The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 23, 2018

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

Sweet 16–Friday, March 23

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

Friday Night’s Schedule

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

 

 

 

 

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March 14, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Wed., March 14

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
UNC-Central Texas Southern -2.8
Arizona St. Syracuse 1.9

Tournament Schedule

All Times Eastern Daylight

Wednesday, Mar 14, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:40 PM 16 UNC-Central 16 Texas Southern Dayton, OH truTV
9:10 PM 11 Arizona St. 11 Syracuse Dayton, OH truTV

 

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Rhode Island 10 Oklahoma Pittsburgh CBS
12:40 PM 3 Tennessee 14 Wright St. Dallas truTV
1:30 PM 4 Gonzaga 13 UNC-Greensboro Boise, ID TNT
2:00 PM 1 Kansas 16 Penn Wichita, KS TBS
2:45 PM 2 Duke 15 Iona Pittsburgh CBS
3:10 PM 6 Miami (Fla.) 11 Loyola (Chi.) Dallas truTV
4:00 PM 5 Ohio St. 12 South Dakota St. Boise, ID TNT
4:30 PM 8 Seton Hall 9 North Carolina St. Wichita, KS TBS
6:50 PM 1 Villanova 16 Radford Pittsburgh TNT
7:10 PM 5 Kentucky 12 Davidson Boise, ID CBS
7:20 PM 6 Houston 11 San Diego St Wichita, KS TBS
7:27 PM 3 Texas Tech 14 Stephen F. Austin Dallas truTV
9:20 PM 8 Virginia Tech 9 Alabama Pittsburgh TNT
9:40 PM 4 Arizona 13 Buffalo Boise, ID CBS
9:50 PM 3 Michigan 14 Montana Wichita, KS TBS
9:57 PM 6 Florida 11 St. Bonaventure Dallas truTV

 

Friday, Mar 16, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Texas A&M 10 Providence Charlotte CBS
12:40 PM 2 Purdue 15 Cal St. Fullerton Detroit truTV
1:30 PM 4 Wichita St. 13 Marshall San Diego TNT
2:00 PM 2 Cincinnati 15 Georgia St. Nashville TBS
2:45 PM 2 North Carolina 15 Lipscomb Charlotte CBS
3:10 PM 7 Arkansas 10 Butler Detroit truTV
4:00 PM 5 West Virginia 12 Murray St. San Diego TNT
4:30 PM 7 Nevada 10 Texas Nashville TBS
6:50 PM 8 Creighton 9 Kansas St. Charlotte TNT
7:10 PM 3 Michigan St. 14 Bucknell Detroit CBS
7:20 PM 1 Xavier 16 UNCC/Tex Sou. Nashville TBS
7:27 PM 4 Auburn 13 Charleston San Diego truTV
9:20 PM 1 Virginia 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TNT
9:40 PM 6 TCU 11 Ariz.St./Syracuse Detroit CBS
9:50 PM 8 Missouri 9 Florida St. Nashville TBS
9:57 PM 5 Clemson 12 New Mexico St. San Diego truTV

 

Note: Virginia’s outstanding 6th Man De’Andre Hunter is out for the season, and this will knock the Cavaliers down a few notches in our criteria.  If you have not submitted your brackets yet, you might take this into consideration, as the Cavaliers have lost a potent weapon that could play anywhere on the floor.  He was to Virginia what John Havlicek was to the Boston Celtics in the 1960’s, the 6th man that was the secret sauce of Red Auerbach’s extended success.  Without Hunter, Virginia reverts back to a great defensive team that lacks enough offensive power to beat an athletic opponent the likes of Arizona or Cincinnati.  Hunter was instrumental in helping the Cavs secure two wins over Syracuse, and road wins against Miami and Virginia Tech.

 

The PiRates New Criteria Shows Beginner’s Luck

Did you read our lengthy piece yesterday pertaining to our brand new paradigm?  The PiRates scrapped our old, archaic system of picking brackets and debuted our new mostly statistical metric based criteria.

We were not sure how successful it might be in the first year of its existence, and we are sure we will need to tweak it some in the ensuing years, but we started out with a bang last night.

We hit both games and basically called how St. Bonaventure would send the Sons of Westwood home to SoCal.  We wrote that we believed the Bonnies would force turnovers on the Bruins, which would be the deciding factor in the game, and it was spot on.

We are reminded that a broken watch is also correct twice a day.

 

 

 

 

 

March 12, 2018

Selection Committee Got It Right–Only Because The Criteria Was Wrong

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee is under fire today for how teams like Oklahoma, Arizona State,  and Syracuse made the tournament, while teams like Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee State, and USC did not.

Don’t blame this Committee.  They did not create the criteria that they use to select the teams.  You wouldn’t blame a jury if the judge orders them not to consider the most convincing evidence in a trial, and it produces the opposite verdict.

We are hearing interesting rumors that Louisville and USC received punitive treatment due to the impending FBI probe, but we do not buy into this rumor.

The reality is that Oklahoma, Arizona State, and Syracuse are in the field, and USC, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee are not.

The PiRate Bracket Gurus correctly picked 67 of the 68 teams, missing on USC versus Syracuse.  They don’t want to make this sound like sour grapes here, and they are not responsible in the least for our comments, but we find it a laughing joke that the Trojans did not make the tournament, while Arizona State did make the tournament.

Again, it is not the Committee’s fault that the most convincing evidence that would show the superior team was not admissible in this case.  USC finished in 2nd place in the Pac-12, while Arizona State finished tied for 8th place, with only three teams below the Sun Devils in the standings.  USC bested ASU by four games in the conference standings!

How can a team finish 22.2% better in the majority part of an identical schedule than another team and see the weaker team make the tournament, while they did not?  This is why March Madness is more mad due to inferior selection criteria.

We repeat a comparison we made earlier this season.  Take the NFL Playoffs.  Let’s say that during the first month of the season, The New York Giants beat Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh and lead the NFC East at 4-0, while The Eagles are 2-2, with victories over Washington and Tampa Bay.

At this point in the season, the Giants are the best team in the NFL, while Philly is in the bottom half.  Now, from this point on, the Giants finish 5-7 for a 9-7 record.  The Eagles go 9-3 for an 11-5 record.

So, in the playoffs, the Giants are selected by the NFL Selection Committee due to their Quadrant 1 NFL wins in September, while the Eagles have to go to the Bert Bell Playoff Bowl in Miami (Google It–There really was a bowl game in the NFL).

If the NFL stages its playoffs this way, the league would be the laughingstock of sports.  The playoffs would be a big joke.  Yet, in college basketball, the public is brainwashed into believing that this giant tournament of mostly mediocrity is can’t miss entertainment.

The PiRates can easily miss seeing almost all these games where one or more of the combatants fared so poorly in the regular season that in decades past, their coaches might have been fired or put on a hot seat.

Allowing the 8th best team in a rather weak conference to have a chance to play for the national championship is par for the course in this everybody gets a trophy society.  When it comes down to it, neither USC nor Arizona State should have been invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Likewise, no team that did not win a conference championship should have been invited.  There are 32 conferences.  There should be 32 teams invited to the tournament, the 32 champions.

Before you say, “Hey Bucakroo, you cannot be serious about including Radford but not Duke,” let us preface that we favor just the 32 conference champions, but we also would favor handicapping the tournament so that the top 10 conference champions would receive byes to the Sweet 16, while the other 22 conference champions would have to compete in a play-in tournament to narrow from 22 to 12 to 6.  The 6 play-in winners would fill out the Sweet 16.

This is exactly how the NCAA Tournament used to be conducted.  Back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, six to eight conference champions received automatic byes to the Sweet 16, while 14 to 18 other conference champions (and top Independents) were forced to play-in to the Sweet 16.  The bye conferences were determined by the past 5 years results in prior NCAA Tournaments.

Four plus decades ago, over half of the division 1 teams in the East were independents, playing in a loosely-knit organization called the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference).  Prior to 1975, the ECAC was guaranteed two spots in the NCAA Tournament, while other Independents from the South, Midwest, and West could only be selected as at-large entries if and when the NCAA determined they were worthy.

Usually, 24 teams were selected for the NCAA Tournament.  There were eight teams that received byes and 16 teams that played into the Sweet 16.  On the third Saturday of March, the play-in games were played on neutral sites.  Then, on the following Thursday night (Friday night until 1968), the Sweet 16 Round was played, and the Elite 8 Round was played on Saturday.  There were regional consolation games to give each region four total games.

Then, the Final Four was played the following Thursday night with a consolation game and National Championship Game played on Saturday afternoon.  Starting in 1973, the Final Four moved to its present Saturday afternoon-Monday night format.

The explanation that the tournament became huge when it moved to 64 and then 68 teams is not actual fact.  The tournament was already big before it began to expand.  It would have continued to gain fan support if it had stayed exactly the same, and it is our opinion that it would be even bigger than it is today had it remained a tournament of conference champions.

With today’s format, a lot of really fantastic marquee games never happen.  The so-called media darling long shots that pull off a first round upset or sneak into the Sweet 16 eventually get blown out by a power conference team, giving the power conference team somewhat of a breather to the next round.  With 32 first round games, there are going to be a handful of upsets when a power team either overlooks the smaller school or comes out flat, while the other team plays the game of its lives.

The 1927 New York Yankees occasionally had an off day and lost to the Washington Senators (8 times that year).  They even lost a game to the St. Louis Browns.  There is always that odd day or night where things just don’t go the way they should 99% of the time.  It actually hurts the tournament when a #2 seed loses to a #15 seed, because the #15 seed isn’t going anywhere, while the #2 seed could have given the public a really incredible Elite 8 game against a #1 seed.

With that in mind, the PiRates have two separate ideas that would make the NCAA Basketball Tournament much better than it is now.  It would still give the Radford’s a real chance to compete for the title, and it would eliminate the ridiculous, human-error-laced, Selection Committee trying to create a reason why the 12-6 number two team from a power conference stays home, while the 8-10 number eight place (tied for 8th) team from that same conference makes the field.

Option A: Split Division 1 into D1 Large and D1 Small.  D1 Large would be the top 16 conferences, while D1 Small would be the bottom 16 conferences.

Conduct separate 16-team playoffs in the same manner that the NBA now uses.  4 rounds of best of 7 playoffs with the higher-ranked team getting home court advantage.  This option allows the home town fans a chance to see their team play on its home court, whereas only a handful of fans can afford to travel all over the map to watch them play in far away outposts.  How many Buffalo Bulls fans will make the trip to Boise, Idaho?

You could add a twist to the playoff formats and incorporate the relegation and promotion rules from soccer, where the conference of the Small Champion is promoted to Large, and the conference with the weakest-rated Large Champion being relegated to Small.

Imagine a Final Four with Arizona playing Kansas in a best of 7, and Virginia playing Michigan State in a best of 7.  What would the TV ratings be on these series rather than seeing a Sweet 16 game between one of these powers and a long shot low-major team that will lose by 20+ in the Sweet 16?  The two series would dwarf the ratings of today’s earlier rounds where teams are forced to play in the mornings and afternoons of weekdays.

Option B would be to revert back to how the tournament was conducted in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Take the 22 weakest conferences and send their champions to a 22 to 12 to 6 play-in.  Send the other 10 top conference champions expressly to the Sweet 16.

Sure, teams like North Carolina, Villanova, and Michigan would not be in the tournament, but then neither would be 8-10 Arizona State or 8-10 Syracuse.  Villanova, Michigan, Purdue, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas Tech, West Virginia, and USC among others would give the 16-team (like it was when it was great) NIT a great group of teams, so great that they could return to playing all 15 games at Madison Square Garden.

Most of you reading this today are wondering what our schedule will be for the NCAA Tournament.  Usually, today is the day we release our annual Bracketnomics report showing what back-tested data has been successful in isolating past NCAA Tournament winners.

The PiRates have made some sweeping changes this year, as advanced metrics have made our past bracket-picking criteria somewhat obsolete.  We still have our exceptional R+T weighted rating, and it still represents a huge chunk of what works for us, but we have dropped a lot of the other former data.  With advanced metrics like true shooting% and a better way to compare teams based on strength of schedule, we will be releasing an all-inclusive, somewhat explanatory reveal Tuesday afternoon.

