The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 15, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Thursday, March 15

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , — piratings @ 5:08 am

Today’s PiRate Rating Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Rhode Island Oklahoma -1.1
Tennessee Wright St. 12.6
Gonzaga UNC-Greensboro 11.0
Kansas Penn 13.4
Duke Iona 18.4
Miami (Fla.) Loyola (Chi.) 0.6
Ohio St. South Dakota St. 6.8
Seton Hall North Carolina St. 1.2
Villanova Radford 21.1
Kentucky Davidson 4.4
Houston San Diego St 4.4
Texas Tech Stephen F. Austin 10.7
Virginia Tech Alabama 1.8
Arizona Buffalo 5.2
Michigan Montana 7.7
Florida St. Bonaventure 4.5

Today’s NCAA Tournament Schedule

All Times Eastern Daylight

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 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. Bonaventure Dallas truTV

Bracket Picking Record to Date: 3-1

Today’s Bracket Picking Predicted Winners

Oklahoma over Rhode Island

Tennessee over Wright St.

Gonzaga over UNC-Greensboro

Kansas over Penn

Duke over Iona

Loyola (Chi.) over Miami (Fla.) [UPSET]

Ohio St. over South Dakota St.

Seton Hall over North Carolina St.

Villanova over Radford

Kentucky over Davidson

Houston over San Diego St.

Texas Tech over Stephen F. Austin

Virginia Tech over Alabama

Arizona over Buffalo

Michigan over Montana

St. Bonaventure over Florida [UPSET]

 

 

 

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March 14, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Wed., March 14

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
UNC-Central Texas Southern -2.8
Arizona St. Syracuse 1.9

Tournament Schedule

All Times Eastern Daylight

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

 

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 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. Bonaventure 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 UNCC/Tex 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

 

Note: Virginia’s outstanding 6th Man De’Andre Hunter is out for the season, and this will knock the Cavaliers down a few notches in our criteria.  If you have not submitted your brackets yet, you might take this into consideration, as the Cavaliers have lost a potent weapon that could play anywhere on the floor.  He was to Virginia what John Havlicek was to the Boston Celtics in the 1960’s, the 6th man that was the secret sauce of Red Auerbach’s extended success.  Without Hunter, Virginia reverts back to a great defensive team that lacks enough offensive power to beat an athletic opponent the likes of Arizona or Cincinnati.  Hunter was instrumental in helping the Cavs secure two wins over Syracuse, and road wins against Miami and Virginia Tech.

 

The PiRates New Criteria Shows Beginner’s Luck

Did you read our lengthy piece yesterday pertaining to our brand new paradigm?  The PiRates scrapped our old, archaic system of picking brackets and debuted our new mostly statistical metric based criteria.

We were not sure how successful it might be in the first year of its existence, and we are sure we will need to tweak it some in the ensuing years, but we started out with a bang last night.

We hit both games and basically called how St. Bonaventure would send the Sons of Westwood home to SoCal.  We wrote that we believed the Bonnies would force turnovers on the Bruins, which would be the deciding factor in the game, and it was spot on.

We are reminded that a broken watch is also correct twice a day.

 

 

 

 

 

March 12, 2018

Bracketnomics 505 for 2018: First Class

NOTE:  DO NOT REFER TO PAST YEARS’ BRACKETNOMICS REPORTS–THEY ARE OBSOLETE!!!!!

Welcome to the 2018 edition of the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 Course.  Our course is accredited, and when you complete it, you will earn your Bachelor of Madness Degree.  Just remember that it may not be a BS degree, but it is a BM degree, so you may want to think twice before telling others you received it from PiRate U.

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

Our big breakthrough that helped us devise our first advanced metric came about when CBS’s Clark Kellogg mentioned that teams with “spurtability” tended to do best in the NCAA Tournament.  What is spurtability?  It is exactly what it sounds like, the ability for a team to go on a scoring spurt.  What we are talking about here is something like 10-0 or 15-4 or 20-8 run.  Next, in the evolution of PiRate Bracketnomics, our Captain began to research what factors contributed the most to big scoring spurts.  He discovered that half-court offenses and half-court defenses that led to one team connecting on a very high percentage of shots while the other team missed a high percentage of shots seldom led to these spurts by themselves.  It was rare for Team A to hit eight out of 10 shots, while Team B hit only one out of ten shots and led to a 16-2 run.  So, what caused the great spurtabilities of the teams?  The Captain discovered that in a large majority of the cases where a team went on a big scoring run in the NCAA Tournament, it was due to dominating rebounding at both ends of the court, forcing turnovers (especially steals) and then getting easy fast break baskets or forcing the opponent to foul.

From this point, the Captain devised what has come to be the most important factor in picking NCAA Tournament winners–the R+T Rating.  After trial and error using different data points, the Captain created a formula that doubled rebounding margin, added turnover margin, and then gave additional weight to steals and the prevention of steals.  The result was an approximation for how many extra scoring chances and points a team might be expected to receive versus the average college team.  If Team A had a R+T rating of 20, and Team B had a R+T rating of 10, then Team A would be expected to score 10 extra points against Team B just from extra scoring opportunities.  Team B could still win if they outshot Team A by a high enough percentage to make up for those 10 points.

A little success swelled the heads of all the PiRates.  We became too big for our tiny ship.  We began to try to perfect our rating by adding additional information.  We thought for a few years that teams that relied on the three-point shot were at a disadvantage against teams that pounded the ball inside, because so many of the tournament games were held in giant stadiums, even domes, and it affected depth perception and made it hard to aim on outside shots.

There was a time when we discounted teams that won games by shooting a lot of foul shots, because the officials did not call as many fouls in the tournament.

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

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

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

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

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

What did we do at the PiRate Ratings to combat our decline in effectiveness?  The PiRates stripped our criteria down back to the basics.  We felt like we were missing the obvious.  Here is what matters when the NCAA Tournament begins play.

1. True Shooting Percentage Margin

2. R+T Rating

3. Schedule Strength

These three basic principles make up an overwhelming majority of how we will select our brackets when we release them Tuesday afternoon.
1. True Shooting Percentage Margin:  this is the difference between a team’s offensive true shooting percentage and defensive true shooting percentage.For college basketball, true shooting percentage is:

(100*Pts)/[2*(fga+{.475*fta})]. 

Don’t let this stat look intimidating.  We would never force you our patron that we love so much to have to figure the offensive and defensive percentages for 68 teams.  Do you know how long it takes to go to 68 different official athletic sites to get this information?  We do!  We have already calculated this informaton.

 

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

The formula for R+T is:

(R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp. S) + T

R = rebounding margin; S = Steals per game; and T= Turnover margin

3. Schedule Strength:  It is obvious that a team could compile some very lofty True Shooting Percentages and R+T ratings playing the weakest 30 teams in the nation, while another team could compile some really awful stats playing the top 30 teams in the nation.  The first two data points must be weighted with the strength of schedule, and there is the rub.  How much do we adjust the data from True Shooting Percentage Margin and R+T Rating to factor in schedule strength?  We think we have the answer.  Based on the fact that a certain schedule strength number has held consistent as the floor among past Final Four teams, we believe we know the cut-off points that will allow us to interpolate the winners of each round.  Obviously, it is not an exact science, but hey, nobody has ever picked a perfect bracket, and we hear that the chances are better than somebody can win the Power Ball and Mega Millions jackpots in the same week than picking a perfect bracket.
The PiRates will reveal our entire bracket Tuesday afternoon.  And, after each round, we will then post an updated bracket for those people that play in contests where you can pick the winners round-by-round.

Additionally, we will issue our regular PiRate Ratings spreads for each tournament game.
We hope you return Tuesday after 12 Noon EDT to see what we believe will be an exciting and informative Bracketnomics 505 course.  Yes, you can earn your BM degree!

Selection Committee Got It Right–Only Because The Criteria Was Wrong

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee is under fire today for how teams like Oklahoma, Arizona State,  and Syracuse made the tournament, while teams like Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee State, and USC did not.

Don’t blame this Committee.  They did not create the criteria that they use to select the teams.  You wouldn’t blame a jury if the judge orders them not to consider the most convincing evidence in a trial, and it produces the opposite verdict.

We are hearing interesting rumors that Louisville and USC received punitive treatment due to the impending FBI probe, but we do not buy into this rumor.

The reality is that Oklahoma, Arizona State, and Syracuse are in the field, and USC, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee are not.

The PiRate Bracket Gurus correctly picked 67 of the 68 teams, missing on USC versus Syracuse.  They don’t want to make this sound like sour grapes here, and they are not responsible in the least for our comments, but we find it a laughing joke that the Trojans did not make the tournament, while Arizona State did make the tournament.

Again, it is not the Committee’s fault that the most convincing evidence that would show the superior team was not admissible in this case.  USC finished in 2nd place in the Pac-12, while Arizona State finished tied for 8th place, with only three teams below the Sun Devils in the standings.  USC bested ASU by four games in the conference standings!

How can a team finish 22.2% better in the majority part of an identical schedule than another team and see the weaker team make the tournament, while they did not?  This is why March Madness is more mad due to inferior selection criteria.

We repeat a comparison we made earlier this season.  Take the NFL Playoffs.  Let’s say that during the first month of the season, The New York Giants beat Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh and lead the NFC East at 4-0, while The Eagles are 2-2, with victories over Washington and Tampa Bay.

At this point in the season, the Giants are the best team in the NFL, while Philly is in the bottom half.  Now, from this point on, the Giants finish 5-7 for a 9-7 record.  The Eagles go 9-3 for an 11-5 record.

So, in the playoffs, the Giants are selected by the NFL Selection Committee due to their Quadrant 1 NFL wins in September, while the Eagles have to go to the Bert Bell Playoff Bowl in Miami (Google It–There really was a bowl game in the NFL).

