The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 18, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019: Picking Your Brackets

Welcome to Bracketnomics 2019, the class that will earn you the coveted BM Degree, the Bachelor of Madness.

Because, we have a ton of stats to reveal tonight, we will limit the prose. If you need a tutorial about what Bracketnomics is, then refer to the following link:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/bracketnomics-2019/

We received a handful of well-thought comments to our sister page suggesting a few things that we agree with, so you will get the kitchen sink of stats this year. Because of Robert M in New Orleans, Joel S, in Orlando, and our good friend and numbers’ savant Brandon W in San Berdoo, California, we are bringing back the old Bracketnomics data combined with the new. For what it’s worth, this year, the old data and new data come to basically the same conclusions.

A Brief Primer on the Old Criteria have us look for teams meeting these criteria

1. A double-digit scoring margin, and a secondary reward to teams with a scoring margin of 8.0 to 9.99.

2. A field goal percentage margin (FG%-Def FG%) in excess of 8%

3. A combination of rebounding margin and turnover margin combined that exceed:
A. A rebound margin of 5.0 or better no matter what the turnover margin
B. A rebound margin of 3.0 to 4.9 with positive turnover margin
C. A rebound margin of 0.1 to 2.9 with with a turnover margin of 3.0 or better
D. A turnover margin of 5.0 or better no matter what the rebound margin

4. A team that averages 7.5 or more steals per game

5. An Old R+T Rating of 10.0 or better, 5.0 or better to get from 68 to 16.
The old R+T rating was (R + (0.2 * S) + (1.2 * T)
R is rebound margin
S is steals/game
T is turnover margin

6. A Strength of Schedule in excess of 0.5500 (back then using the CBS SOS)

The old method was quite accurate for many years, but the game changed when the 3-point shot became a lot more important. The Golden State Warrior effect, actually advanced basketball metrics, showed how important total shooting percentage was and not just field goal percentage. It is a no-brainer that a team that shoots 100% of its shots inside the arc and hits 53% is worse off than a team that shoots 100% of its shots from behind the arc and hits 36%. The 53% team will score .53 points per shot attempt, while the 36% team will score .54 points per shot attempt.

The Current Method uses this data
1. Strength of Schedule
2. True Shooting % Margin
3. R+T Rating

The Strength of Schedule is now calculated by our own metric, and the current R+T Rating is:
(R + (0.5 * S) + (6 – Opp S) + T

Both the old and the new method warned about any team with a negative R+T number as they were most prone to being upset very early in the tournament, and nobody with a negative R+T number ever made the Final Four, and only one ever made the Elite 8. R+T estimates extra scoring opportunities, and they lead to game-winning scoring spurts.

Now, let’s show you some stats. Here are the raw stats for all 68 teams.

Team

SOS

TSMarg

R+T

PPG Marg

FG% Marg

Abilene Christian

42.42

4.29%

5.9

11.4

4.4

Arizona St.

55.20

2.27%

6.8

4.7

3.4

Auburn

59.71

1.85%

3.9

11.5

1.5

Baylor

58.27

1.28%

9.1

4.5

1.8

Belmont

48.60

9.68%

6.0

13.5

7.4

Bradley

48.52

1.73%

-0.5

1.6

2.3

Buffalo

53.41

6.00%

10.3

14.4

4.5

Central Florida

54.86

9.52%

2.2

7.8

6.8

Cincinnati

55.48

2.94%

12.9

9.5

2.6

Colgate

47.05

5.65%

3.2

5.8

4.6

Duke

63.09

10.32%

12.1

15.9

8.2

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.19%

-2.4

4.1

3.6

Florida

59.80

1.17%

-0.5

4.7

0.4

Florida St.

59.87

3.52%

8.3

7.8

3.4

Gardner-Webb

45.44

8.83%

-1.8

7.8

7.6

Georgia St.

51.14

5.06%

-9.6

4.2

4.2

Gonzaga

56.14

17.68%

14.3

23.7

14.3

Houston

55.02

8.04%

13.6

14.4

7.7

Iona

45.43

3.14%

-5.4

1.2

0.8

Iowa

58.09

4.52%

-0.4

4.7

0.7

Iowa St.

59.42

7.64%

1.7

9.1

5.8

Kansas

62.55

5.52%

1.9

5.3

5.4

Kansas St.

58.91

1.35%

3.5

6.6

1.7

Kentucky

60.54

9.48%

15.4

11.3

7.5

Liberty

46.27

9.22%

5.2

13.2

7.6

Louisville

61.61

6.10%

2.9

6.7

2.9

LSU

58.56

3.18%

10.1

8.4

2.6

Marquette

57.57

8.85%

2.4

8.6

5.7

Maryland

59.76

7.39%

8.6

6.2

5.7

Michigan

60.07

8.41%

3.2

11.8

5.1

Michigan St.

61.44

13.83%

11.7

13.3

10.8

Minnesota

59.44

1.81%

1.1

1.6

0.3

Mississippi St.

59.59

4.34%

6.2

7.2

3.5

Montana

46.25

5.41%

4.7

8.5

6.6

Murray St.

47.53

10.65%

7.8

15.5

8.6

Nevada

52.55

9.02%

7.0

14.0

5.7

New Mexico St.

48.05

4.78%

18.7

14.0

4.1

North Carolina

62.61

5.49%

17.4

13.2

5.1

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.50%

8.2

5.1

2.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.42%

-6.1

1.0

-0.5

Northeastern

51.11

6.69%

-1.9

5.8

2.5

Northern Kentucky

46.39

6.56%

7.1

10.3

6.4

Ohio St.

59.18

2.47%

-0.4

3.4

1.7

Oklahoma

60.26

4.64%

-2.5

3.0

4.3

Old Dominion

48.87

1.33%

8.4

5.4

2

Ole Miss

58.28

3.18%

2.8

5.0

1.8

Oregon

55.13

3.77%

4.6

7.6

4.8

Prairie View

43.07

-2.66%

-3.8

2.5

-1.7

Purdue

60.84

2.31%

11.4

9.4

2.5

Saint Louis

51.40

-0.81%

11.2

3.4

0.9

Saint Mary’s

55.33

5.13%

9.6

8.5

3.8

Seton Hall

58.56

0.50%

-0.6

2.4

1.4

St. John’s

55.79

-0.20%

-8.0

2.7

1.9

Syracuse

59.55

1.59%

-3.7

4.0

2.6

Temple

54.13

0.46%

-3.1

3.6

-0.2

Tennessee

59.65

9.73%

5.3

13.2

9.8

Texas Tech

58.01

9.81%

4.6

13.8

10.4

UC-Irvine

47.26

6.58%

12.2

9.6

7.9

Utah St.

52.13

8.73%

14.8

12.4

8.3

Vermont

46.62

6.53%

8.8

11.3

3.9

Villanova

58.16

4.98%

3.5

7.4

0.5

Virginia

60.36

13.19%

9.6

16.7

9.8

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

6.84%

2.9

9.8

5.8

Virginia Tech

58.33

8.65%

6.4

11.9

7

Washington

55.60

4.43%

-3.6

5.4

3.9

Wisconsin

60.91

6.47%

-1.2

7.7

6

Wofford

52.24

7.87%

14.3

17.4

6.6

Yale

49.95

8.75%

3.6

7.9

8.7

Team

Reb Marg

TO Marg

Stl/G

Def Stl/G

Old R+T

Abilene Christian

1.2

4.6

8.7

5.6

8.4

Arizona St.

4.8

0.3

6.2

6.3

6.4

Auburn

-0.3

5.5

9.4

5.8

8.1

Baylor

6.3

-0.8

6.1

6.0

6.6

Belmont

3.8

0.9

6.8

6.1

6.3

Bradley

1.2

-0.2

5.4

5.7

2.1

Buffalo

3.9

3.7

7.3

5.1

9.9

Central Florida

2.2

0.4

5.7

5.6

3.8

Cincinnati

5.2

3.1

6.2

3.9

10.1

Colgate

4.0

-0.9

6.2

7.1

4.2

Duke

6.1

1.5

9.5

6.5

9.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-0.8

1.3

7.7

6.1

2.2

Florida

-0.6

3.0

7.2

6.1

4.5

Florida St.

4.7

0.8

7.0

5.5

7.0

Gardner-Webb

-0.7

1.8

6.9

5.8

2.8

Georgia St.

-6.1

3.5

8.0

5.0

-0.3

Gonzaga

6.2

3.2

7.5

5.2

11.5

Houston

7.3

0.9

6.4

5.3

9.7

Iona

-2.2

1.0

6.8

5.5

0.3

Iowa

1.0

1.0

6.2

6.7

3.4

Iowa St.

0.7

1.8

7.0

5.2

4.3

Kansas

2.5

-0.2

6.9

6.5

3.6

Kansas St.

1.1

3.6

7.6

6.2

6.9

Kentucky

9.0

-0.1

6.0

5.7

10.1

Liberty

2.2

2.6

6.4

5.2

6.7

Louisville

3.7

-1.0

4.5

5.8

3.4

LSU

5.1

1.8

9.1

6.5

9.1

Marquette

4.4

-2.0

4.8

7.0

3.0

Maryland

8.5

-3.7

4.3

7.1

5.0

Michigan

0.2

3.2

6.1

3.7

5.3

Michigan St.

8.9

-2.6

5.2

6.4

6.9

Minnesota

2.6

-0.6

4.8

6.0

2.8

Mississippi St.

3.8

0.3

8.1

5.9

5.7

Montana

2.6

1.6

6.5

5.6

5.8

Murray St.

3.7

2.1

7.6

5.8

7.7

Nevada

2.4

3.4

6.2

4.5

7.7

New Mexico St.

9.6

1.4

5.6

4.8

12.3

North Carolina

9.7

1.0

7.2

6.7

12.3

North Carolina Central

6.4

-1.9

6.3

6.0

5.4

North Dakota St.

-1.4

-0.6

4.8

5.3

-1.2

Northeastern

0.1

0.0

6.2

5.4

1.4

Northern Kentucky

4.4

0.9

6.2

5.9

6.7

Ohio St.

1.3

-0.2

5.9

5.9

2.3

Oklahoma

0.6

0.0

5.9

6.8

1.8

Old Dominion

4.9

0.4

5.6

4.9

6.6

Ole Miss

1.5

1.9

7.3

6.0

5.3

Oregon

1.8

2.1

7.8

5.2

6.0

Prairie View

-4.4

5.5

8.8

5.1

4.0

Purdue

5.2

2.4

6.5

4.8

9.4

Saint Louis

6.6

0.3

7.1

5.9

8.3

Saint Mary’s

5.6

0.1

6.0

5.0

7.0

Seton Hall

-0.1

1.8

7.0

5.8

3.4

St. John’s

-6.2

5.1

8.8

5.2

1.6

Syracuse

-2.3

3.2

8.3

6.6

3.2

Temple

-2.9

3.7

8.7

5.5

3.2

Tennessee

3.4

1.7

6.0

6.4

6.7

Texas Tech

1.9

3.3

7.3

6.4

7.3

UC-Irvine

7.4

-0.4

5.7

5.2

8.1

Utah St.

8.9

-0.3

6.2

6.1

9.8

Vermont

4.5

2.2

5.6

5.4

8.3

Villanova

2.6

0.7

5.4

5.4

4.5

Virginia

4.9

1.9

5.6

5.2

8.4

Virginia Commonwealth

1.4

2.3

8.0

6.4

5.8

Virginia Tech

2.6

2.7

6.7

5.1

7.2

Washington

-2.5

2.9

9.0

6.1

2.8

Wisconsin

-0.3

1.8

5.1

5.2

2.9

Wofford

6.5

3.1

6.9

5.5

11.6

Yale

4.7

-1.9

5.9

7.0

3.6

What you see above is the entire 68 teams field in alphabetical order.  Let’s break it down by ranking the teams according to the data.

