The Pi-Rate Ratings

February 8, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Friday, February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019









West Coast












Big Ten


North Carolina



Michigan St.

Big Ten


Virginia Tech




Big Ten



American Athletic



Big Ten


Iowa St.

Big 12






Mtn West


Texas Tech

Big 12






Big 12



Big East






Big East



Big Ten



Big Ten



American Athletic





Mississippi St.



Florida St.



Kansas St.

Big 12



Big 12


Utah St.

Mtn West


North Carolina St.




Big 12



Big Ten


Ohio St.

Big Ten



Big 12


St. John’s

Big East



Big 12


Ole Miss












Central Florida

American Athletic



Big Ten



Atlantic 10






American Athletic









Atl Sun





New Mexico St.




Ohio Valley



America East



Ivy League


Old Dominion



South Dakota St.

Summit League



Big Sky


Northern Kentucky



Texas St.

Sun Belt


UC Irvine

Big West



Big South


Loyola (Chi)






Sam Houston




Metro Atlantic


Robert Morris



Prairie View



Norfolk St.


First 4 Out




Saint Mary’s

Next 4 Out


UNC Greensboro

San Francisco


Last 4 Byes




Central Florida

Last 4 In





In Dayton

Indiana vs. Temple

Virginia Commonwealth vs. Syracuse

Rider vs. Norfolk St.

Prairie View vs. Robert Morris


Note: The Selection Committee will issue its original report for the top 4 seeds in each region on Saturday.  Based on what they reveal, the PiRates may or may not adjust their Bracketology report beginning Monday.


Note 2: Buffalo, Wofford, and Lipscomb  project as much higher seeds than #12, but in order to place no at-large team lower than #11, the three had to be lowered to #12.

January 22, 2019

Fun Stuff For Stats Buffs-Part 3: Efficiency

Before getting into the meat of this final installment, I must apologize in advance for the brevity in this last segment.  Time constraints have made it impossible to thoroughly peruse individual offensive and defensive efficiency.

That may be a good thing for you the reader, because you can read the dictionary about as quickly as you can go through all the steps involved in calculating individual efficiency.  Suffice it to say that there are several parts to this calculation.  One must have a lengthy formula on a spreadsheet where a player’s and his team’s statistics can be inputted, and the spreadsheet spits out the numbers.

If you really want to know the entire process, then you absolutely must purchase the book by the number one authoritative source on the matter.

The book is: Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis by Dean Oliver.  You might be able to find it in a library, as it is included in the catalog of more than 750 libraries throughout the nation, more than likely at a local college or university library near you.

Just to show you how involved the formulas are, it takes 18 separate calculations from start to finish for each player’s offensive number and almost as many for his defensive number.

The NCAA Selection Committee will use Team Offensive Efficiency and Team Defensive Efficiency in their process of picking the at-large teams and seeding all 68 teams.  This is rather simple and can be explained briefly.

Offensive Efficiency = Points scored per 100 possessions

Defensive Efficiency = Points allowed per 100 possessions.

In the 21st Century, possessions are kept as a statistic, but if you cannot find this number, you can estimate it very accurately by this formula.

Team Possessions = FG Attempts + (.475* FT Attempts) – Offensive Rebounds + Turnovers

In the NBA, substitute .44 for .475 in FT Attempts.

Obviously, round the product from the Free Throw Attempts formula to the nearest whole number.

Let’s look at some examples for a game, a season to date, and some past seasons.

Example #1. Nevada vs. Air Force, January 19, 2019

Nevada defeated Air Force 67-52 last Saturday in Reno.  The Wolfpack totally shut down the Falcons’ offense, while Air Force played capable defense on the perimeter, forcing Nevada players to hurry their three-point shots.

For the game, Nevada had 57 total field goal attempts, 23 free throw attempts, 9 offensive rebounds, and 14 turnovers.

To calculate possessions, plug the numbers into the equation:

57 + (.475 * 23) -9 + 14 = 73

For Air Force, their stat line included 51 total field goal attempts, just 9 free throw attempts, 3 offensive rebounds, and 21 turnovers.

51 + (.475 * 9) -3 + 21 = 73

Possessions must be equal or off by one or two between the teams, because after one team completes a possession, the other team gets the ball.  Two is the most advantageous one team can have over the other in possessions.  This comes about when the team that gets the opening tap also gets the last possession of the first half, as well as the first and last possession of the game.  It happens very rarely, because in order to have the first and last possession of both halves, there must be an odd number of jump ball calls in the first half so that the team that got the opening tap also gets the first possession of the second half..

Let’s get back to the calculation.

