The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 15, 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket Selection

The PiRate Ratings have been in existence for more than 40 years.  Only in the last 14, have we included college basketball in our menu, and only in the last 11 years, have we presented this website to the public.  In that time, there is one day each year where more people congregate to this site than on any other day.  It’s not the Super Bowl week, or the eve of the New Year’s Day Bowl games.  For many years running, it is this day and this entry that has brought more people here than any other.  Bracket picking has become part of the American and even international culture to the point where people that do not normally follow basketball can be found filling out brackets like they are scratching the $2 lottery cards.

 

One day more than a decade ago, our founder had some time on his hands, and he started researching the past statistics of the NCAA Basketball Champions.  Then, he began copying their statistics to a spreadsheet.  It then expanded to include all the Final Four teams, and eventually included the top teams in the nation that lost unexpectedly.

 

What he discovered was that there were specific statistical similarities in the Final Four teams and National Champions of past years.  Looking at that year’s NCAA Field, he isolated three of the Final Four teams by examining each team’s statistics and comparing them to Final Four teams of the past.

 

In 2006, this system found George Mason as a dark horse contender and in another medium, our founder wrote that the Patriots were a team to watch out for as a legitimate Final Four contender.  Overnight, the system was “discovered” by other media outlets that brought our founder a lot of notoriety, and when he started this site, many that had followed him, or had seen his system reported on by Yahoo and Fox, came here.

 

Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the meat of this system.  You can read about it more in depth in Monday’s submission:  https://piratings.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/bracketnomics-505-the-advanced-level-course-in-bracket-picking-2/

 

These are our criteria points.

  1. A scoring margin of 8 or more points, with special credit going to 10 or more points
  2. A field goal % margin of 7.5% or more  with special credit going to 10% or more
  3. A rebound margin of 5 or more
  4. A positive turnover margin (meaning they force more than they commit)
  5. An average of 7 or more steals per game
  6. An R+T Rating of 15 or more (the Bracketnomics 505 post for an explanation of R+T
  7. A member of a Power Conference and a Strength of Schedule of 54.00 or more
  8. A Won-Loss percentage in away and neutral games of 75% or more
  9. A 10-game winning streak or 2, 6-game winning streaks during the season

Let’s get to it.  Here are the teams that qualify under each criterion.  Remember, as you look at these statistical criteria, that there is a large caveat.  The Stephen F. Austin’s and Stony Brook’s had schedules on average that were 10-15 points weaker than the Michigan State’s and Kansas’s.  Do not look at this data and make conclusions that are not meant to be made.  We will put the data into a bracket-picker for you at the conclusion.

Scoring Margin

Team PPG D PPG Mar.
Stephen F. Austin 80.7 63.2 17.6
Michigan St. 79.8 63.4 16.4
Wichita St. 73.2 59.3 14.0
Kansas 81.6 67.6 13.9
Gonzaga 79.7 66.2 13.5
Indiana 82.3 68.9 13.4
Stony Brook 76.8 63.4 13.4
Villanova 77.0 63.7 13.3
Purdue 77.7 64.6 13.1
North Carolina 82.3 69.5 12.8
West Virginia 79.2 66.6 12.6
Arizona 81.2 68.9 12.3
Yale 75.2 63.1 12.0
Kentucky 79.7 68.3 11.4
UALR 70.9 59.6 11.3
Hawaii 77.6 66.5 11.1
Virginia 70.4 59.7 10.7
Texas A&M 75.9 65.5 10.4
Connecticut 73.4 63.1 10.3
Cincinnati 73.2 62.9 10.3
Xavier 81.3 71.0 10.3
Duke 79.1 68.8 10.3
Oklahoma 80.4 70.4 10.0
VCU 77.2 67.3 9.9
Weber St. 76.7 66.9 9.9
Cal State Bakersfield 73.0 63.2 9.8
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.8
Oregon 78.8 69.1 9.7
Butler 80.6 71.2 9.4
Vanderbilt 76.8 67.3 9.4
Iowa 78.1 68.7 9.4
Chattanooga 75.8 66.6 9.2
Miami 75.6 66.8 8.8
South Dakota St. 76.3 67.8 8.5
Utah 77.6 69.1 8.5
UNC-Asheville 75.6 67.5 8.2
Pittsburgh 76.0 67.9 8.1
California 75.1 67.0 8.1

 

Field Goal % Margin

Team FG-M
Michigan St. 10.7
Kansas 9.8
Gonzaga 8.7
Purdue 8.0
Maryland 8.0
Kentucky 7.8
Connecticut 7.8
Utah 7.6
Vanderbilt 7.5

 

Rebound Margin

Team Rb-M
Michigan St. 11.7
Yale 11.1
Purdue 10.6
Arizona 9.2
Colorado 8.9
West Virginia 8.4
North Carolina 8.3
Baylor 7.9
Stony Brook 7.8
Xavier 7.5
Pittsburgh 7.4
Gonzaga 7.3
Indiana 7.3
California 6.7
Kentucky 5.4
South Dakota St. 5.4
Dayton 5.3
Kansas 5.2
Hampton 5.1
Florida Gulf Coast 5.0

 

Turnover Margin

Team TO-M
Stephen F. Austin 6.2
Wichita St. 5.5
Green Bay 4.8
Fresno St. 4.3
West Virginia 4.1
VCU 4.0
UNC-Wilmington 3.8
Tulsa 3.5
UALR 3.5
Cal State Bakersfield 3.1
Providence 3.1
Butler 2.9
Cincinnati 2.8
Oregon 2.8
Villanova 2.7
Iowa 2.7
UNC-Asheville 2.7
Virginia 2.7
Southern 2.6
Texas A&M 2.6
Fairleigh Dickinson 2.4
Duke 2.4
North Carolina 2.2
Holy Cross 2.2
Michigan 2.1
Texas 2.1
Oregon St. 2.1
Northern Iowa 2.0
Temple 1.9
Chattanooga 1.8
Hawaii 1.5
Syracuse 1.4
Middle Tennessee 1.4
Stony Brook 1.4
Xavier 1.4
St. Joseph’s 1.3
Iona 1.3
Kentucky 1.3
Wisconsin 1.2
Connecticut 1.1
Miami 1.0
Kansas 0.9
Iowa St. 0.8
Baylor 0.8
Texas Tech 0.8
South Dakota St. 0.3
USC 0.2

 

Steals

Team Avg. 
West Virginia 9.9
Green Bay 9.5
UNC-Asheville 9.3
Stephen F. Austin 9.1
VCU 8.8
Fresno St. 8.2
Syracuse 8.1
Cal State Bakersfield 8.0
Cincinnati 7.9
Baylor 7.9
Hawaii 7.9
Chattanooga 7.8
Oregon 7.6
Fairleigh Dickinson 7.6
Iona 7.6
UNC-Wilmington 7.5
Southern 7.5
Oregon St. 7.5
Xavier 7.3
Seton Hall 7.3
Wichita St. 7.2

 

R+T

If you read our post yesterday, you  must know by now that the R+T rating is as valuable in the NCAA Tournament as raw meat at the tiger’s exhibit at the zoo.  No team wins the national title with low R+T ratings, and teams with negative and very low R+T ratings exit the tournament quickly.

This season, no major conference teams enter the Dance with negative R+T ratings.   However, there are a handful with low positive R+T ratings.

Unlike the other criteria, we include every team in this criterion.  It is PiRate Gold.  Basically, the higher the number, the more this team is likely to score easy baskets during the game and prevent the opponent from scoring.  When players tend to be tight at the beginning of the tournament, R+T ratings can tell you which are most likely to get dunks and layups, two shots that stay true when outside jumpers and even close-in jumpers tend to be off.  Also, when two excellent defensive teams face off against each other, and baskets are hard to come by, the high R+T teams will score some “cheap” points and most likely be the winner.

Remember, like in all other criteria here, schedule strength and power conference membership are as equally important at R+T rating and must be considered as the co-primary factor.

Team R+T
Michigan St. 26.7
West Virginia 25.3
Yale 23.4
North Carolina 22.4
Purdue 20.9
Stony Brook 20.7
Arizona 20.3
Baylor 20.0
Xavier 19.9
Wichita St. 19.7
Stephen F. Austin 18.2
Pittsburgh 17.5
Indiana 17.3
Cincinnati 17.2
Kentucky 16.7
Colorado 16.6
Gonzaga 16.5
Cal State Bakersfield 15.9
   
Near Qualifiers  
Hawaii 14.8
Texas A&M 14.7
Butler 14.6
Kansas 14.6
Oregon 14.4
Dayton 14.1
VCU 14.0
   
Good R+T  
South Dakota St. 13.9
California 13.9
Virginia 13.2
Florida Gulf Coast 12.8
Fresno St. 12.4
Chattanooga 12.3
Hampton 11.7
St. Joseph’s 11.2
UNC-Asheville 11.2
Wisconsin 11.1
UNC-Wilmington 10.6
Seton Hall 10.5
Villanova 10.0
   
Best of the Rest  
Miami 9.5
Iowa 9.5
Utah 9.4
Connecticut 9.4
Buffalo 9.3
Middle Tennessee 9.1
UALR 9.1
Weber St. 9.0
Notre Dame 8.1
Maryland 7.8
Duke 7.3
Austin Peay 7.3
Oklahoma 7.1
   
Okay in Early Rounds  
USC 6.8
Green Bay 6.8
Providence 6.0
   
In Danger  
Michigan 4.9
Texas Tech 4.3
Iona 4.2
Iowa St. 4.1
Tulsa 3.8
Southern 3.6
Vanderbilt 3.4
Temple 3.3
Texas 3.3
Oregon St. 2.4
Syracuse 2.2
   
Quick Losers  
Northern Iowa -1.9
Fairleigh Dickinson -4.1
Holy Cross -5.2

 

Strength of Schedule

These are the teams from Power Conferences with SOS of 54.00 or better.  No National Champion has ever had a SOS under 54.00, and all but a small number of Final Four teams in the 64 to 68-team field have possessed SOS under 54.00.

Team SOS
Kansas 60.22
Virginia 60.05
Oregon 60.01
Texas 59.88
Baylor 59.49
Utah 59.33
Duke 58.97
Iowa St. 58.96
Texas Tech 58.94
Oregon St. 58.77
Oklahoma 58.74
West Virginia 58.59
Villanova 58.54
California 58.52
Miami 58.22
Wisconsin 58.14
North Carolina 57.74
Kentucky 57.45
Notre Dame 57.25
Pittsburgh 56.86
Xavier 56.82
USC 56.79
Maryland 56.77
Iowa 56.69
Purdue 56.54
Colorado 56.45
Vanderbilt 56.44
Seton Hall 56.24
Syracuse 56.21
Michigan 55.96
Michigan St. 55.75
Dayton 55.73
Providence 55.71
Connecticut 55.70
Texas A&M 55.70
St. Joseph’s 55.49
VCU 55.24
Tulsa 54.97
Cincinnati 54.70
Arizona 54.69
Butler 54.61
Temple 54.61

 

10-Game Winning Streak or 2, 6-Game Winning Streaks

Team Win Streaks
Stephen F. Austin 20 5
Stony Brook 18 3
Kansas 13 13
Michigan St. 13 9
Wichita St. 12 6
Indiana 12 5
North Carolina 12 5
Xavier 12 5
Yale 12 5
Oklahoma 12 4
California 12 3
VCU 12 3
Virginia 11 7
Purdue 11 5
UNC-Wilmington 11 5
Colorado 11 3
Texas A&M 10 8
UALR 10 6
Texas Tech 10 5
Pittsburgh 10 4
Chattanooga 9 8
Villanova 9 7
West Virginia 8 7
Arizona 8 6
Hawaii 8 6
Oregon 8 6
Providence 8 6
Weber St. 8 6
St. Joseph’s 7 7
Gonzaga 7 6
Cal State Bakersfield 6 6
Middle Tennessee 6 6
Northern Iowa 6 6
South Dakota St. 6 6

 

