The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 19, 2018

2018 Southeastern Conference Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:38 pm

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.
Our Power 5 Conference preseason ratings and won-loss predictions were figured before knowing the outcome of recent suspensions to Coaches Urban Meyer and D.J. Durkin at Ohio State and Maryland. Because our ratings set 100.0 as average, and the mean of all 130 teams must be 100.0, taking points away from Ohio State and Maryland require redistributing points to the other 128 teams. Expect these ratings to change prior to August 25.

 
There is an old saying that the three toughest conferences in football are the NFC, the AFC, and the SEC. The Southeastern Conference is the big dog of college football. It is followed by zealots who treat it like a religion. The fans know more about an incoming freshman than most businesses know about new employees. Some fans basically take off from work on Wednesday to take their RVs on the road for a Saturday game. Tailgating in the SEC could be a regular TV program on the Food Network. SEC Football is one of the most successful industries in the world!

 

 

In an effort to show you a little more about how the PiRate Ratings are made, we are going to reveal one of the pre-season rating scores we apply to each team. We will show you the scores of each unit on the 14 teams. These include, the Offensive Line, Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Backs, and Special Teams. This does not make up the entire rating. This is just one look at each team, but it is the one you don’t need to understand any advanced analytics to fully understand and appreciate.

 
Each unit is graded on a scale of 60-100 at the FBS level. The grades are 95% mechanical and could be performed by anybody that has the key to how the mechanical grading is made. The other 5% is a minor adjustment based on the players’ original recruiting rankings, which sometimes can predict a player to improve by more than another.
These scores look like school grades, but in this system, the difference between 70 and 90 is much less than the difference in test grades in schools. The difference in a 90 offensive line and a 70 offensive line can be as little as 3-4 points of PiRate Rating.

 
We take these grades and assign a weighting to the units. Obviously the quarterback is much more important than the long snapper. We add or subtract points based on depth, coaching changes, and other intangibles to come up with one part of the three PiRate Ratings. Each PiRate Rating has 5 to 7 different systems that measure talent and coaching of the 130 teams, which is why it takes basically 130 days to rate 130 teams. We start as soon as a team wraps up Spring Practice and sends out their Spring Media Guide. Last year’s final rating is the starting point, and all the preseason work presents a plus or minus adjustment to the PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings.

 
Remember that these rankings include starters and reserves, and these are not Pro football draft ratings; an option quarterback might be rated ahead of a potential 1st round NFL selection, because we are only concerned with how the players affect the college game. Starters count for about 80% and reserves about 20% for each unit, unless the position has co-starters or the starting QB has yet to be named; there is a different algorithm for these instances. Also, these ratings do not include injuries incurred in August practices, so the sad news about Alabama losing outstanding outside linebacker Terrell Lewis is included in their score, but the recent loss of Christopher Allen is not. His injury will be reflected in Alabama’s opening rating against Louisville a week from Tuesday.

 
About the units: Tight ends are included in both the receivers and offensive line. Running backs are included as part of the receivers. When there is a true blocking fullback, he is part of the offensive line rating and contributes almost nothing to the running back score. If he is used as a receiver like an H-Back, then he is treated the same way as a tight end.

 
The style of defense factors minimally in the ratings for each unit. A 3-4 linebacker unit will be more important than a 4-2-5, so the linebackers will be given more weight in the algorithm at the end of the ratings’ process.

 

EAST

Florida
Quarterback: 80
Receivers: 83
Offensive Line: 82
Running Backs: 91
Defensive Line: 94
Linebackers: 88
Defensive Backs: 93
Special Teams: 86

Outlook: The recovery period for the Gators will be brief. This team quit on the previous staff after narrow losses to LSU and Texas A&M. The defense is better than it played last year, and Mullen brought Todd Grantham with him from Mississippi State, where the Bulldogs were much better defensively than their talent level predicted.
The schedule is almost a dream. Three cupcakes in non-conference play, home games with Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, and South Carolina, and road games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt make nine wins possible and eight wins probable. The Gators aren’t ready to challenge Georgia for the East Division championship, but they figure to compete for number two in Mullen’s first year back at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Captain Says: 5-3 in the conference and 8-4 overall

Georgia
Quarterback: 89
Receivers: 91
Offensive Line: 96
Running Backs: 97
Defensive Line: 93
Linebackers: 91
Defensive Backs: 94
Special Teams: 95

Outlook: Normally, a team that lost as much as Georgia lost on defense would be expected to fall back by at least two wins if not more. Also, when a team that lost first and second round-drafted running backs, the offense lost might decline enough to cost the team another win. That is far from the case with Georgia. With potential future All-American Jake Fromm returning at quarterback after an incredible freshman year that saw him finish a close second in passing efficiency, Fromm should top 3,000 yards passing behind a top-notch offensive line. The defense returns more than enough talent to keep holding opponents to around 17 points per game, and the schedule gives the Bulldogs a chance to run the table to the SEC Championship Game.

The Captain Says: 7-1 in the SEC and 11-1 overall and berth in SEC Championship Game

Kentucky
Quarterback: 77
Receivers: 82
Offensive Line: 82
Running Backs: 92
Defensive Line: 78
Linebackers: 90
Defensive Backs: 90
Special Teams: 84

Outlook: Mark Stoops has slowly increased the talent level in Lexington to the point where the Wildcats are just a little behind the teams competing for second place. Close losses to Florida and Ole Miss kept Kentucky from playing in the Outback or Gator Bowl last year. Depth concerns will hurt this team, just like it did last year, when the Wildcats ran out of gas following a 5-1 start.

The Captain Says: 2-6 in the SEC and 5-7 overall

Missouri
Quarterback: 94
Receivers: 89
Offensive Line: 94
Running Backs: 92
Defensive Line: 85
Linebackers: 86
Defensive Backs: 77
Special Teams: 93

Outlook: Missouri will go as far as the passing game takes them. Drew Lock had a 202.9 passer efficiency ratings in the 7 wins, all against teams with losing records or an FCS member. His efficiency rating fell to 124.9 in the six losses, all to teams that played in bowls. The Tigers might win a game or two with their special teams.

The Captain Says: 3-5 in the SEC and 7-5 overall

South Carolina
Quarterback: 85
Receivers: 94
Offensive Line: 84
Running Backs: 84
Defensive Line: 86
Linebackers: 88
Defensive Backs: 88
Special Teams: 93

Outlook: Will Muschamp has this team in contention for second place in the East, but the Gamecocks do not have a strong enough offensive or defensive line to compete with the Georgia’s and Alabama’s in this conference. South Carolina rarely dominates the stat box.

They were outgained by 258 yards in a season-opening win over North Carolina State, by 64 yards the following week in a win over Missouri, and by 54 yards in a win over Vanderbilt. Expect a better yardage output this year, but the Gamecocks are not likely to be +11 in turnovers, so the final outcome should be about the same.

The Captain Says: 5-3 in the SEC and 8-4 overall

Tennessee
Quarterback: 81
Receivers: 82
Offensive Line: 76
Running Backs: 79
Defensive Line: 80
Linebackers: 86
Defensive Backs: 83
Special Teams: 89

Outlook: Tennessee last competed for the SEC Championship in 2007. Derek Dooley and Butch Jones failed to make this program great again, and now the job is in the hands of Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt is a tough disciplinarian with the ability to teach kindergarten, a rare combination. He’s also a top-notch recruiter, so it is only a matter of time before the talent level moves upward. 2018 will be a tough introduction to the head coaching world.

The Vols have decent talent on the defensive side of the ball, not enough to make noise in the SEC, but enough to win a couple times in the league and to lose games by fewer points. It’s up to the offense to move the ball and keep the defense off the field, and we don’t think the offense is up to the task.

The Captain says: 3-5 in the SEC and 6-6 overall

Vanderbilt
Quarterback: 83
Receivers: 80
Offensive Line: 81
Running Backs: 74
Defensive Line: 76
Linebackers: 75
Defensive Backs: 81
Special Teams: 82

Outlook: Derek Mason’s defensive Midas Touch turned from gold to balsa wood last year. Coming off a bowl season, the Commodores were expected to compete for another in 2017. A 3-0 start looked like Vanderbilt might have been on its way to its third 8-win regular season of the decade. Three tough games with Alabama, Florida, and Georgia left the team battered and bruised, and the Commodore ship took on too much water. That great defense gave up 505 yards and 46 points per game in the seven conference losses.

The Commodores lost seven starters off that defense, and the 2018 edition could be a little weaker. The offense could not run the ball in SEC play, averaging just 79 yards per game in the seven losses.

The Captain Says: 1-7 in the SEC and 4-8 overall
WEST

Alabama
Quarterback: 96
Receivers: 86
Offensive Line: 96
Running Backs: 99
Defensive Line: 96
Linebackers: 95
Defensive Backs: 93
Special Teams: 89

Outlook: For anybody else in the league, maybe including Georgia, when a team lost as much talent as the Tide, they would be picked to drop from the national championship to maybe 9-3. When a team plugs new All-Americans into the lineup to replace those that just left, the only thing that changes are the names in the program.

Make no mistake about it: Alabama could be vulnerable against an excellent mobile quarterback that can evade the pass rush and find an open receiver (isn’t everybody vulnerable in this case). The Johnny Manziel, Deshaun Watson, and Chad Kelly type beat other Alabama defenses, so this could be the case in 2018. Who on the schedule has this type of quarterback with an offensive line that can protect him, and with receivers that can get open and pick up big yards? Well, they aren’t officially on the schedule, as least not until game number 15–Clemson.

The Captain says: 8-0 in the SEC and 12-0 overall and berth in SEC Championship Game
Arkansas
Quarterback: 78
Receivers: 81
Offensive Line: 82
Running Backs: 87
Defensive Line: 79
Linebackers: 83
Defensive Backs: 79
Special Teams: 91

Outlook: The Bret Bielema era is over in Fayetteville, and grocers and restaurant owners are in mourning. Chad Morris brings his spread offense where the Razorbacks have been a pro-style power team in recent years. The talent level on both sides of the ball has fallen below the top teams in the league, and Arkansas is about on par with Kentucky in the other division. The two quarterbacks competing for the starting nod, Ty Storey and Cole Kelley, are both pro-style quarterbacks not necessarily equipped to run the Morris offense. The defense lacks a lot of quality talent, but new coordinator John Chavis will get more out of this unit than last year’s showing.

The Captain says: 2-6 in the SEC and 6-6 overall

Auburn
Quarterback: 92
Receivers: 90
Offensive Line: 83
Running Backs: 87
Defensive Line: 94
Linebackers: 91
Defensive Backs: 92
Special Teams: 87

Outlook: Auburn has the talent to win the SEC Championship, but the schedule will prevent the Tigers from doing so. The Tigers must play the two division favorites plus dark horse Mississippi State on the road, and we wouldn’t pick the Cam Newton Auburn team to win all three games.
This could be the year where Auburn passes the ball for more than 250 yards per game. Jarrett Stidham has a stable full of race horse receivers and an offensive line that may be better at pass blocking than run blocking. The defense is still quite strong, so Auburn will compete in every game; it’s just that they will lose some close ones away from Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Captain says: 6-2 in the SEC and 9-3 overall

LSU
Quarterback: 78
Receivers: 82
Offensive Line: 85
Running Backs: 80
Defensive Line: 90
Linebackers: 92
Defensive Backs: 94
Special Teams: 87

Outlook: On paper, this might look like a team that is in danger of falling down to the bottom of the division. But, the Tigers still have a lot of talent, especially on defense, where it would not surprise us if LSU gives up less than 300 yards per game this year.

The offense looked to be a large negative with so much talent lost, but a little bird told us that recent Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow is wowing the coaches in Baton Rouge. Since his arrival post Spring ball, two of the three quarterbacks expected to contend for a starting spot have transferred. Burrow had a 153.1 passer rating in very limited action with the Buckeyes. He has an accurate arm and plays with poise, but he has minimal game experience and dumped the ball to his backs even when he had open receivers downfield.

The Captain says: 3-5 in the SEC and 6-6 overall

Mississippi
Quarterback: 81
Receivers: 96
Offensive Line: 88
Running Backs: 80
Defensive Line: 84
Linebackers: 79
Defensive Backs: 94
Special Teams: 89

Outlook: Matt Luke should have been given a special award for keeping the Ole Miss team together and bringing normalcy back to the program. Old-timers like us see a lot of John Vaught in his ability to lead a team and play an open style of offense. Ole Miss is still on probation with a bowl-ban, and it will likely cost this team a bowl game for the second consecutive season, because the Rebels can pass the ball and defend the pass well enough to win half of their games.

Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was quite effective when he finally took over as the starter. In the final five games, his 167.3 passer rating was the best in the league over the time period, and he averaged 321 yards per game in that stretch. Of course, it is a lot easier to have great passing stats when your receiving corps is more talented than three or four NFL teams. A.J. Brown might be a leading Heisman Trophy contender if he played for Notre Dame, Oklahoma, or USC.

The Captain says: 2-6 in the SEC and 6-6 overall

Mississippi St.
Quarterback: 91
Receivers: 82
Offensive Line: 92
Running Backs: 90
Defensive Line: 93
Linebackers: 82
Defensive Backs: 90
Special Teams: 81

Outlook: Joe Moorhead comes to Starkville at the perfect time. He inherits all the pieces he needs to run a potent offense and play aggressive, smart defense. Except for the Alabama game, the Bulldogs can compete in the other 11. If Moorhead and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop can get improved play from the linebackers, and a couple of serviceable receivers can come forth to help take the heat off the running game, State could make a run at an 11-win season.

All this comes with a major caveat. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald must be 100% healthy and able to do the same thing this year that he did prior to the injury last year. If he stays healthy for 12 games, then State should have two, 1000-yard rushers.

The Captain says: 5-3 in the SEC and 9-3 overall

Texas A&M
Quarterback: 84
Receivers: 83
Offensive Line: 84
Running Backs: 86
Defensive Line: 88
Linebackers: 91
Defensive Backs: 85
Special Teams: 93

Outlook: Jimbo Fisher figures to make a lot of changes in year one compared to how Kevin Sumlin ran the team. The offense will go from a spread passing game to a pro-style with more power running. Fisher is a great mentor of quarterbacks, but as of this writing, the starter for 2018 has not been decided. NIck Starkel is the better passer, while Kellen Mond adds a running aspect that Starkel does not have.

The Aggies are solid at all positions but not spectacular at any. They have experience at linebacker with Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka back after combining for 182 tackles with 22 for loss and 11 sacks.

The Captain says: 4-4 in the SEC and 7-5 overall

Here is how the SEC Media voted in the preseason poll

SEC
East 1st Place Points
Georgia 271 1977
South Carolina 8 1535
Florida 4 1441
Missouri 0 1057
Kentucky 1 874
Tennessee 1 704
Vanderbilt 0 392
West 1st Place Points
Alabama 263 1971
Auburn 19 1664
Mississippi St. 2 1239
Texas A&M 0 1091
LSU 0 1025
Ole Miss 0 578
Arkansas 0 412

The PiRate Ratings differ minimally

Southeastern Conference
East Division
Team SEC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Georgia 0-0 0-0 130.9 126.3 132.4 129.8
Missouri 0-0 0-0 114.4 112.7 116.0 114.3
S. Carolina 0-0 0-0 112.9 111.7 112.2 112.3
Florida 0-0 0-0 112.9 110.6 113.3 112.2
Kentucky 0-0 0-0 106.8 105.3 106.3 106.1
Tennessee 0-0 0-0 98.8 99.5 98.4 98.9
Vanderbilt 0-0 0-0 96.8 97.5 96.2 96.9
West Division
Team SEC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 0-0 0-0 132.0 129.3 133.8 131.7
Auburn 0-0 0-0 122.0 121.2 124.4 122.5
Mississippi St. 0-0 0-0 122.5 119.2 122.7 121.5
L S U 0-0 0-0 110.1 110.3 110.7 110.4
Texas A&M 0-0 0-0 110.7 109.6 110.7 110.3
Arkansas 0-0 0-0 109.3 106.4 107.6 107.8
Ole Miss 0-0 0-0 105.3 105.1 106.1 105.5
SEC Averages 113.2 111.8 113.6 112.9

New Coaches
Dan Mullen isn’t a new coach to the league, but he is a new head coach at Florida. Mullen has a storied history with his new team. He tutored Tim Tebow during the Urban Meyer years when Florida won two national championships. He left Mississippi State stocked with incredible talent, and his recruiting efforts in Gainesville will quickly bring the Gators back to prominence.
Jeremy Pruitt has an incredible resume as a defensive genius, and he takes over a Tennessee team that did not play a lot of defense in recent years. Pruitt has produced top defenses at Georgia, Florida State, and Alabama, and he comes to Knoxville with multiple championship rings. His recruiting strengths in the Deep South should give the Volunteers a decent chance of returning to glory, but not for a few years.

Arkansas welcomes Chad Morris to Fayetteville after he turned the SMU program back into a bowl team. Morris brings his up-tempo,spread offense to the SEC West, where it has worked just fine at Auburn. The style is a complete contrast to former coach Bret Bielema’s power offense. Morris previously was offensive coordinator at Clemson and helped develop Deshaun Watson into a star.
Joe Moorhead takes over for Mullen at Mississippi State. Moorhead most recently was offensive coordinator for Penn State, where his offenses took off the last two years. He was the head coach of the Fordham Rams from 2012 to 2015, taking the Rams to three consecutive FCS Playoffs.

Jimbo Fisher takes over at Texas A&M after a brilliant career at Florida State, first as a coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden, and then as a national championship-winning head coach. His previous SEC experience included six years as quarterback coach under Tommy Tuberville at Auburn.

Predicted Won-Loss Records
Note: These predicted won-loss records are strictly mechanical based on the initial PiRate Ratings. No upsets are factored in these predictions. Additionally, our PiRate Ratings are only useful for the next week of games and cannot really be used to forecast past that point. Part of our weekly adjustment to our ratings includes a factor where depth issues or non-issues have been pre-set. In other words, a team without talented second stringers may lose ratings points as the season progresses even if they win games by the predicted margin, whereas a team with exceptional depth (like Alabama) will improve during the season and see its rating rise even if they win games by a little less than the predicted margin. Ohio State and Maryland could see their ratings change by large amounts depending on the outcome of the two coaching investigations.  The predicted won-loss records in the team capsules are more realistic.

SEC
Team Conference Overall
East
Georgia 8-0 12-1
Florida 6-2 9-3
South Carolina 6-2 9-3
Missouri 4-4 8-4
Kentucky 2-6 5-7
Vanderbilt 1-7 4-8
Tennessee 0-8 3-9
West
Alabama 8-0 13-0 *
Mississippi St. 7-1 11-1
Auburn 5-3 8-4
Texas A&M 4-4 7-5
Arkansas 3-5 7-5
Ole Miss 1-7 5-7
LSU 1-7 4-8

Bowl Tie-ins
1. Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA
2. Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL
3. Outback Bowl in Tampa, FL
3. Texas Bowl in Houston, TX
3. Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, FL
3. Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC
3. Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN
3. Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN
9. Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA
9. Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, AL

Coming Tuesday–The PiRate Ratings return to the in-season format. Our first ratings for the pre-week one schedule debut for the 2018 season. A couple of early games begin the college football season on Saturday, August 25.

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March 22, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Games of Thursday, March 22

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Nevada Loyola (IL) 2.7
Michigan Texas A&M 2.5
Kentucky Kansas St. 4.4
Gonzaga Florida St. 5.0

Thursday Night’s TV Schedule

Thursday, Mar 22, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
7:07 PM 7 Nevada 11 Loyola (Chi.) Atlanta CBS
7:37 PM 3 Michigan 7 Texas A&M Los Angeles TBS
9:37 PM 5 Kentucky 9 Kansas St. Atlanta CBS
10:07 PM 4 Gonzaga 9 Florida St. Los Angeles TBS

We’ve All Busted

What a year to debut a new bracket-picking trial!  How can we tell if this criteria has any credibility when nobody in the world can show any formula or any human picking ability that would have worked in the first two rounds.

Tonight, there will be no one-seeds or two-seeds playing.  Michigan is the only three-seed playing tonight.  Instead, we will see a seven, two nines, and an 11-seed in action.  Then, on Saturday either Nevada or Loyola will be playing for a spot in the Final Four.

Things will get a tad less crazy tomorrow night when two ones and two twos play, but in only one case is a Sweet 16 game going to have the two teams the seeding process believed should be there.

All is not lost.  We still have three of our four predicted Final Four teams alive, including the team we believe would win the National Championship.

