The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 2, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For The NCAA Tournament Championship Game, Monday, April 2, 2018

PiRate Rating Spread for The NCAA Championship Game

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Villanova Michigan 6.8


And Then There Were Two

The Pirate Ratings Analytics Criteria to the National Championship Game

Michigan Wolverines Head Coach John Belein compared Villanova to a college version of the Golden State Warriors.  Villanova Coach Jay Wright did not return the favor, but even before Beilein spoke, we had already thought of this game as the college equivalent of Game 7 of the Warriors and Celtics.  The Warriors have the top offense in the Association, while the Celtics have the top defense.  Golden State speeds up the pace, while Boston slows it down.

What can we learn from the two games the Celtics and Warriors have played against each other this year?  Both teams won by four points on their home floor.  The game in Boston was played at a pace the Celtics like and Warriors dislike.  The game in Oakland was played at the exact opposite pace.

Michigan and Villanova will square off in San Antonio on a neutral floor.  Michigan won its semifinal game playing at a snail’s pace that the Wolverines prefer, 69 possessions.  They averaged a point per possession and held Loyola to .83 points per possession.

Villanova won its semifinal game playing at a quicker pace, although not as quickly as they desired in their win over Kansas.  Their 71 possessions looks little different from Michigan’s 69, but a couple factors lowered this number.  First, once VU extended the lead to 15 points, they slowed the pace down.  Second, Kansas looked lost after the initial barrage, and they slowed the pace down trying to throw off the Wildcats.

Tonight, we expect Michigan to slow the pace down and keep total possessions under 70, but will this be effective?  We think it will be partially effective, and the excellent contrasts in playing styles should lead to a much closer than expected outcome.  In fact, we think this game has the potential to be undecided in the final minutes.  It would not surprise us at all if it went to overtime.  In other words, while it wouldn’t be completely shocking for this game to be one-sided, we believe the chances that either team wins by double digits is rather low.  We expect the final margin to be less than 10 points for the eighth consecutive Championship Game.

Let’s look at the analytics for tonight.

First, the game tips at 9:20 PM EDT/8:20 PM in San Antonio and will air on TBS and not CBS.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 35-4 87-70 10.38 12.8 61.22
Michigan Y 33-7 74-63 5.74 9.9 60.14

Both teams are members of power conferences and have double digit scoring margins, which almost all national champions in the past 65 years have shared.

The Strengths of Schedules are not identical, but they are very close.  Villanova only receives a minimum positive adjustment to the rest of their stats based on an advantage of 1.08 points per game. (Our SOS is a combination of 3 factors and not identical to others you may see on the Internet)

Villanova has the decided edge in True Shooting Percentage Margin.  The formula we use for TS% is: (100*Pts)/(2*(fga+(.475*fta))).  (Again, others may use a different formula, but we believe this is the best one to use for college basketball.)

Villanova has a decided but not overwhelming R+T Rating advantage in this game.  R+T is a PiRate Original Rating with this formula: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  The number estimates how many extra scoring opportunities per game a team may obtain compared to an average team, and the difference, after factoring schedule strength, allows us to estimate how much better one team has over the other in going on spurts of 8 points or better.  In the NCAA Tournament, most winning teams enjoy at least one more 8-point spurt than the losing team.

Overall, these first set of analytics favors Villanova, but the margin of error does not make the Wildcats a slam-dunk selection to win.

Offense Defense
Villanova 3384 2383 698 62.3 2745 2346 623 52.0
Michigan 2957 2280 699 56.6 2517 2169 643 50.9

This group of stats shows us that Villanova is the superior offensive team, while Michigan enjoys the defensive edge, but by less than VU has the offensive edge.  In a seven-game series, this would definitely tilt the outcome in Villanova’s favor.  For one night, VU is still favored, but this is not an insurmountable advantage.  The pace should fall closer to Michigan’s average of 66 possessions per game than Villanova’s 71 possessions per game, or at least through 40 minutes if the game has an extra session or two or three.

Team W1 W2 L12 Reb Stl Opp Stl TO
Villanova 13 10 11-1 3.03 6.51 4.79 2.26
Michigan 14 7 12-0 0.58 6.38 4.18 3.73

Almost every national champion has had one double-digit winning streak or two winning streaks of 6 or more games each.  Both teams double qualify here.  Michigan’s 14-game streak is active, while Villanova’s #2 streak of 10 games is also active.  What this says is that both teams are peaking at the right time, and you will be the beneficiary of an outstanding game.

Villanova has the rebounding advantage in this game, but it comes with a major caveat.  Michigan is all over the road in their games, and we believe it has more to do with game strategy than inconsistency.  When the Wolverines have faced dominant rebounding teams, like Michigan State, they have actually won the battle of the boards.  When they have faced teams that force turnovers or rarely commit turnovers, the Wolverines usually get outrebounded but keep the turnover battle close or even in their favor.

Also, Villanova tends to win rebounding battles by getting to loose balls quicker rather than pound the glass for success.

