The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 28, 2020

The Greatest NCAA Tournament That Never Was–Elite 8 Saturday

We are down to the Elite 8, and after today’s East and South Regional Finals, there will be six teams left in the field.  We’re just 24 hours away from knowing which of these best teams of all time (1960-2019) will make the Final Four.

If you haven’t been following this simulation since its beginning, we took 68 of the best NCAA basketball teams between 1960 and 2019.  No school could have teams from consecutive seasons, or else this would have been the UCLA Invitational.

The games were simulated by actually playing the college made version of Statis-Pro Basketball, a game made by Avalon Hill and Sports Illustrated between the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Our Captain solved the codes for that game and applied them to college.

Here are the results for the East and South Region Championships.

 

EAST REGION

 

Wolf Pack Dominates On Boards/Towe Magnificent

 

1974 North Carolina St.

75

2019 Virginia

64

In it’s first three games in this tournament, Virginia had been able to limit turnovers and force the opponent into bad shots.  In the Elite 8, the Cavaliers committed just seven turnovers, but they could not prevent North Carolina State from getting open shots.  Thanks to point guard Monte Towe’s excellent passing, the Wolf Pack shooters were open more often than a normal UVa opponent.

Towe dished out 10 assists in the game, five in both halves.  Towe also contributed 22  points, hitting all eight of his foul shots in the second half when North Carolina State increased their lead from five to 11 points.

Boxscore

North Carolina St.

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Tom Burleson

C

8

13

0

0

4

6

4

6

10

0

0

3

2

2

20

Tim Stoddard

F

2

5

0

0

2

3

1

7

8

1

0

1

1

2

6

David Thompson

F

5

11

1

3

6

8

3

7

10

2

1

2

2

2

17

Mo Rivers

G

2

7

1

4

1

2

0

3

3

1

1

0

2

3

6

Monte Towe

G

5

12

4

9

8

9

0

1

1

10

2

0

3

0

22

Phil Spence

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

0

0

1

0

1

2

Greg Hawkins

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

0

1

0

0

Steve Nuce

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

2

Mark Moeller

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Team

3

Totals

24

52

6

16

21

28

9

30

39

14

4

7

11

13

75

 

 

 

Virginia

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Mamadi Diakete

C

1

3

0

0

0

0

2

2

4

0

0

1

0

5

2

De’Andre Hunter

F

2

7

0

3

3

4

1

4

5

1

0

0

2

4

7

Ty Jerome

F

5

12

2

6

3

4

0

4

4

6

1

0

2

5

15

Kyle Guy

G

6

14

3

8

3

3

0

4

4

2

0

0

1

4

18

Kihei Clark

G

2

5

1

2

0

0

0

1

1

3

1

0

1

3

5

Braxton Key

5

9

1

2

1

2

1

4

5

0

1

0

1

2

12

Jack Salt

2

5

0

0

1

2

0

3

3

1

0

0

0

2

5

Jay Huff

0

2

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Team

2

Totals

23

57

7

22

11

15

4

22

28

13

3

1

7

26

64

Player of the Game

Monte Towe

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

N. C. State

34

41

75

Virginia

31

33

64

 

 

WEST REGION

 

Brunson and Bridges Bring Back The Wildcats

 

2018 Villanova

75

1970 UCLA

69

 

Trailing by six points eight minutes into the final half, Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Michael Bridges scored a combined 19 points to bring the Wildcats back into the lead at 68-67 with less than two minutes remaining.  Foul shooting and multiple missed three point shots sent the Bruins back to Westwood.

 

Boxscore

Villanova

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Omari Spellman

C

0

2

0

1

0

0

2

4

6

0

0

1

1

5

0

Eric Paschall

F

2

5

1

3

6

6

1

5

6

0

0

2

0

2

11

Michael Bridges

F

7

12

3

5

5

5

1

7

8

0

0

0

2

1

22

Phil Booth

G

2

4

2

3

4

6

0

2

2

3

1

1

2

2

10

Jalen Brunson

G

7

17

3

5

6

8

0

1

1

6

2

0

2

3

23

Donte DiVincenzo

2

6

1

4

2

3

0

2

2

3

1

0

3

1

7

Collin Gillespie

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

1

2

Team

3

Totals

21

50

10

21

23

28

4

22

29

12

5

4

10

15

75

 

 

 

UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Steve Patterson

C

5

11

0

0

2

2

2

7

9

1

0

1

2

4

12

Sidney Wicks

F

7

15

0

2

3

5

4

8

12

3

1

2

5

4

17

Curtis Rowe

F

6

12

1

3

2

3

2

8

10

1

2

0

2

4

15

John Vallely

G

4

8

2

6

3

4

0

2

2

5

1

0

3

3

13

Henry Bibby

G

4

10

2

7

2

2

1

1

2

2

1

0

2

4

12

John Ecker

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Jon Chapman

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

Bill Seibert

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Team

3

Totals

26

56

5

18

12

16

9

26

38

12

5

3

15

26

69

Player of the Game

Jalen Brunson

 

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

Villanova

40

35

75

UCLA

41

28

69

 

Coming Tomorrow: The Midwest and West Region Finals

 

Midwest Region Championship: 1968 UCLA vs. 1968 Houston

West Region Championship: 1972 UCLA vs. 1982 North Carolina

 

March 27, 2020

The Greatest NCAA Tournament That Never Was–The Sweet 16 Friday

After last night’s games, we are down to just 12 teams left, and before tonight’s action ends, we will have the Elite 8.  Then, by the end of  the weekend, we’ll be down to the Final Four.

Tonight’s Sweet 16 action involves games in the Midwest and West Regions.

MIDWEST REGION

 

Jabbar Destroys Duke

 

1968 UCLA

83

2015 Duke

57

 

The number one seed in the Midwest Region has reached the Region Finals with relative ease.  The 1968 UCLA Bruins quickly dispatched 2015 Duke with a 19-4 run to begin the game.

UCLA took a 20-point lead at 34-14 after back to back baskets by Kenny Heitz and Mike Lynn.  Once down by 20 points, Duke never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

By the time the UCLA reserves entered the game for good, the Bruins led 74-42.  Duke ended the game on a 15-9 run.

 

UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

C

14

23

0

0

3

5

7

9

16

1

1

5

3

1

31

Mike Lynn

F

3

6

0

0

4

6

1

4

5

3

3

0

1

3

10

Lynn Shackleford

F

2

5

0

2

2

2

1

5

6

2

2

1

2

3

6

Lucius Allen

G

3

8

2

5

5

6

0

2

2

4

3

0

3

1

13

Mike Warren

G

4

7

2

4

2

2

0

3

3

3

1

0

4

2

12

Jim Nielsen

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kenny Heitz

2

5

1

3

1

2

0

1

1

2

2

0

1

1

6

Bill Sweek

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Neville Saner

1

3

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

0

2

2

Gene Sutherland

1

2

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

3

Team

3

Totals

30

61

6

17

17

23

11

26

40

16

12

7

15

13

83

 

 

 

Duke

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Jahlil Okafor

C

3

9

0

0

0

1

1

4

5

1

1

0

2

4

6

Justise Winslow

F

4

11

2

5

4

5

1

2

3

0

0

1

6

4

14

Quinn Cook

F

3

8

1

5

3

5

1

3

4

2

1

0

3

3

10

Matt Jones

G

5

10

3

6

0

0

0

5

5

1

2

0

4

4

13

Tyus Jones

G

4

12

1

4

3

4

0

3

3

5

2

0

3

2

12

Grayson Allen

1

2

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

0

3

1

2

Amile Jefferson

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

0

1

2

0

Marshall Plumlee

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

0

1

1

0

Nick Pagliuca

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Team

3

Totals

20

52

7

20

10

15

6

21

30

9

6

1

23

21

57

Player of the Game

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

UCLA

50

33

83

Duke

33

24

57

 

 

Cougars Survive Incredible 3 OT Game–Hayes Is Magnificent

 

1968 Houston

122

3 OT

1976 Indiana

121

Elvin Hayes played 52 out of a possible 55 minutes, leading the 1968 Cougars to an incredible triple overtime win to advance to the Elite 8 against an historic rival for a shot at the Final Four on Sunday.

Hayes scored 49 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, connecting on 21-35 from the field and 7-11 at the foul line.   Forward Theodis Lee and guard Don “Duck” Chaney combined for 47 points backing up the Big E.

Indiana appeared to have the game won in the first overtime.  A basket and made foul shot by Bobby Wilkerson, followed by a three-pointer by Tom Abernathy gave the Hoosiers a 102-95 lead with 1:08 remaining.  In the final 68 seconds, Houston forced three turnovers on the Hoosiers.  Hayes hit two baskets, and a three-pointer by George Reynolds tied the game with 12 seconds remaining.   A desperation shot by Quinn Buckner at the buzzer was off target.

In the second overtime, Indiana led 111-108 and had the ball with 12 seconds to go.  Wilkerson went to the foul line with a chance to put IU up by five and missed both foul shot attempts.  Kenny Spain rebounded the ball for Houston and found Chaney open for the tying three-pointer at the buzzer.

