The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 19, 2018

PiRate Ratings Selections for September 20-24, 2018

Hooray for once.  The PiRate Ratings official picks last week enjoyed a nice winning record, sending the year to date record into positive territory.  It is a small profit, as the return on investment is just 1.92%, but at least it isn’t a red number.  Better yet, our straight picks against the spread or in the totals have a record of 11-6-1 for the season.  It is the exotic picks that have stunk up the joint.  Thus, we will go with just straight picks this week.

Best of all, out special Land Sharps are just torching the books with their selections.  One of the sharps, Buckeye Michelle, has been insane with her picks the last two weeks, and we have received messages from some of our regular subscribers asking for more information about her.  First of all, we are not in the business of matchmaking, so don’t ask.  And, yes, she is an incredibly beautiful 29-year old football fanatic.

One of you actually revealed to us that you know who Stewed Meat is.  Stewed is a real sharp.  Stewed lives in Nevada, and handicapping is Stewed career.  Stewed has shown us something special this week that many people never get the opportunity to see performed–playing the middle against both sides.  We’ll explain more about this at the end.

Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings Selections Against The Spread

Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Wisconsin Iowa 3.5 Iowa
Louisiana Coastal Carolina 4.5 Coastal Carolina
North Carolina St. Marshall 4.5 North Carolina St.
Maryland Minnesota 3 Minnesota
Stanford Oregon 1.5 Stanford
West Virginia Kansas St. 17 Kansas St.
Chicago Arizona 7 Arizona
Philadelphia Indianapolis 6 Philadelphia
Green Bay Washington 3 Washington

Now for the Land Sharps.  At the present time, this is how each has done so far.

Buckeye Michelle is 9-1 for 90% against the spread and +$790 a 79% ROI

Cal Gal Tiffy is 9-3 for 75% against the spread and +$570 a 47.5% ROI

Friday Dog 13 is 4-2 for 67% against the spread and +$180 a 30% ROI

Stewed Meat is 6-4 for 60% against the spread and +$160 a 16% ROI

Dean 615 is 3-3 for 50% against the spread and -$30 a -5% ROI

If more than one of our expert pickers agree on picking the same game, it must be a strong pick.  You will notice that a couple of games were selected by multiple sharps this week.  You will also notice that a couple of sharps picked against each other.

If you are just tuning in to this feature, the rules are simple.  The 5 participants can select against the margin or going over or under the total for any FBS college football game.  They can select 3, 5,7, or 9 games each week.  We then select the most favorable spread available at oddshark.com.

Here are the Land Sharps Picks For the Week.

Buckeye Michelle

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

Wake Forest +8 vs. Notre Dame

Army +32 vs. Oklahoma

Stanford -1.5 vs. Oregon

 

Cal Gal Tiffy

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

South Carolina -2 vs. Vanderbilt

North Carolina St. -4.5 vs. Marshall

UTSA -7 vs. Texas St.

 

Friday Dog 13

Penn St. -28 vs. Illinois

North Carolina St. -4.5 vs. Marshall

Virginia -5 vs. Louisville

Clemson -16 vs. Georgia Tech

TCU -3 vs. Texas

 

Stewed Meat

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

Iowa +3.5 vs. Wisconsin

Stanford -1.5 vs. Oregon

Louisville +5.5 vs. Virginia

 

Dean 615

Notre Dame -7 vs. Wake Forest

Michigan St. -4.5 vs. Indiana

USC -3.5 vs. Washington St.

Texas +3.5 vs. TCU

Nebraska +18 vs. Michigan

 

Special Look At Stewed Meat’s Real Life Strategy

Stewed is an expert at “Middling”.  In order to be able to do this, Stewed gets access to playing the early line and then immediately plays one side of a game in which Stewed believes the line is off and will move in the opposite direction of which Stewed originally played.  Then, when the line moves in the opposite direction, Stewed plays the other side

Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say Alabama opens as a 14.5 point favorite over Auburn, and Stewed likes Auburn at this number.  So Stewed wagers on Auburn at +14.5.  During the week, a lot of other people believe 14.5 points are too much for Alabama, and they bet the spread down to 11.5.  Now, Stewed wagers on Alabama at -11.5.

On the surface, you might think this is nuts.  Stewed will have a slim chance of the game ending up at 12, 13, or 14 points in Alabama’s favor, giving Stewed two wins.  In most cases, Stewed will win one and lose one and lose $10 for every $100 wagered on both sides.

However, if you look at the 11-10 odds and do a little mathematical calculations, Stewed only needs to have the game come in at the middle of the extremes one time out of 19 in order to turn a profit, plus Stewed has a Margin of Safety in place, because the most Stewed can lose is 10% on the dollar wagered.

Earlier this week, Stewed Wagered on the following games that have seen a significant line change and then wagered on the other team once the line moved in the other direction.

SMU +12.5 vs. Navy

Navy -7 vs. SMU

 

Ball St. Pk vs. Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky +3 vs. Ball St.

 

Alabama -23.5 vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M +27 vs. Alabama

 

Auburn -24 vs. Arkansas

Arkansas +30 vs. Auburn

If just one of these four games come in with the spread in the middle, Stewed will turn a nice profit.

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September 5, 2018

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for September 6-10, 2018

With the NFL kicking off Thursday night, this is the first weekend where the handicappers have both college and pro regular season football to consider when making their selections.

It has been a custom at the PiRate Ratings that we make the maximum number of picks on this week of the season.  We will be going with 11 selections this week, using a combination of straight wagers, money line parlays, and 10-point teasers.

As usual, please be advised that every selection made on this website is absolutely free to you, and you should consider the value of the information to struggle to meet the monetary cost you pay to receive it.  In other words, unless you are a sharp in the Caribbean that knows how to use our picks and make a fortune, please do not wager your hard-earned money on games using this site as your sole reference.  The PiRates do this strictly for mathematical fun.

Here are this week’s PiRate Picks.

Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Michigan St. Arizona St. 5 1/2 Mich. St.
BYU California 3 1/2 California
Indiana Virginia 7 Virginia
Georgia Tech South Florida 3 Ga. Tech
Stanford USC 4 Stanford
Money Line Parlay @+238
Winner Loser
North Carolina East Carolina
Maryland Bowling Green
Florida Kentucky
Stanford USC
Michigan St. Arizona St.
Money Line Parlay @ +182
Winner Loser
Purdue Eastern Michigan
Georgia South Carolina
Appalachian St. Charlotte
UAB Coastal Carolina
Penn St. Pittsburgh
Money Line Parlay @+237
Winner Loser
Pittsburgh Cleveland
Baltimore Buffalo
New Orleans Tampa Bay
New England Houston
Money Line Game @+140
Winner Loser
Cincinnati Indianapolis
10-point teaser 3-team parlay -110
Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Coastal Carolina UAB 1 UAB
Indiana Virginia 17 Virginia
Purdue Eastern Mich. 5 1/2 Purdue
10-point teaser 3-team parlay -110
Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Georgia South Carolina Pk Georgia
USC Stanford 6 Stanford
Clemson Texas A&M 2 Clemson

The PiRates are adding some buckaroos to the ship this season for their expertise in picking football games. In addition to our own picks, each of the buckaroos and buckarettes will supply his or her own picks to us each week. If they prove their worth, we’ll run their picks up the flagpole every week, but if they lose too much, they’ll walk the plank.

