For those that just want to see our Red-White-Blue Ratings for the First Four, here they are.
|New Orleans||Mount St. Mary’s||3||-1||1|
|Wake Forest||Kansas St.||1||1||1|
Now, for the rest of you:
Welcome one and all to our annually most viewed edition of the PiRate Ratings. We have been working diligently for the past 42 hours getting this edition of March Madness Bracketnomics ready for you.
If you are new to this site today, there is something you need to do, and even if you are not, you should take this advice. Open another window and bring up our primer from yesterday where we explain how we have come up with the numbers that we will show you today. The link to the primer is:
Before we begin picking winners in our bracket based on the PiRate Criteria, let us give you another little bit of advice in selecting your own brackets.
- Do not select a lot of early upsets. Realize that nobody ever has picked a perfect bracket. The chances are so slim that nobody may ever pick one! The key to winning bracket contests where you must choose all the games at the beginning and do not get to select new winners after every round is to pick the National Champion, the Final Four, and the Elite 8 teams. Realize that in about 95% of the cases, the Final Four teams come from one, two, three, or four seeds. There will frequently be a seed lower than 4, but good luck trying to pick one. What you will most likely do is remove one of the favorites to get there, so select very few upsets early.
- In the last 60+ years, only 2 times was the national champion a team from outside a major conference, and it has not happened since 1990. So, go heavy on the best teams in the power conferences–Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. No Pac-12 team has won the title since Arizona beat Kentucky in 1997, so you might discount the Pac-12 a little. No Big Ten team has won the title since Michigan State in 2000, so you might also want to discount the Big Ten a little.
- The most likely spots for upsets early come from 10-11-12 seed lines for good reason. The top lower and mid-major teams usually end up on one of these seed lines, and in actuality, some of these teams would beat their higher-seed opponent 7 times out of 10. In other words, these upsets are not really upsets. They are incorrect seedings by the Committee.
Okay, we will leave the rest of that strategy up to you. Let’s get to the Bracketnomics Facts for 2017
Who Has The Statistical Criteria That Looks Like A Final Four Team
This is an unusual year. There are no teams closely similar to the Connecticut women’s team. There is no obvious best team like in some years out of the past. On the other hand, there are an inordinate amount of teams this year that look like they would have trouble winning the NIT 10 years ago. There is parity by virtue of mediocrity. The way the game is played in 2017, and with the 30-second shot clock, the game has become harder to isolate on just two or three teams and call them the heavy favorites to make the Final Four.
Let’s eliminate some teams so that what we have left is a much easier group to compare.
A. First, let’s forget the chance that a low-major or mid-major conference team will make the Final Four this year. This does not include Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, or Wichita State, who we consider to be above mid-major.
B. Next, let’s take out any team that played a schedule too soft to prepare them for the top echelon of opponents. From what’s left after (A), that will remove Wichita State and UCLA.
C. Next, let’s dump any team with a single-digit R+T rating after the Sweet 16 round. Any single digit team in the Elite 8 gets knocked out, unless their opponent also has a single digit rating. From this list of teams still in contention after (A) and (B), we now dump: South Carolina, Butler, Wake Forest, Arkansas, Minnesota, Michigan State, USC, Northwestern, Michigan, Notre Dame, Maryland, Marquette, Kansas State, Providence, Iowa State, Creighton, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech.
D. Let’s remove any teams that are missing key players and might be able to get to the Sweet 16 without these players, but they are most likely to bow out at this point when the competition is too strong. Say good bye to Xavier and Oregon. For now, Creighton and Florida stay in because they played a significant number of games without their key players.
Now we have a much more manageable list of Final Four and Elite 8 Contenders, down to just 21 teams.
But, we are not finished eliminating teams. What about teams that have not played all that well away from home? We can eliminate the 22-9 team that went 17-0 at home and 5-9 away from home, because these teams are not going to all of a sudden beat the nation’s finest teams away from their home floor, at least not 4 consecutive times.