Won-Loss Record Away From Home Floor

Team Won Lost Pct
Gonzaga 15 3 83.3
Hawaii 10 2 83.3
Michigan St. 15 3 83.3
St. Joseph’s 15 3 83.3
Chattanooga 16 4 80.0
UALR 15 4 78.9
Villanova 14 4 77.8
Kansas 12 4 75.0
Xavier 12 4 75.0
       
Near Miss      
Dayton 11 4 73.3
North Carolina 13 5 72.2
Stephen F. Austin 13 5 72.2
UNC-Wilmington 13 5 72.2
Seton Hall 12 5 70.6
       
Okay in Early Rounds      
Stony Brook 11 5 68.8
Middle Tennessee 13 6 68.4
West Virginia 13 6 68.4
South Dakota St. 14 7 66.7
Weber St. 13 7 65.0
Oklahoma 11 6 64.7
Miami 10 6 62.5
Oregon 10 6 62.5
Providence 10 6 62.5
Yale 10 6 62.5
Virginia 11 7 61.1
Hampton 12 8 60.0
Cal State Bakersfield 10 7 58.8
Utah 10 7 58.8
Wichita St. 10 7 58.8
Iona 11 8 57.9
UNC-Asheville 11 8 57.9
Baylor 8 6 57.1
Green Bay 12 9 57.1
Connecticut 9 7 56.3
Fresno St. 9 7 56.3
Maryland 9 7 56.3
Purdue 9 7 56.3
Texas A&M 9 7 56.3
Temple 10 8 55.6
Northern Iowa 11 9 55.0
Duke 7 6 53.8
Arizona 8 7 53.3
Butler 8 7 53.3
Cincinnati 8 7 53.3
Indiana 8 7 53.3
Fairleigh Dickinson 9 8 52.9
Kentucky 9 8 52.9
Michigan 9 8 52.9
VCU 9 8 52.9
Buffalo 10 9 52.6
Austin Peay 11 10 52.4
Iowa 8 8 50.0
Tulsa 8 8 50.0
Wisconsin 7 7 50.0
       
Homers      
Southern 10 11 47.6
Pittsburgh 6 7 46.2
Iowa St. 7 9 43.8
Notre Dame 7 9 43.8
Syracuse 6 9 40.0
Texas 6 9 40.0
Colorado 6 10 37.5
Oregon St. 5 9 35.7
Texas Tech 5 9 35.7
California 5 10 33.3
USC 5 10 33.3
Holy Cross 6 13 31.6
Vanderbilt 5 11 31.3
Florida Gulf Coast 4 9 30.8

 

Ranked by Criteria Met

After the number of criteria met, we have included “Alpha Dog” and repeated R+T ratings.  Alpha Dog refers to whether this team has played a difficult enough schedule and is a member of a power conference.  While there are cases where George Mason and Wichita State make the Final Four, the cases are very rare, and we go with the tendencies that have worked so well in the past.

 

The teams that qualify with 5 criteria and are also Alpha Dogs with qualifying R+T ratings have been highlighted in blue.  These are the top contenders this year.

Team Criteria Met Alpha Dog R+T
Xavier 8 Yes Yes
Kansas 7 Yes No
Michigan St. 7 Yes Yes
West Virginia 7 Yes Yes
Gonzaga 6 Yes Yes
Kentucky 6 Yes Yes
North Carolina 6 Yes Yes
Purdue 6 Yes Yes
Arizona 5 Yes Yes
Pittsburgh 5 Yes Yes
Stony Brook 5 No Yes
Villanova 5 Yes No
Baylor 5 Yes Yes
Chattanooga 5 No No
Cincinnati 5 Yes Yes
Hawaii 5 No No
Oregon 5 Yes No
Stephen F. Austin 5 No Yes
VCU 5 Yes No
California 4 Yes No
Colorado 4 Yes Yes
Connecticut 4 Yes No
Indiana 4 Yes Yes
South Dakota St. 4 No No
St. Joseph’s 4 Yes No
Texas A&M 4 Yes No
UALR 4 No No
Virginia 4 Yes No
Wichita St. 4 No Yes
Yale 4 No Yes
Cal State Bakersfield 4 No Yes
Butler 3 Yes No
Duke 3 Yes No
Iowa 3 Yes No
Maryland 3 Yes No
Miami 3 Yes No
Oklahoma 3 Yes No
Providence 3 Yes No
Texas Tech 3 Yes No
Utah 3 Yes No
Vanderbilt 3 Yes No
Oregon St. 3 Yes No
Syracuse 3 Yes No
UNC-Asheville 3 No No
UNC-Wilmington 3 No No
Iowa St. 2 Yes No
Michigan 2 Yes No
Middle Tennessee 2 No No
Temple 2 Yes No
Texas 2 Yes No
Tulsa 2 Yes No
USC 2 Yes No
Weber St. 2 No No
Wisconsin 2 Yes No
Fairleigh Dickinson 2 No No
Fresno St. 2 No No
Green Bay 2 No No
Iona 2 No No
Seton Hall 2 Yes No
Southern 2 No No
Dayton 1 Yes No
Florida Gulf Coast 1 No No
Hampton 1 No No
Holy Cross 1 No No
Northern Iowa 1 No No
Notre Dame 1 Yes No
Austin Peay 0 No No
Buffalo 0 No No

 

Xavier rates as the top contender, but we are a bit concerned about the Big East Conference remaining as a Power Conference.  While three other Big East teams made the tournament, this league has not fared well since the break-up of the teams that formed the American Conference.

Last year, five Big East Teams made the NCAA Tournament.  St. John’s lost in the second round (round of 64) to San Diego State; Providence lost handily in their first game to Dayton; Butler lost in the third round to Notre Dame (round of 32); and 1-seed Villanova lost in the third round to North Carolina State.  Only Xavier made it to the Sweet 16, and the Musketeers had a relatively easy trip to the West Regional second weekend by defeating an Ole Miss team that just barely made the tournament as a play-in team from Dayton and then Georgia State after GSU upset Baylor.

We are not eliminating Xavier from consideration, but we are knocking them down a few notches.  Thus, our actual top-ranked team according to our Criteria ratings is Michigan State.

Now, before we drive you crazy, ponder this.  No Big Ten team has won the national title, since the Spartans pulled the trick in 2000.  Coach Tom Izzo has taken MSU to five subsequent Final Fours, and Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin have made it to the Final Four in recent years.

Concerning the Big 12, overall number one seed Kansas does not qualify under the R+T rating.  However, the Jayhawks just barely miss out with an R+T of 14.6, and after a first game breeze, KU’s R+T rating could easily hit 15.  We are not going to dismiss Kansas because they come up short by a hair of having a great Final Four resume.

Bob Huggins has guided two teams to the Final Four, one at Cincinnati and one at West Virginia.  This year’s Mountaineer squad is better than the one he took to the Final Four and about on par with the great Bearcat team with Nick Van Exel, Corey Blount, Anthony Buford, and Herb Jones in 1992, where Cinti led Michigan in the second half before falling late by a couple points in the National Semifinals.

The shorter shot clock combined with Huggie Bear’s incredible full-court press makes the Mountaineers awfully dangerous against teams that have not previously played WVU.  There was a time when a long string of pressing teams won the national championship, but with slower paces, that style of play stopped being as effective.  Now, with the pace increased by about 7.5% thanks to the shorter shot clock, the press is a more potent weapon.  Even when a team breaks the press, they have less time to set up their offense and find a good shot.  The liability of pressing is that it can wear a team down, but WVU goes deep off the bench, and in the NCAA Tournament, media time outs are longer, allowing players more time to recover from fatigue.

Gonzaga made it to the Elite 8 last year, the zenith of the Mark Few era.  The Bulldogs did not win any big games this year until they finally bested Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament Championship.  The Zags have a very formidable frontcourt, but they fall well short in schedule strength, where there 52.35 reduces their criteria score down to Sweet 16 or worse status.

Kentucky and North Carolina are sitting pretty in the Criteria Ratings, as both meet 6 of the criteria, come from Big Conferences with high schedule strength, and most importantly, both merit recognition based on R+T ratings.  Being two of the most elite programs is not part of our criteria, but we also don’t totally exclude that fact.  They are the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals of college basketball.

Let’s look at how the PiRate Criteria see the brackets.  Wednesday night, after the last game in Dayton concludes, we will post our Red-White-Blue Picks for each game.  These are our everyday ratings and do not include the criteria listed herein.  These ratings use an algorithm incorporating the Four Factors.

As you will notice, while this season was tabbed a unique one with a lot of parity, we actually believe the top programs are more ready to dominate this tournament than in recent years.

First Four

Fairleigh Dickinson over Florida Gulf Coast

Wichita State over Vanderbilt

Southern over Holy Cross

Michigan over Tulsa

 

Round of 64

Kansas over Austin Peay

Colorado over Connecticut

Maryland over South Dakota St.

California over Hawaii (very close–almost a tossup)

Arizona over Wichita St. (or Vanderbilt)

Miami over Buffalo

Iowa over Temple

Villanova over UNC-Asheville

Oregon over Southern (or Holy Cross)

Cincinnati over St. Joseph’s [Lower Seed Picked]

Baylor over Yale

Duke over UNC-Wilmington (Criteria says this is closer than you might think)

Texas over Northern Iowa (very close)

Texas A&M over Green Bay

VCU over Oregon St. [Lower Seed Picked]

Oklahoma over Cal State Bakersfield (but watch out, CSUB has upset-worthy data)

North Carolina over Fairleigh Dickinson (or Florida Gulf Coast)

Providence over USC [Lower Seed Picked] (a weak game by criteria)

Indiana over Chattanooga (If UC still had Casey Jones, the Mocs would actually be favored)

Kentucky over Stony Brook (we do not see any chance that SBU will contend)

Michigan (or Tulsa) over Notre Dame [Lower Seed Picked] (Irish have lousy criteria numbers)

West Virginia over Stephen F. Austin (SFA got a lousy seed, as they are Sweet 16 worthy)

Pittsburgh over Wisconsin

Xavier over Weber St. (should be very ugly and possibly a 35+ point win)

Virginia over Hampton

Butler over Texas Tech [Lower Seed Picked]

Purdue over UALR

Iowa St. over Iona (expect a 90-80 type game)

Gonzaga over Seton Hall [Lower Seed Picked]

Utah over Fresno St. (could be close)

Syracuse over Dayton [Lower Seed Picked]

Michigan St. over Middle Tennessee

 

Round of 32

Kansas over Colorado (closer than expected)

California over Maryland

Arizona over Miami

Villanova over Iowa

Oregon over Cincinnati (almost dead even)

Baylor over Duke (Blue Devils missing defense in the paint)

Texas A&M over Texas

VCU over Oklahoma (big upset sends jump-shooting team home)

North Carolina over Providence

Kentucky over Indiana

West Virginia over Michigan

Xavier over Pittsburgh (should be excitingly close)

Virginia over Butler (should be close for 40 minutes)

Purdue over Iowa St.

Gonzaga over Utah (lowest seed in Sweet 16)

Michigan St. over Syracuse

 

Sweet 16

Kansas over California

Arizona over Villanova 

Baylor over Oregon (1 of 2 #1 seeds going out in this round)

VCU over Texas A&M

North Carolina over Kentucky (should be Final Four game)

West Virginia over Xavier (total toss-up and expected best game of the round)

Purdue over Virginia (2nd #1 seed going home in this round)

Michigan St. over Gonzaga

 

Elite 8

Kansas over Arizona

Baylor over VCU

West Virginia over North Carolina (3rd #1 seed departs)

Michigan St. over Purdue

 

Semifinals

Kansas over Baylor

Michigan St. over West Virginia

 

National Championship

Michigan St. over Kansas

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March 24, 2012

NCAA Men’s Tournament Elite 8 Preview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:23 am

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  A quick tutorial about Bracketnomics:  We have studied numerous statistical factors of all Final Four Teams from the 1950’s until 2011.  We isolated the statistical similarities of those teams and found certain shared statistical characteristics.  For the last eight years, we have been applying it to the NCAA teams trying to discover which ones shared these same statistics as the Final Four teams of yesteryear.  In five of the last seven years, we were pretty spot on with our selections.  For instance, in 2009, when Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State were listed as the heavy tri-favorites, our system showed Duke to be the top-rated team.  We went with Duke even though the Blue Devils were not being highly considered.  Now admittedly, we did not see Butler coming through to the Finals that year, or last year either, but we did rate Butler as one to watch to get to the Elite 8.