Nevada scored 67 points on 73 possessions

67/73 = 0.918 or 91.8 points per 100 possessions

Air Force scored 52 points on 73 possessions

52/73 = .712 or 71.2 points per 100 possessions


Example #2: Gonzaga vs. San Francisco, January 12, 2019

In this key West Coast Conference game with first place in the league on the line, Gonzaga went to the Bay and beat the Dons 96-83.

Gonzaga: 69 FGA, 21 FTA, 12 Off Reb, 4 TOV

69 + (.475 * 21) – 12 + 4 = 71 possessions

USF: 69 FGA, 25 FTA, 14 Off Reb, 5 TOV

69 + (.475 * 25) – 14 + 5 = 72 possessions

Gonzaga 96 points on 71 possessions = 1.352 points per possession or 135.2 points per 100 possessions.

San Francisco 83 points on 72 possessions = 1.153 points per possession or 115.3 points per 100 possessions.


Example 3: Michigan Wolverines to date

Michigan used to win games by three-point barrages and fast break points and limited defense.  Then, after assistant coach Luke Yaklich came to Ann Arbor to install his multiple defenses, the Maize and Blue became just as tough on the defensive side if not better defensively.

So far this year, the Wolverines have these offensive and defensive stats through 18 games.

Offense: 1,021 FGA, 318 FTA, 165 Off. Rebounds, 175 Turnovers in 18 games

1021 + (.475 * 318) – 165 + 175 = 1,182 total possessions and 65.7 possessions per game.

Michigan has scored 1,306 points in 18 games.

1,306 / 1,182 * 100 = 110.5 points per 100 possessions.

Michigan’s Defense has given up: 1,003 FGA, 210 FTA, 142 off. Rebounds, and  237 turnovers.

1,003 + (.475 * 210) – 142 + 237 = 1,198 total possessions and 66.6 possessions per game.

Michigan has surrendered 1,027 points in 18 games.

1,027 / 1,198 * 100 = 85.7 points per 100 possessions.

A raw point spread between two teams can be estimated by combining their offensive and defensive points 100 possessions and factoring in strengths of schedule and home court advantage.

Let’s look at State vs. Tech in an imaginary matchup.

State has an offensive efficiency of 110 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 90 points per 100 possessions against a schedule 3 points weaker than average.  They average 76 possessions per game, and their home court advantage is worth 3 points.

Tech has an offensive efficiency of 102 points per 100 possessions and a defensive efficiency of 99 points per 100 possessions against a schedule 8 points better than average.  They average 66 possessions per game.

For the year in question, the national average for possessions is 70 per game, so State plays at a tempo of about 8.6% above average, while Tech plays at a tempo of about 5.7% below average.  Because it is easier for one team to slow pace down more than it is for another team to speed pace up (unless they press full court for most of the game), it can be estimated that this game will have about 69 possessions.

If State outscores its opponents by 20 points per 100 possessions, in 69 possessions, this equates to 13.8 points.

If Tech outscores its opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions, in 69 possessions, this equates to 2.07 points.

To this point, State looks like an 11.73 point favorite over Tech, but this is not the case.  Schedule strength and home court advantage must be included.

If Tech’s schedule on average has been about 11 points tougher per game than State, you then add those 11 points in Tech’s favor.  Now, the State’s advantage has been reduced to 0.73 points.  Tech’s home court advantage is 3 points, so the expected outcome would be State by 3.73, or 4 points.

This is a crude method once used by the PiRate Ratings, as the Blue Rating.  We no longer use this method, as there are more accurate ways to determine pointspreads, namely using algorithms of the Four Factors with schedule strengths, home court advantage, and road team disadvantage.

Example 4: Villanova 2018 season

The Wildcats won their second national championship in three years last season, finishing with a 36-4 record.  They scored 3,463 points and allowed 2,807 points in 40 games.

Here are their pertinent stats to calculate efficiency.

Field Goal Attempts: 2,440

Opponents: 2,401

Free Throw Attempts: 718

Opponents: 641

Offensive Rebounds: 380

Opponents: 378

Turnovers: 426

Opponents: 512

Possessions: 2,440 + (.475 * 718) – 380 + 426 = 2,827 (70.7 possessions per game)

Opponents: 2,401 + (.475 * 641) – 378 + 512 = 2,839 (71.0 possessions per game)

Offensive Efficiency

3,463/2,827 * 100 = 122.5 points per 100 possessions

Defensive Efficiency

2,807/2839 * 100 = 98.9 points per 100 possessions


How does this compare to past national champions?  Because offensive rebounding stats were not officially kept until this century, it can only be estimated for the 20th Century.  No doubt the UCLA teams of 1967 thru 1969 and 1972 and 1973 would be off the charts great, as the Bruins dominated in every aspect of the game during their dynasty years.

