The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 21, 2017

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for November 21-25, 2017

Ugh!  After a nice streak of winning weeks to get us into the black, albeit by a sliver, our picks wore the collar last week.  Now, we are 9% in the red with just a couple weeks left to go to try to make it three consecutive winning seasons.  Boycotting the NFL picks has really hurt us this year, but that had to be done.

Maybe with 5 picks this week, we can hit on something that we have not been able to do well in the last few years–hit big on rivalry week.  In past years, we have played it safe and issued only one or two parlays on this week.  When a 2-9 team plays its 9-2 rival, the outcome isn’t as cut and dry as the week before when 2-8 played 8-2 in a non-rivalry game.

We only went with five games to throw a lot of darts on the board and hope we can somehow come out with a high enough score to win.  We need to win any three of these parlays to put us back in the black for the year, but winning three of five during rivalry week is crazy.  So, if we do, it is more pure dumb luck than our strategy.

As always, this is just an exercise for fun among one PiRate Captain and his 5 lasses.

Nov 21-25
#1 @ +147  
Must Win Must Lose
Akron Kent St.
Florida Int’l. Western Ky.
#2 @ +137  
Must Win Must Lose
Texas Texas Tech
Tennessee Vanderbilt
#3 @ +155  
Must Win Must Lose
La.-Lafayette Georgia Southern
Florida St. Florida
Clemson South Carolina
#4 @ +154  
Must Win Must Lose
North Texas Rice
Middle Tenn. Old Dominion
Alabama Auburn
Wisconsin Minnesota
#5 @ +156  
Must Win Must Lose
Eastern Mich. Bowling Green
Georgia Georgia Tech
Northwestern Illinois
Virginia Tech Virginia
San Diego St. New Mexico



March 15, 2017

Red-White-Blue Ratings For Thursday’s NCAA Tournament Games


Team Team Red White Blue
Notre Dame Princeton 6 6 2
Virginia UNC-Wilmington 7 9 9
Butler Winthrop 10 9 10
Gonzaga South Dakota St. 24 21 15
West Virginia Bucknell 13 12 11
Florida East Tennessee St. 10 12 13
Minnesota Middle Tennessee 2 1 3
Northwestern Vanderbilt -1 -1 -5
Maryland Xavier -1 -1 -1
Villanova Mount St. Mary’s 22 23 21
Saint Mary’s VCU 5 6 4
Purdue Vermont 9 9 5
Florida St. Florida Gulf Coast 13 14 11
Wisconsin Virginia Tech 4 4 4
Arizona North Dakota 15 15 14
Iowa St. Nevada 6 6 6

November 10, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–November 10-14, 2016

Emulating Ted Williams
The members of the PiRate Ratings include a couple of baseball analytic specialists that work during the Major League baseball season as “Moneyball” scouts. You know the type we talk about–when you see a baseball defense shift on a pull hitter, and the hitter hits a sharp liner that bounces into the short outfield, but instead of this becoming a base hit, it is a simple ground out, and the fans all boo because they believe this ruins the game, you can thank some of us for giving the baseball team the data that tells the manager where to place that infielder in the short outfield.

There is a lot more to it. How likely is the player to hit a ground ball on a 2-strike pitch as opposed to when he has no strikes or one strike? How much does it hurt or possibly help the starting pitcher the second and third time through a lineup of opposing batters? Our metric specialists can tell you. Of course, the famous batters’ heat maps are part of the services provided. The opposing pitcher, catcher, and coaching staff know that Joe Lefty hits .150 on sliders on the outside corner at the knees and when he does hit the ball, 95.6% of the time it is a ground ball in the 56 hole (the area halfway between where the third baseman and shortstop normally align.

So, when we tell you we know for a fact how often a .299 hitter will play in game 162 as opposed to a .300 hitter, and how much that .299 hitter will be swinging away on the final game of the season, we know that the .299 hitter in Game 162 will only take a walk if it is intentional, and the .300 hitter will do just about anything to stay out of game 162. Even the .301 or .302 hitter will want to be taken out after a hitless at bat that drops his average to anything above .2995.

Ted Williams was an exception to this rule, and for that reason, we admire greatly the “Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.” In 1941, with his average just a fraction above .400, he did not have to play on the final day of the season. His manager told him he would sit him to protect the .400 average. After a few expletives delivered to the manager, Teddy Ball Game played not just one game but both games of a meaningless doubleheader.

Williams was not one to sit out a game just to pad his stats. The fact that his average only rounded up to .400 from .39955 also motivated him to play. So, what happened that Sunday afternoon? He got a hit in his first at bat of game one, and that brought his average over .400, with no rounding needed. Manager Joe Cronin told him to sit, and Willliams cussed and said he was playing both games from start to finish. Williams continued to hit and hit the rest of the afternoon and finished the season at .407.

What does this have to do with picking football games in parlays, you may ask? It is very simple. Last week, we selected six parlays all at better than 12-10 odds, and we won all six games! The mythical payout for this 6-0 week was a return on investment of 151%. For the season, that brought our batting average into positive territory, and we now show a 12% return on investment for the season.

We could easily ask the manager to take us out of the lineup and be safe knowing that we beat Las Vegas for the year. A 12% ROI is 5% better than the Dow Jones Industrial Average year-to-date return, and we would feel safe in saying that the DJIA is not going to return 12% this year.

