The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 15, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Analysis 2022

Analytics Based Bracket Picking Method–Updated for 2022

Welcome to the PiRate Ratings Bracket Picking Analysis for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. If you read yesterday’s tutorial post and earned your PhD in Bracketnomics, then you are ready to see all the numbers and pick the brackets in your own way. We will show you our picks as well, but you might do better using our data than we do.

Let’s get right to it with the table of all the numbers. We have divided the numbers into the most important, the moderately important, the the extras used to find the winner in very close matchups.

Team–Most ImportantO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37
Boise St.761755.834.830.647.635.0
Cal St. Fullerton14416447.533.030.547.536.0
Colorado St.208355.535.822.050.430.4
Georgia St.20111448.932.934.343.829.3
Iowa St1511059.736.828.250.728.1
Jacksonville St.13217846.338.830.047.130.9
Loyola (Chi.)422254.238.325.146.931.7
Miami (Fla.)1715757.035.323.453.928.8
Michigan St.385360.837.830.747.930.4
Montana St.14712945.636.927.347.638.7
Murray St.354048.435.336.048.331.3
New Mexico St.877350.732.633.745.634.8
Norfolk St.19016041.334.830.544.537.7
North Carolina276458.036.230.448.329.6
Notre Dame298456.838.022.549.327.0
Ohio St.1313160.037.328.846.233.5
Saint Mary’s63957.335.027.846.023.9
Saint Peter’s2593448.335.332.043.537.1
San Diego St.157256.535.829.643.131.3
San Francisco451956.235.430.448.128.9
Seton Hall752659.
South Dakota St.1222048.144.924.449.833.8
Texas A&M-CC28718140.233.535.349.936.7
Texas Southern27010744.531.733.845.232.7
Texas Tech65160.831.433.344.336.1
Virginia Tech185557.539.328.149.423.7
Wright St.10826244.832.931.251.331.3

O-Eff = Offensive efficiency & D-Eff = Defensive efficiency

SOS= PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule

37+ 3pt = The 3-point shooting percentage where 37% or above is the key number

OReb% = Offensive rebounding rate where 37% or above it also the key number

-45% vs. 2pt = Defensive 2-point field goal percentage where less than 45% is the key number FT Rate = the percentage of free throw attempts per field goal attempts, where again, above 37% is the key number

Team Moderately ImportantR + T New RateOld R+TScore MargFG% DiffWin StrkPre25Champions
Arizona7.017.917.110.911 & 9R T
Arkansas7. & 9Yesx
Boise St. T
Bryant1. & 7T
Cal St. Fullerton4.
Chattanooga8.715.210.14.65 & 5R T
Colgate1.78.595.115R T
Colorado St.-
Connecticut12.119.6103.55 & 5Yesx
Duke4.112.713.17.27 & 7YesR
Georgia St.7.811.95.8-110T
Gonzaga7.221.822.514.817 & 6YesR T
Houston14.322.216.99.612 & 6YesR T
Iowa4.811.712.52.67 & 5T
Iowa St1.
Jacksonville St.3.410.67.16.410R
Kansas5. & 5YesR T
Kentucky15.724.113.57.47 & 6Yesx
Longwood14.920.311.22.611 & 8T
Loyola (Chi.)
Memphis6.711.777.56 & 6Yesx
Miami (Fla.)-
Michigan St.
Montana St.4.911.48.55.411 & 6R T
Murray St.15.224.0176.920 & 7R T
New Mexico St. & 5R T
Norfolk St.4.914.211.49.26 & 6R T
North Carolina10. & 5Yesx
Notre Dame- & 5x
Ohio St.-
Providence2. & 8R
Purdue12.119.2116.68 & 6Yesx
Saint Mary’s7.313.29.33.77 & 6x
Saint Peter’s5.
San Diego St.4.410.57.65.16 & 5x
San Francisco8.714.210.13.310x
Seton Hall5. & 6x
South Dakota St.2.313.213.38.721R T
Tennessee8.513.910.437 & 5YesT
Texas7. & 5Yesx
Texas A&M-CC10.215.872.88T
Texas Southern4.
Texas Tech9.617.511.49.46x
UCLA5.717.311.63.46 & 5Yesx
USC6.312.86.76.513 & 6x
Vermont7.817.914.68.314 & 8R T
Villanova4.811.59.52.96 & 5YesT
Virginia Tech2. & 5T
Wisconsin3.47.34.2-1.47 & 6R
Wright St. & 5T
Wyoming1. & 6x

R+T New Rate =The new R+T rating using rate stats over counting stats (still experimental)

Old R+T = The original R+T Rating where anything over 17.5 is exceptional, 15 to 17.5 is quite good, 12.5 to 15 is good, 8-12.5 is okay, 5-8 is fair, under 5 is poor, and negative is a loser

Score Marg = Scoring margin where over 8 is very good and over 10 is great

FG% Diff = Field Goal Percentage difference (Offense FG% – Defense FG%) where over 7 is very good and over 10 is exceptional

Win Strk = Best winning streak or streaks during the season (if a team didn’t win 6 in a row in the regular season, how will they do it against the best teams?)