There are some very fine teams that won championships in recent years, so let’s look at the national champions during this time.  The number shown is the total scoring margin per 100 possessions.  Of course, schedule strength is not equal for these teams, but on the whole, there is not a lot of difference, as these champions all played schedules between 5 and 10 points above the national average.

When adjusted to schedule strength, here are the 10 best teams in the 21st Century using the PiRate Ratings formula.

2008: Kansas 124.0

2001: Duke 123.6

2018: Villanova 122.9

2010: Duke 122.1

2013: Louisville 121.8

2005: North Carolina 121.7

2012: Kentucky 121.5

2015: Duke 121.3 

2016: Villanova 120.9

2009: North Carolina 120.3

2007: Florida 120.1

2002: Maryland 119.6

2004: Connecticut 117.9

2006: Florida 117.1

2017: North Carolina 117.0

2011: Connecticut 115.8

2003: Syracuse 115.1

2014: Connecticut 111.6

Note that the national champions through these seasons were not necessarily the highest rated team by efficiency.  For instance, Connecticut was not considered a factor at the end of the 2011 regular season.  They finished tied for 9th in the Big East, and thus they had to play in the opening round of the conference tournament.  To win the conference tournament, they would have to do something never done before or since–win five games in five days.  The Huskies became the big story of Championship Week win Coach Jim Calhoun rode his star guard Kemba Walker to the title, winning five games in five days at Madison Square Garden, as Walker performed for his friends and family from the Bronx, averaging 26 points per game by taking it to the hoop and drawing enough fouls to shoot 54 free throws in just five games.

The Huskies were on a roll, and they won six more games in the Big Dance.  They finished 11-0 and still only rose to 15.8 points better than average against an average schedule.  Before this 11-game streak, UConn was just 9-9 in the conference.  However, the Huskies had played a very difficult schedule that included 18 ranked opponents, in which they went 12-6 in those games.  All nine of their losses came to NCAA Tournament teams, so strength of schedule was terribly important in factoring their adjusted efficiency.


2019 Top Efficiency

By now, you must want to know which teams are at the top in total efficiency?  It should come as no surprise that the NET Ratings and the Efficiency Ratings are about the same.

Virginia, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Tennessee are at the tops in adjusted efficiency, or to put it bluntly, what the NCAA Selection Committee will look at.  Likewise, these are also the top five teams in NET Ratings, so if the Selection Committed picked the bracket today, four of these five would be your number one seeds, and the fifth would be the top number two seed.

This doesn’t mean that one of these five teams will win the national championship, but the odds are that from this group of five, there is about a 50-50 chance that one will win the title.  Of course, this is only a mid-season ranking.  The ranking on March 17.


Individual Efficiency

I won’t begin to explain individual offensive and defensive efficiency, as my only recommendation it to read Basketball on Paper, as Oliver is the Bill James (or Tom Tango) of basketball analysis.

Let me just list which players from the power conferences rate at the top.

Can you guess who is the current number one player in efficiency?  I bet if you had one free guess to win a car on a game show, you’d win the car.

The best player in college ball today is the best player in total efficiency.  It comes as no surprise that Duke’s Zion Williamson is number one, and he is far ahead of the field.  Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke is a distant number two, and Wisconin’s Ethan Happ is almost as far being Clarke in third place as Clarke is behind Williamson.

Before you think that this rating is due to just these three players being great, let me add that their coaches and teammates are also important in this rating.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski has produced a lot of highly efficient players.  Sure, most of them were McDonald’s All-Americans, but there are some of these 5-star players in recent history that are not all that efficient.

Vanderbilt’s Simi Shittu was the Number 7 overall player in this current freshman class, a 5-star McDonald’s All-American.  The Commodores are one of the least efficient teams from a Power Conference, and Shittu’s numbers have headed south once SEC play began, and the opposition quickly learned his liabilities.  Shittu actually owns a negative offensive efficiency rating through 17 games, and an even worse rating in five conference games, as he has negative efficiency in both offense and defense.  It doesn’t help his efficiency when he has a 7.8% three-point accuracy, low free throw percentage, and a high turnover percentage.  I have heard comparisons made to former St. John’s 5-star player Wayne McKoy from the 1970’s, when McKoy went from top player in the freshman class to never playing in the NBA.












January 15, 2019

Advanced Basketball Statistics–Fun Stuff for Stats Buffs, Part 2

Last week, we introduced you to the basics of advanced basketball statistics, the Four Factors.

