The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 22, 2022

PiRate Picks: September 22-24, 2022

After losing most of our imaginary profit made in the first two weeks last week, we happened to be gifted with a week where the numbers seemed to be in our favor. We issued seven selections, including a Money Line Parlay that had eye-popping +204.42 odds. The Wyoming-Air Force rivlary game immediately drew our attention, as the 14 1/2 points were not just a gift, but an outright mistake. It won to start the weekend out on a great note.

We played two short favorites at home, something we rarely like to play. One of them, Maryland over SMU, won. The other was winning until a true freshman quarterback acted like Peyton Manning in the second half of his game, and our own local Vanderbilt Commodores won as a road ‘dog.

We played three totals, and all three won, but two of those were by the skin of our teeth. Oklahoma blew Nebraska off their home field. Thankfully, they ate the last 6 minutes off the clock when any score would have done us in. Notre Dame and Cal covered the 40 1/2 point total by a half point. Once again, we felt the AFA-Wyoming game was a gift with its high total, because the Cowboys historically have slowed down the option and kept this game close and low scoring.

Now to the Money Line Parlay at better than 2-1 odds. Penn State easily clobbered Auburn, as we thought would happen. Texas A&M was in a must-win situation to save Jimbo Fisher’s smoldering seat from becoming inflamed. North Carolina State proved their ranking is valid by topping Texas Tech with little trouble, and voila, we had an outstanding week cashing in six imaginary tickets in seven wagers. The imaginary $700 investment returned $1,294.42 for a fake profit of 85%. For the season to date, our beginning imaginary balance of $1,000 is now worth $1,906.19 a profit gain of 90.6% in four weeks.

That is now in the past. What have we done for you lately? We are about to do a lot by telling you that as wonderful as the numbers looked to us last week, they look that terrible this week. So many spreads are one point away from being plays for us. That one point is where we live. 20-something games were wiped out just because the number needed to be 7 1/2 instead of 6 1/2, 3 1/2 instead of 2 1/2, and 10 1/2 instead of 9 1/2. Buying points or playing teasers are two things we don’t like to do, unless we can play a 3-game, 10-point teaser where we can move spreads from 4 1/2 to 14 1/2, 7 1/2 to 17 1/2, 11 1/2 to 21 1/2 and similar.

Additionally, the totals seem to be a lot more accurate this week. Maybe on Monday, there were some playable totals, but by Wednesday night (when our picks are made), they had moved to unplayable numbers. We found just one game where we live the total this week.

That brings us to the Money Line parlay possibilities. Our philosophy with Money Line parlays is to take no more than three games on a parlay and to get at least +130 odds. Very rarely, we will add a fourth game that we believe has a better than 98% chance that the favorite will win. We could have added fourth games to the two parlays we chose, but that would have only raised the odds from the +130s to the +160s, and we don’t have the 98% confidence rating on either game. So, we are going with just three selections this week, hoping that next week will bring us more selection opportunities.

Selection #1: Southern California and Oregon State Under 70 1/2

It is our belief that this number had to be a little inflated to make it closer to a 50-50 wagering proposition. Still, the public is tending to the Over here. Both teams’ defenses and special teams have contributed to their scoring so far this year. This game figures to have better special teams defense, and both teams’ coaches might be preparing a little more than normal conservative game plans. We think the score could be in the neighborhood of 35-27, 35-31, or 34-28. Even a 38-28 game wins for us. So does a 35-34. It has to get to 38-35, 42-31, and 45-28 before this one loses.

Selection #2: Money Line Parlay at +135.77

Syracuse over Virginia

Georgia Southern over Ball St.

Old Dominion over Arkansas St.

Selection #3: Money Line Parlay at +134.52

Kansas over Duke

Clemson over Wake Forest

Temple over U Mass.

There is nothing special in our parlay picks this week. We simply believe that the chances of winning either one top the odds. We believe each one has a better than 50% chance of winning, and the chance of winning at least one of the two are 90%. Since going 1-1 in these two parlays is a guaranteed profit, we chose to pick these two with very similar odds, even if they are near our minimum odds we like to play.

Remember This: The PiRates never wager real money on these selections. We hope you don’t either. If you do wager real money, please do not use our selections as the main reference for your wagering.

We are not naive. We know there are more than a dozen of you that play our selections. Just because we have begun the 2022 football season with incredible results, there is no guarantee that this will continue. We have enjoyed 17 winning seasons in 22 years with this feature, but a couple of those 5 losing seasons were big losers. Many of our winning seasons returned 8-15% profit, some of those coming in years when the overall stock market returns were better than 15%. You don’t have to deal with the vig when you invest in corporations.

