The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 17, 2015

The PiRate Bracketnomics Bracket-Picking Guide: Rounds One & Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:38 am

We hope you read yesterday’s tutorial on how the PiRate Ratings select their brackets and pick winners in each round of the NCCC Tournament.  If not, here is a link to that informative post:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/bracketnomics-505-the-advanced-level-course-in-bracket-picking/

Once you have familiarized yourself with the “Four Factors” and the “PiRate Bracketnomics” Criteria, then everything you read here will be easily understood.

Today, we will look first at the Opening Round games in Dayton played tonight and tomorrow.  Then, we will break down the 32 games Thursday in Friday in the Second Round.  We will then choose our bracket the rest of the way for those looking to fill out their bracket all at once.

Finally, since hundreds of you recently discovered this page for the first time, we will bring up two controversial subjects we have discussed in the past–how to bring more excitement back to the college game, and how to change the NCAA Tournament so that great low and mid-major teams (like Murray State this year) cannot be eliminated by a major upset after going undefeated in their league.

Just another friendly reminder: See yesterday’s post for all the pertinent stats discussed in today’s preview.

All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time

OPENING ROUND–Dayton, OH

Tuesday, March 17

#16 Hampton (16-17) vs. #16 Manhattan (19-13)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Manhattan enjoys a small edge in E FG%, as Hampton’s opponents enjoyed a better rate than they did.  Hampton has the edge in rebound rate, while Manhattan has a decided advantage in turnover rate, as their defense forces more turnovers per 100 possessions than average.  Free throw rate is a wash.

PiRate Criteria

In the early rounds, strength of schedule tends to play a more important role than in later rounds, and the reason is obvious.  If a team gets to the Elite 8, they belong there regardless of schedule strength.

Manhattan enjoys a huge edge in strength of schedule; the Jaspers’ schedule was about nine points per game stronger.

Scoring Margin was not a strong factor for either team, but Hampton was actually outscored, which is a bad sign for making it past the opening round.

Neither team performed well in any of the other PiRate Criteria categories, as they both have negative field goal percentage margins; neither rebound the ball well; and both had losing records away from home.

Hampton only bests Manhattan in one category, but it is a big one–R+T.  Thanks to a lot of steals, the Pirates get extra opportunities to score.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Manhattan by 7

White: Manhattan by 6

Blue: Manhattan by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Manhattan wins this one.  One big factor hurting Hampton is the health of their top player.  Dwight Meikle is nursing an injury to his ankle, and if he can play, he will not be 100%.

#11 BYU (25-9) vs. #11 Ole Miss (20-12)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Give Ole Miss a slight advantage in E FG%, but not enough to mean much.  Likewise, BYU enjoys an equally slight Rebound Rate advantage, while Turnover Rate is virtually identical both offensively and defensively.  BYU has a small Free Throw Rate advantage, but we heavily discount this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

Ole Miss had a more than six points per game more difficult schedule, which is considerable in this round, so BYU needs to have considerably better criteria grades to emerge as a favorite.

Scoring margin is a tie.  The Cougars have a slight advantage in field goal percentage margin, a little stronger advantage in rebound margin, no advantage in turnover margin, and only a slight R+T advantage.  Both teams were good but not great away from home, even though both saved their best for the toughest road game.  Ole Miss came the closest to knocking off Kentucky at Rupp Arena, while BYU won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 2

Blue: Ole Miss by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: It’s close, but we will take BYU because Ole Miss ended the season in a swoon.

Wednesday, March 18

#16 North Florida (23-11) vs. #16 Robert Morris (19-14)

Tip Time: 6:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

North Florida enjoys decided advantages in E FG% and Free Throw Rate and smaller advantages in Rebound Rate and Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

There is not much difference in schedule strength in this game.  North Florida’s Four Factor dominance is confirmed in all PiRate Criteria, and most importantly, RMU has a negative R+T.  Rule number one in PiRate Bracketonomics is to immediately eliminate any team with a negative R+T–‘nuf ced.

PiRate Ratings

Red: N. Florida by 9

White: N. Florida by 5

Blue: N. Florida by 11

Bracketnomics Selection: North Florida looks to be a prohibitive favorite in this game, but we believe it will be closer than our criteria makes this game out to be. We will go with the Ospreys, but by single digits.

#11 Boise St. (25-8) AT #11 Dayton (25-8)

Tip Time: 9:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% and Turnover Rate are close to equal between the two combatants.  Boise State has a considerable Rebound Rate advantage, while Dayton has the clear Free Throw Rate advantage, which is not enough to offset BSU’s Rebound Rate Advantage.  However, this game has one unique feature: Dayton has a huge Home Court Advantage.

PiRate Criteria

Boise State would be the clear favorite in this game if it were not in Dayton, but the Broncos have to travel more than 1,650 air miles across multiple time zones, while DU’s players will sleep in their own beds.

The Broncos have a double digit scoring margin, while Dayton has a respectable 7.3 margin.  FG% margin is the same.  BSU enjoys the edge in rebounding margin, as the Flyers are -1.1 here.  While TO Margin is equal, BSU has a nice 11.6 R+T rating to Dayton’s mediocre 4.2.

What tilts the game the other way is Dayton’s home court advantage as well as a nearly 8 points per game advantage in schedule strength.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 6

White: Dayton by 5

Blue: Dayton by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: Kudos should go to Boise State coach Leon Rice, a Mark Few disciple, for far exceeding expectations in this football oasis.  Greener pastures are in his future should he decide to move up.

The Broncos did not deserve this fate, but they must take it.  Unfortunately for Rice and company, Dayton will take this game and advance on to the East Region and the Second Round.

SECOND ROUND

Thursday, March 19, 2015 & Friday, March 20, 2015

East Region

#1 Villanova (32-2) vs. #16 Lafayette (20-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 6:50 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

Lafayette has no chance in this game, but we will include all the stats to show you why.  The Leopards’ defense is porous, and Villanova has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.  This ‘Nova team is not a terror on the boards, but it is better than previous additions, while Lafayette is not a factor in this factor.  Villanova’s defensive Turnover Rate is much superior to Lafayette’s, while the Wildcats blow the Leopards out of the water in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Again, we probably do not need to bother showing you the differences here, but just in case you wanted to know, Villanova dominates here as well.  The Wildcats’ PiRate Criteria us Final Four worthy and Elite 8 favoring with a scoring margin of more than 15 points per game, a field goal percentage margin of 6.5%, a rebounding margin of 2.3, a turnover margin of 3.4, an R+T of 12.1, a road W-L record of 15-2, and a very respectable strength of schedule.

Lafayette has a negative R+T, so this one looks like it will be over between the first and second TV timeout.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Villanova by 32

White: Villanova by 27

Blue: Villanova by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: Villanova with a 99.9% chance of winning

#8 North Carolina St. (20-13) vs. #9 LSU (22-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:10 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

This shapes up to be an interesting game as all 8-9 seed games should be.  LSU ever so slightly enjoys a minor E FG% advantage, while the same can be said about North Carolina State’s Rebound Rate advantage.  Turnover Rate and Free Throw Rate are pushes.  A favorite cannot be found here.

PiRate Criteria

The Wolf Pack enjoys a tiny strength of schedule advantage of about three points per game.  That said, the rest of the criteria is a mixed bag.  Scoring margin is about the same.  LSU has a tiny field goal percentage margin edge.  NCSU returns the favor in rebounding margin.  Both teams have small negative turnover margins, while State has a small R+T edge.  LSU went 8-5 away from home, while the Wolf Pack suffered through a 7-9 record outside of Raleigh.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina St. by 1

White: North Carolina St. by 1

Blue: North Carolina St. by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: It is close, but North Carolina State gets the edge.  It doesn’t hurt that the Wolf Pack has the better backcourt.

#5 Northern Iowa (30-3) vs. #12 Wyoming (25-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 1:40 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

This game will trudge along at a snail’s pace, as neither team believes in pressing the tempo.  Thus, advantages will not be as great with the pace probably below 60 possessions for both teams.

Give a small edge in E FG% to NIU.  Because Wyoming is weak on the offensive glass, Northern Iowa gets the edge here as well.  Turnover Margin is close to equal, but the Panthers have the slight edge here.  Normally, we would heavily discount Free Throw Rate, but Northern Iowa is the best in the nation at defensive FT*.  They are the only team in the tournament with a Rate in single digits.  They commit few fouls, and when they do send an opposing player to the line, it is usually a player with a weak shooting percentage.

PiRate Criteria

Normally, a mid-major team’s downfall is a weak strength of schedule.  While UNI does not have a schedule strength of Iowa State, the Panthers’ SOS is still above the norm.  In this game, it is several points better than Wyoming’s SOS.

Northern Iowa’s criteria resume looks very Sweet 16 worthy if not Elite 8 worthy.  The Panthers enjoy a scoring margin of 15.5 points, a FG% margin of 9.1%, a rebounding margin of 2.4, a turnover margin of 0.8, and an R+T of 9.5.  Throw in a road record of 12-3, and Northern Iowa is the clear favorite in this game, as Wyoming has pedestrian numbers across the board and a mediocre 9-8 record away from Laramie.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Northern Iowa by 15

White: Northern Iowa by 13

Blue: Northern Iowa by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Northern Iowa is one 5-seed that will keep a 12-seed from pulling off an upset.  The Panthers should be a 3 or 4-seed.

#4 Louisville (24-8) vs. #13 UC-Irvine (21-12)

Tip Time: Friday, 4:10 PM

TV: TBS

4 Factors

Before delving into each factor, there is a large difference in schedule strength in this game, so large that the individual statistical components must be adjusted by about 17 points to compare the two teams.

UC-Irvine shoots the ball efficiently when they face opponents like UC-Santa Barbara.  Against the likes of Louisville, expect the Anteaters to struggle to get good looks for large parts of this game.  Thus, the E FG% goes to the Cardinals.

UL has a prohibitive advantage in Rebound Rate, even with UC-Irvine having 7 foot 6 inch titan Mamadou Ndiaye in the lineup.  Ndiaye plays less than 20 minutes per game and seldom gets into proper rebounding position, so UL will dominate the boards in this game.

While this is not Rick Pitino’s typically outstanding full court pressing team, Louisville has the big edge in Turnover Margin.  Ditto that for Free Throw Rate as well, so this looks to be a laugher.

PiRate Criteria

This area confirms the previous area.  UL dominates in scoring margin, rebounding margin, turnover margin, R+T, and winning percentage away from home.  While it does not look favorable for the Cardinals to make it to Indianapolis, they have an easy opening game this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Louisville by 17

White: Louisville by 14

Blue: Louisville by 22

Bracketnomics Selection: Louisville’s power game wears UCI down and leads to a double-digit win.

#6 Providence (22-11) vs. #11 Boise State or Dayton

Note: This preview includes Dayton as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Providence has an Achilles Heel that can be exploited by good teams, and the tournament is full of good teams.  The Friars are not an exceptionally talented shooting team with a weak E FG% of 48.6%.  They do not make up for this weakness with a terrific defensive E FG%, so this must be a game to look at the strength of the underdog.

Assuming Dayton wins on their home floor to advance to this game, the Flyers are definitely better in E FG%, which means they have a chance to pull off the upset.  Looking past this factor, Providence is going to enjoy a nice edge in Rebound Rate, but Dayton will offset a lot of that with the advantage in Turnover Rate as well as a little help in Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Providence has one distinct advantage here, and that is schedule strength.  While Dayton has a strong schedule, Providence has one of the toughest in the tournament (5th best in the Dance).

Dayton’s rebounding margin liability will most likely prevent the Flyers from winning, unless Providence lays a total egg in field goal percentage.  Throw in a decided R+T advantage, and PU will benefit from something like 9 extra legitimate scoring opportunities.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Dayton by 1 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

White: Providence by 3 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 4)

Blue: Providence by 2 (if Boise State wins, then Providence by 5)

Bracketnomics Selection: We will take Providence, but we are not strong in our belief.  Dayton coach Archie Miller took the Flyers a lot farther than where they were supposed to go last year.

#3 Oklahoma (22-10) vs. #14 Albany (24-8)

Tip Time: Friday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Like Providence, Oklahoma is not a particularly efficient shooting team, but unlike Providence, any Lon Kruger-coached team is going to be tough on the defensive side.  Albany is a little soft in this factor, so the Sooners enjoy a major advantage in the most important spot.

Rebounding Rate should not be a major decider in this game.  OU is not great here, while Albany is rather good for their level of play, but not for the Big Dance.  You can scratch off Turnover Rate here as well, not because both teams are weak, but because both are about average.  Albany has a liability in Free Throw Rate, as they give up too many points per 100 possessions here.  Oklahoma is not dominant here, but the Sooners should get to the line a little more than an average NCAA Tournament team gets to the line.

PiRate Criteria

There is a major advantage for Oklahoma in schedule strength of about 18 points.  Albany should probably be a 15-seed, but the bottom of the field is considerably weaker than average.

Factoring schedule strength into the other criteria areas, Albany has no advantage where they can exploit a Sooner weakness.  In other words, forget any possibility of an upset in this game, not the OU will get too much farther.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oklahoma by 18

White: Oklahoma by 16

Blue: Oklahoma by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: Boomer Sooner–Oklahoma will win this in something close to a blowout, but don’t expect OU to make it too far this year.  They can get to the Sweet 16, but that may be their ceiling for 2015.

#7 Michigan State (23-11) vs. #10 Georgia (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

E FG% tilts in Michigan State’s favor, and when Sparty enjoys this advantage during the Tom Izzo era, they win most of the time, because MSU is always going to dominate the glass against good but not great opponents, of which Georgia is one.  Even though the Bulldogs are tough in Rebound Rate, the Spartans are better by a large margin.