March 11, 2018

PiRate Ratings’ Bracket Gurus’ Final Predictions For the Field of 68

That Darn Davidson
Call it the Steph Curry Effect. It would happen that the one bid-stealing team in the Conference Tournament part of March Madness would be a team from a conference that played its championship game on Selection Sunday afternoon.

 
At least the Selection Committee had to deal with this contingency as well. If our Bracket Gurus know their stuff, they believe that bubble burst popping sound you just heard emanated from Moraga, California, and Saint Mary’s just became a number one seed in the NIT.

What about the other near miss teams?  Our gurus believe (but not unanimously) the bubbles had already burst on Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma St.

Now, with Davidson getting in with the automatic bid, some non-guru bracketologists might simple place the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament and remove A-10 member St. Bonaventure. It doesn’t work like that. All of our Gurus already locked the Bonnies into the field. Saint Mary’s had the bottom score of the 68 teams, and with the Gaels sulking as they prepare to host an NIT game (or if our Gurus miss), now the #68 team is Arizona St. The Sun Devils are not really affected by the upset in D.C., if our Gurus have it right. They were already headed to Dayton as one of the Last Four in.

The team other than Saint Mary’s that suffered from Davidson’s win is the former last team in with a bye. USC was the number 64 team on the seed line, but after Davidson removed Saint Mary’s from the 11-seed line, it knocked the Trojans down to the fourth weakest Guru score. Thus, the Trojans are picked to join Arizona State, St. Bonaventure, and Texas in First Four games in Dayton.

Our Gurus had a difficult time narrowing the field of 68 from a field of 71. Word leaked out of the Selection Committee early Sunday morning, that all but one at-large spot had been determined prior to any games this afternoon. Our Gurus took that as a slap across 14 faces. If the Committee had it down to 69, then they could too. Between 8AM and Noon Eastern Time today, the Gurus agreed to vote Louisville, Middle Tennessee St., Marquette, and Syracuse off the Madness Island. Pending the outcome of the Davidson-Rhode Island game, the Gurus had the teams selected. A couple of late games might have affected a couple of seeds, as Cincinnati and Tennessee could swap with a Volunteer win and Bearcat loss. Tennessee lost to Kentucky in the SEC Championship, so Cincinnati should stay where they are, win or lose in the AAC Championship Game, which is about to tip off.
Since we are going to press before the American Athletic Conference Tournament ends, we told our Gurus to assume that Cincinnati wins the game and keeps their high seed.  There is a chance a Cinti loss could elevate another team from three to two seed, but we believe the Committee doesn’t want to mess with this contingency this late in the game.  We figured that time was more of the essence than waiting for the last game to finish.
So, with that in mind, here is the PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus’ Final Prediction. If we get 68 out of 68 again this year, it will be a minor miracle. It wasn’t easy for the Gurus to come close to a consensus. Middle Tennessee, Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette, and Baylor all received at least one vote out of 14 Guru lists. Saint Mary’s, Arizona St., and Texas were left off at least 3 of the 14 ballots.

 

Seed Team Conference
1 Virginia ACC
1 Villanova B-EAST
1 Xavier B-EAST
1 Kansas B12
2 Duke ACC
2 Purdue B-TEN
2 North Carolina ACC
2 Cincinnati AAC
3 Michigan St. B-TEN
3 Tennessee SEC
3 Michigan B-TEN
3 Auburn SEC
4 West Virginia B12
4 Arizona PAC-12
4 Texas Tech B12
4 Wichita St. AAC
5 Clemson ACC
5 Gonzaga WCC
5 Kentucky SEC
5 Ohio St. B-TEN
6 Houston AAC
6 Florida SEC
6 Miami (Fla.) ACC
6 Arkansas SEC
7 Texas A&M SEC
7 TCU B12
7 Rhode Island A-10
7 Seton Hall B-EAST
8 Nevada MWC
8 Virginia Tech ACC
8 Missouri SEC
8 Providence B-EAST
9 Alabama SEC
9 Butler B-EAST
9 Florida St. ACC
9 Creighton B-EAST
10 North Carolina St. ACC
10 Kansas St. B12
10 UCLA PAC-12
10 Oklahoma B12
11 USC PAC-12
11 Texas B12
11 St. Bonaventure A-10
11 Arizona St. PAC-12
11 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
11 San Diego St. MWC
12 New Mexico St. WAC
12 South Dakota St. SUMMIT
12 Buffalo MAC
12 Davidson A-10
13 Murray St. OVC
13 UNC-Greensboro SOCON
13 Marshall CUSA
13 Charleston CAA
14 Bucknell PATRIOT
14 Montana B-SKY
14 Wright St. HORIZON
14 Georgia St./UT-Arlington SBC
15 Stephen F. Austin SLC
15 Lipscomb A-SUN
15 Iona MAAC
15 Penn IVY
16 MD-Baltimore Co. A-EAST
16 Cal St. Fullerton B-WEST
16 Long Island NEC
16 Radford B-SOUTH
16 UNC-Central MEAC
16 Texas Southern SWAC

Our Gurus’ Additional Picks

First Four Round in Dayton

11-seed line: Texas vs. Arizona St.

11-seed line: USC vs. St. Bonaventure

16-seed line: Long Island vs. Texas Southern

16-seed line: Radford vs. UNC-Central

 

Last 4 Byes

61. North Carolina St.

62. Kansas St.

63. UCLA

64. Oklahoma

 

First Four Out

69. Saint Mary’s

70. Middle Tennessee St.

71. Louisville

72. Syracuse

March 6, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 6, 2018

PiRate Rating Spreads for Tuesday’s Conference Tournament Games

Home Team Visitor  
or Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Vermont Stony Brook 14.1
UMBC Hartford 4.7
Boston College Georgia Tech 3.5
Notre Dame Pittsburgh 16.4
Syracuse Wake Forest 3.3
North Dakota Montana St. 0.7
Northern Colorado Northern Arizona 14.8
Idaho St. Southern Utah 2.9
Portland St. Sacramento St. 9.1
Charleston Northeastern -0.5
Wright St. Cleveland St. 9.8
Howard Florida A&M 2.3
UNC-Central Coppin St. 7.8
Morgan St. South Carolina St. 5.2
Wagner Long Island 8.7
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Mississippi Valley St. 9.3
Southern Jackson St. 5.9
Texas Southern Alabama St. 12.0
Prairie View A&M Alcorn St. 9.6
South Dakota St. South Dakota -1.4
Gonzaga BYU 9.4

Games in RED are Championship Games for NCAA Tournament Bids

Teams That Won Conference Championships Last Night

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament
Iona 83 Fairfield 71
Southern Conference Tournament
UNC-Greensboro 62 East Tennessee St. 47

List of Teams In the Field as of Tuesday Morning

Team Bid Conf. W-L
Iona AUTO MAAC 20-13
Lipscomb AUTO A-SUN 23-9
Loyola (Chi.) AUTO MVC 28-5
Michigan AUTO BTen 28-7
Murray St. AUTO OVC 26-5
Radford AUTO B-South 22-12
UNC-Greensboro AUTO SoCon 27-7

 

NCAA Bids Up For Grabs Tonight

All Times EST

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament
Championship–March 6  
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Charleston #2 Northeastern CBSSN

 

Horizon League Tournament
Championship–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #2 Wright St. #8 Cleveland St. ESPN

Note: Cleveland State comes into this game tonight sporting a 12-22 record.  If they upset Wright State (24-9), the Vikings will most likely become one of the 16-seeds that must play a First Four game in Dayton.

Northeast Conference Tournament
Championship–March 6
Time Home Team Visitors TV
7:00 PM #1 Wagner #4 Long Island ESPN2

 

Summit League Tournament
Championship–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM #1 South Dakota St. #2 South Dakota ESPN2

 

West Coast Conference Tournament
Championship–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Gonzaga #3 BYU ESPN

Note:  BYU is a potential Bid Stealer.  If the Cougars upset the Bulldogs tonight at Orleans Arena, then the West Coast Conference would most likely send three teams instead of two to the NCAA Tournament, bursting the bubble of one of the teams on the fence, such as Alabama, Kansas St., USC, or UCLA.

Conference Tournaments Beginning Today

Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Brooklyn
All Times EST
       
First Round–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #12 Boston College #13 Georgia Tech ESPN2
2:00 PM #10 Notre Dame #15 Pittsburgh ESPN2
7:00 PM #11 Syracuse #14 Wake Forest ESPNU
       
Second Round–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 Florida St. #9 Louisville ESPN
2:00 PM #5 North Carolina St. Boston Coll. or Ga. Tech ESPN
7:00 PM #7 Virginia Tech N.Dame or Pitt ESPN2
9:00 PM #6 North Carolina Syracuse or Wake Forest ESPN2
       
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Virginia Fla. St. or Louis. ESPN
2:00 PM #4 Clemson NCSt/BC/GaT ESPN
7:00 PM #2 Duke VaT/N.Dame/Pitt ESPN
9:00 PM #3 Miami (Fla.) UNC/Syr/Wake For ESPN
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM UVa/FSU/Louis. Clem/NCSt/BC/GaT TBA
9:00 PM Duke/VaT/ND/Pitt Mia.UNC/Syr/WF TBA
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM     ESPN

Note: #10 Seed Notre Dame is a team to monitor in this tournament.  With star forward Bonzie Colson returning to the lineup after missing 15 games, the Irish could sneak into the semifinals of this tournament.  They should quickly dismiss hapless Pittsburgh today.  The game with Virginia Tech tomorrow would most likely be a must-win for Notre Dame’s at-large hopes.  If the Irish win that game, they would face Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

 

Big Sky Conference Tournament
Reno, NV
All Times PST
       
First Round–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #8 North Dakota #9 Montana St. Pluto tv
2:30 PM #5 Northern Colorado #12 Northern Arizona Pluto tv
5:30 PM #7 Idaho St. #10 Southern Utah Pluto tv
8:00 PM #6 Portland St. #11 Sacramento St. Pluto tv
       
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:00 PM #1 Montana UND or MSU Pluto tv
2:30 PM #4 Weber St. UNC or NAU Pluto tv
5:30 PM #2 Idaho ISU or S. Utah Pluto tv
8:00 PM #3 Eastern Washington PSU or Sac St. Pluto tv
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:30 PM Mont/UND/MSU Web/UNC/NAU Pluto tv
8:00 PM Ida/ISU/S.Utah EWU/PSU/Sac. St. Pluto tv
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
5:00 PM     ESPNU

Note: Montana comes into the tournament riding a 16-2 record in conference play.  The Grizzlies sport the best defense in the league, including the top ball-hawking perimeter players.

 

Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament
First Round at Higher Seed, Semifinal and Final Round in Houston
Grambling and Alabama A&M are ineligible due to low APR Scores
All Times CST
       
Quarterfinals–March 6
Time Home Visitors TV
7:30 PM #1 Arkansas-Pine Bluff #8 Mississippi Valley St. TBA
7:30 PM #4 Southern U #5 Jackson St. TBA
8:00 PM #3 Texas Southern #6 Alabama St. TBA
8:30 PM #2 Prairie View A&M #7 Alcorn St. TBA
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:30 PM UAPB or MVSU Southern or JSU TBA
8:30 PM PVAM or Alcorn TSU or ASU TBA
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM     ESPN2

Note:  There is no complete team in this tournament.  The best team in the league, Grambling, is ineligible due to low APR Scores.  Prairie View is the only team with a chance of getting its record over .500 by winning the tournament, and then the won-loss record would be 18-17.  Unless 4, 20-loss mid-major teams win conference tournaments, the automatic bid will go to a team that must quickly head to Dayton for a First Four game.