April 4, 2022

Congratulations To The Kansas Jayhawks

Our hearty Buckaroo congratulations go out to Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks, winners of the 2022 College Basketball National Championship. We are happy for KU and their fans, but we are also happy to those of you that followed the Bracketnomics Analysis and took Kansas to win it all the day after Selection Sunday three weeks ago.

With the close of the college basketball season, the PiRates now get onto the ship and sail away until August. We will return around Friday, August 12, to begin the previews of the 2022 college football season. Until then, check out our brand new tabletop baseball game–Saberfast Baseball.

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Championship Game Preview

Monday, April 4, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
KansasNorth Carolina5.2

The Bracketnomics Review

For the second year in a row and 7th time in the last 11 years, our pre-tournament choice to win the National Championship has made the title game. Last year, we pegged Gonzaga to go all the way, and the Bulldogs came up one game short against Baylor.

This year, we selected Kansas as the team that most perfectly fit the bill in PiRate Bracketnomics. Obviously, you know already that this bracketnomics breakdown will favor Bill Self’s Jayhawks, because there was a reason we chose Kansas from among the 68 teams in the Big Dance to cut the nets down while “One Shining Moment” played on the screen. Let’s look at all the Bracketnomics Factors for this game, starting with the primary data.

B1: Offensive and Defensive Efficiency: Teams that finish in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and top 20 in defensive efficiency have a championship resume. Give a little more notice to the offensive efficiency.

Kansas Offensive Efficiency = 6 / North Carolina Offensive Efficiency = 18

Kansas Defensive Efficiency = 17 / North Carolina Defensive Efficiency = 39

Baylor Last Year: Offense 2 / Defense 22

Virginia in 2019: Offense 2 / Defense 5

Villanova 2018: Offense 1 / Defense 11

North Carolina 2017: Offense 9 / Defense 11

Villanova 2016: Offense 3 / Defense 5

Duke 2015: Offense 3 / Defense 11

You get the picture: Kansas fits the National Champions’ efficiency ratings criteria. North Carolina does not. The one caveat is that Connecticut twice won the title with efficiency ratings outside of the norm. No other team in the last 30 years won the title with numbers outside this norm. Kansas has the significant advantage.

B2: Schedule Strength: All national champions in the 64 to 68-team tournament era have had a schedule strength in the top 40 or above 55.0 in my PiRate Schedule Strength numbers.

Kansas has the #2 strength of schedule at 62.15. North Carolina has the #21 strength of schedule at 59.71. KU’s schedule has been about 2 1/2 points per game stronger than North Carolina’s, which is a minimal advantage.

B3: A 3-point percentage of 37% or better. This stat may need to be adjusted slightly down, because this percentage was first isolated before the 3-point line moved back a few inches.

Kansas 3 pt%: 36.1

North Carolina 3 pt%: 36.1

Obviously, this is a wash as both teams shoot the same percentage. Carolina takes more 3-pointers, but this factor only cares about percentages. If a team gets hot from behind the arc, the opponent must stretch its defense. If teams cannot hit from outside, opposing defenses can pack it in and take away the paint.

B4: Offensive Rebound %: The number 37 is important in multiple Bracketnomics factors. If a team has a 37% OReb%, they are getting 3 offensive rebounds for every 8 missed shots. In NCAA Tournament games, where teams tend to shoot below their average due to opposing defensive strength, getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances to score on a possession is vital.

Kansas OReb%: 33.2

North Carolina OReb%: 31.3

Neither team reaches the magic number of 37, but both are quite strong. Kansas has a very slight advantage, but when combined with a very slight schedule strength advantage, this stat is meaningful.

B5: Defensive 2-point Field Goal Percentage: When a team holds opponents to a 2-point field goal percentage below 45%, their defense is champion tough.

Kansas 2ptD%: 46.7

North Carolina 2ptD%: 47.6

Neither team reaches the magic number, but Kansas has the superior number (not by much). What this means is that the big men on both teams should score significant points in the paint, and the quick guards should get some open shots. It could mean that this game will see a higher score than the average championship game.

