The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 16, 2018

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

Friday’s PiRate Rating Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Texas A&M Providence 3.8
Purdue Cal St. Fullerton 17.0
Wichita St. Marshall 9.4
Cincinnati Georgia St. 12.7
North Carolina Lipscomb 17.4
Arkansas Butler -1.2
West Virginia Murray St. 6.3
Nevada Texas 2.5
Creighton Kansas St. 2.5
Michigan St. Bucknell 12.8
Xavier Texas Southern 20.0
Auburn Charleston 11.9
Virginia MD-Baltimore Co. 20.6
TCU Syracuse 4.3
Missouri Florida St. -1.1
Clemson New Mexico St. 4.1

Today’s NCAA Tournament Schedule

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

Saturday’s Schedule

Saturday, Mar 17, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:10 PM 1 Villanova 9 Alabama Pittsburgh CBS
2:40 PM 2 Duke 7 Rhode Island Pittsburgh CBS
5:15 PM 5 Kentucky 13 Buffalo Boise, ID CBS
6:10 PM 3 Tennessee 11 Loyola (Chi.) Dallas TNT
7:10 PM 1 Kansas 8 Seton Hall Wichita, KS TBS
7:45 PM 4 Gonzaga 5 Ohio St. Boise, ID CBS
8:40 PM 3 North Texas 6 Florida Dallas TNT
9:40 PM 3 Michigan 6 Houston Wichita, KS TBS

Bracket Results To Date: 15-5

Today’s Criteria Bracket Picks

Virginia over Maryland-Baltimore Co.

Creighton over Kansas St.

Texas over Nevada

Cincinnati over Georgia St.

Xavier over Texas Southern

Missouri over Florida St.

Texas A&M over Providence

North Carolina over Lipscomb

West Virginia over Murray St.

Wichita St. over Marshall

Butler over Arkansas

Purdue over Cal. St. Fullerton

Clemson over New Mexico St.

Auburn over College of Charleston

Syracuse over TCU

Michigan St. over Bucknell





March 13, 2018

Bracketnomics 505: 2018 NCAA Tournament

Today’s PiRate Ratings for NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Radford Long Island 5.6
UCLA St. Bonaventure 2.3


Welcome back to the PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 course for 2018.  Please note that if you have seen past Bracketnomics posts on this forum, they are now obsolete.  Only the current 2018 version is up to date with our current philosophy and criteria for picking teams.

We are sure that the old method still has some merit, but we believe the game has evolved thanks to advanced statistical metrics changing the way the game is played and the reduction of the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.  Although it will not be used in the NCAA Tournament, the NIT will experiment with the clock resetting only to 20 seconds when there is an offensive rebound off a missed shot.

If you did not read our Class 1 feature from Monday, you might wish to go back and read it before you begin to look at our data.  It will make it easier to understand.

Let’s start looking at raw data.

This first list shows the True Shooting % Margins, R+T Ratings, and Schedule Strength Numbers.  Keep an eye on the following:

  1. A True Shooting % Margin of +5% or better
  2. An R+T Rating of 12 or better
  3. A Strength of Schedule Rating of 55.0 or better


Team W-L Avg Score TS% Diff R+T SOS
Alabama 19-15 72-70 3.92 2.3 60.27
Arizona 27-7 81-71 7.16 16.9 56.62
Arizona St. 20-11 84-75 3.74 5.6 55.90
Arkansas 23-11 81-76 2.27 5.2 59.78
Auburn 25-7 83-73 3.07 13.0 57.82
Bucknell 25-9 81-73 6.39 5.2 47.73
Buffalo 26-8 85-77 4.40 9.9 49.69
Butler 20-13 79-73 1.11 9.8 60.34
Cal St. Fullerton 20-11 73-72 4.49 6.2 48.16
Charleston 26-7 75-69 3.31 5.4 47.05
Cincinnati 30-4 75-57 8.51 23.1 55.59
Clemson 23-9 73-66 5.91 7.0 59.63
Creighton 21-11 84-75 8.21 5.6 59.32
Davidson 21-11 76-68 6.95 7.5 52.99
Duke 26-7 85-70 9.63 21.8 61.10
Florida 20-12 76-69 1.68 4.6 60.47
Florida St. 20-11 82-75 4.18 10.8 58.25
Georgia St. 24-10 75-67 5.06 2.4 47.91
Gonzaga 30-4 85-67 9.69 23.1 53.33
Houston 26-7 77-65 6.55 19.0 55.10
Iona 20-13 80-76 2.89 -1.2 48.61
Kansas 27-7 82-71 8.48 5.1 61.40
Kansas St. 22-11 72-68 3.19 0.9 59.25
Kentucky 24-10 77-70 4.87 11.6 60.74
Lipscomb 23-9 83-78 1.80 10.4 46.08
Long Island 18-16 78-77 3.11 3.4 42.66
Loyola (Chi.) 28-5 72-62 10.23 7.2 50.49
Marshall 24-10 84-79 6.45 -4.8 48.72
MD-Baltimore Co. 24-10 73-71 1.21 3.3 45.34
Miami (Fla.) 22-9 74-68 3.10 6.5 58.19
Michigan 28-7 75-64 5.38 10.3 59.49
Michigan St. 29-4 81-65 14.22 19.9 58.10
Missouri 20-12 74-68 7.35 8.1 59.05
Montana 26-7 78-69 2.09 17.5 47.91
Murray St. 26-5 77-66 9.07 16.4 47.26
Nevada 27-7 83-73 6.01 7.4 54.38
New Mexico St. 28-5 76-65 4.95 23.0 49.40
North Carolina 25-10 82-73 2.96 22.2 63.33
North Carolina St. 21-11 81-75 1.70 7.5 57.47
Ohio St. 24-8 76-67 5.83 13.6 58.53
Oklahoma 18-13 85-82 3.51 0.9 61.23
Penn 24-8 76-69 5.62 7.9 47.04
Providence 21-13 74-73 -0.23 3.6 59.66
Purdue 28-6 81-66 11.75 10.0 59.43
Radford 22-12 67-64 -0.25 10.7 45.99
Rhode Island 25-7 76-68 -0.01 10.6 53.75
San Diego St. 22-10 77-68 3.83 15.2 53.54
Seton Hall 21-11 79-73 2.51 12.0 59.54
South Dakota St. 28-6 85-74 7.08 11.7 50.20
St. Bonaventure 25-7 78-71 3.52 8.9 53.05
Stephen F. Austin 28-6 78-68 3.75 16.2 44.06
Syracuse 20-13 68-65 1.28 12.6 58.16
TCU 21-11 83-76 3.55 15.6 59.86
Tennessee 25-8 74-66 4.38 8.9 61.11
Texas 19-14 72-68 1.65 4.1 61.24
Texas A&M 20-12 75-70 4.13 12.1 60.77
Texas Southern 15-19 78-80 1.11 -1.3 44.18
Texas Tech 24-9 75-65 5.27 14.6 59.83
UCLA 21-11 82-76 4.65 6.7 56.96
UNC-Central 19-15 70-71 2.65 11.1 38.53
UNC-Greensboro 27-7 74-62 3.58 17.8 46.81
Villanova 30-4 87-71 9.78 13.3 60.47
Virginia 31-2 68-53 8.42 13.4 60.45
Virginia Tech 21-11 80-72 7.27 1.6 58.44
West Virginia 24-10 80-69 0.33 16.6 60.84
Wichita St. 25-7 83-71 5.57 22.2 56.78
Wright St. 25-9 72-66 1.88 11.6 46.41
Xavier 28-5 84-75 7.04 15.5 59.66

Did you notice that there are just 10 teams that qualified in all three categories and posted three red numbers?  In case you were wondering, the purple numbers under scoring margin represent an old metric from past years that deserves some carryover into our new plans.  Almost all Final Four teams in the last 20 years (and a large majority all time) had double digit scoring margins.

Schedule Strength is very important to us, just like class is important to thoroughbred horses about to make a run for the roses in Louisville in May.  An Allowance horse with an undefeated record running crazy fractions at lesser tracks doesn’t have a chance against the top competitors in the Blue Grass Stakes, Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, and Santa Anita Derby.  Likewise the teams from the bottom 15 conferences do not have a chance to make it to the Final Four even if they outscored their opponents by 20 points per game.

In case you were wondering about some of the Cinderella Final Four teams from the recent past (George Mason, Wichita State, Butler, and VCU), all these teams were members of conferences that finished in the top 13 in overall strength and strength of schedule.  To find the last Final Four participant that came from a conference that finished in the bottom half in strength and strength of schedule, you must go back to 1979 and Penn out of the Ivy League.

You have a great starting point.  The teams with the red numbers (and purple numbers) have the basics to get them through the early rounds.  Of course, it matters who they play in the early rounds.  We cannot just stop here and fill out our brackets with this information.

There are components of the R+T Ratings, namely rebounding margin, steals, and turnover margin.  When you combine this with true shooting percentage, and schedule strength, you begin to see a clearer picture.  Two teams can have identical r+t ratings but one could dominate on the glass and not pick up steals or force turnovers, while the other could be just a tad better than average on the glass but pick teams apart with ball-hawking defense.  Which team is better?  That is not an easy question to answer.  We have to look at each game by itself.  Will one team’s ability to rebound trump another team’s ability to force turnovers?  What if a team is playing an opponent that wins by steals and turnovers (from a full-court press defense) has played six games this year against teams that play this style of defense and is now competent against it and able to exploit it for easy points?  What if a team that does not turn the ball over much hasn’t played a full-court pressing team all year, and now in the first round, as a favorite playing a double-digit seed, the underdog is a competent pressing defensive team?

You get the picture now, so there is just a little bit left to reveal.  The champion that will emerge will have won six consecutive games.  Should we expect a team that has not already won six consecutive games this year to all of a sudden do so against the top competition?  In almost every case in the last 30 years, the eventual national champion enjoyed at least one seven-games or better winning streak, or they had two separate six-game winning streak.  The rare exceptions in 30 years failed by one game.

We will keep all this in mind as we play out the brackets.  We will start with the First Four Games in Dayton, but most bracket contests allow you to place the winners in your bracket and start when it’s down to 64.

We know that we won’t pick all the winners correctly, and as we said yesterday, you have a better chance of winning the Power Ball and Mega Millions Lotteries in the same week than you have picking a perfect bracket.  In other words, it may take centuries before it is done, if ever.  Most office pools and friendly bracket contests modify the rules and let the players pick entirely new winners after each round, so we will return with picks for Saturday and Sunday, as well as new Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four picks.

Here are some supplemental statistics that we will use to influence how we pick games after we have looked at the big data above.

W1 and W2 are the teams’ two longest winning streaks during the year.

L 12 is how the team fared in its final 12 games prior to the tournament.

Reb is rebounding margin.

Stl is average steals per game, and Opp Stl is average number of times per game the team had the ball stolen by the opponents.

TO is turnover margin.

Team W1 W2 L 12 Reb Stl Opp Stl TO
Alabama 5 4 5-7 0.32 6.41 6.59 -0.94
Arizona 9 7 9-3 7.62 4.94 6.15 -0.62
Arizona St. 12 3 5-7 -1.26 6.58 5.39 4.19
Arkansas 6 4 8-4 -1.06 6.24 4.76 3.00
Auburn 14 5 7-5 3.25 7.44 6.16 2.97
Bucknell 10 8 11-1 1.53 5.62 6.68 -0.03
Buffalo 9 6 10-2 2.53 6.38 5.79 1.41
Butler 5 4 6-6 1.33 6.73 5.15 2.97
Cal St. Fullerton 5 4 9-3 1.90 6.39 5.65 -1.10
Charleston 11 5 11-1 -0.73 5.18 3.94 2.21
Cincinnati 16 7 10-2 7.50 7.29 4.94 3.35
Clemson 10 4 7-5 2.09 5.69 5.88 -0.13
Creighton 5 4 6-6 1.13 5.66 6.06 0.56
Davidson 5 4 10-2 1.38 4.78 4.75 1.13
Duke 11 5 8-4 9.24 7.52 5.82 -0.61
Florida 6 5 6-6 -2.19 6.84 4.41 3.97
Florida St. 9 3 6-6 3.10 6.71 5.87 1.10
Georgia St. 10 4 8-4 -2.76 7.35 4.91 3.15
Gonzaga 14 6 14-0 9.00 6.44 5.06 0.97
Houston 7 5 10-2 6.88 6.42 5.06 1.12
Iona 5 4 7-5 -3.76 6.79 5.06 2.03
Kansas 7 5 9-3 0.06 6.62 5.62 1.32
Kansas St. 4 4 6-6 -3.09 7.76 5.61 2.85
Kentucky 7 4 7-5 4.76 5.62 5.71 -1.03
Lipscomb 8 4 9-3 3.91 6.47 7.03 0.41
Long Island 5 4 9-3 1.71 5.62 6.65 -2.15
Loyola (Chi.) 10 7 11-1 1.64 6.64 6.36 0.91
Marshall 5 4 10-2 -4.32 6.85 6.65 1.06
MD-Baltimore Co. 5 3 10-2 -1.41 7.53 6.38 2.74
Miami (Fla.) 10 4 7-5 0.65 6.55 5.68 1.65
Michigan 9 7 11-1 0.77 6.26 4.06 3.71
Michigan St. 14 13 11-1 10.55 4.09 6.03 -3.21
Missouri 5 5 7-5 4.53 5.16 6.50 -3.09
Montana 13 6 10-2 4.82 7.76 4.97 2.97
Murray St. 13 5 12-0 5.74 6.81 5.29 0.84
Nevada 8 7 9-3 -0.12 6.26 4.53 3.06
New Mexico St. 11 6 10-2 8.94 5.64 4.85 1.12
North Carolina 6 5 9-3 9.97 5.63 6.11 -0.46
N. Carolina St. 5 4 8-4 0.59 7.50 6.22 2.81
Ohio St. 8 5 8-4 4.63 6.03 5.16 0.47
Oklahoma 10 2 3-9 -0.71 6.58 6.81 -0.16
Penn 5 4 10-2 1.75 5.94 5.19 0.59
Providence 5 4 7-5 -0.06 6.85 6.62 0.91
Purdue 19 5 8-4 2.44 5.82 5.21 1.44
Radford 7 6 8-4 3.12 6.29 5.53 0.82
Rhode Island 16 2 8-4 0.63 7.50 5.56 5.16
San Diego St. 9 4 10-2 5.28 6.31 6.19 1.69
Seton Hall 5 5 6-6 4.38 6.28 5.94 0.00
South Dakota St. 11 8 11-1 3.68 4.97 4.76 0.65
St. Bonaventure 13 8 11-1 0.94 6.91 5.28 2.88
S.F. Austin 6 5 10-2 4.06 10.21 7.50 4.44
Syracuse 6 4 5-7 4.48 7.24 6.30 0.30
TCU 12 4 6-6 6.31 6.59 6.25 -0.10
Tennessee 6 6 9-3 1.79 6.30 5.64 1.76
Texas 4 3 5-7 -0.21 6.21 5.42 0.85
Texas A&M 7 4 7-5 5.97 5.63 6.38 -2.31
Texas Southern 7 3 9-3 -1.97 5.59 5.29 -0.88
Texas Tech 8 7 7-5 4.06 7.42 5.88 2.64
UCLA 4 4 8-4 2.44 5.72 5.94 -1.06
UNC-Central 6 5 7-5 4.88 5.12 5.12 -2.09
UNC-Greensboro 6 5 11-1 6.76 7.74 7.06 1.47
Villanova 13 9 9-3 2.88 6.68 4.56 2.74
Virginia 15 8 11-1 1.88 6.79 3.88 4.15
Virginia Tech 7 3 7-5 -1.50 5.75 5.34 1.09
West Virginia 15 3 8-4 3.44 8.03 5.47 5.18
Wichita St. 7 7 9-3 9.88 4.69 5.88 0.00
Wright St. 8 4 9-3 2.97 6.65 5.82 2.15
Xavier 10 9 10-2 7.12 5.85 6.61 -1.06