To start off, each has been granted an unlimited bank account to wager an odd number of games of 3, 5, 7, or 9 selections each week isolated to just college football. All pretend wagers will be $100 a game, so it will be easy to calculate. If they win, they earn another $100 to their imaginary account. If they lose, then $110 will be deducted.

Our guest players have all chosen their user names for this event, so here is a brief introduction on each player–in alphabetical order.

1. Buckeye Michelle lives in Florida, after growing up in the Cleveland area. Don’t let her gender fool you; she knows football. She can recognize coverage zones by the defense, but most of all, she sees what most of us don’t see–value. If you ever need a personal shopper, Michie is the one for you. She’ll find you a lot of bargains.

2. Cal Gal Tiffy lives on the West Coast, and yes, she is another member of the fairer sex. A tomboy who played tackle football with the boys growing up, she matured into a model and now is a makeup artist that never misses a Stanford home game.

3. Dean 615 is a former college football star and played in the NFL for a decade. Dean knows how to evaluate talent and can watch a game and see all 22 players and know who missed his assignment. Dean has a room full of trophies in his home.

4. Friday Dog 13 is a rabid football fan and friend of the Captains for 40+ years. Friday Dog has seen more than 100 football games in person, many at Vanderbilt’s Dudley Field and many at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. Friday Dog is an expert in hometown football.

5. Stewed Meat is a professional sharp. Stewed has cashed some rather expensive tickets in Las Vegas and has been banned in some places or been forced to play no more than a certain amount on college games. Stewed is the Captain’s source for receiving the “Outlaw” line as well as how quickly the lines flattened and which games saw sharps playing both sides for the middle. Stewed has placed a grand on one parlay and won $10K when the parlay came in. Stewed has also watched a botched extra point kill a $25K wager. Stewed plays money line parlays almost exclusively and has admitted that playing individual games against the spread is not Stewed’s expertise.
Note–The odds chosen were the best available at Oddshark.com at the time of the submission to the Captain.

Here are the picks this week for each player.
1. Buckeye Michelle
Rice +17 1/2 vs. Hawaii
Louisiana-Monroe + 6 1/2 vs. Southern Miss.
Colorado St. +13 1/2 vs. Arkansas
Kentucky +14 1/2 vs. Florida
Tulsa +23 vs. Texas

2. Cal Gal Tiffy
Stanford -4 vs. USC
California +3 1/2 vs. BYU
Iowa -3 1/3 vs. Iowa St.
Notre Dame -34 vs. Ball St.
Army -8 1/2 vs. Liberty
Central Michigan -4 vs. Kansas
Georgia -10 vs. South Carolina

3. Dean 73
Notre Dame -34 vs. Ball St.
Appalachian St. -13 1/2 vs. Charlotte
UAB -9 vs. Coastal Carolina

4. Friday Dog 13
Vanderbilt -8 1/2 vs. Nevada
Ohio St. -34 1/2 vs. Rutgers
Mississippi St. -9 1/2 vs. Kansas St.

5. Stewed Meat
Western Michigan +28 vs. Michigan
Stanford -4 vs. USC
Rutgers +35 1/2 vs. Ohio St.
Iowa -3 1/2 vs. Iowa St.
Wyoming +18 vs. Missouri

 

