crieghton’s offensive efficiency rating is high enough to consider the Blue Jays an Elite 8 contender, and their defensive efficiency rating is strong enough to move Creighton into the next round.  However, there has been an issue with the head coach, and Creighton did not look like the same team after the dissension between players and coach came to a head.  

UCSB is not an easy mark.  The Gauchos have an inside presence typical of a first round winner.  They are a senior-laden squad, and their R+T rating is almost 20, which is another sign of a potential upset winner in the Round of 64.  When a team has a huge R+T rating advantage over their opponent, the next thing to compare are the two schedule strengths.  In this case, Creighton has a modestly better SOS, not enough to overcome a large R+T disadvantage. Remember that UC-Irvine from the same Big West Conference beat a 4-seed in the 2019 Dance.

Prediction: UCSB gets the upset

4 Virginia vs. 13 Ohio U: Ohio has a top 40 offense, but their defense is too weak to stop an ACC team like Virginia.  This will be more of a half-court game, where the fast break is an afterthought.  Virginia will win more than half of the possessions, probably something like 55% of them, and in a 62 possession game for both teams, that comes out to 68 possessions for the Cavs and 56 possessions for the Bobcats.  A 12-possession win with about 1.1 points per possession means a 13-point win.

Prediction: Virginia

6 USC vs. 11 Drake: This game could be a faster-paced replica of the UVa-Ohio game.  USC and Drake both have very strong offensive efficiency ratings, but Drake’s defensive efficiency is below the threshold of a winning tournament team.  USC will dominate inside in this game, and Drake will have to hit close to half their three-point shots to keep this one close.  USC has one of the highest foul-drawing offenses, and the Trojans should get a lot of “and 1’s” in this game.

Prediction: USC

3 Kansas vs, 14 Eastern Washington: This Kansas team does not have the overall offense to advance to the Final Four, and they may struggle making the Sweet 16.  KU’s offensive efficiency is vulnerable against a quality defensive team.  Eastern Washington is not that team with a porous defense compared to this field.  Superior schedule strength and a somewhat better R+T makes this game a solid one in the Big 12 team’s favor.

Prediction: Kansas

7 Oregon vs. 10 VCU: This should be an interesting game.  Oregon’s exceptional offensive efficiency faces VCU’s exceptional defensive efficiency.  The schedule strength is dead even, so we look at the R+T ratings, and it favors the Ducks by one scoring spurt.

Prediction: Oregon

2 Iowa vs. 15 Grand Canyon: Iowa is oh so close to having Final Four criteria.  Their offense trails only Gonzaga, but their defensive efficiency is #50, just outside the threshold for national champion qualification.  Grand Canyon actually holds a substantial R+T Rating advantage, so we must look at the schedule strength to see if it can be sustained.  It cannot in this case, as Iowa’s schedule is almost 15 points stronger per game.

Prediction: Iowa

EAST REGIONAL

1 Michigan vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s:  Even at less than full strength, Michigan is much too strong for a Northeast Conference opponent.  The Wolverines’ have top 10 offense and defense efficiency ratings, while the Mount has the lowest offensive efficiency in the tournament.  Their defensive efficiency is the ninth lowest in the field.  If the Wolverines can get through this first weekend, there is a chance that Isaiah Livers can return and contribute.

Prediction: Michigan

8 LSU vs. 9 Saint Bonaventure:  LSU has a top five offensive efficiency rating, but their defense is below par for any more than a win or two at best.  St. Bonaventure could be a surprise winner, and they could give Michigan a run for their money in a Round of 32 game if they can get past LSU.

This game should stay close like an 8-9 game should, and it is almost a 50-50 guess when applying our criteria.  LSU’s schedule strength is slightly stronger, but The Bonnies have a clear R+T advantage.

Prediction: Saint Bonaventure

5 Colorado vs. 12 Georgetown: It was the worst of times early in the year at 5-10 and the best of times late in the year at 8-2 for the Georgetown Hoyas.  If GU is going to continue to play like they did in the latter part of the schedule, their overall criteria must be looked at in a different light.  The trouble here for Patrick Ewing is the opponent in this game.  Colorado is very close to being considered an Elite 8 dark horse.  The Buffs have an offensive efficiency rating in the top 20, and their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 30.  CU also has the R+T Ratings advantage.

Prediction: Colorado

4 Florida St. vs. 13 UNC-Greensboro: Florida State is another team just shy of the typical criteria of a Final Four team.  The Seminoles are a worthy Sweet 16 team with an offensive efficiency rating in the top 10.  Their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 50, which is just outside of Final 4 worthy. The Seminoles could beat a Michigan team without Livers.

UNCG would be totally outmanned in this game if it wasn’t for a very good R+T rating, and even though FSU’s schedule strength is better, it is not enough to make this game a slam dunk runaway win.  UNCG could keep this close for more minutes than the Seminoles like.

Prediction: Florida St.

6 BYU vs. 11 UCLA: A lot of national talk show hosts and guests believe BYU was given a higher seed than they deserved.  Some people believe that they should have been a 9, 10, or even an 11 seed.  We don’t share that opinion.  BYU actually has the stronger schedule strength, as they have played the number one team three times and won at Utah State and San Diego State.  BYU has the better R+T Rating in this game as well, and the Cougars are substantially better defensively than the Bruins.

Prediction: BYU

3 Texas vs. 14 Abilene Christian: Abilene Christian will be playing for more than a spot in the Round of 32.  Beating Texas would be as special as Texas making the Final Four.  However, this Longhorns squad is tough, tough enough to become Shaka Smart’s second Final Four team, even though it would require one big upset and maybe one minor upset.

Texas has an offensive efficiency rating just outside the top 20 and a defensive efficiency rating in the 30’s.  With a schedule strength that is 16 points stronger than ACU’s, the slight R+T Rating advantage of the Wildcats is nullified.

Prediction: Texas

7 Connecticut vs. 10 Maryland: As hot as Georgetown was at the end of the season, they did lose twice to Connecticut.  The Huskies are another team with efficiency ratings and schedule strength strong enough to be considered a dark horse for advancing to the Sweet 16 and possibly the Elite 8.

Maryland will not be an automatic win for UConn.  In fact, this game is barely past toss-up.  UConn’s offensive efficiency is 24 and their defensive efficiency is 25, but Maryland’s offensive efficiency is just a little lower at 42 with a defensive efficiency almost exactly the same as the Huskies.  Connecticut’s biggest advantage in this game is the R+T Rating, which is slightly offset by Maryland’s somewhat stronger schedule strength.

Prediction: Connecticut

2 Alabama vs. 15 Iona: Can Rick Pitino work his magic and pull of a major upset?  Don’t bet on it.  His Iona Gaels have the sixth weakest offensive efficiency rating and eighth weakest defensive efficiency rating in the tournament.  Meanwhile, Alabama has more than enough superior criteria numbers to win this game with ease, even if their three-point shots don’t fall.  Iona will have a tough time scoring points in this game.

Prediction: Alabama

Those are our Round of 64 picks.  Now, we will finish it up by picking the rest of the bracket using Bracketnomics.

Round of 32

Baylor over Wisconsin

Purdue over Villanova

Arkansas over Utah St.

Ohio St. over Virginia Tech

Illinois over Loyola (Chi.)

Oklahoma St. over Tennessee

West Virginia over San Diego St.

Houston over Rutgers

Gonzaga over Oklahoma

Virginia over UCSB

USC over Kansas

Iowa over Oregon

Michigan over Saint Bonaventure

Florida St. over Colorado

Texas over BYU

Alabama over Connecticut

Sweet 16

Baylor over Purdue

Ohio St. over Arkansas

Illinois over Oklahoma St.

Houston over West Virginia

Gonzaga over Virginia

Iowa over USC

Michigan over Florida St. (if Livers returns)

Texas over Alabama

Elite 8

Ohio St. over Baylor

Illinois over Houston

Gonzaga over Iowa

Texas over Michigan

National Semifinals

Illinois over Ohio St.

Gonzaga over Texas

National Championship

Illinois over Gonzaga *

Note: If Gonzaga defeats Oklahoma, Virginia, and Iowa to get to the Final 4, their Strength of Schedule will then be above the minimum threshold needed to win all the marbles.

Here is a look at each team’s criteria. Maybe you can see something we didn’t see!