Everything else in this section is a wash.

There is a reason why we believe Michigan will make this game extremely close, and even have a fair chance to win.  The Wolverines are perceived to be slow and to lack quickness.  We disagree.  Actually, we believe Michigan can hold their own in a faster-paced game, and the numbers give us reason to believe.  Michigan has played four games this year with a pace more than 10% quicker than their norm.  The Wolverines went 3-1 inthese games, losing only at North Carolina.  In fact, Michigan beat Sparty in East Lansing in a game with a fast pace, and they won by double digits.  We have known for years that superior defensive teams actually gain superiority as possessions increase, while inferior defensive teams gain an advantage by slowing the pace down, as smaller sample size tends to lead to more deviation, while moving closer to the norm as sample size increases.  In this case, sample size is the number of possessions.


You should be able to easily diagnose this game from the analytical data.  Both teams are playing their best ball of the season.  Both teams have assets that can exploit an average team or a superior team, while both teams have few liabilities.

It is obvious that Villanova is more superior than Michigan, but not by enough points to make them the easy favorite to win this game.  If they played 100 times, Villanova might win 58 to 63 times, so the Wildcats don’t have that much more chance to win one game on one night on a stage like the Championship Game provides.

This game will likely come down to the winning team having one more hot player or one less cold player.  Moritz Wagner was one reason Michigan beat Loyola.  Overall team defense was the other.

Eric Paschall burned the nets and torched Kansas, but overall it was a team offensive effort that led Villanova to its semifinal win.

We expect the Wildcats to bounce a little and not be as effective shooting three-pointers tonight, while at the same time, we believe Omari Spellman will contain Wagner better than Loyola’s defenders could.

What this means is that we expect offensive efficiency to be down for both teams, and we believe that Villanova will get one extra scoring spurt in this game than Michigan, probably coming in the second half somewhere either side of the six-minute mark in the game.  Michigan will mount a comeback that will fall just a tad short.

PiRate Prediction: Villanova 74  Michigan 69





March 30, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Final Four Games, Saturday, March 31

PiRate Rating  Picks–Final Four

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Michigan Loyola-IL 4.8
Villanova Kansas 6.0

The PiRate March Madness Team Criteria

This has been an interesting NCAA Tournament, much different than many recent ones.  Yet, as we look on the eve of the Final Four, we look at our original criteria that we posted almost three weeks ago and look at our results.

We only correctly picked one of the Final Four teams, but this is not a real criticism of the system.  We just did a lousy job picking four of the 14 teams that this system showed having national title caliber analytics.

We looked the original stats of the 68 teams and stated that 14 shared the type of statistical resumes that showed them to be good enough to cut the nets in San Antonio.  Three of those 14 have made the Final Four–Villanova, Michigan, and Kansas.

What about Loyola?  We said that they were now the new Wichita State of this tournament.  We did not pick the Ramblers to make the Final Four, but we basically labelled them as the best of the Mid-major teams capable of repeating what Wichita State had done when the Shockers were in the Missouri Valley.

So, we give the new criteria a passing grade, and we give our human evaluation team of those analytics a D-grade for not properly selecting the correct three of the 14 teams that advanced to San Antonio.

For those of you that may have arrived at this page and did not see our previous March Madness posts, here is a brief tutorial.

Our criteria is based on a combination of analytic data and back-tested statistics that past Final Four and National Champion teams have produced.  We look for correlations that can separate the great from the good.

We came up with the following stats and data sets:

True Shooting Percentage Margin

There has been an evolution in shooting efficiency in recent seasons.  With the 30-second shot clock and the better use of analytics, teams know they should take certain three-point shots and certain high two-point shots without having to force low percentage shots at the end of the shot clock.  Whereas field goal% offense and defense used to be vital, in the current philosophy of college basketball teams, true shooting percentage matters most.

True Shooting Percentage tells you how efficient a team is at shooting the ball.  How many points do they get per shot taken, be it a two-point shot, a three-point shot, or shots from the foul line?

Our formula for college basketball true shooting percentage is: (100*Pts)/(2*(fga+(.475*fta))).  We say “our formula” not because we created it, which we did not, but because there are arbitrary differences in the calculations of different metrics specialists.  Some use .44 for free throws attempted, which is more accurate for the NBA, but there are different free throw shooting rules in the NBA, so we use .475, which is more accurate for college basketball.

The TS% margin is simply a team’s offensive TS% minus their defensive TS%.


R+T Rating

This is our created statistic.  R+T attempts to estimate additional scoring opportunities that a team may receive based on rebounding, steals, avoiding opponent steals, and additional turnovers not involving steals.  Since a steal is worth more than a dead-ball turnover, we give it more weight than all other turnovers.  A steal is precious because the stealing team is able to run the fast break much easier than any other type of gained possession.

The formula for R+T is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T,  where R is rebounding margin, S is steals, and T is turnover margin.

