The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 26, 2021

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Spreads

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:13 am

Friday, March 26, 2021

FavoriteUnderdogSpread
Loyola (Chi.)Oregon St.6.5
BaylorVillanova5.2
ArkansasOral Roberts13.3
HoustonSyracuse7.0
GonzagaCreighton13.3
MichiganFlorida St.3.4
AlabamaUCLA5.7
USCOregon3.4

Bracketnomics Took A Beating

Like 99% of the public, our brackets are destroyed thanks to all the lower seeded teams winning in the first two rounds. Obviously, the Big Ten was highly overrated, and the Pac-12 was highly underrated. A lack of non-conference games this year made the schedule strengths too biased. There are only four teams in the Sweet 16 with resumes similar to past national champions.

Gonzaga is the only remaining team that meets 90% of the criteria of a national champion. Michigan would also meet the criteria, but their star playmaker is still injured and out. So, the Wolverines have to be discounted somewhat.

Baylor and Houston meet more than 75% of the criteria, but they are missing one key important stat. Connecticut is the only past national champion of the 21st Century to win the national title with this type of criteria.

If Gonzaga wins the title, then the bracketnomics data will have proven itself to be accurate for the year, even if our interpretation of the data was wrong. If Michigan, Houston, or Baylor wins the title, then it will be another Connecticut type of deal, where the criteria was valid but not identifiable enough to be considered a success. If anybody else cuts the nets, then the criteria failed for this year.

What should we make of this data this year? Do we throw this year out due to the highly dysfunctional season? So many games were cancelled this year, while other games were scheduled on as little as 48-72 hours notice. Included in the cancellations was a Gonzaga vs. Baylor game that should have been played, in all places, in Indianapolis in December!

One thing we will note in 2021-2022 is to consider the Big Ten Conference to be a tad overrated and the Pac-12 Conference a tad underrated. Maybe, it is time for “The Conference of Champions” to return to its prominence it enjoyed in the second half of the 20th Century.

What to Make of Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s strength of schedule just barely qualifies for national championship-worthy criteria. However, no team from outside the Power Conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC) has won the national championship since 1990, when UNLV cut down the nets. In three decades, Gonzaga came within a made basket, and Butler came within a rimmed out prayer of pulling off the Mid-Major miracle.

Gonzaga has been compared all season to the 1991 UNLV team that ran the table during the regular season with a scoring margin of close to 30 points, only to fall to Duke in the Final Four.

Could Gonzaga meet a power conference blue blood and meet the same fate as UNLV 30 years ago? Creighton would not be considered a blue blood, and we cannot see the Bulldogs losing Saturday. A win in the Sweet 16 would have GU playing a Pac-12 team in the Elite 8, either USC or Oregon. We cannot count either of these teams as a Duke-like blue blood.

In the National Semifinals, Gonzaga would face either Michigan, Florida State, UCLA, or Alabama. With Isaiah Livers able to play, Michigan would definitely be considered blue blood material. Florida State is in the blue blood neighborhood. UCLA and Alabama are both a little too green to be blue these days.

The Championship Game would present a potential opponent in Baylor that would be a true blue blood team this year. Syracuse might be a powder blue blood with their matchup zone so hard to prepare for when teams have not faced it before.

However, we here on the PiRate ship do not see Gonzaga as the UNLV team three decades later. We see this Bulldogs team more like the 1964 UCLA Bruins 57 years later. By this, we do not refer to playing style. The two teams couldn’t be any more different. Coach John Wooden’s first national champions were small in size; no starter was taller than 6 foot 5 inches. Gonzaga has size and muscle inside.

The 1964 Bruins used a devastating 2-2-1, 3/4 court zone press and occasionally a 1-2-1-1 full court zone press to force tempo and turnovers, while Gonzaga uses a standard half-court defense that relies on pressuring the ball and forcing poor shots, where they can control the boards and run the fast break and secondary break for cheap baskets and then hit the offensive glass for additional chances.

Where the two teams are quite similar is their method for winning games. In going 30-0 in 1964, UCLA put every game away with a 2 to 3 minute scoring run. The best example occurred in the national title game, where a favored Duke team, with two 6 foot 10 inch starters towering over the Bruins, fell under pressure in just 2 1/2 minutes, as the Bruins ran off 16 points in a row.

Gonzaga has this same ability to take a three-point lead and make it a 15-point lead in just a couple minutes of playing time. Their game against BYU in the West Coast Conference Championship Game is a testament to this ability. BYU held a 10-point lead and looked like they were going to do what Saint Mary’s had done in the prior WCC Championship Game. Then, in very little clock time, GU went from 10 down to 10 up, and the game was over.

There is another team remaining with the same ability to go on a major game-clinching scoring run, and that is Houston. Funny how comparing Gonzaga to UCLA brings Houston into the conversation, as Houston and UCLA conjure up memories of past titanic rivals like Dempsey-Tunney, Affirmed-Alydar, and New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Houston is most definitely not considered the favorite to make it to the National Championship Game. They still have to solve the Syracuse zone and then possibly beat the most underrated team in the field in Loyola of Chicago or the team that found lightning in a bottle in Oregon State. Then, they most likely have to dismiss Baylor to make it to their third national championship game in the school’s history.

A Houston-Gonzaga national championship tilt would be quite memorable, and it would be one where both teams enjoy scoring runs that make the outcome unpredictable.

March 16, 2021

2021 Bracketnomics Report

For many of you, this is the only time of the year you visit the PiRate Ratings, as March Madness is your real holiday season.  If this is your first visit here, please be advised that we actively participate in rating college and NFL football as well as college basketball.  And, if you are a fan of tabletop baseball games, our Sabertooth Baseball Game is available for the low price of $7 while it is still on sale, when it will go back to $8.  If you have the dice and the playing surface, we send you all the cards, charts, and rules in a zip file for you to print.  Serious gamers tell us that they think our game is one of the most advanced strategic baseball games on the market with unique playing styles.  If we piqued your interest, check us out at https://sabertooth-baseball.square.site , or our blog at https://sabertoothbaseball.wordpress.com 

Now that we’ve heard from our sponsor, let’s get right to it.  First, what are Bracketnomics?  That’s our term we coined to describe how we use analytical data that has been backtested to try to determine which teams have the best set of statistical fingerprints when compared to national champions of the past.

The tutorial is quite easy to read, and if you haven’t read it, you can check it out here:  https://piratings.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/the-all-encompassing-master-bracketnomics-paradigm-2021/

If you have already read this or just want to go straight to picking your bracket, then here’s what you have been waiting for.

First, let’s start with a few bracket-picking strategies. It is obvious that picking a perfect bracket is about as likely as winning the Powerball and Megamillion lotteries in the same week where lightning strikes your air conditioner compressor and you find a four-leaf clover when you go outside to see why your A/C isn’t working.

It is, however, possible to win whatever bracket-picking contest you enter. We here have received dozens of comments through the years from readers telling us they won their office pools, and we have also heard from people that won pools from supermarket contests, radio station contests, and even one from a woman that won $1,000 from a modified Calcutta contest.

There are a few general keys to scoring high enough to win your bracket pool. First, you need to start by picking your national champion, Final Four, and Elite 8 in that order. Do not start with the opening round and just predict the winners. You will likely eliminate yourself before the Sweet 16 by picking a bunch of upset winners and arrive at the Sweet 16 with less than a half-dozen teams still alive.

Next, once you have your Elite 8, go into each sub-bracket that those 8 teams emerged and pick the best team that would give the Elite 8 team a tough Sweet 16 game. Now, you have your Sweet 16.

At this point, you need to pick most of the rest of the games by “the chalk.” Obviously, your Sweet 16 will have to win in the Rounds of 64 and 32. You can then maybe pick a couple upset winners in the first round and maybe one or two of your Sweet 16 teams will be a dark horse. However, as we see it, the teams considered dark horses really looked like the favorites in our method of picking games. In the past, we were all in on a George Mason team that ambushed the field to the Final Four. We said that Virginia Commonwealth was better than 20 seeds and did not deserve to be in the First Four, and the Rams went to the Final Four. We had Wichita State as a Final Four possible the year they went to the Final Four. And, we showed that Butler had a lot of the needed criteria to get deep into their tournaments. It isn’t fail-safe; we did not see Loyola making the Final Four, and we twice struck out with Connecticut teams that won their championships.

Our criteria relies on the percentages and uses past events to predict future possibilities. Math is not perfect in this respect. Think of it this way: Would you rather have Ty Cobb at bat with runners on second and third base and two outs in the last of the ninth, trailing by one run, or would you rather have Mario Mendoza at bat? The odds greatly favor the best hitter of all time, but there are some instances where Cobb might make an out on a hard line drive, while Mendoza delivers the game-winning hit on a bloop pop fly that finds grass between the infielder and outfielder. We’ll still go with Cobb, and that’s what our Bracketnomics attempt to be–the Ty Cobb of bracket-picking.

A lot of gurus will tell you how the #12 seed is the best upset spot, and they point to how many times the #12 seed has upset the #5 seed. Why does this happen? It is because the #12 seeds are often the best automatic qualifiers from mid-major conferences, and the Selection Committee did a poor job placing these teams this low. It is not a jinx, so don’t automatically advance a 12-seed unless you can see they were placed in the wrong seed line.

The same thing can be said about the 11-seeds. In recent years, the Committee was a little more accurate placing powerful mid-major champions one seed higher than past years. A lot of these former superior 12-seeds are now superior 11-seeds. And, instead of playing 5-seeds, they are playing weaker 6-seeds. The plan stays the same–look at the criteria and let the criteria show you when the lower seeds are superior and actually the better team, meaning it won’t really be an upset at all.

The Best Criteria

As we looked at all the data, three teams emerged from the pack of 68 that have national championship looking criteria stats.  However, one of the teams is missing a key ingredient and will have to be discounted some for the loss of a key player.e

The overall best resumes belong to two #1 seeds, Gonzaga and Illinois.  The third team that has the look of a national champion is Michigan, but the Wolverines fall out of this category if Isaiah Livers cannot return by the Sweet 16 and play at somewhat close to 100% efficiency.

There is another group of teams that fall just short of national champion appearance.  These teams are below the championship line in one basic criterion or multiple smaller criteria.  These teams in alphabetical order are: Colorado, Houston, Texas, and Virginia.  We expect that maybe one of these four will sneak into the Final Four.

The next group back, the teams that are just behind the above group and have solid Sweet 16 appearance criteria with possible Elite 8 criteria are: Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Saint Bonaventure, San Diego St., USC, and Wisconsin.  We expect at least one of these six to make the Elite 8.

Then, there is a group of teams with considerable positive criteria along with a major negative criterion. These teams are also Sweet 16 worthy, and two could advance to the Elite 8 with one even sneaking into the Final Four. These teams may benefit from ideal brackets more than criteria, as you read the previews.

This year’s criteria was hard to calculate because of the lack of non-conference games.  Schedule strength had to be stressed even more than usual, or else we would have Colgate picked to go to the Final 4.  The Raiders are 14-1, and all of their games were against fellow Patriot League members; additionally, Colgate never played the other quality team in the league in Navy.

There was a slight issue with Gonzaga’s strength of schedule.  The Bulldogs’ total SOS was brought down due to the bottom teams in their conference.  However, they have wins over Iowa and West Virginia out of conference, and that allows us to accept Gonzaga’s schedule strength as the minimum needed to be considered for the national championship, and adequate for the Final Four.  They were supposed to play Baylor, but the Bears opted out of that game due to the virus.

Now, we will review each of the Round of 64 games using our criteria to pick the winner.  Note that we will have regular PiRate Rating spreads for these games on the day of the games.  Our PiRate Ratings are not used when picking winners in Bracketnomics.

First Four

If you are picking brackets, you can usually wait until these games have been played before picking your brackets.  The 16-seed winners will not really matter, as none of them stand a chance to knock off a 1-seed this year.  The 11-seed games will be important, so if you can, wait until those games have been played before submitting your brackets wherever you do.

16 Texas Southern vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s: Mount St. Mary’s defense will keep Texas Southern from getting a lot of good looks, and the Mount doesn’t foul a lot, so TSU will have a hard time scoring.  MSM’s R+T is a tad better too.

Prediction: Mount St. Mary’s

11 Drake vs. 11 Wichita St.: This should be a close game, as both teams have strengths that can be used to exploit the other team’s weaknesses.  Drake is clearly the better offensive team, while Wichita State has a smaller advantage on defense but considerable advantage on schedule strength.  Drake’s R+T rating is quite better, good enough that they might enjoy the game-clinching spurt in this one.

Prediction: Drake

16 Appalachian St. vs. 16 Norfolk St.: These are two teams that will be fighting tooth and nail for their chance to shine for one night, and this looks like a close one.  To select a winner here, we basically have to go with the team with fewer negatives.  Both are ripe with negatives, but in the end, Norfolk St. has the capability of speeding up the tempo and getting Appy State players in foul trouble.

Prediction: Norfolk St.

11 Michigan St. vs. 11 UCLA:  This is a Michigan State squad lacking its typical inside dominance, while UCLA has very little inside game.  So, it’s more likely that this game will be decided on the perimeter.  UCLA is clearly superior from behind the arc, and Michigan State’s biggest issue this year has been with perimeter players that can take the three or drive quickly to the key.

Prediction: UCLA

SOUTH REGIONAL

1 Baylor vs. 16 Hartford: There’s nothing at all that shows us that Hartford has a chance in this game.  Baylor is superior across the board, so forget this being a UMBC-Virginia moment.  Baylor should lead by more than 30 when Scott Drew removes his starters.

Prediction: Baylor

8 North Carolina vs. 9 Wisconsin: Normally, we would find some fact or statistic to show the Tar Heels being superior to an opening round opponent, but this time, we cannot rationalize doing so.  Both teams are about equal defensively in preventing good shots by their opponents.  Wisconsin is clearly more efficient on offense.  Wisconsin is one of the most experienced teams in the field with six seniors among their top eight players, while UNC is one of the greenest with just one senior and one junior among their top eight.  Carolina has the power advantage in this game, but the Badgers will limit possessions, and they have the outside shooting advantage.  Carolina’s only hope is to get the pace up to more than 70 possessions per side, but we think the veteran Badger team will control the pace and have the advantage.

Prediction: Wisconsin

5 Villanova vs. 12 Winthrop: This is one of those momentum games by a lot of pundits.  They believe that with Villanova’s multiple injuries, this will be another #12 seed upset.  Are they correct?  Let’s take a look.

First, we have to discount Villanova due to their missing senior guard Collin Gillespie.  Additionally, guard Justin Moore will still be somewhat below par due to his severe ankle sprain.  Add to that fact that Winthrop has one of the most unique point forwards in the nation in Chandler Vaudrin.  Now, let’s look at the data.  Villanova enjoys an enormous inside advantage in this game, and their schedule strength is in a different time zone compared to Winthrop’s.  Wins over Southern Conference contenders UNC-Greensboro and Furman were nice, but they were 0-0 against power conference teams.  We expect VU’s two inside forces to get their share of points and force Winthrop to bring an extra defender into the paint, where ‘Nova’s third and fourth options on the perimeter should be good enough to knock down a few.

Prediction: Villanova

4 Purdue vs. 13 North Texas: This game could be close, for a half.  North Texas has the ability to stay within single digits for most of the day, but in the end, Purdue has a wide advantage in both schedule strength and R+T.  That almost always leads to a team going on a big run to put a game away.

Prediction: Purdue

6 Texas Tech vs. 11 Utah St.: Texas Tech is noted for their tough defense, but guess what?  Utah State’s defense is even better this year.  Utah State also has a supreme inside game and isn’t too shabby on the perimeter.  Texas Tech has issues scoring on offense, and we expect the Red Raiders will have foul trouble inside the paint.  Here is our first lower seed upset pick.

Prediction: Utah St.

3 Arkansas vs. 14 Colgate:  Here is where schedule strength is as important as class is in handicap horse races.  Arkansas is a Grade I champion, while Colgate is still eligible for non-winner’s of two allowance races.  The schedule strength favors Arkansas by more than a dozen points before looking at any other stats.  Arkansas’s offense is not superior, but it is very good.  Their defense is close to superior.  Colgate’s offense is good, but in the end, their defense isn’t going to slow down the Razorbacks enough times to keep this game close.  There are no criteria that show us that Colgate has a chance to find something to exploit in this game.  Add to the load our personal belief that Eric Musselman is one of the A++ basketball coaches, and this looks like a double-digit win.

Prediction: Arkansas

7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia Tech:  This game looks more like an 8-9 game than a 7-10 game, because it is close to dead even when looking at all the criteria.  Florida has a slight advantage with offensive and defensive efficiency and schedule strength, but VT rates better in R+T, which can override small schedule strength advantages.  Additionally, both schools have swooned in recent weeks, so what we are looking at here is who will be fodder in the next round?  We honestly say to pick the team you like in this one, because it is a 50-50 matchup.  When it’s 50-50, we look at the coaches.  Michael White has an Elite 8 appearance at Florida.  Mike Young had an incredible Wofford team in the Dance that beat Seton Hall and took Kentucky to the buzzer in the Round of 32.  

Prediction: Virginia Tech

2 Ohio St. vs. 15 Oral Roberts: Oral Roberts is the only one of the 68 teams in this field with a negative R+T rating.  Our prime rule is to immediately eliminate any NCAA Tournament team with a negative R+T rating.  There are no exceptions to this rule, so even if ORU was playing one of the 16-seeds in this round, we would be selecting the opponent.  As Royal Rooter King Michael McGreevy would have replied, “‘Nuf ced.”

Prediction: Ohio St. has the potential to win by 35 points.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

1 Illinois vs. 16 Drexel: You know the answer here, so let’s break down the Illini a little to show you why they have the criteria of a national champion.

National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.

National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Illinois’s scoring margin is 12.2 in a year where the Big Ten was the top-ranked overall league.

National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Illinois is 7th offensively and 5th defensively.

National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Illinois has two seniors and three juniors in their top eight.

Add to this a team with a +37% 3-point accuracy; two inside players that combine for more than 20 points and 12 rebounds per game; an offense that forces defenses to foul too much; a defense that does not foul too much; a top-10 schedule strength, and one of the few 20+ R+T Ratings in this tournament.  

10 out of the last 13 years, a #1 seed won the national title, and Illinois is a #1 seed playing just one state away from home.  Other than having a coach that has not been past the Round of 32, and a slightly under the championship norm offensive rebounding rate, this team looks like past national champions.

Prediction: Illinois by whatever spread they want to name.

8 Loyola (Chi.) vs. 9 Georgia Tech: Oh, this one should be a grand one to watch!  Not only is it an evenly-matched game, it is evenly matched with both teams having decided advantages over the other in various criteria.  That usually leads to an exciting 40 minutes with lots of plot twists.  In other words, plan on watching this game.  Let’s break this one down.  Georgia Tech has the definite offensive efficiency advantage, but Loyola has the number one defensive efficiency in the entire nation!  Loyola is one of a very few teams to have a double-digit true shooting percentage margin.  The Rambler TS% is 59.8% and they allow 48.7%.  