Criteria A: The Biggies

TeamO-EffD-EffSOSR + T
Abilene Christian1573044.115.8
Alabama34261.07.3
Appalachian St.22720547.75.2
Arkansas351458.814.2
Baylor34458.218.2
BYU282659.014.1
Clemson992060.64.3
Cleveland St.19912148.93.7
Colgate4314047.716.2
Colorado172958.014.5
Connecticut242558.714.8
Creighton144058.44.5
Drake1912050.716.9
Drexel9524747.19.3
E. Washington8615247.95.0
Florida403760.04.3
Florida St.104859.011.3
Georgetown854161.07.5
Georgia Tech275258.82.8
Gonzaga11057.822.0
Grand Canyon1427446.921.2
Hartford25412745.20.7
Houston81655.527.0
Illinois7562.820.8
Iona21016145.412.1
Iowa25061.411.6
Kansas59661.311.9
Liberty5216844.312.6
Loyola (Chi)49153.016.2
LSU512560.76.1
Maryland422761.82.3
Michigan6761.815.0
Michigan St.983261.35.9
Missouri515861.53.5
Morehead St.2147248.77.5
Mount St. Mary’s28713646.214.8
Norfolk St.20421943.48.0
North Carolina531560.421.5
North Texas1194253.89.2
Ohio St.47958.48.7
Ohio U2917457.58.4
Oklahoma365359.46.2
Oklahoma St.542262.06.1
Oral Roberts7428548.5-2.3
Oregon167657.19.2
Oregon St.6511757.96.0
Purdue232361.614.2
Rutgers751862.22.5
San Diego St.441155.917.3
St. Bonaventure381756.814.1
Syracuse228958.74.2
Tennessee71458.910.7
Texas213661.210.4
Texas Southern23623643.313.9
Texas Tech332459.713.2
UCLA268654.312.5
UCSB668253.419.2
UNCG1296750.815.0
USC301958.716.9
Utah St.112854.623.7
VCU1171257.45.1
Villanova96859.211.2
Virginia123358.98.5
Virginia Tech555456.58.8
West Virginia116562.111.4
Wichita St.5610356.62.3
Winthrop1207045.324.0
Wisconsin321361.74.1

Glossary:

O-Eff: Offensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and most top 10

D-Eff: Defensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and all top 50

SOS: The PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule. All past national champions were higher than 56.0, and most were 60.0 and higher. Usually, one Final Four team has an SOS between 50 and 56.

R+T Rating: The PiRate Ratings estimate of “spurtability.” The higher the number, the more likely a team will enjoy the better scoring spurt. However, this rating goes hand-in-hand with SOS, so it must be handicapped on a per game basis while comparing schedule strengths. All national champions have had R+T ratings above 12.0, and most were over 15.0. A team with an R+T rating above 15.0 and SOS above 60.0 is tournament tough. If in turn, this team has a top 10 O-Eff and top 20 D-Eff, they are going to advance very far into the Dance. Teams with R+T ratings under 5.00 are in trouble after the first round.

Criteria B

TeamSeniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?37+ 3ptF/C 12+ ppg2 F/C 20/12?
Abilene Christian23035.3YesNo
Alabama41137.8NoNo
Appalachian St.22331.7NoNo
Arkansas32133.9YesNo
Baylor24341.8NoNo
BYU32137.8NoNo
Clemson32034.6YesNo
Cleveland St.33131.9NoNo
Colgate32340.2NoNo
Colorado52136.7NoNo
Connecticut23133.6NoNo
Creighton32137.0NoNo
Drake43037.0NoNo
Drexel22137.2YesYes
E. Washington23135.4YesYes
Florida05135.7YesNo
Florida St.24139.0YesYes
Georgetown31136.6YesYes
Georgia Tech42334.9YesNo
Gonzaga22336.5YesYes
Grand Canyon50033.2YesYes
Hartford14032.7NoNo
Houston22136.1NoNo
Illinois23137.6YesYes
Iona30137.2NoNo
Iowa21138.6YesYes
Kansas22No34.4YesYes
Liberty23No39.1NoNo
Loyola (Chi)50No36.8YesNo
LSU04335.0YesYes
Maryland23034.6NoNo
Michigan51138.7YesYes
Michigan St.13032.0YesNo
Missouri42132.0YesYes
Morehead St.14No35.1YesYes
Mount St. Mary’s15133.7NoNo
Norfolk St.41136.8NoNo
North Carolina11No31.7YesYes
North Texas32137.6NoYes
Ohio St.24136.5YesYes
Ohio U13334.4YesYes
Oklahoma42133.8NoNo
Oklahoma St.11133.8NoNo
Oral Roberts22139.0YesYes
Oregon42139.4YesNo
Oregon St.32133.0NoNo
Purdue03130.7YesYes
Rutgers24131.1NoNo
San Diego St.52139.5YesNo
St. Bonaventure07037.5NoNo
Syracuse12333.7YesYes
Tennessee21133.8NoNo
Texas32136.2NoNo
Texas Southern35129.6NoYes
Texas Tech13134.6NoNo
UCLA14139.0NoNo
UCSB41333.7YesYes
UNCG24130.0NoNo
USC32134.6YesYes
Utah St.14133.6YesYes
VCU21132.9NoNo
Villanova23035.2YesYes
Virginia32138.1YesYes
Virginia Tech21134.5YesYes
West Virginia14138.7YesYes
Wichita St.23134.9NoNo
Winthrop24No35.3YesNo
Wisconsin60136.0YesNo

Glossary:

Seniors 8 & Juniors 8: These are the numbers of seniors and juniors in each teams’ top 8 players. Typically, the more experienced teams have the maturity to win close games in high leverage situations. Many times, these players have “been there” before. The best example of this is Georgetown’s Fred Brown. As a sophomore in the 1982 National Championship Game against North Carolina, the last possession of the game was too high leverage for an underclassman to handle. He made a serous unforced gaffe, and Carolina won. Two years later, the senior Brown was like a coach on the floor, as he helped the Hoyas win their lone national championship.

1/3 Clutch?: Successful tournament teams need an anchor that can pick up the tough points at crunch time or steal a pass on defense and key a spurt. If there isn’t one star, a team can get by with a trio of semi-clutch players. Either one is fine, so you want to see a “1” or “3” here and not a “0.” A team with a “0” doesn’t mean that they don’t have a player that can hit the last-second winning shot. Think of two pinch-hitters in baseball. Our clutch player is the PH that hits .300, and not .250 like the “0” clutch team PH.

37+ 3pt: In recent years with Four Factors’ data driving the way teams play, 3-point percentages have mattered more and more. It’s not the number of treys knocked down that matter; it’s the percentage that counts. If a team hits 37% or better from behind the arc, it forces defenses to stop them, and it opens up the middle. A 40% 3-point shooter is as effective as a 60% 2-point shooter.

F/C 12+ ppg / 2 F/C 20/12?: This can be an either or thing but if both criteria are met, it strengthens the deal. National championship and Final 4 teams can be perimeter-oriented, but they still need to have at least one inside player that scored 12 or more points per game, or two frontcourt players that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. The deeper the tournament progresses, the better the team defenses get. Teams that live by the jump shot and have no inside options tend to die by the jump shot before the Final 4. Teams that are dominant in the paint tend to be more consistent.

Criteria C

TeamTS MargDbl Fig#OReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37DFT Rat <31
Abilene Christian55.2-49.5331.745.035.039.4
Alabama54.2-48.9431.546.428.631.9
Appalachian St.52.5-50.9429.948.134.324.3
Arkansas55.0-50.6431.746.932.729.4
Baylor59.3-52.1337.548.127.031.6
BYU58.2-49.7328.745.327.429.5
Clemson53.4-51.8126.647.523.629.5
Cleveland St.53.3-53.0330.950.832.037.1
Colgate59.6-48.4428.149.431.125.1
Colorado56.3-51.0330.846.429.928.0
Connecticut52.9-50.4336.645.629.636.9
Creighton57.0-49.9524.846.126.925.7
Drake57.3-51.54*31.648.224.428.6
Drexel57.6-53.0429.450.428.627.2
E. Washington57.4-50.2523.447.230.327.3
Florida56.2-51.3430.748.433.934.8
Florida St.57.5-51.1335.544.232.736.3
Georgetown53.3-50.7432.447.430.325.9
Georgia Tech56.6-54.9424.750.829.028.9
Gonzaga63.3-50.4430.446.836.625.9
Grand Canyon57.4-47.4332.244.132.228.5
Hartford53.3-50.0324.850.728.725.0
Houston55.2-46.7339.642.929.741.6
Illinois58.3-49.8333.045.439.230.4
Iona55.1-50.5333.445.836.146.4
Iowa57.3-50.5330.745.832.022.7
Kansas53.3-50.0431.345.530.626.4
Liberty60.9-49.6223.846.523.727.2
Loyola (Chi)59.8-48.7125.344.731.421.7
LSU56.4-51.7431.551.334.029.2
Maryland56.1-51.0320.645.833.625.9
Michigan58.2-48.4329.442.329.024.5
Michigan St.51.5-52.0130.448.231.437.1
Missouri54.3-52.4328.648.237.536.4
Morehead St.55.1-49.2324.447.336.023.1
Mount St. Mary’s51.5-49.4231.645.629.724.6
Norfolk St.53.9-51.4228.947.438.540.7
North Carolina51.6-51.4341.246.834.827.1
North Texas57.2-50.3428.345.327.431.4
Ohio St.57.3-52.4329.150.535.034.0
Ohio U58.1-54.7528.851.229.830.2
Oklahoma54.1-51.7327.346.329.222.8
Oklahoma St.55.5-50.6231.946.736.330.5
Oral Roberts58.2-52.1223.847.227.332.3
Oregon56.6-53.6528.350.026.827.1
Oregon St.53.9-53.8230.151.934.037.7
Purdue54.5-51.5232.249.732.230.4
Rutgers52.1-51.3327.447.427.633.2
San Diego St.56.2-50.2229.043.734.531.9
St. Bonaventure53.6-48.2533.645.127.928.3
Syracuse54.5-51.7330.249.228.325.0
Tennessee54.2-49.9331.444.835.131.2
Texas55.9-50.4331.345.834.036.7
Texas Southern52.6-49.5332.745.338.332.9
Texas Tech53.7-51.3333.644.839.236.5
UCLA55.2-53.9530.249.432.628.0
UCSB57.9-50.9329.446.034.227.1
UNCG50.6-52.0131.948.521.830.6
USC54.5-48.7235.642.237.524.7
Utah St.53.3-49.2335.742.930.125.7
VCU55.0-49.8228.645.934.035.4
Villanova56.3-54.0428.051.030.025.8
Virginia58.9-51.1323.146.122.024.5
Virginia Tech55.3-51.6228.447.633.230.9
West Virginia53.0-53.0435.551.328.319.8
Wichita St.51.4-49.0230.647.136.528.4
Winthrop56.3-51.9435.549.235.733.9
Wisconsin53.0-51.1223.747.127.028.5

Glossary:

TS Marg.: True shooting % margin. The numbers shown are the offensive TS% followed by the defensive TS%. This is a secondary criterion already factored in the efficiency numbers but can be used to look at when efficiency numbers are close to even. A good margin is 6% or more.