Here is a look at the PiRate Ratings 2018 Criteria for the Sweet 16.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Clemson Y 25-9 74-66 6.68 7.9 59.83
Duke Y 28-7 85-69 10.11 21.7 60.69
Florida St. Y 22-11 81-74 4.18 10.6 58.79
Gonzaga Y 32-4 84-68 9.37 22.6 53.89
Kansas Y 29-7 81-71 8.34 5.4 61.30
Kansas St. Y 24-11 72-67 3.69 0.9 59.08
Kentucky Y 26-10 77-71 5.38 12.3 60.66
Loyola (Chi.) Y 30-5 72-62 9.82 6.7 51.44
Michigan Y 30-7 74-63 5.43 10.0 59.52
Nevada Y 29-7 83-73 5.97 6.4 55.05
Purdue Y 30-6 81-65 11.43 10.5 59.31
Syracuse Y 22-13 67-64 1.55 11.3 58.92
Texas A&M Y 22-12 75-70 4.73 12.9 61.02
Texas Tech Y 26-9 75-65 5.15 14.5 59.89
Villanova Y 32-4 88-76 10.18 13.1 60.33
West Virginia Y 26-10 80-69 0.66 16.9 60.59

Immediately, we can see one very consistent pattern here.  All of the Sweet 16 teams come from what we call the “Power Conferences.”  A Power Conference is one in which the overall league RPI is one of the top 12.  The Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and West Coast Conferences rank in the top 12, so really, there are no completely surprise teams.  We just failed to hit on these regular season champions of these leagues.  We may have to add a caveat in the future that when the regular season champion of one of these leagues makes the tournament to watch out for them as an underdog, because in most cases, they have been seeded incorrectly.

Loyola, Nevada, and Gonzaga did not look like they were fluke wins in the two rounds.  Loyola’s defense and intelligent half-court offense looked a lot like Butler during their back-to-back runs to the Final Four.  Gonzaga should be no surprise by now.  They are to this generation what UNLV and Marquette were to the 1970’s.  Nevada should have been no surprise, as we have only lauded Coach Eric Musselman as the best men’s basketball coach since about December of 2016.  How he orchestrated a couple of wins this past weekend with a six-man roster is incredible, and he did it against Cincinnati with multiple players in early foul trouble.  We hear that he is on the radar for other jobs that could bring him quite a jump in salary, but we believe that he is more likely to return to the NBA before taking another college position.

Looking at the data above, 15 of the 16 teams look like they belong in the Sweet 16.  Kansas State is the lone outlier, but look at how they got here from the previous round.  They became the first team ever to face a 16-seed in the Round of 32, and the Wildcats almost didn’t beat UMBC.

We have delayed this report where we preview all eight games in the Sweet 16, as we feverishly try to discover if certain injured players will be able to contribute in any way.  Tops on that list is Purdue’s Isaac Haas.  Who says that sports cannot expand the minds of our youth today?  The entire Purdue University Engineering department, professors and students, have been hard at work trying to create an NCAA-approved sleeve to protect Hass’s shattered elbow, and they have a deadline fast approaching.  It isn’t exactly finding a way to bring home Apollo 13, but it’s still an honorable task that could help dozens of Millenials develop some confidence and resume-building gold.

Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could conceivably play a few minutes here and there tonight against Kansas St., but it is more likely that he will be held out in order to possibly contribute a little more if the Wildcats make it to the Elite 8.

Then, there is Nevada.  How does a team get outrebounded by 15 boards, force just seven turnovers, and make just six, 3-pointers and win a Round of 32 game?  How does this same team get behind by 22 points, see three players on a roster of just six get in early foul trouble, and still come from behind to beat a top 10 team?

Maybe Mariah Musselman is just as powerful as Sister Jean.  Of course, one of these two will see the magic come to an end tonight.  This will be a game that looks more like a chess match between two geniuses than a racehorse up and down affair.  It should be tense for 40 minutes.

Out in Los Angeles, the Michigan-Texas A&M game is intriguing.  Michigan’s new inside presence on both sides of the floor has made the Wolverines better able to face the power teams, while their outside game is still strong.  Can the Aggies use a little superior quickness in this game to lead to a repeat performance of their Round of 32 dismantling of the Tar Heels?  Michigan’s defense will be a tad more difficult to solve than North Carolina’s, and this game should be exciting to the final few possessions.

On paper, the final game of the night looks like a potential mismatch, but in this wacky season, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the underdog wins.

It’s time to preview all eight Sweet 16 games.  We will talk more about Friday’s games on Friday morning.

Nevada vs. Loyola (Chi.)

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Nevada Y 29-7 83-73 5.97 6.4 55.05
Loyola (Chi.) Y 30-5 72-62 9.82 6.7 51.44
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Nevada -0.64 6.11 4.42 3.08 58.4 52.4
Loyola (Chi.) 1.49 6.51 6.43 0.94 60.2 50.4

Loyola does not force turnovers, but the Ramblers also do not commit many.  While being a decent rebounding team, they do not control the boards, which is Nevada’s Kryptonite.  So, neither team will really exploit the other’s weakness.This is an excellent chess game according to the criteria results.  Nevada needs to force turnovers or at least commit very few to be successful.  They beat Cincinnati by committing just two turnovers in the entire game in Nashville!

Looking at true shooting percentage margin and schedule strength, once again, these two factors cancel out each other.

It comes down to which team can handle a little adversity early in the second half and then make maybe one run.  Think of a classic horse race, where you have a bunch of horses that come from just off the pace and have one run in them.  Which horse will get the perfect trip and be in position to cross the line first?

We admit that we have no sure statistic to look at and say that our choice is solid.  Nevada surely cannot keep playing a rotation of six players and not suffer fatigue.  Loyola cannot expect to keep winning without being able to score a bevy of cheap baskets as the competition gets tougher by the round.

We are going to go with the PiRate Ratings chalk in this one, since we have no other data to rely on to make this pick.  The PiRate Ratings favors the Wolf Pack by 2.7 points, so our pick is: NEVADA

 

Michigan vs. Texas A&M

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Michigan Y 30-7 74-63 5.43 10.0 59.52
Texas A&M Y 22-12 75-70 4.73 12.9 61.02
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Michigan 0.73 6.14 4.11 3.54 56.5 51.1
Texas A&M 6.56 5.50 6.35 -2.65 53.9 49.2

We could almost copy and paste the information from the prior game into this section and just change the names.  Once again, we have a team (Michigan) that is excellent in turnover margin against a top-flight schedule, but that has at times been exploited on the boards, while Texas A&M dominates on the glass but suffers in turnover margin against a slightly stronger schedule.  The teams are about equal in true shooting percentage margin, with the exception that the Wolverine’s advantage tilts a little more toward superior offense, while the Aggies’ advantage tilts a little more toward superior defense.

We are going to make an unscientific assumption about this game, so please feel free to consider it a load of hooey.  We have looked through our mother of pearl shells and think we foresee a tense start of this game, where the team that can get in trouble with turnover margin will be a bit tight, and the Aggies will either turn the ball over a bit too much in the first half or play not to make mistakes and then shoot much lower than their normal percentage, even missing some close-in shots that they hardly ever miss.

Thus,  our wacky belief is that Michigan will get the early lead and then fight the rest of the night to keep it, once A&M starts to lose the tension.  We’ll go with Coach John Beilein to guide the Maize and Blue back to another Elite 8 appearance.  Our Pick: MICHIGAN

 

Kentucky vs. Kansas St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kentucky Y 26-10 77-71 5.38 12.3 60.66
Kansas St. Y 24-11 72-67 3.69 0.9 59.08
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kentucky 5.06 5.64 5.56 -1.08 55.7 50.3
Kansas St. -3.00 7.86 5.77 2.71 56.7 53.0

This actually isn’t the most important Kentucky-Kansas State game in the schools’ histories.  These two Wildcats faced off 67 years ago, minus five days, for the 1951 National Championship on the campus of the University of Minnesota.  Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky squad won his third national title in four years, but it was a close game until late.

Back to the present time.  This game looks on the surface to be rather one-sided.  Kentucky, even without Jarred Vanderbilt, looks a bit too strong for Kansas State.

Hey, did you notice that this makes three out of three games, where one team has the superior rebounding edge, and the other has an equally superior turnover edge?  The difference in this game and the other two is that Kansas State’s advantages are almost nil.  Their R+T Rating is just barely positive, and in our past years relying on R+T, we cannot remember any team with a rating as low as 0.9 ever making the Elite 8.  Because Kentucky’s R+T Rating is 12.3, Coach John Calipari’s Cats will be expected to receive about 11 more cheap scoring opportunities.  When you factor in that Kentucky also has a minor true shooting percentage margin edge, this leads us to forecast a double-digit Kentucky win tonight.  Our pick: KENTUCKY 

 

Gonzaga vs. Florida St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Gonzaga Y 32-4 84-68 9.37 22.6 53.89
Florida St. Y 22-11 81-74 4.18 10.6 58.79
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Gonzaga 8.75 6.36 5.06 0.97 59.8 50.4
Florida St. 2.85 6.88 5.85 1.30 56.5 52.3

The underdog Seminoles look to have a fighting chance in this game due to their superior schedule strength.  Florida State does not have a serious exploitable flaw.  They just don’t have a major statistic that is a decisive asset.

Gonzaga has an incredible R+T rating that many Final Four teams in the past have possessed.  Their almost 10% true shooting percentage is also Final Fourish, as is their 16-point average margin of victory.  Teams seldom win by an average margin this high that cannot go on major runs at the right time.  It just isn’t easy to slowly pull away by a point here and there until the lead is past 15 points.  The number one event that usually leads a team deep into tournament play is the ability to have a big spurt at the right time, and Gonzaga is clearly the team that can do this tonight.

The way we see this game is that FSU will take an early lead in the first half, and then Gonzaga will go on its first of three or four scoring runs to grab the lead and then extend the lead to five or six by halftime.  Then, the Bulldogs will make their patented big run in the second half to put the game out of reach.  The Seminoles may make a valiant effort in the final minutes, but it will be too little, too late.  Our Pick: GONZAGA

 

Friday’s Games

Kansas vs. Clemson

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas Y 29-7 81-71 8.34 5.4 61.30
Clemson Y 25-9 74-66 6.68 7.9 59.83
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas 0.08 6.67 5.50 1.44 59.8 51.4
Clemson 2.44 5.65 5.74 -0.06 56.7 50.1

Most casual fans will look at this game and immediately dismiss it as a Jayhawk blowout win.  This is far from being the probable case.  This is a Kansas team with exploitable weaknesses not typical for a Bill Self production.  KU has an exceptional offense, but their defense is prone to lapses.  In a game where the action is fierce on the glass, the Jayhawks do not bring their usual centaurs to the fight.  Rebounding is a liability with this club.  KU doesn’t make up for this weakness with an exceptional turnover margin, but they do pick up a good number of steals that lead to fast break points.

Clemson and championships go hand-in-hand, just not in basketball.  This group of Tigers competed admirably in the ACC race this year, and they have an experienced backcourt.  While CU has an issue with turnovers, this liability will most likely not be used to KU’s advantage.  Clemson can rebound with competence, and the Tigers know how to stop their opponents from scoring just long enough to put a game away.

Only because of experience and a slightly more difficult schedule do we stick with the logical team in this one, but it will not be an easy victory, and it will almost assuredly be their last one of the season.  Our pick: KANSAS

Villanova vs. West Virginia

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 32-4 88-76 10.18 13.1 60.33
West Virginia Y 26-10 80-69 0.66 16.9 60.59
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Villanova 2.86 6.67 4.67 2.72 62.4 52.2
West Virginia 3.61 8.08 5.53 5.17 54.5 53.9

Finally, we get a game where the rebounding and turnover issue does not matter as much as in the other games.  Right away, that should tell you which way we think this game will go.  Press Virginia needs to score points off steals and stop the other team from scoring against the press by either forcing them to throw the ball away or by using up so much clock that they must shoot a low-percentage shot.

Villanova is built for press-breaking and scoring easy baskets once the press is broken.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins might have to call the press off if VU scores too many times on crips.

West Virginia just cannot win a finesse game against this team.  Villanova enjoys a commanding true shooting percentage margin advantage in this game, and we have seen WVU players throw up their share of bricks.  This game should eventually get out of hand, as the team that won the title two years ago makes it look like they could return to the Final Four this year.  Our pick: VILLANOVA

Duke vs. Syracuse

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Duke Y 28-7 85-69 10.11 21.7 60.69
Syracuse Y 22-13 67-64 1.55 11.3 58.92
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Duke 9.20 7.37 5.77 -0.66 59.0 48.9
Syracuse 3.69 7.08 6.11 0.50 51.8 50.2

If you are a Baby Boomer, you know doubt know that the campy TV version of Batman is the only real, legitimate production.  Those movies just capitalized on the great reputation of Adam West of blessed memory.

There was a double episode where Batman faced the Joker, where the going was tough, because the Joker created his own utility belt.  He hand sneezing powder in there.  He had hand-shocking buzzers in there.  He had a bevy of evil tricks to combat the Caped Crusaders.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?  The villainous Blue Devils have their own utility belt.  It is called the 2-3 zone, and early in its employment, it is beating the original one created by Bruce Wayne, aka Jim Boeheim.

The element of surprise disappears for the Cinderella Orangemen Friday.  The Duke Blue Devils know how to attack Syracuse’s defense, and they know how to employ their own utility belt 2-3 zone that for now is proving to be superior to Batman’s, er Syracuse’s.

Here’s the rub.  Duke can penetrate and score inside against Syracuse, something that Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State could not do.  The Blue Devils have excellent perimeter shooters, and Syracuse will not be able to pack their defense in the paint.  Duke will get open three-pointers and also be able to initiate enough penetration to the point where the Orangemen will either have to give up easy 10-12 foot shots or challenge and become overly vulnerable to a very athletic and very big front line.

On the other side of the ball, Duke’s new 2-3 zone is much more athletic than the Syracuse zone.  At times, Duke makes this look more like a 3-2 drop zone, and we have seen the back line move up into an almost 4-1 look while still protecting the basket.

If you have been reading this site this year, then you know that we are sticking with the Blue Devils to cut down the nets in San Antonio.  The PiRate criteria says this game is a mismatch, and there is nothing we see that makes us think there is a reason not to expect a win by 15-20 points for Coach K’s Army.  Our pick: DUKE

Purdue vs. Texas Tech

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Purdue Y 30-6 81-65 11.43 10.5 59.31
Texas Tech Y 26-9 75-65 5.15 14.5 59.89
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Purdue 2.64 5.72 5.14 1.53 60.8 49.4
Texas Tech 4.11 7.26 5.97 2.57 55.8 50.6

This game would be an easy one to forecast if Isaac Haas were available and at least 80% of his usual self.  Purdue finally had the talent and playing style to make it to the Final Four, but losing Haas’s top-quality offensive efficiency really hurts the Boilermakers.

Texas Tech is a solid but not spectacular team. The Red Raiders are not the same team they were prior to Zach Smith’s injury.  TTU was 14-1 when Smith was lost for almost eight weeks.  They went 8-6 without him, and they only went 2-2 to close out the regular season once he returned nowhere near as effective as he had been.

Smith began to resemble his old self in the Stephen F. Austin game, and maybe he is coming back into form, where he can supplement his team by coming off the bench.  It is hard to recover that quickly from a broken foot, so it’s uncertain how many minutes he can play and stay effective.

At least Smith can play, which is more than we can say about Haas.  Purdue played courageously in their win over Butler.  Freshman giant Matt Haarms, took over for Haas at center, but there was a huge drop in talent between 7 foot 2 inch giants.  Haarms connected on just one shot from the field and seemed a bit stiff trying to play defense in the paint or pulling down rebounds.  It took a monumental outside shooting effort for the Boilermakers to win.

Texas Tech is a bigger force to beat without a principle weapon.  The Red Raiders will neutralize Purdue’s outside game with four competent perimeter defenders that will keep man-to-man pressure outside.

There may be one more win inside the Boilermaker Express, even if they have one less engine on the track.  Texas Tech doesn’t really have the fantastic inside presence to exploit Purdue’s loss of Haas, and Haarms just might come up with a better performance Friday night after having the first start jitters melted away.  He is going to play 30 minutes in this game, and he just might surprise some folks.  We think this game is a complete toss-up.  Our Pick: PURDUE

The NIT

The National Invitation Tournament used to be on equal footing with the NCAA Tournament.  There were some years where the NIT champion was decisively better than the NCAA Tournament champion.

Alas, those days are gone.  However, the NIT has proven to have a new usefulness.  Many experimental rules have been experimented with in this tournament, and this year, it has produced excellent results with rules that we believe should be implemented next year.

  1. The NIT is using four, 10-minute quarters rather than two, 20-minute halves.  This is not the first time that college basketball used quarters instead of halves.  It was tried in the 1950s.  We think that playing quarters and with the change in foul rules, it allows defenses to play more aggressively, knowing that they get a clean slate at the end of the first and third quarters.  Also, it doubles the amount of last possessions in the game, which leads to two more buzzer-beater opportunities, something great for the fans.
  2. The shot clock does not reset to 30 seconds on an offensive rebound.  It reset to just 20 seconds, which means teams cannot just throw the ball back to the outside and slowly run the offense again.  They must try to put the ball back up and score without resetting their offense.  This should lead in theory to about three or four more possessions in the game.

We here on the PiRate ship believe that fans do not want to pay exorbitant ticket prices to see dribbling exhibitions.  Action involves passing and moving, and anything that reduces dribbling can only be good for the game.  We’d like to see the closely guarded dribbling rule re-instated, where a player cannot dribble for five seconds while being guarded man-to-man without advancing toward the goal.  If this rule returned, it would force ball hogs to give up the ball within four seconds, and it would lead to more passing and more movement.  It might push average possessions back up to 75+ per game like it was when college basketball was its most exciting in the period between 1965 and 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Saturday, March 17

Saturday’s PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Kentucky Buffalo 5.3
Tennessee Loyola (Chi.) 5.1
Gonzaga Ohio St. 2.8
Michigan Houston 1.2
Villanova Alabama 11.9
Texas Tech Florida 1.9
Kansas Seton Hall 3.8
Duke Rhode Island 10.3

PINCH US!

This is the only green you will see on a basketball PiRate today.  None of us buckaroos can possibly wear green on this fine Saturday.  You see, we all need to be pinched all day.

Can we really be awake?  Did it really happen?  Surely, we must have fallen asleep early last night and just thought we heard a mouse roar.  Yes, the Duchy of Grand Baltimore County declared war on Virginia, but the Cavaliers did not notice for 20 minutes.  Then, just like the tiny nation of Grand Fenwick, the Retrievers Roared and won the war.

Back to reality for a moment.  Most definitely, this is an incredible, historical moment in the world of sports.  It has no equal in upsets since maybe a horse called “Upset” beat Man O’ War at Saratoga Race Course in 1919.

There is precedent for the top overall seed losing in its first game, and it happened to the same school more than one time.  However, when DePaul lost in 1980 to UCLA, there were just 32 teams in field, and the Bruins were an 8-seed.  When DePaul lost in 1981 to St. Joseph’s, there were just 40 teams in the field, and the Hawks were a 9-seed.

There are obviously no perfect brackets left in the Universe.  What would the odds be that somebody picked Montana to beat Arizona and UMBC to beat Virginia and then not pick any other crazy upsets that did not happen?  Why do you think it is called, “Madness?”

The PiRate Ratings new Criteria for Bracket Picking went a mediocre 11-5 yesterday to bring the total record to 26-10 or 72.2%.  Our only solace is that the rest of the world did about the same.  In this crazy year, there apparently is no great mechanical method to pick winners.

Nevertheless, we still have our Final Four picks alive (Cincinnati, Duke, North Carolina, and Villanova).  Three of our Elite 8 remain, although we now believe that one of those teams, Purdue, may be doomed now following the unfortunate season-ending injury loss to star center Isaac Haas.

Here is Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Schedule

Saturday, Mar 17, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:10 PM 1 Villanova 9 Alabama Pittsburgh CBS
2:40 PM 2 Duke 7 Rhode Island Pittsburgh CBS
5:15 PM 5 Kentucky 13 Buffalo Boise, ID CBS
6:10 PM 3 Tennessee 11 Loyola (Chi.) Dallas TNT
7:10 PM 1 Kansas 8 Seton Hall Wichita, KS TBS
7:45 PM 4 Gonzaga 5 Ohio St. Boise, ID CBS
8:40 PM 3 Texas Tech 6 Florida Dallas TNT
9:40 PM 3 Michigan 6 Houston Wichita, KS TBS

Here is our bracket-picking criteria for this next round of games for those of you that get to pick new teams after each round.  The picks in this round do not necessarily match the original picks, because statistics have now changed from the first round, as well as expected opponents.

Villanova vs. Alabama

Both True Shooting Percentage margin and R+T margin indicate that this game could get out of hand rather quickly.  Alabama will not be able to capitalize with their quickness in this game, because Villanova can match the Tide in this respect.  After what happened to Virginia, you can bet that the remaining number one seeds will be ready to play like their opponent is another number one seed.  We expect the Wildcats to look like their 2016 championship team.

PiRate Pick: Villanova

 

Duke vs. Rhode Island

A lot of the media think this game should be close, with URI having a strong upset chance.  Our criteria says this is a blowout game in the making.  The true shooting percentage margins in this game are not close, as the Rams have a negative margin, while Duke has one of the best in the entire field.  Duke’s R+T Rating is in the top 5, while the Rams’ R+T Rating is mediocre among the field.  Add the fact that Duke’s schedule strength is also among the top in the field, while URI’s is mediocre once again.