When we add all our major and supplemental criteria together, we get a raw score.  We have tested some basic data scoring that we will not attempt to explain here, as it would bore you to sleep, but here are the 14 teams that came out of the test with indications that they have the talent and class to win the national championship.  While they are in order of grade score, you cannot automatically assume that the top team is the very best; actually the top eight finished in a statistical dead heat.  Here is the list of 14 teams with national championship caliber statistics.  The top Eight are shown in Crimson.

Texas Tech
Ohio St.
Wichita St.
West Virginia
Michigan St.

Here are the tip-off times and TV schedules for the First Four and Round of 64, followed by our bracket picks based on the new criteria.

The First Four Games In Dayton 

Tuesday, Mar 13, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:40 PM 16 Radford 16 Long Island Dayton, OH truTV
9:10 PM 11 UCLA 11 St. Bonaventure Dayton, OH truTV
Wednesday, Mar 14, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
6:40 PM 16 UNC-Central 16 Texas Southern Dayton, OH truTV
9:10 PM 11 Arizona St. 11 Syracuse Dayton, OH truTV

Round of 64

Thursday, Mar 15, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Rhode Island 10 Oklahoma Pittsburgh CBS
12:40 PM 3 Tennessee 14 Wright St. Dallas truTV
1:30 PM 4 Gonzaga 13 UNC-Greensboro Boise, ID TNT
2:00 PM 1 Kansas 16 Penn Wichita, KS TBS
2:45 PM 2 Duke 15 Iona Pittsburgh CBS
3:10 PM 6 Miami (Fla.) 11 Loyola (Chi.) Dallas truTV
4:00 PM 5 Ohio St. 12 South Dakota St. Boise, ID TNT
4:30 PM 8 Seton Hall 9 North Carolina St. Wichita, KS TBS
6:50 PM 1 Villanova 16 LIU/Radford Pittsburgh TNT
7:10 PM 5 Kentucky 12 Davidson Boise, ID CBS
7:20 PM 6 Houston 11 San Diego St Wichita, KS TBS
7:27 PM 3 Texas Tech 14 Stephen F. Austin Dallas truTV
9:20 PM 8 Virginia Tech 9 Alabama Pittsburgh TNT
9:40 PM 4 Arizona 13 Buffalo Boise, ID CBS
9:50 PM 3 Michigan 14 Montana Wichita, KS TBS
9:57 PM 6 Florida 11 St. Bon./UCLA Dallas truTV
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:15 PM 7 Texas A&M 10 Providence Charlotte CBS
12:40 PM 2 Purdue 15 Cal St. Fullerton Detroit truTV
1:30 PM 4 Wichita St. 13 Marshall San Diego TNT
2:00 PM 2 Cincinnati 15 Georgia St. Nashville TBS
2:45 PM 2 North Carolina 15 Lipscomb Charlotte CBS
3:10 PM 7 Arkansas 10 Butler Detroit truTV
4:00 PM 5 West Virginia 12 Murray St. San Diego TNT
4:30 PM 7 Nevada 10 Texas Nashville TBS
6:50 PM 8 Creighton 9 Kansas St. Charlotte TNT
7:10 PM 3 Michigan St. 14 Bucknell Detroit CBS
7:20 PM 1 Xavier 16 UNC-Central/Tx Sou. Nashville TBS
7:27 PM 4 Auburn 13 Charleston San Diego truTV
9:20 PM 1 Virginia 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TNT
9:40 PM 6 TCU 11 Ariz. St./Syracuse Detroit CBS
9:50 PM 8 Missouri 9 Florida St. Nashville TBS
9:57 PM 5 Clemson 12 New Mexico St. San Diego truTV



Play-in Round

Radford vs. Long Island

There isn’t much difference here between the two teams, as the winner will quickly exit stage right after Thursday.

Radford has a slight rebounding edge and somewhat larger turnover and steals edge with a slightly better strength of schedule.  It isn’t an overwhelming edge in any case, but it is enough to list a favorite by about 60%

Our Pick: Radford


UCLA vs. St. Bonaventure

Games like this are supposed to be toss-ups, and in this case, we could see where the margin stays close throughout as the two teams struggle to get spurts that will put them in control.

St. Bonaventure enters this game riding a hot hand where a long winning streak ended in a semifinal round loss to Davidson in the A-10 Tournament.  UCLA almost didn’t make it in the tournament, and an end of season win over USC most likely put the Bruins in and Trojans out.

In almost every statistical category, the advantages one team has over the other are minimal.  The only game-swinging stat that could make this outcome predictable is the turnover margin.  UCLA has a negative turnover margin, while the Bonnies have a knack for stealing the ball.  It’s just enough to go with the team from Olean by a couple points.

Our Pick: St. Bonaventure


North Carolina Central vs. Texas Southern

This will be an exciting game for more than the obvious reason that it will allow the winner a chance to advance to Friday.  This game matches up the tournament champions from the two Historically Black Colleges and University conferences that play division 1 basketball.  Legendary Hall of Fame Coach John McLendon made UNC Central a small college basketball power similar to Kentucky and North Carolina in present times.  Texas Southern was an NAIA power in the 1970’s before moving to Division 1, and as a D1 school, the Tigers produced one of the most exciting and prolific combination scorers and rebounders in NCAA history.  Harry “Machine Gun” Kelly was the first player in NCAA Division 1 history to score more than 3,000 points in his career and gather more than 1,000 rebounds.

Now that we hope you are pumped up about this game, expect possibly the best game of the Dayton foursome.  UNC-Central has the better statistical resume, but TSU played a considerably harder schedule.  Neither team has a chance of knocking off the top-seed Xavier on Friday.  We are going to take UNC-Central in a close game for one reason only.  Texas Southern has a negative R+T rating, and our PiRate Rating rule is to always go against any team with a negative R+T rating as long as the opponent has a postivie R+T rating.  This means that Central will benefit from extra scoring opportunities in this game, in this case about six more.  TSU does not have a high enough true shooting percentage to make up for this probably seven-point swing.

Our Pick: UNC-Central


Arizona St. vs. Syracuse

Both teams must feel fortunate that they squeaked into the tournament.  According to actual selection, Arizona St. is the 66th team and Syracuse is the 68th team, but NCAA Tournament rules state that teams from the same conference cannot play against each other until the Elite 8, and Arizona St. moved up one spot as team 65, so that they would not play #67 UCLA, a conference rival.

When you talk about playing Syracuse with little time to prepare, you have to give the Orangemen a little bit of vigorish due to the difficulty preparing for their multiple 2-3 zone schemes.  Just when you think you have it figured out, they switch how they play the zone.  It is like preparing for a football game against Navy on very short notice.

Syracuse is going to control the boards in this game, so the Sun Devils will need to capitalize on hitting a high percentage of the few open shots that present themselves when ASU solves the zone and finds a hole.  The Sun Devils will need to ramp up the pressure man-to-man defense in hopes of forcing Syracuse into a couple extra turnovers.

There isn’t much to choose from when trying to separate these two teams, but the one glaring advantage in this game is schedule strength, and that is how we will select a winner in this one.

Our Pick: Syracuse 


Round of 64

Virginia vs. Maryland-Baltimore Co.

We could just issue the obvious pick, and you know which team that will be, but we want to include reasons in every game so you can begin to instinctively know how we do what we do.  It is our hope that by the Sweet 16 round that most of you will know before reading which teams we are going to select.

UMBC has struggled at times to get open looks against America East Conference opponents.  What do you think will happen when they go up against the best halfcourt defense in the country?  The Retrievers will see the Cavaliers retrieving all the missed shots, and then UVa will work the ball for high percentage shots.  It would not surprise us at all if the margin exceeded 30 points in this game.  Virginia has a huge R+T advantage and if the shooting percentage difference wasn’t enough, the Cavs will get about 10 extra scoring opportunities.  If the starters stay in the game long enough, the score could be doubled.  Even with the reserves seeing double digit minutes, a 75-40 score would not be surprising.

Our Pick: Virginia 


Creighton vs. Kansas St.

Eight-Nine games are supposed to be close, but in this case we believe it is a mismatch.  Using our criteria, the Blue Jays should dominate this game.  Let’s start with the strength of schedule for the teams–it is almost identical (less than .1 points per game).  This makes statistical analysis much easier.

Creighton enjoys considerable superiority in true shooting percentages and R+T rating, which makes this a simple open and shut case.  We expect a double-digit win.

Our Pick: Creighton


Kentucky vs. Davidson

Kentucky coach John Calipari is hopping mad.  His Wildcats won the SEC Tournament, and they got shipped to the Frozen potato fields of Boise.  It was obvious that their five-seed had already been bestowed upon the Blue Mist prior to the game with Tennessee on Sunday.

Davidson was the team that forced all Bracketologists to compile two final seed lists and wait until Sunday afternoon’s contest with Rhode Island concluded.  The Wildcats’ statistical metrics improved continually from early January until the present time.  If you throw out their November and December games and only include the stats from that point on, they look like a lively team capable of pulling off another one of those 12 versus 5 upsets.

This Kentucky team has not been all that consistent.  There isn’t really a point in the season where you can isolate many consecutive games where their statistical metrics say they have a chance to run the table.  Even the conference tournament showed they cannot play a 40-minute game.  This isn’t the Fiddling Five of 1958, where one big spurt leads the Wildcats to victory.  This group is more like the ADHD Five.  They hit long stretches where they don’t seem to be following Cal’s script.

It won’t matter much in this game.  Cal if angry, and his team will respond at least in this first game.  Kentucky has too much muscle inside for Davidson to put together a long string of successful possessions.  The K-Cats will block shots and limit Davidson to one shot per possession too many times for the D-Cats.  Davidson will have a difficult time stopping Kentucky’s inside game, and when they stuff the lane, Kentucky will hit enough three-pointers to force DC to extend their defense.

Our Pick: Kentucky 


Arizona vs. Buffalo

Buffalo might have been a trendy upset pick if the Bulls had pulled a more favorable first-round opponent.  The Wildcats have just a little too much inside power for the Bulls to stop enough times to challenge for the upset.  In our minds, Arizona was seeded a little lower than their resume shows.  They should have been at least a 3-seed if not a 2-seed.  The Pac-12 did not get much respect, and the FBI issue may have psychologically discounted the team a little in the Selection Committee room.

This is the only Pac-12 team with statistical metrics capable of moving to the Final Four.  Arizona’s stat sheet is one that shows staying power.  They meet our qualifications of a “Complete Team,” as they have favorable true shooting percentage, R+T rating, and schedule strength.

Our Pick: Arizona


Miami (Fla.) vs. Loyola (Chi.)

This is the first game in order of the released bracket where the decisive underdog has a legitimate chance to pull of the upset.  If Loyola’s strength of schedule was just a fraction stronger, we would make the Ramblers the definite favorite in this game.  As it is, we think it is a 50-50 toss-up, so keep that in mind when you see our pick for this game and feel free to go the other way if you have valid reasons.

Miami limped through the last month of the regular season.  The Hurricanes peaked in November and December and never could regain the consistency they had at the beginning of the season.

