The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 4, 2011

The 2011 NCAA Basketball Championship Game Preview

Tip Time:  Approximately 9:23 PM EDT (but expect it to be a couple minutes late)

Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston (Home of the Houston Astros)

Television: CBS

Radio: Westwood One

 

It has happened before.  A team that lost in the National Championship Game one year has returned to the title game a year later.  It has happened thrice.  Two times, the team in question lost again.  In 1983 and 1984, Houston lost to North Carolina State and Georgetown.  In 1992 and 1993, Michigan lost to Duke and North Carolina. 

 

In 1990, Duke was embarrassed by UNLV in the biggest Championship Game loss in history, but the Blue Devils came back in 1991 to beat Kansas for all the marbles.

 

Butler Bulldogs

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Conference: Horizon League

Record: 28-9

 

Butler Bulldogs–Starters in Bold  
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other  
1 Shelvin Mack G Jr 6-03 215 16.1 4.4 3.5 Ast  
2 Shawn Vanzant G Sr 6-00 172 8.2 3.2 41.7% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast  
3 Zach Hahn G Sr 6-01 176 5.1 1.2 85.7% FT  
4 Erik Fromm F Fr 6-09 220 0.8 0.5 26 G, 3.4 min  
5 Ronald Nored G Jr 6-00 174 5.1 3.1 2.4 Ast, 1.1 Stl, A+ defender  
11 Alex Anglin G/F Sr 6-05 177 0.7 0.7 18 G, 4.3 min  
20 Chrishawn Hopkins G Fr 6-01 165 1.6 0.5 20 G, 6.1 min  
22 Grant Leiendecker G Sr 6-05 182 1.2 0.3 15 G, 2.3 min  
23 Khyle Marshall F Fr 6-07 210 5.9 3.9 51.7% FG, 15.4 min  
30 Emerson Kampen C So 6-09 189 0 0.1 15 G, 1.9 min  
32 Garrett Butcher F Jr 6-07 209 1.6 1.3 29 G, 7.4 min  
33 Chase Stigall G So 6-04 195 3.8 1.7 16.2 min  
44 Andrew Smith C So 6-11 239 8.6 5.5 61% FG  
54 Matt Howard F Sr 6-08 230 16.7 7.8 1.5 Ast, 1.1 Stl  
       
Head Coach Brad Stevens    
Assistant Matthew Graves    
Assistant Terry Johnson    
Assistant Micah Shrewsberry    
       
Team Stats Butler Opp    
Points Per Game 72.1 64.4    
Field Goal % 44.1 42.6    
3-point % 35.5 32.8    
FT % 72.9 66.8    
Rebounds Per Game 35.0 31.5    
Turnovers Per Game 11.1 12.5    
Steals Per Game 5.9      
R + T (*) 5.48          
SOS 55      
Road Win % 70      
PiRate Criteria # 6      
 

(*) R+T= [R+({.2S}*{1.2T})], where R is reb. margin, T=Turnover margin, S=Steals per game

If turnover margin is negative, then adjust it to: R+T= [R+({.2S}+{1.2T})]

 

Connecticut Huskies

Location: Storrs, CT

Conference: Big East

Record: 31-9

 

Connecticut Huskies–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Enosch Wolf C Fr 7-01 260 1.0 0.9 7 G, 3.7 min
2 Donnell Beverly G Sr 6-04 190 1.7 1.3 8.6 min
3 Jeremy Lamb G/F Fr 6-05 185 11.1 4.4 1.6 Ast
4 Jamal Coombs-McDaniel F So 6-07 210 5.8 2.7 80% FT
5 Niels Giffey G/F Fr 6-07 210 2.2 1.3 9.5 min
10 Tyler Olander F Fr 6-09 225 1.5 1.8 9.7 min
13 Shabazz Napier G Fr 6-00 170 7.9 2.4 3.1 Ast, 1.6 Stl
15 Kemba Walker G Jr 6-01 172 23.7 5.4 81.8% FT, 4.6 Ast, 1.9 Stl
21 Kyle Bailey G Sr 6-03 170 0.0 0.0 6 G, 1.0 min
22 Roscoe Smith F Fr 6-08 205 6.5 5.2 1.2 Blk
23 Benjamin Stewart F Jr 6-05 205 0.5 0.5 4 G, 1.0 min
34 Alex Oriakhi F/C So 6-09 240 9.6 8.7 1.6 Blk
35 Charles Okwandu C Sr 7-00 255 2.9 2.7 1.3 Blk
                 