Obviously, we are sticking with Coach K as long as the Blue Devils remain in the field.  They have the best criteria resume, and even though they are vulnerable to great passing teams, there are not a lot of good passing teams in this tournament.  We can see the Blue Devils winning by 15 or more.

PiRate Pick: Duke

 

Kentucky vs. Buffalo

Kentucky’s schedule strength forecasts a game in which the Wildcats will control the boards and prevent the Bulls from shooting a high enough percentage to catch lightning in the bottle twice in three days.  The Wildcats may not be nearly as good as past teams that made it to the Final Four, but with the top two teams in their side of the bracket gone, they have an open front door to the Elite 8.  Will they go through it?  Coach John Calipari will make sure the young players know the way through that door.

PiRate Pick: Kentucky

 

Tennessee vs. Loyola (Chi.)

Here’s a game where the criteria suggests that this should be a close game with the underdog having a fighting chance to pull off the upset.  Loyola plays team basketball.  The Ramblers’ offense usually works because they take what the defense gives it and rarely forces a bad shot attempt.  Their defense is more than able to put the Ramblers in the Sweet 16.

Tennessee has the inside power and the ability to pound the ball in the paint.  The Volunteers methodically pounded Wright State into submission Thursday, and they will attempt to do the same thing to Loyola.

If Loyola was an up-tempo, pressuring defensive team, we would be inclined to pick the upset.  The Ramblers have the true shooting percentage margin advantage in this game, but Tennessee gets the nod in R+T Ratings and Schedule Strength.

PiRate Pick: Tennessee

 

Kansas vs. Seton Hall

In our opinion, we believe there will be three incredibly exciting games today that could go down to the final horn.  In our criteria, this is a toss-up game.  To start with, Kansas has a minimal schedule strength advantage.  The Big 12 had the toughest overall schedule strength, but the Big East had two number one seeds.

Kansas has a decisive true shooting percentage margin advantage, while Seton Hall has just as much advantage in R+T Ratings.  The Pirate should win the battle on the boards, while turnovers should be a wash.

There isn’t much remaining to try to pick a winner here, and it actually went through several layers before Kansas’s near proximity to home became the deciding factor by the slimmest of margins.

PiRate Pick: Kansas

 

Gonzaga vs. Ohio St.

This game should be the second of the three great games of the day, and the lower seed may have the better shot at the upset in this game compared to all others.

Gonzaga did not look ready to play at the outset of the first round.  The Bulldogs finally put it all together long enough to pull away for a victory, but this first round win reminded us of the 2013 team that struggled with Southern in the first round before losing to Wichita State in the next.  The Bulldogs could not rebound against UNC-Greensboro, and now they face a better inside team in the Buckeyes.

Ohio State’s schedule strength is stronger by enough points to equalize Gonzaga’s true shooting percentage margin and R+T margin.  We expect this game to be decided late.  Gonzaga is vulnerable here, but we will stick with the criteria without letting our personal opinions change our minds.

PiRate Pick: Gonzaga

 

Texas Tech vs. Florida

This game should be decided on the boards, and it is our belief that the Red Raiders have the advantage here.  Florida might be able to counter it with turnover margin, but Texas Tech has faced West Virginia for enough possessions this season to face the Florida man-to-man pressure without much difficulty.

PiRate Pick: Texas Tech

 

Michigan vs. Houston

Upset Alert Here!  Michigan, be aware.  From out of nowhere, Houston looks like a potential Final Four team.  We believe that having no real home games this year may have actually toughened this Cougar team up, and it just may be that they are waiting to ambush the Big Ten opponent today.

Michigan’s schedule strength advantage is not all that strong in this game.  Houston’s true shooting percentage margin advantage is lost due to schedule strength, but their R+T Rating advantage is strong enough to withstand the schedule strength advantage.

Michigan has faced Michigan State enough times without getting killed on the boards, so even though the Wolverines are so-so in rebounding, while Houston is quite competent, we do not see the Cougars winning the battle on the boards by much, maybe just two or three.  However, we like Houston being able to get just enough fast break points, while they quickness eventually wears the Wolverines down just enough to lower their shooting percentage.  This will be the third close game of the day, and it could be the game with the overall best chance that the lower seed wins.

PiRate Pick: Houston

 

Sunday’s Schedule

Sunday, Mar 18, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:10 PM 2 Purdue 10 Butler Detroit CBS
2:40 PM 3 Michigan St. 11 Syracuse Detroit CBS
5:15 PM 2 North Carolina 7 Texas A&M Charlotte CBS
6:10 PM 2 Cincinnati 7 Nevada Nashville TNT
7:10 PM 4 Auburn 5 Clemson San Diego TBS
7:45 PM 9 Kansas St. 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TruTV
8:40 PM 1 Xavier 9 Florida St. Nashville TNT
9:40 PM 5 West Virginia 13 Marshall San Diego TBS

 

 

 

 

March 13, 2018

Bracketnomics 505: 2018 NCAA Tournament

Today’s PiRate Ratings for NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Radford Long Island 5.6
UCLA St. Bonaventure 2.3

 

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 course for 2018.  Please note that if you have seen past Bracketnomics posts on this forum, they are now obsolete.  Only the current 2018 version is up to date with our current philosophy and criteria for picking teams.

We are sure that the old method still has some merit, but we believe the game has evolved thanks to advanced statistical metrics changing the way the game is played and the reduction of the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.  Although it will not be used in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT will experiment with the clock resetting only to 20 seconds when there is an offensive rebound off a missed shot.

If you did not read our Class 1 feature from Monday, you might wish to go back and read it before you begin to look at our data.  It will make it easier to understand.

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/bracketnomics-505-for-2018-first-class/

Let’s start looking at raw data.

This first list shows the True Shooting % Margins, R+T Ratings, and Schedule Strength Numbers.  Keep an eye on the following:

  1. A True Shooting % Margin of +5% or better
  2. An R+T Rating of 12 or better
  3. A Strength of Schedule Rating of 55.0 or better

 

Team W-L Avg Score TS% Diff R+T SOS
Alabama 19-15 72-70 3.92 2.3 60.27
Arizona 27-7 81-71 7.16 16.9 56.62
Arizona St. 20-11 84-75 3.74 5.6 55.90
Arkansas 23-11 81-76 2.27 5.2 59.78
Auburn 25-7 83-73 3.07 13.0 57.82
Bucknell 25-9 81-73 6.39 5.2 47.73
Buffalo 26-8 85-77 4.40 9.9 49.69
Butler 20-13 79-73 1.11 9.8 60.34
Cal St. Fullerton 20-11 73-72 4.49 6.2 48.16
Charleston 26-7 75-69 3.31 5.4 47.05
Cincinnati 30-4 75-57 8.51 23.1 55.59
Clemson 23-9 73-66 5.91 7.0 59.63
Creighton 21-11 84-75 8.21 5.6 59.32
Davidson 21-11 76-68 6.95 7.5 52.99
Duke 26-7 85-70 9.63 21.8 61.10
Florida 20-12 76-69 1.68 4.6 60.47
Florida St. 20-11 82-75 4.18 10.8 58.25
Georgia St. 24-10 75-67 5.06 2.4 47.91
Gonzaga 30-4 85-67 9.69 23.1 53.33
Houston 26-7 77-65 6.55 19.0 55.10
Iona 20-13 80-76 2.89 -1.2 48.61
Kansas 27-7 82-71 8.48 5.1 61.40
Kansas St. 22-11 72-68 3.19 0.9 59.25
Kentucky 24-10 77-70 4.87 11.6 60.74
Lipscomb 23-9 83-78 1.80 10.4 46.08
Long Island 18-16 78-77 3.11 3.4 42.66
Loyola (Chi.) 28-5 72-62 10.23 7.2 50.49
Marshall 24-10 84-79 6.45 -4.8 48.72
MD-Baltimore Co. 24-10 73-71 1.21 3.3 45.34
Miami (Fla.) 22-9 74-68 3.10 6.5 58.19
Michigan 28-7 75-64 5.38 10.3 59.49
Michigan St. 29-4 81-65 14.22 19.9 58.10
Missouri 20-12 74-68 7.35 8.1 59.05
Montana 26-7 78-69 2.09 17.5 47.91
Murray St. 26-5 77-66 9.07 16.4 47.26
Nevada 27-7 83-73 6.01 7.4 54.38
New Mexico St. 28-5 76-65 4.95 23.0 49.40
North Carolina 25-10 82-73 2.96 22.2 63.33
North Carolina St. 21-11 81-75 1.70 7.5 57.47
Ohio St. 24-8 76-67 5.83 13.6 58.53
Oklahoma 18-13 85-82 3.51 0.9 61.23
Penn 24-8 76-69 5.62 7.9 47.04
Providence 21-13 74-73 -0.23 3.6 59.66
Purdue 28-6 81-66 11.75 10.0 59.43
Radford 22-12 67-64 -0.25 10.7 45.99
Rhode Island 25-7 76-68 -0.01 10.6 53.75
San Diego St. 22-10 77-68 3.83 15.2 53.54
Seton Hall 21-11 79-73 2.51 12.0 59.54
South Dakota St. 28-6 85-74 7.08 11.7 50.20
St. Bonaventure 25-7 78-71 3.52 8.9 53.05
Stephen F. Austin 28-6 78-68 3.75 16.2 44.06
Syracuse 20-13 68-65 1.28 12.6 58.16
TCU 21-11 83-76 3.55 15.6 59.86
Tennessee 25-8 74-66 4.38 8.9 61.11
Texas 19-14 72-68 1.65 4.1 61.24
Texas A&M 20-12 75-70 4.13 12.1 60.77
Texas Southern 15-19 78-80 1.11 -1.3 44.18
Texas Tech 24-9 75-65 5.27 14.6 59.83
UCLA 21-11 82-76 4.65 6.7 56.96
UNC-Central 19-15 70-71 2.65 11.1 38.53
UNC-Greensboro 27-7 74-62 3.58 17.8 46.81
Villanova 30-4 87-71 9.78 13.3 60.47
Virginia 31-2 68-53 8.42 13.4 60.45
Virginia Tech 21-11 80-72 7.27 1.6 58.44
West Virginia 24-10 80-69 0.33 16.6 60.84
Wichita St. 25-7 83-71 5.57 22.2 56.78
Wright St. 25-9 72-66 1.88 11.6 46.41
Xavier 28-5 84-75 7.04 15.5 59.66

Did you notice that there are just 10 teams that qualified in all three categories and posted three red numbers?  In case you were wondering, the purple numbers under scoring margin represent an old metric from past years that deserves some carryover into our new plans.  Almost all Final Four teams in the last 20 years (and a large majority all time) had double digit scoring margins.

Schedule Strength is very important to us, just like class is important to thoroughbred horses about to make a run for the roses in Louisville in May.  An Allowance horse with an undefeated record running crazy fractions at lesser tracks doesn’t have a chance against the top competitors in the Blue Grass Stakes, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, and Santa Anita Derby.  Likewise the teams from the bottom 15 conferences do not have a chance to make it to the Final Four even if they outscored their opponents by 20 points per game.

In case you were wondering about some of the Cinderella Final Four teams from the recent past (George Mason, Wichita State, Butler, and VCU), all these teams were members of conferences that finished in the top 13 in overall strength and strength of schedule.  To find the last Final Four participant that came from a conference that finished in the bottom half in strength and strength of schedule, you must go back to 1979 and Penn out of the Ivy League.

You have a great starting point.  The teams with the red numbers (and purple numbers) have the basics to get them through the early rounds.  Of course, it matters who they play in the early rounds.  We cannot just stop here and fill out our brackets with this information.

There are components of the R+T Ratings, namely rebounding margin, steals, and turnover margin.  When you combine this with true shooting percentage, and schedule strength, you begin to see a clearer picture.  Two teams can have identical r+t ratings but one could dominate on the glass and not pick up steals or force turnovers, while the other could be just a tad better than average on the glass but pick teams apart with ball-hawking defense.  Which team is better?  That is not an easy question to answer.  We have to look at each game by itself.  Will one team’s ability to rebound trump another team’s ability to force turnovers?  What if a team is playing an opponent that wins by steals and turnovers (from a full-court press defense) has played six games this year against teams that play this style of defense and is now competent against it and able to exploit it for easy points?  What if a team that does not turn the ball over much hasn’t played a full-court pressing team all year, and now in the first round, as a favorite playing a double-digit seed, the underdog is a competent pressing defensive team?

You get the picture now, so there is just a little bit left to reveal.  The champion that will emerge will have won six consecutive games.  Should we expect a team that has not already won six consecutive games this year to all of a sudden do so against the top competition?  In almost every case in the last 30 years, the eventual national champion enjoyed at least one seven-games or better winning streak, or they had two separate six-game winning streak.  The rare exceptions in 30 years failed by one game.

We will keep all this in mind as we play out the brackets.  We will start with the First Four Games in Dayton, but most bracket contests allow you to place the winners in your bracket and start when it’s down to 64.

We know that we won’t pick all the winners correctly, and as we said yesterday, you have a better chance of winning the Power Ball and Mega Millions Lotteries in the same week than you have picking a perfect bracket.  In other words, it may take centuries before it is done, if ever.  Most office pools and friendly bracket contests modify the rules and let the players pick entirely new winners after each round, so we will return with picks for Saturday and Sunday, as well as new Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four picks.

Here are some supplemental statistics that we will use to influence how we pick games after we have looked at the big data above.

W1 and W2 are the teams’ two longest winning streaks during the year.

L 12 is how the team fared in its final 12 games prior to the tournament.

Reb is rebounding margin.

Stl is average steals per game, and Opp Stl is average number of times per game the team had the ball stolen by the opponents.

TO is turnover margin.

Team W1 W2 L 12 Reb Stl Opp Stl TO
Alabama 5 4 5-7 0.32 6.41 6.59 -0.94
Arizona 9 7 9-3 7.62 4.94 6.15 -0.62
Arizona St. 12 3 5-7 -1.26 6.58 5.39 4.19
Arkansas 6 4 8-4 -1.06 6.24 4.76 3.00
Auburn 14 5 7-5 3.25 7.44 6.16 2.97
Bucknell 10 8 11-1 1.53 5.62 6.68 -0.03
Buffalo 9 6 10-2 2.53 6.38 5.79 1.41
Butler 5 4 6-6 1.33 6.73 5.15 2.97
Cal St. Fullerton 5 4 9-3 1.90 6.39 5.65 -1.10
Charleston 11 5 11-1 -0.73 5.18 3.94 2.21
Cincinnati 16 7 10-2 7.50 7.29 4.94 3.35
Clemson 10 4 7-5 2.09 5.69 5.88 -0.13
Creighton 5 4 6-6 1.13 5.66 6.06 0.56
Davidson 5 4 10-2 1.38 4.78 4.75 1.13
Duke 11 5 8-4 9.24 7.52 5.82 -0.61
Florida 6 5 6-6 -2.19 6.84 4.41 3.97
Florida St. 9 3 6-6 3.10 6.71 5.87 1.10
Georgia St. 10 4 8-4 -2.76 7.35 4.91 3.15
Gonzaga 14 6 14-0 9.00 6.44 5.06 0.97
Houston 7 5 10-2 6.88 6.42 5.06 1.12
Iona 5 4 7-5 -3.76 6.79 5.06 2.03
Kansas 7 5 9-3 0.06 6.62 5.62 1.32
Kansas St. 4 4 6-6 -3.09 7.76 5.61 2.85
Kentucky 7 4 7-5 4.76 5.62 5.71 -1.03
Lipscomb 8 4 9-3 3.91 6.47 7.03 0.41
Long Island 5 4 9-3 1.71 5.62 6.65 -2.15
Loyola (Chi.) 10 7 11-1 1.64 6.64 6.36 0.91
Marshall 5 4 10-2 -4.32 6.85 6.65 1.06
MD-Baltimore Co. 5 3 10-2 -1.41 7.53 6.38 2.74
Miami (Fla.) 10 4 7-5 0.65 6.55 5.68 1.65
Michigan 9 7 11-1 0.77 6.26 4.06 3.71
Michigan St. 14 13 11-1 10.55 4.09 6.03 -3.21
Missouri 5 5 7-5 4.53 5.16 6.50 -3.09
Montana 13 6 10-2 4.82 7.76 4.97 2.97
Murray St. 13 5 12-0 5.74 6.81 5.29 0.84
Nevada 8 7 9-3 -0.12 6.26 4.53 3.06
New Mexico St. 11 6 10-2 8.94 5.64 4.85 1.12
North Carolina 6 5 9-3 9.97 5.63 6.11 -0.46
N. Carolina St. 5 4 8-4 0.59 7.50 6.22 2.81
Ohio St. 8 5 8-4 4.63 6.03 5.16 0.47
Oklahoma 10 2 3-9 -0.71 6.58 6.81 -0.16
Penn 5 4 10-2 1.75 5.94 5.19 0.59
Providence 5 4 7-5 -0.06 6.85 6.62 0.91
Purdue 19 5 8-4 2.44 5.82 5.21 1.44
Radford 7 6 8-4 3.12 6.29 5.53 0.82
Rhode Island 16 2 8-4 0.63 7.50 5.56 5.16
San Diego St. 9 4 10-2 5.28 6.31 6.19 1.69
Seton Hall 5 5 6-6 4.38 6.28 5.94 0.00
South Dakota St. 11 8 11-1 3.68 4.97 4.76 0.65
St. Bonaventure 13 8 11-1 0.94 6.91 5.28 2.88
S.F. Austin 6 5 10-2 4.06 10.21 7.50 4.44
Syracuse 6 4 5-7 4.48 7.24 6.30 0.30
TCU 12 4 6-6 6.31 6.59 6.25 -0.10
Tennessee 6 6 9-3 1.79 6.30 5.64 1.76
Texas 4 3 5-7 -0.21 6.21 5.42 0.85
Texas A&M 7 4 7-5 5.97 5.63 6.38 -2.31
Texas Southern 7 3 9-3 -1.97 5.59 5.29 -0.88
Texas Tech 8 7 7-5 4.06 7.42 5.88 2.64
UCLA 4 4 8-4 2.44 5.72 5.94 -1.06
UNC-Central 6 5 7-5 4.88 5.12 5.12 -2.09
UNC-Greensboro 6 5 11-1 6.76 7.74 7.06 1.47
Villanova 13 9 9-3 2.88 6.68 4.56 2.74
Virginia 15 8 11-1 1.88 6.79 3.88 4.15
Virginia Tech 7 3 7-5 -1.50 5.75 5.34 1.09
West Virginia 15 3 8-4 3.44 8.03 5.47 5.18
Wichita St. 7 7 9-3 9.88 4.69 5.88 0.00
Wright St. 8 4 9-3 2.97 6.65 5.82 2.15
Xavier 10 9 10-2 7.12 5.85 6.61 -1.06

When we add all our major and supplemental criteria together, we get a raw score.  We have tested some basic data scoring that we will not attempt to explain here, as it would bore you to sleep, but here are the 14 teams that came out of the test with indications that they have the talent and class to win the national championship.  While they are in order of grade score, you cannot automatically assume that the top team is the very best; actually the top eight finished in a statistical dead heat.  Here is the list of 14 teams with national championship caliber statistics.  The top Eight are shown in Crimson.

Cincinnati
Gonzaga
Houston
Texas Tech
Duke
Villanova
Virginia
Ohio St.
Wichita St.
West Virginia
Michigan St.
Purdue
Kansas
Michigan

Here are the tip-off times and TV schedules for the First Four and Round of 64, followed by our bracket picks based on the new criteria.