Conference Tournaments Continuing Today

America East Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 6  All Times EST
Time Home Visitors TV
7:00 PM #1 Vermont #5 Stony Brook ESPN3
7:30 PM #2 UMBC #3 Hartford ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Home Visitors TV
11:00 AM Higher Seed Lower Seed ESPN2

 

Mideastern Athletic Conference Tournament
First Round–March 6
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
4:00 PM #8 Howard #9 Florida A&M ESPN3
6:30 PM #6 UNC-Central #11 Coppin St. ESPN3
9:00 PM #7 Morgan St. #10 South Carolina St. ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 7
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Hampton Howard or FAMU ESPN3
8:00 PM #2 Bethune-Cookman MSU or SCSU ESPN3
       
Quarterfinals–March 8
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #3 Savannah St. UNCC or Coppin ESPN3
8:00 PM #4 North Carolina A&T #5 Norfolk St. ESPN3
       
Semifinals–March 9
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM Hampton/Howard/FAMU NCAT/Norfolk St ESPN3
8:00 PM BCU/MSU/SCSU Sav/UNCC/Coppin ESPN3
       
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM     ESPN2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 12, 2017

Selection Sunday Ayem–March 12, 2017

Like Xmas Day For A Basketball Junkie

5:30 PM Eastern DAYLIGHT Time cannot come quickly enough.  Today is the day fans of 68 teams get to open their March Madness presents.  Most of the teams that will be dancing know they are in, be it with an automatic bid or a for sure at-large bid.  The Bubble has shrunk to just a few teams, and our Bracketology Gurus believe they have the 68 teams this morning before any games are played today.  Only the seeding may be altered by today’s games, but they agree in 100% unison that the teams we will list are the 68 teams that will continue to pursue their National Championship dreams.

THE FINAL BUBBLE

California

Illinois St.

Iowa

Kansas St.

Rhode Island

Syracuse

USC

Vanderbilt

Wake Forest

Xavier

Room at the Inn for six of these 10 teams, so which six make it, and which 4 are number one seeds in the NIT?

The six we have in are (alphabetically): Kansas State, Rhode Island, USC, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and Xavier.

The four that will need tissues to wipe their tears are: California, Illinois State, Iowa, and Syracuse

The one that the Gurus believe should be in over one that should be out is Illinois State rather than USC.  However, the Gurus are selecting based on how they predict the Selection Committee will select, and even through the rules state that teams are not chosen within a conference by conference basis, subconsciously the members will look and see that they cannot exclude both Cal and the Trojans.  USC’s win over SMU is the reason the men of Troy get in over the men of Berkeley.

 

There are six games left to be played, and the seed lines could change based on who wins, but the Committee does not change their final seedings within the last two hours, so the final scores of some of the games will be official after the final seeding has been done.  Thus, the AAC and Big Ten Championship Games will still be underway when the final seeds are completed.  Only the name of the Sun Belt Conference Champion will have to be added late, and the Committee can already put the first letter of that champion on the board–a “T” (Texas State or Troy).

 

Here is today’s schedule.

American Athletic Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 SMU 29-4 vs. 2 Cincinnati 29-4 3:15 PM ESPN
                 
Atlantic 10 Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
4 Rhode Island 23-9 vs. 2 VCU 26-7 12:30 PM CBS
                 
Big Ten Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
8 Michigan 23-11 vs. 2 Wisconsin 25-8 3:00 PM CBS
                 
Ivy League Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Princeton 22-6 vs. 3 Yale 18-10 12:00 PM ESPN2
                 
Southeastern Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 Kentucky 28-5 vs. 3 Arkansas 25-8 1:00 PM ESPN
                 
Sun Belt Conference Championship
Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
4 Texas St. 20-12 vs. 6 Troy 21-14 2:00 PM ESPN2
                 
Selection Sunday
5:30 PM EDT on CBS
 
NCAA Tournament
First Four: March 14-15
                 
Second Round: March 16-17
                 
Third Round: March 18-19
                 
Sweet 16: March 23-24
                 
Elite Eight: March 25-26
                 
Final Four: April 1
                 
National Championship: April 3

The Bracketology Gurus Field of 68

  1. Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina
  2. Duke, Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon
  3. Baylor, Louisville, Florida St., UCLA
  4. West Virginia, Butler, Notre Dame, Cincinnati
  5. Florida, Iowa St., Virginia, Purdue
  6. Wisconsin, SMU, Minnesota, Michigan
  7. Creighton, Arkansas, Saint Mary’s, Wichita St.
  8. Maryland, Miami (Fla.), VCU, Virginia Tech
  9. Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Dayton, Seton Hall
  10. Michigan St., South Carolina, Marquette, Providence
  11. Middle Tennessee, Xavier, Vanderbilt, USC, Wake Forest
  12. UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, Vermont, Rhode Island, Kansas St.
  13. Bucknell, Princeton, Winthrop, East Tennessee St.
  14. Florida Gulf Coast, New Mexico St., Iona, Northern Kentucky
  15. Texas Southern, Kent State, Jacksonville St., North Dakota
  16. Texas St., UNC-Central, New Orleans, South Dakota St., UC-Davis, Mount St. Mary’s

Last Four Byes: Marquette, Providence, Vanderbilt, Xavier

Last Four In (Dayton Bound): USC vs. Wake Forest, Rhode Island vs. Kansas St.

First Four Out (#1 Seeds in NIT): California, Illinois St., Iowa, and Syracuse

 

Coming Next:  We go dark for 48 hours.  Tuesday morning, we will premier PiRate Bracketnomics for 2017 with a total primer on how we handle our bracket picking and outright winners of games for you that failed to heed our warnings and chose to wager your hard-earned dollars in Vegas or offshore.  FWIW, we have heard from a half-dozen of you that you have found something in our Blue Ratings that have made you handsome profits this year.  We hope that continues for you, but please do not rely on just our ratings to wager money with books in Vegas.  We don’t want the guilt trip when you cannot pay your April Mortgage or car payment.

In addition to Bracketnomics, we will also give you all the raw data to use for yourself.  We will have a spreadsheet of all 68 teams with their Four Factors, their PiRate Specific Ratings, and then follow that up with how the teams fit in our Final Four footprint.  We have backtested the data we use as far back as each statistic allows us to do, and we will include that in our preview.

Tell all your friends to check us out.  The Tuesday preview is our most visited entry of the year, even more than our Super Bowl and College Playoff National Championship football editions.

 

But remember our axiom: We are just a bunch of math nerds doing this for fun.  Please wager responsibly, or like us just wager a lunch with your friend.  Also, remember that you have a better chance of being abducted by aliens from space while being struck by lightning, as you hold the winning Power Ball and Mega Millions lottery tickets while getting a kiss from a supermodel (all at the same time) than you do of picking a perfect bracket.

Note: Special Congrats go to Renato Nunez on his impressive home run at Hohokam Park yesterday against the Rangers.

February 27, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 27, 2017

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:01 am

Gonzaga’s Loss–Good or Bad

Minutes after Gonzaga lost their home finale Saturday night, we began hearing the so-called experts talk about how a loss might help the Bulldogs rather than keep the pressure on them to stay undefeated.  We have heard this statement many times in the past, and we believe it is hogwash.  A loss never really helps a team, even if coaches and others say it may help focus attention and force players to play harder.

The team that goes 29-0 before losing is not one that needs help focusing or one that can find a way to improve on the loss.  As a matter of fact, we believe this loss hurts Gonzaga more than what it looks like on face value.  Their players lost a lot of confidence, and any self-doubt can create weaker play.  Look at it in baseball.  When a player has to think about facing Aroldis Chapman, or before him Randy Johnson, Rob Dibble, or Sandy Koufax, the thought of facing a pitcher than they cannot possibly hit oftentimes leads to the batter not being able to hit these stars.  The all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, didn’t believe he could hit Koufax’s curve ball, and he didn’t.  He hit below .175 against him.

In the basketball world, we see a close correlation between Gonzaga and the 1977 San Francisco Dons.  That USF team had four stars that would matriculate to the NBA, including future Chicago Bulls’ center Bill Cartwright, who had been considered the nation’s top high school prospect when he signed with the Dons.

The 1977 USF team played in the West Coast Athletic Conference, the predecessor of today’s West Coast Conference, of which Gonzaga is a member (as is USF).  The Dons were the odds-on favorite to win the WCAC title, but nobody expected USF to do what they did that year.  Starting just outside the top 10, USF began winning game after game.  Their early schedule featured several power conference teams, including eventual SEC champion Tennessee and WAC Champion Utah.  The Dons stayed undefeated throughout November and December, and with a win over St. John’s and a second win over Houston, USF moved to the top of the polls in early January.  There was no real competition in conference play as the Dons won the league by five games.  With a 29-0 record and a scoring margin near 20 points per game, USF closed out the regular season with a road game against a good but not great Notre Dame team.

In the second half, the Irish began to wear down the USF stars, and they were able to neutralize the Dons’ best factor–their rebounding ability.  Notre Dame went on a run and knocked USF out of the unbeaten ranks just before NCAA Tournament play began.  USF fell to number three in the nation behind Michigan and UCLA, but the experts of the day said that the loss would help USF be able to focus and recover.  It wasn’t to be.  In their very first tournament game, USF ran up against the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV, and Coach Jerry Tarkanian was about to take his team to its first Final Four.  UNLV ran out to a quick double-digit lead and cruised to a 121-95 victory to end USF’s year at 29-2.

We are not saying that Gonzaga will lose its first tournament game, and remember that when USF lost to UNLV, there were just 32 Tournament teams.  What we are saying is that Gonzaga’s chances of making the Final 4 are now less by several percentage points than it was prior to Saturday.  In fact, we are willing to state that we do not believe the Bulldogs will make it to the Elite 8 this year, because their confidence level has dropped.  They may not even win the WCC Tournament.  Saint Mary’s might advance further in the Dance.  That’s how much we believe this loss hurt the Zags.

 

Our Weekly Look at the Conferences

To many basketball fans, the next five weeks equates to summer vacation. Conference tournament action commences today with the opening round of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament tipping off in Fort Myers, Florida, Nashville, Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Jacksonville, as the four higher seeded teams host the four lower seeded teams.

Starting today, our Bracketology Report merges with the Conference Tournament Coverage, so you will get a bit of both. In total 10 different leagues have their tournament brackets in place, so instead of showing you the records of the top teams in those leagues, we will show you the tournament schedules along with a brief look at who is hot, who is not, and who we think might win.
Our Bracketology Gurus have sent their selections to us this week, and many of them plan to update every time their bracket changes in the last two weeks before Selection Sunday.

ONE BID CONFERENCES
America East

America East Tournament–Higher Seed at Home
Quarterfinal Round, Wednesday, March 1
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 1 Vermont 26-5 vs. 8 Maine 7-24 7:00 PM ESPN3
2 2 Stony Brook 17-12 vs. 7 Binghamton 12-19 7:00 PM ESPN3
3 3 Albany 19-12 vs. 6 Hartford 9-22 7:30 PM ESPN3
4 4 New Hampshire 19-11 vs. 5 Md.-Baltimore Co. 18-11 7:30 PM ESPN3
 

Semifinal Round, Monday, March 6

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
5 Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed 7:00 PM ESPN3
6 2nd Highest Remaining Seed vs. 2nd Lowest Remaining Seed 7:30 PM ESPN3
 

Championship Game, Saturday, March 11

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 5 winner Game 6 winner 11:00 AM ESPN2
* This Tournament Re-seeds after the quarterfinals like the NFL Playoffs

Vermont finished the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record in the league, and there is only one other team remaining that has an undefeated conference record (Princeton is 12-0 in the Ivy League with two games remaining). So, the Catamounts must be considered prohibitive favorites, especially since they have home court advantage throughout the tournament. Only one league opponent gabe Vermont any real difficulty this year, and that was Maryland-Baltimore County. However, UMBC finished as the fifth seed, and the Retrievers will have to win a road game against New Hampshire to get a chance at the Catamounts. UNH lost at Vermont by just eight points after playing to a stalemate in the first half, and the Wildcats did not lose another game afterwards, finishing on a five-game winning streak.

Atlantic Sun

Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament–Higher Seed at Home
Quarterfinal Round, Monday, February 27
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 1 Florida Gulf Coast 23-7 vs. 8 Stetson 11-20 7:00 PM WatchESPN
2 2 Lipscomb 19-12 vs. 7 NJIT 11-19 8:00 PM WatchESPN
3 3 North Florida 13-18 vs. 6 Jacksonville 17-14 7:00 PM WatchESPN
4 4 USC-Upstate 17-14 vs. 5 Kennesaw St. 13-17 7:00 PM WatchESPN
 

Semifinal Round, Thursday, March 2

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
5 Game 1 winner vs. Game 4 winner TBA WatchESPN
6 Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner TBA WatchESPN
 

Championship Game, Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 3:00 PM ESPN

Florida Gulf Coast has been in this spot before, and the Eagles have come through as the favorite more than once. They did lose at home to second seed Lipscomb in an ugly game where defense dominated, but the Bisons will most likely have to beat North Florida in the semifinals to get to Fort Myers for the title game. North Florida swept Lipscomb during the regular season, with their star Dallas Moore scoring 75 points in the two contests. FGCU is looking pretty and the Eagles would be competitive if they make the Big Dance. They beat UT-Arlington and lost close games to Michigan St. and Baylor.