If the NFL stages its playoffs this way, the league would be the laughingstock of sports.  The playoffs would be a big joke.  Yet, in college basketball, the public is brainwashed into believing that this giant tournament of mostly mediocrity is can’t miss entertainment.

The PiRates can easily miss seeing almost all these games where one or more of the combatants fared so poorly in the regular season that in decades past, their coaches might have been fired or put on a hot seat.

Allowing the 8th best team in a rather weak conference to have a chance to play for the national championship is par for the course in this everybody gets a trophy society.  When it comes down to it, neither USC nor Arizona State should have been invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Likewise, no team that did not win a conference championship should have been invited.  There are 32 conferences.  There should be 32 teams invited to the tournament, the 32 champions.

Before you say, “Hey Bucakroo, you cannot be serious about including Radford but not Duke,” let us preface that we favor just the 32 conference champions, but we also would favor handicapping the tournament so that the top 10 conference champions would receive byes to the Sweet 16, while the other 22 conference champions would have to compete in a play-in tournament to narrow from 22 to 12 to 6.  The 6 play-in winners would fill out the Sweet 16.

This is exactly how the NCAA Tournament used to be conducted.  Back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, six to eight conference champions received automatic byes to the Sweet 16, while 14 to 18 other conference champions (and top Independents) were forced to play-in to the Sweet 16.  The bye conferences were determined by the past 5 years results in prior NCAA Tournaments.

Four plus decades ago, over half of the division 1 teams in the East were independents, playing in a loosely-knit organization called the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference).  Prior to 1975, the ECAC was guaranteed two spots in the NCAA Tournament, while other Independents from the South, Midwest, and West could only be selected as at-large entries if and when the NCAA determined they were worthy.

Usually, 24 teams were selected for the NCAA Tournament.  There were eight teams that received byes and 16 teams that played into the Sweet 16.  On the third Saturday of March, the play-in games were played on neutral sites.  Then, on the following Thursday night (Friday night until 1968), the Sweet 16 Round was played, and the Elite 8 Round was played on Saturday.  There were regional consolation games to give each region four total games.

Then, the Final Four was played the following Thursday night with a consolation game and National Championship Game played on Saturday afternoon.  Starting in 1973, the Final Four moved to its present Saturday afternoon-Monday night format.

The explanation that the tournament became huge when it moved to 64 and then 68 teams is not actual fact.  The tournament was already big before it began to expand.  It would have continued to gain fan support if it had stayed exactly the same, and it is our opinion that it would be even bigger than it is today had it remained a tournament of conference champions.

With today’s format, a lot of really fantastic marquee games never happen.  The so-called media darling long shots that pull off a first round upset or sneak into the Sweet 16 eventually get blown out by a power conference team, giving the power conference team somewhat of a breather to the next round.  With 32 first round games, there are going to be a handful of upsets when a power team either overlooks the smaller school or comes out flat, while the other team plays the game of its lives.

The 1927 New York Yankees occasionally had an off day and lost to the Washington Senators (8 times that year).  They even lost a game to the St. Louis Browns.  There is always that odd day or night where things just don’t go the way they should 99% of the time.  It actually hurts the tournament when a #2 seed loses to a #15 seed, because the #15 seed isn’t going anywhere, while the #2 seed could have given the public a really incredible Elite 8 game against a #1 seed.

With that in mind, the PiRates have two separate ideas that would make the NCAA Basketball Tournament much better than it is now.  It would still give the Radford’s a real chance to compete for the title, and it would eliminate the ridiculous, human-error-laced, Selection Committee trying to create a reason why the 12-6 number two team from a power conference stays home, while the 8-10 number eight place (tied for 8th) team from that same conference makes the field.

Option A: Split Division 1 into D1 Large and D1 Small.  D1 Large would be the top 16 conferences, while D1 Small would be the bottom 16 conferences.

Conduct separate 16-team playoffs in the same manner that the NBA now uses.  4 rounds of best of 7 playoffs with the higher-ranked team getting home court advantage.  This option allows the home town fans a chance to see their team play on its home court, whereas only a handful of fans can afford to travel all over the map to watch them play in far away outposts.  How many Buffalo Bulls fans will make the trip to Boise, Idaho?

You could add a twist to the playoff formats and incorporate the relegation and promotion rules from soccer, where the conference of the Small Champion is promoted to Large, and the conference with the weakest-rated Large Champion being relegated to Small.

Imagine a Final Four with Arizona playing Kansas in a best of 7, and Virginia playing Michigan State in a best of 7.  What would the TV ratings be on these series rather than seeing a Sweet 16 game between one of these powers and a long shot low-major team that will lose by 20+ in the Sweet 16?  The two series would dwarf the ratings of today’s earlier rounds where teams are forced to play in the mornings and afternoons of weekdays.

Option B would be to revert back to how the tournament was conducted in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Take the 22 weakest conferences and send their champions to a 22 to 12 to 6 play-in.  Send the other 10 top conference champions expressly to the Sweet 16.

Sure, teams like North Carolina, Villanova, and Michigan would not be in the tournament, but then neither would be 8-10 Arizona State or 8-10 Syracuse.  Villanova, Michigan, Purdue, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and USC among others would give the 16-team (like it was when it was great) NIT a great group of teams, so great that they could return to playing all 15 games at Madison Square Garden.

Most of you reading this today are wondering what our schedule will be for the NCAA Tournament.  Usually, today is the day we release our annual Bracketnomics report showing what back-tested data has been successful in isolating past NCAA Tournament winners.

The PiRates have made some sweeping changes this year, as advanced metrics have made our past bracket-picking criteria somewhat obsolete.  We still have our exceptional R+T weighted rating, and it still represents a huge chunk of what works for us, but we have dropped a lot of the other former data.  With advanced metrics like true shooting% and a better way to compare teams based on strength of schedule, we will be releasing an all-inclusive, somewhat explanatory reveal Tuesday afternoon.

December 7, 2014

Introducing PiRate Basketball Ratings

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , — piratings @ 11:15 am

Today, the PiRate Ratings foray back into the college basketball game. Every year, usually starting after the Super Bowl, we begin to devote full time to March Madness using unique formulae to determine which teams will advance in the NCAA Tournament and which teams are pretenders.

For many years, our method was very accurate. We discovered sleepers like George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler, when these teams made their famous runs deep into the dance. We isolated teams like Georgetown and Vanderbilt as highly vulnerable of becoming upset victims more than one time, and more than one time the Hoyas and Commodores lost to double-digit seeds in the Round of 64.

This method chose eight NCAA Champions in a period of 11 years, but in the last three years, the game seems to have changed just enough so that the formula stopped being as effective. We knew we had to come up with a different formula, and for several months, we tested certain statistical data trying to figure out how to adjust our numbers.

In the end, we chose to totally scrap the old formula and start from scratch. A few years ago, our founder, a mathematical nerd for sure, read an interesting book, at least interesting for him. This book, Basketball on Paper, written by Dean Oliver introduced him to “The Four Factors” that determine what determines the outcome of basketball games.

Oliver used the same statistical parts that any basketball fan would use, but the “All-Star Mathlete” put clout behind the obvious statistics by determining how important each statistical part is. Here is what he determined:

1. Field Goal Accuracy and Defense of the same: 40%
2. Rebounding: 20%
3. Prevention of Turnovers and Ability to Force Turnovers: 25%
4. Free Throws—both getting to the line and making them: 15%

These four factors were tested by Oliver in the NBA over the course of multiple seasons, but it was shown subsequently to be accurate for college basketball as well with a minor adjustment.

Last season, we began trying to take these Four Factors and create an algorithm that “spit out” a pointspread for college games. Obviously, there are two more factors that must be included in college basketball predictions—strength of schedule and home court advantage (also visiting team disadvantage, since some teams play worse on the road than others, while a Kentucky might actually go on the road and receive points if 5,000 Blue Misters get into the gym.)

We are big fans of backtesting. It has shown positive results in stock picking, and it has shown positive results in picking football teams against the spread. You can test as many formulae as you can and find certain tendencies that lead you to higher accuracy.

After months of backtesting over the summer, we began to find three formulae that started to come close to actual pointspreads in past NCAA Tournaments. While we are not going to announce that we have cracked the code and have found a surefire method to become wealthy, we have found what we believe is our least amount of errors when using the Four Factors.

If you know a little about statistics, you must be familiar with means and standard deviations. A mean is simply the average. If you have the numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9, the mean or average of these numbers is 5. The standard deviation is a little more involved, but it basically determines the degree of variation the numbers are from the mean. In the above sample, the standard deviation is 2.9, or on average, the numbers in the sample are 2.9 away from the norm.

When the standard deviation of something is high, then the mean is not all that important in something like picking sides against a basketball pointspread. The lower the standard deviation goes, the more accurate the formula will be. For weeks, we sought a formula that produces the lowest possible standard deviation.

In the end, we found three separate formulae that at certain points in time in the NCAA past were each the lowest standard deviation formula. Thus, we will go with three ratings this year as an experiment to determine winners in college basketball games.

Because there are five of us working full-time jobs doing something else, and because figuring the Four Factors for every NCAA team is something that must be done by typing in an entirely new set of statistics after every game, we cannot possibly pick every college basketball game. Additionally, until every college team has played about 10-12 games, these formulae standard deviations are wildly too high.

Thus, beginning in January, we will start to issue our ratings and picks for select Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference games, as well as other top games including teams like Gonzaga and Wichita State.

Once the season ends, we will select all the March Madness games. Remember, this is strictly an experimental exercise this year as we put these formulae into use in real time.