Georgia Tech has three players that can put away an opponent, while Loyola is more of a team approach type of winner.  In the clutch, go with a team with three potential dagger-makers.  Georgia Tech has a slightly stronger schedule, but Loyola has superior R+T numbers, and for that reason, the scales slightly tip past balanced.

Prediction: Loyola (Chi.)

5 Tennessee vs. 12 Oregon St.: We expect the winner of this game to have a tough time advancing to the Sweet 16 for multiple reasons.  Tennessee is one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams in the field, if not the most.  An excellent defensive effort will give the Vols a big win, and then an egg-laying offensive effort will get them beat the next game.  The problem is that the players seem to lack direction against changing defenses.

Oregon St. was a model of excellent consistency for 120 minutes at the Pac-12 Tournament, holding the pace to less than 65 possessions per game, and winning by making very few mistakes.  By mistakes, we don’t refer to turnovers, but more to smart shot selection and excellent team defense.  That team defense thing is kryptonite to Tennessee.

The question is which Vols team shows up?  Will it be the team that disposed of Kansas like they were a division 2 team, or will it be the team that acted like it didn’t know the object of the game in the second half of the SEC Tournament semifinals?  We’ll say that for one game, UT will play up to their potential.

Prediction: Tennessee

4 Oklahoma St. vs. 13 Liberty: Liberty was a real victim of Covid-19 in 2020.  The Flames were good enough to make the Sweet 16 last year.  This year’s team is not on that same level of competence.  The biggest factor in this game is the humongous schedule strength advantage the Cowboys have.  On that alone, OSU is 18 points better before the opening tip.  They also have the top clutch player in the Dance in Cade Cunningham, who is better than Kemba Walker, who took Connecticut to the national title when the Huskies did not have national title criteria.

Prediction: Oklahoma St.

6 San Diego St. vs. 11 Syracuse: Syracuse has been in this situation before where they were on the Bubble getting into the field and then won a game or two.  They made the Final Four as a 10-seed.  Their matchup zone defense can be trouble for teams that have not seen it live, and most teams that play the ‘Cuse in the Rounds of 64 and 32 have not seen another team use it.  That can make a difference in closely-matched teams.

San Diego State’s man-to-man defense is not something Syracuse has seen either.  It is nothing like Virginia’s or other ACC defenses.  In a normal year, Duke’s defense might look something like that, but the Orangemen will be just as unsure attacking the Aztecs as SDSU is attacking the zone.  Syracuse has a stronger schedule strength, but not that much stronger, while SDSU has the better R+T Rating, enough to make the difference.

Prediction: San Diego St.

3 West Virginia vs. 14 Morehead St.: In recent years, Belmont and Murray St. have pulled off big upsets from the Ohio Valley Conference.  Ten years ago, this team knocked off Louisville in the opening round.  Can lightning strike twice?  About as often as it does, so don’t expect the Eagles to soar over the Mountaineers.  The schedule strength advantage is considerable at 13+ points.  The inside advantage will be almost as strong, and WVU will get many extra opportunities to score in this game.  Unless Morehead shoots lights out from three, this will be a mismatch.

Prediction: West Virginia

7 Clemson vs. 10 Rutgers:   These are very similar teams when looking at their criteria.  There isn’t much to separate them.  Rutgers has a slightly better offensive efficiency rating.  They are basically equal defensively.  Clemson has the better frontcourt and more likely to get more first chance points in the paint.  Neither team is adequate enough to get to the Sweet 16 with their R+T Ratings.  In the end, we go with the better offense in this one.

Prediction: Rutgers

2 Houston vs. 15 Cleveland St.: This is the best Houston team since Phi Slama Jama made it to consecutive national title games in 1983 and 1984.  Two years ago, a #3-seed Houston team easily advanced to the Sweet 16 and then took Kentucky to the final horn.  This team is a tad better overall, but more importantly, this regional is lacking in teams that excel where Houston is vulnerable.  Houston could win this game by 30-35 points, but Kelvin Sampson will probably empty his bench earlier than normal, allowing Cleveland State to make the final score look less embarrassing.  Only if CSU can get three or four Cougar players in early foul trouble can they keep this one close.

Prediction: Houston

West Regional

1 Gonzaga vs. 16 Norfolk St.: Rather than show you how Gonzaga could win this game by 40 or more, let’s show you their criteria so you can compare it to Illinois.  

A.  National champions come from power conferences–ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Pac-12, and Big Ten.  The last team not in one of these leagues to win the title was UNLV in 1990.  Gonzaga would have to break a 31-year trend.

B.  National champions tend to have double digit scoring margins.  Since 1990, 28 of 30 national champions had double-digit scoring margins.  The other two times, it was Connecticut both years.  Gonzaga’s scoring margin is 23.0, which is far and away the best in the nation.  UNLV’s was 15 when they won the 1990 title.

C.  National champions tend to have offenses ranked in the top 10 in efficiency and defenses ranked in the top 20 in efficiency.  Gonzaga is number one on offense and number 10 on defense, a definite look of a national champion.

D.  National champions tend to have four or more upperclassmen on their top eight.  Gonzaga has two seniors and two juniors in their top eight.

E.  Gonzaga’s 3-point percentage is 36.5%, which is a fraction under the 37% floor most champions have had.  They have three players that can be counted on to win a game on the final possession.  They have two inside stars that can dominate a game in the paint.  While the Bulldogs’ schedule is a tad weaker than a typical national champion schedule, they did beat Iowa and West Virginia on the road, and a cancelled game against Baylor would have given them a championship worthy schedule.

Prediction: Gonzaga by a very large margin

8 Oklahoma vs. 9 Missouri: These former Big 8/Big 12 rivals used to have some great conference games, and this one should be a lot like those great ones from the past.  Oklahoma has the better offensive efficiency, while defensive efficiency is about equal.  Missouri has the advantage inside and a slightly better strength of schedule.  There isn’t much difference when looking at the rest, but Missouri is one of the few teams that has a +37% free throw rate; however, their defensive FT rate is too high.

Prediction: Oklahoma

5 Creighton vs. 12 UCSB: On the surface, this looks like a potential double-digit win for the higher seed, even when considering the high number of 12-seed upsets in the past.  Crieghton’s offensive efficiency rating is high enough to consider the Blue Jays an Elite 8 contender, and their defensive efficiency rating is strong enough to move Creighton into the next round.  However, there has been an issue with the head coach, and Creighton did not look like the same team after the dissension between players and coach came to a head.  

UCSB is not an easy mark.  The Gauchos have an inside presence typical of a first round winner.  They are a senior-laden squad, and their R+T rating is almost 20, which is another sign of a potential upset winner in the Round of 64.  When a team has a huge R+T rating advantage over their opponent, the next thing to compare are the two schedule strengths.  In this case, Creighton has a modestly better SOS, not enough to overcome a large R+T disadvantage. Remember that UC-Irvine from the same Big West Conference beat a 4-seed in the 2019 Dance.

Prediction: UCSB gets the upset

4 Virginia vs. 13 Ohio U: Ohio has a top 40 offense, but their defense is too weak to stop an ACC team like Virginia.  This will be more of a half-court game, where the fast break is an afterthought.  Virginia will win more than half of the possessions, probably something like 55% of them, and in a 62 possession game for both teams, that comes out to 68 possessions for the Cavs and 56 possessions for the Bobcats.  A 12-possession win with about 1.1 points per possession means a 13-point win.

Prediction: Virginia

6 USC vs. 11 Drake: This game could be a faster-paced replica of the UVa-Ohio game.  USC and Drake both have very strong offensive efficiency ratings, but Drake’s defensive efficiency is below the threshold of a winning tournament team.  USC will dominate inside in this game, and Drake will have to hit close to half their three-point shots to keep this one close.  USC has one of the highest foul-drawing offenses, and the Trojans should get a lot of “and 1’s” in this game.

Prediction: USC

3 Kansas vs, 14 Eastern Washington: This Kansas team does not have the overall offense to advance to the Final Four, and they may struggle making the Sweet 16.  KU’s offensive efficiency is vulnerable against a quality defensive team.  Eastern Washington is not that team with a porous defense compared to this field.  Superior schedule strength and a somewhat better R+T makes this game a solid one in the Big 12 team’s favor.

Prediction: Kansas

7 Oregon vs. 10 VCU: This should be an interesting game.  Oregon’s exceptional offensive efficiency faces VCU’s exceptional defensive efficiency.  The schedule strength is dead even, so we look at the R+T ratings, and it favors the Ducks by one scoring spurt.

Prediction: Oregon

2 Iowa vs. 15 Grand Canyon: Iowa is oh so close to having Final Four criteria.  Their offense trails only Gonzaga, but their defensive efficiency is #50, just outside the threshold for national champion qualification.  Grand Canyon actually holds a substantial R+T Rating advantage, so we must look at the schedule strength to see if it can be sustained.  It cannot in this case, as Iowa’s schedule is almost 15 points stronger per game.

Prediction: Iowa

EAST REGIONAL

1 Michigan vs. 16 Mount St. Mary’s:  Even at less than full strength, Michigan is much too strong for a Northeast Conference opponent.  The Wolverines’ have top 10 offense and defense efficiency ratings, while the Mount has the lowest offensive efficiency in the tournament.  Their defensive efficiency is the ninth lowest in the field.  If the Wolverines can get through this first weekend, there is a chance that Isaiah Livers can return and contribute.

Prediction: Michigan

8 LSU vs. 9 Saint Bonaventure:  LSU has a top five offensive efficiency rating, but their defense is below par for any more than a win or two at best.  St. Bonaventure could be a surprise winner, and they could give Michigan a run for their money in a Round of 32 game if they can get past LSU.

This game should stay close like an 8-9 game should, and it is almost a 50-50 guess when applying our criteria.  LSU’s schedule strength is slightly stronger, but The Bonnies have a clear R+T advantage.

Prediction: Saint Bonaventure

5 Colorado vs. 12 Georgetown: It was the worst of times early in the year at 5-10 and the best of times late in the year at 8-2 for the Georgetown Hoyas.  If GU is going to continue to play like they did in the latter part of the schedule, their overall criteria must be looked at in a different light.  The trouble here for Patrick Ewing is the opponent in this game.  Colorado is very close to being considered an Elite 8 dark horse.  The Buffs have an offensive efficiency rating in the top 20, and their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 30.  CU also has the R+T Ratings advantage.

Prediction: Colorado

4 Florida St. vs. 13 UNC-Greensboro: Florida State is another team just shy of the typical criteria of a Final Four team.  The Seminoles are a worthy Sweet 16 team with an offensive efficiency rating in the top 10.  Their defensive efficiency rating is in the top 50, which is just outside of Final 4 worthy. The Seminoles could beat a Michigan team without Livers.

UNCG would be totally outmanned in this game if it wasn’t for a very good R+T rating, and even though FSU’s schedule strength is better, it is not enough to make this game a slam dunk runaway win.  UNCG could keep this close for more minutes than the Seminoles like.

Prediction: Florida St.

6 BYU vs. 11 UCLA: A lot of national talk show hosts and guests believe BYU was given a higher seed than they deserved.  Some people believe that they should have been a 9, 10, or even an 11 seed.  We don’t share that opinion.  BYU actually has the stronger schedule strength, as they have played the number one team three times and won at Utah State and San Diego State.  BYU has the better R+T Rating in this game as well, and the Cougars are substantially better defensively than the Bruins.

Prediction: BYU

3 Texas vs. 14 Abilene Christian: Abilene Christian will be playing for more than a spot in the Round of 32.  Beating Texas would be as special as Texas making the Final Four.  However, this Longhorns squad is tough, tough enough to become Shaka Smart’s second Final Four team, even though it would require one big upset and maybe one minor upset.

Texas has an offensive efficiency rating just outside the top 20 and a defensive efficiency rating in the 30’s.  With a schedule strength that is 16 points stronger than ACU’s, the slight R+T Rating advantage of the Wildcats is nullified.

Prediction: Texas

7 Connecticut vs. 10 Maryland: As hot as Georgetown was at the end of the season, they did lose twice to Connecticut.  The Huskies are another team with efficiency ratings and schedule strength strong enough to be considered a dark horse for advancing to the Sweet 16 and possibly the Elite 8.

Maryland will not be an automatic win for UConn.  In fact, this game is barely past toss-up.  UConn’s offensive efficiency is 24 and their defensive efficiency is 25, but Maryland’s offensive efficiency is just a little lower at 42 with a defensive efficiency almost exactly the same as the Huskies.  Connecticut’s biggest advantage in this game is the R+T Rating, which is slightly offset by Maryland’s somewhat stronger schedule strength.

Prediction: Connecticut

2 Alabama vs. 15 Iona: Can Rick Pitino work his magic and pull of a major upset?  Don’t bet on it.  His Iona Gaels have the sixth weakest offensive efficiency rating and eighth weakest defensive efficiency rating in the tournament.  Meanwhile, Alabama has more than enough superior criteria numbers to win this game with ease, even if their three-point shots don’t fall.  Iona will have a tough time scoring points in this game.

Prediction: Alabama

Those are our Round of 64 picks.  Now, we will finish it up by picking the rest of the bracket using Bracketnomics.

Round of 32

Baylor over Wisconsin

Purdue over Villanova

Arkansas over Utah St.

Ohio St. over Virginia Tech

Illinois over Loyola (Chi.)

Oklahoma St. over Tennessee

West Virginia over San Diego St.

Houston over Rutgers

Gonzaga over Oklahoma

Virginia over UCSB

USC over Kansas

Iowa over Oregon

Michigan over Saint Bonaventure

Florida St. over Colorado

Texas over BYU

Alabama over Connecticut

Sweet 16

Baylor over Purdue

Ohio St. over Arkansas

Illinois over Oklahoma St.

Houston over West Virginia

Gonzaga over Virginia

Iowa over USC

Michigan over Florida St. (if Livers returns)

Texas over Alabama

Elite 8

Ohio St. over Baylor

Illinois over Houston

Gonzaga over Iowa

Texas over Michigan

National Semifinals

Illinois over Ohio St.

Gonzaga over Texas

National Championship

Illinois over Gonzaga *

Note: If Gonzaga defeats Oklahoma, Virginia, and Iowa to get to the Final 4, their Strength of Schedule will then be above the minimum threshold needed to win all the marbles.

Here is a look at each team’s criteria. Maybe you can see something we didn’t see!

Criteria A: The Biggies

TeamO-EffD-EffSOSR + T
Abilene Christian1573044.115.8
Alabama34261.07.3
Appalachian St.22720547.75.2
Arkansas351458.814.2
Baylor34458.218.2
BYU282659.014.1
Clemson992060.64.3
Cleveland St.19912148.93.7
Colgate4314047.716.2
Colorado172958.014.5
Connecticut242558.714.8
Creighton144058.44.5
Drake1912050.716.9
Drexel9524747.19.3
E. Washington8615247.95.0
Florida403760.04.3
Florida St.104859.011.3
Georgetown854161.07.5
Georgia Tech275258.82.8
Gonzaga11057.822.0
Grand Canyon1427446.921.2
Hartford25412745.20.7
Houston81655.527.0
Illinois7562.820.8
Iona21016145.412.1
Iowa25061.411.6
Kansas59661.311.9
Liberty5216844.312.6
Loyola (Chi)49153.016.2
LSU512560.76.1
Maryland422761.82.3
Michigan6761.815.0
Michigan St.983261.35.9
Missouri515861.53.5
Morehead St.2147248.77.5
Mount St. Mary’s28713646.214.8
Norfolk St.20421943.48.0
North Carolina531560.421.5
North Texas1194253.89.2
Ohio St.47958.48.7
Ohio U2917457.58.4
Oklahoma365359.46.2
Oklahoma St.542262.06.1
Oral Roberts7428548.5-2.3
Oregon167657.19.2
Oregon St.6511757.96.0
Purdue232361.614.2
Rutgers751862.22.5
San Diego St.441155.917.3
St. Bonaventure381756.814.1
Syracuse228958.74.2
Tennessee71458.910.7
Texas213661.210.4
Texas Southern23623643.313.9
Texas Tech332459.713.2
UCLA268654.312.5
UCSB668253.419.2
UNCG1296750.815.0
USC301958.716.9
Utah St.112854.623.7
VCU1171257.45.1
Villanova96859.211.2
Virginia123358.98.5
Virginia Tech555456.58.8
West Virginia116562.111.4
Wichita St.5610356.62.3
Winthrop1207045.324.0
Wisconsin321361.74.1

Glossary:

O-Eff: Offensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and most top 10

D-Eff: Defensive efficiency ranking. Almost all national champions were top 20 and all top 50

SOS: The PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule. All past national champions were higher than 56.0, and most were 60.0 and higher. Usually, one Final Four team has an SOS between 50 and 56.

R+T Rating: The PiRate Ratings estimate of “spurtability.” The higher the number, the more likely a team will enjoy the better scoring spurt. However, this rating goes hand-in-hand with SOS, so it must be handicapped on a per game basis while comparing schedule strengths. All national champions have had R+T ratings above 12.0, and most were over 15.0. A team with an R+T rating above 15.0 and SOS above 60.0 is tournament tough. If in turn, this team has a top 10 O-Eff and top 20 D-Eff, they are going to advance very far into the Dance. Teams with R+T ratings under 5.00 are in trouble after the first round.

Criteria B

TeamSeniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?37+ 3ptF/C 12+ ppg2 F/C 20/12?
Abilene Christian23035.3YesNo
Alabama41137.8NoNo
Appalachian St.22331.7NoNo
Arkansas32133.9YesNo
Baylor24341.8NoNo
BYU32137.8NoNo
Clemson32034.6YesNo
Cleveland St.33131.9NoNo
Colgate32340.2NoNo
Colorado52136.7NoNo
Connecticut23133.6NoNo
Creighton32137.0NoNo
Drake43037.0NoNo
Drexel22137.2YesYes
E. Washington23135.4YesYes
Florida05135.7YesNo
Florida St.24139.0YesYes
Georgetown31136.6YesYes
Georgia Tech42334.9YesNo
Gonzaga22336.5YesYes
Grand Canyon50033.2YesYes
Hartford14032.7NoNo
Houston22136.1NoNo
Illinois23137.6YesYes
Iona30137.2NoNo
Iowa21138.6YesYes
Kansas22No34.4YesYes
Liberty23No39.1NoNo
Loyola (Chi)50No36.8YesNo
LSU04335.0YesYes
Maryland23034.6NoNo
Michigan51138.7YesYes
Michigan St.13032.0YesNo
Missouri42132.0YesYes
Morehead St.14No35.1YesYes
Mount St. Mary’s15133.7NoNo
Norfolk St.41136.8NoNo
North Carolina11No31.7YesYes
North Texas32137.6NoYes
Ohio St.24136.5YesYes
Ohio U13334.4YesYes
Oklahoma42133.8NoNo
Oklahoma St.11133.8NoNo
Oral Roberts22139.0YesYes
Oregon42139.4YesNo
Oregon St.32133.0NoNo
Purdue03130.7YesYes
Rutgers24131.1NoNo
San Diego St.52139.5YesNo
St. Bonaventure07037.5NoNo
Syracuse12333.7YesYes
Tennessee21133.8NoNo
Texas32136.2NoNo
Texas Southern35129.6NoYes
Texas Tech13134.6NoNo
UCLA14139.0NoNo
UCSB41333.7YesYes
UNCG24130.0NoNo
USC32134.6YesYes
Utah St.14133.6YesYes
VCU21132.9NoNo
Villanova23035.2YesYes
Virginia32138.1YesYes
Virginia Tech21134.5YesYes
West Virginia14138.7YesYes
Wichita St.23134.9NoNo
Winthrop24No35.3YesNo
Wisconsin60136.0YesNo

Glossary:

Seniors 8 & Juniors 8: These are the numbers of seniors and juniors in each teams’ top 8 players. Typically, the more experienced teams have the maturity to win close games in high leverage situations. Many times, these players have “been there” before. The best example of this is Georgetown’s Fred Brown. As a sophomore in the 1982 National Championship Game against North Carolina, the last possession of the game was too high leverage for an underclassman to handle. He made a serous unforced gaffe, and Carolina won. Two years later, the senior Brown was like a coach on the floor, as he helped the Hoyas win their lone national championship.