Dbl Fig #: The number of players averaging double figure scoring. If a team has four players that score 10-20 points per game, it is seldom that all four can be shut down in a game. If they have three players, they are still okay. Two or less usually indicates a bit of trouble to get to the Final 4.

-45% vs. 2: This criterion looks for teams that hold opponents under 45% on 2-point shots. While 3-point percentage is a key offensive stat, stopping two-point shots is the defensive key. Most national champions met this criterion, and almost every Final 4 team that did not meet this criterion lost if their opponent did meet it. It is still important in earlier rounds.

FT Rate 37 & DFT Rat <31: Making a lot of free throws is nice and can secure a small lead late in a game. However, there are two much more important foul stats. A team that gets to the foul line a lot prior to the final two minutes of games gets there because they have a superior offense that is hard to defend and thus is fouled more than average. Additionally, more fouls lead to foul trouble and automatic bench time for key players. Likewise, a team with a low defensive FT rate is a sign of a strong team defense. FT Rate 37 means a team with an offensive FT Rate (FTA/FGA) of 37.0 or better, while DFT Rat <31 means a team with a defensive FT rate under 31.0.

There is a caveat here: As the game becomes more and more of a three-point shooting game, fouling drops. That happened this year, as total fouls called has dropped. For this season, look at teams with 33.3% or better FT Rates and 28% or lower defensive FT Rates.

Criteria D

TeamChampionsCoach Exp.Score MargFG% DiffWin Strk
Abilene ChristianYes6417.16.08
AlabamaYes329.82.610
Appalachian St.Yes996.4-0.64
ArkansasNo1611.74.09
BaylorYes818.06.018
BYUNo9910.27.35
ClemsonNo163.30.95
Cleveland St.Yes990.92.99
ColgateYes6417.79.113
ColoradoNo329.73.56
ConnecticutNo327.92.95
CreightonNo328.77.06
DrakeNo9912.77.218
DrexelYes994.73.64
E. WashingtonYes998.65.39
FloridaNo84.24.34
Florida St.No88.67.65
GeorgetownYes990.70.94
Georgia TechYes325.51.58
GonzagaYes223.013.226
Grand CanyonYes6414.511.59
HartfordYes992.61.65
HoustonYes819.77.78
IllinoisYes3212.28.77
IonaYes16.34.66
IowaNo3211.95.56
KansasNo17.33.48
LibertyYes3215.38.212
Loyola (Chi)Yes416.09.811
LSUNo166.84.45
MarylandNo163.84.75
MichiganYes9910.98.911
Michigan St.No1-1.6-0.16
MissouriNo161.71.86
Morehead St.Yes995.45.712
Mount St. Mary’sYes991.42.14
Norfolk St.Yes996.03.26
North CarolinaNo16.32.03
North TexasYes998.66.64
Ohio St.No166.33.67
Ohio UYes997.64.56
OklahomaNo45.62.15
Oklahoma St.No994.25.56
Oral RobertsYes996.02.24
OregonYes47.03.78
Oregon St.Yes642.4-0.43
PurdueNo84.83.75
RutgersNo641.83.16
San Diego St.Yes6413.56.814
St. BonaventureYes6410.16.17
SyracuseNo15.12.63
TennesseeNo49.34.57
TexasYes46.44.16
Texas SouthernYes645.15.29
Texas TechNo29.63.34
UCLANo164.32.37
UCSBYes9913.76.513
UNCGYes647.21.07
USCNo169.77.37
Utah St.No6411.05.711
VCUNo646.54.67
VillanovaNo18.40.49
VirginiaYes18.16.47
Virginia TechNo326.63.34
West VirginiaNo45.2-1.44
Wichita St.Yes995.00.58
WinthropYes9912.73.016
WisconsinNo165.3-0.25

Glossary

Champions: This refers to a team that won either their regular season conference championship or their postseason conference tournament. Since 1990, 29 of 30 national champions met this criterion.

Coach Exp.: How far has the head coach advanced in the past? When looking at fairly evenly matched teams, a coach with more Dance experience can be the difference. A first-timer may make that crucial mistake that allows the opponent to have that brief scoring run.

Score Marg.: Something like 95% of all national champions had double digit scoring margins. This goes back to the very beginning of the tournament in the 1930s. 98% had scoring margins in excess of 7.5 points per game. Teams with scoring margins in excess of 15 points that come from a power conference are 100% legit powers, so keep that in mind. Mid-majors with 15+ point scoring margins have to be carefully scrutinized. If their power conference opponent played other mid-majors and did not win by an average as high as the Mid-major in the tournament, that means something.

FG% Diff: In the eight-decade history of the tournament, more Final 4 teams had FG% differences in excess of 7.5% than not and a great number had double-digit margins. If a team shot 48% from the field and gave up 38% from the field and played in a power conference, they are truly tough. A team with a double digit FG% difference that played a tough schedule can overcome a lower than average R+T rating, but usually they will run into a team with a superior R+T rating also with a tough SOS, and that’s the end for the lower R+T team.

Win Strk: Should we expect a team to win six straight tournament games if they did not win six straight regular season games? Most of the past champions actually had 10 or more game winning streaks or multiple streaks of 6 or more. Above, where you see numbers in bold, the teams had a second winning streak of 6 or more games in addition to the number shown.

March 19, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019: Picking The Bracket

Here it is!

I’ve always wanted to post those words.  As a fanatic of the old Mother Road, Route 66, those three words have a special meaning.  In the “good ole days,”  The Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City, Arizona, used those three words to advertise that after miles of driving and seeing numerous signs for this tourist stop, they had finally arrived.

Like those Mother Road drivers, it is my hope that I have finally arrived at a successful system, one that will pick a large percentage of winners in the Big Dance.

The PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics System has been successful in the past–very successful.  Then, again, there have been major bust years, where throwing a dart at a dartboard with team names would have been just as reliable.

Numerous revisions to the system have brought me to settle on what you might have read yesterday, the Bracketnomics Tutorial, which you can read here:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/bracketnomics-2019-picking-your-brackets/

Today, I will attempt to interpret that data from the tutorial and select a bracket based on the statistics.  This is a 100% mechanical process with no objectivity.  If you believe in 100% mechanical stock investing, then this publication is totally for you.  If you are more of a hunch player, then you will need to alter this information to better fit your beliefs, but at least let our data be a dissenting view when you consider your choices.

This post will pick all 67 games, including the games in Dayton that 99% of the bracket pools do not include.  I will pick each round today.

After the conclusion of each round, I will then post an updated bracket to assist all of you that play in a pool that allows you to pick new winners after each round.

Remember, this is still a system in its infancy with growing pains.  What I have tried to do is isolate through back-tested methods similar statistical data that past Final Four and National Championship teams possessed.

For instance, almost every national champion has possessed a scoring margin of 8 points  or better, and a large majority had double-digit scoring margins.  Almost all national champions have come from one of the “Power Conferences” or in the past were one of the top 10 Independents when there were more than 30 teams not in a conference.

Very few teams have ever made the Final Four with a negative rebounding margin, but considerably more had negative turnover margins.  At the same time, a lot of these teams had high steals per game averages, even if their turnover margin was negative.

One final factor I like to look at is style of play.  Most National Champions have been up-tempo teams that run the fast break, play some form of pressure defense (not necessarily full-court), and moves the ball quicker than average in the scoring zone.  This is not 100% exclusive.  Some patient teams that play a non-gambling style of defense have made the Final Four and a couple even won the tournament, but the trend is to go with the team that has the better chance of going on a scoring run with a 10-point or better spurt.  History shows that teams that play like North Carolina and Duke tend to get these spurts more frequently than teams like Virginia and Kansas St.

Let’s take a look at the data, starting with the First Four games in Dayton.

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Prairie View A&M

43.07

-2.7

30.0

66.1

15.2

21.7

-3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.2

28.9

68.1

17.1

18.1

-2.4

This is an excellent example for the first game of the tournament.  SOS (Strength of Schedule) is dead even, so the rest of the stats are 100% comparable.  FDU will more than likely have the better shooting night.  Rebounding should be about even, and Prairie View will more than likely force FDU into a few more mistakes than they normally commit.  Because both teams possess R+T ratings below zero, these are two 16-seeds that are going nowhere for sure.  The winner will be a blowout victim Thursday.  This is about as tossup as you can get.  I’ll go with the team with the better, but terrible R+T Rating and select

Fairleigh-Dickinson

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Temple

54.13

0.5

26.0

71.1

13.8

18.1

-3.1

Belmont

48.60

9.7

25.6

76.4

13.8

14.8

6.0

Temple has the stronger schedule by about 5.7 points per game.  Thus, the system calls for Temple’s stats to carry stronger weight than Belmont’s stats.  Temple faced better defensive teams on average than Belmont, but not enough to counter a difference of 9.2%.  Temple will have marginal rebounding advantages on both sides of the floor, but the Owls have a negative R+T.  Belmont’s R+T rating is good enough to win early, and even though the Bruins are 0-7 in past NCAA Tournaments, their mechanical data show that they are the better team.  It could be one little spurt in the second half that wins this game.