Georgia cannot compensate for the rebounding advantage with superior Turnover Rate advantage, because MSU actually is a little better here as well.  Only in Free Throw Rate does Georgia really dominate in this game, and you know how we feel about this factor in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria for this game does not exactly corroborate the Four Factors above, but Michigan State still has the advantage in every category but one.  Georgia’s schedule strength is modestly better, mostly because the Bulldogs faced Kentucky twice.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Michigan St. by 4

White: Michigan St. by 6

Blue: Michigan St. by 8

Bracketnomics Selection: Georgia will not be intimidated by Michigan State’s power game, because they faced the best power game in college basketball twice and did not blink.  However, when the game is on the line, we like the Spartans chances in this one.  We will take Michigan State to set up a fantastic game on Sunday.

#2 Virginia (29-3) vs. #15 Belmont (22-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Belmont is one of the most efficient shooting teams in the nation, albeit against much weaker competition than the likes of Virginia.  The Cavaliers fall only behind Kentucky in defensive field goal efficiency.  Turning the tables, Virginia is a better than average field goal efficiency team on offense, while Belmont is plain bad defensively in this important area.

The Rebound Rate advantage exceeds the Field Goal Efficiency advantage for the Cavaliers, while Belmont’s error-prone attack leads to a terrible Turnover Rate for a team in this field.

PiRate Criteria

The strength of schedule difference in this game is huge.  UVa has an advantage of about 15 points per game.  Add into the equation a resume that looks like a typical Final Four team, and the Cavs look to roll in this one.  Virginia is one of just four teams in this field that has double digit scoring and FG% margins.  Their R+T is 20.5, one of just four in this stat as well.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Virginia by 31

White: Virginia by 23

Blue: Virginia by 28

Bracketnomics Selection: There is no suspense for this game.  Virginia could hold Belmont under 40 points and win by as many as 30-35 points.  The big question mark is how healthy is star forward Justin Anderson?  If he can return to something close to his old form, UVa could go all the way to Indianapolis.

South Region

#1 Duke (29-4) vs. #16 North Florida or Robert Morris

This preview includes North Florida as the winner on Wednesday

Tip Time: Friday, 7:10 PM

TV: CBS

4 Factors

Duke has had a scare as a heavy favorite in their first NCAA Tournament game in the not too distant past.  The Blue Devils survived a one-point nail-biter against Belmont.  Can history repeat itself?  Remember, this is a 1-16 game, and no 16-seed has ever defeated a 1-seed.  Princeton almost beat Georgetown in 1989, losing when a last-second shot was blocked and a foul was not called.

Duke should not have much to worry about in this game, but North Florida could make this game interesting for a short time.  Duke’s biggest advantage is in Rebound Rate, where North Florida is weak on the glass.

PiRate Criteria

Does Duke have a Final Four resume here?  Compared to Final Four teams in the 21st Century, the Blue Devils look similar.  Their scoring margin is 15.0; their FG% margin is 7.3%; their rebound margin is 6.2; their turnover margin is 1.3, and their R+T is 17.7.  Add a 10-2 record outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium and a strong schedule strength, and Coach K has a potential Final Four team.  The only real weakness for the Dukies is that they are only very good in these criteria areas and not completely dominant in any.  In a year, where another team is completely dominant, it may be their downfall.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Duke by 30

White: Duke by 23

Blue: Duke by 27

Bracketnomics Selection: Duke will win this game with ease and then advance to the Sweet 16 with another relatively easy game on Sunday.

#8 San Diego St. (26-8) vs. #9 St. John’s (21-11)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:40 PM

TV: CBS

4 Factors

The numbers here predict an ugly game with a low score.  Neither team can throw the ball in the ocean at times.  St. John’s is a little better offensively, but San Diego State is much better defensively.

Rebounding Rate is the next most important factor, and the Aztecs figure to own the glass in this game, partly due to their acumen and partly due to the Red Storm’s lack thereof.

The other two factors are a wash here.

PiRate Criteria

St. John’s has a slightly stronger strength of schedule, just enough that it matters.  This is about the only area where the Red Storm enjoys a decided advantage.  SDSU gets the checkmark on their side of the ledger in scoring margin, FG% margin, rebounding margin, R+T, and road winning percentage.

PiRate Ratings

Red: San Diego St. by 1

White: San Diego St. by 1

Blue: San Diego St. by 5

Bracketnomics Selection: We are going to add one out of criteria factor as our reason to pick San Diego State.  St. John’s coach Steve Lavin comes from the Gene Keady coaching tree.  Keady has been a St. John’s assistant under his student.  Keady, and his coaching tree, is famous for greatly underachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  This includes Matt Painter, Bruce Weber, and Kevin Stallings among others.  These coaches do not choke; it’s just that their style of play goes against the grain and opposes the PiRate Criteria–not that these coaches deliberately attack us, but it is that we discovered that power teams that do not rely on finesse of assists and free throws are the teams that go deep in the tournament.  It does not hurt that Steve Fisher has cut the nets down before, and his teams are the epitome of power basketball.  SDSU wins this game, but they will not make it to the Sweet 16.

#5 Utah (24-8) vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin (29-4)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:27 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

SFA pulled off a big upset last year by dispensing with VCU, but the Lumberjacks drew a team that can neutralize their assets.  Utah is a little better in offensive shooting efficiency and much better on the defensive side.  The Utes can prevent SFA’s major asset, Rebound Rate, from being all that effective, because Utah is rather strong there as well.  SFA forces a lot of turnovers, but Utah is not all that sloppy with the ball.  Because Utah’s schedule was about 10-12 points per game stronger, the Utes have the tools to keep this 12-seed from pulling off the upset.

PiRate Criteria

This is the only game in the second round where both teams enjoy scoring margins of more than 14 points.  Utah also has a double digit FG% margin.  The only area where the Lumberjacks have a clear advantage is road winning percentage.  Utah was only 8-7 outside of SLC, while SFA went 14-3.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Utah by 8

White: Utah by 7

Blue: Utah by 10

Bracketnomics Selection: Stephen F. Austin might beat other 5-seeds and even a couple of 4-seeds, but the Selection Committee chose the perfect foe for the Lumberjacks, almost as tough as if they selected paper versus rock instead of scissors versus rock.  Utah wins.

#4 Georgetown (21-10) vs. #13 Eastern Washington (26-8)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:57 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Georgetown’s E FG% on both offense and defense are about average, or slightly below average among the teams in this field.  Eastern Washington has a high offensive E FG%, but their defensive rate is horrible.  Georgetown’s Rebound Rate is about average, while EWU’s is weak.  Neither team is exceptionally competent in Turnover Rate or Free Throw Rate.

PiRate Criteria

In recent years, Georgetown did not cut the mustard in R+T rating, and they were the easy choice to lose early in the tournament.  The Hoyas are better off this year, as this GU edition more closely resembles a GU team from the 1980’s than the 2010’s.  Georgetown has credible numbers across the board here, with their only weak spot being winning percentage away from home.  At 7-5, the Hoyas are not going to make it to Indianapolis, but they will not go home after one game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Georgetown by 17

White: Georgetown by 14

Blue: Georgetown by 14

Bracketnomics Selection: Finally, John Thompson III gets a win in the Dance.

#6 SMU (27-6) vs. #11 UCLA (20-13)

Tip Time: 3:10 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

UCLA took the brunt of the criticism for making the tournament without possessing the proper credentials, but the Four Factors show the Bruins to be worthy of the Big Dance.  However, SMU’s credentials are plainly better.  Typically, Steve Alford’s teams play smart, finesse basketball, but this team does neither.  The Bruins play more power basketball, which is what you look for in the NCAA Tournament, but they do not play it well enough to advance far.

SMU has a clear edge in E FG% and Rebound Rate, a minor advantage in FT Rate, while the teams are even in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria depicts UCLA as more of a NIT-worthy team.  The Bruins were 4-12 away from Pauley Pavilion.  SMU was 10-4 outside of Dallas.  The Mustangs are close to being one of our surprise picks to contend for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.7, and their FG% margin is 10.0%.  Add a rebounding margin of 6.9, and an R+T of 16.8, and Coach Larry Brown’s squad only lacks in turnover margin, which is still positive at 0.2

PiRate Ratings

Red: SMU by 6

White: SMU by 7

Blue: SMU by 9

Bracketnomics Selection: SMU only has to worry about UCLA’s players playing over their heads due to the negative criticism from the so-called experts.  We’ll take the Mustangs.

#3 Iowa St. (25-8) vs. #14 UAB (19-15)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:40 PM

TV: truTV

4 Factors

Iowa State looks like a heavy favorite based on these factors, but what will happen if they do not trail by double digits in the first half?  They are so accustomed to spotting a 10-15-point lead and then coming from behind, that they could literally panic if they have to play from the front.

The Cyclones are plainly better than UAB in offensive E FG% and somewhat better defensively.  Their main issue is Rebound Rate, where opponents fared better than ISU.  However, UAB cannot exploit this weakness.  Turnover Rate favors the Cyclones, while FT Rate is close to even.

PiRate Criteria

Iowa State looks more like a dominant team in this game when you look at these criteria.  Scoring margin is not close, as ISU enjoys a margin close to 10, while UAB is just barely positive.  FG% margin tilts the scale in ISU’s favor.  Rebound margin is about even, while ISU  dusts the Blazers in turnover margin, thanks to UAB having a negative number.  UAB was just 3-8 away from home, while Iowa State was 7-5.

PiRate Ratings

Red:  Iowa St. by 18

White: Iowa St. by 18

Blue: Iowa St. by 16

Bracketnomics Selection: Iowa State should win this game quickly and hopefully learn that you can win by leading for close to 40 minutes rather than trail by 10 or more for 20.

#7 Iowa (21-11) vs. #10 Davidson (24-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM

TV: TNT

4 Factors

Keep an eye on this game, as the underdog here has better numbers.  Davidson enjoys a considerable E FG% offensively, but Iowa returns the favor defensively.  The Hawkeyes have a slight Rebound Rate advantage, and Davidson has an even slighter Turnover Rate advantage.  Iowa enjoys a large FT Rate advantage, but remember that we do not place much weight on this factor, and our criteria tells us to turn this to a negative if a team relies too much on free throw shooting, because referees call fewer fouls in the NCAA Tournament.

PiRate Criteria

The criteria herein show this game to be a near tossup.  Iowa wins the schedule strength battle but not by much.  Davidson takes the scoring margin battle, but Iowa is rather strong here as well.  Iowa has the rebounding margin advantage, while Davidson has the turnover margin edge.  The Hawkeyes have a better R+T, but Davidson has a better road winning percentage.  It is the closest game in this round when looking at just this section.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Davidson by 1

White: Iowa by 1

Blue: Davidson by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: If you read yesterday’s post, you saw that we never use assist to turnover ratio and discount three-point shooting and excessive free throw shooting.  Well…all three of these stats to ignore come into play here.  Davidson can shoot lights out from behind the arc and enjoys an incredible assist to turnover ratio, while Iowa is the epitome of a get to the foul line and win with free throws team.  If we were asked to select one game that could go to overtime, this is the game we would select.  We are only going with Davidson because the need to get to the foul line is drastically challenged in this tournament.

#2 Gonzaga (32-2) vs. #15 North Dakota St. (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:50 PM

TV: TNT

4 Factors

Gonzaga leads the nation in offensive E FG%, and they do it by getting a lot of easy two-point shots.  Defensively, the Bulldogs are almost the equal of their terrific offense.  North Dakota State is rather weak on both sides in this factor.

Gonzaga’s Rebound Rate is not as overpowering as the above factor, but it is still quite strong.  The Bison Rebound Rate is their top factor, but it is not the equal of the Zags.  The remaining two factors are not all that much of a factor in this game.

PiRate Criteria

If you compare Gonzaga’s criteria with Kentucky’s, the Bulldogs are not that far behind the most dominant team in 20 years.  Take a look:

Scoring margin–18.2; FG% margin–14.0%; Rebound margin–7.2; Turnover margin–1.1; R+T–19.0; Road W-L–13-1.

North Dakota State is not that bad for a low-major team, but they drew an impossible assignment in Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Gonzaga by 30

White: Gonzaga by 28

Blue: Gonzaga by 24

Bracketnomics Selection: Gonzaga has taken a bad wrap for not advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in recent years.  That could change this year.  Gonzaga wins this game and empties the bench.

Midwest Region

#1 Kentucky (34-0) vs. #16 Hampton or Manhattan

This review includes Manhattan winning Tuesday

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:40 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

This is an obvious blowout game, so let’s focus on the Wildcats and their pursuit of history.  We really cannot compare the Four Factors of Kentucky with those of San Francisco of 1956, UCLA of 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973, or Indiana of 1976, because there were no three-point shots for those past seasons, and we do not have exact rebounding splits or turnovers.

Kentucky’s E FG% is just average.  The Wildcats do not win games by shooting lights out.  However, their defensive E FG% is just plain scary.  It is below 40%.

UK’s Rebound Rate is not what it probably should be.  It is not the best in the tournament, and it is not even the best in the Midwest Region, as West Virginia has a better total rate.

The Wildcats have a spectacular Turnover Rate, but again West Virginia’s is better.

How many times have we told you to discount FT Rate?  Well, forget that for Kentucky.  They have the second best offensive FT Rate in the tournament, and there is reason to believe this statistic will actually mean something, as opponents will continue to foul their wide open shooters out of desperation.