Call us the Ted Williams of parlay pickers. We have no intention of sitting out and guaranteeing a winning season. First and foremost, if we go 6-0 every week for the rest of the year or the rest of our existence, it won’t be any different from going 0-6 forever, because as we hope by now you can recite in your sleep, “We NEVER really place monetary bets on anything.” Okay, if you say options in the options market are bets, then maybe you can say this, but the options market is different because it is a legitimate profession that supplies an essential function to the workings of the American Corporate economy.

Second, what fun would it be if we did not issue our wacky picks every week. So, you get picks again today, and you will get them next week and every week there is a full schedule of games. We hope to stay on the plus side of 0, but the important thing is to just enjoy the picks and give our reasons for why we believe out math might help us earn an extra few percentage points.

Therefore, here are our selections for this week.

1. College Parlay at +140
Georgia Southern over Louisiana-Lafayette
Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech
Notre Dame over Army
Miami (Fla.) over Virginia

The key selection here is the Notre Dame game. In our opinion, the Irish should be about -900 against Army, but the numbers are heavily skewed in Army’s favor. Ponder this. Notre Dame played Navy last week and got to experience the multiple option schemes of the Midshipmen in live game action. You cannot ask for better defensive preparation to face this offense than getting to face it two weeks in a row. We are old enough to remember when one third of all college teams ran either the wishbone or split veer offense. There were many times where a defense faced this offense in consecutive weeks, and the second time around, the results were much better for the defense, especially when the second opponent was not as good as the first. The percentage chance of performing much better against the second option team was something like 85 to 90%.

As a case in point, let’s look at our hometown team in Nashville, Vanderbilt. The year was 1974, and Coach Steve Sloan was about to guide the Commodores to a 7-3-1 regular season, the best in 19 years. In September of that year, Vanderbilt faced number one Alabama, who ran the wishbone under Bear Bryant and would be on the way to their second consecutive 11-0 regular season.

Vanderbilt gave Alabama its toughest game of the regular season, actually stopping their wishbone attack in the second half, losing 23-10. The following week, the Commodores hosted a ranked Florida team that used the same wishbone offense under Coach Doug Dickey. The Gators were running over opponents, but on this day, they met a Vanderbilt defense that had stopped Alabama’s offense in the second half the week before. Florida tried running the fullback inside, and Vanderbilt stuffed the run. They tried the outside veer and regular option, and Vanderbilt repeatedly threw Gator backs for losses. Only a couple of costly turnovers prevented the Commodores from slaughtering the Gators that day, and the 24-10 Vandy win was not indicative with how well the Commodore defense controlled the game.

For this reason, we were almost ready to take Notre Dame -510 and put up all of our profit to date and call this our only pick for the week. We believe the Irish have a 97% chance of winning this game and that Army will struggle to top 15 points.

2. College Parlay at +149
Wyoming over UNLV
North Carolina over Duke
Charlotte over Rice
Colorado over Arizona

3. Colege Parlay at +141
Washington over USC
Miami (Ohio) over Buffalo
Central Florida over Cincinnati
Washington St. over California

4. NFL Parlay at +147
Baltimore over Cleveland
Washington over Minnesota
Arizona over San Francisco

August 23, 2016

2016 Atlantic Coast Conference Football Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the ACC

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

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

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

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


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

March 26, 2016

PiRate Ratings NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Ratings

Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Oregon Oklahoma -1 -1 3
Kansas Villanova 1 -1 4
Virginia Syracuse 7 7 3
North Carolina Notre Dame 9 7 12

March 23, 2016

NCAA Sweet 16 Preview

PiRate Ratings For Thursday and Friday

Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Villanova Miami 3 3 2
Oklahoma Texas A&M 2 2 -3
Kansas Maryland 7 3 11
Oregon Duke 1 -1 5
Virginia Iowa St. 2 3 3
Notre Dame Wisconsin 1 1 -2
Syracuse Gonzaga -3 -2 -2
North Carolina Indiana 5 4 9

To those of you that read our annual bracket-picking story last week, you have our sincere apologies.  Never before has our top-rated team lost in its first game in the NCAA Tournament, but Middle Tennessee shocked us for the second time in NCAA Tournament history.  The first time, our founder had two tickets to the 1982 Mideast Regional, and once Kentucky disposed of little Middle Tennessee, he had a solid offer for $850 for each ticket two days later when Kentucky faced Louisville for the first time in a quarter century.  Those tickets became worthless when Middle upset Kentucky.

So, what’s left to say after Michigan State was sent packing?  There isn’t anything to say other than let’s get over it and proceed with our current update.

Because the entire world’s bracket has been busted after the first weekend, most places allow the fan to start anew with the Sweet 16 bracket.  If you still have faith in our system, and we do, since most of the 16 surviving teams fit the criteria, we will show you how we see it from here.

First, let us point out that no surprise teams remain in the tournament.  All 16 teams are consistent top programs, and only Gonzaga fails to come from a Power Conference.  Gonzaga today is what UNLV was 25 years ago and Davidson was 50 years ago.  The Bulldogs should eventually make it to the Final Four.


Here are the PiRate Criteria Stats for the remaining 16 teams.