Belmont

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.5

35.1

73.7

19.0

17.3

8.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.4

20.9

75.7

14.3

13.2

-6.1

UNC Central has the weakest SOS in the entire field, and there isn’t another one even close.  North Dakota State has an R+T rating that is near the bottom of the field, one that in the past has never won more than one game in a Dance.  Once again, these are two 16-seeds that have no chance against a 1-seed.  I’m not sure they could beat any of the 15-seeds.  This one is a difficult choice–the weakest schedule or the worst R+T score.  Because I expect very low shooting percentages in this game, I will take the team likely to get the most second chance points.

North Carolina Central

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

St. John’s

55.79

-0.2

21.3

70.3

12.8

18.3

-8.0

Arizona St.

55.20

2.3

32.4

73.6

15.9

16.7

6.8

Once again, we have teams with identical SOS, which makes the selection a lot easier.  St. John’s has the second worst R+T rating in the entire field.  Case closed right away.  Arizona State will enjoy at least one big run in this game, and the Sun Devils will put this game away at that point.  This has the looks of a potential blowout win.

Arizona State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Louisville

61.61

6.1

29.2

74.2

15.5

14.3

2.9

Minnesota

59.44

1.8

31.7

72.2

15.0

14.5

1.1

Louisville’s schedule is marginally tougher, so they will get a slight upward adjustment  in their data.  The Cardinals have a clear advantage in true shooting margin and an ever so slight R+T advantage.  This makes it 3 for 3 in Louisville’s favor, but it’s three slim advantages.  The Cards are the slim favorite according to the data.

Louisville

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

LSU

58.56

3.2

37.3

69.6

15.3

18.0

10.1

Yale

49.95

8.8

26.0

75.9

16.1

13.5

3.6

Note:   Unless something changes, LSU Coach Will Wade is still suspended and will not coach this game.  My system has no contingency to adjust LSU’s stats.

LSU’s SOS is almost nine points stronger, so their numbers must be improved.  Thus, the Tigers have a slightly better TS%, a much better rebounding advantage, and a considerably better R+T rating.  Yale might keep it close for some time, but LSU will enjoy a killer scoring spurt to put this game away.

LSU

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Auburn

59.71

1.8

33.0

68.0

14.7

22.0

3.9

New Mexico St.

48.05

4.8

36.8

79.0

14.5

17.6

18.7

This is going to be a game you will want to watch, even if you have no dog in this fight.  I expect the teams to top 75 possessions in this game.  Two of the top 20 coaches in college basketball will face off, and Aggie head coach Chris Jans should be on the radar of some power conference teams looking for a new coach.

Auburn has a large SOS advantage of 11.66 points per game, which is prohibitive.  The TS margin, offensive rebounding advantage, and R+T numbers heavily favor NMSU, and the Aggies have the top R+T rating in the tournament.  However, with a SOS advantage of almost a dozen points, Auburn will win the turnover battle, and NMSU’s rebounding advantage will be heavily tempered.  Score one for the SEC, but it would not be a shock if New Mexico State makes this a close game and even has a chance to win.  The Aggies should be considered as one of your potential upset teams, but I think there are better upset chances in this round.

Auburn

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Vermont

46.62

6.5

27.8

78.8

14.4

17.8

8.8

Florida St.

59.87

3.5

33.1

73.1

16.5

18

8.3

It is rare to see a Round of 64 game where the SOS difference is 13+ points and it isn’t a 1 vs. 16 or 2 vs. 15 game.  Florida State’s superior schedule makes the relatively equal numbers in the other data inconsequential.  If you are into horse racing, you know doubt know how often a non-winner of two lifetime races enters a graded handicap and beats a classic champion horse.  Vermont is the three year old that won a race against other non-winners and then entered a Graded stakes race against four and five year old horses, some of which were contenders in the Derby when they were three.  Class wins horse races, and it wins NCAA Tournament games when the upstart isn’t the next Justify.  Vermont isn’t a Justify.

Florida State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Michigan St.

61.44

13.8

33.9

73.4

16.2

12.8

11.7

Bradley

48.52

1.7

27.4

73.8

16.8

16.5

-0.5

This game has the same issue that the previous game has, but the data is even more biased in favor of the better team.  Michigan State could start its second five in this game and probably win.  Bradley will have to settle for being glad they got to Dance.  If Tom Izzo wanted to do so, he could run up the score to a 40-point victory.  Sparty has a chance to go deep into this Tournament with their superior numbers.  Only an inability to force turnovers might eventually end their run.

Michigan State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Maryland

59.76

7.4

33.9

75.3

17.0

12.5

8.6

Temple

54.13

0.5

26.0

71.1

13.8

18.1

-3.1

Belmont

48.60

9.7

25.6

76.4

13.8

14.8

6.0

In most of your pools, you get a free pass on the play-in games, but some of you might actually have to select these games.  Thus, I am showing you both of the teams Maryland could face.

Against Temple, the Terps have a slight SOS advantage and a humongous R+T advantage.  This system’s rule of thumb is to play against teams with a negative R+T rating.

Against Belmont, the Terps have a large SOS advantage, while the remaining stats are rather close.  This system’s other rule of thumb is to play the team with the superior SOS in this case.  So, the outcome should be the same no matter which team Maryland plays.

Maryland

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kansas

62.55

5.5

29.7

71.6

16.1

15.7

1.9

Northeastern

51.11

6.7

22.7

75.7

15.1

14.9

-1.9

Kansas is not destined for a long stay at this cotillion.  The Jayhawks do not have the spurtability needed to win in the later rounds, but for this round, KU will feast on second chance points and take advantage of a Northeastern defense incapable of stopping a Big 12 offense.  This has the makings of a 20-point win.

Kansas

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Marquette

57.57

8.9

29.1

73.7

17.0

14.5

2.4

Murray St.

47.53

10.6

32.0

70.7

14.7

17.2

7.8

The old system had an assumption that a team with one star and average teammates rarely advanced far in the tournaments.  Remember, Michael Jordan and Stephan Curry played for teams with very good talent.  Jordan had Sam Perkins and James Worthy for teammates.

Ja Morant qualifies as one fantastic star, while the rest of his team is slightly above average but not in the Davidson mold when Curry and crew went to the Elite 8.

Marquette’s stats are not great.  The Big East was a bit weaker than normal this season, so MU is not a team to advance very far in your bracket, and in Markus Howard, you have one big star.  The difference is that the Golden Eagles have four well-above average players rounding out their starting lineup and a very good sub.

Murray State has an upset chance in this game, but when you break it down closely, Marquette should have a little more in the tank in the final minutes.  If you are looking for upset possibilities, this could definitely be put in that category, but it looks like Marquette is just good enough to avoid an upset.

Marquette

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Nevada

52.55

9.0

26.5

75.4

12.7

17.1

7.0

Florida

59.80

1.2

31.1

68.3

15.5

19.4

-0.5

This is your first big upset possibility in the games previewed so far.  Florida has a seven-point SOS advantage, but is is not enough to overcome their deficiencies in the other statistics.  Nevada coach Eric Musselman is, in my opinion, the best college basketball coach in the nation today, better than Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Jay Wright.  If UCLA is not seriously looking at him for their vacancy, they are making a monumental mistake.

Let’s look at the data.  Nevada will take more intelligent shots than Florida, other than when the Gators get a couple of cheap baskets on offensive rebounds.  The Gators’s pressure defense will not be all that effective, and Florida has shown a propensity to make crucial mistakes in the final minutes of games.  This isn’t part of the criteria per se, but it shows in their turnover percentage, and their negative R+T rating,  and the criteria does say to play against a negative R+T.

Nevada

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kentucky

60.54

9.5

36.5

74.2

15.9

16.1

15.4

Abilene Christian

42.42

4.3

29.4

73.3

15.5

21.7

5.9

Under John Calipari, Kentucky has shown a tendency to emulate their 1958 National Champions.  Adolph Rupp’s “Fiddlin’ Five” frequently allowed an opponent to enjoy a small lead, and then like a lightning flash make a big run to decide the outcome.  The Wildcats of 2019 have displayed this characteristic more times than not.

Abilene Christian isn’t a terrible team.  They earned their invitation by sweeping the regular season and conference tournament in the Southland Conference.  However, their data is not comparable when past Southland power Stephen F. Austin won in the Dance.  This game is a mismatch, and once the Wildcats stop fiddlin’, they will run away from the other Wildcats.

Kentucky

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Villanova

58.16

5.0

31.1

72.6

14.2

15.4

3.5

Saint Mary’s

55.33

5.1

31.2

76.8

14.1

14.7

9.6

In my opinion, this should be a great game to watch.  The teams are fairly evenly matched.  Villanova’s SOS is marginally better, while SMC has the better R+T Rating.  Both teams rely on offensive rebounding to score a good bit of their baskets, and Saint Mary’s has the ability to limit Villanova’s offensive rebounding.  It comes down to R+T rating.  The Gaels have a slight advantage over the defending national champions.  I consider this a 50-50 game, but the data says to take the Gaels.