     
Head Coach Jim Calhoun  
Assistant George Blaney  
Assistant Andre LaFleur  
Assistant Kevin Ollie  
     
Team Stats U Conn Opp  
Points Per Game 72.8 65.4  
Field Goal % 43.6 39.8  
3-point % 33.3 32.9  
FT % 76.1 68.2  
Rebounds Per Game 39.3 35.2  
Turnovers Per Game 11.4 11.7  
Steals Per Game 6.4    
R + T (*) 4.56        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 78    
PiRate Criteria # 11    

 

Player Matchups

5: Butler—Andrew Smith vs. Connecticut—Charles Okwandu

Smith is quicker and more agile than Okwandu.  Smith can force Okawandu outside of the low post, while Okwandu does not have to be guarded when he is more than 10 feet away from the hoop.  In the paint, Okwandu has a strength advantage, but much of this advantage can be neutralized by Smith’s superior mobility.

 

Advantage: Smith by a little

 

4: Butler—Matt Howard vs. Connecticut—Alex Oriakhi

This is one of two keys to the game.  Howard can turn the tide of this game if he is on target from outside.  Oriakhi is a key rebounder for UConn, and if he is forced to stay outside to keep Howard from getting open looks, much of Connecticut’s rebounding advantage will dissipate.  Oriakhi can dominate Howard inside, and he has a chance to be a surprise hero in this game. 

 

When UCLA was dominating the Championship Game, the Bruins always had a surprise showing from a player that had not been expected to shine.  Memories of Steve Patterson almost single-handedly defeating Villanova in 1971 come to mind.  Ironically, that game was played next door at the Astrodome.

 

Advantage: Howard, but it needs to be a decided advantage and it may not

 

3: Butler—Chase Stigall vs. Connecticut—Roscoe Smith

Smith has a big size advantage, but he is not a major contributor.  Stigall starts, but he does not play half the time.  He will split minutes with Khyle Marshall and others. 

 

Look for Smith to win this positional battle for the Huskies, but it shouldn’t be what swings this game.

 

Advantage: Smith, but by an inconsequential amount.

 

2. Butler—Shawn Vanzant vs. Connecticut—Jeremy Lamb

Lamb has the potential to be the game-decider if Butler forgets he is capable of scoring 15-18 points in a game where 60 points might win the title.  He has a size and quickness advantage  over Vanzant. 

 

Vanzant is a better outside shooter, and if he could drain a couple of threes in the first half, it could mean a lot for Butler.

 

Advantage: Lamb, and the amount of advantage could be the difference in this game

 

1. Butler—Shelvin Mack vs. Connecticut—Kemba Walker

Walker would have the advantage over every other guard in the nation, so this is not really up for discussion.  However, if Mack could force Walker to take a few more shots to get his average and force his passes wide, Butler could in essence win this positional battle.

 

Walker absolutely must have a typical or better than typical game.  He will lead the Huskies in scoring; he will dish out four or five assists, and he will come up with a couple of steals.

 

Mack could match Walker point-for-point in this game, but if that happens, Butler will not win this game.  Mack’s ability to get the ball in low for easy shots is more important than his scoring ability.  We do not mean to say that he should forego shooting; we refer to Mack’s trying to score 25 points to match Walker.  If he scores 15 points and dishes out an equal amount of assists to Walker, then he will have done his job.

 

Advantage: Walker, but will it be enough?

 

Bench: Butler—Zach Hahn, Ronald Nored, Khyle Marshall vs. Connecticut—Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier

 

Butler’s three bench players each brings something different to the table.  Hahn is probably the best shooter in this game.  He is a rhythm shooter.  If he hits his first three, the opponent has to change its defense to keep from being shot out of the gym.

 

Nored is the best defender in this game, and he will be called on to temper Walker.  Going back to our 1971 UCLA comparison, he is the Kenny Heitz of Butler.

 

Marshall can come in and produce instant inside offense, and he plays tough defense in the lane.  He will see as much playing time as Stigall.

 

Connecticut goes nine-deep, but there is not more quality in their additional quantity.  The Husky bench is rather weak, with Napier and Coombs-McDaniel the two best reserves.  Neither should be much of a factor in this game.

 

Advantage: Butler by enough to matter if the game is strenuous.

 

Our Prediction:  We see this game playing out in a similar manner to last year’s Championship Game.  Connecticut has the talent to win this game by double digits, but Butler plays so intelligently and can keep this game close with a chance to win at the end.