If you missed that feature, you can find it here:

This week, we hope to explain how to apply advanced stats to individual players. It is a bit more involved, but if you break it down, it is not difficult to understand.

Then, in our final installment next week, we will attempt to explain offensive and defensive efficiency, which is a multiple step process and quite involved, but once you have the formulas placed in a spreadsheet, you can have the same data that the Selection Committee will have in the room when they meet to select the field and seed the teams.

Let’s start with individual statistics.

True Shooting %
The basic shooting stat for an individual is True Shooting Percentage. It incorporates field goal shooting from behind the three-point line, inside the line, and foul shooting into one percentage that provides a decent look at how efficient a player is when he shoots the ball to his basket.

The formula for TS% is: College: Pts/(2*(FGA+(.465*FTA))) &

NBA Pts/(2*(FGA+(.44*FTA)))

Example: Let’s take a look at the incredible Markus Howard of Marquette. As of this afternoon (January 15, 2019), Howard has scored 439 points for the season. He has taken 301 field goal attempts and 116 free throw attempts.

439/(2*(301+(.465*116))) = .618 or 61.8%

Let’s now take a look at a big man and how Howard stacks up as a perimeter player. Let’s look at Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura. As of this afternoon, the Bulldogs’ power forward has scored 374 points on 233 field goal attempts and 117 free throw attempts.

374/(2*(233+(.465*117)))= .651 or 65.1%
Hachimura is a little more efficient in scoring points when he shoots the ball for any reason than Howard, but they are both quite excellent at scoring for their teams.
How do they compare with a couple of all-time greats from the past?

Let’s look at Steph Curry’s and Bill Walton’s final years at Davidson and UCLA respectively.

Curry: 974/(2*(687+(.465*251)))= .606 or 60.6%, not as good as Howard so far this year.

Walton: 522/(2*(349+(.465*100)))=.660 or 66.%, which is a little better than Hachimura.

Hachimura has benefitted from some three-pointers that did not exist when Walton played at UCLA, but Walton would have never attempted a three-point shot playing in the low post for the Bruins. Walton also missed some games his senior year due to knee troubles, and he was a lousy foul shooter his last two years in Westwood, or else his TS% would have been even higher.

Offensive, Defensive, and Total Rebounding Percentage
For an individual player, the formula for offensive rebounding percentage is:

100 * [(Individual Player’s Offensive Rebounds * (Team Minutes Played/5)) / (Individual Player’s Minutes Played * (Team Offensive Rebounds + Opposing Team Defensive Rebounds))]

The formula looks bulky but it is quite easy to calculate and once you plug them into a spreadsheet, it is a quick process.

Defensive Rebounding percentage is just the opposite formula
100 * [(Individual Player’s Defensive Rebounds * (Team Minutes Played/5)) / (Individual Player’s Minutes Played * (Team Defensive Rebounds + Opposing Team Offensive Rebounds))]

And Total Rebounding Rebounding Percentage brings the whole into the parts.
100 * [(Individual Player’s Total Rebounds * Team Minutes Played/5) / (Individual Player’s Minutes Played * (Team Total Rebounds + Opposing Team Total Rebounds))]

Examples: Let’s compare the key board men from the hot rivals in the Big Ten: Kenny Goins of Michigan State and Jon Teske of Michigan

Goins offensive rebounding: 100 * [(41*3425/5)) / (450 * (201 + 356))] = 11.2%
Goins defensive rebounding: 100* [(119*3425/5)) / 450 * (543 + 185))] = 24.9%
Goins total rebounding: 100 * [(160 * 3425/5) / (450 * (744 + 541))] = 19.0%

Teske offensive rebounding: 100 * [(31 * 3400/5)) / (458 * (156 + 415))] = 8.1%
Teske defensive rebounding: 100 * [(82 * 3400/5)) / (458 * (463+135))] = 20.4%
Teske total rebounding: 100 * [(113 * 3400/5)) / (450 * (619+550))] = 14.6%

Because Michigan and Michigan State have played comparable schedules this year, Goins is a little better on both the offensive and defensive glass than the seven-foot Teske.

For what it is worth, Blake Griffin’s total rebounding percentage in 2009 at Oklahoma was 24.0, so Goins and Teske are not quite up to his lofty standards.

Turnover Percentage

The formula for individual TOV% is: 100 * TOV / (FGA + (.465 * FTA) + TOV)

It is rather simple to calculate, but it has its limitations, because point guards handle the ball much more per possession than other players, and this formula does not include assists which might show that it is worth a couple extra points of TOV% for a point guard to have higher numbers of assists. Additionally, some point guards do not attempt many shots, so the denominator of this equation is skewed too low.