Saint Mary’s

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Gonzaga

56.14

17.7

30.6

72.9

12.8

16.5

14.3

Prairie View A&M

43.07

-2.7

30.0

66.1

15.2

21.7

-3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.2

28.9

68.1

17.1

18.1

-2.4

There is no need to preview this.  Maybe, if the game was just five minutes long, Gonzaga would have a 2% chance of being upset.  However, over 40 minutes, the only upset will be if the Bulldogs fail to win this game by more than 30 points, no matter which of the two 16-seeds wins in Dayton.

Gonzaga

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Michigan

60.07

8.4

24.0

75.0

12.0

16.1

3.2

Montana

46.25

5.4

27.0

75.3

15.5

17.5

4.7

A lot of fans and so-called pundits believe Montana has a serious upset chance in this game.  The data here disagrees.  Michigan’s SOS is so much stronger, almost 14 points per game.  The Wolverines’ TS Margin is much better thanks to a superior defense, and the Maize and Blue limit mistakes.  I believe this game has more chance to be a blowout than to approach tossup status and look for the Wolverines to win by double digits.

Michigan

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Wofford

52.24

7.9

33.1

76.6

13.6

18.2

14.3

Seton Hall

58.56

0.5

29.5

70.6

15.2

17.4

-0.6

It’s always a bit scary to look at a Mid-major favorite and go with the chalk.  Is Wofford as good as advertised?  I have seen them play about five times this year, and they have an incredible inside-outside offensive game combined with an above-average defense.

Seton Hall’s advantage rests in their SOS superiority, but the Big East was not a beast this year.  The Hall only has a minor advantage here.  In every other data point, the Terriers look like pit bulls in this game, and Seton Hall has a negative R+T rating.

Wofford

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Purdue

60.84

2.3

34.9

73.5

13.5

17.2

11.4

Old Dominion

48.87

1.3

32.3

75.2

15.1

16.3

8.4

Purdue has been one of the biggest disappointments in NCAA Tournament history ever since Joe Barry Carroll led the Boilermakers to the 1980 Final Four.  Purdue has been upset numerous times in nearly 40 years.  This system doesn’t consider that to be a factor.  However, many of those Purdue teams lacked the R+T Rating advantage.  This one does.  Purdue has a strong SOS and a double-digit R+T.  Ironically, where the Boilermakers have been historically strong, TS% margin, they are rather mediocre there this year.

Old Dominion is a solid team from an average conference.  Their only liability is an equally mediocre TS% margin, and their SOS is a tad below average.  Look for the Big Ten to pick up a win, but at some point PU will stink in a game and fail once again to reach the Elysian Fields otherwise known as Minneapolis.

Purdue

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Syracuse

59.55

1.6

30.1

66.6

15.8

19.7

-3.7

Baylor

58.27

1.3

38.0

71.3

16.5

16.1

9.1

This should be another interesting game to watch, and it should be close.  Syracuse’s 2-3 matchup zone can be hard to attack without a lot of experience facing it, so the Orangemen frequently outperform their statistics in the Big Dance.  Baylor frequently plays better in the tournament than they do in the regular season with athletes that have free reign to shine.

The numbers show one glaring liability.  The ‘Cuse have a negative R+T rating, something rarely seen in a Jim Boeheim team.  Syracuse usually rebounds quite well out of their zone, but not so this year.  Baylor has one of the best offensive rebounding numbers in the field, so the Bears have the best chance to exploit a weakness in this game.

Baylor

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Cincinnati

55.48

2.9

37.2

70.9

13.4

18.2

12.9

Iowa

58.09

4.5

30.0

70.9

15.0

16.1

-0.4

In recent years, Cincinnati has owned criteria that yell Elite 8, even Final Four worthy, but the Bearcats never come through.  This isn’t their best team in recent years, so it figures that Cinti is prone for an early exit, even though the Bearcats are playing close to home.

Iowa peaked in the middle of the season and hasn’t been the same since January.  The Hawkeyes have a slight edge in SOS and TS% margin.  Cincinnati has such an incredible edge in R+T, and Iowa’s R+T is negative.  This is enough to advance the Bearcats to the Round of 32.  I expect Cinti to get double-digit offensive rebounds and force about 15 turnovers on the Hawkeyes.  That should lead to at least one big scoring spurt.

Cincinnati

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Ole Miss

58.28

3.2

30.4

70.5

16.0

18.2

2.8

Oklahoma

60.26

4.6

26.1

72.3

15.4

15.1

-2.5

What we have here are two swooning schools.  Both teams looked like sure Sweet 16 teams into mid-January.  Since then, both teams have struggled.  The winner is almost assuredly going home after the next round.  As far as this game goes, Oklahoma has that nasty negative R+T rating, and I just cannot pick a team with a negative R+T to win unless their SOS is far superior.  Two points is not that far.

Ole Miss

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Texas Tech

58.01

9.8

28.5

71.4

16.1

20.0

4.6

Northern Kentucky

46.39

6.6

31.0

74.1

15.4

16.8

7.1

This is Northern Kentucky’s second ever NCAA appearance.  Their original appearance resulted in a single-digit loss to big brother Kentucky.  This team is about as good as that team, while this Texas Tech teams is not as good as that Kentucky team.  Of course, the Norse were super fired up to face the Wildcats, and they got their moral victory.

This time, I expect the data to mean much more.  Texas Tech has a whopping SOS advantage of almost 12 points per game.  They have a much better TS% margin when the SOS is handicapped, and even though NKU has a higher R+T number, when you handicap it to SOS, the Red Raiders actually have the advantage here, and I expect TTU to force NKU into up to five more turnovers than they average.

Texas Tech

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kansas St.

58.91

1.4

27.9

74.5

15.1

20.3

3.5

UC-Irvine

47.26

6.6

34.3

73.6

14.9

14.7

12.2

Kansas State is one of those teams on my radar to be a potential upset victim.  Having watched UC-Irvine’s Big West Conference Tournament games, I think they have a shot in this game.

The issue is the SOS numbers.  The Wildcats’ schedule was more than 11 1/2 points stronger per game.  UCI’s toughest opposition the entire season was at home against Utah State, and the Aggies slaughtered the Anteaters by 24 points.  UCI did win at Saint Mary’s.

Kansas State has one big asset–their ability to force turnovers.  The Wildcats are not particularly strong on offense.  There Wildcats play a very patient offense and try to limit possessions, but there are nights where this strategy plays into the oppositions’ hands.  Irvine plays patient, smart basketball and will feel right at home in a 60-65 possession game with less than 120 total points.  Kansas State might have the overall better athletes, but UC-Irvine has a hot coach in Russ Turner, a man tutored by Mike Montgomery with a little Don Nelson in his background.  Here’s a 13-seed that I believe can win an opening game.  It’s a tossup.  Go with the team you believe in your mind and heart should win, because I debated this one for 30 minutes before deciding and to be quite honest, I am not sure I can really determine the superior team according to my system.

UC-Irvine

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Tennessee

59.65

9.7

31.3

70.0

13.9

15.8

5.3

Colgate

47.05

5.7

29.6

73.9

16.7

15.6

3.2

There isn’t much need to discuss much in this game–it’s a mismatch.  Tennessee has slightly better criteria stats than Colgate, and when you add a better than 12 1/2 point superiority per game in SOS, you are looking at a potential 20-30 point win.

Tennessee

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Gardner-Webb

45.44

8.8

24.8

70.2

14.7

16.4

-1.8

Virginia

60.36

13.2

29.9

74.1

12.8

15.6

9.6

Gardner-Webb is not in Baltimore County.  Additionally, the Bulldogs do not have the criteria that UMBC had at this time last year.  GWU has a negative R+T rating, and against the Pack Line defense, they will not get the crucial second chance points on offensive rebounds.  Virginia will control the boards and commit few turnovers.  How do you beat the Cavaliers without winning the rebounding and/or the turnover margin?  UVA will wash that bad taste of 2018 out of their mouths with an ugly final score in the neighborhood of 75 to 50.

Virginia

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Buffalo

53.41

6.0

31.8

73.8

13.5

18.2

10.3

St. John’s

55.79

-0.2

21.3

70.3

12.8

18.3

-8.0

Arizona St.

55.20

2.3

32.4

73.6

15.9

16.7

6.8

Bully for Coach Nate Oats.  He signed a lengthy contract extension to stay in Buffalo, when a lot of other schools were ready to pound on his door.  It makes me wonder if Buffalo has designs on maybe campaigning for a spot in a future expanded American Athletic Conference, with excellent football and basketball programs more than ready to move up.

I expect the Bulls to be facing Arizona State in this game, but let’s for a moment look at the possibility that St. John’s wins in Dayton.  With an R+T rating of -8.0, the rules of this system is to continue to play against this team unless the opponent has an incredibly low SOS, well below 45.00.  Buffalo’s SOS is about where previous Mid-Major Final Four teams George Mason, Wichita State, and Virginia Commonwealth were.  So, if St. John’s advances out of Dayton, go with Buffalo to beat their in-state rival by double digits.

Against Arizona State, this is a much more even game.  Buffalo enjoys only a very slight advantage, making this basically a 50-50 game.  The Bulls have been a little more consistent all season, while ASU has been up and down.  The data says that Buffalo is maybe a 51% chance to be the winner.

There is one other factor in this potential game, and it is not part of the criteria, but the fabulous Buffalo senior class that put this team in the top 20 were recruited by current Sun Devil Coach Bobby Hurley.