1/3 Clutch?: Successful tournament teams need an anchor that can pick up the tough points at crunch time or steal a pass on defense and key a spurt. If there isn’t one star, a team can get by with a trio of semi-clutch players. Either one is fine, so you want to see a “1” or “3” here and not a “0.” A team with a “0” doesn’t mean that they don’t have a player that can hit the last-second winning shot. Think of two pinch-hitters in baseball. Our clutch player is the PH that hits .300, and not .250 like the “0” clutch team PH.

37+ 3pt: In recent years with Four Factors’ data driving the way teams play, 3-point percentages have mattered more and more. It’s not the number of treys knocked down that matter; it’s the percentage that counts. If a team hits 37% or better from behind the arc, it forces defenses to stop them, and it opens up the middle. A 40% 3-point shooter is as effective as a 60% 2-point shooter.

F/C 12+ ppg / 2 F/C 20/12?: This can be an either or thing but if both criteria are met, it strengthens the deal. National championship and Final 4 teams can be perimeter-oriented, but they still need to have at least one inside player that scored 12 or more points per game, or two frontcourt players that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. The deeper the tournament progresses, the better the team defenses get. Teams that live by the jump shot and have no inside options tend to die by the jump shot before the Final 4. Teams that are dominant in the paint tend to be more consistent.

Criteria C

TeamTS MargDbl Fig#OReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37DFT Rat <31
Abilene Christian55.2-49.5331.745.035.039.4
Alabama54.2-48.9431.546.428.631.9
Appalachian St.52.5-50.9429.948.134.324.3
Arkansas55.0-50.6431.746.932.729.4
Baylor59.3-52.1337.548.127.031.6
BYU58.2-49.7328.745.327.429.5
Clemson53.4-51.8126.647.523.629.5
Cleveland St.53.3-53.0330.950.832.037.1
Colgate59.6-48.4428.149.431.125.1
Colorado56.3-51.0330.846.429.928.0
Connecticut52.9-50.4336.645.629.636.9
Creighton57.0-49.9524.846.126.925.7
Drake57.3-51.54*31.648.224.428.6
Drexel57.6-53.0429.450.428.627.2
E. Washington57.4-50.2523.447.230.327.3
Florida56.2-51.3430.748.433.934.8
Florida St.57.5-51.1335.544.232.736.3
Georgetown53.3-50.7432.447.430.325.9
Georgia Tech56.6-54.9424.750.829.028.9
Gonzaga63.3-50.4430.446.836.625.9
Grand Canyon57.4-47.4332.244.132.228.5
Hartford53.3-50.0324.850.728.725.0
Houston55.2-46.7339.642.929.741.6
Illinois58.3-49.8333.045.439.230.4
Iona55.1-50.5333.445.836.146.4
Iowa57.3-50.5330.745.832.022.7
Kansas53.3-50.0431.345.530.626.4
Liberty60.9-49.6223.846.523.727.2
Loyola (Chi)59.8-48.7125.344.731.421.7
LSU56.4-51.7431.551.334.029.2
Maryland56.1-51.0320.645.833.625.9
Michigan58.2-48.4329.442.329.024.5
Michigan St.51.5-52.0130.448.231.437.1
Missouri54.3-52.4328.648.237.536.4
Morehead St.55.1-49.2324.447.336.023.1
Mount St. Mary’s51.5-49.4231.645.629.724.6
Norfolk St.53.9-51.4228.947.438.540.7
North Carolina51.6-51.4341.246.834.827.1
North Texas57.2-50.3428.345.327.431.4
Ohio St.57.3-52.4329.150.535.034.0
Ohio U58.1-54.7528.851.229.830.2
Oklahoma54.1-51.7327.346.329.222.8
Oklahoma St.55.5-50.6231.946.736.330.5
Oral Roberts58.2-52.1223.847.227.332.3
Oregon56.6-53.6528.350.026.827.1
Oregon St.53.9-53.8230.151.934.037.7
Purdue54.5-51.5232.249.732.230.4
Rutgers52.1-51.3327.447.427.633.2
San Diego St.56.2-50.2229.043.734.531.9
St. Bonaventure53.6-48.2533.645.127.928.3
Syracuse54.5-51.7330.249.228.325.0
Tennessee54.2-49.9331.444.835.131.2
Texas55.9-50.4331.345.834.036.7
Texas Southern52.6-49.5332.745.338.332.9
Texas Tech53.7-51.3333.644.839.236.5
UCLA55.2-53.9530.249.432.628.0
UCSB57.9-50.9329.446.034.227.1
UNCG50.6-52.0131.948.521.830.6
USC54.5-48.7235.642.237.524.7
Utah St.53.3-49.2335.742.930.125.7
VCU55.0-49.8228.645.934.035.4
Villanova56.3-54.0428.051.030.025.8
Virginia58.9-51.1323.146.122.024.5
Virginia Tech55.3-51.6228.447.633.230.9
West Virginia53.0-53.0435.551.328.319.8
Wichita St.51.4-49.0230.647.136.528.4
Winthrop56.3-51.9435.549.235.733.9
Wisconsin53.0-51.1223.747.127.028.5

Glossary:

TS Marg.: True shooting % margin. The numbers shown are the offensive TS% followed by the defensive TS%. This is a secondary criterion already factored in the efficiency numbers but can be used to look at when efficiency numbers are close to even. A good margin is 6% or more.

Dbl Fig #: The number of players averaging double figure scoring. If a team has four players that score 10-20 points per game, it is seldom that all four can be shut down in a game. If they have three players, they are still okay. Two or less usually indicates a bit of trouble to get to the Final 4.

-45% vs. 2: This criterion looks for teams that hold opponents under 45% on 2-point shots. While 3-point percentage is a key offensive stat, stopping two-point shots is the defensive key. Most national champions met this criterion, and almost every Final 4 team that did not meet this criterion lost if their opponent did meet it. It is still important in earlier rounds.

FT Rate 37 & DFT Rat <31: Making a lot of free throws is nice and can secure a small lead late in a game. However, there are two much more important foul stats. A team that gets to the foul line a lot prior to the final two minutes of games gets there because they have a superior offense that is hard to defend and thus is fouled more than average. Additionally, more fouls lead to foul trouble and automatic bench time for key players. Likewise, a team with a low defensive FT rate is a sign of a strong team defense. FT Rate 37 means a team with an offensive FT Rate (FTA/FGA) of 37.0 or better, while DFT Rat <31 means a team with a defensive FT rate under 31.0.

There is a caveat here: As the game becomes more and more of a three-point shooting game, fouling drops. That happened this year, as total fouls called has dropped. For this season, look at teams with 33.3% or better FT Rates and 28% or lower defensive FT Rates.

Criteria D

TeamChampionsCoach Exp.Score MargFG% DiffWin Strk
Abilene ChristianYes6417.16.08
AlabamaYes329.82.610
Appalachian St.Yes996.4-0.64
ArkansasNo1611.74.09
BaylorYes818.06.018
BYUNo9910.27.35
ClemsonNo163.30.95
Cleveland St.Yes990.92.99
ColgateYes6417.79.113
ColoradoNo329.73.56
ConnecticutNo327.92.95
CreightonNo328.77.06
DrakeNo9912.77.218
DrexelYes994.73.64
E. WashingtonYes998.65.39
FloridaNo84.24.34
Florida St.No88.67.65
GeorgetownYes990.70.94
Georgia TechYes325.51.58
GonzagaYes223.013.226
Grand CanyonYes6414.511.59
HartfordYes992.61.65
HoustonYes819.77.78
IllinoisYes3212.28.77
IonaYes16.34.66
IowaNo3211.95.56
KansasNo17.33.48
LibertyYes3215.38.212
Loyola (Chi)Yes416.09.811
LSUNo166.84.45
MarylandNo163.84.75
MichiganYes9910.98.911
Michigan St.No1-1.6-0.16
MissouriNo161.71.86
Morehead St.Yes995.45.712
Mount St. Mary’sYes991.42.14
Norfolk St.Yes996.03.26
North CarolinaNo16.32.03
North TexasYes998.66.64
Ohio St.No166.33.67
Ohio UYes997.64.56
OklahomaNo45.62.15
Oklahoma St.No994.25.56
Oral RobertsYes996.02.24
OregonYes47.03.78
Oregon St.Yes642.4-0.43
PurdueNo84.83.75
RutgersNo641.83.16
San Diego St.Yes6413.56.814
St. BonaventureYes6410.16.17
SyracuseNo15.12.63
TennesseeNo49.34.57
TexasYes46.44.16
Texas SouthernYes645.15.29
Texas TechNo29.63.34
UCLANo164.32.37
UCSBYes9913.76.513
UNCGYes647.21.07
USCNo169.77.37
Utah St.No6411.05.711
VCUNo646.54.67
VillanovaNo18.40.49
VirginiaYes18.16.47
Virginia TechNo326.63.34
West VirginiaNo45.2-1.44
Wichita St.Yes995.00.58
WinthropYes9912.73.016
WisconsinNo165.3-0.25

Glossary

Champions: This refers to a team that won either their regular season conference championship or their postseason conference tournament. Since 1990, 29 of 30 national champions met this criterion.

Coach Exp.: How far has the head coach advanced in the past? When looking at fairly evenly matched teams, a coach with more Dance experience can be the difference. A first-timer may make that crucial mistake that allows the opponent to have that brief scoring run.

Score Marg.: Something like 95% of all national champions had double digit scoring margins. This goes back to the very beginning of the tournament in the 1930s. 98% had scoring margins in excess of 7.5 points per game. Teams with scoring margins in excess of 15 points that come from a power conference are 100% legit powers, so keep that in mind. Mid-majors with 15+ point scoring margins have to be carefully scrutinized. If their power conference opponent played other mid-majors and did not win by an average as high as the Mid-major in the tournament, that means something.

FG% Diff: In the eight-decade history of the tournament, more Final 4 teams had FG% differences in excess of 7.5% than not and a great number had double-digit margins. If a team shot 48% from the field and gave up 38% from the field and played in a power conference, they are truly tough. A team with a double digit FG% difference that played a tough schedule can overcome a lower than average R+T rating, but usually they will run into a team with a superior R+T rating also with a tough SOS, and that’s the end for the lower R+T team.

Win Strk: Should we expect a team to win six straight tournament games if they did not win six straight regular season games? Most of the past champions actually had 10 or more game winning streaks or multiple streaks of 6 or more. Above, where you see numbers in bold, the teams had a second winning streak of 6 or more games in addition to the number shown.

March 26, 2020

The Greatest NCAA Tournament That Never Was–The Sweet 16 Thursday

We are down to 16 teams in our greatest teams between 1960 and 2019. Let’s get right to the results for the Sweet 16 Games in the East and South Regions.  The Midwest and West Regions play on Friday.

 

EAST REGION

 

Wolf Pack Pull Away In Second Half

 

1974 North Carolina St.

82

1978 Kentucky

70

After a close first half, the 1974 North Carolina State Wolf Pack pulled away from the 1978 Kentucky Wildcats with a 14-5 run over four minutes that increased a two-point lead to 11.

David Thompson scored 9 of his 21 points during this run, and additionally, in this four-minute segment of the game, he forced Mike Phillips to foul him twice, and he stole the ball away from Rick Robey.

Kentucky led for most of the first half, after the Wildcats started the game connecting on seven of their first 11 shots from the field.  N.C. State turned up the defensive pressure and finished the half on a 10-3 run to take a one-point lead at the half.

After an opening seven minutes of the second half that saw the lead change hands five times, the Wolf Pack went on their run to take command of the game, and they cruised to victory.

 

Boxscore

North Carolina St.

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Tom Burleson

C

8

14

0

0

5

8

3

12

15

1

0

2

2

3

21

Tim Stoddard

F

3

7

0

0

2

2

1

6

7

0

1

1

1

4

8

David Thompson

F

8

17

2

6

3

4

4

4

8

2

1

0

3

3

21

Mo Rivers

G

4

8

2

4

1

2

0

2

2

4

2

0

3

3

11

Monte Towe

G

5

12

3

7

4

4

0

1

1

5

2

0

4

3

17

Phil Spence

2

4

0

0

0

0

2

4

6

0

0

0

1

3

4

Greg Hawkins

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

1

2

0

Team

3

Totals

30

62

7

17

15

20

10

30

43

13

6

3

15

21

82

Kentucky

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Rick Robey

C

7

15

0

0

2

4

1

4

5

0

0

0

4

2

16

Mike Phillips

F

3

7

0

0

1

2

2

7

9

0

0

1

1

4

7

Jack Givens

F

5

13

2

7

5

7

1

3

4

2

1

0

3

2

17

Truman Claytor

G

1

4

1

3

2

2

1

2

3

1

2

0

2

3

5

Kyle Macy

G

3

8

2

6

6

6

0

1

1

4

1

0

2

2

14

James Lee

2

5

0

0

1

2

1

3

4

0

0

0

1

2

5

Jay Shidler

2

4

2

4

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

1

6

LaVon Williams

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

1

0

0

2

0

Team

3

Totals

23

57

7

20

17

23

6

23

32

10

5

1

14

18

70

Player of the Game

Tom Burleson

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

N.C. State

38

44

82

Kentucky

37

33

70

 

 

Cavaliers’ Defense Shuts Down Hot Shooting Hoosiers

 

2019 Virginia

67

1987 Indiana

60

 

After blistering the nets in their first two NCAA Tournament games, the 1987 Indiana Hoosiers could not solve 2019 Virginia’s Pack Line Defense and shot just 35.3% from the field and 28.6% from behind the arc.

Indiana’s poor shooting night began immediately, as the Hoosiers missed on their first six attempts from the field.  They were only down 8-2 when Rick Callaway made IU’s first basket.

By the time the Hoosiers connected on their next basket, a three-pointer by Steve Alford, they trailed 12-5.

Virginia maintained the lead for the remainder of the game, never leading by less than six points.  The Cavaliers enjoyed an eight-point halftime lead, and they extended the lead to as much as 14 points in the second half at 48-34.

Indiana mounted its only charge of the game with a 13-6 run to cut the lead to 54-47, but UVa extended the lead back to 10 on a three-pointer by Kyle Guy.

Down the stretch, Virginia hit all six of their foul shots when Indiana players sent them to the line.

 

Boxscore

Virginia

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Mamadi Diakete

C

6

11

0

0

2

3

3

4

7

1

0

3

2

2

14

De’Andre Hunter

F

3

8

1

3

0

0

1

5

6

2

0

0

1

4

7

Guy Jerome

F

4

11

1

3

2

2

0

3

3

2

1

1

2

4

11

Kyle Guy

G

5

13

2

5

3

4

0

2

2

3

1

0

1

3

15

Kihei Clark

G

2

4

1

2

5

5

0

3

3

3

2

0

0

2

10

Braxton Key

2

4

0

1

4

5

1

5

6

1

0

0

1

3

8

Jack Salt

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

4

4

0

0

2

0

2

2

Jay Huff

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

Team

2

Totals

23

55

5

16

16

19

5

27

34

12

4

6

8

21

67

 

 

 

Indiana

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Dean Garrett

C

4

9

0

0

2

4

1

7

8

1

0

2

1

3

10

Daryl Thomas

F

4

10

0

0

4

4

3

4

7

2

0

1

2

2

12

Rick Callaway

F

3

10

0

0

2

3

2

5

7

2

2

1

4

3

8

Keith Smart

G

3

10

2

7

5

5

0

6

6

1

0

0

1

3

13

Steve Alford

G

3

9

2

6

7

7

0

3

3

2

1

0

3

2

15

Steve Eyl

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

0

0

0

0

2

2

Joe Hillman

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

1

0

0

Kreigh Smith

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

Team

1

Totals

18

51

4

14

20

23

7

29

37

10

3

4

12

17

60

Player of the Game

Kyle Guy

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

Virginia

31

36

67

Indiana

23

37

60

 

SOUTH REGION

 

’70 Bruins Too Strong For ’64 Bruins

 

1970 UCLA

104

1964 UCLA

93

The 1970 UCLA Bruins are beginning to look like a Final Four contender after winning their third consecutive game by double digits in Simulated March Madness.  In their three tournament wins, their average margin of victory has been 19 points per game.

Even though the 1964 team forced 24 turnovers, the 1970 doubled the 1964 team in rebounding, and blocked 10 of the smaller 1964 team’s shots.

A hot start by their top guards, Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, allowed the 1964 team to keep the game close throughout the first half.  The 1970 team grabbed the lead six minutes into the game on back-to-back shots by Sidney Wicks and John Vallely.

The 1964 team tied the game at 29-29 on a steal by Keith Erickson, and a pass to Goodrich, who then passed across to Jack Hirsch for the basket.  The 1970 then took the lead for good on a basket by Curtis Rowe and then a basket and a foul shot by Henry Bibby.

