The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 4, 2011

The 2011 NCAA Basketball Championship Game Preview

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

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

Television: CBS

Radio: Westwood One

 

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

 

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

 

Butler Bulldogs

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Conference: Horizon League

Record: 28-9

 

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

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

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

 

Connecticut Huskies

Location: Storrs, CT

Conference: Big East

Record: 31-9

 

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

 

Player Matchups

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

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

 

Advantage: Smith by a little

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Advantage: Smith, but by an inconsequential amount.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Advantage: Walker, but will it be enough?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Predicted Score: Connecticut 69  Butler 66 in double OT!

 

April 1, 2011

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

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

 

PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS Television and Westwood One Radio

 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Four Site: Reliant Stadium, Houston

 

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

 

Virginia Commonwealth Rams–Starters in Bold

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Butler 65  VCU 61

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 72  Connecticut 66

March 26, 2011

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

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

 

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

 

PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

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

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

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

 

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida 69  Butler 60

 

7:05 PM EDT—West Regional Final @ Anaheim

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

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

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Connecticut 74  Arizona 66

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

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

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

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

PiRate Criteria Stats

 

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

-1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas 77  VCU 62

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

5:05 PM EDT—East Regional Final @ Newark

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

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

 

PiRate Criteria Stats

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kentucky 78  North Carolina 72

March 21, 2011

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview

Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

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

 All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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

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

PiRate Criteria Numbers Updated To Reflect 1st Three Round Results

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7:15 PM on CBS 

West Regional @ Anaheim

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: San Diego State 67  Connecticut 61

 

7:27 PM on TBS 

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: B Y U 82  Florida 78

 

9:45 PM on CBS

West Regional @ Anaheim

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Duke 77  Arizona 68

 

9:57 PM on TBS

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 55  Butler 54

 

Friday, March 25, 2011

 

7:15 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: North Carolina 82  Marquette 79

 

7:27 PM on TBS

Southwest Regional @ San Antonio

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Kansas 73  Richmond 62

 

9:45 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Kentucky 69

 

9:57 PM on TBS

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Prediction: Florida State 65  Virginia Commonwealth 60

 

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

April 4, 2008

A ONEderful Final Four–April 4, 2008

 

A ONEderful Final Four

Wow!  All four number one seeds have advanced to the Final Four for the first time since teams began to be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.  I did a little research and went back 60 years trying to find a year where the top team in each region advanced to the Final Four, and I couldn’t find another season where such a thing happened.  I found only one year where the four semifinalists were all ranked in the final regular season Top Five.  In 1970, UCLA, St. Bonaventure, Jacksonville, and New Mexico State finished the regular season ranked second, third, fourth, and fifth respectively.  Number one Kentucky fell to Jacksonville in the Mid-east Regional Finals.  The 1970 Final Four entered semifinal play with an incredible combined record of 103-6 (143-9 this year).  Jacksonville, led by twin towers Artis Gilmore and Pembrook Burroughs downed St. Bonaventure, who was missing superstar center Bob Lanier.  UCLA, a team that was not picked to win its conference after losing Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Milwaukee Bucks, turned out to have the best frontline trio in the nation with Steve Patterson, Sidney Wicks, and Curtis Rowe, combined with fabulous guards Henry Bibby and John Vallely.  The Bruins dismissed New Mexico State.  In the title game, Wicks did the unbelievable by blocking shots by Gilmore multiple times, leading the Bruins to their fourth consecutive title and sixth in the last seven seasons.

This Final Four is the first one in many years where a good case could be made for any of the quartet to win all the marbles.  All four teams have unique features that other teams will have a tough time stopping or attacking, yet all four teams have Achilles’ heals that can be exploited.   If the semifinal matchups were best of seven series, I would expect both to go seven games.  This doesn’t mean that the three final games will be nail-biters; it means that any of this group could potentially blow out any of the other teams.

Here is a breakdown of the two Semi-final Games.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

6:07 PM EDT

UCLA 35-3  vs. Memphis 37-1

UCLA

Stat

Memphis

73.8

PPG

80.3

58.5

Def PPG

61.6

47.9

FG%

46.9

41.8

Def. FG%

38.8

35.1

3pt %

35.1

32.3

Def 3pt %

30.3

73.0

FT%

60.7

+8.6

Reb. Margin

+6.6

+1.8

TO Margin

+4.2

7.3

Stls/G

8.4

4.3

Blk/G

6.2

11.8

R+T

15.1

15

PiRate

19

57.71

SOS

57.49

 

For explanation of R+T, PiRate, and SOS, see Bracketnomics 505 from March 17, 2008, and the subsequent blog story of March 18, 2008.  I have adjusted SOS by already multiplying by 100.

Starters

Center

UCLA: #42 Kevin Love, 6-10 260 Fr.