What about Manhattan?  The Jaspers have poor Rebound and Turnover Rates, and Kentucky will get about 15 to 20 additional scoring opportunities, as if they need them against this team.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike the Four Factors, we can compare Kentucky’s PiRate Criteria to the crucial parts of the criteria of the past undefeated champions.  Since there is no real need to compare it to Manhattan, let’s look at those incredible champs from the past and see how John Calipari’s crew stacks up.

Scoring Margin:  Kentucky’s is 20.9.  Entering the tournaments, 1976 Indiana’s was 19.1; 1973 UCLA’s was 22.1; 1972 UCLA’s was 32.2; 1967 UCLA’s was 26.2; 1964 UCLA’s was 20.5; 1957 North Carolina’s was 14.7; and 1956 San Francisco’s was 18.0.

FG% Margin: Kentucky’s is 11.4%, which is definitely National Championship-worthy.  Of the undefeated champs from the past, only the 1972 and 1973 UCLA teams bested this with marks just over 12%.

Rebounding Margin: Kentucky outrebounds its opponents by 7.4 per game.  This is better than 1976 Indiana’s 6.0, but below all the other undefeated champions, even the 1964 UCLA team with no starter over 6′-05″.  This statistic is where the Alcindor (Jabbar) and Walton teams at UCLA dominated with huge margins, and where the Bill Russell USF team won the battle by more than 17 per game.  If Kentucky is to face defeat, their opponent will have to be able to rebound.

UK’s turnover margin is a very respectable 3.4.  We do not have turnover margins for the other teams, but from memory, we remember that UCLA forced a lot of turnovers and picked up a lot of steals from their vaunted 2-2-1 zone press, but they also committed more turnovers than average due to full-time up-tempo play.  For instance, the 1972 squad played at a pace of about 90 possessions per game, whereas Kentucky today averages less than 65 possessions per game (unfortunately, this is a sign of the times, as college basketball on average sees 25% less action than it did in the first half of the 1970s.

The Cats’ R+T is 22.9, second best in this tournament.  Obviously, they have an undefeated record away from Rupp Arena, and many would say they played better on the road than at home.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kentucky by 34

White: Kentucky by 28

Blue: Kentucy by 32

Bracketnomics Selection: In Las Vegas, Kentucky is Even Money to win the tournament, and that could be an underlay.  In horse racing parlance, they should have 1-9 odds on the tote board.  What is scary is that the gaudy statistics they compiled do not show just how strong this team can be.  The players actually underperformed for a good part of the year, as if they were saving their energy for now.  This team has talent good enough to beat the New York Knicks in a best of seven tournament.

It may surprise you, but this will not be the first team with five starters that will start in the NBA.  It has happened before, and both schools made the Final Four during the time the NBA players were starting.  All five of 1976 Indiana’s starters (Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernathy, Bobby Wilkerson, and Quinn Buckner) started games in the NBA.  6th man Wayne Radford also played for pay for a season.

Ohio State’s starting five in 1960 (Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried, Mel Nowell, and Joe Roberts) pulled off the feat as well.  Lucas and Havlicek are Hall of Famers.

Both Indiana and Ohio State won the title.  This bodes well for Kentucky.

#8 Cincinnati (22-10) vs. #9 Purdue (21-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:10 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

It’s one thing for 8-9 games to be close, but this is ridiculous.  These teams mirror each other in offensive and defensive E FG%, Rebound Rate, and Turnover Rate.  Cincinnati does not foul much, but in the Big Dance, the zebras will not whistle Purdue for many fouls either.  No favorite can be picked on this criteria.

PiRate Criteria

The results here are mixed as well.  Purdue has the better strength of schedule by about 5 points per game.  Cinti enjoys the advantage in scoring margin, FG% margin, and rebound margin, but not by a large amount.  Both teams have negative turnover margins and mediocre records away from home, so whoever wins Thursday will be a double digit loser on Saturday.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Purdue by 2

White: Cincinnati by 3

Blue: Cincinnati by 1

Bracketnomics Selection: Matt Painter is a Keady disciple, but this Purdue team is not pure finesse relying on assists and foul shooting opportunities to win.  However, the team is not fantastic in the power game.

Cincinnati has had issues this year with their coach sidelined for health reasons.  They have been playing for Mick Cronin all year, even though Larry Davis is the coach on the sidelines.  A visit from Cronin should pump the Bearcats up a little.

Both teams play tough defense, and the winner of this game could be the first to 55 points.  We’ll go with Cincinnati to win in a 55-53 type game.

#5 West Virginia (23-9) vs. #12 Buffalo (23-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:10 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

On paper, this looks like the game with the most chance of a 12-seed upsetting a 5-seed, but at the same time, this also looks like the team most capable of putting a scare into Kentucky in a Sweet 16 game.

West Virginia might be 27-5 or 28-4 if the Mountaineers could shoot straight.  Their E FG% is the worst in the field.  Buffalo is weak on the offensive side of this factor, but the Bulls are stronger on the defensive side.

Shooting aside, WVU is scary good elsewhere, which is why Coach Bob Huggins has guided his Alma Mater back into the field.  WVU’s Rebound Rates are 40.9 on offense and 30.9 on defense, and their TO rates are 18.7 on offense and 28.2 on defense.  In other words, they may not shoot straight and give up too many easy shots, but they will get so many more opportunities to score than their opponent, they can still win.

Buffalo can neutralize West Virginia’s top assets, because the Bulls are quite good in Rebound and TO rates too.

PiRate Criteria

The good ole PiRate Criteria shows this game to be a lot closer than most fans realize.  Don’t discount Buffalo’s chances.  Remember, this team actually led Kentucky at halftime at Rupp Arena.  The Bulls will not be intimidated.

WVU has a slim schedule strength advantage and even slimmer scoring margin advantage.  Buffalo stampeded the Mountaineers in FG% margin, as WVU has a -5.7% rate, something that foretells a short stay this year.

Rebound and TO margins tilt in favor of WVU, but not by all that much, as Buffalo has good numbers here.  WVU’s exceptional R+T number of 19.4 is a result of their excellent “On the line and up the line” pressure defense that produces 7 steals per game and causes opponents to rush shots before they have established proper offensive rebounding angles.

PiRate Ratings

Red: West Virginia by 5

White: West Virginia by 5

Blue: West Virginia by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: If you are going to pick a 12-seed in your bracket to win, this is probably your best shot.  However, the criteria says that West Virginia has about a 70% chance of winning this game.  The Mountaineers have a lot of flaws and will not make it to the Final Four, but they are the wildcard team that can force Kentucky out of its normal pace of play.  Unlike Arkansas that caused the Cats some trouble with their “40 minutes of Hell,” WVU can play volleyball on the backboard and keep Kentucky from dominating on the boards, while still forcing turnovers.  Keep an eye on a possible Sweet 16 game between these two teams, but WVU is certainly no sure thing to make it that far.  Just one God-awful shooting night will doom the Mountaineers back to the mountains.

#4 Maryland (27-6) vs. #13 Valparaiso (28-5)

Tip Time: 4:40 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

The criteria for this game indicates a possible upset, as Valpo is a lot better than a typical 13-seed.  Maryland has not danced in five seasons, but the Terrapins have enough talent to make it to a second week in the tournament.  It should be an entertaining game according to these factors.

Both teams are better than average in E FG%, with 50%+ offensive and 45% defensive percentages.  Maryland is not an exceptional rebounding team, which is proven by their negative Rebound Rate (29.2 Offense and 30.4 Defense), while Valpo is quite competent on the boards, albeit against weaker competition.

Neither squad receives stars for Turnover Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is where Maryland gets a huge advantage.  The Terps schedule was about 12 points per game tougher than the Crusaders.  This is probably enough to make UM a big enough favorite in this game, but Valpo is talented enough to have a chance here.  If the Crusaders’ turnover margin wasn’t negative (as is Maryland’s), we would actually come out and pick Valpo to win this game, but the SOS tilts too heavily in UM’s favor.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Maryland by 7

White: Maryland by 5

Blue: Maryland by 7

Bracketnomics Selection: We have to take the Big Ten runnerup here, even though we feel Valparaiso has a fighting chance at the upset.

#6 Butler (22-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:45 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Don’t confuse this Butler team with the squads that advanced to the National Championship Game two consecutive seasons, but don’t confuse this Texas team for most of Rick Barnes’ past great Longhorn squads.  These two teams look like fodder for the victor’s opponent in the next round.

Neither team shoots the ball all that well, and unlike West Virginia, they only dominate in one of the extra opportunity factors.  Both teams are very good on the glass, but neither team forces turnovers or limits them on their offensive side of the ball.  Texas has the advantage in defensive E FG%, while Butler neutralizes it with better Rebound Rates.

PiRate Criteria

Unlike many of these early games, strength of schedule will not be a factor in this game, as they are roughly the same.  Scoring margins are close.  Texas has better FG% and rebounding margins, but Butler returns the favor with better turnover margin and R+T, as UT has a -3.7 TO margin (tied for worst in the Tournament).  Butler went 7-4 outside of Indianapolis, while Texas was just 6-8 away from Austin.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Butler by 2

White: Texas by 1

Blue: Butler by 4

Bracketnomics Selection: Technically, this is the double digit seed with the best chance of winning their first game, but we like the Bulldogs chances in this game.  Our selection is Butler.

#3 Notre Dame (29-5) vs. #14 Northeastern (23-11)

Tip Time: Thursday, 12:15 PM (the first game of the Field of 64)

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Notre Dame has the second best offensive E FG% in the Dance, just narrowly falling below Gonzaga.  Northeastern is no slouch, shooting well from inside and outside.

Northeastern could actually win the rebounding war in this game, but Notre Dame will exploit Northeastern’s liability of committing too many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

Beginning with schedule strength, Notre Dame starts this game 8 points better, and the Huskies do not have enough talent to overcome that number.  The Irish’s scoring margin of 13.2 and FG% margin of 8.3make for a strong combination when you factor in their tough schedule.  Their R+T of just 6.5 will be their downfall later in the tournament, but they will get by rather easily in this game.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Notre Dame by 18

White: Notre Dame by 17

Blue: Notre Dame by 19

Bracketnomics Selection: The Fighting Irish have been underachievers in the NCAA Tournament for more than two decades.  They have not advanced to the Sweet 16 in a dozen seasons, and they have not appeared in the Final Four in 36 years.

In 1974, their best ever team, the squad that ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak, was upset by a weaker Michigan team.  So, this affliction spreads out over decades.

This Irish team has the talent to at least advance to the Sweet 16, and if Notre Dame does not get there, Coach Mike Brey is going to be blamed for something much more infectious than he caused.  At least Notre Dame will win their opening game, which is better than the Irish fared last year.

#7 Wichita State (28-4) vs. Indiana (20-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 2:45 PM

TV: CBS

Four Factors

This is not the Wichita State team of last year or the year before, but the Shockers must not be discounted.  Their resume resembles a Final Four team’s resume.  On the other hand, Indiana’s resume looks more like a NIT team than a NCAA Tournament team.

Wichita State has exemplary offensive and defensive E FG% numbers, while Indiana has exceptional offensive and horrible defensive numbers.  If the Shockers take away the Hoosiers’ fast break and early offense opportunities with their “play angry” style, IU will have a tough time scoring enough points to win this game, because the Hoosiers will give up too many easy baskets.

Indiana has credible Rebound Rates on both sides of the ball, but their Turnover Rate is not strong.  The Shockers enjoy large advantages in both factors.

PiRate Criteria

Across the board, Wichita State bests Indiana in all PiRate Criteria save one–schedule strength.  And, that advantage is small.  Wichita State is one of a handful of teams with a 20 or better R+T rating, and when you combine that with high-quality defense and a good road record (13-4), you have a team capable of getting hot and going on a run.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wichita State by 8

White: Wichita State by 8

Blue: Wichita State by 6

Bracketnomics Selection: Wichita State will limit Indiana’s ability to get open looks from outside and prevent the Hoosiers from utilizing their greatest strength.  For seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, this is a tourney experienced roster with a chips on its shoulders.  Watch out for Wichita State.  They do have a huge axe to grind with a particular undefeated team that spoiled their undefeated season last year.

#2 Kansas (26-8) vs. #15 New Mexico State (23-10)

Tip Time: Friday, 12:15 PM (first game of the day)

TV: CBS

Four Factors

Kansas is limping into this tournament.  The Jayhawks are not really deserving of a 2-seed, as Iowa State should have jumped them.  Lucky for Coach Bill Self and his troops, KU gets a patsy in their first game, and the Jayhawks hope to use it as a bounce back opportunity.

The overwhelming statistic that shows up here is the most lopsided difference in schedule strength, giving KU a 20-point cushion to start.  NMSU has decent numbers, especially in Rebound and Turnover Rate, but their weak schedule strength gives the Aggies little credibility.

PiRate Criteria

The results here mimic the Four Factor results.  Kansas has pedestrian PiRate Criteria with average scoring and field goal margins, decent rebounding margin, and a poor, negative turnover margin.  New Mexico State’s criteria numbers looks better, but the SOS is too weak for it to matter.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Kansas by 18

White: Kansas by 16

Blue: Kansas by 18

Bracketnomics Selection: If Kansas loses this game, it will be a bigger upset than when the Jayhawks lost to Northern Iowa, but not as big as when the Jayhawks lost to Bucknell.  On second thought, a KU loss would not be totally shocking.  Still, we will play the chalk and pick KU to breeze in this game, setting up a round of 32 match they do not want to face.

West Region

#1 Wisconsin (31-3) vs. #16 Coastal Carolina (24-9)

Tip Time: Friday, 9:20 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

Wisconsin is solid across the board with E FG% of 54.6 offensively and 46.7 defensively; Rebound Rates of 31.9 offensively and 23.7 defensively; and Turnover Rates of 12.4 offensively and 16.7 defensively.  Additionally, they are the second best team in this field at avoiding fouls, so the Badgers are not a team that will beat themselves.

