The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2013

30 Bracketology Ratings For College Basketball–Monday, March 11, 2013

#

Team

Conference

Out of 30

Points

1

Duke

ACC

30

30.00

1

Indiana

Big Ten

30

30.00

1

Gonzaga

West Coast

30

29.80

1

Louisville

Big East

30

29.77

2

Kansas

Big 12

30

29.33

2

Georgetown

Big East

30

29.10

2

Michigan

Big Ten

30

28.60

2

Miami (FLA.)

ACC

30

28.57

3

Michigan State

Big Ten

30

28.50

3

Florida

SEC

30

28.03

3

New Mexico

Mountain West

30

27.93

3

Ohio State

Big Ten

30

27.57

4

Marquette

Big East

30

27.50

4

Kansas State

Big 12

30

27.00

4

Arizona

Pacific-12

30

27.00

4

Oklahoma State

Big 12

30

26.57

5

Syracuse

Big East

30

26.07

5

St. Louis

Atlantic 10

30

26.03

5

Pittsburgh

Big East

30

25.63

5

Wisconsin

Big Ten

30

25.53

6

UNLV

Mountain West

30

25.13

6

Butler

Atlantic 10

30

24.90

6

UCLA

Pacific-12

30

24.87

6

Virginia Commonwealth

Atlantic 10

30

24.37

7

Colorado State

Mountain West

30

24.33

7

Notre Dame

Big East

30

24.17

7

North Carolina

ACC

30

23.67

7

Memphis

CUSA

30

23.63

8

Creighton

Missouri Valley

30

23.37

8

North Carolina State

ACC

30

22.93

8

Illinois

Big Ten

30

22.40

8

Missouri

SEC

30

22.20

9

Minnesota

Big Ten

30

22.20

9

San Diego State

Mountain West

30

22.13

9

Oregon

Pacific-12

30

22.00

9

Colorado

Pacific-12

30

21.37

10

California

Pacific-12

30

21.10

10

Oklahoma

Big 12

30

21.07

10

Cincinnati

Big East

29

20.73

10

Temple

Atlantic 10

30

20.67

11

Iowa State

Big 12

30

20.13

11

Wichita State

MissouriValley

29

20.00

11

Belmont

Ohio Valley

30

19.87

11

Villanova

Big East

29

19.43

12

St. Mary’s (CA)

West Coast

29

19.37

12

La Salle *

Atlantic 10

29

18.77

12

Boise State *

Mountain West

27

18.00

12

Kentucky *

SEC

24

15.53

12

Tennessee *

SEC

23

14.73

12

Bucknell

Patriot

30

18.17

13

Stephen F. Austin

Southland

30

17.77

13

Valparaiso

Horizon

30

17.50

13

Davidson

Southern

30

17.30

13

Akron

MAC

28

17.20

14

Harvard

Ivy

30

16.83

14

Louisiana Tech

WAC

27

16.40

14

Florida Gulf Coast

Atlantic Sun

30

16.10

14

Iona

Metro Atlantic

29

15.53

15

South Dakota State

Summit

26

15.10

15

Liberty **

Big South

30

15.00

15

Northeastern

Colonial

29

14.77

15

Vermont

America East

28

14.73

16

Long Beach State

Big West

27

14.37

16

Montana

Big Sky

26

14.33

16

Southern **

SWAC

28

14.00

16

Norfolk State **

Mid-Eastern

25

12.53

16

LIU-Brooklyn **

Northeast

21

10.50

16

Florida International

Sun Belt

18

9.23

 

Teams in Bold have clinched Automatic Bids

* = Team figured to be part of the First Four as At-Large invites

** = Team figured to be part of the First Four as 16-seed Automatic Bids

 

Teams on the Bubble

 

Middle Tennessee

Sun Belt

11

7.10

 

Virginia

ACC

7

4.47

 

Mississippi

SEC

2

1.33

 

Baylor

Big 12

2

1.27

 

Iowa

Big Ten

1

0.63

 

Teams By Conference

Conference

# Teams

Big East

8

Big Ten

7

Atlantic 10

5

Big 12

5

Mountain West

5

Pac-12

5

ACC

4

SEC

4

MissouriValley

2

West Coast

2

America East

1

Atlantic Sun

1

Big Sky

1

Big South

1

Big West

1

Colonial

1

CUSA

1

Horizon

1

Ivy

1

MAC

1

Metro Atlantic

1

Mid-Eastern

1

Northeast

1

OhioValley

1

Patriot

1

Southern

1

Southland

1

Summit

1

Sun Belt

1

SWAC

1

WAC

1

 

Here is how our new point score works.

 

1. We gather 30 of the top national bracketology ratings, with their list of 68 teams ranked by seeding.

 

2. For every #1-seed, we award 30 points, 29 points for a #2-seed, 28 points for a #3-seed, and so forth down to 1 point for a #16-seed.  Any team that does not appear on a particular bracketology ranking receives no points.

 

3. We then add the total points for each team and divide by 30, rounding to two digits.  Thus if a team appears as a number 6 seed on 24 bracketology lists and as a number 7 seed on the other 6, it gets 25 points times 24 plus 24 points times 6 which equals 744.  Divide 744 by 30, and the answer is 24.8 points.

 

4. The four teams with the highest point total are our #1-seeds.  The next four are our #2-seeds, and so forth.  The last four at-large teams are placed as #12-seeds, even if mid-major conference champions with automatic bids score higher in points.  These last four are the opening round (play-in) teams and will be #12 seeds.

 

5. In the league where there will be just one bid awarded, we take the team that scores the most points.  If a second team has a higher point total than one of our at-large teams, they do not jump ahead.

 

6. If a possible mid-major has a chance to become an at-large team if they do not win their conference championship, this will be noted in the conference breakdown, but for our purposes, we do not predict any upsets and go with the top-rated team to represent the one-bid leagues.

February 25, 2013

30 Bracketology Ratings For College Basketball

30 Top Bracketologists Combined

There are more than 100 “bracketologists” on the Internet giving their opinions on which teams will make the NCAA Tournament.  Some are famous, like Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm.  There are others you have never heard about, but who are actually more accurate than the big two.

 

We here at the PiRate Ratings do not have our own in-house Bracketologist.  We are experts in “Bracketnomics,” the study of choosing the winners in the brackets.

 

However, we have reversed-engineer our own bracketology by taking the 30 historically most accurate bracketologists and combining their predictions into a co-op rating.

 

Today, we debut our look at the projected tournament by projected seeds and then by conference with locks, close to being locks, and bubble teams.

 

We believe it is ridiculous to predict the actual matchups; this is pure showmanship.  You know that the teams will be seeded so that the opening seeds equal 17 (1-16, 2-15, 3-14, etc.)  So if a team projects as a 1-seed, they could play any of the projected 16 seeds.

 

We will show you our results by seed and then by conference.

 

By Seed

#

Team

Conference

Average

Out of 30

1

Indiana

Big Ten

1.00

30

1

Duke

ACC

1.07

30

1

Miami (FLA.)

ACC

1.43

30

1

Florida

SEC

1.67

30

2

Gonzaga

West Coast

1.67

30

2

Kansas

Big 12

1.77

30

2

Michigan

Big Ten

1.83

30

2

Michigan State

Big Ten

2.53

30

3

Arizona

Pacific-12

2.90

30

3

Louisville

Big East

2.97

30

3

New Mexico

Mountain West

3.03

30

3

Syracuse

Big East

3.37

30

4

Georgetown

Big East

2.77

30

4

Kansas State

Big 12

4.03

30

4

Wisconsin

Big Ten

4.27

30

4

Marquette

Big East

4.83

30

5

Oklahoma State

Big 12

4.57

30

5

Ohio State

Big Ten

4.77

30

5

Butler

Atlantic 10

5.57

30

5

Pittsburgh

Big East

6.03

30

6

UNLV

Mountain West

5.80

30

6

Notre Dame

Big East

6.30

30

6

Colorado State

Mountain West

6.47

30

6

North Carolina State

ACC

7.40

30

7

Memphis

CUSA

7.00

30

7

Oregon

Pacific-12

7.43

30

7

Illinois

Big Ten

7.80

29

7

Minnesota

Big Ten

7.83

30

8

Saint Louis

Atlantic 10

6.50

30

8

San Diego State

Mountain West

8.07

30

8

Virginia Commonwealth

Atlantic 10

8.27

30

8

Cincinnati

Big East

9.43

30

9

UCLA

Pacific-12

7.87

30

9

Oklahoma

Big 12

8.07

30

9

Wichita State

Missouri Valley

8.60

30

9

Missouri

SEC

8.60

30

10

Colorado

Pacific-12

8.90

30

10

North Carolina

ACC

9.03

30

10

Iowa State

Big 12

10.53

30

10

Creighton

Missouri Valley

10.63

30

11

California

Pacific-12

10.63

29

11

La Salle

Atlantic 10

11.50

29

11

Kentucky

SEC

11.60

29

11

Mississippi

SEC

14.83

15

12

Temple

Atlantic 10

11.50

29

12

Middle Tennessee

Sun Belt

11.53

30

12

Villanova

Big East

11.63

28

12

Belmont

Ohio Valley

11.70

30

12

St. Mary’s (CA)

West Coast

11.80

28

12

Virginia

ACC

14.27

18

13

Bucknell

Patriot

13.03

30

13

Akron

MAC

13.07

28

13

Louisiana Tech

WAC

13.30

28

13

Stephen F. Austin

Southland

14.40

24

14

Valparaiso

Horizon

13.93

28

14

Davidson

Southern

14.03

30

14

Harvard

Ivy

14.20

29

14

South Dakota State

Summit

14.40

26

15

Stony Brook

America East

14.70

30

15

Long Beach State

Big West

15.20

29

15

Montana

Big Sky

15.30

27

15

Niagara

Metro Atlantic

16.00

24

16

Northeastern

Colonial

15.73

28

16

Mercer

Atlantic Sun

15.90

28

16

Robert Morris

Northeast

15.97

27

16

Southern

SWAC

16.00

30

16

Norfolk State

Mid-Eastern

16.33

25

16

Charleston Southern

Big South

16.40

24

 

Last 4 In: Virginia, Villanova, St. Mary’s, and Temple

 

First 4 Out: Boise St., Maryland, Southern Miss, Northwestern St.

 

Next 4 Out: Chalotte, Denver, Baylor (Alabama/Tennessee Tie)

 

 

By Conference

 

America East (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Stony Brook

Vermont is the top contender.  The conference declared 3rd place Boston U ineligible for the league’s automatic bid because they accepted admittance to the Patriot League for 2013-14.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Albany

 

Atlantic 10 (3-7 bids)

Locks: Butler

Close: St. Louis and Virginia Commonwealth

Bubble: La Salle, Temple, Charlotte, U Mass

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Richmond, St. Joe’s, and Xavier have enough talent to sneak through to the conference tournament championship round.

 

ACC (6 or 7 bids)

Locks: Duke, Miami

Close: North Carolina St., North Carolina

Bubble: Virginia, Maryland

 

Maryland at Virginia on March 10 could decide which team gets in and which goes to the NIT.  We see no lower seeded team capable of pulling off three or four upsets in three days.

 

Atlantic Sun (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Mercer

FloridaGulfCoast is a top contender

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: This league lacks a lot of strength at the top, and any of the eight seeds can win this tournament.  However, Mercer is the host team, so the Bears should be favored.