We’ll combine this stat with the next stat to come up with an improvement over assist to turnover rate.

Let’s look at a couple of outstanding playmakers–Cassius Winston of Michigan State and Jared Harper of Auburn.

Winston: 100 * 42 / (205 + (.465 * 69) + 42) = 15.0%
Harper: 100 * 32 / (183 + (.465 * 53) + 32) = 13.4%

Assist Percentage
Now we give the playmakers a chance to shine and balance out the bad turnover percentages they receive for having possession of the ball more than others (like a running back in football will fumble the ball more than the tight end per team possession).
The formula for individial AST% is: 100 * AST / (((MP / (Team MP/5)) * Team FG) – FG)

Winston: 100 * 125 / (((528/(3425/5)) * 517) – 100) = 41.9%
Harper: 100 * 101 / (((506/(3050/5)) * 452) -69) = 33.0%

Assist Percentage to Turnover Percentage

Simply divide AST%/TOV% to get a better ratio than the standard AST/TOV.

Winston: 41.9/15.0 = 2.8
Harper: 33.0/13.4 = 2.5

Both of these rates are outstanding. For Michigan State, the Spartans have an outstanding playmaker in Winston, an outstanding dominator on the glass in Goins, and an outstanding group of shooters and defenders. Coach Tom Izzo has a Final Four caliber team for sure.

Block Percentage
Blocks are very important defensive tools. Obviously every time a player blocks a shot, it is also a missed field goal attempt for the other team. Obviously, a blocked shot is not as valuable as the non-blocked missed field goal attempt, because not every blocked shot would have been a made shot, and more blocked shots become offensive rebounds or offensive team rebounds than regular missed shots. However, an intimidator underneath the basket can influence a lot of shots that he does not block, thus lowering non-blocked field goal percentages. There are multiple algorithms used to calculate how valuable a blocked shot is worth in points with and without the inclusion of intimidation.

We like to compare this variable to baseball’s stolen base variable, where traditional sabermetrics lovers hate the stolen base attempt due to the effects on WAR not being great and needing a base stealer that can consistently steal better than 75% of the bases he attempts. They don’t factor in the extracurricular events such as middle infielders having to cheat a step closer to second base, pitchers worried about throwing off-speed (non fastball) pitches, pitchers having to throw to first a lot to reduce leads, and even the first baseman having to delay by a fraction of a second before moving out to cover his area.

For instance, when Maury Wills was stealing bases left and right for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 1960’s, Jim Gilliam benefited from being the next batter in the batting order. Gilliam liked to take a lot of pitches, so taking a couple to give Wills a chance to steal didn’t harm him. Actually, because pitchers worried so much, Gilliam was frequently ahead in the count. A veteran with a 2-0 count can hit about 100 points higher than when he has an 0-2 count. Also, Gilliam was an excellent placement hitter. He could hit the ball in the open space created by the first baseman holding Wills on base. When the switch-hitting Gilliam faced a left-handed batter, and the second baseman was covering the bag, while the first baseman was holding Wills on, Gilliam saw a monstrous hole to slap grounders towards right field that allowed Wills to take third base.

Editorial over

Here is the formula for Block Percentage
100 * (Blk * (Team MP/5)) / (MP * (Opponents FGA – Opponents 3-Point Attempts))

Example: Brandon Clarke of Gonzaga is a true intimidator in the paint. His ability to swat balls away has helped the Zags hold teams to just 38.8% field goal shooting. Here is his BLK%.

100 * (58 * (3600/5)) / 497 * (1148-418) = 11.5%

When a player has a double digit BLK%, it is almost a fact that he is also an intimidator in the paint, which means other teams will miss three or four shots that they normally would make against other teams. This is in addition to the blocks that would have been made baskets had they not been blocked.
If an opposing team normally averages 27 field goals on 58 attempts for 46.6%, but with Clarke’s blocks and intimidation this opponent hits only 21 of their 58 attempts for 36.2%. That is a 10% difference created mostly by one intimidating player. Block percentage is one of the most underrated defensive tools in basketball.

Steal Percentage
The steal is a dying art but for a reason. Ninety-five to ninety-nine percent of the time, the steal comes from an intercepted pass and not from a player actually stealing the ball off a player’s dribble. So, steals should be renamed as interceptions like in football. Because so many teams cannot pass the ball worth a darn these days, steals have been dropping in number for several years. This does not mean that the monotonous dribbling of the ball is the way for offenses to score. It is easier to guard the movement of a dribbled ball opposed to the movement of a passed ball, because a dribbler can rarely exceed 15 MPH, while a weak pass is double that speed and a crisp pass is triple that speed or more. When you see a player dribble the ball all the way up the floor on a fast break attempt, he is actually hurting his team’s chances of scoring points on that break. Two quick passes up the floor can result in a wide open basket and/or defensive foul. Many times, the dribbling player is the last of the 10 players to enter the scoring zone, and then the fast break is dead.