In the third overtime, it was Houston’s turn to take the lead and watch Indiana mount a comeback.  With a 120-113 lead, the Hoosiers sent Cougar players to the foul line.  Hayes, Lee, and Chaney combined for 2-6 in the final Houston’s final three possessions.  Indiana crept back with a three-pointer by Wayne Radford and baskets by Scott May and Kent Benson to cut the Houston lead to 122-120.  After the Cougars turned the ball over, Hayed fouled Benson as Benson tried to tie the game up.  Benson hit the first shot and missed the second.  Lee rebounded and threw the outlet pass to Chaney to end the game.

Houston now faces a familiar opponent.  In reality in 1968, the Cougars beat the Bruins at the Astrodome in the Game of the Century, but UCLA blew the Cougars off the floor in the Final Four.  Very few people since realize that Reynolds did not play for Houston in the NCAA Tournament.  He has been eligible in this tournament.

Boxscore

Houston

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Elvin Hayes

C

21

35

0

0

7

11

6

12

18

2

1

4

4

3

49

Ken Spain

F

5

11

0

0

2

4

5

10

15

1

2

3

2

5

12

Theodis Lee

F

11

24

1

5

3

6

3

7

10

3

0

1

2

4

26

Don Chaney

G

7

17

3

8

4

7

2

6

8

8

3

0

5

3

21

George Reynolds

G

4

9

2

5

4

5

0

5

5

6

2

0

4

3

14

Tom Gribben

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

0

Vern Lewis

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

0

1

3

0

Carlos Bell

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Niemer Hamood

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Team

4

Totals

48

97

6

18

20

33

16

41

61

22

9

8

18

27

122

 

 

 

Indiana

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Kent Benson

C

10

18

0

0

4

5

2

9

11

2

0

2

2

4

24

Scott May

F

10

21

3

7

6

7

1

7

8

5

2

0

4

4

29

Tom Abernathy

F

8

14

5

11

2

2

2

5

7

2

0

1

3

2

23

Bobby Wilkerson

G

4

13

1

5

4

6

1

7

8

4

1

2

5

5

13

Quinn Buckner

G

4

9

1

3

3

4

1

3

4

6

3

0

3

4

12

Wayne Radford

3

7

1

2

2

3

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

3

9

Jim Wisman

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2

0

Rich Valavicius

2

3

2

3

0

0

1

2

3

0

1

0

0

3

6

Jim Crews

1

2

1

2

2

2

0

2

2

1

1

0

1

2

5

Mark Haymore

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Jim Roberson

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Team

5

Totals

42

90

14

34

23

29

8

37

50

23

8

5

19

31

121

Player of the Game

Elvin Hayes

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

OT

OT

OT

Final

Houston

45

44

13

9

11

122

Indiana

41

48

13

9

10

121

WEST REGION

 

Undermined Miners Scare Bracket’s Overall Top Seed But Fall Short

 

The 1972 UCLA Bruins began the game looking like they would advance to the Elite 8 with very  little trouble.  Leading 39-20, UCLA went cold, while Texas Western ran their fast break and scored 12 straight points to cut the lead to 39-32.  After Jamaal Wilkes hit a three-pointer, TW scored the final seven points of the half to cut the lead to three points.

Texas Western actually took the lead briefly in the second half when Orsten Artis hit a jumper to put the Miners of 59-58.  UCLA held a slim 68-66 lead when the Bruins went on a 12-2 run to take an 80-68 lead.  TW couldn’t cut the lead under 10 points until the final possession.

 

Boxscore

UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Bill Walton

C

9

17

0

0

6

10

5

11

16

5

1

3

2

4

24

Jamaal Wilkes

F

7

14

3

7

2

2

3

8

11

0

0

1

1

2

19

Larry Farmer

F

2

5

1

2

0

0

1

4

5

1

1

0

2

3

5

Greg Lee

G

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

2

0

0

3

3

2

Henry Bibby

G

8

16

3

7

4

4

0

3

3

6

2

0

5

2

23

Tommy Curtis

4

9

2

5

1

2

0

1

1

3

1

0

4

2

11

Larry Hollyfield

2

6

1

3

0

0

0

4

4

0

0

0

2

4

5

Swen Nater

2

3

0

0

1

2

2

3

5

0

0

0

0

3

5

Team

4

Totals

35

72

10

24

14

20

11

36

51

17

5

4

19

23

94

 

 

 

Texas Western

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Nevil Shed

C

1

5

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

0

0

0

0

5

2

David Lattin

F

7

15

0

0

2

3

3

11

14

1

1

0

1

1

16

Harry Flournoy

F

4

7

0

0

0

0

2

7

9

2

1

1

2

4

8

Orsten Artis

G

5

14

3

9

3

4

0

2

2

4

3

0

3

3

16

Bobby Joe Hill

G

7

17

4

10

5

7

0

1

1

3

2

0

4

2

23

Willie Cager

4

8

1

2

5

6

1

3

4

1

1

0

1

2

14

Willie Worsley

1

5

1

4

3

5

0

0

0

3

2

0

2

1

6

Team

3

Totals

29

71

9

25

18

25

7

28

38

14

10

1

13

18

85

Player of the Game

Bill Walton

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

UCLA

42

52

94

Texas Western

39

46

85

 

 

Jordan Puts Tar Heels On His Back–Carolina Going To Elite 8

 

1982 North Carolina

83

1960 Ohio St.

72

 

The 1982 North Carolina Tar Heels needed someone to step up.  Trailing 61-52 midway in the second half, Michael Jordan took matters into his own hands connecting on 6-7 from the field after making just one of his first seven shots.  Three of those six made shots were three-pointers, and he added four foul shots.  His 19 points in the final 10 minutes brought Carolina back fro the brink.  Jordan’s three-pointer with the Buckeyes leading 68-66, gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the game.  Once Ohio State was forced to foul at the end, North Carolina hit seven of eight foul shots.  Ohio State could not connect from behind the arc in crunch time, as UNC pulled away in the last two minutes to win by 11.

 

Boxscore

North Carolina

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Sam Perkins

C

6

11

0

0

5

6

2

5

7

2

0

1

3

3

17

James Worthy

F

7

12

0

0

3

4

2

5

7

3

1

2

1

3

17

Matt Doherty

F

2

5

2

4

5

6

0

3

3

1

0

0

1

2

11

Michael Jordan

G

7

13

3

7

6

8

1

4

5

3

2

0

3

2

23

Jimmy Black

G

3

7

1

3

3

4

0

2

2

5

1

0

2

3

10

Jim Braddock

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

0

1

2

0

Chris Brust

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

0

0

0

1

2

2

Buzz Peterson

1

2

1

2

0

0

0

1

1

2

1

0

1

0

3

Warren Martin

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

1

0

1

0

Team

3

Totals

27

53

7

16

22

28

6

24

33

17

6

4

13

18

83

 

 

 

Ohio St.

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Jerry Lucas

C

9

16

1

2

5

6

3

8

11

3

0

2

2

3

24

Joe Roberts

F

3

8

0

0

1

2

1

3

4

1

0

0

3

4

7

John Havlicek

F

7

14

2

5

4

5

2

7

9

4

3

0

1

4

20

Larry Siegfried

G

4

11

2

6

3

4

0

2

2

3

1

0

3

2

13

Mel Nowell

G

2

5

1

3

1

2

1

1

2

2

1

0

3

3

6

Dick Furry

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

2

Richie Hoyt

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

Bob Knight

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

0

Team

3

Totals

26

56

6

16

14

19

7

22

32

13

5

2

15

20

72

Player of the Game

Michael Jordan

 

Coming Tomorrow: The East and South Regional Finals

East: 1974 North Carolina St. vs. 2019 Virginia

South: 1970 UCLA vs. 2018 Villanova

March 26, 2020

The Greatest NCAA Tournament That Never Was–The Sweet 16 Thursday

We are down to 16 teams in our greatest teams between 1960 and 2019. Let’s get right to the results for the Sweet 16 Games in the East and South Regions.  The Midwest and West Regions play on Friday.

 

EAST REGION

 

Wolf Pack Pull Away In Second Half

 

1974 North Carolina St.

82

1978 Kentucky

70

After a close first half, the 1974 North Carolina State Wolf Pack pulled away from the 1978 Kentucky Wildcats with a 14-5 run over four minutes that increased a two-point lead to 11.

David Thompson scored 9 of his 21 points during this run, and additionally, in this four-minute segment of the game, he forced Mike Phillips to foul him twice, and he stole the ball away from Rick Robey.

Kentucky led for most of the first half, after the Wildcats started the game connecting on seven of their first 11 shots from the field.  N.C. State turned up the defensive pressure and finished the half on a 10-3 run to take a one-point lead at the half.

After an opening seven minutes of the second half that saw the lead change hands five times, the Wolf Pack went on their run to take command of the game, and they cruised to victory.

 

Boxscore

North Carolina St.

