The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 12, 2021

The All-Encompassing Master Bracketnomics Paradigm–2021

Hello PiRate Ratings fans.  We here never take for granted just how intelligent the typical reader of this site is.  The contributors to this site are all geriatric lovers of mathematics, basically statistics.  Personally, I (The Captain of the Ship) learned to love math at an early age by calculating the Earned Run Averages of Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Dean Chance, and Gary Peters at a time when they were trying to stay under 2.00.  When Bob Gibson had that miraculous 1968 season, I convinced my classmates to get into baseball just for the stats.  This love for statistics led to me becoming a sabermetric baseball analyst in my 50’s, where I worked for a Major League team for a few years.  Additionally, it led to my designing an advanced strategy baseball game called, “Sabertooth Baseball.”  If you are into tabletop baseball and want something more than a generic game that leaves out half of the strategies in real baseball, then check out our sister site, https://sabertoothbaseball.wordpress.com , where you can find a link to purchase the game online for the ridiculously low opening day sale of $7.  We send you a Zip file of player cards, charts, directions, ballparks, and even managerial strategies used by the team.  You print them out and use dice to play the game.  Other games might cost $75-100 to purchase a boxed game.  Printing the card yourself saves you more than $60, and you can keep the charts and rules open on a computer if you don’t want to print them.

Back to basketball and the real meat of today’s publication.  The PiRate Ratings have been isolating technical data and back-testing our theories as far back as there are statistics for college basketball.  Over the years, we have isolated certain data that serves as an NCAA Tournament team “fingerprint.”  We have noticed patterns where teams that made the Final 4 and won the championship shared similar stat profiles.  As basketball analytics came to be, we found new data that made the fingerprint much more accurate.  For several years, we enjoyed incredible success picking brackets, and many of our readers commented that they won their bracket contests.  Included in our selections were crazy things like picking George Mason to sneak into the Sweet 16, possibly make it to the Elite 8, and to actually be a dark horse to make the Final 4.  When they did exactly that, somebody at one of the top newspapers in the US the next year linked to us, and our site crashed for the only time in its existence.

In other years, we discovered negative data that told us that certain teams were early upset possibilities.  We mentioned more than once that Georgetown and Vanderbilt, two highly-seeded teams, were likely to lose in the opening games to lower-ranked teams, because of our now famous “R+T” rating.  The Hoyas and Commodores both had negative R+T ratings those years, and they both lost just like we predicted.  When the best R+T teams won the national championship three consecutive years, you noticed and began putting the pressure on us to replicate our success.

Alas, like a hot player at the horse track, our system began to falter.  It wasn’t the statistics that led to a swoon; it was the way the game was played.  Basketball analytics began to affect the game the same way that Money Ball affected baseball.  The Four Factors became the Weighted On Base Average of basketball.  And, then the NCAA changed the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.  That little five second change greatly altered the way basketball was played.  

Last year, we spent hour after hour re-tooling our system.  We didn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, but we altered how the data would be used.  New back-testing showed that our new data might be as accurate of a predictor as the original data.  We were three days away from releasing the tutorial, when THUD, the season came to an end four days before Selection Sunday.

It looks like the Indiana Extravaganza will take place in 2021.  So, we can finally reveal to you our updated Bracketnomics for 2021.  After you read this, you have earned a PhD in Bracket-picking (or maybe in wasting time.)  Please enjoy this.  It is still experimental, so please do not use this information for potential financial investment purposes.  A free bracket-picking contest is okay.

Criteria #1: Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency, and True Shooting Percentage

This should be obvious.  The object of the game is to score points and prevent the other team from scoring points.  The way to score points is to put the ball in the basket, and the way to prevent points from being scored is to force the other team to not put the ball in the basket.  Because there is a way to score one point, two points, and three points, an overall all-encompassing percentage that includes points scored all three ways has been created.  It is called “True Shooting Percentage.”  Its formula is: (100 * Pts) / (2 * (FGA + (.475 * FTA)))

If a team scores 85 points and takes 65 field goal attempts and 25 free throw attempts, then plugging in the formula:  (100 * 85) / (2 * (65 + (.475 * 25))) = 55.3%

When a team has a true shooting percentage offense that is 10% or better than their defensive true shooting percentage, you are looking at a gem.

More importantly, there are offensive and defensive efficiency ratings adjusted by factoring schedule strength.  Look at the top 20 in both categories, making note of any team that appears in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  When a team appears in both top 20’s, they have Final 4 potential.  If a team appears in the top 10 in both, they have to be considered a strong contender to cut the nets down when they play “One Final Moment.”

If a team is in the top 10 in one category but not in the top 50 in the other, this team is good enough to get past the Sweet 16, and usually one Final Four team will have this characteristic, but only twice in the 21st Century (both times Connecticut) has the overall National Champion been outside the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  For what it’s worth, the Huskies moved into the top 20 during the tournament.

If you have to give one of the two efficiency stats more weight than the other, it should be the offense and not the defense like one might think.  Basketball is an offensive game.  Baseball is a defensive game.  For our purposes, a team with an offensive efficiency in the top 10 and a defensive efficiency in the top 20 that has an above average schedule strength is pure gold.

Criteria #2: Experienced and Clutch Players

It is rare for a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores that have no key upperclassmen in their playing rotation to make it to the Final Four.  Also, there needs to be a go-to player that can put his team on his shoulders and score the ultra-high leverage points.  What we are looking for here is a roster where at least one of the top 8 players is an experienced upperclassman, preferably with past NCAA Tournament experience.  We are also looking for a player that wants the ball with his team down one point and 10 seconds left in the game, or it can be a trio of guys where any one of the three could hit the last-second shot, even if they don’t generate the big headlines.

Criteria #3: Frontcourt Hero

In recent years, hitting from downtown has been the popular way to win games in the regular season.  We used to tell you to throw out the perimeter team as one that could never advance deep into the tournament, but times have changed.  Three-point shooting is now the base on balls of basketball.  However, the inside force is still the slugging percentage of basketball.  For a team to win six times after the Ides of March, they must have at least one inside force that contributes a double figure scoring average and a good number of average rebounds.  We personally look for a forward or center that averages 12 or more points per game and 7 or more rebounds per game, or two inside men that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.  If the team has one player that averages 14 points and 5 rebounds per game, and another player that averages 8 points and 7 rebounds per game, this is satisfactory.  That qualifies for enough inside force to win a close game when the opponent has the outside shooting advantage.

Criteria #4: Balance

This is an alternative to the team where one player can carry them to win after win.  If a team does not have a stud NBA Lottery pick on its roster, if they have a balanced team where four or more players average double figure scoring, it can be hard to shut them all down in a game.  One of the four is likely to have a hot hand.  It may not be as immediate, but sometimes the balanced team has the advantage if the one-star team’s star has his one off night of the season in the Sweet 16.  

Criteria #5: A head coach with NCAA Tournament experience, preferably winning Tournament experience

If the coach of a tournament team has taken a past team to the Final Four, he’s in elite company.  Treat this coach like royalty.  If the coach has taken a past team to the Elite 8, he’s almost as royal.  If a coach has taken past teams to multiple Sweet 16’s, then these coaches deserve bonus points.

Criteria #6: Strength of Schedule

A team from one of the bottom 10 conferences might go 28-3 in the regular season, and possess all of the above criteria above (maybe not criteria #5).  But, this team has probably played 90% of its games against Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4 opponents, maybe all of its games against the bottom half.

Meanwhile, another team from one of the top three leagues might have stats that make you wonder why this team was invited to the Dance.  Schedule strength is the difference.  Annually, a team with a record like 19-14 from the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, or SEC gets an invitation to the tournament and wins a tournament game, while a team that went 29-4 and lost in the championship game of their low-major conference tournament is put in the NIT field, and a 30-4 low-major conference champion loses without really competing in their game.  

To win the NCAA Championship, a team must have defeated quality opposition and not just teams ranked lower than 250.  No team in the modern era has won the national championship with a schedule strength outside of the top 40.  There have been multiple #1 seeds with schedule strengths below #40 that did not make it to the Final 4, and every one that made it to the Final 4 failed to win the National Championship.  Butler in 2010 came within a couple inches of winning the title with a schedule strength outside the top 40.

Teams with weaker strengths of schedule can make it to the Final 4, but not very frequently.  To win four games in the Dance, a team usually has to be battle-tested.  If a mid-major has a schedule strength between 50 and 100, they have to be really strong in other criteria to pick to go to the Final 4.  In 2018, when Gonzaga advanced to the National Championship Game, their strength of schedule was in this range.  Butler’s strength of schedule was also in this range when they twice advanced to the Championship Game.  Loyola of Chicago just barely qualified.