The First Four Games In Dayton 

Tuesday, Mar 13, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:40 PM 16 Radford 16 Long Island Dayton, OH truTV
9:10 PM 11 UCLA 11 St. Bonaventure Dayton, OH truTV
         
Wednesday, Mar 14, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:40 PM 16 UNC-Central 16 Texas Southern Dayton, OH truTV
9:10 PM 11 Arizona St. 11 Syracuse Dayton, OH truTV

Round of 64

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Rhode Island 10 Oklahoma Pittsburgh CBS
12:40 PM 3 Tennessee 14 Wright St. Dallas truTV
1:30 PM 4 Gonzaga 13 UNC-Greensboro Boise, ID TNT
2:00 PM 1 Kansas 16 Penn Wichita, KS TBS
2:45 PM 2 Duke 15 Iona Pittsburgh CBS
3:10 PM 6 Miami (Fla.) 11 Loyola (Chi.) Dallas truTV
4:00 PM 5 Ohio St. 12 South Dakota St. Boise, ID TNT
4:30 PM 8 Seton Hall 9 North Carolina St. Wichita, KS TBS
6:50 PM 1 Villanova 16 LIU/Radford Pittsburgh TNT
7:10 PM 5 Kentucky 12 Davidson Boise, ID CBS
7:20 PM 6 Houston 11 San Diego St Wichita, KS TBS
7:27 PM 3 Texas Tech 14 Stephen F. Austin Dallas truTV
9:20 PM 8 Virginia Tech 9 Alabama Pittsburgh TNT
9:40 PM 4 Arizona 13 Buffalo Boise, ID CBS
9:50 PM 3 Michigan 14 Montana Wichita, KS TBS
9:57 PM 6 Florida 11 St. Bon./UCLA Dallas truTV
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Texas A&M 10 Providence Charlotte CBS
12:40 PM 2 Purdue 15 Cal St. Fullerton Detroit truTV
1:30 PM 4 Wichita St. 13 Marshall San Diego TNT
2:00 PM 2 Cincinnati 15 Georgia St. Nashville TBS
2:45 PM 2 North Carolina 15 Lipscomb Charlotte CBS
3:10 PM 7 Arkansas 10 Butler Detroit truTV
4:00 PM 5 West Virginia 12 Murray St. San Diego TNT
4:30 PM 7 Nevada 10 Texas Nashville TBS
6:50 PM 8 Creighton 9 Kansas St. Charlotte TNT
7:10 PM 3 Michigan St. 14 Bucknell Detroit CBS
7:20 PM 1 Xavier 16 UNC-Central/Tx Sou. Nashville TBS
7:27 PM 4 Auburn 13 Charleston San Diego truTV
9:20 PM 1 Virginia 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TNT
9:40 PM 6 TCU 11 Ariz. St./Syracuse Detroit CBS
9:50 PM 8 Missouri 9 Florida St. Nashville TBS
9:57 PM 5 Clemson 12 New Mexico St. San Diego truTV

 

BRACKET FILLING TIME

Play-in Round

Radford vs. Long Island

There isn’t much difference here between the two teams, as the winner will quickly exit stage right after Thursday.

Radford has a slight rebounding edge and somewhat larger turnover and steals edge with a slightly better strength of schedule.  It isn’t an overwhelming edge in any case, but it is enough to list a favorite by about 60%

Our Pick: Radford

 

UCLA vs. St. Bonaventure

Games like this are supposed to be toss-ups, and in this case, we could see where the margin stays close throughout as the two teams struggle to get spurts that will put them in control.

St. Bonaventure enters this game riding a hot hand where a long winning streak ended in a semifinal round loss to Davidson in the A-10 Tournament.  UCLA almost didn’t make it in the tournament, and an end of season win over USC most likely put the Bruins in and Trojans out.

In almost every statistical category, the advantages one team has over the other are minimal.  The only game-swinging stat that could make this outcome predictable is the turnover margin.  UCLA has a negative turnover margin, while the Bonnies have a knack for stealing the ball.  It’s just enough to go with the team from Olean by a couple points.

Our Pick: St. Bonaventure

 

North Carolina Central vs. Texas Southern

This will be an exciting game for more than the obvious reason that it will allow the winner a chance to advance to Friday.  This game matches up the tournament champions from the two Historically Black Colleges and University conferences that play division 1 basketball.  Legendary Hall of Fame Coach John McLendon made UNC Central a small college basketball power similar to Kentucky and North Carolina in present times.  Texas Southern was an NAIA power in the 1970’s before moving to Division 1, and as a D1 school, the Tigers produced one of the most exciting and prolific combination scorers and rebounders in NCAA history.  Harry “Machine Gun” Kelly was the first player in NCAA Division 1 history to score more than 3,000 points in his career and gather more than 1,000 rebounds.

Now that we hope you are pumped up about this game, expect possibly the best game of the Dayton foursome.  UNC-Central has the better statistical resume, but TSU played a considerably harder schedule.  Neither team has a chance of knocking off the top-seed Xavier on Friday.  We are going to take UNC-Central in a close game for one reason only.  Texas Southern has a negative R+T rating, and our PiRate Rating rule is to always go against any team with a negative R+T rating as long as the opponent has a postivie R+T rating.  This means that Central will benefit from extra scoring opportunities in this game, in this case about six more.  TSU does not have a high enough true shooting percentage to make up for this probably seven-point swing.

Our Pick: UNC-Central

 

Arizona St. vs. Syracuse

Both teams must feel fortunate that they squeaked into the tournament.  According to actual selection, Arizona St. is the 66th team and Syracuse is the 68th team, but NCAA Tournament rules state that teams from the same conference cannot play against each other until the Elite 8, and Arizona St. moved up one spot as team 65, so that they would not play #67 UCLA, a conference rival.

When you talk about playing Syracuse with little time to prepare, you have to give the Orangemen a little bit of vigorish due to the difficulty preparing for their multiple 2-3 zone schemes.  Just when you think you have it figured out, they switch how they play the zone.  It is like preparing for a football game against Navy on very short notice.

Syracuse is going to control the boards in this game, so the Sun Devils will need to capitalize on hitting a high percentage of the few open shots that present themselves when ASU solves the zone and finds a hole.  The Sun Devils will need to ramp up the pressure man-to-man defense in hopes of forcing Syracuse into a couple extra turnovers.

There isn’t much to choose from when trying to separate these two teams, but the one glaring advantage in this game is schedule strength, and that is how we will select a winner in this one.

Our Pick: Syracuse 

 

Round of 64

Virginia vs. Maryland-Baltimore Co.

We could just issue the obvious pick, and you know which team that will be, but we want to include reasons in every game so you can begin to instinctively know how we do what we do.  It is our hope that by the Sweet 16 round that most of you will know before reading which teams we are going to select.

UMBC has struggled at times to get open looks against America East Conference opponents.  What do you think will happen when they go up against the best halfcourt defense in the country?  The Retrievers will see the Cavaliers retrieving all the missed shots, and then UVa will work the ball for high percentage shots.  It would not surprise us at all if the margin exceeded 30 points in this game.  Virginia has a huge R+T advantage and if the shooting percentage difference wasn’t enough, the Cavs will get about 10 extra scoring opportunities.  If the starters stay in the game long enough, the score could be doubled.  Even with the reserves seeing double digit minutes, a 75-40 score would not be surprising.

Our Pick: Virginia 

 

Creighton vs. Kansas St.

Eight-Nine games are supposed to be close, but in this case we believe it is a mismatch.  Using our criteria, the Blue Jays should dominate this game.  Let’s start with the strength of schedule for the teams–it is almost identical (less than .1 points per game).  This makes statistical analysis much easier.

Creighton enjoys considerable superiority in true shooting percentages and R+T rating, which makes this a simple open and shut case.  We expect a double-digit win.

Our Pick: Creighton

 

Kentucky vs. Davidson

Kentucky coach John Calipari is hopping mad.  His Wildcats won the SEC Tournament, and they got shipped to the Frozen potato fields of Boise.  It was obvious that their five-seed had already been bestowed upon the Blue Mist prior to the game with Tennessee on Sunday.

Davidson was the team that forced all Bracketologists to compile two final seed lists and wait until Sunday afternoon’s contest with Rhode Island concluded.  The Wildcats’ statistical metrics improved continually from early January until the present time.  If you throw out their November and December games and only include the stats from that point on, they look like a lively team capable of pulling off another one of those 12 versus 5 upsets.

This Kentucky team has not been all that consistent.  There isn’t really a point in the season where you can isolate many consecutive games where their statistical metrics say they have a chance to run the table.  Even the conference tournament showed they cannot play a 40-minute game.  This isn’t the Fiddling Five of 1958, where one big spurt leads the Wildcats to victory.  This group is more like the ADHD Five.  They hit long stretches where they don’t seem to be following Cal’s script.

It won’t matter much in this game.  Cal if angry, and his team will respond at least in this first game.  Kentucky has too much muscle inside for Davidson to put together a long string of successful possessions.  The K-Cats will block shots and limit Davidson to one shot per possession too many times for the D-Cats.  Davidson will have a difficult time stopping Kentucky’s inside game, and when they stuff the lane, Kentucky will hit enough three-pointers to force DC to extend their defense.

Our Pick: Kentucky 

 

Arizona vs. Buffalo

Buffalo might have been a trendy upset pick if the Bulls had pulled a more favorable first-round opponent.  The Wildcats have just a little too much inside power for the Bulls to stop enough times to challenge for the upset.  In our minds, Arizona was seeded a little lower than their resume shows.  They should have been at least a 3-seed if not a 2-seed.  The Pac-12 did not get much respect, and the FBI issue may have psychologically discounted the team a little in the Selection Committee room.

This is the only Pac-12 team with statistical metrics capable of moving to the Final Four.  Arizona’s stat sheet is one that shows staying power.  They meet our qualifications of a “Complete Team,” as they have favorable true shooting percentage, R+T rating, and schedule strength.

Our Pick: Arizona

 

Miami (Fla.) vs. Loyola (Chi.)

This is the first game in order of the released bracket where the decisive underdog has a legitimate chance to pull of the upset.  If Loyola’s strength of schedule was just a fraction stronger, we would make the Ramblers the definite favorite in this game.  As it is, we think it is a 50-50 toss-up, so keep that in mind when you see our pick for this game and feel free to go the other way if you have valid reasons.

Miami limped through the last month of the regular season.  The Hurricanes peaked in November and December and never could regain the consistency they had at the beginning of the season.

Loyola went the other way.  As the season continued, the Ramblers improved.  By mid-February, they had become what Wichita State once was in the Valley–the dominant team without a serious rival.

Loyola has superior true shooting percentage margin and R+T rating, better by enough to overcome Miami’s superior schedule strength.  The Hurricanes do not help themselves in rebounding or gaining possession by turnover, and their stay in the 2018 version of March Madness will end either here or in the next round.

As we try to pick this toss-up game we go with the team with the momentum and the excitement of returning to the field after a long time with players that are hungry and confident.

Our Pick: Loyola (Chi.) 

 

Tennessee vs. Wright St.

On the few occasions where a 14 or 15 seed pulls off the big first round upset, that team has players that are quick and dangerous ball-hawkers that can fast break and get cheap baskets.  Wright State does not meet this requirement.  They are a more patient, balanced team that takes advantage of the opponent’s miscues and slowly opens up a nice but not huge lead.

Tennessee is not going to give the Raiders much of a chance to slowly open up any lead.  The Volunteers have superiority over WSU in schedule strength by a large margin, as Tennessee’s opponents overall averaged more than 15 points per game stronger than those that played the Raiders.  Tennessee’s true shooting percentage margin will be more than enough to make this game a blow out, but the Vols also have the better R+T rating when weighted against their superior schedule.  Expect to see Rick Barnes go deep into his bench in the second half.

Our Pick: Tennessee

 

Nevada vs. Texas

If you know anything about barbecue contests, you know that brisket is the most difficult part of the contest to master.  It takes a long time to perfect the method.  There isn’t much room for temperature variation, and the rub and mop have to be just right.  You don’t get much wiggle room.  College basketball at the big time is similar to barbecuing a brisket.  Chef Eric Musselman of Team Nevada created perfect briskets all season long until last week.  His most recent brisket came out of the old Pitts and Spitts inedible.  The judges couldn’t even bite into the sample piece, as a new leader of the old successful barbecue team in San Diego took home all the trophies.

What do we make of this?  Will Team Wolf Pack recover and cook a tender, juicy flavorful brisket in the big Music City BBQ contest?

The other participant in this game used to create championship briskets with his mustard based sauce that he called “Havoc.”  Chef Shaka Smart didn’t have the essential ingredients in the Lone Star State this year, and he had to change his recipe to a vinegar base sauce.  It wasn’t as tasty or tender, but the brisket still got him placement on the stage.  Chef Smart may have done his best work considering the grade of beef he had at the start, but now all that matters is the final product.

Which brisket will be better?  Let’s look at the ingredients.  The quality of the beef, aka schedule strength, favors the Longhorns, and the advantage is healthy and something to give serious consideration.  Nevada still has a slight true shooting percentage edge when schedule strength is weighted into the equation, but Texas overcomes that with an even greater R+T advantage.  Most of this advantage comes from UT’s ability to maintain control of the ball, so it will not lead to excessive extra scoring opportunities.

With this data alone, the game looks to be rather close.  However, we are going to add one intangible into the fray, and that will lead us to picking a sure winner.  Coach Musselman’s briskets have developed quite the reputation in the barbecue world.  He almost left Reno for the large BBQ joint in Berkeley, CA, last year, and at the end of the season Nevada laid an egg in their first round tournament game with Iowa St.  This year, we believe Musselman will take another job, and we believe his players feel that way too.  He has been mentioned as a finalist for the Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgia, and Ole Miss jobs, and chances are better than 50-50 that he takes one of these four.  Once again, the Wolf Pack may be a bit flat, if only at the start of the game before they recover.  Spot Shaka Smart a ten-point lead, and his teams usually find a way to hold onto it.

Our Pick: Texas

 

Cincinnati vs. Georgia St.

The Bearcats should have been a number one seed in our opinion, but the Selection Committee is charged with looking at the entire season rather than the most recent part.  Coach Mick Cronin has a real national championship contender this year, as Cinti has its best team since Ed Jucker roamed the sidelines.  This Bearcat team is better than any of Bob Huggins’ teams in the Queen City.

Georgia State is a better team today than they were in December.  The Panthers showed how much they improved during the season when they clobbered Louisiana-Lafayette and put up 106 points in the game.

GSU could play two complete games against Cincinnati, and the Panthers would struggle to score 106 total points.  The Bearcats are in a different class of opponent compared to the opponents in the Sun Belt Conference.

The stats are ugly for this game and portend a possible 40 to 50-point win if Cincinnati doesn’t call off the dogs early.  The Bearcats should receive 25 extra scoring opportunities in this game, as Georgia State had trouble rebounding against SBC competition, and Cincinnati would be expected to win the battle of the boards against almost every other team in the tournament except maybe Michigan St.

Cincinnati’s defense will hold Georgia State under 40% shooting from the field, while the Bearcats have a good chance to connect on 50% or better.  Don’t even consider that this game could be any different, unless you believe we just jinxed it.  On paper, we could see a score in the neighborhood of 85-45.

Our Pick: Cincinnati

 

Xavier vs. UNC-Central or Texas Southern

We find it quite interesting that the Selection Committee placed bitter rivals Xavier and Cincinnati in the same location for a tournament that will be played around St. Patrick’s Day.  What could go wrong when enemies of two schools staying in the same block of another town get sufficient alcohol in their systems?  Why not schedule a soccer game between Manchester United and Liverpool at the Titans’ Coliseum across the river at the same time?

There isn’t much to say about this game.  Xavier should have little trouble winning, but take note of this: we believe the Musketeers are the most vulnerable of the one-seeds in this tournament.  They have glaring weaknesses that can be exploited down the road, maybe even as soon as the next round.  Xavier can gave some trouble holding onto the ball, and they do not force many turnovers on defense, so a really good pressuring defense with decent shooters will be nothing but trouble for the Musketeers.

Our Pick: Xavier

Missouri vs. Florida St.

This game is a hard one to pick.  How do you factor Michael Porter, Jr. into the statistical comparison?  He played 20+ minutes in his return for the Tigers in their opening game tournament loss to Georgia.  He was quite rusty and still enough out of shape to show fatigue quickly.  Of course, he was also nervous playing in St. Louis, and he pressed a bit.  However, there were moments where you could see some Lebronish moves.

Florida State is very similar to Missouri in all respects, and without Porter playing for the Tigers, we would tend to give the slight edge to the Seminoles.  Therein lies the rub.  Without sneaking into Missouri’s practices or speaking directly with Porter and Coach Cuonzo Martin, we cannot begin to know if Porter will be able to move the needle in favor of his Tigers.

The key statistical factors here are a wash.  Schedule strength is the same.  Missouri has a slightly better true shooting percentage, while FSU has a slightly better R+T advantage.  Missouri’s negative turnover margin is enough to cause a bit of concern, but then having Porter at maybe 70% of his normal self is enough to put the advantage back on Missouri’s side, if only by a point or two. We are making this pick under the correct or incorrect belief that Porter will play 20+ minutes again in this game and be slightly more effective in this one.

Our Pick: Missouri

 

Ohio St. vs. South Dakota St.

South Dakota State is another double-digit seed that might have pulled off a shocker in the first round had they not drawn an opponent that matches up against them perfectly.  Ohio State can be beaten by lower-seeded teams in this tournament, and we would have gone against the Buckeyes if they had drawn Murray State.

This will still be a tough one for the quintet from Columbus to win.  SDSU is slightly weaker in true shooting percenage margin and R+T rating, but not by much.  Ohio State’s advantage here on average is about six points, which can easily be overcome by the law of averages, especially when you consider that the Jackrabbits are peaking at the right time, while the Buckeyes appear to be taking on water.  Only because Coach Chris Holtman has an excellent NCAA Tournament resume do we feel good about this selection.

Our Pick: Ohio State in a squeaker

 

Gonzaga vs. UNC-Greensboro

Is it us, or has the national media forgotten which team came within 90 seconds of winning the national championship last year and then reloaded with another powerful team that got better and better each week?

Take a look at Gonzaga’s statistical data?  The Bulldogs are just as impressive this year as they were at this time last year.  Their true shooting percentage margin is 5th best in the field of 68.  Their R+T rating is tops in the field.  They enter the Dance waltzing with a 14-game winning streak, and they meet our qualifications for a complete team.

The only reason why the Zags may not make it back to the Final Four this year is their strength of schedule just misses qualifying for our magic number of five points better than average.  They just barely qualified last year, so Gonzaga could break through and crush our qualifications.

UNC-Greensboro is not chopped liver.  They are a potentially dangerous team that just happened to luck into playing Gonzaga.  The Spartans enter the tournament riding a six-game winning streak that has seen them outscore opponents by 12.3 points per game.  Their statistical data is better than the average 13-seed.  They might be expected to beat more than half of the 6 through 12 seeds in this field, but they were quite unlucky drawing the most underrated of the top 16 teams.

Our Pick: Gonzaga

 

Houston vs. San Diego St.

This should be one of the most exciting and entertaining games in this round.  These two teams know how to claw and scratch on every possession.  While the game looks to be close to a toss-up, our PiRate Criteria statistical data shows a clear favorite.

Houston has better true shooting percentage numbers, better R+T numbers, and an ever so slightly superior schedule strength.  There are no other factors strong enough to turn this game the opposite way.  Watch out for the Cougars.  They are flying under the radar and could sneak up on future opponents.

Note: CUSA rivals Cincinnati and Houston were forced to play their home games on the floors of other D1 schools this year due to renovations to their gyms.  Cincinnati played their home games across the river at Northern Kentucky, while Houston played its home games almost next door at Texas Southern.  This no real home game issue may actually help both CUSA teams.

Our Pick: Houston

Michigan vs. Montana

Michigan under John Beilein always presents us some difficulty when prognosticating games in the NCAA Tournament, and in fact it was their past recent success that led us to make the major renovations to our criteria.  They led the change in how the game is now played on the offensive end, and their old-fashioned 1960’s-style 1-3-1 trapping zone defense also presents problems.

This year, the Wolverines appear to be even stronger than last year, when they narrowly lost to Oregon in the Sweet 16.  The Maize and Blue no longer have rebounding liabilities.  Rebounding is still no major strength, but they can compete against their upstate rival without worrying about being done in on the boards.

Michigan has shored up this liability without sacrificing their typical assets.  The Wolverines can still handle the ball better than all but one or two others in this field.  They know how to get the ball inside and score within a couple feet of the basket, and they can still hit their share of three-pointers.

Montana is actually a strong team for a Big Sky member.  The Big Sky has produced some surprise teams in the past, and the Grizzlies are a formidable first round foe.  They might even lead in this game for a short period of time, but in the end, they do not have the horsed to knock off the feisty Wolverines.

Our Pick: Michigan

 

Texas A&M vs. Providence

Neither of these teams has lasting potential in the 2018 Dance.  The winner will have to face North Carolina in Charlotte in the next round, and even thogh the Tar Heels have vulnerabilities, they will make it to the Sweet 16 again.

This game looks to us to be a surprise easy victory for the superior team.  Let’s look at which team that is.  Providence is one of just two teams in the field with a negative true shooting percentage margin (oddly the other is in-state rival Rhode Island).  In order for a team that has a negative TS% margin to win, they better have an outstanding R+T rating as well as a strong strength of schedule.  The Friars’s schedule is strong enough, but their R+T rating is almost as weak as their true shooting percentage margin.

Texas A&M enjoys decent numbers in the big three stats.  Their TS% margin is healthy, as it their R+T rating, and their strength of schedule is among the top 10 in this field.

Our Pick: Texas A&M

 

North Carolina vs. Lipscomb

Welcome to your first ever Division 1 NCAA Tournament bid Bisons.  Now, your first opponent is defending national champion North Carolina, and oh, you’re going to play them in Charlotte.

What a way to get a Baptism under fire!  There is only a tiny bit of solace in Lipscomb playing the Tar Heels.  Coach Casey Alexander came from Belmont, where coach Rick Byrd took his Bruin team into Chapel Hill a few years ago and beat North Carolina.  Byrd’s Belmont team came within a point of Duke in a past NCAA Tournament, and Alexander’s style of play is a carbon copy of his mentor.