Team PPG Def Marg. FGM RbM TOM R+T WLRd SOS OPos  DPos Pos/G
Villanova 77.5 63.6 13.9 7.3 1.9 2.7 10.0 16-4 58.54 2450 2440 67.9
Miami 75.4 66.7 8.7 5.2 2.4 0.8 9.3 12-6 58.22 2257 2268 66.5
Oklahoma 80.6 70.7 9.9 5.3 2.2 -0.1 6.8 13-6 58.74 2448 2451 72.0
Texas A&M 76.8 66.1 10.7 4.8 4.5 2.3 15.5 11-7 55.70 2506 2500 69.5
Kansas 82.0 67.9 14.1 10.0 5.3 0.7 14.2 15-4 60.22 2548 2550 70.8
Maryland 76.1 66.3 9.7 8.3 3.1 -1.7 7.3 11-7 56.77 2367 2350 67.4
Oregon 78.9 68.5 10.4 4.6 3.4 2.8 14.7 12-6 60.01 2514 2513 69.8
Duke 79.7 70.2 9.5 1.9 -0.3 2.4 6.5 10-7 58.97 2341 2346 67.0
Virginia 70.9 59.5 11.3 7.2 3.8 2.4 13.5 13-7 60.05 2151 2146 61.4
Iowa St. 82.1 74.7 7.4 6.8 -0.2 0.9 4.2 9-9 58.96 2451 2468 72.3
Notre Dame 75.6 70.5 5.1 4.8 2.5 -0.5 7.8 9-9 57.25 2218 2228 65.4
Wisconsin 68.1 63.9 4.3 -0.1 3.0 1.1 10.8 9-7 58.14 2187 2198 64.5
Syracuse 70.4 64.8 5.5 2.2 -0.7 1.2 3.4 8-9 56.21 2233 2236 65.7
Gonzaga 79.4 65.6 13.8 8.9 7.5 -1.0 16.9 17-3 52.35 2392 2404 68.5
North Carolina 81.8 69.3 12.5 6.8 8.3 2.2 22.4 15-5 57.74 2558 2531 70.7
Indiana 82.5 69.0 13.5 6.3 6.9 -0.4 16.8 10-7 53.79 2351 2354 69.2

Here are the 4-Factors Numbers for the remaining 16 teams

Villanova 55.1 46.3 28.4 28.7 16.4 20.4 21.9 17.0
Miami 54.0 47.7 30.2 29.2 16.4 17.5 25.2 17.7
Oklahoma 54.7 46.7 30.6 30.1 17.9 17.7 20.6 16.2
Texas A&M 51.6 47.1 34.9 29.2 17.4 20.8 22.0 17.9
Kansas 56.7 45.0 32.7 28.3 17.7 18.7 22.6 21.9
Maryland 55.7 46.2 29.8 29.7 19.0 16.6 23.6 16.8
Oregon 52.6 48.2 34.5 30.6 16.4 20.3 24.6 18.2
Duke 53.8 49.1 33.8 34.8 14.0 17.5 25.8 15.8
Virginia 54.8 48.3 30.2 25.4 15.1 19.1 20.8 18.8
Iowa St. 57.1 49.5 26.7 30.2 15.7 16.9 15.7 15.0
Notre Dame 54.1 49.2 33.0 31.5 15.3 14.5 21.4 17.2
Wisconsin 48.6 48.2 33.0 27.6 16.9 18.5 23.2 19.6
Syracuse 50.7 46.8 33.3 35.0 18.5 20.3 21.0 16.7
Gonzaga 55.4 44.7 32.3 25.6 16.8 15.2 22.3 17.2
North Carolina 52.0 47.2 39.9 29.9 15.4 18.6 20.8 17.9
Indiana 58.9 49.4 37.1 28.8 19.7 19.1 20.5 16.7

Sweet 16 Schedule

Thursday, March 23, 2016, Sweet 16 Games
Time (EDT) Network Seed Team Seed Team
7:10 PM CBS 2 Villanova 3 Miami
7:37 PM TBS 2 Oklahoma 3 Texas A&M
9:40 PM CBS 1 Kansas 5 Maryland
10:07 PM TBS 1 Oregon 4 Duke
Friday, March 24, 2016, Sweet 16 Games
Time (EDT) Network Seed Team Seed Team
7:10 PM CBS 1 Virginia 4 Iowa St.
7:27 PM TBS 6 Notre Dame 7 Wisconsin
9:40 PM CBS 10 Syracuse 11 Gonzaga
9:57 PM TBS 1 North Carolina 5 Indiana


Here is our updated bracket for the remainder of the tournament.  This uses our PiRate Criteria and is not the same thing as the PiRate Red-White-Blue Ratings above.

Sweet 16

Villanova over Miami

Texas A&M over Oklahoma

Kansas over Maryland

Oregon over Duke

Virginia over Iowa St.