Let’s now say bye bye to Florida State, Miami (Fla.), and Seton Hall, lowering the number to 19.
And, then there is the essential thing of having enough consistency to win four games in a row against quality competition. We cannot keep any teams that did not sustain at least one long winning streak or two extended winning streaks. Only West Virginia fails to meet this criterion from the remaining group, lowering our list to 18.
Now, let’s look at how the remaining 18 teams rate in the criteria that matter.
There is a reason both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are still in this list. They are serious contenders this year. Gonzaga has the highest scoring margin and Saint Mary’s has the third highest among the 17 remaining teams. From the list of 17, there are a couple teams that do not meet the 8 point minimum to be considered as a strong Final Four contender. There are teams that make the Final Four with less than 8 point scoring margins, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and we are looking for angles that increase our percentage chance of hitting on Final Four teams. It’s the end of the line here for Oklahoma State.
Field Goal Percentage Differential
Eventually, in order to get to the Final Four, a team is going to have to be superior when it comes to shooting and defending the shot, because eventually, being able to dominate the glass or force a lot of turnovers will not work against teams that can also rebound and force turnovers. We are looking only for a difference of 5% or more to stay in the hunt for Final Four contention. We must say adieu to three more teams that cannot meet this standard–Florida, Duke, and Wisconsin. Now we have 14 teams on our list of Final Four contenders.
Remember that R+T rating is much more important than any of its components (Rebounding, Turnovers, and Steals), but for Final Four consideration, well over 90% of the past Final Four teams had positive rebound margin. In what may help vindicate our selections to this point, all 14 teams remaining have positive rebounding margin.
Okay, Already, Who Is Left?
The following teams have resumes that could get them to the Final Four. In alphabetical order, they are: Arizona, Baylor, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Purdue, Saint Mary’s, SMU, Villanova, Virginia, and West Virginia. If our criteria is worth anything these years, we expect the Final Four to come from this list of teams. But, we need to do better. You cannot select 14 teams to make the Final Four or even Elite 8.
What we need to do now is look at each game as it is played. It won’t help us to go with the 4 best resumes if these teams cannot all make the Final Four because they will play each other prior to that round.
Here is how we see the First Four games according to PiRate Criteria. Note that our criteria and our Red-White-Blue Ratings have no real correlation, so the teams we predict to win may not be the same as the teams our criteria says will win.
New Orleans over Mount St. Mary’s
UNC-Central over UC-Davis
USC over Providence
Kansas St. over Wake Forest
Most brackets allow you to miss here without penalty and start in earnest at 64 teams, but we don’t go for that.
Round of 64
You will not see us picking many upsets in this round. Remember the important factoid we revealed at the beginning: you win your bracket contests by getting your teams into the Elite 8, Final 4, and National Championship. If you pick a lot of upsets, you are liable to have very few teams left by the Elite 8.
Villanova over New Orleans (Mount St. Mary’s)
Wisconsin over Virginia Tech
Virginia over UNC-Wilmington (upset possible, but we’ll take the Cavs)
Florida over East Tennessee (like a home game for the Gators)
SMU over USC in a rematch (also over Providence) near tossup vs. USC close to 50-50
Baylor over New Mexico St.
South Carolina over Marquette in close one that will be like home game for Gamecocks.
Duke over Troy
Gonzaga over South Dakota St.