B6: FT Rate of 37 or better: When a team has a FT Rate (FTA/FGA) of 37 or higher, it means that their offense is potent and forces defensive players to foul a lot so as not to give up easy shots. Making foul shots is great, but forcing fouls is the key part. Not only does this get players in foul trouble, it indicates that the defense cannot properly guard the offense. Although it is not part of this factor, defensive FT Rate should be monitored, because low FT Rates mean the defense can stop offenses.

Kansas FT Rate: 32.7

North Carolina FT Rate: 30.3

Once again, neither team reaches the 37% mark, but once again, Kansas has the slight advantage.

B7: R+T Rating: If this is your first visit to this site, R+T Rating is a statistic created by the PiRate Ratings to estimate potential “spurtability.” This is an evolving statistic, as the formula has been tweaked a few times over the years, and at the present time, there are two different R+T ratings–one using rate stats and one using counting stats.

Kansas R+T Ratings: Rate 6.2/Counting 13.8

North Carolina R+T Ratings: Rate 10.1/Counting 16.7

At last, North Carolina has an edge in something, and it is an important edge and the one area where the Tar Heels could capitalize enough to win the game. With an estimated three additional potential scoring spurts, if just one of the spurts resembles the 11-0 run the Heels made in 90 seconds against Duke Saturday night, North Carolina could open a sizable lead if the game is close when it happens.

Secondary Bracketnomics Factors

Note: These factors are lesser in importance than the primary factors but still important

B8: Scoring Margin: National Champions have scoring margins of 8 or more points, and most have double-digit scoring margins. They get to this point by dominating opponents–not by winning a bunch of 2-point games.

Kansas Scoring Margin: 11.2

North Carolina Scoring Margin: 6.8

Kansas has the distinct advantage.

B9: Field Goal Percentage Margin: When a team shoots an overall FG% margin of 8% or more, they are dominating in the most important factor of the game–putting the ball in the basket and preventing the other team from doing so. It that margin is 10% or more, you are looking at a truly dominating team.

Kansas FG% Margin: 7.0

North Carolina FG% Margin: 2.6

Neither team reaches 8%, but Kansas is close, while UNC has a small positive margin. KU gets the advantage here.

B10: A Winning Streak of 10 or more games or two of 6 or more games. To be the national champion, a team must beat 6 (or 7) other tournament teams without losing. Should one expect a team to do this if they couldn’t beat 6 or 7 teams in a row during the regular season? If a team had a 10-game winning streak or two winning streaks of 6 or more games, they played consistently for long stretches.

Kansas currently has a 10-game winning streak and had an 8-game winning streak earlier in the season.

North Carolina had one 6-game winning streak at the end of the regular season when their at-large hopes were far back in Bubbleville. They have won 11 of their last 12 games.

Kansas gets the advantage here, but it is minor.

B11: A Regular Season or Conference Tournament Championship. Almost all past national champions won either their regular season or conference tournament championship.

Kansas was Big 12 co-champions and won the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

North Carolina did not win either.
Kansas gets the advantage here.

Tertiary Factors

Note: These factors are the least important of the Bracketnomics factors, but they are still useful, because they appear in past champion resumes.

B12: A Head Coach With Past NCAA Tournament Experience. If a coach has taken multiple teams to the NCAA Tournamnt and has enjoyed success when he got there, it is worth a little extra against coaches that do not have this experience.

Kansas Coach Bill Self is coaching in his 23rd NCAA Tournament and 3rd Championship Game.

North Carolina Coach Hubert Davis has considerable experience as a player and assistant coach, but this is his first year as a head coach.

Who was the last first year coach to coach his team for an entire season and win the NCAA Championship? It was Ed Jucker at Cincinnati in 1961. Kansas gets another small advantage.

B13: Player Experience: A team with a lot of upperclassmen with playing experience tends to perform better on the national stage than a team with mostly underclassmen. How many seniors and juniors are in the top 8 of the roster?

Kansas has 5 seniors and 2 juniors among their top 8.

North Carolina has 2 seniors and 1 junior among their top 8.

Yet again, KU has a small advantage, but their roster is older than an NBA expansion team.

B14: A Clutch Player or 3 Go-To Players: When a team needs a crucial score late in the game, do they have a player that can get if for them? Or, does the team have three players not afraid to shoot that shot? Think of Michael Jordan in the 1982 Championship Game or Keith Smart in the 1987 Championship Game. You have no doubt seen a team panic in the final seconds and not even get a real shot when they needed somebody to step up.

Kansas definitely has a clutch shooter not afraid to take the basketball and take that shot. Senior Ochai Agbaji will carry KU on his back in crucial moments and deliver the goods.