Loyola went the other way.  As the season continued, the Ramblers improved.  By mid-February, they had become what Wichita State once was in the Valley–the dominant team without a serious rival.

Loyola has superior true shooting percentage margin and R+T rating, better by enough to overcome Miami’s superior schedule strength.  The Hurricanes do not help themselves in rebounding or gaining possession by turnover, and their stay in the 2018 version of March Madness will end either here or in the next round.

As we try to pick this toss-up game we go with the team with the momentum and the excitement of returning to the field after a long time with players that are hungry and confident.

Our Pick: Loyola (Chi.) 


Tennessee vs. Wright St.

On the few occasions where a 14 or 15 seed pulls off the big first round upset, that team has players that are quick and dangerous ball-hawkers that can fast break and get cheap baskets.  Wright State does not meet this requirement.  They are a more patient, balanced team that takes advantage of the opponent’s miscues and slowly opens up a nice but not huge lead.

Tennessee is not going to give the Raiders much of a chance to slowly open up any lead.  The Volunteers have superiority over WSU in schedule strength by a large margin, as Tennessee’s opponents overall averaged more than 15 points per game stronger than those that played the Raiders.  Tennessee’s true shooting percentage margin will be more than enough to make this game a blow out, but the Vols also have the better R+T rating when weighted against their superior schedule.  Expect to see Rick Barnes go deep into his bench in the second half.

Our Pick: Tennessee


Nevada vs. Texas

If you know anything about barbecue contests, you know that brisket is the most difficult part of the contest to master.  It takes a long time to perfect the method.  There isn’t much room for temperature variation, and the rub and mop have to be just right.  You don’t get much wiggle room.  College basketball at the big time is similar to barbecuing a brisket.  Chef Eric Musselman of Team Nevada created perfect briskets all season long until last week.  His most recent brisket came out of the old Pitts and Spitts inedible.  The judges couldn’t even bite into the sample piece, as a new leader of the old successful barbecue team in San Diego took home all the trophies.

What do we make of this?  Will Team Wolf Pack recover and cook a tender, juicy flavorful brisket in the big Music City BBQ contest?

The other participant in this game used to create championship briskets with his mustard based sauce that he called “Havoc.”  Chef Shaka Smart didn’t have the essential ingredients in the Lone Star State this year, and he had to change his recipe to a vinegar base sauce.  It wasn’t as tasty or tender, but the brisket still got him placement on the stage.  Chef Smart may have done his best work considering the grade of beef he had at the start, but now all that matters is the final product.

Which brisket will be better?  Let’s look at the ingredients.  The quality of the beef, aka schedule strength, favors the Longhorns, and the advantage is healthy and something to give serious consideration.  Nevada still has a slight true shooting percentage edge when schedule strength is weighted into the equation, but Texas overcomes that with an even greater R+T advantage.  Most of this advantage comes from UT’s ability to maintain control of the ball, so it will not lead to excessive extra scoring opportunities.

With this data alone, the game looks to be rather close.  However, we are going to add one intangible into the fray, and that will lead us to picking a sure winner.  Coach Musselman’s briskets have developed quite the reputation in the barbecue world.  He almost left Reno for the large BBQ joint in Berkeley, CA, last year, and at the end of the season Nevada laid an egg in their first round tournament game with Iowa St.  This year, we believe Musselman will take another job, and we believe his players feel that way too.  He has been mentioned as a finalist for the Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgia, and Ole Miss jobs, and chances are better than 50-50 that he takes one of these four.  Once again, the Wolf Pack may be a bit flat, if only at the start of the game before they recover.  Spot Shaka Smart a ten-point lead, and his teams usually find a way to hold onto it.

Our Pick: Texas


Cincinnati vs. Georgia St.

The Bearcats should have been a number one seed in our opinion, but the Selection Committee is charged with looking at the entire season rather than the most recent part.  Coach Mick Cronin has a real national championship contender this year, as Cinti has its best team since Ed Jucker roamed the sidelines.  This Bearcat team is better than any of Bob Huggins’ teams in the Queen City.

Georgia State is a better team today than they were in December.  The Panthers showed how much they improved during the season when they clobbered Louisiana-Lafayette and put up 106 points in the game.

GSU could play two complete games against Cincinnati, and the Panthers would struggle to score 106 total points.  The Bearcats are in a different class of opponent compared to the opponents in the Sun Belt Conference.

The stats are ugly for this game and portend a possible 40 to 50-point win if Cincinnati doesn’t call off the dogs early.  The Bearcats should receive 25 extra scoring opportunities in this game, as Georgia State had trouble rebounding against SBC competition, and Cincinnati would be expected to win the battle of the boards against almost every other team in the tournament except maybe Michigan St.

Cincinnati’s defense will hold Georgia State under 40% shooting from the field, while the Bearcats have a good chance to connect on 50% or better.  Don’t even consider that this game could be any different, unless you believe we just jinxed it.  On paper, we could see a score in the neighborhood of 85-45.

Our Pick: Cincinnati


Xavier vs. UNC-Central or Texas Southern

We find it quite interesting that the Selection Committee placed bitter rivals Xavier and Cincinnati in the same location for a tournament that will be played around St. Patrick’s Day.  What could go wrong when enemies of two schools staying in the same block of another town get sufficient alcohol in their systems?  Why not schedule a soccer game between Manchester United and Liverpool at the Titans’ Coliseum across the river at the same time?

There isn’t much to say about this game.  Xavier should have little trouble winning, but take note of this: we believe the Musketeers are the most vulnerable of the one-seeds in this tournament.  They have glaring weaknesses that can be exploited down the road, maybe even as soon as the next round.  Xavier can gave some trouble holding onto the ball, and they do not force many turnovers on defense, so a really good pressuring defense with decent shooters will be nothing but trouble for the Musketeers.

Our Pick: Xavier

Missouri vs. Florida St.

This game is a hard one to pick.  How do you factor Michael Porter, Jr. into the statistical comparison?  He played 20+ minutes in his return for the Tigers in their opening game tournament loss to Georgia.  He was quite rusty and still enough out of shape to show fatigue quickly.  Of course, he was also nervous playing in St. Louis, and he pressed a bit.  However, there were moments where you could see some Lebronish moves.

Florida State is very similar to Missouri in all respects, and without Porter playing for the Tigers, we would tend to give the slight edge to the Seminoles.  Therein lies the rub.  Without sneaking into Missouri’s practices or speaking directly with Porter and Coach Cuonzo Martin, we cannot begin to know if Porter will be able to move the needle in favor of his Tigers.

The key statistical factors here are a wash.  Schedule strength is the same.  Missouri has a slightly better true shooting percentage, while FSU has a slightly better R+T advantage.  Missouri’s negative turnover margin is enough to cause a bit of concern, but then having Porter at maybe 70% of his normal self is enough to put the advantage back on Missouri’s side, if only by a point or two. We are making this pick under the correct or incorrect belief that Porter will play 20+ minutes again in this game and be slightly more effective in this one.

Our Pick: Missouri


Ohio St. vs. South Dakota St.

South Dakota State is another double-digit seed that might have pulled off a shocker in the first round had they not drawn an opponent that matches up against them perfectly.  Ohio State can be beaten by lower-seeded teams in this tournament, and we would have gone against the Buckeyes if they had drawn Murray State.

This will still be a tough one for the quintet from Columbus to win.  SDSU is slightly weaker in true shooting percenage margin and R+T rating, but not by much.  Ohio State’s advantage here on average is about six points, which can easily be overcome by the law of averages, especially when you consider that the Jackrabbits are peaking at the right time, while the Buckeyes appear to be taking on water.  Only because Coach Chris Holtman has an excellent NCAA Tournament resume do we feel good about this selection.

Our Pick: Ohio State in a squeaker


Gonzaga vs. UNC-Greensboro

Is it us, or has the national media forgotten which team came within 90 seconds of winning the national championship last year and then reloaded with another powerful team that got better and better each week?

Take a look at Gonzaga’s statistical data?  The Bulldogs are just as impressive this year as they were at this time last year.  Their true shooting percentage margin is 5th best in the field of 68.  Their R+T rating is tops in the field.  They enter the Dance waltzing with a 14-game winning streak, and they meet our qualifications for a complete team.

The only reason why the Zags may not make it back to the Final Four this year is their strength of schedule just misses qualifying for our magic number of five points better than average.  They just barely qualified last year, so Gonzaga could break through and crush our qualifications.

UNC-Greensboro is not chopped liver.  They are a potentially dangerous team that just happened to luck into playing Gonzaga.  The Spartans enter the tournament riding a six-game winning streak that has seen them outscore opponents by 12.3 points per game.  Their statistical data is better than the average 13-seed.  They might be expected to beat more than half of the 6 through 12 seeds in this field, but they were quite unlucky drawing the most underrated of the top 16 teams.

Our Pick: Gonzaga


Houston vs. San Diego St.

This should be one of the most exciting and entertaining games in this round.  These two teams know how to claw and scratch on every possession.  While the game looks to be close to a toss-up, our PiRate Criteria statistical data shows a clear favorite.

Houston has better true shooting percentage numbers, better R+T numbers, and an ever so slightly superior schedule strength.  There are no other factors strong enough to turn this game the opposite way.  Watch out for the Cougars.  They are flying under the radar and could sneak up on future opponents.

Note: CUSA rivals Cincinnati and Houston were forced to play their home games on the floors of other D1 schools this year due to renovations to their gyms.  Cincinnati played their home games across the river at Northern Kentucky, while Houston played its home games almost next door at Texas Southern.  This no real home game issue may actually help both CUSA teams.

Our Pick: Houston

Michigan vs. Montana

Michigan under John Beilein always presents us some difficulty when prognosticating games in the NCAA Tournament, and in fact it was their past recent success that led us to make the major renovations to our criteria.  They led the change in how the game is now played on the offensive end, and their old-fashioned 1960’s-style 1-3-1 trapping zone defense also presents problems.

This year, the Wolverines appear to be even stronger than last year, when they narrowly lost to Oregon in the Sweet 16.  The Maize and Blue no longer have rebounding liabilities.  Rebounding is still no major strength, but they can compete against their upstate rival without worrying about being done in on the boards.

Michigan has shored up this liability without sacrificing their typical assets.  The Wolverines can still handle the ball better than all but one or two others in this field.  They know how to get the ball inside and score within a couple feet of the basket, and they can still hit their share of three-pointers.

Montana is actually a strong team for a Big Sky member.  The Big Sky has produced some surprise teams in the past, and the Grizzlies are a formidable first round foe.  They might even lead in this game for a short period of time, but in the end, they do not have the horsed to knock off the feisty Wolverines.

Our Pick: Michigan


Texas A&M vs. Providence

Neither of these teams has lasting potential in the 2018 Dance.  The winner will have to face North Carolina in Charlotte in the next round, and even thogh the Tar Heels have vulnerabilities, they will make it to the Sweet 16 again.

This game looks to us to be a surprise easy victory for the superior team.  Let’s look at which team that is.  Providence is one of just two teams in the field with a negative true shooting percentage margin (oddly the other is in-state rival Rhode Island).  In order for a team that has a negative TS% margin to win, they better have an outstanding R+T rating as well as a strong strength of schedule.  The Friars’s schedule is strong enough, but their R+T rating is almost as weak as their true shooting percentage margin.

Texas A&M enjoys decent numbers in the big three stats.  Their TS% margin is healthy, as it their R+T rating, and their strength of schedule is among the top 10 in this field.

Our Pick: Texas A&M


North Carolina vs. Lipscomb

Welcome to your first ever Division 1 NCAA Tournament bid Bisons.  Now, your first opponent is defending national champion North Carolina, and oh, you’re going to play them in Charlotte.

What a way to get a Baptism under fire!  There is only a tiny bit of solace in Lipscomb playing the Tar Heels.  Coach Casey Alexander came from Belmont, where coach Rick Byrd took his Bruin team into Chapel Hill a few years ago and beat North Carolina.  Byrd’s Belmont team came within a point of Duke in a past NCAA Tournament, and Alexander’s style of play is a carbon copy of his mentor.

The differences in schedule strength between these two games is immense and equates to about 24 points per game difference.  North Carolina will benefit from a huge advantage on the boards, but they can also take advantage of Lipscomb’s difficulty handling pressure defense.  The Bisons almost blew a 32-point lead in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship, when Florida Gulf Coast pressed full court and forced Lipscomb into one turnover after another, as the lead was cut to five points in about 12 minutes.

Our Pick: North Carolina


Villanova vs. Long Island or Radford

Villanova will have a slightly tougher time against Radford than against Long Island, and we selected Radford in the First Four, so we will compare VU to Radford.

‘Nova enjoys a strength of schedule close to 20 points per game better than Radford’s schedule.  The adjustment to the rest of the statistics based on schedule strength rating gives Villanova a prohibitive advantage in all respects.  The Wildcats once again have Final Four worthy statistics.

Our Pick: Villanova


Virginia Tech vs. Alabama

What we have here is a toss-up game between two rather mediocre NCAA Tournament teams.  We do not expect the winner to make it past the next round.

Virginia Tech has a decisive advantage in true shooting percentage margin.  The Hokies have little R+T strength, just barely avoiding automatic non-consideration at 1.6.  However, Alabama’s R+T is not much better at 2.3, which usually doesn’t bode well in the round of 64.  Neither team would most likely beat any of the 12-seeds this year, but because they lucked into facing each other, one team must advance to the round of 32.

Our Pick: Virginia Tech (but not with much confidence)

Note: A player like Alabama’s Colin Sexton can put a team on his back and produce a win over a team like Virginia Tech, so if you believe Sexton will shine, you might want to go against us here.