 

If Walker has a big night, we do not believe Mack and Nored can come up with enough stops to prevent him from scoring 20-25 points in a limited possession game.  If Walker tries to be a superhero and commits five turnovers while shooting too many off-balance shots, then he could still score 20 points but give up more than 20 points to Butler.

 

Upon reviewing all the players’ abilities and tendencies, we believe this game will be decided at the four position.  If Howard goes out with a career night, Butler will cut down the nets.  If he has a typical night, this game will still be in doubt after the final TV timeout.  If he has an off night, Connecticut will win by eight to 12 points.

 

We tend to believe this will be just as memorable as last year’s game with the strong possibility that the team that scores the last points will win the game.  We believe there is a good chance this game could still be undecided after 40 minutes.  There have been few overtime games in the championship. 

 

The first OT title game came in 1944 when Utah edged Dartmouth 42-40 at Madison Square Garden.  In 1957, North Carolina defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple OT 54-53.  Cincinnati appeared in two OT title games; the first was a happy ending with a 70-65 OT thriller over in-state rival and defending national champ Ohio State.  In 1963, Loyola of Chicago upset Bearcats 60-58 in OT.  Michigan edged Seton Hall in OT 80-79 in the 1989 title game. In 1997, Arizona pulled off a big upset over defending national champ Kentucky by a score of 84-79  , and Kansas defeated Memphis in OT in 2008 by a score of 75-68.

 

Predicted Score: Connecticut 69  Butler 66 in double OT!

 

April 1, 2011

PiRate Ratings Final Four Viewing Guide and Preview, Saturday, April 2, 2011

UNCLE!!!  Yes, we cry uncle.  Our PiRate Criteria failed to predict a Final Four team for the first time since we began predicting for the media six years ago.  In backtests, it isolated at least one Final Four every year back to the advent of the 64-team tournament.

 

PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS Television and Westwood One Radio

 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Four Site: Reliant Stadium, Houston

 

6:09 PM EDT—Virginia Commonwealth 28-11 (1) vs. Butler 27-9 (6)

 

Virginia Commonwealth Rams–Starters in Bold

No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
5 Juvonte Reddic F Fr 6-09 225 3.5 1.9 0.5 Stl, 11.2 min
10 Darius Theus G So 6-03 190 3.1 1.5 2.1 Ast, 1.1 Stl, 15.4 min
12 Joey Rodriguez G Sr 5-10 175 10.5 3.3 81.6% FT, 5.1 Ast, 1.5 Stl
20 Bradford Burgess G Jr 6-06 225 14.3 6.2 42.8% 3pt, 1.1 Stl
21 Jamie Skeen F Sr 6-09 240 15.4 7.4 51.6% FG, 1.6 Ast
23 Rob Brandenberg G Fr 6-02 170 5.1 1.7 13.9 min
30 Troy Daniels G So 6-04 195 2.1 0.8 26 G, 4.8 min
31 Toby Veal F Jr 6-08 235 2.4 2.2 29 G, 9.9 min
32 Brandon Rozzell G Sr 6-02 185 11.8 2.3 40.4% 3pt, 1.5 Ast. 1.4 Stl
33 D. J. Haley C Fr 7-00 250 1.1 1.6 53.1% FG, 7.8 min
34 David Hinton F So 6-09 235 0.7 0.2 18 G, 3.7 min
50 Ed Nixon G Sr 6-04 210 7.1 2.6 1.9 Ast, 1.2 Stl
     
Head Coach Shaka Smart  
Assistant Will Wade  
Assistant Mike Rhoades  
Assistant Mike Jones  
     
Team Stats VCU Opp  
Points Per Game 71.8 66.7  
Field Goal % 43.6 44.4  
3-point % 37.0 33.5  
FT % 71.6 67.4  
Rebounds Per Game 32.3 36.1  
Turnovers Per Game 11.3 14.7  
Steals Per Game 8.3    
R + T (*) 2.97        
SOS 55    
Road Win % 68    
PiRate Criteria # 1    
 

(*) R+T= [R+({.2S}*{1.2T})], where R is reb. margin, T=Turnover margin, S=Steals per game

If turnover margin is negative, then adjust it to: R+T= [R+({.2S}+{1.2T})]

 