North Carolina has three players that can take this final shot, even if none are like Agbaji. Brady Manek and Caleb Love can score at the end of tight games–Manek from the outside and Love in the paint. Big man Armando Bacot is the key player that can tip in a missed shot to win at the buzzer.

This is a wash, as both teams can potentially win on buzzer beaters.

B15: A Dominating Inside Presence. Championship teams have a post player or multiple post players that can stop opponent penetration but more importantly can score and rebound in the paint. The key stats are for one post player to score 12 points and average 7 rebounds per game, or to have two big men team for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Kansas has two big men, David McCormack and Jalen Wilson, that team for 21.5 points and 14.4 rebounds per game. This meets the requirement.

North Carolina meets this requirement both ways. Bacot averages 16.3 and 13.1, while Bacot and Manek team for 31.5 and 19.0.

While both teams satisfy this requirement, Carolina has the overall advantage with Bacot, but only if he is close to 100% after spraining an ankle Saturday night.

B16: 4 Double Figure Scorers. When a team has 4 or more players that average double figure points per game, you might be able to stop one or two, but more than likely one or two will have a big game. If a team has only one big scorer, slowing him down can crush that team’s offense.

Both teams have 4 double figure scorers, and this has the look of a game that should be a bit higher scoring than an average National Championship Game.

Final Judgment

Both teams have avenues to exploit the other team, but Kansas has more assets and less liabilities in this game. We selected the Jayhawks to go all the way three weeks ago, and we’re sticking by that choice. Our game prediction is:

Kansas 81 North Carolina 75

April 1, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Final Four

Saturday, April 2, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
DukeNorth Carolina3.8
KansasVillanova2.0

Bracketnomics

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Duke14558.937.031.646.628.63.612.3
North Carolina183959.336.131.047.530.110.116.7
Kansas71861.835.533.147.032.96.213.8
Villanova91761.435.731.148.030.14.110.9

Duke vs. North Carolina

For so many years, there was a chance that the two two rivals in college basketball would meet in the Final Four.

Personally, in 1982, I held 4 tickets to the Mideast Regional at Vanderbilt University when the NCAA Selection Committee had placed Kentucky and Louisville on a collision course in the second round after Kentucky dismissed Middle Tennessee State in the first round. The two Bluegrass rivals had not met for 25 years, and here they were just two days away from the most colossal game in the tournament since Houston and UCLA played in 1968. Alas, tiny MTSU upset Kentucky, and the value of those four tickets went from new car purchase to nice dinner purchase.

What does that have to do with this game in New Orleans? Absolutely nothing, but it allows me to stall a bit. This game is not easy to figure. Duke has the overall most efficient offense in college basketball, while Carolina is in the top 20 in offensive efficiency but since February, the Tar Heels are in the top five. Carolina’s defense is marginally better than Duke’s, but it isn’t all that much. Carolina has a little better offense at forcing fouls on the defense and a little better R+T Rating, but how much extra do you give Duke for trying to send Coach K out a winner?

In 1975, Kentucky clearly had better overall talent and should have beaten UCLA, but the Bruins played close to their top potential for the retiring Coach Wooden. The last time these two teams played, Carolina spoiled Coach K’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Additionally, the Tar Heels did not win the regular season or conference tournament in the ACC, while Duke won the regular season title. PiRate Bracketnomics values a conference champion over a non-champion in tossup games, so the edge goes to Duke to make it to the Championship Game on Monday night.

Kansas vs. Villanova

The PiRate Bracketnomics System correctly picked Kansas and Villanova to make the Final Four before the tournament began. We also picked Kansas to cut down the nets in New Orleans, so you know who we are selecting in this game.

Now, let’s look at why. First, Villanova is missing a key player in Justin Moore from an already small playing rotation. Now for the numbers. Kansas has a very slim advantage in offensive efficiency, offensive rebounding rate, defensive 2-point field goal percentage, and R+T Ratings. Strength of schedule is basically dead even, so with the injury to Moore, KU becomes a 4 or 5 point favorite.