Criteria #7: A Regular Season or Conference Tournament Champion

Rarely does a team win the national championship after not winning either their regular season or conference tournament championship.  It happens, but the conference championship and conference tournament championship teams have already proven they can win games when the money is on the line.

Criteria #8: Three-point Shooting Percentage

In the past, teams that relied on the three-point shot could be counted out after the Sweet 16.  That is no longer the case.  But, shooting three pointers is not the key; making them is the key.  It doesn’t matter how many of them a team takes, the percentage is the key.  Look for teams that hit 3 out of every 8, or to round it to a whole number, better than 37%.  3 of 8 from behind the arc is better than 5 of 9 inside.

Criteria #9: Offensive Rebounding Percentage

One would think that a rebound is a rebound, but offensive rebounds lead to more points than defensive rebounds, obviously because an offensive rebound is made within shooting range of a team’s basket, while a defensive rebound is more than 50 feet away from a team’s basket.

The key number here is also 37%.  If a team gets offensive rebounds on 37% or more of its missed shots, they are going to be tough to beat in the Big Dance.  Many times, close games are decided by key offensive rebounds in the final two minutes, even the final possession of games.  If a team has made it to the Sweet 16, if they can crash the offensive boards, they are dangerous.

Criteria #10: Defensive 2-Point Field Goal Percentage

After telling you that three-point shooting has become the rage these days, we’ve now mentioned having an inside scoring force, the ability to hit the offensive glass, and now we tell you not to look at three-point shooting percentage defense.  The ability to stop the close shots is much more important in tournament games.  About 60% of all field goal attempts are two-point attempts, and remember that an easy shot inside of five feet from the basket is still more important than an open three-point shot.  If a team has weak inside defense, and the opponent hits 10 baskets inside five feet of the basket, they are likely to consistently have a higher true shooting percentage than the team that averages eight made three-pointers per game.  Over the long haul, the three-point shooting magicians may have higher true shooting percentages, but their chances of having six consecutive higher true shooting percentages are much lower than the team that can get inside of five feet consistently and hit 12 of 18 shots in this crip zone .  

Look for a team with a defensive two-point shooting percentage lower than 45%.  Opponents will not be able to consistently score points against these teams.

Criteria #11: Free Throw Rate

We used to pan great free throw shooting teams, because they never won national championships.  In fact, for years, the national champion was always a sub-70% free throw shooting team.  None of the great UCLA teams during their 10-title run in 12 years shot 70% at the foul line.  We showed for years how the power team that may have averaged 18 of 27 at the foul line only lost three points to the top free throw percentage team that went 21 of 27.  These sub-70% free throw shooting teams easily made up that three points and more by controlling the boards against the finesse teams.

Free Throw Rate doesn’t look at free throw percentage.  Drawing fouls on the defense is more important, and we’ve been late coming to this side of belief.  We believed for years that free throws made per 100 possessions was a more important way to measure free throw rate than the standard Free Throw Attempts divided by Field Goal Attempts.  But, the key part of this stat is getting to the foul line more than it is making the foul shots.  Obviously, it is not great to fail to score at the charity stripe, but the essence here is still the same; if a team has to make foul shots to win games, they aren’t going to do so six times in the NCAA Tournament.  But, if they get to the foul line with higher frequency, it means two things much more important than scoring free throws.  First, the opponents are likely to see key players sitting on the bench with foul trouble.  More importantly, a team that gets to the foul line frequently probably is too talented offensively for average and above average defenses to handle.  Why are most fouls committed?  They are committed when a defensive player cannot adequately guard the offensive player.

The key stat to look for is a team with a FT Rate in excess of 37%.  Defensively, look for a team that has a FT Rate lower than 31%.  Those two stats tell you which offenses are dangerous and which defenses are tournament tough.

Criteria #12: The Old PiRate Data Still Matters

The old mainstay PiRate Ratings data still matters.  Those stats include:A scoring margin of 10 or more points for Final Four potential, and a scoring margin of 8 or more points for Sweet 16 and Elite 8 teams.  More than 80% of Final 4 teams across time have scoring margins of 10 points or more.  Don’t expect a team with a scoring margin of a few points to win four games in the NCAA Tournament.

A: Field Goal % margin.  Look for teams that have a regular FG% that is 7.5% better than their Defensive FG%.  If that number is 10% or more, this is a tough team.  A team with a 48% FG% and 38% defensive FG% is a gem.

B: Winning % away from home.  If a team won 75% of their games not played at home, they are tournament ready.  If a 25-8 team went 17-0 at home and 8-8 away from home, this team is a pretender.  A team has to win six consecutive games away from home to cut the nets, so don’t look at a .500 team away from home to beat six quality opponents.

C: A lengthy winning streak during the season.  Do you really think a team that never won more than three consecutive games during the season will now win six in a row against better competition?  Most national champions had either a winning streak of 10 or more games or multiple winning streaks of six or more games.

Criteria #13: R+T ©

We saved this one for last.  It is our personal creation.  Way back in the early days of the career of one of our favorite college basketball analysts ever, Clark Kellogg, we heard him mention the term, “Spurtability.”  He explained that teams with spurtability tended to win more NCAA Tournament games than others.  A team that could go on a quick scoring run in a short time frequently won NCAA Tournament games.

Then, we remembered back to our youth, when the NCAA Tournament was the UCLA Invitational.  When UCLA beat Duke in the 1964 National Championship Game, they broke open a close game with a 16-0 run in just two and a half minutes!  This was before the three-point shot existed.  They scored 16 points in about 150 seconds by forcing Duke to turn the ball over against their scary 2-2-1 Zone Press, and they converted over and over with fast break baskets.  The game was over after this.  That wasn’t the only time that year that 30-0 UCLA did that.  Coach John Wooden, in a lecture given to amateur coaches in the 1980’s, said that the 1964 team had at least one run like this in all 30 games that year.

Take two teams evenly matched playing in the Elite 8.  Both are highly ranked and deserving of that ranking.  Both are among the top teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and both played tough schedules.  With six minutes to go in the game Team A leads Team B by four points, when Team B goes on a 12-2 run in the next two minutes, forcing Team A to call time out, as they now trail by six points with four minutes to go.  Team B holds on for the win.

Can we predict the probability that one team will enjoy a spurt like this, and the other team will not?  We think most teams can enjoy a spurt like this, but we believe we can estimate which teams have the best chance to go on a decisive game-winning spurt.  That’s what the R+T rating calculates.

How does a team go on a big scoring run in short time?  We will tell you up front that a 16-2 run rarely comes about from seven regular possessions by both teams, where the 16-point team scores four two-point baskets, two three-point baskets, and two free throws, while the other team scores just one basket and misses six other times down the floor.

The spurt almost always happens due to a combination of turnovers forced, especially steals, and controlling the boards at both ends.  Getting multiple second and third shots on offense and allowing one shot per possession on defense leads to these checkmate spurts.

Looking at a teams’ stats, winning the rebounding and turnover stats, or what some call the “Hustle Stats,” predicts a team’s chances of having a big spurt.  All that’s left is to come up with a formula for Spurtability, and that’s what our R+T rating is.  Here it is:

(R * 2) + (S * 0.5) + (6 – Opp. S) + T

To explain: R = rebounding margin; S = average steals per game (and Opp. S = how many steals per game given up); and T = Turnover Margin.  Remember that fewer turnovers per game than committed is positive turnover margin, and more turnovers per game than forced is negative turnover margin.

Example:  Let’s Say that State U averages 38.6 rebounds per game and gives up 34.3 rebounds per game.  Their rebound margin is 4.3.  State averages 7.8 steals per game, and opponents steal the ball from State 5.1 times per game.  State averages 12.4 turnovers a game and forces 13.9 turnovers per game for a turnover margin of 1.5.  Now we have all the variables we need to calculate State’s R+T number.

(4.3 * 2) + (7.8 * 0.5) + (6 – 5.1) + 1.5  = 14.9

What this shows us is that State U has an R+T of 14.9 or an average of about 15 points per game in spurtability.

Is this good?  It is rather good but not champion good.  In most years, a handful of teams in the NCAA Tournament will have R+T ratings above 20.  In several years, the team with the highest R+T rating among those teams from the Power Conferences has won the national championship.