If one team has an R+T of 15.5, and the other team has an R+T of 5.5, then the 15.5 team should create 10 additional scoring opportunities in a game between the two teams.  That might be enough extra chances to overcome a significant disadvantage in true shooting perecentage.

Strength of Schedule

Obviously, it is easier to pad your team’s statistics if they have played a bunch of cup cakes rather than play 20 games against other teams in the NCAA Tournament.  So, strength of schedule is vitally important.  Through SOS, we normalize the TS% and R+T ratings to make the numbers on par with each other.  If a team has a TS% margin of 10% and an R+T of 15 with a SOS of 50 (exactly average of 351 Division 1 teams), and their opponents has a TS% of 5% and an R+T of 5 with a SOS of 60 (10 points better than average per game), the team with a SOS of 60 would be the better team based on the analytics.  The exact algorithm for determining par values is a bit too difficult to explain, and we do not care to share this proprietary information, as it is all that separates our formula from others.

Other Contributing Factors

We look at how a team has performed in its most recent dozen games.  Obviously, at this point, every team has a minimum of a four-game winning streak.  We look at each team’s two longest winning streaks of the season.  We don’t expect a team with a longest winning streak of three or four games being able to win six in a row against top-flight competition, while if we see a team with a double-digit winning streak or two in excess of six games, then this team has what it takes to win six in a row after March 15.

In addition to Strength of Schedule, we look to those teams that come from a “power conference.”  In our definition, a power conference is one with a league RPI in the Top 12.  For what it’s worth, all four teams remaining in the field come from power conferences, as did all Elite 8 teams and all Sweet 16 teams.

Scoring margin is also important to us.  The minimum scoring margin of a national champion in the last 30 years is eight points per game, while the majority of champions having double-digit scoring margins.  It is next-to-impossible to win the title with a scoring margin under 8.  When Villanova upset Georgetown in 1985, their scoring margin was just 4.8 points per game.  North Carolina State’s scoring margin was 4.6 points per game in 1983.  In fact in the last 65 seasons where we have complete stats (1943 to 2017), the eventual national champion had a double-digit scoring margin 62 times!

Okay, so there you have our criteria.  Basically, we look for teams that can shoot better than their opponents, create more scoring opportunities than their opponents, and do so against a difficult schedule.  It’s obvious, isn’t it?  It might be, but then so many people overlook the obvious in favor of emotional factors.  And, then there is the case of trying to choose four teams from among 14 of the 68 teams that possessed the qualities necessary to win the title.

We have one party-crasher in the Final Four.  Loyola has earned their trip to San Antonio by playing excellent team ball and limiting mistakes, but they have also had a perfect route with little interference, getting weaker than typical Nevada and Kansas State teams to make it here.  Because the Ramblers do not share the approved criteria numbers to win the title, we are predicting Loyola to end their Cinderella bid Saturday afternoon.  Of course, if Loyola wins, they buck a trend and completely re-write the analytic philosophy.

In case you were wondering, when Loyola won the title back in 1963, the Ramblers were more like Villanova today.  That 1963 team led the nation in scoring margin at 24 points per game.  That team was an offense first team that played at supersonic speed.  They averaged in excess of 90 possessions per game.  The Ramblers defeated a two-time defending champion Cincinnati squad that was more of a patient, defense first team that averaged around 65 possessions per game.  There was a 2018 Loyola type team in that 1963 Final Four, and that was Oregon State.  That Beaver team played patient basketball, relied on defense to stop opponents, because they were not able to score points in spurts, and they only had to beat one ranked team to earn a trip to Louisville for the Final Four.

What happened to that Oregon State team in the semifinals?  They lost to Cincinnati by 34 points.  Another big Cinderella team lost by 34 points in the 1979 Final Four when Penn fell to eventual champion Michigan State.  George Mason lost by 11 points to eventual champion Florida in 2006.  VCU lost by eight to Butler in 2011.  Wichita State lost by just four to Louisville in 2013.

In fact, if you go back all the way to the beginning of the NCAA Tournament in 1939, in the 79 prior tournaments, only one real Cinderella won the national title.  In 1947, Holy Cross had a relatively perfect draw to win an eight-team tournament.  The Crusaders edged Navy and City College of New York to make the title game against Oklahoma, where they dismissed the Sooners by 11 points.  Of course that HCU team had the best guard in the history of the game up to that point in Bob Cousy and an All-American pivot man in George Kaftan, who disproved the theory that brought you the movie, “White Men Can’t Jump.”

Let us now look at the numbers for the remaining four teams now that we have done what we can to convince you that three of the four teams can cut the nets, and it will take a hire authority than Sister Jean to pull off a miracle of this proportion for Loyola to win.

Note: In response to Lexie89’s question to us earlier in the season, the colors shown for each team are the official colors of each team.  We have a list of all team official Pantone colors and then convert from Pantone to Hex Color.  If you are not seeing what looks like the authentic colors, it is your monitor.