 

Big East (7-9 bids)

Locks: Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette

Close: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame

Bubble: Cincinnati, Villanova, St. John’s

 

Pitt and Notre Dame need maybe two more wins to become locks.  Cincinnati needs to win two of its final three games and then at least once in the conference tournament.  Villanova and St. John’s must get to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, and may need to advance one round further

 

Connecticut is ineligible for the automatic bid and conference tournament due to low academic scores.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Providence is peaking at the right time.  The Friars have won five of six conference games including wins over Villanova, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame.

 

Big Sky (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Montana

WeberState is a co-favorite in this league.  We give Montana a 45% chance of winning the bid, WeberState a 40% chance, and the rest of the league about 15%.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Montana State can play with either of the two co-favorites

 

Big South (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Charleston Southern

High Point and UNC-Asheville are top contenders

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Coastal Carolina hosts the conference tournament

 

Big Ten (7 or 8 bids)

Locks: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan St., Wisconsin, Ohio St.

Close: Minnesota, Illinois

Bubble: Iowa

Iowa needs to win three of their final four games and once in the Big Ten Tournament to move high enough on the bubble to have a legitimate chance at a bid.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: None, one of the top seven will win the tournament, with the most likely winner to come from between Indiana, Michigan, Michigan St. and Ohio St.

 

Big 12 (4-6 bids)

Locks: Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma St.

Close: None

Bubble: Oklahoma, Iowa St., Baylor

Oklahoma will be close with two more wins and in with three more wins.  IowaState needs at least three more wins to be in the upper part of the bubble and probably four more wins if there are some upset tournament winners.  Baylor needs to win four more times with at least one over either Kansas or KansasState, or get to the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Not this year.  Kansas, Kansas State, or Oklahoma State will cut down the nets in KC.  Look for the Jayhawks to be motivated and win this one with relative ease.

 

Big West (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Long Beach St.

Pacific and UC-Irvine are top contenders

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Cal-Poly.  The Mustangs have won four of five and six of nine.  Cal Poly beat the top two teams at home and took Long Beach State to the wire on the road.

 

Colonial (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Northeastern

George Mason is a top contender

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: With Towson and Georgia State among the four teams not eligible for the conference tournament, Delaware is the only team that could come from off the pace and win the automatic bid.

 

Conference USA (1 or 2 bids)

Lock: Memphis

Close: None

Bubble: Southern Miss.

Southern Miss must win at least two of their final three games and then play Memphis a good game in the CUSA Tournament Championship Game to have any chance of earning an at-large bid.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: We do not see any team defeating Memphis.

 

Horizon (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Valparaiso

Detroit is the top contender

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: This tournament is rather open, and neither Valpo nor Detroit can be considered heavy favorites.  Even teams like eighth place Loyola could sneak into the championship game.

 

Ivy (1 bid)

Projected Conference Champion: Harvard

Princeton is top contender

 

Harvard visits Princeton this Friday night, and if the Tigers can win, we could be looking at a playoff game with the two top teams finishing 12-2.

 

MAAC (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Niagara

Loyola (MD), Canisius, and Iona are top contenders

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Rider, Fairfield, Iona.  This is a very competitive league, and it really wouldn’t be that much of an upset for any of these three teams to win.  There are seven teams capable of cutting down the nets in Springfield, Mass, on March 11.

 

Mid-American (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Akron

Ohio U is a top contender but has no chance as an at-large bid after the Bracket Buster loss to Belmont

 

Note: Toledo is not eligible for the conference tournament due to low academic scores

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Buffalo, Kent St.  We are actually having to dig deep to come up with a possible upset winner here.  Akron has dominated this league this year, and even Ohio would be an upset winner over the Zips.

 

MEAC (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Norfolk St.

UNC-Central and Savannah St. are top contenders

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Hampton and Morgan St.  Both teams contended with Savannah State.

 

Missouri Valley (2 or 3 bids)

Locks: None

Close: Wichita St., Creighton

Bubble: Indiana St.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: None.  One of the top three seeds will win this tournament.  None of the rest are talented enough to pull off two consecutive upsets away from their home arena.

 

Mountain West (3 to 5 bids)

Locks: New Mexico

Close: Colorado St., UNLV

Bubble: San Diego St., Boise St.

ColoradoState and New Mexico played one of the most exciting games of the season this past Saturday, but when the Lobos won in Ft.Collins, it prevented CSU from moving up to a lock.  The Rams will get in short of an implosion.  UNLV will get in if they don’t lose to the two second division teams left on their home schedule.  San DiegoState needs to get to the semifinals of the conference tournament to move up into the high bubble.  BoiseState has four regular season games with three coming against ColoradoState, UNLV, and San DiegoState.  The Broncos need to win two of these plus the other game against Nevada and then win at least once in the conference tournament

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner:Air Force, Wyoming.  The Falcons and Cowboys will be tough opponents against any other MWC team.  Both teams have a nasty style of play that gives the opposition headaches.

 

Northeast (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Robert Morris

Bryant, Long Island, and Wagner are the top contenders.  The NEC plays its tournament games at the higher seed, so home-court advantage is very important.  The four top contenders should make it to the semifinal round.  LIU has dominated this tournament in recent years, but they have a first-year coach, and the Blackbirds have had a tough time adjusting.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Quinnipiac, but only if the Bobcats finish in the top four and get to host an opening round game.

 

Ohio Valley (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Belmont

The Bruins would be a bubble team if they lost in the OVC Tournament Championship Round, but their resume is lacking if they must get in as an at-large.  This league has sent two teams to the Dance in the past, and Belmont won the Bracket Buster game against Ohio U, but the Bruins only have one top 50 win.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Murray St., Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee St. These three teams should be listed as top contenders, but we project Belmont as a prohibitive favorite in the conference tournament, which will be played in their hometown.

 

Pac-12 (3 to 7 bids)

Locks: Arizona

Close: Oregon, UCLA

Bubble: Colorado, California, Arizona St., Stanford

Short of total collapses, Oregon and UCLA will get invitations.  California closes with three home games and should be 13-5 in league play when the tournament convenes.  If so, the Bears will be in the Dance.  Colorado is on the outside-looking in with a tough final regular season schedule.  We expect the Buffaloes to be no better than 10-8 and maybe 9-9 when the tournament starts.  ArizonaState finishes the regular season on the road against UCLA, USC, and Arizona.  We see the Sun Devils dropping to 9-9, which means they will have to at least make it to the championship round in the conference tournament to have a chance.  Stanford has basically played themselves out of contention and probably needs to win the conference tournament.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Colorado has the best shot of winning the conference tournament from the back of the pack.

 

Patriot (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Bucknell

Top Contender: Lehigh

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: None.  Bucknell has the talent to advance to the round of 32 and compete for a Sweet 16 berth.  Lehigh and Lafayette should meet in the semifinals with the chance to face the Bison for the conference tournament title. 

 

Southeastern (2 to 7 teams)

Locks: Florida

Close: Kentucky, Missouri

Bubble: Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee

Kentucky Missouri could have moved to lock status with a win at Kentucky, but the overtime loss keeps them in the close range.  The Tigers will need to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament to guarantee a spot in the Big Dance.  Kentucky closes the regular season at home on Senior Day against Florida, and we believe the Wildcats will win this game and probably finish 13-5 in league play.  We can see no possibility where a 13-conference win UK team would be excluded from the Field of 68.  Ole Miss has lost five of their last eight games, and the Rebels have just one top 50 win.  They must get to the semifinals of the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid.  Alabama also has just one top 50 win, and the Crimson Tide has two tough road games in the regular season.  They too must get to the semifinals to have any chance at an at-large bid.  Tennessee has two top 50 wins, and the Volunteers have a chance to put themselves on the high bubble if they can upset Florida at home Tuesday night.  If they beat Florida and then conclude the regular season with a win over Missouri, they should be in with one conference tournament win.  Arkansas has two top 25 wins, but the Razorbacks need to prove they can win away from Bud Walton Arena.  Arky needs to win at LSU or at Missouri and then get to the semifinals of the conference tournament to have a shot at an at-large bid

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: None.  The bottom half of the league has difficulty winning two games in a row, let alone four or five.  The conference tournament winner will be one of the seven teams listed above.

 

Southern (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Davidson

The Bracket Buster win at home over Montana did little to help boost the Wildcats’ chances of getting onto the bubble.  Davidson will be NIT-bound if they do not win the automatic bid.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: College of Charleston. 

 

Southland (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Stephen F. Austin

Top Contender: Northwestern State

SFA won at Long BeachState in the Bracket Buster, but the Lumberjacks are not close to the bubble.  They could keep winning to the conference tournament championship round and lost that one to finish 28-4, and all they would have to show for it would be a first-round home game in the NIT.

 

Texas A&M-Corpus Christie is not eligible for the conference tournament.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Oral Roberts

 

SWAC (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Southern

Top Contender: Texas Southern

The top two teams play at TSU Thursday night, and the winner should be the number one seed in the conference tournament.  Third place Arkansas-Pine Bluff and MississippiValley are not eligible due to academic scores.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: None.  Either Southern or Texas Southern should win this tournament, and if Southern wins, the SWAC could avoid the opening round in Dayton.

 

Summit (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: South Dakota St.

Top Contenders: North Dakota St., Western Illinois

The conference tournament is in Sioux Falls, a mere 55 miles from the SDSU campus.  The Jackrabbits won the tournament last year, and they are a solid favorite to repeat.  SDSU has the best player you may not know.  Nate Wolters averages 23 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game, and he scored 53 points on February 7 at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

 

Nebraska-Omaha is not eligible as they are in transition to full D1 status.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Oakland

 

Sunbelt (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Middle Tennessee

The Blue Raiders are 0-3 against the top 50, and for now, they are not on the bubble.  They ride a 14-game winning streak into their final two regular season games, and if they win both to finish 27-4, they could move to the bubble if they lost in the conference championship round.

 

Top Contenders: South Alabama

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Arkansas St.

 

West Coast (1 or 2 bids)

Lock: Gonzaga

Close: None

Bubble: St. Mary’s

Gonzaga could be looking at a number two seed if they win out and a number three seed if they lose a game.  St. Mary’s is in the top half of the bubble, but the Gaels have just won top 50 win, which came at home against Creighton in the Bracket Buster this past Saturday.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: Brigham Young

 

WAC (1 bid)

Projected Tournament Winner: Louisiana Tech

Top Contender: Denver

LT has won 16 games in a row, but the Bulldogs close the regular season at New MexicoState and at Denver and will probably have their winning streak snapped.  Still, they are the commanding favorite in the conference tournament.

 

Possible Conference Tournament Upset Winner: New Mexico St.