One more thing about R+T ratings. Any time a team has a negative R+T rating, throw them out immediately, even if they are a big-name team from a power conference.  No spurtability teams that have to win games by consistently winning more possessions in a half-court game are rarely going to make the Sweet 16.  One of the reasons the PiRate Ratings gained popularity was with our ability to predict higher-seed first round losers just by their having negative R+T ratings.  Two schools, Georgetown and Vanderbilt, earned three NCAA Tournament bids in an overlapping era between 2008 and 2013, and each time the Hoyas and Commodores had negative R+T ratings.  We picked against them in the first round in all six cases and went 6-0!  Georgetown lost as a #3 seed to Ohio U in 2010.  In 2011, they lost as a #6 seed to #11 VCU, in a game where the Rams R+T was 20+ points better.  In 2013, they were a 3-seed once again and lost to Florida Gulf Coast.

Vanderbilt had negative R+T ratings in 2008, 2010, and 2011.  In 2008 as a 4-seed, they lost to Siena.  In 2010, as a 4-seed, they lost to Murray St.  In 2011 as a 5-seed, they lost to Richmond.

On the other hand, in 2017, North Carolina finished the regular season ranked #6 in the nation with seven losses.  Villanova, Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, and Kansas were rated ahead of the Tar Heels in the polls, and most so-called experts were going with Kentucky, Kansas, and Villanova as the favorites to win the championship.  We begged to differ.  North Carolina had one of the highest R+T ratings since we began calculating the rating.  It was almost 30.  We picked the Tar Heels to win the title, and they did that by going on frequent scoring spurts in those six games.  The difference in the championship game was the R+T rating, as Carolina enjoyed huge advantages in rebounding and turnover rates.  Gonzaga clearly had the better shooting and free throw shooting that night.

December 7, 2016

Our Unique Way of Compiling our College Retrodictive Ratings

We have been asked by multiple readers to explain a little more in depth how we compile our PiRate Retrodictive ratings and what exactly this rating means.

 

By the way, if you have comments you would like to make, please visit our sister site and use the “contact us” link, at:

http://piratings.webs.com/

There are basically two types of ratings in sports like football and basketball. The first type is Predictive, and this type is used by sports bettors. As the name implies, these ratings are used to attempt to predict the outcomes of the next week of games. If State U has a rating of 106.5, and Tech has a rating of 102.3, then on a neutral field, State would be expected to beat Tech by 4.2 points. Of course, home field advantage could alter this predictive spread by additional points. The regular PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings are predictive in nature. A team that started the season 0-4 and then finished 8-4 might be favored in a bowl over a team that went 11-1, because what the 8-4 team did in its first four games is not as important as what they did in their final games.

Retrodictive ratings or rankings look backward and rate the teams on what they have done to date. What the team did in its first game is just as important as what they did in their most recent game. It is an attempt to rank the teams by their performance on their whole body of work. That 8-4 team would most likely be rated well behind the 11-1 team on the body of work to date.

Our Retrodictive Rankings take considerably more time to compile than our regular PiRate Ratings. First, there are three components to the ranking. The first is rather obvious–wins and losses. The second is also obvious–strength of schedule. The third is well known to many, but you may not realize that in addition to strength of schedule, the strengths of schedule of all the opponents played is vitally important.

As an example, let’s say that Iowa opens the season with a win over Boston College. As the season goes on, Iowa’s rating is influenced by what Boston College does and what all the teams Boston College plays do. So, if Iowa has a bye after that first game, and Boston College proceeds to beat Florida State the following week, Iowa’s rating is going to go up almost as much as Boston College’s rating goes up.

Point differential can be included in retrodictive-style ratings, and we here at the PiRate Ratings have a rather unique way of including the type of score in a team’s wins and losses. It is not an exact science, but we like our version and believe it has merit over standard point differential. Here is a rundown on this process.
What type of win or loss was this game for the team in question? We rate wins and losses as:
A. Blowout
B. Decisive
C. Good
D. Fortunate
E. Tossup

A blowout win does not have to be by 40 points. If a team wins 28-0 and holds their opponent to 150 total yards, this rates as a blowout. If a team led 42-0 at halftime and then won 49-24, it still counts as a blowout. If a team led 24-20 midway through the third quarter and then won 45-20, this will usually not count as a blowout.

A decisive win is one in which the winner would have won this game close to 100% of the time but did not win in such a way that allowed the team to rest its starters for the final 20-25 minutes of the game. A 35-10 win with the winner leading 21-10 and scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter would be one example of a decisive but not blowout win.

A good win is one in which the winner would have probably won 7 to 8 times out of 10 with the same stats generated. A 10-17 point win is often a good win, unless the winner was outgained by more than 100 yards.

A fortunate win is one in which the winner won by 4-9 points but the outcome was always in doubt. In some cases, the winner had stats that looked more like they should have been the loser.

A tossup win is the same as a fortunate win but with the final spread being 1-3 points. All overtime wins count as tossup wins.

The better the win, the more points the winner receives and the loser gives up. If Georgia beats North Carolina 42-14, they receive more points than if they beat the Tar Heels 17-14.

For strength of schedule, we rate each of the 128 FBS teams from 10 to -10 in tenths so that the current top team is ranked as a 10, and the number 128 team is ranked as -10. FCS teams receive a rating of 5.0 to -15.0.

Let’s say that through 4 games, Oklahoma has played teams that currently rate in our strength of schedule as 9.2, 8.6, 5.4, and 1.3 points. The Sooners’ average schedule strength is 6.1. We are not done yet. Now, we have to adjust this number based on the strength of Oklahoma’s opponents’ schedule other than playing the Sooners. So, if that 9.2 strength team played a schedule to date that averages 5.8, and the other three teams played schedules with 4.3, 7.1, and -2.9, Oklahoma’s opponents’ strength of schedules average to 3.6.
Obviously, Oklahoma’s own strength of schedule of 6.1 is worth more than their opponents’ strength of schedule of 3.6, but their schedule strength portion of the equation is lower than 6.1 because of the weaker scheduling of their opponents. In this case, the algorithm we use through 4 games played will lower the overall strength to about 5.3.

We combine the score for the team’s wins and losses with the schedule strength, and it leaves us with a final number between 10 and -10. In actuality, no team approaches these outlier numbers. For instance, this week, Alabama comes in at 8.27 to be number one, while Texas State and Buffalo bring up the rear at -7.59. Because these are not predictive, you cannot use these numbers to predict the outcome of a game should Alabama play Texas State or Buffalo.

Of course, home field advantage is factored into the outcomes of the games. If Georgia beats Clemson between the hedges by a score of 17-14, it does not count as much as if they had defeated the Tigers 17-14 at Howard’s Rock.

We hope that clarifies and not confuses you further.  We are better with numbers than with letters.

March 14, 2016

Bracketnomics 505–The Advanced Level Course in Bracket Picking

Welcome to Bracketnomics 505 for 2016–The Advanced Level Course in Picking NCAA Tournament winners. The best way to describe our PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Bracket-Picking formula is to call it the Past Performances of the teams. If you are familiar with the Daily Racing Form or other thoroughbred horse racing publications, you probably know how to read the PPS of the horses in each race.
If you have followed our statistical releases for the past 16 years, you will see only minor changes this year, as the PiRate Ratings have added only one minor statistical detail to our repertoire.
Here is a description of all the pertinent information you need to pick your brackets. We will explain each important statistic and tell you how it applies to the NCAA Tournament. Then, we will apply it to all 68 teams in the Big Dance and let you use what you want to fill out your brackets.

Remember one important bit of information–this process deals a lot with past tendencies trying to predict future outcomes. It is mechanical and has no real subjective data. It will not include information such as how your team’s star player may have the flu this week, so if you have other information, by all means include this in your selections.

THE FOUR FACTORS
Statistician and author Dean Oliver created this metric. He did for basketball what the incredible Bill James did for baseball. Oliver wrote the excellent book Basketball on Paper, where he showed that NBA winners could break down four separate statistical metrics to show how the winner won and the loser lost. Later experimentation showed that this metric works for college basketball when strength of schedule is factored into the metric.

The four factors are: Effective Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate, and Free Throw Rate. Each of these four factors apply to both offense and defense, so in essence, there are really eight factors.

Each Factor has a formula that can be calculated if you have the statistics. We have all the statistics for all 68 teams, and we did this for you.

