The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 2, 2012

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments–1st Update

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:16 am

Conference Tournament action has begun in several conferences with more set to tip off this weekend.  Here is a look at tournament action to date with the dates and matchups for their next round.


America East

Preliminary Round

#9Binghamton73  #8 Md.-Balt.Co.67


Quarterfinals (Saturday)

#1 Stony Brook (20-8) vs. # 9Binghamton(2-28)

#4Albany(18-13) vs. #5New Hampshire(13-15)

#2Vermont(20-11) vs. #7Maine(12-16)

#3BostonU (16-15) vs. #6Hartford(8-21)


Atlantic Sun


#1Belmont76  #8Jacksonville62

#4 East Tennessee 68  #5N. Florida66

#2 Mercer 61  #7 Lipscomb 53

#6FloridaGulfCoast71  #3S. CarolinaUpstate 61


Semifinals (Friday)

#1Belmont(25-7) vs. #4East Tennessee(17-13)

#2 Mercer (22-10) vs. #6FloridaGulfCoast(14-16)


Big South

Preliminary Round

#8High Point68  #9 Gardner-Webb 58

#7 VMI 55  #10 Radford 53



#1 UNC-Asheville 86  #8High Point61

#4CharlestonSou. 88 #5Liberty74

#6Winthrop71  #3Campbell55

#7 VMI 85  #2 CoastalCarolina68



#1 UNC-Asheville 91  #4CharlestonSou. 64

#7 VMI 75  #6Winthrop55


Championship Game (Saturday @ Noon EST)

#1 UNC-Asheville (23-9) vs. #7 VMI (17-15)


Horizon League

Opening Round

#4Milwaukee68  #9 Illinois-Chi. 55

#5Butler70  #8 WrightSt.52

#3Detroit80  #10 Loyola (Chi) 71

#6Youngstown77  #7Green Bay60


Quarterfinals (Friday)

#4Milwaukee(20-12) vs. #5Butler(19-13)

#3Detroit(19-13) vs.#6 Youngstown St.(16-14)



Preliminary Round (Friday)

#8 Marist (13-17) vs. #9St.Peter’s (5-25)

#7Niagara(13-18) vs. #10 Canisius (5-24)


Missouri Valley

Opening Round

#8 Indiana St.66  #9Southern Illinois51

#7 Drake 65  #10 Bradley 49


Quarterfinals (Friday)

#1 Wichita St.(26-4) vs.#8 Indiana St.(18-13)

#4 Illinois St.(18-12) vs. #5Northern Iowa(19-12)

#2 Creighton (25-5) vs. #7 Drake (17-14)

#3Evansville(15-14) vs.#6 Missouri St.(15-15)




#1Long Island80  #8 Sacred Heart 68

#5 Quinnipiac 80  #4St.Francis (NY) 72

#3 Robert Morris 87  #6 Monmouth 68

#2 Wagner 87  #7 CentralConn.St.77


Semifinals (Sunday)

#1Long Island(23-8) vs. #5 Quinnipiac (18-12)

#2 Wagner (25-5) vs. #3 Robert Morris (23-9)


Ohio Valley

Opening Round

#5 Southeast Missouri 75  #8E. Kentucky65

#7 Jacksonville St.75  #6AustinPeay 70



#4TennesseeTech 77 #5Southeast Missouri73

#3 Morehead St.68  #7 Jacksonville St.54


Semifinals (Friday)

Note: This tournament could be delayed due to severe weather threat in Nashville)


#1 Murray St.(28-1) vs. #4TennesseeTech (19-12)

#2 Tennessee St.(19-11) vs.#3 Morehead St.(18-14)


Patriot League


#1 Bucknell 87  #8 Navy 63

#5Lafayette84  #4 Holy Cross 76

#2 Lehigh 70 #7 Colgate 57

#3 American 57  #6 Army 40


Semifinals (Saturday)

#1 Bucknell (23-8) vs. #5Lafayette(13-17)

#2 Lehigh (24-7) vs. #3 American (20-10)


West Coast

Opening Round

#8Portland74 #9Santa Clara70


2nd Round

#5San Francisco87  #8Portland66

#6San Diego76  #7 Pepperdine 54


Quarterfinals (Friday)

#4 Loyola Marymount (19-11) vs. #5San Francisco(19-12)

#3 B Y U (24-7) vs. #6San Diego(13-17)



Mid-Major Teams in Top 65 of RPI (On the Bubble)


Sure Things



16 SouthernMississippi

17 U N L V



High Chances

20 Colorado St.

24 Gonzaga

25 Creighton

26 San Diego St.

29St. Louis


Good Chances

31 Murray St.

33New Mexico

36 Long Beach St.

37 Saint Mary’s

38 Harvard


Need To Do Some Work

43 Oral Roberts


47 tie  Middle Tennessee

47 tie Nevada

52 B Y U


Need A Miracle


55 Xavier

58 South Dakota St.


Probably Need To Earn Automatic Bid


62Northern Iowa

63 tie  Drexel

63 tie Belmont

65 CentralFlorida


Major Conference At-large Candidates



Sure Things

North Carolina




Need To Do Some Work



North Carolina St.


Need A Miracle



Big East

Sure Things





Notre Dame


Need To Do Some Work


Seton Hall

West Virginia


South Florida


Big Ten

Sure Things







Need To Do Some Work



Need A Miracle



Big 12

Sure Things







Need To Do Some Work




Sure Things



Need To Do Some Work





Need A Miracle



Next Update: Sunday, March 4

February 26, 2012

NCAA Basketball Conference Tournaments Guide

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , — piratings @ 7:09 pm

Selection Sunday is just two weeks away, and it is time to start looking at the conference tournaments.  It can be hard to find one source with all the details on the conference tournaments, so we here at the Pi-Rate Ratings have compiled all the particulars for you.


Conference tournament action kicks off Monday night with the Big South Tournament’s opening round.  It concludes on March 11, Selection Sunday.


Here is a breakdown of each conference plus a list of which teams are in the running to receive at-large bids should they fail to win the automatic bid.


The Selection Committee will be looking at RPI, Strength of Schedule, and results against the top 50 and top 100 RPI-rated teams.  How a team performed in its last 10 games is no longer part of the equation, but how a team performed on the road all season is a factor.


America East

Date: March 1-4, 10

Location: Hartford, CT (Championship at Higher Seed)

Teams in Tournament: 9

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Semifinals on ESPN3, Championship on ESPN2, All others online free at


Stony Brook (14-2/20-8) secured the number one seed with a win over Maine Sunday.  Vermont (13-3/20-11) is the number two seed.  These two teams are in a class by themselves in the A-East.


Boston U. (12-4/16-15) is the number three seed, while Albany (9-7/18-13) is the number four seed. 


Any of these four teams can win the conference tournament, and only the champion will earn a bid to the Big Dance.


Atlantic 10

Date: March 6, 9-11

Location: Atlantic City, NJ (opening round at higher seed)

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 2 or 3

TV: Quarterfinals on CBS College Regional; Semifinals on CBS College Network; Championship on CBS


Temple (11-3/22-6) is a lock to make the Big Dance.  St. Louis 10-4/22-6) is on the high bubble.  If another team wins the conference tournament, the A-10 could send three members to the NCAA Tournament.


Xavier (9-5/18-10) and St. Joe’s (9-6/19-11) are off the bubble, but those two along with Dayton (8-6/18-10), St. Bonaventure (9-5/16-10), UMass (8-6/19-9), and LaSalle (7-7/18-11), are talented enough to get hot in a couple of weeks and win the automatic bid.


Atlantic Coast

Date: March 8-11

Location: Atlanta

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 4 to 6

TV: Opening Round on ESPN-U; Quarterfinals on ESPN2; Semifinals & Finals on ESPN


Duke (12-2/25-4), North Carolina (12-2/25-4), and Florida State (10-4/19-9) are locks to make the field of 68.  Virginia (8-6/21-7) is firmly on the bubble.  Miami (8-6/17-10) and North Carolina State (7-7/18-11) are on the bubble and need some key wins to make the tournament as at-large teams.


Atlantic Sun

Date: February 29 to March 3

Location: Macon, GA

Teams in Tournament: 8 (9th & 10th place teams left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Quarterfinals on ESPN3; Semifinals on A-Sun TV & Comcast Sports South; Championship on ESPN2


The bracket for this tournament is set.  The opening round is Wednesday.


Atlantic Sun Tournament Bracket @ Macon, GA (Mercer)




All Times EST




1-Belmont (16-2/24-7) vs. 8-Jacksonville (6-12/8-21)  Wed. F.29 2:30 PM


4-East Tennessee (10-8/16-13) vs. 5-North Florida (10-8/16-13)  Thu. M.1 2:30 PM


3-USC-Upstate (13-5/20-11) vs. 6-Florida Gulf Coast (8-10/13-16) Thu M.1 8:30 PM


2-Mercer (13-5/21-10) vs. 7-Lipscomb (8-10/13-17) Wed. F. 29 8:30 PM




Semifinals—Friday, March 2


Belmont-Jacksonville winner vs. East Tennessee-North Florida winner 6:00 PM


USC-Upstate-Florida Gulf Coast winner vs. Mercer-Lipscomb winner 8:30 PM




Championship—Saturday, March 3  7:00 PM


Belmont swept Mercer, but can the Bruins beat the Bears on their home court twice in one week?  This tournament produces many upsets, but usually one of the top two seeds wins the championship.


Big 12

Date: March 7-10

Location: Kansas City

Teams in Tournament: 10

Estimated Dance Tickets: 3-6

TV: Opening Round on Big 12 Network; Quarterfinals half on ESPN2 & half on Big 12 Network; Semifinals on Big 12 Network & ESPN-U; Championship on ESPN


The barbecue sales will soar as fans of the 10 teams hit KC and head over to Gates and Bryant Barbecue up in the Brooklyn area where the old Kansas City Municipal Stadium once stood.


Kansas (14-2/24-5), Missouri (12-4/25-4), and Baylor (11-5/24-5) have already secured at-large bids.  Iowa State (11-5/21-8) has been one of the nation’s top surprises, and first year coach and Cyclone alum Fred Hoiberg could earn National Coach of the Year honors.  ISU is on the bubble.  Kansas State (8-8/19-9) moved from questionable status to central bubble status with two big wins this week.  Texas (8-8/18-11) has work to do.


Big East

Date: March 6-10

Location: New York City

Teams in Tournament: 16

Estimated Dance Tickets: 6-9

TV: Opening Round half on ESPN2 & half on ESPN-U; All other games on ESPN


Ah, New York!  What better place to view five days of excellent basketball while munching on the best deli delicacies in the world?  Watch out for those onion rolls and knishes; there are more calories in a couple of those than a steak!


Syracuse (16-1/29-1) will be a number one seed.  Marquette (13-3/24-5) won’t be too far behind in the seeding.  Notre Dame (12-4/20-9), Georgetown (11-5/21-6) and Louisville (10-6/22-7) are locks to get bids.  Things get murky after these five.


South Florida (11-5/18-11) is on the higher end of the bubble, while Cincinnati (10-5/20-8) is on the bottom of the bubble with an RPI in the low 70’s. Their resume is 50-50.


West Virginia (7-9/17-12) and Connecticut (7-9/17-11) are below .500 in the league, but both are squarely on the bubble with higher RPIs than Cinti.


South Florida (10-5/17-11) and Seton Hall (8-9/19-10) have stayed under the radar for most of the year, but both teams are on the bubble.  The five days at Madison Square Garden should allow one to three or four of these non-lock teams to work their way into at-large status.  Of course, if one of these, or even a bottom eight team could win five games in five days like UConn did last year.


The bracket for the Big East is unique.  On the opening day, seeds 9 through 16 play, eliminating four to lower the remaining teams to 12.  On the second day, seeds 5 through 8 join the four winners from day one to lower the remaining teams to eight.  The top four seeds do not play until the quarterfinals on the third day.


Big Sky

Date: March 3, 6-7

Location: 1st Round at Higher Seeds; Semis and Championship at Regular Season Champion (Weber State or Montana)

Teams in Tournament: 6 (7, 8, and 9 left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Semifinals on Altitude Network; Championship on ESPN2


In this conference tournament, the number six seed plays at the number three seed, and the number five seed plays at the number four seed.  The top two seeds receive byes to the semifinals.


In the semis, the number one seed hosts the lower-seeded first round winner, while the number two seed plays the higher-seeded first round winner on the number one seed’s floor.


Weber State (14-1/23-4) and Montana (14-1/22-6) have both won 17 of their last 18 games.  The Wildcats and Grizzlies hook up Tuesday night at Montana for the regular season championship.  The winner will host the semis and finals of the conference tournament.  Earlier this year, Weber State trounced the Grizzlies 80-64, but Montana outscores conference opponents by 18.6 points per game at Dahlberg Arena.


Weber State could move into the bubble talk.  If the Bulldogs win Tuesday and lose to Montana in the finals of the conference tournament, they might have a really slim chance at sneaking in as one of the last four in.


Big South

Date: February 27, 29, March 1, 3

Location: 1st round and championship at higher seeds; quarterfinals and semifinals at regular season champion

Teams in Tournament: 10 (#11 left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Opening and quarterfinal rounds on Big South Network, Semifinals on ESPN-U, Championship on ESPN2


The bracket for this tournament is set.  The opening round is tomorrow.



Big South Tournament Bracket


All Times EST




Opening Round—Monday, February 27


10-Radford (2-16/6-25) at 7- VMI (8-10/14-15)  7:00 PM


9-Gardner-Webb (6-12/12-19) at 8-High Point (8-10/12-17) 7:30 PM




Quarterfinals—February 29 at UNC-Asheville


2-Coastal Carolina (12-6/19-10) vs. VMI/Radford Winner  12:00 Noon


3-Campbell (11-7/17-14) vs. 6-Winthrop (8-10/11-19)  2:00 PM


1-UNC-Asheville (16-2/21-9) vs. Gardner-Webb/High Point Winner  6:00 PM


4-Charleston Southern (11-7/18-11) vs. 5-Liberty (9-9/14-17)  8:00 PM




Semifinals—March 1


Coastal Carolina/VMI/Radford Winner vs. Campbell/Winthrop Winner  6:00 PM


UNC-Asheville/Gardner-Webb/High Point Winner vs. Charleston Southern/Liberty Winner 8:00 PM




Championship— March 3  12 Noon


UNC-Asheville is at #124 in the RPI, and there is no way the Bulldogs can creep onto the bubble.  The champion of this tournament will be a #15 or #16 seed in the Big Dance.