Pre25 = Preseason Top 25 pick (almost every past national champion was in the preseason top 25)

Champions (R = regular season conference champion/co-champion & T = Conference Tournament Champion)

Team–ExtrasCoach Exp.Seniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?F/C 12/7?2 F/C 20/12?Dbl Fig#
Arkansas4 E8511NN4
Auburn10 F4131YY4
Baylor9 CH23xNN3
Boise St.2511NY3
Cal St. Fullerton1421NY2
Colorado St.0241NN2
Creighton9 E831xYY3
Davidson9 E8323YY4
Duke35 CH211YY5
Georgia St.1411NN3
Gonzaga21 2R221YY5
Houston17 F453NNY5
Iowa St3431NN2
Jacksonville St.3431NN3
Kansas22 CH521NY4
Kentucky20 CH241YY5
Loyola (Chi.)0521NN2
Marquette8 F4211YN2
Miami (Fla.)9 F4311NN4
Michigan1 E8301YY4
Michigan St.23 CH33xNN1
Montana St.042xNN3
Murray St.2121YY3
New Mexico St.2321NY2
Norfolk St.1341NN3
North Carolina0213YY4
Notre Dame14 E8601YY3
Ohio St.6 E8411YY2
Purdue13 E8311YY4
Richmond2 S16611YY3
Saint Mary’s7 S1642xNN4
Saint Peter’s125xNN2
San Diego St.2511NN1
San Francisco0413YN3
Seton Hall4431NN1
South Dakota St.1131NN2
TCU12 E8131NN3
Tennessee25 F4131NN2
Texas4 2R62xNN3
Texas A&M-CC044xYY2
Texas Southern471xNN0
Texas Tech053xNN1
UCLA12 F4431NN4
USC4 E8241YY4
Villanova17 CH431NN4
Virginia Tech6321NY3
Wisconsin3 S16221NN3
Wright St.4053YN3

Coach Exp = The number of past NCAA Tournament appearances for the head coach and if he got to the Sweet 6, Elite 8, Final 4, CHampionship or Runnerup

Seniors8/Juniors8 = The number of seniors or juniors among the current top 8 players (not as important with the extra Covid year)

1/3Clutch? = Does the team have 1 go to guy or 3 co-go to guys that can hit the crucial basket to win?

F/C 12/7 or 2F/C 20/12 = Does the team have an inside player that averages 12 points and 7 rebounds per game or two that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game?

DblFig# = The number of double figure scorers

Here is the PiRate Ratings Bracket

The event you’ve all been waiting for: I wish I could say it’s this feature, but your madness is directed at the actual games in March (and April).  Hopefully, this guide will guide you in filling out your brackets as we show you our analysis of the pertinent data.  Some of you will take our information and perform better with it making your own analysis.  Feel free to do so; we sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees.

Using our system laid out in Monday’s tutorial, we isolated on seven teams with National Championship Resumes in the 2022 NCAA Tournament plus one more team on the cusp.








Almost National Championship Resume (1)


It has been 31 tournaments since a team from outside the power conferences has won the national championship.  The Power Conference teams with the best resumes are:






Houston is a borderline power conference representative, but the American Athletic Conference is not what it once was.  With Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, the Cougars would be close to Gonzaga in overall power, but they have not been the same since their season-ending injuries.

Here is our take on the first round of the Tournament.  It is how we will fill out our bracket.  Every year, we receive a comment from somebody telling us how they used our data to outperform our bracket.

First Round NCAA Tournament Matchups

West Region

Gonzaga vs. Georgia St.: Not much to discuss here.  This should be a major blowout win for Gonzaga.  Georgia State will struggle to score points until the Bulldog reserves get mop-up duty, while the Zags could score close to 1.5 points per possession before the starters come out.

Boise St. vs. Memphis: As most 8/9 games should be, this is an interesting game where the two teams are evenly matched.  Memphis has oh so better key stats, and in close games, if the predicted weaker team has a considerably superior R+T rating, we will go with the underdog.  Boise State’s R+T is better but not by much.  We’ll go with Memphis is a close one.