Butler Bulldogs–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Shelvin Mack G Jr 6-03 215 15.9 4.3 3.6 Ast
2 Shawn Vanzant G Sr 6-00 172 8.1 3.2 42.0% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast
3 Zach Hahn G Sr 6-01 176 5.0 1.1 85.7% FT
4 Erik Fromm F Fr 6-09 220 0.8 0.5 26 G, 3.4 min
5 Ronald Nored G Jr 6-00 174 5.3 3.1 2.5 Ast, 1.2 Stl, A+ defender
11 Alex Anglin G/F Sr 6-05 177 0.7 0.7 18 G, 4.3 min
20 Chrishawn Hopkins G Fr 6-01 165 1.6 0.5 20 G, 6.1 min
22 Grant Leiendecker G Sr 6-05 182 1.2 0.3 15 G, 2.3 min
23 Khyle Marshall F Fr 6-07 210 5.9 3.8 52.4% FG, 15.2 min
30 Emerson Kampen C So 6-09 189 0.0 0.1 15 G, 1.9 min
32 Garrett Butcher F Jr 6-07 209 1.6 1.3 29 G, 7.4 min
33 Chase Stigall G So 6-04 195 3.9 1.7 16.3 min
44 Andrew Smith C So 6-11 239 8.8 5.4 62.1% FG
54 Matt Howard F Sr 6-08 230 16.7 7.7 1.5 Ast, 1.1 Stl
     
Head Coach Brad Stevens  
Assistant Matthew Graves  
Assistant Terry Johnson  
Assistant Micah Shrewsberry  
     
Team Stats Butler Opp  
Points Per Game 72.1 64.5  
Field Goal % 44.3 42.7  
3-point % 35.5 32.6  
FT % 72.7 66.8  
Rebounds Per Game 34.7 31.5  
Turnovers Per Game 11.1 12.6  
Steals Per Game 5.9    
R + T (*) 5.32        
SOS 55    
Road Win % 68    
PiRate Criteria # 6    
 
 

Virginia Commonwealth is the first team with a negative PiRate Criteria rating to win an Elite Eight round game.  The results of that game elevated their number into positive territory, but we still wonder about their rebounding difficulties.  VCU has won five games in this tournament, and four were not all that close.  The Rams have maintained a hot shooting touch from outside, and their 3-point percentage has been much higher in the postseason than it was during the regular season.

 

The VCU press has had its moments during the Big Dance as well, as a couple of opponents had trouble with it.  Can the Rams survive to the final round?  It is possible, but we tend to believe that their shooting prowess will eventually regress to the norm.  The Rams are overdue for a bad outside shooting game, and in a baseball domed stadium, the sightlines will not be like anything they have seen before.

 

Butler has the experience here.  They are the most seasoned of the teams left, and the Bulldogs can no longer be considered a Cinderella team.  In fact, we tend to see Butler very much like a 21st Century version of Marquette during the Al McGuire years.  This team can continue to be a serious player in the national tournament scene. 

 

Butler will be able to handle the VCU press.  They will inbound the ball quickly and return it quickly to the inbound passer who will have an opening to break the press with numbers.  The Bulldogs can run when they need to, and a couple of easy baskets and/or fouls early could force VCU to panic.  The Butler perimeter defense will cover the VCU shooters tightly, and Nored will make life miserable for any opponent trying to shoot from outside.

 

This is a must-see game.  It should be close, and we do not see Butler pulling away to win by a big margin.  VCU could still have a chance to win with one quick spurt, and the Rams are capable of going on a quick spurt.  Ask Kansas about that.

 

Prediction: Butler 65  VCU 61

 

Approximately 8:49 PM—Kentucky 29-8 (18) vs. Connecticut 30-9 (11)

 

Kentucky Wildcats–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Darius Miller G Jr 6-07 225 11.1 4.6 44.9% 3-pt, 86.4% FT, 1.7 Ast
2 Stacey Poole G Fr 6-04 195 0.3 0.5 16 G, 2.8 min
3 Terrence Jones F Fr 6-08 244 15.8 8.7 1.9 Blk, 1.1 Stl
4 Jon Hood G So 6-07 202 0.8 0.7 33 G, 4.8 min
5 Jarrod Polson G Fr 6-02 185 0.4 0.1 17 G, 1.8 min
12 Brandon Knight G Fr 6-03 185 17.3 3.9 4.2 Ast
20 Doron Lamb G Fr 6-04 195 12.3 2.0 48.1% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast
30 Eloy Vargas F Jr 6-11 250 1.5 1.9 7.7 min
34 DeAndre Liggins G Jr 6-06 210 8.8 4.1 40.2% 3-pt, 2.5 Ast, 1.2 Stl
55 Josh Harrellson F Sr 6-10 275 7.6 8.8 61.4% FG, 1.5 Blk
                 