Coastal Carolina is typical of a Cliff Ellis coached team.  At Auburn, Clemson, South Alabama, and even tiny Cumberland College, his teams have won by dominating on the boards, sometimes finding athletic players lacking shooting acumen.  This CCU team is not a first-class shooting outfit, but they are not inept.

The difference in schedule strength is a little too much to overcome, but if CCU can limit turnovers and have a better than typical shooting night, this game could be uncomfortably close for a longer than expected time.

PiRate Criteria

The numbers here validate our belief that this game could be closer than expected.  UW’s scoring margin is 15.8, but CCU’s is 10.0.  Wisconsin enjoys a tiny FG% margin advantage, but Coastal has the advantage in rebound margin.  The Badgers make hay with their gaudy won-loss record away from the Kohl Center, where UW is 16-2 outside of Madtown.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Wisconsin by 14

White: Wisconsin by 17

Blue: Wisconsin by 12

Bracketnomics Selection:  Last year, Coastal Carolina led Virginia by five points at the half, and they outrebounded the Cavs for the game, falling by 11 points.  We believe the Chanticleers might get behind early and then mount a furious comeback to make this game interesting, before UW pulls away in the last quarter of the game.  Wisconsin will win, but Badger fans might fret for a few minutes.

#8 Oregon (25-9) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (18-13)

Tip Time: Friday, 6:50 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

Talk about two teams just happy to be dancing, we are not enthused with either squad in this game and expect the victor to be easy pickings for Wisconsin on Sunday.

Oregon wins ugly in the baseball vernacular.  The Ducks are not pretty and have serious flaws that can be exploited by muscular teams.  Oklahoma State got their invitation solely on the basis of playing in the strongest conference this year.

E FG%  is even in this game.  Rebound Rate goes to Oregon only because the Cowboys cannot rebound, while OSU gets the TO Rate advantage because Oregon does not force many turnovers.

PiRate Criteria

There is no need to delve too deeply here, because Oklahoma State has a negative R+T rating, which immediately eliminates the Cowboys.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Oregon by 1

White: Oregon by 1

Blue: Oregon by 3

Bracketnomics Selection:  We automatically rule out any team with a negative R+T rating except in the rare instance when both teams in a game have negative R+Ts.  Oregon wins, and it helps our belief that the Ducks enter this tournament playing their best ball of the year, while OSU limps into the Dance.

#5 Arkansas (26-8) vs. #12 Wofford (28-6)

Tip Time: Thursday, 9:50 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

The factors here do not give Arkansas all that big of an advantage, but as you will read below, we expect the Hogs to muddy up the Terriers Thursday night.

Arky has one of the best TO rates in the nation with their 94-foot defense that stresses getting into passing lanes.  This is the only factor where Arkansas has a decided advantage in this game.

PiRate Criteria

The PiRate Criteria is close to even with the exception of schedule strength, where the Razorbacks enjoy the edge by about 10 points.  Remember that Wofford won at North Carolina State earlier this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arkansas by 12

White: Arkansas by 11

Blue: Arkansas by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Here is the real key in this game: Wofford does not handle full-court pressure well when applied by teams that routinely press and know what they are doing.  The Terriers faced the other great pressing team in this field, West Virginia, earlier this season and wilted under the pressure, committing 21 turnovers and watching WVU pick up 12 steals.  Arkansas will tighten the screws the moment Wofford turns the ball over the first time against the press, and Arkansas will run away quickly with a 10-point or more spurt.  Give the Razorbacks a win to set up a much tougher third round game.

#4 North Carolina (24-11) vs. #13 Harvard (22-7)

Tip Time: Thursday, 7:20 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

North Carolina enjoys healthy E FG% and Rebound rate advantages here, and Harvard barely gets the TO Rate advantage.  Because the Tar Heels strength of schedule is about 12 points better than Harvard’s, UNC has little to worry about.

PiRate Criteria

To say that this great program could sneak up and surprise in this tournament sounds odd, but North Carolina has the horses to compete for a Final Four berth.  Their scoring margin is 9.5, just barely missing out on double digits.  They enjoy a FG% margin of 7.7 and a rebound margin of 8.2 with a nice 18.7 R+T and a 11-5 record outside of the Dean Dome.

Harvard has won games in the last two tournaments, and North Carolina once lost as the top seed in a region to an Ivy League team (Penn in 1979), but history will not repeat this year.

PiRate Ratings

Red: North Carolina by 14

White: North Carolina by 16

Blue: North Carolina by 15

Bracketnomics Selection:  North Carolina used to make it a habit of always getting to the Sweet 16.  Habits have a way of returning, and this one will this year.

#6 Xavier (21-13) vs. #11 BYU or Ole Miss

This one is tricky.  BYU is only a slight pick to knock off Ole Miss in Dayton, and the outcome of the next game changes based on which team faces Xavier.  If Ole Miss wins, we select Xavier to defeat the Rebels in this game, but if BYU wins in Dayton, the Cougars are our choice over the Musketeers in this game.  We are not going to show the results for both possibilities and only preview a Xavier-BYU contest.  Remember, should Ole Miss beat BYU, then take Xavier in this game.

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:10 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

We will cut to the chase here.  Xavier’s transition defense is suspect, and BYU is the best team in the nation to exploit that liability.  While the Musketeers are rather strong offensively in E FG%, they are porous defensively, and BYU has the tools to hurt Xavier in this category.

Rebound and Turnover Rates are close to equal, so this game figures to be interesting.

PiRate Criteria

Xavier wins the schedule strength battle but not by enough points to annount the Musketeers the winner.  BYU tops XU in winning percentage away from home (73-44%), and remember that the Cougars won at Gonzaga.

PiRate Ratings

Red: BYU by 1

White: BYU by 3

Blue: BYU by 2

Bracketnomics Selection: This game should be played at the fastest pace of any West Region game, as both teams get about 70 possessions.  If any game tops 160 total points in this round, it will be this one, and we expect BYU to come out on top.

#3 Baylor (24-9) vs. #14 Georgia State (24-9)

Tip Time: Thursday, 1:40 PM

TV: TBS

Four Factors

The schedule strength difference is too much for the underdog to overcome, and this game will be as dull as the BYU-Xavier game will be exciting.  Baylor’s zone defense will allow Georgia State to get hot from outside and make this game close or throw up bricks and make it a quick blowout.

GSU has three players capable of competing in the Big 12, two of whom have Power 6 Conference playing time, and one of whom has Final Four playing experience.  They will not be intimidated, but overall, the talent is not there to pull off the upset.

BU will wipe the backboard clean in this game, as the large Rebound Rate discrepancy means the Bears will get at least a dozen extra scoring chances.

The Panthers rely on Turnover Rate to even out their poor Rebound Rate, but Baylor is not prone to get sloppy with the ball.  The Bears went 3-0 against West Virginia and their pressure defense.

PiRate Criteria

More of the same from above, Baylor’s rebound margin is 8.0, while GSU has a negative margin.  BU’s R+T of 19.2 and SOS in the top 20 in the nation makes the Bears capable of making it to the Elite 8.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Baylor by 12

White: Baylor by 10

Blue: Baylor by15

Bracketnomics Selection:  Baylor will win this game, and it will be messy with a final score in the 60-45 range.

#7 VCU (26-9) vs. #10 Ohio State (23-10)

Tip Time: Thursday, 4:40 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

Okay, so you just have to pick an underdog to win a second round game?  Well, you found it here my friend, because Ohio State should be the 7-seed and VCU should be the 11-seed.  The numbers just don’t show how the Rams can win.

VCU is the only 1 through 8 seed in the tournament with a weaker offensive E FG% than their defensive E FG%.  Since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket, and generally the better shooting team wins when you get to tournament time, we fail to see how the Rams can advance very far when their defense may not cause much panic.

Ohio State is above average in both offensive and defensive E FG%.  The Buckeyes are better in Rebound Rate and not that far behind VCU in TO Rate.

PiRate Criteria

Strength of schedule is exactly equal, so the rest of the criteria here tells a lot.  Scoring margin favors Ohio State (13.5 to 7.0).  The Buckeyes clean up in FG% margin, as VCU’s is negative, while OSU’s is 8.0.  Additionally, VCU has a negative rebounding margin, while the Buckeyes have a +3 margin.  The only part of this criteria where VCU is better is in road won-loss percentage.  VCU went 14-5, while Ohio State was just 5-8.  Of course, playing on the road in the Big Ten is quite a bit harder than playing on the road in the A-10.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Ohio State by 4

White: Ohio State by 5

Blue: Ohio State by 7

Bracketnomics Selection:  When Urban Meyer was the Florida football coach, the Gators won both the football and basketball national title in the same school year.  Meyer just won the football championship at Ohio State.  Can history repeat itself?  Sorry Buckeye fans, it isn’t going to happen this year, but 66 other teams can say the same thing if they do not wear blue and white with the letters “U” and “K” on their ball caps.  Ohio State wins this game, and it isn’t an upset in our mind.  Now, if the Buckeyes can make it to the Sweet 16, that will be one incredible upset.

#2 Arizona (31-3) vs. #15 Texas Southern (22-12)

Tip Time: Thursday, 2:10 PM

TV: TNT

Four Factors

Can a top 10 team not be given enough respect?  Definitely, because Arizona is our real number two team in the nation.

The Wildcats look like a Final Four team in our eyes and statistical fog.  Their E FG% are 53.6 (O) and 44.3 (D).  Their Rebound Rate of 34.1 (O) and 22.3 (D) tops Michigan State.  Their Turnover Rate is not that much behind Arkansas, so this team is solid across the board.

Texas Southern should be glad to be here and  fortunate not to be forced into making a stop in Dayton first.  The Tigers have no chance of winning this game with weak numbers and an equally weak schedule strength.

PiRate Criteria

Let’s focus on Arizona’s Criteria numbers versus Wisconsin and Kentucky, since this game could be a 40-point blowout if ‘Zona chooses to run up the score.

First, the SOS of the three behemoths are about equal, all good but not great (but then, they lose some by not being able to play themselves).

Arizona’s scoring margin is 17.8 ( UW 15.8/UK 20.9). Their FG% margin is 9.8 (UW 6.1/UK 11.4).  Their Rebound margin is 8.8 (UW 6.0/UK 7.4).  Their TO margin is 2.9 (UW 2.6/UK 3.4), and their R+T is 25.4 (UW 18.8/UK 22.0).  Coach Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the top contender to Kentucky, and we will have to closely peruse the data should the two teams meet.

PiRate Ratings

Red: Arizona by 42

White: Arizona by 35

Blue: Arizona by 51

Bracketnomics Selection:  It has been a long time since a Pac-12 team made it to the Final Four (UCLA in 2008).  Arizona lost a close Elite 8 game last year to Wisconsin, and the Wildcats could get their revenge before the Badgers get that opportunity to do the same to Kentucky.

The Rest of the Bracket 

You have our second round winners.  Now, let’s take it all the way to the end.

Third Round

Villanova over North Carolina St.

Northern Iowa over Louisville

Oklahoma over Providence

Virginia over Michigan State

Duke over San Diego State

Utah over Georgetown

Iowa State over SMU

Gonzaga over Iowa

Kentucky over Cincinnati

West Virginia over Maryland

Notre Dame over Butler

Wichita State over Kansas

Wisconsin over Oregon

North Carolina over Arkansas

Baylor over BYU

Arizona over Ohio State

Sweet 16

Villanova over Northern Iowa

Virginia over Oklahoma

Duke over Utah

Gonzaga over Iowa State

Kentucky over West Virginia

Wichita State over Notre Dame

Wisconsin over North Carolina

Arizona over Baylor

Elite 8

Virginia over Villanova

Duke over Gonzaga

Kentucky over Wichita State

Arizona over Wisconsin

Final 4

Duke over Virginia

Kentucky over Arizona

Championship

Kentucky goes 40-0

A Proposal To Change The NCAA Tournament Format

Murray State was one of many teams that dominated their conference during the season and then lost when all the marbles were on the line.  The Racers would have been a formidable 12-seed had they defeated Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conferent Tournament Championship.  Belmont figures to be out of the tournament with a quick blowout loss to Virginia.

It isn’t the best way to feature the low and mid-major conferences, where one bid is all they will receive.  What if there was a better way to host the NCAA Tournament, where the Murray State’s of the world got their chance, and where teams like Colorado State also had a chance to prove they belong in the Dance?

We have solved this riddle.  Our proposal is to expand the field to 80 teams but at the same time, divide the early rounds into two tournaments.

The first division would include 48 teams from the top 8 conferences, which can almost always be the same 8 every year (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC, and either the AAC, A-10 or MVC).

The second division would include 32 teams from the remaining conferences with automatic bids awarded to their conference tournament champions and tat-large bids awarded to the 10 or so best remaining low and mid-major teams.  Thus Murray State, UNC Central, and St. Francis (NY) would still get in after being upset in their league tournament.

The 32 low and mid-majors would be seeded into four, eight team regions and play four rounds from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 remaining teams.  Each of these four would then advance to the Sweet 16.

The 48 Power teams would be seeded into four, 12-team regions and play three rounds from 48 to 24 to 12 remaining teams.  Each of these 12 would also advance to the Sweet 16, at which point the tournament would continue as it does now.

This proposal allows the top low and mid-major teams to get hot and show up in the Sweet 16 with momentum without penalizing the teams from the power conferences.

What do you think?  If you like this idea, call in your favorite Sports Talk Shows and let them know.