The differences in schedule strength between these two games is immense and equates to about 24 points per game difference.  North Carolina will benefit from a huge advantage on the boards, but they can also take advantage of Lipscomb’s difficulty handling pressure defense.  The Bisons almost blew a 32-point lead in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship, when Florida Gulf Coast pressed full court and forced Lipscomb into one turnover after another, as the lead was cut to five points in about 12 minutes.

Our Pick: North Carolina

 

Villanova vs. Long Island or Radford

Villanova will have a slightly tougher time against Radford than against Long Island, and we selected Radford in the First Four, so we will compare VU to Radford.

‘Nova enjoys a strength of schedule close to 20 points per game better than Radford’s schedule.  The adjustment to the rest of the statistics based on schedule strength rating gives Villanova a prohibitive advantage in all respects.  The Wildcats once again have Final Four worthy statistics.

Our Pick: Villanova

 

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama

What we have here is a toss-up game between two rather mediocre NCAA Tournament teams.  We do not expect the winner to make it past the next round.

Virginia Tech has a decisive advantage in true shooting percentage margin.  The Hokies have little R+T strength, just barely avoiding automatic non-consideration at 1.6.  However, Alabama’s R+T is not much better at 2.3, which usually doesn’t bode well in the round of 64.  Neither team would most likely beat any of the 12-seeds this year, but because they lucked into facing each other, one team must advance to the round of 32.

Our Pick: Virginia Tech (but not with much confidence)

Note: A player like Alabama’s Colin Sexton can put a team on his back and produce a win over a team like Virginia Tech, so if you believe Sexton will shine, you might want to go against us here.

 

West Virginia vs. Murray St.

Wow!  This is going to be a game to watch for sure.  Usually, when Press Virginia plays its first game against an opponent that has not played the Mountaineers in the current era, Huggy Bear’s troops have a huge advantage.  Murray State is not one of those teams.  The Racers not only should handle the press much better than the average team, they will exploit it for points.

The problem is that the full-court press defense isn’t WVU’s only weapon.  The Mountaineers know how to crash the boards, and they know how to get the ball inside for high-percentage shots when the defense is not big time tough.

Murray State will challenge in this game until the Racers show signs of fatigue.  Eventually, the Mountaineers will go on a run with their “spurtability” and win by double digits, but it will still be a fun game to watch.

Our Pick: West Virginia

 

Wichita St. vs. Marshall

This game is an excellent study in contrast between old-school toughness and the new wave of basketball sabermetrics.

Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni is all about the new way of playing the game based on the way the currently accepted best operating metrics say the game should be played.  Marshall doesn’t try to get the ball into the low post where a pivot player then tries to make a move and take a high percentage shot.  The Thundering Herd force you to guard the perimeter sometimes placing all five offensive players behind the arc.  Then, if you drop your guard, they will drive to the basket trying to stuff the ball or getting a layup.

Defensively, if you want to play old school and set up a low post player in the pivot, the Herd will invite you to try to beat them with that strategy, because their data says they have the advantage.  Marshall tries to run the fast break at any opportunity where they have the number’s advantage, and they will pull up and take the three with a number’s advantage.  It is not out of the ordinary if they take 35 three-point shots in a game.  They will hit a baker’s dozen of them, so if your strategy is to take high-percentage shots inside with a dominant post player, you have to hit 20 of 35 to beat the 13 of 35 three-pointers.

Coach Gregg Marshall is somewhat of a non-believer.  Sure, his Wichita State team will take three-point shots and run the fast break trying to get easy baskets, but the Shockers believe in getting the ball inside and preventing the opponent from doing the same.

There is something entirely different from this synopsis that makes this an easy game to pick.  Marshall has a negative R+T rating, and any negative R+T rating means we always pick the other team if the other team has a positive R+T rating.  Wichita’s R+T is not just positive; it is one of the highest in the field.  The Shockers should get an incredible 24 more scoring opportunities in this game.  Marshall would have to hit something like 20 of 35 from behind the arc to win this game.

Our Pick:  Wichita St.

 

Florida vs. St. Bonaventure or UCLA

No matter which team wins the First Four game in Dayton, Florida is a strong upset victim in this game.  The Gators have so many vulnerabilities this year that just making the tournament should be considered a successful season.  This does not mean that the Gators have no chance in this game.  It means that the play-in winner has a better than 50-50 chance of getting a second win.

Florida’s barely positive true shooting percentage margin would require a strong R+T rating to advance into the second week of the tournament.  The Gators’ R+T is just 4.6, which places UF in the bottom quarter of the field and eighth weakest among power conference participants.

Our Pick: St. Bonaventure (or UCLA if they are the opponent)

 

Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin

We don’t usually get in-state rivals playing each other in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at a venue in their home state.  Texas Tech received the benefit of being kept close to home, but then all that benefit eroded when their opponent received an equal amount of home state help.

Texas Tech has to be treated a bit differently compare to most of the other teams in this field.  They have a key player that missed a large part of the regular season, and the Red Raiders were never the same after the injury.

Prior to beefy forward Zach Smith missing five weeks of the season, Tech was 14-1 and ranked in the top 10.  With Smith out, the Raiders went just 8-6, but then when he came back, Tech only won two of their last four.

Both of those two losses were at the hands of West Virginia, and even when Tech beat the Mountaineers in Lubbock, they struggled throughout the game.  It wasn’t the full-court press that hurt Tech as much as it was that WVU had better athletes.

Stephen F. Austin is similar to WVU but without the great athletes.  Texas Tech should win this game but not look flashy.  They will play more like a well-oiled machine and continually increase their control of the game.

Our Pick: Texas Tech

 

Arkansas vs. Butler

Just looking at this matchup, one might think that Arkansas has a major advantage in this game, but we’re here to tell you that is not the case.  Because the strength of schedules between the two are basically equal, comparing the other stats becomes much easier.

True Shooting % margin: Advantage Arkansas by a minute amount

R+T Rating: Advantage Butler by a bit more amount than Arkansas’s advantage above.

Arkansas is a weaker rebounding team than Butler is a weaker defensive team, so we go against the grain here and pick the Bulldogs over the flashy Razorbacks.  It doesn’t hurt that Butler finished just behind two, number one seeds in the Dance.

Our Pick: Butler

 

Purdue vs. Cal St. Fullerton

In past years, Purdue entered NCAA Tournament play as favorites to advance far only to suffer an upset loss to a team that most basketball fans believed the Boilermakers should have easily defeated.  We here on the PiRate ship understood why Purdue lost.  We called it the Keady Effect.  Teams with head coaches from the Gene Keady tree, and Keady as well, played a style of ball that worked during the regular season when PU could romp over most of their non-conference opponents and defend their home court with great success, but it did not work in neutral court tournament situations.

Matt Painter seems to have seen the light in recent years.  His teams no longer employ Keady Ball at Purdue.  They play more like prior coach Lee Rose, and because of that the Boilermakers are dangerous, maybe coming in a little under the radar.

Purdue has the second best overall true shooting percentage margin in this tournament, and their former bugaboo, the R+T rating is now a slight asset.  It is still not outstanding, but it is now strong enough to believe Purdue could make it to the second weekend of the Dance.

Cal State Fullerton lacks the quickness and the muscle to compete in this game.  Purdue will win by 15-25 points.

Our Pick: Purdue

 

Kansas vs. Penn

If there is any chance at all that one of the 1 versus 16 games will be close and still in doubt past halftime, this will be that game.  Kansas is due for a bounce after playing three tough Big 12 Tournament games, while Penn only had to hold serve on their home floor two times.

Although we think Xavier is the likely first 1-seed to lose this year, Kansas should be the second one, because we do not see this Jayhawk team making it to the Final Four, and they may not make it to the Elite 8.

It’s not that Penn is going to make a run in this tournament.  The Quakers will not make it past this game, but they will show the rest of the field that the Big 12 champions are beatable.

Our Pick: Kansas

 

Seton Hall vs. North Carolina St.

Give Kevin Keatts two more years, and he will have a Final Four contender in Raleigh.  When you combine talent evaluation, recruiting acumen, teaching, and game-time adjustments, Keatts rates as an A+ perfect 10 coach.  We expect a championship ring in his future.

Unfortunately for Wolf Pack fans, that ring will not come in 2018.  This State team was not expected to make it to the NCAA Tournament, as the NIT was the expectation.

Seton Hall is much like Butler.  The Pirates finished tied for third in a league where the top two teams claimed number one seeds.  The Big East is a tough league, and it is hard for a team to develop what looks like on paper as dominant statistics.

There isn’t much of an advantage in this game, but Seton Hall has that advantage, and it comes from being a hair better in all the key stats.

Our Pick: Seton Hall

 

Clemson vs. New Mexico St.

Could an upper division ACC team lose in the opening round of the tournament to a WAC team?  It most certainly is possible, because New Mexico State has the talent to pull off the upset.  Clemson has a nominal true shooting percentage margin advantage, while the Aggies enjoy an equally tiny R+T Rating advantage when weighted against schedule strength.  If New Mexico State can control the boards and out-rebound CU by four or more, they can win this game.  It’s a close call, but we have to go with the chalk in this one, but you can easily play it the other way.

Our Pick: Clemson

Auburn vs. Charleston

Be forewarned:  Auburn will not advance very far in this tournament, and they are weaker than your typical number four seed.  Because the Tigers saw their lone quality big man, Anfernee McLemore, go down to injury in late February, they are more like a double-digit seed now.  Their size liability is too much to overcome, and the Tigers will actually struggle to put College of Charleston away.

Only because Charleston is weak on the boards, do we have any faith in Auburn getting to the Round of 32.  It most likely will be an ugly win with a lower than expected final score.

Our Pick: Auburn

 

TCU vs. Arizona St. or Syracuse

If Syracuse wins the play-in game like we expect they will, then the Orangemen will be our favorite to advance to the Round of 32, because TCU will not match up well with Syracuse.  If Arizona State beats Syracuse, then TCU becomes our favorite to win this game.  So, wait until the ASU-Syracuse game finishes before making this pick.

Our Pick: Syracuse over TCU or

TCU over Arizona St.

 

Michigan St. vs. Bucknell

Coach Tom Izzo must have made a sigh of relief when he saw that his Spartans drew a finesse team in the first round rather than another sparkplug team like Middle Tennessee State.

The Spartans have nothing to worry about in this game.  Bucknell is a fundamentally-sound team that doesn’t have the roster to compete with the green behemoth.  MSU will play paddy-cake on the backboards getting more offensive rebounds than Bucknell will get defensive rebounds.

You beat Michigan State by forcing the Spartans into making more turnovers than normal, and Bucknell will force considerably less, which means Izzo and company cruise to the next round with a huge pointspread, maybe 25 or more.

Our Pick: Michigan St.

 

Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma

Woe is Oklahoma.  In the first half of the season, they deserved a high seed in this tournament.  But, a team must play both halves of its season, and in the second half, the Sooners did not deserve to earn an NIT bid.  Oklahoma is the weakest Power Conference team in the field at the present time.

Rhode Island has certain big-time assets, but the Rams also have one large liability, which means their stay in this field will be short-lived, either one or two games.

We basically must go with the team that is less mediocre than the opponent, and it is hard to choose here, since both teams wear tournament mediocrity well.

Rhode Island has a negative true shooting percentage margin.  We believe that it takes a positive shooting percentage margin to have a chance to advance in this field.  However, Oklahoma just barely has a positive R+T rating.  It is so low, that we would always pick against a team with an R+T rating of 0.9 with negative rebounding and turnover margins.

Rhode Island should capitalize more on Oklahoma’s R+T weakness than Oklahoma will capitalize on URI’s true shooting percentage margin, but Oklahoma has a superior strength of schedule.  They also have the superstar player that has been known to carry a team from one or two games in tournament play, but seldom any farther.

That takes us back to where we started–this game is a push.  We here on the PiRate ship could not come to a conclusion with a 3-3 vote.  The Captain had to break the tie, and we had to wait for his text saying to go with Oklahoma, because the Sooners have played nothing but tough opponents for two months in the Big 12, while URI has faltered against Power conference teams like Alabama and Nevada.

Our Pick: Oklahoma

 

Duke vs. Iona

This isn’t your father’s Duke team.  Heck, it isn’t even Coach K’s Duke team.  The man that came from the Bob Knight coaching tree where the word “Zone” is the worst four letter word, while the other expletive is a common adjective has been forced to employ that curse word defense in Durham.

Hey, it’s working, and this is why Duke is a serious contender to go all the way to the title!  Coach K has had to carefully find the proper pieces to make the puzzle complete, and Duke could be expected to begin tournament play a bit off.

The Selection Committee gave the Blue Devils a true gift.  Iona should have been a 16-seed, but the bottom of this field is really weak this year.  Somebody had to be a 15-seed, and the Gaels lucked out into avoiding the cursed 16-seed.

It won’t matter much.  The Boys from Durham will be able to work the kinks out while experimenting with new strategies in what amounts to almost a practice game.  Duke has one of the top five R+T ratings in the field, while Iona has a negative R+T rating.  We’d go with most of the 16-seeds over Iona if they played in this round.

Our Pick: Duke

 

There you have our first round picks.  Now, here is how we filled out the rest of our brackets.  Remember, we will preview the games anew in each round.

Round of 32

Virginia over Creighton

Arizona over Kentucky

Tennessee over Loyola (Chi.)

Cincinnati over Texas

Xavier over Missouri

Gonzaga over Ohio St.

Michigan over Houston

North Carolina over Texas A&M

Villanova over Virginia Tech

West Virginia over Wichita St.

Texas Tech over St. Bonaventure

Purdue over Butler

Kansas over Seton Hall

Clemson over Auburn

Michigan St. over Syracuse

Duke over Oklahoma

 

Sweet 16

Virginia over Arizona

Cincinnati over Tennessee

Gonzaga over Xavier

North Carolina over Michigan

Villanova over West Virginia

Purdue over Texas Tech

Kansas over Clemson

Duke over Michigan St.

 

Elite 8

Cincinnati over Virginia

North Carolina over Gonzaga

Villanova over Purdue

Duke over Kansas

 

Final Four

Cincinnati over North Carolina

Duke over Villanova

 

Championship

Duke over Cincinnati

March 11, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 11 , 2018

Sunday’s PiRate Ratings Spreads for Conference Tournament Championships

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Harvard Penn -1.4
Rhode Island Davidson 2.8
Tennessee Kentucky 1.1
Georgia St. Texas-Arlington 0.9
Cincinnati Houston 4.8

 

Sunday’s Conference Championship Schedule

All Times EDT

Time Conference Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM Ivy League Harvard Penn ESPN2
1:00 PM Atlantic 10 Rhode Island Davidson CBS
1:00 PM Southeastern Tennessee Kentucky ESPN
2:00 PM Sun Belt Georgia St. Texas-Arlington ESPN2
3:30 PM American Cincinnati Houston CBS

Note:  Our Final Bracket Gurus Bracketology prediction will appear on this site roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Atlantic 10 Championship Game.  Davidson is a potential bid-stealer, and until our gurus know whether they have earned an automatic bid or have been eliminated, they cannot fix the Bubble.  There are about a half-dozen teams that will sweat it out during today’s Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship.

Teams That Have Earned Automatic Bids Through Sunday, 6:00 AM EDT

Team Bid Conf. W-L Avg Score
Arizona AUTO P12 27-7 81-71
Bucknell AUTO Patriot 25-9 81-73
Buffalo AUTO MAC 26-8 85-77
Cal St. Fullerton AUTO BWest 20-11 73-72
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7 75-69
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4 85-67
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13 80-76
Kansas AUTO B12 27-7 82-71
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9 83-78
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16 78-77
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5 72-62
Marshall AUTO CUSA 24-10 84-79
MD-Baltimore Co. AUTO AE 24-10 73-71
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7 75-64
Montana AUTO BSky 26-7 78-69
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5 77-66
New Mexico St. AUTO WAC 28-5 76-65
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12 67-64
San Diego St. AUTO MWC 22-10 77-68
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6 85-74
Stephen F. Austin AUTO SLC 28-6 78-68
Texas Southern AUTO SWAC 15-19 78-80
UNC-Central AUTO MEAC 19-15 70-71
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7 74-62
Villanova AUTO BE 30-4 87-71
Virginia AUTO ACC 31-2 68-53
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9 72-66

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 10, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 10 , 2018

Today’s PiRate Rating Spreads For Conference Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Vermont UMBC 12.4
Cincinnati Memphis 17.5
Wichita St. Houston 0.1
Rhode Island St. Joseph’s 6.7
St. Bonaventure Davidson -0.9
Virginia North Carolina 1.0
Kansas West Virginia 0.1
Villanova Providence 13.7
Montana Eastern Washington 4.2
UC-Irvine Cal. St. Fullerton 2.0
Western Kentucky Marshall 5.1
Harvard Cornell 6.6
Penn Yale 6.9
Buffalo Toledo 3.9
Hampton UNC-Central 3.8
New Mexico San Diego St. -4.9
Arizona USC 1.9
Kentucky Alabama 3.0
Tennessee Arkansas 3.0
SE Louisiana Stephen F. Austin -5.6
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Texas Southern -5.2
UL-Lafayette Texas-Arlington 5.8
Georgia St. Georgia Southern 3.1
New Mexico St. Grand Canyon 4.9

Games in Blue are Semifinal Contests

Games in Red are Championship Games

Today’s Schedules With Approximate Tip Times and TV

All Times are Eastern Standard (Remember Daylight Savings Time Begins Sunday at 2 AM)

America East Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Home Visitors TV
11:00 AM #1 Vermont #2 UMBC ESPN2

Vermont is the home team in this tournament played on campus sites.  Because the rounds are spaced out, both teams had ample time to prepare for this game.  The Catamounts won handily in the two regularly-scheduled games.

UMBC’s only hope is to try to contain Vermont’s dominating power forward Payton Henson and be able to hit a lot of contested shots.  In the two previous games, Vermont held the Retrievers to well under 40% from the field.

Henson, the former Tulane bench warmer who became a star when he transferred to Vermont, controlled the boards in both games and led Vermont in scoring both times.

 

American Athletic Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Cincinnati #5 Memphis CBS
3:30 PM #2 Wichita St. #3 Houston CBS
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM Cinti or Memphis Wichita or Houston CBS

Tubby Smith lives to see another day as head coach of Memphis.  Two nail-biting wins into the tournament, Memphis finds itself taking on the top seed for a chance to play for an automatic bid and steal a bid for the AAC.

Memphis failed to tally 50 points in either meeting with the Bearcats, and neither game was close.  If Cincinnati does not come out flat, and it is hard to imagine a team that hustles like the Bearcats coming out flat, there is little chance the Tigers will pull the upset.

The other semifinal game should be very interesting, and there is a possibility that this game could come down to the 40th, or maybe the 45th minute before a winner is assured.  Houston’s defense has been improving all year long, while Wichita State’s defense is still somewhat of a work in progress.  The Cougars have not been this good in 25 years, and they look poised to make another step forward, maybe even to the Sweet 16.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Rhode Island #4 St. Joseph’s CBSSN
3:30 PM #2 St. Bonaventure #3 Davidson CBSSN
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Rhode Island or St. Joe’s St. Bona. or Davidson CBS

The two lower seeded teams move into serious bid-stealer territory.  Of the two, we believe Davidson has a rather good chance of pulling off back-to-back upsets of the top two seeds and steal a bid from a Louisville, Oklahoma, or Arizona St.

When Davidson ventured up to Olean, NY, to face St.  Bonaventure less than two weeks ago, it produced one of the most exciting games of the NCAA season.  The Bonnies eventually won in triple overtime 117-113, and the stat sheet was a masterpiece.  Three St. Bonaventure players topped 30 points, combining for 14 made three-pointers, while Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge had 45 points, and Kellian Grady had 39.  Today’s game may be decided by the three-point shot.  Both teams are strong defensively inside the paint.

Rhode Island is the class of this league, but the Rams are beatable, and St. Joe’s knows how to beat them.  How about a 30-point pasting by the Hawks over the Rams in Kingstown?  If they could win at URI, then St. Joe’s should surely be able to win on a neutral court in the nation’s capital.  Something tells us that Rhode Island will play with multiple chips on multiple shoulders today and get revenge.

 

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM #1 Virginia #6 North Carolina ESPN

There seldom is need to give a lot of PR to the ACC Tournament.  The ACC Tournament is like football’s Rose Bowl.  It is the grandaddy of conference tournaments (aplogies to the Southern Conference Tournament, but the ACC is a bit more prestigious).

This should be a fantastic game tonight.  North Carolina didn’t fare all that well against the top-seeded and nationally top-ranked team this year.  The Tar Heels thought they had the Cavaliers Pack-line defense figured out in the first half, and it looked like this game would go down to the buzzer.  Then, a couple of fine-tuning adjustments totally stopped North Carolina for about 10 minutes, while Virginia’s offense slowly extended the lead out to double-digits.  The Tar Heels missed all of their shots in the second half of the second half.  UVa won by a dozen points, holding UNC under 50.

