The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 13, 2012

2012 NCAA Tournament Play-in and Second Round Game Previews

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:35 am

All over the country, you can feel the symptoms coming on.  By Tuesday afternoon, millions of Americans will start to feel a little run down.  By Thursday morning, millions will call in sick with that mysterious illness that strikes every March.  Yes, March Madness Syndrome is about to hit epidemic proportions again.

 

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  If you are unfamiliar with PiRate Bracketnomics, refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/bracketnomics-505-2012-edition/

 

There is a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it.

 

1. Which teams satisfy all the mechanical criteria?

A. Outscored their opponents by 8 or more points per game

B. FG% Differential of 7.5% or better

C. Outrebounded their opponents by 5 or more per game

D. Either a positive turnover margin if they outrebounded their opponents by 3 or more; a turnover margin of +3 or more, if they outrebounded their opponents by less than 3; or a turnover margin of +5 if they did not outrebound their opponents.

E. 7.5 or more steals per game

F. An R+T Rating of 5 or more

G. A strength of schedule better than .5500 (from CBS Sportsline)

H. A road+neutral court W-L% of 70% or better.

 

Answer—Five teams this year match all the criteria above, meaning they have statistical resumes similar to the average National Champions of the past 50 years. These five are (in alphabetical order): Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Wichita State.

 

2. Which teams fail to meet any of the mechanical criteria?

 

Answer—Eight teams fail to satisfy any of the minimal mechanical criteria.  It should come as no surprise that Western Kentucky, with a losing record, misses the boat.  Colorado State and Long Island are not powerhouses as well.  However, how about these five teams?  Michigan, Notre Dame, Temple, Vanderbilt, and Xavier fail to meet any of the minimum requirements in any of the criteria (not counting strength of schedule).

 

3. Which teams score the highest point totals?

 

Answer—Nine teams rate at 20 or more points, while a dozen scored 18.3 or higher.  All of the national champions since Kansas in 1988 have scored 18.3 or higher using the 2012 criteria.  Since 2000, the average score for the National Champion has been 27.7, as shown below.

 

2011 UConn—18.3

2010 Duke—29.2

2009 North Carolina—31.8

2008 Kansas—34.9

2007 Florida—29.2

2006 Florida—25.2

2005 North Carolina—31.7

2004 Connecticut—29.5

2003 Syracuse—18.8

2002 Maryland—24.6

2001 Duke—30.2

2000 Michigan State—29.4

12 Champion Avg. = 27.7

 

The nine teams with scores in excess of 20 are: Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio State, Syracuse, and Wichita State.

 

The three teams between 18.3 and 20 are: Duke, Georgetown, and Missouri.

 

Three teams come in with ratings above the 12-year average.  Kentucky, North Carolina, and Ohio State are the top three.

 

We strongly believe that one of these 12 teams will be your 2012 National Champion, with the top three having the best chance of all.

 

Here is a list of all 68 teams with their PiRate technical scores:

 

Team

Pts

FG% Diff

Reb

TO

R+T

SOS

Rd W-L

Total

North Carolina

7.6

3.40

6.5

0.8

5.63

4.26

3

31.1

Kentucky

8.9

5.75

4.3

0.3

3.62

1.84

4.5

29.1

Ohio St.

7.9

3.85

4.4

1.7

5.17

3.45

1.5

28.0

Michigan St.

6.5

4.90

4.8

0.0

3.74

6.05

1.5

27.4

Kansas

6.6

5.10

3.5

0.4

3.29

3.69

1.5

24.0

Wichita St.

7.7

4.65

4.0

0.4

3.52

0.28

3

23.5

Syracuse

7.1

4.00

-0.8

3.1

3.14

2.43

4

22.9

Baylor

5.4

3.15

2.9

0.3

2.82

3.62

4

22.1

New Mexico

7.1

4.15

4.0

0.5

3.71

-1.19

3

21.2

Duke

4.7

1.35

1.6

0.4

1.96

5.38

4.5

19.9

Missouri

7.3

3.15

0.4

2.1

2.90

-0.76

4

19.1

Georgetown

5.0

3.80

3.4

0.2

2.97

3.10

0

18.4

Memphis

6.1

5.50

0.9

0.7

1.86

2.66

0.5

18.2

Wisconsin

5.5

2.05

1.4

1.0

2.30

2.95

2

17.2

Saint Mary’s

6.3

2.40

4.3

0.2

3.63

-2.33

2.5

17.0

BYU

5.8

2.80

2.6

1.3

3.65

-2.28

2.5

16.3

Gonzaga

5.4

2.95

3.9

-0.2

3.00

-1.06

2

16.0

New Mexico St.

5.3

2.35

5.2

0.0

3.98

-2.91

2

15.8

Louisville

3.8

2.30

1.1

0.6

2.06

3.83

2

15.7

Marquette

4.9

2.65

-0.2

1.7

2.22

2.76

1.5

15.5

Creighton

5.3

3.55

3.7

-1.0

1.91

-2.32

4

15.1

UNLV

5.4

2.65

2.0

0.9

2.81

1.13

0

14.8

Florida St.

3.7

3.85

2.0

-0.6

1.44

3.79

0.5

14.8

Indiana

5.9

3.30

1.4

0.4

1.82

1.90

0

14.7

St. Louis

5.9

2.05

1.0

1.9

2.98

-1.47

2

14.2

Murray St.

6.5

2.80

1.1

1.3

2.59

-5.12

5

14.1

San Diego St.

4.0

2.80

2.9

0.2

2.51

0.16

1.5

14.0

Kansas St.

3.9

1.75

2.9

0.9

3.27

0.33

1

14.0

Florida

5.2

1.40

1.3

1.1

2.37

2.37

0

13.6

West Va.

2.7

-0.25

4.1

0.3

3.53

2.74

0

13.1

Vanderbilt

4.0

2.05

0.7

-0.2

0.72

3.75

2

12.9

Virginia

4.7

3.20

1.9

0.8

2.52

-1.28

1

12.8

N. Car. St.

2.7

2.25

2.6

-0.2

2.13

2.21

1

12.7

Alabama

3.4

3.20

1.6

0.4

2.00

1.85

0

12.4

Belmont

7.1

3.00

1.8

1.1

2.80

-6.41

2.5

11.8

Southern Miss.

3.3

-1.30

2.8

1.7

3.90

0.63

0.5

11.5

Harvard

5.3

3.05

2.7

0.0

2.33

-6.07

4

11.4

Davidson

5.3

1.10

4.0

0.4

3.46

-5.53

2.5

11.2

Long Beach St.

5.2

2.50

1.7

1.1

2.79

-3.22

1

11.1

Iona

5.3

2.70

0.6

1.8

2.66

-4.55

2.5

11.0

Connecticut

2.4

3.55

1.9

-0.8

0.94

4.95

-2

10.8

California

5.0

3.40

2.6

0.4

2.48

-1.33

-2

10.5

Temple

3.1

1.75

0.7

0.5

1.45

0.39

2

9.7

Texas

3.2

1.10

1.8

0.6

2.27

2.74

-2

9.6

Cincinnati

3.7

0.40

0.1

1.8

2.41

-0.52

1.5

9.3

Purdue

3.1

-0.25

-0.4

2.1

2.25

1.98

0

8.8

Michigan

2.6

1.50

-0.6

0.9

0.82

3.36

0

8.5

Iowa St.

3.3

0.70

2.8

-0.3

2.02

1.13

-2

7.6

V C U

4.3

-0.65

-0.9

3.3

3.38

-5.02

3

7.4

S. Dakota St.

5.4

1.00

1.4

1.3

2.70

-5.95

1.5

7.3

Colorado

2.6

1.95

1.9

-0.1

1.62

-0.91

0

7.0

Ohio

4.2

0.85

0.1

2.3

2.99

-5.32

1.5

6.5

Lamar

4.3

0.80

3.1

1.2

3.85

-7.18

0.5

6.5

St. Bonaventure

2.9

2.10

3.3

-0.9

1.84

-3.03

0

6.2

Xavier

1.7

2.75

1.2

0.0

1.29

1.32

-2

6.2

Colorado St.

1.3

2.00

0.6

-0.2

0.64

3.76

-2

6.1

Lehigh

5.6

1.80

1.3

1.6

2.95

-9.91

2.5

5.7

S. Florida

1.2

2.40

2.2

-1.3

0.72

1.90

-2

5.1

UNC-Asheville

5.0

2.00

0.8

1.3

2.49

-6.95

0.5

5.1

Montana

4.5

3.05

-0.3

1.2

1.52

-6.93

2

5.0

Notre Dame

2.5

1.00

-0.3

0.4

0.60

1.14

-2

3.3

Detroit

2.6

0.75

1.3

1.3

2.69

-5.53

0

3.1

Loyola (MD)

1.9

0.00

2.2

0.4

2.44

-7.10

2.5

2.3

Vermont

3.4

1.75

2.2

0.2

2.17

-9.11

1.5

2.1

Norfolk St.

1.5

1.90

1.2

-0.6

0.82

-10.75

3

-2.9

Long Island

2.3

1.50

1.5

-1.2

0.34

-8.36

0.5

-3.4

Western Kentucky

-1.5

-1.70

-0.1

-0.2

0.14

-4.31

-2

-9.7

Miss. Valley

-0.2

-1.75

0.1

0.9

1.56

-10.96

0

-10.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the same list in Alphabetical Order:

Team

Pts

FG% Diff

Reb

TO

R+T

SOS

Rd W-L

Total

Alabama

3.4

3.20

1.6

0.4

2.00

1.85

0

12.4

Baylor

5.4

3.15

2.9

0.3

2.82

3.62

4

22.1

Belmont

7.1

3.00

1.8

1.1

2.80

-6.41

2.5

11.8

BYU

5.8

2.80

2.6

1.3

3.65

-2.28

2.5

16.3

California

5.0

3.40

2.6

0.4

2.48

-1.33

-2

10.5

Cincinnati

3.7

0.40

0.1

1.8

2.41

-0.52

1.5

9.3

Colorado

2.6

1.95

1.9

-0.1

1.62

-0.91

0

7.0

Colorado St.

1.3

2.00

0.6

-0.2

0.64

3.76

-2

6.1

Connecticut

2.4

3.55

1.9

-0.8

0.94

4.95

-2

10.8

Creighton

5.3

3.55

3.7

-1.0

1.91

-2.32

4

15.1

Davidson

5.3

1.10

4.0

0.4

3.46

-5.53

2.5

11.2

Detroit

2.6

0.75

1.3

1.3

2.69

-5.53

0

3.1

Duke

4.7

1.35

1.6

0.4

1.96

5.38

4.5

19.9

Florida

5.2

1.40

1.3

1.1

2.37

2.37

0

13.6

Florida St.

3.7

3.85

2.0

-0.6

1.44

3.79

0.5

14.8

Georgetown

5.0

3.80

3.4

0.2

2.97

3.10

0

18.4

Gonzaga

5.4

2.95

3.9

-0.2

3.00

-1.06

2

16.0

Harvard

5.3

3.05

2.7

0.0

2.33

-6.07

4

11.4

Indiana

5.9

3.30

1.4

0.4

1.82

1.90

0

14.7

Iona

5.3

2.70

0.6

1.8

2.66

-4.55

2.5

11.0

Iowa St.

3.3

0.70

2.8

-0.3

2.02

1.13

-2

7.6

Kansas

6.6

5.10

3.5

0.4

3.29

3.69

1.5

24.0

Kansas St.

3.9

1.75

2.9

0.9

3.27

0.33

1

14.0

Kentucky

8.9

5.75

4.3

0.3

3.62

1.84

4.5

29.1

Lamar

4.3

0.80

3.1

1.2

3.85

-7.18

0.5

6.5

Lehigh

5.6

1.80

1.3

1.6

2.95

-9.91

2.5

5.7

Long Beach St.

5.2

2.50

1.7

1.1

2.79

-3.22

1

11.1

Long Island

2.3

1.50

1.5

-1.2

0.34

-8.36

0.5

-3.4

Louisville

3.8

2.30

1.1

0.6

2.06

3.83

2

15.7

Loyola (MD)

1.9

0.00

2.2

0.4

2.44

-7.10

2.5

2.3

Marquette

4.9

2.65

-0.2

1.7

2.22

2.76

1.5

15.5

Memphis

6.1

5.50

0.9

0.7

1.86

2.66

0.5

18.2

Michigan

2.6

1.50

-0.6

0.9

0.82

3.36

0

8.5

Michigan St.

6.5

4.90

4.8

0.0

3.74

6.05

1.5

27.4

Miss. Valley

-0.2

-1.75

0.1

0.9

1.56

-10.96

0

-10.4

Missouri

7.3

3.15

0.4

2.1

2.90

-0.76

4

19.1

Montana

4.5

3.05

-0.3

1.2

1.52

-6.93

2

5.0

Murray St.

6.5

2.80

1.1

1.3

2.59

-5.12

5

14.1

N. Car. St.

2.7

2.25

2.6

-0.2

2.13

2.21

1

12.7

New Mexico

7.1

4.15

4.0

0.5

3.71

-1.19

3

21.2

New Mexico St.

5.3

2.35

5.2

0.0

3.98

-2.91

2

15.8

Norfolk St.

1.5

1.90

1.2

-0.6

0.82

-10.75

3

-2.9

North Carolina

7.6

3.40

6.5

0.8

5.63

4.26

3

31.1

Notre Dame

2.5

1.00

-0.3

0.4

0.60

1.14

-2

3.3

Ohio

4.2

0.85

0.1

2.3

2.99

-5.32

1.5

6.5

Ohio St.

7.9

3.85

4.4

1.7

5.17

3.45

1.5

28.0

Purdue

3.1

-0.25

-0.4

2.1

2.25

1.98

0

8.8

S. Dakota St.

5.4

1.00

1.4

1.3

2.70

-5.95

1.5

7.3

S. Florida

1.2

2.40

2.2

-1.3

0.72

1.90

-2

5.1

Saint Mary’s

6.3

2.40

4.3

0.2

3.63

-2.33

2.5

17.0

San Diego St.

4.0

2.80

2.9

0.2

2.51

0.16

1.5

14.0

Southern Miss.

3.3

-1.30

2.8

1.7

3.90

0.63

0.5

11.5

St. Bonaventure

2.9

2.10

3.3

-0.9

1.84

-3.03

0

6.2

St. Louis

5.9

2.05

1.0

1.9

2.98

-1.47

2

14.2

Syracuse

7.1

4.00

-0.8

3.1

3.14

2.43

4

22.9

Temple

3.1

1.75

0.7

0.5

1.45

0.39

2

9.7

Texas

3.2

1.10

1.8

0.6

2.27

2.74

-2

9.6

UNC-Asheville

5.0

2.00

0.8

1.3

2.49

-6.95

0.5

5.1

UNLV

5.4

2.65

2.0

0.9

2.81

1.13

0

14.8

V C U

4.3

-0.65

-0.9

3.3

3.38

-5.02

3

7.4

Vanderbilt

4.0

2.05

0.7

-0.2

0.72

3.75

2

12.9

Vermont

3.4

1.75

2.2

0.2

2.17

-9.11

1.5

2.1

Virginia

4.7

3.20

1.9

0.8

2.52

-1.28

1

12.8

West Va.

2.7

-0.25

4.1

0.3

3.53

2.74

0

13.1

Western Kentucky

-1.5

-1.70

-0.1

-0.2

0.14

-4.31

-2

-9.7

Wichita St.

7.7

4.65

4.0

0.4

3.52

0.28

3

23.5

Wisconsin

5.5

2.05

1.4

1.0

2.30

2.95

2

17.2

Xavier

1.7

2.75

1.2

0.0

1.29

1.32

-2

6.2

 

 

All Times Eastern Daylight Time

 

1st Round Preview (Play-in Games)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

6:40 PM truTV #16 Seeding

Mississippi Valley State (21-12) vs. Western Kentucky (15-18)

PiRate Criteria Score: MVSU -9.7  WKU -10.4

These are the two weakest teams in the Tournament, and they should not have been paired against each other.  Both teams were outscored by their opposition.  Both teams were less accurate from the field than their opponents.  Western Kentucky’s schedule was about six points more difficult.  So, we will go with the Hilltoppers to top MVSU in a close, low-scoring game.

 

Prediction: Western Kentucky 55  Mississippi Valley St. 50

 

9:00 PM truTV #14 Seeding

Brigham Young (25-8) vs. Iona (25-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: BYU 16.3  Iona 11.0

 

Following the two weakest teams in the tournament, these two do not deserve to be in the play-in.  Both are talented enough to advance to the third round, but one will be eliminated.

 

These two teams like to move the ball and push the tempo, so this game should be interesting for the average fan. 

 

Iona is one of three teams in the field that shot above 50% from the field, but BYU allowed just 41% against their opponents.

 

Prediction: BYU 82  Iona 75

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

6:40 PM truTV #16 Seeding

Lamar (23-11) vs. Vermont (23-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: Lamar 6.5  Vermont 2.1

 

These teams match up well, and we see another defensive struggle in Dayton Wednesday evening.  Lamar is a little better defensively, but Vermont has the better offense.  Lamar has been hot in the last month, and we believe Coach Pat Knight’s troops will survive.

 

Prediction: Lamar 67  Vermont 60

 

9:00 PM truTV #12 Seeding

California (24-9) vs. South Florida (20-13)

PiRate Criteria Score: Cal 10.5  USF 5.1

 

The so-called experts did not give much credit to the Pac-12 this year, and some even predicted one bid.  Cal is not headed to the Elite Eight, but the Bears are talented enough to make the Sweet 16. 

 

South Florida ranks dead last among the 68 teams in the Big Dance.  The Bulls average just 59 points per game, but they give up just 57 points per game.

 

Prediction: California 64  S. Florida 58

 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

12:15 PM CBS—West Regional

#6 Murray State (30-1) vs. #11 Colorado State (20-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 14.1  CSU 6.1

 

Colorado State’s schedule on average was almost 10 points better than the schedule Murray State played, but 10 points is not enough to make up the difference between these two teams.  The Racers are the best low-major team in the tournament, and they are actually the Las Vegas favorite in this game.

 

The Rams are one of the handful of teams that fail to meet the minimum requirements in any of the PiRate Criteria.  Teams like that do not advance past the first weekend, and we do not see CSU bucking that trend.

 

Prediction: Murray State 74  Colorado State 65

 

12:40 PM truTV—East Regional

#8 Kansas State (21-10) vs. #9 Southern Mississippi (25-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: KSU 14.0  USM 11.5

 

Kansas State is a physical team that relies on muscle with just a touch of finesse to win.  When they play a team that is soft inside, they usually win.  When they play a team that can pound the ball inside, they do not fare so well.

 

Southern Mississippi is not physical enough inside to put a scare into the Wildcats.  The Golden Eagles have troubles getting open shots inside, and this will doom them to a quick exit in the tournament.

 

Prediction:  Kansas State 69  Southern Miss. 57

 

1:40 PM TBS—West Regional

#4 Louisville (26-9) vs. #13 Davidson (25-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UL 15.7  Dav. 11.2

 

This game could be quite exciting.  Louisville plays tenacious defense, and they have to stop the opponent’s offense, because the Cardinals’ cannot score a lot of points. 

 

Davidson can score points—a lot of them.  The Wildcats defeated Kansas in the regular season and almost knocked off Vanderbilt.  Don’t be surprised if they take Pitino’s troops to the wire with a chance to win in the final minutes.

 

Prediction: Louisville 68  Davidson 65

 

2:10 PM TNT—East Regional

#4 Wisconsin (24-9) vs. #13 Montana (25-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: UW 17.2  Mont. 5.0

 

Wisconsin has the number one scoring defense in the nation at just under 53 points per game, while the Badgers average 11 points more per game.  Opponents hit only 38.3% from the field against UW.  Coach Bo Ryan employs a deliberate style of play, where his team may hold onto the ball for 30 seconds on many possessions.  Opponents get frustrated and tend to rush their offense, which plays right into Wisconsin’s gameplan.