Once again editorial over.

The formula for steal percentage is: (100 * Steals * (Team MP/5)) / (Player MP * Opponents Possessions)

You can find team possessions in many locations today, but if you need to calculate this from scratch, team possessions can be very accurately estimated by this calculation:

FGA + (.465 * FTA) – Off. Rebounds + Turnovers {for college}

FGA + (.44 * FTA) – Off. Rebounds + Turnovers {for NBA}

If you are trying to calculate this for your high school, middle school, or youth league team, you will have to adjust the constant that you multiple with FTA. Unfortunately, we do not know what to use for the constants.

Example: Tremont Waters of LSU has come close this year to recording a triple double the hard way with points, assists, and steals. He needed two more steals against UL-Monroe to pull off a feat that is extremely rare in the 21st Century.
Here is Waters’ Steal %.
(100 * 45 * 3050/5) (478 * 1088) = 5.28%

This is an excellent percentage, but it does not approach the percentages of past years, especially when more teams used full-court pressure defense for 40 minutes per game. Some of the Kentucky players under Coach Rick Pitino exceeded 6%.

Usage Percentage
Usage percentage attempts tp gauge the percentage of team plays in which a specific player was key to the possession. It actually measures percentage of team plays USED by an individual while he was on the floor.

The formula for USG % is: 100 * ((FGA + (.465*FTA) + TOV) * (Team MP/5)) / (MP * (Team FGA + (.465* Team FTA)+Team TOV))

Example: Carsen Edwards of Purdue is heavily involved in all of the Boilermakers’ possessions.

100 * ((313 + (.465 * 90) + 52) * (3225/5)) / (537 * (985 + (.465*194)+174)) = 39.1%

At the same time, teammate Ryan Cline plays about the same number of minutes per game but has a USG% that is less than half of Edwards. Thus, Edwards is vital to Purdue’s offensive success. If Edwards gets in foul trouble, Purdue is in much worse shape than if Cline gets in foul trouble. Of course, Matt Painter doesn’t want either star getting into foul trouble, as they both play better than 33 minutes per game.

In our final installment of Fun Stuff for Stats Buffs, we will attempt to explain offensive and defensive efficiency ratings, the big advance metric that the Selection Committee will use as part of their selection and seeding criteria. It is quite bulky and involves multiple steps to figure. If you ever tried to calculate Base Runs in baseball, you know how involved that calculation was. oRAT and dRAT make base runs calculations look like simple addition.

January 14, 2019

PiRate Ratings Bracketology For Monday, January 14, 2019

January 14, 2019

Seed Team Conf.
1 Virginia ACC
1 Duke ACC
1 Michigan Big Ten
1 Texas Tech Big 12
2 Tennessee SEC
2 Gonzaga West Coast
2 Michigan St. Big Ten
2 Houston American Athletic
3 Virginia Tech ACC
3 North Carolina ACC
3 Kentucky SEC
3 Kansas Big 12
4 Nebraska Big Ten
4 Buffalo MAC
4 Oklahoma Big 12
4 NC State ACC
5 Auburn SEC
5 Purdue Big Ten
5 Marquette Big East
5 Wisconsin Big Ten
6 Indiana Big Ten
6 Maryland Big Ten
6 Louisville ACC
6 Ole Miss SEC
7 Florida St. ACC
7 Nevada Mountain West
7 Iowa St. Big 12
8 Villanova Big East
8 Iowa Big Ten
8 TCU Big 12
8 Wofford Southern
9 UCF American Athletic
9 Mississippi St. SEC
9 Cincinnati AAC
9 Ohio St. Big Ten
10 St. John’s (NY) Big East
10 Washington Pac-12
10 Seton Hall Big East
10 Florida SEC
11 Utah St. Mountain West
11 Murray St. Ohio Valley
11 San Francisco West Coast
11 Temple American Athletic
12 Liberty Atlantic Sun
12 Minnesota Big Ten
12 Butler Big East
12 Kansas St. Big 12
12 Texas Big 12
12 VCU Atlantic 10
13 Hofstra Colonial
13 North Texas Conference USA
13 Yale Ivy
13 Vermont America East
14 New Mexico St. WAC
14 UC Irvine Big West
14 Radford Big South
14 Georgia St. Sun Belt
15 South Dakota St. Summit League
15 Northern Ky. Horizon
15 Loyola Chicago Missouri Valley
15 Montana Big Sky
16 Lehigh Patriot
16 Rider Metro Atlantic
16 Abilene Christian Southland
16 Texas Southern Southwestern Athletic
16 Wagner Northeast
16 N.C. A&T Mideastern Athletic