17.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 56.5% FG, 36.3% 3pt, 76.4% FT, 1.9 ast, 1.4 blk, 0.7 stl

Memphis: #3 Joey Dorsey, 6-9 260 Sr. (plays this position as a forward)

7.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 65.2% FG, 0-1 3pt, 37.8% FT, 0.5 ast, 1.9 blk, 1.1 stl

Power Forward

UCLA: #23 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6-8 230 Jr.

8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 48.3% FG, 20.0% 3pt, 68.1% FT, 1.6 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.1 stl

Memphis: #2 Robert Dozier, 6-9 215 Jr.

9.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 44.4% FG, 29.0% 3pt, 67.5% FT, 1.0 ast, 1.8 blk, 1.1 stl

Small Forward

UCLA: #3 Josh Shipp, 6-5 220 Jr.

12.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 43.7% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 78.6% FT, 2.2 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.4 stl

Memphis: #14 Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6-6 200 Jr.

17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 54.5% FG, 41.6% 3pt, 70.9% FT, 1.8 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.2 stl

Shooting Guard

UCLA: #0 Russell Westbrook, 6-3 187 So.

12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 46.2 FG%, 32.4% 3pt, 71.3% FT, 4.3 ast, 0.2 blk, 1.6 stl

Memphis: #5 Antonio Anderson, 6-6 200 Jr.

8.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 40.9% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 57.7% FT, 3.5 ast, 0.3 blk, 1.2 stl

Point Guard

UCLA: #2 Darren Collison, 6-1 165 Jr.

14.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 49.1% FG, 53.0% 3pt, 87.2% FT, 3.8 ast, 0.1 blk, 1.8 stl

Memphis: #23 Derrick Rose, 6-4 195 Fr.

14.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 48.1% FG, 34.7% 3pt, 69.8% FT, 4.7 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.2 stl

Key Reserves

UCLA

#14 Lorenzo Mata-Real, 6-9 240 Sr. C

3.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg

#12 Alfred Aboya, 6-8 235 Jr. F/C

2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg

#13 James Keefe, 6-8 220 So. F

2.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Memphis

#20 Doneal Mack, 6-5 170 So. G/F

7.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg

#0 Shawn Taggart, 6-3 230 So. F/C

6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg

#1 Willie Kemp, 6-2 165 So. G

5.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg

Note: Backup point guard Andre Allen has been suspended for the Final Four.

My Guess at the Game

UCLA will slow the tempo down in this game and force Memphis to beat them in a half-court game.  The Bruins talented backcourt should not have too much difficulty avoiding the costly turnovers that lead to cheap baskets for Memphis.  The Tigers will need a half-dozen cheap baskets to win this one.

UCLA will isolate Love and/or Mbah a Moute down low with the hopes of forcing Dorsey to foul.  Dorsey has a problem with fouling in the paint, and he will have to log at least 30 minutes for the Tigers to compete.

If the game becomes an issue of depth, the sons of Westwood have superior inside reserves, while the bullies from the Bluff have superior perimeter reserves.

Basically, when two outstanding teams face off on a neutral court, you look at which team will get more scoring chances by way of rebounding and turnover margin, and you look at which team is likely to get more high percentage shot opportunities.

When I look at all the statistics and talent, I definitely see evidence that UCLA will win the battle of the boards by a moderate amount, while Memphis forces the Bruins into a few extra turnovers.  It comes down to who gets the open shots.  I don’t think the Bruins will give up more than a handful of easy shots, while Memphis will gamble for steals and give up some open looks.   I look for Darren Collison to burn the Tigers from outside and open up the lane for Love about 12 minutes into the game.  It will lead to Dorsey committing some fouls and having to go to the bench.  When that happens, UCLA will get some offensive rebounds and putbacks.  Look for UCLA to advance to the title game.

Prediction: UCLA 67  Memphis 59

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Approximately 8:47 PM EDT

Kansas 35-3  vs. North Carolina 36-2

Kansas

Stat

N. Carolina

80.6

PPG

89.2

61.2

Def PPG

72.2

50.7

FG%

49.1

37.9

Def. FG%

42.3

40.1

3pt %

37.9

33.3

Def 3pt %

32.6

69.6

FT%

75.5

+7.7

Reb. Margin

+11.5

+2.6

TO Margin

+1.8

8.8

Stls/G

8.2

5.9

Blk/G

4.5

13.2

R+T

15.0

19

PiRate

15

55.94

SOS

59.21

Starters

Center

Kansas: #00 Darrell Arthur, 6-9 225 So.

12.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 54.3% FG, 16.7% 3pt, 69.6% FT, 0.8 ast, 1.3 blk, 0.5 stl

North Carolina: #50 Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9 250 Jr.

22.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 54.2% FG, 0% 3pt, 80.6% FT, 0.9 ast, 0.3 blk, 1.5 stl

Power Forward

Kansas: #32 Darnell Jackson, 6-8, 250 Sr.

11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 62.0% FG, 2-6 3pt, 68.3% FT, 1.1 ast, 0.5 blk, 0.7 stl

North Carolina: #21 Deon Thompson, 6-8 240 So.