Northwestern over Vanderbilt (close game)
Notre Dame over Princeton
West Virginia over Bucknell (not this year for Bison as Mountaineers are too physical)
Maryland over Xavier (Chris Mack becomes an early candidate for other big openings)
Florida State over Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU not as strong as their Sweet 16 team)
Saint Mary’s over VCU (Will Wade comes free for promotion to power conference team)
Arizona over North Dakota
Kansas over UNC-Central (UC-Davis)
Miami over Michigan State (MSU one and done two years in a row)
Iowa State over Nevada (but this one should be nip and tuck)
Purdue over Vermont (Boilermakers finally have the right type of resume to advance)
Creighton over Rhode Island (freeing up Dan Hurley if a big school wants him)
Oregon over Iona (loss of Chris Boucher does not hurt yet)
Oklahoma State over Michigan (This upset we will pick. Cowboys have better criteria resume)
Louisville over Jacksonville State (UL almost has a home game in Indy)
North Carolina over Texas Southern
Seton Hall over Arkansas (should be physical and close)
Minnesota over Middle Tennessee (Blue Raiders are the Vegas favorite, but Gophers can exploit interior defense)
Butler over Winthrop (we would not be shocked if Butler has to rally to win this one)
Cincinnati over Kansas State (Wake Forest)
UCLA over Kent State
Wichita St. over Dayton (Will Archie Miller be the next NC State coach?)
Kentucky over Northern Kentucky (Norse would be happy with a lead at under 16 timeout in 1st half)
Round of 32
Villanova over Wisconsin
Virginia over Florida (should be very close, maybe overtime)
Baylor over SMU (this one should be a great game–Tim Jankovich in play at Illinois)
Duke over South Carolina (We don’t see Frank Martin leaving the Palmetto State unless he has 4 million reasons)
Gonzaga over Northwestern (Cinderella season ends here–no Cubs repeat in the Windy City)
West Virginia over Notre Dame (Irish wear down in the second half)
Florida State over Maryland
Arizona over Saint Mary’s (expect a hard-fought game but Gaels are outmanned)
Kansas over Miami (closer than expected)
Purdue over Iowa State (Boilermakers look impressive to this point)
Oregon over Creighton (Boucher’s absence felt but not enough for Ducks to lose)
Louisville over Oklahoma St. (Brad Underwood vs. Rick Pitino–Brilliant!)
North Carolina over Seton Hall
Butler over Minnesota (Should be a great game)
Cincinnati over UCLA (Bruins numbers padded by substandard overall schedule–not strong enough inside)
Kentucky over Wichita State (because Wildcat players appear to be on a mission and if so are the class of the field)
Sweet 16 to Elite 8
Villanova over Virginia (Cavs do not have enough offense to win at this point)
Baylor over Duke (Our big upset pick in this round, because Duke has holes Bears can exploit)
West Virginia over Gonzaga (Sorry Bulldog fans, WVU style of play is not what you want to face)
Arizona over Florida State (We expect Wildcats to win big in this one)
Kansas over Purdue (KU will have to play lights out to put Boilermakers away)
Louisville over Oregon (Boucher’s absence is too much to overcome in this round
North Carolina over Butler (If Heels are rolling at this point, then next round is actual title game)
Kentucky over Cincinnati (Should be ultra-physical and highly emotional game)
Elite 8 to Final Four
Unfortunately, at this point the top two teams in the field will meet
Baylor over Villanova (no repeat for Wildcats but a great game)
Arizona over West Virginia (Mountaineers run out of gas at this point)
Louisville over Kansas (Cards win a sloppy game)
Kentucky over North Carolina (This should have been the National Championship Game)
Final Four Semifinals
Baylor over Arizona (tough to go against a team playing in its home state)
Kentucky over Louisville (how much will this ticket cost)
Kentucky over Baylor
The Kentucky criteria best matches that of past national champions. Add to the fact that they have the most talent and a coach that can use the right psychology to motivate these future millionaires to play like their draft status is to be determined in this tournament, and we believe the Wildcats will cut the nets in Arizona.
Here is how the 14 top Pirate Criteria teams rank overall
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- Saint Mary’s
TV Schedule For First Four in Dayton
|Tuesday, March 14||6:40 PM||truTV||New Orleans||vs.||Mount St. Mary’s|
|Tuesday, March 14||9:10 PM||truTV||Wake Forest||vs.||Kansas St.|
|Wednesday, March 15||6:40 PM||truTV||UC-Davis||vs.||UNC-Central|
|Wednesday, March 15||9:10 PM||truTV||USC||vs.||Providence|