 

Boxscore

1970 UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Steve Patterson

C

6

12

0

0

1

2

3

6

9

1

0

2

4

3

13

Sidney Wicks

F

8

15

0

0

6

7

6

13

19

3

1

5

3

4

22

Curtis Rowe

F

9

16

2

3

8

8

4

11

15

2

2

3

3

4

28

John Vallely

G

6

13

3

7

4

7

0

5

5

4

0

0

6

3

19

Henry Bibby

G

5

9

2

4

5

6

0

3

3

4

2

0

4

3

17

John Ecker

0

0

0

0

1

2

1

2

3

0

0

0

2

4

1

Jon Chapman

1

2

0

1

0

0

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

4

2

Bill Seibert

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

0

0

1

1

2

Team

4

Totals

36

68

7

15

25

32

14

42

60

17

5

10

24

26

104

 

 

 

1964 UCLA

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Fred Slaughter

C

4

10

0

0

1

3

1

3

4

2

2

0

2

5

9

Keith Erickson

F

4

13

1

5

2

3

2

4

6

3

4

0

1

4

11

Jack Hirsch

F

5

12

1

4

3

4

2

2

4

1

1

0

0

5

14

Walt Hazzard

G

8

16

4

9

5

7

1

2

3

3

2

0

2

3

25

Gail Goodrich

G

9

20

5

12

6

9

0

3

3

4

3

0

3

3

29

Kenny Washington

2

4

0

0

0

2

1

5

6

1

2

1

0

4

4

Doug McIntosh

0

1

0

0

1

1

0

1

1

1

0

0

0

2

1

Kim Stewart

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

Team

3

Totals

32

77

11

30

18

29

7

20

30

15

14

1

8

29

93

Player of the Game

Sidney Wicks

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

1970 UCLA

54

50

104

1964 UCLA

37

56

93

 

 

Big Comeback Sends Villanova To The Elite 8

 

2018 Villanova

78

1992 Duke

72

 

The Duke Blue Devils looked invincible for 24 minutes of their Sweet 16 game against Villanova.  Duke led by as much as 16 points in the first half, before going to the dressing room up by nine at the break.

The Blue Devils increased their halftime lead from nine to 15 to start the second half, and with 16 minutes remaining, they led 48-33.  At that point, the Wildcats began to make their move.  A three-pointer by Jalen Brunson, and then a putback basket by Eric Paschall cut the lead to 48-38.

Trailing 59-50, The Wildcats then held Duke scoreless for almost four minutes, while they scored nine straight points to tie the game at 59-59.  The game remained close until the final moments, when with Villanova nursing a four-point lead, Duke fouled multiple times, while VU connected on 8 of 8 to extend the lead to 78-69.  A Bobby Hurley three-pointer on Duke’s final possession made the game look a little closer.

 

Boxscore

Villanova

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Omari Spellman

C

6

12

2

5

0

0

2

4

6

3

1

2

2

3

14

Eric Paschall

F

2

7

1

3

3

4

2

5

7

1

2

2

1

4

8

Michael Bridges

F

3

7

2

4

4

6

0

4

4

1

0

0

3

2

12

Phil Booth

G

3

7

1

2

6

6

0

2

2

3

1

0

2

2

13

Jalen Brunson

G

8

14

3

6

4

5

0

3

3

4

0

0

4

3

23

Donte DiVincenzo

2

5

2

5

0

0

1

4

5

2

0

0

2

2

6

Collin Gillespie

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

2

1

1

1

1

3

0

Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

Team

2

Totals

25

54

11

25

17

21

5

25

32

15

5

5

15

20

78

 

 

 

Duke

Start

FG

FGA

3P

3PA

FT

FTA

ORB

DRB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

Christian Laettner

C

5

11

1

3

4

6

1

7

8

1

0

2

3

4

15

Brian Davis

F

2

6

0

1

0

0

2

3

5

2

1

0

1

2

4

Grant Hill

F

6

13

0

0

5

6

2

3

5

3

0

2

2

1

17

Thomas Hill

G

3

7

1

3

3

4

1

5

6

2

2

0

3

5

10

Bobby Hurley

G

5

12

3

7

4

4

0

1

1

3

2

0

3

2

17

Antonio Lang

2

3

0

0

0

0

1

4

5

1

0

1

2

2

4

Cherokee Parks

2

4

0

0

1

2

2

2

4

0

0

0

2

2

5

Marty Clark

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

Team

3

Totals

25

57

5

15

17

22

9

25

37

13

5

5

16

19

72

Player of the Game

Jalen Brunson

 

Score By Halves

Team

1

2

Final

Villanova

29

49

78

Duke

38

34

72

Four more Sweet 16 Games Will Be Revealed Friday.

 

 

 

March 29, 2019

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament For Friday, March 29, 2019

Home

Rating

HCA

Visitor

Rating

Spread

Michigan St.

121.0

0.0

LSU

114.5

6.5

North Carolina

121.4

0.0

Auburn

115.9

5.5

Duke

122.4

0.0

Virginia Tech

115.4

7.0

Kentucky

118.3

0.0

Houston

116.0

2.3

 

Tonight’s Schedule

Team

Team

TIME (EDT)

TV

LOCATION

LSU

Michigan St.

7:09 PM

CBS

Washington, D.C.

Auburn

N. Carolina

7:29 PM

TBS

Kansas City

Va. Tech

Duke

9:39 PM

CBS

Washington, D.C.

Houston

Kentucky

9:59 PM

TBS

Kansas City

March 28, 2019

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament For Thursday, March 28, 2019

Home

Rating

HCA

Visitor

Rating

Spread

Gonzaga

123.1

0.0

Florida St.

115.7

7.4

Tennessee

117.8

0.0

Purdue

117.6

0.2

Michigan

119.1

0.0

Texas Tech

118.4

0.7

Virginia

120.6

0.0

Oregon

111.2

9.4

 

Tonight’s Schedule

Team

Team

TIME (EDT)

TV

LOCATION

Florida St.

Gonzaga

7:09 PM

CBS

Anaheim

Purdue

Tennessee

7:29 PM

TBS

Louisville

Texas Tech

Michigan

9:39 PM

CBS

Anaheim

Oregon

Virginia

9:59 PM

TBS

Louisville

 

March 19, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019: Picking The Bracket

Here it is!

I’ve always wanted to post those words.  As a fanatic of the old Mother Road, Route 66, those three words have a special meaning.  In the “good ole days,”  The Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City, Arizona, used those three words to advertise that after miles of driving and seeing numerous signs for this tourist stop, they had finally arrived.

Like those Mother Road drivers, it is my hope that I have finally arrived at a successful system, one that will pick a large percentage of winners in the Big Dance.

The PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics System has been successful in the past–very successful.  Then, again, there have been major bust years, where throwing a dart at a dartboard with team names would have been just as reliable.

Numerous revisions to the system have brought me to settle on what you might have read yesterday, the Bracketnomics Tutorial, which you can read here:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/bracketnomics-2019-picking-your-brackets/

Today, I will attempt to interpret that data from the tutorial and select a bracket based on the statistics.  This is a 100% mechanical process with no objectivity.  If you believe in 100% mechanical stock investing, then this publication is totally for you.  If you are more of a hunch player, then you will need to alter this information to better fit your beliefs, but at least let our data be a dissenting view when you consider your choices.

This post will pick all 67 games, including the games in Dayton that 99% of the bracket pools do not include.  I will pick each round today.

After the conclusion of each round, I will then post an updated bracket to assist all of you that play in a pool that allows you to pick new winners after each round.

Remember, this is still a system in its infancy with growing pains.  What I have tried to do is isolate through back-tested methods similar statistical data that past Final Four and National Championship teams possessed.

For instance, almost every national champion has possessed a scoring margin of 8 points  or better, and a large majority had double-digit scoring margins.  Almost all national champions have come from one of the “Power Conferences” or in the past were one of the top 10 Independents when there were more than 30 teams not in a conference.

Very few teams have ever made the Final Four with a negative rebounding margin, but considerably more had negative turnover margins.  At the same time, a lot of these teams had high steals per game averages, even if their turnover margin was negative.

One final factor I like to look at is style of play.  Most National Champions have been up-tempo teams that run the fast break, play some form of pressure defense (not necessarily full-court), and moves the ball quicker than average in the scoring zone.  This is not 100% exclusive.  Some patient teams that play a non-gambling style of defense have made the Final Four and a couple even won the tournament, but the trend is to go with the team that has the better chance of going on a scoring run with a 10-point or better spurt.  History shows that teams that play like North Carolina and Duke tend to get these spurts more frequently than teams like Virginia and Kansas St.

Let’s take a look at the data, starting with the First Four games in Dayton.

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Prairie View A&M

43.07

-2.7

30.0

66.1

15.2

21.7

-3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.2

28.9

68.1

17.1

18.1

-2.4

This is an excellent example for the first game of the tournament.  SOS (Strength of Schedule) is dead even, so the rest of the stats are 100% comparable.  FDU will more than likely have the better shooting night.  Rebounding should be about even, and Prairie View will more than likely force FDU into a few more mistakes than they normally commit.  Because both teams possess R+T ratings below zero, these are two 16-seeds that are going nowhere for sure.  The winner will be a blowout victim Thursday.  This is about as tossup as you can get.  I’ll go with the team with the better, but terrible R+T Rating and select

Fairleigh-Dickinson

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Temple

54.13

0.5

26.0

71.1

13.8

18.1

-3.1

Belmont

48.60

9.7

25.6

76.4

13.8

14.8

6.0

Temple has the stronger schedule by about 5.7 points per game.  Thus, the system calls for Temple’s stats to carry stronger weight than Belmont’s stats.  Temple faced better defensive teams on average than Belmont, but not enough to counter a difference of 9.2%.  Temple will have marginal rebounding advantages on both sides of the floor, but the Owls have a negative R+T.  Belmont’s R+T rating is good enough to win early, and even though the Bruins are 0-7 in past NCAA Tournaments, their mechanical data show that they are the better team.  It could be one little spurt in the second half that wins this game.

Belmont

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.5

35.1

73.7

19.0

17.3

8.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.4

20.9

75.7

14.3

13.2

-6.1

UNC Central has the weakest SOS in the entire field, and there isn’t another one even close.  North Dakota State has an R+T rating that is near the bottom of the field, one that in the past has never won more than one game in a Dance.  Once again, these are two 16-seeds that have no chance against a 1-seed.  I’m not sure they could beat any of the 15-seeds.  This one is a difficult choice–the weakest schedule or the worst R+T score.  Because I expect very low shooting percentages in this game, I will take the team likely to get the most second chance points.

North Carolina Central

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

St. John’s

55.79

-0.2

21.3

70.3

12.8

18.3

-8.0

Arizona St.

55.20

2.3

32.4

73.6

15.9

16.7

6.8

Once again, we have teams with identical SOS, which makes the selection a lot easier.  St. John’s has the second worst R+T rating in the entire field.  Case closed right away.  Arizona State will enjoy at least one big run in this game, and the Sun Devils will put this game away at that point.  This has the looks of a potential blowout win.

Arizona State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Louisville

61.61

6.1

29.2

74.2

15.5

14.3

2.9

Minnesota

59.44

1.8

31.7

72.2

15.0

14.5

1.1

Louisville’s schedule is marginally tougher, so they will get a slight upward adjustment  in their data.  The Cardinals have a clear advantage in true shooting margin and an ever so slight R+T advantage.  This makes it 3 for 3 in Louisville’s favor, but it’s three slim advantages.  The Cards are the slim favorite according to the data.

Louisville

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

LSU

58.56

3.2

37.3

69.6

15.3

18.0

10.1

Yale

49.95

8.8

26.0

75.9

16.1

13.5

3.6

Note:   Unless something changes, LSU Coach Will Wade is still suspended and will not coach this game.  My system has no contingency to adjust LSU’s stats.

LSU’s SOS is almost nine points stronger, so their numbers must be improved.  Thus, the Tigers have a slightly better TS%, a much better rebounding advantage, and a considerably better R+T rating.  Yale might keep it close for some time, but LSU will enjoy a killer scoring spurt to put this game away.

LSU

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Auburn

59.71

1.8

33.0

68.0

14.7

22.0

3.9

New Mexico St.

48.05

4.8

36.8

79.0

14.5

17.6

18.7

This is going to be a game you will want to watch, even if you have no dog in this fight.  I expect the teams to top 75 possessions in this game.  Two of the top 20 coaches in college basketball will face off, and Aggie head coach Chris Jans should be on the radar of some power conference teams looking for a new coach.

Auburn has a large SOS advantage of 11.66 points per game, which is prohibitive.  The TS margin, offensive rebounding advantage, and R+T numbers heavily favor NMSU, and the Aggies have the top R+T rating in the tournament.  However, with a SOS advantage of almost a dozen points, Auburn will win the turnover battle, and NMSU’s rebounding advantage will be heavily tempered.  Score one for the SEC, but it would not be a shock if New Mexico State makes this a close game and even has a chance to win.  The Aggies should be considered as one of your potential upset teams, but I think there are better upset chances in this round.

Auburn

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Vermont

46.62

6.5

27.8

78.8

14.4

17.8

8.8

Florida St.

59.87

3.5

33.1

73.1

16.5

18

8.3

It is rare to see a Round of 64 game where the SOS difference is 13+ points and it isn’t a 1 vs. 16 or 2 vs. 15 game.  Florida State’s superior schedule makes the relatively equal numbers in the other data inconsequential.  If you are into horse racing, you know doubt know how often a non-winner of two lifetime races enters a graded handicap and beats a classic champion horse.  Vermont is the three year old that won a race against other non-winners and then entered a Graded stakes race against four and five year old horses, some of which were contenders in the Derby when they were three.  Class wins horse races, and it wins NCAA Tournament games when the upstart isn’t the next Justify.  Vermont isn’t a Justify.

Florida State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Michigan St.

61.44

13.8

33.9

73.4

16.2

12.8

11.7

Bradley

48.52

1.7

27.4

73.8

16.8

16.5

-0.5

This game has the same issue that the previous game has, but the data is even more biased in favor of the better team.  Michigan State could start its second five in this game and probably win.  Bradley will have to settle for being glad they got to Dance.  If Tom Izzo wanted to do so, he could run up the score to a 40-point victory.  Sparty has a chance to go deep into this Tournament with their superior numbers.  Only an inability to force turnovers might eventually end their run.

Michigan State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Maryland

59.76

7.4

33.9

75.3

17.0

12.5

8.6

Temple

54.13

0.5

26.0

71.1

13.8

18.1

-3.1

Belmont

48.60

9.7

25.6

76.4

13.8

14.8

6.0

In most of your pools, you get a free pass on the play-in games, but some of you might actually have to select these games.  Thus, I am showing you both of the teams Maryland could face.

Against Temple, the Terps have a slight SOS advantage and a humongous R+T advantage.  This system’s rule of thumb is to play against teams with a negative R+T rating.

Against Belmont, the Terps have a large SOS advantage, while the remaining stats are rather close.  This system’s other rule of thumb is to play the team with the superior SOS in this case.  So, the outcome should be the same no matter which team Maryland plays.

Maryland

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kansas

62.55

5.5

29.7

71.6

16.1

15.7

1.9

Northeastern

51.11

6.7

22.7

75.7

15.1

14.9

-1.9

Kansas is not destined for a long stay at this cotillion.  The Jayhawks do not have the spurtability needed to win in the later rounds, but for this round, KU will feast on second chance points and take advantage of a Northeastern defense incapable of stopping a Big 12 offense.  This has the makings of a 20-point win.

Kansas

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Marquette

57.57

8.9

29.1

73.7

17.0

14.5

2.4

Murray St.

47.53

10.6

32.0

70.7

14.7

17.2

7.8

The old system had an assumption that a team with one star and average teammates rarely advanced far in the tournaments.  Remember, Michael Jordan and Stephan Curry played for teams with very good talent.  Jordan had Sam Perkins and James Worthy for teammates.

Ja Morant qualifies as one fantastic star, while the rest of his team is slightly above average but not in the Davidson mold when Curry and crew went to the Elite 8.

Marquette’s stats are not great.  The Big East was a bit weaker than normal this season, so MU is not a team to advance very far in your bracket, and in Markus Howard, you have one big star.  The difference is that the Golden Eagles have four well-above average players rounding out their starting lineup and a very good sub.

Murray State has an upset chance in this game, but when you break it down closely, Marquette should have a little more in the tank in the final minutes.  If you are looking for upset possibilities, this could definitely be put in that category, but it looks like Marquette is just good enough to avoid an upset.

Marquette

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Nevada

52.55

9.0

26.5

75.4

12.7

17.1

7.0

Florida

59.80

1.2

31.1

68.3

15.5

19.4

-0.5

This is your first big upset possibility in the games previewed so far.  Florida has a seven-point SOS advantage, but is is not enough to overcome their deficiencies in the other statistics.  Nevada coach Eric Musselman is, in my opinion, the best college basketball coach in the nation today, better than Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, and Jay Wright.  If UCLA is not seriously looking at him for their vacancy, they are making a monumental mistake.

Let’s look at the data.  Nevada will take more intelligent shots than Florida, other than when the Gators get a couple of cheap baskets on offensive rebounds.  The Gators’s pressure defense will not be all that effective, and Florida has shown a propensity to make crucial mistakes in the final minutes of games.  This isn’t part of the criteria per se, but it shows in their turnover percentage, and their negative R+T rating,  and the criteria does say to play against a negative R+T.

Nevada

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kentucky

60.54

9.5

36.5

74.2

15.9

16.1

15.4

Abilene Christian

42.42

4.3

29.4

73.3

15.5

21.7

5.9

Under John Calipari, Kentucky has shown a tendency to emulate their 1958 National Champions.  Adolph Rupp’s “Fiddlin’ Five” frequently allowed an opponent to enjoy a small lead, and then like a lightning flash make a big run to decide the outcome.  The Wildcats of 2019 have displayed this characteristic more times than not.

Abilene Christian isn’t a terrible team.  They earned their invitation by sweeping the regular season and conference tournament in the Southland Conference.  However, their data is not comparable when past Southland power Stephen F. Austin won in the Dance.  This game is a mismatch, and once the Wildcats stop fiddlin’, they will run away from the other Wildcats.

Kentucky

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Villanova

58.16

5.0

31.1

72.6

14.2

15.4

3.5

Saint Mary’s

55.33

5.1

31.2

76.8

14.1

14.7

9.6

In my opinion, this should be a great game to watch.  The teams are fairly evenly matched.  Villanova’s SOS is marginally better, while SMC has the better R+T Rating.  Both teams rely on offensive rebounding to score a good bit of their baskets, and Saint Mary’s has the ability to limit Villanova’s offensive rebounding.  It comes down to R+T rating.  The Gaels have a slight advantage over the defending national champions.  I consider this a 50-50 game, but the data says to take the Gaels.

Saint Mary’s

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Gonzaga

56.14

17.7

30.6

72.9

12.8

16.5

14.3

Prairie View A&M

43.07

-2.7

30.0

66.1

15.2

21.7

-3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.2

28.9

68.1

17.1

18.1

-2.4

There is no need to preview this.  Maybe, if the game was just five minutes long, Gonzaga would have a 2% chance of being upset.  However, over 40 minutes, the only upset will be if the Bulldogs fail to win this game by more than 30 points, no matter which of the two 16-seeds wins in Dayton.

Gonzaga

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Michigan

60.07

8.4

24.0

75.0

12.0

16.1

3.2

Montana

46.25

5.4

27.0

75.3

15.5

17.5

4.7

A lot of fans and so-called pundits believe Montana has a serious upset chance in this game.  The data here disagrees.  Michigan’s SOS is so much stronger, almost 14 points per game.  The Wolverines’ TS Margin is much better thanks to a superior defense, and the Maize and Blue limit mistakes.  I believe this game has more chance to be a blowout than to approach tossup status and look for the Wolverines to win by double digits.