Connecticut vs. New Mexico St.: New Mexico State  coach Chris Jans is our current number one mid-major head coach ready to be offered a big time job.  He has twice taken the Aggies to near major upsets in the opening round.  The last time NMSU was in this situation, they came within a blown referee’s call of upsetting Auburn.  The Tigers went to the Final Four that year.

However, this matchup with Connecticut is not favorable.  We are always leery of the Huskies.  They are the one school that has won the National Championship without having the proper analytical resume, and they have done it twice!  Their resume this year is very similar to the two times they won the title.  They are superior in all respects to the Aggies and should win by double digits.

Arkansas vs. Vermont: This game could be a lot closer than expected.  Vermont’s offense is just as efficient as Arkansas’s, and the Catamounts have a considerably better R+T rating.  A 12.5 points per game tougher schedule favors Arkansas by enough juice to emerge victorious, but it may be by single digits.

Alabama vs. Rutgers/Notre Dame: You get to wait until Thursday morning to submit your brackets, so you will know the winner of all the First Four games.  We can only predict it today.  We think Rutgers has a slight edge in the game in Dayton, because Notre Dame’s R+T rating is too low.  In early games, it doesn’t matter as much if the opponent’s R+T isn’t a good one, and Rutgers’ R+T is okay but not great.

When it comes to playing Alabama Friday, this may be one of the hardest games to figure.  Alabama plays like Tarzan one game and like Jane the next.  The Tide can score points when they are clicking, but they fail to click one game out of three.  Their R+T Rating is mediocre, and they don’t defend well in the paint.  The one superior factor in favor of the Tide is the nation’s strongest schedule.  Whichever team Bama plays in this game, they will have faced a stronger team in at least a dozen prior games.  We don’t expect Alabama to advance far in this tournament, but they should get out of this round with a win.

Texas Tech vs. Montana St.: They key to winning college basketball at the highest level is to have a superior offense and very good defense.  Texas Tech has the best defense in the nation with an average offense.  We don’t expect the Red Raiders to contend for the Final Four, but in early rounds, their resume is scary against teams not in power conferences.  

Montana State may stay in this game a little longer than expected, as Tech might struggle offensively at the start of the game until the nerves settle down.  Once Tech hits their stride, they will hold MSU to less than .8 points per possession for the middle 20-25 minutes of the game.  It might not look pretty, but TTU will eventually run away from the Bobcats.

Michigan St. vs. Davidson: Davidson has a little more overall talent now than they had when Steph Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite 8.  The difference is this Davidson team lacks the overall quickness to replicate the former success.  Additionally, they face a team that plays the same type of game as they do but with overall better athletes.

Michigan State has been upset early by teams that were quicker and unable to take advantage of the quickness.  DC cannot do this.  The Wildcats’ only chance is to hope to dominate in the paint both in points and rebounds, and The Spartans are not the team that will allow this.  Even though this is not the best inside presence during Tom Izzo’s reign in East Lansing, Sparty has just a little too much power for Davidson.  Michigan State will win by five to 12 points.

Duke vs. Cal St. Fullerton:  Coach K’s last team is really not talented enough to get to New Orleans this year, but the Blue Devils will likely play above their talent level until they are put out.  In this first game, the Blue Devils will score points rapidly against a weak team defense.  Fullerton won’t be able to keep the Blue Devil offense from getting easy shots inside of six feet.  Look for the Blue Devils to top their scoring average and coast to an easy victory in this round.

East Region

Baylor vs. Norfolk St.:  The MEAC representative has won opening round games in the Big Dance before, but it was as a #15 seed against a #2.  Norfolk State was oh so close to getting a #15 seed at the expense of Delaware, but they came up short.  In most recent years, the MEAC champ has been placed in Dayton.  Had NSU been put there this year, they would have been prohibitive favorites over any other 16-seed.  

The question now becomes, “can Nofolk State do what UMBC did against Virginia?”  The answer is “no”, because Baylor isn’t Virginia.  They are the defending champs, and even though the Bears are not as good as last year, they still have Final Four talent.  BU will win by around 20-25 points, more if the starters stay in longer than needed.

North Carolina vs. Marquette:  We can make this short and sweet–Marquette’s R+T is an eliminator.  ‘Nuf Sed.  They would be our pick to lose even if they were a top four seed.  Our number one rule is to play against a team with a negative R+T rating.