 

Conference Tournament Information

Conference Dates Location Teams In Tourney
AtlanticCoast March 14-17 Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC 12
America East March 8-9 & 16 SEFCU Arena, Guilderland, NY (Albany), Championship Game at Higher Seed 8 (Boston U not eligible)
Atlantic 10 March 14-17 BarclaysCenter, Brooklyn 13
Atlantic Sun March 6-9 Hawkins Arena, Macon, GA 8
Big East March 12-16 Madison Square Garden, New York City 14  UConn not eligible
Big Sky March 14-16 Regular Season Champion’s Court 11
Big South March 5-10 HTCCenter, Conway, SC (Coastal Car.) 12
Big Ten March 14-17 United Center, Chicago 12
Big 12 March 13-16 Sprint Center, Kansas City 10
Big West March 14-16 Honda Center, Anaheim, CA Top 8 (UC-Riverside not eligible)
Colonial March 9-11 Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA 7 (UNCW, Towson, Ga. St, & ODU not eligible)
Conference USA March 13-16 BOKCenter, Tulsa, OK 11 (Central Fla. Not eligible)
Great West March 13-16 JonesConvocationCenter, Chicago 5 (Winner receives auto bid to CIT)
Horizon March 5-12 Regular Season Champion’s Court (Championship Game at Higher Seed) 9
Ivy The Ivy League has no conference tournament but plays off any ties for first place
Metro Atlantic March 7-11 MassMutualCenter, Springfield, MA 10
Mid-American March 11-16 Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH (First Round at Higher Seeds) 11 (Toledo not eligible)
MEAC March 11-16 Norfolk Scope, Norfolk, VA 13
MissouriValley March 7-10 ScottradeCenter, St. Louis 10
Mountain West March 7-10 Thomas & MackCenter, Las Vegas 9
Northeast March 6, 9, & 12 All Games at Higher Seed 8 (Bottom 4 Teams Not In Tourney)
OhioValley March 6-9 Municipal Auditorium, Nashville Top 8 (Jacksonville St. is ineligible)
Pac-12 March 13-16 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Paradise, NV (Las Vegas area) 12
Patriot March 6, 9, & 13 All Games at Higher Seed 8
SEC March 13-17 Bridgestone Arena, Nashville 14
Southern March 8-11 US CellularCenter, Asheville, NC 12
Southland March 13-16 MerrillCenter, Katy, TX (Houston Area) Top 8 (Texas A&M CC not eligible)
SWAC March 12-16 SpecialEventsCenter, Garland, TX 8 (AR-PineBluff & MSValley ineligible)
Summit March 9-12 Sioux Falls Arena, Sioux Falls, SD 8 (Neb-Omaha not eligible)
Sunbelt March 8-11 Summit Arena & Convention Center Court, Hot Springs, AR (two venues) 11
West Coast March 6-11 Orleans Arena, Las Vegas 9
WAC March 12-16 Orleans Arena, Las Vegas 10

 

March 4, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Very Few Bubble Spots Left

 

With conference tournament play underway, not much has changed yet in the NCAA Tournament picture.  At least two dozen teams remain on a bubble that may have room to admit nine of those teams at the most.  With every multiple bid conference tournament that produces an upset winner, one more bubble will burst.

 

As we see it today, 16 conferences will definitely send just one team to the NCAA Tournament.  Six other leagues have a chance to send two teams, but they could send just one team if the favorite wins their tournament or loses in an early round and gets eliminated.  That brings the subtotal to 22 definite bids.

 

We believe 37 teams have already met the minimum requirement to receive a bid to the tournament no matter how they perform in their conference tournament.  The subtotal now numbers 59.

 

That leaves just nine spots left, and up to six of those could go to those leagues mentioned above that could send a second team.  The bubble has a very thin skin.

 

Let’s take a conference-by-conference look at the prospects and suspects.

 

Definite One Bid Leagues

These leagues will send only their automatic qualifier to the Big Dance.  The team we list here have not earned a spot, since no conference tournament championships have been played.  That will change in 24 hours.

 

America East

Vermont 22-7

 

Atlantic Sun

Belmont 28-4

 

Big Sky

Northern Colorado 19-10

 

Big South

Coastal Carolina 28-4

 

Big West

Long Beach State 20-10

 

M A A C

Fairfield 23-6

 

M A C

Kent State 20-10

 

M E A C

Hampton 21-8

 

Northeast

Long Island 25-5

 

Ohio Valley

Murray State 23-7

 

Patriot League

Bucknell 23-8

 

Southern

College of Charleston 22-9

 

Southland

Stephen F. Austin 18-9

 

S W A C

Texas Southern 17-11

 

Summit

Oakland 22-9

 

Sunbelt

Florida Atlantic 21-9

 

Possible Two Bid Leagues If Favorite Loses In Final Round

These conferences have a chance to send a second team if the favorite is upset in the championship game.  If the favorite wins the automatic bid, that conference will send just one team.

 

Conference USA

U A B  21-7

 

UTEP 22-8, Southern Miss. 21-8, and Memphis 21-9 probably do not have the resumes to earn an at-large bid, but if any of these win the tournament, UAB could and probably will earn an at-large spot.  We will place allot one bubble spot for these three teams, because two will not get a spot.

 

Horizon League

Butler 21-9

 

Cleveland State 25-7 is close to becoming a bubble team, but we believe the Vikings must win the tournament.  Butler has the credentials to get in if they lose in the finals or to CSU in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs better plan on winning the league tournament, because they are vulnerable if there are two or three upsets in other tournaments.

 

Ivy League

Regular Season Champion

 

Either Harvard 21-5 or Princeton 22-5 will win the Ivy this year.  Currently, Princeton leads Harvard by half a game (10-1 to 10-2).  Princeton finishes out the season with three road games.  The Tigers play at Dartmouth tonight and at Harvard tomorrow night.  They finish at Penn on Tuesday.  Harvard hosts Penn tonight and Princeton tomorrow night.  There is a good chance that both contenders will finish 12-2, forcing a playoff game later in the week.  If Harvard loses a playoff, they would be 23-6.  Princeton would be 24-6 if they lost the playoff.  Both teams have RPIs in the 40’s, so there is a small chance that both teams could receive bids.

 

Missouri Valley

Missouri State 23-7

 

Wichita State 23-7 had a chance to wrap up a safe position, but the Shockers lost in the Bracketbuster.  This league laid an egg in the Bracketbuster and watched the Colonial take over the title of best mid-major.  Still, if somebody other than Missouri State wins the tournament, the Valley could send a second team.

 

West Coast

St. Mary’s 23-7

 

Gonzaga 22-9 has played a relatively tough schedule and owns wins over a couple of top 50 teams, but we do not believe the Bulldogs are in line for an at-large bid.  We will anoint them as conference tournament favorites, and if the Zags beat SMU in the championship game, the Gaels should be in decent shape for an at-large bid.

 

W A C

Utah State 27-3 is ranked in the Top 25 and has an RPI of 18.  The Aggies are going dancing even if they lose in the WAC Tournament.  

 

Teams That Are Locks

These teams are going to the Big Dance even if they lose the rest of their regular season games.

 

A C C

Duke 27-3

North Carolina 23-6

Florida State 20-9

 

Atlantic 10

Xavier 23-6

Temple 23-6

Richmond 23-7

 

Big East

Pittsburgh 26-4

Notre Dame 24-5

Louisville 23-7

Syracuse 24-6

St. John’s 19-10

West Virginia 19-10

Cincinnati 23-7

Georgetown 21-8

Connecticut 21-8

Villanova 21-9

 

Big Ten

Ohio State 28-2

Purdue 25-5

Wisconsin 23-6

 

Big 12

Kansas 28-2

Texas 24-6

Texas A&M 22-7

Kansas State 21-9

Missouri 22-8

 

Colonial

George Mason 25-5

Old Dominion 24-6

 

Mountain West

B Y U 27-3

San Diego State 28-2

U N L V 22-7

 

Pac-10

Arizona 24-6

U C L A 21-9

Washington 20-9

 

S E C

Florida 23-6

Kentucky 21-8

Vanderbilt 21-8

Georgia 20-9

Tennessee 18-12

 

Das Bubble

If a team has an asterisk (*) after its name, then we feel they are on the top side of the bubble.  If a team has an “x” after its name, then we feel they are on the bottom of the bubble and need to win some big games to have any chance.

 

As of today, as many as nine bubble teams could earn a bid.

 

A C C

Virginia Tech 19-9

Clemson 19-10 *

Boston College 18-11 *

 

Clemson takes on Virginia Tech Saturday, and the winner will enter the ACC Tournament as a definite high bubble team.  We believe two of these three teams will get a bid.

 

Atlantic 10

Duquesne 18-10 x (100 RPI)

Dayton 19-11 x (81 RPI)

 

These teams have played themselves out of serious contention for an at-large bid.  If either gets hot and wins their season finale and then loses in the conference championship game, then that team could be back on the bubble.  Duquesne closes at Richmond, and a win there would mean a lot.  Dayton finishes at George Washington, which would be a quality win but not as impressive as a DU win at Richmond.

 

Big East

Marquette 18-12 *

 

Marquette may be at the top of the bubble.  The Big East Tournament will be stronger than some of the NCAA regionals, and it may only take one tournament win to get them in the field.

 

Big Ten

Michigan State 17-12

Illinois 18-12

Michigan 18-12

 

The Spartans venture to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines Saturday, and the winner will enter the Big Ten tournament near the top of the bubble.

 

Illinois hosts Indiana tomorrow, and this is a must-win game for the Illini.  We believe they will have to make it to the semifinal round in the conference tournament to be on the good side of the bubble.

 

Big 12

Baylor 18-11

Nebraska 19-10 x

Colorado 18-12

 

Baylor, 6-8 since starting 12-3, hosts Texas tomorrow, and the Bears must win that one and then at least two in the Big 12 Tournament.  If they lose to the Longhorns, then BU will have to win the automatic bid.

 

Nebraska plays at Colorado tomorrow.  Even if the Cornhuskers win to sweep the Buffalos, they may have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

Colorado is 4-8 in their last 12 after starting 14-4.  They will have to beat Nebraska and then win at least three in the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid.  

 

Colonial

Drexel 20-9 x  61 RPI

Virginia Commonwealth 21-10 x  62 RPI

Hofstra 20-10 x  78 RPI

 

Conference USA

U T E P  22-8 x

Memphis 21-9 *

Southern Miss 21-8 *

 

We believe that one of these three teams will play their way into an at-large bid if they do not win the automatic bid.  

 

Horizon

Cleveland State 25-7

 

As we mentioned above, Cleveland State is on the bubble and could possibly receive an at-large bid if they upset Butler in the conference tournament semifinals but fail to win the championship.

 

Ivy League

Runner-up

 

If Harvard and Princeton both finish 12-2 in the league and face off in a playoff for the Ivy League championship, we believe the loser will still have an outside shot at receiving an at-large bid.

 

Pac-10

Washington State 19-10

The Cougars have a shot at grabbing an at-large bid if they beat UCLA to end the regular season and win a game in the conference tournament.  Two wins in the Pac-10 tourney would move them to the plus side of the bubble.

 

S E C

Alabama 19-10

 

The Crimson Tide must beat Georgia tomorrow and then get to the Final round of the SEC Tournament to have a shot at an at-large bid.

 

Visit this site after Midnight Eastern Time Friday, March 4/Saturday March 5 for an update on the conference tournaments and a preview of two more tournaments commencing on Satuday.

February 25, 2011

This Week’s Bracketological Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

80 Teams Vying For 68 Spots Before Conference Upsets Upset The Apple Cart

 

As we approach the eve of the first conference tournaments, we here at the PiRate Ratings have crunched the numbers and come to a consensus on 80 total teams that are either locks to get into the Big Dance, just one or two wins away, on the bubble, or in the conversation for a possible at-large bid from a smaller conference.

 

Of course, there will be some conference tournament upsets, and with each upset, one bubble will burst.

 

Today, as we break down each category, we will focus on the bubble teams plus three special cases from smaller conferences.  Unlike other sites, we factor in what we perceive to be back-room politics into our equation.  A team like Kentucky in an off-year will still always receive preferential treatment over a team like Cleveland State or Southern Mississippi, and the committee can always reverse engineer enough data to support their decision.