March 27, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Sunday, March 27, 2022

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:00 am
Sunday, March 27, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
North CarolinaSaint Peter’s9.6
KansasMiami (Fla.)8.8

March 26, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Saturday, March 26, 2022

Saturday, March 26, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
VillanovaHouston-2.1
DukeArkansas3.7
Southern UtahPortland3.7

Elite 8 Bracketnomics Analysis

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Villanova83060.80.36031.248.60.306.511.6
Houston101056.50.34537.744.00.2914.122.0
Duke44358.20.37031.946.40.293.912.3
Arkansas541458.20.30429.946.50.386.912.7
North Carolina204259.00.36430.748.00.309.616.0
Saint Peter’s2252849.50.35532.143.50.384.68.9
Kansas62661.80.36033.547.10.326.213.3
Miami (Fla.)1812157.90.34422.753.20.29-5.4-3.0

Villanova vs. Houston: Houston has a more perfect Final Four Bracketnomics resume, but there is a caveat. The Cougars accumulated some of this resume with two former starters that were both lost for the season due to injuries.

Villanova has a better schedule strength and a better three-point shooting percentage, while Houston holds the R+T edge. It is so close to call, but the general rule of thumb is to go with the better R+T rating in tossup games. By a thin hair, the pick is Houston to repeat as a Final Four team.

Duke vs. Arkansas: It appears as if the Atlantic Coast Conference was quite underrated this year. Three of the Elite 8 are ACC teams. Duke showed a lot of toughness beating the number one defensive team in the nation Thursday night. Of course, Arkansas beat the number one team overall, and it did not look like a fluke.

Duke is close to having an ideal Final Four resume. The key here is that the Blue Devils have a considerably better Final Four resume than Arkansas, and they add two intangibles. First, they are playing for Coach K to go out a champion like John Wooden. Second, the ACC may need a few extra points in schedule strength. Duke is the choice.

North Carolina vs. Saint Peter’s: What we have here is a total monkey wrench in the Bracketnomics system. Saint Peter’s is not supposed to be here. I am not saying that no mid-major team should ever be in the Elite 8. It’s just that the Peacocks, with this resume, do not fit like past mid-major teams like George Mason, Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler. If Saint Peter’s makes the Final Four, the Bracketnomics System will be a total failure, because there isn’t any justification that says the Peacocks should make the Final Four.

How did this tiny commuter school located on both sides of what was once the Lincoln Highway in Jersey City get to the Elite 8? Beating Kentucky was “The Mouse That Roared.” This was not one of those all freshmen teams with no tournament experience. Beating Murray State wasn’t as surprising as we thought the Racers had failed to beat a really quality team. Beating Purdue was almost as shocking as beating Kentucky, but we have noted that Gene Keady and his disciples have never had great success in the NCAA Tournamnent, as Steve Lavin and Kevin Stallings also had issues with teams trying to win half-court possessions at the expense of forcing the issue and accumulating great R+T rating scores.

Now comes a North Carolina team that at one point this year lost to Kentucky by more than 30 points and looked like an NIT team but all of a sudden caught fire and slaughtered Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Coach K’s final home game. North Carolina looked like a national championship team in the Sweet 16, and Hubert Davis must be given all kinds of credit for guiding the Tar Heels from probable NIT to probable Final Four. I am going with the Tar Heels to set up the incredible top rivalry game in the Final Four. Saint Peter’s has a slightly better defensive efficiency, and their guards are incredibly deceptively better than a Metro Atlantic team, but the Peacocks’ schedule strength does not measure up to Final Four standards. What we’re looking at is an allowance horse champion trying to beat a Grade 1 Stakes winner in the Florida Derby with a trip to Churchill Downs on the line. For the sake of this system, the pick is North Carolina.

Kansas vs. Miami (Fla): After Selection Sunday, when we presented our massive Bracketnomics release, Kansas was our choice to go all the way and win the National Championship. The Jayhawks are halfway to the prize, but KU hasn’t won their games as convincingly as I hoped. Now the Jayhawks face a team that can attack them in a different way with Larranaga’s Runts. Miami is another team that the Bracketnomics say should not be here. Their R+T rating is the absolute lowest in R+T history of any Elite 8 team. In fact, they were not supposed to make it past the Round of 32 with this R+T rating.

In every facet that matters, KU has the advantage. This game should be a double-digit win for the Jayhawks, but with KU not clicking on all cylinders and Miami playing at its peak in the obviously underrated ACC, this game looks painfully closer than it should be. The pick is Kansas, but it may be one of those ugly wins.

