The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 25, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday, March 25, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
PurdueSaint Peter’s13.1
KansasProvidence7.9
UCLANorth Carolina4.1
Miami (Fla.)Iowa St.0.2

March 24, 2022

PiRate Ratings College Basketball–Thursday, March 24, 2022

Thursday, March 24, 2022
TeamTeamSpread
GonzagaArkansas10.2
VillanovaMichigan4.0
DukeTexas Tech-0.2
ArizonaHouston1.3

March 23, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics For Sweet 16

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:42 am

The 2022 edition of the PiRate Bracketnomics fared rather well compared to a large number of other options when looking for bracket-filling strategies. Obviously, neither our system nor any others pick perfect brackets or even ones where we pick 15 of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16.

We still have three of our Final Four and five of our Elite 8 still alive, as well as our picks for the National Championship Game.

We did not pick Saint Peter’s to be the real shocker, so our system missed that one entirely this year. Kentucky’s numbers were just incredibly better than the Peacocks, but the Wildcats looked like deer in the headlights all night in that game. St. Peter’s looked like a clearly superior team when they dismissed Murray State two days later.

Miami of Florida and Iowa State were somewhat of a surprise to us as well, but the Hurricanes’ ball-hawking defense countered being outrebounded by 10 and nine in their two wins. Iowa State relied on excellent half-court defense to get to this round.

The Sweet 16 is like the advances round of TV game shows. You know the type. In the first round, the questions are a little easier, but after the commercial break, the next round brings more difficult questions, and the strong separate themselves from the weak. In the Sweet 16, usually seven of the eight winners will be clearly superior to their victims, while there will be one new surprise making the Elite 8. We previously pointed out that one team that does not have our acceptable national championship resume will sneak into the Final Four. It doesn’t always happen, but like UCLA last year, usually one team will win games three and four in their tournament to make it to the third weekend in the big dome stadium.

Let’s take a look at the most important Bracketnomics numbers for each of the 16 teams.

TeamO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37R + T New RateOld R+T
Arizona71958.135.334.541.70.356.617.6
Arkansas541458.230.529.946.50.386.912.7
Duke44358.237.031.946.40.293.912.3
Gonzaga1957.237.429.241.60.317.021.2
Houston101056.534.237.744.00.2914.122.0
Iowa St.160560.331.928.150.60.281.33.9
Kansas62661.836.033.547.10.326.213.3
Miami (Fla.)1812157.934.422.753.20.29-5.4-3.0
Michigan197761.833.930.950.50.307.112.3
North Carolina204259.036.430.748.00.309.616.0
Providence325857.635.030.447.00.382.78.4
Purdue28960.138.835.148.70.3911.819.3
Saint Peter’s2252849.535.532.143.50.384.68.9
Texas Tech46161.032.233.244.00.366.318.1
UCLA121359.435.331.747.30.3010.516.9
Villanova83060.836.231.248.60.306.511.6

To briefly summarize what this data above means: O-Eff and D-Eff are the schedule strength-adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The fat numbers are to have an O-Eff in the top 10 and a D-Eff in the top 20.

SOS is our own PiRate Ratings strength of schedule. A SOS of 55.0 is the minimum number to be considered a real national title contender. Going back to the beginning of the then 64-team tournament format, no team with an SOS below 55.0 has won the title.

37+3pt is the threshold for three-point shooting percentage. If it is north of 37%, the team with this big number will force defenses to spread out and open up the middle for easy two-point shots. Overall 3-point percentages have dropped a little in the last few years since the stripe was moved back a few inches.

OReb% is the percentage of missed shots rebounded by the offense. 37% is also the beginning point of excellence. If a team rebounds three out of every eight shots they miss, they can shoot 40% from the field and still win. If this same team shoots 45%, they can cut down the nets after the final game.

-45% vs.2pt is the defensive field goal percentage inside the 3-point line. If a defense allows less than 45% of the 2-point shots to be made, they have a championship-level defense.

FT Rate37 is the free throw ratio. If a team takes 3 foul shot attempts for every 8 field goal attempts, this team has an offense that forces defenses to grab because the offense is too potent.

The last two columns are our own unique R+T ratings. The new one is rate based on Four Factors data, while the old one is a counting stat. We don’t yet have a threshold for the new R+T, but the old R+T has been helping us pick winners in the Big Dance for two decades. If the R+T is 15 or better, this is a team that consistently goes on big scoring spurts, the type that frequently puts games away. 12.5 to 15 is really good. 8 to 12.5 is fairly good. 5-8 is so-so. Under 5 is not good, and below 0 is a 100% no go for the Final Four.