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Tom Burleson

C

8

14

0

0

5

8

3

12

15

1

0

2

2

3

21

Tim Stoddard

F

3

7

0

0

2

2

1

6

7

0

1

1

1

4

8

David Thompson

F

8

17

2

6

3

4

4

4

8

2

1

0

3

3

21

Mo Rivers

G

4

8

2

4

1

2

0

2

2

4

2

0

3

3

11

Monte Towe

G

5

12

3

7

4

4

0

1

1

5

2

0

4

3

17

Phil Spence

2

4

0

0

0

0

2

4

6

0

0

0

1

3

4

Greg Hawkins

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

1

2

0

Team

3

Totals

30

62

7

17

15

20

10

30

43

13

6

3

15

21

82

Kentucky

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Rick Robey

C

7

15

0

0

2

4

1

4

5

0

0

0

4

2

16

Mike Phillips

F

3

7

0

0

1

2

2

7

9

0

0

1

1

4

7

Jack Givens

F

5

13

2

7

5

7

1

3

4

2

1

0

3

2

17

Truman Claytor

G

1

4

1

3

2

2

1

2

3

1

2

0

2

3

5

Kyle Macy

G

3

8

2

6

6

6

0

1

1

4

1

0

2

2

14

James Lee

2

5

0

0

1

2

1

3

4

0

0

0

1

2

5

Jay Shidler

2

4

2

4

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

1

6

LaVon Williams

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

1

0

0

2

0

Team

3

Totals

23

57

7

20

17

23

6

23

32

10

5

1

14

18

70

Player of the Game

Tom Burleson

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

N.C. State

38

44

82

Kentucky

37

33

70

 

 

Cavaliers’ Defense Shuts Down Hot Shooting Hoosiers

 

2019 Virginia

67

1987 Indiana

60

 

After blistering the nets in their first two NCAA Tournament games, the 1987 Indiana Hoosiers could not solve 2019 Virginia’s Pack Line Defense and shot just 35.3% from the field and 28.6% from behind the arc.

Indiana’s poor shooting night began immediately, as the Hoosiers missed on their first six attempts from the field.  They were only down 8-2 when Rick Callaway made IU’s first basket.

By the time the Hoosiers connected on their next basket, a three-pointer by Steve Alford, they trailed 12-5.

Virginia maintained the lead for the remainder of the game, never leading by less than six points.  The Cavaliers enjoyed an eight-point halftime lead, and they extended the lead to as much as 14 points in the second half at 48-34.

Indiana mounted its only charge of the game with a 13-6 run to cut the lead to 54-47, but UVa extended the lead back to 10 on a three-pointer by Kyle Guy.

Down the stretch, Virginia hit all six of their foul shots when Indiana players sent them to the line.

 

Boxscore

Virginia

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Mamadi Diakete

C

6

11

0

0

2

3

3

4

7

1

0

3

2

2

14

De’Andre Hunter

F

3

8

1

3

0

0

1

5

6

2

0

0

1

4

7

Guy Jerome

F

4

11

1

3

2

2

0

3

3

2

1

1

2

4

11

Kyle Guy

G

5

13

2

5

3

4

0

2

2

3

1

0

1

3

15

Kihei Clark

G

2

4

1

2

5

5

0

3

3

3

2

0

0

2

10

Braxton Key

2

4

0

1

4

5

1

5

6

1

0

0

1

3

8

Jack Salt

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

4

4

0

0

2

0

2

2

Jay Huff

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

Team

2

Totals

23

55

5

16

16

19

5

27

34

12

4

6

8

21

67

 

 

 

Indiana

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Dean Garrett

C

4

9

0

0

2

4

1

7

8

1

0

2

1

3

10

Daryl Thomas

F

4

10

0

0

4

4

3

4

7

2

0

1

2

2

12

Rick Callaway

F

3

10

0

0

2

3

2

5

7

2

2

1

4

3

8

Keith Smart

G

3

10

2

7

5

5

0

6

6

1

0

0

1

3

13

Steve Alford

G

3

9

2

6

7

7

0

3

3

2

1

0

3

2

15

Steve Eyl

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

0

0

0

0

2

2

Joe Hillman

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

0

Kreigh Smith

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

Team

1

Totals

18

51

4

14

20

23

7

29

37

10

3

4

12

17

60

Player of the Game

Kyle Guy

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

Virginia

31

36

67

Indiana

23

37

60

 

SOUTH REGION

 

’70 Bruins Too Strong For ’64 Bruins

 

1970 UCLA

104

1964 UCLA

93

The 1970 UCLA Bruins are beginning to look like a Final Four contender after winning their third consecutive game by double digits in Simulated March Madness.  In their three tournament wins, their average margin of victory has been 19 points per game.

Even though the 1964 team forced 24 turnovers, the 1970 doubled the 1964 team in rebounding, and blocked 10 of the smaller 1964 team’s shots.

A hot start by their top guards, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, allowed the 1964 team to keep the game close throughout the first half.  The 1970 team grabbed the lead six minutes into the game on back-to-back shots by Sidney Wicks and John Vallely.

The 1964 team tied the game at 29-29 on a steal by Keith Erickson, and a pass to Goodrich, who then passed across to Jack Hirsch for the basket.  The 1970 then took the lead for good on a basket by Curtis Rowe and then a basket and a foul shot by Henry Bibby.

 

Boxscore

1970 UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Steve Patterson

C

6

12

0

0

1

2

3

6

9

1

0

2

4

3

13

Sidney Wicks

F

8

15

0

0

6

7

6

13

19

3

1

5

3

4

22

Curtis Rowe

F

9

16

2

3

8

8

4

11

15

2

2

3

3

4

28

John Vallely

G

6

13

3

7

4

7

0

5

5

4

0

0

6

3

19

Henry Bibby

G

5

9

2

4

5

6

0

3

3

4

2

0

4

3

17

John Ecker

0

0

0

0

1

2

1

2

3

0

0

0

2

4

1

Jon Chapman

1

2

0

1

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

4

2

Bill Seibert

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

2

Team

4

Totals

36

68

7

15

25

32

14

42

60

17

5

10

24

26

104

 

 

 

1964 UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Fred Slaughter

C

4

10

0

0

1

3

1

3

4

2

2

0

2

5

9

Keith Erickson

F

4

13

1

5

2

3

2

4

6

3

4

0

1

4

11

Jack Hirsch

F

5

12

1

4

3

4

2

2

4

1

1

0

0

5

14

Walt Hazzard

G

8

16

4

9

5

7

1

2

3

3

2

0

2

3

25

Gail Goodrich

G

9

20

5

12

6

9

0

3

3

4

3

0

3

3

29

Kenny Washington

2

4

0

0

0

2

1

5

6

1

2

1

0

4

4

Doug McIntosh

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

2

1

Kim Stewart

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Team

3

Totals

32

77

11

30

18

29

7

20

30

15

14

1

8

29

93

Player of the Game

Sidney Wicks

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

1970 UCLA

54

50

104

1964 UCLA

37

56

93

 

 

Big Comeback Sends Villanova To The Elite 8

 

2018 Villanova

78

1992 Duke

72

 

The Duke Blue Devils looked invincible for 24 minutes of their Sweet 16 game against Villanova.  Duke led by as much as 16 points in the first half, before going to the dressing room up by nine at the break.

The Blue Devils increased their halftime lead from nine to 15 to start the second half, and with 16 minutes remaining, they led 48-33.  At that point, the Wildcats began to make their move.  A three-pointer by Jalen Brunson, and then a putback basket by Eric Paschall cut the lead to 48-38.

Trailing 59-50, The Wildcats then held Duke scoreless for almost four minutes, while they scored nine straight points to tie the game at 59-59.  The game remained close until the final moments, when with Villanova nursing a four-point lead, Duke fouled multiple times, while VU connected on 8 of 8 to extend the lead to 78-69.  A Bobby Hurley three-pointer on Duke’s final possession made the game look a little closer.

 

Boxscore

Villanova

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Omari Spellman

C

6

12

2

5

0

0

2

4

6

3

1

2

2

3

14

Eric Paschall

F

2

7

1

3

3

4

2

5

7

1

2

2

1

4

8

Michael Bridges

F

3

7

2

4

4

6

0

4

4

1

0

0

3

2

12

Phil Booth

G

3

7

1

2

6

6

0

2

2

3

1

0

2

2

13

Jalen Brunson

G

8

14

3

6

4

5

0

3

3

4

0

0

4

3

23

Donte DiVincenzo

2

5

2

5

0

0

1

4

5

2

0

0

2

2

6

Collin Gillespie

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

1

1

1

3

0

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

Team

2

Totals

25

54

11

25

17

21

5

25

32

15

5

5

15

20

78

 

 

 

Duke

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Christian Laettner

C

5

11

1

3

4

6

1

7

8

1

0

2

3

4

15

Brian Davis

F

2

6

0

1

0

0

2

3

5

2

1

0

1

2

4

Grant Hill

F

6

13

0

0

5

6

2

3

5

3

0

2

2

1

17

Thomas Hill

G

3

7

1

3

3

4

1

5

6

2

2

0

3

5

10

Bobby Hurley

G

5

12

3

7

4

4

0

1

1

3

2

0

3

2

17

Antonio Lang

2

3

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

1

0

1

2

2

4

Cherokee Parks

2

4

0

0

1

2

2

2

4

0

0

0

2

2

5

Marty Clark

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

Team

3

Totals

25

57

5

15

17

22

9

25

37

13

5

5

16

19

72

Player of the Game

Jalen Brunson

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

Villanova

29

49

78

Duke

38

34

72

Four more Sweet 16 Games Will Be Revealed Friday.