West Virginia vs. Murray St.

Wow!  This is going to be a game to watch for sure.  Usually, when Press Virginia plays its first game against an opponent that has not played the Mountaineers in the current era, Huggy Bear’s troops have a huge advantage.  Murray State is not one of those teams.  The Racers not only should handle the press much better than the average team, they will exploit it for points.

The problem is that the full-court press defense isn’t WVU’s only weapon.  The Mountaineers know how to crash the boards, and they know how to get the ball inside for high-percentage shots when the defense is not big time tough.

Murray State will challenge in this game until the Racers show signs of fatigue.  Eventually, the Mountaineers will go on a run with their “spurtability” and win by double digits, but it will still be a fun game to watch.

Our Pick: West Virginia


Wichita St. vs. Marshall

This game is an excellent study in contrast between old-school toughness and the new wave of basketball sabermetrics.

Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni is all about the new way of playing the game based on the way the currently accepted best operating metrics say the game should be played.  Marshall doesn’t try to get the ball into the low post where a pivot player then tries to make a move and take a high percentage shot.  The Thundering Herd force you to guard the perimeter sometimes placing all five offensive players behind the arc.  Then, if you drop your guard, they will drive to the basket trying to stuff the ball or getting a layup.

Defensively, if you want to play old school and set up a low post player in the pivot, the Herd will invite you to try to beat them with that strategy, because their data says they have the advantage.  Marshall tries to run the fast break at any opportunity where they have the number’s advantage, and they will pull up and take the three with a number’s advantage.  It is not out of the ordinary if they take 35 three-point shots in a game.  They will hit a baker’s dozen of them, so if your strategy is to take high-percentage shots inside with a dominant post player, you have to hit 20 of 35 to beat the 13 of 35 three-pointers.

Coach Gregg Marshall is somewhat of a non-believer.  Sure, his Wichita State team will take three-point shots and run the fast break trying to get easy baskets, but the Shockers believe in getting the ball inside and preventing the opponent from doing the same.

There is something entirely different from this synopsis that makes this an easy game to pick.  Marshall has a negative R+T rating, and any negative R+T rating means we always pick the other team if the other team has a positive R+T rating.  Wichita’s R+T is not just positive; it is one of the highest in the field.  The Shockers should get an incredible 24 more scoring opportunities in this game.  Marshall would have to hit something like 20 of 35 from behind the arc to win this game.

Our Pick:  Wichita St.


Florida vs. St. Bonaventure or UCLA

No matter which team wins the First Four game in Dayton, Florida is a strong upset victim in this game.  The Gators have so many vulnerabilities this year that just making the tournament should be considered a successful season.  This does not mean that the Gators have no chance in this game.  It means that the play-in winner has a better than 50-50 chance of getting a second win.

Florida’s barely positive true shooting percentage margin would require a strong R+T rating to advance into the second week of the tournament.  The Gators’ R+T is just 4.6, which places UF in the bottom quarter of the field and eighth weakest among power conference participants.

Our Pick: St. Bonaventure (or UCLA if they are the opponent)


Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin

We don’t usually get in-state rivals playing each other in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at a venue in their home state.  Texas Tech received the benefit of being kept close to home, but then all that benefit eroded when their opponent received an equal amount of home state help.

Texas Tech has to be treated a bit differently compare to most of the other teams in this field.  They have a key player that missed a large part of the regular season, and the Red Raiders were never the same after the injury.

Prior to beefy forward Zach Smith missing five weeks of the season, Tech was 14-1 and ranked in the top 10.  With Smith out, the Raiders went just 8-6, but then when he came back, Tech only won two of their last four.

Both of those two losses were at the hands of West Virginia, and even when Tech beat the Mountaineers in Lubbock, they struggled throughout the game.  It wasn’t the full-court press that hurt Tech as much as it was that WVU had better athletes.

Stephen F. Austin is similar to WVU but without the great athletes.  Texas Tech should win this game but not look flashy.  They will play more like a well-oiled machine and continually increase their control of the game.

Our Pick: Texas Tech


Arkansas vs. Butler

Just looking at this matchup, one might think that Arkansas has a major advantage in this game, but we’re here to tell you that is not the case.  Because the strength of schedules between the two are basically equal, comparing the other stats becomes much easier.

True Shooting % margin: Advantage Arkansas by a minute amount

R+T Rating: Advantage Butler by a bit more amount than Arkansas’s advantage above.

Arkansas is a weaker rebounding team than Butler is a weaker defensive team, so we go against the grain here and pick the Bulldogs over the flashy Razorbacks.  It doesn’t hurt that Butler finished just behind two, number one seeds in the Dance.

Our Pick: Butler


Purdue vs. Cal St. Fullerton

In past years, Purdue entered NCAA Tournament play as favorites to advance far only to suffer an upset loss to a team that most basketball fans believed the Boilermakers should have easily defeated.  We here on the PiRate ship understood why Purdue lost.  We called it the Keady Effect.  Teams with head coaches from the Gene Keady tree, and Keady as well, played a style of ball that worked during the regular season when PU could romp over most of their non-conference opponents and defend their home court with great success, but it did not work in neutral court tournament situations.

Matt Painter seems to have seen the light in recent years.  His teams no longer employ Keady Ball at Purdue.  They play more like prior coach Lee Rose, and because of that the Boilermakers are dangerous, maybe coming in a little under the radar.

Purdue has the second best overall true shooting percentage margin in this tournament, and their former bugaboo, the R+T rating is now a slight asset.  It is still not outstanding, but it is now strong enough to believe Purdue could make it to the second weekend of the Dance.

Cal State Fullerton lacks the quickness and the muscle to compete in this game.  Purdue will win by 15-25 points.

Our Pick: Purdue


Kansas vs. Penn

If there is any chance at all that one of the 1 versus 16 games will be close and still in doubt past halftime, this will be that game.  Kansas is due for a bounce after playing three tough Big 12 Tournament games, while Penn only had to hold serve on their home floor two times.

Although we think Xavier is the likely first 1-seed to lose this year, Kansas should be the second one, because we do not see this Jayhawk team making it to the Final Four, and they may not make it to the Elite 8.

It’s not that Penn is going to make a run in this tournament.  The Quakers will not make it past this game, but they will show the rest of the field that the Big 12 champions are beatable.

Our Pick: Kansas


Seton Hall vs. North Carolina St.

Give Kevin Keatts two more years, and he will have a Final Four contender in Raleigh.  When you combine talent evaluation, recruiting acumen, teaching, and game-time adjustments, Keatts rates as an A+ perfect 10 coach.  We expect a championship ring in his future.

Unfortunately for Wolf Pack fans, that ring will not come in 2018.  This State team was not expected to make it to the NCAA Tournament, as the NIT was the expectation.

Seton Hall is much like Butler.  The Pirates finished tied for third in a league where the top two teams claimed number one seeds.  The Big East is a tough league, and it is hard for a team to develop what looks like on paper as dominant statistics.

There isn’t much of an advantage in this game, but Seton Hall has that advantage, and it comes from being a hair better in all the key stats.

Our Pick: Seton Hall


Clemson vs. New Mexico St.

Could an upper division ACC team lose in the opening round of the tournament to a WAC team?  It most certainly is possible, because New Mexico State has the talent to pull off the upset.  Clemson has a nominal true shooting percentage margin advantage, while the Aggies enjoy an equally tiny R+T Rating advantage when weighted against schedule strength.  If New Mexico State can control the boards and out-rebound CU by four or more, they can win this game.  It’s a close call, but we have to go with the chalk in this one, but you can easily play it the other way.

Our Pick: Clemson

Auburn vs. Charleston

Be forewarned:  Auburn will not advance very far in this tournament, and they are weaker than your typical number four seed.  Because the Tigers saw their lone quality big man, Anfernee McLemore, go down to injury in late February, they are more like a double-digit seed now.  Their size liability is too much to overcome, and the Tigers will actually struggle to put College of Charleston away.

Only because Charleston is weak on the boards, do we have any faith in Auburn getting to the Round of 32.  It most likely will be an ugly win with a lower than expected final score.

Our Pick: Auburn


TCU vs. Arizona St. or Syracuse

If Syracuse wins the play-in game like we expect they will, then the Orangemen will be our favorite to advance to the Round of 32, because TCU will not match up well with Syracuse.  If Arizona State beats Syracuse, then TCU becomes our favorite to win this game.  So, wait until the ASU-Syracuse game finishes before making this pick.

Our Pick: Syracuse over TCU or

TCU over Arizona St.


Michigan St. vs. Bucknell

Coach Tom Izzo must have made a sigh of relief when he saw that his Spartans drew a finesse team in the first round rather than another sparkplug team like Middle Tennessee State.

The Spartans have nothing to worry about in this game.  Bucknell is a fundamentally-sound team that doesn’t have the roster to compete with the green behemoth.  MSU will play paddy-cake on the backboards getting more offensive rebounds than Bucknell will get defensive rebounds.

You beat Michigan State by forcing the Spartans into making more turnovers than normal, and Bucknell will force considerably less, which means Izzo and company cruise to the next round with a huge pointspread, maybe 25 or more.

Our Pick: Michigan St.


Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma

Woe is Oklahoma.  In the first half of the season, they deserved a high seed in this tournament.  But, a team must play both halves of its season, and in the second half, the Sooners did not deserve to earn an NIT bid.  Oklahoma is the weakest Power Conference team in the field at the present time.

Rhode Island has certain big-time assets, but the Rams also have one large liability, which means their stay in this field will be short-lived, either one or two games.

We basically must go with the team that is less mediocre than the opponent, and it is hard to choose here, since both teams wear tournament mediocrity well.

Rhode Island has a negative true shooting percentage margin.  We believe that it takes a positive shooting percentage margin to have a chance to advance in this field.  However, Oklahoma just barely has a positive R+T rating.  It is so low, that we would always pick against a team with an R+T rating of 0.9 with negative rebounding and turnover margins.

Rhode Island should capitalize more on Oklahoma’s R+T weakness than Oklahoma will capitalize on URI’s true shooting percentage margin, but Oklahoma has a superior strength of schedule.  They also have the superstar player that has been known to carry a team from one or two games in tournament play, but seldom any farther.

That takes us back to where we started–this game is a push.  We here on the PiRate ship could not come to a conclusion with a 3-3 vote.  The Captain had to break the tie, and we had to wait for his text saying to go with Oklahoma, because the Sooners have played nothing but tough opponents for two months in the Big 12, while URI has faltered against Power conference teams like Alabama and Nevada.

Our Pick: Oklahoma


Duke vs. Iona

This isn’t your father’s Duke team.  Heck, it isn’t even Coach K’s Duke team.  The man that came from the Bob Knight coaching tree where the word “Zone” is the worst four letter word, while the other expletive is a common adjective has been forced to employ that curse word defense in Durham.

Hey, it’s working, and this is why Duke is a serious contender to go all the way to the title!  Coach K has had to carefully find the proper pieces to make the puzzle complete, and Duke could be expected to begin tournament play a bit off.

The Selection Committee gave the Blue Devils a true gift.  Iona should have been a 16-seed, but the bottom of this field is really weak this year.  Somebody had to be a 15-seed, and the Gaels lucked out into avoiding the cursed 16-seed.

It won’t matter much.  The Boys from Durham will be able to work the kinks out while experimenting with new strategies in what amounts to almost a practice game.  Duke has one of the top five R+T ratings in the field, while Iona has a negative R+T rating.  We’d go with most of the 16-seeds over Iona if they played in this round.

Our Pick: Duke


There you have our first round picks.  Now, here is how we filled out the rest of our brackets.  Remember, we will preview the games anew in each round.

Round of 32

Virginia over Creighton

Arizona over Kentucky

Tennessee over Loyola (Chi.)

Cincinnati over Texas

Xavier over Missouri

Gonzaga over Ohio St.

Michigan over Houston

North Carolina over Texas A&M

Villanova over Virginia Tech

West Virginia over Wichita St.

Texas Tech over St. Bonaventure

Purdue over Butler

Kansas over Seton Hall

Clemson over Auburn

Michigan St. over Syracuse

Duke over Oklahoma


Sweet 16

Virginia over Arizona

Cincinnati over Tennessee

Gonzaga over Xavier

North Carolina over Michigan

Villanova over West Virginia

Purdue over Texas Tech

Kansas over Clemson

Duke over Michigan St.


Elite 8

Cincinnati over Virginia

North Carolina over Gonzaga

Villanova over Purdue

Duke over Kansas


Final Four

Cincinnati over North Carolina

Duke over Villanova



Duke over Cincinnati

March 10, 2018

PiRate Ratings Conference Tournament Update–March 10 , 2018

Today’s PiRate Rating Spreads For Conference Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Vermont UMBC 12.4
Cincinnati Memphis 17.5
Wichita St. Houston 0.1
Rhode Island St. Joseph’s 6.7
St. Bonaventure Davidson -0.9
Virginia North Carolina 1.0
Kansas West Virginia 0.1
Villanova Providence 13.7
Montana Eastern Washington 4.2
UC-Irvine Cal. St. Fullerton 2.0
Western Kentucky Marshall 5.1
Harvard Cornell 6.6
Penn Yale 6.9
Buffalo Toledo 3.9
Hampton UNC-Central 3.8
New Mexico San Diego St. -4.9
Arizona USC 1.9
Kentucky Alabama 3.0
Tennessee Arkansas 3.0
SE Louisiana Stephen F. Austin -5.6
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Texas Southern -5.2
UL-Lafayette Texas-Arlington 5.8
Georgia St. Georgia Southern 3.1
New Mexico St. Grand Canyon 4.9

Games in Blue are Semifinal Contests

Games in Red are Championship Games

Today’s Schedules With Approximate Tip Times and TV

All Times are Eastern Standard (Remember Daylight Savings Time Begins Sunday at 2 AM)

America East Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Home Visitors TV
11:00 AM #1 Vermont #2 UMBC ESPN2

Vermont is the home team in this tournament played on campus sites.  Because the rounds are spaced out, both teams had ample time to prepare for this game.  The Catamounts won handily in the two regularly-scheduled games.