Buffalo

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Wisconsin

60.91

6.5

24.0

73.5

12.8

15.0

-1.2

Oregon

55.13

3.8

29.6

71.9

15.5

18.3

4.6

When McDonald’s All-American Bol Bol went out for the season after nine games, it looked like it was Duck Season, and the Pac-12 was full of Elmer J. Fudd hunters on the hardwoods.  Give Coach Dana Altman the utmost respect for making the necessary adjustments when he lost his 5-star stud.  His number two 5-star player, Louis King, was not ready to star when the season began.  As the season progressed, King got better and better.

Wisconsin has a slightly better SOS and TS% Margin.  Rebounding is about equal.  However, The Badgers have a negative R+T rating.  Thus, we go against UW more than in favor of Oregon.

Oregon

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Utah St.

52.13

8.7

32.0

77.8

15.5

15.5

14.8

Washington

55.60

4.4

29.5

65.7

17.4

20.5

-3.6

Utah State might be a dangerous dark horse this year!  They have the criteria resume of a Gonzaga in previous years before Mark Few took the Bulldogs to the Championship Game.  I am not predicting USU to make the Final Four this year, but they might make the second weekend.

In this game, Washington is another one of those teams with a negative R+T rating.  While, I am a bit worried that so many teams made the field this year with sub-zero R+T ratings, until one of these non-spurtable teams get to the Elite 8, they will not have my support.

Utah State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Duke

63.09

10.3

36.1

70.4

15.0

17.1

12.1

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.5

35.1

73.7

19.0

17.3

8.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.4

20.9

75.7

14.3

13.2

-6.1

Don’t even think for a second that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will lose a minute’s sleep thinking about this game, no matter which 16-seed wins in Dayton.  Duke could play this game without Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, or Cam Reddish suiting up.  Heck, Coach K could take his Gary Winton-led team from Army in the 1970’s and win this game.

Duke

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Houston

55.02

8.0

34.4

74.1

14.2

15.8

13.6

Georgia St.

51.14

5.1

23.5

66.2

14.7

18

-9.6

Here is another mismatch game.  Georgia State’s -9.6 R+T rating is dead last in this field, and Houston’s 13.6 R+T rating is seventh best in the field.  Add a better SOS and better TS% margin, and this leads to a major slaughter.  Houston has won some NCAA Tournament games by very large margins in the past.  There was a 35-point pasting of TCU in the Midwest Regional Final in 1968.  The Cougars have an outside chance to top that in this game.  Kelvin Sampson will unload the bench quicker than the way Guy Lewis did, so expect the margin to be in the 20’s.

Houston

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Mississippi St.

59.59

4.3

34.8

70.2

16.5

17.1

6.2

Liberty

46.27

9.2

25.9

74.9

15.0

18.5

5.2

I expect this game to stay somewhat close, at least for most of the game.  Mississippi State has good but not great criteria data.  Liberty’s data is slightly more impressive, but the Bulldogs’ SOS is much stronger, which will probably lead to the Maroon and White prevailing by wearing down and eventually extinguishing the Flames.

Mississippi State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

North Carolina

62.61

5.5

34.4

76.9

14.6

16.5

17.4

Iona

45.43

3.1

25

70.6

15.4

16.1

-5.4

Roy Williams knows how to get his teams ready to play in the Big Dance, and the Tar Heels are heavy favorites to advance deep into this tournament.  Their R+T rating is second best in the field.  Their SOS is also number two.

Iona is fun to watch, as they like to run and gun.  However, this plays right into UNC’s hands.  The Gaels cannot possibly win this game, and it will be hard to keep it within 20 points.  Their -5.4 R+T rating would exclude them from being picked against 50 other teams in this tournament.

North Carolina

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

6.8

31.3

69.3

17.4

20.0

2.9

Central Florida

54.86

9.5

29.3

70.7

15.4

15.5

2.2

This will be another potentially close and exciting game, one worth watching.  The two teams are fairly evenly matched, but only if star Rams’ star guard Marcus Evans is playing at 100% after injuring his knee in an Atlantic 10 Tournament loss to Rhode Island.  When Evans went out, VCU was dominating the Rams.  Without him, they looked like a team that might not have beaten UMass that day.

Central Florida has the unique 7 foot 6 giant, Tacko Fall.  If you haven’t seen him play, do not mistake him for past titans that could barely walk and chew gum at the same time.  Fall is not a gentle giant.  He plays with an attitude, and he is coordinated.  He can play a one-man zone under the basket and change the opponents’ field goal percentage by 10%.  On offense, he is nearly unstoppable when the Knights can get him the ball within arms’ reach of the basket, where he can dunk flat-footed.

With a healthy Evans, VCU can still press full-court and take a lot of Fall’s ability to dominate out of the game.  Make no mistake though; this is not the same Havoc defense run by former coach Shaka Smart.  VCU won’t gamble and go full out for the steal or to force a turnover.  If I had to pick which game might have the best shot at going to overtime, this one might be the one.

Central Florida

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Iowa St.

59.42

7.6

28.7

70.0

13.9

15.9

1.7

Ohio St.

59.18

2.5

27.8

73.9

16.3

16.3

-0.4

Because the SOS’s are close to equal, the remaining stats are easy to compare.  Iowa State has a clear TS% margin, and even though the Cyclones’ R+T is weak, at least it is not negative, like the Buckeyes.

Iowa State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Virginia Tech

58.33

8.6

29.7

72.6

15.4

19.0

6.4

Saint Louis

51.40

-0.8

35.8

75.2

15.8

17.2

11.2

Only three teams enter this tournament with negative TS% margins, and it makes sense.  The object of the game is to put the ball into the hoop, while preventing the other team from doing so.  Add a healthy SOS advantage, and the Billiken’s R+T rating is neutralized.  SLU’s biggest asset is the ability to force their opponents into committing turnovers, but in this game, Virginia Tech is even better at that game.  While I have heard some people  on sports talk radio express the belief that Travis Ford’s team has a legitimate upset chance in this game, I tend to believe that chances are much stronger that the Hokies win by double-digits.

Virginia Tech

 

Here is how I fill out the remainder of the bracket

For the first time ever, the number one seeds have the top four criteria.  Could it be that the Selection Committee Members all have Bachelor of Madness Degrees in Bracketnomics?

Round of 32

Duke over Central Florida

Virginia Tech over Mississippi St.

Maryland over LSU

Michigan St. over Louisville

Gonzaga over Baylor

Florida St. over Marquette

Texas Tech over Buffalo

Michigan over Nevada

Virginia over Ole Miss

UC-Irvine over Oregon

Purdue over Saint Mary’s

Tennessee over Cincinnati

North Carolina over Utah St.

Auburn over Kansas

Houston over Iowa St.

Kentucky over Wofford

 

Sweet 16

Duke over Virginia Tech

Michigan St. over Maryland

Gonzaga over Florida St.

Texas Tech over Michigan

Virginia over UC-Irvine

Tennessee over Purdue

North Carolina over Auburn

Kentucky over Houston

 

Elite 8

Duke over Michigan St.

Gonzaga over Texas Tech

Virginia over Tennessee

North Carolina over Kentucky

 

Final Four

Gonzaga over Duke

North Carolina over Virginia

 

 

Championship Game

Gonzaga over North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 2014

PiRate Ratings–College Basketball Report for Sunday, March 23, 2014

Record in Round 3 Saturday: 6-2  Total for Tournament: 33-7

 

The PiRate Criteria correctly picked 6 of 8 games on Saturday, bringing the total for the tournament to 33-7 for 82.5% accuracy.

 

Here are the matchups for Sunday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

2

Kansas

10

Stanford

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

8

Kentucky

CBS

5:15 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

6

North Carolina

CBS

6:10 PM

Midwest

11

Tennessee

14

Mercer

TNT

7:10 PM

South

4

U C L A

12

Stephen F. Austin

TBS

7:40 PM

West

3

Creighton

6

Baylor

truTV

8:40 PM

East

1

Virginia

8

Memphis

TNT

9:40 PM

West

1

Arizona

8

Gonzaga

TBS

 

 

Kansas vs. Stanford

Even without Joel Embiid, Kansas still holds an advantage on the glass and a large R+T advantage that will give the Jayhawks extra scoring chances.  KU moves to the Sweet 16.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kansas by 5                       Prediction: Kansas 74  Stanford 63

 

Wichita St. vs. Kentucky

It looks like this is the game where Wichita St. has met its match.  Kentucky holds a big advantage on the boards, and a decent advantage in schedule strength.  Wichita State has the shooting and defense advantage, while the turnover edge is minimal to the Shockers.  The key is Kentucky’s superior strength of schedule, enough to give the edge to the Wildcats.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2                   Prediction: Kentucky 62  Wichita St. 58

 

Iowa St. vs. North Carolina

Iowa St. must have an above-average shooting day to have a chance to move on.  North Carolina’s rebounding and R+T advantage is prohibitive, and the Tar Heels are not a bad shooting team.

 

PiRate Criteria: N. Carolina by 1                Predication: North Carolina 77  Iowa St. 74

 

Tennessee vs. Mercer

Two hot teams should make for a great contest.  Mercer is the better shooting team, but not by a lot.  Tennessee has a tiny defensive advantage.  All other statistical data is about equal, except that Tennessee has a much tougher strength of schedule, which is enough to tilt the game in their favor.