The mandatory statement that North Carolina is a much better team since that loss is required to be inserted here.  However, equal time forces us to state additionally that Virginia’s offense has improved almost as much in that time frame.

In other words, this game has the potential to be rivoting entertainment for you.  We expect the score to be around 60-60 with three minutes to play.  Then, who knows what might happen.  Past ACC Tournament history could help us predict something well worth watching.  We are excited about this game just writing these words!

 

Big 12 Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Kansas #3 West Virginia ESPN

Do we even need to hype this game?  In our opinion, the rivalry between KU and WVU is approaching that of the Yankees and Red Sox.  The contrast in styles between two A-1 coaches, and the talent level on the floor tonight will make this a game full of movement and spurts.  Kansas handled the Mountaineers press rather easily in both games, and WVU did not get many transition points.  In a half-court game, the Jayhawks are about 10 points better than the Mountaineers, so the question is, can Coach Bob Huggins find a new wrinkle that will force Kansas to commit an extra five turnovers tonight?  If so, then this game is a toss-up.  If not, then the Jayhawks cut down the nets yet again.

 

Big East Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #2 Villanova #5 Providence Fox

Usually, there is a tendency for the average generic sports fan to develop a temporary rooting interest for one generic team against another generic team–a game in which he or she has no ties to either team.  When a fan in Florida watches Oregon play USC, he or she might temporarily become a fan of one of the schools.  For instance, a typical guy in Orlando might cheer for USC solely because Trojan coach Andy Enfield married a former supermodel.

If you are one of the generic superfans, like all of us here on the PiRate ship, you are in a quandary tonight with these two teams.  Why is that?  It is because Villanova coach Jay Wright and Providence coach Ed Cooley are two of the best gentlemen in the game.  They are more than coaches to their players; they are second fathers, the type that dote over their children.

As for the game tonight, Villanova better not feel any overconfidence, because Providence has put all of its pieces together and has seen the finished puzzle of success.  The Friars are possibly still sitting on their best game of the season, and for that reason, we believe that at the least, Providence will cover in this game, and quite possibly win outright.  However, and this is a big however, the Friars have had to go to overtime the last two nights to get to this point.  Their legs may be a tad fatigued in the second half, while Villanova has won by comfortable margins and has rested their starters.  So, for that reason, the rest of the PiRates say the Wildcats are going to come out and be a bit too much for the underdog Friars.

What does this tell you?  Lay off this game if you like to invest in college basketball and just watch it for fun.

 

Big Sky Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM #1 Montana #3 Eastern Washington ESPNU

This is one of those tricky games.  Montana would appear to be the favorite, but in our opinion, the Grizzlies will have to play at the top of their talent level tonight to have a chance to win this game.  EWU lost a game at Idaho in early February that they should have won.  Since then, they have played like the king of the league, reeling off eight victories in a row by an average margin of more than 10 points per game.  The Eagles roster is a United Nations of basketball with players from Australia, Serbia, Lithuania, The Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic on the roster.

Montana has the best guard duo in the league, and in tournament play, strong guards lead to championships as long as there is adequate support in the front-court players, just enough to force defenses to stay honest.  Montana’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament rest on the shoulders of Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine.  They were a combined 8 of 21 in the regular season loss to EWU.  Expect a 70-75 possession game tonight, and we believe Eastern Washington will send Montana to an automatic NIT berth.

 

Big West Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:59 PM #3 UC-Irvine #4 Cal St. Fullerton ESPN2

What did we tell you about this league?  The top four seeds were basically dead even in talent, and we believed that any of the four could advance and win the dancing invitation.  So, what happened late last night?  The two lower seeds advanced to the championship game.

If you live on the East Coast, you better get the coffee pot brewing after supper tonight if you want to see the last automatic bid of the day be handed out.  Tonight’s game is a great contrast in playing styles.  UC-Irvine wins by playing tough defense and controlling the boards, while Fullerton has a great passing offense that leads to taking open shots and not rushing the offense.

The two teams split the season series with both winning on the other team’s home floor.  This looks like a game where one team will jump for joy in the final few seconds of a closely contested game.  You may have to stay awake until after 2 AM on the East Coast if you want to know who got the bid.

 

Conference USA Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM #3 Western Kentucky #4 Marshall CBSSN

If you don’t have a dog left in the fight today, and you just want to watch a potentially incredible game in the evening, you might want to tune into this one.  All we have to say about Marshall is mention the coach’s name.  He is Dan D’Antoni, the brother of Houston Rocket coach Mike D’Antoni.  Houston is 51-14 in the NBA using the same type of playing style that Marshall uses.  The D’Antoni brothers are the Billy Beane’s of basketball.  They are high on analytics, and they believe that the offense has the best chance of scoring quickly before the defense can force a bad shot as the clock winds down.  It’s all about three-pointers and high percentage two-point shots, and the belief is that if your guards get the ball up the floor quickly, an open opportunity will develop in one of those two locations.

Of course, this works a lot better when one of your guards is James Harden.  Marshall has two guards that play at the collegiate level like Harden does in the NBA.  Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks can fill it up, and they both average in excess of 20 points per game.  Keeping defenses honest, the Thundering Herd have Ajdin Penava inside, but the offense itself creates close open shots for a host of average players, and any average player at this level can hit from three feet away.

What about Western Kentucky?  The Hilltoppers are notorious for playing their best ball in March.  This goes back for decades and decades through a who’ who of great coaches and players.  WKU is much like their big brother up in Lexington.  They go into tournament championship games with the prestige of the New York Yankees.  They expect to win, but they do not consider it a foregone conclusion, and the red uniform makes them put out an effort like every player is Enos Slaughter.  Both the good news and the not-so-good news about WKU is that they are a very balanced team with any of the five starters capable of scoring 20-25 points in a game.  However, sometimes, none of the five will take over and will the team to a victory.

Western swept the season series with Marshall, but we do not particularly love the Hilltoppers chance to get a three-peat in today’s championship game.  Marshall will come out loose and ready to play 75-possession basketball.  Western better be ready and not only come expecting to play 65-possession basketball.

 

Ivy League Tournament
Philadelphia (Ivy Madness)
Top 4 Teams Qualify
Semifinals EST Championship Game EDT
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM #1 Harvard #4 Cornell ESPNU
3:00 PM #2 Penn #3 Yale ESPN2
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM  Harvard or Cornell Penn or Yale  ESPN2

The final conference tournament begins play today.  The Ivy League only sends its top four to the Palestra, so in theory the winner should usually be able to avoid a trip to Dayton.  If Penn or Harvard win Ivy Madness, they should be 16-seeds but avoid Dayton.  If Cornell wins, they are almost assuredly headed to Dayton, and if Yale wins, it would be a 50-50 guess.

Penn has the advantage of playing on their home floor, and the Quakers went 7-0 at home in Ivy League play.  Their two conference losses came at Harvard and at Yale, so the championship game should provide a bit of excitement.  Of course, Penn has to get past a Cornell team that gave the Quakers two close games in the regular season.

 

Mid-American Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Buffalo #2 Toledo ESPN2

The top two seeds found their way to the championship game, and we are returning to becoming confident in the Bulls.  Buffalo has the talent that if they can play with confidence and not become deer in the headlights, they could sneak past an opening round favorite in the NCAA Tournament.  We do not believe Toledo can do the same, but in the conference tournament, the Rockets could easily blast their way to victory.

These two teams played only once in the regular season, and it seems like it was a year ago.  Buffalo won on their home floor in an offensive shootout 104-94.  The difference in the game was the Buffalo ball-hawking defense.  The Bulls gave up a few easy baskets when their gambling defense did not force a turnover, but they forced Toledo into numerous turnovers that led to easy Buffalo scores.

This won’ be an 81-possession game like the first time, and if Toledo can take care of the basketball, they have the backcourt advantage with a couple of tall, sharp-shooting perimeter players in Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Jaelen Sanford.

If Buffalo is to hold serve and claim both the regular season and conference tournament titles, we believe that forward Nick Perkins needs to have a 20-point, 8-rebound game, and the Bulls need to force the tempo and not let Toledo slow the game down.

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Hampton #6 UNC-Central ESPN2

Two teams with recent success in the MEAC will face off for the automatic bid.  Hampton has won the tournament title three of the last seven seasons under Coach Edward Joyner, while UNC-Central has claimed two of the last four under Coach LeVelle Moton.

Once again, this game presents an excellent study in different styles of play.  Hampton is more of a finesse team with better shooters, while UNC-Central has the superior power game and can control the action inside.  Finesse won out in the lone regular season game between the two teams, as Hampton shot lights out in a blowout win.

 

Mountain West Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #3 New Mexico #5 San Diego St. CBS

The two defensive behemoths easily advanced to the championship game, giving the Mountain West a second bid that came at the expense of a Louisville, Notre Dame, or Arizona St.

Either of these two teams will become a fierce, pesty opponent to a favored team in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.  New Mexico faced a major transition this year.  They raided in-state rival New Mexico State to hire Coach Paul Weir away from las Cruces.  Weir brought his tenacious, full-court press defense to Albuquerque, and the Lobos had growing pains for the first half of the season.

Since a rough start at 8-11, the Lobos improved by going 11-3 since mid-January.  The press began to pay dividends as the players obtained the needed live experience to see it work.  A much-improved up-tempo offense took off about the same time, as the Lobos gained confidence and went from a passive to a very aggressive team.

San Diego State basketball is all about outstanding pressure man-to-man defense and an inside power offense.  It’s much like the same offense that Aztec coach Steve Fisher used with the Fabulous Five at Michigan in the 1990’s.  Like New Mexico, SDSU had a slow start to the season, but they closed in a rush with eight consecutive wins by an average score of 78-64.  What they did to regular season champ Nevada last night should put a scare into any potential four or five seed team from a power conference.  The Aztecs looked like the UCLA team of 1970 in the semifinal trouncing of Nevada.  They controlled the boards like they had Sydney Wicks, Steve Patterson, and Curtis Rowe pounding the glass, as the former top team in the league trailed by 30 points in the first half!

Don’t expect New Mexico to be intimidated.  This game is going to be rough and tumble for 40 minutes, and if we had to pick one game where the referees may have to step in and separate the combatants in this war, this would be the game.

 

Pacific 12 Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 Arizona #2 USC FS1

Usually, the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game is the key college basketball game on the West Coast, but it won’t even be the best game in the host city.  It won’t even be the second best game in that city.  Las Vegas hosts both the Mountain West and Western Athletic championships tonight, and unfortunately for the “League of Champions,” this will be the third best game in sin city tonight.

The outcome of the game will matter very little, as both teams have now secured spots in the field of 68, and neither will move much by winning or losing.  We do not particularly feel like either the Wildcats or Trojans will make much of a dent in the NCAA Tournament, as the Pac-12 needs a transfusion, with an infusion of better talent.  Sorry Pac-12 fans, but your league is suffering somewhat of a malaise.

 

Southeastern Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #4 Kentucky #9 Alabama ESPN
3:30 PM #2 Tennessee #6 Arkansas ESPN
       
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Kentucky or Alabama Tennessee or Arkansas ESPN

Once Missouri fell, we called this tournament the Kentucky Invitational, as that is what we knew it would look like once the Blue Mist fans bought up all the Mizzou fans tickets.

Arkansas bested Florida, and that made Kentucky’s path to the title all that easier.  Today the Wildcats basically need to put an extra half-body on Colin Sexton and then control the boards like they should to advance to the title game tomorrow for the umpteenth time in their history.

The other game should be much more interesting, as Arkansas and Tennessee match up evenly well.  Arkansas won the regular season game in Fayetteville 95-93 in overtime in a game before New Year’s Day.  The Razorbacks then went 9-8 the rest of the regular season, while the Vols went on to share the conference title with Auburn.

This tournament is screaming for a game between bitter rivals in blue and orange.  Tennessee has always been the principle rival for Kentucky in all sports, while Tennessee considers Kentucky its chief basketball rival.

 

Southland Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 SE Louisiana #3 Stephen F. Austin ESPN2

We hope you read our preview of this conference tournament the last two days.  If not, we referred to #3 Stephen F. Austin as the champion thoroughbred horse that stumbled and lost the 2017 race but still figured to be the great champion of the past, while Southeast Louisiana and Nicholls State were the two currently sexy horses vying for the finish line.

The crowd at the race track watches the two new hot contenders sharing a four furlong lead over the champion horse, and all in attendance feverishly focus their eyes on the champion waiting for him to make that patented closing move to win the race from three-wide.

Last night, Stephen F. Austin began to move, and when they did, they looked like Whirlaway at the Kentucky Derby.  The Lumberjacks just ran past Nicholls State, putting the game away handily in the first half.  Now, they have Southeast Louisiana in their sights, and the Lions better be ready to roar in the Championship Game, because SFA doesn’t look to be losing any speed at the finish line.

 

Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
4:00 PM #1 Arkansas-Pine Bluff #3 Texas Southern ESPN2

Our heart says Texas Southern tonight, because our leader has a past friendly relationship with TSU coach Mike Davis, but our brain says that Arkansas-Pine Bluff will become the first team ever to begin a season 0-14 and make the NCAA Tournament.

These two teams could play 100 times, and we would pick UAPB to win about 55-60 of those games.  The Golden Lions won two very close games over the Tigers in the regular season, and they seem to have their number.

The winner of this game is already put in the First Four in Dayton in permanent marker.  There is no need to pencil the winner this year.  Either a 19-loss or 20-loss team will earn an automatic bid.

 

Sun Belt Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM #1 UL-Lafayette #4 UT-Arlington ESPN3
3:00 PM #2 Georgia St. #3 Georgia Southern ESPN3
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:00 PM ULL or UTA Ga St. or Ga. Sou. ESPN2

Louisiana-Lafayette may be the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with a coach (Bob Marlin) that has taken the Ragin’ Cajuns and formerly Sam Houston to the NCAA Tournament, but Georgia State also has the tournament experience coach on their sideline, as Ron Hunter has taken GSU and IUPUI to the Dance in the past.

What does this mean for UT-Arlington and Georgia Southern?    Ten years ago, Scott Cross guided UTA to a conference tournament title, while Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington has been slowly upgrading the program at Hanner Fieldhouse.

Don’t expect the two favorite to easily coast to the finals tomorrow, but the chances are better than 50-50 that both teams win tonight.

 

Western Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 New Mexico St. #3 Grand Canyon ESPNU

There’s nothing more to say about this tournament than what we previously stated.  This just might be the best Championship Game of the entire lot this weekend.  New Mexico State has been tournament savvy since November, when the Aggies beat Davidson and Miami (Fla.) in Hawaii and almost knocked off USC for the championship.  After NMSU completed the regular season sweep of GCU, their record stood at 22-3, and the Aggies were on the verge of cracking the top 25.  But, playing an overly physical team like GCU can take its toll, and NMSU suffered by losing consecutive road games against the other top two teams of the four in this league.  The team recovered and since then has won five games in a row by an average of 16.8 points per game.

Grand Canyon has made great strides moving into Division 1.  The only for-profit university playing Division 1 basketball, the Antelopes have a student base from all over the country, as they have both a real campus and an online presence.  Of course, John Doe, a GCU online-only student in Augusta, Maine, is not eligible to play on the team, but his tuition might help the school fund the athletic program a little bit.  This could be the start of something big if the Antelopes make the Dance.  Imagine the University of Phoenix or Devry University trying this out.   And, what happens when Penn State or Alabama discover that they must begin to have an online university in addition to a real campus?  The NCAA might have to eventually establish some ground rules, when Dunkin’ Bill Duncan and Henry Hoopshot decide to attend classes at home but play on the basketball team, because they both live just 10 miles away.  Who will really be doing the homework???

 

 

 

March 9, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 9 , 2018

Today’s PiRate Ratings Spreads For Conference Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Cincinnati SMU 12.5
Tulsa Memphis 4.3
Wichita St. Temple 8.4
Houston Central Florida 7.3
Rhode Island VCU 8.5
St. Joseph’s George Mason 6.2
St. Bonaventure Richmond 8.9
Davidson St. Louis 7.1
Virginia Clemson 5.8
Duke North Carolina 3.1
Kansas Kansas St. 5.3
Texas Tech West Virginia -0.6
Xavier Providence 8.0
Villanova Butler 8.9
Montana Northern Colorado 2.6
Southern Utah Eastern Washington -7.8
UC-Davis Cal St. Fullerton 2.6
UCSB UC-Irvine 1.1
Marshall Southern Miss. 6.8
Old Dominion Western Kentucky -1.1
Buffalo Kent St. 10.3
Toledo Eastern Michigan 2.3
Hampton North Carolina A&T 3.5
UNC-Central Morgan St. 0.7
Nevada San Diego St. 4.4
New Mexico Utah St. 2.2
Arizona UCLA 1.9
USC Oregon 2.6
Auburn Alabama 6.4
Kentucky Georgia 4.9
Tennessee Mississippi St. 6.4
Florida Arkansas 1.7
SE Louisiana Sam Houston St. 0.8
Nicholls St. Stephen F. Austin -4.8
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Southern -0.7
Prairie View A&M Texas Southern 0.1
UL-Lafayette Texas St. 11.2
UT-Arlington Appalachian St. 4.7
Georgia St. UL-Monroe 7.3
Georgia Southern Troy 0.9
Utah Valley Grand Canyon 2.4
New Mexico St. Seattle 10.9

No Automatic Bids Handed Out Last Night and None Will Be Handed Out Tonight

Teams Already In The Field of 68

Team Bid Conf. W-L Avg Score
Bucknell AUTO Patriot 25-9 81-73
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7 75-69
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4 85-67
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13 80-76
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9 83-78
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16 78-77
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5 72-62
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7 75-64
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5 77-66
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12 67-64
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6 85-74
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7 74-62
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9 72-66

Conference Tournaments In Action On Friday

All Times are Eastern Standard

American Athletic Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Cincinnati #9 SMU ESPN2
2:30 PM #4 Tulsa #5 Memphis ESPN2
6:00 PM #2 Wichita St. #7 Temple ESPNU
8:30 PM #3 Houston #6 Central Florida ESPNU
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Cinti or SMU Tulsa or Memphis CBS
3:30 PM Wichita St. or Temple Houston or Central Fla. CBS
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM     CBS

There are still a couple of potential bid-stealers in this tournament.  Tulsa and Temple are certainly capable of winning the tournament.  A complete defensive gem by the Owls could easily allow TU to pull off the mild upset of Wichita State, while Tulsa can flex its muscle with Cincinnati.  Those matchups are not guaranteed though, and Memphis, SMU, and Central Florida will not lay down and play dead.

 

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Rhode Island #8 VCU NBCSN
2:30 PM #4 St. Joseph’s #5 George Mason NBCSN
6:00 PM #2 St. Bonaventure #7 Richmond NBCSN
8:30 PM #3 Davidson #6 St. Louis NBCSN
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM URI or VCU St. Joes or G. Mason CBSSN
3:30 PM St. Bon. or Richmond Davidson or STL CBSSN
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     CBS

We are keeping a sharp eye on Davidson, as long as the Wildcats remain in the tournament.  The top two seeds are not so superior to the rest of the league that a team from the back of the pack couldn’t win this tournament.  Davidson is not only capable, they are peaking at the right time.

 

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Virginia #4 Clemson TBA
9:00 PM #2 Duke #6 North Carolina TBA
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM  Virginia or Clemson Duke or North Carolina  ESPN

What could be better than Duke and Carolina on a neutral court in March?  Only if this was two weeks later in March.  Virginia is merely the top team in the nation with an incredible defense to go with an underrated offense.  This Cavs team certainly has the look of a Final Four team, and if they cut down the nets in Brooklyn, they will most likely be the overall number one seed.

 

Big 12 Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Kansas #4 Kansas St. ESPN2
9:00 PM #2 Texas Tech #3 West Virginia ESPN2
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Kansas or Kansas St. Texas Tech or West Va. ESPN

The top four seeds advanced, which in this conference is a minor miracle.  Kansas State is now most likely safely in the field of 68, but the Wildcats might still be looking at a First Four game in Dayton.  An upset win today, would send KSU’s seed line soaring, and it could drop KU to a 2-seed.

The other semifinal game should be quite interesting.  Texas Tech handles pressure well, but West Virginia’s pressure is another story, especially this late in the season.

 

Big East Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #1 Xavier #5 Providence FS1
9:00 PM #2 Villanova #6 Butler FS1
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM Xavier or Prov. Villanova or Butler Fox

All four semifinalists are safely in the NCAA Tournament field, and Xavier and Villanova have most likely secured number one seeds.  This should still be an interesting couple of rounds, especially if Xavier and Villanova meet for a third time.

 

Big Sky Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM #1 Montana #5 Northern Colorado Pluto tv
11:00 PM #10 Southern Utah #3 Eastern Washington Pluto tv
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM Montana or N. Color. S. Utah or E. Wash. ESPNU

Montana’s path to the automatic bid got a bit easier with 2-seed Idaho losing yesterday, but the Grizzlies still have work to do in this one-bid league.  Eastern Washington is blistering hot with a seven-game winning streak, which includes a win over Montana.  At this point , the Eagles are a better team than the Grizzlies.