 

Montana has the talent to keep this game close, but we do not believe the Grizzlies can maintain their composure for 40 minutes of tranquilizer ball.  UW will commit fewer than 10 turnovers and take no more than three or four ill-advised shots.  Montana will force their offense a few too many times, and that will be their downfall.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 65  Montana 51

 

2:45 PM CBS—West Regional

#3 Marquette (25-7) vs. #14 BYU or Iona

PiRate Criteria Score: Marq 15.5  BYU 16.3 or Iona 11.0

 

This could be a trap game.  If BYU is the opponent, the Cougars have a better PiRate Criteria score than Marquette.  Iona is not that much weaker than the Golden Eagles, so Marquette would have a tough game if they have to play the Gaels.

 

Marquette’s one big weakness is rebounding, where opponents best them by a small amount. 

 

Prediction: BYU 74  Marquette 69 (or Marquette 69  Iona 63)

 

3:10 PM truTV—East Regional

#1 Syracuse (31-2) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (24-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: Syr 22.9  UNCA 5.1

 

What we have here is a classic mismatch.  UNC-Asheville is an offense first team.  The Bulldogs surrendered 71.3 points per game and allowed 44.4% shooting from the field against teams that were on average nine points weaker than the opponents Syracuse played.

 

Syracuse will find little trouble scoring inside with Fab Melo being seven inches taller than the man that will guard him.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 84  UNCA 62

 

4:10 PM CBS—West Regional

#5 New Mexico (27-6) vs. #12 Long Beach State (25-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNM 21.2  LBSU 11.1

 

Long Beach State didn’t catch a break in their bracket.  New Mexico is a sleeper to make it past the first weekend. 

 

The Lobos have an excellent combination of size and speed, as well as quality depth and excellent coaching.  On the other hand, the 49ers have an excellent starting five that will not be intimidated by New Mexico.  LBSU played a tough schedule that included games against Kansas, Xavier, North Carolina, San Diego State, Louisville, and Kansas State.

 

The infamous #12 seed produced a lot of upsets in past years, and this looks like one that is possible.  However, New Mexico is capable of making a run to the Final Four, and we will call for a Lobo win.

 

Prediction: New Mexico 76  Long Beach State 70

 

4:40 PM TNT—East Regional

#5 Vanderbilt (24-10) vs. #12 Harvard (26-4)

PiRate Criteria Score: VU 12.9  Harv 11.4

 

In the early 1980’s DePaul was a number one or two seed for three consecutive years and lost in their first tournament game (before there were 64 teams and #16 seeds).  Each year, underdogs upset them in the final minutes.

 

Vanderbilt has endure the same history in the 21st Century, losing first round games three times in a row to Siena, Murray State, and Richmond.

 

Harvard may be better than the three teams that upset the Commodores in the first round.  The Crimson are another dubious 12-seed looking to pull off the upset, and Tommy Amaker’s crew has the talent to pull it off.

 

Vanderbilt failed to meet even one of the minimal PiRate Criteria stats, although they missed by a whisker on point differential (7.9).

 

Harvard has no weakness.  The only area where they are inferior to the Commodores is in schedule strength, where Vandy’s schedule was 10 points per game harder. 

 

Both teams have something going against them in this game.  Harvard will have not played for 12 days, while Vanderbilt will have to travel to Albuquerque three days after beating Kentucky in New Orleans, their third game in three days.

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 62  Harvard 59

 

6:50 PM TBS—South Regional

#1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. #16 Mississippi Valley State or Western Kentucky

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.1  MVSU -9.7  or WKU -10.4

 

Kentucky’s players will begin the tournament with chips on their shoulders.  They will be out for blood, at least in the first 10 minutes of this game.

 

Regardless of the opponent, this game will be over by the under 12:00 minute media timeout.  Kentucky could double the score if Coach John Calipari left his starters in long enough. 

 

Prediction: Kentucky 89  Mississippi Valley 60  or Kentucky 83  Western Kentucky 52

 

7:15 PM CBS—South Regional

#5 Wichita State (27-5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (28-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: Wich 23.5  VCU 7.4

 

This should be an interesting game.  Wichita State  has an excellent half-court game with expertise both inside and outside.  Virginia Commonwealth is a full-court terror, but they cannot compete on the boards.

 

VCU will force a lot of turnovers and pick up a lot of steals, but Wichita State will not wilt and fall apart.  The Shockers do not turn the ball over all that much, and they can dominate on the glass.

 

This game will come down to a test of shooting accuracy.  WSU has much better shooters, and they will end any chance of the Rams making another huge run.

 

Prediction: Wichita State 77  Virginia Commonwealth 72

 

7:20 PM TNT—East Regional

#7 Gonzaga (25-6) vs. #10 West Virginia (19-13)

PiRate Criteria Score: Gonz. 16.0  WVU 13.1

 

The field of 64 or second round has several interesting games this year, and this will definitely be one of them.  Gonzaga is the second best team from the West this year, but the Bulldogs have a few holes.  They can be stopped by physical inside teams or teams that play an excellent zone defense.

 

West Virginia has a rebuilding team this year, but Coach Bob Huggins has produced the maximum out of a young squad; defense has gotten the job done.

 

We saw two years ago that the Mountaineers could play an awesome zone defense to upset Kentucky.  Expect a combination of zone and sagging man-to-man, and WVU should control the inside game.

 

As for Gonzaga, the Bulldogs have a couple of outside shooters that can get hot and shoot an opponent out of the gym.  They can run the fast break and get a dozen “cheap points” in a game.

 

We believe this is close to a 50-50 toss-up game. 

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 72  West Virginia 70

 

7:27 PM truTV—South Regional

#3 Baylor (27-7) vs. #14 South Dakota State (27-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: Bay 22.1  SDSU 7.3

 

The Bears are a dark horse team.  Three Big 12 teams could advance deep into the tournament, and Baylor is one of them.  This is a team capable of going on big runs, outscoring opponents 12-2 in a five-minute stretch.

 

South Dakota State is not a pushover.  The Jackrabbits can pass, shoot, and rebound.  Their weakness is on the defensive side, and Baylor will be able to exploit it for a couple of big runs.

 

Prediction: Baylor 74  South Dakota State 60

 

9:20 PM TBS—South Regional

#8 Iowa State (22-10) vs. Connecticut (20-13)

PiRate Criteria Score: ISU 7.6  UConn 10.8

 

Neither team is going to advance to the Sweet 16, as the winner will be fodder for Kentucky on Saturday.

 

Iowa State was the surprise of the Big 12 under first year coach Fred Hoiberg.  Royce White is a player to watch; he can do it all.

 

Connecticut has some rough edges, but the Huskies have the parts to compete with the Kentucky’s and Syracuse’s of the world.  However, this is not last year’s team, and nobody on the roster can carry them for six games.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 68  Iowa State 63

 

9:45 PM CBS—South Regional

#4 Indiana (25-8) vs. #13 New Mexico State (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: IU 14.7  NMSU 15.8

 

We smell an upset here.  New Mexico State dominates on the glass, and the Aggies should neutralize Indiana post man Cody Zeller.  NMSU has been turnover prone at times this year, but Indiana has not been a ball-hawking team this year. 

 

Both teams shoot the ball well, and both are fairly good on defense.  What concerns us is that Indiana relies too much on the three-point shot, and in unfamiliar gyms, outside shooting can be a problem in the first half. 

 

Prediction: New Mexico State 71  Indiana 66

 

9:50 PM TNT—East Regional

#2 Ohio State (27-7) vs. #15 Loyola (Md) (24-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.0  Loy 2.3

 

How can we entice you to watch this game?  How about this tidbit of information?  Loyola played Kentucky in Lexington in December.  They lost by 24 points, but until the end of the first half, the Greyhounds were within a couple of points.

 

Ohio State will eventually run the Greyhounds out of the gym, but we believe this game could be exciting for 10-15 minutes.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Loyola (Md) 54

 

9:57 PM truTV—South Regional

#6 U N L V (26-8) vs. #11 Colorado (23-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNLV 14.8  CU 7.0

 

Here is another excellent study of contrasts.  UNLV passes the ball like a team from the 1980’s.  The Runnin’ Rebels are not that far away from being considered an Elite 8 contender.  They shoot, rebound, and play good defense. 

 

Colorado won the Pac-12 Tournament with a swarming defense and an ability to hit the glass.  The Buffs do not have enough offense to make a long stay this year. 

 

Prediction: UNLV 70  Colorado 59

 

Friday, March 16, 2012

12:15 PM CBS—East Regional

#6 Cincinnati (24-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13)

PiRate Criteria Score: Cinti 9.3  UT 9.6

 

According to the PiRate Criteria score, this game should be close and could go to overtime.

 

Unlike Bearcat teams of yore, this Cincinnati squad is not an overpowering inside monster.  UC relies on tenacious defense and a strong perimeter game with one good inside presence in Yancy Gates.  Teams have difficulty matching the Bearcats’ 4-out, 1-in offense.

 

Texas just barely qualified as an at-large in what is a rebuilding process for Coach Rick Barnes.  The Longhorns are almost a one-man team.  If J’Covan Brown does not score 20 points, the burnt orange don’t win.

 

Flip a coin for this one; it could come down to the last shot of the game.

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 69  Texas 68

 

12:40 PM truTV—Midwest Regional

#6 San Diego State (26-7) vs. #11 North Carolina State (22-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: SDSU 14.0  NCSU 12.7

 

Here is yet another interesting game that should be close.  The Aztecs were not expected to return to the Dance for the second consecutive year, but Coach Steve Fisher reloaded rather than rebuilt.  SDSU’s starting five is high quality similar to the talent the Wolf Pack face in the ACC.  The Aztec bench is lacking, and teams can wear their starters down.

 

North Carolina State has better depth, but the starting five is not as strong as the Aztec starting five.  Defense can be a problem at times, and one spurt allowed in a close game can be fatal.

 

Because the timeouts are longer in the NCAA Tournament, we believe fatigue will not be a major problem in this game, and SDSU will benefit from one big spurt.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 75  North Carolina State 68

 

1:40 PM TBS—Midwest Regional

# 8 Creighton (28-5) vs. #9 Alabama (21-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: Crei. 15.1  Ala. 12.4

 

Here is another great study in contrasts.  Creighton is all about offense, while Alabama is all about defense.

 

The Blue Jays have the best offensive threat in the tournament in Doug McDermott, the 21st Century Larry Bird. 

 

Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant suspended four players in February, and eventually reinstated three of the quartet.  Since that time, ‘Bama lost four of their last 10 games, following a 15-7 start.  The Tide never fully recovered, and they enter this tournament playing more like a team that should be in the NIT.

 

Prediction: Creighton 70  Alabama 62

 

2:10 PM TNT—West Regional

#7 Florida (23-10) vs. #10 Virginia (22-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: Fla. 13.6  Virginia 12.8

Yet another “yin-yang” game, Florida has the shooters, and Virginia has the defenders.  Florida is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation, while Virginia is one of the best three-point defensive teams.

 

Both teams enter the tournament with injury issues.  Virginia may only be able to use two off the bench, but the Cavaliers will slow the game down and rely on the longer timeouts to keep from getting winded.

 

Florida coach Billy Donovan will try to speed up the pace and press.  If the Cavs can handle the Gator pressure, UVa will win.  If not, then the Gator chomp will be seen in Omaha around 3:00 PM local time.

 

Prediction: Florida 62  Virginia 56

 

2:45 PM CBS—East Regional

#3 Florida State (24-9) vs. #14 St. Bonaventure (20-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: FSU 14.8  SBU 6.2

 

Not many, if any, teams have defeated North Carolina and Duke two times each in a year where both powers were top 10 teams.  The Seminoles can defend and rebound.  They have a tendency to turn the ball over a bit too much, and they are not the most fluent team on offense.

 

St. Bonaventure is a smaller mirror of FSU.  They defend well, rebound tenaciously, and turn the ball over too much.  Their offense tends to stall at times.

 

We’ll go with the bigger fish in this game.

 

Prediction: Florida State 65  St. Bonaventure 55

 

3:10 PM truTV—Midwest Regional

#3 Georgetown (23-8) vs. #14 Belmont (27-7)

PiRate Criteria Rating: GU 18.4  BU 11.8

 

In recent years, Georgetown lacked the rebounding and ball-hawking ability to advance very far in the Tournament.  This year is completely different.  This Hoya team has the talent to make it to New Orleans.

 

This Hoya team can shoot the ball, and like all Georgetown teams, they can force off-target shots and can block shots.  GU can rebound like the old Alonzo Mourning-Dikembe Mutombo and Pat Ewing teams.  While they don’t force a lot of turnovers, they don’t commit many either.

 

Belmont has twice given Mike Krzyzewski a nervous stomach, losing by one in the NCAA Tournament a few years ago and by one in Durham this year.  The Bruins rely on a lot of three-point shots, and that style of play rarely works in the Big Dance.  Big men Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepath will be neutralized by Georgetown’s deep inside presence, and this game will not be all that close.

 

Prediction: Georgetown 71  Belmont 51

 

4:10 TBS—Midwest Regional

#1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. #16 Lamar or Vermont

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 31.1  Lam. 6.5  VT 2.1

 

The Tar Heels have the highest criteria score, but they do not meet the minimum requirements in every category.  They just miss on field goal percentage margin with a margin of 6.8%.  However, they are the most dominating rebounding team in the nation, and they can monopolize on those rebounds with a devastating fast break.

 

The injury to forward John Henson will not stop UNC in the first weekend.  If he recovers fully, this team could finish the season on a six-game winning streak.

 

The play-in winner will be overwhelmed and intimidated by the most explosive team in the Dance.  This game will be over within five to eight minutes.  UNC will have a comfortable lead by the second media timeout. 

 

Prediction: North Carolina 102  Lamar 67 or North Carolina 89  Vermont 50

 

4:40 TNT—West Regional

#2 Missouri (30-4) vs. #15 Norfolk State (25-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: MO 19.1  Norf. -2.9

 

Okay, there is nothing we can do to encourage you to watch this game.  It could be the biggest mismatch of the second round.  Missouri likes to run, and the Tigers can score a lot of points in a little time.  Even though the Tigers are up-tempo, they take care of the ball and do not turn it over.  Their one weakness comes inside against teams that can control the tempo and be physical in the paint.

 

Norfolk State actually has a huge size advantage, but the Spartans lack the talent to exploit Missouri’s liability.  NSU turns the ball over too much, and Missouri will take advantage of these miscues with several easy baskets.

 

Prediction: Missouri 92  Norfolk State 66

 

6:50 PM TBS—West Regional

#8 Memphis (26-8) vs. #9 St. Louis (25-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: Mem 18.2 Stl 14.2

 

These former rivals once again feature dissimilar assets.  Coach Josh Pastner has Memphis playing much like his former mentor Lute Olsen’s Arizona teams.  The Tigers move the ball with meaning and get a lot of open shots.  MU’s field goal accuracy is a hair under 50%, and it has been improving as of late.  The Tigers grudgingly yield baskets, holding opponents to 38.4% from the field.

 

For the Billikens, it’s defense first, second, and third.  SLU holds opponents to 57.5 points a game, and they force a goodly amount of turnovers for the pace they play.  Coach Rick Majerus has enjoyed success against the “Arizona offense” in the past, but this is not the past.  SLU does not have the talent to go head-to-head with the Tigers for 40 minutes. 

 

Prediction: Memphis 67  St. Louis 58

 

7:15 PM CBS—South Regional

#2 Duke (27-6) vs. #15 Lehigh (26-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: Duke 19.9  Leh. 5.7

 

In Durham, even when Duke is not up to its normal standards, the Blue Devils are still contenders to advance to the Final Four.  While we believe the Blue Devils will fall in the second weekend this year, the first weekend is no problem.  They have the horses to win the two claiming races they will play in Greensboro.

 

Lehigh is one of the better Patriot League representatives to come along in recent years, but this is not Bucknell vs. Kansas of a few years ago.

 

Prediction: Duke 82  Lehigh 58

 

7:20 TNT—Midwest Regional

#4 Michigan (24-9) vs. #13 Ohio U (27-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: Mich. 8.5  Ohio 6.5

 

It is our opinion that Michigan is ripe for the picking this weekend.  The Wolverines win games with the jump shot.  They lack any rebounding strength, yet they do not force enough turnovers to get extra scoring opportunities.  If their outside shooting is on target, they can compete with most of the teams in the tournament.  If their outside shooting is not on target, the Ohio’s of the tournament can beat them and even beat them handily.

 

The Bobcats are strong on defense, and they can limit the Wolverines’ outside shooting.  If they had any legitimate offensive threat, we would go with Ohio in this game.  However, this team may not have the offensive power to take advantage of a cold Wolverine shooting night.

 

Prediction: Michigan 66  Ohio 62

 

7:27 truTV—Midwest Regional

#7 Saint Mary’s (27-5) vs. #10 Purdue (21-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: SMU 17.0  PU 8.8

 

Saint Mary’s is the top team in the West, and the Gaels have a legitimate chance to advance to the Elite 8 if injured big guard Stephen Holt can return from an injury to his knee.

 

Purdue knows all about injuries to the knee.  Star forward Robbie Hummel missed two seasons.  Like Alabama, Purdue has suffered since a former starter was booted from the team.  The Boilermakers are not going to make it through the first weekend, and we see them being one and done.

 

Prediction: Saint Mary’s 75  Purdue 65

 

9:20 PM TBS—West Regional

#1 Michigan State (27-7) vs. #16 Long Island (25-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 27.4  LIU -3.4

 

Michigan State can be defeated by a team that can force turnovers and change the pace of the game.  Not many opponents that try to go head-to-head with them in an inside power game will come away happy.  The Spartans can hoist the big banner if they catch a break and avoid teams like Missouri and Syracuse.

 

Long Island might have been more competitive against MSU had this been last year, but the Blackbirds just don’t have the talent to pull off an upset or even keep this game close.

 

Look for Michigan State to gradually pull ahead and lengthen their lead until Coach Tom Izzo empties the bench.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 72  Long Island 50

 

9:45 PM CBS—South Regional

#7 Notre Dame (22-11) vs. #10 Xavier (21-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: ND 3.3  Xav. 6.2

 

Neither team is all that impressive, and the winner will be gone Sunday after losing to Duke.

 

Notre Dame is a poor shooting team overall, but the Irish defense is strong.  Coach Mike Brey wants a snail’s pace, half-court game, because his players cannot get into a running game and win. 

 

Xavier’s chances for a big year went down the drain in a melee against in-town rival Cincinnati.  The Musketeers have been a .500 team since that brawl, and they were undefeated when it happened.  Had performance in the last 10 games still counted, the Selection Committee would have selected someone else and left Xavier to the NIT.

 

Xavier’s Tu Holloway should guide his team to a victory, but that’s as far as Xavier is going.

 

Prediction: Xavier 60  Notre Dame 56

 

9:50 TNT—Midwest Regional

#5 Temple (24-7) vs. #12 California or South Florida

PiRate Criteria Score: TU 9.7  Cal 10.5  USF 5.1

 

If Coach Mike Montgomery’s Bears win the play-in game, a second round Temple-Cal match would be one of the best of the day.  Both teams feature excellent perimeter play with just enough inside presence to keep defenses honest.

 

If USF beats Cal, a second round game with Temple will be a different kettle of fish.  It will be more of a dull, grind-it-out affair.  We believe the Owls will have little trouble defeating this style of play.