UMBC’s only hope is to try to contain Vermont’s dominating power forward Payton Henson and be able to hit a lot of contested shots.  In the two previous games, Vermont held the Retrievers to well under 40% from the field.

Henson, the former Tulane bench warmer who became a star when he transferred to Vermont, controlled the boards in both games and led Vermont in scoring both times.


American Athletic Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Cincinnati #5 Memphis CBS
3:30 PM #2 Wichita St. #3 Houston CBS
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
3:00 PM Cinti or Memphis Wichita or Houston CBS

Tubby Smith lives to see another day as head coach of Memphis.  Two nail-biting wins into the tournament, Memphis finds itself taking on the top seed for a chance to play for an automatic bid and steal a bid for the AAC.

Memphis failed to tally 50 points in either meeting with the Bearcats, and neither game was close.  If Cincinnati does not come out flat, and it is hard to imagine a team that hustles like the Bearcats coming out flat, there is little chance the Tigers will pull the upset.

The other semifinal game should be very interesting, and there is a possibility that this game could come down to the 40th, or maybe the 45th minute before a winner is assured.  Houston’s defense has been improving all year long, while Wichita State’s defense is still somewhat of a work in progress.  The Cougars have not been this good in 25 years, and they look poised to make another step forward, maybe even to the Sweet 16.


Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Rhode Island #4 St. Joseph’s CBSSN
3:30 PM #2 St. Bonaventure #3 Davidson CBSSN
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Rhode Island or St. Joe’s St. Bona. or Davidson CBS

The two lower seeded teams move into serious bid-stealer territory.  Of the two, we believe Davidson has a rather good chance of pulling off back-to-back upsets of the top two seeds and steal a bid from a Louisville, Oklahoma, or Arizona St.

When Davidson ventured up to Olean, NY, to face St.  Bonaventure less than two weeks ago, it produced one of the most exciting games of the NCAA season.  The Bonnies eventually won in triple overtime 117-113, and the stat sheet was a masterpiece.  Three St. Bonaventure players topped 30 points, combining for 14 made three-pointers, while Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge had 45 points, and Kellian Grady had 39.  Today’s game may be decided by the three-point shot.  Both teams are strong defensively inside the paint.

Rhode Island is the class of this league, but the Rams are beatable, and St. Joe’s knows how to beat them.  How about a 30-point pasting by the Hawks over the Rams in Kingstown?  If they could win at URI, then St. Joe’s should surely be able to win on a neutral court in the nation’s capital.  Something tells us that Rhode Island will play with multiple chips on multiple shoulders today and get revenge.


Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM #1 Virginia #6 North Carolina ESPN

There seldom is need to give a lot of PR to the ACC Tournament.  The ACC Tournament is like football’s Rose Bowl.  It is the grandaddy of conference tournaments (aplogies to the Southern Conference Tournament, but the ACC is a bit more prestigious).

This should be a fantastic game tonight.  North Carolina didn’t fare all that well against the top-seeded and nationally top-ranked team this year.  The Tar Heels thought they had the Cavaliers Pack-line defense figured out in the first half, and it looked like this game would go down to the buzzer.  Then, a couple of fine-tuning adjustments totally stopped North Carolina for about 10 minutes, while Virginia’s offense slowly extended the lead out to double-digits.  The Tar Heels missed all of their shots in the second half of the second half.  UVa won by a dozen points, holding UNC under 50.

The mandatory statement that North Carolina is a much better team since that loss is required to be inserted here.  However, equal time forces us to state additionally that Virginia’s offense has improved almost as much in that time frame.

In other words, this game has the potential to be rivoting entertainment for you.  We expect the score to be around 60-60 with three minutes to play.  Then, who knows what might happen.  Past ACC Tournament history could help us predict something well worth watching.  We are excited about this game just writing these words!


Big 12 Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #1 Kansas #3 West Virginia ESPN

Do we even need to hype this game?  In our opinion, the rivalry between KU and WVU is approaching that of the Yankees and Red Sox.  The contrast in styles between two A-1 coaches, and the talent level on the floor tonight will make this a game full of movement and spurts.  Kansas handled the Mountaineers press rather easily in both games, and WVU did not get many transition points.  In a half-court game, the Jayhawks are about 10 points better than the Mountaineers, so the question is, can Coach Bob Huggins find a new wrinkle that will force Kansas to commit an extra five turnovers tonight?  If so, then this game is a toss-up.  If not, then the Jayhawks cut down the nets yet again.


Big East Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:30 PM #2 Villanova #5 Providence Fox

Usually, there is a tendency for the average generic sports fan to develop a temporary rooting interest for one generic team against another generic team–a game in which he or she has no ties to either team.  When a fan in Florida watches Oregon play USC, he or she might temporarily become a fan of one of the schools.  For instance, a typical guy in Orlando might cheer for USC solely because Trojan coach Andy Enfield married a former supermodel.

If you are one of the generic superfans, like all of us here on the PiRate ship, you are in a quandary tonight with these two teams.  Why is that?  It is because Villanova coach Jay Wright and Providence coach Ed Cooley are two of the best gentlemen in the game.  They are more than coaches to their players; they are second fathers, the type that dote over their children.

As for the game tonight, Villanova better not feel any overconfidence, because Providence has put all of its pieces together and has seen the finished puzzle of success.  The Friars are possibly still sitting on their best game of the season, and for that reason, we believe that at the least, Providence will cover in this game, and quite possibly win outright.  However, and this is a big however, the Friars have had to go to overtime the last two nights to get to this point.  Their legs may be a tad fatigued in the second half, while Villanova has won by comfortable margins and has rested their starters.  So, for that reason, the rest of the PiRates say the Wildcats are going to come out and be a bit too much for the underdog Friars.

What does this tell you?  Lay off this game if you like to invest in college basketball and just watch it for fun.


Big Sky Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:00 PM #1 Montana #3 Eastern Washington ESPNU

This is one of those tricky games.  Montana would appear to be the favorite, but in our opinion, the Grizzlies will have to play at the top of their talent level tonight to have a chance to win this game.  EWU lost a game at Idaho in early February that they should have won.  Since then, they have played like the king of the league, reeling off eight victories in a row by an average margin of more than 10 points per game.  The Eagles roster is a United Nations of basketball with players from Australia, Serbia, Lithuania, The Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic on the roster.

Montana has the best guard duo in the league, and in tournament play, strong guards lead to championships as long as there is adequate support in the front-court players, just enough to force defenses to stay honest.  Montana’s hopes for the NCAA Tournament rest on the shoulders of Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine.  They were a combined 8 of 21 in the regular season loss to EWU.  Expect a 70-75 possession game tonight, and we believe Eastern Washington will send Montana to an automatic NIT berth.


Big West Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
11:59 PM #3 UC-Irvine #4 Cal St. Fullerton ESPN2

What did we tell you about this league?  The top four seeds were basically dead even in talent, and we believed that any of the four could advance and win the dancing invitation.  So, what happened late last night?  The two lower seeds advanced to the championship game.

If you live on the East Coast, you better get the coffee pot brewing after supper tonight if you want to see the last automatic bid of the day be handed out.  Tonight’s game is a great contrast in playing styles.  UC-Irvine wins by playing tough defense and controlling the boards, while Fullerton has a great passing offense that leads to taking open shots and not rushing the offense.

The two teams split the season series with both winning on the other team’s home floor.  This looks like a game where one team will jump for joy in the final few seconds of a closely contested game.  You may have to stay awake until after 2 AM on the East Coast if you want to know who got the bid.


Conference USA Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
8:30 PM #3 Western Kentucky #4 Marshall CBSSN

If you don’t have a dog left in the fight today, and you just want to watch a potentially incredible game in the evening, you might want to tune into this one.  All we have to say about Marshall is mention the coach’s name.  He is Dan D’Antoni, the brother of Houston Rocket coach Mike D’Antoni.  Houston is 51-14 in the NBA using the same type of playing style that Marshall uses.  The D’Antoni brothers are the Billy Beane’s of basketball.  They are high on analytics, and they believe that the offense has the best chance of scoring quickly before the defense can force a bad shot as the clock winds down.  It’s all about three-pointers and high percentage two-point shots, and the belief is that if your guards get the ball up the floor quickly, an open opportunity will develop in one of those two locations.

Of course, this works a lot better when one of your guards is James Harden.  Marshall has two guards that play at the collegiate level like Harden does in the NBA.  Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks can fill it up, and they both average in excess of 20 points per game.  Keeping defenses honest, the Thundering Herd have Ajdin Penava inside, but the offense itself creates close open shots for a host of average players, and any average player at this level can hit from three feet away.

What about Western Kentucky?  The Hilltoppers are notorious for playing their best ball in March.  This goes back for decades and decades through a who’ who of great coaches and players.  WKU is much like their big brother up in Lexington.  They go into tournament championship games with the prestige of the New York Yankees.  They expect to win, but they do not consider it a foregone conclusion, and the red uniform makes them put out an effort like every player is Enos Slaughter.  Both the good news and the not-so-good news about WKU is that they are a very balanced team with any of the five starters capable of scoring 20-25 points in a game.  However, sometimes, none of the five will take over and will the team to a victory.

Western swept the season series with Marshall, but we do not particularly love the Hilltoppers chance to get a three-peat in today’s championship game.  Marshall will come out loose and ready to play 75-possession basketball.  Western better be ready and not only come expecting to play 65-possession basketball.


Ivy League Tournament
Philadelphia (Ivy Madness)
Top 4 Teams Qualify
Semifinals EST Championship Game EDT
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM #1 Harvard #4 Cornell ESPNU
3:00 PM #2 Penn #3 Yale ESPN2
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
9:00 PM  Harvard or Cornell Penn or Yale  ESPN2

The final conference tournament begins play today.  The Ivy League only sends its top four to the Palestra, so in theory the winner should usually be able to avoid a trip to Dayton.  If Penn or Harvard win Ivy Madness, they should be 16-seeds but avoid Dayton.  If Cornell wins, they are almost assuredly headed to Dayton, and if Yale wins, it would be a 50-50 guess.

Penn has the advantage of playing on their home floor, and the Quakers went 7-0 at home in Ivy League play.  Their two conference losses came at Harvard and at Yale, so the championship game should provide a bit of excitement.  Of course, Penn has to get past a Cornell team that gave the Quakers two close games in the regular season.


Mid-American Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
7:00 PM #1 Buffalo #2 Toledo ESPN2

The top two seeds found their way to the championship game, and we are returning to becoming confident in the Bulls.  Buffalo has the talent that if they can play with confidence and not become deer in the headlights, they could sneak past an opening round favorite in the NCAA Tournament.  We do not believe Toledo can do the same, but in the conference tournament, the Rockets could easily blast their way to victory.

These two teams played only once in the regular season, and it seems like it was a year ago.  Buffalo won on their home floor in an offensive shootout 104-94.  The difference in the game was the Buffalo ball-hawking defense.  The Bulls gave up a few easy baskets when their gambling defense did not force a turnover, but they forced Toledo into numerous turnovers that led to easy Buffalo scores.

This won’ be an 81-possession game like the first time, and if Toledo can take care of the basketball, they have the backcourt advantage with a couple of tall, sharp-shooting perimeter players in Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Jaelen Sanford.

If Buffalo is to hold serve and claim both the regular season and conference tournament titles, we believe that forward Nick Perkins needs to have a 20-point, 8-rebound game, and the Bulls need to force the tempo and not let Toledo slow the game down.


Mideastern Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #1 Hampton #6 UNC-Central ESPN2

Two teams with recent success in the MEAC will face off for the automatic bid.  Hampton has won the tournament title three of the last seven seasons under Coach Edward Joyner, while UNC-Central has claimed two of the last four under Coach LeVelle Moton.

Once again, this game presents an excellent study in different styles of play.  Hampton is more of a finesse team with better shooters, while UNC-Central has the superior power game and can control the action inside.  Finesse won out in the lone regular season game between the two teams, as Hampton shot lights out in a blowout win.


Mountain West Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
6:00 PM #3 New Mexico #5 San Diego St. CBS

The two defensive behemoths easily advanced to the championship game, giving the Mountain West a second bid that came at the expense of a Louisville, Notre Dame, or Arizona St.

Either of these two teams will become a fierce, pesty opponent to a favored team in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.  New Mexico faced a major transition this year.  They raided in-state rival New Mexico State to hire Coach Paul Weir away from las Cruces.  Weir brought his tenacious, full-court press defense to Albuquerque, and the Lobos had growing pains for the first half of the season.

Since a rough start at 8-11, the Lobos improved by going 11-3 since mid-January.  The press began to pay dividends as the players obtained the needed live experience to see it work.  A much-improved up-tempo offense took off about the same time, as the Lobos gained confidence and went from a passive to a very aggressive team.