Big Ten

Date: March 8-11

Location: Indianapolis

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 5-8

TV: Opening Round half on Big Ten Network & half on ESPN2; Quarterfinals half on Big Ten Network & half on ESPN; Semifinals and Finals on CBS


The Big Ten is the top power conference this year, but there are only five sure at-large teams as of today.  Michigan State (13-3/24-5), Ohio State (11-5/23-6), Michigan (11-5/21-8), Indiana (9-7/22-7), and Wisconsin (10-6/21-8) are definitely in the Dance.


Purdue (9-7/19-10) is on the high end of the bubble; one more win should be enough.  Northwestern (7-9/17-11) is on the lower middle of the bubble (the Wildcats have never been in the NCAA Tournament).  An upset at home over Ohio State on Wednesday could be enough, but the Wildcats need to advance past the first round in Indianapolis to have a shot. 


Illinois (6-10/17-12) and Minnesota (5-11/17-12) are off the bubble and need to still be playing on Selection Sunday to have any chance to make the field.  Bruce Weber’s job status in Champaign-Urbana is in serious jeopardy.


Big West

Date: March 8-10

Location: Anaheim, CA

Teams in Tournament: 8 (9th team left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Semifinals on ESPN-U; Championship on ESPN2


Note: Tournament will re-seed after the opening round, just like the NFL Playoffs.


Long Beach State (14-0/21-7) wrapped up the regular season title many days ago.  The 49ers are a definite bubble team with an RPI of #34.


Cal State Fullerton (10-4/19-8) will have a shot to upset the 49ers at home to close out the regular season.  It may be better for the Titans to lose a close game and gain the confidence to win in the tournament a week later than to upset LBSU and face their wrath for all the marbles.


UC-Santa Barbara (10-4/16-9) is the third quality team in the league.  The Gauchos did not compete with the 49ers in their two losses.


Colonial Athletic

Date: March 2-5

Location: Richmond, VA

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Quarterfinals & Semifinals on CAA-TV & Comcast Sports regional networks.  Championship on ESPN or ESPN2


The bracket for this tournament is set.  The opening round commences on Friday, March 2.


Colonial Athletic Association Tournament–Richmond, VA


All Times EST




Opening Round—March 2


8-James Madison(5-13/12-19) vs. 9-UNC-Wilmington (5-13/9-20)  12:00 Noon


5-Delaware (12-6/17-12) vs. 12-Towson (1-17/1-30)  2:30 PM


7-Northeastern (9-9/13-16) vs. 10-William & Mary (4-14/6-25)  6:00 PM


6-Georgia State (11-7/20-10) vs. 11-Hofstra (3-15/10-21)  8:30 PM




Quarterfinals—March 3


1-Drexel (16-2/25-5) vs. James Madison/UNC-Wilmington 12:00 Noon


4-Old Dominion (13-5/19-12) vs. Delaware/Towson Winner 2:30 PM


2-Va. Commonwealth (15-3/25-6) vs. Northeastern/William & Mary Winner 6:00 PM


3-George Mason (14-4/23-8) vs. Georgia State/Hofstra Winner 8:30 PM




Semifinals—March 4


Drexel/JMU/UNCW Winner vs. Old Dominion/Delaware/Towson Winner 2:00 PM


VCU/Northeastern/Wm. & Mary Winner 4:30 PM



Championship—March 5  7:00 PM 

The CAA may get a second bid as long as Virginia Commonwealth is in the mix.  The Rams will get the benefit of the doubt coming off a Final Four trip in 2011 and following it up with an even better team this year.


Drexel is a few spots behind VCU in the RPI, but the Dragons are the better team this year.  Bruiser Flint’s team proved just how strong they were with the blowout win over Cleveland State in the Bracket Buster.  The Dragons have won 17 games in a row and 23 out of 24!


George Mason and Old Dominion can compete for the tournament championship, while the rest of the league figures to be cannon fodder for the top four.


Conference USA

Date: March 7-10

Location: Memphis

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 2 or 3

TV: Quarterfinals & Semifinals on CBS Sports Network; Championship on CBS


Memphis (11-3/21-8) and Southern Mississippi (10-4/23-6) appear to be safe at-large teams, which means if someone other than the Tigers or Golden Eagles wins the conference tournament, three teams would receive bids.


Tulsa (10-4/17-11) always seems to be so close yet so far at Dance time.  The Golden Hurricane have yet to play Memphis, and they lost in overtime at Southern Miss.


Central Florida (9-5/20-8) owns victories over both Southern Miss and Memphis.  Marshall (8-6/17-11) has the talent to win the tournament, but the Thundering Herd has not reached their potential.


Horizon League

Date: February 28-29, March 2-3, 6

Location: 1st round & Championship at higher seeds, Quarterfinals & Semifinals at regular season champion (Valparaiso)

Teams in Tournament: 10

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Opening Round & Quarterfinals free online at; Semifinals on ESPN-U; Championship on ESPN


The bracket for this tournament has been set.  Opening round action begins Tuesday.


Horizon League Tournament


All Times EST




Opening Round—February 28


Game 1: 10-Loyola (Chi) (1-17/7-22) at 3-Detroit (11-7/18-13)  7:00 PM


Game 2: 7-Green Bay (10-8/15-14) at 6-Youngstown St.(10-8/15-14)  7:00 PM


Game 3: 9-Illinois-Chicago (3-15/8-21) at 4-Milwaukee (11-7/19-12) 8:00 PM


Game 4: 8-Wright State (7-11/13-18) at 5-Butler (11-7/18-13) 7:00 PM




Quarterfinals—March 2


Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner  8:30 PM




Semifinals—March 3


Game 7: 2-Cleveland State (12-6/22-9) vs. Game 5 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 8: 1-Valparaiso (14-4/21-10) vs. Game 6 Winner  8:30 PM




Championship—March 6 @ Higher Seed  9:00 PM


Cleveland State was once a near sure bet to qualify for at-large status, but the Vikings fell apart after a wonderful start.  CSU still has an outside chance to make it in as one of the last four in if the Vikings lose to Valpo in the Championship Game.


Butler appears to be a very long shot this year.  The Bulldogs will have to win twice just to get to the semifinal round to face Valpo.



Date: March 2-5

Location: Springfield, MA

Teams in Tournament: 10

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Quarterfinals & Semifinals on ESPN3; Championship on ESPN2


Iona (15-3/24-6) is number 37 in the current RPI, so the Gaels stand a good chance of getting an at-large bid if they lose in the conference tournament championship.


Loyola (MD) (13-5/21-8), Manhattan (12-6/20-11), and Fairfield (12-5/17-12) would make for quite an interesting semifinal round if the trio could join Iona.



Date: March 5, 7-10

Location: Opening Round at higher seeds, all others at Cleveland

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: 2nd Round, Quarterfinals, and Semifinals on Sports Time Ohio; Championship on ESPN2


The top five MAC teams reside in the East Division.  Akron (12-2/20-9) was the only team with a chance to earn an at-large bid prior to their slaughter to Ohio U Sunday.  The Zips were number 59 in the RPI, but that ranking will fall.


Buffalo (10-4/17-9), Ohio (10-4/23-6), Kent State (9-5/19-9), and Bowling Green (8-6/15-13) are the other four quality East Division teams.  It will be an interesting tournament. 



Date: March 6-10

Location: Winston-Salem, NC

Teams in Tournament: 13

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Championship on ESPN2


The MEAC has two teams capable of pulling off an opening round win.  Savannah State (12-2/19-10) is riding an 11-game winning streak.  The Tigers have outscored their opponents 70.8 to 52.5 in this run.


Norfolk State (11-3/20-9) penned one of the two losses on Savannah State.  The Spartans went 9-6 outside the MEAC, including wins over Drexel and Long Island and a two-point loss to Marquette.


The bracket is formatted to give the top two seeds a much easier path to the title game.  Seeds 8-9, 4-13, 5-12, 7-10, and 6-11 play on March 6.  The number one seed then plays the winner of 8-9, and the number two seed plays the winner of 7-10 on March 7.  The number three seed plays the winner of 6-11 on March 8, giving 6 or 11 an extra day’s rest.  The 4-13 winner plays the 5-12 winner on March 8 as well.


The semifinals take place on March 9, giving the top two seeds an extra day of rest.


Missouri Valley

Date: March 1-4

Location: St. Louis (Arch Madness)

Teams in Tournament: 10

Estimated Dance Tickets: 2 or 3

TV: Championship Game on CBS; all others on MVC TV Network


The bracket for this tournament is set.  Opening round play begins Thursday.



Missouri Valley Conference Tournament—St. Louis


All Times CST




Opening Round—March 1


Game 1: 8-Indiana State (8-10/17-13) vs. 9-Southern Illinois (5-13/8-22)  6:00 PM


Game 2: 7-Drake (9-9/16-14) vs. 10-Bradley (2-16/7-24)  8:30 PM




Quarterfinals—March 2


Game 3: 1-Wichita State (16-2/26-4) vs. Game 1 Winner 12 Noon


Game 4: 4-Illinois State (9-9/18-12) vs. 5-Northern Iowa (9-9/19-12) 2:30 PM


Game 5: 2-Creighton (14-4/25-5) vs. Game 2 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 6: 3-Evansville (9-9/15-14) vs. 6-Missouri State (9-9/16-15)  8:30 PM




Semifinals—March 3


Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner 1:30 PM


Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner 4:00 PM




Championship—March 4  1:00 PM




This tournament is definitely one to watch.  Wichita State has Final Four potential; the shockers are every bit as strong as the last two Butler teams.


Creighton has the big star in Doug McDermott, who averages better than 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting almost 61% from the field, better than 80% at the charity stripe, and 48% from behind the arc.


Mountain West

Date: March 8-10

Location: Las Vegas

Teams in Tournament: 8

Estimated Dance Tickets: 3 or 4

TV: Quarterfinals on The Mountain Network; Semifinals on CBS Sports Network; Championship on NBC Sports Network


This will be one of the best conference tournaments and not because it is in Vegas.  Three teams, UNLV (8-4/24-6), New Mexico (8-4/22-6), and San Diego State (8-4/22-6) have Dance tickets coming.  TCU (7-5/17-11), Colorado State (6-6/17-10), and Wyoming (5-7/19-9) all have the talent to win the tournament. 


Colorado State is actually number 24 in the RPI, but if the season ended today, we believe the Rams would be the highest-rated RPI team left out.



Date: March 1, 4-7

Location: All games at higher seed

Teams in Tournament: 8 (teams 9 through 12 left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Semifinals on MSG Network and Fox College Sports; Championship on ESPN2


The Bracket for this Tournament is set.  Quarterfinal action begins Thursday.  After quarterfinals, the bracket is re-seeded so that the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed.


Thursday, March 1

#8 Sacred Heart (8-10/14-17) at #1 Long Island (16-2/22-8) 7:00 pm EST
#7 Central Connecticut (10-8/13-15) at #2 Wagner (15-3/24-5) 7:00 pm EST
#6 Monmouth (10-8/12-19) at #3 Robert Morris (13-5/22-9) 7:00 pm EST
#5 Quinnipiac (10-8/17-12) at #4 St. Francis (NY) (12-6/15-14) 7:00 pm EST

Sunday, March 4

Lowest Remaining Seed at Highest Remaining Seed, 12:00 or 6:00 pm EST (TBD by Television)

3rd Highest Remaining Seed at 2nd Highest Remaining Seed, 12:00 or 6:00 pm EST (TBD by Television)

Wednesday, March 7  7:00 pm EST on ESPN2


This conference turned topsy-turvy on the final day of the regular season.  LIU lost by 28 at Monmouth and Wagner lost by 17 at Central Connecticut.  Number three Robert Morris and Number four St. Francis also lost.


Things should return to normal, as the big two play at home where they are close to unbeatable.  Look for Wagner to head to Brooklyn to face Long Island in the title game, and it will be one you do not want to miss.


Ohio Valley

Date: February 29 to March 3

Location: Nashville

Teams in Tournament: 8

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Opening round and Quarterfinals on www.OVCSports.TV .  Semifinal games will both air on ESPN3 and one will also air on ESPN-U.  The Championship Game will air on ESPN2


The bracket for this tournament is set.  Opening round play begins Wednesday.



Ohio Valley Conference Tournament—Nashville


All Times CST




Opening Round—February 29


Game 1: 5-Southeast Missouri (9-7/14-15) vs. 8-Eastern Kentucky (7-9/16-15)  6:00 PM


Game 2: 6-Austin Peay (8-8/12-19) vs. 7-Jacksonville St.(8-8/14-17) 8:00 PM




Quarterfinals—March 1


Game 3: 4-Tennessee Tech (9-7/18-12) vs. Game 1 Winner 6:00 PM


Game 4: 3-Morehead State (10-6/17-14) vs. Game 2 Winner 8:00 PM




Semifinals—March 2


Game 5: 1-Murray State (15-1/28-1) vs. Game 3 Winner 6:00 PM


Game 6: 2-Tennessee State (11-5/19-11) vs. Game 4 Winner 8:00 PM



Championship—March 3  1:00 PM  


If the Racers take the OVC Tournament, Murray State should be the higher seed in an opening round NCAA Tournament game.  If they do not emerge as the tournament champion, they still should earn an at-large bid.


Tennessee State won at Murray, but the Racers won big in Nashville against the Tigers.  It will be a major upset for any team other than Murray State to win.



Date: March 7-10

Location: Los Angeles

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 2 or 3

TV: Championship on CBS; All others on Fox Sports


California (13-4/23-7) was number 35 in the RPI prior to losing to Colorado Sunday, but we believe the Selection Committee will take the Bears if they do not win the automatic bid.


Washington (13-3/20-8) may be the stronger team at this point in the season, but the Huskies are not guaranteed an at-large bid.  Their RPI rating is 52, and a couple of losses could drop them off the bubble.


Oregon (11-5/20-8) is just one behind UW in the RPI Ratings, but the Ducks will not earn an at-large bid unless they beat Colorado and Utah to close out the season and then advance at least to the semifinals in the tournament.


Arizona (12-5/21-9) is flying under the radar and not on the bubble.  The Wildcats have the talent to compete for the tournament championship.


Colorado (11-5/19-9) will be a force to be reckoned with in the conference tournament, but the Buffaloes look more like an NIT team again this year.


Patriot League

Date: February 29, March 3, March 7

Location: All Games at Higher Seed

Teams in Tournament: 8

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Semifinals and Championship on CBS Sports Network


The Bracket for this tournament is set.  The Quarterfinal round begins Wednesday.


Patriot League Tournament—Higher Seeds Host All Games


All Games EST




Quarterfinals—February 29


8-Navy (0-14/3-25) at 1-Bucknell (12-2/22-8) 7:00 PM


5-Lafayette (7-7/12-17) at 4-Holy Cross (9-5/15-13) 7:00 PM


7-Colgate (2-12/8-21) at 2-Lehigh (11-3/23-7) 7:00 PM


6-Army (5-9/12-17) at 3-American (10-4/19-10) 7:30 PM




Semifinals—March 3


Navy/Bucknell winner vs. Lafayette/Holy Cross winner 2:00 or 4:30 PM


Colgate/Lehigh winner vs. Army/American winner 2:00 or 4:30 PM



Championship—March 7  7:00 PM  

Bucknell has a relatively easy path to the Championship Game, where they would be the host team.  In the other half of the bracket, Lehigh and American split in the regular season, and a semifinal game at Lehigh would be exciting. 