Michigan

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Wofford

52.24

7.9

33.1

76.6

13.6

18.2

14.3

Seton Hall

58.56

0.5

29.5

70.6

15.2

17.4

-0.6

It’s always a bit scary to look at a Mid-major favorite and go with the chalk.  Is Wofford as good as advertised?  I have seen them play about five times this year, and they have an incredible inside-outside offensive game combined with an above-average defense.

Seton Hall’s advantage rests in their SOS superiority, but the Big East was not a beast this year.  The Hall only has a minor advantage here.  In every other data point, the Terriers look like pit bulls in this game, and Seton Hall has a negative R+T rating.

Wofford

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Purdue

60.84

2.3

34.9

73.5

13.5

17.2

11.4

Old Dominion

48.87

1.3

32.3

75.2

15.1

16.3

8.4

Purdue has been one of the biggest disappointments in NCAA Tournament history ever since Joe Barry Carroll led the Boilermakers to the 1980 Final Four.  Purdue has been upset numerous times in nearly 40 years.  This system doesn’t consider that to be a factor.  However, many of those Purdue teams lacked the R+T Rating advantage.  This one does.  Purdue has a strong SOS and a double-digit R+T.  Ironically, where the Boilermakers have been historically strong, TS% margin, they are rather mediocre there this year.

Old Dominion is a solid team from an average conference.  Their only liability is an equally mediocre TS% margin, and their SOS is a tad below average.  Look for the Big Ten to pick up a win, but at some point PU will stink in a game and fail once again to reach the Elysian Fields otherwise known as Minneapolis.

Purdue

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Syracuse

59.55

1.6

30.1

66.6

15.8

19.7

-3.7

Baylor

58.27

1.3

38.0

71.3

16.5

16.1

9.1

This should be another interesting game to watch, and it should be close.  Syracuse’s 2-3 matchup zone can be hard to attack without a lot of experience facing it, so the Orangemen frequently outperform their statistics in the Big Dance.  Baylor frequently plays better in the tournament than they do in the regular season with athletes that have free reign to shine.

The numbers show one glaring liability.  The ‘Cuse have a negative R+T rating, something rarely seen in a Jim Boeheim team.  Syracuse usually rebounds quite well out of their zone, but not so this year.  Baylor has one of the best offensive rebounding numbers in the field, so the Bears have the best chance to exploit a weakness in this game.

Baylor

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Cincinnati

55.48

2.9

37.2

70.9

13.4

18.2

12.9

Iowa

58.09

4.5

30.0

70.9

15.0

16.1

-0.4

In recent years, Cincinnati has owned criteria that yell Elite 8, even Final Four worthy, but the Bearcats never come through.  This isn’t their best team in recent years, so it figures that Cinti is prone for an early exit, even though the Bearcats are playing close to home.

Iowa peaked in the middle of the season and hasn’t been the same since January.  The Hawkeyes have a slight edge in SOS and TS% margin.  Cincinnati has such an incredible edge in R+T, and Iowa’s R+T is negative.  This is enough to advance the Bearcats to the Round of 32.  I expect Cinti to get double-digit offensive rebounds and force about 15 turnovers on the Hawkeyes.  That should lead to at least one big scoring spurt.

Cincinnati

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Ole Miss

58.28

3.2

30.4

70.5

16.0

18.2

2.8

Oklahoma

60.26

4.6

26.1

72.3

15.4

15.1

-2.5

What we have here are two swooning schools.  Both teams looked like sure Sweet 16 teams into mid-January.  Since then, both teams have struggled.  The winner is almost assuredly going home after the next round.  As far as this game goes, Oklahoma has that nasty negative R+T rating, and I just cannot pick a team with a negative R+T to win unless their SOS is far superior.  Two points is not that far.

Ole Miss

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Texas Tech

58.01

9.8

28.5

71.4

16.1

20.0

4.6

Northern Kentucky

46.39

6.6

31.0

74.1

15.4

16.8

7.1

This is Northern Kentucky’s second ever NCAA appearance.  Their original appearance resulted in a single-digit loss to big brother Kentucky.  This team is about as good as that team, while this Texas Tech teams is not as good as that Kentucky team.  Of course, the Norse were super fired up to face the Wildcats, and they got their moral victory.

This time, I expect the data to mean much more.  Texas Tech has a whopping SOS advantage of almost 12 points per game.  They have a much better TS% margin when the SOS is handicapped, and even though NKU has a higher R+T number, when you handicap it to SOS, the Red Raiders actually have the advantage here, and I expect TTU to force NKU into up to five more turnovers than they average.

Texas Tech

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Kansas St.

58.91

1.4

27.9

74.5

15.1

20.3

3.5

UC-Irvine

47.26

6.6

34.3

73.6

14.9

14.7

12.2

Kansas State is one of those teams on my radar to be a potential upset victim.  Having watched UC-Irvine’s Big West Conference Tournament games, I think they have a shot in this game.

The issue is the SOS numbers.  The Wildcats’ schedule was more than 11 1/2 points stronger per game.  UCI’s toughest opposition the entire season was at home against Utah State, and the Aggies slaughtered the Anteaters by 24 points.  UCI did win at Saint Mary’s.

Kansas State has one big asset–their ability to force turnovers.  The Wildcats are not particularly strong on offense.  There Wildcats play a very patient offense and try to limit possessions, but there are nights where this strategy plays into the oppositions’ hands.  Irvine plays patient, smart basketball and will feel right at home in a 60-65 possession game with less than 120 total points.  Kansas State might have the overall better athletes, but UC-Irvine has a hot coach in Russ Turner, a man tutored by Mike Montgomery with a little Don Nelson in his background.  Here’s a 13-seed that I believe can win an opening game.  It’s a tossup.  Go with the team you believe in your mind and heart should win, because I debated this one for 30 minutes before deciding and to be quite honest, I am not sure I can really determine the superior team according to my system.

UC-Irvine

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Tennessee

59.65

9.7

31.3

70.0

13.9

15.8

5.3

Colgate

47.05

5.7

29.6

73.9

16.7

15.6

3.2

There isn’t much need to discuss much in this game–it’s a mismatch.  Tennessee has slightly better criteria stats than Colgate, and when you add a better than 12 1/2 point superiority per game in SOS, you are looking at a potential 20-30 point win.

Tennessee

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Gardner-Webb

45.44

8.8

24.8

70.2

14.7

16.4

-1.8

Virginia

60.36

13.2

29.9

74.1

12.8

15.6

9.6

Gardner-Webb is not in Baltimore County.  Additionally, the Bulldogs do not have the criteria that UMBC had at this time last year.  GWU has a negative R+T rating, and against the Pack Line defense, they will not get the crucial second chance points on offensive rebounds.  Virginia will control the boards and commit few turnovers.  How do you beat the Cavaliers without winning the rebounding and/or the turnover margin?  UVA will wash that bad taste of 2018 out of their mouths with an ugly final score in the neighborhood of 75 to 50.

Virginia

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Buffalo

53.41

6.0

31.8

73.8

13.5

18.2

10.3

St. John’s

55.79

-0.2

21.3

70.3

12.8

18.3

-8.0

Arizona St.

55.20

2.3

32.4

73.6

15.9

16.7

6.8

Bully for Coach Nate Oats.  He signed a lengthy contract extension to stay in Buffalo, when a lot of other schools were ready to pound on his door.  It makes me wonder if Buffalo has designs on maybe campaigning for a spot in a future expanded American Athletic Conference, with excellent football and basketball programs more than ready to move up.

I expect the Bulls to be facing Arizona State in this game, but let’s for a moment look at the possibility that St. John’s wins in Dayton.  With an R+T rating of -8.0, the rules of this system is to continue to play against this team unless the opponent has an incredibly low SOS, well below 45.00.  Buffalo’s SOS is about where previous Mid-Major Final Four teams George Mason, Wichita State, and Virginia Commonwealth were.  So, if St. John’s advances out of Dayton, go with Buffalo to beat their in-state rival by double digits.

Against Arizona State, this is a much more even game.  Buffalo enjoys only a very slight advantage, making this basically a 50-50 game.  The Bulls have been a little more consistent all season, while ASU has been up and down.  The data says that Buffalo is maybe a 51% chance to be the winner.

There is one other factor in this potential game, and it is not part of the criteria, but the fabulous Buffalo senior class that put this team in the top 20 were recruited by current Sun Devil Coach Bobby Hurley.

Buffalo

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Wisconsin

60.91

6.5

24.0

73.5

12.8

15.0

-1.2

Oregon

55.13

3.8

29.6

71.9

15.5

18.3

4.6

When McDonald’s All-American Bol Bol went out for the season after nine games, it looked like it was Duck Season, and the Pac-12 was full of Elmer J. Fudd hunters on the hardwoods.  Give Coach Dana Altman the utmost respect for making the necessary adjustments when he lost his 5-star stud.  His number two 5-star player, Louis King, was not ready to star when the season began.  As the season progressed, King got better and better.

Wisconsin has a slightly better SOS and TS% Margin.  Rebounding is about equal.  However, The Badgers have a negative R+T rating.  Thus, we go against UW more than in favor of Oregon.

Oregon

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Utah St.

52.13

8.7

32.0

77.8

15.5

15.5

14.8

Washington

55.60

4.4

29.5

65.7

17.4

20.5

-3.6

Utah State might be a dangerous dark horse this year!  They have the criteria resume of a Gonzaga in previous years before Mark Few took the Bulldogs to the Championship Game.  I am not predicting USU to make the Final Four this year, but they might make the second weekend.

In this game, Washington is another one of those teams with a negative R+T rating.  While, I am a bit worried that so many teams made the field this year with sub-zero R+T ratings, until one of these non-spurtable teams get to the Elite 8, they will not have my support.

Utah State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Duke

63.09

10.3

36.1

70.4

15.0

17.1

12.1

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.5

35.1

73.7

19.0

17.3

8.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.4

20.9

75.7

14.3

13.2

-6.1

Don’t even think for a second that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will lose a minute’s sleep thinking about this game, no matter which 16-seed wins in Dayton.  Duke could play this game without Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, or Cam Reddish suiting up.  Heck, Coach K could take his Gary Winton-led team from Army in the 1970’s and win this game.

Duke

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Houston

55.02

8.0

34.4

74.1

14.2

15.8

13.6

Georgia St.

51.14

5.1

23.5

66.2

14.7

18

-9.6

Here is another mismatch game.  Georgia State’s -9.6 R+T rating is dead last in this field, and Houston’s 13.6 R+T rating is seventh best in the field.  Add a better SOS and better TS% margin, and this leads to a major slaughter.  Houston has won some NCAA Tournament games by very large margins in the past.  There was a 35-point pasting of TCU in the Midwest Regional Final in 1968.  The Cougars have an outside chance to top that in this game.  Kelvin Sampson will unload the bench quicker than the way Guy Lewis did, so expect the margin to be in the 20’s.

Houston

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Mississippi St.

59.59

4.3

34.8

70.2

16.5

17.1

6.2

Liberty

46.27

9.2

25.9

74.9

15.0

18.5

5.2

I expect this game to stay somewhat close, at least for most of the game.  Mississippi State has good but not great criteria data.  Liberty’s data is slightly more impressive, but the Bulldogs’ SOS is much stronger, which will probably lead to the Maroon and White prevailing by wearing down and eventually extinguishing the Flames.

Mississippi State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

North Carolina

62.61

5.5

34.4

76.9

14.6

16.5

17.4

Iona

45.43

3.1

25

70.6

15.4

16.1

-5.4

Roy Williams knows how to get his teams ready to play in the Big Dance, and the Tar Heels are heavy favorites to advance deep into this tournament.  Their R+T rating is second best in the field.  Their SOS is also number two.

Iona is fun to watch, as they like to run and gun.  However, this plays right into UNC’s hands.  The Gaels cannot possibly win this game, and it will be hard to keep it within 20 points.  Their -5.4 R+T rating would exclude them from being picked against 50 other teams in this tournament.

North Carolina

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

6.8

31.3

69.3

17.4

20.0

2.9

Central Florida

54.86

9.5

29.3

70.7

15.4

15.5

2.2

This will be another potentially close and exciting game, one worth watching.  The two teams are fairly evenly matched, but only if star Rams’ star guard Marcus Evans is playing at 100% after injuring his knee in an Atlantic 10 Tournament loss to Rhode Island.  When Evans went out, VCU was dominating the Rams.  Without him, they looked like a team that might not have beaten UMass that day.

Central Florida has the unique 7 foot 6 giant, Tacko Fall.  If you haven’t seen him play, do not mistake him for past titans that could barely walk and chew gum at the same time.  Fall is not a gentle giant.  He plays with an attitude, and he is coordinated.  He can play a one-man zone under the basket and change the opponents’ field goal percentage by 10%.  On offense, he is nearly unstoppable when the Knights can get him the ball within arms’ reach of the basket, where he can dunk flat-footed.

With a healthy Evans, VCU can still press full-court and take a lot of Fall’s ability to dominate out of the game.  Make no mistake though; this is not the same Havoc defense run by former coach Shaka Smart.  VCU won’t gamble and go full out for the steal or to force a turnover.  If I had to pick which game might have the best shot at going to overtime, this one might be the one.

Central Florida

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Iowa St.

59.42

7.6

28.7

70.0

13.9

15.9

1.7

Ohio St.

59.18

2.5

27.8

73.9

16.3

16.3

-0.4

Because the SOS’s are close to equal, the remaining stats are easy to compare.  Iowa State has a clear TS% margin, and even though the Cyclones’ R+T is weak, at least it is not negative, like the Buckeyes.

Iowa State

 

Team

SOS

TS Marg

OReb%

DReb%

TOV%

DTOV%

R+T

Virginia Tech

58.33

8.6

29.7

72.6

15.4

19.0

6.4

Saint Louis

51.40

-0.8

35.8

75.2

15.8

17.2

11.2

Only three teams enter this tournament with negative TS% margins, and it makes sense.  The object of the game is to put the ball into the hoop, while preventing the other team from doing so.  Add a healthy SOS advantage, and the Billiken’s R+T rating is neutralized.  SLU’s biggest asset is the ability to force their opponents into committing turnovers, but in this game, Virginia Tech is even better at that game.  While I have heard some people  on sports talk radio express the belief that Travis Ford’s team has a legitimate upset chance in this game, I tend to believe that chances are much stronger that the Hokies win by double-digits.

Virginia Tech

 

Here is how I fill out the remainder of the bracket

For the first time ever, the number one seeds have the top four criteria.  Could it be that the Selection Committee Members all have Bachelor of Madness Degrees in Bracketnomics?

Round of 32

Duke over Central Florida

Virginia Tech over Mississippi St.

Maryland over LSU

Michigan St. over Louisville

Gonzaga over Baylor

Florida St. over Marquette

Texas Tech over Buffalo

Michigan over Nevada

Virginia over Ole Miss

UC-Irvine over Oregon

Purdue over Saint Mary’s

Tennessee over Cincinnati

North Carolina over Utah St.

Auburn over Kansas

Houston over Iowa St.

Kentucky over Wofford

 

Sweet 16

Duke over Virginia Tech

Michigan St. over Maryland

Gonzaga over Florida St.

Texas Tech over Michigan

Virginia over UC-Irvine

Tennessee over Purdue

North Carolina over Auburn

Kentucky over Houston

 

Elite 8

Duke over Michigan St.

Gonzaga over Texas Tech

Virginia over Tennessee

North Carolina over Kentucky

 

Final Four

Gonzaga over Duke

North Carolina over Virginia

 

 

Championship Game

Gonzaga over North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2019

Bracketnomics 2019: Picking Your Brackets

Welcome to Bracketnomics 2019, the class that will earn you the coveted BM Degree, the Bachelor of Madness.

Because, we have a ton of stats to reveal tonight, we will limit the prose. If you need a tutorial about what Bracketnomics is, then refer to the following link:

https://piratings.wordpress.com/2019/03/16/bracketnomics-2019/

We received a handful of well-thought comments to our sister page suggesting a few things that we agree with, so you will get the kitchen sink of stats this year. Because of Robert M in New Orleans, Joel S, in Orlando, and our good friend and numbers’ savant Brandon W in San Berdoo, California, we are bringing back the old Bracketnomics data combined with the new. For what it’s worth, this year, the old data and new data come to basically the same conclusions.

A Brief Primer on the Old Criteria have us look for teams meeting these criteria

1. A double-digit scoring margin, and a secondary reward to teams with a scoring margin of 8.0 to 9.99.

2. A field goal percentage margin (FG%-Def FG%) in excess of 8%

3. A combination of rebounding margin and turnover margin combined that exceed:
A. A rebound margin of 5.0 or better no matter what the turnover margin
B. A rebound margin of 3.0 to 4.9 with positive turnover margin
C. A rebound margin of 0.1 to 2.9 with with a turnover margin of 3.0 or better
D. A turnover margin of 5.0 or better no matter what the rebound margin

4. A team that averages 7.5 or more steals per game

5. An Old R+T Rating of 10.0 or better, 5.0 or better to get from 68 to 16.
The old R+T rating was (R + (0.2 * S) + (1.2 * T)
R is rebound margin
S is steals/game
T is turnover margin

6. A Strength of Schedule in excess of 0.5500 (back then using the CBS SOS)

The old method was quite accurate for many years, but the game changed when the 3-point shot became a lot more important. The Golden State Warrior effect, actually advanced basketball metrics, showed how important total shooting percentage was and not just field goal percentage. It is a no-brainer that a team that shoots 100% of its shots inside the arc and hits 53% is worse off than a team that shoots 100% of its shots from behind the arc and hits 36%. The 53% team will score .53 points per shot attempt, while the 36% team will score .54 points per shot attempt.

The Current Method uses this data
1. Strength of Schedule
2. True Shooting % Margin
3. R+T Rating

The Strength of Schedule is now calculated by our own metric, and the current R+T Rating is:
(R + (0.5 * S) + (6 – Opp S) + T

Both the old and the new method warned about any team with a negative R+T number as they were most prone to being upset very early in the tournament, and nobody with a negative R+T number ever made the Final Four, and only one ever made the Elite 8. R+T estimates extra scoring opportunities, and they lead to game-winning scoring spurts.

Now, let’s show you some stats. Here are the raw stats for all 68 teams.

Team

SOS

TSMarg

R+T

PPG Marg

FG% Marg

Abilene Christian

42.42

4.29%

5.9

11.4

4.4

Arizona St.

55.20

2.27%

6.8

4.7

3.4

Auburn

59.71

1.85%

3.9

11.5

1.5

Baylor

58.27

1.28%

9.1

4.5

1.8

Belmont

48.60

9.68%

6.0

13.5

7.4

Bradley

48.52

1.73%

-0.5

1.6

2.3

Buffalo

53.41

6.00%

10.3

14.4

4.5

Central Florida

54.86

9.52%

2.2

7.8

6.8

Cincinnati

55.48

2.94%

12.9

9.5

2.6

Colgate

47.05

5.65%

3.2

5.8

4.6

Duke

63.09

10.32%

12.1

15.9

8.2

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

5.19%

-2.4

4.1

3.6

Florida

59.80

1.17%

-0.5

4.7

0.4

Florida St.