 

Absolute Locks—These 25 Teams Are In The Dance

Figures shown are conference and overall record, RPI, and strength of schedule

When two teams have the same RPI, they are tied

TEAM                         Record                      RPI      SOS

Duke                           12-1/26-2                       5        33

North Carolina            11-2/21-6                     12        15

Xavier                         12-1/21-6                     24        47

Temple                        11-2/21-6                     32        79

Pittsburgh                    13-2/25-3                       6        25

Notre Dame                11-4/22-5                     10        31

Louisville                    10-5/21-7                     23        23

St. John’s                    10-5/18-9                     15          4

Syracuse                      10-6/23-6                     17        24

Georgetown                10-6/21-7                       7          2

Villanova                       9-6/21-7                     27        35

Connecticut                   8-7/20-7                     19        12

Ohio State                   13-2/26-2                       2        26

Purdue                         12-3/23-5                     23        18

Wisconsin                    11-4/21-6                     13        29

Texas                           12-1/24-4                       9        20

Kansas                         11-2/26-2                       1        13

Texas A&M                  9-4/22-5                     29        53

Missouri                        8-5/22-6                     30        68

San Diego State          12-1/27-1                       4        38

B Y U                         12-1/26-2                       3        22

Arizona                       12-3/23-5                     14        48

Florida                         11-2/22-5                     11          9

Kentucky                      7-6/19-8                     16        17

Vanderbilt                     8-5/20-7                     22        19

 

Near Locks—These 12 Teams Need One Or Two More Wins To Be In The Dance

TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Florida State               9-4/22-5                       51        100

Cincinnati                    9-6/22-6                       35          88

West Virginia              8-7/17-10                     20           3

Kansas State               7-6/19-9                       28            7

Michigan State            8-7/16-11                     37            5

Missouri State             14-3/22-7                     46        138

Wichita State              14-3/23-6                     47        108

U N L V                      9-5/21-7                       25          28

Washington                 10-5/19-8                     36          63

U C L A                      11-4/20-8                     38          50

Tennessee                    7-6/17-11                     31            1

Utah State                   12-1/25-3                     18        111

 

3 Teams That Could Get In The Conversation From A Non-Power Conference

(If they win out in the regular season and then lose in their conference tournament finals)

 

TEAM                         Record                       RPI      SOS

Belmont                      18-1/26-4                     50        237

Oakland                      16-1/21-9                     58        132

Ivy League 2nd Place

   Harvard                    9-1/20-4                       42        176

   Princeton                  8-1/20-5                       55        195

 

14 Conferences That Will Send Only Their Automatic Bid Champion

Conference                              Top Team                    Won-Loss

America East                           Vermont                        13-2/22-6                  

Big Sky                                   Montana                        12-3/20-8

Big South                                Coastal Carolina            15-2/25-4

Big West                                 Long Beach State       12-2/18-10

M A A C                                 Fairfield                        14-2/22-5

M A C                                     Kent State                     10-3/19-9

Northeast                                Long Island                   15-2/23-5

Ohio Valley                             Murray State                 13-4/22-7

Patriot                                     Bucknell                        12-1/21-8

Southern                                  College of Charleston   14-3/22-8

Southland                                McNeese State                9-4/17-9

S W A C                                 Texas Southern           13-1/15-10 

Sunbelt                                    Florida Atlantic             12-3/20-9

 

26  Teams On The Bubble (absolutely must win the big games and not be upset)

TEAM                         Record                        RPI      SOS

Virginia Tech              8-5/18-8                       63        109                                         

Clemson                      7-6/18-9                       65          84

Maryland                     7-6/18-10                     80          75

Boston College           6-7/16-11                     49          16

Miami (Fla)                 5-8/17-11                     67          46

Richmond                   10-3/21-7                     62        130

Marquette                    8-7/17-11                     51          27

Baylor                         6-7/17-10                     87          64

Nebraska                     6-7/18-9                       77          74

Colorado                     6-7/17-11                     84          81

Illinois                         7-8/17-11                     39          11

Minnesota                   6-9/17-10                     48          32

Penn State                   8-8/15-12                     53            6

Michigan                     7-9/17-12                     66          21

V C U                         12-5/21-9                     53        115

Drexel                         10-7/19-9                     60        110

U A B                         9-4/19-7                       34          52

Memphis                     9-4/21-7                       33          40

Southern Miss.            9-4/21-6                       41          99

Butler                          12-5/20-9                     45          80

Cleveland St.              12-5/23-7                     42        107

Colorado St.                8-5/18-9                       44          37

Georgia                       7-6/18-9                       40          29

Alabama                      11-2/19-8                     74        139

Gonzaga                      10-3/20-9                     64          78

St. Mary’s                   10-3/22-7                     56        121

 

As we see it, there are 51 spots basically secured at this point.  14 will go to low-major conference automatic qualifiers.  37 will go to teams that have basically already stamped their dance ticket. 

 

17 spots are still up for grabs.  The current bubble plus the three low-major teams that could earn an at-large bid totals to 29 teams.  For each conference tournament in which there is an upset champion that would not have been an at-large candidate, one more bubble will burst.

 

Conference tournament play begins next week, and we will be here to cover it in depth.  Check back daily once the first tournaments are set to begin.  We will have the schedules for all the games and relay the results.

 

This all leads up to our most read story of every year.  On the Monday following Selection Sunday, we will preview the First Four games at Dayton.  On the Wednesday prior to the first regional games, we will preview all 64 remaining teams and show you our fantastic formula for picking the real contenders while dismissing the pretenders.  Our PiRate Ratings Bracketology Formula has been very successful since it was implemented five years ago.

 

PiRate Ratings This Week

Let us look PiRate Rating Style at eight of the top teams this week.  For those of you that have not discovered our rating criteria, you can read all about it in our past college basketball stories.

 

Team Pts. Margin FG Margin Rb Margin TO Margin
Duke 19.0 8.1 3.6 3.6
Florida 9.2 3.8 6.4 0.6
Xavier 8.0 6.3 3.8 0.6
Pittsburgh 14.2 7.4 11.2 0.3
Ohio State 17.6 6.3 4.3 5.7
Kansas 12.6 12.6 7.4 1.6
S. D. State 13.8 7.8 6.8 2.3
Utah State 13.8 8.5 8.7 0.0

 

Team Stl R+T SOS Road W-L PiRate #
Duke 7.8 10.3 .5696 10-2 22
Florida 6.3 7.3 .5944 9-2 14
Xavier 5.5 4.6 .5577 8-5 8
Pittsburgh 5.0 11.6 .5798 9-2 20
Ohio State 7.7 14.8 .5786 8-2 21
Kansas 8.6 10.7 .5917 11-1 26
S. D. State 5.9 10.1 .5667 14-1 22
Utah State 4.6 9.6 .5245 9-3 14

 

Any team with a PiRate Criteria number above 20 must be considered a legitimate candidate for the Elite 8.  A score between 10 and 20 is usually good enough to make it to the Sweet 16, depending on their opposition’s score.  Xavier’s current score of 8 is really only good enough for Two and Out.  The Musketeers are not currently considered to be the Butler of 2011.

 

Florida’s score of 14 indicates the Gators could be gone after two games if they draw a tough opponent.  The SEC does not currently have a legitimate Elite 8 team and in an at-worst scenario, all teams could be gone before the Sweet 16.

 

Utah State is in the same boat with Florida.  The Aggies look good enough to contend for a deep run in the tournament, but it would require them to play pretenders.  At 14, they should be considered at best a Sweet 16 participant and possibly a Two and Out team.

 

San Diego State’s score indicates that the Aztecs are a force to be reckoned with.  If they draw a #1 or #2 seed, they could be in line for a run to the Final Four if their schedule does not find them playing a Kansas in the Elite 8.

February 18, 2011

Bracketbuster Preview and Conference Races

It’s Bracket Buster Weekend, and the folks at ESPN have an interesting slate of televised games.  Since the televised schedule for these games was released in late January, some of the teams involved have gone in the tank.  So, some of the games will not really matter.  However, there are a couple of really good games, and we believe in at least one and maybe two cases, both teams could earn at-large bids if they do not gain automatic bids.   

 

Today, we here at the PiRate Ratings will give you a preview of each televised game.  Following the preview, we will take our weekly look at each conference’s NCAA Tournament contenders and then present to you five bubble teams for comparison.

 

Last week we concentrated on the leagues that will send only their automatic bid winner to the Dance.  We reintroduced the PiRate Criteria formula, but we forgot one component.  So, here in a nutshell is the formula again.

 

1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin

 

2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0

 

3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0

 

4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0

 

5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin.

If Turnover margin is 0 or negative, then change the formula a little to this: [R + ({.2*S} + {1.2*T})] 

This is done so as not to penalize a team with negative turnover margin but a lot of steals per game.

 

Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

*** Completely eliminate *** from consideration all teams with a negative R+T

 

6. Schedule Strength

Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiple it by 100.  For example, Team A with an SOS of .5252 has a schedule 7 points weaker than Team B with an SOS of .5921 ([(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7).

The Average SOS for teams in the top 40 is about .5880.  When you factor in the automatic bids from teams outside of the top 40, that number is about .5500.  So, take each teams SOS rating and take 100 times the difference from .5500 as the number for this item.

 

Example: if State U has a SOS of .5743, the difference is .0243; multiply by 100, and the result is 2.43 which rounds to 2.  If Tech has a SOS of .4878, the difference is -.0622; multiple by 100, and the result is -6.22 which rounds to -6.

 

7. Record Away From Home (road + neutral)

3 points for 75%+ winning percentage

2 points for 60-74% winning percentage

1 point for 51-59% winning percentage

0 points for 50% winning percentage

-2 points for less than 50% winning percentage

 

 

Let us take a look at the Bracket Buster. 

 

Friday, Feb. 18 (all times Eastern)
7 p.m. (ESPN2) – VCU (12-4/20-8) at Wichita State (13-3/22-5)

 

Team Virginia Commonwealth Wichita State
W-L 12-4/20-8 13-3/22-5
RPI 64 48
PPG Margin 4.7 12.2
FG% Margin -1.6 6.9
Reb Margin -3.5 9.3
TO Margin 3.9 -0.8
Stl/G 9.0 5.4
R+T 6.4 9.4
SOS .5124 .5215
Road W-L 9-6 8-4
PiRate # -3 9

Big Wins: VCU—UCLA       Wichita State—Virginia

 

VCU has lost three of their last five games, putting the Rams on the bad side of the bubble.

 

Wichita State lost narrowly to Connecticut and also lost to San Diego State and Missouri State.  The Shockers are on the middle of the bubble.  Their PiRate score of 9 shows they have a legitimate chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.

 

 

9 p.m. (ESPNU)—Kent State (8-3/17-8) at Drexel (9-7/17-9)

Team Kent State Drexel
W-L 8-3/17-8 9-7/17-9
RPI 94 81
PPG Margin 4.8 4.2
FG% Margin 2.9 1.6
Reb Margin 0.5 9.4
TO Margin 1.1 -1.8
Stl/G 8.1 4.0
R+T 2.6 8.0
SOS .4957 .5105
Road W-L 6-7 7-7
PiRate # -7 0

 

Big Wins: Kent—None          Drexel—Louisville, Old Dominion

 

Kent State’s best win was over #109 Iona.  We do not see any at-large bids going to team that have no top 100 wins.  Losses to Florida, UAB, and Cleveland State will not be good enough, and a road win in this game will do little to help.  Kent State must gain an automatic bid.  Their PiRate score of -7 puts them squarely within the parameters of the lesser post-season tournaments (NIT, College Insider Tournament {CIT}, or College Basketball Invitational {CBI}) .

 

Drexel is on the outside of the bubble, but they can work their way into the low rung by winning out.  The Dragons lost to Syracuse and George Mason.  Drexel shoots a poor 31.1% from behind the arc, but opponents shoot only 28%.  As you may know, we do not factor three-point percentage in the PiRate formula, as it has shown no positive relationship to advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.