Date: March 8-11

Location: New Orleans

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 4-6

TV: First Two Rounds on SEC Network, Semifinals and Finals on ABC


Kentucky (14-0/28-1) has already clinched the top seed, and the Blue Mist will descend on the French Quarter.  The SEC Tournament should be nothing more than a Big Dance tune-up for the Wildcats.


Florida (10-4/22-7) and Vanderbilt (9-5/20-9) have secured at-large bids, while Alabama (8-6/19-9) maybe needs one more win.  After that, there are five teams still in contention for an at-large bid.  Any of the quintet will need to win four more games to have any chance at an at-large bid.  They are: Tennessee (8-6/16-13), LSU (7-7/17-11), Mississippi State (6-8/17-10), Arkansas (6-8/18-11), and Ole Miss (6-8/16-12).



Date: March 2-5

Location: Asheville, NC

Teams in Tournament: 12

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: 1st Round on SoCon TV; Quarterfinals on ESPN3; Semifinals on SoCon TV & ESPN3; Championship on ESPN2


The Bracket for this tournament is set.  Opening round play begins Friday.



Southern Conference Tournament — Asheville, NC


All Times EST




Opening Round—March 2


Game 1: 4S-College of Charleston (10-8/19-11) vs. 5N-Appalachian State (7-11/12-17)  11:30 AM


Game 2: 3N-Western Carolina (8-10/14-17) vs. 6S-Citadel (3-15/6-23)  2:00 PM


Game 3: 4N-Samford (8-10/11-18) vs. 5S-Furman (8-10/14-15)  6:00 PM


Game 4: 3S-Georgia Southern (12-6/14-14) vs. 6N-Chattanooga (5-13/11-20)  8:30 PM




Quarterfinals—March 3


Game 5: 1N-UNC-Greensboro (10-8/12-18) vs. Game 1 Winner  12 Noon


Game 6: 2S-Wofford (12-6/19-12) vs. Game 2 Winner  2:30 PM


Game 7: 1S-Davidson (16-2/22-7) vs. Game 3 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 8: 2N-Elon (9-9/14-15) vs. Game 4 Winner  8:30 PM




Semifinals—March 4


Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner  8:30 PM




Championship—March 5  9:00 PM



Davidson (16-2/22-7) has an outside shot at an at-large bid if the Wildcats lose in the SoCon Finals.  At 24-8, their RPI would be in the low 70’s.



Date: March 7-10

Location: Katy, TX

Teams in Tournament: 8 (9th through 12th teams left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Semifinals on Southland TV; Championship on ESPN2


Texas-Arlington (14-0/22-6) is too low in the RPI ratings to get onto the bubble.  If the Mavericks lose a game, their RPI would be in the 80’s at best, so they must win the automatic bid. 


If another team upsets UTA, it will be tough to see that team having any chance in the first round of the Big Dance.  UTA has the talent to win the first game and contend for a spot in the Sweet 16.



Date: March 7-10

Location: Garland, TX

Teams in Tournament: 8 (Southern & Grambling ineligible due to APR scores)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1

TV: Quarterfinals & Semifinals on SWAC TV; Championship on ESPN-U


The SWAC is the overall weakest conference in the NCAA, as seven of the 10 teams are rated 300 or worse in the RPI ratings.  Even the Great West Conference and the Independents, which do not receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, have higher overall RPI ratings.  Probably the team with the best chance at winning an opening round game in Dayton, Southern, isn’t even eligible due to poor APR scores.


Mississippi Valley State (16-0/17-11) has run roughshod over the league with 16 consecutive wins.  But, the Delta Devils went 1-11 outside the league.


Texas Southern (10-5/11-16) and Prairie View (8-7/12-16) are vying for the number two seed.  The bottom four seeds in the tournament could all have 20 or more regular season losses.


Summit League

Date: March 3-6

Location: Sioux Falls, SD

Teams in Tournament: 8 (9th & 10th teams left out)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Championship on ESPN2; All others on Fox College Sports & Midco Network


The Bracket for this tournament is set.  Quarterfinal round play begins Saturday.


Summit League Tournament—Sioux Falls, SD


All Times CST




Quarterfinals—March 3


Game 1: 1-Oral Roberts (17-1/26-5) vs. 8-I P F W (5-13/11-18)  6:00 PM


Game 2: 2-South Dakota State (15-3/24-7) vs. 7-I U P U I (7-11/14-17)  8:30 PM




Quarterfinals—March 4


Game 3: 4-Western Illinois (9-9/15-13) vs. 5-North Dakota State (9-9/17-12)  6:00 PM


Game 4: 3-Oakland (11-7/17-14) vs. 6-Southern Utah (8-10/13-16)  8:30 PM




Semifinals—March 5


Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 3 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner  8:30 PM




Championship—March 6  8:00 PM


Oral Roberts should be safe if they fall to South Dakota State in the Championship Game.  The Golden Eagles are Number 46 in the RPI ratings.  South Dakota State was the lone team to beat ORU.  The Jackrabbits won by 15 at home after losing by 22 at ORU.  With the Summit League Tournament just 55 miles down the road in Sioux Falls, SDSU will enjoy considerable home fan advantage, almost as much as home court advantage.



Date: March 3-6

Location: Hot Springs, AR

Teams in Tournament: 11 (UL-Monroe is ineligible)

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Quarterfinals involving Middle Tennessee and UALR games on SBC Network; Semifinals on SBC Network; Championship on ESPN2


The Bracket for this Tournament is set.  Opening round play begins Saturday.


Sunbelt Conference Tournament — Hot Springs, AR


All Times CST




Opening Round—March 3


Game 1: 6-South Alabama (8-8/16-11) vs. 11-Troy (5-11/10-17)  6:00 PM (Summit Arena)


Game 2: 7-Western Kentucky (7-9/11-18) vs. 10-Florida International (5-11/11-20)  8:30 PM (Summit Arena)


Game 3: 8-Florida Atlantic (7-9/11-18) vs. 9-Arkansas State (6-10/12-19)  6:15 PM (Convention Center)




Quarterfinals—March 4


Game 4: 1-Middle Tennessee (14-2/25-5) vs. Game 3 Winner  6:00 PM (Summit Arena)


Game 5: 2-Arkansas-Little Rock (12-4/15-15) vs. Game 2 Winner  8:30 PM (Summit Arena)


Game 6: 4-Louisiana-Lafayette (10-6/16-14) vs. 5-North Texas (9-7/16-13)  6:15 PM (Convention Center)


Game 7: 3-Denver (11-5/21-8) vs. Game 1 Winner  8:45 PM (Convention Center)




Semifinals—March 5


Game 4 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner  6:00 PM (Summit Arena)


Game 5 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner  8:30 PM (Summit Arena)



Championship—March 6  6:00 PM (Summit Arena) 

Middle Tennessee has a chance to earn an at-large bid if the Blue Raiders lose in the Championship Game to Denver or UALR.  Denver defeated Middle Tennessee in the regular season.



Date: March 8-10

Location: Las Vegas

Teams in Tournament: 8

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2

TV: Championship Game on ESPN2; All other games free online at:


Nevada (11-1/23-5) is number 59 in the RPI ratings, and the Wolfpack are on the bubble.


New Mexico State (9-3/22-8) is number 74 in the RPI, and the Aggies will need to win the automatic bid to get to the Big Dance.


If any other conference team wins the tournament, there is a chance UN-Reno will not receive an at-large bid due to a drop in RPI.


West Coast

Date: February 29 through March 3, March 5

Location: Las Vegas

Teams in Tournament: 9

Estimated Dance Tickets: 2 or 3

TV: 2nd Round on BYU-TV; Quarterfinals on ESPN-U; Semifinals on ESPN2; Championship on ESPN


West Coast Conference Tournament — Las Vegas


All Times PST




Opening Round—February 29


Game 1: 8-Portland (3-13/6-23) vs. 9-Santa Clara (0-16/8-21)  6:00 PM




2nd Round—March 1


Game 2: 5-San Francisco (8-8/18-12) vs. Game 1 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 3: 6-San Diego (7-9/12-17) vs. 7-Pepperdine (4-12/10-18)  8:20 PM




Quarterfinals—March 2


Game 4: 4-Loyola Marymont (11-5/19-11) vs. Game 2 Winner  6:00 PM


Game 5: 3-B Y U (12-4/24-7) vs. Game 3 Winner  8:20 PM




Semifinals—March 3


1-Saint Mary’s (14-2/25-5) vs. Game 4 Winner 6:00 PM


2-Gonzaga (13-3/23-5) vs. Game 5 Winner 8:20 PM



Championship—March 5  6:00 PM 

This will be one spectacular tournament, especially if the top four seeds advance to the Semifinals.  Loyola Marymount has the confidence to contend with St. Mary’s and even pull off another upset.  BYU and Gonzaga could play 10 times, with at most one team winning six games.


We expect St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, and BYU to make the Big Dance, but if LMU should somehow beat BYU in the Championship Game, there is an outside chance that four league teams could be invited.


The Ivy League—No Conference Tournament

Estimated Dance Tickets: 1 or 2


Penn (9-2/17-11) won at Harvard (10-2/24-4) last night to split the series for the year.  The Quakers have home games with Brown and Yale next weekend and close at Princeton on March 6.  If Penn runs the table, and Harvard wins at Columbia and Cornell this weekend, there would be a playoff for the title.


Yale (9-3/19-7) is still mathematically alive for a possible three-way tie, but the Bulldogs would need to sweep Princeton and Penn on the road to have a chance, and then they would need Harvard to lose to either Columbia or Cornell.  Even though Yale was swept by Harvard, in the Ivy League, all ties result in playoffs.


Harvard is still high enough in the RPI ratings to qualify as an at-large team if the Crimson wins their final two games and then lose in a playoff.  No Ivy League school has ever earned an at-large bid.

February 17, 2012

A PiRate Look At The Big Dance & The Bracket Buster

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , — piratings @ 1:58 pm

It’s Bracket Buster weekend, which means that the first conference tournaments are just a week away.  13 games will be televised on ESPN, or should we rename the network ESP-LIN?


With the expanded 68-team field entering its second year, this weekend becomes more important.  The positions of mid-major and low-major teams on the bubble will move with each game.


The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has instructed the public in how they select the at-large teams.  RPI ratings are important, but they are not the be all and end all.  The committee stresses that they want members watching these games, trying to figure out which teams “look” like they could win tournament games.


With that in mind, let’s look at the Bracket Buster schedule, and then let’s look at every conference, trying to figure out which teams would be in the Big Dance if the season ended today.


Friday, February 17, 2012



Home Team



Visiting Team



7:00 PM





Northern Iowa



9:00 PM


Loyola Marymount














Saturday, February 18, 2012



Home Team



Visiting Team



11:00 AM


Cleveland St.






12:00 PM





Wichita St.



1:00 PM


South Dakota St.






2:00 PM


Oral Roberts






3:00 PM


New Mexico St.






4:00 PM








5:00 PM


Missouri St.



Old Dominion



6:00 PM


Murray St.



Saint Mary’s



7:00 PM








8:00 PM


Weber St.






10:00 PM





Long Beach St.











All Times Eastern Standard

RPI as of February 15, 2012 from



America East

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Stony Brook (12-2/17-8) and Vermont (12-2/18-10) lead Boston U (10-4/14-14) by two games.  Stony Brook had won 14 of 15 games until losing at Vermont by 19 last Sunday.  The Sea Wolves have no spectacular non-conference wins.


Vermont has won nine in a row and 12 of their last 13.


Atlantic Ten

2 or 3 bids (most likely 2)


Temple (9-2/20-5) and St. Louis (9-3/21-5) are both on the bubble, with the Owls resting near the top of that bubble thanks to wins over Duke and Wichita State.  Xavier (7-4/16-9) has played their way into needing to win the automatic bid.  UMass (7-4/18-7) has the talent to win the conference tournament, as does St. Joe’s (7-5/17-10), LaSalle (6-5/17-9), and Dayton (6-5/16-9).



5-7 bids (probably 6)


North Carolina (9-2/22-4) and Duke (9-2/22-4) are definitely in.  Florida State (9-2/18-7) needs one more win to be a cinch.  Virginia (6-5/19-6 needs two more wins to be a lock.  These four will be called on Selection Sunday.


Three other teams are still in the hunt for at-large bids, and they are in order of preference: North Carolina St. (7-4/18-8), Miami (6-5/15-9), and Maryland (5-6/15-10).


Atlantic Sun

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Perennial champion Belmont (12-2/20-7) is locked in a tight race with Mercer (12-2/20-7) for the regular season title.  But, the winner will only be guaranteed a bid in the NIT if they cannot win the conference tournament.


Mercer hosts the tournament this year, so the Bears have to be considered the favorite.  Belmont has yet to play at Mercer.  The Bruins close the regular season in Macon.


Big 12

5-7 bids (probably 6)


Losing Nebraska and Colorado did not affect this league’s basketball strength, and the same amount of teams should make the tournament this year than last.


What’s a Big Dance without Kansas (11-2/21-5)?  The Jayhawks are a lock, as are Missouri (11-2/24-2) and Baylor (9-4/22-4).  Any of these three could still be around in the Elite 8.


Two surprise teams come next.  Iowa State (8-5/18-8) is a positive surprise, while Texas (7-6/17-9) have not quite made enough of a case for themselves.  Fred Hoiberg has done a great job in Ames, and the Cyclones need maybe two more wins to be locks.  The Longhorns must win at least three more times to be on the safe side of the bubble.


Kansas State (6-7/17-8) is slowly falling down in the ranks of the elite.  The Wildcats must win three of their final five regular season games and at least once in the Big 12 Tournament to be considered a shoo-in.  Their next two are at Baylor and at Missouri, and the boys from the Little Apple could be 6-9/17-10 on Wednesday morning. 


Big East

6 to 9 bids (probably 7)


Recent trends in this league has made a muddy mess out of the group in the middle.  Five teams (Syracuse 13-1/26-1, Marquette 10-3/21-5, Notre Dame 10-3/18-8, Georgetown 9-4/19-5, and Louisville 8-5/20-6) will be dancing for sure. 


After that quintet, one to four more teams could make the dance, and five teams are competing for those one to four bids.  South Florida (9-4/16-10) is actually ahead of the other four in the conference standings, but the Bulls are actually the lowest team in this mini-bubble.  Looking down at USF in the bubble watch are: Cincinnati (8-5/18-8), Seton Hall (7-7/18-8), West Virginia (7-7/17-10), and Connecticut (6-7/17-9).