Let’s take a look at the eight Sweet 16 games

Gonzaga vs. Arkansas: Gonzaga has the best overall Bracketnomics resume, as they did last year. Their schedule strength is a mild issue but well within the bounds of a potential national champion. Yet, the Bulldogs have not looked their best in either NCAA Tournament win. Arkansas coach Eric Musselman is worth about 7-10 more points for his team than Penny Hardaway is for Memphis, and if that’s the case, The Razorbacks are good enough to pull off the big upset–if Gonzaga continues to play at a subpar level. There’s the rub. I don’t see Gonzaga coming out flat in this game. Their narrow escape in the Round of 32 should wake the Bulldogs up. Gonzaga’s numbers are clearly superior to Arkansas. Go with the Zags in a potential double digit win.

Villanova vs. Michigan: There is an interesting set of data for this game, where both teams have advantages and disadvantages. Michigan has a better inside presence, and the Wolverines figure to capitalize inside with a few extra baskets in their offensive halfcourt. Villanova’s overall offense is a bit too strong for Michigan’s defense, so the Wildcats’ perimeter is going to penetrate Michigan’s defense for easier shots than Michigan figures to take. Overall, Villanova has a slight advantage in the Bracketnomics data, but the advantage is slim. Let’s go with the Wildcats in a close one.

Duke vs. Texas Tech: Duke’s excellent offense faces Texas Tech’s number one defense–this should make for an exciting game. Usually, when a superior offense plays a superior defense, if all else is equal the superior offense wins more often than not. All else is not equal. If not for this being Coach K’s final year, and it looks like Duke has been benefiting from more than 50% of the 50-50 calls, this would be an easy selection, as the Red Raiders have a better overall team. On a Sweet 16 stage, maybe the referees will be more likely to get calls made correctly with hopes of being chosen for the Final Four, so Duke won’t get that benefit. If so, this might be the finale for Coach K. Texas Tech is just a bit better.

Arizona vs. Houston: What we have here is a failure to see a decisive favorite. Both teams have Final Four resumes and are clearly better than most of the other teams left in the Big Dance. The only issue in this game is the fact that a portion of Houston’s great numbers came with the addition of two former key starters that were lost to season-ending injuries earlier in the season. With their roster intact, this might have been the Houston team to do what Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney couldn’t do in the late 1960’s or what Phi Slama Jama couldn’t do in the mid 1980’s. Arizona doesn’t have the same amount of tournament experience that Houston has, as the Cougars made the Final Four last year. That’s the one thing that concerns us. Kelvin Sampson knows how to prepare a team to pay on the big stage. Arizona is the better team, but Sampson is worth a few extra points–just enough to have a 50-50 shot at the mild upset. I have to pick somebody here, but honestly, it can only be a hunch, as the Bracketnomics show this game as dead even. I’ll go with Sampson to defeat the Pac-12 Goliath by one or two points or in overtime.

Purdue vs. Saint Peter’s: Saint Peter’s has played incredible defense in their two wins, and if they could stop Oscar Tshiebwe and company, they have a chance to limit Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. But, doing so might allow Jaden Ivey to showcase his exceptional talents on the big stage. Purdue has not made the Final Four during the Gene Keady-Matt Painter era. The Boilermakers in the past had issues with R+T Ratings. This Purdue team does not have that issue, and they might run over the Peacocks like a runaway train. I think Cinderella experiences Midnight in this round, and Purdue wins by double digits.

Kansas vs. Providence: Ed Cooley has done an incredible job at Providence, but he is facing a team coming to its peak in efficiency, and Kansas is clearly the superior team across the board. With Remy Martin at full strength, the Jayhawks are better than their Bracketnomics Data indicates. Martin makes KU the best team in the Dance, and I expect Rock Chalk Jayhawk to keep advancing.

UCLA vs. North Carolina: College basketball royalty clashes in this one, and I don’t see this game being a mismatch like the 1968 National Championship Game. Looking at the Bracketnomics data, the two teams are evenly matched. There are secondary and tertiary data in this science, including tournament experience by players and coach. In all but one respect, the Bruins have the advantage in these extras.

Carolina’s one advantage is having an inside force that can dominate in the paint. Mick Cronin is coaching in his 13th NCAA Tournament and coming off a Final Four appearance with most of his key contributors returning. Hubert Davis is coaching in his first NCAA Tournament. That’s enough to pick UCLA to return to the Elite 8.

Miami (Fla.) vs. Iowa St.: This is the unique game in this round, as neither team has an acceptable Final Four Bracketnomics Resume. As previously mentioned, usually one of the four teams in the Final Four does not have the blueprint we use to pick our brackets. At least one team will make the Elite 8.

Iowa State has struggled to generate offense for long stretches of games, and they have had to rely on their defense to keep games close until the offense got on track. Miami’s small but very quick roster might be able to force the Cyclones into playing a style of ball they are not equipped to play. Let’s go with the U to become Elite. Jim Larranaga took George Mason to a Final Four.