59.87

3.52%

8.3

7.8

3.4

Gardner-Webb

45.44

8.83%

-1.8

7.8

7.6

Georgia St.

51.14

5.06%

-9.6

4.2

4.2

Gonzaga

56.14

17.68%

14.3

23.7

14.3

Houston

55.02

8.04%

13.6

14.4

7.7

Iona

45.43

3.14%

-5.4

1.2

0.8

Iowa

58.09

4.52%

-0.4

4.7

0.7

Iowa St.

59.42

7.64%

1.7

9.1

5.8

Kansas

62.55

5.52%

1.9

5.3

5.4

Kansas St.

58.91

1.35%

3.5

6.6

1.7

Kentucky

60.54

9.48%

15.4

11.3

7.5

Liberty

46.27

9.22%

5.2

13.2

7.6

Louisville

61.61

6.10%

2.9

6.7

2.9

LSU

58.56

3.18%

10.1

8.4

2.6

Marquette

57.57

8.85%

2.4

8.6

5.7

Maryland

59.76

7.39%

8.6

6.2

5.7

Michigan

60.07

8.41%

3.2

11.8

5.1

Michigan St.

61.44

13.83%

11.7

13.3

10.8

Minnesota

59.44

1.81%

1.1

1.6

0.3

Mississippi St.

59.59

4.34%

6.2

7.2

3.5

Montana

46.25

5.41%

4.7

8.5

6.6

Murray St.

47.53

10.65%

7.8

15.5

8.6

Nevada

52.55

9.02%

7.0

14.0

5.7

New Mexico St.

48.05

4.78%

18.7

14.0

4.1

North Carolina

62.61

5.49%

17.4

13.2

5.1

North Carolina Central

39.47

3.50%

8.2

5.1

2.2

North Dakota St.

47.57

3.42%

-6.1

1.0

-0.5

Northeastern

51.11

6.69%

-1.9

5.8

2.5

Northern Kentucky

46.39

6.56%

7.1

10.3

6.4

Ohio St.

59.18

2.47%

-0.4

3.4

1.7

Oklahoma

60.26

4.64%

-2.5

3.0

4.3

Old Dominion

48.87

1.33%

8.4

5.4

2

Ole Miss

58.28

3.18%

2.8

5.0

1.8

Oregon

55.13

3.77%

4.6

7.6

4.8

Prairie View

43.07

-2.66%

-3.8

2.5

-1.7

Purdue

60.84

2.31%

11.4

9.4

2.5

Saint Louis

51.40

-0.81%

11.2

3.4

0.9

Saint Mary’s

55.33

5.13%

9.6

8.5

3.8

Seton Hall

58.56

0.50%

-0.6

2.4

1.4

St. John’s

55.79

-0.20%

-8.0

2.7

1.9

Syracuse

59.55

1.59%

-3.7

4.0

2.6

Temple

54.13

0.46%

-3.1

3.6

-0.2

Tennessee

59.65

9.73%

5.3

13.2

9.8

Texas Tech

58.01

9.81%

4.6

13.8

10.4

UC-Irvine

47.26

6.58%

12.2

9.6

7.9

Utah St.

52.13

8.73%

14.8

12.4

8.3

Vermont

46.62

6.53%

8.8

11.3

3.9

Villanova

58.16

4.98%

3.5

7.4

0.5

Virginia

60.36

13.19%

9.6

16.7

9.8

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

6.84%

2.9

9.8

5.8

Virginia Tech

58.33

8.65%

6.4

11.9

7

Washington

55.60

4.43%

-3.6

5.4

3.9

Wisconsin

60.91

6.47%

-1.2

7.7

6

Wofford

52.24

7.87%

14.3

17.4

6.6

Yale

49.95

8.75%

3.6

7.9

8.7

Team

Reb Marg

TO Marg

Stl/G

Def Stl/G

Old R+T

Abilene Christian

1.2

4.6

8.7

5.6

8.4

Arizona St.

4.8

0.3

6.2

6.3

6.4

Auburn

-0.3

5.5

9.4

5.8

8.1

Baylor

6.3

-0.8

6.1

6.0

6.6

Belmont

3.8

0.9

6.8

6.1

6.3

Bradley

1.2

-0.2

5.4

5.7

2.1

Buffalo

3.9

3.7

7.3

5.1

9.9

Central Florida

2.2

0.4

5.7

5.6

3.8

Cincinnati

5.2

3.1

6.2

3.9

10.1

Colgate

4.0

-0.9

6.2

7.1

4.2

Duke

6.1

1.5

9.5

6.5

9.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-0.8

1.3

7.7

6.1

2.2

Florida

-0.6

3.0

7.2

6.1

4.5

Florida St.

4.7

0.8

7.0

5.5

7.0

Gardner-Webb

-0.7

1.8

6.9

5.8

2.8

Georgia St.

-6.1

3.5

8.0

5.0

-0.3

Gonzaga

6.2

3.2

7.5

5.2

11.5

Houston

7.3

0.9

6.4

5.3

9.7

Iona

-2.2

1.0

6.8

5.5

0.3

Iowa

1.0

1.0

6.2

6.7

3.4

Iowa St.

0.7

1.8

7.0

5.2

4.3

Kansas

2.5

-0.2

6.9

6.5

3.6

Kansas St.

1.1

3.6

7.6

6.2

6.9

Kentucky

9.0

-0.1

6.0

5.7

10.1

Liberty

2.2

2.6

6.4

5.2

6.7

Louisville

3.7

-1.0

4.5

5.8

3.4

LSU

5.1

1.8

9.1

6.5

9.1

Marquette

4.4

-2.0

4.8

7.0

3.0

Maryland

8.5

-3.7

4.3

7.1

5.0

Michigan

0.2

3.2

6.1

3.7

5.3

Michigan St.

8.9

-2.6

5.2

6.4

6.9

Minnesota

2.6

-0.6

4.8

6.0

2.8

Mississippi St.

3.8

0.3

8.1

5.9

5.7

Montana

2.6

1.6

6.5

5.6

5.8

Murray St.

3.7

2.1

7.6

5.8

7.7

Nevada

2.4

3.4

6.2

4.5

7.7

New Mexico St.

9.6

1.4

5.6

4.8

12.3

North Carolina

9.7

1.0

7.2

6.7

12.3

North Carolina Central

6.4

-1.9

6.3

6.0

5.4

North Dakota St.

-1.4

-0.6

4.8

5.3

-1.2

Northeastern

0.1

0.0

6.2

5.4

1.4

Northern Kentucky

4.4

0.9

6.2

5.9

6.7

Ohio St.

1.3

-0.2

5.9

5.9

2.3

Oklahoma

0.6

0.0

5.9

6.8

1.8

Old Dominion

4.9

0.4

5.6

4.9

6.6

Ole Miss

1.5

1.9

7.3

6.0

5.3

Oregon

1.8

2.1

7.8

5.2

6.0

Prairie View

-4.4

5.5

8.8

5.1

4.0

Purdue

5.2

2.4

6.5

4.8

9.4

Saint Louis

6.6

0.3

7.1

5.9

8.3

Saint Mary’s

5.6

0.1

6.0

5.0

7.0

Seton Hall

-0.1

1.8

7.0

5.8

3.4

St. John’s

-6.2

5.1

8.8

5.2

1.6

Syracuse

-2.3

3.2

8.3

6.6

3.2

Temple

-2.9

3.7

8.7

5.5

3.2

Tennessee

3.4

1.7

6.0

6.4

6.7

Texas Tech

1.9

3.3

7.3

6.4

7.3

UC-Irvine

7.4

-0.4

5.7

5.2

8.1

Utah St.

8.9

-0.3

6.2

6.1

9.8

Vermont

4.5

2.2

5.6

5.4

8.3

Villanova

2.6

0.7

5.4

5.4

4.5

Virginia

4.9

1.9

5.6

5.2

8.4

Virginia Commonwealth

1.4

2.3

8.0

6.4

5.8

Virginia Tech

2.6

2.7

6.7

5.1

7.2

Washington

-2.5

2.9

9.0

6.1

2.8

Wisconsin

-0.3

1.8

5.1

5.2

2.9

Wofford

6.5

3.1

6.9

5.5

11.6

Yale

4.7

-1.9

5.9

7.0

3.6

What you see above is the entire 68 teams field in alphabetical order.  Let’s break it down by ranking the teams according to the data.

Let’s start with the all-important class ranking.  Here is how the teams rank according to strength of schedule.  Remember that no national champion has had an SOS below 55, and only a small handful in all the years have made the Final Four.  In the years where a team with a sub-55 SOS made the Final Four, they played an opponent in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 that also had a sub-55 SOS.

Team

SOS

Duke

63.09

North Carolina

62.61

Kansas

62.55

Louisville

61.61

Michigan St.

61.44

Wisconsin

60.91

Purdue

60.84

Kentucky

60.54

Virginia

60.36

Oklahoma

60.26

Michigan

60.07

Florida St.

59.87

Florida

59.80

Maryland

59.76

Auburn

59.71

Tennessee

59.65

Mississippi St.

59.59

Syracuse

59.55

Minnesota

59.44

Iowa St.

59.42

Ohio St.

59.18

Kansas St.

58.91

Seton Hall

58.56

LSU

58.56

Virginia Tech

58.33

Ole Miss

58.28

Baylor

58.27

Villanova

58.16

Iowa

58.09

Texas Tech

58.01

Marquette

57.57

Gonzaga

56.14

St. John’s

55.79

Washington

55.60

Cincinnati

55.48

Saint Mary’s

55.33

Arizona St.

55.20

Oregon

55.13

Houston

55.02

Central Florida

54.86

Temple

54.13

Buffalo

53.41

Virginia Commonwealth

53.22

Nevada

52.55

Wofford

52.24

Utah St.

52.13

Saint Louis

51.40

Georgia St.

51.14

Northeastern

51.11

Yale

49.95

Old Dominion

48.87

Belmont

48.60

Bradley

48.52

New Mexico St.

48.05

North Dakota St.

47.57

Murray St.

47.53

UC-Irvine

47.26

Colgate

47.05

Vermont

46.62

Northern Kentucky

46.39

Liberty

46.27

Montana

46.25

Gardner-Webb

45.44

Iona

45.43

Fairleigh-Dickinson

43.31

Prairie View

43.07

Abilene Christian

42.42

North Carolina Central

39.47

39 of the 68 teams meet the minimum requirement, including Gonzaga and Houston.  Of note, Buffalo, Nevada, Wofford, and Utah State have an SOS in the range where past Cinderella teams have snuck into the Final Four.

Now, let’s look at True Shooting percentage margins.  TS% is calculated thusly:

Points / (2 * FGA + (0.475 * FTA))

True Shooting Percentage Margin is the offensive TS% minus the defensive TS%.

Team

TSMarg

Gonzaga

17.68%

Michigan St.

13.83%

Virginia

13.19%

Murray St.

10.65%

Duke

10.32%

Texas Tech

9.81%

Tennessee

9.73%

Belmont

9.68%

Central Florida

9.52%

Kentucky

9.48%

Liberty

9.22%

Nevada

9.02%

Marquette

8.85%

Gardner-Webb

8.83%

Yale

8.75%

Utah St.

8.73%

Virginia Tech

8.65%

Michigan

8.41%

Houston

8.04%

Wofford

7.87%

Iowa St.

7.64%

Maryland

7.39%

Virginia Commonwealth

6.84%

Northeastern

6.69%

UC-Irvine

6.58%

Northern Kentucky

6.56%

Vermont

6.53%

Wisconsin

6.47%

Louisville

6.10%

Buffalo

6.00%

Colgate

5.65%

Kansas

5.52%

North Carolina

5.49%

Montana

5.41%

Fairleigh-Dickinson

5.19%

Saint Mary’s

5.13%

Georgia St.

5.06%

Villanova

4.98%

New Mexico St.

4.78%

Oklahoma

4.64%

Iowa

4.52%

Washington

4.43%

Mississippi St.

4.34%

Abilene Christian

4.29%

Oregon

3.77%

Florida St.

3.52%

North Carolina Central

3.50%

North Dakota St.

3.42%

Ole Miss

3.18%

LSU

3.18%

Iona

3.14%

Cincinnati

2.94%

Ohio St.

2.47%

Purdue

2.31%

Arizona St.

2.27%

Auburn

1.85%

Minnesota

1.81%

Bradley

1.73%

Syracuse

1.59%

Kansas St.

1.35%

Old Dominion

1.33%

Baylor

1.28%

Florida

1.17%

Seton Hall

0.50%

Temple

0.46%

St. John’s

-0.20%

Saint Louis

-0.81%

Prairie View

-2.66%

Did you notice that some of the teams with the best strength of schedule are high up in the TS% margin too, and vice versa?  Think about this.  If a team played tough competition and consistently shot better overall in these games, they have to be great teams.  The object of the game is to put the ball through the goal and stop the other team from doing this.  If a team consistently did this against other teams on par with what they must face in the Big Dance in order to cut the nets on April 8, they must be the ones to consider.

Now, let’s look at the R+T rating.  This is our secret sauce at the PiRate Ratings, even though it has been revealed in other national media.  However, unless somebody at CBS or ESPN links to this site, no more than 18,000 people will read this post today, so you stand a good chance of being the only person in your pool that has this information.

Team

R+T

New Mexico St.

18.7

North Carolina

17.4

Kentucky

15.4

Utah St.

14.8

Gonzaga

14.3

Wofford

14.3

Houston

13.6

Cincinnati

12.9

UC-Irvine

12.2

Duke

12.1

Michigan St.

11.7

Purdue

11.4

Saint Louis

11.2

Buffalo

10.3

LSU

10.1

Virginia

9.6

Saint Mary’s

9.6

Baylor

9.1

Vermont

8.8

Maryland

8.6

Old Dominion

8.4

Florida St.

8.3

North Carolina Central

8.2

Murray St.

7.8

Northern Kentucky

7.1

Nevada

7.0

Arizona St.

6.8

Virginia Tech

6.4

Mississippi St.

6.2

Belmont

6.0

Abilene Christian

5.9

Tennessee

5.3

Liberty

5.2

Montana

4.7

Oregon

4.6

Texas Tech

4.6

Auburn

3.9

Yale

3.6

Kansas St.

3.5

Villanova

3.5

Michigan

3.2

Colgate

3.2

Louisville

2.9

Virginia Commonwealth

2.9

Ole Miss

2.8

Marquette

2.4

Central Florida

2.2

Kansas

1.9

Iowa St.

1.7

Minnesota

1.1

Iowa

-0.4

Ohio St.

-0.4

Florida

-0.5

Bradley

-0.5

Seton Hall

-0.6

Wisconsin

-1.2

Gardner-Webb

-1.8

Northeastern

-1.9

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-2.4

Oklahoma

-2.5

Temple

-3.1

Washington

-3.6

Syracuse

-3.7

Prairie View

-3.8

Iona

-5.4

North Dakota St.

-6.1

St. John’s

-8.0

Georgia St.

-9.6

Wow!  Look at how many mid-major teams have great R+T Ratings this year.  New Mexico State leads the pack, but their SOS is too low to make them a humongous upset team to make the Final Four.  They are dangerous still.

North Carolina is the top power conference team in this rating, just like the Tar Heels have been twice before when they won the tournament.  Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Houston are up near the top.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a record number of teams with negative R+T numbers in the 2019 field.  That concerns us a bit.  Normally, 5 or 6 teams will enter the Dance with a negative R+T, and we will pick against all of them.  18 of the 68 teams have negative R+T ratings this year.  What that means is that it is likely that somebody with a negative R+T rating will sneak into the Sweet 16 and then get blown off the floor against a quality team that can go on scoring spurts.  Still, the bottom eight in this rating figure to have a difficult time winning just once in this Dance.

 

Here are how the teams rank in the old criteria data.

Scoring Margin

Team

PPG Marg

Gonzaga

23.7

Wofford

17.4

Virginia

16.7

Duke

15.9

Murray St.

15.5

Buffalo

14.4

Houston

14.4

Nevada

14.0

New Mexico St.

14.0

Texas Tech

13.8

Belmont

13.5

Michigan St.

13.3

Liberty

13.2

Tennessee

13.2

North Carolina

13.2

Utah St.

12.4

Virginia Tech

11.9

Michigan

11.8

Auburn

11.5

Abilene Christian

11.4

Vermont

11.3

Kentucky

11.3

Northern Kentucky

10.3

Virginia Commonwealth

9.8

UC-Irvine

9.6

Cincinnati

9.5

Purdue

9.4

Iowa St.

9.1

Marquette

8.6

Montana

8.5

Saint Mary’s

8.5

LSU

8.4

Yale

7.9

Florida St.

7.8

Central Florida

7.8

Gardner-Webb

7.8

Wisconsin

7.7

Oregon

7.6

Villanova

7.4

Mississippi St.

7.2

Louisville

6.7

Kansas St.

6.6

Maryland

6.2

Colgate

5.8

Northeastern

5.8

Old Dominion

5.4

Washington

5.4

Kansas

5.3

North Carolina Central

5.1

Ole Miss

5.0

Arizona St.

4.7

Iowa

4.7

Florida

4.7

Baylor

4.5

Georgia St.

4.2

Fairleigh-Dickinson

4.1

Syracuse

4.0

Temple

3.6

Ohio St.

3.4

Saint Louis

3.4

Oklahoma

3.0

St. John’s

2.7

Prairie View

2.5

Seton Hall

2.4

Bradley

1.6

Minnesota

1.6

Iona

1.2

North Dakota St.

1.0

FG% Margin

Team

FG% Marg

Gonzaga

14.3

Michigan St.

10.8

Texas Tech

10.4

Tennessee

9.8

Virginia

9.8

Yale

8.7

Murray St.

8.6

Utah St.

8.3

Duke

8.2

UC-Irvine

7.9

Houston

7.7

Gardner-Webb

7.6

Liberty

7.6

Kentucky

7.5

Belmont

7.4

Virginia Tech

7.0

Central Florida

6.8

Montana

6.6

Wofford

6.6

Northern Kentucky

6.4

Wisconsin

6.0

Iowa St.

5.8

Virginia Commonwealth

5.8

Nevada

5.7

Marquette

5.7

Maryland

5.7

Kansas

5.4

North Carolina

5.1

Michigan

5.1

Oregon

4.8

Colgate

4.6

Buffalo

4.5

Abilene Christian

4.4

Oklahoma

4.3

Georgia St.

4.2

New Mexico St.

4.1

Vermont

3.9

Washington

3.9

Saint Mary’s

3.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

3.6

Mississippi St.

3.5

Arizona St.

3.4

Florida St.

3.4

Louisville

2.9

LSU

2.6

Cincinnati

2.6

Syracuse

2.6

Purdue

2.5

Northeastern

2.5

Bradley

2.3

North Carolina Central

2.2

Old Dominion

2.0

St. John’s

1.9

Baylor

1.8

Ole Miss

1.8

Kansas St.