 

Prediction: California 73  Temple 69 or Temple 64  South Florida 54

 

9:57 truTV—Midwest Regional

#2 Kansas (27-6) vs. #15 Detroit (22-13)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0 Det. 3.1

 

This will not be the basketball version of “Remember The Titans.”  These Titans from Detroit are just happy to be here.  They will be home Saturday morning. 

 

Kansas is liable to double up on the rebounding numbers in this game.  A two to one edge on the boards is a certain victory.  Thomas Robinson could outrebound Detroit’s starting five!

 

Look for a quick and easy blowout in this game, but make no mistake about this: Kansas is vulnerable after this weekend.

 

Prediction: Kansas 79  Detroit 55

 

 

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February 6, 2012

PiRate Ratings Look At The 2012 Presidential Race

Filed under: News & Views — Tags: , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 1:13 pm

The PiRate Ratings step outside the sporting world today to take a look at the 2012 Presidential Election race.  We look at this race in a mechanical manner; in other words, we attempt to handicap this race much like a horse race, using back-tested information as a guide.

 

Our conclusion: The Republican Party is in big trouble at the present time!  When the race began to heat up last summer, it looked like the GOP had as much chance of unseating President Obama as the Democrats had of unseating Herbert Hoover in 1932.  They needed to isolate on the one candidate that could unite the party and come off as the next Ronald Reagan.  Find a great communicator with executive experience that hailed from a Southern state, the Industrial Midwest, or California.

 

Only one Governor from the South decided to run, Rick Perry.  He proved to be not up to the task, and he was finished before the first caucus vote was cast.   Jeb Bush never threw his hat in the ring, and Bobby Jindal peaked four years ago.  The only Republican ex-governor of California was not eligible, and his exit from office left him in a bad scandal anyway. 

 

The Midwest had the ideal candidate, one who would have become a heavy favorite to win in 2012.  Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels chose not to run, citing the desires of his family. 

 

Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, briefly entered the race, but he dropped out following the Iowa Straw Poll last summer.  Had he known that almost every candidate that did not fare well in that straw poll rose to the top of the polls at one time, maybe he would have remained in the race long enough to win the Iowa Caucus.  We will never know, and besides, we do not include Minnesota as part of the Industrial Midwest.

 

Note: The Industrial Midwest is merely a descriptive name for a group of states that relied on industry for decades as the chief means of employment.  Almost all industries have now deserted the United States for cheaper foreign labor markets. 

 

Here is the major problem for the GOP.  Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are unelectable for different reasons!  Gingrich is considered a lone wolf, even though he is really one of the global elite.  However, he has enough ego to try to make numerous changes, and that is not supported by the inside elite.  They will not allow him to become President.  Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have no chance of winning the nomination, so we will not consider either in this submission.  Of course in National polls, both candidates are in dead heats with the President, while Obama has a comfortable lead over Gingrich and a considerable lead over the fading Romney.

 

Romney is still the apparent front-runner with a very large chance of winning the nomination, so let us concentrate the rest of this submission on why he cannot beat President Obama in the general election.

 

We at the PiRate Ratings are political junkies.  We have political maps for every Presidential election in US history.  These maps paint an excellent picture of the philosophy and psychology of the American public.

 

If somebody would have had this information in 1802, they could have forewarned President Jefferson of the impending divide in the country.  Most elections from Jefferson through Lincoln showed the great divide between the states; they could have seen the split between the region that would become the Confederate States of America and the region that would stay loyal to the Union.  The upper Atlantic states and New England States voted one way, and the South and West voted another.  Most elections then were decided in the Midwest, where half a dozen large states swayed the elections. 

 

After the Civil War, the South remained solid Democrat, believing that the Republican Party was responsible for Reconstruction, carpetbaggers, and scallywags.  The South remained a solid Democrat voting block for many years.  Then, President Johnson brought forth his Great Society in the mid-1960’s, and with it, his Civil Rights Act turned the South around overnight.  Beginning in 1968, the Democrats were finished in the South.  George Wallace won a handful of Southern states campaigning on a segregationist agenda, but Nixon won the rest.

 

Since 1968, it has been relatively easy to determine the outcome of elections.  The Republicans needed to hold onto their Southern base, winning almost every state from among Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.  We do not include Florida in this list, because this state has a large number of non-Southerners residing within its borders.  A high number of Northern retirees, many from the Upper Atlantic and New England, and a large number of Hispanics, give Florida a unique position, making it a swing state.

 

The Republicans have two options for winning the White House.  The first option is to take California and its 55 electoral votes, better than 20% of the needed 270 electoral votes to win.  By taking California and the South (not including Florida), that gives a GOP candidate 186 electoral votes.  Add 51 more electoral votes from western states that almost always vote GOP (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and this brings the total to 237.

 

From there, only 33 more electoral votes are needed for a GOP victory.  Florida has 29 electoral votes, and if a Republican takes Florida, he only needs a state like Iowa, Colorado, or Indiana to go over the top.

 

The second option for a Republican is to win a majority of the Industrial Midwest.  Look at the riches available in this swing area:  Ohio (18), Indiana (11), Michigan (16), Illinois (20), and Wisconsin (10) add up to 75 electoral votes.  We will add three states to this list that have similarities to this group.  Pennsylvania (20), Missouri (10), and Kentucky (8), bring the total in this area to 113. 

 

So, if the Republican does not carry California and its 55 electoral votes, he can still win by taking half of the Midwest.  Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin add up to 57 electoral votes, two more than California.

 

So, how does this apply to Mitt Romney and the race in 2012?  Plenty!  In the entire history of the Republican Party, only two candidates from New England and the Upper Atlantic have ever become President of the United States.  However, and this is big, both candidates were already President when they ran for President.  Calvin Coolidge, from Vermont, was the Vice President when Warren Harding died in office in 1923; he won in 1924.  Theodore Roosevelt, from New York, was the Vice President when William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo at the World’s Fair in 1901; he won in 1904.

 

Looking at nominees that were not already President, there have been just two elections involving one GOP candidate from the New England/Upper Atlantic area.  Thomas Dewey hailed from New York.  He lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and Harry Truman in 1948. 

 

In 1944, FDR carried the entire South, as Southerners would not support an Eastern Elitist Republican, when the opposition was an Eastern Elitist Democrat.  In 1948, Dewey won in California, which had half the electoral votes as it does today.  He won in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana.  Truman carried the entire South as well as Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.

 

Romney will have major trouble in the South.  He is looked on as an Eastern elitist, a Yankee, a carpetbagger, etc.  His numerous gaffes and flip-flops will hurt him in any swing state, but in the South, words tend to mean a lot more to voters.  Let us take a look at six of those liabilities:

 

1. During an Iowa debate, he stated that he could not have a lawn service that hired illegal aliens continue to work for him because he was running for President.  This infers that had he not chosen to run, he would not have had a problem.

 

2. He stated that he didn’t make all that much money on his speaking engagements, only between a quarter and half million dollars per speech.  A majority of Southern Republican voters believe that a quarter million dollars is “all that much.”

 

3. He likes firing people.  In fact, he repeated how quickly he would fire someone just because that someone came to him with a business idea.  He has not stated a love for hiring people.

 

4. He doesn’t worry about the poor, because there are safety nets for them.  This infers that he supports the current Welfare system, which a majority of GOP voters in the South do not support.

 

5. He has flip-flopped on both abortion and gun rights. 

6. He openly vowed to be as liberal as Ted Kennedy when he ran against Kennedy in a Massachusetts Senatorial race, and he ran away from the Republican philosophy of Ronald Reagan.  That is why the Reagan family has endorsed Gingrich.

 

Any single one of these six facts is enough to harm him greatly all over the country, especially in the crucial Southern states.

 

Now, concerning Romney’s other liability in the South–his Mormon religion:  People in the South may be quiet about this issue, but a great deal of Southern White Protestants will not support him, even against President Obama.  As a Southerner who is not a Protestant, I have personally witnessed 21st Century religious bigotry.  I am not a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I do not wear my religion on a sleeve.  I don’t advertise my beliefs publicly.  Yet, many Southerners do. 

 

I have heard enough GOP voters talk about how they cannot support a candidate that belongs to a Church that believes their savior returned to New York State and spoke to one man in the 19th Century.  For many in the South, there is still the stigma of polygamy, even though this has not been the case for over 120 years.  While religious bigotry has no place in the 21st Century, the 21st Century Southern conservative voter may decide it still does.

 

The mechanical data does not work out for Romney.  The last Massachusetts Republican that had a chance to become President was Henry Cabot Lodge.  He even made it to the GOP ticket as a Vice Presidential running mate for Richard Nixon in 1960.

 

Cabot Lodge’s political ideology was similar to Romney’s.  A disciple of two of the most influential and elitist families in New England, Cabot Lodge was also a hero.  He was the only United States Senator to resign from office to join the military to fight in World War II.  Many political experts believe Cabot Lodge hurt Nixon’s chances in many states in 1960 and even cost Nixon the election.

 

Let’s take a look at the political map of 2012.  If Romney is the nominee, then barring a major catastrophe, like a total collapse of the Stock Market or a major war that our country appears to be losing, Obama will stand a much better than 50% chance of defeating Romney for reelection.  If the country is thrust into a Mideast war through an enemy provocation, then Obama’s chances will increase all the more.

 

Let’s start our mechanical look by concentrating on the South.  Obama beat John McCain by a score of 365-173.  In 2008, Obama won in North Carolina and Virginia for 28 electoral votes.  He also took the swing state of Florida and its 27 votes (Florida has 29 electoral votes in this election).  McCain needed a sweep in the South, and he could not get it.  Had he swept the South, it would have given him 228 votes, still 42 shy of what he needed.

 

Obama won California and its 55 votes.  McCain, from Arizona, did not offer anything to swing the biggest prize his way.  Had he won California and the three Southern States he lost, he would have won the election.

 

Of course, there is a second avenue for a Republican if he cannot sweep the South and take California.  He must win several states in the Midwest.  Obama won big here in 2008, and he will do well enough in 2012 to win reelection if Romney is the opponent.

 

Obama will win his home state of Illinois and its 20 votes.  He will win Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for another 30 votes.  Romney should win Indiana, and he should win Michigan, because the Romney name still means a lot in the Wolverine State.  However, a heavy turnout in Detroit could tilt the state’s 16 votes his way.

 

You would expect Romney to do well in New England, but that is not necessarily the case.  He will lose his home state of Massachusetts, and that speaks volumes.  A little known fact is that when Romney chose not to run for gubernatorial reelection, he did so because he was going to lose by a large amount.  He won in 2002 with a slim plurality of the vote, falling short of 50%.  Had Green Party candidate Jill Stein not run, then Democrat Shannon O’Brien might have won the election.  Romney’s favorable ratings as Governor were never high, and when he chose not to stand for reelection, the favorable percentage was in the 30’s.  He left office as the 48th most popular governor after his legislation led to much higher taxes.  It is estimated that he raised taxes on many corporations by almost 100%!  He also added a heavy number of fees to run businesses, and he lost a great deal of his Republican base by 2006. 

 

Obama will win Massachusetts; he will also win Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.  Romney cannot count on his own area for major support.  He may take New Hampshire, and he could still lose there.

 

Let us break down this race into safe Republican and safe Democrat states.

 

We are going to assume that Romney can keep the Southern states McCain won in 2008, but as you read above, this is not a sure thing.  We will give him Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas for 103 electoral votes.

 

Romney will carry most of Flyover country as all GOP candidates do.  That gives him another 11 states, but only 54 more electoral votes—Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska.  That brings his total to 157 votes in these 19 states.

 

Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana will go for the Republican candidate in this race, regardless of the name of that candidate.  These three bring Romney’s total to 22 states and 181 electoral votes.  We will call this his sure thing states with the caveat that one or two of these states could go against him for the reasons described above.

 

Obama has fewer sure thing states, but they carry more electoral votes.  Start with the West, where he will sweep the Pacific Coast.  California, Oregon, and Washington plus the always Democrat Hawaii gives him four states and 78 electoral votes.

 

In the Midwest, he will carry his home state of Illinois as well as the liberal state of Minnesota.  That increases his totals to six states and 108 electoral votes.

 

We will not give Obama the two Southern states he won in 2008, even though he stands a good chance of taking both Virginia and North Carolina again.  So, his total stays the same.

 

It is in Romney’s own area where Obama will hit his opponent hard.  Give the President Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.  That brings his total to 15 states plus DC and 196 electoral votes.

 

The remaining toss-up states are: New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13), North Carolina (15), Florida (29), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Iowa (6), Missouri (10), New Mexico (5), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6).  That adds up to 161 electoral votes.  Obama would need 74 of these electoral votes, while Romney would need 89. 

 

As of today, if we had to call these swing states, we would give Obama New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado.  This adds 82 electoral votes, bringing his total to 278 and securing the victory.

 

We will give Romney Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, and Nevada.  This adds 79 electoral votes, bringing his total to 260. 

 

We must admit that we gave Romney the benefit of the doubt in several states, where he is not guaranteed to win.  In fact, with his favorable numbers sinking quickly, we believe that 260 is the absolute maximum number of electoral votes he can win.  In all honesty, he could lose 30-40 of these electoral votes.

 

The GOP needs to hope for a brokered convention where they can appeal to Governor Daniels to become the new great compromise.  Daniels can win 300-350 electoral votes by cutting into Obama’s popularity in the Midwest, and he can sweep the South.

 

 

 

March 20, 2011

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/bracketnomics-505-2011-edition/

 

12:15 PM on CBS

North Carolina (15) vs. Washington (13)

CBS gives you the most exciting 3rd round game to start off your Sunday.  These teams can get up and down the floor and score quickly.  We expect it to be more like the late 1960’s when North Carolina and Davidson met in the NCAA Tournament for a couple of historic games.

 

The Tar Heels are the slight favorite, but this game could go either way.  When you have two teams capable of topping 85 points, it comes down to which team can control the boards and force more turnovers.  North Carolina should win the battle on the boards, but Washington should win the turnover battle and force more steals.

 

We thought about taking the Huskies, but Coach Roy Williams has a long history of getting to the Sweet 16, while Coach Lorenzo Romar has a shorter history of doing so.

 

We think this will still be undecided with five minutes to go, but the Tar Heels have three go-to guys that can win this game (Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, while UW has two (Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning).  Three to two odds makes for a 60% chance that nothing will be finer in Carolina today.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 83  Washington 76

 

2:45 PM on CBS

Duke (15) vs. Michigan (Elim)

Shortly after we released the 68-team preview last week, the news that Kyrie Irving was ready to play once again changed Duke’s criteria score.  We have not set way to add points in cases like this; we have to make a semi-educated guess.  Before Irving went down to injury, Duke was 8-0, outscoring opponents by a score of 89-66.  He returned to play against Hampton, so in the nine games in which he has contributed, Duke’s average scoring margin is 89-64.  We figure Irving’s presence makes Duke seven to 10 points better.  That would place their PiRate Criteria score right there with Kansas for the top spot.

 

Michigan caught the biggest break in this tournament.  They played a Tennessee team that completely quit once a six-point Volunteer lead was wiped away.  The Wolverines outscored Tennessee 52-16 the final 24 minutes of their game.

 

Duke will not wilt if Michigan erases a six-point Blue Devil lead.  This team is better than last year’s national champion with Irving teaming up with Nolan Smith.  Last year’s champion was a little stronger inside, but with Irving, Smith, Kyle Singler, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins, Coach Mike Krzyzewski has too many weapons to completely stop.

 

Michigan relies on three-point shooting and great penetration.  Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Junior can take the maize and blue on their shoulders and make life miserable for opposing teams that are not overly aggressive defensively.  Duke is not one of those teams.

 

The Blue Devils will stifle the Michigan offense and score enough fast break points and second-chance points to win this one by double digits.

 

Prediction: Duke 76  Michigan 61

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Ohio State (21) vs. George Mason (8)

George Mason has done it before.  The Colonials knocked off Connecticut and North Carolina among others when they made their historic run to the Final Four in 2006.  This GMU team has more talent and almost as much experience, making the Colonials a legitimate contender to advance to the Sweet 16.

 

One problem for GMU: they are facing the team with the second best PiRate Criteria score.  Ohio State has too much firepower for Coach Jim Larranaga to pull magic out of a hat again.

 

Jared Sullinger is too strong and quick inside for the Colonials to stop, and Ryan Pearson will not be able to have a big game against the Buckeyes’ inside defense.  Jon Diebler and William Buford will see a lot of open looks from outside, and we cannot see both having an off day.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 74  George Mason 59

 

6:10 PM on TNT

Texas (18) vs. Arizona (3)

The Longhorns almost could not hold onto a big lead in their first game, while Arizona never could break away from Memphis in theirs.

 

We believe Texas will be more focused on this game and put together 40 minutes of total basketball.  The Longhorns present tough matchup problems with four starters that are great combo inside-outside players.  When they get their mind into the game, they can control a game at both ends of the floor.

 

Jordan Hamilton, Gary Johnson, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph should be focused after watching a huge lead against Oakland almost evaporate entirely in the final minutes.

 

Arizona benefitted from playing a weak second-round opponent.  The Wildcats are not back to where they were in the Lute Olson days.  In Derrick Williams, they have an inside player that can dominate in the paint, but he can be neutralized by an opponent that gets the Wildcats into a running transition game.

 

Texas is not a pure running team, but the Longhorns can take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.  They will do so today.

 

Prediction: Texas 78  Arizona 65

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Purdue (16) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (-1)

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart may be on the radar of two or three big-time coaching searches.  The second year coach has proven to be an excellent tournament tactician.

 

This Ram team does not figure to advance into the second week of the tournament, because in the past, teams with negative PiRate Critieria scores only made it to the Sweet 16 if their first two opponents had either negative scores or ELIM scores.

 

Purdue is only 11-6 since their 15-1 start.  If E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson do not combine for at least 35 points and 20 rebounds, the Boilermakers can be beaten.  We tend to believe that both stars will shine brightly today, and the lads from West Lafayette will be preparing for a mighty rivalry game later in the week.

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  V C U 64

 

7:45 PM on truTV

Syracuse (17) vs. Marquette (3)

When a conference places 11 teams in the Big Dance, it goes that there could be matchups of teams from that conference facing off in earlier rounds.  For the second time this weekend, the Big East has another “conference game” in the NCAA Tournament.

 

In the regular season, Marquette won a close game in Milwaukee, 76-70.  It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Orangemen following an 18-0 start.  Once the ‘Cuse got over their midseason swoon, they recovered to win six in a row before meeting the hot Huskies from Connecticut in the Big East Tournament.

 

Is a 14-loss team good enough to advance to the Sweet 16?  This is not your father’s Marquette teams.  Bo Ellis, Lloyd Walton, Dean Meminger, and Butch Lee are not walking through that door.  Al McGuire won’t be receiving a couple of technical fouls.

 

The Golden Eagles have one thing going for them; they know how to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense.  They should get enough open looks to keep this game close, and if they can come close on the boards, they will be there at the end.

 

We expect a close game, but Syracuse will dictate the tempo.  Expect a lower-scoring game, with Syracuse’s Rick Jackson being just a little too much for Marquette’s interior defense to handle.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 68  Marquette 62

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas (23) vs. Illinois (1)

Kansas remembers well what happened one year ago just down I-44 in OKC from where they are playing today.  The Jayhawks exited the tournament as one of the co-favorites to win it all, when Northern Iowa pulled off a major shocker.

 

We do not see KU meeting a similar fate in Tulsa today.  This team is loaded with talent, both inside and outside, and they have no major liabilities to be exploited.  Markieff and Marcus Morris are the best set of twins in college basketball since the Van Arsdale brothers (Dick and Tom) in the 1960’s. The two combine for 31 points and 15+ rebounds per game.  Off the bench, beefy Thomas Robinson provides extra inside punch.