Here in a nutshell are the Four Factors plus our added strength of schedule and home court advantage. Each set of data is used both in an offensive and defensive subset.

1. Effective Field Goal Percentage
EFG% adds three-point shooting to the equation of accuracy. If you make one three-point shot in three attempts, you have made one point per shot attempt. If you make one layup and miss one short jumper, you have also made one point per shot attempt.

Formula: [Field Goals Made+ (0.5*Three Point Shots Made)]/Field Goals Attempted

Examples
Kentucky through 8 games: FG% 222-477 3Pt FG: 41
[222+(.5*41)]/477 = .508 or 50.8%

Kentucky Defensively: FG% 116-412 3Pt FG: 36
[116+(.5*36)]/412 = .325 or 32.5%
North Carolina through 7 games: FG% 188-444 3Pt FG: 34
[188+(.5*34)]/444 = .462 or 46.2%

North Carolina Defensively: FG% 142-423 3Pt FG: 41
[142+(.5*41)]/423 = .384 or 38.4%

Kentucky has a big advantage here on the surface before you look at who the two teams played and where these games were played.

2. Rebounding Rate
Getting offensive rebounds has always been a major factor in basketball success. Offensive rebounds tend to produce higher percentage shots, like tip-ins. Preventing the opponent from getting offensive rebounds is obviously equally important. This formula calculates the rate at which a team gets an offensive rebound or prevents the opponent from getting an offensive rebound.

Formula: Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)

Examples
Kentucky: Offensive Rebounds: 125 Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds: 148
125/(125+148) = .458 or 45.8%

Kentucky Defensively: Opponents’ Offensive Rebounds: 100 Kentucky’s Defensive Rebounds: 214
100/(100+214) = .318 or 31.8%

North Carolina: Offensive Rebounds: 120 Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds: 163
120/(120+163) = .424 or 42.4%

North Carolina Defensively: Opponents’ Offensive Rebounds: 115 North Carolina Defensive Rebounds: 190
115/(115+190) = .377 or 37.7%

Once again, Kentucky has an advantage here all things being equal.

3. Turnover Rate
Turnover rate or turnover percentage is simply the amount of turnovers created per 100 possessions, or defensively, it is the number of turnovers forced per 100 possessions. Obviously, this adds another factor that must be calculated—possessions. There are a couple of sites online that list the average number of possessions per game for each college team, but you can approximate this number rather accurately.

Calculating possessions for each team: FGA+(.475*FTA)-OR+TO
A possession ends with: a field goal attempt that is made or missed and rebounded by the opponent; a free throw that is made or missed and rebounded by the opponent, or a turnover. Because some free throws are the front end of a two-shot foul, not all free throws are counted, thus we use the constant of .475 to multiply (thanks to Mr. Ken Pomeroy at http://www.kenpom.com for this bit of data).

Remember that possessions per game can be affected by overtime games, where the game is more than 40 minutes long. For TO rate, this does not matter, but it will when we put pace to the equation in our algorithm.

Formula: TO/100 Possessions

Examples
Kentucky Possessions per game: FGA 477, FTA 202, OR 125 TO 87 Overtime minutes: 0
477+(.475*202)-125+87=534.95 =535 in 8 games, this averages to 66.9 possessions per game
Calculating this formula defensively, UK’s opponents show 65.9 possessions per game, which can be attributed to UK winning the tip and finishing the game with the ball more than average.

Turnover Rate: 87/535*100=16.3%
Defensive Turnover Rate: 148/527*100=28.1%

North Carolina Possessions per game: FGA 444 FTA 193 OR 120 TO 90 Overtime minutes: 0
444+(.475*193)-120+90=505.7 =506 in 7 games, this averages to 72.3 possessions per game
UNC’s Opponents’ Possessions=498 or 71.1 possessions per game

Turnover Rate: 90/506*100=17.8%
Defensive Turnover Rate: 112/498*100=22.5%

Once again, Kentucky enjoys the advantage in these two examples.

4. Free Throw Rate
This calculation has multiple mathematical geniuses in a little bit of disagreement, as there are at least three different philosophies on how to calculate this stat. The stat measures both how frequent a team can get to the foul line and how accurate they shoot foul shots, but not all math wizards agree on the proper method.

Oliver, in his original book, set FT Rate at: Free Throws Attempted/Field Goals Attempted. He posited that attempting free throws was all that mattered and getting to the line satisfied this criteria, as it placed the opposing team in foul trouble as fouls added up.

A second school of thought supported the formula as: Free Throws Made/Field Goals Attempted, believing that a made free throw added the obvious point accumulation while still including the fact that a foul was committed by the opponent.

Yet a third school of thought developed later that believed that free throws made per possession was more accurate in determining how important free throws were to the game. In mathematical tests, this metric actually proved to be a tad more accurate, but also a tad more time-consuming.

Accuracy is what we are looking for, so we will use the third option of FT Made per possession and multiply it by 100 to get a rate.

Formula: FT Made/100 Possessions

Examples
Kentucky: FT Made 131 Possessions 535
131/535*100= 24.5%

Kentucky Opponents: FT Made 95 Possessions 527
95/527*100=18.0%

North Carolina: FT Made 133 Possessions 506
133/506*100=26.3%

North Carolina’s Opponents: FT Made 120 Possessions 498
120/498*100=24.1%

Kentucky enjoys a slight advantage in this statistic.

And The Rest
Our formula for determining Strength of Schedule as it applies to pointspreads and our formula for determining home court advantage (and visiting team disadvantage) has not changed. How we figure these two sets of data would take much too long to explain, especially the home/visitor advantages, since there are 16 different variables that are possible, and in the end 90% of games will be end up within a two-point swing.

Putting It All Together
Once we have the “Four Factors” calculated, and we have determined how many points to alter the final product based on schedule strength and where the game will be played, we are ready to construct a pointspread.

As previously mentioned, we ended up with three separate algorithms, each of which at some point in the 21st Century past proved to be more accurate than all others tested.

We will call these formulae: PiRate Red, PiRate White, and PiRate Blue, because there is no distinct numerical statistic that really dominates any of the trio. It is simply a rearranging of numbers, so we cannot call one rating a mean rating, another a bias rating, and the other the regular rating like we do in football.

Unlike football, where we must record the scores and stats of every game in order to calculate ratings for the entire season, this rating only requires that we have up to date cumulative statistics and whichever SOS rating we choose to use.

Using our example, since North Carolina visits Kentucky next Saturday, our three ratings show the Wildcats to be favored today by 12.7, 11.9, and 16.3 points in the three algorithms. Of course, both teams play other games prior to their meeting in Lexington, so these stats would be a little different by Saturday morning.

Since this is just an example, we will use this one for you to refer to. Hopefully, it will prove to be somewhat accurate, and the Wildcats will win by about 14 points.

Look for our select basketball predictions to begin in January. In February, we will renew our weekly look at March Madness projections. Last year, we correctly picked 67 of the 68 teams on Selection Sunday morning.

March 10, 2012

Bracketnomics 505–2012 Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — piratings @ 3:35 pm

Bracketnomics 505—2012 Edition

The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.

Think of the criteria in this tutorial as the equivalent of those past performances.  The R+T rating is akin to the Beyer Speed Figure Rating.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are like a horse with a 60 Speed Fig in a race where the other horses all have multiple 100+ Figs.

Here is a general explanation of our past performance criteria.  Don’t worry about compiling all these statistics yourself.  All you need to do is check back with the PiRate Ratings Tuesday morning for an in-depth look at the Field of 68.

 1. Scoring Margin

For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.  Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. 

Make a separate list of teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 10 or more points per game and a third list of teams that outscored opponents by an average of 15 or more points per game.  More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.

This is an obvious statistic here.  If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics. 

In the days of the 64-68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six consecutive games. 

This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams. 

This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years.  Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64-68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

3. Rebound Margin

This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded.  The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week into the tournament.  What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game.  In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more can be used.

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage.  Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance.  Any positive turnover margin is good here.  If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin.  Not all turnover margins are the same though.  A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals.  A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul.  When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase.  Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.  So, this system counts a steal as being worth 1.33 rebounds.

The criteria to look for here is a positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents.  Give more weight to teams that average 7.5 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game.  A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots.  In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

5. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.”  We have made a small change to this  number this year, going back to just one formula instead of two.

The R+T Formula is: [R + ({.2S} + {1.2T})], where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game, and T is turnover margin.

When this stat is 5 or more, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win.  When the result is 10 or more, you have a team that has a great chance of getting enough additional scoring opportunities to make it to the later rounds.  When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated before the Sweet 16.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

6. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for South Dakota State or Long Island to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Louisville or Michigan.  Of course, that’s correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  Here is how we do it.  Look at the Strength of schedule for every team in the Field.  You can find SOS on many websites, such as the RPI at cbs.sportsline.com.  Take the decimal difference for each team in the Field and multiply that by 100.  For example, if Team A’s SOS is .6044 and Team B’s is .5777, the difference times 100 is 2.67.  So, Team A’s schedule was 2.67 points (or round it to 3) per game tougher than Team B’s.  Use this in head-to-head contests for every game in your bracket.

7. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances, all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor and wilt like roses in January when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.

These are the seven basic PiRate criteria.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

While assists can reveal an excellent passing team, they also can hide a problem.  Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists.  That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things.  First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing.  That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (the type that get into the Dance).  Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs.  As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be.  So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats.

2. Free Throw Shooting

Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games.  However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls.  For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75. 

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March. 

Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently get there by winning close games at the line.  In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season.  The referees let the teams play.  So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path. 

Ponder this:  The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever.  That team connected on just 63% of its free throws.  They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press.  In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

3. 3-point shooting

You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage.  Contrary to popular belief you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the difference in points scored.  If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points.  Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals.  A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket.  If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game.  It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament.  A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win is not going to be around after the first weekend.

4. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far.  Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players.  I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball.  Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so.  If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side.  It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year. 

In past years, we had a set system of scoring each facet of the Bracketnomics’ data.  We have tweaked it this year to make it even more accurate.   

1. Scoring Margin

Multiply scoring margin by 0.5 (or divide by 2).  Round to one decimal place.

 

Example: A team that averages 74.5 points and gives up 68.9 points has a scoring margin of 5.6 points.  5.6 divided by 2 equals 2.8.

 

2. Field Goal % Margin

This is the same formula (fg% margin * .5) as scoring margin in #1, but we round to nearest 2 decimal places.

Example: Team A shoots .484 from the field, while they allow opponents to shoot .397 from the field.  .484 minus .397 equals .087.  We then multiply by 0.5 (divide the result by 2) to get .0435.  Multiply that by 100 to change it to a percentage and the result is 4.35.

 

3. Rebound Margin

Multiply rebound margin by 0.6 and round to 1 decimal place.

Example: Team A averages 38.7 rebounds per game and gives up 34.2 rebounds per game.  The difference is 4.5.  Multiply 4.5 by 0.6, and the result is 2.7.

 

4. Turnover Margin

Divide turnover margin by 2 and round to one decimal place

Example: Team A averages 12.3 turnovers per game and forces 14.1 turnovers per game.  The difference is 1.8.  Divide 1.8 by 2, and the result is 0.9.  Had Team A committed 14.1 turnovers and forced 12.3, their result would be -0.9.

 

5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + (.2*S) + (1.2*T)], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin.

Divide R+T by 2.5 or simply alter the formula to R+T = {0.4*[R + (.2*S) + (1.2*T)]} 

6. Schedule Strength

Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiply it by 100. 

The Average SOS for teams in the top 40 is about .5880.  When you factor in the automatic bids from teams outside of the top 40, that number falls to about .5500.  So, find each teams’ SOS rating and take 100 times the difference from .5500 as the number for this rating.

Example: Team A has a SOS of .5743; the difference from .5500 is .0243; multiply .0243 by 100, and the result is 2.43. 

Team B has a SOS of .4878, the difference is -.0622; multiply by 100, and the result is -6.22.

 

7. Record Away From Home (road + neutral)

 100% = 5

87.5-99.9% = 4.5

80.0-87.4 = 4

75.0-79.9 = 3

70.0-74.9 = 2.5

66.6-69.9 = 2

62.5-66.5 = 1.5

60.0-62.4 = 1

55.0-59.9 = 0.5

50.0-54.9 = 0

0-49.9 = -2

 

March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

 

From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by cbssports.com, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64

 

#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66

 

South Regional

 

#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71

 

#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67

 

Midwest Regional

 

#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63

 

#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51

 

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61

 

Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.

 

March 17, 2010

Brackets, Brackets, Brackets & A Preview Of The First Round

Question:  How many of you reading this are beginning to come down with some symptoms that will force you to call in sick for work the next two days?  Big Dance Fever seems to strike hard every year at this time.

Now that you are in your pajamas in bed with your TV set to CBS, your computer set to March Madness on Demand, and your brackets as your bed partner, you can begin your two day miraculous recovery.

Before you send off your bracket picks, take a look at the PiRate method for picking teams to advance.  You should re-read the Sunday, March 14, 2010 blog to better understand this method.

Without further adieu, let’s dig in.

1. Which teams meet the upper range criteria in every category?  That means they outscored their opponents by eight or more per game; their field goal percentage was greater than 7.5% better than their opponents; they outrebounded their opponents by five or more per game; they forced at least three more turnovers per game than they committed; and they stole the ball 7.5 or more times per game.

ANSWER—Only two teams met this criteria this year, and neither are members of a big six conference.  Murray State not only met all criteria, they met the upper limits.  The Racers outscored opponents by 17 points per game.  They had a field goal percentage margin of 11.7%.  They outrebounded opponents by six per game and forced 2.7 more turnover per game than they committed.  Best of all, Murray averaged 10 steals per game.  Their R+T was an outstanding 12.48.  Alas, Murray’s schedule strength was just 46.02, and that is too low to consider the Racers a threat to make it to the Elite 8.  Sweet 16 is not totally out of the question.

The second team that met this criteria, but not as well as Murray State, was Brigham Young.  The Cougars outscored opponents by 17.8 points per game.  They shot 7.9% from the field better than their opponents.  They outrebounded the opposition by 5.1.  Their turnover margin was 4.1.  They averaged 8.5 steals per game, and their R+T was an amazing 13.46.  BYU’s schedule strength was 52.52, which is adequate enough to see the Cougars as a serious threat to advance to the second week in this tournament.

2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?

ANSWER—Usually upwards of 8-10 teams can be eliminated every season due to poor R+T ratings.  In the Big Dance, this rating, which measures the number of extra scoring opportunities, is vital to winning.  Only two teams can be eliminated right off the bat, and not many people would think of picking them to win any way.  Those two teams are New Mexico State and UC-Santa Barbara.

Several teams just barely qualified with R+T ratings just above zero.  Two of those that just qualified are top 20 teams.  Georgetown and Vanderbilt could be ripe for upset bids in either the first or second round. 

The Hoyas face Ohio U in the first round, and the Bobcats don’t have the merits to pull the upset.  In a second round match, Tennessee definitely meets the criteria to advance to the Sweet 16, so the Volunteers could be a strong pick to knock off Georgetown and advance to St. Louis.

Vanderbilt draws Murray State in the first round, and the Racers could easily pull off the first upset by a double-digit seed.  Murray would then face either Butler or UTEP in a second round game, and the Racers would have a legitimate chance to advance to the second week.

3. Forget all this talk of first round upsets.  Which teams are capable of winning it all?

ANSWER—We thought you’d never ask.  Every year when we compose these ratings, we apply the PiRate formula and look for teams scoring 15 or above to find the real contenders.  Because we have added won-loss record away from home this year, we have elevated that real contender number to 18.  17 teams met that criteria this year.  Before we list them in order, we must clarify something.  After the first two rounds, and after the second two rounds, we recalculate these ratings.  Some teams still alive will cease to meet the minimum score and no longer be considered a serious threat, while one or two teams might move into this elite group.

This year, one team fared much better than all the others.  Thus, that team becomes our favorite to win all the marbles in Indianapolis.

Is that team Kansas or Kentucky?  Guess what?  It is neither.  The one team that scores almost six points better than any other is none other than Duke.  Could Coach K be on his way to title number three in Durham?  We love his seeding, and we definitely see the Blue Devils winning their first four to earn a ticket to Indianapolis.  As a matter of fact, as we see it, the selection committee did several huge favors for the Blue Devils.  First, they get the winner of the play-in game, so they will have a great scouting report.  Of course, this game will be a breather.  On Sunday, Duke will play either Cal or Louisville, and it could actually be the toughest of their four games on the way to the Final Four.  Because Villanova and Purdue are fading as fast as the sun in Barrow, Alaska, in October, there’s a chance that both could be gone before the Sweet 16.

After Duke, six other teams scored 20 or more points in the criteria rating.  They are Kansas, Kansas State, BYU, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Baylor in that order.

Kentucky comes in at number eight, followed closely by New Mexico, Villanova, Michigan State, Maryland, Texas, Tennessee, Old Dominion, Murray State, and Georgetown.  Yes, the Hoyas still qualify as one of the real contenders, but just by a razor’s edge.  Their R+T score is rather low.

The best of the rest (those that just barely missed the 18-point score) are: Siena, Utah State, Washington, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  These 22 teams are the ones that you should consider for your Sweet 16.

Here is a look at the 32 first round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.

First-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (19.8) vs. #16 East Tennessee (1.6)

This is your typical one vs. 16 mismatch.  Kentucky will not win by 50 like they might have in the days of Rick Pitino; they might outscore the Buccaneers by 20 points in two separate segments in this game and yet win by only 20 points.

The Wildcats will dominate the glass, and ETSU won’t be able to force enough turnovers to make this a game.  We see UK holding the Bucs to about 35% shooting and 60 or fewer points.

Prediction: Kentucky 74  East Tennessee 53

 

#8 Texas (19.0) vs. #9 Wake Forest (4.9)

The Longhorns were a big disappointment after being ranked at the top at 17-0 earlier in the year.  Looking at their stats, it’s definitely hard to see how they lost nine times in their final 16 games.

Texas just barely misses qualifying as superior in every PiRate Bracketnomics’ category.  They outscored opponents by 11.5 points per game, shot 6.7% from the field better than their opponents, finished +6.8 in rebounding and +1.1 in turnover margin, and they averaged 7.8 steals per game.  They compiled these stats playing in one of the two toughest leagues.

Wake Forest lost five of their final six games and fell several places in their seeding.  The Demon Deacons have a negative turnover margin, which is always a tough thing to overcome in the Big Dance.

This game should be interesting due to the fact that neither team is playing as well as they could.  We think Texas will play a little more cohesively in the opening round and survive and advance. 

Prediction: Texas 77  Wake Forest 72

 

#5 Temple (14.5) vs. #12 Cornell (10.2)

A lot of prognosticators are going with Cornell to become yet another 12-seed upset winner and even advance to the Sweet 16, becoming the first Ivy League team to make it that far since Penn lost to Duke in the Sweet 16 in 1980.

The Big Red earned the respect of the nation when they played at Kansas and lost by just five points.

This was Temple’s best team in years—maybe the best since 1988.  The Owls, as they have for decades, play tough defense on the perimeter, denying the ball from being passed inside and getting tight on three-point shooters.  They don’t force many turnovers, but they commit less than 11 per game. 