 

 

If you want all the details behind our PiRate Criteria Score, please refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/bracketnomics-505-2012-edition/

————————————————————————————————————

 

Six of the eight remaining teams in the Big Dance own 30 or more wins.  All of the sleepers are gone, and this is one of the strongest quarterfinals in years.

 

Here are the PiRate Criteria Scores for each of the Elite 8

 

 

 

Team

Pts

FG% Diff

Reb

TO

R+T

SOS

Rd W-L

Total

Baylor

5.0

2.70

3.3

0.2

3.0

3.6

4.0

21.8

Florida

5.7

1.90

1.7

0.9

2.5

2.2

0.5

15.4

Kansas

6.5

4.95

3.4

0.4

3.2

3.6

2.0

24.0

Kentucky

8.8

5.85

4.4

0.2

3.6

2.2

4.5

29.5

Louisville

3.8

2.30

1.0

0.6

1.9

3.8

2.5

15.8

North Carolina

7.6

3.35

6.2

0.9

5.5

4.5

4.0

32.0

Ohio St.

7.8

4.00

4.6

1.5

5.0

3.9

2.0

28.8

Syracuse

7.0

4.15

-0.9

2.9

2.9

2.4

4.5

23.0

 

 

All times Eastern Daylight Time

 

Saturday, March 24

 

East Regional: Boston

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill “Man-to-Man” Raftery, and Lesley Visser

Network: CBS

 

4:30 PM

#1 Syracuse (34-2) vs. #2 Ohio State (30-7)

PiRate Criteria Score:  Syr 20.5  OSU 28.8

Syracuse criteria score now includes the loss of Fab Melo

 

Syracuse will feel the effect of not having Melo for this game.  Ohio State will enjoy a decisive advantage on the boards, and the Buckeyes will be able to take care of the ball, thus thwarting Syracuse’s number one asset.

 

We do not see this game getting out of hand, and we believe the Orangemen will stay within contention.  However, the Buckeyes are too strong inside, and this game will be decided in the paint.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 74  Syracuse 69

 

West Regional: Phoenix

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, and Marty Snider

Network: TBS

 

7:05 PM

#4 Louisville (29-9) vs. #7 Florida (26-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: UL 15.8  Florida 15.4

 

It’s teacher vs. student in this pure tossup game.  The PiRate Criteria scores differ by just 0.4, which means we believe this game to be a 50-50 proposition.  The only reason we are going with the Cardinals is that they are the team with the 0.4 point advantage.

 

Both teams share minor advantages in different Criteria areas.  Florida has a small advantage in scoring margin, rebounding margin, and turnover margin.  Louisville has a small advantage in field goal margin, steals, strength of schedule, and record away from home.

 

Prediction: Louisville 65  Florida 64 OT

 

Friday, March 23, 2012

 

South Regional: Atlanta

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Tracy Wolfson

Network: CBS

 

2:20 PM

#1 Kentucky (35-2) vs. #3 Baylor (30-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.5  BU 21.8 

 

Baylor actually matches up quite well with Kentucky, but with North Carolina not at 100%, the Wildcats are the class of the remaining octet.

 

Both teams own double-digit scoring margins, but Kentucky has the highest in the field at 17.6.  The Wildcats’ field goal margin difference is +11.7, which is very indicative of a Final Four team.  The Blue Misters’ rebounding margin is 7.3, to 5.5 for Baylor.  Turnover margin is the same for both teams, while Baylor owns a slight advantage in the steals department and a slightly tougher strength of schedule.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 80  Baylor 71   

 

Midwest Regional: St. Louis

Announcers: Marv “Yessss” Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager

Network: TBS

 

5:05 PM

#1 North Carolina (32-5) vs. #2 Kansas (30-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 32.0 *  KU 24.0

* Without Kendall Marshall, the Tar Heels’ score drops by 12.5 points to 19.5; this assumes that John Henson has no ill effects left from his injury.

 

As of this writing on late Friday night, it does not look like Kendall Marshall will be able to play in this game, and even if he plays, he will not dish for 10 assists, and he will commit a couple of extra turnovers.

 

Even if Marshall plays, we are going with the Jayhawks to beat the team we picked to win it all before the tournament started.  Missing a 100% Marshall is like the New York Giants playing in the Super Bowl without Eli Manning.

 

Prediction: Kansas 69  North Carolina 62

March 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ Bracketnomics.  A quick tutorial about Bracketnomics:  We have studied numerous statistical factors of all Final Four Teams from the 1950’s until 2011.  We isolated the statistical similarities of those teams and found certain shared statistical characteristics.  For the last eight years, we have been applying it to the NCAA teams trying to discover which ones shared these same statistics as the Final Four teams of yesteryear.  In five of the last seven years, we were pretty spot on with our selections.  For instance, in 2009, when Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State were listed as the heavy tri-favorites, our system showed Duke to be the top-rated team.  We went with Duke even though the Blue Devils were not being highly considered.  Now admittedly, we did not see Butler coming through to the Finals that year, or last year either, but we did rate Butler as one to watch to get to the Elite 8.

 

 

If you want all the details behind our PiRate Criteria Score, please refer to our Bracketnomics 505, 2012 edition at: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/bracketnomics-505-2012-edition/

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Four teams from Ohio and 10 teams from the Industrial Midwest in the Sweet 16, draw similarities between the 2012 NCAA Tournament and the 2012 Presidential Election.  The road to the White House will run through the Industrial Midwest with Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin more than likely being the decisive states.  The road to New Orleans will also run through these same states.

 

Let’s take a look at the eight games to be played Thursday and Friday in the regional semifinals.

 

All times Eastern Daylight Time

 

Thursday, March 22

 

East Regional: Boston

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill “Man-to-Man” Raftery, and Lesley Visser

Network: CBS

 

7:15 PM

#1 Syracuse (33-2) vs. # 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score:  Syr 20.5  UW 17.7

Syracuse criteria score includes the loss of Fab Melo

 

We really like the chess match that this game should present Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.  The Orangemen will throw their 2-3 zone defense at the Badgers, and Wisconsin will need to have their X-zone continuity offense ready to counter it.  UW is a lot more comfortable with the swing offense, and their zone offense showed a lot of liabilities in the few minutes that Vanderbilt used a 2-3 zone at the end of the game.

 

The loss of Fab Melo still hurts Syracuse, but his replacements have taken up a good deal of the slack.  Syracuse had depth, and in the NCAA Tournament with all the extra-long media timeouts, depth is not as much of a concern.

 

The PiRate Criteria show Syracuse to have advantages in shooting percentage differential and turnover margin (plus steals), while Wisconsin has the rebounding advantage.  Because we do not believe the Badgers will be exploited via turnover margin, this game comes down to which team has the hotter shooting hand when they get open looks.  Syracuse is our answer to that question.

 

Prediction: Syracuse 66  Wisconsin 59

 

9:45 PM

#2 Ohio State (29-7) vs. #6 Cincinnati (26-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.8   UC 9.9

 

If you are 60 years or older, you may remember the last time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament.  In fact, you may remember the last two times.  For those under 60, here is a brief history of the NCAA Tournament in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

 

Possibly the best all-around basketball played in American history was Oscar Robertson.  He was the Willie Mays of basketball.  He could shoot from the outside, drive to the hoop, rebound, pass better than any current living player, play great defense, and pick up more steals than almost every team does today.

 

Official steals and assists were not kept as statistics in those days, but from a few unofficial statistics, Robertson probably enjoyed multiple games in college where he recorded a quadruple double—double figures in points, rebounds, assists, and steals.  Imagine Michael Jordan, LeBron James, John Stockton, and Dwayne Wade made into one player.

 

The Big “O” played college basketball at Cincinnati as a varsity player in the 1958, 59, and 60 seasons.  In 1959 and 1960, the Bearcats made it to the Final Four but lose both times in the semifinals to a great California team.

 

After Robertson left UC, the Bearcats were predicted to become a .500 team.  However, under new coach Ed Jucker, Cinti became the top defensive and rebounding team in the nation and proceeded to go to the Final Four in 1961, 62, and 63, becoming the first team to ever make it to five consecutive Final Fours.

 

Back to 1960, the Ohio State Buckeyes had enjoyed many great offensive teams, but poor defense had kept OSU from winning the Big Ten.  Coach Fred Taylor had recruited a fantastic class of players.  In fact, all five starters would play as regulars in the NBA after they graduated; two became all-pros and hall of famers; and one other would help lead his pro team to multiple NBA titles as a key guard.

 

That stellar starting quintet included Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfired, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts.  Some guy named Bobby Knight came off the bench.

 

In 1960, Ohio State lost a couple of close games prior to the Big Ten schedule and went through the conference like a hot knife through butter.  Once, the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament, they recorded four blowout wins to take the title.

 

In 1961, Ohio State had an even better team than the 1960 champions, with almost the entire roster returning.  The Buckeyes ran the table in the regular season, finishing 24-0.  Cincinnati, of course, lost the Big O and their coach.  Lo and behold, the Bearcats lost three early games and then finished with a long winning streak, moving up to number two in the nation at 23-3.

 

Both teams continued to win in the tournament, making it to the Championship Game, where Cincinnati pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever pulled by the nation’s number two team.

 

The following year, the Bearcats were even better.  They lost twice during the regular season, but they played a very difficult schedule.

 

Ohio State was not as strong as 1961, but with Havlicek and Lucas now seniors, the Buckeyes were the class of the Big Ten once again, finishing with a 23-1 record.

 

It was almost a foregone conclusion that there would be a rematch in the Championship, and the two Ohio teams did not disappoint.  Cincinnati won again in another mild upset.

 

The Bearcats were supposed to have their best team in 1963.  They went 25-1 during the regular season.  They were the odds-on favorite to become the first team to win the NCAA Championship three years running.

 

A team from Chicago came out of nowhere to upset the apple cart.  Loyola, a team filled with a roster of African-American players from the South, where they could not play in the SEC or ACC, proved to be the Bearcats’ equal.  They took the title game to overtime and then pulled off the big upset in what would be the last Final Four before the dawn of the UCLA dynasty.

 

Now, back to 2012.  The hype for this game should come close to equaling the hype of your typical Ohio State-Michigan football game.  These teams will be fired up more than your average Sweet 16 team, and it will be extremely hard-fought and physical.  After the game settles down, Ohio State will prove to be the superior team.  The Buckeyes come out on top in field goal differential and rebounding margin, while they are equal to the Bearcats in turnover margin.  Cincinnati enjoys a better steals rating, but Ohio State has played a schedule that is on average about 4.5 points tougher.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 75  Cincinnati 66

 

West Regional: Phoenix

Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, and Marty Snider

Network: TBS

 

7:47 PM

#1 Michigan State (29-7) vs. #4 Louisville (28-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 28.9  UL 15.8

 

Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino know what it takes to get a team to the Final Four and win the national title.  Izzo has the better roster this year, so the Spartans have the advantage.

 

Looking at the Criteria scores, Michigan State wins in field goal percentage margin, wins big in rebounding margin, and enjoys a slight advantage in strength of schedule.  Louisville has the advantage in turnover margin and steals, and enjoys a very slightly better winning percentage away from home.

 

This will be an interesting game, and it is close to a tossup.  The key will be how Michigan State handles the Cardinal pressure and whether UL can keep the ball out of Draymond Green’s hands as the shot clock winds down.  We believe Louisville will come up short.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 69  Louisville 61

 

10:17 PM

#3 Marquette (27-7) vs. #7 Florida (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: MU 16.4  UF 15.4

 

Florida had the easiest path of any of the 16 teams still around.  The Gators won two blowout games to get to the Sweet 16, but neither opponent could exploit their inside weakness.