Pitt (4-10/15-12) could still make some noise at MSG in the conference tournament, but do not expect the Panthers to make a UConn-like run.


Big Sky

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Weber State (13-1/21-4) has won 15 of 16 games, but the Wildcats are not on the bubble.  Weber State should win the automatic bid, and if they do, keep an eye on Damian Lillard, one of the best players you may not know.


Montana (12-1/19-6) can still win the regular season title, as they host the Wildcats to conclude the regular season on February 28.  The Grizzlies have won 14 or 15 games, losing only at Weber State. 


The regular season champion hosts the semifinal and final rounds, and the top two teams get byes to the semifinals, which makes seeding very important in this league.


Big South

1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Four teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, and it is hard to believe any other team would have a chance to win the conference tournament.


UNC-Asheville (14-2/19-8) and Coastal Carolina (11-5/18-8) are the two top teams in the league, and Campbell (11-5/17-11) and Charleston Southern (10-6/16-10) are the best of the rest.


UNCA can shoot and score, but they are a little soft inside.  CCU has more muscle inside and has shown a penchant for being able to play with major conference teams.  The Chanticleers own wins over LSU and Clemson.


Big Ten

6 to 8 bids (probably 7)


This league’s games have been on the boring side this year, and we have a feeling that more than one tournament team will fall in upsets in the Big Dance.  The league has become too controlled, and underdogs that can score cheap baskets could pull off multiple upsets in the tournament.


Michigan State (10-3/21-5) and Ohio State (10-3/22-4) can lose out and still get in the tournament.  Michigan (9-4/19-7), Wisconsin (8-5/19-7), and Indiana (8-6/20-6) will be in unless they lose out.  So count these five as sure things.


Purdue (7-6/17-9) is on the good side of the bubble.  Minnesota (5-8/17-9), Illinois (5-8/16-10, and Northwestern (5-8/15-10) are on the outside looking in.  If any of this trio can go 4-1 and then win their first conference tournament game, it could be enough to sneak in as one of the four majors that must go to Dayton.


Big West

1 or 2 bids


Long Beach State (12-0/19-6) has done enough to be on the bubble should they not win the conference tournament.  The 49ers played a brutally tough non-conference schedule, and they get one more in this week’s bracket buster game against Creighton.  LBSU has wins over Pitt, Xavier, and Auburn, and they have close losses to North Carolina, San Diego State, Kansas, and Louisville.


In conference play, the 49ers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 75.9 to 62.7.  Cal State Fullerton (9-3/17-7) is the top contender in a possible upset chance.


Colonial Athletic

1 to 3 bids


Here is where the RPI rankings could prove to be either more or less important than most people think.  This league’s RPI rankings are lackluster this year, but there are three teams strong enough to win an NCAA Tournament game, maybe even stronger than last year’s surprise Final Four participant.


Drexel (14-2/22-5) is squarely on the bubble.  Coach Bruiser Flint could be on his way to bigger and better things after bringing the Dragons this far.  They could be better than any of the Big Five in Philly this year.  Drexel has won 20 of their last 21, including wins over VCU and George Mason, the teams fighting them in the standings.  If the Dragons can win at Cleveland State this weekend, they may move close to sure thing status.


George Mason (14-2/22-6) is on par with the GMU team that played in the Final Four in the previous decade.  Ryan Pearson has the moves inside to give the Patriots balance.


Virginia Commonwealth (13-3/22-6) may be better this year than last when they snuck into the Final Four after having to play in the first round in Dayton.  However, the Rams may not even get into the tournament unless they close out with some key wins.


Conference USA

2 or 3 bids


Two teams, Southern Mississippi (9-2/22-4) and Memphis (9-2/19-7) have earned at-large bids if they do not win the conference tournament.  A host of also-rans could be considered contenders if they get hot in the conference tournament, but we cannot really see someone other than the Golden Eagles or Tigers cutting down the nets. 


The top contenders are Central Florida (7-4/18-7) and Tulsa (8-4/15-11).


Great West

0 bids


This league does not receive an automatic bid.  Utah Valley (7-0/18-10) will earn an automatic bid to the College Insider Tournament if they win the conference title.  They have a 2 ½ game lead.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


This league lost all of its luster once January gave way to February.  At one point, two or even three teams were in competition for an at-large bid, but now, none of the trio has a chance unless they win the automatic bid.


Valparaiso (12-4/19-9) leads fading Cleveland State (10-5/20-7).  Detroit (10-6/16-12) and Butler (10-6/16-12) will compete with those two in the conference tournament.  Butler might still be considered the favorite when the conference tournament begins.  16-2 in the postseason in the last two years is enough to qualify as a tournament-savvy team.


Ivy League

1 or 2 bids


Harvard (7-1/21-3) could still earn an at-large bid if they somehow lost to Yale twice (at home in the regular season and then in a playoff) and won the rest of their games.  This has about as much chance of happening as Ron Paul’s chances to win the Republican nomination.


Yale (6-2/16-6) lost at home to their arch-rival by 30, so the chances of the Bulldogs beating the Crimson twice are virtually nil.



1 or 2 bids


We are giving Iona (13-3/21-6) the benefit of the doubt in the bubble watch, but we really do not think the Gaels are bubble-worthy yet.  A bracket buster win over Nevada might put them on the lower end of the bubble, but it would still be a tough road to an at-large bid should they lose to another MAAC team in the conference tournament.


Loyola (MD) (12-4/19-7) is the chief competitor.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Akron (11-1/19-7), Kent State (9-3/19-6), and Buffalo (9-3/16-7) are the top contenders to win the MAC Tournament, with Ohio U (8-4/20-6) the best of the rest.  One of these four should win the league’s only bid.


Kent State has won seven games in a row by an average margin of better than 13 points.  The Golden Flashes own a win over West Virginia, so they are capable of competing in the Big Dance.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


This league has not fared well in recent years, but things could be a little different this year.  Two teams, Savannah State (9-2/16-10) and Norfolk State (10-3/18-9), have enough talent to get past a first round opponent in Dayton. 


Missouri Valley

2 or 3 bids (probably 2)


Wichita State (14-2/23-4) is already a lock and should be a higher seed than their opening game opponent.  The Shockers could sneak into the top six in seeding.


Creighton (12-4/22-5) has fallen back a step or two in the last 10 days, but the Blue Jays are also already in the Big Dance.  They have the Jeremy Lin of college basketball in coach’s son Doug McDermott.  McDermott averages 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, and he shoots like Larry Bird (61+% FG, 83% FT, and 50% 3-pt).


A host of contenders could get hot and win Arch Madness in St. Louis.  Missouri State (9-7/16-12), Illinois State (8-8/16-11), and Drake (8-8/15-12) are the three top contenders, but keep an eye on Northern Iowa (7-9/17-11).


Mountain West

3 or 4 bids (probably 3)


New Mexico (7-2/21-4), UNLV (6-3/22-5), and San Diego State (6-3/20-5) are in barring a total collapse.


Whether or not a fourth team can surprise in the MWC Tournament is the question.  There are three other teams capable of winning the automatic bid.  TCU (5-4/15-10), Wyoming (4-5/18-7), and Colorado State (4-5/15-9) all have the talent to make a run.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


We follow this league more than most other pundits.  It is our opinion that two teams deserve to be highly considered for the Big Dance, but we know that only the conference tournament champion will get a bid.


Long Island (14-1/20-7) and Wagner (13-2/22-4) are both tournament worthy.  LIU swept Wagner in two close games, and it will be hard to defeat the Blackbirds to beat the Seahawks a third time if they meet in the Championship Game.


Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd give LIU a potent inside attack.  The dynamic duo average 34.6 points and 17 rebounds per game.  Jason Brickman is the best point guard in the league.


Robert Morris (11-4/20-8) is the only team to beat the Blackbirds.  They should earn a post-season bid to one of the lesser tournaments.


Ohio Valley

1 or 2 bids


The OVC has only once before sent more than one team to the Big Dance, and that was more than 20 years ago when two teams (Akron and Middle Tennessee) no longer in the league made the field.


Murray State (13-1/25-1) can virtually wrap up an at-large bid with a win tomorrow over Saint Mary’s.  The Racers probably will not need it, but there are two teams capable of knocking them off in the conference tournament.


Tennessee State (11-4/18-10) penned the one loss on Murray, and they did it on the road.  The Tigers benefit from having the conference tournament in Nashville, less than two miles from campus.


Tennessee Tech (9-6/17-11) is the other team to watch out for.



1 or 2 bids (probably 2)


This is not a typo.  As little as one team could receive an invitation to dance from a conference that is supposed to be one of the Big Six leagues.


California (11-3/21-6) is the only sure thing.  If the Bears win the Pac-12 Tournament, then the boys from Berkeley could be the only league team in the NCAA Tournament.


This league’s lack of star quality should make for a great conference tournament.  Washington (11-3/18-8), Arizona (10-4/19-8), Colorado (9-4/17-8), Oregon (9-5/18-8), Stanford (8-6/18-8), and UCLA (8-6/15-11) all have a shot at winning the automatic bid.  None of these teams are spectacular, but any one of them could get hot and win three or four games in three or four days.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Bucknell (10-1/20-7) is the prohibitive favorite to return to the Big Dance.  Lehigh (8-3/20-7) and American (8-3/17-9) are the top contenders.



3 to 6 bids (probably 4)


Kentucky (11-0/25-1) and Florida (8-3/20-6) are already in the tournament.  Vanderbilt (7-4/18-8) probably needs just two more wins to get in.


After those three, it is a dogfight for fourth through seventh.  Mississippi State (6-5/19-7) is the leading contender for a possible fourth bid, while Tennessee (6-5/14-12), Alabama (5-6/16-9), and Arkansas (5-6/17-9) contending for possible fifth and sixth bids.  If one of these three can win a combination of five more regular season and conference tournament games, they should sneak into the Dance.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Davidson (14-2/20-6) is close to being added to the bubble.  Maybe a Wildcat win over Wichita State would put them on the bubble.  However, we feel like the Wildcats will get there via an automatic bid.  The rest of the league is mediocre or worse.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Texas-Arlington (12-0/20-5) is a little weaker than Davidson, and the Mavericks could get a little more respect with a win at Weber State in the Bracket Buster game.


The rest of the league is marginally better than the rest of the Southern Conference, so we believe UTA has a rather strong shot of winning the automatic bid.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


This league has struggled in recent years, and this year should be no different.  There really aren’t any really good teams in the SWAC this year.  Mississippi Valley is 13-0 in league play and 1-11 outside the league.  Southern (9-4/13-13) has the best out of conference mark at 4-9, and two of those wins came against non-Division 1 teams.



1 or 2 bids


Oral Roberts (16-1/24-5) is on the bubble, and if the Golden Eagles handle Akron with ease, like we think they will, they could move into the middle of the bubble.


South Dakota State (13-3/21-7) is the principle rival to ORU in the conference tournament.  Should SDSU beat ORU in the final round, then ORU would be given strong consideration in the at-large picks.



1 or 2 bids


Middle Tennessee (12-1/23-4) is in the same boat as Oral Roberts, but the Blue Raiders do not play in the Bracket Buster.  With a high RPI, Middle Tennessee should rank just below the second choice in the West Coast on the mid-major bubble.


Denver (9-5/19-8) is the top contender, but we believe the Blue Raiders will not need an at-large bid to get in the Dance.


West Coast

2 or 3 bids (probably 2)


Gonzaga (11-2/21-4) is a lock for the Big Dance based on their out-of-conference slate.  The Bulldogs trail Saint Mary’s (12-2/23-4) by a half game in the standings.  The Gaels can wrap up an at-large bid with a win at Murray State tomorrow.


BYU (10-3/22-6) discovered that the WCC is as tough as the MWC.  The Cougars will probably have to make it to the finals of the WCC Tournament to earn an at-large bid.


Loyola Marymount (10-4/17-10) is out of at-large consideration, but the Lions are talented enough to pull off a couple of upsets and play spoiler at the conference tournament.



1 bid: Conference Tournament Champion


Nevada (10-1/22-4) is in the same boat as Davidson and UT-Arlington.  The Wolf Pack need a big win at Iona to be considered to be at the bottom of the bubble.  They have won 19 of 20 games, and they are flying under the radar due to their intrastate rival down south.  Had the Wolf Pack defeated UNLV by four instead of losing by four, they would be on the bubble and probably ranked in the top 25.

April 4, 2011

The 2011 NCAA Basketball Championship Game Preview

Tip Time:  Approximately 9:23 PM EDT (but expect it to be a couple minutes late)

Location: Reliant Stadium, Houston (Home of the Houston Astros)

Television: CBS

Radio: Westwood One


It has happened before.  A team that lost in the National Championship Game one year has returned to the title game a year later.  It has happened thrice.  Two times, the team in question lost again.  In 1983 and 1984, Houston lost to North Carolina State and Georgetown.  In 1992 and 1993, Michigan lost to Duke and North Carolina. 


In 1990, Duke was embarrassed by UNLV in the biggest Championship Game loss in history, but the Blue Devils came back in 1991 to beat Kansas for all the marbles.