Cornell coach Steve Donahue was an assistant to Temple coach Fran Dunphy, so these coaches know what to expect in this game.  We’re going with this five-seed to avoid the upset.

Prediction: Temple 68  Cornell 60

 

#4 Wisconsin (16.1) vs. #13 Wofford (5.3)

The Badgers cannot take the Terriers lightly.  Wofford is another 13-seed team capable of pulling off an upset.  Expect 40 minutes of half-court offense with less than 130 total points scored.

Both teams tend to rely on one player to bear the scoring burden.  For Wisconsin, guard Trevon Hughes is the go-to guy.  For Wofford, forward Noah Dahlman is the key offensive threat.

It will be easier for Wisconsin to shut down Dahlman than Wofford to shut down Hughes, and Hughes has a little better quartet of teammates. 

Prediction: Wisconsin 63  Wofford 56

 

#6 Marquette (12.2) vs. #11 Washington (16.9)

This will be one game you will want to tune in if you have March Madness on Demand.  We think it will be very entertaining.

Marquette will move the ball around the perimeter and take a lot of threes.  If they hit 35% or better, they will be tough to beat.  However, the Golden Eagles are weak on the boards, and if those treys don’t fall, they cannot win.

Washington is not getting much respect coming out of the weak Pac-10.  The Huskies won their final seven games including the league tournament to earn an automatic berth here.  They can score points in bunches, and even though they are on the small side, they are the best rebounding team in the Pac-10.  That happens to be Marquette’s weakness.  That happens to be why UW will still be playing Sunday.

Prediction: Washington 82  Marquette 75

 

#3 New Mexico (19.6) vs. #14 Montana (3.2)

At first glance, this looks like another blowout that you see when a number three takes on a number 14.  However, Montana is not to be disregarded without a fight.  The Grizzlies found themselves down by more than 20 points to Weber State in the Big Sky Championship Game and came back to win.

Montana plays tough defense and works patiently for intelligent shots.  This style of play may be a bit boring, but it can be quite effective if the players stay within the frame of the philosophy.

New Mexico wins games through tough hustle.  The Lobos are tough on the boards, and they seldom turn the ball over more than a dozen times per game.  They can pose tough matchup problems for a lot of teams, because they can post up their guards and bring their forwards out high to shoot the three.  We’ll go with the Lobos to win, but it may be a lot more difficult than most people expect.

Prediction: New Mexico 72  Montana 63

 

#7 Clemson (12.3) vs. #10 Missouri (14.7)

This will be a helter-skelter game from start to finish.  These teams are both reliant upon forcing turnovers and converting them into fast break points.  We expect a lot of physical play with the referees letting a lot of contact go.

Missouri relies a little too much on its outside game, while Clemson has some inside presence.  In the Big Dance, the teams that can get offensive putbacks are usually the teams that survive and advance.  We don’t think Missouri will have an answer for Clemson forward Trevor Booker.

Prediction: Clemson 77  Missouri 72

 

#2 West Virginia (23.5) vs. #15 Morgan State (-0.2)

Morgan State has been here before.  The Bears lost to Oklahoma in the first round last year.  Coach Todd Bozeman likes for his team to move the ball up the floor quickly and bang it inside.  That might work in the MEAC, but this is not the MEAC.

West Virginia looks a little sloppy at times, and the Mountaineers don’t shoot the ball all too well, but they play tough defense and dominate on the boards.  WVU enters this tournament with a chip on its shoulder after flopping in the first round against Dayton last year.  Coach Bob Huggins’ squad has played in several nail-biters this year, and they should be ready to play.

Prediction: West Virginia 69  Morgan State 52

 

South Regional

#1 Duke (34.4) vs. #16 Arkansas Pine Bluff (-11.5)

Well, we blew the play-in game, but luckily that’s a Mulligan in bracket picking.

Duke will get a breather game in their opener.  The Blue Devils will apply pressure man-to-man defense and force the Golden Lions to commit numerous turnovers.  Duke’s big guys will repeatedly get offensive rebounds when the Blue Devils miss shots, and those players will clean the defensive glass as well.

UAPB should be fortunate that they won the play-in game.  They will give up more points in the first half of this game than they did in the entire game Tuesday night.

Prediction: Duke 87 Arkansas Pine Bluff 59

 

#8 California (11.4) vs. #9 Louisville (9.5)

Louisville beat Syracuse twice this year, but the Cardinals are not nearly as good this year as they were last year.   This UL team lacks the little something extra to advance very far in this tournament.

Cal won their first outright Pac-10 regular season title since Darrall Imhoff led the Bears to the National Championship Game against Ohio State in the 1959-60 season.  This edition of Bears is the polar opposite to that earlier version.  Cal is strictly a perimeter-oriented team that must shoot the ball well in order to win.

This one is a true tossup game.  It will be a contest of better offense vs. better defense.  Cal has to travel almost 3,200 miles, and the long trip could be their undoing.

Prediction: Louisville 72  California 68

 

#5 Texas A&M (12.7) vs. #12 Utah State (17.3)

This is one of those 5-12 games where the PiRate system shows the underdog to be the better team.  Utah State would be the outright favorite in this game if they played a little better defensively, especially on the perimeter.

Texas A&M played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and the Aggies showed they could go head-to-head with them.  Their defense is tough, and the Aggies from Texas should hold the Aggies from Utah well below their scoring and shooting averages.  A&M doesn’t shoot the ball all that well, and this should be a close game.  We’ll go against the PiRate chalk and take the Big 12 team.

Prediction: Texas A&M 70  Utah State 66

 

#4 Purdue (15.4) vs. #13 Siena (17.8)

This year, we like the 13-seeds better than the 12-seeds as upset possibilities.  Purdue would probably have been a 10-seed or even missed the tournament altogether had Robbie Hummel been injured all season.  Without Hummel, the Boilermakers are not much better than your average NIT team.

Siena defeated Vanderbilt in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament and Ohio State in the first round last year.  The Saints may be a little better this year thanks to a balanced team.  Siena has four starters that can score 20 points on any given night.  They have an inside presence with Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter combining for more than 19 rebounds per game.  Throw in a +3 turnover margin, and the Saints get seven more scoring opportunities per game than their opposition. 

We will call the upset in this game, but we give a warning.  Star players have missed NCAA Tournament games in the past, and those starless teams found a way to win.  Loyola Marymount won three games in the Big Dance after Hank Gathers died.  Going back several years to 1965, Wichita State made it to the Final Four after losing their top two players to eligibility.

Prediction: Siena 70  Purdue 65

 

#6 Notre Dame (6.5) vs. #11 Old Dominion (18.8)

This should be an entertaining game with a lot of inside action.  Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody missed multiple games due to injury in February, and the Irish defense stepped up and did the job.  With the big forward back, the Irish are playing their best ball of the season.  While they finished the season winning just eight of their final 13 games, those five losses came by a combined nine points.

Old Dominion is one of those teams like Butler and St. Mary’s that big-six conference teams don’t want to play.  The Monarchs dominate on the boards and seldom give up a high-percentage shot. 

We look for this one to stay close throughout, and the difference could be which team has the better outside shooting day.  If one team has a decent enough outside shooting day to force defenses to stretch, their inside game will become too strong to lose.

While ODU has much better total numbers, we think Notre Dame will get the job done.

Prediction: Notre Dame 71  Old Dominion 66

 

#3 Baylor (21.39) vs. #14 Sam Houston St. (10.33)

Watch out for Baylor!  The Bears rate in that elite group of teams capable of getting to Indianapolis.  In the Bracketnomics Class blog, we mentioned that you needed to be alert for a team that shoots 48% from the field and allows only 38%.  Baylor is one of two teams that meet this criteria.

The Bears also dominate on the glass, and if it weren’t for a negative turnover margin, we would pick them as a Final Four team.  Some future opponent will exploit this liability and defeat them, but it won’t be Sam Houston.

The Bearkats are an interesting and fun team to watch play.  They begin firing threes the moment they enter the gym.  It won’t get the job done in this game.

Prediction: Baylor 81  Sam Houston 67

 

#7 Richmond (10.0) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (10.1)

This game could come down to pace.  If Richmond presses the tempo and makes this a maximum possession game, the Spiders will have a decided advantage.  Richmond needs to speed the game up to force St. Mary’s into unforced errors.

Seldom in the opening round of the tournament do we ever see a team consciously trying to speed up the game.  Nerves and uncertainty usually slow these games down until midway through the second half.

St. Mary’s will win this game if the total number of field goal attempts is 115 or less.  If the pace is average to below average, their seven-man rotation will be able to avoid fatigue.  Center Omar Samhan can control the lane in this game and give the Gaels a strong advantage inside.

Prediction: St. Mary’s 73  Richmond 67

 

#2 Villanova (19.5) vs. #15 Robert Morris(-2.9)

This game should be a mismatch, but it could take some time before the Wildcats pull away.  VU finished the regular season on a 4-6 slide, but the Wildcats lost five of those games to NCAA Tournament teams from their conference.

Once this game begins, we look for the Colonials to keep it within striking distance for a couple of time outs before Villanova slowly pulls away.

Prediction: Villanova 78  Robert Morris 63

 

Midwest Regional

 

#1 Kansas (28.7) vs. #16 Lehigh (0.22)

If there is a chance that one team will top 100 points in the first round without going into multiple overtimes, this game is the one.  Kansas will begin its march to the Final Four with a tune-up game. 

Lehigh will take 25 or more three-pointers in this game, but we believe the Jayhawk defense will force many bad shots from the outside.  KU will then score 1.3-1.5 points per possession.  We’re sorry if you get stuck with this game and cannot get another.

