The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for February 12, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 11:00 am

What a week in college basketball!  Villanova, Purdue, Duke, and Purdue lost, while Xavier continued to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat twice more.  The Muskateers are one of just two teams from the Queen City of Ohio that might be in line for a number one seed.

How can Cincinnati still be an under-the-radar team?  Look at this program.  The Bearcats are one of three teams that have made the Final Four five consecutive years (UCLA and Duke).  They have won two national titles and appeared in the Championship Game three times.

This Cinti team leads the nation in scoring margin at 20.6.  No team has finished the season with a +20 margin since Kentucky in 1996.  The Bearcats are catlike quick, and they seldom give up an easy shot.  They lead the nation in field goal percenage defense at 36%, and they dominate on the glass, seldom giving up a second shot.

Coach Mick Cronin has comes from an interesting family tree, learning the college game under Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino.  This is the best UC team since Huggins went to the Final Four with Herb Jones, Anthony Buford, and Nick Van Exel, and it could be the best Bearcat team since Ed Jucker took the school to two National Championships and a near miss third.  There are a lot of similarities between this Bearcat team and the 1962 champions.

What Are The Quadrants

With the release of the top 16 seeds a month before the real Selection Sunday, not much new came out of the committee that we did not already know, except for the fact that they seem to be placing even more emphasis this year on how each team did with quadrant wins and losses.

Our captain has already received numerous emails from friends and acquaintances asking him to explain what these quadrants are, so here is the explanation for all.

In the past, the Committee relied on won-loss records against the top 50, the 51-100 teams, the 101-150, and so on.  This was not as indicative of a team’s ability to play against the top teams in the nation as it could be.  A narrow home win over the number 50 team helped the winner a lot more than a narrow loss on the road to the number 51 team.  Teams could schedule 10 home games against opponents in the 51-100 range and go 8-2 due to home court advantage.  Meanwhile, another team might have to play all its marquee games on the road and go 3-7 against teams in the 51-100 range.  Yet, the second team might be considerably stronger than the homer team.

So, there was a change.  Now, there are four quadrants.  The ranking of the teams in each quadrant are different depending on whether a game against an opponent is at home, on a neutral floor, or on the road.  A quadrant one game is one where the home team faces an opponent ranked 1 to 30; is one where a team playing a neutral site game is facing an opponent ranked 1 to 50; or is one where a team playing a true road game is facing an opponent ranked 1 to 75.  Take a look at each quadrant.

Quadrant #1: At Home: 1-30   Neutral Site: 1-50   Road Game: 1-75

Quadrant #2: At Home: 31-75   Neutral Site: 51-100   Road Game: 76-135

Quadrant #3: At Home: 76-160   Neutral Site: 101-200   Road Game: 136-240

Quadrant #4: At Home: 161-351   Neutral Site: 201-351   Road Game 241-351

Let’s look at two teams on the Bubble, one a mid-major and one a power conference team.

Middle Tennessee State has defeated Michigan State and Minnesota in first round games in the last two NCAA Tournaments.  The Blue Raiders lead Conference USA and are listed at the most likely automatic qualifier from the league.  However, CUSA has three additional tough teams, and winning the CUSA Tournament Championship is far from a given for the Blue Raiders.  Currently at 20-5 overall, MTSU has a 1-3 record in Quadrant 1 games, a 4-1 record in Quadrant 2 games, a 4-1 record in Quadrant 3 games, and a 10-0 record in Quadrant 4 games.  Many so-called experts believe that the Blue Raiders would get in as an at-large team if they lost to Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, or Marshall in the CUSA Championship Game.

Now, let’s look at Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers have improved by leaps and bounds since November and early December.  They are 10-4 in the Big Ten, good enough for fourth place, ahead of Michigan.  Yet, the Huskers are deep down on the Bubble and not really a serious contender for an at-large bid on this date.  Why?  First, the Committee does not even look at conference won-loss records.  It may be ridiculous to rule out the fact that Nebraska blew 5th place Michigan off the floor a few weeks ago and at this point of the season are plainly the superior team.  This is not what the Committee will see in the selection room.  What they will see is:

Quadrant 1: 0-6

Quadrant 2: 3-2

Quadrant 3: 7-0

Quadrant 4: 9-0

Comparing Nebraska to Middle Tennessee, the Cornhuskers are just 3-8 in top 2 Quadrant games, while the Blue Raiders are 5-4.  On the type of paper that will count, Middle Tennessee has the better resume.

What this will do is give the Mid-Major powers a better shot at making the field as at-large teams over the power conference teams that would have been sure things a few years ago.  If you are a Nebraska fan, you better hope your Cornhuskers win out to finish the regular season at 14-4 in the Big Ten, and then they win their first Big Ten Tournament game.  Anything short of that, and it’s NIT for Nebraska.

This Week’s Bracketology Gurus Field of 68

Seed Team Conference
1 Villanova B East
1 Virginia ACC
1 Xavier B East
1 Purdue B Ten
2 Kansas B12
2 Auburn SEC
2 Duke ACC
2 Cincinnati AAC
3 Clemson ACC
3 Texas Tech B12
3 North Carolina ACC
3 Michigan St. B Ten
4 Tennessee SEC
4 Ohio St. B Ten
4 Arizona Pac12
4 Oklahoma B12
5 West Virginia B12
5 Rhode Island A-10
5 Texas A&M SEC
5 Gonzaga WCC
6 Kentucky SEC
6 Arizona St. Pac12
6 Wichita St. AAC
6 Florida SEC
7 Seton Hall B East
7 Miami (Fla.) ACC
7 Creighton B East
7 Saint Mary’s WCC
8 Alabama SEC
8 TCU B12
8 Missouri SEC
8 Butler B East
9 Nevada MWC
9 Michigan B Ten
9 Florida St. ACC
9 Arkansas SEC
10 Texas B12
10 Houston AAC
10 Providence B East
10 Washington Pac12
11 Virginia Tech ACC
11 UCLA Pac12
11 Middle Tennessee CUSA
11 New Mexico St. WAC
12 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
12 Buffalo MAC
12 Louisville ACC
12 Syracuse ACC
12 North Carolina St. ACC
12 Kansas St. B12
13 Vermont A East
13 East Tennessee St. SoCon
13 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 South Dakota Summit
14 Murray St. OVC
14 Charleston CAA
14 Rider MAAC
14 Montana B Sky
15 UCSB B West
15 Northern Kentucky Horizon
15 Bucknell Patriot
15 Wagner NEC
16 Florida GCU A Sun
16 UNC-Asheville B Sth
16 Harvard Ivy
16 SE Louisiana SLC
16 North Carolina A&T MEAC
16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff SWAC
 # Bubble Teams Out Conference
69 Temple AAC
70 USC Pac12
71 Boise State MWC
72 Mississippi State SEC
74 St. Bonaventure A-10
75 Baylor B12
76 Maryland B Ten
77 Nebraska B Ten
78 Western Kentucky CUSA

First Four Games in Dayton

Louisville vs. Kansas St.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina St.

Harvard vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Southeast Louisiana vs. North Carolina A&T

Last Four Byes



Virginia Tech




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