March 15, 2022

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics Analysis 2022

Analytics Based Bracket Picking Method–Updated for 2022

Welcome to the PiRate Ratings Bracket Picking Analysis for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. If you read yesterday’s tutorial post and earned your PhD in Bracketnomics, then you are ready to see all the numbers and pick the brackets in your own way. We will show you our picks as well, but you might do better using our data than we do.

Let’s get right to it with the table of all the numbers. We have divided the numbers into the most important, the moderately important, the the extras used to find the winner in very close matchups.

Team–Most ImportantO-EffD-EffSOS37+ 3ptOReb%-45% vs. 2ptFT Rate 37
Akron11316646.835.730.746.939.7
Alabama149461.930.835.649.233.6
Arizona52058.235.434.541.935.1
Arkansas401658.430.730.846.437.9
Auburn24859.232.033.142.631.6
Baylor91461.134.636.349.528.5
Boise St.761755.834.830.647.635.0
Bryant15421843.730.833.346.232.2
Cal St. Fullerton14416447.533.030.547.536.0
Chattanooga589550.534.632.750.726.7
Colgate7920345.140.326.447.526.6
Colorado St.208355.535.822.050.430.4
Connecticut213558.535.337.942.830.6
Creighton1241858.630.728.643.526.0
Davidson1115252.538.623.848.032.0
Delaware10021248.335.227.047.033.9
Duke74457.636.831.846.928.6
Georgia St.20111448.932.934.343.829.3
Gonzaga1756.937.929.041.629.8
Houston101156.034.137.843.528.7
Illinois233060.736.733.445.431.7
Indiana912159.033.926.943.433.5
Iowa27759.032.132.150.030.4
Iowa St1511059.736.828.250.728.1
Jacksonville St.13217846.338.830.047.130.9
Kansas62961.835.533.447.932.8
Kentucky42760.234.937.947.127.2
Longwood11519143.338.034.651.834.9
Loyola (Chi.)422254.238.325.146.931.7
LSU89559.531.933.847.733.0
Marquette624659.334.722.446.226.8
Memphis503157.335.937.545.338.4
Miami (Fla.)1715757.035.323.453.928.8
Michigan199161.634.031.250.828.9
Michigan St.385360.837.830.747.930.4
Montana St.14712945.636.927.347.638.7
Murray St.354048.435.336.048.331.3
New Mexico St.877350.732.633.745.634.8
Norfolk St.19016041.334.830.544.537.7
North Carolina276458.036.230.448.329.6
Notre Dame298456.838.022.549.327.0
Ohio St.1313160.037.328.846.233.5
Providence317957.534.330.546.638.5
Purdue310060.039.135.249.236.3
Richmond6810454.833.722.450.030.9
Rutgers1074358.533.629.346.526.9
Saint Mary’s63957.335.027.846.023.9
Saint Peter’s2593448.335.332.043.537.1
San Diego St.157256.535.829.643.131.3
San Francisco451956.235.430.448.128.9
Seton Hall752659.034.033.044.731.4
South Dakota St.1222048.144.924.449.833.8
TCU802460.330.437.847.931.2
Tennessee36361.835.932.845.829.6
Texas321360.232.331.846.132.3
Texas A&M-CC28718140.233.535.349.936.7
Texas Southern27010744.531.733.845.232.7
Texas Tech65160.831.433.344.336.1
UAB288950.637.933.946.828.5
UCLA151259.435.129.847.336.8
USC474956.335.433.841.730.9
Vermont447445.936.424.644.926.4
Villanova82861.035.930.948.230.5
Virginia Tech185557.539.328.149.423.7
Wisconsin493860.131.225.949.932.3
Wright St.10826244.832.931.251.331.3
Wyoming546654.534.325.548.335.8
Yale20310349.033.025.750.632.6

O-Eff = Offensive efficiency & D-Eff = Defensive efficiency

SOS= PiRate Ratings Strength of Schedule

37+ 3pt = The 3-point shooting percentage where 37% or above is the key number

OReb% = Offensive rebounding rate where 37% or above it also the key number

-45% vs. 2pt = Defensive 2-point field goal percentage where less than 45% is the key number FT Rate = the percentage of free throw attempts per field goal attempts, where again, above 37% is the key number