Fixing The Boredom Issue

As we alluded to this fact earlier, college basketball has seen a reduction of about 25% of total possessions since the early 1970s.  In the early 1970’s most teams averaged 85 to 90 possessions per game, whereas that average is down to about 60 to 65 today.

College football has become so exciting because the game is more wide open today than it has ever been with teams  averaging 75 to 100 plays per game compared to 55 to 65 plays per game 50 years ago.

We have heard numerous basketball fans admit they cannot watch full games any more, because the marathon of dribbling for no apparent reason has ruined the experience for them.  This dribbling has been referred to as “false offense,” because while one player dribbles for 10 seconds, the other four players act like totem poles and do not move.  And for this, you delve out $30 to $50 for a ticket to see 25% less action?

This can be fixed by getting rid of that 10 seconds of dribbling.  The NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, but this will only add about five more possessions.  Institute a 24-second shot clock, and watch that 10 seconds of dribbling disappear.  Teams are already running their offenses in 24-second blocks once they have finished showing off their dribbling skills.

Additionally, a 24-second clock would lead to more coaches realizing that full court pressure would be an excellent strategy.  If it did not produce a turnover, it would leave the opponents about 16 seconds to get a shot off.  This rules change will bring up-tempo basketball back to the college game where teams average 80-100 points per game rather than 50-70.

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April 4, 2014

PiRate Ratings Final Four Criteria Preview

We only made it to North Texas with one of our Final Four participants, and we did not pick Florida to win the National Championship, so this year is a bust. Nevertheless, we will go ahead and preview the remaining games.

Overall, we are 43-17 (72%) in the prediction of tournament games to this point.

Here is our preview of the National Semifinal round.

Time (ET) Team vs. Team
6:09 PM #1 Florida (36-2) vs. #7 Connecticut (30-8)
8:49 PM #2 Wisconsin (30-7) vs. #8 Kentucky (28-10)

Florida vs. Connecticut–Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Tie
Field Goal % Margin: Florida by 0.7
Rebound Margin: Florida by 13.6
Turnover Margin: Florida by 2.3
Steal Margin: Florida by 0.1
R+T Rating: Florida by 12.4

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Florida by 17
Predicted Score: Florida 75 Connecticut 58

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin—Criteria Components
Strength of Schedule: Wisconsin by 0.9
Field Goal % Margin: Wisconsin by 2.0
Rebound Margin: Kentucky by 11.5
Turnover Margin: Wisconsin by 3.4
Steal Margin: Wisconsin by 0.1
R+T Rating: Kentucky by 13.2

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2 criteria points
Estimated Spread: Kentucky by 4
Predicted Score: Kentucky 71 Wisconsin 67

 

March 29, 2014

PiRate Ratings Elite 8 Preview–March 29-30, 2014

Here are the matchups for The Elite 8 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four Elite 8 games are not going to be as exciting as a whole as the Sweet 16 games were, but there are still a couple of really good ones in our opinion. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Elite 8 Schedule

SATURDAY
6:09 PM EDT on TBS
South Region (MEMPHIS)—#1 Florida vs. #11 Dayton
Florida has significant advantages almost across the board, and this game looks like a mismatch for the top-seeded Gators. The FG% margins tilts strongly in UF’s favor, as well as the turnover margin difference. Rebounding gives a tiny edge to the Gators, and the R+T rating is basically a wash. Dayton would have to shoot lights out or Florida would have to be ice cold for this game to be close

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 7      Predicted Score: Florida 71 Dayton 51

8:49 PM EDT on TBS
West Region (ANAHEIM)—#1 Arizona vs. #2 Wisconsin
Arizona has considerable advantages over the Badgers, but not as much as Florida’s advantages over Dayton. The Wildcats’ biggest advantage is in the R+T rating, where our formula states that ‘Zona will get nine extra scoring opportunities. The important note here as that we consider scoring opportunities to be different than possessions. By scoring opportunities, we refer to the high-percentage opportunity from offensive rebounds and steals where the offense has a considerable advantage over the defense.

Arizona also owns slight criteria advantages in FG% margin and rebounding, while turnover margin is a wash. The Badgers get a little advantage for schedule strength, but not enough to turn the tide in their favor.

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 2      Predicted Score: Arizona 75 Wisconsin 68

SUNDAY
2:20 PM EDT on CBS
East Region (NEW YORK CITY)—#4 Michigan St. vs. #7 Connecticut
Michigan State holds a decisive R+T rating in this game, and we figure the Spartans will get an extra eight scoring opportunities. MSU has a very slight advantage in FG% margin and a stronger rebounding margin advantage, while turnover margin is about even. Throw in a slight Spartan advantage in strength of schedule, and it adds up to Sparty cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden. Even a mild home court advantage does not tilt the game in UConn’s favor.

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 3      Predicted Score: Michigan St. 68 Connecticut 59

5:05 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region (INDIANAPOLIS)—#2 Michigan vs. #8 Kentucky
This is the biggest contrast game of the Elite 8, and it should be the most exciting of the four games. Michigan owns the FG% margin advantage, as well as the turnover margin advantage. In fact, Kentucky is the only team left with an effective FG% less than 50% and the only team with a negative turnover margin. These are usually indications that a team will lose in this round.

However, Michigan is the only team left in the field with a negative rebounding margin, while Kentucky has the best rebounding margin of the eight remaining teams. Kentucky’s unbelievable 14 extra scoring opportunities forecasted in this game is an eye-popping statistic reminiscent of the old UCLA teams during the Wooden dynasty, or in other words, an insurmountable advantage.

Michigan has a slight strength of schedule advantage in this game. Now, add one more little thing. Unlike most of the other victors in the tournament as a whole, Michigan has continued to maintain and even surpass their three-point shooting acumen. They have actually exceeded their regular season FG% criteria in the postseason. This is reminiscent of Butler during their back-to-back trips to the Championship Game. Could Michigan repeat this? That’s why this game is extremely close, and it should be the best of the weekend.

PiRate Criteria: Tie (to 2 decimals)      Predicted Score: Michigan 85 Kentucky 84 2ot

March 27, 2014

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview for Friday, March 28, 2014

Here are the matchups for Friday’s Sweet 16 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

The four games on Friday constitute the best four Sweet 16 games in one night in several years. We believe all four games are close to tossups, which means the TV viewer should have one fantastic night of entertainment.

Sweet 16 Friday Schedule

7:15 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Michigan vs. Tennessee
Take your pick. Michigan has slight edges in field goal margin and turnover margin, but Tennessee has a decided edge on the glass. The strength of schedule makes the Wolverines an ever so slight favorite

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by less than 1    Predicted Score: Michigan 72  Tennessee 70

7:27 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Connecticut vs. Iowa St.
The teams are dead even in shooting margin. Neither can rebound the ball all that well, so this is a push as well. Turnover margin is no different, and the R+T ratings are exceptionally low for Sweet 16 teams. Rarely does a team with a low R+T make the Elite 8, but one must this year, and it will be the winner of this game.

PiRate Criteria: Iowa St. by less than 1   Predicted Score: Iowa St. 67  Connecticut 66

Approx. 9:45 PM EDT on CBS
Midwest Region—Louisville vs. Kentucky
Louisville has the best field goal margin ratings of any team remaining in the tournament, while Kentucky ranks near the bottom of Sweet 16 teams. The Wildcats are without a doubt the best rebounding team left in the tournament, but Louisville has the best turnover margin in the remaining field. Kentucky has considerably better R+T and schedule strength, which brings us back to square one—almost.

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 1 Predicted Score: Louisville 74  Kentucky 71

Approx. 9:57 PM EDT on TBS
East Region—Virginia vs. Michigan St.
When you think of a Tom Izzo team, rebounding prowess immediately comes to mind. However, in this game, Virginia actually holds a slight edge. Michigan St., never the finesse team, actually has better shooting margin ratings than the Cavaliers. This game will be decided in the turnover margin, and UVA has the slight edge there.

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 1 Predicted Score: Virginia 58  Michigan St. 56

PiRate Ratings–Sweet 16 Preview for Thursday, March 27, 2014

Here are the matchups for Thursday’s Sweet 16 games with our criteria comparisons. Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game. We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.
Sweet 16 Thursday Schedule

7:15 PM EDT on CBS
South Region—Stanford vs. Dayton

Stanford will have a decided advantage on the boards, while almost all other criteria are about equal. Look for a close game, but the Cardinal will take advantage of a few extra opportunities in second chance points to pull it out in the end.

PiRate Criteria: Stanford by 1 Predicted Score: Stanford 72 Dayton 68

7:47 PM EDT on TBS
West Region—Wisconsin vs. Baylor

Baylor has the rebounding advantage, but Wisconsin has the turnover margin advantage. Shooting is about equal, but Wisconsin’s range of shooting is a little better. Baylor has the R+T advantage, so this game is a real tossup. The criteria score shows it to be a possible overtime game.

PiRate Criteria: Wisconsin by less than 1 Predicted Score: Wisconsin 64 Baylor 63

Approx. 9:30 PM EDT on CBS
South Region—Florida vs. U C L A

Florida has slightly superior numbers in shooting, defense, and rebounding, while UCLA has a little turnover margin advantage. The Gators have the R+T advantage as well, and this game looks to be the biggest mismatch of the night, even though it may not show that in the final score.

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 4 Predicted Score: Florida 69 UCLA 58

Approx. 10:17 PM EDT on TBS
West Region—Arizona vs. San Diego St.

This is an excellent contrast game. Arizona is a lot more physical, but San Diego St. is quite a bit quicker. If the game becomes a volleyball match inside, the Wildcats will be too strong for the Aztecs; but, if the game becomes a quicker-pace, running game, SDSU has the talent to actually run Arizona off the floor. The criteria tilt in favor of the number one seed advancing, and we will go with Arizona as the individual game pick tonight, but remember that we actually selected San Diego St. to be the surprise Final Four team in our original bracket selection.

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 2 Predicted Score: Arizona 75 San Diego St. 70

March 23, 2014

PiRate Ratings–College Basketball Report for Sunday, March 23, 2014

Record in Round 3 Saturday: 6-2  Total for Tournament: 33-7

 

The PiRate Criteria correctly picked 6 of 8 games on Saturday, bringing the total for the tournament to 33-7 for 82.5% accuracy.

 

Here are the matchups for Sunday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

2

Kansas

10

Stanford

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

8

Kentucky

CBS

5:15 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

6

North Carolina

CBS

6:10 PM

Midwest

11

Tennessee

14

Mercer

TNT

7:10 PM

South

4

U C L A

12

Stephen F. Austin

TBS

7:40 PM

West

3

Creighton

6

Baylor

truTV

8:40 PM

East

1

Virginia

8

Memphis

TNT

9:40 PM

West

1

Arizona

8

Gonzaga

TBS

 

 

Kansas vs. Stanford

Even without Joel Embiid, Kansas still holds an advantage on the glass and a large R+T advantage that will give the Jayhawks extra scoring chances.  KU moves to the Sweet 16.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kansas by 5                       Prediction: Kansas 74  Stanford 63

 

Wichita St. vs. Kentucky

It looks like this is the game where Wichita St. has met its match.  Kentucky holds a big advantage on the boards, and a decent advantage in schedule strength.  Wichita State has the shooting and defense advantage, while the turnover edge is minimal to the Shockers.  The key is Kentucky’s superior strength of schedule, enough to give the edge to the Wildcats.

 

PiRate Criteria: Kentucky by 2                   Prediction: Kentucky 62  Wichita St. 58

 

Iowa St. vs. North Carolina

Iowa St. must have an above-average shooting day to have a chance to move on.  North Carolina’s rebounding and R+T advantage is prohibitive, and the Tar Heels are not a bad shooting team.

 

PiRate Criteria: N. Carolina by 1                Predication: North Carolina 77  Iowa St. 74

 

Tennessee vs. Mercer

Two hot teams should make for a great contest.  Mercer is the better shooting team, but not by a lot.  Tennessee has a tiny defensive advantage.  All other statistical data is about equal, except that Tennessee has a much tougher strength of schedule, which is enough to tilt the game in their favor.

 

PiRate Criteria: Tennessee by 3                  Prediction: Tennessee 64  Mercer 57

 

UCLA vs. Stephen F. Austin

This is probably the most interesting game of Sunday.  SFA is no pushover, and the Lumberjacks proved it by defeating VCU.  UCLA has enough talent to make it to the Final Four, but whether the Bruins can remain consistent enough to do so is a question.  Most of the criteria data swing in SFA’s favor, but UCLA has a much better strength of schedule.  All told, the game should be very close, at least for 35 minutes.

 

PiRate Criteria: UCLA by 3                        Prediction: UCLA 66  Stephen F. Austin 59

 

Creighton vs. Baylor

Creighton is the best shooting team remaining in the tournament, but the Blue Jays R+T rating is typical of a team that does not make it to the Sweet 16.  Baylor has a considerable rebounding edge, but the Bears have liabilities in the turnover criteria, enough so that they are our underdog.

 

PiRate Criteria: Creighton by 2                  Prediction: Creighton 76  Baylor 71

 

Virginia vs. Memphis

Virginia is subtly really good with excellent criteria scores in every respect.  Memphis has good criteria scores in every respect, and the Tigers have a decent strength of schedule, just not enough to overcome the Cavaliers’ superiority across the board.

 

PiRate Criteria: Virginia by 4                      Prediction: Virginia 65  Memphis 55

 

Arizona vs. Gonzaga

The Wildcats should take care of business and guarantee that all four top-seeds move on to the Sweet 16.  Gonzaga has a minor advantage in field goal margin, while Arizona has considerable advantage on the boards and decent advantage in turnover margin with a better strength of schedule.