 

The taller of the twins, Markieff can set up outside and bury the three-pointer or pass high-low to his brother.  It is hard to stop both, so opponents have to sell out to stop the inside threat first.

 

Illinois greatly underachieved this season.  The Illini should have contended for second place in the Big Ten and should have won five or six additional games.  A team talented enough to beat North Carolina by 12 points as well as Oakland, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Penn State handily also lost to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana.  For the Illini to have a chance in this game, they will have to penetrate the KU defense and force fouls.  For two reasons, we do not believe that will work today.  First, the officiating in this tournament has been very relaxed.  Second, we do not believe Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey can get through the front line of defense enough times to change the outcome of the game.

 

Prediction: Kansas 80  Illinois 68

 

9:45 PM on TBS

Notre Dame (11) vs. Florida State (2)

Too bad this one isn’t being played at the Fiesta Bowl.  These former football rivals will meet in Chicago where the St. Patrick’s Day celebrants should be back to normal today.  We consider Notre Dame to have a slight near-home court advantage, and the Irish really do not need anything extra to win this game.

 

Florida State gets extra points for Chris Singleton’s return from injury.  However, Singleton scored just five points and grabbed just two rebounds in 16 minutes of play in the win over Texas A&M; this was not very Kyrie Irving-like.  He is not ready to take the Seminoles on his shoulders and lead them into the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 65  Florida State 59

 

Coming Later This Week: We will update the PiRate Criteria Scores based on the two games each of the Sweet 16 teams playe

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/bracketnomics-505-2011-edition/

 

12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

The Wildcats seek revenge today for their regional final exit of last year.  This Kentucky team has what last year’s team lacked—consistent outside shooting to complement their more than decent dribble-drive.  While not as talented, Coach John Calipari’s squad is more complete this year.  The Blue Misters are jelling at the right time, and we believe they will advance to the Sweet 16.

 

West Virginia is not as dominating inside as they were last year, and they might be a little to slow and methodical to compete against the quicker Wildcats.  Coach Bob Huggins will have a great gameplan ready, and we believe the Mountaineers will keep it close.

 

We see this as a game of spurts.  Kentucky will enjoy one spurt in both halves, and WVU will attempt to creep back in the game both times.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67

 

2:40 PM on CBS

Florida (15) vs. U C L A (-3)

The PiRate Criteria rates this game a giant mismatch, and we see no reason why not to agree. This would be a great game if all the former Bruins now playing in the NBA would have used their four years of eligibility.  However, this is more like the old Brubabes when schools fielded Freshmen and later Junior Varsity teams.  This UCLA team is better than Florida’s second team.  The Gators’ best players are still around, while UCLA’s best senior is the star of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Florida has a large quickness advantage, and they will win the hustle points.  This one should be out of hand by halftime or five minutes into the second half.

 

Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

This game will be one of the more interesting contests in the Round of 32.  Morehead State is an aggressive take-it-to-the-hoop and score or pass back for a three team.  The Racers have the closest thing to Elvin Hayes on their roster.  Kenneth Faried is much better than Dennis Rodman, but he is much thinner than Wes Unseld, and he has a better offensive game than both of those historically fantastic rebounders.  Faried can take it to the hoop, and he can pull up and fire from the foul line area, much like the great Hayes used to do with Houston and in the NBA.

 

Richmond will try to make this a game of the smart beating the strong, because the Spiders do not have much of an answer for Faried inside.  However, they enjoy a huge advantage on the perimeter.

 

This game will come down to this easy pointer: whichever team performs better at their strength and defends the other’s strength will win.  We think this one could end on a buzzer beater or go to overtime, but we will go with the chalk and take the higher PiRate score.

 

By the way, the last time an Ohio Valley Conference team advanced to the Sweet 16, it was Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers left the OVC more than two decades ago.

 

Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62

 

6:10 PM on TNT

San Diego State (19) vs. Temple (5)

If our criteria rating is going to be accurate this season, then we need to see the Aztecs play much better today than they did in a lackluster opening round win over Northern Colorado.  If San Diego State is firing on all cylinders, Temple has little or no chance in this game.

 

This Owl team is not quick enough or strong enough to battle this Aztec team if SDSU is playing just an average game.  If the Aztecs come out flat, Coach Fran Dunphy’s Owls could keep it close for 40 minutes and even be in striking distance.

 

Steve Fisher has been to the Final Four three times, and he knows how to prepare a team in tournament play.  He has enough talent to get there again, and we believe SDSU will play much better today against a much better opponent than Northern Colorado.  Remember this: Temple ran Duke of the Palestra floor less a month ago.  They have enough talent to win this game, but we do not see it happening.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

We know better than to count out a team coached by Brad Stevens.  However, Butler’s bubble is going to burst today.

 

Pittsburgh is just too talented to lose this game, even if Coach Jamie Dixon sometimes loses control of that talent.  The Panthers know what Butler can do, and they will be fired up for this game just as much as if they were playing Ohio State, Duke, or Kansas.

 

Butler is playing its best ball at the right time, but they are plainly outmanned against a superior team.  We expect the Bulldogs to keep it close and still have a chance with 10 minutes to go, but the Panthers will wear them down and pull away to what looks like an easier win than it was.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59

 

7:45 PM on CBS

B Y U (18) vs. Gonzaga (13)

When you penalize BYU for the loss of Brandon Davies, their criteria score drops by about five points.  This ironically makes this game a complete tossup.

 

Jimmer Fredette may be able to score 40-50 points in this game, but Gonzaga could place five players in double figures.  We tend to like the odds of five scorers outscoring one.

 

Coach Mark Few deserves high accolades for turning this Bulldog team around in midseason.  The Zags appeared to be NIT-bound, before they turned it up a notch and began playing the best basketball seen in Spokane since the days of Adam Morrison.

 

We believe Gonzaga is Sweet 16-bound, and we would not be surprised if they give Florida a great game in a potential matchup.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

This one is the other great game of the day.  How about Jacob Pullen versus Jordan Taylor, and Jon Leuer versus Curtis Kelly?  If you like great player matchups, then this is the game of the day for you.

 

Kansas State is a tad stronger on the perimeter and a tad quicker, while Wisconsin is a tad stronger inside.  We expect the tempo to be controlled by the Badgers, so the score will be one of the lowest of the day, if not the lowest.

 

We have no real favorite in this game, so we will stick with the PiRate Criteria scores.  Two points is not much; it equates to about a 55% chance of the favorite winning.

 

Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55

 

9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

Here we have our first game between teams from the same conference and teams that have already played against each other.  In their lone regular season contest in Cincinnati, the Huskies won on the road by eight points. 

 

Both teams play tenacious defense and rely on just a couple of players to lead on offense.  They know each other well, so it should be a high-spirited, tightly-fought game with a lot of excellent defensive possessions sprinkled with the occasional great offensive play.

 

Cincinnati will concentrate their efforts on stopping Kemba Walker, while the Huskies will try to keep the ball away from Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon.

 

This is the other game that could come down to a buzzer-beater, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Connecticut is about to explode and play like Husky teams of the past.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:01 pm

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

 

ANSWER—No teams this year meet all the perfect criteria described above.  Six teams come close to meeting the perfect criteria, but all fall short in at least one statistic.  This means there is no clear-cut favorite—only six teams that most closely resemble the great champions of the past.  Of the six, three come from power conferences.  These three are Kansas, Ohio State, and Syracuse.

 

Kansas fails to meet the turnover margin requirement, but the Jayhawks surpass all the other qualifications.  Ohio State comes up a tad bit short in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and steals per game, but just misses in all three.  Syracuse misses in rebounding and turnover margin, but they Orangemen do not miss by much. 

 

2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?  Which teams have an incredibly low R+T Rating (<2.0)?

 

ANSWER—Three teams can immediately be eliminated due to negative R+T Ratings.  It comes as no surprise that Alabama State and Texas-San Antonio, two teams facing off in the First Round in Dayton, have negative R+T ratings.  The third team is Michigan.  The Wolverines were outrebounded by 1.9 boards per game, and they only had a +1.4 turnover margin with just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Five other teams finished with R+T ratings less than 2.0.  This usually means one and done for these teams, unless they have outstanding FG% margins or cupcake opponents with worse criteria numbers.  Those five teams are: Penn State, Richmond, St. Peter’s, UCLA, and UCSB.

 

3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?

 

ANSWER—We separate the contenders from the pretenders by looking at the total PiRate Criteria score and then looking to see if the high criteria scoring teams receive merit on every individual statistic.

 

Last year, Duke was head and heels better than the other 64 teams.  The Blue Devils had the highest score overall, and they satisfactorily rated in every PiRate category.

 

No teams appear to be as strong this year as the Blue Devils were last year, but nine teams meet most of the minimum requirements to be considered Final Four contenders this year.

 

It should come as no surprise that the top two teams, Ohio State and Kansas, rank at the top in the Criteria.  Kansas actually has the highest score of the 68 teams, a score of 23.  The Jayhawks outscored their opposition by 17.2 points, shot 11.7% better from the field than their opponents, and outrebounded their opponents by 7.8 boards per game.  These stats are worthy of a powerhouse.  However, KU enjoyed just a 0.9 turnover margin and stole the ball 7.9 times per game, giving the Jayhawks an R+T Rating of 9.5.  We tend to look for teams with an R+T Rating in excess of 10, so KU is not a great favorite to go all the way. 

 

Ohio State’s total Criteria score is 21, good for second best.  However, the Buckeyes enjoy an R+T Rating of 13.2, which is a number we really like in a Final Four contender.  This number correlates to 13 extra scoring opportunities that their opposition does not receive.  OSU outscores their opponents by 17.3 points per game, shot 6.9% better from the field than they allows, outrebounded their opponents by 4.9 per game, had a turnover margin of +4.8, and stole the ball 7.2 times per game. 

 

San Diego State comes in third with 19 total criteria points.  BYU, Pittsburgh, and Texas come in next with 18 points; the Panthers have an R+T rating above 10.  The other three teams with PiRate Criteria scores showing themselves to be strong contenders for a Final Four berth are Syracuse, Purdue, and Duke

 

Florida, North Carolina, and UNLV are actually almost in a statistical tie with Duke, meaning those three are dark horse candidates for the Final Four.

 

Overall, this is the weakest field by far in the six tournaments where we have ranked the teams according to our criteria.  Looking back, this could be the weakest field since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. 

 

North Carolina State, Kansas, and Villanova won national titles in the past with less than stellar numbers.  We do not have all the statistics from those years, so we cannot really calculate criteria numbers for those three champions.  Could this be a season in which one team gets hot for six games and comes from out of the pack to win it all?  It could happen, but we are sticking with this mechanical system and going with its results.  Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Texas appear to be the best PiRate Criteria matches to past Final Four teams, and they are the quartet we officially pick to make it to Houston.  Syracuse becomes the wildcard team that could sneak into the mix.

 

Here is a look at the First Four Round One games and the 32 second round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.

 

First Four Round

 

#16 Texas-San Antonio 19-13 (Elim) vs. #16 Alabama State 17-17 (Elim)

At first, we thought this was highly ironic, but upon further review, we consider it sort of a compliment.  These two teams both must be eliminated based on negative R+T ratings.  Of course, one of them must win this game so that they can advance to a 25-point or more loss in the next round.

 

Most of you filling out your brackets do not have to worry about these games in Dayton.  You get to turn in your choices after these games have been played.

 

UTSA has better criteria numbers after you factor out both teams’ R+T numbers. 

 

Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55

 

 

#12 U A B 22-8 (2) vs. #12 Clemson 21-11 (1)

If you have been following the “experts” since the pairings were announced Sunday evening, then you know that these two teams do not belong in the tournament in their opinion.  It is not our mission statement to declare which teams should and should not have been included in the Big Dance, but we will tell you that Harvard and Saint Mary’s enjoyed Criteria scores several points better than these two teams, while Colorado and Virginia Tech had equal numbers to these two.

 

This game should be as close as the criteria scores show.  UAB has a one-point advantage in the criteria, but the Blazers just do not excel in any stage of the game.  Clemson’s strong point is forcing turnovers by way of steals, and that leads to a lot of cheap baskets.  Cheap baskets pay off big time in the NCAA Tournament, so we will take the Tigers in this one.

 

Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67

 

#11 Southern Cal 19-14 (-1) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 23-11 (-1)

The winner of this game is going home two days later.  Neither team merits inclusion in the Big Dance this year. 

 

Southern Cal has no apparent weakness according to the PiRate Criteria.  In fact, they have a great resume—for an NIT team.

 

The Trojans outscore their opponents by four points per game, and they outshoot them by 3.3%.  They have a small rebounding margin of 1.2, and they have an even smaller turnover margin of 0.6.  They average six steals per game and have a R+T rating of 2.1.  On top of these modest numbers, their schedule was average.

 

VCU is much in the same boat as USC with two exceptions.  They have a negative turnover margin, but they also average 8.5 steals per game.

 

The only other difference in these teams is their records away from home.  USC won only 41% of their games, while VCU won 60%.

 

This one is quite tough to pick, but we will go with the Trojans due to their superior inside talent.  We expect USC to win the rebounding edge by at least five.

 

Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60

 

#16 UNC-Asheville 19-13 (-5) vs. #16 Arkansas-Little Rock 19-16 (-13)

Obviously, we have two teams that would not even merit NIT bids had they lost in the championship games of their conference tournaments.  UALR has one of the lowest Criteria Scores in the seven years we have been calculating this data.

 

UNC-Asheville actually has a couple of positive Criteria stats.  Their R+T is 5.5, which had it come against a more difficult schedule, would have made them worthy of becoming a possible team to watch in the Round of 64.

 

We will go with UNCA here, as schedule strength is about the same for both teams.

 

Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59

 

 

Second-Round Games

 

East Regional

 

#1 Ohio State 32-2 (21) vs. #16 UTSA (Elim)/Alabama State (Elim)

This game will be over quickly.  There will be no scare, not even for two TV timeouts.  The second highest Criteria score versus one of the teams with an R+T Rating of “Eliminate.”

 

The Buckeyes outscored their opponents by more than 17 points per game.  Their strength of schedule was 13 points better than UTSA and 16 points better than Alabama State. 

 

We will go under the theory that UTSA will be the opponent in this game.  Using our Criteria Rating, Ohio State figures to be 30-40 points better than UTSA.  Coach Thad Matta will definitely empty his bench early in this game, so the Buckeyes may “only win” by 25-30. 

 

Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50

 

#8 George Mason 26-6 (8) vs. #9 Villanova 21-11 (5)

George Mason is the higher seed in this game, so if they win, it cannot really be considered an upset.

 

Villanova was on course to be a four-seed when the Wildcats were 16-5 and contending for the Big East Conference regular season title.  The Wildcats could not compete down low against the more physical teams in their league.

 

George Mason has a higher PiRate Criteria Score, but it is not an insurmountable advantage.  The key stat for this game is the R+T Rating.  For GMU, it is 6.8.  For VU, it is 4.9.  Considering that Villanova played a harder schedule, these numbers basically cancel each other out, thus making this a tossup game.

 

There are two variables to consider here.  George Mason performed much better on the road, and Villanova is banged up a bit.

 

Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62

 

#5 West Virginia 20-11 (6) vs. #12 UAB (2)/Clemson (1)

We believe the Mountaineers will be facing Clemson in this game, but the prediction will hold up if they play UAB. 

 

West Virginia is not as good this season as last season, and the Mountaineers will not advance to the Final Four, or even the Elite Eight.  They are liable to be out by the end of the weekend.  However, they are strong enough to get into the Round of 32. 

 

The Mountaineers best attribute is that they put up decent numbers against one of the toughest schedules in the country.  Of the NCAA Tournament teams, only Georgetown played a tougher schedule.  They will have to limit turnovers, or else this game will be close and go down to the wire.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins will be able to keep the pace at a level he likes and not allow Clemson (or UAB) to force the Mountaineers into enough mistakes to turn the tide.

 

Prediction: West Virginia 69  Clemson 62 (Or UAB 58)

 

#4 Kentucky 25-8 (14) vs. #13 Princeton 25-6 (-2)

Princeton has pulled off the big upset in the past, and they came within a missed jumper at the buzzer of becoming the only #16 seed to beat a #1 seed.  However, that was two decades ago.  The Tigers have not been to the NCAA Tournament in seven years, and that big win over UCLA was 15 years ago. 

 

Kentucky is not the type of team that will allow Princeton’s style of play to affect their style of play.  The Wildcats should actually play better than their norm with fewer mistakes. 

 

We believe that Princeton will actually crumble under relentless man-to-man pressure and turn the ball over enough times in the opening minutes of the game to allow the Wildcats to open a quick double-digit lead.  This group of Cats tends to fiddle around a little once they get a quick double-digit lead and then play uninspired ball until the opponent makes a run.  Then, they go on the attack at the right time and put the game away.

 

Adolph Rupp had a team just like this in 1958.  They were called “The Fiddlin’ Five.”  They were also called National Champions.  We won’t go so far as to put UK into this category, but we will advance the Wildcats into the next round and then into the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59

 

#6 Xavier 24-7 (8) vs. #11 Marquette 20-14 (3)

If you are looking for a tough, hard-fought game with two Midwestern teams, then tune into this game Friday evening.

 

If the Musketeers were a little more competent at forcing turnovers, they could be a dark horse candidate to advance to the Elite Eight.  XU shoots the ball well and plays well on defense when it comes to preventing a lot of easy shots.  They do well on the boards, and against a team that cannot exploit their ball-handling and ball-hawking deficiencies, they will hold their own inside.  The only other possible problem for the Musketeers is a lack of depth, but in the NCAA Tournaments, TV timeouts are longer.  It is hard to wear a team down with such long breaks every four or so minutes.

 

Marquette does not have enough depth to take advantage of Xavier’s lack of depth, so this factor will become a non-factor.  The Golden Eagles got to this tournament due to their ability to put the ball into the basket.  Marquette needs to shoot better than 46% to win, while Xavier is adept at holding teams under 45% as a rule.

 

Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65

 

#3 Syracuse 26-7 (17) vs. #14 Indiana State 20-13 (-4)

Syracuse has been getting very little national exposure since their 18-0 start ended with an 8-7 finish.  The Orangemen are a team to watch in this tournament.  If not for a pedestrian 71% winning percentage away from the Carrier Dome, we would have them as one of the top four teams in this tournament.

 

Coach Jim Boeheim’s team outscores their opposition by 10.3 points per game; they outshoot them by 7.6%, and they outrebound them by 3.6 boards per game.  Their turnover margin is +1.9, and they averaged almost nine steals per game.  Their R+T Rating is 7.6, and their Strength of Schedule is somewhere between above-average and very good.  This is the Criteria Score of a team that will advance to the Sweet 16 and compete for an Elite Eight and Final Four berth.

 

Indiana State needs the return of Larry Bird to win this game.  They are too perimeter-oriented.  The Sycamores do not have the beef down low to contend in the paint, and even though Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, teams rarely beat the Orangemen by firing up 25 long-range bombs.

 

This one smells like a blowout.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62

 

#7 Washington 23-10 (13) vs. #10 Georgia 21-11 (2)

Washington is one of those teams that can play with anybody in this tournament—when they are playing up to their potential.  The Huskies could also exit in the first round if they play like they did the weekend they went to Oregon and Oregon State.

 

Georgia is much more consistent, but their best effort will not defeat the Huskies’ best effort.

 

Washington lacked the seasoned experience this season, and it showed when they ventured away from Seattle.  The Huskies lost to weaker opponents because they lacked the composure to win on foreign courts.  That changed when they arrived in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament.  Isaiah Thomas took over command of the team and led them to the tournament title.  This makes UW a scary and dangerous team capable of returning to the Sweet 16.