Team Power W-L Score TS% Diff R+T * SOS
Kansas Y 31-7 81-71 8.15 5.7 61.78
Loyola (Chi.) Y 32-5 72-62 10.27 6.8 52.35
Michigan Y 32-7 74-63 5.86 9.6 59.94
Villanova Y 34-4 87-70 10.29 13.1 60.82
Team W1 W2 L12 Reb Stl Opp Stl TO
Kansas 7 7 11-1 0.45 6.55 5.61 1.16
Loyola (Chi.) 14 7 12-0 1.84 6.38 6.54 0.49
Michigan 13 7 12-0 0.49 6.28 4.15 3.67
Villanova 13 9 11-1 3.11 6.61 4.79 2.34
Offense Defense
Team Pts FGA FTA TS%  Pts FGA FTA TS% 
Kansas 3095 2304 619 59.6 2708 2354 588 51.4
Loyola (Chi.) 2664 1912 612 60.5 2308 2059 505 50.2
Michigan 2888 2221 681 56.8 2460 2118 629 50.9
Villanova 3289 2318 691 62.1 2666 2284 603 51.9

Times listed are Eastern Daylight

Both Games on TBS

The Semifinal Games

Michigan vs. Loyola of Chicago

Tip Time: 6:09 PM

Strength of Schedule

Michigan has a considerable advantage here by an average of 7.59 points per game.

True Shooting % Margin

Due to schedule strength, Michigan has a decided advantage here.

R+T Rating

Michigan has a considerable advantage and should obtain 5 or 6 extra scoring opportunities in this game, which should allow the Wolverines to enjoy at least one scoring spurt of better than 8 points.


Michigan will win the rebounding war as Loyola will not crash the offensive boards.  The Ramblers will look to stop Wolverine fast breaks, so if Michigan can guard well enough to limit open shots, especially from the outside, Loyola will have little chance to score enough points to win this game.  The Ramblers will have to be very hot from outside and hope that Cameron Krutwig can play longer than 22 minutes.

We expect Michigan to commit single-digit turnovers in this game, as Loyola will have to concentrate its efforts on limiting high-percentage shots inside and open three-point shots against quicker players.  The Wolverines have been a much better rebounding team in the second half of the season, and their overall defense has been improving for the last month.


We see this game having two possible outcomes, neither of which is good for the Cinderella team.  In the first scenario, Michigan will open up a comfortable lead in the first five to eight minutes of the game and then keep the lead safe for the duration of the game, winning by double digits.

In the second possibility, Loyola might keep the game close for a half, but Michigan will go on a scoring spurt at some point in the second half to gain a double-digit lead and hang on to win by six to 15 points.

Either way, we see the Maize and Blue of Coach John Beilein earning the school’s sixth National Championship Game appearance, and Beilein’s second in Ann Arbor.



Villanova vs. Kansas

Tip Time: Approximately 8:49 PM

Strength of Schedule

This is basically a wash with both teams having a top 5% SOS.  Kansas has a minimal advantage of less than one point per game.

True Shooting % Margin

Villanova has a miniscule advantage here that reveals very little due to the standard deviation of shooting percentages per game.  All this says is that Villanova has maybe a 52 to 53% chance of having the better true shooting percentage in this game.

R+T Rating

Villanova has a decided advantage here of 7.4, and when you combine it with the SOS of the two teams, the Wildcats are expected to receive about six to seven additional scoring opportunities in this game.  Villanova has the best ability of the four remaining teams to capitalize on extra scoring opportunities with game-deciding scoring spurts.


This game has the potential to turn into a 75-possession game per team, and it is possible that the loser could top 80 points.  The team that gets better open looks from behind the arc should win this game, as long as that team doesn’t come out so flat that they cannot hit at least 35% from behind the arc.

This game is not necessarily a toss-up, but the advantage of our favorite is not insurmountable.

However, the overall most dangerous player in this entire tournament of 68 teams is still alive and leading the team that is now the odds-on favorite to win the national title for the second time in three years.  Jay Wright has given the City of Brotherly Love a possible second champion of the season.


Villanova has the near perfect statistical resume of past national champions.  Their 17 point scoring margin is on par with 80% of past national champions and typical of about 90% of all past champions.

Of the four teams remaining, the Wildcats are most apt to enjoy a 10-point scoring spurt more than once in a game.  Wright’s team reminds us of Denny Crum’s 1980 Louisville team and in some ways like the 1970 and 1971 UCLA teams that won titles.  The perimeter players can score inside, and the inside players can score from the outside.  Six players are capable of carrying the team for a half, and if you attempt to concentrate on stopping one or two players, the other four or five will exploit your defense and burn you.



April 4, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Final Four: Semifinal Round–April 4, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Final Four

The Semifinals

 April 4, 2009


Ford Field: Detroit


Many basketball purists believe that the NCAA Tournament Semifinal is the top ticket in all of sports.  While we would argue that any ticket to a Green Bay Packers game would top it, this is the only time the top four teams in any sport meet on the same court back-to-back.