 
Saturday, Feb. 19
11 a.m. (ESPNU)—Hofstra (12-4/18-9) at Wright State (10-7/17-12) 

Team Hofstra Wright State
W-L 12-4/18-9 10-7/17-12
RPI 87 115
PPG Margin 1.2 2.7
FG% Margin 0.6 -3.0
Reb Margin -4.7 -3.8
TO Margin 2.2 3.9
Stl/G 6.7 6.3
R+T -1.2 [ELIMINATE] 2.1
SOS .5134 .5173
Road W-L 9-6 5-10
PiRate # -4 ELIMINATE -8

 

Big Wins: Hofstra—Drexel, George Mason               Wright State—Oakland, Butler

 

Hofstra has a negative R+T rating, so they would be considered easy first-round cannon fodder in the NCAA Tournament.  Of course, the PiRate Rating does not apply to regular season games, so they could easily beat Wright State tomorrow.

 

Wright State is not under consideration for an at-large bid, so this game is a dud.  It may be interesting, but both will have to win an automatic bid to get into the Dance.

 

1 p.m. (ESPNU)—Austin Peay (11-5/17-11) at Fairfield (14-2/21-5) 

Team Austin Peay Fairfield
W-L 11-5/17-11 14-2/21-5
RPI 132 101
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 3.6 4.2
Reb Margin 0.1 3.5
TO Margin 3.7 1.5
Stl/G 8.9 7.3
R+T 8.0 6.1
SOS .4821 .4465
Road W-L 9-8 11-3
PiRate # 1 -3

 

Big Wins: APSU—Morehead State               Fairfield—Vermont

 

Austin Peay was cruising at the first of conference play, but they have split their last 10 games.  They have no chance at garnering an at-large invitation, but they have a positive PiRate number.  Should they win the automatic bid, they could make their first round game very interesting.

 

Fairfield started 1-3 and has gone 20-2 since.  Their schedule is one of the weakest in the nation, and their gaudy numbers must be severely discounted.  The Stags are overwhelming favorites to win the MAAC Tournament and gain the automatic bid, but should they end up in the NIT, they have a chance to get to MSG.

 

3 p.m. (ESPNU)—Iona (11-5/17-10) at Liberty (13-3/19-9) 

Team Iona Liberty
W-L 11-5/17-10 13-3/19-9
RPI 112 131
PPG Margin 8.7 3.7
FG% Margin 2.5 0.4
Reb Margin 0.6 6.8
TO Margin 3.0 -0.9
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 6.0 7.1
SOS .4938 .4685
Road W-L 9-8 7-7
PiRate # 2 -6

 

Big Wins: Iona—Richmond               Liberty—None

 

Here are two more teams going nowhere unless they earn automatic bids.  Iona lost by six to Syracuse, so if the Gaels upset Fairfield to win the MAAC automatic bid, with their positive PiRate number, they could cause trouble for a higher-seeded opponent.

 

Liberty’s best win came against #170 UNC-Asheville.  They lost to Notre Dame by 21 and to George Mason by 30.  They will not be on the NIT’s radar if they fail to win the Big South’s automatic bid.

 

5 p.m. (ESPN2)—Missouri State (13-3/21-6) at Valparaiso (11-4/19-8)

Team Missouri State Valparaiso
W-L 13-3/21-6 11-4/19-8
RPI 49 54
PPG Margin 7.9 6.5
FG% Margin 2.5 6.3
Reb Margin 3.3 0.8
TO Margin 0.5 1.4
Stl/G 4.7 8.3
R+T 3.9 3.6
SOS .5121 .5308
Road W-L 7-5 9-6
PiRate # -1 2

 

Big Wins: MSU—Northern Iowa, Wichita State       Valpo—Oakland, Cleveland State, and Butler

 

This will be an interesting game.  Both teams are squarely on the bubble, and the winner should move up enough to be considered on the good side of the bubble. 

 

Missouri State plays smart basketball.  Their two best shooters take 23% of their shots.  A relatively low R+T rating and lower than average SOS give them a negative PiRate Rating.  Their only chance to advance to the weekend in the NCAA Tournament is a first round game with an opponent with a negative R+T rating.

 

Valparaiso goes nine-deep, and seven of the nine are competent rebounders.  They could scare a higher-seeded team in the opening round and possibly have a chance at an upset.  However, they don’t have a good enough rating to advance to the Sweet 16.  They still have work to do before they are guaranteed an at-large bid.

 

5 p.m. (ESPNU)—Vermont (13-2/22-5) at Charleston (12-2/19-7) 

Team Vermont College of Charleston
W-L 13-2/22-5 13-2/20-7
RPI 74 77
PPG Margin 7.6 7.8
FG% Margin 6.8 3.6
Reb Margin 6.2 -0.4
TO Margin 0.9 0.9
Stl/G 5.4 6.4
R+T 7.4 1.0
SOS .4693 .4885
Road W-L 10-4 10-6
PiRate # 0 -5

 

Big Wins: Vermont—Iona                  C of C—Coastal Carolina, Tennessee

 

This is the best Vermont team since the Catamounts upset Syracuse in the opening round of the 2005 tourney.  Still, with a PiRate rating of 0, they would have to face a higher-seeded team with a negative R+T Rating to have a shot at an upset this year.  Additionally, they are far back on the bubble and will most likely need to earn the automatic bid to get there.

 

College of Charleston is much in the same boat as Vermont, but whereas the Catamounts are the prohibitive favorite to secure the America East’s automatic bid, C of C is not even a small favorite to win the Southern Conference’s bid because North Division co-leader Chattanooga is hosting the SoCon Tournament.

 

7 p.m. (ESPN2)—George Mason (14-2/22-5) at Northern Iowa (10-6/19-9)

Team George Mason Northern Iowa
W-L 14-2/22-5 10-6/19-9
RPI 20 79
PPG Margin 13.0 4.0
FG% Margin 7.7 -1.2
Reb Margin 3.0 -0.3
TO Margin 2.6 2.3
Stl/G 6.9 4.8
R+T 7.3 2.3
SOS .5470 .5146
Road W-L 9-5 7-7
PiRate # 13 -8

 

Big Wins: GMU—Harvard, Duquesne, Drexel, James Madison, Hofstra, Old Dominion, and Virginia Commonwealth                                   Northern Iowa—New Mexico, Wichita State, and Missouri State

 

Could George Mason do it again?  The Patriots made a surprise run to the 2006 Final Four by upsetting Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut.  This year’s team could be better than that team.  With a 13 PiRate Rating, they have the numbers to get to the Sweet 16 and have a shot at the Elite Eight, and even another Final Four possibility.

 

Northern Iowa is not the team they were a year ago when they upset Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  This team is likely not to earn an at-large bid and will be third choice at best to win the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis.

 

9 p.m. (ESPN2)—Utah State (12-1/24-3) at Saint Mary’s (10-2/22-5)

Team Utah State Saint Mary’s
W-L 12-1/24-3 10-2/22-5
RPI 25 39
PPG Margin 13.9 15.3
FG% Margin 8.4 6.2
Reb Margin 8.9 5.6
TO Margin 2.0 2.2
Stl/G 4.5 7.0
R+T 11.1 9.3
SOS .5075 .5086
Road W-L 8-3 9-5
PiRate # 15 11

 

Big Wins: USU—Long Beach State              SMU—St. John’s, Long Beach State, and Gonzaga.

 

If you only plan on watching one Bracketbuster game, this is the one to watch.  Both teams are above the bubble; they are both close to lock status.  This game will be all about seeding.  The winner should find themselves a favorite in the opening round of the Big Dance.

 

Utah State lost at BYU by six and lost at Georgetown.  They don’t really have a big signature win this year, and this game gives them that opportunity.  The Aggies have balanced scoring with seven different players capable of leading the way.  Their 15 PiRate Rating indicate they are a strong contender for the Sweet 16 and even beyond.

 

Saint Mary’s was not too far from doing what Butler did last year.  This team was not supposed to be nearly as good as that one, but the Gaels find themselves in control in the WCC.  They rarely have an off-night shooting, and they can light up the scoreboard.    Their 11 PiRate Rating gives them a shot at returning to the Sweet 16.

 

11 p.m. (ESPN2)—Montana (11-3/19-7) at Long Beach State (11-2/16-10)

Team Montana Long Beach State
W-L 11-3/19-7 11-2/16-10
RPI 109 100
PPG Margin 8.5 9.0
FG% Margin 7.9 0.4
Reb Margin 2.3 2.9
TO Margin 1.1 -1.6
Stl/G 6.7 6.1
R+T 4.1 2.2
SOS .4635 .5109
Road W-L 6-6 8-8
PiRate # -3 -3

 

Big Wins: Montana—UCLA              LBSU—None

 

This is another game where neither team has any chance of earning an at-large bid, while both teams are the favorites to win their respective league’s post-season tournament and automatic bid.

 

Montana has come from behind to race past Northern Colorado and Weber State to take command in the Big Sky Conference race.  Their schedule is exceptionally weak.  Ten of the Grizzlies’ wins have come against teams ranked #250 or worse in the RPI.

 

Long Beach State has five double figure scorers.  Five of their 10 losses came to teams that could be in the Big Dance (San Diego State, Washington, Utah State, North Carolina, and Saint Mary’s).  With a negative PiRate Rating, their only shot at playing two games in the NCAA Tournament would be to face an opening round opponent with a negative R+T Rating.

 

Sunday, Feb. 20
1 p.m. (ESPN2)—Cleveland State (12-4/23-5) at Old Dominion (12-4/21-6)

 

Team Cleveland State Old Dominion
W-L 12-4/23-5 12-4/21-6
RPI 34 31
PPG Margin 9.3 6.7
FG% Margin 3.4 2.4
Reb Margin 0.9 11.1
TO Margin 2.7 -0.7
Stl/G 7.5 7.0
R+T 5.8 11.7
SOS .5165 .5460
Road W-L 9-4 9-4
PiRate # 4 9

 

Big Wins: CSU—Kent State, Valparaiso                   ODU—Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, George Mason, Hofstra, James Madison, and VCU

 

Here we have two teams that appear to be in great shape for an at-large bid should they fail to win the automatic bid from their conference.

 

You will want to watch this Sunday game, because Cleveland State plays a pressure-type game similar to Marquette when Al McGuire was head coach.  The Vikings’ star is Norris Cole, who can shoot, drive, pass, and play defense better than most others.

 

Old Dominion has played the equivalent schedule of a major conference team.  Short of a major collapse, the Monarchs are close to a lock for an at-large bid.  Their only liability is weak outside shooting.  However, they are among the best rebounding teams in the nation, and they don’t allow many open shots.  Expect a low-scoring, but high-action game.

 

The Who’s In Game

 

America East:  (1)—The conference tournament champion will get the lone bid.  Vermont is too far down the list to steal an at-large bid from a major conference.  However, the Catamounts should win this automatic bid.

BUBBLE—None

 

Atlantic 10: (2 or 3)—Xavier and Temple should get bids, and if another team wins the league tournament, three invitations could be extended. 

BUBBLE—Dayton and Richmond

 

Atlantic Coast: (3-6)—Duke and North Carolina are sure things, but after that there is a logjam.  At least one other ACC team will get a bid, and Boston College is the leader of the pack.  For this week’s story, we will consider the Eagles in and not on the bubble.

BUBBLE—Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami

 

Atlantic Sun: (1)—There is a remote possibility that Belmont could enter the conversation for an at-large bid should the Bruins win out but come up a game short in the conference tournament, but for now, we believe only one team will represent the A-Sun.  If Belmont does not win the automatic bid, it will be a major upset.