 

Georgia must really dominate the glass in this game, because we believe they will turn the ball over too many times against UW’s pressure man-to-man defense.  It is our opinion that the Bulldogs will play a little timidly at the start of this game and find themselves in a hole.

 

The Bulldogs had trouble against Alabama’s defense, and Washington is similar but with a much better offense.

 

Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70

 

#2 North Carolina 26-7 (15) vs. #15 Long Island 27-5 (-1)

 

Long Island is just the type of team that can forget that their opponent is a dynasty program that chews up and spits out little programs like this.

 

Teams from Brooklyn don’t intimidate easily, especially when they are led by a trio of Texans.  So, LIU will not be intimidated, but will they be talented enough to make a game of this contest?

 

That’s the rub.  They lack the defensive ability to slow down the Tar Heels, while Coach Roy Williams’ team will be able to hold the Blackbirds under their scoring average.  The big problem for LIU will be holding onto the ball, and we could see North Carolina forcing 20 turnovers in this game.  When the Tar Heels force more turnovers than they commit, they are almost unbeatable.  This game could be interesting for a short time, but it will eventually get out of hand.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70

 

West Regional

 

#1 Duke 30-4 (15) vs. #16 Hampton 24-8 (-8)

Duke has nothing to worry about here.  This will be like one of their November/December home games where they quickly put the cupcake away with a barrage of power and speed.  You know the type: a 37-point win over Princeton; a 34-point win over Miami of Ohio; a 52-point win over Colgate.

 

Hampton got to the Dance using an aggressive defense and three-point shooting barrage on offense.  Duke will not be affected by the defensive pressure, and they will cut off the open shots from the outside.  It will be a mercy killing, and it will be quick.  Look for the Blue Devils to be up by more than 15 points before the halfway point of the first half.  By the time Coach K empties the bench, the Blue Devils should be up by 25-30 points.

 

Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61

 

#8 Michigan 20-13 (Elim) vs. #9 Tennessee 19-14 (10)

Michigan is the highest-rated team that fails to meet our R+T Rating requirement, so the Wolverines are automatically tabbed as a first-round loser.

 

Coach Jim Beilein has been in a similar position before.  He guided a West Virginia team with not-so-flashy Criteria numbers to the Elite Eight, where they forced Louisville to come from 20 points down to rally for the victory.  That WVU team had one of the worst negative rebounding numbers of any team in Elite Eight history, but that team made few mistakes and had a nice turnover margin.

 

This Michigan team was only outrebounded by two a game, but they do not create enough extra possessions with their miniscule turnover margin of 1.4 and their average of just 4.7 steals per game.

 

Tennessee has been up and down, and the Volunteers are not going to make a repeat run to the Elite Eight this year.  However, Coach Bruce Pearl’s troops will control the boards in this game and maybe force more turnovers than they commit.  We figure that Tennessee will have 10 more opportunities to score in this game, and that is too many for the Wolverines to make up with their three-point shooting.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69

 

#5 Arizona 27-7 (3) vs. #12 Memphis 25-9 (-1)

Memphis was not going to earn an at-large bid this season had they failed to win the Conference USA Tournament.  They received an ideal first round opponent, and the Tigers actually have a fighting chance to pull off yet another classic #12-seed over #5-seed upset.

 

Arizona needs to pound the ball inside and rely on numerous offensive rebounds to win this game.  Other teams might be able to exploit Memphis’s poor ball-handling skills, but the Wildcats do not have the defensive acumen to take advantage here.

 

Memphis will try to make this an up-tempo game where they can neutralize Arizona’s height advantage inside.  It has a chance of working, but Arizona probably has too much power inside and just enough quickness to stop the Tigers’ transition game.

 

Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69

 

#4 Texas 27-7 (18) vs. #13 Oakland 25-9 (3)

This has become a popular upset pick in the media.  Oakland has generated a lot of positive press, and many “experts” are calling for the upset in this game.  We are not one of them.  Not only do we believe the Longhorns will take care of Oakland with relative ease in this game, we believe Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the next two or three rounds. 

 

Let’s look at Texas’ Criteria Rating.  At 18, the ‘Horns rate as our sixth best team in the tournament.  They have a 13.5 point scoring margin, a 7.1% field goal margin, a 6.6 rebounding margin, and a 1.2 turnover margin.  Their only Achilles Heel is a low amount of steals resulting in a R+T Rating of 8.3.  Had that number been above 10, we would be selecting Coach Rick Barnes’ team for the Final Four.

 

Oakland won this year with strong rebounding and an excellent ability to force their opponents into bad shots.  Center Keith Benson is a future NBA player, but he is not enough to propel the Golden Grizzlies into the next round.

 

Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65

 

#6 Cincinnati 25-8 (9) vs. #11 Missouri 23-9 (10)

On paper, this looks like the best game of this round between a team with contrasting styles.

 

Cincinnati is one of the top defensive teams in the tournament.  The Bearcats are tough inside, and they have quality depth to continue playing hard in the paint. 

 

Missouri uses the “40 minutes of Hell” approach that Coach Mike Anderson learned under his mentor Nolan Richardson.  The Tigers press full court and run the fast break as often as they get the chance.  They are perimeter-oriented and can score a lot of points in a hurry.

 

When we try to decide tossup games, we look to the all-important defense and rebounding stats, since that is what wins close games in the Big Dance. 

 

Missouri is vulnerable in both of these crucial areas.  They have given up a lot of cheap baskets this year when teams solved their press.  The Tigers were outrebounded by 1.7 boards per game.

 

Cincinnati owns a +2.7 rebounding margin, and the Bearcats held onto the ball quite competently.  We believe Coach Mick Cronin’s crew will advance.

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65

 

#3 Connecticut 26-9 (9) vs. #14 Bucknell 25-8 (-4)

Ask Kansas Coach Bill Self if it is wise to underestimate Bucknell.  The Bison know how to hold onto the ball and work for intelligent shots.  Give them an opening, and they can bury you with a high field goal percentage.

 

Connecticut did the unthinkable by winning five games in five days.  Their defense does not get the merit it deserves, because Kemba Walker gets more attention for his offensive antics.  The Huskies actually held teams under 40% from the field.

 

Coach Jim Calhoun knows how to prepare a team for tournament action.  He will have UConn ready for this game, and the Huskies will not overlook the Bison.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58

 

#7 Temple 25-7 (5) vs. #10 Penn State 19-14 (-1)

Temple’s score must be tempered by the fact that they are a wounded team coming into this tournament.  Two starters suffered injuries late in the season, and one is out for the remainder of the year, while the other may or may not be ready to play.  We must throw out Temple’s score of “5” in the PiRate Criteria, because 40% of the key players that produced that number will either not play or be greatly less effective.

 

Penn State is a lot like Southern Cal in this tournament.  The Nittany Lions have the look of a strong NIT team.  Aside from a so-so record against a strong schedule, they really have little to offer outside of one star player. 

 

We believe this Keystone State rivalry game will be close, and it could come down to the last shot.  Because the Owls are limping, we will go with the Big Ten representative.

 

Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56

 

#2 San Diego State 32-2 (19) vs. #15 Northern Colorado 21-10 (-6)

Most of you reading this probably cannot remember Texas Western University, but you may have scene the movie where the Miners were too quick for Kentucky and pulled off the big upset to win the 1966 National Championship.  Maybe some of you remember the Long Beach State 49ers ascension into the top 10 under Jerry Tarkanian and then Lute Olson.  Still more can remember when Tark the Shark moved to UNLV and turned the Runnin’ Rebels into a national power.

 

San Diego State is the next Western team to fit this bill.  The Aztecs are legitimate contenders to advance deep into this tournament.  They have few exploitable weaknesses, and they are the best team West of the Rockies.  Coach Steve Fisher knows how to get teams ready for tournament play, as he has three Final Fours on his resume and one National Championship.

 

SDSU’s PiRate Criteria numbers are flashy.  Their scoring margin is 13.3 points per game.  Their FG% margin is 7.1%.  They outrebound their opposition by almost seven per game, and they force 1.6 more turnovers than they commit.  Their one weak spot is a pedestrian 6.2 steals average.  If they run up against a more powerful team inside, they could have trouble getting enough extra scoring opportunities.

 

Northern Colorado will not be one of those teams that can cause trouble for the Aztecs.  The Bears are a good rebounding team, but their rebounding prowess came against a schedule that rates 10 points weaker than San Diego State’s schedule.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51

 

Southwest Regional

#1 Kansas 32-2 (23) vs. #16 Boston U 21-13 (-11)

Kansas is a team on a mission.  The Jayhawks will not allow a repeat of what happened last year, and that extra incentive should be enough to send KU to Houston.

 

Kansas has the top PiRate Criteria Score this year.  They meet the basic requirements that most prior National Champions have met—scoring margin: 17.2; FG% margin: 11.7; Rebounding margin: 7.8; Turnover Margin: 0.9; Steals per game: 7.9; R+T Ratings: 9.5.

 

How do you beat this year’s KU team?  Kansas State and Texas pulled it off by matching up well inside and going head-to-head with them in the paint.

 

Boston U has the second lowest PiRate Criteria score of the 65 teams that have positive R+T Ratings.  The Terriers are way overmatched in this game, and they will have to be glad they just made it here.

 

Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62

 

#8 U N L V 24-8 (15) vs. #9 Illinois 19-13 (1)

If our ratings are worth their salt, then this game should not be all that close.  UNLV may be just the third best team in the Mountain West, but the MWC was better overall this year than the Pac-10.  Third best in the MWC makes the Runnin’ Rebels one of the dozen or so teams capable of making a two weekend run.

 

Coach Lon Kruger has taken two different teams to the Elite Eight (Kansas State and Florida).  His teams play intelligently without being flashy.

 

UNLV went 24-3 against teams not named Brigham Young or San Diego State.  They are not particularly strong on the boards, and this will eventually be their downfall.  The Rebels shoot the ball brilliantly, and they alter enough opponent shots to force a lower field goal percentage.  They also take care of the ball and do not make a lot of floor mistakes.

 

Illinois is an inconsistent, underachieving team.  This can be dangerous for the prognosticator, because it is difficult if not impossible to predict which schizophrenic state will appear for each game.

 

The Illini are not particularly strong on the glass or at taking care of the ball, and that is a recipe for disaster when the opponent is as good as UNLV.  Even if Illinois comes out playing their best basketball, it may not be enough to beat UNLV playing their typical game.

 

Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64

 

#5 Vanderbilt 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Richmond 26-7 (2)

Here is another game getting a lot of attention due to its upset potential.  Historically, the #12 seed produces the a lot of great upsets.

 

This game could go either way.  Both teams have exploitable weaknesses, and it just so happens that both teams’ have the assets capable of exploiting the other’s weaknesses.

 

Let’s start with Vanderbilt.  The Commodores are not particularly strong on the defensive perimeter.  Worthy opponents have been able to beat them off the drive and get a lot of open inside shots.  This weak perimeter defense has also led to frontcourt players having to help, thus leaving open holes near the basket.

 

Richmond’s offense is a modified version of the Princeton Offense.  The Spiders have the talent to get open shots inside and in the five to ten-foot range.

 

Richmond cannot rebound against more physical teams.  The Spiders make up for their rebounding liabilities by seldom throwing the ball away.

 

Vanderbilt has an excellent physical presence inside with three beefy players that can rebound the ball on offense and defense.

 

So, which team gets the edge in our PiRate Ratings?  We always look to defense in rebounding in tossup games.  Vanderbilt holds the rebounding edge, while Richmond holds the defensive edge.  It is basically a wash, so we have to look elsewhere.  While Richmond has been much better away from home, Vanderbilt’s schedule is seven points more difficult.  We’ll go with the power conference team, but not by much

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67

 

#4 Louisville 25-9 (12) vs. #13 Morehead State 24-9 (3)

This should be an interesting game, but in the end the big brothers are going to defeat their little brothers in this battle of two Bluegrass State teams.

 

40 years ago this week, another little brother upset a big brother on their way to a surprise appearance in the Final Four (later vacated).  In 1971, Western Kentucky did not just upset Kentucky, the Hilltoppers ran the Wildcats off the floor.  Can there be a repeat two score later?  No!

 

Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are vulnerable on the boards, and Morehead State has the nation’s best rebounder in the nation in Kenneth Faried.  However, the Eagles do not have enough talent or depth to keep up with Louisville.  They may emerge with a slight rebounding edge in this game, but it will not be enough to make up for all the open shots the Cardinals will get.

 

Louisville is going to run into trouble when they meet up with a team that can rebound and play credible defense.  That would be Kansas in the Sweet 16.  Until then, they have a relatively easy route to the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62

 

#6 Georgetown 21-10 (8) vs. #11 Southern Cal (-1)/Va. Commonwealth (-1)

Last year, we discussed Georgetown’s vulnerabilities and the probability that they would fail to make it past the first weekend.  We expected the Hoyas to fall as a favorite in their second game, but they were a one and done team.

 

This year’s team is not much better than last year’s Hoya team, but they received a much more favorable draw.

 

Coach John Thompson III’s Hoyas once again have a rather low R+T Rating thanks to a turnover margin of -1.9 and a low amount of steals per game.  They will exit from the tournament in the next round unless there is a monumental upset in their pairing.

 

Neither USC nor VCU has the talent to take advantage of Georgetown’s deficiencies.  The three teams combined have a R+T rating below Purdue’s.

 

One additional note: The Hoyas will be a tad bit better than their Criteria Score in the tournament.  Chris Wright suffered a hand fracture in the middle of the schedule, and he is expected to be near 100% for the tournament.  You have to add maybe one point to their Criteria Score, but that is not enough to put them over the top in their second game.

 

Prediction: Georgetown 69  Southern Cal 61 (or VCU 60)

 

#3 Purdue 25-7 (16) vs. #14 St. Peter’s 20-13 (-7)

If only… Purdue fans will never know just how good their team might have been with Robbie Hummel joining JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore playing together.  This would have been the best Boilermaker team since Rick Mount led Purdue to the Championship Game against UCLA in 1969.

 

The Boilermakers no longer have that one glaring weakness that Gene Keady’s teams had and thus prevented Purdue from getting past the second round.  This team does well on the boards like most of those past Purdue teams, but they are particularly strong when it comes to forcing turnovers and taking advantage by converting steals into points.  It is the way many teams go on runs that put opponents out of commission.

 

St. Peter’s just barely avoided being immediately eliminated with a negative R+T Rating.  They squeaked by at 0.1.  It might as well be a negative number, as the Peacocks were outrebounded by 0.4 per game and had a turnover margin of -0.9 against a schedule that was four points below average and seven points weaker than the schedule Purdue faced.

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56

 

#7 Texas A&M 24-8 (8) vs. #10 Florida State 21-10 (2)

The Big 12’s third best team has enough talent to challenge for a Sweet 16 berth.  We’ll leave the next round for another time and talk about this game.

 

The Aggies have no glaring weakness, and they have a few strengths, namely rebounding and defense (which wins games in the NCAA Tournament).  They are much like Kansas Lite.  A&M was not a team of surprises during the regular season.  They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and failed to upset the teams better than they were.  We expect the trend to continue.  They are better than the Seminoles.

 

Florida State does not take good care of the ball, and that costs them in confrontations against good opponents.  The Seminoles do not play particularly well away from Tallahassee, and they should be making a quick exit from the Dance.

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65

 

#2 Notre Dame 26-6 (11) vs. #15 Akron 23-12 (-9)

This is the best Irish team since Digger Phelps led Notre Dame in the late 1980’s.  Throw in the fact that this team has a chip on its shoulders following a first round exit last year, and the Irish have to be considered the Sweet 16 favorite in their four-team pairing this weekend.

 

The Irish finished the regular season with a scoring margin of 10.4 points per game.  Down the stretch, they went 7-2 against teams in this tournament.  The Selection Committee placed Notre Dame in a bracket that should provide a very memorable Sweet 16 contest against one of their most bitter arch-rivals.

 

Akron has a big seven-foot center, but the Zips do not rebound the ball all that well.  Zeke Marshall, the aforementioned big man, concentrates his efforts on blocking shots, and he frequently is not in position to rebound the ball.  So, the blocked shot frequently turns into a made basket off an offensive rebound.  The Zips did not fare well on the road this year, and with a considerably weaker schedule than average, this does not bode well.

 

Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57

 

Southeast Regional

#1 Pittsburgh 27-5 (18) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (-5)/U A L R (-13)

One of us here at the PiRate Ratings might be dating himself, but he sees a lot of the 1962 Cincinnati Bearcats in this year’s Pitt team.  The Panthers have a dominating inside power game that will pulverize any finesse team that cannot hit 10 three-pointers.  Neither UNCA nor UALR has a remote chance to make this game a close contest.

 

Pitt outscored their opposition by 13.1 points per game.  This stat looks even better when you factor in that they compiled this gaudy stat playing in a league that produced 11 NCAA Tournament teams.  The Panthers outshot their opponents by 7.6%, and they totally dominated the glass with a 10.4 rebounding advantage.  If you are thinking the way to beat them is to play a packed in zone, think again.  Ashton Gibbs can bury you from outside with his near 50% three-point accuracy, and Brad Wannamaker can still get the ball inside to one of the bruisers waiting to punish you with a thunder dunk.

 

Only a negative turnover margin prevents the Panthers from being there with Kansas as a co-favorite for winning all the marbles.

 

Pitt’s cupcake opponent will have to be happy with winning their First Four game, because they will be humiliated in this game.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 78  UNC-Asheville 54 (or UALR 48)

 

#8 Butler 23-9 (7) vs. #9 Old Dominion 27-6 (10)

This is the second best matchup in this round, and the winner will put a scare into Pittsburgh in the next round and even have a decent shot at the upset.

 

Butler is now the hunted rather than the hunter.  The Bulldogs will not sneak up on anybody this year.  More importantly, they are not as talented as they were last year.  The Bulldogs fared much better on the road last year than this season.  However, down the stretch, Butler started to look like a team proficient enough to get past the first weekend once again.

 

Old Dominion has the talent to advance past the first weekend as well.  The Monarchs are a miniature version of Pittsburgh, the team they would face in the next round should they win this game.

 

ODU is the nation’s number one rebounding team with a +12.2 margin.  The Monarchs’ schedule was not outstanding, but it was on par with several teams from the so-called power conferences, and they finished 6-4 against teams in this tournament.  This is a better ODU team than the one that upset Notre Dame in the first round last year, and this game should be one you do not want to miss.

 

 

Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime

 

#5 Kansas State 22-10 (9) vs. #12 Utah State 30-3 (14)

This is the one game where a number 12 seed winning would not really be all that much of an upset.  Utah State should have been a top eight seed in this tournament.  If we were conspiracy buffs, we would say that the Selection Committee searched for a team that the Aggies do not match up with all that well and placed them in this spot to verify their actions.

 

Kansas State does not take care of the ball well enough to advance very deep into this tournament, but their first game opponent cannot take advantage of that weakness.

 

Utah State has dominated their opponents by forcing them to play a patient half-court game with very little scoring in transition.  They prefer to work the ball patiently for a good shot and then force opponents to take a low-percentage shot.  Thus, the Aggies outrebound their opponents, but they do so by forcing more bad shots than by out-leaping their opponents.

 

Kansas State has the talent to force Utah State to play at a quicker tempo and force them to defend one-on-one.  Jacob Pullen is a poor man’s (and smaller) Derrick Rose.  He can break down most opponents off the dribble, and he should be able to force USU to resort to some type of combination defense to keep him from going wild.

 

What scares us most about Utah State is that they had two opportunities to show they are deserving of their lofty ranking.  They lost to BYU and to Georgetown, and they never really threatened to pull of the upset in either game.

 

This is one game where we are going to go against our own chalk.  Kansas State’s schedule was seven points tougher, and the Wildcats can exploit the Aggies’ weaknesses.