At Detroit’s Ford Field Saturday, there’s a good chance that the teams in the home uniforms will win more games in four hours than the regular tenant of the building won all season.  We know that’s a stab at the division rival Lions, but we had to do it.


For what it’s worth, our record through the first four rounds is 45-15.


Here is a guide for the two semifinal games.  We hope you have fun.


Note: Team info courtesy of the four schools’ official athletic websites


Game 1

Connecticut Huskies (31-4) vs. Michigan State Spartans (30-6)

Tip Time: 6:07 PM EDT




Connecticut Huskies




Adrien, Jeff 6-7/243 Forward SR Brookline, Mass.


Austrie, Craig 6-3/176 Guard SR Stamford, Conn.


Bailey, Kyle 6-3/170 Guard SO Lancaster, N.H.


Beverly, Donnell 6-4/190 Guard SO Hawthorne, Calif.


Bird, Johnnie 6-0/165 Guard SR Fort Bragg, N.C.


Dyson, Jerome 6-3/180 Guard JR Rockville, Md.


Edwards, Gavin 6-9/230 Forward/Center JR Gilbert, Ariz.


Haralson, Scottie 6-4/215 Guard FR Jackson, Miss.


Hornat, Alex 6-5/205 Forward JR South Windsor, Conn.


Lindner, John 6-5/265 Forward SR Cheshire, Conn.


Mandeldove, Jonathan 6-11/220 Center JR Stone Mountain, Ga.


Okwandu, Charles 7-1/255 Center SO Lagos, Nigeria


Price, A.J. 6-2/190 Guard SR Amityville, N.Y.


Robinson, Stanley 6-9/220 Forward SO Birmingham, Ala.


Thabeet, Hasheem 7-3/265 Center JR Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania


Veronick, Jim 6-8/200 Forward SR Durham, Conn.


Walker, Kemba 6-1/172 Guard FR Bronx, N.Y.


Jim Calhoun – Head Coach
George Blaney – Assistant Coach
Andre LaFleur – Assistant Coach
Patrick Sellers – Assistant Coach
Beau Archibald – Director of Operations




Michigan State Spartans


No. Name Ht. Wt. Pos. Year Hometown/High School


Ibok, Idong 6-11 260 C RS SR Lagos, Nigeria/Montverde (Fla.) Academy


Lucas, Kalin 6-0 180 G SO Sterling Heights, Mich./Orchard Lake St. Mary’s


Morgan, Raymar 6-8 225 F JR Canton, Ohio/McKinley


Allen, Chris 6-3 205 G SO Lawrenceville, Ga./Meadowcreek


Walton, Travis 6-2 190 G SR Lima, Ohio/Lima Senior


Roe, Delvon 6-8 225 F FR Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward


Thornton, Austin 6-5 210 G RS FR Sand Lake, Mich./Cedar Springs


Suton, Goran 6-10 245 C RS SR Lansing, Mich./Everett


Summers, Durrell 6-4 195 G SO Detroit, Mich./Redford Covenant Christian


Kebler, Mike 6-4 200 G SO Okemos, Mich./Okemos


Dahlman, Isaiah 6-6 200 G JR Braham, Minn./Braham Area


Green, Draymond 6-6 235 F FR Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw


Crandell, Jon 6-8 225 F JR Rochester, Mich./Rochester Adams


Lucious, Korie 5-11 170 G FR Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI


Herzog, Tom 7-0 240 C RS SO Flint, Mich./Powers


Gray, Marquise 6-8 235 F RS SR Flint, Mich./Beecher


Tom Izzo – Head Coach
Mark Montgomery – Associate Head Coach
Dwayne Stephens – Assistant Coach
Mike Garland – Assistant Coach
Jordan Ott – Video Coordinator
Richard Bader – Director of Basketball Operations





Player Matchups


Ppg=points per game, rpg=rebounds per game, bpg=blocks per game, apg=assists per game, spg=steals per game, fg%=field goal percentage, 3pt= 3-point percentage, ft%=free throw percentage, mpg=minutes per game


Point Guard

Connecticut: A.J. Price (6-2, 190 Sr.)-14.7 ppg/3.4 rpg/40.3% 3pt/71.2% ft/4.8 apg


Michigan State: Kalin Lucas (6-0, 180 So.)-14.6 ppg/2.2 rpg/38.8% 3pt/81.4% ft/4.6 apg


This position is the reason why both teams made it this far.  Both players are 4-star leaders.  Their stats are similar, but the differences are Price’s experience and the fact that he compiled these stats in addition to leading the Huskies while Lucas is more of the go-to guy.


We give a slight advantage to UConn here.


Shooting Guard

Connecticut: Craig Austrie (6-3, 176 Sr.)-7.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 80.5% ft, 2.3 apg


Michigan State: Travis Walton (6-2, 190 Sr.)-5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg


While Walton is one of the top defensive guards in the nation, stopping Austrie won’t shut the Huskie offense down.  He should be able to supply extra help defense though, and that should make up for his inability to shoot from outside or at the foul line.