San Diego State basketball is all about outstanding pressure man-to-man defense and an inside power offense.  It’s much like the same offense that Aztec coach Steve Fisher used with the Fabulous Five at Michigan in the 1990’s.  Like New Mexico, SDSU had a slow start to the season, but they closed in a rush with eight consecutive wins by an average score of 78-64.  What they did to regular season champ Nevada last night should put a scare into any potential four or five seed team from a power conference.  The Aztecs looked like the UCLA team of 1970 in the semifinal trouncing of Nevada.  They controlled the boards like they had Sydney Wicks, Steve Patterson, and Curtis Rowe pounding the glass, as the former top team in the league trailed by 30 points in the first half!

Don’t expect New Mexico to be intimidated.  This game is going to be rough and tumble for 40 minutes, and if we had to pick one game where the referees may have to step in and separate the combatants in this war, this would be the game.


Pacific 12 Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 Arizona #2 USC FS1

Usually, the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game is the key college basketball game on the West Coast, but it won’t even be the best game in the host city.  It won’t even be the second best game in that city.  Las Vegas hosts both the Mountain West and Western Athletic championships tonight, and unfortunately for the “League of Champions,” this will be the third best game in sin city tonight.

The outcome of the game will matter very little, as both teams have now secured spots in the field of 68, and neither will move much by winning or losing.  We do not particularly feel like either the Wildcats or Trojans will make much of a dent in the NCAA Tournament, as the Pac-12 needs a transfusion, with an infusion of better talent.  Sorry Pac-12 fans, but your league is suffering somewhat of a malaise.


Southeastern Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM #4 Kentucky #9 Alabama ESPN
3:30 PM #2 Tennessee #6 Arkansas ESPN
Championship–March 4
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
1:00 PM Kentucky or Alabama Tennessee or Arkansas ESPN

Once Missouri fell, we called this tournament the Kentucky Invitational, as that is what we knew it would look like once the Blue Mist fans bought up all the Mizzou fans tickets.

Arkansas bested Florida, and that made Kentucky’s path to the title all that easier.  Today the Wildcats basically need to put an extra half-body on Colin Sexton and then control the boards like they should to advance to the title game tomorrow for the umpteenth time in their history.

The other game should be much more interesting, as Arkansas and Tennessee match up evenly well.  Arkansas won the regular season game in Fayetteville 95-93 in overtime in a game before New Year’s Day.  The Razorbacks then went 9-8 the rest of the regular season, while the Vols went on to share the conference title with Auburn.

This tournament is screaming for a game between bitter rivals in blue and orange.  Tennessee has always been the principle rival for Kentucky in all sports, while Tennessee considers Kentucky its chief basketball rival.


Southland Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 SE Louisiana #3 Stephen F. Austin ESPN2

We hope you read our preview of this conference tournament the last two days.  If not, we referred to #3 Stephen F. Austin as the champion thoroughbred horse that stumbled and lost the 2017 race but still figured to be the great champion of the past, while Southeast Louisiana and Nicholls State were the two currently sexy horses vying for the finish line.

The crowd at the race track watches the two new hot contenders sharing a four furlong lead over the champion horse, and all in attendance feverishly focus their eyes on the champion waiting for him to make that patented closing move to win the race from three-wide.

Last night, Stephen F. Austin began to move, and when they did, they looked like Whirlaway at the Kentucky Derby.  The Lumberjacks just ran past Nicholls State, putting the game away handily in the first half.  Now, they have Southeast Louisiana in their sights, and the Lions better be ready to roar in the Championship Game, because SFA doesn’t look to be losing any speed at the finish line.


Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
4:00 PM #1 Arkansas-Pine Bluff #3 Texas Southern ESPN2

Our heart says Texas Southern tonight, because our leader has a past friendly relationship with TSU coach Mike Davis, but our brain says that Arkansas-Pine Bluff will become the first team ever to begin a season 0-14 and make the NCAA Tournament.

These two teams could play 100 times, and we would pick UAPB to win about 55-60 of those games.  The Golden Lions won two very close games over the Tigers in the regular season, and they seem to have their number.

The winner of this game is already put in the First Four in Dayton in permanent marker.  There is no need to pencil the winner this year.  Either a 19-loss or 20-loss team will earn an automatic bid.


Sun Belt Conference Tournament
Semifinals–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
12:30 PM #1 UL-Lafayette #4 UT-Arlington ESPN3
3:00 PM #2 Georgia St. #3 Georgia Southern ESPN3
Championship–March 11
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
2:00 PM ULL or UTA Ga St. or Ga. Sou. ESPN2

Louisiana-Lafayette may be the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with a coach (Bob Marlin) that has taken the Ragin’ Cajuns and formerly Sam Houston to the NCAA Tournament, but Georgia State also has the tournament experience coach on their sideline, as Ron Hunter has taken GSU and IUPUI to the Dance in the past.

What does this mean for UT-Arlington and Georgia Southern?    Ten years ago, Scott Cross guided UTA to a conference tournament title, while Georgia Southern coach Mark Byington has been slowly upgrading the program at Hanner Fieldhouse.

Don’t expect the two favorite to easily coast to the finals tomorrow, but the chances are better than 50-50 that both teams win tonight.


Western Athletic Conference Tournament
Championship–March 10
Time Higher Seed Lower Seed TV
10:00 PM #1 New Mexico St. #3 Grand Canyon ESPNU

There’s nothing more to say about this tournament than what we previously stated.  This just might be the best Championship Game of the entire lot this weekend.  New Mexico State has been tournament savvy since November, when the Aggies beat Davidson and Miami (Fla.) in Hawaii and almost knocked off USC for the championship.  After NMSU completed the regular season sweep of GCU, their record stood at 22-3, and the Aggies were on the verge of cracking the top 25.  But, playing an overly physical team like GCU can take its toll, and NMSU suffered by losing consecutive road games against the other top two teams of the four in this league.  The team recovered and since then has won five games in a row by an average of 16.8 points per game.

Grand Canyon has made great strides moving into Division 1.  The only for-profit university playing Division 1 basketball, the Antelopes have a student base from all over the country, as they have both a real campus and an online presence.  Of course, John Doe, a GCU online-only student in Augusta, Maine, is not eligible to play on the team, but his tuition might help the school fund the athletic program a little bit.  This could be the start of something big if the Antelopes make the Dance.  Imagine the University of Phoenix or Devry University trying this out.   And, what happens when Penn State or Alabama discover that they must begin to have an online university in addition to a real campus?  The NCAA might have to eventually establish some ground rules, when Dunkin’ Bill Duncan and Henry Hoopshot decide to attend classes at home but play on the basketball team, because they both live just 10 miles away.  Who will really be doing the homework???




February 16, 2018

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview for February 16-18, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:25 am

This Week’s PiRate Rating Spreads

Spreads For Multi-Bid Conferences and Top Mid & Low Majors

Friday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
St. Bonaventure Rhode Island 0.6
Saturday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
Central Florida SMU -0.7
Tulane Memphis 2.7
Miami (Fla.) Syracuse 6.2
Georgia Tech Virginia Tech -5.1
Boston College Notre Dame -0.9
Wake Forest North Carolina St. 0.3
Louisville North Carolina 0.0
Oklahoma Texas 5.7
Kansas St. Iowa St. 7.5
Kansas West Virginia 3.9
Baylor Texas Tech -1.1
TCU Oklahoma St. 8.3
Butler Providence 8.0
Xavier Villanova -4.0
Creighton Marquette 8.0
Northwestern Michigan St. -9.4
Iowa Indiana 0.9
Maryland Rutgers 12.6
Boise St. Air Force 17.8
San Diego St. UNLV 3.9
Wyoming San Jose St. 15.1
Utah St. Nevada -8.1
Fresno St. Colorado St. 13.9
Washington Colorado 3.7
Washington St. Utah -7.5
UCLA Oregon 4.9
USC Oregon St. 9.5
LSU Missouri 0.4
Kentucky Alabama 4.4
South Carolina Auburn -6.4
Arkansas Texas A&M 2.7
Vanderbilt Florida -3.2
Georgia Tennessee -4.4
Mississippi St. Ole Miss 6.3
San Diego BYU -3.4
San Francisco Loyola Marymount 8.8
Gonzaga Pepperdine 29.2
Portland Saint Mary’s -16.1
Pacific Santa Clara 10.0
Louisiana Tech Middle Tennessee -3.8
Rice Western Kentucky -12.2
Murray St. Tennessee Tech 14.1
Louisiana-Lafayette Texas-Arlington 10.3
Seattle New Mexico St. -8.0
Sunday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
East Carolina Connecticut -4.7
Tulsa South Florida 15.9
Cincinnati Wichita St. 7.3
Temple Houston -2.2
Clemson Duke -3.1
Florida St. Pittsburgh 20.7
Seton Hall DePaul 11.4
Michigan Ohio St. 2.0
Illinois Nebraska -0.7
Purdue Penn St. 11.9
California Stanford -6.4
Evansville Loyola (Chi.) -5.9

PiRate Ratings Top 25

Rank Team PiRate Conf.
1 Villanova 120.5 BIGE
2 Purdue 119.9 BTEN
3 Duke 119.8 ACC
4 Virginia 119.6 ACC
5 Michigan St. 119.4 BTEN
6 Cincinnati 118.5 AAC
7 North Carolina 116.1 ACC
8 Gonzaga 116.0 WCC
9 Kansas 116.0 B12
10 Texas Tech 116.0 B12
11 West Virginia 115.6 B12
12 Auburn 115.2 SEC
13 Wichita St. 114.7 AAC
14 Tennessee 114.1 SEC
15 Creighton 113.4 BIGE
16 Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
17 Clemson 113.2 ACC
18 Xavier 113.0 BIGE
19 Arizona 112.8 PAC12
20 Nevada 112.5 MWC
21 TCU 112.4 B12
22 Texas A&M 112.4 SEC
23 Florida St. 112.3 ACC
24 Oklahoma 112.2 B12
25 Louisville 112.1 ACC

PiRate Ratings By Power Conferences

Team PiRate Conf.
Cincinnati 118.5 AAC
Wichita St. 114.7 AAC
Houston 111.5 AAC
SMU 107.6 AAC
Temple 105.8 AAC
UCF 103.9 AAC
Tulsa 102.3 AAC
Memphis 99.7 AAC
Tulane 99.4 AAC
Connecticut 99.4 AAC
East Carolina 91.7 AAC
South Florida 89.9 AAC
Duke 119.8 ACC
Virginia 119.6 ACC
North Carolina 116.1 ACC
Clemson 113.2 ACC
Florida St. 112.3 ACC
Louisville 112.1 ACC
Miami FL 111.0 ACC
Notre Dame 110.7 ACC
Virginia Tech 110.6 ACC
North Carolina St. 108.3 ACC
Syracuse 108.3 ACC
Boston College 106.3 ACC
Wake Forest 105.6 ACC
Georgia Tech 102.5 ACC
Pittsburgh 95.1 ACC
Kansas 116.0 B12
Texas Tech 116.0 B12
West Virginia 115.6 B12
TCU 112.4 B12
Oklahoma 112.2 B12
Baylor 111.4 B12
Texas 110.0 B12
Kansas St. 109.1 B12
Oklahoma St. 107.6 B12
Iowa St. 105.1 B12
Villanova 120.5 BIGE
Creighton 113.4 BIGE
Xavier 113.0 BIGE
Butler 112.0 BIGE
Seton Hall 111.3 BIGE
Marquette 108.9 BIGE
Providence 107.5 BIGE
St. John’s 107.1 BIGE
Georgetown 104.9 BIGE
DePaul 103.4 BIGE
Purdue 119.9 BTEN
Michigan St. 119.4 BTEN
Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
Michigan 111.9 BTEN
Penn St. 111.5 BTEN
Maryland 110.7 BTEN
Nebraska 107.8 BTEN
Indiana 107.1 BTEN
Northwestern 107.0 BTEN
Wisconsin 105.9 BTEN
Iowa 105.0 BTEN
Minnesota 104.8 BTEN
Illinois 104.1 BTEN
Rutgers 101.6 BTEN
Nevada 112.5 MWC
Boise St. 108.0 MWC
San Diego St. 106.8 MWC
Fresno St. 106.5 MWC
UNLV 106.4 MWC
New Mexico 102.1 MWC
Wyoming 101.9 MWC
Utah St. 100.9 MWC
Colorado St. 96.1 MWC
Air Force 93.7 MWC
San Jose St. 90.3 MWC
Arizona 112.8 PAC12
Arizona St. 110.8 PAC12
USC 109.2 PAC12
UCLA 108.7 PAC12
Oregon 107.8 PAC12
Utah 107.7 PAC12
Stanford 104.2 PAC12
Oregon St. 103.2 PAC12
Washington 103.1 PAC12
Colorado 102.9 PAC12
Washington St. 97.2 PAC12
California 94.8 PAC12
Auburn 115.2 SEC
Tennessee 114.1 SEC
Texas A&M 112.4 SEC
Florida 111.8 SEC
Kentucky 111.3 SEC
Arkansas 111.1 SEC
Missouri 110.7 SEC
Alabama 110.4 SEC
Mississippi St. 107.8 SEC
LSU 107.6 SEC
Georgia 106.2 SEC
Vanderbilt 105.6 SEC
South Carolina 105.3 SEC
Mississippi 104.5 SEC
Gonzaga 116.0 WCC
Saint Mary’s 112.0 WCC
BYU 106.9 WCC
San Diego 100.5 WCC
San Francisco 100.0 WCC
Pacific 99.4 WCC
Loyola Marymount 94.2 WCC
Portland 92.9 WCC
Santa Clara 92.4 WCC
Pepperdine 90.3 WCC

Top Mid-Major and Low-Major Teams

Rhode Island 111.5 A10
Middle Tennessee 108.2 CUSA
Western Kentucky 106.7 CUSA
Loyola Chicago 107.4 MVC
Murray St. 106.4 OVC
Louisiana Lafayette 108.3 SB
South Dakota 106.8 Sum
New Mexico St. 108.4 WAC

Great TV Watching Options This Weekend

Once again, another great schedule of games allows college basketball fans some excellent viewing options.  Beginning tonight (Friday) at 7:00 PM Eastern Time, St. Bonaventure hosts Rhode Island.  The game will air on ESPN2.  The Bonnies (9-4/19-6) are tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 still have a remote chance to receive an at-large bid, and any chance would necessitate a win over URI.