 

Big West Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:30 PM #1 UC-Davis #4 Cal St. Fullerton ESPN3
11:55 PM #2 UCSB #3 UC-Irvine ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:55 PM UC-Davis or CS Fullerton UCSB or UC-Irvine ESPN2

The top four seeds advanced to the semifinals, and this one is a complete toss-up.  If they staged this tournament 40 times, each of the four might win it 10 times.  Cal State Fullerton swept top-seed UC-Davis, but our money is on Davis and Irvine advancing.

 

Conference USA Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:30 PM #4 Marshall #9 Southern Miss. CBSSN
4:00 PM #2 Old Dominion #3 Western Kentucky CBSSN
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM Marshall or Southern Miss ODU or WKU CBSSN

There might be a bid stolen here.  Top-seed Middle Tennessee was hit by the upset bug last night, as Southern Mississippi looked like the better team for most of the night.  The Blue Raiders have now dropped their last two games, and their resume is iffy.  In years prior to the new selection committee criteria, Middle wouldn’t even be in contention.  Road wins over Murray State and Western Kentucky still make for a thin resume.

The one sure thing is that somebody other than Middle will win an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Old Dominion and Western Kentucky should have a fantastic semifinal game tonight, but we are more interested in Marshall.  The Thundering Herd might be the toughest matchup out of this league for a team that has not seen Marshall play.

By the way, if you were wondering about the two court setup for this tournament, you could definitely hear the bands and public address system from court B during court A games.  On the other hand, you could position yourself in such a way in the football stands that you could watch both games at the same time.

 

Mid-American Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #1 Buffalo #5 Kent St. CBSSN
9:00 PM #2 Toledo #3 Eastern Michigan See *
* This game will be available at cbssports.com
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM Buffalo or Kent St. Toledo or EMU ESPN2

At one point this season, we thought that Buffalo was a possible Sweet 16 team, but the Bulls peaked in late January and have sort of coasted home with the top seed.  Toledo looked like a better team in early February.  Then, just as quick as a person could notice the change, things reversed.  Buffalo regained their composure and reached another peak, while Toledo stagnated.

Have you ever watched a horse race where the top two horses fought hard down the backstretch, fighting for the lead, and then from out of nowhere another horse comes from off the pace to put the two co-leaders away?  Well, we are sort of getting that feeling like Buffalo and Toledo are those two co-leading horses, and while few are noticing, Eastern Michigan is making a gallant effort for the lead in a 3-wide bid at the turn.

EMU has quietly won seven games in a row and nine of 10.  In that time, they have won by having outstanding shooting nights, coming up with incredible defensive efforts, and many ways in between.  Coach Rob Murphy has a reputation for developing small forwards and power forwards,  and he has the league’s best tandem in Elijah Minnie and James Thompson.  Throw in a competent backcourt general in Paul Jackson, and EMU may be the real team to beat in Cleveland.

 

Mountain West Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM #1 Nevada #5 San Diego St. CBSSN
11:30 PM #3 New Mexico #7 Utah St. CBSSN
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Nevada or SDSU New Mexico or Utah St. CBS

Nevada is one of those teams that many college basketball experts believed had Sweet 16 potential.  The Wolf Pack certainly looked capable of winning twice in the NCAA Tournament, and maybe even challenging to become another Butler or VCU, but in the last two weeks, Nevada has not looked as sharp as they did earlier in the year.

Boise State laid an egg yesterday, falling to Utah State, while San Diego State and New Mexico played stellar defense and advanced.  We can make a case where SDSU or New Mexico could win the tournament and steal a bid, but we also believe that Coach Eric Musselman will figure out a way to guide his Wolf Pack to the tournament title and keep Nevada in contention for a single-digit seed.

It might be ugly and a bit sloppy, but the New Mexico-San Diego State game might be one you want to watch.  The Lobos’ press defense is looking as strong as Press Virginia’s, while SDSU’s half-court pressure defense is starting to look like the 2014 team that led Arizona late in the second half in the Elite 8.

 

Pacific 12 Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM #1 Arizona #4 UCLA Pac12
11:30 PM #2 USC #6 Oregon FS1
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM Arizona or UCLA USC or Oregon FS1

The Pac-12 brass is feeling a little better this morning than this time yesterday, as UCLA and USC won to most likely secure NCAA Tournament berths.  At this time yesterday, there was a possibility that this could become a one-bid league.  With Oregon coming from behind to edge Utah, the Ducks are still in the running for the automatic bid and capable of winning it tomorrow night.  So, this could go from a possible one-bid league to a four-bid league in 48 hours!

Southeastern Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Auburn #9 Alabama ESPN
3:30 PM #4 Kentucky #12 Georgia ESPN
7:00 PM #2 Tennessee #7 Mississippi St. SECTV
9:30 PM #3 Florida #6 Arkansas SECTV
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Auburn or Alabama Kentucky or Georgia ESPN
3:30 PM Tennessee or Mississippi St. Florida or Arkansas ESPN
       
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     ESPN

The quasi-home team Missouri was dismissed from the tournament by Georgia yesterday, and now we think this could turn into the UKIT like many past SEC Tournaments.  St. Louis will be painted royal blue while Kentucky continues to remain in the tournament, and the path to the trophy has split open like the parting of the Red Sea.  The Wildcats get a fatigued Georgia team that does not match up all that well with Kentucky’s size.  Then, if the Wildcats win, they would face either a wounded Auburn team lacking any big man talent or an Alabama team that we cannot see beating Kentucky.  It would place the Wildcats in the Championship Game on Sunday.

The other side of the bracket is more exciting.  Mississippi State is fighting for some respect and needs two more wins just to get into the Bubble discussion.  They lost at home to Tennessee last week by 20 points.  Arkansas and Florida are similar in talent and playing style.  Whichever team can sink the threes will most likely win.

A Kentucky-Tennessee final would be quite interesting and very possible.

Southland Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 SE Louisiana #4 Sam Houston St. ESPN3
8:30 PM #2 Nicholls St. #3 Stephen F. Austin ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM SE La. or SHSU Nicholls or SF Austin ESPN2

We talked about it yesterday.  Stephen F. Austin is like a champion race horse that lost its previous race and is no longer the favorite.  Two other horses, Southeast Louisiana and Nicholls State, have led this 10-furlong race through the first mile and do not appear to be slowing down as they entire the stretch.  Will SFA make its vaunted stretch run like it has in so many other races in the past, or is this horse going to putter out and watch the two new studs battle it out for supremacy?

What do we think?  We think Stephen F. Austin still has one incredible run left in this race, and we believe the Lumberjacks will cross the line ahead of the two co-favorites.

 

Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:30 PM #1 Arkansas-Pine Bluff #4 Southern TBA
9:30 PM #2 Prairie View A&M #3 Texas Southern TBA
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM  UAPB or Southern PVAM or TSU  ESPN2

The top four seeds advanced to the semifinals, and there is now a remote chance that this league could avoid a trip to Dayton if a couple of long shots win the remaining low-major tournaments.  If Prairie View wins the tournament, they will be 18-17, but the other three teams would have losing records (Pine Bluff has 20 losses), so it would be a given that any of the three would be forced to play in Dayton.

 

Sun Belt Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM #1 UL-Lafayette #9 Texas St. ESPN3
3:00 PM #4 UT-Arlington #5 Appalachian St. ESPN3
6:00 PM #2 Georgia St. #7 UL-Monroe ESPN3
8:30 PM #3 Georgia Southern #6 Troy ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM UL-Lafayette or Texas St. UT-Arlington or Appy St. ESPN3
3:00 PM Ga. St. or UL-Monroe Geo. Southern or Troy ESPN3
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:00 PM     ESPN2

Louisiana Lafayette faces some stiff competition against three or four possible upset-minded foes.  The Ragin’ Cajuns will only earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament field if it is automatic, but they will not coast to the bid.  Georgia State and Georgia Southern are almost as talented as ULL.

Texas State had lost nine games in a row prior to yesterday’s mild upset over Coastal Carolina.  Louisiana should romp today to make the semifinals, but things will get much tougher tomorrow if UT-Arlington also wins today.

 

Western Athletic Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM #2 Utah Valley #3 Grand Canyon ESPN3
11:30 PM #1 New Mexico St. #4 Seattle ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM UVU or GCU NMSU or Seattle ESPNU

We watched the WAC games yesterday and came away impressed with the four winners.  New Mexico State looked to be clicking on all cylinders again, and maybe the Aggies are primed to peak at the right time.  On paper, Seattle should not compete with NMSU, but the Redhawks split with the Aggies during the regular season and will not be intimidated.

The Utah Valley-Grand Canyon game will be ugly to watch but exciting at the same time.  60 points will most likely win this game, and the 60 will not be due to slow pace.  Two hustling defenses with blood and guts being spilled on the backboard and floor should make this game a war of attrition.  The only issue will be whether or not the winner has anything left in the tank to face New Mexico State or Seattle tomorrow.  You might can tell that we will be watching this tournament again tonight.

March 8, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 8 , 2018

Thursday’s PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Spreads

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Connecticut SMU -5.7
Memphis South Florida 7.4
Temple Tulane 5.7
Central Florida East Carolina 13.2
VCU Dayton 1.3
George Mason Massachusetts -0.8
Richmond Duquesne 0.9
St. Louis George Washington 3.3
Virginia Louisville 6.9
Clemson Boston College 5.6
Duke Notre Dame 9.3
Miami (Fla.) North Carolina -6.4
Kansas St. TCU -3.4
Kansas Oklahoma St. 5.4
Texas Tech Texas 4.7
West Virginia Baylor 4.0
Xavier St. John’s 7.4
Creighton Providence 5.2
Villanova Marquette 11.1
Seton Hall Butler -0.4
Montana North Dakota 11.5
Weber St. Northern Colorado -2.0
Idaho Southern Utah 9.4
Eastern Washington Portland St. 1.6
UC-Davis UC-Riverside 9.0
Cal St. Fullerton Long Beach St. 1.6
UC-Irvine Hawaii 4.5
UCSB Cal Poly 12.4
Middle Tennessee Southern Miss. 13.5
Marshall UTSA 3.2
Old Dominion Louisiana Tech 7.0
Western Kentucky UAB 3.5
Buffalo Central Michigan 7.1
Ball St. Kent St. 3.2
Toledo Miami (O) 5.6
Eastern Michigan Akron 6.8
Savannah St. UNC-Central -1.8
North Carolina A&T Norfolk St. -0.1
Nevada UNLV 8.8
Fresno St. San Diego St. -1.4
Boise St. Utah St. 7.4
New Mexico Wyoming 0.1
Arizona Colorado 8.3
UCLA Stanford 3.9
USC Oregon St. 4.7
Utah Oregon 0.4
Texas A&M Alabama 2.3
Missouri Georgia 2.4
Mississippi St. LSU -0.5
Arkansas South Carolina 4.2
Sam Houston St. New Orleans 2.0
Stephen F. Austin Central Arkansas 5.3
Grand Canyon UMKC 11.1
Utah Valley Cal St. Bakersfield 10.2
New Mexico St. Chicago St. 25.4
Seattle Texas-Rio Grande Valley 3.4

One Team Earned An Automatic NCAA Tournament Bid on Wednesday

Patriot League Tournament
Bucknell 83 Colgate 54

No Automatic NCAA Tournament Bids Will Be Issued on Thursday

Teams That Have Earned An Automatic NCAA Tournament Bid

Team Bid Conf. W-L
Bucknell AUTO Patriot 25-9
Charleston AUTO CAA 26-7
Gonzaga AUTO WCC 30-4
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9
Long Island AUTO NEC 18-16
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12
South Dakota St. AUTO Summit 28-6
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7
Wright St. AUTO Horizon 25-9

Conference Tournaments Beginning Today

American Athletic Conference Tournament
Orlando, FL
First 3 Rounds EST/Championship EDT
       
First Round–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Connecticut #9 SMU ESPNU
2:30 PM #5 Memphis #12 South Florida ESPNU
6:00 PM #7 Temple #10 Tulane ESPNU
8:30 PM #6 Central Florida #11 East Carolina ESPNU
       
Quarterfinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Cincinnati UConn or SMU ESPN2
2:30 PM #4 Tulsa Memphis or USF ESPN2
6:00 PM #2 Wichita St. Temple or Tulane ESPNU
8:30 PM #3 Houston UCF or ECU ESPNU
       
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Cin/UConn/SMU Tulsa/Mem/USF CBS
3:30 PM 2, 7, or 10 Hou/UCF/ECU CBS
       
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM     CBS

The top three seeds have NCAA bids guaranteed at this point, so it will take a 4-seed or lower for a bid to be stolen from this league.  Tulsa has promise.  On a given day, they can compete with the top three.  However, in order to win the conference tournament, Tulsa will have to have three solid given days and wins most likely over Memphis, Cincinnati, and Wichita St.  It isn’t very likely to happen.

On a neutral floor, Cincinnati’s great defense and Wichita State’s great offense should be adequate in stopping the rest of the league, and a rubber game between the top two teams is highly likely.

 

 

Big West Conference Tournament
Anaheim, CA
Top 8 Teams Qualify & Tournament Re-seeds for Semifinals
All Times PST
       
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 UC-Davis #8 UC-Riverside FSWest
2:30 PM #4 Cal St. Fullerton #5 Long Beach St. FSWest
6:00 PM #3 UC-Irvine #6 Hawaii FSWest
8:30 PM #2 UCSB #7 Cal Poly FSWest
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM Highest Remaining Lowest Remaining ESPN3
9:00 PM 2nd Highest 3rd Highest ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM     ESPN2

In a one-bid league, the action is always exciting, as one slip up means curtains for any team.  In the Big West this year, no team has stepped up to become dominant over the rest of the league, and that should mean this tournament will be extremely exciting.

UC-Davis won its final five games of the regular season, but the Aggies won two of those games in overtime and another by just a point.  They were swept by 4th-seed Cal State Fullerton, a team that UCD would probably face again in the semifinals.

UCSB may have the best overall talent.  The Gauchos handle the ball better than any other team in the league, but they seldom force their opponents into mistakes.  They would need to be hot from the field to win the tournament.

 

Western Athletic Conference Tournament
Las Vegas
All Times PST
       
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Home Visitors TV
12:00 PM #3 Grand Canyon #6 UMKC ESPN3
2:30 PM #2 Utah Valley #7 Cal St. Bakersfield ESPN3
6:00 PM #1 New Mexico St. #8 Chicago St. ESPN3
8:30 PM #4 Seattle #5 Texas-Rio Grande Valley ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM GCU or UMKC UVU or CSUB ESPN3
8:30 PM NMSU or CSU Seattle or TRGV ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     ESPNU

Sometimes, it’s the little known conference tournaments that provide both the most intrigue and excitement.  We here on the PiRate ship may be a little loopy from recent rough waters, but in our opinion, this might be the best conference tournament of all!

Start with New Mexico St.  The Aggies looked unbeatable in conference action earlier in the season.  Easy double digit wins over the top three contenders made the WAC race look insignificant after January.  Then, something changed.  Seattle, Grand Canyon, and Utah Valley started to hit their stride.  The race tightened in February, and NMSU lost back-to-back games against Utah Valley and Seattle, after narrowly beating Grand Canyon at home.

NMSU beat Miami and almost beat USC in Hawaii in November.  They still enter this tournament as the team to beat with exceptional offensive and defensive competence.  However, one cold shooting streak or maybe a hot perimeter streak by an opponent could be enough to turn one game around.

Grand Canyon is the hot team entering the conference tournament.  The Antelopes are an extension of Coach Dan Majerle.  Thunder Dan saved his best for the NBA Playoffs, and GCU will most likely be ready to play from the get-go.

If you are looking for a league tourney other than your favorite team’s league tourney, or just want to have some great late night entertainment, tune into the WAC Tournament.

Conference Tournaments Continuing Today

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Second Round–March 8–Times EST 
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 VCU #9 Dayton NBCSN
2:30 PM #5 George Mason #13 Massachusetts NBCSN
6:00 PM #7 Richmond #10 Duquesne NBCSN
8:30 PM #6 St. Louis #11 George Washington NBCSN
       
Quarterfinals–March 9 EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Rhode Island VCU or Dayton NBCSN
2:30 PM #4 St. Joseph’s GMU/UMass NBCSN
6:00 PM #2 St. Bonaventure Richmond or Duquesne NBCSN
8:30 PM #3 Davidson St. Louis or GWU NBCSN
       
Semifinals–March 10 EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM URI/VCU/Dayton StJo/GMU/LaSalle/UMass CBSSN
3:30 PM StBon/Rich/Duq Dav/Stl/GWU/Fordham CBSSN
       
Championship–March 11  EDT
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     CBS

 

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8  EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Virginia #9 Louisville ESPN
2:00 PM #4 Clemson #12 Boston College ESPN
7:00 PM #2 Duke #10 Notre Dame ESPN
9:00 PM #3 Miami (Fla.) #6 North Carolina ESPN
       
Semifinals–March 9   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM Virginia or Louisville Clemson or Boston Coll. TBA
9:00 PM Duke or Notre Dame Miami or North Carolina TBA
       
Championship–March 10   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM     ESPN

 

Big 12 Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8  CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:30 AM #4 Kansas St. #5 TCU ESPN2
1:30 PM #1 Kansas #8 Oklahoma St. ESPN2
6:00 PM #2 Texas Tech #7 Texas ESPNU
8:00 PM #3 West Virginia #6 Baylor ESPNU
       
Semifinals–March 9  CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Kansas or Okla. St. Kan St. or TCU ESPN2
8:00 PM Texas Tech or Texas WVU or Baylor ESPN2
       
Championship–March 10  CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM     ESPN

 

Big East Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8  EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Xavier #9 St. John’s FS1
2:30 PM #4 Creighton #5 Providence FS1
7:00 PM #2 Villanova #7 Marquette FS1
9:30 PM #3 Seton Hall #6 Butler FS1
       
Semifinals–March 9   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM Xavier or St. John’s Creighton or Providence FS1
9:00 PM Villanova or Marquette S. Hall or Butler FS1
       
Championship–March 10  EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM     Fox

 

Big Sky Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8  PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Montana #8 North Dakota Pluto tv
2:30 PM #4 Weber St. #5 Northern Colorado Pluto tv
5:30 PM #2 Idaho #10 Southern Utah Pluto tv
8:00 PM #3 Eastern Washington #6 Portland St. Pluto tv
       
Semifinals–March 9   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:30 PM Mont/UND Weber/N. Colorado Pluto tv
8:00 PM Idaho/S.Utah E.Washington/Portland St. Pluto tv
       
Championship–March 10   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM     ESPNU

 

Conference USA Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Middle Tennessee #9 Southern Miss. Stadium
6:30 PM #4 Marshall #5 UTSA Stadium
8:30 PM #2 Old Dominion #10 Louisiana Tech Stadium
9:00 PM #3 Western Kentucky #6 UAB Stadium
       
Semifinals–March 9   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM MTSU or Southern Miss Marshall or UTSA CBSSN
3:00 PM ODU or La. Tech Western Ky. or UAB CBSSN
       
Championship–March 10   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:30 PM     CBSSN

 

Mid-American Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Buffalo #8 Central Michigan ESPN3
2:30 PM #4 Ball St. #5 Kent St. ESPN3
6:30 PM #2 Toledo #7 Miami (O) ESPN3
9:00 PM #3 Eastern Michigan #11 Akron ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 9   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM Buff/CMU Ball/Kent CBSSN
9:00 PM Tol/Mia EMU/Akron See *
* This game will be available at cbssports.com
       
Championship–March 10   EST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     ESPN2

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #3 Savannah St. #6 UNC-Central ESPN3
8:00 PM #4 North Carolina A&T #5 Norfolk St. ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Hampton NCAT/Norfolk St ESPN3
8:00 PM #7 Morgan St. Sav/UNCC ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     ESPN2

 

Mountain West Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Nevada #8 UNLV CBSSN
2:30 PM #4 Fresno St. #5 San Diego St. CBSSN
6:00 PM #2 Boise St. #7 Utah St. CBSSN
8:30 PM #3 New Mexico #6 Wyoming CBSSN
       
Semifinals–March 9   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Nevada or UNLV FSU or SDSU CBSSN
8:30 PM Boise St. or Utah St. New Mexico or Wyoming CBSSN
       
Championship–March 10   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM     CBS

 

Pacific 12 Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Arizona #8 Colorado Pac12
2:30 PM #4 UCLA #5 Stanford Pac12
6:00 PM #2 USC #10 Oregon St. Pac12
8:30 PM #3 Utah #6 Oregon FS1
       
Semifinals–March 9   PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Arizona or Colorado UCLA or Stanford Pac12
8:30 PM USC or Oregon St. Utah or Oregon FS1
       
Championship–March 10  PST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     FS1

 

Southeastern Conference Tournament
Second Round–March 8  CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Texas A&M #9 Alabama SECTV
2:30 PM #5 Missouri #12 Georgia SECTV
6:00 PM #7 Mississippi St. #10 LSU SECTV
8:30 PM #6 Arkansas #11 South Carolina SECTV
       
Quarterfinals–March 9   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Auburn A&M or Alabama ESPN
2:30 PM #4 Kentucky Missouri or Georgia ESPN
6:00 PM #2 Tennessee Miss St. or LSU SECTV
8:30 PM #3 Florida Arkansas or S. Carolina SECTV
       
Semifinals–March 10   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM Aub/A&M/Alabama UK/MO/GA ESPN
2:30 PM UT/MSU/LSU Fla/Ark/USC/OM ESPN
       
Championship–March 4   CDT
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM     ESPN

 

Southland Conference Tournament
Quarterfinals–March 8   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #4 Sam Houston St. #5 New Orleans ESPN3
7:30 PM #3 Stephen F. Austin #7 Central Arkansas ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 9   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #1 SE Louisiana Sam Houston or UNO ESPN3
7:30 PM #2 Nicholls St. SF Austin or Cent. Ark. ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10   CST
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM     ESPN2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 5, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for March 5, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:32 am

The Bracket Gurus are doing double duty this week having to keep up with the conference tournaments every day as well as the bracketology.