BUBBLE—None

 

Big 12: (5-7)—The top two teams have been dominating, while the rest of the pack has been beating each other up.  Kansas, Texas, and Texas A&M are locks, while Missouri and Kansas State are in good shape.

BUBBLE—Oklahoma State and Baylor

 

Big East: (9-11)—The Big East Conference Tournament at Madison Square Garden could actually be more potent than one or two of the NCAA Regionals.  At least nine teams must be considered realistic contenders for a Final Four spot.  Those nine shoo-ins for a bid are: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, St. John’s, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville. 

BUBBLE—Cincinnati and Marquette

 

Big Sky: (1)—There is no chance for an at-large invitation from this conference.  Montana is the top team in the league, but the Grizzlies are not strong favorites.

 

Big South: (1)—Coastal Carolina is a bit too far back in the RPI ratings to move onto the bubble, but the Chanticleers are overwhelming favorites to win the automatic bid.

 

Big Ten: (4-8)—The second most powerful conference to the Big East, this conference could land as many as eight teams in the NCAA Tournament.  Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois are in as of today.  The four bubble teams’ schedules are among the strongest of all bubble teams.

BUBBLE—Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan

 

 Big West: (1)—Long Beach State is too far back to make up enough ground; their bubble will burst if the 49ers do not win the conference tournament in nearby Anaheim.

 

Colonial: (2 or 3)—George Mason and Old Dominion are both near-locks, and we have them in the field.  If another team pulls off the upset in the conference tournament, this league will have three representatives.  Virginia Commonwealth has a chance to move onto the bubble, especially if they win at Wichita State tonight.

 

Conference USA: (2-5)—UAB and Memphis have earned a spot in the Dance if they continue to play at their same pace.  Three other teams are on the bubble with legitimate shots at playing their way into the at-large group.

BUBBLE—Southern Mississippi, UTEP, and Marshall

 

Horizon: (1-3)—We are rather confident that at least two teams will earn bids from the Horizon League, but we have two of them listed as bubble teams for now.  Cleveland State is ranked high enough to be ahead of the bubble for now.

BUBBLE—Butler and Valparaiso

 

IVY: (1 or 2)The Ivy League has never sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament, but there is a very outside chance that it could happen this year.  There is no conference tournament, so the regular season champion gets the automatic bid.  Princeton (9-0) leads Harvard (9-1) and Yale (5-3).  The Tigers play at Yale and Brown, while Harvard plays at Cornell and Columbia this weekend.  Yale hosts Penn tomorrow night after facing Princeton tonight.  The number two team needs to be at least 11-3 to be a serious contender for an at-large bid.

BUBBLE—Harvard/Princeton whichever finishes second

 

MAAC:(1)—Fairfield is not in contention for an at-large bid, so the Stags will have to win the conference tournament to get into the Dance.

 

MAC: (1)—This once proud conference has joined the field of also-rans.  No MAC team ranks in the top 90 in the RPI ratings.  Miami (Ohio), Kent State, and Buffalo are the top three contenders for the automatic bid.

 

MEAC: (1)—Morgan State is not a sure thing this year, not even the top favorite.  Hampton is playing well enough to avoid a First Four game.

 

Missouri Valley: (1 or 2)—The MVC is a tad bit down this season.  The conference tournament champion could be the only team to emerge with a bid, if it is the regular season champion and if the numbers two and three teams lose before reaching the championship round.  Wichita State appears to be the favorite for now, but that could change.

BUBBLE—Missouri State and Northern Iowa

 

Mountain West: (3-5)—Not only could the MWC earn five bids, two teams could be number one or two seeds!  BYU and San Diego State have proven themselves this season.  They are currently number two and three respectively in the RPI Ratings.  UNLV is maybe the lowest-ranked team in the near-lock range.  The bubble aligns just behind the Rebels.

BUBBLE—Colorado State and New Mexico

 

Northeast: (1)—Long Island is ranked #98 in the RPI, but that is too low to qualify for bubble status.  The Blackbirds will only go dancing if they win the conference tournament.

 

Ohio Valley: (1)—Murray State and Morehead State are tied at 12-4.  Morehead has won eight games in a row, including an impressive win at rival Eastern Kentucky.  The Eagles’ big man, Kenneth Faried, averages 17.5 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.

 

Pac-10: (2-4)—Arizona is the only sure thing, but for this week’s list, we will include UCLA as well.  This league still has a long way to go to regain its lost prestige.

BUBBLE—Washington and Washington State

 

Patriot: (1)—Bucknell is the favorite over American, but it is not by much. 

 

Southeastern: (4-6)—There is no dominant team in the SEC this year, and the conference tournament should be almost as entertaining as the Big East Tournament.  Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee are in.  One or two more could work their way in.

BUBBLE—Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss

 

Southern: (1)—There is no Stephen Curry-led Davidson teams in the league this year.  Chattanooga must be considered the slight favorite, because the Mocs host the SoCon Tournament.  Western Carolina, College of Charleston, Wofford, and Furman are the top contenders.

 

Southland: (1)—This is the most open race for the lone automatic bid.  The SLC sends the top eight teams to its conference tournament, and there is not much difference in the top eight.  Draw one out of a hat.

 

SWAC: (1)—This league has become a regular in the play-in round, and with it now expanded to the First Four, you can expect to see the SWAC representative in Dayton again this season.  Texas Southern and Jackson State are the only two teams with won-loss records above .500.

 

Summit: (1)—Oakland is the highest-rated team not on our bubble.  At #73, we just do not believe the Golden Grizzlies can lose another game and have a shot at an at-large bid.

 

Sunbelt: (1)—Florida Atlantic represents the SBC’s only chance to avoid a #15 or #16 seed.  This league is suffering through an off year.

 

West Coast: (1 or 2)—Saint Mary’s is a lock for an at-large bid.  If they should happen to lose in the WCC Tournament, this league will send two teams. 

BUBBLE—Gonzaga

 

WAC: (1 or 2)—Utah State is in the same boat as Saint Mary’s, but it will be a much bigger upset if the Aggies do not waltz through their conference tournament and earn the automatic bid.

 

According to our math, we have 57 spots going to automatic bids and locks for at-large bids.  That leaves 11 spots for upset conference tournament winners and the bubble.

February 11, 2011

This Week’s Look At The NCAA Basketball Conference Races

Today, we here at the PiRate Ratings begin our coverage of NCAA Men’s Basketball.  In what has become our most followed sport, we have generated a little publicity with our PiRate NCAA Tournament rating system.

 

In past years, we waited until Selection Sunday to re-issue our system, but this year we have chosen to release it early so you the reader can have time to familiarize yourself with it.  We will also apply it to a couple of teams every week to give you some time to play with the ratings.

 

Remember this:  this rating is only good in the NCAA Tournament and cannot (REPEAT CANNOT) be used in the regular season or even in conference tournaments.  It has been back-tested for decades and has proven to locate the serious contenders from the so-called contenders and pretenders.

 

How good has this rating been for us:  Let’s start with 2009-10.  Kansas and Kentucky were the overwhelming favorites to face off for the championship.  Our ratings said they would not make it there.  We would love to say we chose Butler to make it to the Final Four, but we did not (although we rated them highly).  We did choose Duke to run the table and win the title, as they had the highest criteria score.

 

We picked North Carolina, Kansas, and Florida to win their national titles as well, and we even hit on George Mason to make a surprise run the year they advanced to the Final Four. 

 

To put it bluntly, we are due for a major failure this year.  Our football predictions were just too accurate.  Our luck has to run out at some point?  Well, we can talk about our Kentucky Derby picks in recent years.  Maybe, that is the balancing point.

 

Without further adieu, here is our criteria for finding the top teams in the NCAA Tournament, what we call Bracketnomics 505.

 

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Class

This is a graduate level class that will earn you a Masters in Bracketnomics.  So you want a scientific method to guide you as you fill out your brackets?  You say you want a system that will take out most of the human-bias, and allow you to pick your teams in a mechanical fashion.  Well, we’ve got one for you that has been back-tested and holds up fantastically through the years. 

What the inventor of the PiRate system did was to discover the vital information that has worked in the past.  He’s been using this formula since the Internet made statistics-gathering easy, and it has been back-tested as far back as the days when the NCAA Tournament field consisted of just 23, 24, or 25 teams.

This method will not pick every game correctly and make you an instant millionaire.  It is geared toward finding the tendencies that historically have mattered most in picking the teams with the best chances of advancing.  Not all teams will be a perfect fit in this formula; what this formula does is pick the teams that have the best chance of advancing and making a deep run into the tournament. 

There have been a couple of seasons where the criteria didn’t apply successfully, but over the course of the 55 seasons, it has performed accurately about 47 times.  Without further adieu, here is the PiRate Bracket-Picking System.

1. Scoring Margin

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

Make a separate list of teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 10 or more points per game and a third list of teams outscoring opponents by an average of 15 or more points per game.  More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game.  When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and that team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance into the tournament’s second week.

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

In the days of the 64/65-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable.  It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row.  This average gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

2. Field Goal Percentage Differential

Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage.  Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing.  50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%.  A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters.  Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams.  Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they aren’t going to win four games much less two.  This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years. 

Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range).  In the years of the 64/65-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor.  Nowadays, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field.  If you see a team shoot better than 48% and allow 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

3. Rebound Margin

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

The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams don’t always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.).  The teams that can consistently get offensive putbacks are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games.  The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage. 

Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but over the course of four rounds, it is rare for one of these teams to advance.  West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.  There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

4. Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game

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

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

The All-Important R+T Margin: Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %).  Here is the PiRate R+T stat: R + (.2S * {1.2T}), where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  When this stat is 5 or more, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win.  When the result is 10 or more, you have a team that has a great chance of getting enough additional scoring opportunities to make it to the later rounds.  When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated before the Sweet 16 and in the case of Georgetown and Vanderbilt in 2010, a team that will lose in the first round to mid-majors with much better R+T ratings.

5. Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength

I’m sure up to this point you have been thinking that it is much easier for North Dakota State or Siena to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Pittsburgh or Michigan State.  Of course, that’s correct.  We have to adjust this procedure so that the top conferences get extra weight, while the bottom conferences’ criteria ratings lose points.  Here is how we do it.  Look at the Strength of schedule for every team in the Field.  You can find SOS on many websites, such as the RPI at cbs.sportsline.com or at realtimerpi.com.  Take the decimal difference for each team in the Field and multiply that by 100.  For example if Team A’s SOS is .6044 and Team B’s is .5777, the difference times 100 is 2.67.  So, Team A’s schedule was 2.67 points (or round it to 3) per game tougher than Team B’s.  Use this in head-to-head contests for every game in your bracket.

These are the five basic PiRate criteria used for the last dozen or so years.  You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included.  Let’s look at some of these stats not to rely upon.

Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio

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

Free Throw Shooting

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

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots.  Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls. 

 

For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25.  The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75.  So, a team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst.  That is not many points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important.  Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that also have the top R+T ratings. 

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

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

3-point shooting

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

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

One Big Star or Two Really Good Players

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

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

Now, here is a way to put numbers to the criteria.  It isn’t exactly the way our founder did it every year, but it is a close approximation.