 

 

 

March 12, 2020

The Greatest NCAA Basketball Tournament That Never Was

No, not 2020, but the National Champions Since 1960 with the 24 best non-champions

 

You are looking live at a website, your 2020 basketball simulation network.   During the 1981 and 1994 Major League Baseball seasons, simulated games replaced the real ones. In 1982, The Greatest Baseball Game Never Played featured all-stars from National League History playing all-stars from American League History.

 

This website will hold a simulated NCAA Basketball Tournament featuring 68 of the greatest teams between 1960 and 2019. We would have added the top team this year, the Kansas Jayhawks, but they didn’t rate as highly as other non-Tournament Champions.

 

How did we choose the 68 teams? We simulated our own Selection Committee. Okay, we quickly looked at the top ranked teams according to Simple Rating System and took the 26 best non-champions from this list. The remaining 42 teams are national champions. We did not choose any team that won the National Championship in consecutive seasons, so it eliminated Four UCLA teams and one team from Cincinnati and Duke.

 

How are we going to simulate these games? Actually, these games will not be simulated. They will be played on a tabletop board strategy game. In the 1960’s through the 1980’s, Avalon Hill and Sports Illustrated featured a professional basketball game called, “Statis-Pro Basketball.” The PiRate Captain cracked the code used to rate the players in all the basketball statistics–shooting, getting open for shots, drawing and committing fouls, passing, rebounding, committing turnovers, blocking shots, stealing the ball, defense against shots, and how many minutes players could play before having fatigue.

 

The Captain made some improvements and did thorough research to determine the pace of play his favorite college teams played in certain seasons. Over the course of a couple years, The Captain refined his game until he felt good with the product he had. He made hundreds of teams from the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s, and played games by establishing game plans based on what the particular team’s coach might have planned.

 

Then, in 1986-1987, when the three-point shot and shot clock were both instituted in college basketball across the board for all teams, he began to estimate how teams in years before the three-point shot might have been able to score from behind the arc. Based on knowing who the top outside shooters were on these great teams and looking at available video, he was able to estimate the percentage and frequency with which these pre-three-point shot teams could use. FWIW, players like Pistol Pete Maravich, Rick Mount, Jerry West, Austin Carr, and Larry Bird would have made their teams considerably better had the three-point shot been in place when they played college ball.

 

How are we seeding the teams? There won’t be any 14-19 conference tournament champions from low-major conferences. So, the seedings will be true — 1 to 68. The bottom eight teams will all be #16 seeds and forced to play opening round games in Dayton for the privilege of playing the top four teams in the last 60 years!

 

We will debut the field of 68 on Sunday to help you have something to read and look forward to when there will be no real Selection Sunday.

 

Then, we will commence playing on Tuesday Night with the first two play-in games. Hopefully, you will be entertained enough. Maybe, when you see some teams before your time, you will read more about them from the past and discover new enlightenment.

PiRate Ratings Contingency Plans For College Basketball

Hello to all college basketball fans.  This is a little premature, but it is starting to become apparent that the 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament might be postponed or cancelled.

 

It is our personal belief that the tournament should be re-scheduled for summer, maybe July, and then create a tournament where all 353 teams will be involved so that all fans can return to the game.  Have the bottom 194 teams play on the higher-rated home court to get from 353 to 256 teams and then play the next four rounds on the higher seeded teams’ home courts.  This will get the field down to the Sweet 16, and then the final four rounds could be played as the Sweet 16 was planned earlier this year.

If the tournament is postponed and not played in March, we are going to host our own March Madness of 68 of the best teams in modern college basketball history.  We will take all the great teams between 1960 and 2019 and pick our own 68-team bracket and then play the games with stats and post them here.

We have a college basketball strategy board game available (created by our captain), and he already has made cards for the great teams between 1960 and 1990.  He has the codes for rating the players and can even estimate the three-point shooting percentages for teams that played prior to 1987.

Included in this tournament would be all the great UCLA teams of the 1960’s and 1970’s, multiple Indiana, Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina teams, and even a couple of greats that did not win the title, like UNLV in 1991, Houston in 1968, and Indiana in 1975.

So, if you don’t have real games to watch next week, come here for the next best thing.  John Wooden and Dean Smith are ready to come out of the old basketball court in rural Iowa to coach again!

March 16, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019

How We Select Our Bracket

Welcome to PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. True Shooting Percentage Margin

2. R+T Rating

3. Schedule Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7, 2019

A Look At All 32 Conferences For March Madness

Every year brings some form of a unique look to the college basketball season, so saying that 2019 is unique isn’t really saying much.  What is the uniqueness of 2019?

There is a greater than normal divide between the haves and have nots this season.  At the top, there are a small number of elite teams, and if the season continues to play on as is, picking the Final Four and Elite 8 in the tournament might be easier than in past years.  “Might” is a dangerous word.  Might could mean a repeat of 2008, when the Final Four had three number one seeds and one number two seed.  Might could also mean 2011 when Butler and Virginia Commonwealth both made the Final Four from the Mid-Major ranks.

Today, we will present you with the evidence and let you decide for yourself.  The one definite conclusion is that February and March is going to be quite exciting for basketball fans.  There will be more than 100 games worth watching that does not involve your favorite team.

This weekend, the Selection Committee will release its initial Top 16 teams (1-4 seeds), so we will break down every conference to tell you who we think is in line to be one of the great 68.  Here’s a league by league look of all 32 conferences–the one-bid leagues and the power leagues.

America East

One Big League

Vermont (8-1/18-5) is the clear cut favorite here, as the Catamounts totally demolished number two Stony Brook (7-2/19-5) by 21 points on the Sea Wolves home floor.  Last year’s Cinderella, Maryland-Baltimore Co. (6-3/14-10) has slowly and quietly moved up to third place, but this race is Vermont’s to lose.  This league plays its conference tournament at the higher seeds, so finishing first is really important.

 

American Athletic

Four Bids

Houston (8-1/21-1) is enjoying its best season since the Cougars had Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and company in the mid 1980’s, but make no mistake about it–this team is not anything like the Dunk-crazy Cougars of yore.  Houston might be Sweet 16 good this year with a stingy defense, but their own shooting liabilities will keep the Cougars from advancing to the Elite 8, and they will b–e vulnerable in the Round of 32.

Cincinnati (8-1/19-3) is on par to match last year’s showing.   The Bearcats were 30-4 entering The Big Dance last year.  After taking care of a much weaker Georgia State team in the first game, they blew a 22-point lead to Nevada and failed to make the Sweet 16.  It’s been seven years since Cinti last played in the Sweet 16, and 26 years since their last Elite 8 appearance.  The Bearcats will be vulnerable to a strong Packline defense or tough zone, because they are not the best perimeter shooting team and not strong enough on the offensive glass to offset that weakness with extra opportunities.

Central Florida (6-2/16-4) and Temple (7-3/17-6) have NCAA Tournament-worthy resumes, because there are not a lot of other high-quality teams.  Somebody has to fill out the at-large pool, so both schools should receive bids.

Memphis (5-4/13-9) is a bit inconsistent, but when the Tigers are clicking, they are good enough to sneak into the AAC Tournament finals.

 

Atlantic Coast

Eight or Nine Bids

Do nine ACC teams deserve bids this year? We say probably not, but as we said above, the Selection Committee has to find 36 at-large teams to fill the 68-team bracket, and there are not 36 teams better than the eighth or ninth best in the ACC.

Virginia (8-1/20-1) has 15 players with chips on their shoulders after becoming the first #1 seed to be embarrassed in the #1 vs. #16 game in the NCAA Tournament.  The Cavaliers are clearly better this year than last year, when they went 17-1 in the league and cruised to the ACC Tournament championship.  This team has improved offense, maybe slightly better defense, and more of a killer attitude.  TV Watching Alert: UVA hosts Duke Saturday and plays at North Carolina Monday.  If the Cavs are 10-1 on Tuesday morning, they have to be considered the overall favorite to go all the way this year.

Duke (8-1/20-2) also has the tools to win the National Championship.  After re-watching the loss in Hawaii to Gonzaga in November, we came away believing that Duke would beat the Zags nine times out of ten, and if there is a rematch, the Blue Devils might win by double digits five times out of ten.  The loss at home to Syracuse is the one that concerns us.  Duke shot a crazy 9 of 43 from the three-point line in that home game, and while the outside shooting has been much better since, we have to believe that Duke could be vulnerable against a team that can force them to beat them from outside.