Wisconsin over Notre Dame

Gonzaga over Syracuse

North Carolina over Indiana


Elite 8

Texas A&M over Villanova

Kansas over Oregon

Virginia over Wisconsin

North Carolina over Gonzaga



Kansas over Texas A&M

North Carolina over Virginia



Kansas over North Carolina

March 18, 2016

NCAA 3rd Round Picks–Saturday, March 19, 2016

Higher Seed Lower Seed Red White Blue
Miami Wichita St. -1 2 -3
Duke Yale 4 6 11
Kentucky Indiana 2 1 3
Iowa St. UALR 6 6 8
Virginia Butler 7 6 9
Kansas Connecticut 7 4 15
Utah Gonzaga -2 -1 -1
North Carolina Providence 10 8 22


Saturday Schedule

Time (EDT) Network Higher Seed Lower Seed
12:10 PM CBS Miami (Fla.) Wichita St.
2:40 PM CBS Duke Yale
5:15 PM CBS Kentucky Indiana
6:10 PM TNT Iowa St. UALR
7:10 PM TBS Virginia Butler
7:45 PM CBS Kansas Connecticut
8:40 PM TNT Utah Gonzaga
9:40 PM TBS North Carolina Providence


February 27, 2015

Experimental Basketball Ratings for February 28 & March 1, 2015

As the college basketball regular season enters its final two weeks, the marathon NCAA Tournament dash enters its final miles.  In this race, the winner has basically lapped the field, as Kentucky appears to be headed to an undefeated regular season.

In this 5-month competition, it’s the teams that finish between number 58 and number 78 that create all the excitement.  For 20 conferences, there is no guessing to be made.  The winners of their conference tournaments will be the only teams receiving dance invitations.  The Ivy League champion will receive a the conference’s lone bid as well, making it 21 guaranteed teams.

When you add teams like Kentucky, Virginia, Duke, Wisconsin, and all the other teams that already have resumes worthy of dancing, it really leaves about 15 spots at most to be filled by at-large teams.  This amount will drop some as unexpected teams win conference tournaments in leagues where more than one team will receive a bid.  For instance, if somebody other than Northern Iowa or Wichita St. wins Arch Madness in the Missouri Valley Conference, the league will receive three bids instead of two.

Here are the Bubble teams as of today.  They are listed in order of strongest to weakest according to our bracketology experts.  The dandy two dozen plus experts will submit their formal new list to me late Sunday night, and I will post the updated bracketology on Monday afternoon.

Last 16 In the Field
53 Ole Miss
54 Iowa
55 St. John’s
56 Dayton
57 Georgia
58 LSU
59 N. C. St.
60 Texas A&M
61 Colorado St.
62 Temple
63 Cincinnati
64 Texas
65 Stanford
66 Purdue
67 Oregon
68 Illinois
Out For Now
69 Tulsa
71 Pittsburgh
72 Davidson
73 Boise St.
74 BYU
75 Miami (FL.)
76 Old Dominion
77 U Mass
78 Rhode Island

Now for this weekend’s key games involving top 25 teams as well as teams from the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC.

Our PiRate Red and White Ratings continue to top 76% accuracy, while our Blue Ratings are lagging behind at 71%+.   For those not aware of how we computer our experimental ratings, we use the “Four Factors” popularized by Dean Oliver and others and then create three separate algorithms to come up with raw ratings.  We then adjust these ratings for home and road teams as well as for strength of schedule to come up with a margin.  The actual margins are Figured to 4 decimal places, but we round it to the nearest whole number.  If the nearest whole number is 0, we round it to 1 in the favored teams’ direction, even if the margin is .0001.

Home Visitor Red White Blue
Louisville Florida St. 16 13 10
Michigan Maryland -5 -1 2
Dayton VCU 1 2 1
Butler DePaul 19 14 13
Villanova Xavier 13 11 10
Miami (FL) North Carolina -5 -4 1
Oklahoma TCU 12 11 13
Wichita St. Northern Iowa 4 5 5
Kentucky Arkansas 18 16 14
Baylor West Virginia 5 6 5
Kansas St. Iowa St. -9 -6 -5
Virginia Virginia Tech 29 21 24
Kansas Texas 11 9 10
Duke Syracuse 16 15 14
San Diego St. Boise St. 8 5 6
Utah Arizona -3 1 1
Gonzaga BYU 15 11 12
Boston College N. C. St. -11 -5 -6
Clemson Georgia Tech -1 2 2
Penn St. Iowa -9 -4 -3
Illinois Northwestern 8 6 9
Georgia Missouri 21 14 19
LSU Ole Miss 2 4 -1
Vanderbilt Alabama 3 4 3
South Carolina Mississippi St. 8 9 7
Florida Tennessee 7 8 4
Texas A&M Auburn 15 12 14
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Connecticut SMU -5 -1 -2
Providence Marquette 12 10 10
Wisconsin Michigan St. 9 9 7
Wake Forest Pittsburgh -1 1 3
Ohio St. Purdue 8 9 10

February 13, 2015

College Basketball and The Shot Clock

Imagine that you just purchased a very special smart phone from Honest Abe’s Electronics.  In point of fact, Honest Abe’s is located in the outer reaches of the Twilight Zone.

You attempt to text your special girl that you are on your way to meet her to go to the football game, but when you hit the “send” button, a flash of white light envelopes your body, and you are temporarily unable to see your surroundings.

Then, as if a flash of the camera has passed, you find that you have been transported to a parallel universe almost identical to the Earth, but with one difference.  You have been dropped in a 50-yard line seat at what appears to be a college football stadium you do not recognize.  A game program is in your hand telling you that you are at Tech Stadium ready to watch Tech play State.