 

Marquette is not flashy, but Coach Buzz Williams gets the maximum effort out of his squad.  MU does not have an overly muscular team, but they can get the job done inside.  They were outrebounded by a tiny amount against a slate of some of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

 

Additionally, the Marquette backcourt matches up well with the Gator backcourt.  Florida will still win the battle of three-pointers, but our criteria actually discounts that rating in favor of locating teams that can score cheap baskets and second-chance points by controlling the boards.  The Marquette backcourt plays better defense and generates a lot of steals that lead to cheap baskets.

 

This game has the smallest criteria difference in the Sweet 16, and it could easily go either way.  It is basically a 51% to 49% advantage for Marquette. 

 

Prediction: Marquette 64  Florida 62

 

Friday, March 23, 2012

 

South Regional: Atlanta

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Tracy Wolfson

Network: CBS

 

7:15 PM

#3 Baylor (29-7) vs. #10 Xavier (23-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: BU 21.8  XU 8.6

 

A lot of other pundits are starting to jump on the Baylor Bearwagon.  Coach Scott Drew has built a team that has Final Four statistical qualities. 

 

Of the 16 teams remaining, Xavier’s Criteria Score ranks number 15.  The Musketeers have reached the end of the line.

 

Baylor bests XU in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin (Xavier has a negative margin), strength of schedule, and record away from home.  This game could get out of hand, but we believe Xavier has Tu advantages.  Tu Holloway should keep the Musketeers within striking distance.

 

Prediction: Baylor 73  Xavier 66

 

9:45 PM

#1 Kentucky (34-2) vs. #4 Indiana (27-8)

PiRate Criteria Score: UK 29.5  IU 16.9

 

Kentucky lost their only regular season game on a last second jumper in Bloomington.  This game does not need extra pressure added on, but it will.

 

These teams do not like each other.  They have been rivals for decades; each school believes their state plays the best basketball in the nation (neither are correct).

 

Adolph Rupp did not like Bob Knight.  Knight did not like Joe B. Hall.  Indiana fans today hate John Calipari.  Tom Crean once coached as an assistant in the Commonwealth. 

 

We believe this game will be close for the first eight to 12 minutes, before the Wildcats begin to go on a run and put it out of reach just before halftime.

 

With uncertainties in the roster at North Carolina, Kentucky assumes the top spot in the PiRate Criteria Score.  The Wildcats have considerable advantages over Indiana in scoring margin, field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.  Blue Mist gets its revenge and heads to the Elite 8, as they paint Atlanta blue and make this almost a home game.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 80  Indiana 68

 

Midwest Regional: St. Louis

Announcers: Marv “Yessss” Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager

Network: TBS

 

7:47 PM

#1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. #13 Ohio U (29-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 32.0 *  OU 6.5

* Without Kendall Marshall, the Tar Heels’ score drops by 12.5 points to 19.5; this assumes that John Henson has no ill effects left from his injury.

 

All is not lost in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels are losing a lot with Kendall Marshall unable to go in this game.  Let’s take a look at some stats.

 

Marshall averages 33 minutes of playing time per game.  His likely replacement, Stilman White, averages 4.3 minutes per game.

 

Marshall connects on 46.7% of his field goal attempts.  White connects on only 23.8%.  Marshall’s three-point shooting accuracy is a tad over 35%, which is not exceptional, but White shoots only 20% from behind the arc.  Marshall averages nearly 10 assists per game, while White has 19 assists all season!  What’s worse is that there is no true point guard to back up White.  Justin Watts can move from forward to guard, but he is not a perimeter player that a Final Four team needs to have on the floor in the backcourt.

 

The Tar Heels are not in dire straits here.  They benefit from playing the weakest team left in the field.  North Carolina’s second five could compete with Ohio and have a 50-50 chance of winning this game. 

 

The Tar Heels’ strength of schedule is 10 points per game better than the Bobcats.  Yet, they enjoy a 2 to 1 advantage in scoring margin.  UNC has considerable advantages in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and winning percentage away from home.

 

We have to discount the Tar Heels by 12.5 Criteria points without the top point guard in the tournament.  If Marshall can play Sunday and be anywhere close to 75% effective, he can lead his team to New Orleans.  If not, this could be Roy Williams’ last win of the season.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 77  Ohio U 62

 

10:17 PM

#2 Kansas (29-6) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (24-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0  NCSU 13.4

 

We have to make an admission here.  Coach Mark Gottfried is a former friend of our founder.  However, we strictly go by Criteria scores when we make our predictions, even though some of us will be rooting for the Wolf Pack.

 

Kansas now enjoys the best PiRate Criteria Score in the Midwest Regional, as long as North Carolina does not have Marshall.  The Jayhawks almost qualify for a point of home-court advantage, as they will come in droves across the state of Missouri to St. Louis.

 

Kansas actually comes out ahead in every criteria category in this game.  When that happens, it almost always leads to a double-digit win for the team with the better Criteria Score.

 

North Carolina State has given North Carolina fits, and we believe Gottfried will have his players charged and ready to go.  We do not see this game getting out of hand, but we do not see KU losing.  There will be plenty of Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU echoing through the rafters.

 

Prediction: Kansas 73  North Carolina State 64

March 17, 2012

NCAA Tournament Third Round Preview–Sunday, March 18, 2012

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

 

On Friday, in the 16 games played, our system went a lousy 9-7, but then the higher ranked team went 8-8, so we did one better than the chalk. 

 

Here is our 3rd Round Preview for games to be played Sunday, March 18, 2012.

 

All times Eastern Daylight Time

 

12:15 PM  CBS 

Midwest Regional

#3 Georgetown (24-8) vs. #11 North Carolina St. (23-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: GU 18.4  NCSU 12.7

Georgetown has a little bit too much strength inside and excellent defense both inside and outside for the Wolf Pack in this game.  The Hoyas match up with NCSU about the same way Florida State did a few weeks back.  FSU controlled the game in Raleigh, and the Hoyas will control this one.  However, they will never really pull away, and it should be within striking distance until the last couple of minutes.

 

Prediction: Georgetown 68  North Carolina St. 60

 

2:45 PM  CBS

West Regional

#1 Michigan St. (28-7) vs. #9 St. Louis (26-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 27.4  STL 14.2

Rick Majerus has taken teams with this much talent deep into the NCAA Tournament.  He did it at Ball State more than two decades ago.  He did it at Utah more than a decade ago.  Can he repeat it a third time with the Billikens?

 

We say not this year.  Beating Memphis was nice, but SLU will not knock off this number one seed.  Michigan State has what it takes to make it to New Orleans, and with Missouri out of the bracket, the Spartans have a relatively easy road to the Final Four.

 

Prediction: Michigan St. 65  St. Louis 51

 

5:15 PM  CBS

Midwest Regional

#1 North Carolina (30-5) vs. #8 Creighton (29-5)

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 31.1*  CU 15.1

* Without John Henson, subtract 4.6 points from UNC

Without Henson, the Tar Heels are beatable, but Creighton is not the team that will do it.  Kansas and Georgetown have what it takes to knock off a Henson-less Carolina team, but Coach Roy Williams has enough McDonald’s All-Americans on his roster to win this game.

 

Dylan McDermott cannot score 35 points against the Tar Heels, and he will have to top that for the Blue Jays to be in this one at the end. 

 

Prediction: North Carolina 85  Creighton 69

 

6:10 PM  TNT

West Regional

#7 Florida (24-10) vs. #15 Norfolk St. (26-9)

PiRate Criteria Score: UF 13.6  NSU -2.9

Norfolk State’s big upset over Missouri made headlines for just an hour or so, as the Spartans were pushed aside by Lehigh.  The way NSU beat Missouri shows that they must be respected, even with a negative PiRate Criteria score, mostly due to a weaker schedule than most NCAA Tournament teams.

 

Florida looked more like the team that started 19-4 than the team that finished 4-6 in the blowout win over Virginia.  We would have believed that the Gators would have been too quick for the Spartans, but Norfolk proved that they could handle the lightning quick Missouri team.  Florida can play halfcourt defense a little better than Missouri, and the Gators can shoot the outside shot better.  Additionally, Florida will hold its own on the boards in this game, and we believe Coach Billy Donovan has righted the Gator ship, and the orange and blue will continue to play like they did in the 19-4 start.

 

Prediction: Florida 84  Norfolk St. 72

 

7:10 PM   TBS

Midwest Regional

#12 South Florida (22-13) vs. #13 Ohio U (28-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: USF 5.1  OU 6.5

This is the first of two Cinderella game.  It is one of two third round games between double-digit seeds, and it should be a fantastic one to watch.

 

These teams know how to play patient, deliberate ball and tough defense.  One spurt could be enough to turn this game in the spurting team’s favor.  In the end, we will go with the team that we think has the better inside game, and that is the Bobcats.

 

Prediction: Ohio U 62  South Florida 59

 

7:45 PM  truTV

South Regional

#10 Xavier (22-12) vs. #15 Lehigh (27-7)

PiRate Criteria Score: XU 6.2  LU 5.7

This is the second of the Cinderella games mathcing teams that are double-digit seeds.  Lehigh pulled off the biggest upset in NCAA play in 20 plus years, and the Mountain Hawks have a decent shot at pulling off a second upset in this almost tossup game.

 

Xavier is as physical as Duke, but the Musketeers are not as refined in the finer points of the game.  However, they play much rougher than the Blue Devils, and Lehigh may have a tough time countering that.

 

Lehigh’s big star C. J. McCollum may be tough to defend, because Xavier’s guards are either too small (Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons), or Coach Chris Mack will have to put a forward (Dezmine Wells) on him.  It should make for a close game.

 

Prediction: Xavier 67  Lehigh 61

 

8:40 PM  TNT

Midwest Regional

#2 Kansas (28-6) vs. #10 Purdue (22-12)

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0  PU 8.8

Purdue does not have the defensive acumen to slow the Jayhawks down.  Kansas has enough defense to slow down Purdue, and the Jayhawks’ offense is competent enough to score consistently.

 

KU will eventually have trouble with a team that can wear the Jayhawks down due to KU’s bench liabilities.  Purdue is not the team that can exploit that weakness.

 

Prediction: Kansas 77  Purdue 64

 

9:40 PM  TBS

East Regional

#3 Florida St. (25-9) vs. #6 Cincinnati (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: FSU 14.8  UC 9.3

 

This used to be a nice little rivalry in the old Metro Conference days.  On Sunday, the rivalry will rekindle, and basketball fans will be treated to a rough and tumble game.

 

We expect a defensive struggle with low shooting percentages and low scoring.  Rebounding will be the decisive statistic in this game, and Cinti cannot go head-to-head with the Seminoles.

 

Prediction: Florida St. 64  Cincinnati 58

March 16, 2012

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Round of 32–Games of Saturday, March 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:06 pm

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

 

On Thursday, in the 16 games played, our system went 11-5, not bad but not good either.  In past years, our system has improved as the field is whittled down.  Let’s hope that trend continues. 

 

This preview is being written on Friday morning, before Friday’s games were played.  Check back tomorrow for previews of Sunday’s games.

 

Here is our 3rd Round Preview for games to be played Saturday, March 17, 2012.

 

12:15 PM  CBS—East Regional

#1 Syracuse (32-2) vs. #8 Kansas St. (22-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Syr 22.9 *  KSU 14.0

* This figure does not include the loss of Fab Melo.  Syracuse’s true number without Melo is 10.4.

 

Without Fab Melo, Syracuse is about as talented as a #8 or #9 seed.  Kansas State is a #8 seed, but the Wildcats deserve to be a higher seed.  Coach Frank Martin will design a game plan to get the ball inside the Orange zone defense, and once there, Jamar Samuels will have one of his better days this year.

 

Syracuse will have to force 17-20 turnovers to win this game without Melo, and we do not believe they will pull off that feat.  Because Kansas State does not shoot well at the foul line, the final score may be closer than it should be.  We believe the first number one seed will fall.