Austrie has had some hot nights, but that isn’t required of him for his team to make it to Monday night.


We’ll give an ever so slight advantage to MSU.


Small Forward

Connecticut: Stanley Robinson (6-9, 220 So.)-8.2 ppg/5.7 rpg/49.5% fg


Michigan State: Delvin Roe (6-8, 225 Fr.)-5.8 ppg/5.0 rpg/56.5% fg


This is a tough one to figure out.  Neither player plays consistently.  If both play a good game, it will be close to a wash.  Roe cannot hit the broad side of a barn from the foul line, but Robinson is basically an in-close shooter with no real range.


We’re going to call this one a stand-off but with high deviation.  Either player could have a big game or disappear.


Power Forward

Connecticut: Jeff Adrien (6-7, 243 Sr.)-13.7 ppg/10.0 rpg/50.5% fg/1.1 bpg


Michigan State: Raymar Morgan (6-8, 225 Jr.)-10.2 ppg/5.3 rpg/52.5% fg/1.2 apg


Morgan has not had a great game in March.  He is not a great defender nor a dominant rebounder for his position.


Adrien plays much like Wes Unseld used to play.  He stops the opponent in the hot shooting area, and he punishes any opponent who dares try to rebound the ball in his area. 


We’ll give UConn a hefty advantage here.



Connecticut: Hasheem Thabeet (7-3, 265 Jr.)-13.5 ppg/10.9 rpg/4.3 bpg/64.9% fg


Michigan State: Goran Suton (6-10, 245 Sr.)-10.4 ppg/8.4 rpg/51.6% fg/


Both players are prone to getting into foul trouble, but Thabeet is the more likely to foul out of a game.  Thabeet is a Bill Russell type player.  Unless another Wilt Chamberlain is opposing him, he is going to dominate the inside-as long as he is in the game and not sitting on the bench with foul concerns.


Suton doesn’t have the flashy numbers of his adversary, but he is a workhorse inside and won’t back down to Thabeet even though he is giving away five inches.  Suton plays strong defense.


In a surprise, we’re going to call this one a wash.


Bench Play


Kemba Walker (6-1, 172 Fr. G)-9.0 ppg/3.5 rpg/74.6% ft/1.1 spg/2.9 apg/25 mpg


Gavin Edwards (6-9, 230 Jr. F/C)-3.9 ppg/2.9 rpg/63.3% fg/74.5% ft/12 mpg


Michigan State

Chris Allen (6-3, 205 So. G)-8.7 ppg/2.3 rpg/80.0% ft/19 mpg


Durrell Summers (6-4, 195 So. G)-8.4 ppg/3.3 rpg/21 mpg


Marquise Gray (6-8, 235 Sr. F)-3.3 ppg/2.9 rpg/58.7% fg/10 mpg


Draymond Green (6-6, 235 Fr. F)-3.1 ppg/3.2 rpg/53.3% fg/11 mpg


Connecticut basically goes just seven deep since Jerome Dyson was lost 24 games into the season.  The two bench players are better than any two bench players for the Spartans.  However, MSU has great depth.  The Spartans can wear down the best opponents and still have something in the tank at the end of games. 


Edwards may have to play serious minutes in the paint if Thabeet picks up too many early fouls.


We’ll call this a win-win comparison.  UConn has the better seven deep bench, but MSU has the better depth by far.  Overall, give a slight edge to the Spartans.


PiRate Criteria see articles from the week of March 16-18 for explanation of this statistical formula


Connecticut qualifies as one of the elite team with statistical data similar to many previous title holders.  Michigan State just barely fails to qualify with 7 total criteria points.  Of course, we must look at both strength of schedule and implied home court advantage.  MSU’s schedule was about two points per game stronger than UConn’s.  You can also add about three points home court advantage for the Spartans playing just over an hour away from campus.



We are supposed to go with the criteria in virtually every game, and it would be hard to pick against Connecticut.  We think this is going to be a whale of a ball game.  Connecticut gives up just 37.6% shooting to opponents and blocks eight shots per game.


Michigan State gives up just 63 points per game and 41.4% shooting to opponents.  The Spartans are the dominant rebounding team in the land with an advantage of almost 10 per contest.  That advantage will be neutralized because UConn is just a hair behind at +9.2 per game. 


We expect the Huskies to stake themselves to the early lead and pad it a bit to the halfway point of the final period.  Then, the fatigue factor will begin to creep in.  At this point, Michigan State will mount a rally.  Connecticut will gain a second wind at the end and hold the Spartans at bay in the crucial time of this game.  Then, it will be up to the Huskies to hit their foul shots at the end of the game.  UConn hits 68% from the charity stripe.  It’s not great, but we believe Coach Jim Calhoun’s squad will advance to their third ever national title game.