Butler Bulldogs

Location: Indianapolis, IN

Conference: Horizon League

Record: 28-9


Butler Bulldogs–Starters in Bold  
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other  
1 Shelvin Mack G Jr 6-03 215 16.1 4.4 3.5 Ast  
2 Shawn Vanzant G Sr 6-00 172 8.2 3.2 41.7% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast  
3 Zach Hahn G Sr 6-01 176 5.1 1.2 85.7% FT  
4 Erik Fromm F Fr 6-09 220 0.8 0.5 26 G, 3.4 min  
5 Ronald Nored G Jr 6-00 174 5.1 3.1 2.4 Ast, 1.1 Stl, A+ defender  
11 Alex Anglin G/F Sr 6-05 177 0.7 0.7 18 G, 4.3 min  
20 Chrishawn Hopkins G Fr 6-01 165 1.6 0.5 20 G, 6.1 min  
22 Grant Leiendecker G Sr 6-05 182 1.2 0.3 15 G, 2.3 min  
23 Khyle Marshall F Fr 6-07 210 5.9 3.9 51.7% FG, 15.4 min  
30 Emerson Kampen C So 6-09 189 0 0.1 15 G, 1.9 min  
32 Garrett Butcher F Jr 6-07 209 1.6 1.3 29 G, 7.4 min  
33 Chase Stigall G So 6-04 195 3.8 1.7 16.2 min  
44 Andrew Smith C So 6-11 239 8.6 5.5 61% FG  
54 Matt Howard F Sr 6-08 230 16.7 7.8 1.5 Ast, 1.1 Stl  
Head Coach Brad Stevens    
Assistant Matthew Graves    
Assistant Terry Johnson    
Assistant Micah Shrewsberry    
Team Stats Butler Opp    
Points Per Game 72.1 64.4    
Field Goal % 44.1 42.6    
3-point % 35.5 32.8    
FT % 72.9 66.8    
Rebounds Per Game 35.0 31.5    
Turnovers Per Game 11.1 12.5    
Steals Per Game 5.9      
R + T (*) 5.48          
SOS 55      
Road Win % 70      
PiRate Criteria # 6      

(*) R+T= [R+({.2S}*{1.2T})], where R is reb. margin, T=Turnover margin, S=Steals per game

If turnover margin is negative, then adjust it to: R+T= [R+({.2S}+{1.2T})]


Connecticut Huskies

Location: Storrs, CT

Conference: Big East

Record: 31-9


Connecticut Huskies–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Enosch Wolf C Fr 7-01 260 1.0 0.9 7 G, 3.7 min
2 Donnell Beverly G Sr 6-04 190 1.7 1.3 8.6 min
3 Jeremy Lamb G/F Fr 6-05 185 11.1 4.4 1.6 Ast
4 Jamal Coombs-McDaniel F So 6-07 210 5.8 2.7 80% FT
5 Niels Giffey G/F Fr 6-07 210 2.2 1.3 9.5 min
10 Tyler Olander F Fr 6-09 225 1.5 1.8 9.7 min
13 Shabazz Napier G Fr 6-00 170 7.9 2.4 3.1 Ast, 1.6 Stl
15 Kemba Walker G Jr 6-01 172 23.7 5.4 81.8% FT, 4.6 Ast, 1.9 Stl
21 Kyle Bailey G Sr 6-03 170 0.0 0.0 6 G, 1.0 min
22 Roscoe Smith F Fr 6-08 205 6.5 5.2 1.2 Blk
23 Benjamin Stewart F Jr 6-05 205 0.5 0.5 4 G, 1.0 min
34 Alex Oriakhi F/C So 6-09 240 9.6 8.7 1.6 Blk
35 Charles Okwandu C Sr 7-00 255 2.9 2.7 1.3 Blk
Head Coach Jim Calhoun  
Assistant George Blaney  
Assistant Andre LaFleur  
Assistant Kevin Ollie  
Team Stats U Conn Opp  
Points Per Game 72.8 65.4  
Field Goal % 43.6 39.8  
3-point % 33.3 32.9  
FT % 76.1 68.2  
Rebounds Per Game 39.3 35.2  
Turnovers Per Game 11.4 11.7  
Steals Per Game 6.4    
R + T (*) 4.56        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 78    
PiRate Criteria # 11    


Player Matchups

5: Butler—Andrew Smith vs. Connecticut—Charles Okwandu

Smith is quicker and more agile than Okwandu.  Smith can force Okawandu outside of the low post, while Okwandu does not have to be guarded when he is more than 10 feet away from the hoop.  In the paint, Okwandu has a strength advantage, but much of this advantage can be neutralized by Smith’s superior mobility.


Advantage: Smith by a little


4: Butler—Matt Howard vs. Connecticut—Alex Oriakhi

This is one of two keys to the game.  Howard can turn the tide of this game if he is on target from outside.  Oriakhi is a key rebounder for UConn, and if he is forced to stay outside to keep Howard from getting open looks, much of Connecticut’s rebounding advantage will dissipate.  Oriakhi can dominate Howard inside, and he has a chance to be a surprise hero in this game. 


When UCLA was dominating the Championship Game, the Bruins always had a surprise showing from a player that had not been expected to shine.  Memories of Steve Patterson almost single-handedly defeating Villanova in 1971 come to mind.  Ironically, that game was played next door at the Astrodome.


Advantage: Howard, but it needs to be a decided advantage and it may not


3: Butler—Chase Stigall vs. Connecticut—Roscoe Smith

Smith has a big size advantage, but he is not a major contributor.  Stigall starts, but he does not play half the time.  He will split minutes with Khyle Marshall and others. 


Look for Smith to win this positional battle for the Huskies, but it shouldn’t be what swings this game.


Advantage: Smith, but by an inconsequential amount.


2. Butler—Shawn Vanzant vs. Connecticut—Jeremy Lamb

Lamb has the potential to be the game-decider if Butler forgets he is capable of scoring 15-18 points in a game where 60 points might win the title.  He has a size and quickness advantage  over Vanzant. 


Vanzant is a better outside shooter, and if he could drain a couple of threes in the first half, it could mean a lot for Butler.


Advantage: Lamb, and the amount of advantage could be the difference in this game


1. Butler—Shelvin Mack vs. Connecticut—Kemba Walker

Walker would have the advantage over every other guard in the nation, so this is not really up for discussion.  However, if Mack could force Walker to take a few more shots to get his average and force his passes wide, Butler could in essence win this positional battle.


Walker absolutely must have a typical or better than typical game.  He will lead the Huskies in scoring; he will dish out four or five assists, and he will come up with a couple of steals.


Mack could match Walker point-for-point in this game, but if that happens, Butler will not win this game.  Mack’s ability to get the ball in low for easy shots is more important than his scoring ability.  We do not mean to say that he should forego shooting; we refer to Mack’s trying to score 25 points to match Walker.  If he scores 15 points and dishes out an equal amount of assists to Walker, then he will have done his job.


Advantage: Walker, but will it be enough?


Bench: Butler—Zach Hahn, Ronald Nored, Khyle Marshall vs. Connecticut—Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier


Butler’s three bench players each brings something different to the table.  Hahn is probably the best shooter in this game.  He is a rhythm shooter.  If he hits his first three, the opponent has to change its defense to keep from being shot out of the gym.


Nored is the best defender in this game, and he will be called on to temper Walker.  Going back to our 1971 UCLA comparison, he is the Kenny Heitz of Butler.


Marshall can come in and produce instant inside offense, and he plays tough defense in the lane.  He will see as much playing time as Stigall.


Connecticut goes nine-deep, but there is not more quality in their additional quantity.  The Husky bench is rather weak, with Napier and Coombs-McDaniel the two best reserves.  Neither should be much of a factor in this game.


Advantage: Butler by enough to matter if the game is strenuous.


Our Prediction:  We see this game playing out in a similar manner to last year’s Championship Game.  Connecticut has the talent to win this game by double digits, but Butler plays so intelligently and can keep this game close with a chance to win at the end.


If Walker has a big night, we do not believe Mack and Nored can come up with enough stops to prevent him from scoring 20-25 points in a limited possession game.  If Walker tries to be a superhero and commits five turnovers while shooting too many off-balance shots, then he could still score 20 points but give up more than 20 points to Butler.


Upon reviewing all the players’ abilities and tendencies, we believe this game will be decided at the four position.  If Howard goes out with a career night, Butler will cut down the nets.  If he has a typical night, this game will still be in doubt after the final TV timeout.  If he has an off night, Connecticut will win by eight to 12 points.


We tend to believe this will be just as memorable as last year’s game with the strong possibility that the team that scores the last points will win the game.  We believe there is a good chance this game could still be undecided after 40 minutes.  There have been few overtime games in the championship. 


The first OT title game came in 1944 when Utah edged Dartmouth 42-40 at Madison Square Garden.  In 1957, North Carolina defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple OT 54-53.  Cincinnati appeared in two OT title games; the first was a happy ending with a 70-65 OT thriller over in-state rival and defending national champ Ohio State.  In 1963, Loyola of Chicago upset Bearcats 60-58 in OT.  Michigan edged Seton Hall in OT 80-79 in the 1989 title game. In 1997, Arizona pulled off a big upset over defending national champ Kentucky by a score of 84-79  , and Kansas defeated Memphis in OT in 2008 by a score of 75-68.


Predicted Score: Connecticut 69  Butler 66 in double OT!


April 1, 2011

PiRate Ratings Final Four Viewing Guide and Preview, Saturday, April 2, 2011

UNCLE!!!  Yes, we cry uncle.  Our PiRate Criteria failed to predict a Final Four team for the first time since we began predicting for the media six years ago.  In backtests, it isolated at least one Final Four every year back to the advent of the 64-team tournament.


PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS Television and Westwood One Radio


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Four Site: Reliant Stadium, Houston


6:09 PM EDT—Virginia Commonwealth 28-11 (1) vs. Butler 27-9 (6)


Virginia Commonwealth Rams–Starters in Bold

No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
5 Juvonte Reddic F Fr 6-09 225 3.5 1.9 0.5 Stl, 11.2 min
10 Darius Theus G So 6-03 190 3.1 1.5 2.1 Ast, 1.1 Stl, 15.4 min
12 Joey Rodriguez G Sr 5-10 175 10.5 3.3 81.6% FT, 5.1 Ast, 1.5 Stl
20 Bradford Burgess G Jr 6-06 225 14.3 6.2 42.8% 3pt, 1.1 Stl
21 Jamie Skeen F Sr 6-09 240 15.4 7.4 51.6% FG, 1.6 Ast
23 Rob Brandenberg G Fr 6-02 170 5.1 1.7 13.9 min
30 Troy Daniels G So 6-04 195 2.1 0.8 26 G, 4.8 min
31 Toby Veal F Jr 6-08 235 2.4 2.2 29 G, 9.9 min
32 Brandon Rozzell G Sr 6-02 185 11.8 2.3 40.4% 3pt, 1.5 Ast. 1.4 Stl
33 D. J. Haley C Fr 7-00 250 1.1 1.6 53.1% FG, 7.8 min
34 David Hinton F So 6-09 235 0.7 0.2 18 G, 3.7 min
50 Ed Nixon G Sr 6-04 210 7.1 2.6 1.9 Ast, 1.2 Stl
Head Coach Shaka Smart  
Assistant Will Wade  
Assistant Mike Rhoades  
Assistant Mike Jones  
Team Stats VCU Opp  
Points Per Game 71.8 66.7  
Field Goal % 43.6 44.4  
3-point % 37.0 33.5  
FT % 71.6 67.4  
Rebounds Per Game 32.3 36.1  
Turnovers Per Game 11.3 14.7  
Steals Per Game 8.3    
R + T (*) 2.97        
SOS 55    
Road Win % 68    
PiRate Criteria # 1    

(*) R+T= [R+({.2S}*{1.2T})], where R is reb. margin, T=Turnover margin, S=Steals per game

If turnover margin is negative, then adjust it to: R+T= [R+({.2S}+{1.2T})]


Butler Bulldogs–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Shelvin Mack G Jr 6-03 215 15.9 4.3 3.6 Ast
2 Shawn Vanzant G Sr 6-00 172 8.1 3.2 42.0% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast
3 Zach Hahn G Sr 6-01 176 5.0 1.1 85.7% FT
4 Erik Fromm F Fr 6-09 220 0.8 0.5 26 G, 3.4 min
5 Ronald Nored G Jr 6-00 174 5.3 3.1 2.5 Ast, 1.2 Stl, A+ defender
11 Alex Anglin G/F Sr 6-05 177 0.7 0.7 18 G, 4.3 min
20 Chrishawn Hopkins G Fr 6-01 165 1.6 0.5 20 G, 6.1 min
22 Grant Leiendecker G Sr 6-05 182 1.2 0.3 15 G, 2.3 min
23 Khyle Marshall F Fr 6-07 210 5.9 3.8 52.4% FG, 15.2 min
30 Emerson Kampen C So 6-09 189 0.0 0.1 15 G, 1.9 min
32 Garrett Butcher F Jr 6-07 209 1.6 1.3 29 G, 7.4 min
33 Chase Stigall G So 6-04 195 3.9 1.7 16.3 min
44 Andrew Smith C So 6-11 239 8.8 5.4 62.1% FG
54 Matt Howard F Sr 6-08 230 16.7 7.7 1.5 Ast, 1.1 Stl
Head Coach Brad Stevens  
Assistant Matthew Graves  
Assistant Terry Johnson  
Assistant Micah Shrewsberry  
Team Stats Butler Opp  
Points Per Game 72.1 64.5  
Field Goal % 44.3 42.7  
3-point % 35.5 32.6  
FT % 72.7 66.8  
Rebounds Per Game 34.7 31.5  
Turnovers Per Game 11.1 12.6  
Steals Per Game 5.9    
R + T (*) 5.32        
SOS 55    
Road Win % 68    
PiRate Criteria # 6    

Virginia Commonwealth is the first team with a negative PiRate Criteria rating to win an Elite Eight round game.  The results of that game elevated their number into positive territory, but we still wonder about their rebounding difficulties.  VCU has won five games in this tournament, and four were not all that close.  The Rams have maintained a hot shooting touch from outside, and their 3-point percentage has been much higher in the postseason than it was during the regular season.


The VCU press has had its moments during the Big Dance as well, as a couple of opponents had trouble with it.  Can the Rams survive to the final round?  It is possible, but we tend to believe that their shooting prowess will eventually regress to the norm.  The Rams are overdue for a bad outside shooting game, and in a baseball domed stadium, the sightlines will not be like anything they have seen before.


Butler has the experience here.  They are the most seasoned of the teams left, and the Bulldogs can no longer be considered a Cinderella team.  In fact, we tend to see Butler very much like a 21st Century version of Marquette during the Al McGuire years.  This team can continue to be a serious player in the national tournament scene. 


Butler will be able to handle the VCU press.  They will inbound the ball quickly and return it quickly to the inbound passer who will have an opening to break the press with numbers.  The Bulldogs can run when they need to, and a couple of easy baskets and/or fouls early could force VCU to panic.  The Butler perimeter defense will cover the VCU shooters tightly, and Nored will make life miserable for any opponent trying to shoot from outside.


This is a must-see game.  It should be close, and we do not see Butler pulling away to win by a big margin.  VCU could still have a chance to win with one quick spurt, and the Rams are capable of going on a quick spurt.  Ask Kansas about that.