Effective FG% = (FGM + (.5 * 3ptM))/FGA where FGM is field goals made, 3ptM is three-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

If a team made 800 FG, 250 3-pointers and attempted 1750 field goals, their EFG% is:
(800+(.5*250))/1750 = .529 or 52.9%
Rebound Rate = Offensive Rebounds/(Offensive Rebounds + Opponents’ Defensive Rebounds)
If a team has 500 offensive rebounds and their opponents have 850 defensive rebounds, their Rebound Rate is:
500/(500+850) = .370 or 37.0%

Turnover Rate = Turnovers per 100 possessions. Possessions can be estimated with incredible accuracy by this formula:
(FGA + (.475*FTA)-OR+TO)/G, where FGA is field goal attempts, FTA is free throw attempts, OR is offensive rebounds, TO is turnovers, and G is games played.

If a team has 1700 FGA, 650 FTA, 425 OR, and 375 TO in 30 games played, their average possessions per game is:
(1700+(.475*650)-425+375)/30 = 65.3, and thus, their TO Rate would be:

Turnovers per game / possessions per game * 100
((425/30)/65.3) * 100 = 21.7

Free Throw Rate: Oliver and others determined that getting to the line was actually more important than making the foul shots, so they did not include made free throws in their equation.

Their formula was simply: FTA/FGA, as they believed that getting the other team in foul trouble was the most important part.
Later statisticans changed this formulas to FT Made/FGA, which included made free throws, but it also erred by making teams that do not attempt many field goals but lead late in games look much better than they really were. If a team like Northern Iowa attempted just 50 field goals per game and won a lot of games by three or four points, going to the foul line many times late in the game, they would pad this stat by making a lot of FT in the final minutes when the opponent was forced to foul.
A third group of statisticians, including we here at the PiRate Ratings, believe that free throws made per 100 possessions is a better metric, and thus we go with this rating, which we call FT*:

If the team above with 65.3 possessions per game averages 17 made free throws per game, then their FT Rate is:
17 / 65.3 * 100 = 26.0

The PiRate Specific Statistics
For 15 years, the PiRate Ratings have relied on specific back-tested data that showed us what stats were important in selecting Final Four teams. We looked back in history to see how previous Final Four teams dominated in certain statistical areas while not dominating in other areas. Here is what we found.

Scoring Margin
For general bracket picking, look for teams that outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game. Over 85% of the Final Four teams since the 1950’s outscored their opponents by an average of 8 or more points per game.
More than 80% of the final four teams in the last 50 years outscored their opponents by double digit points per game. When you find a team with an average scoring margin in excess of 15 points per game, and said team is in one of the six power conferences, then you have a team that will advance deep into the tournament.
This is an obvious statistic here. If team A outscores opponents by an average of 85-70 and their team B opponent outscores similar opposition by an average of 75-70, and the teams played comparable schedules, then team A figures to be better than team B before you look at any other statistics.
In the days of the 64 to 68-team field, this statistic has become even more valuable. It’s very difficult and close to impossible for a team accustomed to winning games by one to seven points to win four times in a row, much less six or seven consecutive games.
This statistic gives the same significance and weighting to a team that outscores its opposition 100-90 as it does to a team that outscores its opposition 60-50.

Last year, the four Final Four Teams had scoring margins of 21, 16, 15, and 9.

Field Goal Percentage Differential
Take each team’s field goal percentage minus their defensive field goal percentage to calculate this statistic. Look for teams that have a +7.5% or better showing. 50% to 42% is no better or no worse than 45% to 37%. A difference of 7.5% or better is all that matters. Teams that have a large field goal percentage margin are consistently good teams. Sure, a team can win a game with a negative field goal percentage difference, but in the Big Dance, they certainly are not going to win six games, and they have no real chance to win four games. Two games are about the maximum for these teams.
This statistic holds strong in back-tests of 50 years. Even when teams won the tournament with less than 7.5% field goal percentage margins, for the most part, these teams just barely missed (usually in the 5.5 to 7.5% range). In the years of the 64 to 68-team tournament, this stat has become a more accurate predictor. In the 21st Century, the teams with field goal percentage margins in the double digits have dominated the field. For example, if you see a team that shoots better than 48% and allows 38% or less, that team is going to be very hard to beat in large arenas with weird sight lines.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had FG% Differentials of 11.4, 8.5, 7.3, and 6.1%

Rebound Margin
This statistic holds up all the way back to the early days of basketball, in fact as far back to the days when rebounds were first recorded. The teams that consistently control the boards are the ones that advance past the first week in the tournament. What we’re looking for here are teams that out-rebound their opposition by five or more per game. In the opening two rounds, a difference of three or more is just as important.
There are complete rebounding statistics back to 1954, and in the 61 NCAA Tournaments between 1954 and 2014, the National Champion outrebounded their opponents 61 times! Yes, no team with a negative rebound margin has ever won the title.
The reason this statistic becomes even more important in mid-March is that teams do not always shoot as well in the NCAA Tournament for a variety of reasons (better defense, abnormal sight lines and unfamiliar gymnasiums, nerves, new rims and nets, more physical play with the refs allowing it, etc.). The teams that can consistently get offensive put-backs are the teams that go on scoring runs in these games. The teams that prevent the opposition from getting offensive rebounds, holding them to one shot per possession, have a huge advantage. Again, there will be some teams that advance that were beaten on the boards, but as the number of teams drop from 64 to 32 to 16 to eight, it is rare for one of these teams to continue to advance. West Virginia in 2005 made it to the Elite Eight without being able to rebound, but not many other teams have been able to do so.

There have been years where all four Final Four participants were in the top 20 in rebounding margin, and there have been many years where the champion was in the top 5 in rebounding margin.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had positive Rebounding Margins of 7.4, 6.8, 6.2, and 6.0.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game
Turnover margin can give a weaker rebounding team a chance to advance. Any positive turnover margin is good here. If a team cannot meet the rebounding margin listed above, they can get by if they have an excellent turnover margin. Not all turnover margins are the same though. A team that forces a high number of turnovers by way of steals is better than a team that forces the same amount of turnovers without steals. A steal is better than a defensive rebound, because most of the time, a steal leads to a fast-break basket or foul. When a team steals the ball, they are already facing their basket, and the defense must turn around and chase. Many steals occur on the perimeter where the ball-hawking team has a numbers advantage.
The criteria to look for here is any positive turnover margin if the team out-rebounds its opposition by three or more; a turnover margin of three or better if the team out-rebounds its opposition by less than three; and a turnover margin of five or more if the team does not out-rebound its opponents. Give more weight to teams that average 7 or more steals per game, and give much more weight to teams that average double figure steals per game. A team that averages more than 10 steals per game will get a lot of fast-break baskets and foul shots. In NCAA Tournament play, one quick spurt can be like a three-run homer in the World Series, and teams that either steal the ball or control the boards are the ones who will get that spurt.

Last year, the Final Four Teams had Turnover Margins of +3.4, +2.6, +1.3, and -0.5 and average steals per game of 6.6, 5.7, 5.3, and 4.5. It was the fewest average steals per game for a Final Four group since steals have been kept as official statistics.

The All-Important R+T Margin
Consider this the basketball equivalent of baseball’s OPS (On Base % + Slugging %) or even better, the “Moneyball Formula.” The formula has undergone a couple of changes in recent years, including this season, and we think it will be slightly adjusted in the future based on changes in how the game is played.
The R+T Formula for 2016 is: (R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T, where R is rebounding margin, S is average steals per game (Opp S is opponents steals per game), and T is turnover margin. The numbers are all rounded to one digit.

Look for teams with R+T ratings at 15 or above. These are the teams that will get several additional opportunities to score points and go on scoring runs that put opponents away

When this stat is 7.5 to 15, you have a team that can overcome a few other liabilities to win and cut down the nets in Indianapolis if they don’t run into a team from the 15+ R+T range with similar shooting percentages and defense.

When this stat is 4.5 to 7.5, you have a team good enough to win early and get to the Sweet 16 or lite 8 but not advance past that round, unless said team has a large field goal percentage difference margin.

When this stat is 0 to 4.5, you have a team that better enjoy a large field goal margin advantage, or they will be one and done or two and out.

When this stat is negative, you have a team that will be eliminated quickly, even if they are playing a lower seed. We have isolated many early round upsets due to this statistic, and we have eliminated many teams expected to perform well that bombed in the opening round.

A few years ago, Georgetown had a negative R+T rating but was a prohibitive favorite against Ohio U. The Bobcats had a positive R+T rating and decent numbers in the other PiRate factors. We called for Ohio to upset Georgetown in the first round, and Ohio won by double digits.

The same thing occurred again a couple years later when Georgetown had a negative R+T rating as the Hoyas faced unknown Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU not only pulled off the upset, they blew GU off the floor.