 

Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63

 

#4 Wisconsin 23-8 (7) vs. #13 Belmont 30-4 (9)

This game has become the most-picked upset special around the nation.  Belmont is being compared with Butler of last year.  The Bruins are lofty of all this attention-gathering admiration, but Wisconsin is not the Washington Generals.

 

Belmont has the highest scoring margin in the nation at 18.4 points per game.  The Bruins outshot their opposition by 5.7% per game, and they took a lot of three-point attempts.  They outrebounded their opponents by 3.9, and they had an eye-popping 5.3 turnover margin.  They share the top steals per game average in this tournament with Missouri at 9.7, and their R+T Rating is the best in the tournament at 16.2 (three better than number two Ohio State).

 

Of course, these statistics were compiled against inferior competition.  Belmont’s schedule strength is nine points below the national average and a dozen below their first round opponent.  Against the opponents that made it to this tournament, they were 1-3.  They beat Alabama State by 13.  The three losses were on the road to in-state rivals Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt, but they led in the second half of those games.

 

The last time Belmont was in the Big Dance, the Bruins came within a missed last shot of sending Duke home.   

 

Wisconsin was not expected to be this good in 2011.  This was supposed to be a minor rebuilding season for the Badgers.  The Badgers usually run Coach Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense with great efficiency, rarely turning the ball over.  They outscored their opponents by 9.9 points per game, and they outshot they outrebounded them by 3.8 boards per game. 

 

The Badgers have been a hot and cold team this year.  When they have been hot, they have been nearly unbeatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  When they have been cold, they have been easily beatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  They finished the season as cold as ice, so the Badgers must be considered a slight underdog in this game.

 

Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70

 

#6 St. John’s 21-11 (9) vs. #11 Gonzaga 24-9 (13)

Here is a game where we believe the seedings should be switched.  Gonzaga has been here enough times to be considered a regular in the NCAA Tournament, like Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, and Connecticut.  This makes a baker’s dozen consecutive appearances in the Big Dance for the Bulldogs. 

 

In past years, Gonzaga had a big scorer that could take over games.  Adam Morrison comes to mind.  This year, the Zags are more difficult to prepare for, because they are more team-oriented.  There is not a big star on the roster, but all five starters are capable of taking the team on his shoulders with a hot night.

 

In their nine-game winning streak to close the season, Gonzaga eliminated Saint Mary’s from the Dance party with two victories.  The Bulldogs scoring margin in those nine games was 76-58.  This is a good team playing its best ball of the year, and we expect Coach Mark Few to win yet another NCAA Tournament game.

 

St. John’s comes into the tournament minus one of its stars.  Starting forward D. J. Kennedy went down for the season with a knee injury in the Big East Tournament, and the Red Storm is now suspect in the paint.  Their Criteria Score of nine should be discounted by two to three points.  It is enough to take this contest from tossup status to near-comfortable status for Gonzaga.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66

 

#3 Brigham Young 30-4 (18) vs. #14 Wofford 21-12 (-1)

So, you didn’t get a chance to see Pete Maravich play at LSU in 1968, 1969, or 1970, eh?  We must admit that nobody will ever be the collegiate equal for Maravich, but Jimmer Fredette may be the closest thing to him.

 

Throw out the floppy socks and floppy Beatles haircut and throw out some of the most unbelievable passes in the history of the game (so unbelievable that Maravich’s teammates frequently could not see them coming), and Fredette is not that far behind Maravich.

 

The sports nation will be turning its eyes to this game just to see if Fredette can make a run at a single game scoring mark.  If we remember correctly, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr set the mark back in 1970 with 61 points against Ohio U in a regional qualifier game.

 

BYU may have been a strong Final Four contender had Brandon Davies not loved his girlfriend so much.  The Cougars averaged 8.7 fewer points per game once Davies was suspended. 

 

Wofford will not be able to take much advantage of Davies’ absence.  The Terriers fared well in all PiRate Criteria categories, but they did not meet even the minimum “numbers to look for” in any category, and their schedule strength was five points below the norm. 

 

Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63

 

#7 U C L A 22-10 (-3) vs. #10 Michigan State 19-14 (1)

If only this were a few years ago.  Neither of these historically dominating teams is going to make waves in this year’s tournament, and the winner will be around for just one more game.

 

UCLA would be a national title contender if Kevin Love had stuck around for four years.  Imagine Love as a senior on this team.  Can you say Bill Walton-like numbers?  Alas, the Bruins must get by with a couple of well above-average forwards instead of the best three-man tandem in the nation.

 

The Bruins have the worst turnover margin of any team in this tournament.  At -3.4, UCLA would need to dominate on the boards, and while they usually win that battle, it is anything but dominating.

 

Michigan State’s one asset year in and year out under Coach Tom Izzo has been their rebounding acumen.  For most teams, a +4.3 edge on the boards would be considered outstanding, but in East Lansing, this is considered a down year. 

 

Neither team has done all that well away from their home court this season, and there really is only one stat where one team stands out ahead of the other.  MSU’s schedule was four points tougher than UCLA’s schedule.  That’s our spread for this game.  

 

Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60

 

#2 Florida 26-7 (15) vs. #15 UC-Santa Barbara 18-13 (-10)

The Gators looked like a potential Final Four team in the last month, at least when they were not playing Kentucky.  UCSB is not Kentucky. 

 

Florida tends to commit too many floor mistakes to win four games in this year’s tournament.  They have enough talent to get through the first weekend, but we do not see the Gators extending their stay after that.

 

UCSB upset Long Beach State to get here, and the Gauchos are one of the weakest teams in the tournament according to our Criteria Score.  With negative rebounding and turnover margins, they just barely escape automatic elimination with a R+T rating of 0.3. 

 

Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54

 

 

 

Our Bracket

 

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

 

Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State

 

Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga

 

Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida

 

Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh

 

National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

March 27, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament: The Elite 8–March 28-29, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament

The Elite 8

 March 28-29, 2009

 

We’ve decided to combine the Saturday and Sunday games into one blog since this is being compiled late Friday night after the games have ended.

 

It’s not quite the Big East Tournament part two, but it looks like there will be two and as many as three Big East teams headed to Detroit.

 

Our Sweet 16 picking brought an end to our chances of hitting the national champion for a fourth consecutive season.  We missed that pick, although we did mention that we thought Missouri should be the true favorite in that game and that they could easily run out to a quick double-digit lead in the game.  We also must admit that our mentor and originator of this blog told us to watch Missouri knock Memphis out, and we didn’t listen as much as we should have.

 

So, which teams left in the tournament still possess all the PiRate Criteria necessary to win it all?  In the East, Pitt easily qualifies.  Villanova now qualifies if you factor in their win over Duke, since their points per game margin reached 10.0 following the easy win.  In the Southeast, North Carolina qualifies, but Oklahoma just misses.  In the Midwest, Louisville qualifies but not Michigan State.  In the West, Connecticut and Missouri both qualify.  Seven of the eight remaining teams qualify, and the one that misses does so by a mere one point. 

 

Of the original 11 teams we listed as super teams possessing the statistical criteria similar to past champions, five have made it to the Elite 8 round. 

 

Our record for the Sweet 16 was just 5-3, bringing the three round total to 43-13.

 

 

(numbers in parentheses are PiRate Criteria scores)

[number in brackets is Strength of Schedule advantage]

 

East Region @ Boston

 

Pittsburgh (14) vs. Villanova (9) [Pittsburgh 2]

Game Time: Saturday, 7:00 PM EDT

These teams played just once during the regular season with Villanova winning by 10 at home.  In that game, Pitt’s Dejuan Blair sat on the bench with foul trouble for much of the night.

 

With Blair staying out of foul trouble this time, we think the Panthers will advance to their first Final Four.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 72 Villanova 64

 

South Region @ Memphis

 

North Carolina (17) vs. Oklahoma (9) [Even Strength]

Game Time: Sunday, 5:00 PM EDT

What a great match between two dominant big men we have here!  Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin are two of the top five college players in the game. 

 

Griffin may end up with the better numbers in this game, but Hansbrough has a much better supporting cast.  The Tar Heels will advance yet again to another Final Four.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 85 Oklahoma 73

 

Midwest Region @ Indianapolis

 

Louisville (10) vs. Michigan State (7) [Mich. State 1]

Game Time: Sunday, 2:20 PM EDT

The Two games on this side of the bracket provide us with great studies in contrast.  A quick, full-court team will take on an inside banger team that has some decent outside shooting.

 

Four of Louisville’s five losses came to teams that can bang the ball inside and get plenty of offensive rebounds.  Connecticut, Notre Dame, Minnesota, and UNLV all play a game similar to Michigan State.  The Spartans are capable of holding the Cardinals under 45% shooting and take 55% of the rebounds.  Capable yes, but we don’t think it will happen.  Rick Pitino will guide UL back to the Final Four.

 

Prediction: Louisville 70 Michigan State 63

 

West Region @ Glendale, AZ

 

Connecticut (14) vs. Missouri (12) [Connecticut 1]

Game Time: Saturday, 4:30 PM EDT

We think this will be the best game of the four in this round.  Missouri looked every bit as good as the 1994 Arkansas team that won the NCAA Championship, a team with current Tiger coach Mike Anderson on the bench as an assistant.

 

On the other hand, UConn looks every bit as good if not better than the two Husky teams that won national titles.

 

We don’t think Mizzou will be able to force all that many turnovers in this game, and if they only pick up 8-10 steals, it will not be enough.  They need 12-15 steals to have a chance to win this game.

 

Connecticut’s inside game will be too strong for MU, and we think it will force the Tigers into foul trouble. 

 

Prediction: Connecticut 86 Missouri 74

March 25, 2009

A PiRate Look At The 2009 NCAA Tournament: The Sweet 16

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament

The Sweet 16

 March 26-27, 2009

 

As the Sweet 16 prepares to begin play tomorrow night, our PiRate Formula for picking teams that display the necessary statistics similar to the historical Final Four participants and National Champions are once again proving to be quite accurate.  We consider it the SABRmetrics of college basketball.

 

We originally told you about our list of the 12 Super Teams in this tournament.  We apologize for our not being able to count.  We only listed 11 teams.  Of those 11 teams, eight advanced to the Sweet 16.  One of the three teams, UCLA, lost to Villanova.  Villanova just barely missed out on qualifying for the Super Team list, and they basically got to host their first two games at the Spectrum.  Only Wake Forest and West Virginia’s losses can really be listed as misses.

 

On Sunday, our picks ran the table, going 8-0.  Combined with Saturday’s games, our second round success rate was 14-2.  For the tournament to date, we are now 38-10.

 

Without further adieu, here are the eight games for the third round.  The criteria scores and Strengths of Schedule have been updated to reflect the two games in the tournament.

 

(numbers in parentheses are PiRate Criteria scores)

[number in brackets is Strength of Schedule advantage]

 

East Region @ Boston

 

Pittsburgh (14) vs. Xavier (10) [Pitt 3]

Game Time: Thursday, 7:27 PM EDT

This is an interesting match if only because Xavier coach Sean Miller was once a starter on a great Pitt team. 

 

The way to beat Pitt is to force them to commit turnovers and play transition defense.  The Musketeers are more like Pitt than like the type of team needed to beat the Panthers.  Xavier cannot match up inside with the more muscular Pitt inside, and the Panthers will advance to the Elite 8.  Xavier’s only chance is to take 30 three-point shots and hit 40%.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 74 Xavier 64

 

Villanova (9) vs. Duke (14) [Duke 4]

Game Time: Thursday, approximately 9:42 PM EDT

Villanova missed out on being rated at 13 by just a hair.  This game is being touted as one in which the 3-seed Wildcats should be favored over the 2-seed Blue Devils. 

 

This game provides an excellent study in contrast.  VU has a great deal of talent inside with a surprising outside presence.  Duke has a great deal of talent on the perimeter with a surprising inside presence.

 

This should be a close game throughout the first half and a good deal of the second half.  Then, we believe the Duke defense will begin to force Villanova into mistakes and take advantage of those errors.  It should lead to a nice Blue Devil run in the last 10 minutes to move Coach K to the Elite 8.

 

Prediction: Duke 77 Villanova 70

 

South Region @ Memphis

 

Syracuse (4) vs. Oklahoma (9) [Syracuse 2]

Game Time: Friday, 7:27 PM EDT

This is the only Sweet 16 game in which neither team owns a double digit criteria score.  What it means to us is that the winner of this game will lose in the Elite 8 game Sunday.

 

This one should be a tight contest.  Syracuse’s zone defense should reduce the number of looks for Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin.  The Sooners have an ample trio of outside shooters, and they will have to step it up a notch to beat the Orangemen.  If Tony Crocker, Willie Warren, and Austin Johnson are hot, the Sooners will continue to play on Sunday.

 

Syracuse will have to pack in their zone to keep Griffin from killing them inside.  They will score points on offense, but they may give up points just even quicker if they cannot cover the perimeter when the ball is kicked out from the posts.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 82 Syracuse 75

 

 

North Carolina (17) vs. Gonzaga (17) [N. Carolina 5]

Game Time: Friday, approximately 9:42 PM EDT

Gonzaga shares the second best PiRate criteria score with their opponent, but the Bulldogs compiled their stats against an inferior schedule.  Even though they played some big time teams, including Memphis and Connecticut, they played too many teams well beneath the average. 

 

North Carolina will not be able to just walk all over the Zags.  We expect GU to stay within striking distance for at least 30-32 minutes, and we wouldn’t be shocked if they led at any point of that time.

 

The Tar Heels will supposedly have Ty Lawson near 100% ready for this game.  Their bench is much more potent than Gonzaga’s, and we think they will eventually wear down the Bulldogs.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 85 Gonzaga 74

 

Midwest Region @ Indianapolis

 

Louisville (10) vs. Arizona (-2) [Louisville 2]

Game Time: Friday, 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona is the one team in the Sweet 16 that we feel doesn’t have the talent of the other 15 teams.  We didn’t think the Wildcats would make it this far, and we honestly felt that Penn State deserved to be here in their place.

 

The players heard for days that they didn’t deserve to be in the Dance, and that motivated them to play great ball last weekend.  We think this weekend will be different.

 

Louisville has not played like a number one seed of the entire tournament.  They got a virtual bye in the first round against Morehead State, and they could have easily lost to Siena in round two.  The Cardinals might stumble through for a third time and win only because their opponent is the weakest of the Sweet 16 teams.  It may be UL’s last win of the season if they don’t play more consistently.

 

Prediction: Louisville 69 Arizona 64

 

Kansas (10) vs. Michigan State (7) [Mich. St. 1]

Game Time: Approximately 9:22 PM EDT

This game should be a rugged, jaw-to-jaw contest of teams that like to bang it.  Both teams control the boards in their games, and it will be interesting to see if either can dominate the other.  We’ll call it a standoff in this stat.

 

Both teams’ weakness is their ability to take advantage of turnover margin.  If either team were playing somebody like Missouri this week, we would feel inclined to pick them to lose.  Since neither team will be able to force a bunch of mistakes and capitalize with a great fast break, we will call this a standoff as well.

 

We think the game will be decided by KU’s defense.  The Jayhawks will force MSU to shoot a lower percentage of shots and not receive their usual amount of offensive rebounds to hold the Spartans well below their points per game average.  We’re not sure MSU can do the same to the Jayhawks, so we’re picking the defending champions to return to the Elite 8.

 

Prediction: Kansas 72 Michigan State 67

 

West Region @ Glendale, AZ

 

Connecticut (14) vs. Purdue (6) [Even Strength]

Game Time: Thursday, 7:07 PM EDT

This looks like a potential mismatch, but some late developments may have the UConn players not ready mentally for this game.  A report by Yahoo Sports that the Huskies broke several NCAA rules when it recruited a former player may make it difficult for the players to properly prepare for this game.

 

Purdue doesn’t have the tools needed to beat Connecticut.  It takes a team with solid strength in the paint, and the Boilermakers don’t have the inside firepower.  Only a poorly played game by the top seed would make this one close.

 

We think the Huskies will start out a little bit off their game, but after a couple of TV timeouts, they should settle down and start playing well.  As long as Hasheem Thabeet stays out of foul trouble and plays about 25 minutes in this game, UConn should win by double digits.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 73 Purdue 60

 

Missouri (12) vs. Memphis (19) [Even Strength]

Game Time: Thursday, Approximately 9:22 PM EDT

This is the can’t miss game of the Sweet 16.  Both teams are strong in every aspect of the game.  Nary of foot of the court will be free parking for either team.  It will be a fast-paced game with the players on both teams trying to show up their opponents.

 

Yes, we picked Memphis to make it to the Championship Game and win it all, but we are not so sure they are the true favorite in this game.  Missouri won’t be intimidated, and if the Memphians come out flat like they did in the first round, Mizzou’s fast break game will quickly run out to a double-digit game.

 

All in all, we think Memphis will be pumped to play the Big 12 Tournament Champions.  This is a border war game, and neither team should be flat.  We’re going with Memphis only because we picked them to win the title.  In reality, we think this is a 50-50 contest.

 

Prediction: Memphis 77 Missouri 75

 

Come back Friday for a look at Saturday’s games and Saturday for a look at Sunday’s games.

March 21, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament: 2nd Round Games Played On Sunday, March 22, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament

2nd Round Games Played On

Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

Friday’s games were a little more surprising than Thursday’s games, and several of the games that were won by the team expected to win were exciting and tough to the finish.  Siena has now won first round games in consecutive years over teams from a power conference.  The Saints could be on the verge of becoming Gonzaga East.

 

Our picks for day two went 11-5, bringing our total for round one to 24-8.  FWIW, we not only picked Siena to beat Ohio State, we almost hit the score exactly, missing by just two points.  Of course, a broken watch displays the correct time twice a day.

 

Here is a look at the Round of 32 games for Sunday.

 

(numbers in parentheses are PiRate Criteria scores)

 

East Region

Pittsburgh (14) vs. Oklahoma State (0) [Schedule strengths are equal]: The Panthers struggled against East Tennessee’s pressure defense, committing numerous turnovers.  They could have easily become the first number one seed to lose to a 16-seed.  Oklahoma State is a quicker, better version of ETSU, but Pittsburgh should be able to hold off the pesky Cowboys.  We expect Pitt to be ready for OSU’s pressure and play less error-prone ball.  Pittsburgh will advance to the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 73 Oklahoma State 62

 

Wisconsin (2) vs. Xavier (8) [Wisconsin has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]: The Badgers held on tough to eke out an overtime win over Florida State Friday night, while Xavier had an easier workout against Portland State.  The Musketeers could sneak into the Sweet 16.  They are the type of team that can beat Pittsburgh and even Duke if their three big shooters are on their mark.  We believe Wisconsin’s best days are two years down the road, and it is a credit to Coach Bo Ryan to get them to the second round this year.  However, we expect the Badgers to be out of the Dance after this one.

 

Prediction: Xavier 64 Wisconsin 57

 

South Region

Arizona State (4) vs. Syracuse (4) [Syracuse has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: This should be the best game of the day.  Arizona State has two excellent three-point shooters, and it takes a good outside shooting team to beat Syracuse.  The Orangemen will press the tempo and force the Sun Devils to play at a faster pace than they would like.  If Syracuse can keep from hitting the wall, they should advance.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 80 Arizona State 71

 

Midwest Region

Louisville (10) vs. Siena (5) [Louisville has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: Siena had enough talent to top Ohio State, but Louisville will be too much for the Saints to handle.  The Saints will not be able to beat the Cardinals playing the same game against a team with better athletes.

 

Prediction: Louisville 79 Siena 62

 

Arizona (-2) vs. Cleveland State (7) [Arizona has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: This should be a close game.  Arizona’s PiRate criteria score is a negative number, but when you add the four points for strength of schedule advantage, this game becomes a virtual tossup.  CSU plays terrific defense, while Arizona relies more on offense.  This game will be decided on the Cardinal side of the court.  If Jordan Hill can hit his inside shots, Arizona should prevail.  If Hill cannot get open or cannot connect from his normal range, then the Vikings can be this year’s surprise team in the Sweet 16.