 

PiRate Criteria: Arizona by 3                      Prediction: Arizona 62  Gonzaga 56

March 22, 2014

PiRate Ratings 2014 NCAA Tournament–Round Three Preview

Record in Round 2: 26-6 (81.3%)   Total for Tournament: 26-6 (81.3%)

 

The PiRate Criteria held up quite well in the opening two rounds.  In our preliminary comments Monday, we mentioned six major conference teams that our criteria said were vulnerable to first game exits.  Of those six (Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.), five lost, with only UConn advancing.  We gave you five double-digit seeds that we thought could pull upsets in their first game (Harvard, Mercer, North Carolina Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin), and four of those teams beat their favored opponent.

 

Here are the matchups for Saturday’s Round 3 games with our criteria comparisons.  Remember, the criteria spread is not the predicted spread for each game.  We have commenced with adding a predicted score from the interpretation of the criteria spread.

 

Look for Sunday’s games to post here some time Saturday evening.

 

Round 3 Schedule

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

12:15 PM

South

1

Florida

9

Pittsburgh

CBS

2:45 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

5

Saint Louis

CBS

5:15 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

7

Texas

CBS

6:10 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

12

North Dakota St.

TNT

7:10 PM

South

3

Syracuse

11

Dayton

TBS

7:45 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

7

Oregon

CBS

8:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

12

Harvard

TNT

9:40 PM

East

2

Villanova

7

Connecticut

TBS

 

 

Florida vs. Pittsburgh

This should be much closer than people might expect.  Florida has the advantage in shooting, but Pitt has the advantage on the boards.  The Gators have a slight edge in turnover margin, but Pitt has the R+T advantage.

 

PiRate Criteria: Florida by 1                       Prediction: Florida 66  Pittsburgh 62

 

Louisville vs. Saint Louis

Louisville has the advantages on all fronts—shooting, rebounding, turnover margin, and the all-important R+T advantage.  The Billikens’ only chance in this game is to control the tempo and take smart shots, hoping to catch UL on a cold-shooting afternoon.

 

PiRate Criteria: Louisville by 8                   Prediction: Louisville 71  Saint Louis 57

 

Michigan vs. Texas

Michigan has a considerable shooting advantage, but Texas should capitalize on numerous extra scoring opportunities thanks to a superior R+T advantage.  This one will provide the viewer with an extreme contrast where the finesse team plays the power team.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan by 2                    Predication: Michigan 72  Texas 68

 

San Diego St. vs. North Dakota St.

North Dakota St. is the best shooting team in the tournament, but San Diego St. is one of the top defensive teams in the Dance.  The Aztecs’ biggest assets are their ability to force opponents into turnovers and into taking poor shots.

 

PiRate Criteria: San Diego St. by 3             Prediction: San Diego St. 78  North Dakota St. 71

 

Syracuse vs. Dayton

Syracuse could have a bad shooting night, but the Orange should still prevail.  Their major advantage on the glass combined with Dayton’s propensity to get sloppy handling the ball at times, should be the difference inthis game.

 

PiRate Criteria: Syracuse by 2                    Prediction: Syracuse 64  Dayton 58

 

Wisconsin vs. Oregon

This game is the closest of the Saturday games according to PiRate Criteria.  Shooting ability is even; rebounding is as well.  Oregon’s defense is better at forcing turnovers, but Wisconsin is one of the best at not turning the ball over.  A slight advantage in schedule strength tilts this game to the Badgers.

 

PiRate Criteria: Wisconsin by less than 1   Prediction: Wisconsin 68  Oregon 67

 

Michigan St. vs. Harvard

Michigan St. has small advantages across the board thanks to a much more difficult schedule.  Harvard could keep it close for some time, but the Spartans will eventually pull away to a comfortable margin.

 

PiRate Criteria: Michigan St. by 6              Prediction: Michigan St. 74  Harvard 62

 

Villanova vs. Connecticut

Connecticut has a negative R+T rating, and we cannot select any negative R+T team to win after the round of 64.  Villanova should neutralize UConn’s rebounding strength in the middle.

 

PiRate Criteria: Villanova by 4                   Prediction: Villanova 74  Connecticut 64

March 17, 2014

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Preview–Opening and Second Rounds

Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings’ March Madness Bracketnomics Edition.

 

We coined the term “Bracketnomics,” several years ago to refer to the analytic way of looking at picking teams in your brackets.  While we have never come close to picking every game correctly, we have had a lot of success picking the national champion and Final Four participants.

 

What do we look for when we pick our winners?  It is easier to tell you what we do not pick.  Many of you may be familiar or not at all familiar with something called “The Four Factors.”  This is a very accurate predictor of NBA Games both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  It works to a point in the NCAA regular season.  However, it has many drawbacks in the NCAA Tournament.

 

For various reasons, the NCAA Tournament is an entirely different type of game compared to the regular season.  First and foremost, all teams are playing on foreign hardwood.  Sure, some teams have an advantage of mileage over others, but the gymnasium they will play in leads to no real home court advantage.  If Kentucky has 10,000 fans screaming, “Go Big Blue!” at a crucial point in the second half, this might fire up the team for a possession or two, but the Rupp Arena floor means a lot more to the Wildcats than the cheer that they receive in every road game with all their thousands of followers.  The playing floor, backboards, rims, and sightlines are much more valuable to the home team than the screaming fans.

 

The timeouts in the games are longer than normal timeouts, so substitution patterns are different, even if teams stick to the regular format.  If a team sends in its top two subs at the 13-minute mark of the first half and then plays these subs for six minutes, the two starters will be out at least two minutes longer in actual time and may possible need more time getting their heads back into the game.  Just two extra minutes of rest can cause different reactions, both positive and negative.

 

The obvious difference in the NCAA Tournament games are the elimination fear.  Because the players know the next loss is the last game of the season, and in some cases the last of their career, nerves play a much bigger factor in these games.  It is different in the NBA Playoffs where one loss does not end a season.

 

We could go on and one, but by now you should realize the differences as well.  Thus, the so-called “Four Factors” do not fit into the standard box.  We must come up with Big Dance Steps, or the factors that give us an insight into picking winners.

 

Over the years, we have isolated statistical tendencies that have helped us select winners in the NCAA Tournament.  We have looked at statistics of past champions and Final Four participants and have found certain similarities in these teams.

 

 

1. First and foremost, we look for teams that played better than average schedules.  It is obvious that a team can play 20 patsies and run up some really gaudy stats.  We look for teams that played tough schedules and reward them for that, but we do not totally eliminate mid-major teams that performed excellently against a mid-major schedule.  The best team in the land may play an average schedule, but they would still be the best team.  We have a metric that factors in the SOS into an equation.

 

2. Second, we look for teams that can win away from home.  If a team goes 22-8, with a home record of 18-1 and a record away from home (away and neutral games) of 4-7, this team is not ready to win six consecutive games, or even four, away from home.

 

Once we have isolated the teams that have played an above average schedule and have enjoyed some success away from home, we look at these vital statistics:

 

3. Scoring Margin—anything that is 8 or more is important.  We really like a scoring margin at 10 or more, as all but one of the 21st Century champions have entered the Big Dance with a double digit scoring margin.  If a team has a 15-point or better scoring margin, and they satisfy the strength of schedule and road won-loss criteria, then watch out!  They are talented and have a killer attitude.

 

2. Field Goal Percentage Margin—this is a team’s offensive field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage times 100.  The key here is a margin of +7.5% or better.

 

3. Rebounding Margin—a team with a rebounding margin of 5.0 or more has a chance to overcome a bad shooting game or a turnover-prone game.  We use a metric that factors the type of rebounds, as an offensive rebound leads to more potential points in a possession than a defensive rebound.  Many offensive rebounds become put-back baskets.

 

4. Turnover Margin—similar to rebounding margin, but we have a weighted scale here.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 3.0 or more, then any positive turnover margin is sufficient.  If a team out-rebounds its opponents by 0.1 to 2.9, then a turnover margin of 3.0 or better is required.  And, if a team does not out-rebound its opponents, they must have a turnover margin of 5.0 or more.

 

5. Average Steals Per Game—if the rebound is gold, the steal is platinum.  We consider a steal to be worth more than a defensive rebound.  When a team steals the ball, chances are highest for a fast break score.   Any team that averages 7.5 or more steals per game will have several cheap basket opportunities.  Any team with double digit steals per game will be monsters in the tournament, if they can hold their own on the boards.

 

6. The PiRate R+T Rating—if rebound margin is gold, and steals are platinum, then our R+T rating is rhodium.  This rating combines rebounding margin, turnover margin, and steals per game into one sabermetric-type rating, similar to any of several baseball ratings (like Wins Above Replacement).  The current formula uses an advanced formula, but you don’t have to bother with trying to figure these out for all 68 teams.  We have done that for you.  What we isolate are the teams with an R+T rating of 5.0 or better, paying extra attention to 10.0 or better.  If a team has a negative R+T rating, they are going home quickly even if they are a number 3 seed playing a number 14 seed, which is exactly what happened in 2010, when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating and not only was upset by Ohio U in the opening round, they were blown out of the gym.

 

The 2014 Field of 68

1. Which teams qualify on all of our stat requirements?

 

For the second consecutive season, none of the 68 teams qualify on all the statistical requirements that we look for in a clear cut national champion.  A couple teams came close this year.  Actually, the most perfect fits this year are a handful of mid-major and low-major teams missing in the all important strength of schedule criteria.  What does this tell us?  This could be another year where a team like George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and Wichita St. crashes the party at the Final Four.  Butler came within a couple inches of beating Duke for the title not too many years ago.  Could a Cinderella break through and win it all this year?  We are not calling for it, but it would be no big surprise this year, because there are not many teams with the quality of past Final Four participants.

 

 

2. Which major conference teams appear vulnerable based negative R+T ratings?

 

This is another reason why some smaller teams may have better chances this year.  A record six major conference teams possess negative R+T ratings this year.  These six are very ripe for upset losses early in the tournament.  Keep an eye on: Arizona St., Connecticut, Nebraska, North Carolina St., Ohio St., and Oklahoma St.  Of these six, Oklahoma St. and Arizona St. have abnormally negative R+T numbers, both at -4.5.  Basically, their opponents are getting about 4 ½ extra opportunities to score points in high percentage situations.  In the Big Dance, that is usually lethal.

 

 

4. Which less famous teams have criteria that shows they could upset a single-digit seed in the second round?

 

As we have said already, there are many smaller teams capable of winning a second round game and some capable of getting to the Sweet 16.  It depends on your definition of smaller team to decide if you might go with one of these teams to make the Elite 8 and Final Four.  Is Wichita St. a smaller team?  They are undefeated and ranked number two as a #1-seed.  How about Gonzaga?  They have been among the chosen “Few” for so long, can we really consider their winning tournament games a surprise?

 

Of the teams we really consider to be sleeper teams, keep an eye out on these six teams:

Harvard, Mercer, New Mexico St., North Carolina-Central, North Dakota St., and Stephen F. Austin.  These half-dozen teams have the talent to get hot and knock off a favored opponent.  If their schedules were just a tad tougher, we might even select one of these six to sneak past the Sweet 16 into the Elite 8.

 

 

6. So, who do we pick for the National Champion?

We have been playing with this decision all day.  One team has the look of a National Champion more than any of the other 67, but their strength of schedule bothers us a little this year, unlike last year.

 

However, we are going to go with this team, because their statistical criteria is the closest thing to a perfect fit without being a perfect fit.

 

And that team is: LOUISVILLE!  Yes, we are going with the Cardinals to repeat.  The Midwest Region is ridiculously strong this year.  So many pundits believe this was done to get rid of Wichita St., before the Shockers can get to Arlington in April.  We see no roadblocks in UL’s march to the Sweet 16.  Neither Manhattan, St. Louis, NC St.,  or Xavier have the abilities to stop the Cards.

 

The Sweet 16 game could be the toughest one Rick Pitino’s troops must conquer, as they will most likely play Wichita St. or Kentucky.  I would guess UL would rather play UK than a WSU team looking for revenge from last year’s Final Four semifinal.  The other side of the Midwest bracket should provide little resistance for the Cards.  Michigan and Duke have glaring weaknesses the Cardinals can exploit.

 

Who else looks like Final Four participants to us?  Read on.

 

 

NCAA Tournament Schedule for Opening and Second Rounds

Time

Region

Seed

Team

Seed

Team

Network

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

6:40 PM

South

16

Albany

16

Mount St. Mary’s

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

12

North Carolina St.

12

Xavier

truTV

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

6:40 PM

Midwest

16

Cal Poly

16

Texas Southern

truTV

9:10 PM

Midwest

11

Iowa

11

Tennessee

truTV

 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

12:15 PM

South

6

Ohio St.

11

Dayton

CBS

12:40 PM

West

2

Wisconsin

15

American

truTV

1:40 PM

South

8

Colorado

9

Pittsburgh

TBS

2:10 PM

East

5

Cincinnati

12

Harvard

TNT

2:45 PM

South

3

Syracuse

14

Western Michigan

CBS

3:10 PM

West

7

Oregon

10

B Y U

truTV

4:10 PM

South

1

Florida

16

Albany/Mount St. Mary’s

TBS

4:40 PM

East

4

Michigan St.

13

Delaware

TNT

6:55 PM

East

7

Connecticut

10

St. Joseph’s

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

2

Michigan

15

Wofford

CBS

7:20 PM

Midwest

5

Saint Louis

12

North Carolina St./Xavier

TNT

7:27 PM

West

5

Oklahoma

12

North Dakota St.

truTV

9:25 PM

East

3

Villanova

14

Milwaukee

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

7

Texas

10

Arizona St.