North Carolina (8-1/18-4) is one of those teams that could force Duke to beat them from outside.  The Tar Heels have been a consistent power team under Roy Williams.  This year’s team has a +10.4 rebound margin and defends both inside the paint and on the perimeter much better than the average team.  Carolina’s liability is taking care of the ball, but it hasn’t been the reason they lost four times.  In the four losses, it was poor shooting that doomed the Tar Heels.  UNC and Duke do not meet until February 20, and then they play again to close out the regular season.

Louisville (8-2/17-6), Virginia Tech (7-3/18-4), and Syracuse (7-3/16-7) are basically safe bets to make the tournament, and all three bring distinct advantages that could help them make it to the Sweet 16.  Of the three, Louisville has the best chance to sneak into the Elite 8.

How many other teams get invited depend on how many teams win automatic bids from the power conferences that were not going to receive at-large bids.  With no upsets, then the ACC could go nine deep, and currently those three last bids would belong to Florida State (5-4/17-5), North Carolina State (4-6/16-7) and Clemson (4-5/14-8) in that order.  We believe that an 8-10 record this year will put an ACC team on the Bubble.

 

Atlantic Sun

One Bid (outside chance at two)

Lipscomb (10-0/19-4) is on the precipice of entering the Top 25, which of course does not mean anything with the Selection Committee, as AP ranking bears no weight on the process.  However, the Bisons currently rank #31 in the NET Ratings with two Quadrant 1 wins, and that not only bears weight, it is the number one criterion the Committee will use.  Should Lipscomb win out all the way to the Atlantic Sun title game and then lose a close one there, it will be difficult for the Committee to explain why they gave the Bisons the shaft at 27-5 with a top 30 NET Rating.

Liberty (9-1/20-5) is the clear number two team in this  league, but the Flames lost at home to Lipscomb by 20 points.  NJIT (6-3/18-6) has a 20-point loss to Liberty and 18-point loss to Lipscomb, so the hierarchy here is plain and simple.  Lipscomb will host all conference tournament games they play if they finish number one in the league, and the Bisons are clearly better than last year’s NCAA Tournament team that gave North Carolina fits for 30 minutes in the opening round.

 

Atlantic 10

One or Two Bids

Davidson (8-1/17-5) and Virginia Commonwealth (7-2/16-6) are both winning with defense this year.  Both teams could be like gnats for higher-seeded first round opponents, and if this league gets two bids, the at-large team might be forced to a First Four game in Dayton.  As of today, the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketology says that chances are better than 50-50 that only one team gets into the field, but if the Wildcats and Rams continue to win and run away from the rest of the league, both could move up high enough in the NET Ratings to get in.  Neither team’s current NETs are good enough today to get into the field as an at-large team.

 

Big East

Three Bids but Keep an Eye on a Possible Fourth

Why do we say “keep an eye on a possible fourth” bid in this league?  There is a bit of parity here, and we could easily see a team from outside the top three seeds winning the conference tournament title this year.

Villanova (10-0/19-4) is starting to look like they could make a run back to the Final Four this year with a great coach in Jay Wright and a roster that can take care of the ball and drain the three.  Still, this team is not dominant like the two recent national champs.

Marquette (8-2/19-4) has one of the most exciting players in the nation in Markus Howard, but the Golden Eagles cannot create extra scoring opportunities in a large enough volume to win more than a game in the Big Dance.

St. John’s (5-5/17-6) owns two wins over Marquette plus a close loss at Villanova.  The Red Storm might need to upset ‘Nova at home a week from Sunday to move into safe at-large bid territory.  Having the conference tourney near home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn might help them get to the finals of the tournament.

So, which team might spoil the party in Brooklyn?  Take a look at Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas (5-5/15-8).  GU is not tournament worthy, and the big story here might be the former Knick great possibly bringing his alma mater to Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the NIT rather than earn a dance party invite.  However, Georgetown can score points in a hurry and in spurts, two things that help teams in tournament play.  Most of their losses have been really close and just a tad better play could turn those types of games into wins.  So, the Hoyas are our Dark Horse team to watch out for in the Big East Tournament.

 

Big Sky

One Bid

This is not a strong year in the near west.  Montana (8-2/15-6) is not as strong as last year’s conference championship team that challenged Michigan for a half in the Big Dance.  The Grizzlies can score points and light up the scoreboard, but they are likely to surrender 85 to 95 points to a power conference team in the opening round of the tournament.  Montana’s scoring success has more to do with the remainder of this league’s inability to play defense, and if any other Big Sky team wins the automatic bid, they will quickly exit in the opening round.

Northern Colorado and Weber St. have identical 8-3/14-8 records.  Weber State has one quality win, which was a shootout 113-103 victory over BYU, where they went off in the second half and scored 66 points.  That type of explosion could be scary in the conference tournament, but against even a middle of the pack Big Ten or ACC team, it isn’t going to happen.

 

Big South

One Bid

This league can consider avoiding a 16-seed that has to play in Dayton as the highest goal it can achieve this year, because the top teams in the Big South are not good enough to challenge against a #1 or #2 seed this year.   The automatic bid winner is likely looking at a 20-point or worse loss in the opening round of the Big Dance.

Radford (8-1/16-7) is the only team that would for sure could move up to a 15-seed.  The Highlanders are just good enough to make the first half of the Round of 64 game look competitive, but that’s about all.  If any other team wins the lone bid and avoids Dayton, it should be a lopsided loss, maybe 30-40 points lopsided.

 

Big Ten

Eight or Nine Bids

This is another case of having to take teams that don’t really belong in the field, but somebody has to fill the bottom of the at-large pool.  There is a chance that a 12-conference loss (Big Ten playing 20 conference games this year) team might still be in the hunt for an at-large bid if said team wins a couple of times in the Big Ten Tournament.

All is not well with the top of this league at the present time, so this could figure to be a disappointing showing from the league.  Michigan (10-2/21-2) has a great defense, but the Wolverines’ offense has disappeared in recent games, especially in two double-digit losses to Wisconsin and Iowa.  The Maize and Blue have a tough closing schedule, so we’ll get a chance to see if a great defense can compensate a mediocre offense in crunch time.  The Badgers come to Ann Arbor Saturday.

Purdue (9-2/16-6) was blown off the floor at Michigan State a month ago, but since then the Boilermakers have reeled off seven consecutive conference wins.  Past PU teams lacked the ability to dominate on the glass and force turnovers, but Matt Painter has been slowly building up a team that more resembles North Carolina than the former Boilermaker teams that failed time and time again in the NCAA Tournament against teams like North Carolina.  This Boilermaker squad is the most complete since the Lee Rose-led team made the Final Four in 1980.

Michigan State (9-3/18-5) is fading into the sunset due to the loss of Joshua Langford to a season-ending injury.  The Spartans were 11-2 in games he played, and they are still 7-3 since he went down, but they are missing his outside shooting touch.  Additionally, although this team can still bang it on the boards, they have ceded rebounding supremacy to the guys in West Lafayette, and they cannot take care of the rock against pressure defense.  Illinois forced 24 turnovers with 12 steals in their monumental upset of Sparty.  Michigan State could be vulnerable in an opening round game against somebody that can play pressure defense.

Wisconsin (9-3/17-6) is one of those teams that win ugly.  They play excellent possession basketball and slowly pull ahead where a six to eight point lead feels like a 15-point lead.  However, the Badgers have rebounding issues, and few teams ever advance past the Sweet 16 without being able to make hay on the glass.

Maryland (9-4/18-6) is a shoo-in to receive a bid, but the Terrapins allow opposing offenses to feel comfortable. What we mean by this is that they don’t gamble with defensive pressure (they don’t have the ability to do so), and the opponent doesn’t have to worry about getting beat with fast break points off turnovers.  The Terps will not be able to have any spurts against quality opposition, and like Wisconsin, have the wrong liability for Big Dance success.

Iowa (6-5/17-5) has the ability to score points in spurts, but the Hawkeyes don’t have the overall defense to do much damage in the NCAA Tournament.

Three other teams are in contention for at-large bids but not really worthy of making a typical field in other years.  Minnesota (6-6/16-7) would be a lower bubble team in many years from the past, and Coach Richard Pitino is on thin ice in the Cities, but the Gophers would be in the field if it were announced today.  UM’s final eight regular season games are as difficult as anybody in the league, and they could be looking at a 2-6 finish for an 8-12 conference record.  Pitino could be fired, and the team could make the Big Dance at the same time.

Ohio State (4-6/14-7) and Indiana (4-7/13-9) are the other two teams in contention for a Dance invitation.  The Buckeyes cannot shoot the ball well enough to win consistently, especially when they are not all that strong on the boards, and they don’t force a lot of turnovers.  Indiana can rebound a little better than the Buckeyes, but there are games where the Hoosiers act like they are trying to shoot a medicine ball into the hoop.

 

Big 12

Seven or Eight Bids

Any year that doesn’t find Kansas (6-4/17-6) at the top of this league has to be considered odd.  The Jayhawks last failed to finish first in the  Big 12 regular season in 2004.  KU sits in 4th place today 1 1/2 games behind their arch rival, and they could be looking at a final league record of 11-7.  Still, KU is going to make the NCAA Tournament for the 29th consecutive season.  And truth be known, Coach Bill Self’s squad just might advance farther into this year’s tournament than any other conference rival.