Let’s start with the all-important class ranking.  Here is how the teams rank according to strength of schedule.  Remember that no national champion has had an SOS below 55, and only a small handful in all the years have made the Final Four.  In the years where a team with a sub-55 SOS made the Final Four, they played an opponent in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 that also had a sub-55 SOS.

Team

SOS

Duke

63.09

North Carolina

62.61

Kansas

62.55

Louisville

61.61

Michigan St.

61.44

Wisconsin

60.91

Purdue

60.84

Kentucky

60.54

Virginia

60.36

Oklahoma

60.26

Michigan

60.07

Florida St.

59.87

Florida

59.80

Maryland

59.76

Auburn

59.71

Tennessee

59.65

Mississippi St.

59.59

Syracuse

59.55

Minnesota

59.44

Iowa St.

59.42

Ohio St.

59.18

Kansas St.

58.91

Seton Hall

58.56

LSU

58.56

Virginia Tech

58.33

Ole Miss

58.28

Baylor

58.27

Villanova

58.16

Iowa

58.09

Texas Tech

58.01

Marquette

57.57

Gonzaga

56.14

St. John’s

55.79

Washington

55.60

Cincinnati

55.48

Saint Mary’s

55.33

Arizona St.

55.20

Oregon

55.13

Houston

55.02

Central Florida

54.86

Temple

54.13

Buffalo

53.41

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

Nevada

52.55

Wofford

52.24

Utah St.

52.13

Saint Louis

51.40

Georgia St.

51.14

Northeastern

51.11

Yale

49.95

Old Dominion

48.87

Belmont

48.60

Bradley

48.52

New Mexico St.

48.05

North Dakota St.

47.57

Murray St.

47.53

UC-Irvine

47.26

Colgate

47.05

Vermont

46.62

Northern Kentucky

46.39

Liberty

46.27

Montana

46.25

Gardner-Webb

45.44

Iona

45.43

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

Prairie View

43.07

Abilene Christian

42.42

North Carolina Central

39.47

39 of the 68 teams meet the minimum requirement, including Gonzaga and Houston.  Of note, Buffalo, Nevada, Wofford, and Utah State have an SOS in the range where past Cinderella teams have snuck into the Final Four.

Now, let’s look at True Shooting percentage margins.  TS% is calculated thusly:

Points / (2 * FGA + (0.475 * FTA))

True Shooting Percentage Margin is the offensive TS% minus the defensive TS%.

Team

TSMarg

Gonzaga

17.68%

Michigan St.

13.83%

Virginia

13.19%

Murray St.

10.65%

Duke

10.32%

Texas Tech

9.81%

Tennessee

9.73%

Belmont

9.68%

Central Florida

9.52%

Kentucky

9.48%

Liberty

9.22%

Nevada

9.02%

Marquette

8.85%

Gardner-Webb

8.83%

Yale

8.75%

Utah St.

8.73%

Virginia Tech

8.65%

Michigan

8.41%

Houston

8.04%

Wofford

7.87%

Iowa St.

7.64%

Maryland

7.39%

Virginia Commonwealth

6.84%

Northeastern

6.69%

UC-Irvine

6.58%

Northern Kentucky

6.56%

Vermont

6.53%

Wisconsin

6.47%

Louisville

6.10%

Buffalo

6.00%

Colgate

5.65%

Kansas

5.52%

North Carolina

5.49%

Montana

5.41%

Fairleigh-Dickinson

5.19%

Saint Mary’s

5.13%

Georgia St.

5.06%

Villanova

4.98%

New Mexico St.

4.78%

Oklahoma

4.64%

Iowa

4.52%

Washington

4.43%

Mississippi St.

4.34%

Abilene Christian

4.29%

Oregon

3.77%

Florida St.

3.52%

North Carolina Central

3.50%

North Dakota St.

3.42%

Ole Miss

3.18%

LSU

3.18%

Iona

3.14%

Cincinnati

2.94%

Ohio St.

2.47%

Purdue

2.31%

Arizona St.

2.27%

Auburn

1.85%

Minnesota

1.81%

Bradley

1.73%

Syracuse

1.59%

Kansas St.

1.35%

Old Dominion

1.33%

Baylor

1.28%

Florida

1.17%

Seton Hall

0.50%

Temple

0.46%

St. John’s

-0.20%

Saint Louis

-0.81%

Prairie View

-2.66%

Did you notice that some of the teams with the best strength of schedule are high up in the TS% margin too, and vice versa?  Think about this.  If a team played tough competition and consistently shot better overall in these games, they have to be great teams.  The object of the game is to put the ball through the goal and stop the other team from doing this.  If a team consistently did this against other teams on par with what they must face in the Big Dance in order to cut the nets on April 8, they must be the ones to consider.

Now, let’s look at the R+T rating.  This is our secret sauce at the PiRate Ratings, even though it has been revealed in other national media.  However, unless somebody at CBS or ESPN links to this site, no more than 18,000 people will read this post today, so you stand a good chance of being the only person in your pool that has this information.

Team

R+T

New Mexico St.

18.7

North Carolina

17.4

Kentucky

15.4

Utah St.

14.8

Gonzaga

14.3

Wofford

14.3

Houston

13.6

Cincinnati

12.9

UC-Irvine

12.2

Duke

12.1

Michigan St.

11.7

Purdue

11.4

Saint Louis

11.2

Buffalo

10.3

LSU

10.1

Virginia

9.6

Saint Mary’s

9.6

Baylor

9.1

Vermont

8.8

Maryland

8.6

Old Dominion

8.4

Florida St.

8.3

North Carolina Central

8.2

Murray St.

7.8

Northern Kentucky

7.1

Nevada

7.0

Arizona St.

6.8

Virginia Tech

6.4

Mississippi St.

6.2

Belmont

6.0

Abilene Christian

5.9

Tennessee

5.3

Liberty

5.2

Montana

4.7

Oregon

4.6

Texas Tech

4.6

Auburn

3.9

Yale

3.6

Kansas St.

3.5

Villanova

3.5

Michigan

3.2

Colgate

3.2

Louisville

2.9

Virginia Commonwealth

2.9

Ole Miss

2.8

Marquette

2.4

Central Florida

2.2

Kansas

1.9

Iowa St.

1.7

Minnesota

1.1

Iowa

-0.4

Ohio St.

-0.4

Florida

-0.5

Bradley

-0.5

Seton Hall

-0.6

Wisconsin

-1.2

Gardner-Webb

-1.8

Northeastern

-1.9

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-2.4

Oklahoma

-2.5

Temple

-3.1

Washington

-3.6

Syracuse

-3.7

Prairie View

-3.8

Iona

-5.4

North Dakota St.

-6.1

St. John’s

-8.0

Georgia St.

-9.6

Wow!  Look at how many mid-major teams have great R+T Ratings this year.  New Mexico State leads the pack, but their SOS is too low to make them a humongous upset team to make the Final Four.  They are dangerous still.

North Carolina is the top power conference team in this rating, just like the Tar Heels have been twice before when they won the tournament.  Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Houston are up near the top.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a record number of teams with negative R+T numbers in the 2019 field.  That concerns us a bit.  Normally, 5 or 6 teams will enter the Dance with a negative R+T, and we will pick against all of them.  18 of the 68 teams have negative R+T ratings this year.  What that means is that it is likely that somebody with a negative R+T rating will sneak into the Sweet 16 and then get blown off the floor against a quality team that can go on scoring spurts.  Still, the bottom eight in this rating figure to have a difficult time winning just once in this Dance.

 

Here are how the teams rank in the old criteria data.

Scoring Margin

Team

PPG Marg

Gonzaga

23.7

Wofford

17.4

Virginia

16.7

Duke

15.9

Murray St.

15.5

Buffalo

14.4

Houston

14.4

Nevada

14.0

New Mexico St.

14.0

Texas Tech

13.8

Belmont

13.5

Michigan St.

13.3

Liberty

13.2

Tennessee

13.2

North Carolina

13.2

Utah St.

12.4

Virginia Tech

11.9

Michigan

11.8

Auburn

11.5

Abilene Christian

11.4

Vermont

11.3

Kentucky

11.3

Northern Kentucky

10.3

Virginia Commonwealth

9.8

UC-Irvine

9.6

Cincinnati

9.5

Purdue

9.4

Iowa St.

9.1

Marquette

8.6

Montana

8.5

Saint Mary’s

8.5

LSU

8.4

Yale

7.9

Florida St.

7.8

Central Florida

7.8

Gardner-Webb

7.8

Wisconsin

7.7

Oregon

7.6

Villanova

7.4

Mississippi St.

7.2

Louisville

6.7

Kansas St.

6.6

Maryland

6.2

Colgate

5.8

Northeastern

5.8

Old Dominion

5.4

Washington

5.4

Kansas

5.3

North Carolina Central

5.1

Ole Miss

5.0

Arizona St.

4.7

Iowa

4.7

Florida

4.7

Baylor

4.5

Georgia St.

4.2

Fairleigh-Dickinson

4.1

Syracuse

4.0

Temple

3.6

Ohio St.

3.4

Saint Louis

3.4

Oklahoma

3.0

St. John’s

2.7

Prairie View

2.5

Seton Hall

2.4

Bradley

1.6

Minnesota

1.6

Iona

1.2

North Dakota St.

1.0

FG% Margin

Team

FG% Marg

Gonzaga

14.3

Michigan St.

10.8

Texas Tech

10.4

Tennessee

9.8

Virginia

9.8

Yale

8.7

Murray St.

8.6

Utah St.

8.3

Duke

8.2

UC-Irvine

7.9

Houston

7.7

Gardner-Webb

7.6

Liberty

7.6

Kentucky

7.5

Belmont

7.4

Virginia Tech

7.0

Central Florida

6.8

Montana

6.6

Wofford

6.6

Northern Kentucky

6.4

Wisconsin

6.0

Iowa St.

5.8

Virginia Commonwealth

5.8

Nevada

5.7

Marquette

5.7

Maryland

5.7

Kansas

5.4

North Carolina

5.1

Michigan

5.1

Oregon

4.8

Colgate

4.6

Buffalo

4.5

Abilene Christian

4.4

Oklahoma

4.3

Georgia St.

4.2

New Mexico St.

4.1

Vermont

3.9

Washington

3.9

Saint Mary’s

3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

3.6

Mississippi St.

3.5

Arizona St.

3.4

Florida St.

3.4

Louisville

2.9

LSU

2.6

Cincinnati

2.6

Syracuse

2.6

Purdue

2.5

Northeastern

2.5

Bradley

2.3

North Carolina Central

2.2

Old Dominion

2.0

St. John’s

1.9

Baylor

1.8

Ole Miss

1.8

Kansas St.

1.7

Ohio St.

1.7

Auburn

1.5

Seton Hall

1.4

Saint Louis

0.9

Iona

0.8

Iowa

0.7

Villanova

0.5

Florida

0.4

Minnesota

0.3

Temple

-0.2

North Dakota St.

-0.5

Prairie View

-1.7

 

Rebounds/Steals/Old R+T

Team

Reb Marg

North Carolina

9.7

New Mexico St.

9.6

Kentucky

9.0

Michigan St.