Prediction: Kansas 94  Lehigh 61

 

#8 UNLV (11.7) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (11.7)

How about this for tossup game status?  Not only is this an eight-nine game, their criteria scores are equal.

This game comes down to how well the Panthers can stop the Runnin’ Rebels outside shooting game.  We think UNI will be able to hold the UNLV backcourt of Tre’Von Willis, Oscar Bellfield, Anthony Marshall, and reserve Kendall Wallace under their norms.  At the same time, look for UNI brute center Jordan Eglseder and forward Adam Koch to dominate on the inside.  Combine that with a defense that fits the opponents’ offense like a glove, and we see the Missouri Valley team advancing.

Prediction: Northern Iowa 58  UNLV 53

 

#5 Michigan State (19.5) vs. #12 New Mexico St. (3.4)

We cannot see a 12-seed upset in this game.  The Aggies have a negative R+T rating, which means they typically allow more scoring opportunities than they create.  Against a seasoned NCAA Tournament team, one coming off a visit to the national title game, that won’t be the winning recipe.

Michigan State will win the rebounding battle by 10 or more in this game.  If the Spartans don’t turn the ball over 18 or more times, they will be comfortably ahead by the first TV timeout of the second half.

Guard Chris Allen is expected to return to action after serving a one-game suspension for arguing with the coaching staff.

Prediction: Michigan State 75  New Mexico State 62

 

#4 Maryland (19.5) vs. #13 Houston (1.9)

Houston got hot and won the CUSA tournament after being picked to contend for the conference championship and finishing in the middle of the pack.  The Cougars cannot rebound.  While Maryland is only so-so on the boards, the Terps will win this battle by at least five caroms.

Houston relies on putting pressure on the ball and trying to play in the passing lanes to get steals and force turnovers.  Maryland takes care of the ball and can exploit this type of defense.

Throw in the fact that the Terps play tough defense, and this one looks like a huge mismatch.  Maryland comes mighty close to qualifying for the special field goal percentage criteria.  They connect on 47.2% of their shots and hold opponents to 38.8%.

Prediction: Maryland 83  Houston 70

 

#6 Tennessee (18.9) vs. #11 San Diego State (15.6)

This has the makings of a good game between similar styles.  Tennessee likes to force turnovers and run the break for quick baskets.  In the half-court offense, they try to work the ball inside.  The Volunteers aren’t the best outside shooting team.

San Diego State plays like your typical Steve Fisher-coached team.  The Aztecs have a dominating inside game and hold a +6.7 rebounding edge over their opposition.  The Aztecs aren’t great three-point shooters either, but inside the arc, they shoot almost 55%.

Tennessee is mad at being lowered to a number six seed in a year where they knocked off Kansas and Kentucky, but the Vols went only 10-7 away from home.  They are primed to make a run to the Sweet 16 if the team has enough gas in the tank.

Prediction: Tennessee 72  San Diego State 65

 

#3 Georgetown (18.0) vs. #14 Ohio U (0.7)

This game is a mismatch similar to your typical 1-seed vs. 16-seed game.  Ohio should have been a lower seed.  The Bobcats finished below .500 in a weak MAC this year, and they have no chance against the Hoyas.

Georgetown is not as complete this year as in past seasons.  They are a definite upset possibility, but it won’t happen in this round.  The key to the Hoyas advancing to the Sweet 16 will be how much the regulars can rest in this one. 

Prediction: Georgetown 72  Ohio 59

 

#7 Oklahoma State (6.2) vs. #10 Georgia Tech (9.5)

A very strong Big 12 allowed the Cowboys to move up to a seven-seed, when their performance looks more like a 10-seed.  Georgia Tech belongs as a 10-seed, so this game should be close and exciting.

OSU is a hot and cold team that won’t be around next week.  They either hit from behind the arc or get beat. 

Georgia Tech isn’t a world-beater, but the Yellow Jackets play somewhat consistently.  They will control the boards in this game, but they are turnover prone.  OSU’s shot at winning hinges on how many times they can force Tech into floor mistakes.  We think they will come up a bit short, but this game should be 40 minutes of entertaining ball.

Prediction: Georgia Tech 72  Oklahoma State 68

 

#2 Ohio State (16.8) vs. #15 UCSB (-4.5)

The Buckeyes won 16 of their final 18 games including the regular season and tournament championship in the Big Ten.  Evan Turner is a mini-Magic Johnson.  He can do it all, and he deserves serious consideration for national player of the year.  He isn’t a one-man team, but the Buckeyes’ only liability is a lack of depth.  They go only seven deep, and the two key reserves don’t contribute all that much.

UCSB is one of the two teams that must be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating.  Their stay in the Dance will last just one number, and they will feel like their rival cut in on them in the middle of the song.

Prediction: Ohio State 76  UCSB 54

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (23.6) vs. #16 Vermont (-3.8)

The ‘Cuse is primed for another run to the Final Four.  Except for a lack of depth, this team would be even with Duke and Kansas.  It won’t bother them in the first two rounds, as the Orange won’t be extended by pressure defense.

This is not the Vermont team of 2005 that actually won an opening round game.  This version of Catamounts is just happy to be here, and they will put up no fuss and wave bye-bye after 40 minutes of tournament action.

We expect Vermont to keep it close for maybe 8-12 minutes before Syracuse goes on a big run and puts this one away before the intermission.

Prediction: Syracuse 90  Vermont 64

 

#8 Gonzaga (13.4) vs. #9 Florida State (14.4)

We don’t believe this will be Gonzaga’s year to advance to the Sweet 16.  The Bulldogs don’t dominate on the glass and pick up nothing in turnover margin. 

This Florida State team reminds us a lot of the Seminole teams of Hugh Durham.  They play aggressive man-to-man defense and work the ball for intelligent shots. 

Gonzaga needs a good shooting effort every time in order to win, and the Seminoles hold opponents to just 37.4% from the field. 

Prediction: Florida State 67  Gonzaga 63

 

#5 Butler (14.2) vs. #12 UTEP (15.8)

This is a game that all five of us here would like to attend.  We think it will be the best of the 5-12 games, and it won’t be an upset if UTEP wins.  These teams are fairly even, and both are talented enough to advance to the second week.

If the question were, “which game has the best chance of going to overtime?” this game would receive strong consideration. 

We will go with the Miners to win a great game and become the favorite in the next round in a possible second classic matchup against another double-digit seed.  This is the 12-seed that has the best chance of pulling off the “upset.”  We don’t call a 50-50 game an upset.

Prediction: UTEP 79  Butler 77 in overtime

 

#4 Vanderbilt (11.2) vs. #13 Murray State (18.0)

Murray State rates as one of four teams not from a big six conference that we believe has the talent to make it to the Sweet 16.  The Racers are actually the most complete team in the tournament and best fit the criteria to go to the Final Four, but their schedule strength lowers their criteria out of that rarified air.

Murray outscores their opponents by 17 points per game.  They shoot better than 50% from the field, and they allow only 38.6% shooting on defense.  They control the boards with a +6.0 margin, and they force more than 17 turnovers per game with 10 steals per game.

Vanderbilt was a fatigued team down the stretch, closing 8-5 after opening 16-3.  In that last 13 games, they outscored their opponents by just two per game.  The Commodores just barely avoid being eliminated from consideration with an R+T of 0.6.  They outrebound their opponents by 0.7 per game and have a slightly negative turnover margin.  They rely too much on free throw shooting, and fouls are not called as frequently in the Big Dance.

We look for this to be a great game, but we’re going with another #13 seed to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Murray State 75  Vanderbilt 69

 

#6 Xavier (15.1) vs. #11 Minnesota (10.4)

Morgan State, Butler, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue are a good list of teams in the Big Dance.  Minnesota owns wins over these seven Samurais.  Xavier doesn’t have a showcase win this year, and the Musketeers are not as tough as they have been in recent seasons.

Tubby Smith’s teams always play well in the Big Dance, while this is the first go around for Xavier coach Chris Mack.  In yet another mild upset, we believe Minnesota will advance to the second round.

Prediction: Minnesota 69  Xavier 66

 

#3 Pittsburgh (8.7) vs. #14 Oakland (4.3)

For those of you who believe the Selection Committee tries to put certain teams together, you might not see the irony in the pairing of these two teams.  First, Oakland is not from California.  The Golden Grizzlies are from Rochester, Michigan.  Pittsburgh is located in the Oakland suburb of the Steel City.  So, when we say the team from Oakland will win the game, we aren’t talking about the Golden State Warriors, and we’re not talking about the team with the word “Oakland” on their jerseys.

This is not the year for the Panthers.  Their numbers aren’t all that good, and they will not advance to the Elite 8 this year.  However, they will cruise in the opening round after maybe facing a struggle through the first couple of TV timeouts.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 67  Oakland 58

 

#7 BYU (24.5) vs. #10 Florida (10.5)

Many prognosticators are calling for the Gators to pull the small upset in the opening round, but we cannot see it happening.

BYU ranks along with Murray State as having the most complete criteria components in the tournament.  The Cougars outscore their opposition by nearly 18 per game.  They do tend to rely on a lot of foul shooting and three-point shots, but BYU also gets a lot of easy baskets via the fast break and secondary offense.  Their R+T rating is a whopping 13.5, as they own a +5.1 rebounding margin, +4.1 turnover margin, and pick off 8.5 passes per game.  Since they have a shooting percentage of 48.6%, they will score a lot of points.

Florida returns to the Big Dance for the first time since they won their second consecutive national title in 2007.  This team is lacking what those two champions had—a dominating inside game.  Center Vernon Macklin is capable of putting up decent numbers, but the Gators rely on perimeter players Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton to get the job done.  Walker is just 5-8, and he will have a tough time against the tall and lanky BYU guards.