After starting 0-2 in the league, Kansas State (7-2/17-5) leads the league at the halfway point of the conference schedule.  The Wildcats are one dimensional–they win with defense and little offense.  They can force turnovers, but not enough to compensate for their lack of rebounding strength, and thus we don’t see KSU going very far in the 2019 Dance.

Iowa State (7-3/18-5) narrowly projects as the true best team in the Big 12 at this point in time, but our criteria for picking teams to advance deep into the tournament does not look good for the Cyclones, as they have rebounding issues.  Their three league losses came by a total of eight points, and rebounding issues hurt them in all three games.

Baylor (6-3/15-7) has a decent offense and can dominate on the glass against teams that do not rebound the ball expertly.  However, the Bears lack the defensive intensity to win consistently, and Coach Scott Drew’s teams have underachieved in the NCAA Tournament the last four times there, including losses to Yale and Georgia State.

Texas Tech (6-4/18-5) has lost four of their last seven games and looks to be treading water ever since their conference foes determined that the Red Raiders cannot beat them from the perimeter.  The better defensive power teams will clog the lane and continue to exploit this weakness, so TTU won’t make it to the Elite 8 this year and will be lucky to sneak into the Sweet 16.

Texas (5-5/13-10) looks iffy with their overall record, but the Longhorns are much better than their record looks this year.  UT owns wins over North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Baylor.  Their NET Rating is #38, and includes four Quadrant 1 wins and no bad losses.  If the Longhorns go 9-9 in the league, they will get into the field unless their Big 12 Tournament ends in a quarterfinal blowout loss.

TCU (4-5/16-6) and Oklahoma (3-7/15-8) don’t really belong in the NCAA Tournament, but they are both likely to get bids unless they totally tank the rest of the way.  A 7-11 record will likely mean having to play the opening day in the Big 12 Tournament, but this will help these teams get an extra win that could put them in the Field.

 

Big West

One Bid

There are two teams with enough quality talent and coaching to scare favored teams in the Big Dance, but only one will make the Field (unless there is a major shock in the conference tournament).

UC-Irvine (8-1/20-5) and UC Santa Barbara (6-2/17-5) are in a class by themselves compared to the rest of the league, and these two teams would produce an excellent conference championship game for viewers.

Irvine plays tough defense and handles the boards well, but the Anteaters don’t force turnovers, which has hurt them in their losses.  Road wins at Texas A&M and Saint Mary’s proves UCI can compete in an opening round game.

UCSB is similar to UCI in every department, maybe a little better on the boards and in forcing turnovers, but a little weaker offensively.  The Gauchos don’t own an impressive non-conference win, but they lost at Washington by four points.

 

Colonial Athletic

One Bid

You probably haven’t followed Hofstra (9-1/19-4) this year if you don’t follow the CAA.  The Pride won 16 games in a row before falling at number two Northeastern (7-3/13-9) last Saturday.  Hofstra is a solid club with no real weakness, but they lack the overall muscle and quickness to beat bigger more physical teams.  In other words, they have no real weakness against Mid Major and Low Major teams.  If the Pride win out until the conference championship game, and lose to finish at 29-5, they will still be an NIT team.

 

Conference USA

One Bid

North Texas (7-3/19-4) was looking like the class of the league this year until Old Dominion (8-3/18-6) came from the middle of the pack to the top with seven wins in eight games.  ODU won at Syracuse, so former Virginia star and coach Jeff Jones has a team capable of shocking a higher seed team if they get to the Dance.

Getting to the Dance won’t be that easy, because this league has some talented teams that have not put it all together this year.  About five other teams could peak at the right time and hoist the trophy in Frisco, Texas.  We think that as many as 10 different teams could win the automatic bid.  Keep an eye on Marshall (6-4/13-10) and Florida International (5-5/14-9).

 

Horizon

One Bid

Until this past week, this looked like a cake walk for Northern Kentucky (8-3/18-6), but the Norse went on the road and lost back-to-back games against middle of the pack teams.  Now, this race looks wide open.

Wright State (7-4/13-11) and Oakland (7-4/11-13) are just a game back of first now, but IUPUI (6-5/14-10) and Illinois-Chicago (6-5/12-12) are the two teams that topped NKU.

 

Ivy

One Bid

It is still just a one bid league, but the Ivy League has been improving a little bit per season in the last few years.  This could be the year where the champion gets a 14-seed and scares a 3-seed if not upsets them.

This should be a great weekend in Ivy League play as number one Princeton (4-0/12-5) visits number two Yale (3-1/13-4) on Friday night.  Harvard (3-1/10-7) hosts a pair of home games, and by Saturday night, there could be a three-way tie at the top at 5-1 in the league.  The Ivy League Tournament has moved away from the Palestra in Philadelphia this year, and it just so happens to be at Yale, where the Bulldogs are undefeated this season.

 

Metro Atlantic

One Bid

The MAAC will be in tight competition with a host of other low major leagues for one of the two 16-seeds that doesn’t include a trip to Dayton.  For any team in this league to move up to a 15-seed, it will take at least two other low major leagues to end up with surprise tournament champions with sub .500 records.

Rider (7-3/12-10) leads a field of six others that are not separated by much.  Monmouth (7-4/8-16), Quinnipiac (6-4/11-10), Siena (6-4/11-12), Canisius (6-4/9-13), and Iona (5-5/7-14) could play a round robin tournament and all finish 3-3.  Manhattan (5-6/7-16) was just 2-16 a couple weeks ago, so the Jaspers are actually the hottest team in this league at the present time.

 

Mid-American

One or Two bids

This is one of those leagues that teams like Oklahoma, Indiana, and North Carolina State will be paying close attention to come conference tournament time.  Buffalo (7-2/19-3) is almost a lock to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team if they do not win the automatic bid.  The Bulls are ranked 23rd in the NET ratings thanks to wins at West Virginia and Syracuse, but they are not the number one team in MAC standings or even in their own East Division.

Bowling Green (8-1/16-6) leads the Bulls by a game in the East thanks to a win over Buffalo in Bowling Green.  The Falcons close the regular season at Buffalo, and this could decide the overall top seed in the conference tournament.

On the other side of the ledger, Toledo (7-3/19-4) has won seven of their last eight games.  The Rockets play at Bowling Green Saturday.

 

Mideastern Athletic

One Bid

This league perpetually places its champion in the First Four in Dayton, but in our opinion, the MEAC teams are usually underrated.  In Norfolk State (8-0/13-10), the MEAC has another team capable of winning big in Dayton and then showing up with just enough clout to scare a 1-seed that may be overlooking the Spartans.

If Norfolk State wins the conference tournament, they will send a team to Dayton capable of shooting the other team out of the gym with a rain of three-pointers.  Derrick Jamerson, Jr. is in range the second he enters the arena, and he’s been the Steph Curry of the MEAC in conference play.  When you can hit 60% from behind the arc, you are more dangerous than Wilt Chamberlain inside the arc.   Teammate Nic Thomas tops 40% at the three-point line in conference play.  This is the MEAC’s best chance to knock off a heavily favored team since Hampton upset Iowa State in 2001.  The league needs some help though.  We believe Norfolk State has a chance against a couple of potential 2-seeds, but not any of the projected 1-seeds.  Of course, the Spartans have to get there first.

 

Missouri Valley

One Bid

This probably won’t be the year the Missouri Valley continues to shock the rest of the world by sending a team deep into the tournament like Loyola did last year or Wichita State did when the Shockers were part of this league.  The best the MVC can hope for this year is one victory.

Loyola (8-3/15-9) isn’t sneaking up on anybody this year.  The Ramblers are still a smart and patient team that works the ball for high percentage shots, but their defense is far off last year’s efficiency.  At best, Loyola is a slight favorite to win Arch Madness in St. Louis.

Drake (6-5/17-7) is in a three-way tie for third, but the Bulldogs are a disappointment this year with talent good enough to run away with the league crown.  They could be dangerous in St. Louis if they play a little smarter and don’t gift the ball to their opposition like they have done in recent weeks.

Illinois State (7-4/14-10) is playing a little above their projected potential, but the Redbirds do not figure to win three games in three days in St. Louis.

Missouri State (6-5/12-12) is the dangerous team from just off the pace and the one we believe will be ready to challenge Loyola at Arch Madness.  The Bears have improved by more than 10 points per game since Christmas, and Coach Dana Ford has a team built in the Gregg Marshall mode.  They will force turnovers that lead to cheap baskets, and their style of play could make Loyola hurry their offense just enough to throw them off.  Look at what MSU did to Loyola two weeks ago: The Bears won 70-35 with a 40-11 second half skunking.  Loyola got eight rebounds for the entire game and committed 14 turnovers.

 

Mountain West

Two or Three Bids

This is a league to monitor closely as the regular season winds down.  Might the Selection Committee go three deep into the MWC?  Are they certain to take two of the three deserving teams if Nevada wins the conference tournament?