Big Sky
North Dakota 13-3/18-8
Eastern Washington 12-4/20-9
Weber St. 11-5/16-11
Idaho 10-6/16-12
Montana St. 10-6/15-14

Weber State dropped three straight games, while the two teams above them in the standings are enjoying nice winning streaks. Montana State is the hot team from the next waive, but keep an eye on 8th place Portland State (7-9/14-13). The Vikings have lost a lot of close games, five in overtime, and they have the ability to score points in big spurts. It would not be a surprise if PSU upset a team or two in this tournament, which in our opinion is wide open.

Big South

Big South Conference Tournament–1st Round & Championship at Higher Seed, Middle 2 Rounds at #1 Winthrop
1st Round, Tuesday, February 28 (at Higher Seed)
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 7 Campbell 14-16 vs. 10 Presbyterian 5-24 7:00 PM BSouth Net.
2 8 Charleston Southern 11-18 vs. 9 Longwood 6-23 7:00 PM BSouth Net.
 

Quarterfinal Round, Thursday, March 2 (at Winthrop)

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 2 UNC-Asheville 23-8 vs. Game 1 winner 1:00 PM ESPN3
4 3 Liberty 19-12 vs. 6 Radford 13-17 3:00 PM ESPN3
5 1 Winthrop 23-6 vs. Game 2 winner 7:00 PM ESPN3
6 4 Gardner-Webb 18-13 vs. 5 High Point 15-15 9:00 PM ESPN3
 

Semifinal Round, Friday, March 3 (at Winthrop)

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 6:00 PM ESPN3
8 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 8:00 PM ESPN3
 

Championship Game, Sunday, March 5 (at Higher Seed)

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
9 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 1:00 PM ESPN

Winthrop and UNC-Asheville could be on a collision course for a rematch of last year’s championship game, where UNCA won on a neutral floor and then became fodder for eventual National Champion Villanova in the Round of 64. Winthrop has the edge this year, as the Eagles will play at home as long as they remain in the tournament. The two games between these teams were both nip and tuck games that went to the wire, with the game in Asheville needing an extra 10 minutes to decide the winner (UNCA won to earn a split). If you are looking for a dark horse, Gardner-Webb is playing its best ball of the year at the present time, and the Bulldogs upset UNCA to give the regular season title to Winthrop.

Big West
UC-Davis 10-4/18-11
UC-Irvine 10-4/17-13
Cal St. Fullerton 8-6/14-13

No team has been able to dominate in this league this year, and the tournament should be competitive. The current co-leaders meet in Irvine to close the regular season, and the winner should take the top seed. Long Beach St. (8-7/13-18) has been dreadful away from home this year, but Anaheim is almost like being at home in the Pyramid, so the 49ers might be worth looking at as a dark horse.

Colonial Athletic

Colonial Athletic Association Tournament–Charleston, SC
1st Round, Friday, March 3
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 8 Hofstra 15-16 vs. 9 Delaware 12-19 6:00 PM CAA.tv
2 7 James Madison 9-22 vs. 10 Drexel 9-22 8:30 PM CAA.tv
 

Quarterfinal Round, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 1 UNC-Wilmington 26-5 vs. 12:00 PM Comcast SN
4 4 William & Mary 16-13 vs. 5 Elon 18-13 2:30 PM Comcast SN
5 2 College of Charleston 23-8 vs. 6:00 PM Comcast SN
6 3 Towson St. 19-12 vs. 6 Northeastern 15-15 8:30 PM Comcast SN
 

Semifinal Round, Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 2:00 PM Comcast SN
8 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 4:30 PM Comcast SN
 

Championship Game, Monday, March 6

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
9 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 7:00 PM CBSSN

A month ago, we could have just ceded this tournament to defending champ UNC-Wilmington, but that was before the Seahawks lost to William and Mary, Charleston, and Elon. Now, this looks like a tournament that is much more up for grabs. UNCW is still the favorite, but they will not win this is a cake walk. Expect some competitive games, and it would not be a surprise if somebody other than the top two teams emerges as the eventual champion. We are keeping an eye on 8-seed Hofstra. The Gaels lost a lot of close games and then won a couple on the road at the end. They have to play in the opening round and would need to win four games to take the NCAA bid, but they could sneak into the semifinals.

Conference USA
Note: Middle Tennessee is closing in on moving into the Bubble should they win out and make it to the CUSA Championship Game and lose. For now, we keep CUSA as a one-team bid.

Middle Tennessee 15-1/25-4
Louisiana Tech 13-4/21-9
Old Dominion 11-5/18-10
UTEP 11-5/13-15
Rice 10-6/20-9

Middle Tennessee clinched the CUSA regular season title yesterday, and with two home games over bottom-feeders, the Blue Raiders should enter the conference tournament at 27-4. The good news for MTSU is the host team looks like they are headed for a 7th place finish, and UAB could not face the Blue Raiders until the Championship Game from that spot. The Blazers took the Raiders to the wire yesterday in the Magic City. UTEP was the lone team to beat the Raiders, but Rice and Louisiana Tech played MTSU close and could pose a challenge.

Horizon
Oakland 14-4/24-7
Valparaiso 14-4/24-7
Northern Kentucky 12-6/21-10
Green Bay 12-6/18-12
Wright St. 11-7/20-11

Imagine how the Cleveland Cavaliers would respond if Lebron James were lost just prior to the start of the playoffs. That’s how Valpo feels right now, as their big star is out of action, and the Crusaders are just an average team without him. Will Alec Peters return 100% healthy from his leg injury that cost him to miss the last two games? Without him yesterday, Valpo lost at Northern Kentucky to fall into a first place tie with Oakland.

Oakland has won nine consecutive games, while Northern Kentucky is making a name for itself for the first time since it became the third Cincinnati-area team to play Division 1 basketball. NKU Head Coach John Brannen is one of the up and coming coaches with a future at a bigger program sometime down the road, and his Norse could be ready to make some noise in Motor City Madness.

Ivy
Princeton 12-0/19-6
Harvard 10-2/18-7
Yale 7-5/15-10
Columbia 5-7/11-14
Penn 5-7/12-13

The top four teams in the Ivy League qualify for the inaugural Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Princeton and Harvard have clinched spots, while Yale needs another win to clinch a spot. The final spot is still to be decided, as Columbia beat Penn Saturday night to move back into a tie for fourth place. At present, Columbia holds the tiebreaker, but Penn has the more advantageous closing schedule with two home games, while the Lions must play two road games.

Princeton must still get by Harvard at home to finish 14-0 and then most likely will have to beat Harvard a third time to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers played a couple of good non-conference foes close, but this does not look like the year where an Ivy team will win an NCAA Tournament game.

Metro Atlantic

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament at Albany (Siena)
1st Round, Thursday, March 2
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 8 Quinnipiac 10-20 vs. 9 Niagara 9-22 5:00 PM ESPN3
2 7 Canisius 17-14 vs. 10 Marist 8-23 7:00 PM ESPN3
3 6 Rider 17-14 vs. 11 Manhattan 10-21 9:00 PM ESPN3
 

Quarterfinal Round–Day 1, Friday, March 3

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
4 1 Mounmouth 26-5 vs. Game 1 winner 7:00 PM ESPN3
5 2 St. Peter’s 18-12 vs. Game 2 winner 9:30 PM ESPN3
 

Quarterfinal Round–Day 2, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
6 3 Iona 19-12 vs. Game 3 winner 7:00 PM ESPN3
7 4 Siena 15-16 vs. 5 Fairfield 16-13 9:30 PM ESPN3
 

Semifinal Round–Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
8 Game 4 winner vs. Game 7 winner 4:30 PM ESPN3
9 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 7:00 PM ESPN3
 

Championship Game–Monday, March 6

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
10 Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner 9:00 PM ESPN2

An interesting factoid here: The MAAC tiebreaker system forced a coin flip to determine the bottom two seeds. Marist and Manhattan tied for last at 5-15. Using the MAAC tiebreaker system, the two teams split their games. The second tiebreaker resorts in seeing who had the better record against the top-ranked team and downward until one team finished with a better record against the teams in order. Unfortunately, both Marist and Manhattan were swept by the top 5 teams. The 6th and 7th place teams tied, and Marist and Manhattan both went 1-3 against those two teams. Both teams swept Niagara, so that left no choice but to flip a coin to decide which team would be the #10 seed and which team would be the #11 seed.
Marist won the coin flip and will be the #10 seed, while Manhattan will be the #11 seed.

As for the other end of the standings, Monmouth tries to make up for stumbling in this tournament last year when the Hawks had enough talent to do some damage in the Big Dance. They may get there a year late, but the 2017 Hawks do not look to be as strong as last year’s team; they do enter the tournament riding a 16-game winning streak. Siena has to be considered a contender, since the tournament will be played on their home floor. Iona and St. Peter’s will not go down without a fight, so if the bracket holds, the semifinal round should be one worth watching.

Mid-American
Akron 13-3/23-6
Ohio 10-6/18-9
Ball St. 9-7/18-11
Kent St. 9-7/17-12
Buffalo 9-7/15-14
Western Michigan 9-7/13-15

The MAC Tournament is always a wide-open event, and the regular season champ is rarely a big favorite. Buffalo has won the last two MAC Tournaments, and the Bulls have to be considered a contender to “three-peat.” Akron failed as the top seed last year, and the Zips have lost the magic touch they had earlier in the season when they ran off a dozen victories in a row. Kent State is the hot team in the East, while Western Michigan is trying to become the MAC basketball version of the 1914 Miracle Boston Braves. WMU was in last place at 3-7 in the league, but the Broncos have won six consecutive games to move into a tie for first in the West.

Mideastern Athletic
UNC-Central 13-1/22-6
Norfolk St. 12-3/15-14
Morgan St. 10-4/13-14

MEAC hopes for avoiding Dayton rest on UNC-Central winning the conference tournament. The Eagles could even concievably move up to a 15-seed if they win out.

Mountain West
Nevada 12-4/23-6
Colorado St. 12-4/20-9
Boise St. 11-5/18-9
Fresno St. 9-7/17-11

Every week, we see a different team looking like the best in this league, but what the last few weeks have really told us is there is no really great MWC team this year like San Diego State and New Mexico have been in recent years. Then again, the top four this year are not chopped liver, and even though this figures to be a one-bid league in 2017, don’t automatically select this league’s representative to fall in their first NCAA Tournament game. Nevada has a very good offense. Colorado State has a very good defense. Boise State and Fresno State have better than average offenses and defenses. And, then there is always the possibility that one of the two recent teams that have controlled this league (San Diego St. and New Mexico) could get hot and take the conference tournament crown.

Northeast

Northeast Conference Tournament–All Games at Higher Seed
Quarterfinal Round, Wednesday, March 1
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 1 Mount St. Mary’s 16-15 vs. 8 Sacred Heart 13-18 7:00 PM NEC Frontrow
2 2 Long Island 20-11 vs. 7 Robert Morris 13-18 9:00 PM MSG+/FCS
3 3 Wagner 15-13 vs. 6 Fairleigh-Dickinson 11-18 7:00 PM MSG+/FCS
4 4 St. Francis (PA) 14-15 vs. 5 Bryant 12-19 7:00 PM NEC Frontrow
 

Semifinal Round, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
5 Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed 12 or 2 PM MSG/FCS
6 2nd Highest Remaining Seed vs. 2nd Lowest Remaining Seed 12 or 2 PM MSG/FCS
 

Championship Game, Tuesday, March 7

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 5 winner Game 6 winner 11:00 AM ESPN2
* This Tournament Re-seeds after the quarterfinals like the NFL Playoffs

In the last four years, four different teams have won the NEC regular season championship, and four different teams have won the conference tournament. In the four cases, the regular season champion did not win the conference tournament. The last team to win both the regular season and conference tournament was Long Island five years ago. Mount St. Mary’s won the regular season title, but LIU looks like the team to beat once again, as the Blackbirds enter tourney play riding a six-game winning streak that includes a victory at MSM.