Last year’s Final Four Teams had R+T ratings of 22.9, 18.8, 17.7, and 16.0, making this the most accurate predictor for the season, like it has for most every season. There were two Power Conference teams with negative R+T numbers last year, Oklahoma State and St. John’s. We pegged these teams to lose immediately as 9-seeds against 8-seeds with positive R+T ratings, and they did just that.

Power Conference Plus Schedule Strength
Up to this point you might have been thinking that it is much easier for Stephen F. Austin or Stony Brook to own these gaudy statistics than it is for Baylor or Miami. And, of course, that is correct. We have to adjust this procedure so that teams that play tougher schedules get rewarded and teams that play softer schedules get punished.
Basically, the cut-off line for a Final Four team is 54.00, although there have been a few long shots like George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth that were below that mark. While the lowest National Champ was Florida in 2007 at 54.30, the average for the last dozen champions has been just over 58. Also, bear in mind that of the 16 winners since 2000, 6 came from the ACC, 4 from the Big East (none who are current members), 3 from the SEC, and one each from the American, Big 12, and Big Ten. The Pac-12 has not produced the national champion since Arizona in 1997.

Won-Loss percentage Away From Home Floor
This should be obvious. Except in the rarest of instances (like Dayton playing in a First Round Game last year), all NCAA Tournament games are played on neutral courts. Some teams play like titans on their home floor but become pansies when playing away from home. It is one thing to accumulate great statistics by scheduling 19 home games, three neutral site games, and eight away games and then going 18-1 at home, 1-2 on the neutral site, and 3-5 on the road to finish 22-8. However, we need to locate the teams that continue to dominate away from home. Combine the road and neutral games played and look at that percentage. When you find a team with a 75% or better win percentage away from home, this team is a legitimate contender in the Big Dance. When this number tops 85%, you have a tough team capable of winning four consecutive games and advancing to the Final Four.

New For 2016, Winning Streaks
We should have included this years ago. The NCAA Tournament Championship requires one team to win six consecutive games (seven if in the First Four) to become the champion. It requires the other Final Four teams to win four or five times to get to the Final Four. How often does a team get to the Final Four or win the title without having a long winning streak during the regular season? Not often , or to put it a better way, hardly ever.
When a team wins 10 consecutive games in the heart of their schedule, or to be more exact, against serious competition, or when they win 6 to 10 consecutive games more than once during the season, and the rest of our criteria shows them to be a contender (especially R+T and Schedule Strength), then this is one dangerous squad. Be wary picking against them in the early rounds and then go against them only when the other team looks lethal as well.

These are the basic PiRate criteria. You might be shocked to see that there are some key statistics that are not included. Let’s look at some of these stats that the PiRates do not rely upon.

Assists and Assists to Turnover Ratio
While assists can reveal an excellent passing team (and we love great passing teams), they also can hide a problem. Let’s say a team gets 28 field goals and has 21 assists. That may very well indicate this team can pass better than most others. However, it may also mean two other things. First, this team may not have players who can create their own offense and must get by on exceptional passing. That may not work against the best defensive teams in the nation (like the type that get into the Dance). Second, and even more importantly, it may indicate that this team cannot get offensive put-backs. As explained earlier, the offensive rebound is about as important as any stat can be in the NCAA Tournament. So, consider this stat only if you must decide on a toss-up after looking at the big seven stats. We would much rather go with a team that has 15 offensive rebound potential than a team that has assists on 80% of its made field goals. The NCAA Tournament is full of tough defenses, weird site lines, tight rims, and even tighter nerves, and the offensive put-back is an even more potent weapon, especially in the Round of 64, the Sweet 16, and the Final Four games. The Round of 32 and Elite 8 rounds tend to be less tense, because it is the second game on the playing floor for the participants.

Free Throw Shooting
You might say we are contradicting the Four Factors with this, but we are not. It is the least important of the Four Factors, and we only apply this caveat to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, free throw shooting in the clutch decides many ball games. However, history shows a long line of teams making it deep into the tournament with poor free throw shooting percentages, and teams that overly rely on free throws may find it tough getting to the line with the liberalized officiating in the tournament.

Let’s say a team shoots a paltry 60% at the foul line while their opponent hits a great 75% of their foul shots. Let’s say each team gets to the foul line 15 times in the game, with five of those chances being 1&1, three being one shot after made baskets, and seven being two shot fouls. For the 60% shooting team, they can be expected to hit 3 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 1.8 of the 3 bonus shots; they can be expected to hit 1.8 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to hit 8.4 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 15 out of 25. The 75% shooting team can be expected to connect on 3.75 of 5 on the front end of the 1&1 and then 2.8 of 3.75 on the bonus shot; they can be expected to hit 2.3 of 3 on the one foul shot after made baskets; and they can be expected to connect on 10.5 of 14 on the two shot fouls for a total of 19.35 out of 25.75.

A team with one of the top FT% only scores 4.35 more points at the foul line than a team with one of the worst. That is not a lot of points to make up, and when you consider that this is about the maximum possible difference, this stat is not all that important. Also consider that teams that shoot 60% of their foul shots and make the NCAA Tournament are almost always the teams that have the top R+T ratings, which is vitally important after the Ides of March.

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

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

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

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

One Big Star or Two Really Good Players
Teams that get to the Dance by riding one big star or a majority of scoring from two players are not solid enough to advance very far. Now, this does not apply to a team with one big star and four really good players. I’m referring to a team with one big star and four lemons or two big scorers with three guys who are allergic to the ball. Many times a team may have one big scorer or two guys who score 85% of the points, but the other three starters are capable of scoring 20 points if they are called on to do so. These teams are tough to stop. Usually, it is the mid-major teams that appear to be sleeper teams that could beat a favored opponent because they have one big talent that falls under this category. For instance, Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney this year fits that category.

If you have a team with five double figure scorers, they will be harder to defend and will be more consistent on the attack side. It is hard for all five players to slump at once.

We hope this primer will help you when you fill out your brackets this year.
Here is a list of all the statistics for the Big Dance teams for 2015-2016.

Offensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 926 1922 215 562 613 848 384 944 1328 423 162 2680
Austin Peay 920 1988 219 630 602 899 407 882 1289 490 242 2661
Baylor 903 1935 204 556 536 737 453 781 1234 425 260 2546
Buffalo 892 2037 253 750 600 845 417 913 1330 465 236 2637
Butler 868 1864 220 569 542 741 354 775 1129 317 210 2498
CSU Bakersfield 849 1881 174 506 465 712 401 825 1226 391 257 2337
California 867 1881 233 632 512 780 374 945 1319 403 136 2479
Chattanooga 869 1904 259 712 581 793 372 846 1218 422 265 2578
Cincinnati 823 1925 242 701 454 645 432 828 1260 354 254 2342
Colorado 842 1979 250 637 575 779 437 963 1400 442 172 2509
Connecticut 900 1959 239 660 457 581 322 920 1242 378 194 2496
Dayton 818 1780 215 620 491 730 317 919 1236 418 189 2342
Duke 826 1789 274 708 527 728 363 735 1098 293 190 2453
Fair. Dickinson 906 1958 230 633 451 645 338 736 1074 414 242 2493
Florida G. Coast 949 1991 176 493 466 720 392 935 1327 406 218 2540
Fresno St. 900 2073 212 620 549 793 404 874 1278 364 280 2561
Gonzaga 929 1910 258 682 514 676 350 957 1307 372 167 2630
Green Bay 1027 2294 246 703 648 984 451 909 1360 423 334 2948
Hampton 793 1911 203 659 529 805 438 853 1291 433 168 2318
Hawaii 843 1824 230 704 567 833 342 856 1198 423 252 2483
Holy Cross 737 1785 236 721 446 644 269 725 994 362 213 2156
Indiana 934 1864 316 762 449 621 385 811 1196 437 222 2633
Iona 888 1947 320 860 451 633 339 842 1181 409 242 2547
Iowa 855 1898 255 667 456 634 369 821 1190 323 211 2421
Iowa St. 998 1990 265 697 358 507 291 863 1154 370 197 2619
Kansas 951 1926 274 649 516 737 356 900 1256 408 225 2692
Kentucky 971 2029 236 637 531 777 442 876 1318 376 191 2709
Maryland 876 1794 252 673 506 666 304 867 1171 425 192 2510
Miami 837 1756 219 599 527 702 310 802 1112 341 194 2420
Michigan 898 1926 326 849 404 548 267 822 1089 333 188 2526
Michigan St. 979 2024 310 715 444 608 419 1005 1424 325 181 2712
Middle Tenn. 857 1902 260 673 425 689 341 879 1220 399 205 2399
North Carolina 1047 2187 183 583 520 705 477 916 1393 371 234 2797
Northern Iowa 801 1751 278 742 432 574 183 839 1022 334 193 2312
Notre Dame 869 1844 235 637 450 612 349 805 1154 311 179 2423
Oklahoma 884 1928 334 784 471 647 343 899 1242 415 221 2573
Oregon 933 1997 234 670 580 813 399 830 1229 393 259 2680
Oregon St. 786 1783 211 570 451 672 330 743 1073 355 231 2234
Pittsburgh 860 1871 201 578 512 679 410 812 1222 374 159 2433
Providence 833 1974 234 729 541 744 385 822 1207 380 219 2441
Purdue 934 1980 259 703 516 695 397 995 1392 406 145 2643
Seton Hall 872 1937 202 573 524 787 425 896 1321 457 240 2470
South Dakota St. 853 1891 245 686 566 766 370 881 1251 388 164 2517
Southern 887 1990 208 590 497 743 356 868 1224 382 254 2479
St. Joseph’s 926 2038 238 728 548 769 345 967 1312 344 175 2638
S. F. Austin 926 1915 254 691 477 653 380 750 1130 398 290 2583
Stony Brook 913 1917 217 584 415 618 400 866 1266 365 198 2458
Syracuse 766 1796 280 776 435 637 378 759 1137 388 259 2247
Temple 792 1957 251 739 362 529 358 818 1176 293 171 2197
Texas 789 1828 223 657 482 725 352 753 1105 332 165 2283
Texas A&M 906 2016 261 745 508 755 436 887 1323 401 235 2581
Texas Tech 760 1700 178 517 546 732 320 739 1059 371 182 2244
Tulsa 796 1793 216 656 486 717 313 773 1086 335 211 2294
UALR 836 1827 249 641 420 572 302 815 1117 347 216 2341
UNC-Asheville 877 1916 190 586 552 795 384 863 1247 430 307 2496
UNC-Wilm. 898 1971 219 651 520 741 384 819 1203 365 241 2535
USC 954 2085 260 675 500 737 396 906 1302 403 209 2668
Utah 928 1898 259 713 524 734 328 942 1270 418 183 2639
Vanderbilt 841 1826 270 695 504 721 304 930 1234 374 138 2456
VCU 953 2116 247 694 472 684 425 845 1270 389 299 2625
Villanova 905 1936 291 847 516 664 315 896 1211 378 229 2617
Virginia 849 1743 198 489 426 565 296 756 1052 310 181 2322
Weber St. 887 1831 287 768 548 810 291 983 1274 451 169 2609
West Virginia 927 2050 206 627 633 945 541 791 1332 476 338 2693
Wichita St. 801 1846 234 710 507 710 373 826 1199 318 231 2343
Wisconsin 751 1748 211 590 491 694 366 751 1117 351 188 2204
Xavier 876 1938 243 672 608 832 418 894 1312 408 234 2603
Yale 744 1580 181 484 436 658 379 752 1131 375 162 2105

Defensive Stats

Team FG FGA 3pt 3ptA FT FTA OReb DReb Reb To Stl Pts
Arizona 829 2007 201 626 415 587 313 711 1024 383 178 2274
Austin Peay 955 2088 269 824 450 640 365 830 1195 470 244 2629
Baylor 797 1794 228 622 463 664 306 666 972 452 220 2285
Buffalo 882 2044 251 740 540 756 368 861 1229 450 192 2555
Butler 764 1773 222 655 456 642 298 724 1022 407 141 2206
CSU Bakersfield 668 1708 187 585 499 722 339 758 1097 490 170 2022
California 762 1940 180 513 508 721 325 772 1097 321 170 2212
Chattanooga 829 1910 225 694 382 566 337 764 1101 484 216 2265
Cincinnati 722 1849 231 648 337 498 365 742 1107 444 165 2012
Colorado 829 1980 206 580 469 693 313 793 1106 365 246 2333
Connecticut 737 1931 232 709 439 667 379 785 1164 415 175 2145
Dayton 740 1829 234 671 392 595 284 782 1066 398 154 2106
Duke 817 1865 179 536 321 466 384 711 1095 367 134 2134
Fair. Dickinson 834 1845 239 676 597 854 409 825 1234 492 202 2504
Florida G. Coast 823 1986 217 719 462 676 361 800 1161 406 217 2325
Fresno St. 785 1879 245 743 580 837 355 882 1237 510 150 2395
Gonzaga 795 1992 198 666 398 565 333 734 1067 341 185 2186
Green Bay 981 2198 271 746 555 779 421 991 1412 590 202 2788
Hampton 794 1874 203 615 498 688 319 813 1132 388 179 2289
Hawaii 719 1806 199 632 491 691 310 740 1050 472 190 2128
Holy Cross 803 1755 264 724 429 593 305 872 1177 434 182 2299
Indiana 821 1859 200 583 363 545 327 637 964 418 195 2205
Iona 812 1929 247 696 486 699 383 816 1199 451 184 2357
Iowa 788 1901 228 735 326 479 375 773 1148 407 165 2130
Iowa St. 903 2075 249 740 344 502 382 776 1158 397 179 2399
Kansas 758 1913 208 631 508 705 356 729 1085 438 201 2232
Kentucky 782 1954 192 582 565 808 407 726 1133 420 145 2321
Maryland 798 1956 223 693 368 526 363 695 1058 370 207 2187
Miami 790 1839 184 548 374 529 330 708 1038 372 163 2138
Michigan 844 1896 240 695 366 504 296 826 1122 406 138 2294
Michigan St. 741 1966 193 639 480 669 320 707 1027 325 181 2155
Middle Tenn. 767 1799 213 620 507 757 298 848 1146 445 194 2254
North Carolina 838 2046 262 728 425 608 389 723 1112 447 196 2363
Northern Iowa 794 1884 239 740 312 431 307 849 1156 401 164 2139
Notre Dame 821 1918 246 655 371 515 367 715 1082 311 167 2259
Oklahoma 819 2024 241 709 375 553 382 780 1162 407 227 2254
Oregon 836 1970 243 670 435 623 375 744 1119 488 158 2350
Oregon St. 739 1732 222 675 469 678 355 786 1141 420 157 2169
Pittsburgh 781 1791 218 612 393 593 303 682 985 370 180 2173
Providence 850 1956 211 658 390 544 355 860 1215 482 196 2301
Purdue 794 2029 210 670 398 563 302 728 1030 320 204 2196
Seton Hall 790 1971 206 652 451 664 397 788 1185 450 238 2237
South Dakota St. 766 1843 198 599 507 709 307 766 1073 399 187 2237
Southern 814 1960 225 709 494 795 412 870 1282 469 179 2347
St. Joseph’s 875 2110 270 872 357 517 337 875 1212 389 156 2377
S. F. Austin 719 1642 165 511 418 637 309 711 1020 596 174 2021
Stony Brook 737 1824 208 636 348 489 293 722 1015 409 176 2030
Syracuse 759 1835 225 739 360 540 413 769 1182 434 208 2103
Temple 785 1884 189 601 399 539 347 877 1224 355 137 2158
Texas 754 1801 201 586 469 675 359 792 1151 400 145 2178
Texas A&M 783 1930 251 763 411 626 381 810 1191 488 172 2228
Texas Tech 758 1777 237 674 412 586 356 689 1045 396 197 2165
Tulsa 733 1760 235 647 459 613 338 808 1146 445 164 2160
UALR 664 1710 206 672 434 633 339 774 1113 464 132 1968
UNC-Asheville 802 1897 192 677 431 616 353 819 1172 519 222 2227
UNC-Wilmington 729 1748 171 507 657 933 362 808 1170 485 159 2286
USC 899 2153 239 740 430 613 424 825 1249 411 191 2467
Utah 873 2112 253 689 352 488 359 759 1118 355 216 2351
Vanderbilt 762 1974 176 603 455 675 388 804 1192 319 180 2155
VCU 818 1859 187 556 465 688 326 853 1179 525 194 2288
Villanova 764 1910 240 716 398 600 360 787 1147 471 199 2166
Virginia 687 1630 212 608 383 550 264 671 935 398 174 1969
Weber St. 850 2053 195 564 378 567 326 801 1127 373 197 2273
West Virginia 709 1658 199 599 648 909 295 750 1045 617 229 2265
Wichita St. 602 1565 187 577 505 705 260 791 1051 495 150 1896
Wisconsin 732 1705 189 499 413 584 295 722 1017 389 169 2066
Xavier 787 1894 241 766 458 651 319 753 1072 452 195 2273
Yale 625 1536 166 525 352 506 237 584 821 349 187 1768