Nevada (9-1/22-1) is a Final Four contender, because in Eric Musselman, they have the best overall coach in college basketball.  He’s worth an extra 6 to 8 points in a tournament game just by his ability to have his team prepared to stop the opponent and a strong eye for making in-game adjustments.  On paper, the Wolfpack does not have enough talent to go past the Sweet 16, but Musselman is like Brad Stevens.  He can lead Nevada to close wins at crunch time and move the team into the Elite 8 and even Final Four.

Utah State (8-2/18-5) is talented enough to be the MWC champion in most years.  The Aggies deserve an at-large bid if they cannot win the tournament.  Craig Smith built a great program at South Dakota, becoming the equal of South Dakota State, and in his first year at USU, he has taken a good team and made it better.  The may need to upset Nevada when the Wolfpack comes to town on March 2nd, but even if USU loses and finishes at least 14-4 in the league and advances to the MWC Championship Game, they should receive a ticket to the ball.   Their current NET rating is 33.

Fresno State (7-3/16-6) has a win at Utah State and followed up that big win by playing a close game in a loss to Nevada.  The Bulldogs will not get in as an at-large team, but they are the team most likely to knock off the top two teams in back-to-back days and pull off the upset.

 

Northeast

One Bid

We estimate that this league has about a 95% chance of making a visit to Dayton for the First Four, and quite frankly, it doesn’t look all that favorable for the champion to leave Dayton still in the tournament.

Robert Morris (7-3/12-11), Fairleigh-Dickinson (6-4/11-11), St. Francis (PA) (6-4/10-11), Sacred Heart (6-4/10-13), St. Francis (Bklyn) (5-5/13-10), Wagner (5-5/10-11), Bryant (5-5/8-13), and Long Island (4-6/10-12) should at the very least provide a balanced, excellent conference tournament, but this league plays all its tournament games at the higher seed’s home floor, so the parity will not be appreciated.

 

Ohio Valley

One Bid

While this is a definite one-bid league, there are four really good teams that could take that bid, and all four must be considered dangerous in an opening round game.  If one team gets hot enough to keep winning and enters the Dance with just one more loss than they have now, that team is likely to receive a 12-seed, where they just might be a tad better than their 5-seed opponent.  Here’s a look at those four tough teams.

Belmont (8-2/17-4) has been in this situation many times before.  The Bruins won at UCLA earlier this year, and they swept rival Lipscomb from the Atlantic Sun.  Belmont has won in the past at North Carolina, at Marquette, and lost at Duke by one point,  the second one-point loss to Duke, as a shot to beat the Blue Devils in a past NCAA Tournament game just barely missed a decade ago.  No Power Conference team will be glad if they face Belmont in a 5-12-seed game.

Murray State (8-2/17-4) has one of the top five players in college basketball in Ja Morant.  Morant might be the second or third pick in the 2019 NBA draft.  He averages better than 24 points per game and an amazing 10.3 assists per game.  He may be the best overall player in this league since Fly Williams in the early 1970’s.  Murray doesn’t have a big signature win this season, but they lost close games at Alabama and Auburn.  In the past, this Racers program has won as a #13 seed over Vanderbilt, as a #6 seed over Colorado State, and as a #14 seed over North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament.

Austin Peay (8-2/16-7) is the surprise team of the OVC this year.  The Governors have won 14 of 17 after a slow start.  APSU can steal the ball and take it to the hoop, and they get some hot shooting streaks, but they are probably one good rebounder short of being a threat to win an NCAA Tournament game.

Jacksonville State (8-2/16-7) plays a different style of ball compared to the other three co-leaders.  Their style of play is defense first, second, and third, and it took some time for this team to gel.  After an 0-3 start against three mediocre teams, the Gamecocks began playing better team defense, and the results began to show.  JSU swept Belmont, and they have the easiest finishing schedule of the four co-leaders.  Two years ago, the Gamecocks played admirably in a tournament loss to Louisville.  Coach Ray Harper took Western Kentucky to two past NCAA Tournaments putting a big scare into top-seeded Kansas in 2013.

 

Pac-12

One or Two Bids

Say it a’int so!  Could the Pac-12 really be just a one bid league?  The short answer is yes, if Washington wins the automatic bid.  The logical answer is that the elite will take care of their own, and even if there isn’t a deserving team, the Selection Committee will find some way to have a spokesperson spin the stats to come up with some invalid reason to include a second Pac-12 team.

Washington (9-0/18-4) owns an 11-game winning streak.  Seven of their nine league wins have been by double-digits, and none have been close enough to lose in the final minutes.  Their four non-conference losses came to teams that figure to make the NCAA Tournament, so the Huskies will get a bid even if they do not win the Pac-12 Tournament.  If they were to win out to finish 30-4, they still may do no better than earning a 5-seed.  They can shoot the ball accurately, but they are not as strong defensively.

Arizona State (6-3/15-6) is the best of the rest in the NET Ratings.   The Sun Devils come in at #61, which is actually too low to expect an at-large bid with so many potential at-large teams ahead of them.  However, because the Committee is likely to grasp at straws to keep a Power Conference from becoming a one-bid league, we believe ASU’s win over Kansas in December with wins over Mississippi State and Utah State will outweigh bad losses to Vanderbilt, Princeton, Utah, and Stanford.

Oregon State (6-3/14-7) has been a mild surprise this year and could be a dark horse candidate to steal the automatic bid.  On the other side of the equation, bad years by USC (6-4/13-10), Arizona (5-4/14-8), UCLA (5-5/12-11), and Oregon (5-5/14-9) have dragged this league down.  One of these underachievers could still get hot and win three games in three days in Vegas.

 

Patriot

One Bid

A few weeks ago, it looked like there might be a changing of the guard in this league, but as January gave way to February, a familiar name was back on top of the league standings.  Bucknell (9-2/15-8) has won eight of nine games to pass Lehigh (8-3/15-7) for first place in a league where the higher seed team hosts each tournament game.  Bucknell has won seven of the last eight Patriot League regular season titles.  This does not look like a year where the Bison will pull off another upset tournament win.

 

Southeastern

Seven or Eight Bids

This is an interesting year in the SEC.  Tennessee (9-0/21-1) is number one in the nation with a resume that screams Final Four.  The Vols have one of the best Field Goal percentage differentials in a long time at +12%.  At 83.2%, the all-time SEC conference games record for team free throw percentage is in site, and the Big Orange are among the national leaders in all games.  UT is +6 in rebounding margin and +3 in turnover margin, and they have two potential All-Americans on their roster in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.  And, they can go eight deep with no drop in production.

So, what is the one Tennessee weakness?  They aren’t Kentucky (8-1/19-3).  The Wildcats weren’t really Kentucky  until the second week of January, but since then, they are more like the Fabulous Five of Adolph Rupp in the late 1940’s.  The Wildcats’ defense has been second to none since Coach John Calipari did his annual Svengali mind-control on his players to get them on the same page.  Kentucky opponents in SEC play are scoring less than 60 points per game in 68 possessions per game, while the Cats are scoring 75 points per game.  UK and UT must still face off twice.  The first game comes in Lexington on February 16, and the second one in Knoxville on March 2.

LSU (8-1/18-4) could sneak past both top teams with the schedule working in the Tigers’ favor.  The Bayou Bengals have to play at Kentucky, but they catch the Cats just before Tennessee comes to Rupp Arena.  Then, they host Tennessee just after the Vols play at Kentucky.  It isn’t likely, but LSU could sneak into first place if they can knock off Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Florida in Gainesville.  They should finish no lower than 14-4 in the league and 15-3 is possible.  The Tigers are one of three teams with Final 4 talent and coaching in this league.

Auburn (5-4/16-6) would love their record in most years, but in 2019, this is a disappointment.  The Tigers can score points quickly and shoot teams out of the gym, but on some nights they give up points just as easily and get shot out of the gym.  They resort to a lot of fouling when their pressure defense doesn’t shut down their opponent.  Auburn could be looking at 10-8 or 11-7, both good enough this year to get them in the NCAA Tournament, but we don’t see their stay to be long.

Six teams are still competing for a probable three bids, four at most.  South Carolina (6-3/11-11) has the best conference record of the half-dozen but the least chance to make the field.  The Gamecocks will have to go 6-3 in the second half of the season with a road win against Mississippi State and a home win over Alabama or Ole Miss to have any chance at all.

Alabama (5-4/14-8) beat Kentucky and has four winnable conference road games remaining on their schedule.  The Tide got better in February and March under Coach Avery Johnson last year, and if the repeat that performance, they will get a bid to the Dance for the second consecutive year.