Team Moderately ImportantR + T New RateOld R+TScore MargFG% DiffWin StrkPre25Champions
Akron6.412.18.43.88T
Alabama4.97.53.60.64Yesx
Arizona7.017.917.110.911 & 9R T
Arkansas7.112.88.42.99 & 9Yesx
Auburn5.912.511.75.519YesR
Baylor11.417.412.93.915YesR
Boise St.11.215.07.92.214R T
Bryant1.76.45.22.49 & 7T
Cal St. Fullerton4.38.54.10.98T
Chattanooga8.715.210.14.65 & 5R T
Colgate1.78.595.115R T
Colorado St.-2.16.185.811x
Connecticut12.119.6103.55 & 5Yesx
Creighton-1.84.03.15.56x
Davidson2.712.16.86.415R
Delaware-3.61.33.94.15T
Duke4.112.713.17.27 & 7YesR
Georgia St.7.811.95.8-110T
Gonzaga7.221.822.514.817 & 6YesR T
Houston14.322.216.99.612 & 6YesR T
Illinois7.712.88.23.76YesR
Indiana1.87.85.66.86x
Iowa4.811.712.52.67 & 5T
Iowa St1.23.83.51.112x
Jacksonville St.3.410.67.16.410R
Kansas5.212.110.56.38 & 5YesR T
Kentucky15.724.113.57.47 & 6Yesx
Longwood14.920.311.22.611 & 8T
Loyola (Chi.)3.111.212.17.410T
LSU5.912.29.65.312x
Marquette-9.8-4.53.54.37x
Memphis6.711.777.56 & 6Yesx
Miami (Fla.)-5.01.33.81.29x
Michigan7.812.54.92.13Yesx
Michigan St.3.08.53.74.19x
Montana St.4.911.48.55.411 & 6R T
Murray St.15.224.0176.920 & 7R T
New Mexico St.8.114.58.36.610 & 5R T
Norfolk St.4.914.211.49.26 & 6R T
North Carolina10.015.75.81.96 & 5Yesx
Notre Dame-2.53.85.73.16 & 5x
Ohio St.-1.06.08.35.55Yesx
Providence2.17.44.82.68 & 8R
Purdue12.119.2116.68 & 6Yesx
Richmond-3.41.53.406T
Rutgers3.47.62.12.94x
Saint Mary’s7.313.29.33.77 & 6x
Saint Peter’s5.09.05.14.87T
San Diego St.4.410.57.65.16 & 5x
San Francisco8.714.210.13.310x
Seton Hall5.210.16.62.46 & 6x
South Dakota St.2.313.213.38.721R T
TCU12.516.93.11.87x
Tennessee8.513.910.437 & 5YesT
Texas7.210.18.72.96 & 5Yesx
Texas A&M-CC10.215.872.88T
Texas Southern4.78.43.74.16T
Texas Tech9.617.511.49.46x
UAB10.719.214.45.57T
UCLA5.717.311.63.46 & 5Yesx
USC6.312.86.76.513 & 6x
Vermont7.817.914.68.314 & 8R T
Villanova4.811.59.52.96 & 5YesT
Virginia Tech2.47.48.44.26 & 5T
Wisconsin3.47.34.2-1.47 & 6R
Wright St.1.85.34.41.57 & 5T
Wyoming1.48.77.54.48 & 6x
Yale-0.73.63.52.17T

R+T New Rate =The new R+T rating using rate stats over counting stats (still experimental)

Old R+T = The original R+T Rating where anything over 17.5 is exceptional, 15 to 17.5 is quite good, 12.5 to 15 is good, 8-12.5 is okay, 5-8 is fair, under 5 is poor, and negative is a loser

Score Marg = Scoring margin where over 8 is very good and over 10 is great

FG% Diff = Field Goal Percentage difference (Offense FG% – Defense FG%) where over 7 is very good and over 10 is exceptional

Win Strk = Best winning streak or streaks during the season (if a team didn’t win 6 in a row in the regular season, how will they do it against the best teams?)

Pre25 = Preseason Top 25 pick (almost every past national champion was in the preseason top 25)

Champions (R = regular season conference champion/co-champion & T = Conference Tournament Champion)

Team–ExtrasCoach Exp.Seniors 8Juniors 81/3 Clutch?F/C 12/7?2 F/C 20/12?Dbl Fig#
Akron3023YY3
Alabama4221NN3
Arizona0111YY4
Arkansas4 E8511NN4
Auburn10 F4131YY4
Baylor9 CH23xNN3
Boise St.2511NY3
Bryant0511NN3
Cal St. Fullerton1421NY2
Chattanooga0511NN3
Colgate2423NN5
Colorado St.0241NN2
Connecticut3413YN3
Creighton9 E831xYY3
Davidson9 E8323YY4
Delaware032xNN4
Duke35 CH211YY5
Georgia St.1411NN3
Gonzaga21 2R221YY5
Houston17 F453NNY5
Illinois5411YY4
Indiana0421YY3
Iowa10211YY3
Iowa St3431NN2
Jacksonville St.3431NN3
Kansas22 CH521NY4
Kentucky20 CH241YY5
Longwood0321NN3
Loyola (Chi.)0521NN2
LSU0201YY4
Marquette8 F4211YN2
Memphis032xYY3
Miami (Fla.)9 F4311NN4
Michigan1 E8301YY4
Michigan St.23 CH33xNN1
Montana St.042xNN3
Murray St.2121YY3
New Mexico St.2321NY2
Norfolk St.1341NN3
North Carolina0213YY4
Notre Dame14 E8601YY3
Ohio St.6 E8411YY2
Providence5613NY4
Purdue13 E8311YY4
Richmond2 S16611YY3
Rutgers2411NN3
Saint Mary’s7 S1642xNN4
Saint Peter’s125xNN2
San Diego St.2511NN1
San Francisco0413YN3
Seton Hall4431NN1
South Dakota St.1131NN2
TCU12 E8131NN3
Tennessee25 F4131NN2
Texas4 2R62xNN3
Texas A&M-CC044xYY2
Texas Southern471xNN0
Texas Tech053xNN1
UAB2341NN4
UCLA12 F4431NN4
USC4 E8241YY4
Vermont3621NY2
Villanova17 CH431NN4
Virginia Tech6321NY3
Wisconsin3 S16221NN3
Wright St.4053YN3
Wyoming0301YY3
Yale2241NN2