 

Prediction:  Kansas State 72  Syracuse 66

 

2:45 PM  CBS—East Regional

#2 Ohio St. (28-7) vs. #7 Gonzaga (26-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.0  Gonz 16.0

 

Ohio State is a bigger and better version of Saint Mary’s, and Gonzaga did not match up all that well against Saint Mary’s this year.

 

This game will be one of spurts on both sides, because neither team is all that consistent.  When they are hot, both can score 20 points in six minutes.  When they are cold, both can be held scoreless for three or four minutes.

 

Gonzaga played lights out Thursday night against West Virginia, while Ohio State had a typical game.  The Buckeyes’ typical game should be repeated, while the Bulldogs bounce, just like a horse that won a big race four weeks earlier.

 

Prediction: Ohio State 73  Gonzaga 62

 

5:15 PM  CBS—West Regional

#3 Marquette (26-7) vs. #6 Murray St. (31-1)

PiRate Criteria Score: Marq 15.5  Murr 14.1

 

In 1966, tiny Texas Western entered the NCAA Tournament with just one loss.  Nobody gave the Miners any chance to win the National Championship, let alone make it to the Final Four.  Of course, we know what happened; TWU won the national title and forced many changes in Southern basketball.

 

Murray State is no Texas Western.  It is going to strike midnight on this Cinderella on Saturday.  Marquette is too strong and quick outside for the Racers to repeat their Thursday feat.  Murray will need to dominate inside to have a fighting chance, and still Marquette should aggravate the Racers’ guards and keep the ball out of the low post all evening.

 

Prediction: Marquette 67  Murray St. 59 

 

6:10 PM  TNT—East Regional

#4 Wisconsin (25-9) vs. #5 Vanderbilt (25-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Wis 17.2  Van 12.9

 

This will be an interesting game.  Wisconsin will not turn the ball over, and the Badgers will play tenacious defense, especially on the perimeter.  UW will not get many if any fast break points and will be patient on offense, taking mostly high percentage shots.

 

Vanderbilt will try to run and keep the game more up-tempo.  The Commodores will get their fast break points, but they will commit 14-17 turnovers.  Defensively, Vanderbilt can guard inside and on the wings, but they can be exploited our front.

 

This should be a close game that is not decided until the last two or three minutes and maybe in the final minute.  When the going gets tough and the pressure is on, we will go with the team least likely to make a mistake.

 

Prediction:  Wisconsin 65  Vanderbilt 61

 

7:10 PM  TBS—South Regional

#4 Indiana (26-8) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth (29-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: Ind 14.7  VCU 7.4

 

Can Virginia Commonwealth repeat what Butler did?  Can the Rams make it two consecutive Final Fours as an underdog all the way?

 

Indiana is not a guarantee in this game, but we can find nothing in our ratings to see how VCU will pull off the upset.  Indiana can handle pressure defense, and they can exploit presses with fast break points.  VCU will need to force a lot of turnovers and pick up double digit steals to win this game, and the Hoosiers are not a team that will cough it up enough times.

 

This game will come down to shot selection.  Indiana will play intelligently and shoot wisely, taking their time in the half-court and using their fast break opportunities.  The big difference is in the pivot, where VCU has difficulties matching up against Cody Zeller.  We tend to believe this game will be over before halftime.

 

Prediction: Indiana 73  VCU 59

 

7:45 PM  CBS—South Regional

#1 Kentucky (33-2) vs. #8 Iowa St. (23-10)

PiRate Criteria Score: Kent 29.1  ISU 7.6

 

This game should be fun to watch just for the two great matchups.  Anthony Davis versus Royce White and Scott Christopherson versus Doron Lamb will make this game worth watching.  As for the final score, there is no doubt in our minds that the Wildcats will advance to the Sweet 16.  Coach Cal got the players’ attention when they failed to show up against Vanderbilt. 

 

The 1996 ‘Cats lost in the conference tournament to Mississippi State and ran off six relatively easy victories to win the National Championship.  This team is more than capable of repeating that feat, although we believe there are a couple of teams better equipped to go all the way.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  Iowa St. 63

 

8:40 PM  TNT—South Regional

#3 Baylor (28-7) vs. #11 Colorado (24-11)

PiRate Criteria Score: Bay 22.1  Col 7.0

 

The stars may be lining up perfectly for Baylor.  The Bears could have a clear path to the Elite 8 and a date with Kentucky if they can play just up to their capabilities.  Without having to come up with a Herculean effort, BU is capable of getting by Colorado and winning their Sweet 16 game against any of the possibilities.

 

Colorado won the Pac-12 Tournament with a defense that looked more like Alabama’s football defense in the National Championship Game.  The Buffs pulled out an exciting thriller over UNLV, and we believe they have advanced as far as they can for this season.

 

Prediction: Baylor 67  Colorado 58

 

9:40 PM  TBS—West Regional

#4 Louisville (27-9) vs. #5 New Mexico (28-6)

PiRate Criteria Score: Lou 15.7  NM 21.2

 

This is where we are picking a big upset.  The seedings show it to be a #4-5 game, but in the minds of most basketball fans, a Lobo win would be a big upset.

 

Louisville has gotten by this year with really good defense and mediocre offense.  That will only get a team so far, and rarely will a team with inconsistent offense make it to the Sweet 16.

 

New Mexico is capable of making a run to the Final Four.  The Lobos play defense just as competently as UL, but they are much more consistent on offense.  Additionally, UNM can battle inside with the Cardinals and neutralize any perceived advantage in the paint.

 

This game should be close, and in the final minutes, we will go with the team that has better shooters and more depth.

 

Prediction: New Mexico 62  Louisville 57

March 13, 2012

2012 NCAA Tournament Play-in and Second Round Game Previews

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. Which teams satisfy all the mechanical criteria?

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

B. FG% Differential of 7.5% or better

C. Outrebounded their opponents by 5 or more per game

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

E. 7.5 or more steals per game

F. An R+T Rating of 5 or more

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

3. Which teams score the highest point totals?

 

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

 

2011 UConn—18.3

2010 Duke—29.2

2009 North Carolina—31.8

2008 Kansas—34.9

2007 Florida—29.2

2006 Florida—25.2

2005 North Carolina—31.7

2004 Connecticut—29.5

2003 Syracuse—18.8

2002 Maryland—24.6

2001 Duke—30.2

2000 Michigan State—29.4

12 Champion Avg. = 27.7

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Team

Pts

FG% Diff

Reb

TO

R+T

SOS

Rd W-L

Total

North Carolina

7.6

3.40

6.5

0.8

5.63

4.26

3

31.1

Kentucky

8.9

5.75

4.3

0.3

3.62

1.84

4.5

29.1

Ohio St.

7.9

3.85

4.4

1.7

5.17

3.45

1.5

28.0

Michigan St.

6.5

4.90

4.8

0.0

3.74

6.05

1.5

27.4

Kansas

6.6

5.10

3.5

0.4

3.29

3.69

1.5

24.0

Wichita St.

7.7

4.65

4.0

0.4

3.52

0.28

3

23.5

Syracuse

7.1

4.00

-0.8

3.1

3.14

2.43

4

22.9

Baylor

5.4

3.15

2.9

0.3

2.82

3.62

4

22.1

New Mexico

7.1

4.15

4.0

0.5

3.71

-1.19

3

21.2

Duke

4.7

1.35

1.6

0.4

1.96

5.38

4.5

19.9

Missouri

7.3

3.15

0.4

2.1

2.90

-0.76

4

19.1

Georgetown

5.0

3.80

3.4

0.2

2.97

3.10

0

18.4

Memphis

6.1

5.50

0.9

0.7

1.86

2.66

0.5

18.2

Wisconsin

5.5

2.05

1.4

1.0

2.30

2.95

2

17.2

Saint Mary’s

6.3

2.40

4.3

0.2

3.63

-2.33

2.5

17.0

BYU

5.8

2.80

2.6

1.3

3.65

-2.28

2.5

16.3

Gonzaga

5.4

2.95

3.9

-0.2

3.00

-1.06

2

16.0

New Mexico St.

5.3

2.35

5.2

0.0

3.98

-2.91

2

15.8

Louisville

3.8

2.30

1.1

0.6

2.06

3.83

2

15.7

Marquette

4.9

2.65

-0.2

1.7

2.22

2.76

1.5

15.5

Creighton

5.3

3.55

3.7

-1.0

1.91

-2.32

4

15.1

UNLV

5.4

2.65

2.0

0.9

2.81

1.13

0

14.8

Florida St.

3.7

3.85

2.0

-0.6

1.44

3.79

0.5

14.8

Indiana

5.9

3.30

1.4

0.4

1.82

1.90

0

14.7

St. Louis

5.9

2.05

1.0

1.9

2.98

-1.47

2

14.2

Murray St.

6.5

2.80

1.1

1.3

2.59

-5.12

5

14.1

San Diego St.

4.0

2.80

2.9

0.2

2.51

0.16

1.5

14.0

Kansas St.

3.9

1.75

2.9

0.9

3.27

0.33

1

14.0

Florida

5.2

1.40

1.3

1.1

2.37

2.37

0

13.6

West Va.

2.7

-0.25

4.1

0.3

3.53

2.74

0

13.1

Vanderbilt

4.0

2.05

0.7

-0.2

0.72

3.75

2

12.9

Virginia

4.7

3.20

1.9

0.8

2.52

-1.28

1

12.8

N. Car. St.

2.7

2.25

2.6

-0.2

2.13

2.21

1

12.7

Alabama

3.4

3.20

1.6

0.4

2.00

1.85

0

12.4

Belmont

7.1

3.00

1.8

1.1

2.80

-6.41

2.5

11.8

Southern Miss.

3.3

-1.30

2.8

1.7

3.90

0.63

0.5

11.5

Harvard

5.3

3.05

2.7

0.0

2.33

-6.07

4

11.4

Davidson

5.3

1.10

4.0

0.4

3.46

-5.53

2.5

11.2

Long Beach St.

5.2

2.50

1.7

1.1

2.79

-3.22

1

11.1

Iona

5.3

2.70

0.6

1.8

2.66

-4.55

2.5

11.0

Connecticut

2.4

3.55

1.9

-0.8

0.94

4.95

-2

10.8

California

5.0

3.40

2.6

0.4

2.48

-1.33

-2

10.5

Temple

3.1

1.75

0.7

0.5

1.45

0.39

2

9.7

Texas

3.2

1.10

1.8

0.6

2.27

2.74

-2

9.6

Cincinnati

3.7

0.40

0.1

1.8

2.41

-0.52

1.5

9.3

Purdue

3.1

-0.25

-0.4

2.1

2.25

1.98

0

8.8

Michigan

2.6

1.50

-0.6

0.9

0.82

3.36

0

8.5

Iowa St.

3.3

0.70

2.8

-0.3

2.02

1.13

-2

7.6

V C U

4.3

-0.65

-0.9

3.3

3.38

-5.02

3

7.4

S. Dakota St.

5.4

1.00

1.4

1.3

2.70

-5.95

1.5

7.3

Colorado

2.6

1.95

1.9

-0.1

1.62

-0.91

0

7.0

Ohio

4.2

0.85

0.1

2.3

2.99

-5.32

1.5

6.5

Lamar

4.3

0.80

3.1

1.2

3.85

-7.18

0.5

6.5

St. Bonaventure

2.9

2.10

3.3

-0.9

1.84

-3.03

0

6.2

Xavier

1.7

2.75

1.2

0.0

1.29

1.32

-2

6.2

Colorado St.

1.3

2.00

0.6

-0.2

0.64

3.76

-2

6.1

Lehigh

5.6

1.80

1.3

1.6

2.95

-9.91

2.5

5.7

S. Florida

1.2

2.40

2.2

-1.3

0.72

1.90

-2

5.1

UNC-Asheville

5.0

2.00

0.8

1.3

2.49

-6.95

0.5

5.1

Montana

4.5

3.05

-0.3

1.2

1.52

-6.93

2

5.0

Notre Dame

2.5

1.00

-0.3

0.4

0.60

1.14

-2

3.3

Detroit

2.6

0.75

1.3

1.3

2.69

-5.53

0

3.1

Loyola (MD)

1.9

0.00

2.2

0.4

2.44

-7.10

2.5

2.3

Vermont

3.4

1.75

2.2

0.2

2.17

-9.11

1.5

2.1

Norfolk St.