Two teams, Mississippi State (4-5/16-6) and Florida (4-5/12-10) have failed to live up to expectations, although one or both could still make the NCAA Tournament.  Miss. State has one real signature win over Cincinnati with multiple close losses to other NCAA Tournament contenders.  The Bulldogs host Kentucky Saturday followed by Alabama.  If they win both games, then watch out for this team.  The schedule gets easier for the rest of the month before road games against Auburn and Tennessee back-to-back could be trouble.  The Maroons need another five conference wins down the stretch plus one more in the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Florida has played a tough schedule, but the Gators are on the verge of playing themselves out of the field after losing five of their last eight games.  The Gators’ offense is not fluid, and it leads to too many poor choices.  The Gators don’t have a lot of muscle inside, so bad shot choices lead to defensive rebounds for the opponents.  Coach Michael White could find himself on the hot seat in Alligator Alley if UF finished under .500 in league play and misses a dancing opportunity.

Two teams, Ole Miss (5-4/15-7) and Arkansas (5-4/14-8) have overachieved an unexpectedly find themselves in contention for a bid to the Dance.  Ole Miss was picked to finish 13th or 14th by most SEC media and possibly suffer a 20-loss season.  First year coach Kermit Davis, Jr. has been a big plus in Oxford.  His teams have competed much the same way that Davis’s Middle Tennessee teams won in CUSA: hustle points.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson has one 4-star player on his roster, but he’s done an incredible job getting the Razorbacks to use his system and play above their talent level.  A January malaise ended with a win over LSU followed by a come-from-behind win over lowly Vanderbilt.  If Arky continues to improve, 11-7 is still possible, while 10-8 is more probable, but 10-8 is likely to get the Razorbacks a bid.

 

Southern

One Bid

Just like the Ohio Valley Conference, the Socon probably deserves an extra bid this year, but it won’t be in the mail.  Only the team that cuts down the nets in Asheville, North Carolina, will see its name called on Selection Sunday.

Just like the OVC, there are four strong teams in the Socon that could win an opening round game in the NCAA Tournament.  The interesting thing about this league is that you have four distinct styles employed by the coaches of this contending quartet.

Wofford (11-0/19-4) coach Mike Young took the Terriers to four NCAA Tournaments in a six-year period, and his current squad is the best since his 2009 team narrowly lost to heavily favored Wisconsin in the first round.  This team knows how to take smart shots and rarely gets out of character.  They control the boards by limiting the number of defensive rebound opportunities for their opponents, and they take care of the ball.  To beat the Terriers, a team has to limit mistakes and play their best defense.

UNC-Greensboro (9-1/20-3) played close games at LSU and Kentucky and even led the Wildcats in the second half.  They  might be the best of the bunch against high-level competition, but Wofford sure has their number.  Earlier this year, the Terriers barked their way to a 29-point victory.

East Tennessee State (9-2/19-5) can present opponents with tough game preparation issues on short notice.  The Buccaneers have won 11 out of their last 12 games and are hitting their stride at the right time.  They host Wofford tonight in a crucial game.

Furman (7-4/18-5) began the season looking like the team to beat in this league, as the Palladins were 12-0 and ranked #23 in the AP poll.  That included a win over Villanova.  Since then, Fuman is just 6-5 and trending downward.

 

Southland

One Bid

This league has been trending downward since Brad Underwood left Stephen F. Austin.  Instead of having a potential Sweet 16 team, the SLC has a definite #16-seed this year.

Sam Houston State (10-0/15-8) can blow this race apart with a win at second place Abilene Christian (8-2/19-4) on Saturday.  SHSU must play more of its remaining games against the upper half of the league on the road, and if ACU beats the Bearkats Saturday, the Wildcats might overtake them down the stretch.

New Orleans (8-3/13-9) host Sam Houston in a few weeks, and the Privateers own a four-game winning streak.  UNO is still in the regular season conference race.

 

Summit

One Bid

As usual, South Dakota State (9-1/19-6) is the team to beat this year, but the Jackrabbits won’t walk over the opposition in this league.  SDSU knows how to score points, and they are a threat to top 90 every night.  They even gave Nevada a close game, before losing by four points.  The Jackrabbits probably had a better team last year when they lost to Ohio State in the first round of the tournament, and they are now 0-5 in the Big Dance.

Omaha (7-2/13-9) has won 10 of 12 games.  The Mavericks host SDSU next weekend, and the conference race could become a two or three-team dash to the finish.  No matter which team wins the regular season, the conference tournament remains in Sioux Falls, which always helps SDSU.

One of these years, Purdue-Fort Wayne is going to put together a run in early March and earn their first NCAA Tournament bid.  The Mastodons have always had a potent offense under Coach Jon Coffman, and in the past they have two wins over Big Brother Indiana, but the Mastodons have tended to wear down in the last weeks of the season.  They tabbed the one league loss on SDSU, and it wasn’t even close, as PFW won 104-88.

 

Sun Belt

One Bid

This is a probable six-team race for the lone automatic bid.  No team is dominant over the other five among the top half-dozen, but current number one Georgia State (7-3/16-7) has a veteran coach in Ron Hunter that has taken this team and IUPUI to the NCAA Tournament in the past.  The Panthers swept the regular season and conference tournament last year, but this team has a serious rebounding liability.  We don’t see Ga State winning three consecutive games in New Orleans.

Texas State (6-3/17-5) split with Georgia State and appeared to be in command in the league before losing back-to-back games to Georgia Southern and Texas-Arlington.  This throws the league up for grabs.

The other four contenders are: Coastal Carolina (6-3/12-9), Texas-Arlington (6-3/10-12), Georgia Southern (6-4/14-9), and Louisiana-Monroe (5-5/12-10).  CCU is the hottest of the bunch with five consecutive wins, but the Chanticleers also have the toughest remaining schedule.

 

Southwest Athletic

One Bid

Gone are the days when this league’s top team was probably one of the 50 best in the nation.  There were seasons in which Alcorn State beat SEC teams and took a top-seeded LSU team down to the wire in the NCAA tournament after beating South Alabama in the opening round.

The legendary Ben Jobe guided Southern to a big upset over Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament.  There were years where not only did the SWAC tournament champion avoid a trip to Dayton, they avoided the 16-seed line altogether.

Times have been tough on this league in recent years.  Member teams have to be vagabonds and play most of November and December on the road, as their schools collect checks from big time programs just to keep going.

Thus, no team begins conference play with a decent record.  Some teams in the past have competed for the regular season title after losing all their non-conference games.

The SWAC is a little improved this season, and a couple of teams have reached .500 after beginning deep in the hole.  Prairie View (9-0/11-11) actually has a 10-game winning streak going.  The Panthers have been taking care of the ball and forcing a lot of turnovers that lead to easy baskets, and they give the league its best chance to advance past Dayton this year.  One big plus is this team is chock full of upperclassmen that go 10-deep in juniors and seniors.

Texas Southern (6-3/11-11) has enjoyed the most success in this league in recent years, and the Tigers are the leading contender to PVAM.  TSU hosts Prairie View on Saturday, and the winner will have a plus .500 overall record.

Grambling (5-4/11-11) is the other team at .500.  The Tigers have the best defense in the league, and both of the top two must still come to the Assembly Center in February.

 

Western Athletic

One Bid

New Mexico State (7-1/18-4) is just one place below Arizona State in the NET Ratings, but the Sun Devils are at-large contenders, while the Aggies are not.  Backroom politics will keep an at-large WAC team out of the tournament while giving the Pac-12 team every opportunity to crash the Dance.

Two wins over New Mexico and a close loss to Kansas will not be enough on the Aggie resume if NMSU does not grab the automatic bid.  NMSU has the muscle to compete on the boards against a power conference opponent, and they would be a tough out against a third or fourth best team from the Big Ten or SEC.

One of these years, Grand Canyon (7-1/14-7) will break through and win the WAC Tournament.  The Antelopes lost by just two points at NMSU and have a rematch with the Aggies at home on Saturday.  They play tough defense, and in recent games, their offense is starting to look just as tough, as they have outscored opponents by an average of 80-57 in their last four games.

Don’t eliminate Cal State Bakersfield (6-2/15-7) from consideration.  The Roadrunners can pound the glass and force turnovers with a plus defense.  Their problem is that they don’t shoot the ball all that well.  However, if they were to get hot at the right time, they have the defense to carry them to the WAC Championship Game.

Because there are three good teams in the WAC, the race for the top seed will be important, as the number two and number three teams will then likely meet in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

 

West Coast

One or Two Bids

This league will become an automatic two bid league if somebody other than the one power pulls off the conference tournament upset.  If said superpower wins the automatic bid, then this league could get the shaft on Selection Sunday.

That superpower is Gonzaga (8-0/21-2).  The Bulldogs own the WCC, and their ownership may be invincible this year.  Their average scoring margin in conference play is 29.1 points per game.  They host San Francisco tonight and then Saint Mary’s on Saturday, and they still have to play at Saint Mary’s, but the Zags might win all three games by a combined 60 points.

San Francisco (5-3/17-5) has fallen to #50 in the NET Ratings, while Saint Mary’s (5-3/14-9) is #47.  For either team to receive serious at-large consideration, they have to beat Gonzaga.

BYU (6-3/14-10) is the actual current number two team in the league, and the Cougars don’t even figure in the NIT Bracketology at the present time.

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]

 

 

 

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!

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