March 25, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday, March 25, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
PurdueSaint Peter’s13.1
KansasProvidence7.9
UCLANorth Carolina4.1
Miami (Fla.)Iowa St.0.2

March 18, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Saturday, March 19, 2022

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:07 pm

Saturday’s Games–NCAA, NIT, CBI, and The Basketball Classic

Saturday, March 19, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
BaylorNorth Carolina7.3
KansasCreighton9.0
TennesseeMichigan5.4
ProvidenceRichmond3.5
UCLASaint Mary’s4.6
Murray St.Saint Peter’s9.0
ArkansasNew Mexico St.7.9
GonzagaMemphis12.0
Texas A&MOregon3.9
Wake ForestVCU4.8
BYUNorthern Iowa6.7
DrakePurdue Ft. Wayne9.5
Stephen F. AustinUNC Asheville5.7
Middle TennesseeCal Baptist6.8
OhioRice5.9
UTEPWestern Illinois6.6
PortlandNew Orleans8.2

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateR+T Old Rate
Baylor91461.134.636.349.528.511.417.4
N. Carolina276458.036.230.448.329.610.015.7
Kansas62961.835.533.447.932.85.212.1
Creighton1241858.630.728.643.526.0-1.84.0
Tennessee36361.835.932.845.829.68.513.9
Michigan199161.634.031.250.828.97.812.5
Providence317957.534.330.546.638.52.17.4
Richmond6810454.833.722.450.030.9-3.41.5
UCLA151259.435.129.847.336.85.717.3
Saint Mary’s63957.335.027.846.023.97.313.2
Murray St.354048.435.336.048.331.315.224.0
Saint Peter’s2593448.335.332.043.537.15.09.0
Arkansas401658.430.730.846.437.97.112.8
N. Mexico St.877350.732.633.745.634.88.114.5
Gonzaga1756.937.929.041.629.87.221.8
Memphis503157.335.937.545.338.46.711.7

Bracketnomics Predictions

Baylor vs. North Carolina

Baylor is just a tad stronger across the board and has a lot more NCAA Tournament experience on the bench and on the court.  Baylor should win but not by a large margin.

Kansas vs. Creighton

This has all the looks of a large margin victory for the Jayhawks   Creighton’s offense looks to be in trouble against Kansas’s defense, and spurtability heavily favors KU.

Tennessee vs. Michigan

This should be a close game with several lead changes.  Michigan’s interior defense may be a tad vulnerable to Tennessee’s inside muscle, but, the Wolverines’ offense is considerably better overall than Tennessee’s offense.  Schedule strength and R+T Ratings are basically a wash.  Solely on the interior defense, Tennessee gets the nod.

Providence vs. Richmond

Can Richmond make the Sweet 16 with an R+T Rating that shows the Spiders receive little or no Spurtability?  Providence is not a pushover, but the Friars are most likely not going to advance past the Sweet 16.  Providence has the advantage in every one of these stats.  Richmond beat Iowa by playing a much better half court game than the Big Ten Tournament champs.  Providence’s win over South Dakota St. was a little more hustle points over half court game, and it gets really difficult for a team to keep winning the half court game over and over, especially when the other team has the decided Spurtability advantage.  Look for the Friars to advance.

UCLA vs. Saint Mary’s

This game could stay close for quite a long time.  UCLA has the clear-cut edge in the essential stats, but the edge is not large enough to call the Bruins a prohibitive favorite.  The key here is the FT rate, where UCLA might be a little quicker and force SMC to commit more than their usual number of fouls.  UCLA needs to keep its starters on the floor more than the average tournament team, and the Gaels do not figure to force key players to go to the bench with foul trouble.  Give the edge to the Bruins but don’t expect a big blowout.

Murray St. vs. Saint Peter’s

In all but one respect, these teams are rather evenly matched.  Murray State has a huge R+T Rating advantage, 15 points to be exact in the old counting stat version and three times more in the rate stat version.  What this means is that the Racers are likely to enjoy one major spurt or multiple smaller spurts and pull away from the Peacocks at some point in the game.  Saint Peter’s won’t have the ability to play catch-up after a large spurt.  The Racers will be an interesting Sweet 16 team.

Arkansas vs. New Mexico St.

This game has special meaning with yours truly, ye old PiRate Captain.  Five years ago, when he was the head coach at Nevada, I called Eric Musselman the best Mid-Major head coach and a sure thing success wherever he ended up in a power conference.  When he was hired by Arkansas, I predicted he would return the Razorbacks to the prominence they enjoyed under Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson and have Arkansas competing for a shot at the Final Four within five years.  He is only in year three, and he almost made the Final Four last year.  

New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans is my current top Mid-Major coach in college basketball.  It is my belief that when he gets a power five coaching job, he too will produce the results Muss is producing in Fayetteville.