8.9

Utah St.

8.9

Maryland

8.5

UC-Irvine

7.4

Houston

7.3

Saint Louis

6.6

Wofford

6.5

North Carolina Central

6.4

Baylor

6.3

Gonzaga

6.2

Duke

6.1

Saint Mary’s

5.6

Purdue

5.2

Cincinnati

5.2

LSU

5.1

Old Dominion

4.9

Virginia

4.9

Arizona St.

4.8

Yale

4.7

Florida St.

4.7

Vermont

4.5

Northern Kentucky

4.4

Marquette

4.4

Colgate

4.0

Buffalo

3.9

Belmont

3.8

Mississippi St.

3.8

Murray St.

3.7

Louisville

3.7

Tennessee

3.4

Villanova

2.6

Virginia Tech

2.6

Montana

2.6

Minnesota

2.6

Kansas

2.5

Nevada

2.4

Liberty

2.2

Central Florida

2.2

Texas Tech

1.9

Oregon

1.8

Ole Miss

1.5

Virginia Commonwealth

1.4

Ohio St.

1.3

Bradley

1.2

Abilene Christian

1.2

Kansas St.

1.1

Iowa

1.0

Iowa St.

0.7

Oklahoma

0.6

Michigan

0.2

Northeastern

0.1

Seton Hall

-0.1

Wisconsin

-0.3

Auburn

-0.3

Florida

-0.6

Gardner-Webb

-0.7

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-0.8

North Dakota St.

-1.4

Iona

-2.2

Syracuse

-2.3

Washington

-2.5

Temple

-2.9

Prairie View

-4.4

Georgia St.

-6.1

St. John’s

-6.2

Team

TO Marg

Prairie View

5.5

Auburn

5.5

St. John’s

5.1

Abilene Christian

4.6

Buffalo

3.7

Temple

3.7

Kansas St.

3.6

Georgia St.

3.5

Nevada

3.4

Texas Tech

3.3

Syracuse

3.2

Michigan

3.2

Gonzaga

3.2

Wofford

3.1

Cincinnati

3.1

Florida

3.0

Washington

2.9

Virginia Tech

2.7

Liberty

2.6

Purdue

2.4

Virginia Commonwealth

2.3

Vermont

2.2

Oregon

2.1

Murray St.

2.1

Ole Miss

1.9

Virginia

1.9

Wisconsin

1.8

Gardner-Webb

1.8

Iowa St.

1.8

LSU

1.8

Seton Hall

1.8

Tennessee

1.7

Montana

1.6

Duke

1.5

New Mexico St.

1.4

Fairleigh-Dickinson

1.3

North Carolina

1.0

Iowa

1.0

Iona

1.0

Houston

0.9

Northern Kentucky

0.9

Belmont

0.9

Florida St.

0.8

Villanova

0.7

Central Florida

0.4

Old Dominion

0.4

Arizona St.

0.3

Mississippi St.

0.3

Saint Louis

0.3

Saint Mary’s

0.1

Oklahoma

0.0

Northeastern

0.0

Kentucky

-0.1

Bradley

-0.2

Kansas

-0.2

Ohio St.

-0.2

Utah St.

-0.3

UC-Irvine

-0.4

North Dakota St.

-0.6

Minnesota

-0.6

Baylor

-0.8

Colgate

-0.9

Louisville

-1.0

North Carolina Central

-1.9

Yale

-1.9

Marquette

-2.0

Michigan St.

-2.6

Maryland

-3.7

Team

Stl/G

Duke

9.5

Auburn

9.4

LSU

9.1

Washington

9.0

Prairie View

8.8

St. John’s

8.8

Abilene Christian

8.7

Temple

8.7

Syracuse

8.3

Mississippi St.

8.1

Georgia St.

8.0

Virginia Commonwealth

8.0

Oregon

7.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

7.7

Kansas St.

7.6

Murray St.

7.6

Gonzaga

7.5

Buffalo

7.3

Ole Miss

7.3

Texas Tech

7.3

North Carolina

7.2

Florida

7.2

Saint Louis

7.1

Iowa St.

7.0

Seton Hall

7.0

Florida St.

7.0

Wofford

6.9

Gardner-Webb

6.9

Kansas

6.9

Belmont

6.8

Iona

6.8

Virginia Tech

6.7

Montana

6.5

Purdue

6.5

Houston

6.4

Liberty

6.4

North Carolina Central

6.3

Northern Kentucky

6.2

Arizona St.

6.2

Utah St.

6.2

Iowa

6.2

Nevada

6.2

Cincinnati

6.2

Colgate

6.2

Northeastern

6.2

Michigan

6.1

Baylor

6.1

Kentucky

6.0

Saint Mary’s

6.0

Tennessee

6.0

Oklahoma

5.9

Yale

5.9

Ohio St.

5.9

Central Florida

5.7

UC-Irvine

5.7

Vermont

5.6

Virginia

5.6

New Mexico St.

5.6

Old Dominion

5.6

Villanova

5.4

Bradley

5.4

Michigan St.

5.2

Wisconsin

5.1

Marquette

4.8

North Dakota St.

4.8

Minnesota

4.8

Louisville

4.5

Maryland

4.3

Team

Def Stl/G

Michigan

3.7

Cincinnati

3.9

Nevada

4.5

Purdue

4.8

New Mexico St.

4.8

Old Dominion

4.9

Saint Mary’s

5.0

Georgia St.

5.0

Virginia Tech

5.1

Prairie View

5.1

Buffalo

5.1

Gonzaga

5.2

Wisconsin

5.2

Iowa St.

5.2

St. John’s

5.2

Virginia

5.2

UC-Irvine

5.2

Liberty

5.2

Oregon

5.2

North Dakota St.

5.3

Houston

5.3

Villanova

5.4

Vermont

5.4

Northeastern

5.4

Wofford

5.5

Iona

5.5

Florida St.

5.5

Temple

5.5

Montana

5.6

Central Florida

5.6

Abilene Christian

5.6

Kentucky

5.7

Bradley

5.7

Gardner-Webb

5.8

Murray St.

5.8

Auburn

5.8

Seton Hall

5.8

Louisville

5.8

Northern Kentucky

5.9

Mississippi St.

5.9

Saint Louis

5.9

Ohio St.

5.9

Baylor

6.0

Minnesota

6.0

North Carolina Central

6.0

Ole Miss

6.0

Fairleigh-Dickinson

6.1

Utah St.

6.1

Belmont

6.1

Florida

6.1

Washington

6.1

Kansas St.

6.2

Arizona St.

6.3

Texas Tech

6.4

Tennessee

6.4

Michigan St.

6.4

Virginia Commonwealth

6.4

Kansas

6.5

Duke

6.5

LSU

6.5

Syracuse

6.6

Iowa

6.7

North Carolina

6.7

Oklahoma

6.8

Marquette

7.0

Yale

7.0

Maryland

7.1

Colgate

7.1

Team

Old R+T

New Mexico St.

12.34

North Carolina

12.34

Wofford

11.56

Gonzaga

11.48

Cincinnati

10.11

Kentucky

10.07

Buffalo

9.85

Duke

9.85

Utah St.

9.79

Houston

9.71

Purdue

9.37

LSU

9.06

Abilene Christian

8.45

Virginia

8.39

Saint Louis

8.30

Vermont

8.25

Auburn

8.09

UC-Irvine

8.06

Murray St.

7.74

Nevada

7.73

Texas Tech

7.33

Virginia Tech

7.22

Florida St.

7.02

Saint Mary’s

6.98

Michigan St.

6.88

Kansas St.

6.87

Northern Kentucky

6.72

Tennessee

6.66

Liberty

6.66

Baylor

6.56

Old Dominion

6.55

Arizona St.

6.41

Belmont

6.25

Oregon

5.95

Montana

5.83

Virginia Commonwealth

5.78

Mississippi St.

5.73

North Carolina Central

5.39

Ole Miss

5.32

Michigan

5.31

Maryland

5.01

Villanova

4.54

Florida

4.51

Iowa St.

4.29

Colgate

4.18

Prairie View

3.98

Central Florida

3.81

Kansas

3.63

Yale

3.56

Iowa

3.43

Louisville

3.39

Seton Hall

3.39

Temple

3.24

Syracuse

3.21

Marquette

2.96

Wisconsin

2.91

Gardner-Webb

2.82

Minnesota

2.77

Washington

2.76

Ohio St.

2.27

Fairleigh-Dickinson

2.24

Bradley

2.10

Oklahoma

1.79

St. John’s

1.62

Northeastern

1.35

Iona

0.30

Georgia St.

-0.27

North Dakota St.

-1.19

 

Criteria Darlings

Which teams have criteria that most look like a Final Four participant?

These 10 teams have that look this year (in alphabetical order):

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats

  2. Duke Blue Devils

  3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

  4. Houston Cougars

  5. Kentucky Wildcats

  6. Michigan State Spartans

  7. North Carolina Tar Heels

  8. Utah St. Aggies

  9. Virginia Cavaliers

  10. Wofford Terriers 

You will notice that Utah State and Wofford make this list with SOS beneath the level to win the national title.  These two teams possess criteria similar to past Cinderella Final Four teams like George Mason, Wichita State, and Virginia Commonwealth.

 

You now have the information to earn your BM in Bracketnomics.  However, there will be a special Bracketnomicist here Tuesday afternoon who will show you how to use this data to pick winners of each round.  The Captain will reveal his bracket selection on Tuesday prior to 5 PM Eastern Daylight Time.  He told us to tell you that if any buccaneer or lass dare criticize his selections, they will walk the plank.  Actually, they will probably have a better bracket than him.

 

Note: Many thanks to all the PiRate members who stayed up late Sunday night/Monday morning visiting 68 different schools’ athletics’ sites to get the raw data we need to put this statistical bonanza together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 16, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019

How We Select Our Bracket

Welcome to PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. True Shooting Percentage Margin

2. R+T Rating

3. Schedule Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2016

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2016–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners. The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams. If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.
If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 16 years, you will see only minor changes this year, as the PiRate Ratings have added only one minor statistical detail to our repertoire.
Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets. We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament. Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.

Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes. It is mechanical and has no real subjective data. It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.

THE FOUR FACTORS
Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric. He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball. Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost. Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate. Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics. We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% = (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:
(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%
Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)
If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:
500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions. Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:
(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:
(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100
((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.

Their formula was simply: FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.
Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were. If a team like Northern Iowa attempted just 50 field goals per game and won a lot of games by three or four points, going to the foul line many times late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.
A third group of statisticians, including we here at the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:
17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics
For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams. We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas. Here is what we found.

Scoring Margin
For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.
More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game. When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.
This is an obvious statistic here. If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, and the teams played comparable schedules, then team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics.
In the days of the 64 to 68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable. It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six or seven consecutive games.
This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

Last year, the four Final Four Teams had scoring margins of 21, 16, 15, and 9.

Field Goal Percentage Differential
Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic. Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing. 50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%. A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters. Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams. Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams.
This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years. Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range). In the years of the 64 to 68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor. In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field. For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had FG% Differentials of 11.4, 8.5, 7.3, and 6.1%

Rebound Margin
This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded. The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament. What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game. In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.
There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times! Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.
The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.). The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games. The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage. Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance. West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.

There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had positive Rebounding Margins of 7.4, 6.8, 6.2, and 6.0.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game
Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance. Any positive turnover margin is good here. If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin. Not all turnover margins are the same though. A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals. A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul. When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase. Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.
The criteria to look for here is any positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents. Give more weight to teams that average 7 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game. A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots. In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had Turnover Margins of +3.4, +2.6, +1.3, and -0.5 and average steals per game of 6.6, 5.7, 5.3, and 4.5. It was the fewest average steals per game for a Final Four group since steals have been kept as official statistics.