Ohio Valley

Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Nashville
1st Round, Wednesday, March 1
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 5 Southeast Missouri 14-17 vs. 8 Tennessee St. 17-12 7:30 PM OVC Digital
2 6 Tennessee Tech 12-19 vs. 7 Murray St. 14-16 9:30 PM OVC Digital
 

Quarterfinal Round, Thursday, March 2

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 4 Jacksonville St. 17-14 Game 1 winner 7:30 PM OVC Digital
4 3 Morehead St. 14-15 Game 2 winner 9:30 PM OVC Digital
 

Semifinal Round, Friday, March 3

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
5 1 Belmont 22-5 Game 3 winner 7:30 PM ESPNU
6 2 UT-Martin 20-11 Game 4 winner 10:00 PM ESPNU
 

Championship Game, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 5 winner Game 6 winner 8:00 PM ESPN2

Belmont has been in the NCAA Tournament seven times in the last 11 years, and if the Bruins do not make it eight out of 12 this year, it will be a major shock. Last year, Austin Peay came from the lowest seed to upset the field, and if you are looking for a team to repeat that, keep an eye on Tennessee State.

Patriot

Patriot League Tournament–All Games at Higher Seed
1st Round, Tuesday, February 28
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 7 Loyola (MD.) 14-15 vs. 10 Lafayette 9-20 7:30 PM Patriot Lg Net
2 8 Army 12-18 vs. 9 American 8-21 7:00 PM Patriot Lg Net
 

Quarterfinal Round, Thursday, March 2

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 2 Boston U 23-8 vs. Game 1 winner 7:00 PM Patriot Lg Net
4 3 Lehigh 19-12 vs. 6 Colgate 10-21 7:00 PM Patriot Lg Net
5 1 Bucknell 23-6 vs. Game 2 winner 7:00 PM Patriot Lg Net
6 4 Navy 18-13 vs. 5 Holy Cross 15-16 7:00 PM Patriot Lg Net
 

Semifinal Round, Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 12 or 2 PM CBSSN
8 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 12 or 2 PM CBSSN
 

Championship Game, Wednesday, March 8

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
9 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 7:30 PM CBSSN

Bucknell is tough to beat at home, and the Bison will get home court advantage throughout the tournament, but Lehigh swept the Bison during the regular season. The Explorers were swept by Boston U, and they will most likely have to win in Boston to get to Bucknell. Boston was swept by Bucknell, so the top three were like Rock, Paper, Scissors. Might another team be in the mix? It would be a very long shot, because the top three ended the season looking double-digit points better than the rest of the league.

Southern
East Tennessee 14-3/24-6
Furman 14-4/21-10
UNC-Greensboro 13-4/22-8
Chattanooga 10-7/19-10

The two hot teams meet tonight to decide the regular season champion, with ETSU visiting UNCG. Both teams enter with six-game winning streaks, and both teams have been playing defense like champions. The loser of this game will probably get a chance for revenge when the outcome is much more important.

Southland
New Orleans 12-4/17-10
Texas A&M-CC 11-5/18-9
Stephen F. Austin 11-5/16-12
Houston Baptist 10-6/15-12

This is a weak year in the SLC, and the eventural league representative in the NCAA has a high probability of heading to Dayton as a 16-seed in a first four game. The two hot teams as conference play comes to the end are Texas A&M-CC with a nine-game winning streak and Houston Baptist with a seven-game winning streak. TAMCC coach Willis Wilson came close to getting into the Dance many times with Rice, and he has slowly built the Islanders into a contender. It would be touching if Wilson finally made it to the NCAA Tournament in his 22nd season as a Division I head coach.

Southwestern Athletic
Texas Southern 13-2/17-11
Southern 10-6/14-15
Grambling 8-7/13-15

Unfortunately for this league, the hottest team is the one ineligible to go to the NCAA Tournament (Alcorn State). Texas Southern will be the heavy favorite, but even if the Tigers win the tournament, they will almost assuredly have to play in the First Four in Dayton.

Summit

Summit League Tournament–Sioux Falls, SD
Quarterfinal Round–Day 1, Saturday, March 4
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 1 South Dakota 21-10 8 Western Illinois 8-19 7:00 PM ESPN3
2 2 North Dakota St. 19-10 7 IUPUI 13-17 9:30 PM ESPN3
 

Quarterfinal Round–Day 2, Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 4 South Dakota St. 15-16 5 Denver 16-13 7:00 PM ESPN3
4 3 Omaha 16-13 6 Fort Wayne 19-11 9:30 PM ESPN3
 

Semifinal Round–Monday, March 6

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
5 Game 1 winner Game 3 winner 7:00 PM ESPN3
6 Game 2 winner Game 4 winner 9:30 PM ESPN3
 

Championship–Tuesday, March 7

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 5 winner Game 6 winner 9:00 PM ESPN2

This should be a rather interesting tournament. 4-seed South Dakota State and 6-seed Fort Wayne cannot be overlooked, but the top three seeds are clearly the co-favorites. Omaha and Fort Wayne can light up the scoreboard, and their quarterfinal game could see one or both teams top the century mark.

Sun Belt
UT-Arlington 12-3/22-6
Georgia St. 11-5/18-10
Georgia Southern 11-5/18-11
Arkansas St. 10-5/18-9

UT-Arlington has the lone signature win in this league this year (beat St. Mary’s), and the Mavericks could be this year’s version of UALR. The top four in this league could play each other 10 times, and the final records might range from just 17-13 to 13-17, so UTA cannot automatically waltz through to the NCAA Tournament.

Western Athletic
Cal St. Bakersfield 12-1/21-7
New Mexico St. 10-3/24-5

One of these two teams should win the conference tournament, mostly because the only other quality team (Grand Canyon) is still a year away from becoming a full-fledge Division I member. CSUB has won 10 games in a row by an average of 11.5 points per game, which includes a win over New Mexico St.

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES

American
In: SMU, Cincinnati
Bubble: Houston

Atlantic 10
In: Dayton, VCU
Bubble: Rhode Island

Atlantic Coast
In: North Carolina, Florida St., Louisville, Notre Dame, Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech, Virginia
Bubble: Syracuse, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech

Big 12
In: Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Iowa St., Oklahoma St.
Bubble: Kansas St., TCU, Texas Tech

Big East
In: Villanova, Butler, Creighton
Bubble: Seton Hall, Providence, Xavier, Marquette

Big Ten
In: Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan St., Northwestern, Michigan
Bubble: Iowa

Missouri Valley

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (Arch Madness) at St. Louis
1st Round, Thursday, March 2
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 8 Evansville 15-16 vs. 9 Indiana St. 11-19 7:00 PM MVC TV
2 7 Bradley 12-19 vs. 10 Drake 7-23 9:30 PM MVC TV
 

Quarterfinal Round, Friday, March 3

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 1 Illinois St. 25-5 vs. Game 1 winner 1:00 PM MVC TV
4 4 Southern Illinois 16-15 vs. 5 Loyola (Chi.) 18-13 3:30 PM MVC TV
5 2 Wichita St. 27-4 vs. Game 2 winner 7:00 PM MVC TV
6 3 Northern Iowa 14-15 vs. 6 Missouri St. 16-15 9:30 PM MVC TV
 

Semifinal Round, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 3:30 PM CBSSN
8 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 6:00 PM CBSSN
 

Championship Game, Sunday, March 5

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
9 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 2:00 PM CBS

In: Wichita St.
Bubble: Illinois St.

Pac-12
In: Oregon, Arizona, UCLA
Bubble: California, Utah, USC

SEC
In: Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina
Bubble: Vanderbilt, Georgia

West Coast

West Coast Conference Tournament at Las Vegas
1st Round, Friday, March 3
Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
1 8 Pepperdine 9-21 vs. 9 Pacific 10-21 BYUtv 9:00 PM
2 7 San Diego 13-17 vs. 10 Portland 10-21 BYUtv 11:00 PM
 

Quarterfinal Round, Saturday, March 4

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
3 3 BYU 21-10 vs. 6 Loyola Marymount 15-14 4:00 PM BYUtv
4 4 Santa Clara 16-15 vs. 5 San Francisco 20-11 6:00 PM BYUtv
5 1 Gonzaga 29-1 vs. Game 1 winner 10:00 PM ESPN2
6 2 Saint Mary’s 26-3 vs. Game 2 winner 12:00 AM ESPN2
 

Semifinal Round, Monday, March 6

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
7 Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 9 or 11:30 ESPN/ESPN2
8 Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 9 or 11:30 ESPN/ESPN2
 

Championship Game, Tuesday, March 7

Gm # Seed Team W-L vs. Seed Team W-L Time TV
9 Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 9:00 PM ESPN

In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
Bubble: None

The PiRate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Composite For February 27, 2017
1. North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova, Oregon
2. Gonzaga, Louisville, Kentucky, Baylor
3. Arizona, UCLA, Butler, Florida St.
4. West Virginia, SMU, Purdue, Florida
5. Duke, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Creighton
6. Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oklahoma St.
7. Saint Mary’s, Miami, Maryland, Iowa St.
8. South Carolina, Dayton, Michigan St., Virginia Tech
9. Michigan, Wichita St., Arkansas, VCU
10. Middle Tennessee, Northwestern, Seton Hall, Syracuse
11. Providence, Seton Hall, Xavier, California, Marquette
12. UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, UT-Arlington, Illinois St., Wake Forest
13. Vermont, Monmouth, Bucknell, East Tennessee
14. Western Michigan, Belmont, Princeton, UNC-Asheville
15. Oakland, Cal St. Bakersfield, Florida Gulf Coast, South Dakota
16. Eastern Washington, UNC-Central, Texas Southern, UC-Davis, Long Island, Texas A&M-CC

Last Four Byes: Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Syracuse
Last Four In/Dayton Bound: Wake Forest vs. Illinois St. / Marquette vs. California
First Four Out/#1 NIT Seeds: Vanderbilt, Rhode Island, Kansas St., TCU
Next Four Out: Georgia Tech, Houston, Texas Tech, Georgia

February 10, 2017

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview For February 11-12, 2017

Games Scheduled for: Saturday, February 11, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Wake Forest North Carolina St. 12 10 11
Pittsburgh Syracuse -1 -2 2
Duke Clemson 10 12 10
Louisville Miami 14 11 13
Georgia Tech Boston College 9 6 7
Notre Dame Florida St. 1 4 1
West Virginia Kansas St. 12 12 5
Baylor TCU 9 10 13
Texas Tech Kansas -4 -2 -4
Oklahoma St. Texas 15 12 11
Iowa St. Oklahoma 12 12 11
St. John’s Seton Hall 1 -1 -2
Georgetown Marquette 1 2 7
DePaul Creighton -13 -11 -15
Xavier Villanova -1 -2 1
Providence Butler -1 -1 -2
Rutgers Minnesota -5 -3 -7
Illinois Penn St. 4 5 7
Maryland Ohio St. 8 6 6
Michigan St. Iowa 6 8 11
Utah Washington 14 13 15
Arizona St. Stanford 2 2 -3
Arizona California 8 8 7
USC Oregon -4 -5 -7
Florida Texas A&M 16 17 12
Alabama Kentucky -8 -4 -5
Missouri Vanderbilt -4 -3 -7
Tennessee Georgia 7 7 7
Ole Miss Auburn 4 4 7
Mississippi St. South Carolina -5 -3 -5
LSU Arkansas -4 -4 -1
St. Mary’s Gonzaga -8 -1 -1

 

Games Scheduled for: Sunday, February 12, 2017
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Virginia Tech Virginia -6 -7 -9
SMU Cincinnati 5 3 3
Indiana Michigan 4 4 8
Wisconsin Northwestern 8 9 14
UCLA Oregon St. 28 26 20
Colorado Washington St. 13 14 11

PiRate Ratings Top 25

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Villanova
  3. Kansas
  4. Virginia
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Louisville
  7. North Carolina
  8. West Virginia
  9. Baylor
  10. Florida St.
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Florida
  13. Kentucky
  14. St. Mary’s
  15. Duke
  16. Purdue
  17. SMU
  18. UCLA
  19. Wichita St.
  20. Creighton
  21. Arizona
  22. Maryland
  23. Oregon
  24. Butler
  25. Dayton

ACC

  1. Virginia
  2. Louisville
  3. North Carolina
  4. Florida St.
  5. Duke
  6. Notre Dame
  7. Wake Forest
  8. Clemson
  9. Syracuse
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Miami
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. North Carolina St.
  14. Pittsburgh
  15. Boston College

Big 12

  1. Kansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. Baylor
  4. Oklahoma St.
  5. Iowa St.
  6. Kansas St.
  7. TCU
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Texas

Big East

  1. Villanova
  2. Creighton
  3. Butler
  4. Dayton
  5. Xavier
  6. Marquette
  7. Seton Hall
  8. Georgetown
  9. Providence
  10. DePaul

Big Ten

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Purdue
  3. Maryland
  4. Northwestern
  5. Minnesota
  6. Michigan
  7. Indiana
  8. Michigan St.
  9. Ohio St.
  10. Iowa
  11. Illinois
  12. Penn St.
  13. Nebraska
  14. Rutgers

Pac-12

  1. UCLA
  2. Arizona
  3. Oregon
  4. USC
  5. Utah
  6. California
  7. Colorado
  8. Stanford
  9. Arizona St.
  10. Washington
  11. Washington St.
  12. Oregon St.