                 
                 
                 
     
Head Coach John Calipari  
Assistant John Robic  
Assistant Orlando Antigua  
Assistant Kenny Payne  
     
Team Stats UK Opp  
Points Per Game 75.4 63.7  
Field Goal % 46.3 39.3  
3-point % 40.0 32.8  
FT % 71.6 72.2  
Rebounds Per Game 37.4 33.7  
Turnovers Per Game 10.7 12.0  
Steals Per Game 5.4    
R + T (*) 5.38        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 64    
PiRate Criteria # 18    

 

Connecticut Huskies–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Enosch Wolf C Fr 7-01 260 1.0 0.9 7 G, 3.7 min
2 Donnell Beverly G Sr 6-04 190 1.8 1.3 8.8 min
3 Jeremy Lamb G/F Fr 6-05 185 11.1 4.3 1.5 Ast
4 Jamal Coombs-McDaniel F So 6-07 210 5.8 2.7 81.5% FT
5 Niels Giffey G/F Fr 6-07 210 2.2 1.3 9.5 min
10 Tyler Olander F Fr 6-09 225 1.5 1.8 9.8 min
13 Shabazz Napier G Fr 6-00 170 8.0 2.4 3.0 Ast, 1.6 Stl
15 Kemba Walker G Jr 6-01 172 23.9 5.3 81.8% FT, 4.5 Ast, 1.9 Stl
21 Kyle Bailey G Sr 6-03 170 0.0 0.0 6 G, 1.0 min
22 Roscoe Smith F Fr 6-08 205 6.5 5.2 1.2 Blk
23 Benjamin Stewart F Jr 6-05 205 0.5 0.5 4 G, 1.0 min
34 Alex Oriakhi F/C So 6-09 240 9.6 8.6 1.6 Blk
35 Charles Okwandu C Sr 7-00 255 2.9 2.7 1.3 Blk
                 
     
Head Coach Jim Calhoun  
Assistant George Blaney  
Assistant Andre LaFleur  
Assistant Kevin Ollie  
     
Team Stats U Conn Opp  
Points Per Game 73.3 65.7  
Field Goal % 43.5 40.0  
3-point % 33.7 32.9  
FT % 76.0 68.9  
Rebounds Per Game 39.4 35.1  
Turnovers Per Game 11.3 11.7  
Steals Per Game 6.4    
R + T (*) 4.91        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 77    
PiRate Criteria # 11    

 

Connecticut won five games in five days at the Big East Tournament and parlayed that into four more wins in the NCAA Tournament.  The Huskies have a chance to begin and end the season with separate double-digit game winning streaks.  In Kemba Walker, U Conn has the best player in the Final Four, but one player cannot do it alone.  The Huskies are anything but a one person team.  They can pound it inside with Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu, and when Walker drives the lane, Jeremy Lamb is frequently open outside.  This Connecticut team is not as strong as the two national championship teams from Calhoun’s past, but the Huskies have enough talent to win a third for Calhoun.

 

Kentucky is the one team left in the tournament with a PiRate Criteria rating similar of past national champions.  Their 18 rating is actually better than Indiana in 1981, North Carolina State in 1983, Villanova in 1985, Kansas in 1988, and Arizona in 1997.  The Wildcats have very little depth with only seven players used unless the game is a major blowout.  With the extra long timeout lengths, this should not be a factor at all this weekend.  Although none of the players have Final Four experience, every game Kentucky plays is about as pressure-packed as a Final Four game.  We believe the Wildcats will not be affected or intimidated in this game.  However, the weird sightlines could make their outside shooting game suffer. 

 

These two teams met in Hawaii in November, and Connecticut won 84-67.  In that game, the Huskies quickly opened a 20-point lead in the first half and went to the locker room at the half up 50-29.  Connecticut couldn’t miss, while Kentucky couldn’t buy a basket.  Knight and Liggins were a combined 0-10 from three-point land, and Josh Harrellson did not score.  Walker scored 29 points for the winners, while Oriakhi recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

 

This game will have a much different look.  This season, Kentucky has dominated teams that they have already played during the season.  They are 7-0 against teams that they played a second or third time.  We see this trend continuing.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Connecticut 66

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