September 4, 2018

PiRate Ratings–College Football Week 2

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Alabama 133.5 131.2 135.4 133.4
2 Clemson 131.9 128.6 132.8 131.1
3 Georgia 131.1 126.5 132.6 130.0
4 Washington 126.9 124.4 129.3 126.8
5 Ohio St. 126.2 123.5 126.8 125.5
6 Michigan St. 124.7 122.4 124.8 124.0
7 Notre Dame 125.7 121.9 124.1 123.9
8 Auburn 123.2 121.8 125.8 123.6
9 Oklahoma 122.5 121.1 123.1 122.2
10 Mississippi St. 122.8 119.5 123.0 121.8
11 Michigan 121.6 120.2 122.3 121.3
12 Wisconsin 121.7 118.6 121.7 120.7
13 Stanford 120.1 117.5 120.7 119.4
14 Boston College 118.1 115.1 118.4 117.2
15 Miami 117.1 115.1 116.7 116.3
16 Virginia Tech 116.1 115.6 116.0 115.9
17 Penn St. 116.7 113.5 117.0 115.7
18 Oregon 114.5 114.6 115.2 114.8
19 Missouri 114.6 112.9 116.2 114.5
20 Northwestern 114.8 112.8 115.2 114.3
21 Boise St. 113.3 112.8 114.3 113.5
22 N. Carolina St. 113.6 112.8 113.4 113.3
23 L S U 112.8 112.9 113.5 113.1
24 Central Florida 113.0 112.8 113.1 113.0
25 Florida 113.4 111.1 113.8 112.7
26 Iowa 113.7 111.2 112.9 112.6
27 T C U 112.9 112.2 111.7 112.2
28 Oklahoma St. 113.2 110.8 112.7 112.2
29 Duke 113.3 110.7 112.4 112.2
30 Georgia Tech 112.5 111.2 112.1 112.0
31 S. Carolina 112.3 111.4 111.6 111.8
32 U S C 112.3 110.7 111.6 111.5
33 Utah 111.5 109.5 112.4 111.2
34 West Virginia 111.6 110.8 111.0 111.1
35 Texas A&M 111.2 110.1 111.2 110.8
36 Iowa State 110.5 108.6 110.0 109.7
37 Florida St. 109.7 109.0 109.3 109.3
38 Texas 109.8 108.3 108.9 109.0
39 California 110.0 107.2 109.6 108.9
40 Ole Miss 107.8 107.5 108.6 107.9
41 Washington St. 108.6 107.7 107.5 107.9
42 Fresno St. 108.5 106.9 108.2 107.9
43 Arkansas 109.4 106.5 107.7 107.9
44 Wake Forest 108.7 106.5 106.2 107.1
45 Purdue 107.9 106.1 106.8 106.9
46 Memphis 105.2 107.3 106.7 106.4
47 Kansas St. 106.8 105.4 106.2 106.1
48 Arizona St. 106.7 105.2 105.6 105.8
49 Minnesota 106.0 105.2 105.5 105.6
50 Kentucky 106.0 104.9 105.4 105.4
51 Arizona 106.1 104.1 106.0 105.4
52 Syracuse 106.3 104.7 105.1 105.4
53 Pittsburgh 105.5 105.2 104.7 105.2
54 N. Carolina 105.3 104.3 104.7 104.8
55 Maryland 104.6 102.8 103.4 103.6
56 Louisville 103.6 103.4 103.0 103.3
57 Texas Tech 103.2 101.3 101.4 102.0
58 Baylor 102.7 100.4 102.1 101.7
59 Colorado 100.6 102.3 102.0 101.6
60 Virginia 101.9 102.4 100.3 101.5
61 Utah St. 100.3 101.5 101.9 101.2
62 Houston 99.1 100.6 99.8 99.8
63 Florida Atlantic 99.3 99.9 100.3 99.8
64 Vanderbilt 99.1 100.1 99.2 99.5
65 San Diego St. 98.9 99.5 100.1 99.5
66 BYU 99.0 99.8 99.6 99.4
67 Nebraska 100.3 98.5 97.6 98.8
68 U C L A 98.9 98.7 96.3 97.9
69 Wyoming 98.0 98.1 97.8 97.9
70 Toledo 97.0 99.1 97.1 97.7
71 South Florida 95.8 99.1 96.7 97.2
72 Rutgers 98.1 97.1 96.2 97.1
73 Indiana 97.6 96.5 97.1 97.1
74 N. Texas 95.8 98.7 96.6 97.0
75 Tennessee 96.9 97.2 96.2 96.8
76 Marshall 94.7 97.6 95.9 96.1
77 Northern Illinois 95.8 96.7 95.7 96.1
78 Army 95.6 96.1 95.5 95.8
79 Buffalo 94.5 96.9 95.6 95.7
80 Tulane 95.5 95.6 95.1 95.4
81 Ohio U 94.4 95.8 95.7 95.3
82 Navy 94.5 97.3 93.8 95.2
83 Louisiana Tech 93.3 95.8 94.5 94.5
84 Nevada 93.7 93.8 93.9 93.8
85 Temple 93.3 93.3 93.7 93.4
86 U A B 91.8 94.3 92.2 92.8
87 Air Force 92.7 92.7 91.9 92.4
88 Western Michigan 91.4 93.3 92.4 92.4
89 Illinois 92.9 92.5 91.7 92.4
90 Miami (O) 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3
91 Appalachian St. 91.5 92.8 92.8 92.3
92 Kansas 93.5 91.9 91.2 92.2
93 Massachusetts 90.5 92.5 92.3 91.8
94 Tulsa 91.9 90.4 92.4 91.6
95 SMU 92.0 91.1 90.7 91.3
96 Akron 90.3 91.9 90.5 90.9
97 Eastern Michigan 89.6 91.0 90.3 90.3
98 Troy 89.2 90.7 90.8 90.2
99 Middle Tennessee 89.1 90.8 90.0 90.0
100 U N L V 89.3 90.8 89.8 90.0
101 Cincinnati 89.7 91.0 89.2 89.9
102 Arkansas St. 88.0 89.8 89.7 89.2
103 UL-Monroe 87.1 86.5 87.9 87.2
104 Central Michigan 85.6 88.9 86.1 86.9
105 New Mexico 85.9 87.8 85.5 86.4
106 Oregon St. 87.4 84.8 85.7 86.0
107 Bowling Green 85.0 85.3 85.6 85.3
108 Florida Int’l. 82.2 86.6 82.8 83.9
109 W. Kentucky 82.3 85.7 83.4 83.8
110 Southern Miss. 82.3 85.7 82.8 83.6
111 Old Dominion 82.0 86.3 82.0 83.5
112 South Alabama 81.9 84.4 83.3 83.2
113 Georgia Southern 82.7 83.9 82.6 83.1
114 East Carolina 82.3 81.4 81.2 81.6
115 Connecticut 81.9 82.0 80.4 81.4
116 Liberty 81.7 79.9 82.2 81.3
117 Colo. State 80.6 81.9 80.7 81.1
118 Kent St. 80.8 82.1 80.2 81.0
119 U T S A 78.9 83.7 79.8 80.8
120 Louisiana 79.3 81.5 80.3 80.4
121 Hawaii 79.8 82.0 78.3 80.0
122 N. Mexico St. 78.9 81.6 79.2 79.9
123 Ball St. 78.2 80.9 77.9 79.0
124 Georgia St. 77.6 80.6 78.4 78.9
125 Charlotte 76.7 79.2 76.8 77.6
126 San Jose St. 76.3 77.1 74.5 76.0
127 Coastal Carolina 73.8 76.7 74.2 74.9
128 Texas State 70.7 73.8 69.9 71.5
129 Rice 70.5 73.6 69.2 71.1
130 U T E P 68.7 71.9 68.0 69.5