1.5

1.90

1.2

-0.6

0.82

-10.75

3

-2.9

Long Island

2.3

1.50

1.5

-1.2

0.34

-8.36

0.5

-3.4

Western Kentucky

-1.5

-1.70

-0.1

-0.2

0.14

-4.31

-2

-9.7

Miss. Valley

-0.2

-1.75

0.1

0.9

1.56

-10.96

0

-10.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the same list in Alphabetical Order:

Team

Pts

FG% Diff

Reb

TO

R+T

SOS

Rd W-L

Total

Alabama

3.4

3.20

1.6

0.4

2.00

1.85

0

12.4

Baylor

5.4

3.15

2.9

0.3

2.82

3.62

4

22.1

Belmont

7.1

3.00

1.8

1.1

2.80

-6.41

2.5

11.8

BYU

5.8

2.80

2.6

1.3

3.65

-2.28

2.5

16.3

California

5.0

3.40

2.6

0.4

2.48

-1.33

-2

10.5

Cincinnati

3.7

0.40

0.1

1.8

2.41

-0.52

1.5

9.3

Colorado

2.6

1.95

1.9

-0.1

1.62

-0.91

0

7.0

Colorado St.

1.3

2.00

0.6

-0.2

0.64

3.76

-2

6.1

Connecticut

2.4

3.55

1.9

-0.8

0.94

4.95

-2

10.8

Creighton

5.3

3.55

3.7

-1.0

1.91

-2.32

4

15.1

Davidson

5.3

1.10

4.0

0.4

3.46

-5.53

2.5

11.2

Detroit

2.6

0.75

1.3

1.3

2.69

-5.53

0

3.1

Duke

4.7

1.35

1.6

0.4

1.96

5.38

4.5

19.9

Florida

5.2

1.40

1.3

1.1

2.37

2.37

0

13.6

Florida St.

3.7

3.85

2.0

-0.6

1.44

3.79

0.5

14.8

Georgetown

5.0

3.80

3.4

0.2

2.97

3.10

0

18.4

Gonzaga

5.4

2.95

3.9

-0.2

3.00

-1.06

2

16.0

Harvard

5.3

3.05

2.7

0.0

2.33

-6.07

4

11.4

Indiana

5.9

3.30

1.4

0.4

1.82

1.90

0

14.7

Iona

5.3

2.70

0.6

1.8

2.66

-4.55

2.5

11.0

Iowa St.

3.3

0.70

2.8

-0.3

2.02

1.13

-2

7.6

Kansas

6.6

5.10

3.5

0.4

3.29

3.69

1.5

24.0

Kansas St.

3.9

1.75

2.9

0.9

3.27

0.33

1

14.0

Kentucky

8.9

5.75

4.3

0.3

3.62

1.84

4.5

29.1

Lamar

4.3

0.80

3.1

1.2

3.85

-7.18

0.5

6.5

Lehigh

5.6

1.80

1.3

1.6

2.95

-9.91

2.5

5.7

Long Beach St.

5.2

2.50

1.7

1.1

2.79

-3.22

1

11.1

Long Island

2.3

1.50

1.5

-1.2

0.34

-8.36

0.5

-3.4

Louisville

3.8

2.30

1.1

0.6

2.06

3.83

2

15.7

Loyola (MD)

1.9

0.00

2.2

0.4

2.44

-7.10

2.5

2.3

Marquette

4.9

2.65

-0.2

1.7

2.22

2.76

1.5

15.5

Memphis

6.1

5.50

0.9

0.7

1.86

2.66

0.5

18.2

Michigan

2.6

1.50

-0.6

0.9

0.82

3.36

0

8.5

Michigan St.

6.5

4.90

4.8

0.0

3.74

6.05

1.5

27.4

Miss. Valley

-0.2

-1.75

0.1

0.9

1.56

-10.96

0

-10.4

Missouri

7.3

3.15

0.4

2.1

2.90

-0.76

4

19.1

Montana

4.5

3.05

-0.3

1.2

1.52

-6.93

2

5.0

Murray St.

6.5

2.80

1.1

1.3

2.59

-5.12

5

14.1

N. Car. St.

2.7

2.25

2.6

-0.2

2.13

2.21

1

12.7

New Mexico

7.1

4.15

4.0

0.5

3.71

-1.19

3

21.2

New Mexico St.

5.3

2.35

5.2

0.0

3.98

-2.91

2

15.8

Norfolk St.

1.5

1.90

1.2

-0.6

0.82

-10.75

3

-2.9

North Carolina

7.6

3.40

6.5

0.8

5.63

4.26

3

31.1

Notre Dame

2.5

1.00

-0.3

0.4

0.60

1.14

-2

3.3

Ohio

4.2

0.85

0.1

2.3

2.99

-5.32

1.5

6.5

Ohio St.

7.9

3.85

4.4

1.7

5.17

3.45

1.5

28.0

Purdue

3.1

-0.25

-0.4

2.1

2.25

1.98

0

8.8

S. Dakota St.

5.4

1.00

1.4

1.3

2.70

-5.95

1.5

7.3

S. Florida

1.2

2.40

2.2

-1.3

0.72

1.90

-2

5.1

Saint Mary’s

6.3

2.40

4.3

0.2

3.63

-2.33

2.5

17.0

San Diego St.

4.0

2.80

2.9

0.2

2.51

0.16

1.5

14.0

Southern Miss.

3.3

-1.30

2.8

1.7

3.90

0.63

0.5

11.5

St. Bonaventure

2.9

2.10

3.3

-0.9

1.84

-3.03

0

6.2

St. Louis

5.9

2.05

1.0

1.9

2.98

-1.47

2

14.2

Syracuse

7.1

4.00

-0.8

3.1

3.14

2.43

4

22.9

Temple

3.1

1.75

0.7

0.5

1.45

0.39

2

9.7

Texas

3.2

1.10

1.8

0.6

2.27

2.74

-2

9.6

UNC-Asheville

5.0

2.00

0.8

1.3

2.49

-6.95

0.5

5.1

UNLV

5.4

2.65

2.0

0.9

2.81

1.13

0

14.8

V C U

4.3

-0.65

-0.9

3.3

3.38

-5.02

3

7.4

Vanderbilt

4.0

2.05

0.7

-0.2

0.72

3.75

2

12.9

Vermont

3.4

1.75

2.2

0.2

2.17

-9.11

1.5

2.1

Virginia

4.7

3.20

1.9

0.8

2.52

-1.28

1

12.8

West Va.

2.7

-0.25

4.1

0.3

3.53

2.74

0

13.1

Western Kentucky

-1.5

-1.70

-0.1

-0.2

0.14

-4.31

-2

-9.7

Wichita St.

7.7

4.65

4.0

0.4

3.52

0.28

3

23.5

Wisconsin

5.5

2.05

1.4

1.0

2.30

2.95

2

17.2

Xavier

1.7

2.75

1.2

0.0

1.29

1.32

-2

6.2

 

 

All Times Eastern Daylight Time

 

1st Round Preview (Play-in Games)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

6:40 PM truTV #16 Seeding

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

PiRate Criteria Score: MVSU -9.7  WKU -10.4

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

 

Prediction: Western Kentucky 55  Mississippi Valley St. 50

 

9:00 PM truTV #14 Seeding

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

PiRate Criteria Score: BYU 16.3  Iona 11.0

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: BYU 82  Iona 75

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

6:40 PM truTV #16 Seeding

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Lamar 6.5  Vermont 2.1

 

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

 

Prediction: Lamar 67  Vermont 60

 

9:00 PM truTV #12 Seeding

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Cal 10.5  USF 5.1

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: California 64  S. Florida 58

 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

12:15 PM CBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 14.1  CSU 6.1

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Murray State 74  Colorado State 65

 

12:40 PM truTV—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: KSU 14.0  USM 11.5

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction:  Kansas State 69  Southern Miss. 57

 

1:40 PM TBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: UL 15.7  Dav. 11.2

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Louisville 68  Davidson 65

 

2:10 PM TNT—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: UW 17.2  Mont. 5.0

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 65  Montana 51

 

2:45 PM CBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Marq 15.5  BYU 16.3 or Iona 11.0

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

3:10 PM truTV—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Syr 22.9  UNCA 5.1

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Syracuse 84  UNCA 62

 

4:10 PM CBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: UNM 21.2  LBSU 11.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: New Mexico 76  Long Beach State 70

 

4:40 PM TNT—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: VU 12.9  Harv 11.4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Vanderbilt 62  Harvard 59

 

6:50 PM TBS—South Regional

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

7:15 PM CBS—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Wich 23.5  VCU 7.4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Wichita State 77  Virginia Commonwealth 72

 

7:20 PM TNT—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Gonz. 16.0  WVU 13.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 72  West Virginia 70

 

7:27 PM truTV—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Bay 22.1  SDSU 7.3

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Baylor 74  South Dakota State 60

 

9:20 PM TBS—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: ISU 7.6  UConn 10.8

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 68  Iowa State 63

 

9:45 PM CBS—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: IU 14.7  NMSU 15.8

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: New Mexico State 71  Indiana 66

 

9:50 PM TNT—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: OSU 28.0  Loy 2.3

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Loyola (Md) 54

 

9:57 PM truTV—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: UNLV 14.8  CU 7.0

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: UNLV 70  Colorado 59

 

Friday, March 16, 2012

12:15 PM CBS—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Cinti 9.3  UT 9.6

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Cincinnati 69  Texas 68

 

12:40 PM truTV—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: SDSU 14.0  NCSU 12.7

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 75  North Carolina State 68

 

1:40 PM TBS—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Crei. 15.1  Ala. 12.4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Creighton 70  Alabama 62

 

2:10 PM TNT—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Fla. 13.6  Virginia 12.8

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 62  Virginia 56

 

2:45 PM CBS—East Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: FSU 14.8  SBU 6.2

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida State 65  St. Bonaventure 55

 

3:10 PM truTV—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Rating: GU 18.4  BU 11.8

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Georgetown 71  Belmont 51

 

4:10 TBS—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: UNC 31.1  Lam. 6.5  VT 2.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

4:40 TNT—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: MO 19.1  Norf. -2.9

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Missouri 92  Norfolk State 66

 

6:50 PM TBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Mem 18.2 Stl 14.2

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Memphis 67  St. Louis 58

 

7:15 PM CBS—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Duke 19.9  Leh. 5.7

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Duke 82  Lehigh 58

 

7:20 TNT—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: Mich. 8.5  Ohio 6.5

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Michigan 66  Ohio 62

 

7:27 truTV—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: SMU 17.0  PU 8.8

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Saint Mary’s 75  Purdue 65

 

9:20 PM TBS—West Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: MSU 27.4  LIU -3.4

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Michigan State 72  Long Island 50

 

9:45 PM CBS—South Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: ND 3.3  Xav. 6.2

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Xavier 60  Notre Dame 56

 

9:50 TNT—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: TU 9.7  Cal 10.5  USF 5.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

9:57 truTV—Midwest Regional

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

PiRate Criteria Score: KU 24.0 Det. 3.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas 79  Detroit 55

 

 

March 26, 2011

PiRate Ratings Elite Eight Preview For Saturday-Sunday, March 26-27, 2011

It hasn’t been pretty for our PiRate Criteria Ratings this year.  We are down to one team left in our Final Four bracket, but at least it is the team we picked to win it all.  Kansas is our last hope, but if the Jayhawks can get by Virginia Commonwealth, they will be two wins away from keeping our successful record of picking the national champion before the tournament begins intact.

 

We are shocked that a team with a negative PiRate Criteria score is still around, and even more surprised that the team has had to win one extra game to get to this point.  We are almost as shocked to see Arizona in the Elite Eight with a score of just four points, and we are semi-surprised to see Butler back in the Elite Eight with a rating of four.  The Bulldogs’ 2010 PiRate Criteria score was 10 points higher than it is today, and they were actually favored to beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16 by our ratings.