SEC

  1. Florida
  2. Kentucky
  3. South Carolina
  4. Tennessee
  5. Georgia
  6. Arkansas
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Auburn
  9. Alabama
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Mississippi St.
  13. LSU
  14. Missouri

A Great Weekend For Watching Hoops on TV

The Following Games are listed in order of the most exciting and important and not in order of tip-off time

All times given are Eastern Standard

SATURDAY

St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga  8:15 PM on ESPN

Xavier vs. Villanova  2:30 PM on Fox

Notre Dame vs. Florida St. 6:00 PM on ESPN

USC vs. Oregon  10:30 PM on Pac-12 Network

Alabama vs. Kentucky  1:00 PM on CBS

Texas Tech vs. Kansas  2:00 PM on ESPN

Princeton vs. Columbia  6:00 PM  For those that have purchased Ivy League Live Sports Access: http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/princeton/game/columbia-at-princeton-on-02112017

 

SUNDAY

SMU vs. Cincinnati  4:00 PM on ESPN

Virginia Tech vs. Virginia  6:30 PM on ESPNU

Indiana vs. Michigan  1:00 PM on CBS

Wisconsin vs. Northwestern  6:30 PM on Big Ten Network

 

February 6, 2017

The Pirate Ratings Bracketology Gurus Report For February 6, 2017

In the height of the Vietnam War, a slogan went around the nation that became a bumper sticker and was emblazoned on t-shirts. It went, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” The slogan became so popular that it became a movie starring Tony Curtis and a cast of popular actors and actors from the late 1960’s.

Suppose they gave a 68-team tournament and 50 teams not deserving of the honor accepted invitations? While the former slogan led to a funny movie, the latter slogan will lead to a diluted NCAA Tournament this season. Back in the 1960’s, there was no set number of teams invited to the NCAA Tournament, or as this writer remembers it, “The UCLA Invitational.” The tournament would invite 22, 23, 24, or 25 teams in those days, depending on how many they felt deserved the invitations. You had automatic qualifiers from the major conferences of the day, which numbered about 17, and then there were about 50 independent teams.

In some years, just five independents had resumes worthy of playing in the tournament. In others, a dozen teams were worthy, but the NCAA maxed out the number at 25, so only eight of the dozen received bids.

The best conferences, by virtue of their won-loss record in the most previous tournaments, received byes in advance of the tournament selection, meaning they began in the Sweet 16. The ACC, Big Ten, Big Eight, SEC, and Pac-8 (AAWU) basically retained byes every year, whereas the Southwest Conference, Missouri Valley, Southern, Middle Atlantic and other strong conferences of the day had to begin in an opening round (play-in) to make the Sweet 16.

There were many years when top 10 teams did not get into the NCAA Tournament, and even a year where the arguably number two team did not get in. Only the conference champions made the NCAA Tournament of that time, and a number two team many times was good enough to be a Final Four contender but had to settle for the NIT or nothing at all.

In 1971, Southern Cal went 24-2 with multiple future NBA stars on their roster. Unfortunately, the two Trojan losses came to number one UCLA. USC stayed home in the postseason as a top 5 team.

The NCAA Tournaments in those days had its share of blowout games, especially when UCLA played their Sweet 16 game. The old PCAA or WCAC (two leagues that no longer exist) provided fodder for the Bruins. Frequently, the opponent would stall in the pre-shot clock days, but it did not matter, as the Bruins would win 50-39 over a lightweight that never had a chance.

What can we take from the current and the past and plan something better for the future? The 1971 USC’s should not have been punished for being the possible second best team in the nation and not having a postseason to continue playing. However, inviting a team that finished in the bottom half of their league standings to the tournament is just as wrong. Why invite a team that goes 7-11 in league play and finishes the regular season at 19-14? This team doesn’t even deserve to be in the NIT.

There are roughly 20 teams every year that really deserve to be on the national stage when the title is on the line. Sure, you have your upsets, but when a #15 upsets a #2, all that has done has removed a really good team from the later part of the tournament. The #15 almost always goes down by a large number in the next game.

And, yes, a George Mason, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth makes a deep run every five or so years. So, there are some good low-major teams that occasionally deserve to be on display.

How best can the fans and teams be serviced so that the really good teams do not have to go through a gauntlet of low-major opponents, but at the same time, have a system in place that allows the low majors to compete?

We at the PiRate Ratings have been toying with an idea for a couple of years, refining it a little each year. Here is how we believe the tournament could be changed to make it more exciting for the low major teams, while at the same allows the major conference teams to face off without having to go through a low-major opponent first.

Here’s how we would do it, and it would add four additional teams to bring the total to 72:

Divide the NCAA Tournament into two brackets
1. An upper bracket with the 24 best teams from the major conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC). The national champion has come from teams in these conferences every year since UNLV won in 1990.

2. A lower bracket that includes the 25 conference champions from the remaining conferences plus the 23 best remaining teams, regardless of their conference.

3. The upper bracket 24 would play one round to reduce to 12 teams, each seeded 1-2-3 in one of the four regionals

4. The lower bracket 48 would be seeded into 4, 12-team sections or subregionals to the upper bracket regionals. The top four teams in each subregion would receive byes to the second round, while the 5-12 teams in the four regions would play in the first round.

5. The four regions would go from 12 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1.

6. The winners of the four regions would then join the 12 upper bracket winners to make the Sweet 16.

7. Each region would have one “cinderella” and three power conference teams remaining.

8. The power 24 would have to win five times to become the national champion, while the other 48 would have to win seven or eight games depending on seed, but at least four of these teams would now make the Sweet 16 every year and win three or four tournament games.

Let’s use some pretend teams as an example for the 2019-20 season.
Let’s say that Oklahoma State wins the Big 12 and enters the Big Dance at 30-4. They are seeded #1 in the Midwest Regionals in Kansas City. At the same time, Virginia finished in fourth place in the ACC with an overall 26-8. They are seeded #6 in the Midwest. Oklahoma State and Virginia would face off, and the winner would advance to the Sweet 16. The #2 and #5 teams and #3 and #4 teams would play in this same region in a triple header. The other three regions would do the same #1 vs. #6, #2 vs. #5, and #3 vs. #4.

A week earlier, the lower bracket would start play. Let’s say your team is the Summit League champion South Dakota who finished the regular season as probably the best low major team with an overall record of 31-3. They are seeded number one in the lower bracket Midwest Sub-region. They get a bye, while #5 seed Northern Iowa (25-9) plays #12 seed UT-Arlington (an upset winner in the conference tournament and just 14-18 overall). Northern Iowa then trounces UTA and advances to play South Dakota. South Dakota proceeds to beat Northern Iowa. They follow it up with two more victories over mid-majors to win the Midwest Sub-region and advance to the Sweet 16. They face Oklahoma St. in the next round.

We have heard other possibilities like moving the top 8 conferences into a super league with the top 16 teams from this group facing off in playoffs similar to the NBA playoffs. How would you like a best of 7 North Carolina-Kansas finals instead of one game? Might a 7-game series between these two teams or Kentucky vs. Villanova, UCLA vs. Duke, or any other series final between dynasty schools shatter all types of viewer records?

Back to the present–the above is just a pipe dream, but sometimes the dreamers create something incredible for the world. Let’s look at the 2017 NCAA Tournament contenders. Conference Championship Fortnight is fast approaching.
ONE BID LEAGUES

America East
Vermont 10-0/20-5
Stony Brook 8-2/13-10
UMBC 7-3/16-7

The Vermont winning streak has now stretched to a dozen games following two double-digit victories during the week. The Catamounts close with four home games, one road game against a weak conference foe, and one road game against UMBC. If they win out to improve to 29-5 by Selection Sunday, it would not be a push to see the Catamounts seeded as high as 11. They have no major wins, but they competed against teams that will be in the Dance.

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast 8-1/19-6
Lipscomb 7-2/15-11
South Carolina St. 5-4/15-11
North Florida 5-4/10-16
Kennesaw St. 5-4/11-14

The top two teams have pulled away from the pack with a couple of really good weeks of actions. FGCU has won five games in a row, while Lipscomb’s winning streak is now four games. FGCU has the best defense in the league, while Lipscomb has the best offense. The Eagles have been here before and even made the Sweet 16 under former coach Andy Enfield. As for the Bisons, they have made the NIT and CIT in the past, but the last time they played for a chance to win the national title was win they were the Duke of the NAIA.

Big Sky
Weber St. 9-1/14-7
Eastern Washington 8-3/16-8
North Dakota 8-3/13-8
Idaho 7-4/12-10

Weber St. has now won 12 of 13 games, and if they keep winning and earn the automatic bid, the Wildcats may be able to avoid having to begin in Dayton. Weber St. leads the nation in 3-point percentage at 43.1%, and they don’t lead by taking a conservative amount of bombs. They make almost 10 per game. Senior guard Jeremy Senglin has hit close to half of his three-pointer, and he leads the Wildcats with a 21-point average. A weak rebounding frontcourt will doom WSU against the big boys, and you can never fully count on three-point shooting to carry you through a conference tournament, so keep an eye on the other contenders in this league.

It counts as just one win, but Eastern Washington comes off an historic record-breaking night. The Eagles met Portland State Saturday and played a triple overtime affair that ended with a 130-124 victory. Teammates Jacob Wiley and Bogdan Bliznyuk did something that may never again be replicated: they both scored 45 points in the game, while combining for 27 rebounds. They also both played 53 of a possible 55 minutes, and EWU could be vulnerable in the second half of their next game at North Dakota on Thursday. Second place will be on the line.

Big South
Winthrop 10-2/18-5
UNC-Asheville 10-2/18-7
Liberty 10-2/15-10

What was once an automatic given that UNC-Asheville would win the conference in both the regular season and the postseason conference tournament has now become anything but that. This is the best three-team race in the low-major conferences, and there is no clear choice as to which team is best. UNCA still has home games with the other two contenders, so the Bulldogs may have a slight advantage for the top seed. In this league, the number one seed gets to play at home throughout the tournament.

Big West
UC-Davis 6-2/14-9
UC-Irvine 6-3/13-12
Cal State Northridge 6-4/10-13
Hawaii 5-4/11-11 is ineligible

No Big West team has played consistently enough to make much noise in the Big Dance this year. UC-Davis lost to a 6-win Cal Poly team last week. Irvine has dropped three games in a row. Northridge fell at home to a Hawaii team that all of a sudden looks like the best team in the league but one that cannot compete for the bid due to ineligibility. Senior guard Noah Allen has been hot as of late, scoring at a better than 23 points per game clip in the most previous seven contests.

Colonial
UNC-Wilmington 10-2/21-4
College of Charleston 10-2/19-6
Elon 7-5/15-10
Towson 7-5/15-10
William & Mary 7-5/13-10

A couple weeks ago, UNCW was close to earning a spot on the bubble if they needed an at-large invitation to the Dance. However, the Seahawks have hit a rough patch, losing by 18 at William and Mary, and then dropping a home game to Charleston due to a late defensive lapse that allowed Charleston to get a basket and foul shot at the end to win the game.