PiRate Ratings By Conference

American Athletic Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average AAC Overall
Central Florida 113.0 112.8 113.1 113.0 1-0 1-0
South Florida 95.8 99.1 96.7 97.2 0-0 1-0
Temple 93.3 93.3 93.7 93.4 0-0 0-1
Cincinnati 89.7 91.0 89.2 89.9 0-0 1-0
East Carolina 82.3 81.4 81.2 81.6 0-0 0-1
Connecticut 81.9 82.0 80.4 81.4 0-1 0-1
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average AAC Overall
Memphis 105.2 107.3 106.7 106.4 0-0 1-0
Houston 99.1 100.6 99.8 99.8 0-0 1-0
Tulane 95.5 95.6 95.1 95.4 0-0 0-1
Navy 94.5 97.3 93.8 95.2 0-0 0-1
Tulsa 91.9 90.4 92.4 91.6 0-0 1-0
SMU 92.0 91.1 90.7 91.3 0-0 0-1
AAC Averages 94.5 95.1 94.4 94.7
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average ACC Overall
Clemson 131.9 128.6 132.8 131.1 0-0 1-0
Boston College 118.1 115.1 118.4 117.2 0-0 1-0
N. Carolina St. 113.6 112.8 113.4 113.3 0-0 1-0
Florida St. 109.7 109.0 109.3 109.3 0-1 0-1
Wake Forest 108.7 106.5 106.2 107.1 0-0 1-0
Syracuse 106.3 104.7 105.1 105.4 0-0 1-0
Louisville 103.6 103.4 103.0 103.3 0-0 0-1
Coastal Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average ACC Overall
Miami 117.1 115.1 116.7 116.3 0-0 0-1
Virginia Tech 116.1 115.6 116.0 115.9 1-0 1-0
Duke 113.3 110.7 112.4 112.2 0-0 1-0
Georgia Tech 112.5 111.2 112.1 112.0 0-0 1-0
Pittsburgh 105.5 105.2 104.7 105.2 0-0 1-0
N. Carolina 105.3 104.3 104.7 104.8 0-0 0-1
Virginia 101.9 102.4 100.3 101.5 0-0 1-0
ACC Averages 111.7 110.3 111.1 111.0
Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average B12 Overall
Oklahoma 122.5 121.1 123.1 122.2 0-0 1-0
T C U 112.9 112.2 111.7 112.2 0-0 1-0
Oklahoma St. 113.2 110.8 112.7 112.2 0-0 1-0
West Virginia 111.6 110.8 111.0 111.1 0-0 1-0
Iowa State 110.5 108.6 110.0 109.7 0-0 0-0
Texas 109.8 108.3 108.9 109.0 0-0 0-1
Kansas St. 106.8 105.4 106.2 106.1 0-0 1-0
Texas Tech 103.2 101.3 101.4 102.0 0-0 0-1
Baylor 102.7 100.4 102.1 101.7 0-0 1-0
Kansas 93.5 91.9 91.2 92.2 0-0 0-1
Big 12 Averages 108.7 107.1 107.8 107.9
Big Ten Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average BTen Overall
Ohio St. 126.2 123.5 126.8 125.5 0-0 1-0
Michigan St. 124.7 122.4 124.8 124.0 0-0 1-0
Michigan 121.6 120.2 122.3 121.3 0-0 0-1
Penn St. 116.7 113.5 117.0 115.7 0-0 1-0
Maryland 104.6 102.8 103.4 103.6 0-0 1-0
Rutgers 98.1 97.1 96.2 97.1 0-0 1-0
Indiana 97.6 96.5 97.1 97.1 0-0 1-0
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average BTen Overall
Wisconsin 121.7 118.6 121.7 120.7 0-0 1-0
Northwestern 114.8 112.8 115.2 114.3 1-0 1-0
Iowa 113.7 111.2 112.9 112.6 0-0 1-0
Purdue 107.9 106.1 106.8 106.9 0-1 0-1
Minnesota 106.0 105.2 105.5 105.6 0-0 1-0
Nebraska 100.3 98.5 97.6 98.8 0-0 0-0
Illinois 92.9 92.5 91.7 92.4 0-0 1-0
Big Ten Averages 110.5 108.6 109.9 109.7
Conference USA
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average CUSA Overall
Florida Atlantic 99.3 99.9 100.3 99.8 0-0 0-1
Marshall 94.7 97.6 95.9 96.1 0-0 1-0
Middle Tennessee 89.1 90.8 90.0 90.0 0-0 0-1
Florida Int’l. 82.2 86.6 82.8 83.9 0-0 0-1
W. Kentucky 82.3 85.7 83.4 83.8 0-0 0-1
Old Dominion 82.0 86.3 82.0 83.5 0-0 0-1
Charlotte 76.7 79.2 76.8 77.6 0-0 1-0
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average CUSA Overall
N. Texas 95.8 98.7 96.6 97.0 0-0 1-0
Louisiana Tech 93.3 95.8 94.5 94.5 0-0 1-0
U A B 91.8 94.3 92.2 92.8 0-0 1-0
Southern Miss. 82.3 85.7 82.8 83.6 0-0 1-0
U T S A 78.9 83.7 79.8 80.8 0-0 0-1
Rice 70.5 73.6 69.2 71.1 0-0 1-1
U T E P 68.7 71.9 68.0 69.5 0-0 0-1
CUSA Averages 84.8 87.8 85.3 86.0
FBS Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average Conf. Overall
Notre Dame 125.7 121.9 124.1 123.9 x 1-0
BYU 99.0 99.8 99.6 99.4 x 1-0
Army 95.6 96.1 95.5 95.8 x 0-1
Massachusetts 90.5 92.5 92.3 91.8 x 1-1
Liberty 81.7 79.9 82.2 81.3 x 1-0
N. Mexico St. 78.9 81.6 79.2 79.9 x 0-2
Indep.  Averages 95.2 95.3 95.5 95.3
Mid-American Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average MAC Overall
Buffalo 94.5 96.9 95.6 95.7 0-0 1-0
Ohio U 94.4 95.8 95.7 95.3 0-0 1-0
Miami (O) 91.1 93.4 92.5 92.3 0-0 0-1
Akron 90.3 91.9 90.5 90.9 0-0 0-0
Bowling Green 85.0 85.3 85.6 85.3 0-0 0-1
Kent St. 80.8 82.1 80.2 81.0 0-0 0-1
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average MAC Overall
Toledo 97.0 99.1 97.1 97.7 0-0 1-0
Northern Illinois 95.8 96.7 95.7 96.1 0-0 0-1
Western Michigan 91.4 93.3 92.4 92.4 0-0 0-1
Eastern Michigan 89.6 91.0 90.3 90.3 0-0 1-0
Central Michigan 85.6 88.9 86.1 86.9 0-0 0-1
Ball St. 78.2 80.9 77.9 79.0 0-0 1-0
MAC Averages 89.5 91.3 90.0 90.2
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average MWC Overall
Boise St. 113.3 112.8 114.3 113.5 0-0 1-0
Utah St. 100.3 101.5 101.9 101.2 0-0 0-1
Wyoming 98.0 98.1 97.8 97.9 0-0 1-1
Air Force 92.7 92.7 91.9 92.4 0-0 1-0
New Mexico 85.9 87.8 85.5 86.4 0-0 1-0
Colo. State 80.6 81.9 80.7 81.1 0-1 0-2
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average MWC Overall
Fresno St. 108.5 106.9 108.2 107.9 0-0 1-0
San Diego St. 98.9 99.5 100.1 99.5 0-0 0-1
Nevada 93.7 93.8 93.9 93.8 0-0 1-0
U N L V 89.3 90.8 89.8 90.0 0-0 0-1
Hawaii 79.8 82.0 78.3 80.0 1-0 2-0
San Jose St. 76.3 77.1 74.5 76.0 0-0 0-1
MWC Averages 93.1 93.7 93.1 93.3
Pac-12 Conference
North Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average P12 Overall
Washington 126.9 124.4 129.3 126.8 0-0 0-1
Stanford 120.1 117.5 120.7 119.4 0-0 1-0
Oregon 114.5 114.6 115.2 114.8 0-0 1-0
California 110.0 107.2 109.6 108.9 0-0 1-0
Washington St. 108.6 107.7 107.5 107.9 0-0 1-0
Oregon St. 87.4 84.8 85.7 86.0 0-0 0-1
South Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average P12 Overall
U S C 112.3 110.7 111.6 111.5 0-0 1-0
Utah 111.5 109.5 112.4 111.2 0-0 1-0
Arizona St. 106.7 105.2 105.6 105.8 0-0 1-0
Arizona 106.1 104.1 106.0 105.4 0-0 0-1
Colorado 100.6 102.3 102.0 101.6 0-0 1-0
U C L A 98.9 98.7 96.3 97.9 0-0 0-1
Pac-12 Averages 108.6 107.2 108.5 108.1
Southeastern Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average SEC Overall
Georgia 131.1 126.5 132.6 130.0 0-0 1-0
Missouri 114.6 112.9 116.2 114.5 0-0 1-0
Florida 113.4 111.1 113.8 112.7 0-0 1-0
S. Carolina 112.3 111.4 111.6 111.8 0-0 1-0
Kentucky 106.0 104.9 105.4 105.4 0-0 1-0
Vanderbilt 99.1 100.1 99.2 99.5 0-0 1-0
Tennessee 96.9 97.2 96.2 96.8 0-0 0-1
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average SEC Overall
Alabama 133.5 131.2 135.4 133.4 0-0 1-0
Auburn 123.2 121.8 125.8 123.6 0-0 1-0
Mississippi St. 122.8 119.5 123.0 121.8 0-0 1-0
L S U 112.8 112.9 113.5 113.1 0-0 1-0
Texas A&M 111.2 110.1 111.2 110.8 0-0 1-0
Ole Miss 107.8 107.5 108.6 107.9 0-0 1-0
Arkansas 109.4 106.5 107.7 107.9 0-0 1-0
SEC Averages 113.9 112.4 114.3 113.5
Sunbelt Conference
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average SBC Overall
Appalachian St. 91.5 92.8 92.8 92.3 0-0 0-1
Troy 89.2 90.7 90.8 90.2 0-0 0-1
Georgia Southern 82.7 83.9 82.6 83.1 0-0 1-0
Georgia St. 77.6 80.6 78.4 78.9 0-0 1-0
Coastal Carolina 73.8 76.7 74.2 74.9 0-0 0-1
West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average SBC Overall
Arkansas St. 88.0 89.8 89.7 89.2 0-0 1-0
UL-Monroe 87.1 86.5 87.9 87.2 0-0 1-0
South Alabama 81.9 84.4 83.3 83.2 0-0 0-1
Louisiana 79.3 81.5 80.3 80.4 0-0 1-0
Texas State 70.7 73.8 69.9 71.5 0-0 0-1
Sun Belt Averages 82.2 84.1 83.0 83.1