Look for Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery to outduel the Florida guards, and the Cougars will prevail in a fast-paced game.

Prediction: BYU 85  Florida 77

 

#2 Kansas State (25.9) vs. #15 North Texas (-3.22)

After Duke, Kansas State may have drawn the best possible bracket.  The Wildcats have the talent to win this regional and possibly set up a fourth game with their in-state rival in the National Semifinal. 

This will be a fun team to watch.  Kansas State coach Frank Martin is a combination of Al McGuire and Bobby Knight with a little Bob Huggins thrown in.  He’s the coach most likely to implode or spontaneous combust during a game.  His antics are working this year, and his players respond by playing like their life is on the line.

North Texas will get killed on the boards in this game, and they don’t have a ball-hawking defense to even it out with a great turnover margin.  Unlike conference rival Western Kentucky, the Mean Green will not carry on the Sunbelt Conference’s recent success in the tourney.

Prediction: Kansas State 82  North Texas 65

 

Our Bracket

 

You have seen the 32 teams we believe will win the first round games.  Here is how we fill out the rest of our bracket.

Second Round Winners

 

Kentucky over Texas in a close game

Wisconsin over Temple

New Mexico over Washington

West Virginia over Clemson

Duke over Louisville

Texas A&M over Siena

Baylor over Notre Dame

Villanova over St. Mary’s

Kansas over Northern Iowa

Michigan State over Maryland in a great game

Tennessee over Georgetown

Ohio State over Georgia Tech

Syracuse over Florida State

UTEP over Murray State

Minnesota over Pittsburgh

Kansas State over BYU in a thriller

Sweet 16 Winners

Kentucky over Wisconsin

West Virginia over New Mexico

Duke over Texas A&M

Baylor over Villanova

Kansas over Michigan State but a fantastic upset bid

Ohio State over Tennessee

Syracuse over UTEP

Kansas State over Minnesota

Elite 8 Winners

West Virginia over Kentucky

Duke over Baylor

Kansas over Ohio State

Kansas State over Syracuse

Semifinal Winners

 

Duke over West Virginia

Kansas State over Kansas (The Wildcats finally beat KU in their fourth try)

National Championship

 

Duke over Kansas State

Might Coach K pull a John Wooden and announce his retirement after winning the semifinal game?  Might he be tempted to take a very large pay raise to coach the Nets for a year or two and then enjoy real retirement like his mentor The General is enjoying?

March 14, 2010

Bracketnomics 505–How to pick your NCAA Tournament Brackets

The Advanced Level Class In Bracket Filling

This is a graduate level class that will earn you a PhD in Bracketnomics.  So you want a scientific method to guide you as you fill out your brackets?  You say you want a system that will take out most of the human-bias, and allow you to pick your teams in a mechanical fashion.  Well, we’ve got one for you that has been back-tested and holds up fantastically through the years. 

What the inventor of the PiRate system did was to discover the vital information that has worked in the past.  He’s been using this formula since the Internet made statistics-gathering easy, and it has been back-tested as far back as the days when the NCAA Tournament field consisted of just 23, 24, or 25 teams.

This method will not pick every game correctly and make you an instant millionaire.  It is geared toward finding the tendencies that historically have mattered most in picking the teams with the best chances of advancing.  Not all teams will be a perfect fit in this formula; what this formula does is pick the teams that have the best chance of advancing and making a deep run into the tournament.

How has the formula performed in recent years?  Last year, it picked North Carolina to win the tournament.  Two years ago, it picked Kansas to win the NCAA Championship.  In 2006, it tabbed George Mason as a team to watch to sneak into the Elite 8 (they went to the Final 4).   It correctly selected Florida and UCLA for the Final Four in both 2006 and 2007. 

There have been a couple of seasons where the criteria didn’t apply successfully, but over the course of time, it has performed accurately more than 85% of the time. 

Beginning this year, we add a couple more factors that we hope make this system even more accurate.

Without further adieu, here is the PiRate Bracket-Picking System.

1. Scoring Margin

For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscore their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.  Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. 

This system really loves a team that outscore their opponents by an average of 10 or more points per game while it worships teams outscoring opponents by an average of 15 or more points per game.  More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and that team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.

This is an obvious statistic here.  If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores their opposition by an average of 75-70, team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics. 

 

In the days of the 64/65-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row.  This average gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they aren’t going to win four games much less two.  This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years.  Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64/65-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  Nowadays, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  If you see a team shoot better than 48% and allow 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

3. Rebound Margin

This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded.  The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance deep into the tournament.  What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game.  In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more can be used.

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams don’t always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive putbacks are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage.  Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but over the course of four rounds, it is rare for one of these teams to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance.  Any positive turnover margin is good here.  If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin.  Not all turnover margin is the same though.  A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals.  A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul.  When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase.  Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.  So, this system counts a steal as being worth 1.33 rebounds. 

The criteria to look for here is a positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or more if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents.  Give more weight to teams that average 7.5 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game.  A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots.  In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

4a. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %).  Here is the PiRate R+T stat: R + (.2S * {1.2T}), where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  When this stat is 5 or more, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win.  When the result is 10 or more, you have a team that has a great chance of getting enough additional scoring opportunities to make it to the later rounds.  When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated before the Sweet 16.

5. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

I’m sure up to this point you have been thinking that it is much easier for Sam Houston or Siena to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Kansas State or West Virginia.  Of course, that’s correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that the top conferences get extra weight, while the bottom conferences get penalized.  Here is how we do it.  Look at the Strength of schedule for every team in the Field.  You can find SOS on many websites, such as the RPI at www.cbssports.com.  Take the decimal difference for each team in the Field and multiply that by 100.  For example if Team A’s SOS is .6044 and Team B’s is .5777, the difference times 100 is 2.67.  So, Team A’s schedule was 2.67 points (or round it to 3) per game tougher than Team B’s.  Use this in head-to-head contests for every game in your bracket.

6. NEW ADDITION FOR 2010: Won-Loss Record away from home.

Let’s say a big six conference team with a 22-8 record might have gone 16-0 and home and 6-8 away from home, while another team from a different big six conference with a 19-13 record might have gone 9-7 at home and 10-6 on the road.  The overall stats might show the 22-8 team to be better, but they built up those impressive numbers by padding the stat book at home.  Look for teams that can win by double digits away from home against teams in big six conferences.

These are the six basic PiRate criteria used for picking bracket winners.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

While assists can reveal an excellent passing team, they also can hide a problem.  Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists.  That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others.  However, it can also mean two other things.  First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing.  That may not work against the top defensive teams in the nation, or the type that get into the Dance.  Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive putbacks.  As explained earlier, the offensive putback is about as important as any stat can be.  So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big six stats.

Free Throw Shooting 

Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games.  However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls.  For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75.  So, a team with one of the top FT% only scores nine more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That looks like a lot of points to make up, but consider that this is about the maximum possible difference.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that also have the top R+T ratings.  Teams that make the NCAA Tournament with gaudy free throw percentages frequently got there by winning close games at the line.  In the NCAA Tournament, fouls just don’t get called as frequently as in the regular season.  The referees let the teams play.  So, looking at superior free throw percentage can almost lead you down the wrong path. 

Ponder this:  The 1973 UCLA Bruins are considered to be the best college basketball team ever.  That team connected on just 63% of its free throws.  They had a rebounding margin of 15.2, and they forced many turnovers via steals thanks to their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press.  In the great UCLA dynasty from 1964 through 1973 when the Bruins won nine titles in 10 years, they never once connected on 70% of their free throws and averaged just 66% during that stretch.

3-point shooting

You have to look at this statistic two different ways and consider that it is already part of field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage.  Contrary to popular belief you do not count the difference in made three-pointers and multiply by three to see the point-difference.  If Team A hits eight treys, while their Team B opponents hit three, that is not a difference of 15 points; it’s a difference of five points.  Consider made three-pointers as one extra point because they are already figured as made field goals.  A team with 26 made field goals and eight treys has only one more point than a team with 26 made field goals and seven treys.

The only time to give three-point shots any weight in this criteria is when you are looking at a toss-up game, and when you do look at this stat, look for the team that does not rely on them to win, but instead uses a credible percentage that prevents defenses from sagging into the 10-12-foot area around the basket.  If a team cannot throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, defenses can sag inside and take away the inside game.  It doesn’t play much of a role in the NCAA Tournament.  A team that must hit 10 threes per game in order to win isn’t going to be around after the first weekend.  A team that goes 5 of 14 from behind the arc is better than a team that goes 10 of 28.  Both teams got to the Big Dance, and the team that took only 14 treys per game probably got there with an imposing inside game and great defense—just what is needed to cut the nets six games later.

One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

Teams that got to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far.  Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players.  I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball.  Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so.  If you have a team with five double figure scorers, that will be a harder one to defend and one that will be consistent.  It’s hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this week. 

Now, here is a way to put numbers to the criteria.  It isn’t exactly the way our founder did it every year, but it is a close approximation.

1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin

2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0

3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0

4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0

5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin

Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

Completely eliminate from consideration all teams with a negative R+T

6. Performance Away From Home

Award 3 points for every team that won 75% or more of its games away from home

Award 2 points for every team that won 60-74% of its games away from home

Award 1 point for every team that won 51-59% of its games away from home

Award -2 points for every team that had a losing record away from home

7. Schedule Strength

Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiple it by 100.  For example, Team A with an SOS of .5252 has a schedule 7 points weaker than Team B with an SOS of .5921.  If these two teams face each other, give the Team B an extra 7 criteria points over Team A ([(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7).

If you want to compile all this information yourself, the best way is to go to all 65 official athletic websites of the teams in the Big Dance.  You will find up-to-date statistical information.  Some of these stats are available in other places, but many have been found to be riddled with mistakes, or they are not up-to-date.  All 65 school sites are accurate and timely.