 

Prediction: Arizona 65 Cleveland State 61

 

Dayton (5) vs. Kansas (10) [Kansas has a schedule 5 points per game stronger]: Kansas never expected North Dakota State to keep their round one game close for 35 minutes.  Dayton never really pulled away from West Virginia, but the Flyers led throughout their game.  Round two should be a different bird.  Kansas looked a little rusty after losing early in the Big 12 Tournament and going a week without playing.  They should play much better in round two, and Dayton won’t have enough talent to stop KU.

 

Prediction: Kansas 74 Dayton 64

 

Southern California (2) vs. Michigan State (7) [Michigan State has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]: On paper, Michigan State looks to be better than USC by double digit points.  However, USC has put it all together in the past two weeks and must be considered 7-10 points better today than they were in January.  We’ll stick with the Spartans to sneak by in this game, but a Trojan win would be no big surprise.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 71 Southern Cal 64

 

West Region

Missouri (14) vs. Marquette (9) [Schedule strengths are equal]: Missouri will wear Marquette down as the game wears on.  Eventually, the Tigers will go on a run in the second half and put this game out of reach.  A Memphis-Missouri Sweet 16 match would be possibly the most exciting game of the entire tournament.

 

Prediction: Missouri 74 Marquette 65

March 20, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament: 2nd Round Games Played On Saturday, March 21, 2009

A PiRate Look At The NCAA Tournament

2nd Round Games Played On

Saturday, March 21, 2009

 

Thursdays games basically went according to expectations with a few exceptions.  One number 12 seed won over a five-seed when Western Kentucky controlled Illinois for much of the night.  We told you we thought WKU could pull off the upset, even though the system chose Illinois (but could not adjust for the loss of a key starter).  For what it’s worth, our Thursday picks went 13-3.

 

Here is a look at the Round of 32 games for Saturday.

 

(numbers in parentheses are PiRate Criteria scores)

 

East Region

 

UCLA (14) vs. Villanova (9) [Villanova has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]: Both teams had scares in round one and were fortunate to survive to round two.  The Bruins have the criteria advantage here, but Villanova has home town advantage plus a slight strength of schedule advantage.  This game will look similar to the 1971 championship game between these same schools.  UCLA won that won by single digits.  That Villanova team had two stars, whereas the UCLA squad had five really good players.  Usually five really good players can beat two stars, but home town advantage eliminates that advantage.  We’ll go with the Bruins in a very close game.

 

Prediction: UCLA 64 Villanova 62

 

Texas (3) vs. Duke (14) [Duke has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: Duke has all the advantages here.  Watch Duke’s Gerald Henderson and Texas’s Damion James.  This is the key to this game.  If James can dominate better than Henderson, Texas has a chance.  We’ll select the Blue Devils to win, but it should be an interesting game.

 

Prediction: Duke 75 Texas 69

 

South Region

 

North Carolina (17) vs. LSU (14) [North Carolina has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: You usually never see two power conference championship teams facing off in the second round of the tournament, but the SEC is down this year.  So the regular season SEC champion faces the regular season ACC champion.  Add to that the fact that both of these teams have PiRate criteria in the double digit range.  This is almost a home game for the Tar Heels, and they are the dominant team in this region.  Carolina advances to the Sweet 16, and the SEC is done for the season.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 84 LSU 70

 

Western Kentucky (2) vs. Gonzaga (19) [Gonzaga has a schedule  2 points per game stronger]: Gonzaga turned it on in the final minutes of the night on Thursday and put Akron away with a quick spurt.  Western took control quickly in their game against Illinois and then held off the Illini at the end.  While the Hilltoppers advanced to the Sweet 16 last year, while Gonzaga went home early, we feel the Bulldogs are poised to make the trip to the next round this year.

 

Predicition: Gonzaga 77 Western Kentucky 70

 

Michigan (-4) vs. Oklahoma (9) [Michigan has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]: We can sum this game up in three words: Blake Griffin’s Health.  If Griffin is close to 100%, this game will be over Sooner than expected.  Michigan knocked Clemson out in the first round because the Tigers couldn’t shoot straight.  Oklahoma won’t miss all those open shots and second-chance shots.  Michigan will have to hit close to 50% of their shots to stay in this one and connect on 8 or more treys.  If Griffin isn’t at full strength, then this game becomes much closer and moves toward being a tossup.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 72 Michigan 63

 

West Region

 

Connecticut (12) vs. Texas A&M (2) [Connecticut has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]: We certainly hope UConn head coach Jim Calhoun is feeling much better, but we must begin to wonder if this could be his final year with the Huskies.  Maybe his players are beginning to think the same, and they want to make sure he goes out a champion.  It may or may not be the case, and they may or may not have the horses to go the distance, but the Huskies have enough in the tank to eliminate the Aggies.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 79 Texas A&M 73

 

Purdue (6) vs. Washington (9) [Washington has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]:  Purdue struggled with Northern Iowa, while Washington quickly dismissed Mississippi State.  We believe the Huskies will advance to the Sweet 16 to take on Connecticut in a game that will bring back memories for the fans and coaches of both schools.

 

Prediction: Washington 70 Purdue 60

 

Maryland (1) vs. Memphis (19) [Maryland has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]: Was Memphis playing a weak schedule all year when they ran up such a far record?  Are they the most overrated team since all those consecutive Depaul teams that lost in the first round when they were ranked number one or two in the nation?  We think not.  They ran into a tough team in the first round.  Maryland played a fantastic first game against Cal, and they could easily play another great one against Coach Cal.  In what we believe will be one of the most exciting games of the entire tournament, we’ll stick with the team we are picking to still be playing on April 6.

 

Prediction Memphis 72 Maryland 71

March 17, 2009

PiRate Bracketnomics: 12 Teams Can Win It All

PiRate Bracketnomics: 12 Teams Can Win It All

 

We hope you took time to read Tuesday’s Bracketnomics 505 course.  You need to read that first to understand the criteria used here at PiRate Central.

 

Using said criteria devised by our founder, we have isolated 12 teams capable of winning six games in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Unlike last year when there were four dominant teams, the dominance is diluted somewhat this season.  Last year, more than 10 teams could be immediately eliminated based on a negative R+T rating.  This season, only two teams (Mississippi State and Ohio State) fail to possess a positive R+T rating.  Thus, we will pick the Bulldogs’ and Buckeyes’ opponents to beat them.

 

Here is a look alphabetically at those 12 teams who best meet the criteria showing they are capable of going all the way.

 

Connecticut: The Huskies outscore their opposition by an average of 13.3 points per game.  They shoot 9.3% better than their opponents.  They own a rebounding margin of 8.4.  Their R+T is 7.6.  In most years, this would be good enough for a Sweet 16 berth and possible Elite 8 run.  This year, it is good enough to get them to the title game.  The Huskies will win their first game by as many as they want.  They will win game two rather easily.  In the Sweet 16, they could run into a bump if they face Washington, but they will clobber Purdue if the Boilermakers make it to Glendale, Arizona.  An Elite 8 match against either Missouri or Memphis will be a tough and exciting game.

 

Duke: The Blue Devils outscore their opposition by an average of 12.2 points per game.  They shoot only 1.8% better than the opposition, and that is their one weakness.  They out-rebound their opponents by 3 and have a 4.4 turnover margin, so they usually benefit with more scoring attempts.  Their R+T of 12 is good enough to get them through the first two rounds.  In the Sweet 16, they will face either UCLA, Villanova, or Virginia Commonwealth.  The Blue Devils would be expected to beat any of these three, but it wouldn’t be a cinch.  The Bruins also make this list.

 

Kansas: The defending National Champions are considerably weaker this year, but in a season where the NCAA is weaker, the Jayhawks have a shot at getting to Detroit.  Kansas outscores its opponents by 11.3 points per game.  They outshoot them by 9.1%, which is one of the best in the Dance.  They have a 7.3 rebounding advantage.  Their weakness is in turnover margin.  They don’t commit a bevy of turnovers, but they don’t force many this year.  That could hurt them if they face a team that can steal the ball.  Syracuse and Missouri exploited them in regular season victories.  A trip to the Sweet 16 is expected, but I think they could be in for a big shock in their first round game with North Dakota State.  It may take 36 minutes for KU to put this game away.  If they face Michigan State in a regional semi-final, the Jayhawks should win a tough, physical game.  Louisville might be too much to handle in an Elite 8 regional final.

 

Louisville: Rick Pitino has taken Providence and Kentucky to the Final Four.  Last year, he came close with UL.  This year, it looks like the Cardinals have the horses to make it to Detroit.  UL outscores their opposition by 12.3 points per game.  They shoot 5.8% better than their opponents.  They have a 2.5 rebounding advantage, a 2.7 turnover margin, and they average 9.3 steals per game.  Their R+T is 8.5.  Except for scoring margin, none of the other stats are dominant, but then again all of them are really good.  They have no weaknesses.

 

Memphis: Memphis wouldn’t normally qualify because they are not a member of one of the big six conferences.  However, the Tigers’ schedule was as strong as teams like Wake Forest and UCLA.  Just like last year, Memphis has what it takes to play six games in the tournament.  The Tigers outscore their opponents by 17.2 points per game, which qualifies them for elite dominance.  They shoot 8.1% better than their opposition.  Their rebounding margin is 6.2, and their turnover margin is 3.3.  They average 8.8 steals per game, and their R+T rating is a whopping 13.2.  This is a team that should cruise to the Elite 8, and then we would favor them over Connecticut.  Missouri could be a tough out in the Sweet 16, but the Tigers fit the criteria of a national champion.

 

Missouri: Coach Mike Anderson was an assistant at Arkansas when the Razorbacks made won the national title in 1994 and made it to the finals in 1995.  His Missouri Tigers play the same 40-minute, full-court game that Arkansas played in those days.  These type of teams can make up for so-so rebounding with exceptional turnover margin by way of steals.  The Tigers are a force to be reckoned with this year.  Missouri outscores their opponents by 14.6 points per game.  They outshoot them by 5.7%.  While they barely win the battle of the boards by an average of 0.4 per game, their turnover margin is 6.5, and they average a tournament best 10.6 steals per game.  With an R+T rating of 16.9, Missouri gets many chances to go on scoring runs.  In tight tournament games, as little as an 8-0 run in two minutes is enough to decide the game.  We like MU’s chances of winning their first two and getting to the Sweet 16.  They will have to face Memphis, and they will meet a team that can neutralize the press.  Although we believe Memphis will win and move on to the Final Four, Missouri just may be the toughest competition Memphis faces before Detroit.

 

North Carolina: We see the Tar Heels joining Memphis in Detroit.  UNC has the second best looking criteria after Memphis.  The Tar Heels outscore their opponents by an average of 17.4 points per game.  They shoot 6.5% better than they allow.  Their rebound margin is 7.3, and their turnover margin is 3.2.  The Heels average 8.5 steals per game, and their R+T is 13.8.  Their path to the Final Four is the easiest of any of the 12 teams listed here.  Radford will be little more than a scrimmage against the Tar Heel scrubs.  Neither LSU nor Butler has what it takes to beat them in round two.  Gonzaga could compete for a long time, but the Tar Heels would eventually overpower them.  In the region finals, UNC would handle Oklahoma, Clemson, Syracuse, or Arizona State.  The only thing that could keep the Tar Heels out of the Final Four is the injury to Ty Lawson.  If he can play up to his normal standards, we just cannot see another South Regional team beating them.

 

Pittsburgh: The Panthers defeated Connecticut twice but lost to Louisville.  They should be able to beat almost any team that tries to play physically against them, but they could run into trouble against fast teams that can score in transition.  Pitt outscores their opponents by 13.3 points per game.  They shoot 7.3% better than they allow.  Their rebounding margin of 9.8 is awesome, and their turnover margin of 1.1 further allows them extra scoring chances.  They average 7.1 steals per game, and their R+T rating is 11.7.  This is a team very capable of making it to Detroit.  They will handle East Tennessee with ease in round one and give their regulars ample rest.  Their round two game is going to be interesting, as both Tennessee and Oklahoma State have the necessary tools to aggravate the Panthers (much like the way Louisville did).  We still believe Pitt can get by either team and make the Sweet 16.  Their four possible Sweet 16 opponents do not have the skills to beat them, so if Pittsburgh gets to the Sweet 16, they will advance to the Elite 8 as well.  A regional final game against Duke would be a terrific game with both teams having a 50% chance of winning.  Ditto is they face Villanova, but the Panthers have revenge on their side in a match against the Wildcats. 

 

U C L A: This edition of Bruins is nothing like the last three editions in the Big Dance.  This UCLA team looks more like one of the Bruin teams from the Gary Cunningham/Larry Farmer/Walt Hazard years.  UCLA outscores their opponents by 12.7 points per game.  They shoot 4.9% better than they allow.  Their rebounding margin is 3.8, and their turnover margin is 3.6.  They steal the ball 8.4 times per game, and their R+T is 11.1.  Much like Louisville, the Bruins don’t really dominate in any phase, but they are really good in all phases.  As a 6-seed, they are not expected to make it past the field of 32, but it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if Ben Howland guides them back to the Elite 8.  Their first round game against VCU should be nip and tuck for a long time.  VCU won’t be able to rebound against them, and the Bruins should get enough offensive boards to win.  In the second round, we believe UCLA can upset Villanova.  They won’t get by Duke if they must play them for a trip to the Final Four, but an Elite 8 appearance would be a great accomplishment in a rebuilding season.

 

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are the third ACC team with a good shot of advancing deep into the tournament.  Wake outscores their opponents by an average of 11.1 points per game.  They shoot the ball 9.3% better than they allow.  Their rebounding margin is 6.  Their 0.2 turnover margin is basically nil, but they do average 8.5 steals per game.  Their R+T rating is just 6.4 due to the fact that they tend to become turnover prone occasionally.  The Demon Deacons received a favorable draw for the opening weekend.  We see them moving on to the Sweet 16, but they will face a Louisville team that just may be too much in the third round.  It should be a great game.

 

West Virginia: This team looks much like many of Bob Huggins’ Cincinnati teams.  The Mountaineers are the polar opposite of the team that made a run under former coach John Beilein.  They are a dark horse team to make a deep run.  WVU outscores their opponents by 10.8 points per game.  They only outshoot those opponents by 1.1%, and that will eventually be their downfall.  They own healthy rebounding (5.9) and turnover (3.6) margins.  They average just 6.8 steals per game, but their R+T rating is 11.8.  This team will fly under the radar, but the Mountaineers could upset Kansas in the second round.  If they can upset the Jayhawks, West Virginia has the horses to make it to Detroit.  They lost twice to Louisville, by six and three points, so they can even upset the Cardinals given a third chance.  We give WVU a 45% chance of beating Kansas and a 33% chance of advancing to the Elite 8.

 

Predictions For Bracketeers

 

This is a pressure-filled year for us.  How can we match the success of our founder?  Hopefully, we can do so by carefully following his theories and data.  Plus, we talked to him, and he endorsed our picks.

 

So, here goes.  In the East, three Pittsburgh, Duke, and UCLA all score 14 points in the criteria.  Duke and Pitt have stronger schedules, so we will call for the Blue Devils and Panthers to meet in the Elite 8.  We give a slight edge to Coach K’s troops, but that is almost negligible.  We do not see the East Regional winner winning the national championship.

 

In the South, North Carolina is overpowering.  The Tar Heels have no rival in this bracket.  Second seed Oklahoma and third seed Syracuse do not qualify for a spot in the top 12.  Fourth seed Gonzaga does qualify, and we will pick the Bulldogs to be the only team capable of stopping the Tar Heels.  We give Gonzaga a 15-20% chance of winning in this probable regional semifinal game.  North Carolina should then dispose of the East Regional Champion and advance to the title game.

 

In the Midwest, top-seed Louisville will have to dispose of defending champ Kansas to make the Final Four.  Fourth-seed Wake Forest cannot be ignored here.  Six-seed West Virginia can compete with anybody in this region, making the Midwest the strongest region overall.  We’re going to go with Huggy Bear and his West Virginia Mountaineers to sneak into the Final Four.

 

Memphis should emerge in the West, besting Missouri and then Connecticut in Glendale, Arizona.  The Tigers will then take care of business in the Final Four semifinal round to take on North Carolina.

 

In the National Championship Game, we look for Coach Cal to finally get his championship trophy.  We are picking Memphis to make up for their final minute lapse in the 2008 Championship Game and win the title this year.  It could be the start of a major dynasty, as the Tigers have an awesome group of recruits coming in for 2010.   

 

The Stats On All The Teams

 

When you see a stat in bold, it meets the minimum amount to qualify for an exceptional stat.  When you see it also underlined, it strongly meets the qualifying amount.  When it is also in italics, it is a dominating statistic.  Strength of Schedule (SOS) is used solely when pitting one team against another.

 

Team

Pts

FG%

Reb

TO

Stl

R+T

SOS

Akron

7.0

1.9

-0.9

4.1

7.7

6.7

48.91

Alabama St.

6.1

7.5

1.2

-0.8

5.6

0.1

40.46

American

6.1

7.2

2.9

0.4

5.4

3.4

46.85

Arizona

3.8

3.9

2.5

-0.7

6.0

1.5

56.79

Arizona St.

9.4

7.3

1.7

0.6

5.9

2.5

56.35

Binghamton

3.4

2.9

-1.6

1.5

7.0

0.9

46.95

Boston College

4.4

2.3

2.9

-0.8

6.2

1.7

55.16

B Y U

12.7

8.5

4.2

2.5

7.2

8.5

54.62

Butler

10.2

5.7

3.3

0.9

6.1

4.6

53.15

Cal St. Northridge

3.8

3.7

3.6

-0.4

9.0

2.7

48.83

California

6.7

4.5

2.3

0.5

4.9

2.9

56.00

Chattanooga

0.8

0.6

3.3

-1.1

6.3

1.6

49.33

Clemson

10.8

3.5

1.6

2.9

9.4

8.1

56.07

Cleveland St.

7.2

2.6

0.6

3.5

8.7

7.9

52.27

Connecticut

13.3

9.3

8.4

-0.6

5.8

7.6

57.42

Cornell

9.8

6.4

3.1

0.8

6.7

4.4

45.31

Dayton

6.0

3.2

5.3

1.0

6.3

6.8

53.19

Duke

12.2

1.8

3.0

4.4

8.5

12.0

60.86

E T S U

8.6

6.2

1.5

2.5

8.5

6.6

46.28

Florida St.

4.1

4.6

0.7

0.3

8.5

1.3

58.22

Gonzaga

17.6

12.0

3.6

3.9

7.5

10.6

53.21

Illinois

8.0

6.6

0.1

1.3

5.8

1.9

57.56

Kansas

11.3

9.1

7.3

-0.8

6.9

6.0

58.01

Louisville

12.3

5.8

2.5

2.7

9.3

8.5

58.80

L S U

9.4

4.2

5.6

4.2

7.6

13.3

53.66

Marquette

8.5

0.5

1.7

3.6

7.9

8.5

55.87

Maryland

3.0

0.5

-1.6

3.2

7.7

4.3

58.11

Memphis

17.2

8.1

6.2

3.3

8.8

13.2

55.82

Michigan

4.1

-1.1

-3.1

2.4

6.5

0.6

58.74

Michigan St.

9.0

4.1

9.9

-0.2

6.4

9.6

59.48

Minnesota

5.4

4.4

2.4

0.6

8.4

3.6

56.65

Mississippi St.