Conference Ratings

PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 SEC 113.9 112.4 114.3 113.5
2 ACC 111.7 110.3 111.1 111.0
3 BTEN 110.5 108.6 109.9 109.7
4 P-12 108.6 107.2 108.5 108.1
5 B12 108.7 107.1 107.8 107.9
6 IND 95.2 95.3 95.5 95.3
7 AAC 94.5 95.1 94.4 94.7
8 MWC 93.1 93.7 93.1 93.3
9 MAC 89.5 91.3 90.0 90.2
10 CUSA 84.8 87.8 85.3 86.0
11 SBC 82.2 84.1 83.0 83.1

This Week’s PiRate Ratings’ Spreads

Friday September 7
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
SMU TCU -19.4 -19.5 -19.5
Saturday September 8
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Army Liberty 16.4 18.7 15.8
Coastal Carolina UAB -15.5 -15.1 -15.6
South Florida Georgia Tech -13.7 -9.1 -12.4
Michigan Western Michigan 32.7 29.3 32.3
Charlotte Appalachian St. -12.7 -11.6 -13.9
Purdue Eastern Michigan 21.3 18.2 19.5
Wisconsin New Mexico 38.8 33.8 39.2
Florida Atlantic Air Force 9.6 10.2 11.4
Old Dominion Florida Int’l. 2.3 2.3 1.7
Northwestern Duke 4.6 5.0 5.8
Kansas St. Mississippi St. -13.1 -11.1 -13.8
Houston Arizona -3.9 -0.5 -3.2
Vanderbilt Nevada 8.4 9.3 8.3
North Carolina St. Georgia St. 39.1 35.2 38.0
Oklahoma UCLA 26.6 25.4 29.8
Utah St. New Mexico St. 24.4 22.9 25.7
Central Michigan Kansas -4.9 0.0 -2.1
UNLV UTEP 23.6 22.0 24.9
Navy Memphis -7.7 -7.0 -9.9
East Carolina North Carolina -21.0 -20.9 -21.5
Ohio St. Rutgers 31.0 29.4 33.6
Temple Buffalo 0.8 -1.6 0.1
South Carolina Georgia -15.8 -12.1 -18.0
UTSA Baylor -21.3 -14.2 -19.8
Alabama Arkansas St. 48.6 44.4 48.6
Nebraska Colorado 2.6 -0.8 -1.4
Southern Miss. UL-Monroe -2.3 1.7 -2.6
Notre Dame Ball St. 50.4 44.0 49.2
Iowa Iowa St. 4.8 4.1 4.3
Bowling Green Maryland -17.1 -15.0 -15.2
Georgia Southern Massachusetts -4.8 -5.6 -6.7
Texas A&M Clemson -17.8 -15.5 -18.6
Missouri Wyoming 19.6 17.8 21.4
Indiana Virginia -1.3 -2.9 -0.2
Florida Kentucky 10.4 9.2 11.4
Northern Illinois Utah -12.8 -9.8 -13.7
Minnesota Fresno St. 0.5 1.3 0.3
Colorado St. Arkansas -25.8 -21.6 -24.0
Miami (O) Cincinnati 2.9 3.9 4.8
Texas Tulsa 20.9 20.9 19.4
Oklahoma St. South Alabama 34.3 29.4 32.3
Pittsburgh Penn St. -8.7 -5.7 -9.7
Stanford USC 10.8 9.7 12.2
BYU California -8.0 -4.4 -7.0
Boise St. Connecticut 34.4 33.8 36.9
Arizona St. Michigan St. -15.1 -14.3 -16.2
Washington St. San Jose St. 35.3 33.6 36.0
Hawaii Rice 13.3 12.4 13.1

This Week’s Bowl and Playoff Projections

Bowl Conferences Team 1 Team 2
New Mexico MWC CUSA Wyoming Louisiana Tech
Cure AAC SBC Navy Appalachian St.
Las Vegas MWC Pac-12 Fresno St. Arizona St.
Camellia MAC SBC Northern Illinois Georgia Southern
New Orleans CUSA SBC Western Kentucky Louisiana-Lafayette
Boca Raton MAC CUSA Ohio U Florida Int’l.
Frisco AAC MAC Cincinnati Buffalo
Gasparilla AAC CUSA Memphis Marshall
Bahamas AAC CUSA Central Florida North Texas
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Toledo Utah St.
Birmingham AAC SEC [UAB] [UL-Monroe]
Armed Forces AAC Big 12 Houston [BYU]
Dollar General MAC SBC Western Michigan Troy
Hawaii CUSA MWC Florida Atlantic Hawaii
Heart of Dallas Big Ten CUSA [California] Southern Miss.
Quick Lane ACC Big Ten Virginia [Army]
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 [Air Force] Colorado
Independence ACC SEC Miami (Fla.) [Middle Tennessee]
Pinstripe ACC Big Ten North Carolina St. Minnesota
Texas Big 12 SEC Iowa St. Texas A&M
Music City ACC/Big Ten SEC Louisville Arkansas
Camping World ACC Big 12 Boston College West Virginia
Arizona MWC SBC San Diego St. Arkansas St.
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma St. Oregon
Belk ACC SEC Virginia Tech South Carolina
Peach At-large At-large TCU Boise St.
Military AAC ACC South Florida Duke
Sun ACC Pac-12 Georgia Tech Utah
San Francisco Big Ten Pac-12 Iowa Washington St.
Liberty Big 12 SEC Kansas St. Missouri
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Michigan Stanford
Gator ACC/Big Ten SEC Northwestern LSU
Outback Big Ten SEC Penn St. Auburn
Fiesta At-large At-large USC Ohio St.
Citrus ACC/Big Ten SEC Wisconsin Mississippi St.
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Michigan St. Washington
Sugar Big 12 SEC Oklahoma Florida
FBS PLAYOFFS
Cotton FBS PLAYOFF Alabama Notre Dame
Orange FBS PLAYOFF Clemson Georgia
National Championship Game Semifinal Winners Alabama Clemson
Teams in [Brackets] are at-large selections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 27, 2018

PiRate Ratings–College Football Week 1

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:55 am

Since only a handful of games were played in Week 0, and the ratings barely moved, we will dispense with posting a new set of ratings this week and feature just our spreads for Week 1 and combine our Selections against the Spread For Week 1, as there are no NFL games this weekend.