1.7

Ohio St.

1.7

Auburn

1.5

Seton Hall

1.4

Saint Louis

0.9

Iona

0.8

Iowa

0.7

Villanova

0.5

Florida

0.4

Minnesota

0.3

Temple

-0.2

North Dakota St.

-0.5

Prairie View

-1.7

 

Rebounds/Steals/Old R+T

Team

Reb Marg

North Carolina

9.7

New Mexico St.

9.6

Kentucky

9.0

Michigan St.

8.9

Utah St.

8.9

Maryland

8.5

UC-Irvine

7.4

Houston

7.3

Saint Louis

6.6

Wofford

6.5

North Carolina Central

6.4

Baylor

6.3

Gonzaga

6.2

Duke

6.1

Saint Mary’s

5.6

Purdue

5.2

Cincinnati

5.2

LSU

5.1

Old Dominion

4.9

Virginia

4.9

Arizona St.

4.8

Yale

4.7

Florida St.

4.7

Vermont

4.5

Northern Kentucky

4.4

Marquette

4.4

Colgate

4.0

Buffalo

3.9

Belmont

3.8

Mississippi St.

3.8

Murray St.

3.7

Louisville

3.7

Tennessee

3.4

Villanova

2.6

Virginia Tech

2.6

Montana

2.6

Minnesota

2.6

Kansas

2.5

Nevada

2.4

Liberty

2.2

Central Florida

2.2

Texas Tech

1.9

Oregon

1.8

Ole Miss

1.5

Virginia Commonwealth

1.4

Ohio St.

1.3

Bradley

1.2

Abilene Christian

1.2

Kansas St.

1.1

Iowa

1.0

Iowa St.

0.7

Oklahoma

0.6

Michigan

0.2

Northeastern

0.1

Seton Hall

-0.1

Wisconsin

-0.3

Auburn

-0.3

Florida

-0.6

Gardner-Webb

-0.7

Fairleigh-Dickinson

-0.8

North Dakota St.

-1.4

Iona

-2.2

Syracuse

-2.3

Washington

-2.5

Temple

-2.9

Prairie View

-4.4

Georgia St.

-6.1

St. John’s

-6.2

Team

TO Marg

Prairie View

5.5

Auburn

5.5

St. John’s

5.1

Abilene Christian

4.6

Buffalo

3.7

Temple

3.7

Kansas St.

3.6

Georgia St.

3.5

Nevada

3.4

Texas Tech

3.3

Syracuse

3.2

Michigan

3.2

Gonzaga

3.2

Wofford

3.1

Cincinnati

3.1

Florida

3.0

Washington

2.9

Virginia Tech

2.7

Liberty

2.6

Purdue

2.4

Virginia Commonwealth

2.3

Vermont

2.2

Oregon

2.1

Murray St.

2.1

Ole Miss

1.9

Virginia

1.9

Wisconsin

1.8

Gardner-Webb

1.8

Iowa St.

1.8

LSU

1.8

Seton Hall

1.8

Tennessee

1.7

Montana

1.6

Duke

1.5

New Mexico St.

1.4

Fairleigh-Dickinson

1.3

North Carolina

1.0

Iowa

1.0

Iona

1.0

Houston

0.9

Northern Kentucky

0.9

Belmont

0.9

Florida St.

0.8

Villanova

0.7

Central Florida

0.4

Old Dominion

0.4

Arizona St.

0.3

Mississippi St.

0.3

Saint Louis

0.3

Saint Mary’s

0.1

Oklahoma

0.0

Northeastern

0.0

Kentucky

-0.1

Bradley

-0.2

Kansas

-0.2

Ohio St.

-0.2

Utah St.

-0.3

UC-Irvine

-0.4

North Dakota St.

-0.6

Minnesota

-0.6

Baylor

-0.8

Colgate

-0.9

Louisville

-1.0

North Carolina Central

-1.9

Yale

-1.9

Marquette

-2.0

Michigan St.

-2.6

Maryland

-3.7

Team

Stl/G

Duke

9.5

Auburn

9.4

LSU

9.1

Washington

9.0

Prairie View

8.8

St. John’s

8.8

Abilene Christian

8.7

Temple

8.7

Syracuse

8.3

Mississippi St.

8.1

Georgia St.

8.0

Virginia Commonwealth

8.0

Oregon

7.8

Fairleigh-Dickinson

7.7

Kansas St.

7.6

Murray St.

7.6

Gonzaga

7.5

Buffalo

7.3

Ole Miss

7.3

Texas Tech

7.3

North Carolina

7.2

Florida

7.2

Saint Louis

7.1

Iowa St.

7.0

Seton Hall

7.0

Florida St.

7.0

Wofford

6.9

Gardner-Webb

6.9

Kansas

6.9

Belmont

6.8

Iona

6.8

Virginia Tech

6.7

Montana

6.5

Purdue

6.5

Houston

6.4

Liberty

6.4

North Carolina Central

6.3

Northern Kentucky

6.2

Arizona St.

6.2

Utah St.

6.2

Iowa

6.2

Nevada

6.2

Cincinnati

6.2

Colgate

6.2

Northeastern

6.2

Michigan

6.1

Baylor

6.1

Kentucky

6.0

Saint Mary’s

6.0

Tennessee

6.0

Oklahoma

5.9

Yale

5.9

Ohio St.

5.9

Central Florida

5.7

UC-Irvine

5.7

Vermont

5.6

Virginia

5.6

New Mexico St.

5.6

Old Dominion

5.6

Villanova

5.4

Bradley

5.4

Michigan St.

5.2

Wisconsin

5.1

Marquette

4.8

North Dakota St.

4.8

Minnesota

4.8

Louisville

4.5

Maryland

4.3

Team

Def Stl/G

Michigan

3.7

Cincinnati

3.9

Nevada

4.5

Purdue

4.8

New Mexico St.

4.8

Old Dominion

4.9

Saint Mary’s

5.0

Georgia St.

5.0

Virginia Tech

5.1

Prairie View

5.1

Buffalo

5.1

Gonzaga

5.2

Wisconsin

5.2

Iowa St.

5.2

St. John’s

5.2

Virginia

5.2

UC-Irvine

5.2

Liberty

5.2

Oregon

5.2

North Dakota St.

5.3

Houston

5.3

Villanova

5.4

Vermont

5.4

Northeastern

5.4

Wofford

5.5

Iona

5.5

Florida St.

5.5

Temple

5.5

Montana

5.6

Central Florida

5.6

Abilene Christian

5.6

Kentucky

5.7

Bradley

5.7

Gardner-Webb

5.8

Murray St.

5.8

Auburn

5.8

Seton Hall

5.8

Louisville

5.8

Northern Kentucky

5.9

Mississippi St.

5.9

Saint Louis

5.9

Ohio St.

5.9

Baylor

6.0

Minnesota

6.0

North Carolina Central

6.0

Ole Miss

6.0

Fairleigh-Dickinson

6.1

Utah St.

6.1

Belmont

6.1

Florida

6.1

Washington

6.1

Kansas St.

6.2

Arizona St.

6.3

Texas Tech

6.4

Tennessee

6.4

Michigan St.

6.4

Virginia Commonwealth

6.4

Kansas

6.5

Duke

6.5

LSU

6.5

Syracuse

6.6

Iowa

6.7

North Carolina

6.7

Oklahoma

6.8

Marquette

7.0

Yale

7.0

Maryland

7.1

Colgate

7.1

Team

Old R+T

New Mexico St.

12.34

North Carolina

12.34

Wofford

11.56

Gonzaga

11.48

Cincinnati

10.11

Kentucky

10.07

Buffalo

9.85

Duke

9.85

Utah St.

9.79

Houston

9.71

Purdue

9.37

LSU

9.06

Abilene Christian

8.45

Virginia

8.39

Saint Louis

8.30

Vermont

8.25

Auburn

8.09

UC-Irvine

8.06

Murray St.

7.74

Nevada

7.73

Texas Tech

7.33

Virginia Tech

7.22

Florida St.

7.02

Saint Mary’s

6.98

Michigan St.

6.88

Kansas St.

6.87

Northern Kentucky

6.72

Tennessee

6.66

Liberty

6.66

Baylor

6.56

Old Dominion

6.55

Arizona St.

6.41

Belmont

6.25

Oregon

5.95

Montana

5.83

Virginia Commonwealth

5.78

Mississippi St.

5.73

North Carolina Central

5.39

Ole Miss

5.32

Michigan

5.31

Maryland

5.01

Villanova

4.54

Florida

4.51

Iowa St.

4.29

Colgate

4.18

Prairie View

3.98

Central Florida

3.81

Kansas

3.63

Yale

3.56

Iowa

3.43

Louisville

3.39

Seton Hall

3.39

Temple

3.24

Syracuse

3.21

Marquette

2.96

Wisconsin

2.91

Gardner-Webb

2.82

Minnesota

2.77

Washington

2.76

Ohio St.

2.27

Fairleigh-Dickinson

2.24

Bradley

2.10

Oklahoma

1.79

St. John’s

1.62

Northeastern

1.35

Iona

0.30

Georgia St.

-0.27

North Dakota St.

-1.19

 

Criteria Darlings

Which teams have criteria that most look like a Final Four participant?

These 10 teams have that look this year (in alphabetical order):

  1. Cincinnati Bearcats

  2. Duke Blue Devils

  3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

  4. Houston Cougars

  5. Kentucky Wildcats

  6. Michigan State Spartans

  7. North Carolina Tar Heels

  8. Utah St. Aggies

  9. Virginia Cavaliers

  10. Wofford Terriers 

You will notice that Utah State and Wofford make this list with SOS beneath the level to win the national title.  These two teams possess criteria similar to past Cinderella Final Four teams like George Mason, Wichita State, and Virginia Commonwealth.

 

You now have the information to earn your BM in Bracketnomics.  However, there will be a special Bracketnomicist here Tuesday afternoon who will show you how to use this data to pick winners of each round.  The Captain will reveal his bracket selection on Tuesday prior to 5 PM Eastern Daylight Time.  He told us to tell you that if any buccaneer or lass dare criticize his selections, they will walk the plank.  Actually, they will probably have a better bracket than him.

 

Note: Many thanks to all the PiRate members who stayed up late Sunday night/Monday morning visiting 68 different schools’ athletics’ sites to get the raw data we need to put this statistical bonanza together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Games of Friday, March 23

Sweet 16–Friday, March 23

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Kansas Clemson 1.7
Villanova West Virginia 6.4
Duke Syracuse 5.1
Purdue Texas Tech 3.3

Friday Night’s Schedule

Friday, Mar 23, 2018
TIME (EDT) Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
7:07 PM 1 Kansas 5 Clemson Omaha CBS
7:27 PM 1 Villanova 5 West Virginia Boston TBS
9:37 PM 2 Duke 11 Syracuse Omaha CBS
9:57 PM 2 Purdue 3 Texas Tech Boston TBS

 

 

 

 

March 22, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Games of Thursday, March 22

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Nevada Loyola (IL) 2.7
Michigan Texas A&M 2.5
Kentucky Kansas St. 4.4
Gonzaga Florida St. 5.0

Thursday Night’s TV Schedule

Thursday, Mar 22, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
7:07 PM 7 Nevada 11 Loyola (Chi.) Atlanta CBS
7:37 PM 3 Michigan 7 Texas A&M Los Angeles TBS
9:37 PM 5 Kentucky 9 Kansas St. Atlanta CBS
10:07 PM 4 Gonzaga 9 Florida St. Los Angeles TBS

We’ve All Busted

What a year to debut a new bracket-picking trial!  How can we tell if this criteria has any credibility when nobody in the world can show any formula or any human picking ability that would have worked in the first two rounds.

Tonight, there will be no one-seeds or two-seeds playing.  Michigan is the only three-seed playing tonight.  Instead, we will see a seven, two nines, and an 11-seed in action.  Then, on Saturday either Nevada or Loyola will be playing for a spot in the Final Four.

Things will get a tad less crazy tomorrow night when two ones and two twos play, but in only one case is a Sweet 16 game going to have the two teams the seeding process believed should be there.

All is not lost.  We still have three of our four predicted Final Four teams alive, including the team we believe would win the National Championship.

Here is a look at the PiRate Ratings 2018 Criteria for the Sweet 16.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Clemson Y 25-9 74-66 6.68 7.9 59.83
Duke Y 28-7 85-69 10.11 21.7 60.69
Florida St. Y 22-11 81-74 4.18 10.6 58.79
Gonzaga Y 32-4 84-68 9.37 22.6 53.89
Kansas Y 29-7 81-71 8.34 5.4 61.30
Kansas St. Y 24-11 72-67 3.69 0.9 59.08
Kentucky Y 26-10 77-71 5.38 12.3 60.66
Loyola (Chi.) Y 30-5 72-62 9.82 6.7 51.44
Michigan Y 30-7 74-63 5.43 10.0 59.52
Nevada Y 29-7 83-73 5.97 6.4 55.05
Purdue Y 30-6 81-65 11.43 10.5 59.31
Syracuse Y 22-13 67-64 1.55 11.3 58.92
Texas A&M Y 22-12 75-70 4.73 12.9 61.02
Texas Tech Y 26-9 75-65 5.15 14.5 59.89
Villanova Y 32-4 88-76 10.18 13.1 60.33
West Virginia Y 26-10 80-69 0.66 16.9 60.59

Immediately, we can see one very consistent pattern here.  All of the Sweet 16 teams come from what we call the “Power Conferences.”  A Power Conference is one in which the overall league RPI is one of the top 12.  The Missouri Valley, Mountain West, and West Coast Conferences rank in the top 12, so really, there are no completely surprise teams.  We just failed to hit on these regular season champions of these leagues.  We may have to add a caveat in the future that when the regular season champion of one of these leagues makes the tournament to watch out for them as an underdog, because in most cases, they have been seeded incorrectly.

Loyola, Nevada, and Gonzaga did not look like they were fluke wins in the two rounds.  Loyola’s defense and intelligent half-court offense looked a lot like Butler during their back-to-back runs to the Final Four.  Gonzaga should be no surprise by now.  They are to this generation what UNLV and Marquette were to the 1970’s.  Nevada should have been no surprise, as we have only lauded Coach Eric Musselman as the best men’s basketball coach since about December of 2016.  How he orchestrated a couple of wins this past weekend with a six-man roster is incredible, and he did it against Cincinnati with multiple players in early foul trouble.  We hear that he is on the radar for other jobs that could bring him quite a jump in salary, but we believe that he is more likely to return to the NBA before taking another college position.

Looking at the data above, 15 of the 16 teams look like they belong in the Sweet 16.  Kansas State is the lone outlier, but look at how they got here from the previous round.  They became the first team ever to face a 16-seed in the Round of 32, and the Wildcats almost didn’t beat UMBC.

We have delayed this report where we preview all eight games in the Sweet 16, as we feverishly try to discover if certain injured players will be able to contribute in any way.  Tops on that list is Purdue’s Isaac Haas.  Who says that sports cannot expand the minds of our youth today?  The entire Purdue University Engineering department, professors and students, have been hard at work trying to create an NCAA-approved sleeve to protect Hass’s shattered elbow, and they have a deadline fast approaching.  It isn’t exactly finding a way to bring home Apollo 13, but it’s still an honorable task that could help dozens of Millenials develop some confidence and resume-building gold.

Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could conceivably play a few minutes here and there tonight against Kansas St., but it is more likely that he will be held out in order to possibly contribute a little more if the Wildcats make it to the Elite 8.

Then, there is Nevada.  How does a team get outrebounded by 15 boards, force just seven turnovers, and make just six, 3-pointers and win a Round of 32 game?  How does this same team get behind by 22 points, see three players on a roster of just six get in early foul trouble, and still come from behind to beat a top 10 team?

Maybe Mariah Musselman is just as powerful as Sister Jean.  Of course, one of these two will see the magic come to an end tonight.  This will be a game that looks more like a chess match between two geniuses than a racehorse up and down affair.  It should be tense for 40 minutes.

Out in Los Angeles, the Michigan-Texas A&M game is intriguing.  Michigan’s new inside presence on both sides of the floor has made the Wolverines better able to face the power teams, while their outside game is still strong.  Can the Aggies use a little superior quickness in this game to lead to a repeat performance of their Round of 32 dismantling of the Tar Heels?  Michigan’s defense will be a tad more difficult to solve than North Carolina’s, and this game should be exciting to the final few possessions.

On paper, the final game of the night looks like a potential mismatch, but in this wacky season, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the underdog wins.

It’s time to preview all eight Sweet 16 games.  We will talk more about Friday’s games on Friday morning.

Nevada vs. Loyola (Chi.)

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Nevada Y 29-7 83-73 5.97 6.4 55.05
Loyola (Chi.) Y 30-5 72-62 9.82 6.7 51.44
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Nevada -0.64 6.11 4.42 3.08 58.4 52.4
Loyola (Chi.) 1.49 6.51 6.43 0.94 60.2 50.4

Loyola does not force turnovers, but the Ramblers also do not commit many.  While being a decent rebounding team, they do not control the boards, which is Nevada’s Kryptonite.  So, neither team will really exploit the other’s weakness.This is an excellent chess game according to the criteria results.  Nevada needs to force turnovers or at least commit very few to be successful.  They beat Cincinnati by committing just two turnovers in the entire game in Nashville!

Looking at true shooting percentage margin and schedule strength, once again, these two factors cancel out each other.

It comes down to which team can handle a little adversity early in the second half and then make maybe one run.  Think of a classic horse race, where you have a bunch of horses that come from just off the pace and have one run in them.  Which horse will get the perfect trip and be in position to cross the line first?

We admit that we have no sure statistic to look at and say that our choice is solid.  Nevada surely cannot keep playing a rotation of six players and not suffer fatigue.  Loyola cannot expect to keep winning without being able to score a bevy of cheap baskets as the competition gets tougher by the round.

We are going to go with the PiRate Ratings chalk in this one, since we have no other data to rely on to make this pick.  The PiRate Ratings favors the Wolf Pack by 2.7 points, so our pick is: NEVADA

 

Michigan vs. Texas A&M

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Michigan Y 30-7 74-63 5.43 10.0 59.52
Texas A&M Y 22-12 75-70 4.73 12.9 61.02
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Michigan 0.73 6.14 4.11 3.54 56.5 51.1
Texas A&M 6.56 5.50 6.35 -2.65 53.9 49.2

We could almost copy and paste the information from the prior game into this section and just change the names.  Once again, we have a team (Michigan) that is excellent in turnover margin against a top-flight schedule, but that has at times been exploited on the boards, while Texas A&M dominates on the glass but suffers in turnover margin against a slightly stronger schedule.  The teams are about equal in true shooting percentage margin, with the exception that the Wolverine’s advantage tilts a little more toward superior offense, while the Aggies’ advantage tilts a little more toward superior defense.