6.0

4.3

-0.7

-0.8

7.0

-2.0

55.62

Missouri

14.6

5.7

0.4

6.5

10.6

16.9

56.31

Morehead St.

3.1

2.3

8.0

-2.5

6.7

4.0

48.59

Morgan St.

5.3

2.2

3.9

2.0

6.6

7.1

44.96

North Carolina

17.4

6.5

7.3

3.2

8.5

13.8

58.00

North Dakota St.

12.2

4.0

4.5

2.2

7.1

8.2

45.05

Northern Iowa

4.2

3.6

3.1

-0.9

4.2

2.2

53.53

Ohio St.

5.1

7.5

-1.0

0.1

5.9

-0.9

57.80

Oklahoma

11.4

9.1

5.6

-1.1

6.9

3.8

57.78

Oklahoma St.

6.9

1.4

-1.1

2.8

7.7

4.1

59.57

Pittsburgh

13.3

7.3

9.8

1.1

7.1

11.7

59.27

Portland St.

5.5

0.3

0.9

0.7

7.5

2.2

45.45

Purdue

10.3

5.8

-0.3

3.5

7.2

5.7

57.48

Radford

5.1

7.2

6.9

-2.8

6.8

2.3

47.63

Robert Morris

5.7

5.1

1.7

0.7

8.6

3.1

46.18

Siena

7.6

3.7

-0.5

3.8

8.8

7.5

54.68

USC

4.9

6.8

5.5

-1.1

6.3

3.8

58.04

Stephen F Austin

10.3

7.2

1.4

2.8

6.1

5.5

46.99

Syracuse

8.8

7.5

2.2

-0.6

8.0

1.0

59.39

Temple

5.6

4.2

3.1

-0.8

5.6

2.0

56.16

Tennessee

6.1

1.5

4.6

1.8

6.7

7.5

60.50

Texas

6.8

3.6

4.7

1.3

6.2

6.6

56.58

Texas A&M

5.4

1.5

5.3

-0.3

5.0

4.9

55.77

U C L A

12.7

4.9

3.8

3.6

8.4

11.1

55.06

Utah

7.2

7.5

4.9

-3.2

5.0

1.1

57.90

Utah St.

10.8

7.8

7.0

-0.7

4.9

6.2

51.00

Villanova

9.5

5.3

4.1

2.1

8.0

8.1

57.30

Virginia Common.

8.6

6.6

-0.6

1.9

7.6

2.9

51.94

Wake Forest

11.1

9.3

6.0

0.2

8.5

6.4

55.29

Washington

9.3

3.8

8.4

0.1

7.6

8.6

58.08

West Virginia

10.8

1.1

5.9

3.6

6.8

11.8

58.84

Western Kentucky

5.4

1.5

4.8

0.1

5.7

4.9

51.41

Wisconsin

5.4

0.1

3.0

1.4

5.0

4.7

58.28

Xavier

10.0

7.4

8.4

-2.2

5.4

5.5

55.89

 

Round One Games

(numbers in parentheses are PiRate Criteria scores)

 

East Region

 

#1 Pittsburgh (14) vs. #16 East Tennessee (6) [Pitt has a schedule 13 points per game stronger]:  This game will be over quickly.  Pitt will dominate inside and put this one away in the first 10 minutes.  It could be a 20-point margin before halftime. 

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 78 East Tennessee 56

 

#8 Oklahoma State (0) vs. #9 Tennessee (6) [Tennessee has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]:  These teams are similar, but Tennessee has just a little more talent than the Cowboys.  The Volunteers should win the battle of the boards by five or more, and the two or three extra offensive put-backs should decide this game.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 82 Oklahoma State 77

 

#5 Florida State (0) vs. #12 Wisconsin (2) [Schedule strengths are equal]: 12-Seeds are the ones that tend to draw the most attention at first round upsets.  Part of the reason is because 12-seeds are usually the last bubble teams to make the tournament.  Frequently, they are quite a bit better than their seeding.  This doesn’t apply in this game.  Wisconsin is lucky to be an invitee.  The reason the Badgers have a 50-50 chance of winning this one is the fact that Florida State isn’t a dominating ACC team.  They rely on one big scorer, and they win games by one to six points.  The winner of this game will be going home after the next one, and we’ll go with the Badgers to win a close one.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 68 Florida State 66

 

#4 Xavier (8) vs. #13 Portland State (1) [Xavier has a schedule 10 points per game stronger]: Xavier would have qualified among the big dozen if they had a positive turnover margin.  The Musketeers don’t have the tools to advance to the Elite 8 and will only crack the Sweet 16 due to a weak second round opponent.  This Portland State team is nowhere near as talented as last year’s team.  That team had a chance to compete, while this years Vikings will know they are done by halftime of this game.

 

Prediction: Xavier 79 Portland State 62

 

#6 U C L A (14) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth (3) [UCLA has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: VCU is one of those pesky teams that can throw an opponent off its game.  Coach Anthony Grant may be on his way to a big time job after this game.  UCLA will be able to sneak up on opponents in this tournament.  The Bruins didn’t win the Pac-10 title this year, but they have the talent to still be playing in April.  After a beginning that could be ugly, look for the boys from Westwood to get their balance and cruise to a double digit win.

 

Prediction: UCLA 75 VCU 65

 

#3 Villanova (9) vs. #14 American (2) [Villanova has a schedule 10 points per game stronger]: Villanova just barely missed out on being included in the top 12.  The Wildcats are not far behind Louisville, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh in the Big East.  VU has no weaknesses, but they are not as strong across the board as Louisville.  American won both the Patriot League regular season and tournament titles.  This is their second consecutive trip to the tournament, and they enter riding a 13-game winning streak.  They are better than average in every important aspect, but the Eagles’ strength of schedule is not strong enough for that to matter.  They played three good teams this year and lost to all by an average of 23 points.

 

Prediction: Villanova 74 American 55

 

#7 Texas (3) vs. #10 Minnesota (1) [Schedule strengths are equal]: Neither of these teams is going to advance past the opening weekend.  Texas is above average but not great in every aspect.  There are a dozen NIT teams that could beat the Longhorns.  Minnesota isn’t much better.  The Gophers pick up more steals, but they don’t capitalize on them with quick scoring bursts.  We’ll take Texas in a close game, but the Longhorns will not advance farther than one round.

 

Prediction: Texas 72 Minnesota 66

 

#2 Duke (14) vs. #15 Binghamton (-1) [Duke has a schedule 14 points per game stronger]: This won’t be like Duke’s first round game in 2008, when they had to sweat out a last second shot attempt by tiny Belmont.  Binghamton has little inside game, and that’s what it will take to beat Duke.  The Blue Devils will wear down the Bearcats and pull away to a lopsided victory.  They could lead by 35 to 40 points before emptying the bench.

 

Prediction: Duke 91 Binghamton 63

 

South Region

 

#1 North Carolina (17) vs. #16 Radford (3) [North Carolina has a schedule 10 points per game stronger]: Radford can score a lot of points.  They don’t have much depth, and we can see them keeping this game close maybe until midway through the first half.  After that, we look for the Tar Heels to go on a big run and put the game away before halftime.  Don’t be alarmed if UNC doesn’t win by 30 or more points.  Remember, they barely beat James Madison in the opening round one year when they advanced to the title game.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 94 Radford 77

 

#8 L S U (14) vs. #9 Butler (7) [LSU has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]: As 8-9 games are supposed to go, this game should be close with numerous lead changes.  Earlier in the year, Butler won at Xavier, while LSU lost at home to Xavier.  The Tigers know they are facing a team that could easily beat them.  They just barely missed qualifying for a spot on the 12 best teams.  Butler was better last year, but the Bulldogs are no pushover.  LSU will be extended to the end, and the Tigers will be fortunate to escape with a victory.

 

Prediction: LSU 73 Butler 69

 

#5 Illinois (4) vs. #12 Western Kentucky (2) [Illinois has a schedule 6 points per game stronger]: This Western Kentucky team is about 10 points weaker than last season’s Sweet 16 team.  However, the Hilltoppers couldn’t have asked for a better #5 seed to face in the first game.  This one has the look of another 12-seed upset, but we will select the Illini to hold off a tough rally.

 

Prediction: Illinois 61 Western Kentucky 58

 

#4 Gonzaga (19) vs. #13 Akron (3) [Gonzaga has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: If Gonzaga were in the Pac-10 and had the identical stats they have this year, we would place them in the Final Four.  This is probably a better team than the Adam Morrison team a few years back.  The ‘Zags finished the season marching through the opposition like Sherman marched through Georgia.  In their final seven games, Gonzaga won all seven by an average score of 84-56!  Akron isn’t a bad team.  The MAC conference tournament champs might be favored in a first round game in other years, but they are going up against the North Carolina of the mid-majors.  Better luck next time Zips.

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 80 Akron 67

 

#6 Arizona State (4) vs. #11 Temple (0) [Schedule strengths are equal]: Arizona State lost four of its final seven games, while Temple won 10 of its last 12 including the Atlantic 10 Tournament title.  Even though the Sun Devils own a better criteria score, we believe Temple should be a slight favorite in this game.  Temple should control the boards in this game, and we expect a game with many missed shots.  Offensive rebounding should decide this one.

 

Prediction: Temple 64 Arizona State 58

 

#3 Syracuse (4) vs. #14 Stephen F. Austin (8) [Syracuse has a schedule 12 points per game stronger]: Be warned! This game could be a nail-biter.  Syracuse will not be fully recovered from the Big East Tournament.  They may never fully recover the rest of this season.  SFA is not a pushover, as judged by their criteria score.  Their strength of schedule does not merit making them an upset favorite.  They could keep this one close.  However, being their first tourney appearance, the players will be tight at the beginning of the game.  Syracuse may not bring their A-game, but it will be enough to win.  Don’t expect the Orangemen to score 80 points in this game, but then again, don’t expect the Lumberjacks to get many second-chance scoring opportunities. 

 

Prediction: Syracuse 69 Stephen F. Austin 59

 

#7 Clemson (9) vs. #10 Michigan (-4) [Michigan has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: John Beilein’s West Virginia team is the only Elite 8 team to fall through the PiRate cracks in recent years.  This Michigan team plays much like that one, but the Wolverines are not yet as good.  Michigan tries to limit possessions and win by hitting a lot more three-pointers than they give up.  It is a good gimmick when you don’t have superior talent.  We just don’t see it working in the Big Dance.  Their criteria score is -4, which is the worst of the 63 teams that have a positive R+T rating.  Clemson was a better team in 2008, and that Tiger team fell to Villanova in the first round.  We expect the Tigers to get over the hump and win their opening round game this year.

 

Prediction: Clemson 77 Michigan 66

 

#2 Oklahoma (9) vs. #15 Morgan State (4) [Oklahoma has a schedule 13 points per game stronger]: Oklahoma would have qualified for a spot in the top 12 if they had a positive turnover margin.  When they face a team that forced turnovers, the Sooners are going to have a rough time.  Missouri and Oklahoma State beat the Sooners in the last two weeks, and both of those teams are ball-hawking squads.  Morgan State is not capable of forcing Oklahoma into a bevy of turnovers, so OU is safe in the opening round.  Sooner fans should root like crazy for Michigan to beat Clemson, because the Tigers are a lot like Missouri and Oklahoma State.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 79 Morgan State 65

 

Midwest Region

 

#1 Louisville (10) vs. #16 Morehead State (1) [Louisville has a schedule 10 points per game stronger]: These two teams met in December with UL winning by 38 points.  The Eagles are much better than they were three months ago, but not 38 points better.  Louisville will get a light workout in this game, and that will keep them fresh for round two.

 

Prediction: Louisville 76 Morehead State 49

 

#8 Ohio State (DNQ) vs. #9 Siena (5) [Ohio State has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: Here is what looks like a mild upset in the making.  Ohio State is one of two teams that fail to qualify due to a negative R+T rating.  What that means is the Buckeyes give up more scoring opportunities than they get.  Think of a major league baseball team that wins 90 games in the regular season to qualify for the playoffs but gives up one more hit per game than themselves while hitting an average amount of home runs.  That team won’t go far in the playoffs.  Siena won an opening round game in last year’s tournament, and this Saints’ team is better this year than last year.  Siena stands a 55-60% chance of winning this game.

 

Prediction: Siena 74 Ohio State 70

 

#5 Utah (3) vs. #12 Arizona (-2) [Utah has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]: The winner of this game won’t be advancing much further.  Arizona really shouldn’t be here.  Almost every major conference team and more than half of the mid-major teams in the NIT could beat Arizona.  Utah won 11 of their final 13 games, and the Utes should make it 12 of 14.  However, don’t expect any deep runs like in the Rick Majerus or Jack Gardner days.

 

Prediction: Utah 68 Arizona 63

 

#4 Wake Forest (12) vs. #13 Cleveland State (7) [Wake Forest has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: Cleveland State deserves their seeding.  The Vikings defeated Butler and won at Syracuse during the season and played competitive games at Washington and at West Virginia.  Wake Forest qualifies as one of the super 12 teams, and they will have a tougher time with CSU in the opening round than they will have with either Utah or Arizona in round two.

 

Prediction: Wake Forest 69 Cleveland State 62

 

#6 West Virginia (16) vs. #11 Dayton (5) [West Virginia has a schedule 6 points per game stronger]: West Virginia is the top dark horse in our criteria.  We believe they can advance to Detroit.  Dayton is a solid team and can hold their own on the glass against the Mountaineers.  We believe the game will be decided by turnovers.  WVU will force three to five more and capitalize on that differential with five to eight points.  We will add a little more to the difference by believing Dayton will put West Virginia at the line several times in the closing minutes and fail to score quickly at their end.

 

Prediction: West Virginia 74 Dayton 65

 

#3 Kansas (10) vs. #14 North Dakota State (10) [Kansas has a schedule 13 points per game stronger]: North Dakota State is making an appearance in the Big Dance in their first year they are qualified.  Their criteria score is a little misleading, as they have a rather weak strength of schedule.  The Bison may give the Jayhawks a battle through a couple of TV timeouts, but KU will go to the locker at the half up by at least eight and pull away in the second half.

 

Prediction: Kansas 81 North Dakota State 59

 

#7 Boston College (-2) vs. #10 Southern California (2) [Southern Cal has a schedule 3 points per game stronger]: This should be an interesting and entertaining game.  The winner should be out of the tournament one round later.  Trying to pick a winner in this game is a pure crap shoot.  Boston College beat North Carolina and lost to Harvard.  USC started 10-3, then lost 9 of 15, and then won five in a row, including three consecutive Pac-10 Tournament victories over NCAA Tournament teams.

 

Prediction: Southern Cal 73 Boston College 70

 

#2 Michigan State (7) vs. #15 Robert Morris (2) [Michigan State has a schedule 13 points per game stronger]: The Spartans should make it to the Sweet 16, but we just don’t see any Big 10 team winning an Elite 8 game this year.  Robert Morris must rely on one star in Jeremy Chappell.  The Colonials don’t rebound well, and MSU will play volleyball on the offensive glass. 

 

Prediction: Michigan State 76 Robert Morris 54

 

West Regional

 

#1 Connecticut (12) vs. #16 Chattanooga (-1) [Connecticut has a schedule 8 points per game stronger]: We pity the poor Mocs.  They are going to be the victims of one of the two most lopsided opening round game.  UConn will dominate this game from start to finish.  Chattanooga will be lucky to lead this one 2-0 at the start, because it could easily be a game where the Huskies hold the Mocs scoreless to the first TV timeout and lead by double digits by the time Chattanooga scores.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 98 Chattanooga 63

 

#8 B Y U (13) vs. #9 Texas A&M (2) [Texas A&M has a schedule 1 point per game stronger]: This looks like another excellent tossup game, but our criteria show it to be a one-sided affair.  BYU would belong in the top 12 if they had played a stronger schedule.  The Cougars do everything well; they outscore their opposition by 12.7 points per game.  They shoot 8.5% better than their opponents.  They control the boards by more than 4 per game and force 2.5 more turnovers per game than they commit.  The Cougars just haven’t beaten a big time team.  Texas A&M owns victories over four major teams in the Dance.  That makes it the tossup game it is supposed to be.

 

Prediction: BYU 74 Texas A&M 69

 

#5 Purdue (6) vs. #12 Northern Iowa (-1) [Purdue has a schedule 4 points per game stronger]: The Boilermakers split their final 10 regular season games before finding their stride in the Big 10 Tournament.  Northern Iowa is in the Dance because they can edge Illinois State every time they face off.  Illinois State won’t be on the schedule until next season, so NIU can begin looking forward to next season after this game.  Don’t expect Purdue to still be around next week.  This is going to prove to be another weak year for the Big 10.

 

Prediction: Purdue 71 Northern Iowa 60

 

#4 Washington (9) vs. #13 Mississippi State (DNQ) [Washington has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]: The Pac-10 regular season champions take on the surprise winner of the SEC Tournament.  MSU is one of two teams that do not qualify due to a negative R+T number.  It’s hard to imagine that with Jarvis Varnado in the lineup, the Bulldogs still have a slight negative rebounding margin.  They also have a negative turnover margin and didn’t play that tough of a schedule.  Washington won’t have to travel far from Seattle to Portland, and the Huskies should win this one by more points than most people expect.

 

Prediction: Washington 81 Mississippi State 66

 

#6 Marquette (9) vs. #11 Utah State (10) [Marquette has a schedule 5 points per game stronger]: Marquette would definitely be included in the top 12 if Dominic James were not out for the season.  Prior to his foot fracture, MU was a Top 10 team capable of making a run to the Final Four.  Without him, they really should be a double digit seed.  Utah State is one of the handful of mid-majors capable of making a run to the Sweet 16.  The Aggies will have trouble against an aggressive, pressing team, but Marquette isn’t one of those teams.  This game is actually a tossup.  With no partiality to an in-state team, we’re going with Marquette to survive a toughie.

 

Prediction: Marquette 70 Utah State 65

 

#3 Missouri (14) vs. #14 Cornell (5) [Missouri has a schedule 11 points per game stronger]: Missouri has the talent to make a deep run in this tournament.  Any team that has trouble facing pressure defense is going to find itself in a heap of trouble.  The Tigers are the best pressing team in the Big Dance and the only team averaging double figure steals per game.  If Mizzou gets 12 steals in a game, they are going to score 20 or more points off those steals.  That is a mighty stat for an opponent to overcome.  Cornell is not as good this year as they were last year when they won the Ivy League with ease.  This team has no signature wins, and they lost by double digits to all three NCAA Tournament teams on their schedule.

 

Prediction: Missouri 82 Cornell 58

 

#7 California (1) vs. #10 Maryland (1) [Maryland has a schedule 2 points per game stronger]:  On paper, this game looks like an exciting game.  We consider it the most mediocre game of the opening round.  One of these teams will advance to the Round of 32 and become fodder for Memphis.  Cal will win the battle on the boards, but Maryland will not beat themselves with unforced errors.  The Terps beat North Carolina and Wake Forest in the last month, while Cal has been a sub-.500 team since mid-January.

 

Prediction: Maryland 71 California 67

 

#2 Memphis (19) vs. #15 Cal State Northridge (-1) [Memphis has a schedule 7 points per game stronger]: Not only is Memphis coming into the tournament playing its best ball of the season, the Tigers enter the Dance with a chip on their shoulders.  They deserved a number one seed, and now they will take it out on their next opponent or maybe next six.  The Matadors lost to Cal State Bakersfield as well as some other teams with an RPI well down the list.  Memphis has won 25 games in a row, and the Tigers are the real number one team in our book.  At the point when Coach Cal removes his top eight players from the game, the Tigers may have yielded less than a point per minute in this game.

 

Prediction: Memphis 83 Cal State Northridge 47

 

Coming Friday, a look at Saturday’s games.  Sunday’s game previews will run Saturday.

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