Now, about this game: Arkansas has a bit too much defensive abilities for the Aggies to consistently score in this game.  The difference in schedule strength and the slight evidence that the Razorbacks have a little more quickness is enough to call this one in Arkansas’s favor.  Don’t discount NMSU; Jans can coach undermanned talent and keep games close.  The Aggies can keep this game close and even have a chance to pull the upset, but the Razorbacks have about a 65% chance of winning this game.  Arky goes to the Sweet 16 again.

Gonzaga vs. Memphis

Don’t automatically dismiss Memphis in this game.  While Gonzaga has a decisive Bracketnomics advantage, Memphis has two superior aspects that can be used to exploit the 1-seed, and both work together to strengthen the advantages.  

Memphis has an exceptional offensive rebounding advantage in this game.  The Tigers are one of a small handful that have an O Reb% in excess of the magical 37%.  Memphis also exceeds the 37% margin in FT rate, which shows the Tigers have explosive quickness to the rim.  If Gonzaga gets into foul trouble in this game, all their other advantages will be neutralized.

Gonzaga is still the pick here, but this game should be a lot closer than expected, and Memphis will have a chance to pull off the big upset if Gonzaga fouls too much.

March 17, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Thursday, March 17, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
Colorado St.Michigan-2.1
ProvidenceSouth Dakota St.2.9
Boise St.Memphis-1.9
BaylorNorfolk St.20.2
TennesseeLongwood16.6
IowaRichmond10.2
GonzagaGeorgia St.23.1
North CarolinaMarquette1.9
ConnecticutNew Mexico St.9.0
KentuckySaint Peter’s17.3
Saint Mary’sIndiana2.3
San Diego St.Creighton2.3
ArkansasVermont4.2
Murray St.San Francisco-2.3
UCLAAkron14.9
KansasTexas Southern18.7
Fresno St.Eastern Washington11.8

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
Akron11316646.835.730.746.939.7
Alabama149461.930.835.649.233.6
Arizona52058.235.434.541.935.1
Arkansas401658.430.730.846.437.9
Auburn24859.232.033.142.631.6
Baylor91461.134.636.349.528.5
Boise St.761755.834.830.647.635.0
Bryant15421843.730.833.346.232.2
Cal St. Fullerton14416447.533.030.547.536.0
Chattanooga589550.534.632.750.726.7
Colgate7920345.140.326.447.526.6
Colorado St.208355.535.822.050.430.4
Connecticut213558.535.337.942.830.6
Creighton1241858.630.728.643.526.0
Davidson1115252.538.623.848.032.0
Delaware10021248.335.227.047.033.9
Duke74457.636.831.846.928.6
Georgia St.20111448.932.934.343.829.3
Gonzaga1756.937.929.041.629.8
Houston101156.034.137.843.528.7
Illinois233060.736.733.445.431.7
Indiana912159.033.926.943.433.5
Iowa27759.032.132.150.030.4
Iowa St1511059.736.828.250.728.1
Jacksonville St.13217846.338.830.047.130.9
Kansas62961.835.533.447.932.8
Kentucky42760.234.937.947.127.2
Longwood11519143.338.034.651.834.9
Loyola (Chi.)422254.238.325.146.931.7
LSU89559.531.933.847.733.0
Marquette624659.334.722.446.226.8
Memphis503157.335.937.545.338.4
Miami (Fla.)1715757.035.323.453.928.8
Michigan199161.634.031.250.828.9
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
Providence317957.534.330.546.638.5
Purdue310060.039.135.249.236.3
Richmond6810454.833.722.450.030.9
Rutgers1074358.533.629.346.526.9
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 Hall752659.034.033.044.731.4
South Dakota St.1222048.144.924.449.833.8
TCU802460.330.437.847.931.2
Tennessee36361.835.932.845.829.6
Texas321360.232.331.846.132.3
Texas A&M-CC28718140.233.535.349.936.7
Texas Southern27010744.531.733.845.232.7
Texas Tech65160.831.433.344.336.1
UAB288950.637.933.946.828.5
UCLA151259.435.129.847.336.8
USC474956.335.433.841.730.9
Vermont447445.936.424.644.926.4
Villanova82861.035.930.948.230.5
Virginia Tech185557.539.328.149.423.7
Wisconsin493860.131.225.949.932.3
Wright St.10826244.832.931.251.331.3
Wyoming546654.534.325.548.335.8
Yale20310349.033.025.750.632.6