 

PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

4:30 PM EDT—Southeast Regional Final @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 29-7 (15) vs. #8 Butler 26-9 (4)

Position Florida Butler
Coach Billy Donovan Brad Stevens
Center (32) Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr.–11.2/5.4  58.4% FG (44) Andrew Smith 6-11 So.–8.9/5.4  62.2% FG ***Probable***
Forward (23) Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr.–8.9/6.1 (54) Matt Howard 6-8 Sr.–16.8/7.8  44.4%  3pt
Forward (25) Chandler Parsons 6-10 Sr.–11.5/7.8  3.8 ast (33) Chase Stigall 6-4 So.–4.0/1.8
Guard (1) Kenny Boynton 6-2 So.–14.1/1.4  82.1% FT (1) Shelvin Mack 6-3 Sr.–15.6/4.3  3.6 ast
Guard (11) Erving Walker  5-8 Jr.–14.8/3.0  3.4 ast (2) Shawn Vanzant 6-0 Sr.–8.1/3.1  42.3% 3 pt
6th (4) Patric Young 6-9 Fr. F/C–3.4/3.8  56.8% FG (23) Khyle Marshall 6-7 Fr. F–5.8/3.7
7th (5) Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Fr. G–2.5/1.5  1.7 ast (5) Ronald Nored 6-0 Jr.–5.3/3.0  2.5 ast

 

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

Team Florida Butler
Pts 9.1 7.8
FG% 4.2 1.5
Reb 6.0 2.9
TO 0.3 1.7
Stl 5.9 6.0
R+T 6.42 5.35
SOS 60 54
Road% 79 67
PiRate # 15 4

 

Can Butler do it again?  It does not appear highly probable, but then the Bulldogs have made a science out of making the improbable probable. 

 

If the Bulldogs are to have any chance in this game, big man Andrew Smith must be able to play at close to 100%.  Smith sprained his ankle in the Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin, and after he exited the game, Butler almost blew a 20-point lead.  It is the emergence of Smith as a key player that has fueled Butler’s long winning streak.  He has led the team in both steals and blocked shots in the winning streak.

 

When Smith is patrolling under the basket, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack get more open looks.  The duo will need to combine for 40+ points in this game, and they will need to connect on better than 50% of their two-point shots and better than 40% of their three-point shots for Butler to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.

 

When Florida won the National Championship in 2007, their toughest game may have been their Sweet 16 game against Butler.  That Gator team benefitted from having five starters that could score 20 points in a game.  Coach Donovan’s club moves the ball quickly and the players without the ball keep their defender occupied.  Not the most consistent team defensively, the Gators tend to play in spurts.  At times, they are tough on opponents, and at times, opponents get a lot of open looks. 

 

To beat Florida, the key is to penetrate the perimeter defense and take a lot of shots in the 5-10 foot range.  Butler may lack the quickness to get into that inside zone, especially if Smith is not able to occupy 1 ½ defenders.

 

The Southeastern Conference was supposed to be down again this year, and the early NCAA Tournament exits of Tennessee, Georgia, and Vanderbilt supposedly proved this point.  However, the SEC could very well place two teams in the Final Four this year.

 

Prediction: Florida 69  Butler 60

 

7:05 PM EDT—West Regional Final @ Anaheim

#3 Connecticut 29-9 (11)  vs. #5 Arizona 30-7 (4)

Position Connecticut Arizona
Coach Jim Calhoun Sean Miller
Center (35) Charles Okwandu 7-0 Sr.–2.9/2.8 (23) Derrick Williams 6-8 So.–19.5/8.4  60.2% FG/60.3% 3pt
Forward (34) Alex Oriakhi 6-9 So.–9.7/8.7  1.6 Blk (33) Jesse Perry 6-7 Jr.–6.4/4.4
Forward (22) Roscoe Smith 6-8 Fr.–6.5/5.2  1.2 Blk (44) Solomon Hill 6-6 So.–8.1/4.6  78.0% FT
Guard (3) Jeremy Lamb 6-5 Fr.–10.9/4.3  79.6% FT (21) Kyle Fogg 6-3 Jr.–8.1/1.8  2.6 Ast
Guard (15) Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr.–24.0/5.4  4.5 ast/1.9 stl (12) Lamont Jones 6-0 So.–9.7/1.6  2.5 Ast/82.8% FT
6th (13) Shabazz Napier 6-0 Fr. G–7.9/2.3  3.1 Ast (3) Kevin Parrom 6-6 So. G/F–7.8/3.4  2.0 Ast/42.2% 3pt
7th (4) Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 6-7 So. F–6.0/2.7  81.5% FT (42) Jamelle Horne 6-7 Sr. F–6.2/3.3  40.8% 3pt

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

Team Connecticut Arizona
Pts 7.7 8.7
FG% 3.5 2.5
Reb 4.8 3.6
TO 0.3 -0.1
Stl 6.5 5.2
R+T 5.27 4.52
SOS 60 55
Road% 76 67
PiRate # 11 4

 

Two teams with one dominant player and a host of above-average complimentary players should make for an interesting game.  Unfortunately, the teams’ key players will not face off against each other, as Walker is the play-maker for UConn, and Williams is the big man for ‘Zona.

 

On closer inspection, we took a look at Connecticut’s season in three parts.  The Huskies looked like a Final Four team in two of those three parts.  They began the season 10-0, including a blowout win over Kentucky in Hawaii.  They had a lackluster 11-9 middle.  Then, they caught lightning in a bottle, winning five games in five days to take the Big East Tournament title and won three games in the Big Dance to come into this game riding an eight-game winning streak.  Once again, they have looked like a Final Four team.

 

Arizona entered this tournament with a 4-3 mark in its final seven games.  The Wildcats narrowly escaped with wins over Memphis and Texas in the first week, but then they blew defending champion Duke off the floor Thursday night.  They dominated the Blue Devils inside and forced Duke to beat them from over the top.  Duke could not get enough good outside shots in the second half, and Arizona cruised to an easy win.

 

We believe that Connecticut’s backcourt is not that far from Duke’s in total talent, but the Huskies are much stronger inside where it counts.  Connecticut should win the battle of the boards in this game and pound on Derrick Williams enough to throw him off his game.  Arizona has overachieved getting to this point.  The Wildcats will be back in 2011-12 as a top contender for the Final Four, but they will have to settle for Elite Eight this year.

 

Prediction: Connecticut 74  Arizona 66

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

2:20 PM EDT—Southwest Regional Final @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 35-2 (23) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 27-11 (-1)

Position Kansas Virginia Commonwealth
Coach Bill Self Shaka Smart
Center (21) Markieff Morris 6-10 Jr.–13.6/8.2  59.6% FG/42.1% 3pt (21) Jamie Skeen 6-9 Sr.–15.1/7.3  1.1 Blk
Forward (22) Marcus Morris 6-9 Jr.–17.1/7.4  57.7% FG (20) Bradford Burgess 6-6 Jr.–14.4/6.2  42.3% 3pt
Forward (14) Tyrel Reed 6-3 Sr.–9.7/3.1  80.2% FT (50) Ed Nixon 6-4 Sr.–7.2/2.6  1.9 Ast
Guard (12) Brady Morningstar 6-4 Sr.–7.3/2.2  3.3 Ast/42.2% 3pt (32) Brandon Rozzell 6-2 Sr.–11.8/2.3  1.4 Stl
Guard (10) Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 Jr.–9.1/1.9  4.6 Ast (12) Joey Rodriguez 5-10 Sr.–10.6/3.2  5.1 Ast/81.8% FT
6th (32) Josh Selby 6-2 Fr. G–8.2/2.3  2.2 Ast (23) Rob Brandenburg 6-2 Fr. G–5.2/1.8
7th (00) Thomas Robinson 6-9 So.–7.8/6.6  60.1% FG (10) Darius Theus 6-3 So. G–3.1/1.6  2.1 Ast

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

Team Kansas V C U
Pts 17.1 3.9
FG% 11.8 2
Reb 7.9 2.1
TO 0.8 -0.6
Stl 7.8 8.3
R+T 9.4 0.9
SOS 59 54
Road% 95 66
PiRate # 23

-1

 

This looks like an even bigger mismatch than Kansas’s Sweet 16 game, but VCU plays a feisty brand of basketball and can pull games out at the end with their pressure and herky-jerky style of play.

 

We anointed Kansas as our pick for the National Champion when the brackets came out two weeks ago, and the Jayhawks are the final power team we have left in the tournament.  KU possesses the same criteria as most of the past national champions.  The last team not to meet our minimum criteria that eventually won the national championship was this very same Kansas team in 1988.  We believe that on Sunday, the Jayhawks will restore some normalcy to this season’s Big Dance and prove to be the one Fred Astaire among a bunch of wannabes.

 

Kansas will not wilt under the pressure defense applied by VCU.  In fact, it will lead to a bunch of easy looks and a high shooting percentage.  The Jayhawks pass the ball like teams from the past, and they know how to hit open shots.  With Josh Selby possibly coming out of his shooting slump, we just cannot see another team defeating them this season.

 

For VCU, their real challenge will begin after the season ends.  Shaka Smart is certain to be in the mix in a number of vacant coaching jobs.  Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and others will be interested.

 

Prediction: Kansas 77  VCU 62

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

5:05 PM EDT—East Regional Final @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 29-7 (16) vs. #4 Kentucky 28-8 (16)

Position North Carolina Kentucky
Coach Roy Williams John Calipari
Center (44) Tyler Zeller 7-0 Jr.–15.6/7.2  54.0% FG (55) Josh Harrellson 6-10 Sr.–7.5/8.8  1.6 Blk/61.2% FG
Forward (31) John Henson 6-10 So.–11.9/10.1  3.3 Blk (3) Terrence Jones 6-8 Fr.–15.9/8.7  1.9 Blk/1.6 Ast/1.1 Stl
Forward (40) Harrison Barnes 6-8 Fr.–15.6/5.8  1.4 Ast (34) DeAndre Liggins 6-6 Jr.–8.7/4.2  2.5 Ast/1.1 Stl
Guard (1) Dexter Strickland 6-3 So.–7.4/3.1  2.2 Ast (1) Darius Miller 6-7 Jr.–11.1/4.6  1.7 Ast
Guard (5) Kendall Marshall 6-3 Fr.–6.2/2.1  6.2 Ast (12) Brandon Knight 6-3 Fr.–17.2/3.8  4.2 Ast/79.9% FT
6th (2) Leslie McDonald 6-4 So. G–7.1/2.2  (20) Doron Lamb 6-4 Fr. G–12.4/2.0  1.7 Ast
7th (25) Justin Knox 6-9 Sr. F–4.5/3.2  (30) Eloy Vargas 6-10 Fr. F/C–1.6/2.0

 

PiRate Criteria Stats

Team N. Carolina Kentucky
Pts 9 12.2
FG% 4.7 6.9
Reb 6.5 4
TO 0.7 1.5
Stl 6.1 5.3
R+T 7.52 5.91
SOS 60 60
Road% 66 61
PiRate # 16 16

 

What we have here is the basketball equivalent of the Dodgers versus the Yankees.  Two of the top programs of all time face off for the second time this season.  In December, North Carolina edged the Wildcats by a deuce in Chapel Hill.

 

The Criteria score shows this game to be a tossup, but all five of us at the PiRate Ratings believe Kentucky is the clear-cut choice in this game.  John Calipari is on the verge of getting his third different school into the Final Four.  His teams always play better against an opponent once they have faced that opponent.  Against Florida, they learned after the first game how to slow down the Gators.  They learned how to stop them cold after the second game, and in the event they see them a fourth time, they will repeat it again.  That is getting a bit too far ahead.

 

North Carolina lacks the quickness to stop the Kentucky penetration, and if the Blue Mist hits at least 35% of their three-pointers in this game, they will advance to the Final Four.

 

North Carolina has a decided depth advantage, but the Tar Heels are not as deep as they once were.  With the longer time outs in this tournament, Kentucky can get by with six key players.