As you read, you discover that both teams are 9-0.  The winner will advance to the Asteroid Bowl to face the tough Tigers team that is also 9-0 with one game to play.

“Great!” you think to yourself, and things couldn’t get any better when the college coeds sitting adjacent to you look like clones of Hannah Davis and Kate Upton, except their attire is a little outdated.  If you didn’t know any better, you would swear with those sweaters and bobby socks, they are trying to look like coeds from 1950’s America.

Somehow, you find a way to focus your attention on the football field.  The game kicks off at the 40-yard line, and the kicker punches it straight through with a steel-toed kicking shoe, much like was used in the 1950’s in America.

The kick sails 50 yards to the 10-yard line, and it is returned 18 yards to the 28, where State begins the first drive of the game.

Quickly, you cannot believe your eyes when Tech’s defense sure looks like the Wide Tackle 6 formation; you remember that your grandfather told you all about how he had played defensive guard.  As you chuckle quietly, you almost choke when State comes to the line in the Split-T formation.  On the first play, the State QB slides down the line and hands off to the right halfback on a straight-hitting dive play that picks up two yards.

After getting eight yards in three antiquated running plays, State punts, and Tech returns the ball to their 38 yard line.  Then, you notice something funny.  No substitutions were made in any of these plays since the kickoff.  Even the Tech kicker stayed in the game as a defensive halfback, if that’s what they called the position before there were cornerbacks.

Quickly, you realize that this parallel universe is a type of “Pleasantville.”  The 1950’s never ended, and for a second as you glance at your two new friends sitting either side of you, you realize something.  College football in the 1950’s may have sounded incredible when Gramps told you about the big games, but compared to today’s brand of football, it was as boring as watching the paint dry on the picket fence.  Thank goodness the NCAA made several rules’ changes between 1955 and 2014.

Eventually, Tech scores a touchdown to win the game 6-0, as the kicker shanked the point after.  The game ends, and you cannot wait to get out and look for the Marilyn Monroe and Kim Novak lookalikes that must exist in this place.

As you leave the stadium, a paper flies out of the wooden press box above.  It is a page of the stats for the game.

There were 120 total plays from scrimmage, of which 108 were running plays and 12 were passing plays.  The teams combined to complete five of the 12 pass attempts for 60 total yards through the air.  The 108 rushing attempts led to 350 rushing yards.  Tech won the game by holding onto the ball for the last eight minutes in a long drive that went from their 15 yard line to the State 30.

You notice that even though there were three opportunities for State to attempt field goals of 20-30 yards, the State coach never considered it.  Because there are limited substitutions in this brand of 1950’s college football, kicking specialists do not exist.  The State kicker is none other than one of the inside linebacker/offensive guards.

As you wish you were back in the 21st Century watching college football with 160 scrimmage plays, 80-100 passing plays, and more than 1,000 yards of offense, the white light comes from out of nowhere, and you are holding onto the hand of your girl, as you enter a 100,000-seat stadium to watch a game that could decide whether your favorite team will stay in the hunt for a college playoff spot.

This sounds impossible, correct?  Of course, it is, since Rod Serling is no longer around.  However, if you are a college basketball fan, you have been transported back to the equivalent of college football in the 1950’s, even if you didn’t see the white flash.

Yes, college basketball in 2015 is your parallel universe where all the exciting action has been taken out of the game.  Like the drastic change in total possessions between college football in 1954 and 2014, basketball has gone the opposite way with about 25 fewer possessions per game than 40-50 years ago.  And, the game has suffered immensely.

The average college basketball team today plays at a pace of 65 possessions per game.  Let’s take a look at the real past.  The statistics I am about to give you are not 100% exact, because certain data does not exist that can be used to make the data 100% accurate.  However, we can obtain a close approximation to possessions per game by looking at the statistics we do have.

In case you do not know, you can estimate college basketball possessions with great accuracy by using this formula:

FGA + (.465 * FTA) + TO – OR

Where FGA = field goal attempts, FTA = free throw attempts, TO = turnovers, and OR = offensive rebounds.

For example, if a team averages 52 field goal attempts, 22 free throw attempts, 13 turnovers, and 10 offensive rebounds per game, you can estimate their possessions per game by performing the easy math.

52 + (.465 * 22) + 13 – 10 = 65 possessions (rounded to the nearest whole number), which is about what the average is today in college basketball.

Many of you reading this know that at one time, I missed fewer than a half-dozen Vanderbilt University home basketball games between December 1963 and March of 2001.  It took 6 inches of snow and ice or a fever of 102 or more to keep me away.  Only a 2001 relocation to Colorado ended the streak.  When we returned to Nashville in time for the 2003-04 season, we did not buy tickets, as it was apparent that Vanderbilt would commence using the Princeton offense and its insomnia-curing style of play.  This style of play continued for a few years, but even when the Commodores switched offenses, the game as a whole had become too dull to warrant spending the money and time to attend the games.

The period between 1963-64 and 1975-76 were incredible for a Commodore season ticket holder, as Memorial Gymnasium was an even bigger 6th man for the home team than Cameron Indoor Stadium has been for Duke in the last 30 years.