 

Coming Wednesday, we will break down the brackets and show you which teams we expect to advance past the first and second weekends.  We will break down every first round game and show you how the formula works in these games. 

March 9, 2010

March Madness Update–Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Look At The Big Six Conference Tournaments

 

All Times Given Are Eastern Time

Atlantic Coast Conference

Site: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC

Dates: March 11-14

Opening Round

Thursday, March 11

G1 #8 Boston College (15-15) vs. #9 Virginia (14-15)  12 Noon

G2 #5 Wake Forest (19-9) vs. #12 Miami (Fla) (18-12) 2 PM

G3 #7 Georgia Tech (19-11) vs. #10 North Carolina (16-15) 7 PM

G4 #6 Clemson (21-9) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (17-14) 9 PM

Quarterfinals

Friday, March 12

G5 #1 Duke (26-5) vs. Game 1 Winner 12 Noon

G6 #4 Virginia Tech (23-7) vs. Game 2 Winner 2 PM

G7 #2 Maryland (23-7) vs. Game 3 Winner 7 PM

G8 #3 Florida State (22-8) vs. Game 4 Winner 9 PM

Semifinals

Saturday, March 13

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 12:30 PM

Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 2:30 PM

Championship Game

Sunday, March 14

Semifinal Winners 1 PM

Maryland doesn’t strike us as a team that can get to the title game, even though the Terps have the best talent.  We like Clemson to sneak through the brackets and become Duke’s opposition for the ACC Championship.

You cannot ignore North Carolina.  They could get to the semifinals without much extra from what they’ve done this year.  If they play just a little more intelligently, they could get a third chance at Duke.  However, we’re sticking with Clemson to play Duke.

Big East Conference

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Dates: March 9-13

Opening Round

Tuesday, March 9

G1 #9 South Florida (19-11) vs. #16 DePaul (8-22) 12 Noon

G2 #12 Connecticut (17-14) vs. #13 St. John’s (16-14) 2 PM

G3 #10 Seton Hall (18-11) vs. #15 Providence (12-18) 7 PM

G4 #11 Cincinnati (16-14) vs. #14 Rutgers (15-16) 9 PM

Second Round

Wednesday, March 10

G5 #8 Georgetown (20-9) vs. Game 1 Winner 12 Noon

G6 #5 Marquette (20-10) vs. Game 2 Winner 2 PM

G7 #7 Notre Dame (21-10) vs. Game 3 Winner 7 PM

G8 #6 Louisville (20-11) vs. Game 4 Winner 9 PM

Quarterfinals

Thursday, March 11

G9 #1 Syracuse (28-3) vs. Game 5 Winner 12 Noon

G10 #4 Villanova (24-6) vs. Game 6 Winner 2 PM

G11 #2 Pittsburgh (24-7) vs. Game 7 Winner 7 PM

G12 #3 West Virginia (24-6) vs. Game 8 Winner 9 PM

Semifinals

Friday, March 12

Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner 7 PM

Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner 9 PM

Championship Game

Saturday, March 13

Semifinal Winners 9 PM

It’s impossible for a team to win five games in five days, so don’t count on any of the bottom seeds making it to Saturday night.  West Virginia has the power and intensity to win this tournament, and their possible semifinal match with Pittsburgh would be the best game in the tournament.  Villanova is much like Texas; they have the talent, but they aren’t putting it together on the floor.

Louisville’s finish over Syracuse gives the Cards momentum.  We just don’t think they can take out the Mountaineers in the quarterfinals.  The one team that can advance continually might be Marquette.  Still, we look for a Syracuse-West Virginia title game.

Big 12 Conference Tournament

Site: Sprint Center, Kansas City

Dates: March 10-13

Opening Round

Wednesday, March 10

G1 #8 Colorado (15-15) vs. #9 Texas Tech (16-14) 12:30 PM

G2 #5 Missouri (22-9) vs. #12 Nebraska (14-17) 3 PM

G3 #7 Oklahoma State (21-9) vs. #10 Oklahoma (13-17) 7 PM

G4 #6 Texas (23-8) vs. #11 Iowa State (15-16) 9:30 PM

Quarterfinals

Thursday, March 11

G5 #1 Kansas (29-2) vs. Game 1 Winner 12:30 PM

G6 #4 Texas A&M (22-8) vs. Game 2 Winner 3 PM

G7 #2 Kansas State (24-6) vs. Game 3 Winner 7 PM

G8 #3 Baylor (24-6) vs. Game 4 Winner 9:30 PM

Semifinals

Friday, March 12

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 7 PM

Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 9:30 PM

Championship

Saturday, March 13

Semifinal Winners 6 PM

Kansas needs to prove it is the best team in the land, and we see the Jayhawks waltzing through this tournament with little opposition.  Missouri is the one team capable of knocking them out, but they are a year away from being really good.

Texas appears to be spent, and we don’t think the Longhorns will put it together—this week.

Big Ten Conference Tournament

Site: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Dates: March 11-14

Opening Round

Thursday, March 11

G1 #8 Michigan (14-16) vs. #9 Iowa (10-21) 2:30 PM

G2 #7 Northwestern (19-12) vs. #10 Indiana (10-20) 5 PM

G3 #6 Minnesota (18-12) vs. #11 Penn State (11-19) 7:30 PM

Quarterfinals

Friday, March 12

G4 #1 Ohio State (24-7) vs. Game 1 Winner 12 Noon

G5 #4 Wisconsin (23-7) vs. #5 Illinois 2:30 PM

G6 #2 Purdue (26-4) vs. Game 2 Winner 6:30 PM

G7 #3 Michigan State (24-7) vs. Game 3 Winner 9 PM

Semifinals

Saturday, March 13

Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner 1:40 PM

Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner 4:10 PM

Championship

Sunday, March 14

Semifinal Winners 3:30 PM

This should be the most competitive of the big tournaments.  Any of the top four seeds could win this; it will depend on which one can play the best for three days.  Purdue is the one team vulnerable to an upset in the quarterfinals, but Illinois beating Wisconsin wouldn’t be an upset.  That’s a tossup game after the Badgers won Sunday.

Pac-10 Tournament

Site: Staples Center, Los Angeles

Date: March 10-13

Opening Round

Wednesday, March 10

G1 #8 Oregon (15-15) vs. #9 Washington State (16-14) 11 PM

Quarterfinals

Thursday, March 11

G2 #4 Arizona (16-14) vs. #5 UCLA (13-17) 3 PM

G3 #1 California (21-9) vs. Game 1 Winner 5:30 PM

G4 #3 Washington (21-9) vs. #6 Oregon State (14-16) 9 PM

G5 #2 Arizona State (22-9) vs. #7 Stanford (13-17) 11:30 PM

Semifinals

Friday, March 12

Game 2 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner 9 PM

Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner 11:30 PM

Championship

Saturday, March 13

Semifinal Winners 6:15 PM

The most important part of this tournament is the play of Arizona State.  The Sun Devils are in the Big Dance if they defeat Stanford Thursday night.  A loss to the Cardinal puts them in the middle of the Bubble.  With St. Mary’s reducing the available bubble invitations by one, ASU better win.

As far as the rest of this tournament goes, Washington could be the team to watch.  The Huskies underperformed all year, and they get their second chance to prove they belong in the Field of 65.

Cal is not a big favorite.  The Bears are one of the weakest regular season Pac-10 champions in years, probably since 1985.

Southeastern Conference Tournament

Site: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville

Dates: March 11-14

Opening Round

Thursday, March 11

G1 W4 Alabama (16-14) vs. E5 South Carolina (15-15) 1 PM

G2 E3 Tennessee (23-7) vs. W6 L S U (11-19) 3:15 PM

G3 E4 Florida (20-11) vs. W5 Auburn (15-16) 7:30 PM

G4 W3 Arkansas (14-17) vs. E6 Georgia (13-16) 9:45 PM

Quarterfinals

Friday, March 12

G5 E1 Kentucky (29-2) vs. Game 1 Winner 1 PM

G6 W2 Ole Miss (21-9) vs. Game 2 Winner 3:15 PM

G7 W1 Mississippi State (21-10) vs. Game 3 Winner 7:30 PM

G8 E2 Vanderbilt (23-7) vs. Game 4 Winner 9:45 PM

Semifinals

Saturday, March 13

Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 1 PM

Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner 3:15 PM

Championship

Sunday, March 14

Semifinal Winners 1 PM

Kentucky isn’t a 40-minute team.  However, when they play well for 30 minutes, they are just about unbeatable.  The Wildcats can sweep through this tournament with 25-28 minutes of playing to their potential.

Florida and Ole Miss must get to Saturday to be on the safe part of the bubble.  That would mean Ole Miss would probably have beaten Tennessee while Florida would have eliminated Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs might need to win the tournament, even though they are the number one seed in the West Division. 

Tennessee and Vanderbilt have not done well in this tournament in years.  The Vols have reached the final round a few times and even won it back in 1979, but Vanderbilt has never reached the finals much less won it since its renewal in 1979.  Their lone tournament win came in 1951.  This is the year where they have the talent to make it to Sunday for a third try at Kentucky, but the Commodores never seem to have any gas left in the tank when this tournament commences.

If any team from the back of the pack challenges, it could be Georgia.  The Bulldogs were good enough to compete with Kentucky at Rupp Arena and blew out Tennessee and Vanderbilt.  If they get by Arkansas Thursday, it wouldn’t be a shock if they could upset Vanderbilt and give either Mississippi State or Florida a great game on Saturday.  A Georgia-Kentucky title game would be something worth watching.

We tend to believe Kentucky will face Florida for the title on Sunday.

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