Prediction: Butler 65  VCU 61


Approximately 8:49 PM—Kentucky 29-8 (18) vs. Connecticut 30-9 (11)


Kentucky Wildcats–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Darius Miller G Jr 6-07 225 11.1 4.6 44.9% 3-pt, 86.4% FT, 1.7 Ast
2 Stacey Poole G Fr 6-04 195 0.3 0.5 16 G, 2.8 min
3 Terrence Jones F Fr 6-08 244 15.8 8.7 1.9 Blk, 1.1 Stl
4 Jon Hood G So 6-07 202 0.8 0.7 33 G, 4.8 min
5 Jarrod Polson G Fr 6-02 185 0.4 0.1 17 G, 1.8 min
12 Brandon Knight G Fr 6-03 185 17.3 3.9 4.2 Ast
20 Doron Lamb G Fr 6-04 195 12.3 2.0 48.1% 3-pt, 1.7 Ast
30 Eloy Vargas F Jr 6-11 250 1.5 1.9 7.7 min
34 DeAndre Liggins G Jr 6-06 210 8.8 4.1 40.2% 3-pt, 2.5 Ast, 1.2 Stl
55 Josh Harrellson F Sr 6-10 275 7.6 8.8 61.4% FG, 1.5 Blk
Head Coach John Calipari  
Assistant John Robic  
Assistant Orlando Antigua  
Assistant Kenny Payne  
Team Stats UK Opp  
Points Per Game 75.4 63.7  
Field Goal % 46.3 39.3  
3-point % 40.0 32.8  
FT % 71.6 72.2  
Rebounds Per Game 37.4 33.7  
Turnovers Per Game 10.7 12.0  
Steals Per Game 5.4    
R + T (*) 5.38        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 64    
PiRate Criteria # 18    


Connecticut Huskies–Starters in Bold
No. Name Pos. Class Ht Wt PPG RPG Other
1 Enosch Wolf C Fr 7-01 260 1.0 0.9 7 G, 3.7 min
2 Donnell Beverly G Sr 6-04 190 1.8 1.3 8.8 min
3 Jeremy Lamb G/F Fr 6-05 185 11.1 4.3 1.5 Ast
4 Jamal Coombs-McDaniel F So 6-07 210 5.8 2.7 81.5% FT
5 Niels Giffey G/F Fr 6-07 210 2.2 1.3 9.5 min
10 Tyler Olander F Fr 6-09 225 1.5 1.8 9.8 min
13 Shabazz Napier G Fr 6-00 170 8.0 2.4 3.0 Ast, 1.6 Stl
15 Kemba Walker G Jr 6-01 172 23.9 5.3 81.8% FT, 4.5 Ast, 1.9 Stl
21 Kyle Bailey G Sr 6-03 170 0.0 0.0 6 G, 1.0 min
22 Roscoe Smith F Fr 6-08 205 6.5 5.2 1.2 Blk
23 Benjamin Stewart F Jr 6-05 205 0.5 0.5 4 G, 1.0 min
34 Alex Oriakhi F/C So 6-09 240 9.6 8.6 1.6 Blk
35 Charles Okwandu C Sr 7-00 255 2.9 2.7 1.3 Blk
Head Coach Jim Calhoun  
Assistant George Blaney  
Assistant Andre LaFleur  
Assistant Kevin Ollie  
Team Stats U Conn Opp  
Points Per Game 73.3 65.7  
Field Goal % 43.5 40.0  
3-point % 33.7 32.9  
FT % 76.0 68.9  
Rebounds Per Game 39.4 35.1  
Turnovers Per Game 11.3 11.7  
Steals Per Game 6.4    
R + T (*) 4.91        
SOS 61    
Road Win % 77    
PiRate Criteria # 11    


Connecticut won five games in five days at the Big East Tournament and parlayed that into four more wins in the NCAA Tournament.  The Huskies have a chance to begin and end the season with separate double-digit game winning streaks.  In Kemba Walker, U Conn has the best player in the Final Four, but one player cannot do it alone.  The Huskies are anything but a one person team.  They can pound it inside with Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu, and when Walker drives the lane, Jeremy Lamb is frequently open outside.  This Connecticut team is not as strong as the two national championship teams from Calhoun’s past, but the Huskies have enough talent to win a third for Calhoun.


Kentucky is the one team left in the tournament with a PiRate Criteria rating similar of past national champions.  Their 18 rating is actually better than Indiana in 1981, North Carolina State in 1983, Villanova in 1985, Kansas in 1988, and Arizona in 1997.  The Wildcats have very little depth with only seven players used unless the game is a major blowout.  With the extra long timeout lengths, this should not be a factor at all this weekend.  Although none of the players have Final Four experience, every game Kentucky plays is about as pressure-packed as a Final Four game.  We believe the Wildcats will not be affected or intimidated in this game.  However, the weird sightlines could make their outside shooting game suffer. 


These two teams met in Hawaii in November, and Connecticut won 84-67.  In that game, the Huskies quickly opened a 20-point lead in the first half and went to the locker room at the half up 50-29.  Connecticut couldn’t miss, while Kentucky couldn’t buy a basket.  Knight and Liggins were a combined 0-10 from three-point land, and Josh Harrellson did not score.  Walker scored 29 points for the winners, while Oriakhi recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.


This game will have a much different look.  This season, Kentucky has dominated teams that they have already played during the season.  They are 7-0 against teams that they played a second or third time.  We see this trend continuing.


Prediction: Kentucky 72  Connecticut 66

March 26, 2011

PiRate Ratings Elite Eight Preview For Saturday-Sunday, March 26-27, 2011

It hasn’t been pretty for our PiRate Criteria Ratings this year.  We are down to one team left in our Final Four bracket, but at least it is the team we picked to win it all.  Kansas is our last hope, but if the Jayhawks can get by Virginia Commonwealth, they will be two wins away from keeping our successful record of picking the national champion before the tournament begins intact.


We are shocked that a team with a negative PiRate Criteria score is still around, and even more surprised that the team has had to win one extra game to get to this point.  We are almost as shocked to see Arizona in the Elite Eight with a score of just four points, and we are semi-surprised to see Butler back in the Elite Eight with a rating of four.  The Bulldogs’ 2010 PiRate Criteria score was 10 points higher than it is today, and they were actually favored to beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16 by our ratings.


PiRate Criteria Rating in (parentheses)

All Games on CBS


Saturday, March 26, 2011

4:30 PM EDT—Southeast Regional Final @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 29-7 (15) vs. #8 Butler 26-9 (4)

Position Florida Butler
Coach Billy Donovan Brad Stevens
Center (32) Vernon Macklin 6-10 Sr.–11.2/5.4  58.4% FG (44) Andrew Smith 6-11 So.–8.9/5.4  62.2% FG ***Probable***
Forward (23) Alex Tyus 6-8 Sr.–8.9/6.1 (54) Matt Howard 6-8 Sr.–16.8/7.8  44.4%  3pt
Forward (25) Chandler Parsons 6-10 Sr.–11.5/7.8  3.8 ast (33) Chase Stigall 6-4 So.–4.0/1.8
Guard (1) Kenny Boynton 6-2 So.–14.1/1.4  82.1% FT (1) Shelvin Mack 6-3 Sr.–15.6/4.3  3.6 ast
Guard (11) Erving Walker  5-8 Jr.–14.8/3.0  3.4 ast (2) Shawn Vanzant 6-0 Sr.–8.1/3.1  42.3% 3 pt
6th (4) Patric Young 6-9 Fr. F/C–3.4/3.8  56.8% FG (23) Khyle Marshall 6-7 Fr. F–5.8/3.7
7th (5) Scottie Wilbekin 6-2 Fr. G–2.5/1.5  1.7 ast (5) Ronald Nored 6-0 Jr.–5.3/3.0  2.5 ast


PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Florida Butler
Pts 9.1 7.8
FG% 4.2 1.5
Reb 6.0 2.9
TO 0.3 1.7
Stl 5.9 6.0
R+T 6.42 5.35
SOS 60 54
Road% 79 67
PiRate # 15 4


Can Butler do it again?  It does not appear highly probable, but then the Bulldogs have made a science out of making the improbable probable. 


If the Bulldogs are to have any chance in this game, big man Andrew Smith must be able to play at close to 100%.  Smith sprained his ankle in the Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin, and after he exited the game, Butler almost blew a 20-point lead.  It is the emergence of Smith as a key player that has fueled Butler’s long winning streak.  He has led the team in both steals and blocked shots in the winning streak.


When Smith is patrolling under the basket, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack get more open looks.  The duo will need to combine for 40+ points in this game, and they will need to connect on better than 50% of their two-point shots and better than 40% of their three-point shots for Butler to advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.


When Florida won the National Championship in 2007, their toughest game may have been their Sweet 16 game against Butler.  That Gator team benefitted from having five starters that could score 20 points in a game.  Coach Donovan’s club moves the ball quickly and the players without the ball keep their defender occupied.  Not the most consistent team defensively, the Gators tend to play in spurts.  At times, they are tough on opponents, and at times, opponents get a lot of open looks. 


To beat Florida, the key is to penetrate the perimeter defense and take a lot of shots in the 5-10 foot range.  Butler may lack the quickness to get into that inside zone, especially if Smith is not able to occupy 1 ½ defenders.


The Southeastern Conference was supposed to be down again this year, and the early NCAA Tournament exits of Tennessee, Georgia, and Vanderbilt supposedly proved this point.  However, the SEC could very well place two teams in the Final Four this year.


Prediction: Florida 69  Butler 60


7:05 PM EDT—West Regional Final @ Anaheim

#3 Connecticut 29-9 (11)  vs. #5 Arizona 30-7 (4)

Position Connecticut Arizona
Coach Jim Calhoun Sean Miller
Center (35) Charles Okwandu 7-0 Sr.–2.9/2.8 (23) Derrick Williams 6-8 So.–19.5/8.4  60.2% FG/60.3% 3pt
Forward (34) Alex Oriakhi 6-9 So.–9.7/8.7  1.6 Blk (33) Jesse Perry 6-7 Jr.–6.4/4.4
Forward (22) Roscoe Smith 6-8 Fr.–6.5/5.2  1.2 Blk (44) Solomon Hill 6-6 So.–8.1/4.6  78.0% FT
Guard (3) Jeremy Lamb 6-5 Fr.–10.9/4.3  79.6% FT (21) Kyle Fogg 6-3 Jr.–8.1/1.8  2.6 Ast
Guard (15) Kemba Walker 6-1 Jr.–24.0/5.4  4.5 ast/1.9 stl (12) Lamont Jones 6-0 So.–9.7/1.6  2.5 Ast/82.8% FT
6th (13) Shabazz Napier 6-0 Fr. G–7.9/2.3  3.1 Ast (3) Kevin Parrom 6-6 So. G/F–7.8/3.4  2.0 Ast/42.2% 3pt
7th (4) Jamal Coombs-McDaniel 6-7 So. F–6.0/2.7  81.5% FT (42) Jamelle Horne 6-7 Sr. F–6.2/3.3  40.8% 3pt

PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Connecticut Arizona
Pts 7.7 8.7
FG% 3.5 2.5
Reb 4.8 3.6
TO 0.3 -0.1
Stl 6.5 5.2
R+T 5.27 4.52
SOS 60 55
Road% 76 67
PiRate # 11 4


Two teams with one dominant player and a host of above-average complimentary players should make for an interesting game.  Unfortunately, the teams’ key players will not face off against each other, as Walker is the play-maker for UConn, and Williams is the big man for ‘Zona.


On closer inspection, we took a look at Connecticut’s season in three parts.  The Huskies looked like a Final Four team in two of those three parts.  They began the season 10-0, including a blowout win over Kentucky in Hawaii.  They had a lackluster 11-9 middle.  Then, they caught lightning in a bottle, winning five games in five days to take the Big East Tournament title and won three games in the Big Dance to come into this game riding an eight-game winning streak.  Once again, they have looked like a Final Four team.


Arizona entered this tournament with a 4-3 mark in its final seven games.  The Wildcats narrowly escaped with wins over Memphis and Texas in the first week, but then they blew defending champion Duke off the floor Thursday night.  They dominated the Blue Devils inside and forced Duke to beat them from over the top.  Duke could not get enough good outside shots in the second half, and Arizona cruised to an easy win.


We believe that Connecticut’s backcourt is not that far from Duke’s in total talent, but the Huskies are much stronger inside where it counts.  Connecticut should win the battle of the boards in this game and pound on Derrick Williams enough to throw him off his game.  Arizona has overachieved getting to this point.  The Wildcats will be back in 2011-12 as a top contender for the Final Four, but they will have to settle for Elite Eight this year.


Prediction: Connecticut 74  Arizona 66


Sunday, March 27, 2011

2:20 PM EDT—Southwest Regional Final @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 35-2 (23) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 27-11 (-1)

Position Kansas Virginia Commonwealth
Coach Bill Self Shaka Smart
Center (21) Markieff Morris 6-10 Jr.–13.6/8.2  59.6% FG/42.1% 3pt (21) Jamie Skeen 6-9 Sr.–15.1/7.3  1.1 Blk
Forward (22) Marcus Morris 6-9 Jr.–17.1/7.4  57.7% FG (20) Bradford Burgess 6-6 Jr.–14.4/6.2  42.3% 3pt
Forward (14) Tyrel Reed 6-3 Sr.–9.7/3.1  80.2% FT (50) Ed Nixon 6-4 Sr.–7.2/2.6  1.9 Ast
Guard (12) Brady Morningstar 6-4 Sr.–7.3/2.2  3.3 Ast/42.2% 3pt (32) Brandon Rozzell 6-2 Sr.–11.8/2.3  1.4 Stl
Guard (10) Tyshawn Taylor 6-3 Jr.–9.1/1.9  4.6 Ast (12) Joey Rodriguez 5-10 Sr.–10.6/3.2  5.1 Ast/81.8% FT
6th (32) Josh Selby 6-2 Fr. G–8.2/2.3  2.2 Ast (23) Rob Brandenburg 6-2 Fr. G–5.2/1.8
7th (00) Thomas Robinson 6-9 So.–7.8/6.6  60.1% FG (10) Darius Theus 6-3 So. G–3.1/1.6  2.1 Ast

PiRate Criteria Stats


Team Kansas V C U
Pts 17.1 3.9
FG% 11.8 2
Reb 7.9 2.1
TO 0.8 -0.6
Stl 7.8 8.3
R+T 9.4 0.9
SOS 59 54
Road% 95 66
PiRate # 23



This looks like an even bigger mismatch than Kansas’s Sweet 16 game, but VCU plays a feisty brand of basketball and can pull games out at the end with their pressure and herky-jerky style of play.


We anointed Kansas as our pick for the National Champion when the brackets came out two weeks ago, and the Jayhawks are the final power team we have left in the tournament.  KU possesses the same criteria as most of the past national champions.  The last team not to meet our minimum criteria that eventually won the national championship was this very same Kansas team in 1988.  We believe that on Sunday, the Jayhawks will restore some normalcy to this season’s Big Dance and prove to be the one Fred Astaire among a bunch of wannabes.


Kansas will not wilt under the pressure defense applied by VCU.  In fact, it will lead to a bunch of easy looks and a high shooting percentage.  The Jayhawks pass the ball like teams from the past, and they know how to hit open shots.  With Josh Selby possibly coming out of his shooting slump, we just cannot see another team defeating them this season.


For VCU, their real challenge will begin after the season ends.  Shaka Smart is certain to be in the mix in a number of vacant coaching jobs.  Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, and others will be interested.