The All-Important R+T Margin
Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.” The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.
The R+T Formula for 2016 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin. The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above. These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed. We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U. The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors. We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

Last year’s Final Four Teams had R+T ratings of 22.9, 18.8, 17.7, and 16.0, making this the most accurate predictor for the season, like it has for most every season. There were two Power Conference teams with negative R+T numbers last year, Oklahoma State and St. John’s. We pegged these teams to lose immediately as 9-seeds against 8-seeds with positive R+T ratings, and they did just that.

Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength
Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or Stony Brook to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Baylor or Miami. And, of course, that is correct. We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.
Basically, the cut-off line for a Final Four team is 54.00, although there have been a few long shots like George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth that were below that mark. While the lowest National Champ was Florida in 2007 at 54.30, the average for the last dozen champions has been just over 58. Also, bear in mind that of the 16 winners since 2000, 6 came from the ACC, 4 from the Big East (none who are current members), 3 from the SEC, and one each from the American, Big 12, and Big Ten. The Pac-12 has not produced the national champion since Arizona in 1997.

Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor
This should be obvious. Except in the rarest of instances (like Dayton playing in a First Round Game last year), all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts. Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home. It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8. However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home. Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage. When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance. When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

New For 2016, Winning Streaks
We should have included this years ago. The NCAA Tournament Championship requires one team to win six consecutive games (seven if in the First Four) to become the champion. It requires the other Final Four teams to win four or five times to get to the Final Four. How often does a team get to the Final Four or win the title without having a long winning streak during the regular season? Not often , or to put it a better way, hardly ever.
When a team wins 10 consecutive games in the heart of their schedule, or to be more exact, against serious competition, or when they win 6 to 10 consecutive games more than once during the season, and the rest of our criteria shows them to be a contender (especially R+T and Schedule Strength), then this is one dangerous squad. Be wary picking against them in the early rounds and then go against them only when the other team looks lethal as well.

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

Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio
While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem. Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists. That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things. First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing. That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance). Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs. As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be in the NCAA Tournament. So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats. We would much rather go with a team that has 15 offensive rebound potential than a team that has assists on 80% of its made field goals. The NCAA Tournament is full of tough defenses, weird site lines, tight rims, and even tighter nerves, and the offensive put-back is an even more potent weapon, especially in the Round of 64, the Sweet 16, and the Final Four games. The Round of 32 and Elite 8 rounds tend to be less tense, because it is the second game on the playing floor for the participants.

Free Throw Shooting
You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not. It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this caveat to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games. However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Big Star or Two Really Good Players
Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far. Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players. I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball. Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so. These teams are tough to stop. Usually, it is the mid-major teams that appear to be sleeper teams that could beat a favored opponent because they have one big talent that falls under this category. For instance, Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney this year fits that category.

If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side. It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year.
Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams for 2015-2016.

Offensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 926 1922 215 562 613 848 384 944 1328 423 162 2680
Austin Peay 920 1988 219 630 602 899 407 882 1289 490 242 2661
Baylor 903 1935 204 556 536 737 453 781 1234 425 260 2546
Buffalo 892 2037 253 750 600 845 417 913 1330 465 236 2637
Butler 868 1864 220 569 542 741 354 775 1129 317 210 2498
CSU Bakersfield 849 1881 174 506 465 712 401 825 1226 391 257 2337
California 867 1881 233 632 512 780 374 945 1319 403 136 2479
Chattanooga 869 1904 259 712 581 793 372 846 1218 422 265 2578
Cincinnati 823 1925 242 701 454 645 432 828 1260 354 254 2342
Colorado 842 1979 250 637 575 779 437 963 1400 442 172 2509
Connecticut 900 1959 239 660 457 581 322 920 1242 378 194 2496
Dayton 818 1780 215 620 491 730 317 919 1236 418 189 2342
Duke 826 1789 274 708 527 728 363 735 1098 293 190 2453
Fair. Dickinson 906 1958 230 633 451 645 338 736 1074 414 242 2493
Florida G. Coast 949 1991 176 493 466 720 392 935 1327 406 218 2540
Fresno St. 900 2073 212 620 549 793 404 874 1278 364 280 2561
Gonzaga 929 1910 258 682 514 676 350 957 1307 372 167 2630
Green Bay 1027 2294 246 703 648 984 451 909 1360 423 334 2948
Hampton 793 1911 203 659 529 805 438 853 1291 433 168 2318
Hawaii 843 1824 230 704 567 833 342 856 1198 423 252 2483
Holy Cross 737 1785 236 721 446 644 269 725 994 362 213 2156
Indiana 934 1864 316 762 449 621 385 811 1196 437 222 2633
Iona 888 1947 320 860 451 633 339 842 1181 409 242 2547
Iowa 855 1898 255 667 456 634 369 821 1190 323 211 2421
Iowa St. 998 1990 265 697 358 507 291 863 1154 370 197 2619
Kansas 951 1926 274 649 516 737 356 900 1256 408 225 2692
Kentucky 971 2029 236 637 531 777 442 876 1318 376 191 2709
Maryland 876 1794 252 673 506 666 304 867 1171 425 192 2510
Miami 837 1756 219 599 527 702 310 802 1112 341 194 2420
Michigan 898 1926 326 849 404 548 267 822 1089 333 188 2526
Michigan St. 979 2024 310 715 444 608 419 1005 1424 325 181 2712
Middle Tenn. 857 1902 260 673 425 689 341 879 1220 399 205 2399
North Carolina 1047 2187 183 583 520 705 477 916 1393 371 234 2797
Northern Iowa 801 1751 278 742 432 574 183 839 1022 334 193 2312
Notre Dame 869 1844 235 637 450 612 349 805 1154 311 179 2423
Oklahoma 884 1928 334 784 471 647 343 899 1242 415 221 2573
Oregon 933 1997 234 670 580 813 399 830 1229 393 259 2680
Oregon St. 786 1783 211 570 451 672 330 743 1073 355 231 2234
Pittsburgh 860 1871 201 578 512 679 410 812 1222 374 159 2433
Providence 833 1974 234 729 541 744 385 822 1207 380 219 2441
Purdue 934 1980 259 703 516 695 397 995 1392 406 145 2643
Seton Hall 872 1937 202 573 524 787 425 896 1321 457 240 2470
South Dakota St. 853 1891 245 686 566 766 370 881 1251 388 164 2517
Southern 887 1990 208 590 497 743 356 868 1224 382 254 2479
St. Joseph’s 926 2038 238 728 548 769 345 967 1312 344 175 2638
S. F. Austin 926 1915 254 691 477 653 380 750 1130 398 290 2583
Stony Brook 913 1917 217 584 415 618 400 866 1266 365 198 2458
Syracuse 766 1796 280 776 435 637 378 759 1137 388 259 2247
Temple 792 1957 251 739 362 529 358 818 1176 293 171 2197
Texas 789 1828 223 657 482 725 352 753 1105 332 165 2283
Texas A&M 906 2016 261 745 508 755 436 887 1323 401 235 2581
Texas Tech 760 1700 178 517 546 732 320 739 1059 371 182 2244
Tulsa 796 1793 216 656 486 717 313 773 1086 335 211 2294
UALR 836 1827 249 641 420 572 302 815 1117 347 216 2341
UNC-Asheville 877 1916 190 586 552 795 384 863 1247 430 307 2496
UNC-Wilm. 898 1971 219 651 520 741 384 819 1203 365 241 2535
USC 954 2085 260 675 500 737 396 906 1302 403 209 2668
Utah 928 1898 259 713 524 734 328 942 1270 418 183 2639
Vanderbilt 841 1826 270 695 504 721 304 930 1234 374 138 2456
VCU 953 2116 247 694 472 684 425 845 1270 389 299 2625
Villanova 905 1936 291 847 516 664 315 896 1211 378 229 2617
Virginia 849 1743 198 489 426 565 296 756 1052 310 181 2322
Weber St. 887 1831 287 768 548 810 291 983 1274 451 169 2609
West Virginia 927 2050 206 627 633 945 541 791 1332 476 338 2693
Wichita St. 801 1846 234 710 507 710 373 826 1199 318 231 2343
Wisconsin 751 1748 211 590 491 694 366 751 1117 351 188 2204
Xavier 876 1938 243 672 608 832 418 894 1312 408 234 2603
Yale 744 1580 181 484 436 658 379 752 1131 375 162 2105

Defensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 829 2007 201 626 415 587 313 711 1024 383 178 2274
Austin Peay 955 2088 269 824 450 640 365 830 1195 470 244 2629
Baylor 797 1794 228 622 463 664 306 666 972 452 220 2285
Buffalo 882 2044 251 740 540 756 368 861 1229 450 192 2555
Butler 764 1773 222 655 456 642 298 724 1022 407 141 2206
CSU Bakersfield 668 1708 187 585 499 722 339 758 1097 490 170 2022
California 762 1940 180 513 508 721 325 772 1097 321 170 2212
Chattanooga 829 1910 225 694 382 566 337 764 1101 484 216 2265
Cincinnati 722 1849 231 648 337 498 365 742 1107 444 165 2012
Colorado 829 1980 206 580 469 693 313 793 1106 365 246 2333
Connecticut 737 1931 232 709 439 667 379 785 1164 415 175 2145
Dayton 740 1829 234 671 392 595 284 782 1066 398 154 2106
Duke 817 1865 179 536 321 466 384 711 1095 367 134 2134
Fair. Dickinson 834 1845 239 676 597 854 409 825 1234 492 202 2504
Florida G. Coast 823 1986 217 719 462 676 361 800 1161 406 217 2325
Fresno St. 785 1879 245 743 580 837 355 882 1237 510 150 2395
Gonzaga 795 1992 198 666 398 565 333 734 1067 341 185 2186
Green Bay 981 2198 271 746 555 779 421 991 1412 590 202 2788
Hampton 794 1874 203 615 498 688 319 813 1132 388 179 2289
Hawaii 719 1806 199 632 491 691 310 740 1050 472 190 2128
Holy Cross 803 1755 264 724 429 593 305 872 1177 434 182 2299
Indiana 821 1859 200 583 363 545 327 637 964 418 195 2205
Iona 812 1929 247 696 486 699 383 816 1199 451 184 2357
Iowa 788 1901 228 735 326 479 375 773 1148 407 165 2130
Iowa St. 903 2075 249 740 344 502 382 776 1158 397 179 2399
Kansas 758 1913 208 631 508 705 356 729 1085 438 201 2232
Kentucky 782 1954 192 582 565 808 407 726 1133 420 145 2321
Maryland 798 1956 223 693 368 526 363 695 1058 370 207 2187
Miami 790 1839 184 548 374 529 330 708 1038 372 163 2138
Michigan 844 1896 240 695 366 504 296 826 1122 406 138 2294
Michigan St. 741 1966 193 639 480 669 320 707 1027 325 181 2155
Middle Tenn. 767 1799 213 620 507 757 298 848 1146 445 194 2254
North Carolina 838 2046 262 728 425 608 389 723 1112 447 196 2363
Northern Iowa 794 1884 239 740 312 431 307 849 1156 401 164 2139
Notre Dame 821 1918 246 655 371 515 367 715 1082 311 167 2259
Oklahoma 819 2024 241 709 375 553 382 780 1162 407 227 2254
Oregon 836 1970 243 670 435 623 375 744 1119 488 158 2350
Oregon St. 739 1732 222 675 469 678 355 786 1141 420 157 2169
Pittsburgh 781 1791 218 612 393 593 303 682 985 370 180 2173
Providence 850 1956 211 658 390 544 355 860 1215 482 196 2301
Purdue 794 2029 210 670 398 563 302 728 1030 320 204 2196
Seton Hall 790 1971 206 652 451 664 397 788 1185 450 238 2237
South Dakota St. 766 1843 198 599 507 709 307 766 1073 399 187 2237
Southern 814 1960 225 709 494 795 412 870 1282 469 179 2347
St. Joseph’s 875 2110 270 872 357 517 337 875 1212 389 156 2377
S. F. Austin 719 1642 165 511 418 637 309 711 1020 596 174 2021
Stony Brook 737 1824 208 636 348 489 293 722 1015 409 176 2030
Syracuse 759 1835 225 739 360 540 413 769 1182 434 208 2103
Temple 785 1884 189 601 399 539 347 877 1224 355 137 2158
Texas 754 1801 201 586 469 675 359 792 1151 400 145 2178
Texas A&M 783 1930 251 763 411 626 381 810 1191 488 172 2228
Texas Tech 758 1777 237 674 412 586 356 689 1045 396 197 2165
Tulsa 733 1760 235 647 459 613 338 808 1146 445 164 2160
UALR 664 1710 206 672 434 633 339 774 1113 464 132 1968
UNC-Asheville 802 1897 192 677 431 616 353 819 1172 519 222 2227
UNC-Wilmington 729 1748 171 507 657 933 362 808 1170 485 159 2286
USC 899 2153 239 740 430 613 424 825 1249 411 191 2467
Utah 873 2112 253 689 352 488 359 759 1118 355 216 2351
Vanderbilt 762 1974 176 603 455 675 388 804 1192 319 180 2155
VCU 818 1859 187 556 465 688 326 853 1179 525 194 2288
Villanova 764 1910 240 716 398 600 360 787 1147 471 199 2166
Virginia 687 1630 212 608 383 550 264 671 935 398 174 1969
Weber St. 850 2053 195 564 378 567 326 801 1127 373 197 2273
West Virginia 709 1658 199 599 648 909 295 750 1045 617 229 2265
Wichita St. 602 1565 187 577 505 705 260 791 1051 495 150 1896
Wisconsin 732 1705 189 499 413 584 295 722 1017 389 169 2066
Xavier 787 1894 241 766 458 651 319 753 1072 452 195 2273
Yale 625 1536 166 525 352 506 237 584 821 349 187 1768