 

PiRate Criteria: Tennessee by 3                  Prediction: Tennessee 64  Mercer 57

 

UCLA vs. Stephen F. Austin

This is probably the most interesting game of Sunday.  SFA is no pushover, and the Lumberjacks proved it by defeating VCU.  UCLA has enough talent to make it to the Final Four, but whether the Bruins can remain consistent enough to do so is a question.  Most of the criteria data swing in SFA’s favor, but UCLA has a much better strength of schedule.  All told, the game should be very close, at least for 35 minutes.

 

PiRate Criteria: UCLA by 3                        Prediction: UCLA 66  Stephen F. Austin 59

 

Creighton vs. Baylor

Creighton is the best shooting team remaining in the tournament, but the Blue Jays R+T rating is typical of a team that does not make it to the Sweet 16.  Baylor has a considerable rebounding edge, but the Bears have liabilities in the turnover criteria, enough so that they are our underdog.

 

PiRate Criteria: Creighton by 2                  Prediction: Creighton 76  Baylor 71

 

Virginia vs. Memphis

Virginia is subtly really good with excellent criteria scores in every respect.  Memphis has good criteria scores in every respect, and the Tigers have a decent strength of schedule, just not enough to overcome the Cavaliers’ superiority across the board.

 

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 4                      Prediction: Virginia 65  Memphis 55

 

Arizona vs. Gonzaga

The Wildcats should take care of business and guarantee that all four top-seeds move on to the Sweet 16.  Gonzaga has a minor advantage in field goal margin, while Arizona has considerable advantage on the boards and decent advantage in turnover margin with a better strength of schedule.

 

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 3                      Prediction: Arizona 62  Gonzaga 56

March 22, 2014

PiRate Ratings 2014 NCAA Tournament–Round Three Preview

Record in Round 2: 26-6 (81.3%)   Total for Tournament: 26-6 (81.3%)

 

The PiRate Criteria held up quite well in the opening two rounds.  In our preliminary comments Monday, we mentioned six major conference teams that our criteria said were vulnerable to first game exits.  Of those six (Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.), five lost, with only UConn advancing.  We gave you five double-digit seeds that we thought could pull upsets in their first game (Harvard, Mercer, North Carolina Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin), and four of those teams beat their favored opponent.

 

Here are the matchups for Saturday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

Look for Sunday’s games to post here some time Saturday evening.

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

1

Florida

9

Pittsburgh

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

5

Saint Louis

CBS

5:15 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

7

Texas

CBS

6:10 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

12

North Dakota St.

TNT

7:10 PM

South

3

Syracuse

11

Dayton

TBS

7:45 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

7

Oregon

CBS

8:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

12

Harvard

TNT

9:40 PM

East

2

Villanova

7

Connecticut

TBS

 

 

Florida vs. Pittsburgh

This should be much closer than people might expect.  Florida has the advantage in shooting, but Pitt has the advantage on the boards.  The Gators have a slight edge in turnover margin, but Pitt has the R+T advantage.

 

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 1                       Prediction: Florida 66  Pittsburgh 62

 

Louisville vs. Saint Louis

Louisville has the advantages on all fronts—shooting, rebounding, turnover margin, and the all-important R+T advantage.  The Billikens’ only chance in this game is to control the tempo and take smart shots, hoping to catch UL on a cold-shooting afternoon.

 

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 8                   Prediction: Louisville 71  Saint Louis 57

 

Michigan vs. Texas

Michigan has a considerable shooting advantage, but Texas should capitalize on numerous extra scoring opportunities thanks to a superior R+T advantage.  This one will provide the viewer with an extreme contrast where the finesse team plays the power team.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by 2                    Predication: Michigan 72  Texas 68

 

San Diego St. vs. North Dakota St.

North Dakota St. is the best shooting team in the tournament, but San Diego St. is one of the top defensive teams in the Dance.  The Aztecs’ biggest assets are their ability to force opponents into turnovers and into taking poor shots.

 

PiRate Criteria: San Diego St. by 3             Prediction: San Diego St. 78  North Dakota St. 71

 

Syracuse vs. Dayton

Syracuse could have a bad shooting night, but the Orange should still prevail.  Their major advantage on the glass combined with Dayton’s propensity to get sloppy handling the ball at times, should be the difference inthis game.

 

PiRate Criteria: Syracuse by 2                    Prediction: Syracuse 64  Dayton 58

 

Wisconsin vs. Oregon

This game is the closest of the Saturday games according to PiRate Criteria.  Shooting ability is even; rebounding is as well.  Oregon’s defense is better at forcing turnovers, but Wisconsin is one of the best at not turning the ball over.  A slight advantage in schedule strength tilts this game to the Badgers.

 

PiRate Criteria: Wisconsin by less than 1   Prediction: Wisconsin 68  Oregon 67

 

Michigan St. vs. Harvard

Michigan St. has small advantages across the board thanks to a much more difficult schedule.  Harvard could keep it close for some time, but the Spartans will eventually pull away to a comfortable margin.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 6              Prediction: Michigan St. 74  Harvard 62

 

Villanova vs. Connecticut

Connecticut has a negative R+T rating, and we cannot select any negative R+T team to win after the round of 64.  Villanova should neutralize UConn’s rebounding strength in the middle.

 

PiRate Criteria: Villanova by 4                   Prediction: Villanova 74  Connecticut 64

March 17, 2014

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Preview–Opening and Second Rounds

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ March Madness Bracketnomics Edition.

 

We coined the term “Bracketnomics,” several years ago to refer to the analytic way of looking at picking teams in your brackets.  While we have never come close to picking every game correctly, we have had a lot of success picking the national champion and Final Four participants.

 

What do we look for when we pick our winners?  It is easier to tell you what we do not pick.  Many of you may be familiar or not at all familiar with something called “The Four Factors.”  This is a very accurate predictor of NBA Games both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  It works to a point in the NCAA regular season.  However, it has many drawbacks in the NCAA Tournament.

 

For various reasons, the NCAA Tournament is an entirely different type of game compared to the regular season.  First and foremost, all teams are playing on foreign hardwood.  Sure, some teams have an advantage of mileage over others, but the gymnasium they will play in leads to no real home court advantage.  If Kentucky has 10,000 fans screaming, “Go Big Blue!” at a crucial point in the second half, this might fire up the team for a possession or two, but the Rupp Arena floor means a lot more to the Wildcats than the cheer that they receive in every road game with all their thousands of followers.  The playing floor, backboards, rims, and sightlines are much more valuable to the home team than the screaming fans.

 

The timeouts in the games are longer than normal timeouts, so substitution patterns are different, even if teams stick to the regular format.  If a team sends in its top two subs at the 13-minute mark of the first half and then plays these subs for six minutes, the two starters will be out at least two minutes longer in actual time and may possible need more time getting their heads back into the game.  Just two extra minutes of rest can cause different reactions, both positive and negative.

 

The obvious difference in the NCAA Tournament games are the elimination fear.  Because the players know the next loss is the last game of the season, and in some cases the last of their career, nerves play a much bigger factor in these games.  It is different in the NBA Playoffs where one loss does not end a season.

 

We could go on and one, but by now you should realize the differences as well.  Thus, the so-called “Four Factors” do not fit into the standard box.  We must come up with Big Dance Steps, or the factors that give us an insight into picking winners.

 

Over the years, we have isolated statistical tendencies that have helped us select winners in the NCAA Tournament.  We have looked at statistics of past champions and Final Four participants and have found certain similarities in these teams.

 

 

1. First and foremost, we look for teams that played better than average schedules.  It is obvious that a team can play 20 patsies and run up some really gaudy stats.  We look for teams that played tough schedules and reward them for that, but we do not totally eliminate mid-major teams that performed excellently against a mid-major schedule.  The best team in the land may play an average schedule, but they would still be the best team.  We have a metric that factors in the SOS into an equation.

 

2. Second, we look for teams that can win away from home.  If a team goes 22-8, with a home record of 18-1 and a record away from home (away and neutral games) of 4-7, this team is not ready to win six consecutive games, or even four, away from home.

 

Once we have isolated the teams that have played an above average schedule and have enjoyed some success away from home, we look at these vital statistics:

 

3. Scoring Margin—anything that is 8 or more is important.  We really like a scoring margin at 10 or more, as all but one of the 21st Century champions have entered the Big Dance with a double digit scoring margin.  If a team has a 15-point or better scoring margin, and they satisfy the strength of schedule and road won-loss criteria, then watch out!  They are talented and have a killer attitude.

 

2. Field Goal Percentage Margin—this is a team’s offensive field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage times 100.  The key here is a margin of +7.5% or better.

 

3. Rebounding Margin—a team with a rebounding margin of 5.0 or more has a chance to overcome a bad shooting game or a turnover-prone game.  We use a metric that factors the type of rebounds, as an offensive rebound leads to more potential points in a possession than a defensive rebound.  Many offensive rebounds become put-back baskets.

 

4. Turnover Margin—similar to rebounding margin, but we have a weighted scale here.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 3.0 or more, then any positive turnover margin is sufficient.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 0.1 to 2.9, then a turnover margin of 3.0 or better is required.  And, if a team does not out-rebound its opponents, they must have a turnover margin of 5.0 or more.

 

5. Average Steals Per Game—if the rebound is gold, the steal is platinum.  We consider a steal to be worth more than a defensive rebound.  When a team steals the ball, chances are highest for a fast break score.   Any team that averages 7.5 or more steals per game will have several cheap basket opportunities.  Any team with double digit steals per game will be monsters in the tournament, if they can hold their own on the boards.