The Gurus are starting to come to a consensus, as there were only 72 teams that received votes this week, meaning we only have a Top 4 out and not Next 4, since our geniuses feel there are no other teams that as of now have any shot at receiving an at-large invitation.

Consider this: as of today, there have been no teams that have gone from out to in based on their showing in their conference tournaments.  Nebraska failed to show up in the Big Ten Conference Tournament, while Penn State fell one round short of mattering.

Of course, except for the Big Ten Conference, all the power leagues that could possibly produce a team that might win enough to move into consideration have yet to begin conference tournament play.  There are a few teams remaining that still have remote at-large life.  These are:

ACC: Syracuse and Louisville

Big East: Marquette

Big 12: Oklahoma St.

Mountain West: Boise St.

Pac-12: Utah and Washington

SEC: LSU, Georgia, and Mississippi St.

There is the opposite to this discussion.  There are a host of teams that if they lose on the first day or even second day of their tournament, they could fall from in to out.  Another factor that could push these teams out is if upset winners claim automatic bids.  These are the teams that are hanging on by a thread at the current time.

Big 12: Baylor, Kansas St., and Texas

Big East: Providence

Pac-12: USC, Arizona St., and UCLA

SEC: Alabama

West Coast: Saint Mary’s

Which dark horse teams could make a run to an upset championship in each power conference?  (Does not include teams currently on the Bubble)

American: Tulsa

Atlantic 10: Davidson

ACC: Notre Dame

Big 12: None, because all that’s left is Iowa St. and we do not see the Cyclones winning.

Big East: St. John’s

Pac-12: Stanford

SEC: South Carolina

West Coast: BYU

Here are the seeds as our Bracket Gurus predict.  Teams in RED have clinched an automatic bid.

Seed Team Conference
1 Virginia ACC
1 Villanova B-EAST
1 Xavier B-EAST
1 Kansas B12
2 Duke ACC
2 Purdue B-TEN
2 Michigan St. B-TEN
2 Auburn SEC
3 North Carolina ACC
3 Cincinnati AAC
3 Tennessee SEC
3 Texas Tech B12
4 Wichita St. AAC
4 Michigan B-TEN
4 West Virginia B12
4 Arizona PAC-12
5 Clemson ACC
5 Gonzaga WCC
5 Ohio St. B-TEN
5 Kentucky SEC
6 Florida SEC
6 Houston AAC
6 Texas A&M SEC
6 TCU B12
7 Miami (Fla.) ACC
7 Arkansas SEC
7 Seton Hall B-EAST
7 Nevada MWC
8 Rhode Island A-10
8 Virginia Tech ACC
8 Missouri SEC
8 Oklahoma B12
9 Creighton B-EAST
9 Florida St. ACC
9 North Carolina St. ACC
9 Butler B-EAST
10 St. Bonaventure A-10
10 UCLA PAC-12
10 Middle Tennessee CUSA
10 Texas B12
11 Arizona St. PAC-12
11 Saint Mary’s WCC
11 Providence B-EAST
11 USC PAC-12
11 Alabama SEC
12 New Mexico St. WAC
12 Buffalo MAC
12 Murray St. OVC
12 Kansas St. B12
12 Baylor B12
13 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 South Dakota St. SUMMIT
13 Vermont A-EAST
13 Charleston CAA
14 UNC-Greensboro SOCON
14 Bucknell PATRIOT
14 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
14 Montana B-SKY
15 UC Davis B-WEST
15 Wright St. HORIZON
15 Wagner NEC
15 Lipscomb A-SUN
16 Penn IVY
16 Iona MAAC
16 Radford B-SOUTH
16 Hampton MEAC
16 Nicholls St. SLC
16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff SWAC

The First Four in Dayton

USC vs. Baylor

Alabama vs. Kansas St.

Radford vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff

Hampton vs. Nicholls St.

 

Top 4 Out 

Marquette B-EAST
Syracuse ACC
Louisville ACC
Utah PAC-12

Multiple Bid Leagues

Conference #
ACC 8
Big 12 8
SEC 8
Big East 6
Big Ten 4
Pac-12 4
American 3
Atlantic 10 2
West Coast 2

There are currently 23, one-bid leagues.

 

 

 

February 26, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for February 26, 2018 & Conference Tourneys

A lot has changed in the week since the Gurus released their bracketology seedings.  However, as of this moment, the Gurus are sticking with normalcy.  Whereas some teams might eventually be declared ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, until it happens, the Gurus are going to keep seeding the teams where their resumes show they should be seeded.  To be more precise, the Gurus are not actually seeding the teams where THEY think they should be seed, but instead they are seeding the teams where they believe THE SELECTION COMMITTEE will seed the teams.  Please make a note of this:  The Gurus are not to blame if your favorite team (hear that Nebraska fans) is not included in the field.  It is plain and simple–The Committee has a set of criteria to select its teams and place them in proper seed lines.  Where a team finishes in its conference and conference record is not even in the criteria.  So, a Cornhusker team that is 13-5 in the Big Ten and tied for fourth with Michigan is not even among the last six teams in the Dance.  Nebraska only scheduled two non-conference opponents this year that could have helped their resume.  Losing at Creighton and losing at home to Kansas is not enough to put the Cornhuskers on the Bubble.  The KU loss was by a single point, but a miss is as good as a mile.  The only win that really helps them is the home win over Michigan.  Thus, if you are a Cornhusker fan, you better hope your team is still playing this Sunday, which would be the Big Ten Championship Game.  It will take wins over Michigan and Michigan State to even put Nebraska on the Bubble, and if Nebraska makes it to the title game without facing both Michigan teams, then they must win the automatic bid with no chance to make the field any other way.  So, Nebraska fans must cheer for Michigan to win Thursday and Michigan State to win Friday, just so your team can have a chance to pick up two Quadrant One wins.

A couple of teams made major moves forward in the Bracketology Gurus seed line this week.  Tennessee moved up to the 3-line with a win over Florida and another at Ole Miss.  The Volunteers now have a chance to win the SEC regular season championship if Auburn falters and loses its final two games (at Arkansas and vs. South Carolina), while the Vols win at Mississippi State and at home against Georgia.  Auburn has lost three of its last six games and has been moderately affected by the injury loss of Anfernee McLemore, who was one of the Tigers’ few talented big men.

Mississippi State is in a similar boat as Nebraska, but the Bulldogs are in better shape.  The Bulldogs are in a third place tie in the SEC and have won 21 games overall, but unless they upset Tennessee in Starkville and then close with a win at LSU, they will have to make it to the Championship Game of the SEC Tournament to have a chance.  Even if MSU finishes with two wins, at 11-7/23-8, they will still need to do some damage in the SEC Tournament.

In the Pac-12, UCLA has collapsed, and the Bruins are now on the outside, looking in.  Utah failed to win a crucial home game against USC after knocking UCLA to the Bubble.  Washington split on the road in the Bay Area, losing at Stanford and winning at Cal, but the Huskies have that win over Kansas at Phog Allen, plus wins against Arizona, Arizona State, and USC, so they are in contention for a bid.  USC made a slight upward move with road wins over Colorado and Utah, giving the Trojans four consecutive victories.  Arizona, most likely with Lorenzo Romar as interim head coach, closes at home with Stanford and Cal, so the Wildcats are likely to edge the Trojans for the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, but this is a team that has been wounded and may falter early.

In the ACC, North Carolina State has now won four consecutive games to move to 10-6 in the league.  The Wolf Pack have two winnable games to close out the season, and they could sneak up to the third seed in the ACC Tournament if they get to 12-6.  First year coach Kevin Keatts, who worked the same magic at UNC-Wilmington may be the best overall coach in college basketball, and he should compete with Tony Bennett for ACC COY and National COY.

In the Big East, Butler moved up thanks to home wins over Providence and Creighton, while Seton Hall won twice to earn a three-game winning streak after suffering a four-game losing streak prior.  After a 1-4 slide in conference play, Creighton rebounded with a big win over Villanova.

Middle Tennesse State and Western Kentucky continued winning big in CUSA play, and the two mid-major powers and arch-rivals could be headed to a momentous CUSA Tournament Championship Game where only the winner will be safely in the Dance.  Old Dominion and Marshall cannot be overlooked, but it would be ashamed if neither Middle or Western get in the tournament.  Both have Sweet 16 talent.

Out West, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, Nevada, and New Mexico State continued to win, and the first three on this list are locks for the NCAA Tournament.  NMSU might still have an outside chance to get in if they lost in the WAC Tournament, but the Aggies most likely must win the WAC automatic bid.  Grand Canyon, Utah Valley, and Seattle all have enough talent to pull off an upset.

Here is this week’s Bracket Gurus Bracketology Report

Seed Team Conference
1 Villanova B-East
1 Virginia ACC
1 Xavier B-East
1 Kansas B12
2 Duke ACC
2 Auburn SEC
2 North Carolina ACC
2 Michigan St. BTen
3 Purdue BTen
3 Cincinnati AAC
3 Tennessee SEC
3 Texas Tech B12
4 Wichita St. AAC
4 Clemson ACC
4 West Virginia B12
4 Arizona Pac12
5 Ohio St. BTen
5 Kentucky SEC
5 Gonzaga WCC
5 Rhode Island A-10
6 Michigan BTen
6 Houston AAC
6 Seton Hall B-East
6 TCU B12
7 Nevada MWC
7 Texas A&M SEC
7 Arkansas SEC
7 Florida SEC
8 Oklahoma B12
8 Arizona St. Pac12
8 Butler B-East
8 Creighton B-East
9 Florida St. ACC
9 Alabama SEC
9 Missouri SEC
9 Miami (Fla.) ACC
10 North Carolina St. ACC
10 Providence B-East
10 Virginia Tech ACC
10 Saint Mary’s WCC
11 St. Bonaventure A-10
11 Texas B12
11 Middle Tennessee CUSA
11 New Mexico St. WAC
12 Kansas St. B12
12 USC Pac12
12 Washington Pac12
12 Louisville ACC
12 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
12 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 Buffalo MAC
13 South Dakota St. Summ
13 Vermont A-East
13 Murray St. OVC
14 UNC-Greensboro Socon
14 College of Charleston CAA
14 Rider MAAC
14 Bucknell Pat
15 Montana B-Sky
15 UC-Davis B-West
15 Northern Kentucky Horiz
15 Wagner NEC
16 Penn Ivy
16 UNC-Asheville B-Sth
16 Nicholls St. SLC
16 Florida Gulf Coast A-Sun
16 Bethune-Cookman MEAC
16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff SWAC

 

Top 6 Out  Conf.
Baylor B12
UCLA Pac12
Syracuse ACC
Utah Pac12
Mississippi St. SEC
Marquette B-East

 

Last 10 Byes (highest to lowest)
Florida St.
Alabama
Missouri
Miami (Fla.)
North Carolina St.
Providence
Virginia Tech
Saint Mary’s
St. Bonaventure
Texas

 

First Four Round
Kansas St. vs. Washington
USC vs. Louisville
 
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Bethune-Cookman
Nicholls St. vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

 

Conference Tournament Action Tips Off Tonight

Championship Fortnight begins tonight, as the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament begins on campus sites.  The A-Sun holds its tournament on the home floors of the higher seeds, so tonight’s quarterfinal round finds four games playing simultaneously.  ESPN3 will carry all four games.

Here is the bracket and schedule for the A-Sun.

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament
All Games Played at Higher Seed
All Times EST
       
Quarterfinals–February 26
Time Home Visitors TV
7:00 PM #1 Florida Gulf Coast #8 USC Upstate ESPN3
7:30 PM #4 NJIT #5 North Florida ESPN3
8:00 PM #2 Lipscomb #7 Stetson ESPN3
7:00 PM #3 Jacksonville #6 Kennesaw St. ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 1
Time Home Visitors TV
TBA FGCU/USCU NJIT/N.Fla. ESPN3
TBA Lipsc./Stetson Jville/Kenn ESPN3
       
Championship–March 4
Time Home Visitors TV
3:00 PM Higher Remaining Seed Lower Remaining Seed ESPN

Florida Gulf Coast (12-2/21-10) is the sexy team in this league, but the Lipscomb Bisons (10-4/20-9) are the hot team.  Lipscomb closed out the regular season on a five-game winning streak, which included a win at FGCU.  Lipscomb’s non-conference schedule was considerably stronger than FGCU, so the Bisons might be able to move up to a 15-seed if they win the automatic bid, while the Eagles and anybody else in the league would be a 16-seed.  If somebody other than the top two wins the tournament, they can book reservations in Dayton for a First Four game.

Eight other leagues begin their conference tournaments between today and Friday.  Here is a look at the brackets and schedules for these conferences.

Big South Conference Tournament
1st Round & Championship Game at Higher Seeds
Quarterfinals and Semfinals at #1 Seed
All Times EST
       
First Round–February 27
Time Home Visitors TV
7:00 PM #7 High Point #10 Longwood BSN
7:00 PM #8 Charleston Southern #9 Presbyterian BSN
BSN TV at http://bigsouthsports.com    

 

Quarterfinals–March 1
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #2 Radford High Point or Longwood ESPN3
3:30 PM #3 Winthrop #6 Gardner-Webb ESPN3
7:00 PM #1 UNC-Asheville Presbyterian or Chas Sou. ESPN3
9:30 PM #4 Campbell #5 Liberty ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Rad/HP/Longwood Winthrop/G-Webb ESPN3
8:30 PM UNCA/Presby/Chas Sou Campbell or Liberty ESPN3
       
Championship–March 4
Time Home Visitors TV
1:00 PM Higher Seed Lower Seed ESPN

 

Big Ten Conference Tournament
New York City
All Times EST
       
First Round–February 28
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:30 PM #12 Iowa #13 Illinois Big Ten
7:45 PM #11 Minnesota #14 Rutgers Big Ten
       
Second Round–March 1
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Maryland #9 Wisconsin Big Ten
2:15 PM #5 Michigan Iowa or Illinois Big Ten
6:30 PM #7 Penn St. #10 Northwestern Big Ten
8:45 PM #6 Indiana Minn. or Rutgers Big Ten
       
Quarterfinals–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Michigan St. Mary or Wisc Big Ten
2:15 PM #4 Nebraska Mich/Iowa/Ill Big Ten
6:30 PM #2 Ohio St. PSU or N’Western Big Ten
8:45 PM #3 Purdue Ind/Minn/Rutg Big Ten
       
Semifinals–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:00 PM MSU/Mary/Wisc Neb/Mich/Iowa/Ill CBS
4:30 PM OSU/Purd/NW Purd/Ind/Minn/Rutg CBS
       
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
4:30 PM     CBS

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament
Albany, NY
All Times EST
       
First Round–March 1
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #8 Monmouth #9 St. Peter’s ESPN3
7:30 PM #7 Quinnipiac #10 Siena ESPN3
10:00 PM #6 Fairfield #11 Marist ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Rider Monmouth or St. Peter’s ESPN3
9:30 PM #2 Canisius Quinn. or Siena ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #3 Niagara Fair. or Marist ESPN3
9:30 PM #4 Iona #5 Manhattan ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM Rider/Monm/St. P Iona or Manhattan ESPN3
9:30 PM Can/Quinn/Siena Niag/Fair/Marist ESPN3
       
Championship–March 5
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     TBA

 

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
St. Louis (Arch Madness)
All Times CST
       
First Round–March 1
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #8 Evansville #9 Northern Iowa ESPN3
8:30 PM #7 Missouri St. #10 Valparaiso ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Loyola (Chi.) Evansville or UNI ESPN3
2:30 PM #4 Drake #5 Bradley ESPN3
6:00 PM #2 Southern Illinois MSU or Valpo ESPN3
8:30 PM #3 Illinois St. #6 Indiana St. ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:30 PM Loyola/Evans/UNI Drake or Bradley CBSSN
5:00 PM SIU/MSU/Valpo Ill St. or Ind St. CBSSN
       
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     CBS

 

Northeast Conference Tournament
All Games at Higher Seed
Top 8 Teams Qualify and Tournament Re-seeds after Quarterfinals
All Times EST
       
Quarterfinals–February 28
Time Home Team Visitors TV
7:00 PM #1 Wagner #8 Central Connecticut NEC *
7:00 PM #2 Mount St. Mary’s #7 Robert Morris NEC *
7:00 PM #3 St. Francis (PA) #6 Fairleigh-Dickinson NEC *
7:00 PM #4 Long Island #5 St. Francis (Bkn) NEC *
* NEC Front Row at http://necfrontrow.com/
       
Semifinals–March 3
Time Home Team Visitors TV
12:00 PM Highest Remaining Lowest Remaining ESPN3
2:00 PM 2nd Highest 3rd Highest ESPN3
       
Championship–March 6
Time Home Team Visitors TV
7:00 PM Higher Seed Lower Seed ESPN2

 

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament
Evansville, IN
Top 8 Teams Qualify, Southeast Missouri ineligible due to low APR Scores
All Times CST
       
First Round–February 28
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #5 Tennessee Tech #8 SIU-Edwardsville OVC
9:00 PM #6 Tennessee St. #7 Eastern Illinois OVC
OVC Network at http://www.ovcdigitalnetwork.com/watch
       
Quarterfinals–March 1
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #4 Jacksonville St. Tenn Tech or SIU-E OVC
9:00 PM #3 Austin Peay TSU or EIU OVC
       
Semifinals–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Murray St. JSU/TTU/SIU-E ESPNU
9:30 PM #2 Belmont APSU/TSU/EIU ESPNU
       
Championship–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM     ESPN2

 

Patriot League Tournament
All Games Played at Higher Seed
All Times EST
       
First Round–February 27
Time Home Visitors TV
7:00 PM #7 Lafayette #10 American Stadium
7:00 PM #8 Loyola (MD) #9 Army Stadium
       
Quarterfinals–March 1
Time Home Visitors TV
7:00 PM #1 Bucknell Loyola or Army Stadium
7:00 PM #4 Lehigh #5 Boston U Stadium
7:00 PM #2 Colgate Lafayette or American Stadium
7:00 PM #3 Navy #6 Holy Cross Stadium
       
Semifinals–March 1
Time Home Visitors TV
12/2 Bucknell/Loyola/Army Lehigh or Boston U CBSSN
12/2 Colgate/Lafayette/American Navy or Holy Cross CBSSN
       
Championship–March 4
Time Home Visitors TV
7:30 PM     CBSSN

 

Southern Conference Tournament
Asheville, NC
All Times EST
       
First Round–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM #8 The Citadel #9 VMI ESPN3
7:30 PM #7 Samford #10 Chattanooga ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 UNC-Greensboro Citadel or VMI ESPN3
2:30 PM #4 Mercer #5 Wofford ESPN3
6:00 PM #2 East Tennessee St. Samford or Chatt. ESPN3
8:30 PM #3 Furman #6 Western Carolina ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
4:00 PM UNCG/Cit/VMI Mercer or Wofford ESPN3
6:30 PM ETSU/Sam/Chatt Furman or WCU ESPN3
       
Championship–March 5
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM     ESPN2

 

West Coast Conference Tournament
Las Vegas
All Times PST
       
First Round–March 2
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #8 Loyola Marymount #9 Portland NBCSN
8:00 PM #7 Santa Clara #10 Pepperdine NBCSN
       
Quarterfinals–March 3
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #3 BYU #6 San Diego NBCSN
3:00 PM #4 San Francisco #5 Pacific NBCSN
7:00 PM #1 Gonzaga LMU or Portland ESPN2
9:00 PM #2 Saint Mary’s Santa Clara or Pepperdine ESPN2
       
Semifinals–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Gonz/LMU/Portland USF or Pacific ESPN
8:00 PM SMU/SCU/Pepperdine BYU or USD ESPN2
       
Championship–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM     ESPN

All conference tournament brackets will be updated the morning after any conference games have been played. Check back here for up-to-date schedules and tip times.

 

 

 

 

 

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