This Week’s PiRate Rating Spreads

Thursday, August 30
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Connecticut Central Florida -24.2 -23.5 -25.4
Purdue Northwestern -4.0 -3.2 -5.8
Minnesota New Mexico St. 27.5 23.4 26.3
Tulane Wake Forest -12.8 -10.4 -10.7
Friday, August 31
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Michigan St. Utah St. 33.9 29.8 33.1
Western Michigan Syracuse -12.2 -7.8 -9.2
Wisconsin Western Kentucky 45.7 37.6 45.2
Colorado (n) Colorado St. 13.7 13.5 14.5
Stanford San Diego St. 24.6 21.0 24.2
Duke Army 20.2 16.5 19.4
Saturday, September 1
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Oklahoma Florida Atlantic 20.5 17.7 19.6
Rice Houston -26.2 -24.5 -29.0
Ohio St. Oregon St. 36.1 35.8 38.2
Penn St. Appalachian St. 36.8 31.6 35.9
Nebraska Akron 12.9 9.6 10.0
Boston College Massachusetts 27.5 21.3 25.2
Illinois Kent St. 16.2 14.5 15.8
Rutgers Texas St. 30.5 25.7 28.7
Florida Int’l. Indiana -13.3 -7.0 -12.2
Iowa Northern Illinois 20.0 15.1 18.4
Maryland (n) Texas -18.4 -19.2 -19.8
Troy Boise St. -14.9 -12.1 -13.7
South Alabama Louisiana Tech -9.8 -10.1 -10.0
Miami (O) Marshall -0.3 -0.7 0.9
North Texas SMU -0.6 3.9 1.1
Vanderbilt Middle Tennessee 6.9 5.6 4.6
Arizona BYU 17.0 13.6 16.7
Arizona St. UTSA 28.2 20.6 25.2
USC UNLV 26.4 22.9 25.1
UCLA Cincinnati 18.4 16.7 16.5
Auburn (n) Washington -4.6 -2.3 -4.8
Kentucky Central Michigan 24.5 19.2 23.6
Texas Tech (n) Ole Miss 0.7 -1.0 -1.9
South Carolina Coastal Carolina 42.2 37.8 41.1
West Virginia (n) Tennessee 11.2 9.2 10.7
California North Carolina 9.5 7.6 10.1
Wyoming Washington St. -4.5 -2.8 -2.5
Oregon Bowling Green 32.3 32.2 32.3
Liberty Old Dominion -9.8 -14.9 -12.3
Notre Dame Michigan 6.9 3.9 4.0
Alabama (n) Louisville 28.4 25.5 30.7
Hawaii Navy -17.6 -18.6 -19.4
Sunday, September 2
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
LSU (n) Miami (Fla.) -10.2 -7.9 -9.4
Monday, September 3
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Florida St. Virginia Tech 0.2 0.1 0.2

(n) means neutral site game, but some teams may receive a little advantage for playing close to home.

FBS vs. FCS Games–PiRate Rating Spread Only

FBS vs. FCS
Home Visitor PiRate
Ball St. Central Conn. 5.1
Georgia St. Kennesaw St. 3.6
Oklahoma St. Missouri St. 40.9
San Jose St. UC-Davis -0.9
Texas A&M Northwestern St. 40.6
UAB Savannah St. 28.8
Utah Weber St. 22.0
Eastern Michigan Monmouth 20.0
Air Force Stony Brook 13.7
Arkansas Eastern Illinois 29.8
Arkansas St. SE Missouri 24.9
Baylor Abilene Christian 31.3
Buffalo Delaware St. 38.6
Charlotte Fordham 10.8
Clemson Furman 43.7
East Carolina N.C. A&T 9.9
Florida Chas. Southern 32.5
Fresno St. Idaho 21.0
Georgia Austin Peay 47.8
Georgia Southern S. Carolina St. 22.3
Georgia Tech Alcorn St. 39.9
Iowa St. South Dakota St. 16.5
Kansas Nicholls St. 10.6
Kansas St. South Dakota 25.2
La.-Monroe SE Louisiana 10.1
Louisiana Grambling 10.2
Memphis Mercer 32.9
Mississippi St. S F Austin 44.3
Missouri UT-Martin 29.3
N. Carolina St. James Madison 17.2
Nevada Portland St. 21.0
New Mexico Incarnate Word 27.8
Ohio U Howard 34.7
Pittsburgh Albany 30.1
South Florida Elon 28.7
Southern Miss. Jackson St. 35.4
TCU Southern 47.6
Temple Villanova 18.8
Toledo VMI 42.4
Tulsa Central Arkansas 10.0
UTEP Northern Arizona -6.0
Virginia Richmond 15.6

PiRate Ratings Picks Versus The Spread

This year, we are going to stick our necks out and go with straight spread and totals wagering in our imaginary picks with an imaginary bank account.

Remember: We never lose money on these picks, because they are strictly for fun.  We suggest you use these selections the same way.

Unless otherwise stated, all of our pretend picks will be for $100 imaginary.

Date 8/27-9/3 $100 per pick
Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Purdue Northwestern 2 1/2 Northwestern
Michigan St. Utah St. 23 Michigan St.
Penn St. Appalachian St. 23 1/2 Penn St.
Nebraska Akron 24 1/2 Akron
Iowa Northern Illinois 10 Iowa
Texas Maryland 13 Texas
California North Carolina 7 California

 

 

 

April 2, 2018

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

PiRate Rating Spread for The NCAA Championship Game

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Villanova Michigan 6.8

 

And Then There Were Two

The Pirate Ratings Analytics Criteria to the National Championship Game

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at the analytics for tonight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offense Defense
Team Pts FGA FTA TS% Pts FGA FTA TS%
Villanova 3384 2383 698 62.3 2745 2346 623 52.0
Michigan 2957 2280 699 56.6 2517 2169 643 50.9

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

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

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

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

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

Everything else in this section is a wash.