Saturday’s great slate of games begins at 12 Noon Eastern Time.  Oklahoma hosts Texas on ESPN; Butler hosts Providence on Fox; and Miami hosts Syracuse on CBS.

At 4 PM EST, one of the best games of the day could be Arkansas hosting Texas A&M on ESPN.  At 4:30 PM EST, the Big East regular season title could be decided when Xavier hosts Villanova on Fox.  The winner should remain a number one seed on Monday.

At 6 PM EST, Kansas hosts West Virginia on ESPN.  The loser of this game will probably be eliminated from the Big 12 regular season race, while the winner will become Texas Tech’s key rival.

At 7 PM EST, Florida Gulf Coast hosts Lipscomb on ESPN3.  FGCU has already clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Sun, while Lipscomb is currently number two.  The significance here is that FGCU will host the A-Sun Tournament, so it will be interesting to see if the second best team in the league can compete with them on the same floor.

At 7:30 PM EST on ESPNU, Baylor hosts Texas Tech.  TTU has a chance to gain a game on one of the two nearest contenders (KU-WVU), but if the Red Raiders lose, then they will lose a game to the winner of that other game.  Baylor is actually the hottest team in the Big 12, and a win here would give the Bears a great upward move in the Bubble.

At 8:15 PM EST, Louisville host North Carolina on ESPN.  The winner has a chance to move up to number two in the ACC by the end of the weekend, while the loser could fall down in the standings as far as ninth place.

At 10:15 PM EST on ESPN, UCLA hosts Oregon.  Both teams are currently Bubble teams, so the winner will start the new week in good shape, while the loser will be facing some must win games.

Sunday presents additional excellent viewing options.  It starts at 1 PM EST, with two excellent Power Conference games.  Rivals Michigan and Ohio State square off in Ann Arbor in a game televised by CBS.  At the same time, Clemson hosts Duke on the ACC Network.

At 2 PM EST on ESPN3, it might not sound like a big game, but the Vermont-Hartford game in Burlington might be one to consider watching.  UVA is 12-0 in the America East Conference and will most likely host the conference tournament.  Hartford is one of three teams with enough talent to pull off an upset.

The top game of the day tips off at 4 PM EST, when Cincinnati hosts Wichita State.  This will be a battle of two aggressive, defense-dominant teams.  Cinti fell at Houston Thursday night, while the Shockers had to come from behind to beat Temple.  Seeding will be on the line in this one.

Finally, at 8 PM EST on the Big Ten Network, Penn State visits Purdue.  The Nittany Lions roared big time in a Thursday night blowout against Ohio State.  If Penn State pulls off the upset Sunday, that will give them two Quadrant 1 wins in a row, and that will certainly place Penn State in the heat of the discussion.  Purdue must win this game to remain in contention for a number one seed.



February 12, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for February 12, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 11:00 am

What a week in college basketball!  Villanova, Purdue, Duke, and Purdue lost, while Xavier continued to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat twice more.  The Muskateers are one of just two teams from the Queen City of Ohio that might be in line for a number one seed.

How can Cincinnati still be an under-the-radar team?  Look at this program.  The Bearcats are one of three teams that have made the Final Four five consecutive years (UCLA and Duke).  They have won two national titles and appeared in the Championship Game three times.

This Cinti team leads the nation in scoring margin at 20.6.  No team has finished the season with a +20 margin since Kentucky in 1996.  The Bearcats are catlike quick, and they seldom give up an easy shot.  They lead the nation in field goal percenage defense at 36%, and they dominate on the glass, seldom giving up a second shot.

Coach Mick Cronin has comes from an interesting family tree, learning the college game under Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino.  This is the best UC team since Huggins went to the Final Four with Herb Jones, Anthony Buford, and Nick Van Exel, and it could be the best Bearcat team since Ed Jucker took the school to two National Championships and a near miss third.  There are a lot of similarities between this Bearcat team and the 1962 champions.

What Are The Quadrants

With the release of the top 16 seeds a month before the real Selection Sunday, not much new came out of the committee that we did not already know, except for the fact that they seem to be placing even more emphasis this year on how each team did with quadrant wins and losses.

Our captain has already received numerous emails from friends and acquaintances asking him to explain what these quadrants are, so here is the explanation for all.

In the past, the Committee relied on won-loss records against the top 50, the 51-100 teams, the 101-150, and so on.  This was not as indicative of a team’s ability to play against the top teams in the nation as it could be.  A narrow home win over the number 50 team helped the winner a lot more than a narrow loss on the road to the number 51 team.  Teams could schedule 10 home games against opponents in the 51-100 range and go 8-2 due to home court advantage.  Meanwhile, another team might have to play all its marquee games on the road and go 3-7 against teams in the 51-100 range.  Yet, the second team might be considerably stronger than the homer team.

So, there was a change.  Now, there are four quadrants.  The ranking of the teams in each quadrant are different depending on whether a game against an opponent is at home, on a neutral floor, or on the road.  A quadrant one game is one where the home team faces an opponent ranked 1 to 30; is one where a team playing a neutral site game is facing an opponent ranked 1 to 50; or is one where a team playing a true road game is facing an opponent ranked 1 to 75.  Take a look at each quadrant.

Quadrant #1: At Home: 1-30   Neutral Site: 1-50   Road Game: 1-75

Quadrant #2: At Home: 31-75   Neutral Site: 51-100   Road Game: 76-135

Quadrant #3: At Home: 76-160   Neutral Site: 101-200   Road Game: 136-240

Quadrant #4: At Home: 161-351   Neutral Site: 201-351   Road Game 241-351

Let’s look at two teams on the Bubble, one a mid-major and one a power conference team.

Middle Tennessee State has defeated Michigan State and Minnesota in first round games in the last two NCAA Tournaments.  The Blue Raiders lead Conference USA and are listed at the most likely automatic qualifier from the league.  However, CUSA has three additional tough teams, and winning the CUSA Tournament Championship is far from a given for the Blue Raiders.  Currently at 20-5 overall, MTSU has a 1-3 record in Quadrant 1 games, a 4-1 record in Quadrant 2 games, a 4-1 record in Quadrant 3 games, and a 10-0 record in Quadrant 4 games.  Many so-called experts believe that the Blue Raiders would get in as an at-large team if they lost to Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, or Marshall in the CUSA Championship Game.

Now, let’s look at Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers have improved by leaps and bounds since November and early December.  They are 10-4 in the Big Ten, good enough for fourth place, ahead of Michigan.  Yet, the Huskers are deep down on the Bubble and not really a serious contender for an at-large bid on this date.  Why?  First, the Committee does not even look at conference won-loss records.  It may be ridiculous to rule out the fact that Nebraska blew 5th place Michigan off the floor a few weeks ago and at this point of the season are plainly the superior team.  This is not what the Committee will see in the selection room.  What they will see is:

Quadrant 1: 0-6

Quadrant 2: 3-2

Quadrant 3: 7-0

Quadrant 4: 9-0

Comparing Nebraska to Middle Tennessee, the Cornhuskers are just 3-8 in top 2 Quadrant games, while the Blue Raiders are 5-4.  On the type of paper that will count, Middle Tennessee has the better resume.

What this will do is give the Mid-Major powers a better shot at making the field as at-large teams over the power conference teams that would have been sure things a few years ago.  If you are a Nebraska fan, you better hope your Cornhuskers win out to finish the regular season at 14-4 in the Big Ten, and then they win their first Big Ten Tournament game.  Anything short of that, and it’s NIT for Nebraska.

This Week’s Bracketology Gurus Field of 68

Seed Team Conference
1 Villanova B East
1 Virginia ACC
1 Xavier B East
1 Purdue B Ten
2 Kansas B12
2 Auburn SEC
2 Duke ACC
2 Cincinnati AAC
3 Clemson ACC
3 Texas Tech B12
3 North Carolina ACC
3 Michigan St. B Ten
4 Tennessee SEC
4 Ohio St. B Ten
4 Arizona Pac12
4 Oklahoma B12
5 West Virginia B12
5 Rhode Island A-10
5 Texas A&M SEC
5 Gonzaga WCC
6 Kentucky SEC
6 Arizona St. Pac12
6 Wichita St. AAC
6 Florida SEC
7 Seton Hall B East
7 Miami (Fla.) ACC
7 Creighton B East
7 Saint Mary’s WCC
8 Alabama SEC
8 TCU B12
8 Missouri SEC
8 Butler B East
9 Nevada MWC
9 Michigan B Ten
9 Florida St. ACC
9 Arkansas SEC
10 Texas B12
10 Houston AAC
10 Providence B East
10 Washington Pac12
11 Virginia Tech ACC
11 UCLA Pac12
11 Middle Tennessee CUSA
11 New Mexico St. WAC
12 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
12 Buffalo MAC
12 Louisville ACC
12 Syracuse ACC
12 North Carolina St. ACC
12 Kansas St. B12
13 Vermont A East
13 East Tennessee St. SoCon
13 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 South Dakota Summit
14 Murray St. OVC
14 Charleston CAA
14 Rider MAAC
14 Montana B Sky
15 UCSB B West
15 Northern Kentucky Horizon
15 Bucknell Patriot
15 Wagner NEC
16 Florida GCU A Sun
16 UNC-Asheville B Sth
16 Harvard Ivy
16 SE Louisiana SLC
16 North Carolina A&T MEAC
16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff SWAC
 # Bubble Teams Out Conference
69 Temple AAC
70 USC Pac12
71 Boise State MWC
72 Mississippi State SEC
74 St. Bonaventure A-10
75 Baylor B12
76 Maryland B Ten
77 Nebraska B Ten
78 Western Kentucky CUSA

First Four Games in Dayton

Louisville vs. Kansas St.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina St.

Harvard vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Southeast Louisiana vs. North Carolina A&T

Last Four Byes



Virginia Tech




February 9, 2018

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview for February 9-11, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 8:00 am

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

Note–We add one Friday night game to Include Rhode Island in our coverage.

Friday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
Rhode Island Davidson 6.1
Saturday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
South Florida Temple -12.5
Wichita St. Connecticut 18.6
North Carolina St. North Carolina -4.7
Boston College Miami (Fla.) -2.6
Notre Dame Florida St. 1.5
Virginia Virginia Tech 12.4
West Virginia Oklahoma St. 11.8
Baylor Kansas -2.6
Iowa St. Oklahoma -4.6
TCU Texas 5.5
Kansas St. Texas Tech -2.5
Villanova Butler 12.5
St. John’s Marquette 1.0
Creighton Xavier 1.8
Georgetown Seton Hall -4.6
Providence DePaul 8.9
Maryland Northwestern 6.6
Michigan St. Purdue 1.6
Nebraska Rutgers 9.9
Ohio St. Iowa 12.3
Air Force New Mexico -6.4
Colorado St. San Jose St. 8.9
Nevada San Diego St. 7.6
UNLV Wyoming 7.8
Utah St. Boise St. -4.3
Arizona St. UCLA 5.9
Utah California 14.4
Oregon St. Washington 0.3
Arizona USC 6.6
South Carolina Florida -1.7
Missouri Mississippi St. 5.9
Georgia Auburn -6.2
LSU Ole Miss 4.6
Alabama Tennessee -2.6
Texas A&M Kentucky 3.6
Arkansas Vanderbilt 8.4
BYU San Francisco 12.0
Santa Clara San Diego -7.0
Loyola Marymount Pepperdine 7.2
Saint Mary’s Gonzaga 3.4
Pacific Portland 9.4
Middle Tennessee North Texas 14.3
New Mexico St. Grand Canyon 8.6
Sunday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
SMU Cincinnati -5.3
Memphis Central Florida -0.9
Houston Tulane 13.8
Pittsburgh Louisville -12.0
Syracuse Wake Forest 6.8
Georgia Tech Duke -13.5
Wisconsin Michigan -2.6
Illinois Penn St. -1.3
Colorado Stanford 1.7
Oregon Washington St. 13.1

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Top 25

Rank Team PiRate Conf.
1 Villanova 121.4 BIGE
2 Purdue 120.3 BTEN
3 Virginia 119.9 ACC
4 Duke 119.4 ACC
5 Michigan St. 118.4 BTEN
6 Cincinnati 117.8 AAC
7 Kansas 116.7 B12
8 West Virginia 115.8 B12
9 North Carolina 115.7 ACC
10 Auburn 115.6 SEC
11 Tennessee 115.2 SEC
12 Xavier 115.1 BIGE
13 Texas Tech 115.1 B12
14 Gonzaga 114.9 WCC
15 Saint Mary’s 114.8 WCC
16 Wichita St. 114.6 AAC
17 Ohio St. 113.9 BTEN
18 Creighton 113.4 BIGE
19 Clemson 113.2 ACC
20 Florida St. 112.7 ACC
21 Oklahoma 112.6 B12
22 TCU 112.5 B12
23 Butler 112.4 BIGE
24 Arizona 112.4 PAC12
25 Nevada 111.6 MWC

This week, we add three highly-ranked Mid-Major teams that are good enough to receive at-large bids if they fail to win their conference’s automatic bids.  In most likelihood, these three teams would need to at least make the semifinals of their conference tournament.