Saint Mary’s vs. Wyoming/Indiana: Like the region above, you will know who Saint Mary’s will be playing on Thursday.  Ironically, this play-in game may be the most exciting game before the Sweet 16.  There is very little difference between the Hoosiers and Cowboys.  Only because Indiana won’t travel very far to play this game will we give the nod to the Hoosiers.

On Thursday, Saint Mary’s will have a tough time avoiding the upset, because they are a tad weak offensively in the low post area.  Playing at home, the Gaels were able to withstand Gonzaga’s great inside presence, but in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, the Bulldogs exploited SMC over and over again in a double-digit win.  We will stil pick Saint Mary’s to win this game, because their opponent will have to fly from Dayton to Portland and play less than 48 hours after they played in Dayton.

UCLA vs. Akron: UCLA has national championship talent, but the Bruins have liabilities that can be exploited.  Unfortunately for the Zips, they do not have the necessary inside strength to exploit the Bruins.  They do have characteristics needed to keep a game with UCLA close for some time, but the Bruins will advance.

Texas vs. Virginia Tech: Texas is the most vulnerable 6-seed in the tournament.  The Longhorns have not adjusted to Chris Beard’s system in year one, and there may be a little dissension within the ranks.  Virginia Tech is the exact opposite.  Mike Young was one of our A+ Mid-major coaches ready for the Big Time when he was at Wofford, and he has not disappointed in his short time in Blacksburg.  Virginia Tech’s players have totally bought in to the system and are peaking at the right time.

Our criteria shows this game to be close to a tossup.  The Hokies have the superior offense, but the Longhorns have the superior defense with more superiority than Va. Tech’s offensive superiority.   Texas has the edge in schedule strength and R+T rating, so we will pick the Longhorns in a squeaker, but this one is ripe for an upset if you are the type that goes for more upsets than average.

Purdue vs. Yale:  Yale caught Princeton on a cold shooting day and upset the Tigers to get a ticket to the Dance.  Their ticket is for one game.  Short of hitting about 15 three-point shots in 25 attempts, there is no way the Bulldogs can stop the inside dominance of the Boilermakers.  The two-headed monster in the low post will likely score 40 points and pull down 15-20 rebounds unless Coach Matt Painter goes to his third team.  While former Gene Keady assistants have never made it to the Final Four, and neither did Keady, those teams from the past did not have the R+T rating that this Purdue team has.  This is PU’s best chance to go to the Final Four since they did so under Lee Rose in 1980.

Murray St. vs. San Francisco: Now it’s time to upset a lot of people in the Bluegrass.  There are a lot of fans heading up to Indianapolis for the weekend hoping to see the two top teams from the Commonwealth face off.  Our criteria shows the Dons to be a slightly better team than the Racers, mostly because Murray State’s schedule was suspect.  USF played a schedule almost as strong as a Power Conference team, and they have multiple wins over teams in this tournament.  Murray State’s biggest win was against Memphis, when the Tigers were not playing well.  Their other big game was a double-digit loss to Auburn, when Auburn was getting ready to go on a run.

We think the schedule strength makes USF’s numbers superior, and we will go with the 10-seed to win in what will be considered an upset.  We think the Dons should be favored.

Kentucky vs. Saint Peter’s: One team in this game had a weak schedule, a weak offense, and a weak inside defense.  The other team had one of the strongest schedules in the nation, one of the best defenses, a very good offense, and the best inside presence in college basketball since Bill Walton.  I bet you can predict what the prediction is here–Kentucky by as many as Coach Cal wants to win by before he removes his key players.

South Region

Arizona vs. Wright St./Bryant: We expect Wright State to win the play-in game, but even if Bryant wins, the outcome of this game will remain the same.  Arizona is much too talented to lose this game, even if the Wildcats play their worst game of the season Friday.  The Wednesday night winner must fly from Dayton to San Diego on short notice to play a UA team that is well-rested and playing just a short flight from home.

Seton Hall vs. TCU: This one is another great tossup between the 8 and 9 seeds.  TCU has the superior R+T rating, and it may be where the game is decided—with one late spurt in the second half.  We’ll take the Horned Frogs in a close one. 

Houston vs. UAB: Poor UAB.  The Blazers actually have the talent and resume to get to the Sweet 16 as long as they have the right bracket.  This one is not the right bracket.  Even without two former starters that were injured weeks ago, Houston has enough talent to get to the Sweet 16, with a good chance to make the Elite 8, and a possible chance to return to the Final Four.  If they still had their two stars, they would be a strong Final Four selection.  The Cougars match up perfectly well with UAB and can neutralize the Blazers’ key attackers.