 

6. The PiRate R+T Rating—if rebound margin is gold, and steals are platinum, then our R+T rating is rhodium.  This rating combines rebounding margin, turnover margin, and steals per game into one sabermetric-type rating, similar to any of several baseball ratings (like Wins Above Replacement).  The current formula uses an advanced formula, but you don’t have to bother with trying to figure these out for all 68 teams.  We have done that for you.  What we isolate are the teams with an R+T rating of 5.0 or better, paying extra attention to 10.0 or better.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are going home quickly even if they are a number 3 seed playing a number 14 seed, which is exactly what happened in 2010, when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating and not only was upset by Ohio U in the opening round, they were blown out of the gym.

 

The 2014 Field of 68

1. Which teams qualify on all of our stat requirements?

 

For the second consecutive season, none of the 68 teams qualify on all the statistical requirements that we look for in a clear cut national champion.  A couple teams came close this year.  Actually, the most perfect fits this year are a handful of mid-major and low-major teams missing in the all important strength of schedule criteria.  What does this tell us?  This could be another year where a team like George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and Wichita St. crashes the party at the Final Four.  Butler came within a couple inches of beating Duke for the title not too many years ago.  Could a Cinderella break through and win it all this year?  We are not calling for it, but it would be no big surprise this year, because there are not many teams with the quality of past Final Four participants.

 

 

2. Which major conference teams appear vulnerable based negative R+T ratings?

 

This is another reason why some smaller teams may have better chances this year.  A record six major conference teams possess negative R+T ratings this year.  These six are very ripe for upset losses early in the tournament.  Keep an eye on: Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.  Of these six, Oklahoma St. and Arizona St. have abnormally negative R+T numbers, both at -4.5.  Basically, their opponents are getting about 4 ½ extra opportunities to score points in high percentage situations.  In the Big Dance, that is usually lethal.

 

 

4. Which less famous teams have criteria that shows they could upset a single-digit seed in the second round?

 

As we have said already, there are many smaller teams capable of winning a second round game and some capable of getting to the Sweet 16.  It depends on your definition of smaller team to decide if you might go with one of these teams to make the Elite 8 and Final Four.  Is Wichita St. a smaller team?  They are undefeated and ranked number two as a #1-seed.  How about Gonzaga?  They have been among the chosen “Few” for so long, can we really consider their winning tournament games a surprise?

 

Of the teams we really consider to be sleeper teams, keep an eye out on these six teams:

Harvard, Mercer, New Mexico St., North Carolina-Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin.  These half-dozen teams have the talent to get hot and knock off a favored opponent.  If their schedules were just a tad tougher, we might even select one of these six to sneak past the Sweet 16 into the Elite 8.

 

 

6. So, who do we pick for the National Champion?

We have been playing with this decision all day.  One team has the look of a National Champion more than any of the other 67, but their strength of schedule bothers us a little this year, unlike last year.

 

However, we are going to go with this team, because their statistical criteria is the closest thing to a perfect fit without being a perfect fit.

 

And that team is: LOUISVILLE!  Yes, we are going with the Cardinals to repeat.  The Midwest Region is ridiculously strong this year.  So many pundits believe this was done to get rid of Wichita St., before the Shockers can get to Arlington in April.  We see no roadblocks in UL’s march to the Sweet 16.  Neither Manhattan, St. Louis, NC St.,  or Xavier have the abilities to stop the Cards.

 

The Sweet 16 game could be the toughest one Rick Pitino’s troops must conquer, as they will most likely play Wichita St. or Kentucky.  I would guess UL would rather play UK than a WSU team looking for revenge from last year’s Final Four semifinal.  The other side of the Midwest bracket should provide little resistance for the Cards.  Michigan and Duke have glaring weaknesses the Cardinals can exploit.

 

Who else looks like Final Four participants to us?  Read on.

 

 

NCAA Tournament Schedule for Opening and Second Rounds

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

6:40 PM

South

16

Albany

16

Mount St. Mary’s

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

12

North Carolina St.

12

Xavier

truTV

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

6:40 PM

Midwest

16

Cal Poly

16

Texas Southern

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

11

Iowa

11

Tennessee

truTV

 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

12:15 PM

South

6

Ohio St.

11

Dayton

CBS

12:40 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

15

American

truTV

1:40 PM

South

8

Colorado

9

Pittsburgh

TBS

2:10 PM

East

5

Cincinnati

12

Harvard

TNT

2:45 PM

South

3

Syracuse

14

Western Michigan

CBS

3:10 PM

West

7

Oregon

10

B Y U

truTV

4:10 PM

South

1

Florida

16

Albany/Mount St. Mary’s

TBS

4:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

13

Delaware

TNT

6:55 PM

East

7

Connecticut

10

St. Joseph’s

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

15

Wofford

CBS

7:20 PM

Midwest

5

Saint Louis

12

North Carolina St./Xavier

TNT

7:27 PM

West

5

Oklahoma

12

North Dakota St.

truTV

9:25 PM

East

3

Villanova

14

Milwaukee

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

7

Texas

10

Arizona St.

CBS

9:50 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

13

Manhattan

TNT

9:57 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

13

New Mexico St.

truTV

 

Friday, March 21, 2014

12:15 PM

Midwest

3

Duke

14

Mercer

CBS

12:40 PM

West

6

Baylor

11

Nebraska

truTV

1:40 PM

South

7

New Mexico

10

Stanford

TBS

2:10 PM

West

1

Arizona

16

Weber St.

TNT

2:45 PM

Midwest

6

Massachusetts

11

Iowa/Tennessee

CBS

3:10 PM

West

3

Creighton

14

UL-Lafayette

truTV

4:10 PM

South

2

Kansas

15

Eastern Kentucky

TBS

4:40 PM

West

8

Gonzaga

9

Oklahoma St.

TNT

6:55 PM

East

8

Memphis

9

George Washington

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

16

Cal Poly/Texas Southern

CBS

7:20 PM

East

6

North Carolina

11

Providence

TNT

7:27 PM

South

5

V C U

12

Stephen F. Austin

truTV

9:25 PM

East

1

Virginia

16

Coastal Carolina

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

8

Kentucky

9

Kansas St.

CBS

9:50 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

14

North Carolina-Central

TNT

9:57 PM

South

4

U C L A

13

Tulsa

truTV

 

Here are our picks for the first two rounds.  Of course, we will update the ratings and pick anew after round two with picks for Saturday on Friday night and picks for Sunday on Saturday night.

 

The spreads given here are devised from our PiRate Scores using our analytic formula that combines all our statistical criteria into a number.  The bigger the spread between the two teams, the more certain we are about the winner of a game.

 

***** These are not point spread predictions *****

They are criteria spread differences.  A difference of 1-3 represents a probable single-digit victory.  Be weary of a spread of just one point, as this is close to a tossup game.  A spread difference of 4 to 6 is on par with a 10-15 point victory.  A spread difference of 7 to 9 indicates a 15-22 point victory, and a spread difference of 10 or more indicates a blowout is possible.

 

Opening Round ( @ Dayton)

Albany  over  Mount St. Mary’s  by 4

Xavier  over  North Carolina St. by 3

Cal Poly over Texas Southern by 2

Tennessee over Iowa by 3

 

Second Round

 

East Region

Virginia over Coastal Carolina by 10

Memphis over George Washington by 1

Harvard over Cincinnati by less than 1

Michigan St. over Delaware by 7

North Carolina over Providence by 7

North Carolina Central over Iowa St. by 1 (Upset)

Connecticut over St. Joseph’s by 2

Villanova over Milwaukee by 11

 

South Region

Florida over Albany by 13

Pittsburgh over Colorado by 1

Virginia Commonwealth over Stephen F. Austin by 1

U C L A over Tulsa by 1

Ohio St. over Dayton by 3

Syracuse over Western Michigan by 2 (could be much closer than expected)

New Mexico over Stanford by 5

Kansas over Eastern Kentucky by 12

 

Midwest Region

Wichita St. over Cal Poly by 13

Kentucky over Kansas St. by 9

Saint Louis over Xavier by 2

Louisville over Manhattan by 9

Tennessee over Massachusetts by 3

Duke over Mercer by 2 (Could be similar to Duke-Belmont from the past)

Texas over Arizona St. by less than 1 (almost dead even)

Michigan over Wofford by 3

 

West Region

Arizona over Weber St. by 7

Gonzaga over Oklahoma St. by 3

North Dakota St. over Oklahoma by 3 (Upset)

San Diego St. over New Mexico St. by less than 1 (close to even)

Baylor over Nebraska by 6

Creighton over UL-Lafayette by 5

B Y U over Oregon by 2 (maybe the most exciting 2nd round game)

Wisconsin over American by 8

 

For those that are filling out the entire bracket, here are our picks as of tonight

 

Advancing to the Sweet 16

Virginia

Michigan St.

North Carolina

Villanova

Florida

U C L A

Syracuse

Kansas

Wichita St.

Louisville

Duke

Texas

Arizona

San Diego St.

Baylor

Wisconsin

 

The Elite 8

Michigan St.

Villanova

Florida

Syracuse

Louisville

Duke

San Diego St.

Wisconsin

 

The Final 4

Michigan St.

Florida

Louisville

San Diego St. (our sleeper Final Four team)

 

Championship Game

Michigan St.

Louisville

 

Champion

Louisville

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