Prediction: Kansas 77  VCU 62


Sunday, March 27, 2011

5:05 PM EDT—East Regional Final @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 29-7 (16) vs. #4 Kentucky 28-8 (16)

Position North Carolina Kentucky
Coach Roy Williams John Calipari
Center (44) Tyler Zeller 7-0 Jr.–15.6/7.2  54.0% FG (55) Josh Harrellson 6-10 Sr.–7.5/8.8  1.6 Blk/61.2% FG
Forward (31) John Henson 6-10 So.–11.9/10.1  3.3 Blk (3) Terrence Jones 6-8 Fr.–15.9/8.7  1.9 Blk/1.6 Ast/1.1 Stl
Forward (40) Harrison Barnes 6-8 Fr.–15.6/5.8  1.4 Ast (34) DeAndre Liggins 6-6 Jr.–8.7/4.2  2.5 Ast/1.1 Stl
Guard (1) Dexter Strickland 6-3 So.–7.4/3.1  2.2 Ast (1) Darius Miller 6-7 Jr.–11.1/4.6  1.7 Ast
Guard (5) Kendall Marshall 6-3 Fr.–6.2/2.1  6.2 Ast (12) Brandon Knight 6-3 Fr.–17.2/3.8  4.2 Ast/79.9% FT
6th (2) Leslie McDonald 6-4 So. G–7.1/2.2  (20) Doron Lamb 6-4 Fr. G–12.4/2.0  1.7 Ast
7th (25) Justin Knox 6-9 Sr. F–4.5/3.2  (30) Eloy Vargas 6-10 Fr. F/C–1.6/2.0


PiRate Criteria Stats

Team N. Carolina Kentucky
Pts 9 12.2
FG% 4.7 6.9
Reb 6.5 4
TO 0.7 1.5
Stl 6.1 5.3
R+T 7.52 5.91
SOS 60 60
Road% 66 61
PiRate # 16 16


What we have here is the basketball equivalent of the Dodgers versus the Yankees.  Two of the top programs of all time face off for the second time this season.  In December, North Carolina edged the Wildcats by a deuce in Chapel Hill.


The Criteria score shows this game to be a tossup, but all five of us at the PiRate Ratings believe Kentucky is the clear-cut choice in this game.  John Calipari is on the verge of getting his third different school into the Final Four.  His teams always play better against an opponent once they have faced that opponent.  Against Florida, they learned after the first game how to slow down the Gators.  They learned how to stop them cold after the second game, and in the event they see them a fourth time, they will repeat it again.  That is getting a bit too far ahead.


North Carolina lacks the quickness to stop the Kentucky penetration, and if the Blue Mist hits at least 35% of their three-pointers in this game, they will advance to the Final Four.


North Carolina has a decided depth advantage, but the Tar Heels are not as deep as they once were.  With the longer time outs in this tournament, Kentucky can get by with six key players.


We see this game as one of spurts.  The Tar Heels will have two or three spurts, but Kentucky will have three or four.  We believe that UK will take the lead for good with five or six minutes left in the game.


Prediction: Kentucky 78  North Carolina 72

March 21, 2011

PiRate Ratings Sweet 16 Preview

Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

Team W – L Pts FG% Reb TO Stl R+T SOS Road% PiRate #
Arizona 29-7 8.7 2.5 3.6 -0.1 5.2 4.52 55 63 4
Brigham Young 32-4 14.1 4.0 3.0 3.5 8.0 9.72 58 86 18
Butler 25-9 7.8 1.5 2.9 1.7 6.0 5.35 54 65 4
Connecticut 28-9 7.7 3.5 4.8 0.3 6.5 5.27 60 75 11
Duke 32-4 17.1 7.1 3.1 2.7 7.3 7.83 58 79 17
Florida 28-7 9.1 4.2 6.0 0.3 5.9 6.42 60 78 15
Florida State 23-10 7.3 7.7 4.6 -0.8 8.5 5.34 54 61 5
Kansas 34-2 17.1 11.8 7.9 0.8 7.8 9.40 59 95 23
Kentucky 27-8 12.2 6.9 4.0 1.5 5.3 5.91 60 60 16
Marquette 22-14 7.0 2.9 2.7 2.1 7.3 6.38 57 44 3
North Carolina 28-7 9.0 4.7 6.5 0.7 6.1 7.52 60 65 16
Ohio State 34-2 18.0 7.6 4.9 4.8 7.1 13.08 58 88 23
Richmond 28-7 9.2 6.0 -1.9 2.1 6.0 1.12 52 81 3
San Diego State 34-2 13.2 7.1 6.9 1.6 6.2 9.28 58 95 19
V C U 25-11 3.9 2.0 2.1 -0.6 8.3 0.90 54 65 -1
Wisconsin 25-8 9.9 1.8 3.8 2.1 3.5 5.56 57 53 9

 All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:

PiRate Criteria Numbers Updated To Reflect 1st Three Round Results

Thursday, March 24, 2011

7:15 PM on CBS 

West Regional @ Anaheim

#2 San Diego State 34-2 (19) vs. #3 Connecticut 28-9 (11)

Connecticut faces the first team in the tournament that has the defensive capacity to slow down Kemba Walker.  If Walker has a below-average game, the Huskies’ shooting percentage will head too far south, because UConn does not shoot all that well.


The Aztecs can make life miserable on opposing shooters, so if they contain Walker, SDSU has the advantage at the other four positions on the floor.  Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas remind us somewhat of former UCLA greats Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe.


The Aztecs’ eventual downfall may come when they are exploited by a defense that forces them to beat them from outside.  Connecticut just may be able to pull that off, so this game cannot be considered a slam dunk for the #2 seed Aztecs.


Prediction: San Diego State 67  Connecticut 61


7:27 PM on TBS 

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#2 Florida 28-7 (15) vs. #3 Brigham Young 32-4 (18)

This one should be interesting, as Florida tries to get revenge for a first round overtime loss to BYU last year.


We did not have much faith in the Cougars after Brandon Davies was dismissed for the season.  BYU recovered in the second and third rounds, and the 22-point win over Gonzaga was quite impressive.


Still, we discount the Cougars by three points with the absence of Davies.  This makes this game a tossup in our eyes. 


Florida is playing inspired ball, but we still do not believe the Gators are on par with their prior two national champion teams.  Offensively, the Gators spread the ball around, and all five starters typically score double figure points.  Defensively, they are underneath, and they frequently find ways to pressure the ball out front.  However, the top defender, Kenny Boynton, may not be 100% in this game.  He has an important assignment.


That assignment happens to be guarding Jimmer Fredette.  If Fredette tops 30 points without taking 30 shots to do so, the Cougars could easily give the Mountain West Conference a second team in the Elite Eight.


We are split on this game, and we did not come to a conclusion which way to go.  So, we will stick with the higher-rated PiRate Criteria score and go with the Cougars.


Prediction: B Y U 82  Florida 78


9:45 PM on CBS

West Regional @ Anaheim

#1 Duke 32-4 (17) vs. #5 Arizona 29-7 (4)

With Kyrie Irving back in the fold, Duke has the best eight-deep roster in the nation.  We believe the Blue Devils are the third best team in the Sweet 16 with Irving back.  He scored 25 points in the two games in Charlotte in just 41 minutes, and he picked up some rebounds as well.


The Blue Devils’ only thing close to a liability is their defense at forward.  Kyle Singler, Miles Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly have trouble against sneaky fast opponents.


Arizona’s forwards have that quickness.  Derrick Williams is as important to the Wildcats as Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette are to their teams.  Jesse Perry only averages seven points per game, but he can take it to the basket against a slower defender.


Arizona’s weakness is their defense against power offense.  Duke’s slower forwards as well as center Mason Plumlee can take advantage of the Wildcats’ defensive deficiencies. 


Coach K deserves to be compared with John Wooden.  Wooden’s UCLA teams won four games in the NCAA Tournament to win the championship in a field of 22-25 teams.  Krzyzewski’s have been forced to win six in a field of 64, 65, and 68.  We believe he is worth an extra five to 10 points, and we will select Duke to make it to the Elite Eight.


Prediction: Duke 77  Arizona 68


9:57 PM on TBS

Southeast Regional @ New Orleans

#4 Wisconsin 25-8 (9) vs. #8 Butler 25-9 (4)

Pick against Butler at your own risk.  If the Bulldogs can beat Pittsburgh, there is no reason to believe they cannot return to the Final Four.


We did not believe Wisconsin could make it to the Sweet 16 either.  As many readers know, we have ties to U Dub, and this group of Badgers did not look strong enough to us to make it to the second week of the tournament.


The PiRate Criteria indicates that Wisconsin is the favorite, but with our internal numbers that we do not advertise, we rate this game as a 50-50 affair.


Butler has the experience in close games.  They keep finding a way to win.  However, Wisconsin is one of those tough teams that can neutralize what has been working for Coach Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs.


This game could very well come down to the final few possessions, and the winner may struggle to top 55 points.  We do not see any more than 100 field goal attempts, and as few as eight players could score points in this game.


Matt Howard can force Wisconsin to bring a big man outside, and that will allow Andrew Smith to work with a little more clearance inside.  If Shelvin Mack keeps his hot streak going, Butler can win this one.


If Howard is not on target, and the Badgers do not have to respect his outside shooting ability, Coach Bo Ryan’s team will pack it in, control the boards, and then work patiently to set up Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer.  The tandem could score 40 points with the rest of the team adding just 15, and it could be enough to win this game.


Prediction: Wisconsin 55  Butler 54


Friday, March 25, 2011


7:15 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#2 North Carolina 28-7 (16) vs. #11 Marquette 22-14 (3)

We do not believe the Tar Heels are Final Four candidates this season.  No matter which team wins the game in the adjacent bracket, we see the Tar Heels losing in the Elite Eight.  However, the margin should be slim.


This is the Sweet 16 game, and Coach Roy Williams’ team is more than talented enough to advance to Sunday.  With the outside shooting of Kendall Marshall and Leslie McDonald combined with the take-it-to-the-hoop skills of Harrison Barnes and John Henson and the mandatory doubling down on big center Tyler Zeller, North Carolina will score a lot of points in this game.


Marquette’s only hope is for three players to be hot from the field, because Buzz Williams’ Golden Eagles will have to outscore North Carolina to win this game.


Marquette cannot go head-to-head inside and win this game.  They will have to hit 50% from the field to keep this game close.  From among Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Dwight Buycks three of these players will need to score 15-25 points each.  We see the Golden Eagles coming up short in this one.


Prediction: North Carolina 82  Marquette 79


7:27 PM on TBS

Southwest Regional @ San Antonio

#1 Kansas 34-2 (23) vs. #12 Richmond 29-7 (3)

Richmond apparently was seeded a few spots to low.  The Spiders have shown that the Atlantic 10 Conference is just below the top six or seven conferences in the nation and well above the average mid-major league.


Chris Mooney’s team can shoot the ball and prevent the opponent from shooting the ball.  With an inside-outside punch in big forward Justin Harper and sharpshooting guard Kevin Anderson, Richmond can score points consistently, albeit at a slower pace. 


Two things will do the Spiders in Friday night.  They are vulnerable against power teams and teams that can get on the boards for offensive rebounds.  Xavier and Old Dominion showed the blueprint for beating Richmond.


Kansas can take that blueprint and build a super foundation.  The Jayhawks are the best passing team in the tournament, and Coach Bill Self’s big men know how to move and get open to receive those passes.  Marcus and Markieff Morris can hit the boards at both ends, and Brady Morningstar and Tyshawn Taylor know how to get the ball to them.  KU will advance to play for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.


Prediction: Kansas 73  Richmond 62


9:45 PM on CBS

East Regional @ Newark

#1 Ohio State 34-2 (23) vs. #4 Kentucky 27-8 (16)

This is the first contest in the tournament where both teams are rated worthy of making the Elite Eight. 


Ohio State has actually moved a couple of percentage points ahead of Kansas for the top overall Criteria score.  The Buckeyes are strong where Kentucky is strong, but Coach Thad Matta’s team also has strength were Kentucky has been vulnerable.  Tough perimeter defense forced George Mason to wilt in the Round of 32, and in William Buford, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty, Ohio State can cut off the perimeter game of most teams. 


With the great Jared Sullinger roaming the low post and baseline areas, Kentucky has to dedicate a big man to roam with him.  That will be the Wildcats’ downfall Friday night.  If Terrence Jones is forced to guard Sullinger, expect Josh Harrellson to have a hard time defending the paint against Ohio State’s quicker forwards and slashing guards.  If Harrellson goes out to guard Sullinger, he will have a hard time guarding the nation’s top big man.  Coach John Calipari will have to pick his poison.


Kentucky will need a great night from Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.  If the two players and Darius Miller do not combine for 50 points, Kentucky will be heading back to Lexington, and the sports fans in the Commonwealth can turn their attention to Uncle Mo and the first Saturday in May.

Prediction: Ohio State 76  Kentucky 69


9:57 PM on TBS

#10 Florida State 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth 25-11 (-1)

This game guarantees that one double-digit seed will make it to the Elite Eight, and Kansas fans must be quite happy about it.


We have two teams that have found a new gear in their engine at the most opportune time.  VCU was not even supposed to be in this tournament after failing to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.  Instead, the Rams just became the first team to win three NCAA Tournament games in less than a week since Texas Western in 1966.  Texas Western went on to upset Kentucky and win the National Championship.  VCU is not Texas Western.  That TWU (Now UTEP) team was rated in the top five in the nation.


Florida State has not been to the Final Four since Hugh Durham took the Seminoles to the 1972 National Title game.  This team is not in that FSU team’s league.


So, what do we have here?  Florida State is a team that in most years would have been fortunate to win one game.  VCU is a team that in most years would probably be playing this week for a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semi-finals.


VCU has a negative PiRate Criteria score, but it is moving close to zero.  Still, we cannot recall a negative criteria score making it to the Elite Eight.


Note: Both FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton and VCU Coach Shaka Smart are being mentioned as possible candidates for the vacant Tennessee job.


Prediction: Florida State 65  Virginia Commonwealth 60


Coming Saturday Morning: We will preview the Southeast and West Regional Final games.

March 20, 2011

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:


12:15 PM on CBS

North Carolina (15) vs. Washington (13)

CBS gives you the most exciting 3rd round game to start off your Sunday.  These teams can get up and down the floor and score quickly.  We expect it to be more like the late 1960’s when North Carolina and Davidson met in the NCAA Tournament for a couple of historic games.


The Tar Heels are the slight favorite, but this game could go either way.  When you have two teams capable of topping 85 points, it comes down to which team can control the boards and force more turnovers.  North Carolina should win the battle on the boards, but Washington should win the turnover battle and force more steals.


We thought about taking the Huskies, but Coach Roy Williams has a long history of getting to the Sweet 16, while Coach Lorenzo Romar has a shorter history of doing so.


We think this will still be undecided with five minutes to go, but the Tar Heels have three go-to guys that can win this game (Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, while UW has two (Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning).  Three to two odds makes for a 60% chance that nothing will be finer in Carolina today.


