The Pi-Rate Ratings

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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