Connecticut 67 Michigan State 63



Game 2

North Carolina Tar Heels (32-4) vs. Villanova Wildcats (30-7)

Tip Time: 30 minutes following the end of the

Connecticut-Michigan State Game

Approximately 8:47 PM EDT




North Carolina Tar Heels

No. Name Ht. Wt. Pos. Yr. Hometown (High School)
1 Marcus Ginyard 6-5 220 G/F SR Alexandria, Va. (Bishop O’Connell)
2 Marc Campbell 5-11 175 G JR Wilmington, N.C. (Ravenscroft)
4 Bobby Frasor 6-3 210 G SR Blue Island, Ill. (Brother Rice)
5 Ty Lawson 5-11 195 G JR Clinton, Md. (Oak Hill Academy (Va.))
11 Larry Drew II 6-1 180 G FR Encino, Calif. (Woodland Hills Taft)
13 Will Graves 6-6 245 F/G SO Greensboro, N.C. (Dudley)
14 Danny Green 6-6 210 F/G SR North Babylon, N.Y. (St. Mary’s)
15 J.B. Tanner 6-0 185 G SR Hendersonville, N.C. (West Henderson)
21 Deon Thompson 6-8 245 F JR Torrance, Calif. (Torrance)
22 Wayne Ellington 6-4 200 G JR Wynnewood, Pa. (The Episcopal Academy)
24 Justin Watts 6-4 205 G FR Durham, N.C. (Jordan)
30 Jack Wooten 6-2 190 G SR Burlington, N.C. (Williams)
32 Ed Davis 6-10 215 F FR Richmond, Va. (Benedictine)
35 Patrick Moody 6-4 195 F SR Asheville, N.C. (T.C. Roberson)
40 Mike Copeland 6-7 235 F SR Winston-Salem, N.C. (R.J. Reynolds)
44 Tyler Zeller 7-0 220 F FR Washington, Ind. (Washington)
50 Tyler Hansbrough 6-9 250 F SR Poplar Bluff, Mo. (Poplar Bluff)


Coaching Staff
Roy Williams – Head Coach
Joe Holladay – Assistant Coach
Steve Robinson – Assistant Coach
C.B. McGrath – Assistant Coach
Jerod Haase – Director of Basketball Operations
Chris Hirth – Head Athletic Trainer
Eric Hoots – Video Coordinator
Jonas Sahratian – Strength & Conditioning Coordinator



Villanova Wildcats


No. Name Pos. Cl. (EXP) Ht. Wt. Hometown High School


Antonio Pena Forward RS SO (2L) 6-8 235 Brooklyn, N.Y. St. Thomas More


Scottie Reynolds Guard JR (2L) 6-2 190 Herndon, Va. Herndon


Jason Colenda Guard JR (1L)   205 Fairfax, Va. Bishop O’Connell


Corey Fisher Guard SO (1L) 6-1 200 Bronx, N.Y. St. Patrick’s (N.J.)


Reggie Redding Guard JR (2L) 6-5 205 Philadelphia, Pa. St. Joseph’s Prep


Shane Clark Forward SR (3L) 6-7 205 Philadelphia, Pa. Hargrave Military Academy


Maurice Sutton Forward/Center FR 6-11 215 Upper Marlboro, Md. Largo


Dwayne Anderson Guard/Forward SR (3L) 6-6 215 Silver Spring, Md. St. Thomas More


Russell Wooten Forward JR 6-4 210 Chula Vista, Calif. St. Augustine


Corey Stokes Guard SO (1L) 6-5 220 Bayonne, N.J. St. Benedict’s


Taylor King Forward RS FR 6-6 230 Huntington Beach, Cal. Santa Ana Mater Dei


Dante Cunningham Forward SR (3L) 6-8 230 Silver Spring, Md. Potomac


Frank Tchuisi Forward SR (3L) 6-8 215 Douala, Cameroon St. Benedict’s



Jay Wright-Head Coach

Patrick Chambers-Associate Head Coach

Doug West-Assistant Coach

Jason Donnelly-Assistant Coach

Keith Urgo-Manager of Basketball Operations

Kyle Neptune-Administrative Intern

Jeff Pierce-Head Athletic Trainer

Lon Record-Strength Coach


Player Matchups


Point Guard

North Carolina: Ty Lawson (5-11, 195 Jr.)-16.3 ppg/2.8 rpg/54.2% fg/48.5% 3pt/81.5% ft/6.5 apg/2.0 spg


Villanova: Scottie Reynolds (6-2, 190 Jr.)-15.2 ppg/2.8 rpg/35.3% 3pt/81.7% ft/3.3 apg/1.6spg


What can’t Ty Lawson do?  He is the best outside shooter in the Final Four.  He can penetrate and either take it to the hoop or dish the rock for an easy shot.  He can play defense better than any other guard.  He can also shoot craps better than anybody on the Canadian-American border.


Reynolds is the reason VU made it this far.  It was his buzzer beater that knocked Pittsburgh out of the Dance.  He has a good offensive game, but he cannot handle Lawson.


North Carolina receives a huge advantage here.