Prediction: North Carolina 83  Washington 76


2:45 PM on CBS

Duke (15) vs. Michigan (Elim)

Shortly after we released the 68-team preview last week, the news that Kyrie Irving was ready to play once again changed Duke’s criteria score.  We have not set way to add points in cases like this; we have to make a semi-educated guess.  Before Irving went down to injury, Duke was 8-0, outscoring opponents by a score of 89-66.  He returned to play against Hampton, so in the nine games in which he has contributed, Duke’s average scoring margin is 89-64.  We figure Irving’s presence makes Duke seven to 10 points better.  That would place their PiRate Criteria score right there with Kansas for the top spot.


Michigan caught the biggest break in this tournament.  They played a Tennessee team that completely quit once a six-point Volunteer lead was wiped away.  The Wolverines outscored Tennessee 52-16 the final 24 minutes of their game.


Duke will not wilt if Michigan erases a six-point Blue Devil lead.  This team is better than last year’s national champion with Irving teaming up with Nolan Smith.  Last year’s champion was a little stronger inside, but with Irving, Smith, Kyle Singler, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins, Coach Mike Krzyzewski has too many weapons to completely stop.


Michigan relies on three-point shooting and great penetration.  Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway, Junior can take the maize and blue on their shoulders and make life miserable for opposing teams that are not overly aggressive defensively.  Duke is not one of those teams.


The Blue Devils will stifle the Michigan offense and score enough fast break points and second-chance points to win this one by double digits.


Prediction: Duke 76  Michigan 61


5:15 PM on CBS

Ohio State (21) vs. George Mason (8)

George Mason has done it before.  The Colonials knocked off Connecticut and North Carolina among others when they made their historic run to the Final Four in 2006.  This GMU team has more talent and almost as much experience, making the Colonials a legitimate contender to advance to the Sweet 16.


One problem for GMU: they are facing the team with the second best PiRate Criteria score.  Ohio State has too much firepower for Coach Jim Larranaga to pull magic out of a hat again.


Jared Sullinger is too strong and quick inside for the Colonials to stop, and Ryan Pearson will not be able to have a big game against the Buckeyes’ inside defense.  Jon Diebler and William Buford will see a lot of open looks from outside, and we cannot see both having an off day.


Prediction: Ohio State 74  George Mason 59


6:10 PM on TNT

Texas (18) vs. Arizona (3)

The Longhorns almost could not hold onto a big lead in their first game, while Arizona never could break away from Memphis in theirs.


We believe Texas will be more focused on this game and put together 40 minutes of total basketball.  The Longhorns present tough matchup problems with four starters that are great combo inside-outside players.  When they get their mind into the game, they can control a game at both ends of the floor.


Jordan Hamilton, Gary Johnson, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph should be focused after watching a huge lead against Oakland almost evaporate entirely in the final minutes.


Arizona benefitted from playing a weak second-round opponent.  The Wildcats are not back to where they were in the Lute Olson days.  In Derrick Williams, they have an inside player that can dominate in the paint, but he can be neutralized by an opponent that gets the Wildcats into a running transition game.


Texas is not a pure running team, but the Longhorns can take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.  They will do so today.


Prediction: Texas 78  Arizona 65


7:10 PM on TBS

Purdue (16) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (-1)

Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart may be on the radar of two or three big-time coaching searches.  The second year coach has proven to be an excellent tournament tactician.


This Ram team does not figure to advance into the second week of the tournament, because in the past, teams with negative PiRate Critieria scores only made it to the Sweet 16 if their first two opponents had either negative scores or ELIM scores.


Purdue is only 11-6 since their 15-1 start.  If E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson do not combine for at least 35 points and 20 rebounds, the Boilermakers can be beaten.  We tend to believe that both stars will shine brightly today, and the lads from West Lafayette will be preparing for a mighty rivalry game later in the week.


Prediction: Purdue 73  V C U 64


7:45 PM on truTV

Syracuse (17) vs. Marquette (3)

When a conference places 11 teams in the Big Dance, it goes that there could be matchups of teams from that conference facing off in earlier rounds.  For the second time this weekend, the Big East has another “conference game” in the NCAA Tournament.


In the regular season, Marquette won a close game in Milwaukee, 76-70.  It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Orangemen following an 18-0 start.  Once the ‘Cuse got over their midseason swoon, they recovered to win six in a row before meeting the hot Huskies from Connecticut in the Big East Tournament.


Is a 14-loss team good enough to advance to the Sweet 16?  This is not your father’s Marquette teams.  Bo Ellis, Lloyd Walton, Dean Meminger, and Butch Lee are not walking through that door.  Al McGuire won’t be receiving a couple of technical fouls.


The Golden Eagles have one thing going for them; they know how to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense.  They should get enough open looks to keep this game close, and if they can come close on the boards, they will be there at the end.


We expect a close game, but Syracuse will dictate the tempo.  Expect a lower-scoring game, with Syracuse’s Rick Jackson being just a little too much for Marquette’s interior defense to handle.


Prediction: Syracuse 68  Marquette 62


8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas (23) vs. Illinois (1)

Kansas remembers well what happened one year ago just down I-44 in OKC from where they are playing today.  The Jayhawks exited the tournament as one of the co-favorites to win it all, when Northern Iowa pulled off a major shocker.


We do not see KU meeting a similar fate in Tulsa today.  This team is loaded with talent, both inside and outside, and they have no major liabilities to be exploited.  Markieff and Marcus Morris are the best set of twins in college basketball since the Van Arsdale brothers (Dick and Tom) in the 1960’s. The two combine for 31 points and 15+ rebounds per game.  Off the bench, beefy Thomas Robinson provides extra inside punch.


The taller of the twins, Markieff can set up outside and bury the three-pointer or pass high-low to his brother.  It is hard to stop both, so opponents have to sell out to stop the inside threat first.


Illinois greatly underachieved this season.  The Illini should have contended for second place in the Big Ten and should have won five or six additional games.  A team talented enough to beat North Carolina by 12 points as well as Oakland, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Penn State handily also lost to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana.  For the Illini to have a chance in this game, they will have to penetrate the KU defense and force fouls.  For two reasons, we do not believe that will work today.  First, the officiating in this tournament has been very relaxed.  Second, we do not believe Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey can get through the front line of defense enough times to change the outcome of the game.


Prediction: Kansas 80  Illinois 68


9:45 PM on TBS

Notre Dame (11) vs. Florida State (2)

Too bad this one isn’t being played at the Fiesta Bowl.  These former football rivals will meet in Chicago where the St. Patrick’s Day celebrants should be back to normal today.  We consider Notre Dame to have a slight near-home court advantage, and the Irish really do not need anything extra to win this game.


Florida State gets extra points for Chris Singleton’s return from injury.  However, Singleton scored just five points and grabbed just two rebounds in 16 minutes of play in the win over Texas A&M; this was not very Kyrie Irving-like.  He is not ready to take the Seminoles on his shoulders and lead them into the Sweet 16.


Prediction: Notre Dame 65  Florida State 59


Coming Later This Week: We will update the PiRate Criteria Scores based on the two games each of the Sweet 16 teams playe

March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

For a detailed explanation of the PiRate Criteria Rating, click on the following link:


12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

The Wildcats seek revenge today for their regional final exit of last year.  This Kentucky team has what last year’s team lacked—consistent outside shooting to complement their more than decent dribble-drive.  While not as talented, Coach John Calipari’s squad is more complete this year.  The Blue Misters are jelling at the right time, and we believe they will advance to the Sweet 16.


West Virginia is not as dominating inside as they were last year, and they might be a little to slow and methodical to compete against the quicker Wildcats.  Coach Bob Huggins will have a great gameplan ready, and we believe the Mountaineers will keep it close.


We see this as a game of spurts.  Kentucky will enjoy one spurt in both halves, and WVU will attempt to creep back in the game both times.


Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67


2:40 PM on CBS

Florida (15) vs. U C L A (-3)

The PiRate Criteria rates this game a giant mismatch, and we see no reason why not to agree. This would be a great game if all the former Bruins now playing in the NBA would have used their four years of eligibility.  However, this is more like the old Brubabes when schools fielded Freshmen and later Junior Varsity teams.  This UCLA team is better than Florida’s second team.  The Gators’ best players are still around, while UCLA’s best senior is the star of the Minnesota Timberwolves.


Florida has a large quickness advantage, and they will win the hustle points.  This one should be out of hand by halftime or five minutes into the second half.


Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62


5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

This game will be one of the more interesting contests in the Round of 32.  Morehead State is an aggressive take-it-to-the-hoop and score or pass back for a three team.  The Racers have the closest thing to Elvin Hayes on their roster.  Kenneth Faried is much better than Dennis Rodman, but he is much thinner than Wes Unseld, and he has a better offensive game than both of those historically fantastic rebounders.  Faried can take it to the hoop, and he can pull up and fire from the foul line area, much like the great Hayes used to do with Houston and in the NBA.


Richmond will try to make this a game of the smart beating the strong, because the Spiders do not have much of an answer for Faried inside.  However, they enjoy a huge advantage on the perimeter.


This game will come down to this easy pointer: whichever team performs better at their strength and defends the other’s strength will win.  We think this one could end on a buzzer beater or go to overtime, but we will go with the chalk and take the higher PiRate score.


By the way, the last time an Ohio Valley Conference team advanced to the Sweet 16, it was Western Kentucky.  The Hilltoppers left the OVC more than two decades ago.


Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62


6:10 PM on TNT

San Diego State (19) vs. Temple (5)

If our criteria rating is going to be accurate this season, then we need to see the Aztecs play much better today than they did in a lackluster opening round win over Northern Colorado.  If San Diego State is firing on all cylinders, Temple has little or no chance in this game.


This Owl team is not quick enough or strong enough to battle this Aztec team if SDSU is playing just an average game.  If the Aztecs come out flat, Coach Fran Dunphy’s Owls could keep it close for 40 minutes and even be in striking distance.


Steve Fisher has been to the Final Four three times, and he knows how to prepare a team in tournament play.  He has enough talent to get there again, and we believe SDSU will play much better today against a much better opponent than Northern Colorado.  Remember this: Temple ran Duke of the Palestra floor less a month ago.  They have enough talent to win this game, but we do not see it happening.


Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62


7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

We know better than to count out a team coached by Brad Stevens.  However, Butler’s bubble is going to burst today.


Pittsburgh is just too talented to lose this game, even if Coach Jamie Dixon sometimes loses control of that talent.  The Panthers know what Butler can do, and they will be fired up for this game just as much as if they were playing Ohio State, Duke, or Kansas.


Butler is playing its best ball at the right time, but they are plainly outmanned against a superior team.  We expect the Bulldogs to keep it close and still have a chance with 10 minutes to go, but the Panthers will wear them down and pull away to what looks like an easier win than it was.


Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59


7:45 PM on CBS

B Y U (18) vs. Gonzaga (13)

When you penalize BYU for the loss of Brandon Davies, their criteria score drops by about five points.  This ironically makes this game a complete tossup.


Jimmer Fredette may be able to score 40-50 points in this game, but Gonzaga could place five players in double figures.  We tend to like the odds of five scorers outscoring one.


Coach Mark Few deserves high accolades for turning this Bulldog team around in midseason.  The Zags appeared to be NIT-bound, before they turned it up a notch and began playing the best basketball seen in Spokane since the days of Adam Morrison.


We believe Gonzaga is Sweet 16-bound, and we would not be surprised if they give Florida a great game in a potential matchup.


Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75


8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

This one is the other great game of the day.  How about Jacob Pullen versus Jordan Taylor, and Jon Leuer versus Curtis Kelly?  If you like great player matchups, then this is the game of the day for you.


Kansas State is a tad stronger on the perimeter and a tad quicker, while Wisconsin is a tad stronger inside.  We expect the tempo to be controlled by the Badgers, so the score will be one of the lowest of the day, if not the lowest.


We have no real favorite in this game, so we will stick with the PiRate Criteria scores.  Two points is not much; it equates to about a 55% chance of the favorite winning.


Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55


9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

Here we have our first game between teams from the same conference and teams that have already played against each other.  In their lone regular season contest in Cincinnati, the Huskies won on the road by eight points. 


Both teams play tenacious defense and rely on just a couple of players to lead on offense.  They know each other well, so it should be a high-spirited, tightly-fought game with a lot of excellent defensive possessions sprinkled with the occasional great offensive play.


Cincinnati will concentrate their efforts on stopping Kemba Walker, while the Huskies will try to keep the ball away from Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon.


This is the other game that could come down to a buzzer-beater, but we have a sneaky suspicion that Connecticut is about to explode and play like Husky teams of the past.


Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

March 14, 2011

Starting Times and Networks For NCAA Rounds One and Two

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:24 pm

Here is a list in order of starting times of the First Four and Second Round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

All Times EDT
Tuesday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
6:30 PM UNC-Asheville Arkansas-Little Rock truTV
9:00 PM Alabama-Birmingham Clemson truTV
Wednesday’s Games
6:30 PM Texas-San Antonio Alabama State truTV
9:00 PM Southern Cal Virginia Commonwealth truTV
Thursday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM West Virginia U A B/Clemson Winner CBS
12:40 PM Butler Old Dominion truTV
1:40 PM Louisville Morehead State TBS
2:10 PM Temple Penn State TNT
2:45 PM Kentucky Princeton CBS
3:10 PM Pittsburgh UNCA/UALR Winner truTV
4:10 PM Vanderbilt Richmond TBS
4:50 PM San Diego State Northern Colorado TNT
6:50 PM Florida U C-Santa Barbara TBS
7:15 PM Brigham Young Wofford CBS
7:20 PM Connecticut Bucknell TNT
7:27 PM Wisconsin Belmont truTV
9:20 PM U C L A Michigan State TBS
9:45 PM St. John’s Gonzaga CBS
9:50 PM Cincinnati Missouri TNT
9:57 PM Kansas State Utah State truTV
Friday’s Games
Time Team Team Network
12:15 PM Texas Oakland CBS
12:40 PM Michigan Tennessee truTV
1:40 PM Notre Dame Akron TBS
2:10 PM George Mason Villanova TNT
2:45 PM Arizona Memphis CBS
3:10 PM Duke Hampton truTV
4:10 PM Texas A&M Florida State TBS
4:40 PM Ohio State UTSA-Alabama State Winner TNT
6:50 PM Kansas Boston U TBS
7:15 PM North Carolina Long Island CBS
7:20 PM Purdue St. Peter’s TNT
7:27 PM Xavier Marquette truTV
9:20 PM U N L V Illinois TBS
9:45 PM Washington Georgia CBS
9:50 PM Georgetown USC/VCU Winner TNT
9:57 PM Syracuse Indiana State truTV
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