Coach Exp = The number of past NCAA Tournament appearances for the head coach and if he got to the Sweet 6, Elite 8, Final 4, CHampionship or Runnerup

Seniors8/Juniors8 = The number of seniors or juniors among the current top 8 players (not as important with the extra Covid year)

1/3Clutch? = Does the team have 1 go to guy or 3 co-go to guys that can hit the crucial basket to win?

F/C 12/7 or 2F/C 20/12 = Does the team have an inside player that averages 12 points and 7 rebounds per game or two that combine for 20 points and 12 rebounds per game?

DblFig# = The number of double figure scorers

Here is the PiRate Ratings Bracket

The event you’ve all been waiting for: I wish I could say it’s this feature, but your madness is directed at the actual games in March (and April).  Hopefully, this guide will guide you in filling out your brackets as we show you our analysis of the pertinent data.  Some of you will take our information and perform better with it making your own analysis.  Feel free to do so; we sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees.

Using our system laid out in Monday’s tutorial, we isolated on seven teams with National Championship Resumes in the 2022 NCAA Tournament plus one more team on the cusp.

Arizona

Baylor

Gonzaga

Houston

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

Almost National Championship Resume (1)

Auburn

It has been 31 tournaments since a team from outside the power conferences has won the national championship.  The Power Conference teams with the best resumes are:

Arizona

Baylor

Kansas

Kentucky

UCLA

Houston is a borderline power conference representative, but the American Athletic Conference is not what it once was.  With Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, the Cougars would be close to Gonzaga in overall power, but they have not been the same since their season-ending injuries.

Here is our take on the first round of the Tournament.  It is how we will fill out our bracket.  Every year, we receive a comment from somebody telling us how they used our data to outperform our bracket.

First Round NCAA Tournament Matchups

West Region

Gonzaga vs. Georgia St.: Not much to discuss here.  This should be a major blowout win for Gonzaga.  Georgia State will struggle to score points until the Bulldog reserves get mop-up duty, while the Zags could score close to 1.5 points per possession before the starters come out.

Boise St. vs. Memphis: As most 8/9 games should be, this is an interesting game where the two teams are evenly matched.  Memphis has oh so better key stats, and in close games, if the predicted weaker team has a considerably superior R+T rating, we will go with the underdog.  Boise State’s R+T is better but not by much.  We’ll go with Memphis is a close one.

Connecticut vs. New Mexico St.: New Mexico State  coach Chris Jans is our current number one mid-major head coach ready to be offered a big time job.  He has twice taken the Aggies to near major upsets in the opening round.  The last time NMSU was in this situation, they came within a blown referee’s call of upsetting Auburn.  The Tigers went to the Final Four that year.

However, this matchup with Connecticut is not favorable.  We are always leery of the Huskies.  They are the one school that has won the National Championship without having the proper analytical resume, and they have done it twice!  Their resume this year is very similar to the two times they won the title.  They are superior in all respects to the Aggies and should win by double digits.

Arkansas vs. Vermont: This game could be a lot closer than expected.  Vermont’s offense is just as efficient as Arkansas’s, and the Catamounts have a considerably better R+T rating.  A 12.5 points per game tougher schedule favors Arkansas by enough juice to emerge victorious, but it may be by single digits.

Alabama vs. Rutgers/Notre Dame: You get to wait until Thursday morning to submit your brackets, so you will know the winner of all the First Four games.  We can only predict it today.  We think Rutgers has a slight edge in the game in Dayton, because Notre Dame’s R+T rating is too low.  In early games, it doesn’t matter as much if the opponent’s R+T isn’t a good one, and Rutgers’ R+T is okay but not great.