Shooting Guard

North Carolina: Wayne Ellington (6-4, 200 Jr.)-15.6 ppg/4.8 rpg/48.0% fg/39.7% 3pt/77.8% ft/2.7 apg


Villanova: Reggie Redding (6-5, 205 Jr.)-6.9 ppg/5.0 rpg/70% ft/3.1 apg/1.2 spg


Ellington is a streaky outside shooter.  When his shot is falling, North Carolina cannot be defeated. 


Redding is VU’s defensive sparkplug who gives the Wildcats a fourth inside presence.  He had yet to meet an opponent as talented as Ellington though.


We give North Carolina the advantage here, but it is not strong.


Small Forward

North Carolina: Danny Green (6-6, 210 Sr.)-13.3 ppg/4.8 rpg/47.3% fg/41.5% 3pt/85.2% ft/2.8 apg/1.3 bpg/1.8 spg


Villanova: Dwayne Anderson (6-6, 215 Sr.)-9.1 ppg/2.8 rpg/46.0% fg/83.9% ft/1.4 apg/1.6 spg


Green can do a little of everything, but he isn’t a go-to player.  Anderson is similar to Green, just not as talented.


North Carolina has a small advantage here as well.


Power Forward

North Carolina: Deon Thompson (6-8, 245 Jr.)-10.7 ppg/5.8 rpg/49.8% fg/1.1 bpg/1.0 spg


Villanova: Dante Cunningham (6-8, 230 Sr.)-16.2 ppg/7.4 rpg/52.9% fg/1.2 apg/1.3 bpg/1.2 spg


Thompson is North Carolina’s least talented starter, but that is not a slap in his face.  He’s just not the star that the other four starters are.  There have been times when Thompson has come up with big plays.


Cunningham is Villanova’s key weapon.  As he goes, so go the Wildcats.  VU’s only chance at getting to Monday night’s game is for him to have a Danny Manning/Jack Givens moment.  We doubt that will happen, but he should have a good, if not great game.


Villanova has a decided edge here.



North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250 Sr.)-20.9 ppg/8.1 rpg/52.1% fg/85.8% ft/1.2 spg


Villanova: Shane Clark (6-7, 205 Jr.)-5.6 ppg/3.8 rpg/48.0% fg


Clark is a hard-nosed defensive stopper, but he cannot stop his opponent.  The top relief pitcher in baseball couldn’t consistently keep Babe Ruth from hitting one into the seats, and that’s why it will take two or two and a half defenders to keep Hansbrough from beating Villanova.


Hansbrough is like a loyal employee who always shows up for work on time, always does his job as well as helping others, and never complains when he doesn’t get a raise.  He may not be the most naturally talented big man in Tar Heel lore (James Worthy-Sam Perkins-Tom Lagarde-Bob McAdoo, etc.)


North Carolina has a major advantage here.


Bench Play

North Carolina

Ed Davis (6-10, 215 Fr. F)-6.6 ppg/6.6 rpg/51.4% fg/1.8 bpg/19 mpg


Bobby Frasor (6-3, 210 Sr. G)-2.7 ppg/1.9 rpg/1.4 apg/17 mpg



Corey Fisher (6-1, 200 So. G)-10.7 ppg/2.2 rpg/78.8% ft/2.8 apg/1.3 spg/24 mpg


Corey Stokes (6-5, 220 So. G)-9.5 ppg/3.4 rpg/84.8% ft/1.0 apg/23 mpg


Antonio Pena (6-8, 235 So. F)-5.3 ppg/4.2 rpg/48.5% fg/18 mpg


While neither team can go 10-deep, the reserves that do play are good enough to start for most teams.  In Villanova’s case, the two Coreys are really starters and not reserves.  They enter the game after the opening tip, but they play the bulk of the minutes at their positions.


North Carolina’s Davis is a future NBA player as soon as he can add some bulk.  Frasor is the type of pesty player who can stick the dagger in the opposing team with a well-timed trey after the defense has played competently for 25-30 seconds.


We’ll call this a wash.


PiRate Criteria

North Carolina had the second best criteria score of the 65 teams in the field, so the Tar Heels were selected to make it all the way to the last game.


Villanova has teetered on the brink of qualifying as a superior team.  After the regional semifinal and final rounds, the Wildcats statistical gains have elevated their criteria score to 11, which now gives them superior status.  Still, they trail UNC by six in this category.


The strengths of schedule are nearly equal, as UNC gets one additional point here.



North Carolina is clearly the better team.  It doesn’t mean Villanova has no chance, because a really good team can defeat a great team under certain conditions.


We believe this game will remain close throughout the first half, and Villanova could go to the locker room with a small lead.  The Tar Heels have too many quality options for the entire roster to have an off game.  Coach Roy Williams will figure out how to get his hot players the ball in the second half, and UNC will go on a run and put this game away by taking a double digit lead in the final 12 minutes. 


North Carolina 78 Villanova 66


Tune in here Sunday Night for a preview of the Championship Game.

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