Coach Roy Skinner did not believe in slow-paced basketball.  Reared in Kentucky, he believed in the principles of Adolph Rupp, and he produced basketball teams that lent themselves to sellouts.  The gym sold out for the season before Thanksgiving, in a time when the first games of the season were not played until the first Monday in December.

Two remodels brought the capacity of Memorial Gym to 15,626, and through the first half of the 1970’s, Vandy’s actual attendance at most games surpassed that amount.  More than one time, the city’s fire marshall, a VU fan himself, had to clear the aisles when those without a seat but with a ticket (often a student) tried to stake a claim and create a dangerous situation.

Why was Memorial Gym so packed, and why did Vanderbilt routinely win 90% of its home games in those days?  There are multiple reasons.  First, Vanderbilt was a perennial national power in the Skinner days.  In 17 seasons, his Vanderbilt squad only once finished with a losing record (still that 12-14 team defeated a 16-0 Kentucky team), and they finished with a losing SEC conference record just twice (6-8 and 8-10).  Skinner retired when his final team finished 12-6 in the SEC, which was considered a major disappointment.

The other reason for the sellouts, which is much more valid, is that Vanderbilt was one of 20-30 college teams that played up-tempo ball for 40 minutes every game.  80-point games were considered subpar performances.  It was routine to go to Memorial Gym and see the Commodores beat a name team 95-85.  Skinner did not schedule low and mid major opponents.  No, he routinely scheduled top 20 teams like North Carolina, Duke, Davidson, (when Davidson was an elite school similar to Gonzaga today), Kansas, St, John’s, Illinois, and SMU (when SMU was the Kentucky of the old Southwest Conference).

A typical game under a Skinner-coached Vanderbilt team found the Commodores with a stat line that looked like this:

FGA = 75, FTA = 30, TO = 18, OR = 16

Do the math, and you come to 91 possessions per game.  This is not just a typical stat line for one game; this is typical of an entire season.

In some games, like against Kentucky, North Carolina, or LSU, the number of possessions exceeded 100.  One night, I watched the Commodores approach 120 possessions in a game against Ole Miss (Vanderbilt scored 130 that night).

The average would be brought down because Vandy had three conference opponents that notoriously slowed the game down in most years.  Auburn used the shuffle offense and frequently held the ball for 45 seconds to a minute before shooting.  Remember, there was no shot clock in those days.

Until Ken Rosemond recruited beefy Bob Lienhard to Athens, Georgia also held the ball against teams like Vandy and Kentucky.  They outright stalled.

By far, the number one enemy of Vanderbilt fans was Tennessee coach Ray Mears.  Prior to the days where he recruited Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King to Knoxville, Mears was a proponent of deliberate offense and a 1-3-1 trapping zone defense that led to “snoozeball,” for all but the orange-clad fans.

Take away the six games per year against Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee, and Vanderbilt averaged about 100 possessions per game and 90 points per game.  This was without a shot clock or three-point shot.  Because the Commodores had outstanding guards that could shoot from 20 feet out, it is possible that 8-10 of their made shots per game would count as three-pointers today.  Add the shot clock into the equation, and you are looking at a program that would have averaged 100 points per game had the three slow-paced teams been forced to play with a shot clock.

Now, let’s look at a typical Tennessee team under Mears before the Ernie and Bernie show matriculated from the Empire State.  I will use the 1968-69 team, because I have their stats, and I have become a sort of friend with one of the players on that team, who lives just a jump shot away from me today.

That boring Volunteer team finished second in the SEC with a 13-5 conference record and 21-7 record overall, finishing third in the NIT, which in those days meant you were a top 20 team.

That Vol squad had a scoring margin of 67-58 in a college basketball environment when about 150 points per game was an average total.  This means the average total score in a UT game was about 17 percent below the national average, and about 33% below the average score of a Vanderbilt game that season.

Tennessee’s average possessions can be estimated thusly:

(56 FGA + (.465 * 20 FTA) + 14 TO – 11 OR = 68 possessions.

Remember, these stats came in a year with no shot clock, so teams could hold onto the ball for more than 35 seconds, even a minute if they could hold onto the ball.

Teams like Tennessee and their slow-paced style of play angered fans and coaches of other teams to the point where dozens of coaches and sportswriters, and thousands of fans clamored for a shot-clock.  Yes, those 68 possessions per game were a travesty then, as fans felt like they did not receive their money’s worth.  For what it’s worth, a college basketball ticket in 1968-69 at Memorial Gym went for $8, which had risen from $6 to help pay off the bill for the recent gymnasium expansion.  Today, 68 possessions in a game is above-average!

Put a 1968-69 college basketball fan in that Twilight Zone and transport him to the present day college basketball environment, and he will feel like you felt when you were taken to the parallel universe to watch that 6-0 football game.

Today’s college basketball with its 65 possessions per team per game pales in comparison to the brand of basketball played in the 1960’s and 1970’s when an average team played at a 80-90 possession per game pace.

The basketball purist believes that the rules should not be tinkered with, but I will counter that by saying that college basketball rules have continually been tinkered with through the decades, so basketball purity demands rules changes when they are needed.

The three-point shot and shot clock took basketball to new heights when they were instituted in the 1980’s, as in the early part of that decade, the game became stagnant with low-scoring games and some important games ending with the winning team not even scoring 40 points.