 

The Four Factors

Team EFG DEFG OR% DOR% TO% DTU% FT* DFT*  Streaks
Arizona 53.8 46.3 35.1 24.9 17.9 16.3 25.9 17.6 8 6
Austin Peay 51.8 52.2 32.9 29.3 19.6 18.8 24.1 18.0 6 2
Baylor 51.9 50.8 40.5 28.2 18.8 20.0 23.7 20.5 7 4
Buffalo 50.0 49.3 32.6 28.7 18.7 18.1 24.1 21.7 4 4
Butler 52.5 49.4 32.8 27.8 14.5 18.6 24.9 20.9 8 3
Cal State Bakersfield 49.8 44.6 34.6 29.1 17.7 22.3 21.0 22.7 6 6
California 52.3 43.9 32.6 25.6 17.7 14.1 22.5 22.3 12 3
Chattanooga 52.4 49.3 32.7 28.5 18.1 20.8 24.9 16.4 9 8
Cincinnati 49.0 45.3 36.8 30.6 16.4 20.5 21.1 15.6 7 4
Colorado 48.9 47.1 35.5 24.5 18.8 15.5 24.4 19.9 11 3
Connecticut 52.0 44.2 29.1 29.2 16.5 18.2 19.9 19.2 5 4
Dayton 52.0 46.9 28.8 23.6 18.8 17.9 22.0 17.6 9 5
Duke 53.8 48.6 33.8 34.3 14.2 17.7 25.5 15.5 7 5
Fairleigh Dickinson 52.1 51.7 29.1 35.7 17.7 21.1 19.3 25.6 5 3
Florida Gulf Coast 52.1 46.9 32.9 27.9 17.3 17.3 19.9 19.6 7 3
Fresno St. 48.5 48.3 31.4 28.9 15.1 21.0 22.8 23.9 9 5
Gonzaga 55.4 44.9 32.3 25.8 16.5 15.0 22.8 17.5 7 6
Green Bay 50.1 50.8 31.3 31.7 15.5 21.6 23.7 20.3 4 4
Hampton 46.8 47.8 35.0 27.2 18.9 17.1 23.1 21.9 6 5
Hawaii 52.5 45.3 31.6 26.6 18.4 20.6 24.6 21.4 8 6
Holy Cross 47.9 53.3 23.6 29.6 16.6 20.0 20.4 19.8 4 3
Indiana 58.6 49.5 37.7 28.7 19.8 18.9 20.3 16.4 12 5
Iona 53.8 48.5 29.4 31.3 17.6 19.4 19.5 20.9 8 5
Iowa 51.8 47.4 32.3 31.4 15.0 18.8 21.2 15.1 9 4
Iowa St. 56.8 49.5 27.3 30.7 16.0 17.0 15.5 14.8 9 3
Kansas 56.5 45.1 32.8 28.3 17.5 18.8 22.2 21.8 13 13
Kentucky 53.7 44.9 37.8 31.7 16.1 17.9 22.8 24.0 7 5
Maryland 55.9 46.5 30.4 29.5 19.0 16.7 22.7 16.6 8 5
Miami 53.9 48.0 30.5 29.2 16.1 17.4 24.9 17.5 8 5
Michigan 55.1 50.8 24.4 26.5 14.8 18.1 17.9 16.3 6 4
Michigan St. 56.0 42.6 37.2 24.2 14.6 14.2 20.0 21.0 13 9
Middle Tennessee 51.9 48.6 28.7 25.3 17.4 19.3 18.6 22.0 6 6
North Carolina 52.1 47.4 39.8 29.8 15.4 18.7 21.5 17.8 12 5
Northern Iowa 53.7 48.5 17.7 26.8 15.4 18.4 19.9 14.3 6 6
Notre Dame 53.5 49.2 32.8 31.3 14.8 14.8 21.5 17.6 4 3
Oklahoma 54.5 46.4 30.5 29.8 18.0 17.6 20.4 16.2 12 4
Oregon 52.6 48.6 34.9 31.1 16.5 20.5 24.4 18.3 8 6
Oregon St. 50.0 49.1 29.6 32.3 16.7 19.8 21.2 22.1 4 4
Pittsburgh 51.3 49.7 37.5 27.2 17.3 17.3 23.7 18.4 10 4
Providence 48.1 48.8 30.9 30.2 16.4 20.6 23.3 16.7 8 6
Purdue 53.7 44.3 35.3 23.3 17.5 13.8 22.2 17.2 11 5
Seton Hall 50.2 45.3 35.0 30.7 19.5 19.2 22.4 19.3 7 4
South Dakota St. 51.6 46.9 32.6 25.8 17.1 17.6 24.9 22.3 6 6
Southern 49.8 47.3 29.0 32.2 16.1 19.6 21.0 20.6 8 5
St. Joseph’s 51.3 47.9 28.3 25.8 14.3 16.2 22.8 14.8 7 7
Stephen F. Austin 55.0 48.8 34.8 29.2 17.7 26.7 21.3 18.7 20 5
Stony Brook 53.3 46.1 35.7 25.3 16.8 18.8 19.1 16.0 18 3
Syracuse 50.4 47.5 33.0 35.2 18.4 20.5 20.6 17.0 6 5
Temple 46.9 46.7 29.0 29.8 13.7 16.5 16.9 18.6 5 4
Texas 49.3 47.4 30.8 32.3 15.4 18.5 22.4 21.7 6 4
Texas A&M 51.4 47.1 35.0 30.0 17.1 20.9 21.7 17.6 10 8
Texas Tech 49.9 49.3 31.7 32.5 17.7 18.9 26.0 19.7 10 5
Tulsa 50.4 48.3 27.9 30.4 15.5 20.6 22.5 21.3 5 4
UALR 52.6 44.9 28.1 29.4 16.2 21.7 19.6 20.3 10 6
UNC-Asheville 50.7 47.3 31.9 29.0 18.4 22.0 23.6 18.3 5 5
UNC-Wilmington 51.1 46.6 32.2 30.7 15.8 21.0 22.6 28.4 11 5
USC 52.0 47.3 32.4 31.9 16.5 16.9 20.5 17.7 7 5
Utah 55.7 47.3 30.2 27.6 17.9 15.2 22.4 15.0 9 5
Vanderbilt 53.5 43.1 27.4 29.4 16.7 14.3 22.5 20.4 5 4
VCU 50.9 49.0 33.3 27.8 16.2 22.0 19.6 19.5 12 3
Villanova 54.3 46.3 28.6 28.7 16.3 20.4 22.3 17.3 9 7
Virginia 54.4 48.7 30.6 25.9 15.3 19.7 21.0 18.9 11 7
Weber St. 56.3 46.2 26.6 24.9 19.0 15.7 23.1 16.0 8 6
West Virginia 50.2 48.8 41.9 27.2 19.6 25.6 26.0 26.9 8 7
Wichita St. 49.7 44.4 32.0 23.9 14.9 23.2 23.8 23.7 12 6
Wisconsin 49.0 48.5 33.6 28.2 17.0 18.7 23.8 19.9 7 4
Xavier 51.5 47.9 35.7 26.3 17.6 19.3 26.2 19.6 12 5
Yale 52.8 46.1 39.4 24.0 19.9 18.5 23.1 18.6 12 5

 