1. Scoring Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 8.0-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a scoring margin difference of 5.0-7.9

Award 0 points for every team with a scoring margin difference of 0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a negative scoring margin

2. Field Goal % Margin

Award 5 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 10% or more

Award 3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 7.5 to 9.9

Award 1 point for every team with a FG% margin difference of 5.0-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with a FG% margin difference of 0.0-4.9

Award -3 points for every team with a FG% margin difference below 0

3. Rebound Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 5 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 3.0-4.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference of 0-2.9

Award -2 points for every team with a Rebound margin difference below 0

4. Turnover Margin

Award 3 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 3 or more

Award 1 point for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 1.5-2.9

Award 0 points for every team with a Turnover margin difference of 0-1.4

Award -2 points for every team with a Turnover margin below 0

5. PiRate R+T Formula

Once again, the formula for R+T is [R + ({.2*S}*{1.2*T})], Where R is rebounding margin, S is avg. steals per game, and T is turnover margin

Award 5 points for every team with an R+T of 10 or more

Award 3 points for every team with an R+T of 7.5-9.9

Award 1 point for every team with an R+T of 5-7.4

Award 0 points for every team with an R+T of 0-4.9

*** Completely eliminate from consideration all teams with a negative R+T rating ***

6. Schedule Strength

Use this to compare when looking at team vs. team.  Take the difference in the Strength of Schedule as given by cbs.sportsline.com and multiple it by 100.  For example, Team A with an SOS of .5252 has a schedule 7 points weaker than Team B with an SOS of .5921.  If these two teams face each other, give the Team B an extra 7 criteria points over Team A ([(.5921-.5252)*100]=6.69 rounds to 7).

If you want to compile all this information yourself, the best way is to go to all 65 official athletic websites of the teams in the Big Dance.  You will find up-to-date statistical information.  Some of these stats are available in other places, but many have been found to be riddled with mistakes, or they are not up-to-date.  All 65 school sites are accurate and timely.

 

If you have read this far, you are now a bracketonomist.

 

We will show you how this works in a bit.

 

A Look At The One-Bid Conferences

 

As we see it today, 18 conferences have no shot at landing more than one team in the NCAA Tournament.  Five other conferences have one dominant team that could earn an at-large bid if they fail to win the automatic bid.  These conferences will only send one team if the prohibitive favorite wins their conference tournament.

 

Today, we will concentrate on those 18 definite one-bid conferences.  We will look at the stronger mid-majors next Friday on the eve of Bracket Buster Weekend.

 

America East Conference

Vermont 11-2/20-5 and Maine 8-4/14-10 are the class of the league.  Maine won at Vermont72-58, but the Catamounts have a nearly insurmountable lead.  Vermont led Connecticut at the half earlier this year before losing by 16.  You can see them next Saturday in the televised part of the Bracket Buster when they play at College of Charleston.

 

Maine hosts Vermont next Wednesday, but even a win and sweep may not be enough to overtake the Catamounts.

 

The tournament’s first four rounds takes place in Hartford, CT with the championship scheduled for the higher seeded team’s home floor.

 

Boston U 8-4/13-13 is another team to watch.

 

Atlantic Sun Conference

Belmont 14-1/22-4 would have a shot at an at-large bid if not for a lousy last-minute turnover that cost them a chance to win at Tennessee.  The Bruins lost twice at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt, and at rival Lipscomb.  They beat second place East Tennessee 12-3/17-9 by 10 and swept third place Jacksonville 10-4/16-7.  Before losing at fourth place Lipscomb 10-6/15-10, they beat the Bisons 88-52.

 

East Tennessee hosts Jacksonville tonight in Johnson City.  The Buccaneers beat the Dolphins in Jacksonville earlier this year.  ETSU beat Mississippi State in Starkville in December, while Jacksonville has road wins against Florida and Auburn.

 

Lipscomb lost close games at North Carolina and Baylor, and the Bisons have the talent to make it to the conference finals if they can put it all together.  However, they won’t get there from the four hole.

 

The A-Sun tournament takes place in Macon, Georgia, at Mercer.  Eight of the 11 teams qualify.  If Belmont loses, it will be an upset.  The Bruins have the talent to give this league an upset in the opening round; Belmont came within a last-second missed shot of upsetting Duke a few years ago.

 

Big Sky Conference

This conference does not have a mini-powerhouse this year like in past years.  Four teams, Northern Colorado 10-2/14-9, Montana 9-3/17-7, Weber State 7-4/13-9, and Northern Arizona 6-5/14-9, have the talent to win the lone bid.

 

Northern Colorado goes to Montana tomorrow.  They clobbered the Grizzlies by 18 earlier.  UNC already split with Weber State and lost at Northern Arizona.

 

Montana owns wins over UCLA and Oregon State.  They split with Weber State and Northern Arizona.  You can see them on TV in the Bracket Buster next week at Long Beach State.  We believe they can run the table in conference play and earn the top seed.

 

Weber State blew Northern Arizona off the floor by 27 points last night to complete the season’s sweep.  They gave BYU a close game earlier in the season.

 

Northern Arizona was the hot team before last night.  They took Arizona to the wire in Tucson earlier this season, but they are too far back to contend for top seed.

 

The Big Sky Tournament first round takes place on the home courts of the higher-seeded teams.  The semifinals and finals will be played on the home court of the regular season champion.  Only six teams qualify, with the top two seeds getting a bye to the semifinals.  Northern Colorado, Weber State, and Montana all enjoy excellent home court advantages, and this conference rarely has any post-season surprises. 

 

Big South Conference

This is a story of one dynamo and four or five minor contenders.  Coastal Carolina is 14-0/23-2 under venerable coach Cliff Ellis.  The two losses were on the road to Georgetown and College of Charleston.  The Chanticleers carry a 21-game winning streak into the weekend.

 

CCU already swept second place Liberty 12-2/18-8.  They travel to third place Winthrop tomorrow, and a win could allow the Chants to run the table and finish the regular season 28-2.

 

UNC-Asheville 7-6/12-11 and Charleston Southern 7-7/13-13 don’t have the talent to beat CCU.  The one team that could sneak up and surprise the leaders and make a run to the title is VMI 6-8/13-11.  The Keydets average 91 points per game, and in a conference tournament, their loose style of play could give them a chance.

 

The Big South Tournament is played on the home court of the higher-seeded teams all the way through the championship.  We cannot see somebody upsetting CCU, and the Chants will not be an easy out in the Big Dance.

 

Big West

The Big West is down this year, and it hasn’t exactly been all that up in recent years.  We believe any of the top five could win the conference tournament.

 

Long Beach State 9-2/14-10 is not nearly as strong as they were a couple years ago when they won the conference tournament.  Their two losses in league play were to sixth place Cal State Fullerton and last place UC-Irvine.  The 49ers beat Iowa and played North Carolina and St. Mary’s close, but they are not consistent.  You can watch them on Bracket Buster weekend as they face Montana.

 

Cal Poly 7-4/12-11 plays football on the basketball floor.  They win ugly with an annoying defense and patient offense.  They gave San Diego State a rough game before losing 51-45.

 

Cal State Northridge 7-4/10-14 hosts Long Beach State tomorrow, and we believe the Matadors will pull off the upset.  Lenny Daniel (15.9 ppg/9.4 rpg) is a dominating power forward in a forward-dominated league.  CSN is hot, having won five of six.

 

UC-Santa Barbara 6-5/13-9 owns a win at UNLV.  The Gauchos have not lived up to expectations this year, but they have the potential to get hot and go on a roll at the tournament.  Orlando Johnson (21.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.1 ast/g) is the league’s best player. 

 

Keep an eye on Pacific 5-5/13-10.  The Tigers lost twice to LBSU by one point and could get a third try in a conference semifinal.  Sam Willard averages a double-double (15/11).

 

The Big West Tournament takes place in Anaheim with eight of the nine teams participating.

 

Horizon League

This should be quite an interesting conference tournament.  Butler 9-5/17-9 was supposed to waltz through the league again after going 18-0 last year.  The Bulldogs sit in a fourth place tie with four games to go.  However, Butler has won three games in a row including wins at Cleveland State 10-4/21-5 and against Wright State 10-5/17-10, two of the three teams ahead of the Bulldogs.

 

An old regular in the Big Dance, Valparaiso 10-3/18-7 rests in first place, after winning 12 of their last 15.  Watch them on TV in next weekend’s Bracket Buster, when Valpo hosts Missouri State.

 

Cleveland State began the season 12-0.  The Vikings style of play (100% full-court pressure defense and drive to the basket offense) is tough to prepare for, but it appears the team could be hitting the wall.  If CSU can take the #1 seed, they will be very tough to dethrone on their home floor.

 

UW-Milwaukee 9-5/14-11 is tied with Butler, but their schedule is the most unfavorable of the contenders.  The Panthers finish with three road games.

 

The conference tournament begins on the home floor of the #3-4-5-6 seeds with the top two seeds receiving byes.  The quarterfinals and semifinals take place on the home floor of the #1 seed, and the championship game will be played on the higher-seeded participant’s home floor. 

 

Ivy League

This league is the one holdout on a postseason conference tournament, so the regular season champion receives the automatic bid.  Until recently, this was a two-team race every year, but now it is more open.  Princeton 5-0/17-4 and Penn 3-2/9-10 are still very much in the running for the crown, but the two elitist of the elite, Harvard 5-1/16-4 and Yale 4-2/11-9, are very much in the race.

 

We believe Harvard has the inside track at winning the league title.  Princeton’s five conference wins were all home games, and the Tigers must play at Harvard, Yale, and Penn, closing with Harvard and Penn.  The Crimson won at Penn.

 

Yale and Harvard have yet to square off, and if one sweeps the other, it will probably be enough to grab the Ivy crown.  If they split, then we believe Harvard is the team to beat.

 

Penn, like Princeton, has played a majority of their games at home.  The Quakers finish with six road games in their final nine.

 

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

The MAAC is loaded with decent, albeit not great mid-major teams.  Fairfield 11-2/18-5 leads St. Peter’s 9-4/14-10 and Rider 9-4/17-8, but their real advantage comes in the conference tournament, where they will be the host team.  The Stags play at St. Peter’s Sunday trying to go for the sweep after winning 70-43 in Bridgeport earlier this year.  Fairfield hosts Austin Peay in the televised part of the Bracket Buster.

 

St. Peter’s plays great in-your-face defense.  They were good enough to beat Alabama.  However, their offense can disappear for several minutes.

 

Rider actually won at Fairfield this year, so the Broncos are not to be overlooked.  They also upset Southern Cal.

 

Iona 8-5/14-10 and Loyola (Md.) 8-5/12-11 must be considered contenders.  Iona has the best offense in the league and took Fairfield to the buzzer in Bridgeport.  Loyola beat the Stags at home, and the Greyhounds have an easy schedule to finish the regular season.  They have a shot at running the table to head to Webster Bank Arena at 13-5 in the league.

 

Mid-American Conference

This league used to be considered one of the top mid-major conferences and used to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament every year.  Now, not only will it be a one-team league, that team could even find itself playing in Dayton in the First Four if an upset winner emerges with the bid!

 

The MAC has no wins against the top 25 this year.  The top eight teams make it to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, and none of the eight can be considered much of a favorite.

 

We expect those eight teams to be Kent State 7-2/16-7, Buffalo 7-3/15-7, Bowling Green 7-3/12-12, Miami (O) 7-3/12-12, Akron 5-5/14-10, Ohio U 5-5/12-12 (the entire East Division) as well as Ball State 6-4/14-9 and Western Michigan 5-4/12-10 from the West.

 

Kent State has won six games in a row.  The Golden Flashes host Buffalo on February 24 after losing by 25 at Buffalo earlier.

 

Buffalo has the best statistical numbers.  The Bulls gave BYU a good game before losing.