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
Akron6.412.18.43.88T
Alabama4.97.53.60.64Yesx
Arizona7.017.917.110.911 & 9R T
Arkansas7.112.88.42.99 & 9Yesx
Auburn5.912.511.75.519YesR
Baylor11.417.412.93.915YesR
Boise St.11.215.07.92.214R T
Bryant1.76.45.22.49 & 7T
Cal St. Fullerton4.38.54.10.98T
Chattanooga8.715.210.14.65 & 5R T
Colgate1.78.595.115R T
Colorado St.-2.16.185.811x
Connecticut12.119.6103.55 & 5Yesx
Creighton-1.84.03.15.56x
Davidson2.712.16.86.415R
Delaware-3.61.33.94.15T
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
Illinois7.712.88.23.76YesR
Indiana1.87.85.66.86x
Iowa4.811.712.52.67 & 5T
Iowa St1.23.83.51.112x
Jacksonville St.3.410.67.16.410R
Kansas5.212.110.56.38 & 5YesR T
Kentucky15.724.113.57.47 & 6Yesx
Longwood14.920.311.22.611 & 8T
Loyola (Chi.)3.111.212.17.410T
LSU5.912.29.65.312x
Marquette-9.8-4.53.54.37x
Memphis6.711.777.56 & 6Yesx
Miami (Fla.)-5.01.33.81.29x
Michigan7.812.54.92.13Yesx
Michigan St.3.08.53.74.19x
Montana St.4.911.48.55.411 & 6R T
Murray St.15.224.0176.920 & 7R T
New Mexico St.8.114.58.36.610 & 5R T
Norfolk St.4.914.211.49.26 & 6R T
North Carolina10.015.75.81.96 & 5Yesx
Notre Dame-2.53.85.73.16 & 5x
Ohio St.-1.06.08.35.55Yesx
Providence2.17.44.82.68 & 8R
Purdue12.119.2116.68 & 6Yesx
Richmond-3.41.53.406T
Rutgers3.47.62.12.94x
Saint Mary’s7.313.29.33.77 & 6x
Saint Peter’s5.09.05.14.87T
San Diego St.4.410.57.65.16 & 5x
San Francisco8.714.210.13.310x
Seton Hall5.210.16.62.46 & 6x
South Dakota St.2.313.213.38.721R T
TCU12.516.93.11.87x
Tennessee8.513.910.437 & 5YesT
Texas7.210.18.72.96 & 5Yesx
Texas A&M-CC10.215.872.88T
Texas Southern4.78.43.74.16T
Texas Tech9.617.511.49.46x
UAB10.719.214.45.57T
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 Tech2.47.48.44.26 & 5T
Wisconsin3.47.34.2-1.47 & 6R
Wright St.1.85.34.41.57 & 5T
Wyoming1.48.77.54.48 & 6x
Yale-0.73.63.52.17T

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#
Akron3023YY3
Alabama4221NN3
Arizona0111YY4
Arkansas4 E8511NN4
Auburn10 F4131YY4
Baylor9 CH23xNN3
Boise St.2511NY3
Bryant0511NN3
Cal St. Fullerton1421NY2
Chattanooga0511NN3
Colgate2423NN5
Colorado St.0241NN2
Connecticut3413YN3
Creighton9 E831xYY3
Davidson9 E8323YY4
Delaware032xNN4
Duke35 CH211YY5
Georgia St.1411NN3
Gonzaga21 2R221YY5
Houston17 F453NNY5
Illinois5411YY4
Indiana0421YY3
Iowa10211YY3
Iowa St3431NN2
Jacksonville St.3431NN3
Kansas22 CH521NY4
Kentucky20 CH241YY5
Longwood0321NN3
Loyola (Chi.)0521NN2
LSU0201YY4
Marquette8 F4211YN2
Memphis032xYY3
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
Providence5613NY4
Purdue13 E8311YY4
Richmond2 S16611YY3
Rutgers2411NN3
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
UAB2341NN4
UCLA12 F4431NN4
USC4 E8241YY4
Vermont3621NY2
Villanova17 CH431NN4
Virginia Tech6321NY3
Wisconsin3 S16221NN3
Wright St.4053YN3
Wyoming0301YY3
Yale2241NN2

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.

Arizona

Baylor

Gonzaga

Houston

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

Almost National Championship Resume (1)

Auburn

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:

Arizona

Baylor

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

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

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