PiRate Criteria

Team PPG DPPG Mar. FG-M Rb-M TO-M R+T WLRd SOS
Arizona 81.2 68.9 12.3 6.9 9.2 -1.2 20.3 8-7 54.69
Austin Peay 76.0 75.1 0.9 0.5 2.7 -0.6 7.3 11-10 48.15
Baylor 77.2 69.2 7.9 2.2 7.9 0.8 20.0 8-6 59.49
Buffalo 77.6 75.1 2.4 0.6 3.0 -0.4 9.3 10-9 53.77
Butler 80.6 71.2 9.4 3.5 3.5 2.9 14.6 8-7 54.61
Cal State Bakersfield 73.0 63.2 9.8 6.0 4.0 3.1 15.9 10-7 44.72
California 75.1 67.0 8.1 6.8 6.7 -2.5 13.9 5-10 58.52
Chattanooga 75.8 66.6 9.2 2.2 3.4 1.8 12.3 16-4 48.07
Cincinnati 73.2 62.9 10.3 3.7 4.8 2.8 17.2 8-7 54.70
Colorado 76.0 70.7 5.3 0.7 8.9 -2.3 16.6 6-10 56.45
Connecticut 73.4 63.1 10.3 7.8 2.3 1.1 9.4 9-7 55.70
Dayton 73.2 65.8 7.4 5.5 5.3 -0.6 14.1 11-4 55.73
Duke 79.1 68.8 10.3 2.4 0.1 2.4 7.3 7-6 58.97
Fairleigh Dickinson 77.9 78.3 -0.3 1.1 -5.0 2.4 -4.1 9-8 45.04
Florida Gulf Coast 77.0 70.5 6.5 6.2 5.0 0.0 12.8 4-9 45.65
Fresno St. 75.3 70.4 4.9 1.6 1.2 4.3 12.4 9-7 51.24
Gonzaga 79.7 66.2 13.5 8.7 7.3 -0.9 16.5 15-3 52.35
Green Bay 84.2 79.7 4.6 0.1 -1.5 4.8 6.8 12-9 48.08
Hampton 74.8 73.8 0.9 -0.9 5.1 -1.5 11.7 12-8 43.76
Hawaii 77.6 66.5 11.1 6.4 4.6 1.5 14.8 10-2 47.33
Holy Cross 65.3 69.7 -4.3 -4.5 -5.5 2.2 -5.2 6-13 45.37
Indiana 82.3 68.9 13.4 5.9 7.3 -0.6 17.3 8-7 53.79
Iona 79.6 73.7 5.9 3.5 -0.6 1.3 4.2 11-8 50.33
Iowa 78.1 68.7 9.4 3.6 1.4 2.7 9.5 8-8 56.69
Iowa St. 81.8 75.0 6.9 6.6 -0.1 0.8 4.1 7-9 58.96
Kansas 81.6 67.6 13.9 9.8 5.2 0.9 14.6 12-4 60.22
Kentucky 79.7 68.3 11.4 7.8 5.4 1.3 16.7 9-8 57.45
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.8 8.0 3.4 -1.7 7.8 9-7 56.77
Miami 75.6 66.8 8.8 4.7 2.3 1.0 9.5 10-6 58.22
Michigan 74.3 67.5 6.8 2.1 -1.0 2.1 4.9 9-8 55.96
Michigan St. 79.8 63.4 16.4 10.7 11.7 0.0 26.7 15-3 55.75
Middle Tennessee 72.7 68.3 4.4 2.4 2.2 1.4 9.1 13-6 50.23
North Carolina 82.3 69.5 12.8 6.9 8.3 2.2 22.4 13-5 57.74
Northern Iowa 68.0 62.9 5.1 3.6 -3.9 2.0 -1.9 11-9 53.34
Notre Dame 75.7 70.6 5.1 4.3 2.3 0.0 8.1 7-9 57.25
Oklahoma 80.4 70.4 10.0 5.4 2.5 -0.3 7.1 11-6 58.74
Oregon 78.8 69.1 9.7 4.3 3.2 2.8 14.4 10-6 60.01
Oregon St. 72.1 70.0 2.1 1.4 -2.2 2.1 2.4 5-9 58.77
Pittsburgh 76.0 67.9 8.1 2.4 7.4 -0.1 17.5 6-7 56.86
Providence 74.0 69.7 4.2 -1.3 -0.2 3.1 6.0 10-6 55.71
Purdue 77.7 64.6 13.1 8.0 10.6 -2.5 20.9 9-7 56.54
Seton Hall 74.8 67.8 7.1 4.9 4.1 -0.2 10.5 12-5 56.24
South Dakota St. 76.3 67.8 8.5 3.5 5.4 0.3 13.9 14-7 51.07
Southern 72.9 69.0 3.9 3.0 -1.7 2.6 3.6 10-11 42.66
St. Joseph’s 77.6 69.9 7.7 4.0 2.9 1.3 11.2 15-3 55.49
Stephen F. Austin 80.7 63.2 17.6 4.6 3.4 6.2 18.2 13-5 47.18
Stony Brook 76.8 63.4 13.4 7.2 7.8 1.4 20.7 11-5 48.19
Syracuse 70.2 65.7 4.5 1.3 -1.4 1.4 2.2 6-9 56.21
Temple 68.7 67.4 1.2 -1.2 -1.5 1.9 3.3 10-8 54.61
Texas 71.3 68.1 3.3 1.3 -1.4 2.1 3.3 6-9 59.88
Texas A&M 75.9 65.5 10.4 4.4 3.9 2.6 14.7 9-7 55.70
Texas Tech 72.4 69.8 2.5 2.0 0.5 0.8 4.3 5-9 58.94
Tulsa 74.0 69.7 4.3 2.7 -1.9 3.5 3.8 8-8 54.97
UALR 70.9 59.6 11.3 6.9 0.1 3.5 9.1 15-4 47.45
UNC-Asheville 75.6 67.5 8.2 3.5 2.3 2.7 11.2 11-8 47.21
UNC-Wilmington 79.2 71.4 7.8 3.9 1.0 3.8 10.6 13-5 51.21
USC 80.8 74.8 6.1 4.0 1.6 0.2 6.8 5-10 56.79
Utah 77.6 69.1 8.5 7.6 4.5 -1.9 9.4 10-7 59.33
Vanderbilt 76.8 67.3 9.4 7.5 1.3 -1.7 3.4 5-11 56.44
VCU 77.2 67.3 9.9 1.0 2.7 4.0 14.0 9-8 55.24
Villanova 77.0 63.7 13.3 6.7 1.9 2.7 10.0 14-4 58.54
Virginia 70.4 59.7 10.7 6.6 3.5 2.7 13.2 11-7 60.05
Weber St. 76.7 66.9 9.9 7.0 4.3 -2.3 9.0 13-7 45.32
West Virginia 79.2 66.6 12.6 2.5 8.4 4.1 25.3 13-6 58.59
Wichita St. 73.2 59.3 14.0 4.9 4.6 5.5 19.7 10-7 52.52
Wisconsin 68.9 64.6 4.3 0.0 3.1 1.2 11.1 7-7 58.14
Xavier 81.3 71.0 10.3 3.6 7.5 1.4 19.9 12-4 56.82
Yale 75.2 63.1 12.0 6.4 11.1 -0.9 23.4 10-6 49.48

If this data is a little overbearing, fret not Bracketaholics.  We will select bracket winners for you Tuesday afternoon so you can fill them out with some science and mathematics backing you up.

 

And, if you are like many of our old-time readers, some of who prefer to use our data when visiting Las Vegas (and who have to buy new shirts after they lose the one they had), we will have our Red-White-Blue computer-rated picks for the First Four games late tonight, and then the picks for the second round late Wednesday night after the last First Four game has concluded.

 

March 16, 2015

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2015–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners.  The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams.  If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.  

If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 15 years, you will see a noticeable difference this year, as the PiRate Ratings have incorporated the infamous “Four Factors” into our bracket selection tutorial.

Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets.  We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament.  Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.  Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes.  It is mechanical and has no real subjective data.  It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.

THE FOUR FACTORS

Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric.  He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball.  Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost.  Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate.  Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics.  We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% =  (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA  where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:

(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%

Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)

If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:

500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions.  Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:

(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:

(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100

((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.  Their formula was simply:

FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.

Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were.  If a team like Virginia attempted just 42 field goals and led an opponent by three or four points late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.

A third group of statisticians, including the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:

17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics

For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams.  We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas.  Here is what we found.

  1. Scoring Margin

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Field Goal Percentage Differential

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

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

  1. Rebound Margin

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

There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times!  Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.

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

  1. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

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

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

  1. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “MoneyballFormula.”  The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.

The R+T Formula for 2015 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin.  The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U.  The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors.  We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast.  FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

  1. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or Wofford to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Iowa St. or Notre Dame.  And, of course, that is correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  We use three different SOS ratings to come up with an average, and then we plug it into a formula that gives extra points for teams with tough schedules, while taking away points from teams with easy schedules.

  1. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances (like Dayton playing in a First Round Game this year), all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.  When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

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

  1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

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

  1. Free Throw Shooting

You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not.  It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this to the NCAA Tournament.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. 3-point shooting

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

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

  1. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

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

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

Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams.  Hopefully, they will align properly on your computer, as we had issues getting the alignment to work here.  Our provider is not really set up for tabular posts, and that is our problem and not theirs.

Offense Statistics

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 706 1605 197 547 487 640 320 756 374 181
Arizona 908 1855 172 478 611 874 368 898 381 244
Arkansas 932 2083 227 648 562 776 442 774 399 264
Baylor 794 1831 229 607 476 710 485 808 413 261
Belmont 831 1746 321 841 400 579 301 763 439 205
Boise St. 809 1768 291 738 426 581 286 800 339 201
Buffalo 817 1878 193 567 573 794 412 818 361 244
Butler 777 1771 184 514 488 718 390 785 364 204
BYU 948 2032 85 734 660 859 415 895 402 257
Cincinnati 716 1581 161 483 403 598 351 744 409 210
Coastal Carolina 808 1841 221 621 529 769 440 873 393 232
Davidson 877 1861 337 849 386 543 325 789 297 170
Dayton 750 1620 213 605 538 789 245 796 379 230
Duke 944 1880 250 648 522 755 401 831 371 237
E. Washington 951 1981 335 832 509 704 341 814 367 216
Georgetown 750 1650 181 521 511 728 347 742 392 240
Georgia 728 1673 180 524 551 800 348 869 408 179
Georgia St. 854 1778 163 492 504 693 309 773 352 300
Gonzaga 973 1856 242 593 502 726 347 940 359 211
Hampton 753 1847 187 615 523 802 404 820 469 220
Harvard 650 1493 141 399 420 589 304 695 342 204
Indiana 899 1930 308 764 451 631 395 792 379 167
Iowa 758 1776 181 545 524 703 401 805 361 211
Iowa St. 916 1908 257 703 497 714 314 870 364 209
Kansas 822 1869 198 528 579 804 402 888 435 222
Kentucky  883 1884 185 529 596 825 439 859 361 223
Lafayette 851 1744 257 622 415 542 272 720 351 179
Louisville 783 1827 181 595 468 709 413 808 378 266
LSU 868 1902 184 543 438 636 388 865 468 235
Manhattan 733 1686 209 615 561 808 333 691 464 259
Maryland 741 1693 241 647 570 753 302 855 397 160
Michigan St. 901 1912 256 663 386 610 390 891 395 181
N. C. St. 820 1875 219 606 464 679 400 849 347 131
New Mexico St. 788 1692 160 435 524 755 414 756 459 209
North Carolina 1019 2144 167 484 522 746 488 948 444 233
North Dakota St. 714 1659 220 579 417 602 271 803 312 153
North Florida 872 1858 308 788 522 721 326 851 417 213
Northeastern 811 1670 200 515 510 703 284 843 467 181
Northern Iowa 735 1523 242 609 445 613 239 778 346 196
Notre Dame 945 1853 281 716 509 688 283 831 319 234
Ohio St. 916 1886 225 605 445 656 372 811 373 257
Oklahoma 818 1874 216 629 450 612 351 868 388 221
Oklahoma St. 706 1607 216 618 459 632 238 730 380 245
Ole Miss 788 1850 207 612 541 695 397 805 363 211
Oregon 937 2031 248 688 447 588 359 877 401 195
Providence 808 1830 161 520 540 761 398 791 391 238
Purdue 801 1768 191 571 515 752 388 810 432 180
Robert Morris 802 1798 211 555 462 647 344 759 454 282
San Diego St. 756 1805 178 556 411 653 413 784 386 236
SMU 812 1695 138 384 529 750 378 833 417 226
St. John’s 808 1831 195 552 468 676 329 803 342 239
S.F. Austin 894 1819 257 666 577 786 402 745 464 252
Texas 779 1787 206 607 478 659 410 900 420 124
Texas Southern 794 1789 180 562 550 831 386 788 445 209
UAB 820 1907 187 563 514 694 403 841 461 225
UC-Irvine 830 1799 212 544 368 539 320 849 382 189
UCLA 849 1927 205 564 473 700 406 847 392 226
Utah 788 1624 247 611 484 692 296 821 366 190
Valparaiso 817 1780 224 593 446 658 386 859 413 198
VCU 872 2076 283 828 510 778 431 809 372 338
Villanova 861 1833 306 787 565 777 351 819 369 265
Virginia 761 1644 162 449 407 563 329 829 304 179
West Virginia 813 1975 213 669 527 798 539 638 418 350
Wichita St. 784 1756 224 619 439 638 380 758 301 225
Wisconsin 860 1793 237 663 487 638 322 823 252 154
Wofford 800 1745 215 572 463 672 310 792 371 223
Wyoming 726 1573 200 620 445 629 212 813 380 189
Xavier 885 1870 214 613 517 713 340 844 411 207