8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 48.1% FG, 0% 3pt, 58.6% FT, 1.1 ast, 1.3 blk, 0.7 stl

Small Forward

Kansas: #25 Brandon Rush, 6-6 210 Jr.

13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 42.3% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 79.0% FT, 2.1 ast, 0.8 blk, 0.9 stl

North Carolina: #1 Marcus Ginyard, 6-5 218 Jr.

7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 44.7% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 64.9% FT, 2.2 ast, 0.1 blk, 1.1 stl

Shooting Guard

Kansas: #15 Mario Chalmers, 6-1 190 Jr.

12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 52.2% FG, 47.6% 3pt, 74.6% FT, 4.4 ast, 0.6 blk, 2.4 stl

North Carolina: #22 Wayne Ellington, 6-4 200 So.

16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 47.1% FG, 41.4% 3pt, 82.5% FT, 2.1 ast, 0.2 blk, 1.1 stl

Point Guard

Kansas: #3 Russell Robinson, 6-1 205 Sr.

7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 42.2% FG, 32.1% 3pt, 77.5% FT, 4.1 ast, 0.4 blk, 2.0 stl

North Carolina: #5 Ty Lawson, 5-11 195 So.

12.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 52.3% FG, 35.8% 3pt, 82.9% FT, 5.3 ast, 0.0 blk (1), 1.6 stl

Key Reserves

Kansas

#4 Sherron Collins, 5-11 205 So. G

9.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg

#24 Sasha Kaun, 6-11 250 Sr. C

7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg

#5 Rodrick Stewart, 6-4, 200 Sr. G

2.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg

North Carolina

#14 Danny Green, 6-6 210 Jr. F/G

11.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg

#32 Alex Stepheson, 6-9 235 So. F/C

4.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

#11 Quentin Thomas, 6-3 190 Sr. G

3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg

My Guess at the Game

This has the potential to rank among the best semifinal games in the last 50 years (a list of some great ones follows this preview).

Much like the first game, this game will be won by the team that gets the combination of the most extra scoring opportunities and best looks at the basket.  Can any team playing North Carolina keep the rebounding margin at a stand-off?  Kansas can probably keep the Tar Heel advantage at a minimum and then offset that advantage by winning the turnover margin battle.  That means this game will be decided by shot selection and prevention of good shots.  If that is the case, Kansas is one of the best, if not the best, teams at winning the battle for high percentage shots.

North Carolina still has the ace in the hole in Hansbrough.  He can neutralize the perceived Jayhawk advantage by matching the entire Arthur and Jackson combined in scoring and rebounding.  Again, I think the frontcourts of both teams are basically even.

In the backcourt, I see a decided advantage that I think will eventually tilt the game in the winner’s advantage.  North Carolina has a terrific trio in Ellington, Lawson, and Green.  The Tar Heel guards can destroy an opponent in a matter of two minutes with a fast-break outburst.  One momentary lapse can lead to a 10-0 Carolina run.

So, you see me picking the Tar Heels, yes?  No!  I see Kansas with the advantage in the backcourt.  The Jayhawks perimeter players, Rush, Chalmers, Robinson, Collins, and Stewart, are the best combined quintet of guards in the nation.  As a whole, this group has superior scoring ability from the outside (Chalmers & Rush), the best penetrator to the hoop (Rush), excellent passing (Chalmers, Robinson, Collins), excellent ball hawks (Chalmers & Robinson), excellent defenders on the ball (all five, especially Rush), and even some added rebounding strength (Rush & Chalmers).  Collins could not only start on most of the other NCAA Tournament teams, he could be an all-conference player on most of them!

I see Kansas controlling the tempo for most of the game and preventing North Carolina from making any great, extended scoring runs.  Kansas had its shock game against Davidson, and the Jayhawks have yet to play their best game in this tournament.  I think they will Saturday, and I think it will put them in the Title Game on Monday Night.

Prediction: Kansas 77  North Carolina 73

My List of the 20 Best Semifinal Games in Last 50 Seasons

1959: California 64  Cincinnati 58

1962: Cincinnati 72  UCLA 70

1968: UCLA 101  Houston 69

1969: UCLA 85  Drake 82

1971: Villanova 92   Western Kentucky 89 2ot

1973: UCLA 70  Indiana 59

1974: North Carolina State 80  UCLA 77 2ot

1975: UCLA 75  Louisville 74 ot

1977: North Carolina 84  UNLV 83

          Marquette 51  UNCC 49

1978: Duke 90  Notre Dame 86

1983: Houston 94  Louisville 81

1987: Indiana 97  UNLV 93

1989: Michigan 83  Illinois 81

1991: Duke 79  UNLV 77

          Kansas 79  North Carolina 73

1992: Duke 81  Indiana 78

1996: Kentucky 81  U Mass. 74

1998: Kentucky 86  Stanford 85 ot

2004: Connecticut 79  Duke 78

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