When it comes to playing Alabama Friday, this may be one of the hardest games to figure.  Alabama plays like Tarzan one game and like Jane the next.  The Tide can score points when they are clicking, but they fail to click one game out of three.  Their R+T Rating is mediocre, and they don’t defend well in the paint.  The one superior factor in favor of the Tide is the nation’s strongest schedule.  Whichever team Bama plays in this game, they will have faced a stronger team in at least a dozen prior games.  We don’t expect Alabama to advance far in this tournament, but they should get out of this round with a win.

Texas Tech vs. Montana St.: They key to winning college basketball at the highest level is to have a superior offense and very good defense.  Texas Tech has the best defense in the nation with an average offense.  We don’t expect the Red Raiders to contend for the Final Four, but in early rounds, their resume is scary against teams not in power conferences.  

Montana State may stay in this game a little longer than expected, as Tech might struggle offensively at the start of the game until the nerves settle down.  Once Tech hits their stride, they will hold MSU to less than .8 points per possession for the middle 20-25 minutes of the game.  It might not look pretty, but TTU will eventually run away from the Bobcats.

Michigan St. vs. Davidson: Davidson has a little more overall talent now than they had when Steph Curry led the Wildcats to the Elite 8.  The difference is this Davidson team lacks the overall quickness to replicate the former success.  Additionally, they face a team that plays the same type of game as they do but with overall better athletes.

Michigan State has been upset early by teams that were quicker and unable to take advantage of the quickness.  DC cannot do this.  The Wildcats’ only chance is to hope to dominate in the paint both in points and rebounds, and The Spartans are not the team that will allow this.  Even though this is not the best inside presence during Tom Izzo’s reign in East Lansing, Sparty has just a little too much power for Davidson.  Michigan State will win by five to 12 points.

Duke vs. Cal St. Fullerton:  Coach K’s last team is really not talented enough to get to New Orleans this year, but the Blue Devils will likely play above their talent level until they are put out.  In this first game, the Blue Devils will score points rapidly against a weak team defense.  Fullerton won’t be able to keep the Blue Devil offense from getting easy shots inside of six feet.  Look for the Blue Devils to top their scoring average and coast to an easy victory in this round.

East Region

Baylor vs. Norfolk St.:  The MEAC representative has won opening round games in the Big Dance before, but it was as a #15 seed against a #2.  Norfolk State was oh so close to getting a #15 seed at the expense of Delaware, but they came up short.  In most recent years, the MEAC champ has been placed in Dayton.  Had NSU been put there this year, they would have been prohibitive favorites over any other 16-seed.  

The question now becomes, “can Nofolk State do what UMBC did against Virginia?”  The answer is “no”, because Baylor isn’t Virginia.  They are the defending champs, and even though the Bears are not as good as last year, they still have Final Four talent.  BU will win by around 20-25 points, more if the starters stay in longer than needed.

North Carolina vs. Marquette:  We can make this short and sweet–Marquette’s R+T is an eliminator.  ‘Nuf Sed.  They would be our pick to lose even if they were a top four seed.  Our number one rule is to play against a team with a negative R+T rating.

Saint Mary’s vs. Wyoming/Indiana: Like the region above, you will know who Saint Mary’s will be playing on Thursday.  Ironically, this play-in game may be the most exciting game before the Sweet 16.  There is very little difference between the Hoosiers and Cowboys.  Only because Indiana won’t travel very far to play this game will we give the nod to the Hoosiers.

On Thursday, Saint Mary’s will have a tough time avoiding the upset, because they are a tad weak offensively in the low post area.  Playing at home, the Gaels were able to withstand Gonzaga’s great inside presence, but in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, the Bulldogs exploited SMC over and over again in a double-digit win.  We will stil pick Saint Mary’s to win this game, because their opponent will have to fly from Dayton to Portland and play less than 48 hours after they played in Dayton.

UCLA vs. Akron: UCLA has national championship talent, but the Bruins have liabilities that can be exploited.  Unfortunately for the Zips, they do not have the necessary inside strength to exploit the Bruins.  They do have characteristics needed to keep a game with UCLA close for some time, but the Bruins will advance.

Texas vs. Virginia Tech: Texas is the most vulnerable 6-seed in the tournament.  The Longhorns have not adjusted to Chris Beard’s system in year one, and there may be a little dissension within the ranks.  Virginia Tech is the exact opposite.  Mike Young was one of our A+ Mid-major coaches ready for the Big Time when he was at Wofford, and he has not disappointed in his short time in Blacksburg.  Virginia Tech’s players have totally bought in to the system and are peaking at the right time.

Our criteria shows this game to be close to a tossup.  The Hokies have the superior offense, but the Longhorns have the superior defense with more superiority than Va. Tech’s offensive superiority.   Texas has the edge in schedule strength and R+T rating, so we will pick the Longhorns in a squeaker, but this one is ripe for an upset if you are the type that goes for more upsets than average.