First 4 Out
69 Arizona Pac-12
70 Saint Mary’s West Coast
71 Northwestern Big Ten
72 Creighton Big East
Next 4 Out
73 Syracuse ACC
74 Alabama SEC
75 Saint Louis Atlantic 10
76 Clemson ACC
Last 4 Byes
10 Florida SEC
11 Utah St. Mountain West
11 San Francisco West Coast
11 Temple American Athletic
Last 4 In — Headed To Dayton
12 Minnesota Big Ten
12 Butler Big East
12 Kansas St. Big 12
12 Texas Big 12
16 Seeds Headed To Dayton
16 Abilene Christian Southland
16 Texas Southern Southwestern Athletic
16 Wagner Northeast
16 North Carolina A&T Mideastern Atheltic

About these Seedings: The PiRate Ratings seed the teams not according to our power ratings, but according to the criteria mandated by the NCAA and used by the Selection Committee when they meet in Indianapolis to pick the field and make the bracket.

If you want to read the criteria, the NCAA has it available at the following site:

The Committee Relies on the following data as its reference tool.

1.) The Won-Loss records of each team under consideration by the 4 Quadrant.

The Quadrants use the rankings of the teams from 1-353 by old RPI and then handicap those games based on whether they were Home, Road, or Neutral Site games.

A. Quadrant 1 = Home 1-30 / Neutral 1-50 / Road 1-75

B. Quadrant 2 = Home 31-75 / Neutral 51-100 / Road 76-135

C. Quadrant 3 = Home 76-160 / Neutral 101-200 / Road 136-240

D. Quadrant 4 = Home 161-353 / Neutral 201-353 / Road 241-353

2.) Net Efficiency Rankings for offense and defense

This is an advanced statistical metric that we will try to explain as simply as possible (probably not possible) later this week in our next installment of “Fun Stuff For Stats Buffs.”  The efficiency ratings are similar to power ratings that can be adjusted to tempo and schedule strength to determine how much better a team is compared to average.

3.) Winning Percentage and Adjusted Winning Percentage

This is rather obvious.  Nevada will most likely have one of the top 10 winning percentages this year, maybe the best.  However, would the Wolf Pack post anything close to that mark playing in the ACC or Big Ten?  The Committee will look at winning percentages plus schedule strength when determining at-large teams and seedings.

4.) Scoring Margin but capped at 10 points

This is the most controversial part of the criteria for reasons at both ends.  First, there are NCAA interests that prefer that scoring margin not be included at all, because it might encourage teams to run up the score in blowout games to pad their ratings.  

The reason that the NCAA capped the scoring margin at 10 points was to try to stop the running up of the score in potential blowout games.

However, there are many that believe that 10 points is too low.  There are many close games that are within doubt in the final minute but end up as 10-point margins due to foul shooting at one end and missed three-pointers at the other end.  There are many teams that have 20-point leads before emptying the bench that end up winning by 10 points.  These two outcomes should not carry the same weight.

Let’s look at two examples of how this 10-point capping looks dumb to us from two SEC games played this past Saturday.

In Gainesville, the Florida Gators and Tennessee Volunteers were fighting out a close game, and Tennessee had a 69-67 lead in the final 1:10 of the game.  Florida had the ball and missed a good percentage three-point shot that would have given the Gators the lead with just over a minute to play.  Tennessee got the rebound, and All-American Grant Williams spotted All-SEC Admiral Schofield open for a three-pointer, which Schofield then drained to give the Vols a 72-67 lead with 45 seconds to go.

Florida took a timeout to set their offense to get an open three-pointer, and the shot by Jalen Hudson was off target.  Tennessee rebounded again, and Lamonte Turner was fouled.  Turner hit both shots to make it 74-67 with just 25 seconds remaining.  

Florida now had to hurry, and this Gator team is not the most excellent in passing the ball.  Jordon Bone made a steal and then took it to the hole for a slam to seal the victory at 76-67 and just 9 seconds left.

Florida basically quit at this point, and one final steal by Grant Williams led to a Jordan Bowman layup to make the final score 78-67.  Tennessee got the maximum credit for winning by 10 points or more.