The shot-clock started at 45 seconds before moving to 35 seconds like it is today.  There is talk about trying a 30-second clock in this year’s NIT.  A few basketball experts support the 24-second clock like the NBA.

If you know me, you know I am a baseball sabermetrician.  I am into sports metrics and participate actively in sabermetric endeavors.

I can bore you with a lengthy treatise to show you exactly when a baseball manager should call for a sacrifice bunt attempt and when he should not.  I can tell you mathematically how to determine the efficiency a base stealer must have in order to help his team by trying to steal a base in every possible situation.

For basketball, I can also show you what changing the shot clock from 35 to 30 and to 24 seconds would do to total possessions per game and then make an assumption or two to refine what the math shows us.

In recent weeks, I have looked at tapes of numerous college games.  I had to take stimulants to stay awake through these boring dribblethons that led to teams getting anywhere from 52 to 69 possessions.  I tried to limit my monitoring to Top 20 teams, so I watched Kentucky, Duke, Virginia, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin, and others.

What I was looking for was the percentage of possessions where a shot was taken with five seconds or less on the shot clock.  Obviously, if the shot clock were reduced to 30 seconds per possession rather than 35, then these would be the possessions affected the most (there would be a secondary adjustment that I will not bore you with).

I found over the course of about 200 total games that on average in 2015, a college team will shoot the ball, turn the ball over, or draw a foul in the final five seconds of the shot clock about 18% of the time.  If we postulate that these 12 possessions per team per game now took exactly five fewer seconds due to the shot clock moving from 35 to 30 seconds, then you can estimate that the total number of possessions per team per game would rise slightly from 65 to 71 possessions per game.  This would represent merely a modest gain of 9% additional possessions.

What if we went all the way and tried a 24-second clock?  I have not had the opportunity to look at enough games to establish a pattern, but from the three dozen games I have charted this year, about 69% of all possessions exceed 24 seconds.  This includes offensive rebounds with immediate shots, turnovers, and fouls before 24 seconds elapsed, meaning that almost all other possessions used more than 24 seconds.

This would definitely change the game.  If you postulate that all the current possessions in excess of 24 seconds all of a sudden took a maximum of 24 seconds, then the number of total possessions per team per game would head north almost back to where it was in the 1970’s, when college basketball was definitely much more exciting to watch than it is today.

College football is up-tempo, and it is just behind the NFL in popularity.  College basketball is not there.  A 24-second clock would bring the excitement back, as teams would not be able to walk the ball up the floor and then dribble around the perimeter for 30 seconds.  It would be a team game once again with much less dribbling and much more passing and movement of players.  Time would not allow such stagnation as we see in today’s basketball game, where the players without the ball should be forced to purchase a ticket to enter the arena.

Let me address one additional item.  I have heard uninformed basketball fans make the claim that a 24-second clock would put an end to upsets and teams like Butler making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament and would leave teams like Kentucky and Duke in control of the sport.

This is bogus.  First, let’s look at Kentucky today.  The Wildcats average just 63 possessions per game, and they are dominating.  It is my belief, as well as the belief of others with higher basketball intelligence that if they are to be defeated this season, it will come from a team that speeds up the tempo and forces the Cats into enough turnovers to overcome the dominant rebounding the Blue Mist has.

Mathematically, in a game with limited possessions, there will be a lower standard deviation of points scored per possession.  The dominant team actually has a better mathematical chance of winning over the lesser-talented team.  In a game with higher possessions, the standard deviation of points scored per possession rises as well.  Definitely, there is a chance for a larger blowout win by the superior team, but there is also a greater chance that the dominant team will be off enough to fall to the opponent.

The up-tempo game may allow a Kentucky to beat an Auburn by 45 points rather than 10-15, but in the low-possession game, Kentucky may have a 97% chance of winning, while in the high-possession game, they may only have a 90% chance of winning.

What’s that?  Did I hear you asking me if a regular season college basketball game has ever been played using a 24-second clock?  The answer to that is, “Yes!”

There has been one regular season college game played with a 24-second clock, unfortunately more than 50 years ago. And, where was this college game played using said 24-second shot clock?  At none other than Memorial Gymnasium at Vanderbilt University under Coach Roy Skinner, Vanderbilt played Baylor in March of 1959 using an experimental 24-second clock.  The Bears led by double digits with less than 10 minutes to play, and in those days, a lead like this would have been nearly impossible to overcome in the time remaining.  However, with BU limited to just 24-seconds per possession, they could not freeze the ball.  Vanderbilt came back and won by a point on a jump shot from the top of the key in the closing seconds.

Imagine a college game where the teams cannot afford to dribble walk the ball up the floor for nine seconds.  Imagine teams unable to walk the ball up the floor and then dribble around the perimeter for a combined 25 seconds.  Imagine more teams utilizing full-court pressure to force opponents into using up 1/3 of a 24-second shot clock.  This will lead to basketball with 80-100 possessions once again.  With the three-point shot and 90 possessions per team per game, many teams will approach 100 points per game, and the truly great defensive teams will be great because they will score off their defense and force teams into .75 points per possession.

Individually, you will see a lot more double-doubles and even more triple doubles.  If a player averages 16 points and 8 rebounds today in a 65-possession environment, then he should produce close to 22 points and 11 rebounds per game in a 90-possession environment.