Purdue vs. Yale:  Yale caught Princeton on a cold shooting day and upset the Tigers to get a ticket to the Dance.  Their ticket is for one game.  Short of hitting about 15 three-point shots in 25 attempts, there is no way the Bulldogs can stop the inside dominance of the Boilermakers.  The two-headed monster in the low post will likely score 40 points and pull down 15-20 rebounds unless Coach Matt Painter goes to his third team.  While former Gene Keady assistants have never made it to the Final Four, and neither did Keady, those teams from the past did not have the R+T rating that this Purdue team has.  This is PU’s best chance to go to the Final Four since they did so under Lee Rose in 1980.

Murray St. vs. San Francisco: Now it’s time to upset a lot of people in the Bluegrass.  There are a lot of fans heading up to Indianapolis for the weekend hoping to see the two top teams from the Commonwealth face off.  Our criteria shows the Dons to be a slightly better team than the Racers, mostly because Murray State’s schedule was suspect.  USF played a schedule almost as strong as a Power Conference team, and they have multiple wins over teams in this tournament.  Murray State’s biggest win was against Memphis, when the Tigers were not playing well.  Their other big game was a double-digit loss to Auburn, when Auburn was getting ready to go on a run.

We think the schedule strength makes USF’s numbers superior, and we will go with the 10-seed to win in what will be considered an upset.  We think the Dons should be favored.

Kentucky vs. Saint Peter’s: One team in this game had a weak schedule, a weak offense, and a weak inside defense.  The other team had one of the strongest schedules in the nation, one of the best defenses, a very good offense, and the best inside presence in college basketball since Bill Walton.  I bet you can predict what the prediction is here–Kentucky by as many as Coach Cal wants to win by before he removes his key players.

South Region

Arizona vs. Wright St./Bryant: We expect Wright State to win the play-in game, but even if Bryant wins, the outcome of this game will remain the same.  Arizona is much too talented to lose this game, even if the Wildcats play their worst game of the season Friday.  The Wednesday night winner must fly from Dayton to San Diego on short notice to play a UA team that is well-rested and playing just a short flight from home.

Seton Hall vs. TCU: This one is another great tossup between the 8 and 9 seeds.  TCU has the superior R+T rating, and it may be where the game is decided—with one late spurt in the second half.  We’ll take the Horned Frogs in a close one. 

Houston vs. UAB: Poor UAB.  The Blazers actually have the talent and resume to get to the Sweet 16 as long as they have the right bracket.  This one is not the right bracket.  Even without two former starters that were injured weeks ago, Houston has enough talent to get to the Sweet 16, with a good chance to make the Elite 8, and a possible chance to return to the Final Four.  If they still had their two stars, they would be a strong Final Four selection.  The Cougars match up perfectly well with UAB and can neutralize the Blazers’ key attackers.

Illinois vs. Chattanooga: The Mocs have been the darling upset pick of a lot of national media members, but we’re here to say it isn’t going to happen.  Chattanooga enjoyed an incredible season in winning the regular and tournament championships.  They just don’t have the inside defense to slow down the Illini in the paint, and they are not likely to get the Illinois frontcourt into foul trouble.  The Mocs don’t have a pressing defense strong enough to force Illinois into turnovers, so the Illini should have little difficulty winning this game by double digits.

Colorado St. vs. Michigan: Here’s another 11-seed that is clearly better than the 6-seed.  Colorado State’s R+T rating is too low, especially for a Mid-major team playing a Power Conference opponent.  Only a complete meltdown by the Maize and Blue will prevent the Wolverines from advancing.

Tennessee vs. Longwood: Volunteer Head Coach Rick Barnes has been to 25 previous NCAA Tournaments with one Final Four appearance.  He believes his current team has what it takes to go to the Final Four this year.  Tennessee’s resume should get them to the Sweet 16, but they have vulnerabilities that other teams in the South Region can exploit.  Longwood isn’t one of them.  Their schedule strength is much too low to be a factor in this game, but if they hit a bunch of three-pointers, where they are better than average, they could keep the outcome under 20 points.

Ohio St. vs. Loyola (Chi.): Before looking at this game, be advised that Ohio State is really banged up with multiple injuries, and it is unsure if they will have their full roster available.  Also, understand that Loyola will have had 12 days between games and will be fully rested but possibly a little rusted.

Loyola’s offense will find the holes in the Buckeyes’ defense, especially if Ohio State has to play a short rotation that will tire in the second half.  The Ramblers’ defense is good enough to give Ohio State’s superior offense some trouble.  It may come down to spurtability, and Loyola is the hands-down superior team in R+T.  We think Sister Jean will be smiling.

Villanova vs. Delaware: We told you yesterday that usually there is one Final Four team that gets there from outside of the perfect resume world.  It was UCLA last year.  This year’s UCLA could easily be Villanova.  The Wildcats just barely miss out on having a Final Four resume, and they quite frankly have about the best possible bracket arrangement to boot.  