Defense

Team FG FGA 3pt 3pta FT FTa OR DR TO Stl
Albany 672 1600 243 666 340 486 259 665 399 153
Arizona 686 1752 181 581 440 636 258 710 481 159
Arkansas 824 1914 212 600 525 736 402 800 543 188
Baylor 716 1782 191 637 368 570 367 663 404 211
Belmont 828 1832 232 675 363 514 319 726 411 212
Boise St. 710 1712 188 611 381 544 276 729 419 158
Buffalo 773 1831 230 697 409 618 358 774 436 197
Butler 701 1684 175 571 381 561 260 708 403 175
BYU 858 1972 211 643 540 770 354 788 449 224
Cincinnati 654 1678 184 560 277 427 347 589 390 177
Coastal Carolina 691 1766 231 718 422 604 305 722 394 191
Davidson 779 1769 175 582 405 636 337 749 365 159
Dayton 731 1738 181 571 367 541 309 768 449 172
Duke 829 1931 171 534 335 483 357 670 415 188
E. Washington 876 1953 268 697 484 676 353 796 417 187
Georgetown 650 1614 203 566 501 709 338 665 420 192
Georgia 707 1826 200 647 440 626 353 729 355 194
Georgia St. 667 1749 237 735 482 683 398 704 500 154
Gonzaga 737 1917 191 589 406 615 372 669 395 191
Hampton 744 1801 188 546 568 827 367 826 461 178
Harvard 587 1471 159 486 327 484 268 623 368 156
Indiana 875 1925 194 591 413 617 359 724 357 200
Iowa 701 1788 211 652 367 522 354 718 400 195
Iowa St. 842 2012 245 697 357 488 358 786 427 186
Kansas 780 1977 195 631 444 664 415 751 398 216
Kentucky  651 1836 156 570 377 581 398 647 478 159
Lafayette 850 1864 263 698 415 542 370 687 354 190
Louisville 676 1740 160 547 393 603 362 763 463 191
LSU 796 1986 180 575 395 597 427 753 439 262
Manhattan 710 1630 145 450 595 846 351 740 531 221
Maryland 756 1910 223 713 352 533 374 733 372 180
Michigan St. 728 1821 208 643 492 686 312 738 377 194
N. C. St. 757 1877 195 588 450 640 370 770 331 176
New Mexico St. 727 1725 120 409 384 557 329 618 434 179
North Carolina 818 2056 227 763 531 773 416 734 435 234
North Dakota St. 697 1668 206 556 369 497 237 771 338 146
North Florida 851 1971 172 549 430 633 389 767 420 217
Northeastern 848 1905 191 555 323 470 289 674 342 240
Northern Iowa 641 1638 197 624 167 221 287 652 372 163
Notre Dame 847 1984 213 647 325 463 384 725 384 176
Ohio St. 743 1833 221 694 350 502 370 718 484 166
Oklahoma 727 1888 197 637 357 546 399 785 443 209
Oklahoma St. 646 1620 176 519 464 678 349 722 426 185
Ole Miss 708 1771 245 703 499 729 374 740 405 161
Oregon 853 2025 215 652 484 697 399 790 395 190
Providence 742 1762 210 631 467 679 331 730 430 188
Purdue 724 1807 196 560 485 696 365 684 385 228
Robert Morris 778 1835 222 664 457 690 424 756 482 216
San Diego St. 659 1750 172 567 317 456 339 748 451 184
SMU 671 1768 258 803 372 548 350 632 423 220
St. John’s 768 1895 221 675 407 619 431 822 423 165
S.F. Austin 712 1627 150 451 555 800 312 656 571 196
Texas 686 1862 200 575 421 637 367 668 298 209
Texas Southern 850 1930 188 550 405 629 410 749 419 220
UAB 824 1960 206 635 447 653 411 780 452 210
UC-Irvine 716 1823 179 527 445 644 373 746 375 191
UCLA 779 1866 259 729 428 611 331 793 416 207
Utah 643 1681 152 477 384 569 313 640 373 176
Valparaiso 670 1762 219 667 397 565 319 687 404 223
VCU 794 1835 223 648 482 694 359 928 566 205
Villanova 752 1856 186 603 380 563 369 724 483 192
Virginia 578 1600 177 584 289 447 267 641 341 163
West Virginia 697 1488 173 473 572 833 285 778 628 185
Wichita St. 617 1551 161 469 391 576 272 698 426 127
Wisconsin 742 1771 170 442 254 373 256 686 339 135
Wofford 715 1715 170 551 433 613 292 762 435 180
Wyoming 692 1725 210 612 309 444 290 733 370 178
Xavier 814 1862 242 693 430 641 314 746 440 221

Four Factors

Team EFG DEFG OR% DOR% TO% DTO% FT* DFT*
Albany 50.1 49.6 32.5 25.5 19.1 20.2 24.8 17.3
Arizona 53.6 44.3 34.1 22.3 16.7 21.1 26.8 19.3
Arkansas 50.2 48.6 35.6 34.2 16.6 22.6 23.3 21.8
Baylor 49.6 45.5 42.2 31.2 19.7 19.3 22.7 17.6
Belmont 56.8 51.5 29.3 29.5 20.3 19.0 18.5 16.7
Boise St. 54.0 47.0 28.2 25.7 16.2 19.8 20.3 18.0
Buffalo 48.6 48.5 34.7 30.4 16.4 19.8 26.0 18.6
Butler 49.1 46.8 35.5 24.9 17.4 19.3 23.4 18.2
BYU 48.7 48.9 34.5 28.3 16.6 18.5 27.2 22.2
Cincinnati 50.4 44.5 37.3 31.8 21.3 20.3 21.0 14.4
Coastal Carolina 49.9 45.7 37.9 25.9 18.2 18.4 24.5 19.7
Davidson 56.2 49.0 30.3 29.9 14.2 17.4 18.5 19.3
Dayton 52.9 47.3 24.2 28.0 17.8 21.0 25.3 17.2
Duke 56.9 47.4 37.4 30.1 16.8 18.7 23.6 15.1
E. Washington 56.5 51.7 30.0 30.2 15.7 17.8 21.7 20.7
Georgetown 50.9 46.6 34.3 31.3 19.2 20.7 25.0 24.6
Georgia 48.9 44.2 32.3 28.9 19.3 16.7 26.1 20.7
Georgia St. 52.6 44.9 30.5 34.0 16.4 23.0 23.4 22.2
Gonzaga 58.9 43.4 34.2 28.4 16.2 17.7 22.7 18.2
Hampton 45.8 46.5 32.8 30.9 20.5 20.2 22.8 24.8
Harvard 48.3 45.3 32.8 27.8 18.9 20.4 23.2 18.2
Indiana 54.6 50.5 35.3 31.2 17.1 16.1 20.4 18.6
Iowa 47.8 45.1 35.8 30.5 17.4 19.2 25.3 17.6
Iowa St. 54.7 47.9 28.5 29.2 15.8 18.5 21.6 15.4
Kansas 49.3 44.4 34.9 31.8 19.0 17.5 25.4 19.5
Kentucky  51.8 39.7 40.4 31.7 16.4 21.8 27.1 17.2
Lafayette 56.2 52.7 28.4 33.9 16.9 16.8 19.9 19.7
Louisville 47.8 43.4 35.1 30.9 17.8 21.8 22.0 18.5
LSU 50.5 44.6 34.0 33.0 20.5 19.2 19.2 17.3
Manhattan 49.7 48.0 31.0 33.7 21.1 24.0 25.5 26.9
Maryland 50.9 45.4 29.2 30.4 18.5 17.2 26.6 16.3
Michigan St. 53.8 45.7 34.6 25.9 17.9 17.0 17.5 22.2
N. C. St. 49.6 45.5 34.2 30.4 16.2 15.5 21.6 21.0
New Mexico St. 51.3 45.6 40.1 30.3 21.9 20.7 25.0 18.3
North Carolina 51.4 45.3 39.9 30.5 18.1 17.8 21.3 21.7
North Dakota St. 49.7 48.0 26.0 22.8 15.7 16.9 21.0 18.4
North Florida 55.2 47.5 29.8 31.4 18.2 18.2 22.8 18.7
Northeastern 54.6 49.5 29.6 25.5 21.4 15.7 23.3 14.8
Northern Iowa 56.2 45.1 26.8 26.9 18.0 20.4 23.2 9.1
Notre Dame 58.6 48.1 28.1 31.6 14.4 17.4 23.0 14.7
Ohio St. 54.5 46.6 34.1 31.3 17.0 22.1 20.2 16.0
Oklahoma 49.4 43.7 30.9 31.5 17.6 20.2 20.4 16.3
Oklahoma St. 50.7 45.3 24.8 32.3 18.5 21.1 22.4 23.0
Ole Miss 48.2 46.9 34.9 31.7 16.9 18.9 25.2 23.2
Oregon 52.2 47.4 31.2 31.3 17.0 16.8 19.0 20.6
Providence 48.6 48.1 35.3 29.5 17.9 19.7 24.7 21.4
Purdue 50.7 45.5 36.2 31.1 19.9 17.8 23.7 22.5
Robert Morris 50.5 48.4 31.3 35.8 20.5 21.7 20.9 20.6
San Diego St. 46.8 42.6 35.6 30.2 18.5 21.7 19.7 15.3
SMU 52.0 45.2 37.4 29.6 19.9 20.1 25.3 17.7
St. John’s 49.5 46.4 28.6 34.9 15.8 19.4 21.6 18.7
S.F. Austin 56.2 48.4 38.0 29.5 20.6 25.2 25.6 24.5
Texas 49.4 42.2 38.0 29.0 19.9 14.2 22.7 20.1
Texas Southern 49.4 48.9 34.0 34.2 19.8 18.7 24.5 18.1
UAB 47.9 47.3 34.1 32.8 20.1 19.6 22.4 19.3
UC-Irvine 52.0 44.2 30.0 30.5 18.0 17.6 17.4 20.9
UCLA 49.4 48.7 33.9 28.1 17.5 18.6 21.1 19.1
Utah 56.1 42.8 31.6 27.6 18.1 18.5 23.9 19.1
Valparaiso 52.2 44.2 36.0 27.1 19.5 19.1 21.0 18.8
VCU 48.8 49.3 31.7 30.7 15.6 23.9 21.4 20.3
Villanova 55.3 45.5 32.7 31.1 16.6 21.6 25.4 17.0
Virginia 51.2 41.7 33.9 24.4 16.1 18.1 21.6 15.3
West Virginia 46.6 52.7 40.9 30.9 18.7 28.2 23.6 25.7
Wichita St. 51.0 45.0 35.3 26.4 15.2 21.5 22.2 19.8
Wisconsin 54.6 46.7 31.9 23.7 12.4 16.7 24.0 12.5
Wofford 52.0 46.6 28.9 26.9 17.5 20.2 21.8 20.1
Wyoming 52.5 46.2 22.4 26.3 18.6 18.4 21.8 15.3
Xavier 53.0 50.2 31.3 27.1 18.0 19.2 22.7 18.8