Illinois vs. Chattanooga: The Mocs have been the darling upset pick of a lot of national media members, but we’re here to say it isn’t going to happen.  Chattanooga enjoyed an incredible season in winning the regular and tournament championships.  They just don’t have the inside defense to slow down the Illini in the paint, and they are not likely to get the Illinois frontcourt into foul trouble.  The Mocs don’t have a pressing defense strong enough to force Illinois into turnovers, so the Illini should have little difficulty winning this game by double digits.

Colorado St. vs. Michigan: Here’s another 11-seed that is clearly better than the 6-seed.  Colorado State’s R+T rating is too low, especially for a Mid-major team playing a Power Conference opponent.  Only a complete meltdown by the Maize and Blue will prevent the Wolverines from advancing.

Tennessee vs. Longwood: Volunteer Head Coach Rick Barnes has been to 25 previous NCAA Tournaments with one Final Four appearance.  He believes his current team has what it takes to go to the Final Four this year.  Tennessee’s resume should get them to the Sweet 16, but they have vulnerabilities that other teams in the South Region can exploit.  Longwood isn’t one of them.  Their schedule strength is much too low to be a factor in this game, but if they hit a bunch of three-pointers, where they are better than average, they could keep the outcome under 20 points.

Ohio St. vs. Loyola (Chi.): Before looking at this game, be advised that Ohio State is really banged up with multiple injuries, and it is unsure if they will have their full roster available.  Also, understand that Loyola will have had 12 days between games and will be fully rested but possibly a little rusted.

Loyola’s offense will find the holes in the Buckeyes’ defense, especially if Ohio State has to play a short rotation that will tire in the second half.  The Ramblers’ defense is good enough to give Ohio State’s superior offense some trouble.  It may come down to spurtability, and Loyola is the hands-down superior team in R+T.  We think Sister Jean will be smiling.

Villanova vs. Delaware: We told you yesterday that usually there is one Final Four team that gets there from outside of the perfect resume world.  It was UCLA last year.  This year’s UCLA could easily be Villanova.  The Wildcats just barely miss out on having a Final Four resume, and they quite frankly have about the best possible bracket arrangement to boot.  

Delaware is disqualified from potential upset possibilities in multiple ways–R+T rating, defense on the perimeter and in the paint, schedule strength, no inside scoring dominance, etc.

Midwest Region

Kansas vs. Texas Southern/Texas A&M-CC: Even though it does not matter in your bracket contests, we believe Texas Southern will run Texas A&M-CC into the ground in Dayton.  TAMCC has the weakest schedule strength of any NCAA Tournament team in the last 22 years!  Texas Southern is playing much better basketball in March than they did before  New Year’s, and they are 18-5 in their last 23 games.  So, we are previewing TSU against Kansas in this game.

Okay, suspense over.  KU will blow out either Texas team in this game.  Neither of the 16-seeds has enough defense to stop the Jayhawks from running up a fat score.  

San Diego St. vs. Creighton: In all but one key metric, these teams are fairly evenly matched.  That key metric is the R+T rating, and the Aztecs have a considerable advantage.  We’ll take SDSU to win thanks to a late run.

Iowa vs. Richmond: Two happy teams on Sunday, but there will only be one happy team Thursday after these two play.  Richmond will have to slow this game down to about a 60 possession game to have a chance to sneak away with an upset, but the Spiders’ R+T rating doesn’t measure up to being a winner.  Iowa will cruise to a double-digit win.

Providence vs. South Dakota St.: Providence is the better overall team in the criteria, but South Dakota State has the one ace up their sleeve in an offense that can score a lot of points in a hurry.  If the Friars come out a little tight and aren’t playing the type of basketball they normally play, they could find themselves down by a lot of points early in the game and then struggle to get in synch and get back in the game.  SDSU has the type of team that comes out loose and ready to play no matter what the stage.  If this game was in Oklahoma City or Denver, we’d take the underdog.  Buffalo will be almost like a home game for Providence, so we think the Friars sneak away with a close win.

LSU vs. Iowa St.: LSU has to go with an interim head coach for the second time in the now concluded Will Wade era.  It pains me to say that I (the Captain) was Wade’s youth coach in the early 1990’s.

It is rare for a team that finished four games under .500 to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Big 12 was quite strong this year.  Cyclone Coach T.J. Otzelberger made the South Dakota State job what it is today, and he should eventually turn the corner in Ames.  Making the Big Dance this quickly is quite an accomplishment.  Doing damage in the Dance may be a year away.  Even with an interim coach, albeit one with lots of years experience as a head coach, LSU has superior numbers and should win by around ten points.