Delaware is disqualified from potential upset possibilities in multiple ways–R+T rating, defense on the perimeter and in the paint, schedule strength, no inside scoring dominance, etc.

Midwest Region

Kansas vs. Texas Southern/Texas A&M-CC: Even though it does not matter in your bracket contests, we believe Texas Southern will run Texas A&M-CC into the ground in Dayton.  TAMCC has the weakest schedule strength of any NCAA Tournament team in the last 22 years!  Texas Southern is playing much better basketball in March than they did before  New Year’s, and they are 18-5 in their last 23 games.  So, we are previewing TSU against Kansas in this game.

Okay, suspense over.  KU will blow out either Texas team in this game.  Neither of the 16-seeds has enough defense to stop the Jayhawks from running up a fat score.  

San Diego St. vs. Creighton: In all but one key metric, these teams are fairly evenly matched.  That key metric is the R+T rating, and the Aztecs have a considerable advantage.  We’ll take SDSU to win thanks to a late run.

Iowa vs. Richmond: Two happy teams on Sunday, but there will only be one happy team Thursday after these two play.  Richmond will have to slow this game down to about a 60 possession game to have a chance to sneak away with an upset, but the Spiders’ R+T rating doesn’t measure up to being a winner.  Iowa will cruise to a double-digit win.

Providence vs. South Dakota St.: Providence is the better overall team in the criteria, but South Dakota State has the one ace up their sleeve in an offense that can score a lot of points in a hurry.  If the Friars come out a little tight and aren’t playing the type of basketball they normally play, they could find themselves down by a lot of points early in the game and then struggle to get in synch and get back in the game.  SDSU has the type of team that comes out loose and ready to play no matter what the stage.  If this game was in Oklahoma City or Denver, we’d take the underdog.  Buffalo will be almost like a home game for Providence, so we think the Friars sneak away with a close win.

LSU vs. Iowa St.: LSU has to go with an interim head coach for the second time in the now concluded Will Wade era.  It pains me to say that I (the Captain) was Wade’s youth coach in the early 1990’s.

It is rare for a team that finished four games under .500 to make the NCAA Tournament, but the Big 12 was quite strong this year.  Cyclone Coach T.J. Otzelberger made the South Dakota State job what it is today, and he should eventually turn the corner in Ames.  Making the Big Dance this quickly is quite an accomplishment.  Doing damage in the Dance may be a year away.  Even with an interim coach, albeit one with lots of years experience as a head coach, LSU has superior numbers and should win by around ten points.

Wisconsin vs. Colgate: This is almost a home game for the Badgers.  It’s one thing to put a Duke or Carolina in Charlotte or Greensboro when either is a number one seed, but to put the Badgers less than 100 miles from home in Milwaukee as a 3-seed is totally different.  Poor Colgate.  The Raiders are actually one of a small handful of Low Major teams that have some talent with an outside chance at an upset, but not playing UW in Milwaukee.  Colgate may hit some three-pointers to keep the game within shouting distance, but the Badgers will take the cheese in this one.

USC vs. Miami (Fla.): Even though Miami has a short flight, while USC most go from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, there is a factor that can never be parsed.  Miami’s R+T rating is too poor to predict the Hurricanes to advance.  USC figures to have a double-digit spurt in this game, and the Trojans will advance.

Auburn vs. Jacksonville St.: There is only one fly in the ointment in saying this game should be a 30-point blowout.  JSU will be playing way over their heads to face off against an in-state rival that won’t play them in the regular season.  Coach Ray Harper is a strict disciplinarian, and his teams play intelligently and force the opponent to play that way or be exploited.

Auburn is not all that exploitable here.  The Tigers have been having shooting trouble as of late, but with the great front line, maybe the second best to Gonzaga’s, the Tigers will get numerous second and third shots on many possessions, and JSU will eventually fall by a lot of points.

Here’s how the rest of our bracket-picking goes.

Round of 32

Gonzaga over Memphis

Connecticut over Arkansas

Texas Tech over Alabama

Duke over Michigan St.

Baylor over North Carolina

UCLA over Saint Mary’s

Purdue over Texas

Kentucky over San Francisco

Arizona over TCU

Houston over Illinois

Tennessee over Michigan

Villanova over Loyola (Chi.)

Kansas over San Diego St.

Iowa over Providence

Wisconsin over LSU

Auburn over USC

Sweet 16

Gonzaga over Connecticut

Texas Tech over Duke

Baylor over UCLA

Kentucky over Purdue

Arizona over Houston

Villanova over Tennessee

Kansas over Iowa

Auburn over Wisconsin

Elite 8

Gonzaga over Texas Tech

Kentucky over Baylor

Villanova over Arizona

Kansas over Auburn

Final 4

Gonzaga over Kentucky

Kansas over Villanova

National Championship

Kansas over Gonzaga

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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