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

Conclusion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

PiRate Prediction: Villanova 74  Michigan 69

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2018

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

PiRate Rating  Picks–Final Four

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

The PiRate March Madness Team Criteria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We came up with the following stats and data sets:

True Shooting Percentage Margin

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

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

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

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

 

R+T Rating

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

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

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

Strength of Schedule

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

Other Contributing Factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Times listed are Eastern Daylight

Both Games on TBS

The Semifinal Games

Michigan vs. Loyola of Chicago

Tip Time: 6:09 PM

Strength of Schedule

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

True Shooting % Margin

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

R+T Rating

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

Other

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

MICHIGAN 73  LOYOLA 62

 

Villanova vs. Kansas

Tip Time: Approximately 8:49 PM

Strength of Schedule

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

True Shooting % Margin

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

R+T Rating

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

Other

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

VILLANOVA 84  KANSAS 77

 

March 24, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Games of Sat-Sun, March 24-25

Elite 8 Round

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Kansas St. Loyola-IL -0.1
Michigan Florida St. 3.0
Villanova Texas Tech 6.9
Kansas Duke -4.1

Elite 8 TV Schedule

Saturday, Mar 24, 2018
Time (EDT) Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:09 PM 9 Kansas St. 11 Loyola (Chi.) Atlanta TBS
8:49 PM 3 Michigan 9 Florida St. Los Angeles TBS
         
Sunday, Mar 25, 2018
Time (EDT) Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
2:20 PM 1 Villanova 3 Texas Tech Boston CBS
5:05 PM 1 Kansas 2 Duke Omaha CBS

Elite 8 Criteria Preview

Cinderella still remains in this tournament, even when there are just eight teams remaining.  Actually, there are two Cinderellas remaining, and one of them is now guaranteed to make the Final Four, as the two face off in Atlanta this evening.

The ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats keep defying the odds of 50+ years of past NCAA Tournament results.  Teams with terrible rebounding margins (Kansas State’s is -3.17 and with an R+T Rating [(R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T,  where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin] just barely above zero just don’t dance this far into the marathon.

Loyola is bucking the trend only minimally.  While they participate in one of the top 12 conferences, thus a Power Conference, the Ramblers’ overall strength of schedule is below the par of Final Four teams.  Even past Final Four Cinderellas like Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and George Mason had higher strengths of schedule, and former Missouri Valley Conference Final Four member Wichita State had a considerably higher strength of schedule when the Shockers made the national semifinals.

Florida State has tried on that slipper, but it is a tight fit.  The Seminoles are also a ninth seed, but it looks like the ACC teams were seeded a spot or two low this year.  The Seminoles have a brief history in the Final Four, getting to the title game, where they gave one of the best teams ever a real shock in the final, before losing to UCLA by five.  That was a Bruin team that outscored its opponents by a record 30+ points per game.

The Sunday schedule looks sane compared to the Saturday schedule.  Of the four teams playing on Sunday, the PiRate Rating Criteria correctly predicted three of the four to make it this far, and who knows what might have happened had Purdue’s Isaac Haas been able to play–it could have been a perfect four for four.

Nevertheless, Texas Tech is no slouch.  The Red Raiders play a difficult style of ball that is tough to match up against.  Coach Chris Beard takes from his past mentors, having been an assistant to Coach Bob Knight and Coach Tom Penders.  The Red Raiders play intelligently, and while they don’t run up and down the floor, they find ways to get open shots and to keep the opponent from getting too many on their side of the floor.

Villanova looks to be just as strong as the 2016 team that won the tournament.  The Wildcats have defeated teams playing different styles of ball, and they appear to be the most prepared to face whatever comes their way.  Looking at the criteria stats, there are three teams that we consider “complete teams,” in that they enjoy positive rebounding margins, turnover margins, average scoring margins, and they average more than 6 steals per game while giving up less than 6 steals per game.  Villanova is one of those three teams, and the Wildcats look to be the most complete of the three.

The Duke-Kansas match is the only one that the seed line got correct.  It is the only Elite 8 game that the PiRate Criteria also got correct.  The winner of this game will be crowned as the favorite to win it all, but if Villanova is there, it will set up a fantastic semifinal match, where the other side of the bracket will be overlooked.

Here are the Criteria Stats for the eight teams

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Duke Y 29-7 84-69 9.72 21.2 60.69
Florida St. Y 23-11 81-73 4.42 10.3 59.07
Kansas Y 30-7 81-71 8.26 5.3 61.50
Kansas St. Y 25-11 71-67 3.54 0.7 59.38
Loyola (Chi.) Y 31-5 72-62 9.80 6.8 51.89
Michigan Y 31-7 75-63 5.93 9.8 59.74
Texas Tech Y 27-9 75-65 5.13 14.5 60.35
Villanova Y 33-4 87-71 10.44 12.3 60.56

 

Here are the Detailed Criteria Matchups for the teams

Kansas St.  vs.  Loyola of Chicago

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas St. Y 25-11 71-67 3.54 0.7 59.38
Loyola (Chi.) Y 31-5 72-62 9.80 6.8 51.89
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas St. -3.17 7.94 5.75 2.78 56.4 52.9
Loyola (Chi.) 1.67 6.50 6.53 0.75 60.2 50.4

This is an interesting game, because history shows Kansas St. with criteria like this should come around as often as Halley’s Comet, while Loyola has a criteria that looks more like a Sweet 16 at best team.

Looking at the head-to-head stats, Loyola is superior in more of the key stats, but Kansas State has the big schedule strength advantage.  The outcome of this game will come down to whether the Wildcats can force the Ramblers into turnovers that they have not been committing so far in the Dance.  Loyola is playing confidently, and they have not been affected by the bright lights.  Assistant Coach Sister Jean may be the reason for that.

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but our criteria will not allow us to pick a team with an R+T Rating barely above 0.  Kansas State cannot continue to get out-rebounded by large amounts (double digits against Kentucky) and rely on steals and three-point shots to win.  It might work two or three times, but asking to make the Final Four without being able to rebound or really shoot well is asking way too much.   They have a puncher’s chance to win this game and become the weakest rebounding team in Final Four history, but we are going to favor the team that is closer to complete.

PiRate Pick: LOYOLA of CHICAGO

 

Michigan vs.  Florida St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Michigan Y 31-7 75-63 5.93 9.8 59.74
Florida St. Y 23-11 81-73 4.42 10.3 59.07
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Michigan 0.58 6.29 4.11 3.63 57.0 51.0
Florida St. 2.71 6.91 5.82 1.26 56.4 52.0

This looks like a complete toss-up game according to the statistics.  Both teams have favorable scoring margins, although Michigan’s is a bit better.  Both teams have decent true shooting percentage margins, R+T ratings, and Strengths of Schedule.  Florida State has the rebounding edge, but Michigan gets the turnover margin edge.

There is one secondary edge that the Wolverines have that the Seminoles lack.  The Maize and Blue have won 12 games in a row, and in that time, their rebounding has made a major leap forward.