We are going to make an unscientific assumption about this game, so please feel free to consider it a load of hooey.  We have looked through our mother of pearl shells and think we foresee a tense start of this game, where the team that can get in trouble with turnover margin will be a bit tight, and the Aggies will either turn the ball over a bit too much in the first half or play not to make mistakes and then shoot much lower than their normal percentage, even missing some close-in shots that they hardly ever miss.

Thus,  our wacky belief is that Michigan will get the early lead and then fight the rest of the night to keep it, once A&M starts to lose the tension.  We’ll go with Coach John Beilein to guide the Maize and Blue back to another Elite 8 appearance.  Our Pick: MICHIGAN

 

Kentucky vs. Kansas St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kentucky Y 26-10 77-71 5.38 12.3 60.66
Kansas St. Y 24-11 72-67 3.69 0.9 59.08
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kentucky 5.06 5.64 5.56 -1.08 55.7 50.3
Kansas St. -3.00 7.86 5.77 2.71 56.7 53.0

This actually isn’t the most important Kentucky-Kansas State game in the schools’ histories.  These two Wildcats faced off 67 years ago, minus five days, for the 1951 National Championship on the campus of the University of Minnesota.  Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky squad won his third national title in four years, but it was a close game until late.

Back to the present time.  This game looks on the surface to be rather one-sided.  Kentucky, even without Jarred Vanderbilt, looks a bit too strong for Kansas State.

Hey, did you notice that this makes three out of three games, where one team has the superior rebounding edge, and the other has an equally superior turnover edge?  The difference in this game and the other two is that Kansas State’s advantages are almost nil.  Their R+T Rating is just barely positive, and in our past years relying on R+T, we cannot remember any team with a rating as low as 0.9 ever making the Elite 8.  Because Kentucky’s R+T Rating is 12.3, Coach John Calipari’s Cats will be expected to receive about 11 more cheap scoring opportunities.  When you factor in that Kentucky also has a minor true shooting percentage margin edge, this leads us to forecast a double-digit Kentucky win tonight.  Our pick: KENTUCKY 

 

Gonzaga vs. Florida St.

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Gonzaga Y 32-4 84-68 9.37 22.6 53.89
Florida St. Y 22-11 81-74 4.18 10.6 58.79
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Gonzaga 8.75 6.36 5.06 0.97 59.8 50.4
Florida St. 2.85 6.88 5.85 1.30 56.5 52.3

The underdog Seminoles look to have a fighting chance in this game due to their superior schedule strength.  Florida State does not have a serious exploitable flaw.  They just don’t have a major statistic that is a decisive asset.

Gonzaga has an incredible R+T rating that many Final Four teams in the past have possessed.  Their almost 10% true shooting percentage is also Final Fourish, as is their 16-point average margin of victory.  Teams seldom win by an average margin this high that cannot go on major runs at the right time.  It just isn’t easy to slowly pull away by a point here and there until the lead is past 15 points.  The number one event that usually leads a team deep into tournament play is the ability to have a big spurt at the right time, and Gonzaga is clearly the team that can do this tonight.

The way we see this game is that FSU will take an early lead in the first half, and then Gonzaga will go on its first of three or four scoring runs to grab the lead and then extend the lead to five or six by halftime.  Then, the Bulldogs will make their patented big run in the second half to put the game out of reach.  The Seminoles may make a valiant effort in the final minutes, but it will be too little, too late.  Our Pick: GONZAGA

 

Friday’s Games

Kansas vs. Clemson

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Kansas Y 29-7 81-71 8.34 5.4 61.30
Clemson Y 25-9 74-66 6.68 7.9 59.83
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Kansas 0.08 6.67 5.50 1.44 59.8 51.4
Clemson 2.44 5.65 5.74 -0.06 56.7 50.1

Most casual fans will look at this game and immediately dismiss it as a Jayhawk blowout win.  This is far from being the probable case.  This is a Kansas team with exploitable weaknesses not typical for a Bill Self production.  KU has an exceptional offense, but their defense is prone to lapses.  In a game where the action is fierce on the glass, the Jayhawks do not bring their usual centaurs to the fight.  Rebounding is a liability with this club.  KU doesn’t make up for this weakness with an exceptional turnover margin, but they do pick up a good number of steals that lead to fast break points.

Clemson and championships go hand-in-hand, just not in basketball.  This group of Tigers competed admirably in the ACC race this year, and they have an experienced backcourt.  While CU has an issue with turnovers, this liability will most likely not be used to KU’s advantage.  Clemson can rebound with competence, and the Tigers know how to stop their opponents from scoring just long enough to put a game away.

Only because of experience and a slightly more difficult schedule do we stick with the logical team in this one, but it will not be an easy victory, and it will almost assuredly be their last one of the season.  Our pick: KANSAS

Villanova vs. West Virginia

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Villanova Y 32-4 88-76 10.18 13.1 60.33
West Virginia Y 26-10 80-69 0.66 16.9 60.59
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Villanova 2.86 6.67 4.67 2.72 62.4 52.2
West Virginia 3.61 8.08 5.53 5.17 54.5 53.9

Finally, we get a game where the rebounding and turnover issue does not matter as much as in the other games.  Right away, that should tell you which way we think this game will go.  Press Virginia needs to score points off steals and stop the other team from scoring against the press by either forcing them to throw the ball away or by using up so much clock that they must shoot a low-percentage shot.

Villanova is built for press-breaking and scoring easy baskets once the press is broken.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins might have to call the press off if VU scores too many times on crips.

West Virginia just cannot win a finesse game against this team.  Villanova enjoys a commanding true shooting percentage margin advantage in this game, and we have seen WVU players throw up their share of bricks.  This game should eventually get out of hand, as the team that won the title two years ago makes it look like they could return to the Final Four this year.  Our pick: VILLANOVA

Duke vs. Syracuse

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Duke Y 28-7 85-69 10.11 21.7 60.69
Syracuse Y 22-13 67-64 1.55 11.3 58.92
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Duke 9.20 7.37 5.77 -0.66 59.0 48.9
Syracuse 3.69 7.08 6.11 0.50 51.8 50.2

If you are a Baby Boomer, you know doubt know that the campy TV version of Batman is the only real, legitimate production.  Those movies just capitalized on the great reputation of Adam West of blessed memory.

There was a double episode where Batman faced the Joker, where the going was tough, because the Joker created his own utility belt.  He hand sneezing powder in there.  He had hand-shocking buzzers in there.  He had a bevy of evil tricks to combat the Caped Crusaders.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?  The villainous Blue Devils have their own utility belt.  It is called the 2-3 zone, and early in its employment, it is beating the original one created by Bruce Wayne, aka Jim Boeheim.

The element of surprise disappears for the Cinderella Orangemen Friday.  The Duke Blue Devils know how to attack Syracuse’s defense, and they know how to employ their own utility belt 2-3 zone that for now is proving to be superior to Batman’s, er Syracuse’s.

Here’s the rub.  Duke can penetrate and score inside against Syracuse, something that Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State could not do.  The Blue Devils have excellent perimeter shooters, and Syracuse will not be able to pack their defense in the paint.  Duke will get open three-pointers and also be able to initiate enough penetration to the point where the Orangemen will either have to give up easy 10-12 foot shots or challenge and become overly vulnerable to a very athletic and very big front line.

On the other side of the ball, Duke’s new 2-3 zone is much more athletic than the Syracuse zone.  At times, Duke makes this look more like a 3-2 drop zone, and we have seen the back line move up into an almost 4-1 look while still protecting the basket.

If you have been reading this site this year, then you know that we are sticking with the Blue Devils to cut down the nets in San Antonio.  The PiRate criteria says this game is a mismatch, and there is nothing we see that makes us think there is a reason not to expect a win by 15-20 points for Coach K’s Army.  Our pick: DUKE

Purdue vs. Texas Tech

Team Power W-L Scr TS% Diff R+T SOS
Purdue Y 30-6 81-65 11.43 10.5 59.31
Texas Tech Y 26-9 75-65 5.15 14.5 59.89
             
Team Reb Stl Opp Stl TO TS% Def TS%
Purdue 2.64 5.72 5.14 1.53 60.8 49.4
Texas Tech 4.11 7.26 5.97 2.57 55.8 50.6

This game would be an easy one to forecast if Isaac Haas were available and at least 80% of his usual self.  Purdue finally had the talent and playing style to make it to the Final Four, but losing Haas’s top-quality offensive efficiency really hurts the Boilermakers.

Texas Tech is a solid but not spectacular team. The Red Raiders are not the same team they were prior to Zach Smith’s injury.  TTU was 14-1 when Smith was lost for almost eight weeks.  They went 8-6 without him, and they only went 2-2 to close out the regular season once he returned nowhere near as effective as he had been.

Smith began to resemble his old self in the Stephen F. Austin game, and maybe he is coming back into form, where he can supplement his team by coming off the bench.  It is hard to recover that quickly from a broken foot, so it’s uncertain how many minutes he can play and stay effective.

At least Smith can play, which is more than we can say about Haas.  Purdue played courageously in their win over Butler.  Freshman giant Matt Haarms, took over for Haas at center, but there was a huge drop in talent between 7 foot 2 inch giants.  Haarms connected on just one shot from the field and seemed a bit stiff trying to play defense in the paint or pulling down rebounds.  It took a monumental outside shooting effort for the Boilermakers to win.

Texas Tech is a bigger force to beat without a principle weapon.  The Red Raiders will neutralize Purdue’s outside game with four competent perimeter defenders that will keep man-to-man pressure outside.

There may be one more win inside the Boilermaker Express, even if they have one less engine on the track.  Texas Tech doesn’t really have the fantastic inside presence to exploit Purdue’s loss of Haas, and Haarms just might come up with a better performance Friday night after having the first start jitters melted away.  He is going to play 30 minutes in this game, and he just might surprise some folks.  We think this game is a complete toss-up.  Our Pick: PURDUE

The NIT

The National Invitation Tournament used to be on equal footing with the NCAA Tournament.  There were some years where the NIT champion was decisively better than the NCAA Tournament champion.

Alas, those days are gone.  However, the NIT has proven to have a new usefulness.  Many experimental rules have been experimented with in this tournament, and this year, it has produced excellent results with rules that we believe should be implemented next year.

  1. The NIT is using four, 10-minute quarters rather than two, 20-minute halves.  This is not the first time that college basketball used quarters instead of halves.  It was tried in the 1950s.  We think that playing quarters and with the change in foul rules, it allows defenses to play more aggressively, knowing that they get a clean slate at the end of the first and third quarters.  Also, it doubles the amount of last possessions in the game, which leads to two more buzzer-beater opportunities, something great for the fans.
  2. The shot clock does not reset to 30 seconds on an offensive rebound.  It reset to just 20 seconds, which means teams cannot just throw the ball back to the outside and slowly run the offense again.  They must try to put the ball back up and score without resetting their offense.  This should lead in theory to about three or four more possessions in the game.

We here on the PiRate ship believe that fans do not want to pay exorbitant ticket prices to see dribbling exhibitions.  Action involves passing and moving, and anything that reduces dribbling can only be good for the game.  We’d like to see the closely guarded dribbling rule re-instated, where a player cannot dribble for five seconds while being guarded man-to-man without advancing toward the goal.  If this rule returned, it would force ball hogs to give up the ball within four seconds, and it would lead to more passing and more movement.  It might push average possessions back up to 75+ per game like it was when college basketball was its most exciting in the period between 1965 and 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 17, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Sunday, March 18

Sunday’s PiRate Rating Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Purdue Butler 5.4
Michigan St. Syracuse 8.5
North Carolina Texas A&M 5.9
Cincinnati Nevada 4.9
Auburn Clemson 1.4
Kansas St. MD-Baltimore Co. 9.8
Xavier Florida St. 3.7
West Virginia Marshall 10.2

Sunday’s TV Schedule

All times Eastern Daylight

Sunday, Mar 18, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:10 PM 2 Purdue 10 Butler Detroit CBS
2:40 PM 3 Michigan St. 11 Syracuse Detroit CBS
5:15 PM 2 North Carolina 7 Texas A&M Charlotte CBS
6:10 PM 2 Cincinnati 7 Nevada Nashville TNT
7:10 PM 4 Auburn 5 Clemson San Diego TBS
7:45 PM 9 Kansas St. 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TruTV
8:40 PM 1 Xavier 9 Florida St. Nashville TNT
9:40 PM 5 West Virginia 13 Marshall San Diego TBS

Bracket-Picking Criteria Results

Of the eight teams in the Sweet 16 as of Saturday night, we still have six teams alive.  Our picks went 6-2 and were within a half-second of going 8-0, as our two losses came on last-second shots in the Loyola-Tennessee and Michigan-Houston games.

For the tournament, our picks are now 32-12.

The New PiRate Ratings Bracketology Criteria have performed on par with the traditional criteria that we used for over 20 years.  We will wait until the championship before deciding if the new criteria was worth discarding the old method.

Here is a look at today’s games as the criteria applies to each of the eight contests.

Purdue vs. Butler
The big question is, “Will Isaac Haas play?” The next biggest question is, “If he plays, can he be anywhere near 100%?”

If Haas is able to give anything close to his regular contribution, Purdue is too strong for Butler. But, as we have already seen in this tournament, Virginia not having its best defender, and Tennessee not having one of its key big men available were contributing factors in losses. If Haas is not able to play, then Butler gains a major advantage in this game. The Boilermakers rely on Haas more for his offense than his defense, and it is true shooting percentage margin where Purdue is so superior in this contest. Remove Haas and his 66% TS%, and this advantage melts away somewhat.

PiRate Pick: Purdue

Michigan St. vs. Syracuse
This will be an interesting contest. The schedule strengths are identical, so we can look at the stats as if the two teams have played the same exact schedules. Michigan State has a clear true shooting percentage margin advantage and the Spartans also enjoy a modest R+T rating advantage.
The interest in this game comes from Michigan State’s issue against zone defenses. The Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone is tough to face the first time, and the Spartans had all of a day to study it and then implement a strategy against it.
It’s a different zone entirely, but Michigan State fared poorly twice against Michigan’s 1-3-1 trapping zone. Syracuse will trap out of their matchup zone as well.
On paper, Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston should thrive against zone defenses, but they did not hit from outside in one of the two games, and they turned the ball over against the traps the other. Maybe, the third time’s the charm? Or then maybe Syracuse is primed to make another surprise run to the Final Four? We’ll stick with Sparty.

PiRate Pick: Michigan St.

North Carolina vs. Texas A&M
North Carolina is almost playing at home, but Kansas just showed that having an in-state regional doesn’t guarantee two easy victories. However, the Jayhawks advanced, so the Tar Heels should get a little extra help with maybe a point or point and a half for playing so close to home as the state school where the tournament will be played.
The Tar Heels don’t need all that much extra oomph in the Big Dance. They are the defending champions, and they appear to be nearing peak performance at the right time.
Texas A&M is not going to be the weak victim. The Aggies will have the power to keep the inside game honest. A&M actually has a slightly better true shooting percentage margin than the Tar Heels, but North Carolina enjoys the R+T advantage. Down the road, North Carolina might struggle against a team that can force turnovers, but A&M isn’t one of those teams.

PiRate Pick: North Carolina

Cincinnati vs. Nevada
This game could be interesting for awhile, but Cincinnati is a bit too physical for the underdog Wolf Pack. The Bearcats’ R+T rating advantage is considerable here, and they enjoy a small true shooting percentage advantage as well. Eventually, Cinti will dominate on the glass, and this should lead to a run of several points, where the Bearcats send the Wolf Pack back to Reno, and that’s no gamble saying so.

PiRate Pick: Cincinnati

Auburn vs. Clemson
This is another one of those games where one key injury makes a huge difference in one team’s statistics. Auburn just narrowly escaped a first round upset bid by Charleston, and without a dominating or even contributing big man, the Tigers just aren’t the same team they were before Anfernee McLemore was lost for the season.

Clemson is not going to just show up and win this game, and they may not win even if they produce an A+ effort. Auburn still has a tough pressure defense on the perimeter, and Clemson has a negative turnover margin, so the War Eagles should get a couple extra scoring opportunities with steals.

However, when it comes down to it, Clemson has a decidedly better true shooting percentage margin and should be able to score inside enough times to win this battle again. CU enjoys a slightly better stength of schedule, and this should be the final nail in the coffin in this game.

PiRate Pick: Clemson

Kansas St. vs. MD-Baltimore Co.
Can they do it again? Is there any way a Number 16 seed can be one of the last 16 in the field? Here’s the funny thing about this game: Kansas State is precariously on the minimum R+T margin line to be picked against anybody in the tournament. Teams that rebound as poorly as Kansas State seldom make it very far in the NCAA Tournament. There are just a handful of teams in the last 50 years that won twice in one NCAA Tournament when their rebounding margin was worse than -3.
Maryland-Baltimore County would have been our pick in this game if the Terriers had a positive rebounding margin of 1.5 or better, but UMBC also has a negative rebounding margin. The Terriers might have been our pick if they held the true shooting percentage margin advantage in this game, but Kansas State has the better numbers here as well. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats’ schedule strength is about 15 points stronger than that of UMBC, and we just cannot pull the trigger on this one and take the most incredible long shot to ever make the Sweet 16.

PiRate Pick: Kansas St.

Xavier vs. Florida St.
This game should be the second most exciting game of the day. The Seminoles match up well with the top-seeded Musketeers, and this game should remain close for at least all of the first half and a good bit of the second half. Xavier has a slightly stronger schedule strength which makes their true shooting percentage margin and R+T rating advantages enough to matter. The margin of safety in this game is rather small, almost nonexistent, so a cold shooting day by Xavier could be enough to turn this game the other way.

PiRate Pick: Xavier

West Virginia vs.Marshall
We saved the best for last. In case you didn’t know, there is more than just a Round of 32 game here. These two in-state rivals don’t get along, and it’s almost as hated as Xavier and Cincinnati. It carries over to the two coaches, as they don’t really like each other.
When there is a game like this, the smaller school almost always benefits in some way.

Marshall is a woman scorned as these teams prepare to face off in a foreign land known as San Diego. West Virginia refuses to play Marshall in basketball (and football), unless the Mountaineers get two home games for every Thundering Herd home game.
What about the game itself? This will be the most interesting game of the day. Press Virginia’s defense may not exploit much in the way Marshall attacks it. The Herd had no difficulty facing Middle Tennessee’s trapping defense, as they pasted the CUSA regular season champions both times they faced them.

Alas, there is one important rule that we always follow at the PiRate Ratings. Whenever a team in the NCAA Tournament had a negative R+T Rating, we select the other team as long as that team has a positive R+T Rating. Marshall’s R+T Rating is -4.8, while the Mountaineers have a 16.6 R+T, and that is enough to give WVU about 18 more scoring opportunities. Marshall would have to hit about 18 three-pointers to neutralize that advantage.

PiRate Pick: West Virginia

Original PiRate Ratings Bracketology Sunday Teams Picked for Sweet 16
All 8 of our original picks are still alive today.
Cincinnati
Xavier
North Carolina
West Virginia
Texas Tech
Purdue
Clemson
Michigan St.

 

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