 

We see this game as one of spurts.  The Tar Heels will have two or three spurts, but Kentucky will have three or four.  We believe that UK will take the lead for good with five or six minutes left in the game.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 78  North Carolina 72

March 21, 2011

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview

Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

Team W – L Pts FG% Reb TO Stl R+T SOS Road% PiRate #
Arizona 29-7 8.7 2.5 3.6 -0.1 5.2 4.52 55 63 4
Brigham Young 32-4 14.1 4.0 3.0 3.5 8.0 9.72 58 86 18
Butler 25-9 7.8 1.5 2.9 1.7 6.0 5.35 54 65 4
Connecticut 28-9 7.7 3.5 4.8 0.3 6.5 5.27 60 75 11
Duke 32-4 17.1 7.1 3.1 2.7 7.3 7.83 58 79 17
Florida 28-7 9.1 4.2 6.0 0.3 5.9 6.42 60 78 15
Florida State 23-10 7.3 7.7 4.6 -0.8 8.5 5.34 54 61 5
Kansas 34-2 17.1 11.8 7.9 0.8 7.8 9.40 59 95 23
Kentucky 27-8 12.2 6.9 4.0 1.5 5.3 5.91 60 60 16
Marquette 22-14 7.0 2.9 2.7 2.1 7.3 6.38 57 44 3
North Carolina 28-7 9.0 4.7 6.5 0.7 6.1 7.52 60 65 16
Ohio State 34-2 18.0 7.6 4.9 4.8 7.1 13.08 58 88 23
Richmond 28-7 9.2 6.0 -1.9 2.1 6.0 1.12 52 81 3
San Diego State 34-2 13.2 7.1 6.9 1.6 6.2 9.28 58 95 19
V C U 25-11 3.9 2.0 2.1 -0.6 8.3 0.90 54 65 -1
Wisconsin 25-8 9.9 1.8 3.8 2.1 3.5 5.56 57 53 9

 All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

PiRate Criteria Numbers Updated To Reflect 1st Three Round Results

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7:15 PM on CBS 

West Regional @ Anaheim

#2 San Diego State 34-2 (19) vs. #3 Connecticut 28-9 (11)

Connecticut faces the first team in the tournament that has the defensive capacity to slow down Kemba Walker.  If Walker has a below-average game, the Huskies’ shooting percentage will head too far south, because UConn does not shoot all that well.

 

The Aztecs can make life miserable on opposing shooters, so if they contain Walker, SDSU has the advantage at the other four positions on the floor.  Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas remind us somewhat of former UCLA greats Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe.

 

The Aztecs’ eventual downfall may come when they are exploited by a defense that forces them to beat them from outside.  Connecticut just may be able to pull that off, so this game cannot be considered a slam dunk for the #2 seed Aztecs.

 

Prediction: San Diego State 67  Connecticut 61

 

7:27 PM on TBS 

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 28-7 (15) vs. #3 Brigham Young 32-4 (18)

This one should be interesting, as Florida tries to get revenge for a first round overtime loss to BYU last year.

 

We did not have much faith in the Cougars after Brandon Davies was dismissed for the season.  BYU recovered in the second and third rounds, and the 22-point win over Gonzaga was quite impressive.

 

Still, we discount the Cougars by three points with the absence of Davies.  This makes this game a tossup in our eyes. 

 

Florida is playing inspired ball, but we still do not believe the Gators are on par with their prior two national champion teams.  Offensively, the Gators spread the ball around, and all five starters typically score double figure points.  Defensively, they are underneath, and they frequently find ways to pressure the ball out front.  However, the top defender, Kenny Boynton, may not be 100% in this game.  He has an important assignment.

 

That assignment happens to be guarding Jimmer Fredette.  If Fredette tops 30 points without taking 30 shots to do so, the Cougars could easily give the Mountain West Conference a second team in the Elite Eight.

 

We are split on this game, and we did not come to a conclusion which way to go.  So, we will stick with the higher-rated PiRate Criteria score and go with the Cougars.

 

Prediction: B Y U 82  Florida 78

 

9:45 PM on CBS

West Regional @ Anaheim

#1 Duke 32-4 (17) vs. #5 Arizona 29-7 (4)

With Kyrie Irving back in the fold, Duke has the best eight-deep roster in the nation.  We believe the Blue Devils are the third best team in the Sweet 16 with Irving back.  He scored 25 points in the two games in Charlotte in just 41 minutes, and he picked up some rebounds as well.

 

The Blue Devils’ only thing close to a liability is their defense at forward.  Kyle Singler, Miles Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly have trouble against sneaky fast opponents.

 

Arizona’s forwards have that quickness.  Derrick Williams is as important to the Wildcats as Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette are to their teams.  Jesse Perry only averages seven points per game, but he can take it to the basket against a slower defender.

 

Arizona’s weakness is their defense against power offense.  Duke’s slower forwards as well as center Mason Plumlee can take advantage of the Wildcats’ defensive deficiencies. 

 

Coach K deserves to be compared with John Wooden.  Wooden’s UCLA teams won four games in the NCAA Tournament to win the championship in a field of 22-25 teams.  Krzyzewski’s have been forced to win six in a field of 64, 65, and 68.  We believe he is worth an extra five to 10 points, and we will select Duke to make it to the Elite Eight.

 

Prediction: Duke 77  Arizona 68

 

9:57 PM on TBS

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#4 Wisconsin 25-8 (9) vs. #8 Butler 25-9 (4)

Pick against Butler at your own risk.  If the Bulldogs can beat Pittsburgh, there is no reason to believe they cannot return to the Final Four.

 

We did not believe Wisconsin could make it to the Sweet 16 either.  As many readers know, we have ties to U Dub, and this group of Badgers did not look strong enough to us to make it to the second week of the tournament.

 

The PiRate Criteria indicates that Wisconsin is the favorite, but with our internal numbers that we do not advertise, we rate this game as a 50-50 affair.

 

Butler has the experience in close games.  They keep finding a way to win.  However, Wisconsin is one of those tough teams that can neutralize what has been working for Coach Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs.

 

This game could very well come down to the final few possessions, and the winner may struggle to top 55 points.  We do not see any more than 100 field goal attempts, and as few as eight players could score points in this game.

 

Matt Howard can force Wisconsin to bring a big man outside, and that will allow Andrew Smith to work with a little more clearance inside.  If Shelvin Mack keeps his hot streak going, Butler can win this one.

 

If Howard is not on target, and the Badgers do not have to respect his outside shooting ability, Coach Bo Ryan’s team will pack it in, control the boards, and then work patiently to set up Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer.  The tandem could score 40 points with the rest of the team adding just 15, and it could be enough to win this game.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 55  Butler 54

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

 

7:15 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 28-7 (16) vs. #11 Marquette 22-14 (3)

We do not believe the Tar Heels are Final Four candidates this season.  No matter which team wins the game in the adjacent bracket, we see the Tar Heels losing in the Elite Eight.  However, the margin should be slim.

 

This is the Sweet 16 game, and Coach Roy Williams’ team is more than talented enough to advance to Sunday.  With the outside shooting of Kendall Marshall and Leslie McDonald combined with the take-it-to-the-hoop skills of Harrison Barnes and John Henson and the mandatory doubling down on big center Tyler Zeller, North Carolina will score a lot of points in this game.

 

Marquette’s only hope is for three players to be hot from the field, because Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles will have to outscore North Carolina to win this game.

 

Marquette cannot go head-to-head inside and win this game.  They will have to hit 50% from the field to keep this game close.  From among Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Dwight Buycks three of these players will need to score 15-25 points each.  We see the Golden Eagles coming up short in this one.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 82  Marquette 79

 

7:27 PM on TBS

Southwest Regional @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 34-2 (23) vs. #12 Richmond 29-7 (3)

Richmond apparently was seeded a few spots to low.  The Spiders have shown that the Atlantic 10 Conference is just below the top six or seven conferences in the nation and well above the average mid-major league.

 

Chris Mooney’s team can shoot the ball and prevent the opponent from shooting the ball.  With an inside-outside punch in big forward Justin Harper and sharpshooting guard Kevin Anderson, Richmond can score points consistently, albeit at a slower pace. 

 

Two things will do the Spiders in Friday night.  They are vulnerable against power teams and teams that can get on the boards for offensive rebounds.  Xavier and Old Dominion showed the blueprint for beating Richmond.

 

Kansas can take that blueprint and build a super foundation.  The Jayhawks are the best passing team in the tournament, and Coach Bill Self’s big men know how to move and get open to receive those passes.  Marcus and Markieff Morris can hit the boards at both ends, and Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor know how to get the ball to them.  KU will advance to play for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.

 

Prediction: Kansas 73  Richmond 62

 

9:45 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#1 Ohio State 34-2 (23) vs. #4 Kentucky 27-8 (16)

This is the first contest in the tournament where both teams are rated worthy of making the Elite Eight. 

 

Ohio State has actually moved a couple of percentage points ahead of Kansas for the top overall Criteria score.  The Buckeyes are strong where Kentucky is strong, but Coach Thad Matta’s team also has strength were Kentucky has been vulnerable.  Tough perimeter defense forced George Mason to wilt in the Round of 32, and in William Buford, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty, Ohio State can cut off the perimeter game of most teams. 

 

With the great Jared Sullinger roaming the low post and baseline areas, Kentucky has to dedicate a big man to roam with him.  That will be the Wildcats’ downfall Friday night.  If Terrence Jones is forced to guard Sullinger, expect Josh Harrellson to have a hard time defending the paint against Ohio State’s quicker forwards and slashing guards.  If Harrellson goes out to guard Sullinger, he will have a hard time guarding the nation’s top big man.  Coach John Calipari will have to pick his poison.

 

Kentucky will need a great night from Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.  If the two players and Darius Miller do not combine for 50 points, Kentucky will be heading back to Lexington, and the sports fans in the Commonwealth can turn their attention to Uncle Mo and the first Saturday in May.

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Kentucky 69

 

9:57 PM on TBS

#10 Florida State 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth 25-11 (-1)

This game guarantees that one double-digit seed will make it to the Elite Eight, and Kansas fans must be quite happy about it.

 

We have two teams that have found a new gear in their engine at the most opportune time.  VCU was not even supposed to be in this tournament after failing to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.  Instead, the Rams just became the first team to win three NCAA Tournament games in less than a week since Texas Western in 1966.  Texas Western went on to upset Kentucky and win the National Championship.  VCU is not Texas Western.  That TWU (Now UTEP) team was rated in the top five in the nation.

 

Florida State has not been to the Final Four since Hugh Durham took the Seminoles to the 1972 National Title game.  This team is not in that FSU team’s league.

 

So, what do we have here?  Florida State is a team that in most years would have been fortunate to win one game.  VCU is a team that in most years would probably be playing this week for a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semi-finals.

 

VCU has a negative PiRate Criteria score, but it is moving close to zero.  Still, we cannot recall a negative criteria score making it to the Elite Eight.

 

Note: Both FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton and VCU Coach Shaka Smart are being mentioned as possible candidates for the vacant Tennessee job.

 

Prediction: Florida State 65  Virginia Commonwealth 60

 

Coming Saturday Morning: We will preview the Southeast and West Regional Final games.

March 20, 2011

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

 

12:15 PM on CBS

North Carolina (15) vs. Washington (13)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: North Carolina 83  Washington 76

 

2:45 PM on CBS

Duke (15) vs. Michigan (Elim)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Duke 76  Michigan 61

 

5:15 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Ohio State 74  George Mason 59

 

6:10 PM on TNT

Texas (18) vs. Arizona (3)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Texas 78  Arizona 65

 

7:10 PM on TBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Purdue 73  V C U 64

 

7:45 PM on truTV

Syracuse (17) vs. Marquette (3)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Syracuse 68  Marquette 62

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas (23) vs. Illinois (1)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas 80  Illinois 68

 

9:45 PM on TBS

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 65  Florida State 59

 

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

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

 

12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67

 

2:40 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62

 

5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62

 

6:10 PM on TNT

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62

 

7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59

 

7:45 PM on CBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75

 

8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55

 

9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

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