Back to Kentucky of 2015: the Wildcats are undefeated, but they are not in the same level of superiority as the UCLA teams of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  This team has liabilities that can be exploited by other teams.  We believe UK will not win the national championship this year if the right team shows up in their bracket.

What type of team can topple Kentucky in the Big Dance?  It will be a team that can run up and down the floor and score points before Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Dakari Johnson can get there to alter the shots.  It will be a team that can run up and down the floor possession after possession to wear down the Cats’ big men, who have not yet been forced to play extended minutes at an accelerated pace. It will be the team that defensively can get in the passing lanes and steal passes and turn them into fast-break points.  We believe that the team that beats Kentucky will do so by forcing the tempo to a minimum of a 70-possession plus game.

Looking at some of the teams with good talent and an ability to play at a quicker pace, Iowa St., West Virginia, and North Carolina stand out as teams with enough talent to pull off a 70-possession pace against Kentucky.  Arizona and Duke could potentially play at that pace, but defensively neither can force Kentucky to speed up.

We do not believe that teams with paces similar to Kentucky can pull off the upset.  Virginia and Wisconsin would have to beat Kentucky by playing to the Wildcats’ strengths, and that does not look like a probable way to beat the Wildcats.

Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, be sure to return to this website Monday, February 16, after 1 PM Eastern Standard Time, to see our latest installment of our Terrific Two Dozen plus accurate bracketologists.  We bring together the most accurate bracketologists in the nation and form a composite master bracketology list to show you if your team needs to buy dancing shows or a new TV.  Forget the famous guys on the three and four-letter networks.  Our bracketologists historically fare much better in accuracy than the guys you may know.

Now, to the PiRate Ratings for this weekend’s top games.  Remember, these are first-year ratings, and we consider them to be experimental.  We use three separate algorithms incorporating basketball’s “four factors” and adjust the data for strength of schedule and home court advantage.  The PiRate Red and PiRate White are hitting close to 80% winners so far, while the PiRate Blue is lagging behind around 70%.  Unlike our football ratings, these ratings cannot be used to pick games against the spread, as they are set up only to pick the winner.  Yes, we supply a point-spread for each game, but the key part of this experimental rating is to try to work our way into picking a successful bracket come NCAA Tournament time.

Home Visitor Red White Blue
Saturday, February 14      
Kentucky South Carolina 23 19 16
Virginia Wake Forest 22 18 21
Gonzaga Pepperdine 24 20 15
Syracuse Duke -10 -6 -7
Butler Villanova -3 -1 2
Kansas Baylor 11 7 7
Louisville N. C. St. 16 12 11
Pittsburgh North Carolina -14 -7 -8
Iowa St. West Virginia 4 6 2
Illinois St. Wichita St. -10 -3 -10
Kansas St. Oklahoma -10 -8 -3
Penn St. Maryland -7 -1 -6
G W U V C U -5 -3 -2
T C U Oklahoma St. -6 -3 -5
Michigan St. Ohio St. -1 1 3
Ole Miss Arkansas 1 4 5
S M U Connecticut 8 6 10
Clemson Virginia Tech 13 8 9
Georgia Auburn 18 13 12
Georgia Tech Florida St. 10 7 2
Tennessee L S U -1 -1 -4
Missouri Mississippi St. -2 2 -5
Texas A&M Florida 2 3 7
Texas Texas Tech 19 16 21
Alabama Vanderbilt 2 4 12
Sunday, February 15
Wisconsin Illinois 19 15 13
Washington St. Arizona -28 -16 -17
Utah California 16 19 10
Missouri St. Northern Iowa -27 -11 -15
Northwestern Iowa -11 -6 -7
Purdue Nebraska 12 9 10
Boston College Miami (FL) -4 -1 3
Indiana Minnesota 3 5 8

January 23, 2015

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Picks: January 24-25, 2015

The second experimental week of the PiRate Ratings Basketball Edition showed some improvement, but our Red rating is a cause for concern.  This is the most fragile of the three, and our early opinion is that the strength of schedule element in this rating is not adequately affecting the statistical data the way it should.  We are monitoring the situation, but at this point, there is insufficient data to draw firm conclusions.

If this is your first time here, our basketball ratings commenced two weeks ago.  For the time being, we are only selecting weekend games played between teams in the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC, chosen strictly because these three conferences represent about 80% of our regular audience that continue to support our football ratings for several years.

Our basketball ratings use three separate formulae based on basketballs “Four Factors,” strength of schedule, home court advantage and visitors’ disadvantage, pace, and just a pinch of school tradition.


Here are our selections for January 24-25, 2015



Red White Blue

South Carolina


-23 -11


Michigan Wisconsin




North Carolina Florida St.




Purdue Iowa




Clemson Wake Forest




Penn St. Rutgers




Tennessee Texas A&M




Missouri Arkansas




Minnesota Illinois




Mississippi St. Georgia




Syracuse Miami (FL)




Nebraska Michigan St.




Vanderbilt LSU




Ole Miss Florida




Alabama Auburn




Virginia Tech Virginia




NC State Notre Dame




Pittsburgh Louisville




Maryland Northwestern




Ohio St. Indiana




Georgia Tech Boston College





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