 

The Four Factors

Team EFG DEFG OR% DOR% TO% DTU% FT* DFT*  Streaks
Arizona 53.8 46.3 35.1 24.9 17.9 16.3 25.9 17.6 8 6
Austin Peay 51.8 52.2 32.9 29.3 19.6 18.8 24.1 18.0 6 2
Baylor 51.9 50.8 40.5 28.2 18.8 20.0 23.7 20.5 7 4
Buffalo 50.0 49.3 32.6 28.7 18.7 18.1 24.1 21.7 4 4
Butler 52.5 49.4 32.8 27.8 14.5 18.6 24.9 20.9 8 3
Cal State Bakersfield 49.8 44.6 34.6 29.1 17.7 22.3 21.0 22.7 6 6
California 52.3 43.9 32.6 25.6 17.7 14.1 22.5 22.3 12 3
Chattanooga 52.4 49.3 32.7 28.5 18.1 20.8 24.9 16.4 9 8
Cincinnati 49.0 45.3 36.8 30.6 16.4 20.5 21.1 15.6 7 4
Colorado 48.9 47.1 35.5 24.5 18.8 15.5 24.4 19.9 11 3
Connecticut 52.0 44.2 29.1 29.2 16.5 18.2 19.9 19.2 5 4
Dayton 52.0 46.9 28.8 23.6 18.8 17.9 22.0 17.6 9 5
Duke 53.8 48.6 33.8 34.3 14.2 17.7 25.5 15.5 7 5
Fairleigh Dickinson 52.1 51.7 29.1 35.7 17.7 21.1 19.3 25.6 5 3
Florida Gulf Coast 52.1 46.9 32.9 27.9 17.3 17.3 19.9 19.6 7 3
Fresno St. 48.5 48.3 31.4 28.9 15.1 21.0 22.8 23.9 9 5
Gonzaga 55.4 44.9 32.3 25.8 16.5 15.0 22.8 17.5 7 6
Green Bay 50.1 50.8 31.3 31.7 15.5 21.6 23.7 20.3 4 4
Hampton 46.8 47.8 35.0 27.2 18.9 17.1 23.1 21.9 6 5
Hawaii 52.5 45.3 31.6 26.6 18.4 20.6 24.6 21.4 8 6
Holy Cross 47.9 53.3 23.6 29.6 16.6 20.0 20.4 19.8 4 3
Indiana 58.6 49.5 37.7 28.7 19.8 18.9 20.3 16.4 12 5
Iona 53.8 48.5 29.4 31.3 17.6 19.4 19.5 20.9 8 5
Iowa 51.8 47.4 32.3 31.4 15.0 18.8 21.2 15.1 9 4
Iowa St. 56.8 49.5 27.3 30.7 16.0 17.0 15.5 14.8 9 3
Kansas 56.5 45.1 32.8 28.3 17.5 18.8 22.2 21.8 13 13
Kentucky 53.7 44.9 37.8 31.7 16.1 17.9 22.8 24.0 7 5
Maryland 55.9 46.5 30.4 29.5 19.0 16.7 22.7 16.6 8 5
Miami 53.9 48.0 30.5 29.2 16.1 17.4 24.9 17.5 8 5
Michigan 55.1 50.8 24.4 26.5 14.8 18.1 17.9 16.3 6 4
Michigan St. 56.0 42.6 37.2 24.2 14.6 14.2 20.0 21.0 13 9
Middle Tennessee 51.9 48.6 28.7 25.3 17.4 19.3 18.6 22.0 6 6
North Carolina 52.1 47.4 39.8 29.8 15.4 18.7 21.5 17.8 12 5
Northern Iowa 53.7 48.5 17.7 26.8 15.4 18.4 19.9 14.3 6 6
Notre Dame 53.5 49.2 32.8 31.3 14.8 14.8 21.5 17.6 4 3
Oklahoma 54.5 46.4 30.5 29.8 18.0 17.6 20.4 16.2 12 4
Oregon 52.6 48.6 34.9 31.1 16.5 20.5 24.4 18.3 8 6
Oregon St. 50.0 49.1 29.6 32.3 16.7 19.8 21.2 22.1 4 4
Pittsburgh 51.3 49.7 37.5 27.2 17.3 17.3 23.7 18.4 10 4
Providence 48.1 48.8 30.9 30.2 16.4 20.6 23.3 16.7 8 6
Purdue 53.7 44.3 35.3 23.3 17.5 13.8 22.2 17.2 11 5
Seton Hall 50.2 45.3 35.0 30.7 19.5 19.2 22.4 19.3 7 4
South Dakota St. 51.6 46.9 32.6 25.8 17.1 17.6 24.9 22.3 6 6
Southern 49.8 47.3 29.0 32.2 16.1 19.6 21.0 20.6 8 5
St. Joseph’s 51.3 47.9 28.3 25.8 14.3 16.2 22.8 14.8 7 7
Stephen F. Austin 55.0 48.8 34.8 29.2 17.7 26.7 21.3 18.7 20 5
Stony Brook 53.3 46.1 35.7 25.3 16.8 18.8 19.1 16.0 18 3
Syracuse 50.4 47.5 33.0 35.2 18.4 20.5 20.6 17.0 6 5
Temple 46.9 46.7 29.0 29.8 13.7 16.5 16.9 18.6 5 4
Texas 49.3 47.4 30.8 32.3 15.4 18.5 22.4 21.7 6 4
Texas A&M 51.4 47.1 35.0 30.0 17.1 20.9 21.7 17.6 10 8
Texas Tech 49.9 49.3 31.7 32.5 17.7 18.9 26.0 19.7 10 5
Tulsa 50.4 48.3 27.9 30.4 15.5 20.6 22.5 21.3 5 4
UALR 52.6 44.9 28.1 29.4 16.2 21.7 19.6 20.3 10 6
UNC-Asheville 50.7 47.3 31.9 29.0 18.4 22.0 23.6 18.3 5 5
UNC-Wilmington 51.1 46.6 32.2 30.7 15.8 21.0 22.6 28.4 11 5
USC 52.0 47.3 32.4 31.9 16.5 16.9 20.5 17.7 7 5
Utah 55.7 47.3 30.2 27.6 17.9 15.2 22.4 15.0 9 5
Vanderbilt 53.5 43.1 27.4 29.4 16.7 14.3 22.5 20.4 5 4
VCU 50.9 49.0 33.3 27.8 16.2 22.0 19.6 19.5 12 3
Villanova 54.3 46.3 28.6 28.7 16.3 20.4 22.3 17.3 9 7
Virginia 54.4 48.7 30.6 25.9 15.3 19.7 21.0 18.9 11 7
Weber St. 56.3 46.2 26.6 24.9 19.0 15.7 23.1 16.0 8 6
West Virginia 50.2 48.8 41.9 27.2 19.6 25.6 26.0 26.9 8 7
Wichita St. 49.7 44.4 32.0 23.9 14.9 23.2 23.8 23.7 12 6
Wisconsin 49.0 48.5 33.6 28.2 17.0 18.7 23.8 19.9 7 4
Xavier 51.5 47.9 35.7 26.3 17.6 19.3 26.2 19.6 12 5
Yale 52.8 46.1 39.4 24.0 19.9 18.5 23.1 18.6 12 5

 