Later that evening, Kentucky hosted Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena.  The Wildcats started slowly not able to penetrate the Commodore 2-3 zone defense, which Vandy played the entire night.  Vandy started off red hot and led by 12, before Coach John Calipari turned up the defensive pressure and shut down the Commodores perimeter game.  It got rather ugly as Kentucky’s defense limited Vanderbilt to just 31 points in the last 35 minutes of the game. 

Kentucky dominated after the opening five minutes of the game, but they did so by winning ugly with a stellar defensive effort and credible offensive effort.  At one point, Kentucky outscored Vanderbilt by  50-27, which is total domination.  Late in the game, the Wildcats led by 11 points, and the outcome was certain.  Kentucky had the ball up by 11, and Keldon Johnson was called for a charging foul that might have been the wrong call, but at this point in the game (under a minute), it was inconsequential.  Vanderbilt scored to cut the lead to 56-47, and then they fouled to stop the clock with just over 20 seconds to go.  

P.J. Washington missed the front end of the 1 and 1 foul shot, and Vandy rebounded.  A missed three pointer led to a Kentucky rebound and easy clear out for the game-ending slam to give Kentucky an 11-point win, but the Kentucky player was a true Commonwealth Gentleman.  Rather than take the dunk after being open by 25 feet, he pulled up and dribbled out the clock to give Kentucky a 9-point win.  In other words, the Wildcats dominated this game for 35 minutes and get credit for a 9-point win.  Tennessee trailed for much of the game and most of the second half and through a few freak plays get credit for the capped win of 10-points.  That’s why the scoring margin is the last part of the new criteria.  The cap should be 25 points that should go into effect at any time that the winning team has the 25-point lead and wins by 10 or more.  If they empty the bench and win by 10, they would still get credit for the 25-point lead they had.

Coming Later Today–An updated Basketball Rankings & Our Preview of the NFL Conference Championship Games

Coming Midweek–The next installment of our Fun Stuff For Stats Buffs

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 16, 2013

All That’s Left: Room For Two At The Dance

Let me preface this extra entry this morning before proceeding.  I am not a member of the NCAA Selection Committee, obviously.  I do not have a secret source inside the room leaking information to me.

However, I am friends and acquaintances with more than one former member of the selection committee, and I do know a lot about how the process works.

Based on the learned knowledge, it is my belief that prior to the start of play on Saturday, March 16, there are 66 teams penciled into the bracket with room for two more from The Bubble.

Three teams are still alive that will not get an invitation if they fail to win their conference tournament.  These three are U Mass, Southern Mississippi, and Vanderbilt.  Additionally, it is our belief that Alabama needs to beat Florida today to be considered for one of the final two spots.  If these teams win their tournaments and receive automatic bids, somebody penciled in will be erased off the paper.

Along with the Crimson Tide, Tennessee and Kentucky are waiting and hoping from the SEC.  Don’t think for a second that politics doesn’t play a part in this process.  Kentucky does not belong in this tournament, as the Wildcats are no better than Arkansas since the loss of Nerlens Noel.  The Cats have lost all four games away from Rupp Arena by double digits since Noel went down.  This is the resume of an NIT team that if it gets three home games, could easily be headed to Madison Square Garden in a couple weeks.

Tennessee cannot be selected ahead of Alabama.  Their resume pales in comparison to the Tide, which beat them two out of three times, including the most important game yesterday.

Boise State and La Salle really should not be considered.  They have too many losses to “bad teams,” and they lost early in their conference tournaments.

The wildcard in all this is Akron.  Should Ohio top the Zips in the MAC Championship Game, Akron could very well steal one of the two remaining bids.  Ohio will not get in as an at-large, so this game is very important for bubble-watchers.

Middle Tennessee has a resume that looks like a for-sure at-large team, and with Ole Miss winning last night, the Blue Raiders look like the leading candidate for one of the two remaining invitations.  However, remember what I said about politics.  The Sun Belt Conference has sent two teams to the dance before, and even sent four many years ago when it was a stronger league, but Middle will be excluded if Akron loses to Ohio.  The Zips beat the Blue Raiders in the regular season.

I believe that Maryland punched its ticket last night with the upset of Duke.  I also believe that Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota are still in the Dance despite early exits from the Big Ten Tournament.  You can add Oklahoma and Iowa State  from the Big 12, and Colorado will still get in from the Pac-12, while Arizona State will be left out.

I have also included Wichita State from the Missouri Valley and St. Mary’s from the West Coast, but remember what I said about politics.  The Gaels are poison after picking up a truckload of NCAA violations.  While the punitive action does not commence until next season, the Selection Committee may decide to dole out its own punishment.

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