Wisconsin vs. Colgate: This is almost a home game for the Badgers.  It’s one thing to put a Duke or Carolina in Charlotte or Greensboro when either is a number one seed, but to put the Badgers less than 100 miles from home in Milwaukee as a 3-seed is totally different.  Poor Colgate.  The Raiders are actually one of a small handful of Low Major teams that have some talent with an outside chance at an upset, but not playing UW in Milwaukee.  Colgate may hit some three-pointers to keep the game within shouting distance, but the Badgers will take the cheese in this one.

USC vs. Miami (Fla.): Even though Miami has a short flight, while USC most go from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, there is a factor that can never be parsed.  Miami’s R+T rating is too poor to predict the Hurricanes to advance.  USC figures to have a double-digit spurt in this game, and the Trojans will advance.

Auburn vs. Jacksonville St.: There is only one fly in the ointment in saying this game should be a 30-point blowout.  JSU will be playing way over their heads to face off against an in-state rival that won’t play them in the regular season.  Coach Ray Harper is a strict disciplinarian, and his teams play intelligently and force the opponent to play that way or be exploited.

Auburn is not all that exploitable here.  The Tigers have been having shooting trouble as of late, but with the great front line, maybe the second best to Gonzaga’s, the Tigers will get numerous second and third shots on many possessions, and JSU will eventually fall by a lot of points.

Here’s how the rest of our bracket-picking goes.

Round of 32

Gonzaga over Memphis

Connecticut over Arkansas

Texas Tech over Alabama

Duke over Michigan St.

Baylor over North Carolina

UCLA over Saint Mary’s

Purdue over Texas

Kentucky over San Francisco

Arizona over TCU

Houston over Illinois

Tennessee over Michigan

Villanova over Loyola (Chi.)

Kansas over San Diego St.

Iowa over Providence

Wisconsin over LSU

Auburn over USC

Sweet 16

Gonzaga over Connecticut

Texas Tech over Duke

Baylor over UCLA

Kentucky over Purdue

Arizona over Houston

Villanova over Tennessee

Kansas over Iowa

Auburn over Wisconsin

Elite 8

Gonzaga over Texas Tech

Kentucky over Baylor

Villanova over Arizona

Kansas over Auburn

Final 4

Gonzaga over Kentucky

Kansas over Villanova

National Championship

Kansas over Gonzaga

March 16, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019

How We Select Our Bracket

Welcome to PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 2019.

This tutorial will help you earn your Bachelor of Madness Degree. Just remember that  it is not be a BS degree; it is a BM degree, so you may want to think twice before telling others you received it from PiRate U.

Most universities have some type of history that potential enrollees can examine before deciding to matriculate. That’s to make the school look worthy of consideration (and receive financial patronage). Our PiRate School of Bracketnomics has been a bit up and down throughout our history. When we first debuted as an online course, our selections and predictions put us into Ivy League/Cal Tech/MIT league. We isolated some key points from back-tested data that worked. Some of the early pointers that helped us pick brackets were things that would appear obvious to most people–scoring margin, rebounding margin, field goal percentage margin, turnover margin, schedule strength, and the ability to win away from one’s home court.

Our big breakthrough that helped us devise our first advanced metric came about when CBS’s Clark Kellogg mentioned that teams with “spurtability” tended to do best in the NCAA Tournament. What is spurtability? It is exactly what it sounds like, the ability for a team to go on a scoring spurt.

In the 1964 Final Four, tiny UCLA with no starter over 6 foot 5, went on an 11-0 scoring spurt to put away Kansas State in the semifinals, and then the following evening, put a much taller and favored Duke team away with an incredible 16-0 spurt in 2 1/2 minutes just before halftime.

How did a much smaller UCLA team put a taller, favored Duke team away with that 16-0 run? It didn’t happen because the Bruins scored baskets on eight half-court possessions, while Duke missed shots on eight half-court possessions. No, it happened because UCLA pressed Duke out of the gym that night, forcing 29 turnovers, many by steals, and then scoring easy fast-break points.

Similarly, the 1968 UCLA team put away North Carolina in the Championship Game with a couple of smaller spurts. It wasn’t the press that did the trick this time. This North Carolina team could handle the ball and break the press, and this UCLA team did not rely as much on forcing turnovers to beat opponents. With the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the middle, Coach Wooden relied on muscle and speed to destroy the enemy. On this night, North Carolina tried to slow the game down by using the four-corners offense, but the plan was no more successful than 28 other opponents’ plans against the Bruins.