 

Bowling Green began the season 2-9, but the Falcons have gone 10-3 since.  BGSU won at Buffalo

 

Miami has won three in a row, and the Redhawks have the most favorable closing schedule.

 

Ball State was cruising in the West before losing five of their last six games.  Western Michigan hosts five of their final eight games including a crucial game against the Cardinals.

 

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Morgan State 7-3/11-10 has not run away from the pack like in recent years.  In fact, the Bears are not in first place at this moment.  The team that finished 2010 on a roll, Hampton 8-2/18-5, has overtaken Todd Bozeman’s cagers.

 

Morgan State has the easier closing schedule, so there is a chance the Bears will finish on top again.

 

Bethune-Cookman 7-3/13-11 and Coppin State 6-4/11-11 were not expected to contend this season, but they have been surprises.  BCU had won eight of nine games until losing to Coppin State and Morgan State.  Coppin State has the best offense in the league.

 

The MEAC Tournament takes place in Winston-Salem at Wake Forest.  The top two seeds receive an opening round bye and then get a day off if they win.

 

Northeast Conference

Brooklyn’s team, Long Island University 11-2/19-5, is the hot team this year.  Julian Boyd’s return after missing a season due to a heart condition has been the difference.  Boyd has recorded seven double-doubles this year including a 34-point, 16-rebound performance against Fairleigh-Dickinson.  The Blackbirds have won five in a row and 13 of 14 games.

 

Central Connecticut State 10-3/17-7 has won seven games in a row by an average margin of 13.1 points per game.  The Blue Devils also welcome back a player that missed all of 2010.  Ken Horton averages 19 points and nine boards a game.  He has nine double-doubles this year.

 

Wagner 8-5/12-12, Mount St. Mary’s 8-5/10-16, and Quinnipiac 8-5/16-8 are the best of the rest.  Quinnipiac has underperformed after being picked to repeat as regular season champs by many publications.

 

Keep an eye on Robert Morris 7-6/11-13.  The Colonials have won the previous two conference tournaments, and they have underachieved as much as Quinnipiac.

 

The NEC tournament takes place on the home courts of the higher-seeded teams.  This conference does not have a set bracket, choosing to send the lowest remaining seeds to the highest remaining seeds much like is done in the NFL Playoffs.

 

Ohio Valley Conference

The cream has risen to the top in this conference.  Murray State 11-3/19-6 is on a 15-2 run that has seen the Racers pass three teams to surge into first place.  This is a balanced team with the ability to go 10-deep.

 

Morehead State 10-4/18-8 has the big hoss of the league.  Kenneth Faried averages 17.1 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.  The Eagles are on a 12-2 run, but they must finish with three of four on the road, including a trip to rival Eastern Kentucky 8-6/14-11.

 

Austin Peay 9-5/15-11 began conference play at 6-0, but the Governors have hit on rough times.  They are the lone OVC team to appear on TV in the Bracket Buster, playing at Fairfield.

 

Tennessee Tech 9-6/13-11 is having one of its better seasons in years, but the Golden Eagles could be looking at having to play Murray State in a semifinal round game in the tournament.  If they can finish strong and gain the number three seed, then their chances improve greatly.

 

The OVC Tournament takes place in Nashville with the top eight teams qualifying.  The #3 and #4 seeds get one bye, while the top two seeds get byes to the semifinals.  Murray State and Morehead State would make a great championship game.

 

Patriot League

Bucknell 8-1/17-8 is the clear-cut cream of the crop in the league this season.  The Bison have the talent to win an NCAA Tournament game. 

 

American 6-3/16-8 has some streaky shooters that can get hot and knock an opponent out. 

 

Lafayette 5-4/10-14 is the only other team with a winning conference record, but they should not be considered a contender.  It would be a big upset if Bucknell and American failed to meet for the conference championship.

 

The Patriot League Tournament is strictly a higher-seed hosts tournament.  Bucknell should be considered one of the biggest favorites in Division I to win a conference tournament.

 

Southern Conference

This is not an exceptionally strong year in the SoCon this year.  Chattanooga 10-3/14-11 has won all seven home conference games, which is a good sign; they host the league tournament.

 

Western Carolina 7-5/11-13 is the only team capable of removing the Mocs from the top spot in the North Division.  They too are 7-0 at home in conference play.

 

In the South, College of Charleston 11-2/18-7 leads a tight race with Furman 10-4/18-7 and Wofford 10-4/13-12 on their heels.

 

Charleston has the league’s top player in guard Andrew Goudelock, who averages better than 24 points per game.  The Cougars took North Carolina to the wire at the Dean Dome, and they won at Tennessee.  They narrowly missed the upset at Maryland, losing by one.  If they can top Chattanooga on their home floor, they have the only legitimate shot of winning in the Big Dance.

 

Southland Conference

This conference sends the top eight teams to the postseason tournament.  This year, any one of the eight we believe will earn a trip could win it.  In the East, Northwestern State 7-3/15-10 leads the entire league after winning three in a row and five of six games.  They are a quick-spurt team that relies on forcing turnovers and scoring quickly. 

 

McNeese State 5-3/13-8 and Southeast Louisiana 5-4/11-10 should make the field of eight as well.  McNeese is a surprise contender thanks to the double-double average of P. J. Alawoya.  SELA relies on the three-point shooting of Trent Hutchins.

 

The West has five good but not great teams.  Texas State 6-3/11-12 leads by a game over the other four.  The Bobcats can score points quickly when they are on their game, but they can give them up even quicker when they are not.

 

Stephen F. Austin 5-4/14-7, Sam Houston 5-4/12-10, Texas-San Antonio 5-4/12-10, and Texas-Arlington 5-4/11-11 are all in the hunt for the West title.  Each team has its own unique set of assets and liabilities.  If we had to choose a favorite for the tournament, it would be Sam Houston.

 

The tournament takes place in Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston.  It should be exciting.

 

Southwest Athletic Conference

This league has become a regular in the play-in round, and with four teams hoping to become #16 seeds this year, you can expect the SWAC to supply a participant in the First Four this season.

 

Texas Southern 9-1/11-10 plays at Jackson State 9-2/13-10 tomorrow.  Mississippi Valley State 8-3/9-15 is much better than their overall won-loss record indicates, and Alabama A&M 7-4/10-10 has the talent to win three games in three days.

 

Mississippi Valley has played possibly the most difficult out of conference slate of any team in the SWAC in decades.  Included in their pre-conference schedule were: Georgia, St. Mary’s, BYU, Butler, Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Marquette.

 

The SWAC tournament takes place in Garland, Texas, (A Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb).  The top two seeds get a day off if they win their first game.

 

Summit League

Flying under the radar screen, Oakland 12-1/17-9, has the talent to pull off a first round upset in the NCAA Tournament.  The Golden Grizzlies are a high-scoring team that almost won at Michigan State and won at Tennessee.  Big man Keith Benson averages 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.  He went for 22 and 22 against Austin Peay.

 

IUPUI 9-4/15-11 ended Oakland’s 10-game winning streak with a 100-88 win.  The Jaguars gave Ohio State a major scare earlier this season in Columbus.  After going into halftime tied at 35-35, the Jags went on a run and took a 50-41 lead until Jared Sullinger went wild and finished with 40 points.

 

IPFW 9-4/16-8 took Xavier to overtime and narrowly lost at Cincinnati in their next game.  The Mastodons play at Oakland tomorrow.

 

Oral Roberts 9-5/12-14 and South Dakota State 8-6/16-9 represent the best of the rest.  SDSU averages 82 points per game and benefits from the conference tournament being held in-state in Sioux Falls.

 

Sunbelt Conference

This looks to be a down year in the SBC, and we cannot see any of the teams having a chance to win a first round NCAA Tournament game (unless, of course they fall to a #16 First Four participant).

 

In the East, Florida Atlantic 10-2/18-8 has already surpassed their win total of last year.  The Owls are the only team in the league with a winning record away from home, so that bodes well for tournament play.  FAU has already swept second place Middle Tennessee 8-4/13-12, but the Blue Raiders are the hot team in the league riding a four-game winning streak.

 

In the West, Denver 8-3/12-12 has gone 10-3 since opening at 2-9.  The Pioneers play the old Princeton offense under former Princeton star Joe Scott.

 

Arkansas State 8-4/14-13 is 11-0 at home and has won four games in a row.  They beat Denver 60-35 in Jonesboro, but they lost 74-36 at Denver.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette 6-5/9-14 has responded well to Coach Bob Marlin, who made Sam Houston a perennial contender in the Southland.

 

North Texas 5-5/16-7 has been a major disappointment.  The Mean Green was supposed to run away with the league title this year.

 

The Sunbelt Conference Tournament takes place once again in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Unique to this conference is that they utilize two gymnasiums due to the fact that the men and women both play at the same time.  The two gyms are close enough apart so that fans can make it back and forth in time to not miss any of the action.

 

These 18 conferences make up 18 of the 68 teams that will go to the NCAA Tournament.  What about the other 50?

 

Let’s start with five conferences that have a possibility of sending two teams to the Dance but will only send one if the favorite wins.  The Colonial (George Mason), Conference USA (Alabama-Birmingham), Missouri Valley (Missouri State), West Coast Conference (St. Mary’s), and WAC (Utah State) will send an extra team if there is an upset.  Let’s say that two of the five favorites will fail to win their conference tournament.  That means seven teams from these five conferences will get a bid.

 

That leaves us with 43 teams.  From this number, let us give you the 23 teams that have already become locks for the tournament: Duke, North Carolina, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia, Louisville, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Missouri, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida, BYU, San Diego State, and Xavier are sure things.

 

That leaves 20 teams to get invitations.  We have a list of about 30-35 teams to form our first bubble.

 

Those teams include:

Temple, Richmond, and Duquesne from the Atlantic 10.

 

Boston College, Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech from the ACC.

 

Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor from the Big 12.

 

St. John’s, Cincinnati, and Marquette from the Big East.

 

Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan State from the Big Ten.

 

Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth from the Colonial.

 

Memphis and Southern Miss from CUSA.

 

Wichita State and Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley.

 

UNLV, Colorado State, and New Mexico from the Mountain West.

 

Washington and UCLA from the Pac-10.

 

Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss from the SEC.

 

 

A PiRate Bracketnomics Criteria Score For Two Teams

 

Today, we will look at two of the one-bid conference teams to see if they have a legitimate chance to pull off an upset.

 

For comparison purposes, the average Strength of Schedule for the top 50 teams is about .5880 or 58.8 points

 

1. Coastal Carolina 23-2 overall

Scoring Margin—15.9 points per game 5 pts

 

FG% Margin—9.9% 3 pts

 

Rebound Margin—7.5 3 pts

 

Turnover Margin—2.3 1 pt

 

Steals/G—7.4

 

R+T—11.58 5 pts

 

Strength of Schedule—.4608 or 46.1 points -12.7 pts

 

Total Score—4.3

 

This is a high enough score to win a first round game in the NCAA Tournament and compete for a Sweet 16 spot.  Of course, if the opponent has a negative R+T score, then CCU would be our favorite.

 

2. Cleveland State 21-5 overall

Scoring Margin—9.6 points per game 3 pts

 

FG% Margin—3.4% 0 pts

 

Rebound Margin—0.5 0 pts

 

Turnover Margin—2.9 1 pt

 

Steals/G—7.6

 

R+T—5.79 1 pt

 

Strength of Schedule–.5176 or 51.8 points (-7 pts)

 

Total Score—(-2)

 

Cleveland State would not be considered a legitimate threat to upset a big team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, unless their opponent has a negative R+T rating.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.