PiRate Pick: MICHIGAN

 

Villanova vs. Texas Tech

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 33-4 87-71 10.44 12.3 60.56
Texas Tech Y 27-9 75-65 5.13 14.5 60.35
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Villanova 2.70 6.62 4.81 2.38 62.5 52.1
Texas Tech 4.11 7.19 5.94 2.67 55.8 50.7

Texas Tech has done an admirable job to get this far, and they will not go down without a fight, but their opponent has the criteria look of a Final Four team.  In fact, of the eight remaining teams, Villanova’s criteria best fits that of a Final Four team.

The Wildcats may eventually meet a team that is too strong on the boards for them to dominate on the scoreboard, but Texas Tech is most likely not that team.  The Red Raiders might win the rebounding numbers by a little, but we don’t think they can clean the glass, which is what it is going to take to stop VU.

PiRate Pick: VILLANOVA

 

Kansas  vs.  Duke

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas Y 30-7 81-71 8.26 5.3 61.50
Duke Y 29-7 84-69 9.72 21.2 60.69
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas 0.05 6.59 5.51 1.38 59.7 51.4
Duke 8.80 7.39 5.69 -0.39 58.8 49.1

What looks like the game of the Elite 8 Round may be exactly what has been advertised.  This should be an interesting game, because both teams have small Achilles’ Heels that a genius coaching staff and highly-skilled players can exploit.  Both teams have genius coaching staffs and highly-skilled players.

The glaring difference in this game is that Kansas’s liability is Duke’s biggest asset, whereas Duke’s liability is only a minor asset for KU.

PiRate Pick: DUKE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 22, 2018

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

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

Thursday Night’s TV Schedule

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

We’ve All Busted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevada vs. Loyola (Chi.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Michigan vs. Texas A&M

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

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

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

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

 

Kentucky vs. Kansas St.

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

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

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

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

 

Gonzaga vs. Florida St.

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

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

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

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

 

Friday’s Games

Kansas vs. Clemson

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

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

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

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

Villanova vs. West Virginia

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

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

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

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

Duke vs. Syracuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purdue vs. Texas Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NIT

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2018

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

Saturday’s PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

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

PINCH US!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Schedule

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

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

Villanova vs. Alabama

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

PiRate Pick: Villanova

 

Duke vs. Rhode Island

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

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

PiRate Pick: Duke

 

Kentucky vs. Buffalo

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

PiRate Pick: Kentucky

 

Tennessee vs. Loyola (Chi.)

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

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

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

PiRate Pick: Tennessee

 

Kansas vs. Seton Hall

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

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

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

PiRate Pick: Kansas

 

Gonzaga vs. Ohio St.

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

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

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

PiRate Pick: Gonzaga

 

Texas Tech vs. Florida

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

PiRate Pick: Texas Tech

 

Michigan vs. Houston

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

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

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

PiRate Pick: Houston

 

Sunday’s Schedule

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

 

 

 

 

March 13, 2018

Bracketnomics 505: 2018 NCAA Tournament

Today’s PiRate Ratings for NCAA Tournament Games

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

 

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

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

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

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

Let’s start looking at raw data.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reb is rebounding margin.

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

TO is turnover margin.

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

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

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

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

The First Four Games In Dayton 

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

Round of 64

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

 

BRACKET FILLING TIME

Play-in Round

Radford vs. Long Island

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

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

Our Pick: Radford

 

UCLA vs. St. Bonaventure

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

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

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

Our Pick: St. Bonaventure

 

North Carolina Central vs. Texas Southern

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

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

Our Pick: UNC-Central

 

Arizona St. vs. Syracuse

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Syracuse 

 

Round of 64

Virginia vs. Maryland-Baltimore Co.

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

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

Our Pick: Virginia 

 

Creighton vs. Kansas St.

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

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

Our Pick: Creighton

 

Kentucky vs. Davidson

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Kentucky 

 

Arizona vs. Buffalo

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

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

Our Pick: Arizona

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Loyola (Chi.) 

 

Tennessee vs. Wright St.

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

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

Our Pick: Tennessee

 

Nevada vs. Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Texas

 

Cincinnati vs. Georgia St.

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Cincinnati

 

Xavier vs. UNC-Central or Texas Southern

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

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

Our Pick: Xavier

Missouri vs. Florida St.

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

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

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

Our Pick: Missouri

 

Ohio St. vs. South Dakota St.

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

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

Our Pick: Ohio State in a squeaker

 

Gonzaga vs. UNC-Greensboro

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Gonzaga

 

Houston vs. San Diego St.

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

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

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

Our Pick: Houston

Michigan vs. Montana

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Michigan

 

Texas A&M vs. Providence

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

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

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

Our Pick: Texas A&M

 

North Carolina vs. Lipscomb

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

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

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

Our Pick: North Carolina

 

Villanova vs. Long Island or Radford

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

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

Our Pick: Villanova

 

Virginia Tech vs. Alabama

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

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

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

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

 

West Virginia vs. Murray St.

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

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

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

Our Pick: West Virginia

 

Wichita St. vs. Marshall

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick:  Wichita St.

 

Florida vs. St. Bonaventure or UCLA

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

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

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

 

Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Texas Tech

 

Arkansas vs. Butler

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

True Shooting % margin: Advantage Arkansas by a minute amount

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

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

Our Pick: Butler

 

Purdue vs. Cal St. Fullerton

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Purdue

 

Kansas vs. Penn

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

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

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

Our Pick: Kansas

 

Seton Hall vs. North Carolina St.

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Seton Hall

 

Clemson vs. New Mexico St.

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

Our Pick: Clemson

Auburn vs. Charleston

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

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

Our Pick: Auburn

 

TCU vs. Arizona St. or Syracuse

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

Our Pick: Syracuse over TCU or

TCU over Arizona St.

 

Michigan St. vs. Bucknell

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

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

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

Our Pick: Michigan St.

 

Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Oklahoma

 

Duke vs. Iona

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

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

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

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

Our Pick: Duke

 

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

Round of 32

Virginia over Creighton

Arizona over Kentucky

Tennessee over Loyola (Chi.)

Cincinnati over Texas

Xavier over Missouri

Gonzaga over Ohio St.

Michigan over Houston

North Carolina over Texas A&M

Villanova over Virginia Tech

West Virginia over Wichita St.

Texas Tech over St. Bonaventure

Purdue over Butler

Kansas over Seton Hall

Clemson over Auburn

Michigan St. over Syracuse

Duke over Oklahoma

 

Sweet 16

Virginia over Arizona

Cincinnati over Tennessee

Gonzaga over Xavier

North Carolina over Michigan

Villanova over West Virginia

Purdue over Texas Tech

Kansas over Clemson

Duke over Michigan St.

 

Elite 8

Cincinnati over Virginia

North Carolina over Gonzaga

Villanova over Purdue

Duke over Kansas

 

Final Four

Cincinnati over North Carolina

Duke over Villanova

 

Championship

Duke over Cincinnati

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