It was a different dominating statistic that gave the Bruins the edge that night. North Carolina rarely received a second chance to score when they missed a shot, and UCLA had numerous put back baskets on offensive rebounds. The Bruins dominated on the glass with an almost 2 to 1 rebounding advantage, and their transition game was still the best in the business with Lucius Allen running the point on the fast break.

Our captain perused all the boxscores of past NCAA Tournament games. He read microfilms of archived newspaper reports of games over the course of 30 years of NCAA Tournaments, and he combined the eyewitness reports with the statistics of the teams to locate the factors that predicted which teams were more likely to enjoy a big scoring spurt. He discovered that half-court offenses and half-court defenses that led to one team connecting on a very high percentage of shots while the other team missed a high percentage of shots seldom led to these spurts by themselves and very rarely allowed a team to win six, or even just four NCAA Tournament games.

It was rare for Team A to hit eight out of 10 shots, while Team B hit only one out of ten shot, leading to a 16-2 run. So, what caused the great spurtabilities of the teams? The Captain discovered that in a large majority of the cases where a team went on a big scoring run in the NCAA Tournament, it was due to these factors:
1. Dominating rebounding at both ends of the court
2. Forcing turnovers (especially steals)
3. Getting easy fast break baskets or forcing the opponent to foul to stop the fast break

From this point, the Captain devised what has come to be the most important factor in picking NCAA Tournament winners. He called it “The R+T Rating.” After trial and error using different data points, the Captain created a formula that doubled rebounding margin, added turnover margin, and then gave additional weight to steals and the prevention of steals. The result was an approximation for how many extra scoring chances (and predicted points) a team might be expected to receive versus the average college team. If Team A had an R+T rating of 20, and Team B had an R+T rating of 10, then Team A would be expected to have the ability to score an average of 10 extra points against Team B just from these extra scoring opportunities. Team B could still win if they were a lot more accurate on their shots, thus neutralizing Team A’s spurtability advantage.

Immediately, in the first year publishing this data online, the PiRates successfully picked Florida to win its first national championship, and the Gators came through with a surprise title. In all six of their tournament wins in 2006, they enjoyed spurts that broke close games open. In their big upset win over top-seeded Villanova, the Gators’ pressure man-to-man defense made it difficult for the Villanova perimeter to get an open look, and when the Wildcats drove by into the lane, Joakim Noah and Al Horford were there waiting to stop the offense. The two Gator big men totally controlled the boards that afternoon, and Florida advanced with a couple of spurts that put the game safely in the win column.

Early on in the history of our Bracketnomics, our success continued and brought us a tiny bit of national notoriety. A little success swelled the heads of all the PiRates. We became too big for our tiny ship. We began to try to perfect our system by adding additional information. We thought for a few years that teams that relied on the three-point shot were at a disadvantage against teams that pounded the ball inside, because so many of the tournament games were held in giant stadiums, even domes, and it affected depth perception and made it hard to aim on outside shots. There was a time when we discounted teams that won games by shooting a lot of foul shots, because the officials did not call as many fouls in the tournament.

The success of the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics led to some mainstream media sources linking to us, and we saw our readership increase by large multiples, especially between the second week of March and the first week of April. And, then what happened? After correctly picking the national champion during Bracket Picking day for three consecutive years; and after picking tiny George Mason to contend for a Final Four spot when Jim Larranaga guided the Patriots to the Final Four; and after picking Duke, Connecticut, and Kentucky to win and hit on another three in a row, the bottom fell out.

Just like the Dosage Index for the Kentucky Derby, the criteria began to lose its effectiveness. Too many basketball equivalents of Strike The Gold and Real Quiet began winning when the profile predicted they had little or no chance. While R+T ratings still remained effective, other criteria not used by us began to be more predictive of reality.

The better three-point shooting teams started to win more and more. Watching the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA and then seeing how almost every NBA team tried to copy them in some way, it became apparent that advanced metrics were changing the game, just like Sabermetrics changed the way general managers built their baseball teams. The name of the game became three-point shooting and very high percentage two-point shooting. Defenses that forced opponents to take lower percentage two-point shots became the new basis for determining effectiveness.