PiRate Ratings Essential Information For Bracketnomicss

Pos = Possessions Per game (and Defensive Possessions)

PM = Scoring Margin

FGM = Field Goal % Margin

RbM = Rebound Margin

TOM = Turnover Margin

RT = R + T Score

Rd = Won-Loss away from home

SOS = Strength of Schedule (ESPN’s version)

Team Pos DPos PPG D PPG PM FGM RbM TOM RT Rd W-L SOS
Albany 61.3 61.6 65.5 60.2 5.3 2.0 4.8 0.8 14.3 12-5 24-8 43.3
Arizona 67.2 67.0 76.4 58.6 17.8 9.8 8.8 2.9 25.4 8-3 31-3 58.4
Arkansas 70.8 70.7 78.0 70.1 7.9 1.7 0.4 4.2 9.4 7-5 26-8 64.2
Baylor 63.5 63.3 69.5 60.3 9.2 3.2 8.0 -0.3 19.2 6-5 24-9 65.1
Belmont 67.5 67.8 74.5 70.3 4.1 2.4 0.6 -0.9 2.9 7-8 22-10 45.6
Boise St. 63.5 64.0 70.8 60.3 10.5 4.3 2.5 2.4 11.6 9-5 25-8 51.9
Buffalo 68.9 68.8 75.0 68.3 6.7 1.3 3.1 2.3 12.1 10-7 23-9 57.2
Butler 65.2 65.4 69.6 61.2 8.4 2.2 6.5 1.2 17.9 7-4 22-10 66.4
BYU 71.4 71.6 77.7 72.6 5.1 3.1 4.9 1.4 14.5 8-3 25-9 58.9
Cincinnati 60.1 60.1 62.4 55.3 7.1 6.3 5.0 -0.6 13.1 6-5 22-10 57.8
Coastal Carolina 65.4 64.9 71.7 61.7 10.0 4.8 8.7 0.0 21.1 8-7 24-9 40.2
Davidson 67.4 67.7 79.9 69.0 10.9 3.1 0.9 2.2 7.6 9-4 24-7 56.5
Dayton 64.5 64.7 68.2 60.9 7.3 4.2 -1.1 2.1 4.2 6-7 25-8 60.3
Duke 66.9 67.2 80.6 65.6 15.0 7.3 6.2 1.3 17.7 10-2 29-4 62.0
E. Washington 68.9 68.8 80.8 73.6 7.1 3.2 0.2 1.5 5.5 11-6 26-8 42.5
Georgetown 65.8 65.6 70.7 64.6 6.1 5.2 2.8 0.9 10.1 7-5 21-10 68.9
Georgia 66.0 66.4 68.3 64.2 4.2 4.8 4.2 -1.7 9.5 8-5 21-11 68.3
Georgia St. 65.2 65.9 72.0 62.2 9.8 9.9 -0.6 4.5 9.2 10-8 24-9 46.9
Gonzaga 65.1 65.7 79.1 60.9 18.2 14.0 7.2 1.1 19.0 13-1 32-2 56.3
Hampton 69.5 69.3 67.2 68.0 -0.8 -0.5 0.9 -0.2 5.6 7-12 16-17 37.0
Harvard 62.4 62.1 64.2 57.2 6.9 3.6 3.7 0.9 12.5 9-4 22-7 49.3
Indiana 67.1 67.2 77.5 71.4 6.1 1.1 3.2 -0.7 8.1 4-7 20-13 64.8
Iowa 64.7 65.1 69.4 61.9 7.5 3.5 4.2 1.2 12.8 7-4 21-11 63.7
Iowa St. 69.6 70.1 78.4 69.3 9.1 6.2 1.2 1.9 7.9 7-5 25-8 67.7
Kansas 67.2 66.9 71.2 64.7 6.5 4.5 3.6 -1.1 9.1 6-6 26-8 71.2
Kentucky  64.6 64.5 74.9 54.0 20.9 11.4 7.4 3.4 22.9 14-0 34-0 58.5
Lafayette 65.0 65.8 74.2 74.3 -0.1 3.2 -2.0 0.1 -1.1 9-7 20-12 44.0
Louisville 66.5 66.5 69.2 59.5 9.7 4.0 3.0 2.7 12.8 8-3 24-8 66.7
LSU 71.4 71.3 73.7 67.7 6.0 5.6 2.3 -0.9 5.1 8-5 22-10 62.7
Manhattan 68.8 69.1 69.9 67.5 2.4 -0.1 -2.1 2.1 1.0 8-9 19-13 46.0
Maryland 65.0 65.5 69.5 63.2 6.2 4.2 1.5 -0.8 5.2 9-4 27-6 65.0
Michigan St. 64.9 65.1 71.9 63.4 8.5 7.1 6.8 -0.5 16.0 9-6 23-11 65.0
N. C. St. 65.0 64.9 70.4 65.4 5.0 3.4 3.3 -0.5 8.8 7-9 20-13 66.8
New Mexico St. 63.5 63.5 68.5 59.3 9.2 4.4 6.8 -0.8 16.5 7-8 23-10 44.1
North Carolina 70.1 69.8 77.9 68.4 9.5 7.7 8.2 -0.3 18.7 11-5 24-11 68.6
North Dakota St. 62.1 62.7 64.5 61.5 3.0 1.3 2.1 0.8 8.8 7-9 23-9 42.6
North Florida 67.4 67.7 75.7 67.8 7.9 3.8 0.6 0.1 4.1 11-9 23-11 41.1
Northeastern 64.3 64.2 68.6 65.0 3.6 4.0 4.8 -3.7 7.6 13-8 23-11 49.5
Northern Iowa 58.2 55.4 65.4 49.9 15.5 9.1 2.4 0.8 9.5 12-3 30-3 55.6
Notre Dame 65.2 64.8 78.8 65.6 13.2 8.3 0.1 1.9 6.5 11-2 29-5 61.1
Ohio St. 66.6 66.2 75.8 62.3 13.5 8.0 2.9 3.4 14.0 5-8 23-10 63.4
Oklahoma 68.8 68.5 71.9 62.8 9.2 5.1 1.1 1.7 6.8 6-7 22-10 66.7
Oklahoma St. 66.1 65.1 67.3 62.3 5.0 4.1 -3.3 1.5 -1.2 4-9 18-13 65.8
Ole Miss 67.1 67.1 72.6 67.5 5.1 2.6 2.8 1.3 11.1 10-4 20-12 65.7
Oregon 69.2 69.2 75.6 70.7 4.8 4.0 1.4 -0.2 5.9 7-6 25-9 63.7
Providence 66.2 66.2 70.2 65.5 4.7 2.0 3.9 1.2 12.8 8-6 22-11 68.1
Purdue 65.7 65.4 69.9 64.5 5.4 5.2 4.5 -1.4 9.4 7-8 21-12 66.0
Robert Morris 67.1 67.3 69.0 67.7 1.3 2.2 -2.3 0.8 -0.1 9-8 19-14 43.6
San Diego St. 61.4 61.1 61.8 53.1 8.6 4.2 3.2 1.9 12.4 10-6 26-8 56.1
SMU 63.3 63.7 69.4 59.8 9.7 10.0 6.9 0.2 16.8 10-4 27-6 58.1
St. John’s 67.7 68.2 71.2 67.6 3.6 3.6 -3.8 2.5 -0.5 5-8 21-11 63.7
S.F. Austin 68.3 68.7 79.5 64.5 14.9 5.4 5.4 3.2 18.0 14-3 29-4 43.6
Texas 63.9 63.5 67.9 60.4 7.5 6.8 8.3 -3.7 14.5 6-8 20-13 67.6
Texas Southern 66.0 65.8 68.2 67.4 0.7 0.3 0.4 -0.8 2.7 13-11 22-12 40.5
UAB 67.5 68.0 68.9 67.7 1.2 1.0 1.6 -0.3 6.0 3-8 19-15 52.4
UC-Irvine 64.2 64.6 67.9 62.3 5.6 6.9 1.5 -0.2 5.9 7-9 21-12 50.8
UCLA 68.0 67.9 72.0 68.0 4.0 2.3 3.9 0.7 11.7 4-12 20-13 65.9
Utah 63.2 62.9 72.1 56.9 15.2 10.3 5.1 0.2 13.9 8-7 24-8 59.0
Valparaiso 64.2 64.1 69.8 59.3 10.5 7.9 7.2 -0.3 16.5 13-4 28-5 46.4
VCU 68.2 67.8 72.5 65.5 7.0 -1.3 -1.3 5.5 7.8 14-5 26-9 63.4
Villanova 65.3 65.8 76.3 60.9 15.4 6.5 2.3 3.4 12.1 15-2 32-2 59.8
Virginia 59.0 58.9 65.3 50.7 14.7 10.2 7.8 1.2 20.5 14-2 29-3 61.2
West Virginia 69.8 69.6 73.9 66.8 7.1 -5.7 3.6 6.6 19.4 11-6 23-9 65.8
Wichita St. 61.9 61.8 69.7 55.8 13.9 4.9 5.3 3.9 20.0 13-4 28-4 56.1
Wisconsin 59.6 59.7 71.9 56.1 15.8 6.1 6.0 2.6 18.8 16-2 31-3 59.9
Wofford 62.5 63.2 67.0 59.8 7.2 4.2 1.4 1.9 8.7 15-5 28-6 47.5
Wyoming 60.0 59.3 61.7 56.0 5.7 6.0 0.1 -0.3 3.4 8-7 25-9 48.8
Xavier 67.0 67.4 73.6 67.6 5.9 3.6 3.6 0.9 10.7 8-10 21-13 66.4

Coming tomorrow, we look at each game in the opening round and round two, picking the winners and then picking the entire bracket.

March 16, 2014

Bracketnomics–PiRate Style

Bracketnomics 505—2014 Edition

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

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

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

 1. Scoring Margin

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

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

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

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

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

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

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

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

3. Rebound Margin

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

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

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

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

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

5. The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.”  The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.

The current R+T Formula for 2014 uses an advanced metric that involves multiple factors that give extra weight to an ability to get offensive rebounds and steals over other turnovers, while preventing the other team from getting offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers.

In 2014 terms, look for teams with R+T ratings at 6.5 or above.  These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away.

When this stat is 3.5 to 6.5, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win. 

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed.  We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U.  The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors.  We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

6. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or North Dakota St. to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Iowa St. or Ohio State.  And, of course, that is correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.  We use three different SOS ratings to come up with an average, and then we plug it into a formula that gives extra points for teams with tough schedules, while taking away points from teams with easy schedules.

 7. Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor

This should be obvious.  Except in the rarest of instances, all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts.  Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home.  It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8.  However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home.  Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage.  When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance.  When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

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

1. Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

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

2. Free Throw Shooting

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

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

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

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

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

3. 3-point shooting

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

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

4. One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

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

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

 

Putting It All Together

If you know us here at the PiRate Ratings, we are all about putting stats into a mathematical formula to try to pick winners.  That is what we have done for the last decade, and we have isolated the top teams in the tournament more than half the time.  In the last 13 years, our top-rated team has won the championship eight times,  our second highest-rated team won the title three times, and our third-highest rated team won it once.  The only miss was with Connecticut in 2011.

 

Check back at this site Monday night, March 17, after 11:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and we will have our ratings for all 68 teams in the Dance.

 

Enjoy!

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