Now, this has become a definite one-bid league. Neither Wilmington nor Charleston can improve their resumes enough to move into contention to become a bubble team. In fact, neither co-leader can be considered a heavy favorite to win the conference tournament, because there is some quality in the next group of teams, as William and Mary’s domination of Wilmington proves.

Conference USA
Middle Tennessee 10-1/20-4
Louisiana Tech 8-3/16-8
Old Dominion 7-4/14-9
UAB 7-4/14-10

Middle Tennessee was in the same, or even better, boat as UNCW. If the Blue Raiders had won out in the regular season, there would have been a fair chance that they could have still gotten into the field of 68 if they had been upset in the CUSA Championship Game. Losing to UTEP has basically popped MTSU’s bubble. If they want another chance to upset a big team like they did last year when they raced past Michigan State, they will have to win the conference tournament.

This year, there is a lot of quality talent all the way down to the 10th place team, so the conference tournament is going to be quite interesting. Keep and eye on two teams well back in the pack that could gel into winning units in March. Marshall tends to wear teams down in the second halves of games, and they could take advantage of their helter-skelter philosophy against an inferior conditioned opponent in the semifinals and finals of the tournament. Western Kentucky has under-performed to date, and the Hilltoppers could decide to put it together when they arrive in Birmingham for the conference tourney.

Horizon
Valparaiso 9-2/19-5
Green Bay 9-3/15-9
Oakland 8-4/18-7

Here is one more league where the leader was positioning for at-large contention, but like the previous two conference leaders, Valpo went down hard at Green Bay on Saturday, losing by 17 points. If the Crusaders win out from here but lose in the Horizon League Championship Game, they would be 28-6 with one win over a team that was in the top 25 (Rhode Island) at the time they played. A case could be made for Valpo, but we believe politics would send a power conference team into the Dance ahead of the Crusaders.

Ivy
Princeton 5-0/12-6
Yale 5-1/13-6
Harvard 4-2/12-7
Columbia 4-2/10-9

Mark it down–the four top teams above have basically already clinched the four spots in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra in Philadelphia. There is still time for the two-loss teams to catch Princeton for the top seed, but it really matters very little how the four teams will be seeded on a neutral floor that will not have the home team Penn Quakers present. The winner of the automatic bid should be a quick out this year, as none of the Ivy League teams have exceptional and experienced talent. Harvard has the most talent, but their top two players are inconsistent freshmen.

Metro Atlantic
Monmouth 11-2/19-5
Iona 9-4/16-8
Saint Peter’s 8-5/12-11
Canisius 7-6/14-10
Siena 7-6/10-14

This year’s Monmouth team is a little less talented overall than the one that deserved to be an at-large team last year. However, the 2017 Hawks may get the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament as the MAAC champion, when last year’s team was capable of winning a game or two or three. This year’s team would have to be hitting on all cylinders to win a game.

The path to the Dance is not a simple one for Coach King Rice and his team. Their old nemesis, Iona, is playing the best basketball of any league team at this time, and Monmouth still has to pay a visit to New Rochelle, where Monmouth ended a long Gael home winning streak last year. Iona then won at Monmouth and beat Monmouth again in the MAAC Tournament finals.

St. Peter’s has given Monmouth fits this year. The Peacocks bested Monmouth by 10 in Jersey City, and they almost completed the sweep before losing in OT at Monmouth Friday night.

Mid-American
Akron 9-1/19-4
Ohio 6-4/14-7
Ball St. 6-4/14-8
Northern Illinois 6-4/14-9
4 others at 5-5

Akron is the favorite to win the conference tournament, but the Zips are only marginal favorites in a league where teams from just off the lead tend to win the conference tournament. The team nobody wants to see in its bracket is Central Michigan, because if the Chippewas are hot, they can shoot teams out of the gym in a matter of a couple minutes. No other Division I team in recent memory has had two 5-9 guards in the starting lineup. Also, no other DI has had a player averaging over 30 points per game and another at more than 20 per game. In CMU’s case, the two 5-9 guards are the two high scorers in question. Marcus Keene tops 30 points per game, while Braylon Rayson tops 20. Keene has the lone 50-point game in NCAA play this year.

Mideastern Athletic
North Carolina Central 7-1/16-6
Morgan St. 7-2/10-12
Norfolk St. 7-2/10-13
Savannah St. 7-3/10-13 is ineligible

UNC-Central and Norfolk St. continued to extend lengthy winning streaks last week, with UNCC’s hitting seven games and NSU’s reaching six. We believe that UNC-Central has the capability of pulling off a major upset in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the conference tournament and move up to a #15 or even #14 seed. The Eagles play tough half-court defense; they hold their own on the boards for a team that is more of a ball-hawking defense. Most of all, they have held their own against power conference teams, winning at Missouri and almost winning at Ohio State and LSU.

Mountain West
Boise St. 8-3/15-7
Nevada 7-3/18-5
Colorado St. 7-4/15-9
New Mexico 7-5/14-10

Leon Rice is a poor man’s Mark Few. The Boise State coach has made the Broncos a consistent big winner in his seven years in The Potato Republic. Had the Broncos been able to hold onto a lead against Oregon earlier in the season, they could be on the bubble, as they did beat SMU in the pre-conference schedule.

Nevada was 16-3 a couple weeks ago, which included a double-digit win at Boise State, but the Wolfpack have cooled off in the last fortnight. Coach Eric Musselman does not look like a former NBA head coach due to his height (5-7) and his weight (150), but he makes up for it with his brain (Einsteinian). When Musselman left assistant positions at Arizona State and LSU, the teams regressed quite a bit from the way they were when he was there. In just a year and a half in the biggest little town in America, the biggest little coach has proven that he is ready for a big contract reward at a big power conference school.

Northeast
Mount St. Mary’s 10-2/12-13
St. Francis PA 8-4/11-12
Fairleigh Dickinson 8-4/10-13
Long Island 7-5/14-11

It will be close to a miracle if the eventual champion of this league avoids an opening round game in Dayton. At the moment, the top of the league is swooning, while the middle of the pack is gaining. It should make for an excellent conference tournament that is up for grabs, but it also should make for a quick exit for the eventual champion when the center jump circle logo changes from NEC to NCAA. Although the tournament is played at the higher seeded home courts, the home court advantanges in this league are not all that advantageous.

Ohio Valley
Belmont 11-0/17-4
Morehead St. 7-3/11-12
UT-Martin 7-4/17-9
Jacksonville St. 7-4/15-11
Murray St. 6-4/12-12

Belmont has run away with the regular season race, as the Bruins have a commanding 3 1/2 game lead in their division. The Bruins have won 13 games in a row, and their four losses are to Vanderbilt, Florida, Rhode Island, and Middle Tennessee. Belmont cannot get in as an at-large team, as they have not beaten a top 50 team. The Bruins have outscored their conference foes by more than 13 points per game, so it will take either a monumental effort by a rival or a total collapse by the Bruins (and maybe both) for another team to get the automatic bid. The Bruins know how to get to the Dance; they have been there seven times in the last 11 years. One of these years, they are going to upset somebody with their hot inside-outside shooting. Belmont has led both Duke and Virginia in the second half of NCAA Tournament games, and they have won at North Carolina, so they will not feel intimidated in the Dance.

Patriot
Bucknell 10-1/18-6
Boston 8-4/13-11
Navy 8-4/13-11
Lehigh 7-5/13-10

Like Belmont, Bucknell has been the dominant team in their league. Additionally, the Bison have two NCAA first round wins (Arkansas and Kansas) in this century. This year, Bucknell has wins at Vanderbilt and at home against Richmond, but that is not enough to merit at-large consideration.

Lehigh beat Bucknell in Lewisburg, so the home court advantage that goes to the top seed is not that strong. In fact, Bucknell has been the top seed five times in the last six years and only twice won the conference tournament. Overall, the top seed has won just half of the conference tournaments in this century.

Southern
Furman 9-2/16-8
East Tennessee St. 8-2/18-5
Chattanooga 8-3/17-6
UNC-Greensboro 8-4/17-8

This league is undervalued this year. The top four contenders all have enough talent to get past a higher-seed in the Round of 64, and it would not be a major surprise if the SoCon representative sneaks into the Sweet 16.

ETSU has the resume of the team with the most chance of winning in the Big Dance, as the Buccaneers have no real weaknesses. Coach Steve Forbes, a former assistant to Bruce Pearl at Tennessee, has his team playing with the same hustle that made the Volunteers an SEC power during his time in Knoxville. ETSU has a nice rebounding advantage over their opponents, but the key to their exceptional defense and fast break comes from the pressure defense that allows the Bucs to steal eight passes a night.

Chattanooga has not yet played up to its potential, as former star Casey Jones has not returned to the form that made him the best player in the league prior to a season-ending injury last year. At the time, Jones had an unbelievable 6 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. This year, he has more turnovers than assists.

Southland
Sam Houston St. 8-3/17-7
New Orleans 8-3/13-9
Stephen F. Austin 7-4/12-11
Lamar 6-4/14-9

The co-leader can hear footsteps. With Brad Brownell no longer lurking on the sidelines at SF Austin, it appeared that somebody else would win the SLC for a change. When SFA began the season at 1-2 in league play and 6-9 overall, the Lumberjacks were dismissed as a rebuilding team with a new coach that needed seasoning.

Since then, SFA is 6-2, and all of a sudden the Lumberjacks are just one game behind the top two. The top two must still play the Lumberjacks before the SLC Tournament begins, so the top seed is definitely up for grabs.

Southwestern Athletic
Texas Southern 9-1/13-10
Southern 6-4/10-13
Alcorn St. 7-3/10-11 is ineligible
Under former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, Texas Southern has won either the regular season or SWAC tournament four consecutive years, so it should come as no surprise that the Tigers are the class of the league once again this year. TSU is 0-6 in NCAA Tournament history, and unless they receive a ticket to Dayton to play in the Opening Round, they are likely to fall to 0-7, if they make it back this year.

Summit
North Dakota St. 7-3/15-8
Denver 7-4/15-9
South Dakota 7-4/16-10
Omaha 6-5/13-11
Fort Wayne 5-5/16-8

North Dakota State has come back to the pack with successive losses. The most recent one was at home to South Dakota in a game that was not close following an 18-0 USD run in the first half. This should be an entertaining conference tournament, and current fifth place team Fort Wayne has shown that this league has merit. They are mediocre in league play, but the Mastodons beat Indiana out of conference. This could be the league with the best overall home court advantage in college basketball.

Sun Belt
Arkansas St. 8-2/17-6
Georgia St. 8-2/15-7
Georgia Southern 8-2/15-8
UT-Arlington 7-3/17-6
Texas St. 6-4/13-9
Coastal Carolina 6-4/11-12

Georgia State and Arkansas State have long winning streaks (7 & 6 respectively), but the two teams are only slight favorites to make it to the final round of the SBC Tournament. The SBC Tournament will take place in New Orleans, and it will be a truly neutral site. UTA has the big non-conference win, as the Mavericks’ 14-point win at St. Mary’s might look really good if the Gaels beat Gonzaga in Moraga this weekend.

Western Athletic
New Mexico St. 8-0/22-2
Cal State Bakersfield 6-1/15-7
Grand Canyon 4-3/15-9 is ineligible as a transitioning team to D1.

Just how good is New Mexico State? The Aggies have very little competition in the WAC this year, and NMSU could easily run the table to the Big Dance. At 30-2, their resume would have very little to elevate the Aggies up to a single-digit seed. They did trounce Arizona State in Tempe, but that is not a big deal this year. The Aggies will get a shot in the arm soon when guard Sidy N’Dir returns to action following a ligament tear early this year. If N’Dir can return close to form, NMSU could be a dangerous dark horse against an unsuspecting higher seed.

ONE OR TWO BID LEAGUE
Missouri Valley
The Missouri Valley Conference comes in as a split decision this week among our gurus. Of the 12 participating contributors, six had the MVC as a one-bid league, while six had two teams making the Dance.

Wichita St. 11-1/21-4
Illinois St. 11-1/19-5

If you looked at the scoreboard late Saturday night or Sunday, and you saw the score of the rematch between Wichita State and Illinois State, you might be thinking we are crazy that ISU is still in the discussion. If you didn’t see the result, Wichita embarrassed the Redbirds to the tune of a 86-45 pasting. The Shockers opened an early second half 30-point lead and then extended it to 40 with 2:41 remaining in the game.