There was one other change that greatly affected the college game. When the shot clock moved from 35 to 30 seconds, it appeared on the surface that it would minimally affect the game by maybe two or three possessions per game. This was not the case. Defenses discovered that they could pressure the offense more and more in hopes that they would force a turnover or force the offense to escape the pressure to find a good shot. Many times, the pressure defense led to a hurried shot by the offense. Thus, teams that were patient all of a sudden saw their shooting percentages fall when good pressure defenses forced too many hurried shots. There was also the case where a defense that could keep the ball out of the close two-point range and force three-point shots to be taken a few feet farther back, could stop the patient offenses. What was the solution to these defenses? It was the return of Up-tempo basketball. Offenses began to try to hurry up their tempo to beat these gambling defenses or to get the preferred close in two-pointer or open looks an inch behind the line three-point line before defenses could organize. The newer up-tempo style of play brought back basketball from 40 years ago.

Once again, the teams that can get up and down the court in a hurry and do so without becoming sloppy in execution have begun to dominate the game. The patient offenses and non-pressuring defenses have found out that it is really hard to win consistently when the opponent is now finding a way to score 10 more points per game due to their new style of play.

On the other end of the spectrum, teams began to play more like the high schools in the Midwest. Players not equipped for the running and pressure defense games began to concentrate on playing incredible help defense, cramming the paint with defenders to stop dribble penetration. While some teams did this with man-to-man defense, otherwise known as the Pack-Line defense, some teams also accomplished this with zone defenses. Either way, the goal was to prevent easy inside shots while not gambling for steals or pressuring opponents into mistakes. Usually these teams paired this style of defense with a patient offense that valued each possession like gold and when they took a shot, two or more players retreated to stop any opponent transition. A lot of teams have done quite well during the regular season, but they have not been the best at winning four tournament games and getting to the Final Four. Loyola of Chicago beat the odds last year playing this way. Butler made it to the Championship Game twice with a semi-patient offense and non-gambling defense.

What did we do at the PiRate Ratings to combat our decline in effectiveness? The PiRates stripped our criteria down back to the basics. We felt like we were missing the obvious. In 2019, here are the Big Three stats that matter most when the NCAA Tournament begins play.

1. True Shooting Percentage Margin

2. R+T Rating

3. Schedule Strength

These three basic principles make up an overwhelming majority of how we will select our brackets when we release them Monday evening.

1. True Shooting Percentage Margin: this is the difference between a team’s offensive true shooting percentage and defensive true shooting percentage. For college basketball, true shooting percentage is:   (100*Pts)/[2*(fga+{.475*fta})].

2. R+T Rating: We hope most of you reading this today have some familiarity with our R+T Rating.

The formula for R+T is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp. S) + T
where, R = rebounding margin; S = Steals per game; and T= Turnover margin

3. Schedule Strength: It is obvious that a team could compile some very lofty True Shooting Percentages and R+T ratings playing the weakest 30 teams in the nation, while another team could compile some really awful stats playing the top 30 teams in the nation.

Don’t let these stats look intimidating. We would never force you, our patron, that we love so much to have to figure the offensive and defensive percentages for 68 teams. Do you know how long it takes to go to 68 different official athletic sites to get this information? We sure do! We will calculate this information for you and show you the stats for all 68 teams.

The first two data points must be weighted with the strength of schedule, and there is the rub. How much do we adjust the data from True Shooting Percentage Margin and R+T Rating to factor in schedule strength? We think we have the answer. Based on the fact that a certain schedule strength number has held consistent as the floor among past Final Four teams, we believe we know the cut-off points that will allow us to interpolate the winners of each round.

Obviously, it is not an exact science, but hey, nobody has ever picked a perfect bracket, and we hear that the chances of doing so are less than one person winning both the Power Ball and Mega Millions jackpots in the same week, while being struck two times by lightning on the way to collect from both the lottery offices.

The PiRates will reveal our entire bracket selections Monday evening.   And, after each round, we will then post an updated bracket selection for those people that play in contests where you can pick the winners round-by-round. Our goal is to try to pick the four Final Four participants and National Champion, so those of you in contests where you receive points for your accuracy, with more points awarded for each succeeding round, might have a somewhat unfair advantage over others in your pool.

We hope you return to this site after 7PM EDT on Monday night, March 18, to see what we believe will be an exciting and informative Bracketnomics 2019 exam. Yes, you too can earn your BM degree!

And, don’t forget to check our site out Sunday as our Bracket Gurus attempt to continue a history of incredible accuracy predicting the 68 teams to be selected for the NCAA Tournament.

We will publish one or two updates Sunday.  The first will be on this site before 10:00 AM EDT.  The final one will be published after all Sunday games but the Big Ten Tournament go final, or later if there is a chance this game will affect the bracket.

There will be an additional late Saturday night bracket update to include new automatic bid winners.

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