CBS

9:50 PM

Midwest

4

Louisville

13

Manhattan

TNT

9:57 PM

West

4

San Diego St.

13

New Mexico St.

truTV

 

Friday, March 21, 2014

12:15 PM

Midwest

3

Duke

14

Mercer

CBS

12:40 PM

West

6

Baylor

11

Nebraska

truTV

1:40 PM

South

7

New Mexico

10

Stanford

TBS

2:10 PM

West

1

Arizona

16

Weber St.

TNT

2:45 PM

Midwest

6

Massachusetts

11

Iowa/Tennessee

CBS

3:10 PM

West

3

Creighton

14

UL-Lafayette

truTV

4:10 PM

South

2

Kansas

15

Eastern Kentucky

TBS

4:40 PM

West

8

Gonzaga

9

Oklahoma St.

TNT

6:55 PM

East

8

Memphis

9

George Washington

TBS

7:10 PM

Midwest

1

Wichita St.

16

Cal Poly/Texas Southern

CBS

7:20 PM

East

6

North Carolina

11

Providence

TNT

7:27 PM

South

5

V C U

12

Stephen F. Austin

truTV

9:25 PM

East

1

Virginia

16

Coastal Carolina

TBS

9:40 PM

Midwest

8

Kentucky

9

Kansas St.

CBS

9:50 PM

East

3

Iowa St.

14

North Carolina-Central

TNT

9:57 PM

South

4

U C L A

13

Tulsa

truTV

 

Here are our picks for the first two rounds.  Of course, we will update the ratings and pick anew after round two with picks for Saturday on Friday night and picks for Sunday on Saturday night.

 

The spreads given here are devised from our PiRate Scores using our analytic formula that combines all our statistical criteria into a number.  The bigger the spread between the two teams, the more certain we are about the winner of a game.

 

***** These are not point spread predictions *****

They are criteria spread differences.  A difference of 1-3 represents a probable single-digit victory.  Be weary of a spread of just one point, as this is close to a tossup game.  A spread difference of 4 to 6 is on par with a 10-15 point victory.  A spread difference of 7 to 9 indicates a 15-22 point victory, and a spread difference of 10 or more indicates a blowout is possible.

 

Opening Round ( @ Dayton)

Albany  over  Mount St. Mary’s  by 4

Xavier  over  North Carolina St. by 3

Cal Poly over Texas Southern by 2

Tennessee over Iowa by 3

 

Second Round

 

East Region

Virginia over Coastal Carolina by 10

Memphis over George Washington by 1

Harvard over Cincinnati by less than 1

Michigan St. over Delaware by 7

North Carolina over Providence by 7

North Carolina Central over Iowa St. by 1 (Upset)

Connecticut over St. Joseph’s by 2

Villanova over Milwaukee by 11

 

South Region

Florida over Albany by 13

Pittsburgh over Colorado by 1

Virginia Commonwealth over Stephen F. Austin by 1

U C L A over Tulsa by 1

Ohio St. over Dayton by 3

Syracuse over Western Michigan by 2 (could be much closer than expected)

New Mexico over Stanford by 5

Kansas over Eastern Kentucky by 12

 

Midwest Region

Wichita St. over Cal Poly by 13

Kentucky over Kansas St. by 9

Saint Louis over Xavier by 2

Louisville over Manhattan by 9

Tennessee over Massachusetts by 3

Duke over Mercer by 2 (Could be similar to Duke-Belmont from the past)

Texas over Arizona St. by less than 1 (almost dead even)

Michigan over Wofford by 3

 

West Region

Arizona over Weber St. by 7

Gonzaga over Oklahoma St. by 3

North Dakota St. over Oklahoma by 3 (Upset)

San Diego St. over New Mexico St. by less than 1 (close to even)

Baylor over Nebraska by 6

Creighton over UL-Lafayette by 5

B Y U over Oregon by 2 (maybe the most exciting 2nd round game)

Wisconsin over American by 8

 

For those that are filling out the entire bracket, here are our picks as of tonight

 

Advancing to the Sweet 16

Virginia

Michigan St.

North Carolina

Villanova

Florida

U C L A

Syracuse

Kansas

Wichita St.

Louisville

Duke

Texas

Arizona

San Diego St.

Baylor

Wisconsin

 

The Elite 8

Michigan St.

Villanova

Florida

Syracuse

Louisville

Duke

San Diego St.

Wisconsin

 

The Final 4

Michigan St.

Florida

Louisville

San Diego St. (our sleeper Final Four team)

 

Championship Game

Michigan St.

Louisville

 

Champion

Louisville

March 23, 2013

Bracketnomics 2013: NCAA Tournament: Sunday, March 24, Third Round

2013 NCAA Tournament— Round Three Schedule For Sunday, March 24, 2013

All times Eastern Daylight

Time

Network

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

Region

12:15 PM

CBS

2 Ohio St. (27-7)

10 Iowa St. (23-11)

West

2:45 PM

CBS

1 Indiana (28-6)

9 Temple (24-9)

East

5:15 PM

CBS

1 Kansas (30-5)

8-North Carolina (25-10)

South

6:10 PM

TNT

3 Florida (27-7)

11 Minnesota (21-12)

South

7:10 PM

TBS

7 San Diego St. (23-10)

15 Florida Gulf Coast (25-10)

South

7:40 PM

TruTV

12 Ole Miss (27-8)

13 La Salle (23-9)

West

8:40 PM

TNT

2 Miami (Fla)  (28-6)

7 Illinois (23-12)

East

9:40 PM

TBS

2 Duke (28-5)

7 Creighton (28-7)

Midwest

 

Stats of the 16 Teams Playing Today

Team

PPG

Opp

Diff

FG%

D FG%

Diff

Reb

Opp

Diff

TO

Opp TO

Diff

Stl

R+T

SOS

RW-L

Ohio St.

69.2

57.9

11.3

.454

.395

5.9

35.5

31.8

3.7

10.6

13.2

2.6

6.8

8.18

58.31

66.7

Iowa St.

79.6

71.2

8.4

.455

.427

2.8

38.7

34.0

4.7

13.3

13.2

-0.1

6.5

5.88

56.13

37.5

Indiana

80.0

62.5

17.5

.486

.390

9.6

38.6

30.9

7.7

13.0

14.4

1.4

7.5

10.88

58.69

71.4

Temple

72.8

68.1

4.7

.430

.434

-0.4

34.5

35.8

-1.3

11.0

13.7

2.7

8.0

3.54

55.35

60.0

Kansas

75.4

61.5

13.9

.480

.360

12.0

39.1

32.5

6.6

13.7

12.9

-0.8

7.2

7.08

57.80

75.0

North Carolina

77.2

69.1

8.1

.444

.422

2.2

38.9

36.5

2.4

12.2

15.3

3.1

8.2

7.76

58.63

55.6

Florida

71.6

53.7

17.9

.481

.377

10.4

35.1

30.3

4.8

11.1

14.0

2.9

7.0

9.68

57.28

61.1

Minnesota

68.4

61.7

6.7

.442

.396

4.6

38.8

30.6

8.2

13.8

12.8

-1.0

7.6

8.52

59.67

33.3

San Diego St.

69.2

60.7

8.5

.438

.388

5.0

36.8

33.4

3.4

11.9

12.7

0.8

6.9

5.74

57.98

47.1

Florida Gulf Coast

73.1

66.7

6.4

.460

.406

5.4

36.6

35.4

1.2

14.7

15.9

1.2

9.0

4.44

47.87

50.0

Ole Miss

77.9

67.3

10.6

.438

.410

2.8

38.7

37.7

1.0

11.4

15.6

4.2

8.4

7.72

51.73

58.8

La Salle

72.4

66.0

6.4

.448

.456

-0.8

31.7

34.7

-3.0

11.7

14.9

3.2

8.1

2.46

54.70

53.3

Miami

69.9

60.7

9.2

.460

.399

6.1

35.8

32.5

3.3

10.9

11.9

1.0

6.3

5.76

59.20

72.2

Illinois

69.1

65.3

3.8

.416

.427

-1.1

33.5

34.9

-1.4

11.5

14.4

2.9

6.9

3.46

58.79

55.6

Duke

78.3

65.4

12.9

.476

.418

5.8

33.8

35.0

-1.2

10.7

14.4

3.7

6.5

4.54

60.79

68.8

Creighton

75.4

63.1

12.3

.508

.407

10.1

35.2

30.3

4.9

12.3

10.6

-1.7

5.0

3.86

54.46

70.6

Friday’s Record: 10-6

Tournament Total: 22-10

 

Game Previews

Ohio State vs. Iowa State

We told you before the tournament that IowaState would beat Notre Dame, because the Irish failed to qualify in at least one of our PiRate Rating Criteria categories.  Can the Cyclones advance to the Sweet 16 with another upset of a bigtime Midwest opponent?

 

In two words, “probably not.”  OhioState holds decisive advantages in too many of our criteria categories, while IowaState enjoys one small advantage over the Buckeyes.  OhioState has a better field goal percentage margin by 3.1%.  The Cyclones enjoy a minor rebounding margin advantage over the Buckeyes by one, but OhioState counters that with a turnover margin advantage of 2.7.  The R+T advantage for the Buckeyes is 2.3.

 

Additionally, OhioState gained these statistical advantages by playing a schedule that was on average more than two points per game better than IowaState.  To top it off, the Buckeyes are clearly the better team away from home.  Not that it matters all that much in our ratings, but the boys from Columbus now own a nine-game winning streak and appear to be playing their best ball of the season

 

PiRate Pick: Ohio State 73  Iowa State 60

 

Indiana vs. Temple

Indiana looked like a Final Four team Friday, when the Hoosiers put James Madison away quickly.  Temple had a challenge from North CarolinaState, but the Owls made it a perfect first two rounds for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

 

Indiana is poised to make it an easy first two games, as this one looks like a major mismatch.  The Hoosiers’ field goal margin advantage in this game is a huge 10%.  This discrepancy can only be overcome if the other team enjoys one equally huge R+T rating advantage, but Indiana is the team that enjoys this advantage.  Because IU has the rebounding margin edge by 9.0, and Temple’s turnover margin advantage is just 1.3, the R+T advantage for the Hoosiers is 7.34.  So, Indiana figures to shoot about 10% better than the Owls and get more than seven extra opportunities to score.

 

Add a strength of schedule advantage of more than three points per game and a road winning percentage advantage of more than 10, and this looks like it could be boring after the first two TV timeouts.

 

PiRate Pick: Indiana 81  Iowa State 60

 

Kansas vs. North Carolina

This game is being used as an example that the NCAA Selection Committee purposely tries to arrange these games, but the public needs to realize that once seeded, you could select any number of possible schedules with no human contribution other than putting the mathematical equations into a computer, and no matter how the schedule was chosen, there would be games like this.  What if Indiana and Marquette faced off, and Tom Crean played his old team?  How about Florida and Louisville being placed in the same region and meeting in the Elite 8?  That would pit Billy Donovan against his college coach Rick Pitino.  The possibilities are endless, and dozens of games like this one could occur if this one did not.

 

As for the game, KU enjoys an advantage similar to Indiana.  The Jayhawks’ field goal margin difference in this game is 9.8%.  The Tar Heels have a slight R+T rating advantage, but it is not enough to counter the large discrepancy in field goal percentage margin.  UNC’s SOS is less than one point per game tougher than Kansas, while KU has a large road winning percentage advantage.  Of course, this is almost a home game for the Jayhawks, as they are less than 45 minutes away from campus.

 

PiRate Pick: Kansas 74  North Carolina 65

 

Florida vs. Minnesota

Here is another one of those games where the coaches share something in common.  Tubby Smith and Billy Donovan were both on the staff at Kentucky under Rick Pitino, and of course, they were tough rivals when Smith was the coach at Kentucky.

 

This game should be closer than most people expect it to be.  On paper, Florida should blow the Gophers out of the gym, but the criteria scores indicate that Minny should keep this one close, if not for the entire game, at least most of the game.

 

Florida has a better field goal percentage margin, by 5.8%.  This is considerable but not infallible.  Minnesota enjoys the rebound margin advantage by 3.4.  The Gators’ return the favor in turnover margin advantage by 3.9, which gives Florida an R+T advantage of 1.16.  The Gophers have the better SOS at 2.39 points per game, while UF has a much better road winning percentage.

 

PiRate Pick: Florida 64  Minnesota 57

 

 

San Diego State vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Georgetown is quickly becoming the DePaul of the 21st Century.  In the early 1980’s, DePaul stayed at the top of the polls and was always a one or two seed, but the Blue Demons always suffered an upset early in the tournament, usually in the first round.

 

FloridaGulfCoast has now defeated two different number two seeds this year, as they topped Miami in November.

 

This San DiegoState team is not nearly as talented as last year’s version, but the Aztecs are favored to advance to the Sweet 16.  Does our criteria see it that way too?  No, it does not.  We believe this game will be rather close, and FGCU will have a chance to pull off another upset if they can force SDSU into a few more turnovers than average.

 

If Coach Steve Fisher’s squad can keep from making too many mistakes, the Aztecs will advance to the next round, because SDSU has decisive advantages in rebounding and SOS, while the rest of the criteria basically cancels itself out.

 

PiRate Pick: San Diego State 68  Florida Gulf Coast 64

 

Ole Miss vs. La Salle

We can state one prediction where we feel more than comfortable believing in our accuracy.  Not many college basketball fans have neutral feelings about Rebel sharpshooter Marshall Henderson.