So how can Illinois State still be in the discussion? First of all, margin of victory does not count, which is why you will see that Clemson is still a Bubble team after losing by even more to Florida State yesterday. Second, ISU is still tied for first in a league that has had a recent Final Four participant and undefeated number one team entering the NCAA Tournament. And, should the two teams keep winning and meet for a rubber match in the finals of Arch Madness, the loser of that game would definitely be in the mix. Finally, there just are not a lot of great middle of the pack teams in the major conferences this year. It is a lean year, so the MVC has a good chance at sending two teams to the Field of 68.

MULTIPLE BID LEAGUES
American Athletic
In
Cincinnati 10-0/21-2
SMU 10-1/20-4

Contending
Houston 7-4/16-7
Memphis 7-4/17-7

Atlantic 10
In
Dayton 8-2/17-5
VCU 8-2/18-5

Contending
Richmond 8-3/14-9
Rhode Island 7-3/15-7

Atlantic Coast
In
North Carolina 9-2/21-4
Florida St. 8-3/20-4
Louisville 7-3/19-4
Virginia 7-3/17-5
Syracuse 7-4/15-9
Duke 6-4/18-5
Notre Dame 6-5/17-7
Virginia Tech 5-5/16-6
Miami 5-5/15-7
Clemson 3-7/13-9

Contending
Wake Forest 5-6/14-9
Georgia Tech 5-6/13-10
North Carolina St. 3-8/14-10

Big 12
In
Kansas 8-2/20-3
Baylor 7-3/20-3
West Virginia 6-4/18-5
Iowa St. 6-4/14-8
TCU 5-5/16-7
Kansas St. 5-5/16-7
Oklahoma St. 4-6/15-8

Contending
Texas Tech 4-6/16-7

Big East
In
Villanova 9-2/22-2
Xavier 7-3/17-6
Creighton 7-4/20-4
Butler 7-4/18-5
Marquette 6-5/15-8

Contending
Seton Hall 4-6/14-8
Georgetown 4-7/13-11

Big Ten
In
Wisconsin 9-1/20-3
Maryland 8-2/20-3
Purdue 8-3/19-5
Northwestern 7-3/18-5
Michigan St. 6-4/14-9
Minnesota 4-6/16-7
Indiana 5-6/15-9

Contending
Michigan 4-6/14-9
Illinois 3-8/13-11

Pacific 12
In
Oregon 10-1/21-3
Arizona 10-1/21-3
UCLA 8-3/21-3
USC 7-4/20-4
California 8-3/17-6

Contending
Utah 6-5/16-8

Southeastern
In
South Carolina 9-1/19-4
Florida 8-2/18-5
Kentucky 8-2/18-5
Arkansas 6-4/17-6

Contending
Alabama 6-4/13-9
Tennessee 5-5/13-10
Auburn 4-6/15-8
Georgia 4-6/13-10

Here is the consensus field of 68 from our Gurus

Seed Team Conf.
1 Villanova B E
1 Gonzaga WCC
1 Kansas B12
1 Baylor B12
2 Louisville ACC
2 North Carolina ACC
2 Florida St. ACC
2 Oregon P12
3 Arizona P12
3 Kentucky SEC
3 Virginia ACC
3 West Virginia B12
4 UCLA P12
4 Wisconsin BTen
4 Cincinnati AAC
4 Florida SEC
5 Butler B E
5 Creighton B E
5 Duke ACC
5 Purdue BTen
6 Maryland BTen
6 South Carolina SEC
6 St. Mary’s WCC
6 Xavier B E
7 Notre Dame ACC
7 Northwestern BTen
7 SMU AAC
7 USC P12
8 Virginia Tech ACC
8 Iowa St. B12
8 Dayton A10
8 Minnesota BTen
9 VCU A10
9 Michigan St. BTen
9 Oklahoma St. B12
9 Marquette B E
10 Kansas St. B12
10 Middle Tennessee CUSA
10 TCU B12
10 Indiana BTen
11 Clemson ACC
11 Wichita St. MVC
11 Miami ACC
11 UNC-Wilmington CAA
12 Arkansas SEC
12 New Mexico St. WAC
12 California P12
12 Nevada MWC
12 Akron MAC
12 Vermont AEast
13 Monmouth MAAC
13 Valparaiso Horiz
13 Illinois St. MVC
13 Syracuse ACC
14 Belmont OVC
14 Princeton Ivy
14 Florida Gulf Coast ASun
14 Arkansas St. SBC
15 Bucknell Pat
15 East Tennessee St. Sou
15 Winthrop BSth
15 North Dakota St. Summ
16 Texas Southern SWAC
16 Sam Houston St. SLC
16 Weber St. BSky
16 UC-Davis BWst
16 UNC-Central MEAC
16 Mount St. Mary’s NEC

The Last 8 In

TCU

Indiana

Clemson

Miami

Arkansas

California

Illinois St.

Syracuse

 

First Four Out

Seton Hall

Michigan

Wake Forest 

Texas Tech

 

Dayton Bound

Arkansas vs. Miami

California vs. Clemson

Weber St. vs. Mount St. Mary’s

UNC-Central vs. UC-Davis

August 23, 2016

2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Preview

Just five seasons ago, the old Big East Conference could make an arguable case that their league was more powerful than the Atlantic Coast Conference. No ACC Team made the final top 20 in the AP Poll that year. Conference champion Clemson fell to Big East Champion West Virginia 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.

There was talk among some that the Big East should be the fifth power conference, as the ACC had not enjoyed a powerful team that competed for a national champion for the past 11 seasons.

It started with Clemson and Florida State becoming strong once again, but it did not end there. North Carolina and Georgia Tech challenged for top 10 finishes. Louisville and Pittsburgh joined the league bringing quality football. Duke, long the doormat, enjoyed a resurgence not seen in Durham for more than 50 years.

Now, the ACC begins the season as the PiRate Ratings’ number two conference. The difference between number two and number five is small, but it is a first for this league. With quality teams from top to near bottom, this league should produce several quality bowl-eligible teams this year, and if the ball bounces right for one team, which could be any of four or five in this league, it would not be surprising to see another Playoff representative, making it three for three.

In the past three seasons, Florida State won the national title, then the Seminoles lost to Oregon in the semifinals of the NCAA Playoffs, and last year, Clemson handily defeated Oklahoma before falling in a great final to Alabama. Tallying 40 points and more than 500 yards against Alabama is a rarity about as frequently seen as Sir Edmund Halley’s Comet.

2016 looks to be another big season for this league. Three teams in the Atlantic Division have the talent to run the table and earn a playoff spot, but because there are three, more than likely, they will beat each other with Clemson playing at Florida State, Florida State playing at Louisville, and Louisville playing at Clemson.

Boston College and North Carolina State have better talent this season than last, but it will be hard for either team to steal a victory over the big three. The Eagles must play the Wolfpack in Raleigh on Homecoming, so NCSU has a leg up for the four-spot.

Syracuse begins anew with famed offensive wizard Dino Babers coming to the Carrier Dome from Bowling Green. He inherits a squad not ready to speed up the game and average more than 80 scrimmage plays per game. The Orangemen averaged 20 fewer plays per game than that last year, and the talent is not there for Syracuse to spread the field and run and throw like Baylor.

Wake Forest may be a touchdown better team this year than they were last year, and third-year head coach, and predeccesor to Babers at Bowling Green, Dave Clawson should see his Demon Deacons compete for bowl eligibility. We think the Deacs will come up a game or two short, but opponents will not consider playing WF as a breather game. Florida State and Louisville almost fell last year, and we believe some higher-rated team will go down in 2016. There are six or seven winnable games, so Clawson’s crew could get a 13th game in December.

The Coastal Division could be a four or five-team race this year. Pittsburgh begins the season as the highest ranked team in the division, but the Panthers’ schedule is unfavorable, and depth issues could become a concern quite early. Pitt hosts Penn State in week two and then plays at Oklahoma State and North Carolina on the road the following two weeks. Then, beggining October 27, the Panthers host Virginia Tech and play back-to-back road games against Miami and Clemson. We believe that the highest rated Coastal team could actually end up in fourth place in the standings.

The three teams that could finish ahead of Pitt are North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Miami. Of the trio, Miami has the most favorable schedule for tiebreaking purposes. We expect the Tar Heels, Hokies, and Hurricanes to possibly finish in a three-way tie for first, as none of the top four teams are solid enough to run the table.

Georgia Tech and Duke are headed in opposite directions this year from last year, but not by a lot. The Yellow Jackets are a dark horse team this year after finishing 3-9 last year while losing pretty. Close losses to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Georgia made the Yellow Jackets a 9-3 team with just a tad more talent and fewer turnovers. With an experienced quarterback returning to run the spread option offense, and with power and speed in the skill positions, look for the Techsters to engineer a much better offense this season, adding 5-7 points per game to their average. A potentially porous defense may be the only thing keeping Coach Paul Johnson’s team from competing for the division flag, something Tech won just two seasons ago.

Coach David Cutcliffe deserves a lot of credit for guiding Duke to four consecutive bowl games and three consecutive winning seasons. The last time the Blue Devils finished with three consecutive winning seasons was 1961-62-63. This year, the Blue Devils have a lot of talent to replace on both sides of the ball, but there is still enough talent to contend for a fifth consecutive bowl eligible season. At this point, we think they will come up a bit short.

Virginia begins a new philosophy with first year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. The former BYU head coach brings a history of winning with whatever talent he has available. Mendenhall has won with a predominant passing game and with a three yards and cloud of dust running team. Mendenhall is a defensive coach by trade, so he brought along former East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeal to run the Cavaliers’ offense. Look for UVa to be more exciting this year, but the record may be about the same.

Here is how the ACC Media selected the order of finish for this season.

# Atlantic Division 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Clemson 148 1,293 144
2 Florida St. 42 1,176 39
3 Louisville 1 961 1
4 North Carolina St. 0 704  
5 Boston College 0 441  
6 Syracuse 0 426  
7 Wake Forest 0 347  
         
# Coastal Division 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 North Carolina 121 1,238 7
2 Miami (Fla) 50 1,108  
3 Pittsburgh 14 859  
4 Virginia Tech 3 697  
5 Duke 2 597  
6 Georgia Tech 1 588  
7 Virginia 0 261  

Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the ACC

Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Clemson 126.8 116.4 125.7 123.0
Florida St. 122.9 115.4 121.9 120.1
Louisville 118.6 111.8 118.0 116.1
North Carolina St. 108.0 104.7 107.6 106.8
Boston College 105.1 103.6 104.9 104.5
Syracuse 105.2 101.0 103.1 103.1
Wake Forest 102.3 99.2 101.5 101.0
         
Coastal Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Pittsburgh 117.1 111.7 116.4 115.1
North Carolina 117.4 109.2 117.1 114.6
Miami 116.6 108.0 115.9 113.5
Virginia Tech 111.0 110.8 111.5 111.1
Georgia Tech 108.1 104.2 107.4 106.6
Virginia 104.4 101.2 103.8 103.1
Duke 99.4 100.7 98.0 99.4
         
ACC Averages 111.6 107.0 110.9 109.9

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.
Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Atlantic Coast Conference Projected Standings
Atlantic Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Florida St. 7-1 12-1 * NY6–Orange
Clemson 7-1 11-1 NY6–Cotton
Louisville 6-2 10-2 Russell Athletic
North Carolina St. 4-4 7-5 Military
Boston College 2-6 6-6 Quick Lane
Wake Forest 2-6 5-7  
Syracuse 1-7 3-9  
       
Coastal Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Miami (Fla) 6-2 9-4 Belk
North Carolina 6-2 10-2 Taxslayer
Virginia Tech 6-2 8-4 Pinstripe
Pittsburgh 5-3 8-4 Sun
Georgia Tech 3-5 6-6 Independence
Duke 2-6 4-8  
Virginia 0-8 3-9  

Coming Tomorrow–It has been said that there are three equally tough conferences in American Football–the AFC, the NFC, and the SEC.  Once again, the Southeastern Conference begins the year as the clear-cut best league in college football, and three teams have legitimate National Championship aspirations.

 

Also Coming Tomorrow–Our updated ratings and selections for week one of the college football season–all one game.  California and Hawaii kick off the college season Friday night in Australia (Saturday Australia Time).  Then, one week from Thursday, the season begins in earnest.

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