PiRate Criteria

Team PPG DPPG Mar. FG-M Rb-M TO-M R+T WLRd SOS
Arizona 81.2 68.9 12.3 6.9 9.2 -1.2 20.3 8-7 54.69
Austin Peay 76.0 75.1 0.9 0.5 2.7 -0.6 7.3 11-10 48.15
Baylor 77.2 69.2 7.9 2.2 7.9 0.8 20.0 8-6 59.49
Buffalo 77.6 75.1 2.4 0.6 3.0 -0.4 9.3 10-9 53.77
Butler 80.6 71.2 9.4 3.5 3.5 2.9 14.6 8-7 54.61
Cal State Bakersfield 73.0 63.2 9.8 6.0 4.0 3.1 15.9 10-7 44.72
California 75.1 67.0 8.1 6.8 6.7 -2.5 13.9 5-10 58.52
Chattanooga 75.8 66.6 9.2 2.2 3.4 1.8 12.3 16-4 48.07
Cincinnati 73.2 62.9 10.3 3.7 4.8 2.8 17.2 8-7 54.70
Colorado 76.0 70.7 5.3 0.7 8.9 -2.3 16.6 6-10 56.45
Connecticut 73.4 63.1 10.3 7.8 2.3 1.1 9.4 9-7 55.70
Dayton 73.2 65.8 7.4 5.5 5.3 -0.6 14.1 11-4 55.73
Duke 79.1 68.8 10.3 2.4 0.1 2.4 7.3 7-6 58.97
Fairleigh Dickinson 77.9 78.3 -0.3 1.1 -5.0 2.4 -4.1 9-8 45.04
Florida Gulf Coast 77.0 70.5 6.5 6.2 5.0 0.0 12.8 4-9 45.65
Fresno St. 75.3 70.4 4.9 1.6 1.2 4.3 12.4 9-7 51.24
Gonzaga 79.7 66.2 13.5 8.7 7.3 -0.9 16.5 15-3 52.35
Green Bay 84.2 79.7 4.6 0.1 -1.5 4.8 6.8 12-9 48.08
Hampton 74.8 73.8 0.9 -0.9 5.1 -1.5 11.7 12-8 43.76
Hawaii 77.6 66.5 11.1 6.4 4.6 1.5 14.8 10-2 47.33
Holy Cross 65.3 69.7 -4.3 -4.5 -5.5 2.2 -5.2 6-13 45.37
Indiana 82.3 68.9 13.4 5.9 7.3 -0.6 17.3 8-7 53.79
Iona 79.6 73.7 5.9 3.5 -0.6 1.3 4.2 11-8 50.33
Iowa 78.1 68.7 9.4 3.6 1.4 2.7 9.5 8-8 56.69
Iowa St. 81.8 75.0 6.9 6.6 -0.1 0.8 4.1 7-9 58.96
Kansas 81.6 67.6 13.9 9.8 5.2 0.9 14.6 12-4 60.22
Kentucky 79.7 68.3 11.4 7.8 5.4 1.3 16.7 9-8 57.45
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.8 8.0 3.4 -1.7 7.8 9-7 56.77
Miami 75.6 66.8 8.8 4.7 2.3 1.0 9.5 10-6 58.22
Michigan 74.3 67.5 6.8 2.1 -1.0 2.1 4.9 9-8 55.96
Michigan St. 79.8 63.4 16.4 10.7 11.7 0.0 26.7 15-3 55.75
Middle Tennessee 72.7 68.3 4.4 2.4 2.2 1.4 9.1 13-6 50.23
North Carolina 82.3 69.5 12.8 6.9 8.3 2.2 22.4 13-5 57.74
Northern Iowa 68.0 62.9 5.1 3.6 -3.9 2.0 -1.9 11-9 53.34
Notre Dame 75.7 70.6 5.1 4.3 2.3 0.0 8.1 7-9 57.25
Oklahoma 80.4 70.4 10.0 5.4 2.5 -0.3 7.1 11-6 58.74
Oregon 78.8 69.1 9.7 4.3 3.2 2.8 14.4 10-6 60.01
Oregon St. 72.1 70.0 2.1 1.4 -2.2 2.1 2.4 5-9 58.77
Pittsburgh 76.0 67.9 8.1 2.4 7.4 -0.1 17.5 6-7 56.86
Providence 74.0 69.7 4.2 -1.3 -0.2 3.1 6.0 10-6 55.71
Purdue 77.7 64.6 13.1 8.0 10.6 -2.5 20.9 9-7 56.54
Seton Hall 74.8 67.8 7.1 4.9 4.1 -0.2 10.5 12-5 56.24
South Dakota St. 76.3 67.8 8.5 3.5 5.4 0.3 13.9 14-7 51.07
Southern 72.9 69.0 3.9 3.0 -1.7 2.6 3.6 10-11 42.66
St. Joseph’s 77.6 69.9 7.7 4.0 2.9 1.3 11.2 15-3 55.49
Stephen F. Austin 80.7 63.2 17.6 4.6 3.4 6.2 18.2 13-5 47.18
Stony Brook 76.8 63.4 13.4 7.2 7.8 1.4 20.7 11-5 48.19
Syracuse 70.2 65.7 4.5 1.3 -1.4 1.4 2.2 6-9 56.21
Temple 68.7 67.4 1.2 -1.2 -1.5 1.9 3.3 10-8 54.61
Texas 71.3 68.1 3.3 1.3 -1.4 2.1 3.3 6-9 59.88
Texas A&M 75.9 65.5 10.4 4.4 3.9 2.6 14.7 9-7 55.70
Texas Tech 72.4 69.8 2.5 2.0 0.5 0.8 4.3 5-9 58.94
Tulsa 74.0 69.7 4.3 2.7 -1.9 3.5 3.8 8-8 54.97
UALR 70.9 59.6 11.3 6.9 0.1 3.5 9.1 15-4 47.45
UNC-Asheville 75.6 67.5 8.2 3.5 2.3 2.7 11.2 11-8 47.21
UNC-Wilmington 79.2 71.4 7.8 3.9 1.0 3.8 10.6 13-5 51.21
USC 80.8 74.8 6.1 4.0 1.6 0.2 6.8 5-10 56.79
Utah 77.6 69.1 8.5 7.6 4.5 -1.9 9.4 10-7 59.33
Vanderbilt 76.8 67.3 9.4 7.5 1.3 -1.7 3.4 5-11 56.44
VCU 77.2 67.3 9.9 1.0 2.7 4.0 14.0 9-8 55.24
Villanova 77.0 63.7 13.3 6.7 1.9 2.7 10.0 14-4 58.54
Virginia 70.4 59.7 10.7 6.6 3.5 2.7 13.2 11-7 60.05
Weber St. 76.7 66.9 9.9 7.0 4.3 -2.3 9.0 13-7 45.32
West Virginia 79.2 66.6 12.6 2.5 8.4 4.1 25.3 13-6 58.59
Wichita St. 73.2 59.3 14.0 4.9 4.6 5.5 19.7 10-7 52.52
Wisconsin 68.9 64.6 4.3 0.0 3.1 1.2 11.1 7-7 58.14
Xavier 81.3 71.0 10.3 3.6 7.5 1.4 19.9 12-4 56.82
Yale 75.2 63.1 12.0 6.4 11.1 -0.9 23.4 10-6 49.48

If this data is a little overbearing, fret not Bracketaholics.  We will select bracket winners for you Tuesday afternoon so you can fill them out with some science and mathematics backing you up.

 

And, if you are like many of our old-time readers, some of who prefer to use our data when visiting Las Vegas (and who have to buy new shirts after they lose the one they had), we will have our Red-White-Blue computer-rated picks for the First Four games late tonight, and then the picks for the second round late Wednesday night after the last First Four game has concluded.

 

January 9, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Picks for January 9, 2016

Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings College Basketball picks with our experimental ratings, 2.0.

The Red Rating uses an algorithm based on the Four Factors of basketball.

The White Rating incorporates a “least squares” principle to the Four Factors.

The Blue Rating is a separate statistics and strength of schedule approach similar to our PiRate Bias Ratings in football.

 

Games Schedule for: Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016      
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Duke Virginia Tech 18 16 19
Georgia Tech Virginia -5 -3 -6
Notre Dame Pittsburgh 5 2 3
Miami Florida St. 11 12 9
Syracuse North Carolina -7 -5 -7
West Virginia Oklahoma St. 16 16 15
Iowa St. Baylor 8 10 4
Oklahoma Kansas St. 16 11 12
TCU Texas -3 -6 -7
Texas Tech Kansas -7 -1 -8
Wisconsin Maryland -3 -2 -5
Minnesota Northwestern -2 -5 1
Rutgers Nebraska -3 -6 -2
Washington St. Washington 2 -1 1
UCLA Arizona St. 5 4 6
USC Arizona 3 5 -1
Oregon St. California 1 1 -2
Tennessee Texas A&M -1 -1 1
Florida LSU 7 10 6
South Carolina Vanderbilt 6 5 8
Arkansas Mississippi St. 7 8 8
Alabama Kentucky -4 -5 -3
Ole Miss Georgia 3 -1 1
Missouri Auburn 2 1 -2

 

March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

 

From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by cbssports.com, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64

 

#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66

 

South Regional

 

#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71

 

#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67

 

Midwest Regional

 

#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63

 

#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51

 

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61

 

Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.