 

This game guarantees that at least one double-digit seed will advance to the Sweet 16.  Ole Miss has a considerable but not overwhelming edge in the criteria stats.  The Rebels take the field goal percentage margin stat by 3.6%, and rebounding margin by 4, as La Salle is not strong in that category.  Ole Miss has a turnover margin edge of 1.0, which when combined with the other rebounds and steals, gives the Rebels an R+T advantage of 5.26.  On the other hand, the Explorers have an SOS advantage of 3 points per game, and neither team is an exceptional road team, so this game could be interesting.

 

PiRate Pick: Ole Miss 65  La Salle 61

 

Miami vs. Illinois

Make no mistakes about it:  Jim Larranaga knows how to coach and has taken a mid-major to the Final Four.  What can he do with big-time talent?  This team looks like an Elite 8 representative for sure, and who knows how a Miami-Indiana game might turn out?  Maybe some of us will get a clue for this possible game when the Hurricanes take on a team that beat Indiana in the regular season.

 

“The U” owns a 7.2% field goal margin difference, a rebounding margin advantage of 4.7, and an R+T advantage of 2.3.  Illinois has the advantage in turnover margin at 1.9, but that is not enough to balance the scale.  The SOS’s are roughly equal, and it is obvious that the Hurricanes’ road record is much better than the Illini

 

PiRate Pick: Miami 72  Illinois 59

 

 

Duke vs. Creighton

This is the final game of the third round, but it could be one of the most interesting.  WichitaState showed that the second best team in the Missouri Valley Conference is pretty tough, so Creighton must be even tougher.

 

Duke’s biggest advantage in this game is a Strength of Schedule that is more than six points per game better than Creighton’s.  That discrepancy skews the remainder of the ratings.

 

One stat that is not skewed is Creighton’s field goal percentage.  The Blue Jays are the best shooting team in the Big Dance, one of just two of the 68 teams to make better than half of their shots.  Duke is no slouch in shooting accuracy, but this Blue Devil team is not a toughie to shoot against.  To add to Coach K’s misery, Duke does not dominate on the glass, while Crieghton is a strong rebounding team.

 

Duke’s big advantage in this game is their turnover margin advantage, but since they do not generate a lot of steals, they do not benefit as much from the advantage.  Still, the SOS in this game is astronomical, and it is enough to counter all of Creighton’s advantages, which should make this a tossup game to end the opening weekend.

 

PiRate Pick: Duke 76  Creighton 73

 

March 22, 2013

Bracketnomics 2013: NCAA Tournament: Saturday, March 23, Third Round

 2013 NCAA Tournament— Round Three Schedule For Saturday, March 23, 2013

All times Eastern Daylight

Time

Network

Region

Higher Seed

Lower Seed

 

12:15 PM

CBS

South

#4 Michigan (27-7)

#5 Virginia Commonwealth (27-8)

 

2:45 PM

CBS

Midwest

#3 Michigan St. (26-8)

#6 Memphis (31-4)

 

5:15 PM

CBS

Midwest

#1 Louisville (30-5)

#8 Colorado St. (26-8)

 

6:10 PM

TNT

West

#6 Arizona (26-7)

#14 Harvard (20-9)

 

7:10 PM

TBS

Midwest

#4 St. Louis (28-6)

#12 Oregon (27-8)

 

7:45 PM

CBS

East

#3 Marquette (24-8)

#6 Butler (27-8)

 

8:40 PM

TNT

West

#1 Gonzaga (32-2)

#9 Wichita St. (27-8)

 

9:40 PM

TBS

East

#4 Syracuse (27-9)

#12 California (21-11)

 

Team

PPG

Opp

Diff

FG%

Def FG%

Diff

Reb

Opp

Diff

TO

Opp TO

Diff

Stl

R+T

SOS

Rd  W-L

Michigan

75.2

62.9

12.3

.484

.419

6.5

35.1

32.2

2.9

9.2

12.1

2.9

6.0

7.58

56.00

60.0

V C U

77.3

64.8

12.5

.449

.444

0.5

34.8

34.8

0.0

11.8

19.9

8.1

11.8

12.08

55.72

64.7

Michigan St.

68.2

59.3

8.9

.460

.394

6.6

37.3

30.5

6.8

13.4

12.8

-0.6

8.1

7.70

59.69

53.3

Memphis

75.9

65.1

10.8

.479

.405

7.4

37.8

32.9

4.9

14.6

15.5

0.9

9.0

7.78

54.81

81.3

Louisville

73.6

58.0

15.6

.445

.388

5.7

37.5

33.9

3.6

12.7

18.7

6.0

10.7

12.94

59.42

77.8

Colorado St.

73.1

62.9

10.2

.448

.409

3.9

40.4

28.4

12.0

10.8

11.1

0.3

4.9

13.34

56.44

56.3

Arizona

73.3

63.7

9.6

.450

.415

3.5

36.2

30.3

5.9

13.1

13.8

0.7

6.9

8.12

57.27

68.8

Harvard

68.9

63.9

5.0

.482

.440

4.2

29.4

30.4

-1.0

13.5

13.8

0.3

7.4

0.84

48.79

42.9

St. Louis

68.7

58.1

10.6

.448

.412

3.6

32.8

32.5

0.3

11.5

15.2

3.7

7.5

6.24

55.73

69.2

Oregon

72.5

62.9

9.6

.451

.406

4.5

37.9

30.9

7.0

15.1

15.7

0.6

8.8

9.48

53.29

60.0

Marquette

69.0

62.7

6.3

.467

.405

6.2

35.0

30.6

4.4

13.6

12.9

-0.7

6.7

4.90

58.24

46.7

Butler

69.7

63.7

6.0

.455

.417

3.8

36.6

28.9

7.7

13.2

11.2

-2.0

5.7

6.44

56.61

70.6

Gonzaga

78.0

59.7

18.3

.503

.382

12.1

37.4

30.0

7.4

11.3

13.9

2.6

8.0

12.12

54.72

93.8

Wichita St.

69.4

60.7

8.7

.443

.400

4.3

38.4

30.0

8.4

12.8

13.2

0.4

7.5

10.38

53.84

64.7

Syracuse

71.3

60.1

11.2

.440

.377

6.3

38.7

34.6

4.1

12.6

15.5

2.9

8.9

9.36

59.30

56.3

California

67.5

64.4

3.1

.446

.396

5.0

37.2

34.0

3.2

12.5

11.1

-1.4

5.8

2.68

56.35

60.0

 

Thursday’s Pick Record: 12 – 4.

 

Game Previews

Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth

Michigan has a decided shooting edge in this game, and the Wolverines should win the rebound battle, but the key here will be how much they control the boards.  VCU’s pressing defense is called “Havoc” for a reason.  The Rams can get 10 steals on just about any team in this tournament, because players do not have the fundamentals mastered in this era.  If Michigan cannot win the rebounding battle by at least five and maybe as much as eight, VCU will create enough turnovers and score enough in transition to erase Michigan’s shooting advantage.  The Maize and Blue may be the best team VCU’s press has tried to upset this year, and Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are much better than the average pair of ball-handlers.

 

Like most of Saturday’s games, this one will be an excellent game to watch, and it should be nip and tuck all the way.  We grade these teams three ways to come up with our PiRate Number.  Michigan has a slight edge in one rating, while VCU has an equally slim edge in the second rating.  VCU qualifies in four of our rating criteria categories, while Michigan qualifies in three.  However, Michigan qualifies in the all-important strength of schedule, while the Rams do not.

 

VCU fails to qualify on SOS by the thinnest of hairs, and when we compare the two teams’ SOS side-by-side, they are separated by less than a point per game.

 

PiRate Pick: Virginia Commonwealth 74  Michigan 70

 

Michigan St. vs. Memphis

This is another game where the teams match up well with enough strengths with which to exploit the other and enough liabilities that can be exploited.  MichiganState is a tad slow in transition, while Memphis is considerably quicker.  The Spartans are stronger in the paint, while their guards are better outside shooters than the Tigers’ guards.

 

We think the difference in this game will come in shot selection.  In the second half, we expect MichiganState to take the smarter shots, while Memphis throws up some ill-advised shots.  It will be the difference down the stretch as Sparty pulls away at the end.

 

PiRate Pick: Michigan State 68  Memphis 61

 

Louisville vs. Colorado St.

The Rams might have a decent shot at ousting any of the other three number one seeds, but they unfortunately draw the one number one seed that they do not match up well against.  Louisville is a much better version of New Mexico, and CSU could not handle New Mexico.

 

The Cardinals have the best defensive backcourt in the tournament, even better than VCU’s Havoc Defense.  Not only can UL steal the ball 10 times a game, they also can stop teams in the paint and on the perimeter in the halfcourt.  Coach Rick Pitino may have his best team since his 1996 Kentucky Wildcats, and “The Ville,” looks to be unstoppable at this point.

 

ColoradoState may keep it close for one or two TV timeouts, but the Cardinals will pull away and have a double-digit lead before halftime.  CSU is not the best come-from-behind team, and things will only get worse until Pitino removes his starters.

 

PiRate Pick: Louisville 77  Colorado St. 54

 

Arizona vs. Harvard

If you read our previous post, you know we selected the 6-seeded Wildcats to emerge as the surprise winner of the West Region.  We’ve been given a gift in this round, as Sean Miller’s squad almost gets a walkover to advance to the Sweet 16.

 

Harvard is the first team that failed to qualify in any of our criteria categories to advance to the Round of 32 in six seasons.  We do not expect the Crimson to put up much of a fight in this game.

 

Arizona will get about 10-12 more chances to score points in this game, and the Wildcats should match or exceed Harvard in shooting percentage.  UA’s quickness should prevent the Crimson from getting many open looks from behind the arc, which is the only area where Harvard has a chance to stay in the game.

 

PiRate Pick: Arizona 71  Harvard 52

 

St. Louis vs. Oregon

We think this will be a dandy of a game to watch.  Aside from being just plain solid, SLU is playing for their deceased head coach, Rick Majerus.  While this emotional boost of octane does not figure in our PiRate Criteria, we do keep this knowledge in the back of our heads.

 

OU has an axe to grind that equalizes the Billikens’ extra emotion.  The Ducks felt as if they were seeded about five spots lower than they deserved to be seeded.  So these factors cancel each other out.

 

Let’s look at the Criteria numbers for this game.  Oregon should end up with a better shooting percentage, and the Ducks should win the battle of the boards, but not by a large number.  The SLU players are a better ball-control team, but they won’t remind anybody of conference rival VCU.

 

Oregon has a small R+T advantage, while SLU has played a slightly more difficult schedule and has performed better away from home.  The fact that this game is in San Jose does not help the Ducks as much as it would if this were the previous round, but SLU will have been on the coast for four days and will have adjusted by the time this game tips off.

 

Both teams have exceptional depth and balance, and this game should have a fluidity that others do not.  It would not surprise us if neither team ever enjoys a lead of more than eight points.  It would also not surprise us if 40 minutes is not enough to determine the winner.

 

PiRate Pick: Oregon 72  St. Louis 70

 

Marquette vs. Butler

This game could have just as easily been Davidson versus Bucknell.  Marquette survived an advanced because Davidson panicked at the end.  Bucknell had Butler on the ropes, but the Bulldogs showed poise when it counted.  The more experienced teams emerged victorious.

 

Now, in this round, we need to closely examine the numbers, because both teams are solid with savvy.  Marquette is a slightly better shooting team than Butler, and the Golden Eagles are also a little better affecting shots by the opponent.   Butler is considerably better on the glass, while neither team is much of a ball-hawking power.  Butler will get three to five more chances to score, but Marquette will shoot a higher percentage.

 

Looking at the other criteria, Marquette compiled their stats against competition that was a little less than two points per game better than Butler’s opponents, but Butler performed much better away from Indianapolis than MU did away from Milwaukee.  This stat is the deciding factor for us, and we believe Coach Brad Stevens will have his squad a little better prepared on less than 48 hours notice.

 

PiRate Pick: Butler 59  Marquette 55

 

Gonzaga vs. Wichita St.

The number one seed and regular final season number one team almost fell to a 16-seed.  The last time the overall number one team and top seed in a region lost their first game was way back in 1981, when #1-seed DePaul lost to #9-seed St. Joseph’s (40-team tournament in 1981).

 

WichitaState looked like a Sweet 16 team in their win over Pittsburgh.  The Shockers have their best team since the great 1981 team that advanced to the Elite 8.  That team had three future NBA players in Cliff Levengston, Antoine Carr, and Xavier McDaniel.

 

Of course, this is Gonzaga’s best team, and the Bulldogs have been toughened by their narrow escape.  We do not see Coach Mark Few’s team stubbing its toe and coming out flat in this game.  GU has something to prove.

 

The Zags are a better shooting team and a better defending team in the half-court.  The two teams are fairly even on the boards, while Gonzaga enjoys a slight advantage in turnover margin.  The two teams’ strengths of schedule differ minutely, but Gonzaga enjoys a considerably better record away from Spokane than WSU has away from Wichita.

 

PiRate Pick: Gonzaga 78  Wichita State 69

 

Syracuse vs. California

The Golden Bears get a little bit of home court advantage, as Berkeley is only 45 miles north of San Jose.  Still, the ‘Cuse is clearly the better team.

 

A lot of teams have trouble with Coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 matchup zone the first time they face it.  We believe the Bears will shoot under 40% in this game and fail to pick up enough offensive rebounds to keep the game within reach at the end.

 

Syracuse enjoys small, but significant advantages in field goal percentage margin and rebound margin.  The difference is more significant in turnover margin, and this leads to SU enjoying an R+T rating that is worth 6 ½ more possessions.  To top it off, The Orangemen’s strength of schedule is about three points per game better than Cal’s.  This adds up to a solid win for Boeheim’s bunch.

 

PiRate Pick: Syracuse 69  California 57

 

Coming Saturday night, we will preview Sunday’s games.

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