Team PiRate Conf.
Rhode Island 111.1 A-10
New Mexico St. 109.0 WAC
Middle Tennessee 108.8 CUSA

PiRate Ratings By Power Conferences

Team PiRate Conf.
Cincinnati 117.8 AAC
Wichita St. 114.6 AAC
Houston 110.6 AAC
SMU 109.0 AAC
Temple 105.4 AAC
UCF 103.6 AAC
Tulsa 102.4 AAC
Tulane 100.3 AAC
Connecticut 99.5 AAC
Memphis 99.2 AAC
East Carolina 91.1 AAC
South Florida 89.9 AAC
Virginia 119.9 ACC
Duke 119.4 ACC
North Carolina 115.7 ACC
Clemson 113.2 ACC
Florida St. 112.7 ACC
Miami FL 111.6 ACC
Louisville 111.4 ACC
Virginia Tech 110.5 ACC
Notre Dame 110.2 ACC
Syracuse 108.6 ACC
North Carolina St. 108.0 ACC
Boston College 105.5 ACC
Wake Forest 105.3 ACC
Georgia Tech 102.9 ACC
Pittsburgh 96.4 ACC
Kansas 116.7 B12
West Virginia 115.8 B12
Texas Tech 115.1 B12
Oklahoma 112.6 B12
TCU 112.5 B12
Baylor 110.6 B12
Texas 110.5 B12
Kansas St. 109.1 B12
Oklahoma St. 107.5 B12
Iowa St. 104.5 B12
Villanova 121.4 BIGE
Xavier 115.1 BIGE
Creighton 113.4 BIGE
Butler 112.4 BIGE
Seton Hall 111.5 BIGE
Marquette 109.2 BIGE
Providence 107.9 BIGE
St. John’s 106.7 BIGE
Georgetown 103.9 BIGE
DePaul 102.5 BIGE
Purdue 120.3 BTEN
Michigan St. 118.4 BTEN
Ohio St. 113.9 BTEN
Michigan 111.6 BTEN
Maryland 110.4 BTEN
Penn St. 109.9 BTEN
Northwestern 107.8 BTEN
Nebraska 107.6 BTEN
Indiana 106.1 BTEN
Minnesota 106.1 BTEN
Wisconsin 105.5 BTEN
Illinois 105.1 BTEN
Iowa 105.1 BTEN
Rutgers 101.2 BTEN
Nevada 111.6 MWC
Boise St. 108.6 MWC
San Diego St. 107.5 MWC
UNLV 106.4 MWC
Fresno St. 106.1 MWC
New Mexico 102.2 MWC
Wyoming 102.1 MWC
Utah St. 100.8 MWC
Colorado St. 96.0 MWC
Air Force 92.8 MWC
San Jose St. 90.6 MWC
Arizona 112.4 PAC12
Arizona St. 111.0 PAC12
USC 109.3 PAC12
UCLA 108.6 PAC12
Oregon 107.1 PAC12
Utah 106.5 PAC12
Washington 104.8 PAC12
Stanford 104.6 PAC12
Colorado 102.8 PAC12
Oregon St. 102.1 PAC12
Washington St. 97.5 PAC12
California 95.6 PAC12
Auburn 115.6 SEC
Tennessee 115.2 SEC
Texas A&M 111.6 SEC
Kentucky 111.5 SEC
Florida 110.9 SEC
Missouri 110.5 SEC
Arkansas 110.3 SEC
Alabama 109.1 SEC
Mississippi St. 108.1 SEC
LSU 106.7 SEC
Georgia 106.4 SEC
South Carolina 105.7 SEC
Vanderbilt 105.4 SEC
Mississippi 105.1 SEC
Gonzaga 114.9 WCC
Saint Mary’s 114.8 WCC
BYU 107.8 WCC
San Diego 101.9 WCC
Pacific 99.6 WCC
San Francisco 99.3 WCC
Portland 93.2 WCC
Loyola Marymount 93.1 WCC
Santa Clara 91.9 WCC
Pepperdine 88.9 WCC

Conference Tournaments Less Than 3 Weeks Away

It seems to have crept up on us this year.  In our environs, it has been a much colder and much wetter winter, the type that makes you feel it will last for a year.  So, it surprised us this morning when one of our followers asked us when we would post the conference tournament schedules like we do every year.

We will get to work on that this week and hopefully will have this in next Friday’s report or in a separate one midweek.

For now, here is a list of the conference tournaments with the dates.  The first action begins in just 17 days.

Atlantic Sun Feb. 26-Mar. 4 Higher Seed
Big South Feb. 27, Mar. 1-4 Higher Seed
Patriot Feb. 27, Mar. 1, 4, & 7 Higher Seed
Big Ten Feb. 28-Mar. 4 New York City
Ohio Valley Feb. 28, Mar. 1-3 San Antonio
Northeast Feb. 28, March 3 & 6 Higher Seed
Missouri Valley Mar. 1-4 St. Louis
Metro Atlantic Mar. 1-5 Albany, NY
Southern Mar. 1-5 Asheville, NC
West Coast Mar. 1-6 Las Vegas
Ivy Mar. 10-11 Philadelphia
Big West Mar. 12-14 Anaheim
Horizon Mar. 2-6 Detroit
Colonial Athletic Mar. 3-6 N. Charleson, SC
Summit Mar. 3-6 Sioux Falls, SD
America East Mar. 3, 6 & 10 Higher Seed
Mideastern Athletic Mar. 5-10 Norfolk, VA
Mid-American Mar. 5, 7-10 Higher Seed/Cleveland
Atlantic Coast Mar. 6-10 Brooklyn
Big Sky Mar. 6, 8-10 Reno, NV
Southwestern Athletic Mar. 6, 9-10 Houston
Big East Mar. 7-10 New York City
Big 12 Mar. 7-10 Kansas City
Conference USA Mar. 7-10 Frisco, TX
Mountain West Mar. 7-10 Las Vegas
Pac-12 Mar. 7-10 Las Vegas
Western Athletic Mar. 7-10 Las Vegas
Atlantic 10 Mar. 7-11 Washington, DC
Southeastern Mar. 7-11 St. Louis
Southland Mar. 7-11 Katy, TX
Sun Belt Mar. 7-11 New Orleans
American Athletic Mar. 8-11 Orlando











February 5, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for February 5, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 5:34 pm
Seed Team Conf.
1 Villanova BE
1 Virginia ACC
1 Purdue BTen
1 Xavier BE
2 Auburn SEC
2 Kansas B12
2 Duke ACC
2 Clemson ACC
3 Michigan St. BTen
3 Texas Tech B12
3 Cincinnati AAC
3 Tennessee SEC
4 Oklahoma B12
4 North Carolina ACC
4 Arizona P12
4 Kentucky SEC
5 Ohio St. BTen
5 West Virginia B12
5 Rhode Island A10
5 Seton Hall BE
6 Gonzaga WCC
6 Saint Mary’s WCC
6 Miami (Fla.) ACC
6 Creighton BE
7 Wichita St. AAC
7 Butler BE
7 Florida St. ACC
7 Nevada MWC
8 Florida SEC
8 Texas B12
8 Michigan BTen
8 Alabama SEC
9 TCU B12
9 Arizona St. P12
9 Louisville ACC
9 Texas A&M SEC
10 Missouri SEC
10 Washington P12
10 Providence BE
10 USC P12
11 Houston AAC
11 Arkansas SEC
11 Middle Tennessee CUSA
11 New Mexico St. WAC
12 N. C. St. ACC
12 Virginia Tech ACC
12 Boise St. MWC
12 Kansas St. B12
12 Buffalo MAC
12 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
13 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 Vermont AE
13 East Tennessee St. Sou
13 South Dakota St. Sum
14 Belmont OVC
14 Montana BSky
14 Northern Kentucky Hor
14 Charleston CAA
15 UCSB BWest
15 Rider MAAC
15 Bucknell Pat
15 Fla. Gulf Coast ASun
16 Wagner NEC
16 Penn Ivy
16 Nicholls St. SLC
16 UNC-Asheville BSth
16 N.C. A&T MEAC
16 Ark.-Pine Bluff SWAC

Bubble Teams on the Outside, Looking In

69 UCLA P12
70 Temple AAC
73 Western Kentucky CUSA
74 Syracuse ACC
75 St. Bonaventure A10
76 Georgia SEC
77 Marquette BE
78 Mississippi State SEC
79 Maryland BTen
80 Utah P12
81 South Carolina SEC
82 Oklahoma State B12
83 Nebraska BTen


Last Four In–Headed To Dayton

North Carolina St. vs. Kansas St.

Virginia Tech vs. Boise St.

Last Four Byes






February 2, 2018

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview for February 3-4, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:49 am

This Weekend’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

For Multi-Bid  Leagues

Saturday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
Connecticut Cincinnati -13.7
Central Florida Houston -3.0
East Carolina Memphis -6.4
St. John’s Duke -11.4
North Carolina St. Notre Dame 0.6
Wake Forest Clemson -4.1
Virginia Tech Miami (Fla.) 3.1
Syracuse Virginia -6.7
Louisville Florida St. 3.3
North Carolina Pittsburgh 21.9
Kansas Oklahoma St. 13.8
TCU Texas Tech 1.7
West Virginia Kansas St. 8.4
Texas Oklahoma 1.2
Baylor Iowa St. 8.6
Butler DePaul 12.9
Marquette Providence 4.9
Xavier Georgetown 15.4
Michigan Minnesota 9.7
Rutgers Purdue -16.9
Penn St. Iowa 6.7
Indiana Michigan St. -10.2
Wyoming Fresno St. 1.6
San Jose St. New Mexico -9.0
Boise St. UNLV 6.3
Colorado St. Nevada -13.3
San Diego St. Air Force 18.2
Stanford Oregon -0.5
California Oregon St. -4.2
Washington Arizona -5.8
Missouri Kentucky 1.6
Texas A&M South Carolina 8.3
LSU Arkansas 0.2
Florida Alabama 7.6
Tennessee Ole Miss 12.1
Mississippi St. Georgia 2.8
Auburn Vanderbilt 12.8
Portland Loyola Marymount 1.1
San Diego Saint Mary’s -8.3
Gonzaga BYU 12.1
Pepperdine Pacific -6.1
Santa Clara San Francisco -4.1
Sunday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
South Florida Tulsa -9.8
Tulane Temple -2.1
Boston College Georgia Tech 5.7
Villanova Seton Hall 14.0
Ohio St. Illinois 11.7
Maryland Wisconsin 9.7
Washington St. Arizona St. -9.5

Note: As of last night’s games, with both Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky winning big road contests, Conference USA actually moved into multi-bid league status.  We apologize for not including CUSA games in this week’s preview, but if both MTSU and WKU win this weekend and mid-week, then CUSA will be included in next Friday’s preview.

Additionally, Boise State fell from at-large status into one of the First Four out, so the Mountain West Conference should not be included as a multiple bid league.  The update occurred after this week’s games had been rated and placed in our database.  If the MWC is still just a one for sure bid league next Friday, we will remove it from our preview, thus trading CUSA for MWC.  If neither or both leagues remain in the multiple bid leagues, we will cancel both or include both in next Friday’s preview, depending on the outcomes through next Thursday night.

The PiRate Ratings Top 25

Rank Team PiRate Conf.
1 Villanova 122.2 BIGE
2 Purdue 121.4 BTEN
3 Duke 120.2 ACC
4 Virginia 119.2 ACC
5 Michigan St. 118.9 BTEN
6 Kansas 117.5 B12
7 Cincinnati 117.4 AAC
8 Gonzaga 116.0 WCC
9 Xavier 115.2 BIGE
10 North Carolina 115.1 ACC
11 Auburn 114.9 SEC
12 Tennessee 114.8 SEC
13 West Virginia 114.4 B12
14 Texas Tech 114.4 B12
15 Wichita St. 114.2 AAC
16 Creighton 113.5 BIGE
17 Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
18 Arizona 113.1 PAC12
19 TCU 113.1 B12
20 Saint Mary’s 112.9 WCC
21 Oklahoma 112.9 B12
22 Clemson 112.8 ACC
23 Nevada 112.4 MWC
24 Butler 112.4 BIGE
25 Florida St. 112.4 ACC

PiRate Ratings By Power Conference

Team PiRate Conf.
Cincinnati 117.4 AAC
Wichita St. 114.2 AAC
Houston 110.3 AAC
SMU 109.4 AAC
Temple 105.3 AAC
UCF 104.3 AAC
Tulsa 102.3 AAC
Tulane 100.2 AAC
Memphis 100.0 AAC
Connecticut 99.7 AAC
East Carolina 90.6 AAC
South Florida 89.5 AAC
Duke 120.2 ACC
Virginia 119.2 ACC
North Carolina 115.1 ACC
Clemson 112.8 ACC
Florida St. 112.4 ACC
Louisville 111.7 ACC
Miami FL 111.4 ACC
Virginia Tech 111.0 ACC
Notre Dame 110.8 ACC
Syracuse 108.5 ACC
North Carolina St. 107.4 ACC
Boston College 105.5 ACC
Wake Forest 105.2 ACC
Georgia Tech 103.3 ACC
Pittsburgh 96.7 ACC
Kansas 117.5 B12
West Virginia 114.4 B12
Texas Tech 114.4 B12
TCU 113.1 B12
Oklahoma 112.9 B12
Texas 110.6 B12
Kansas St. 110.0 B12
Baylor 109.9 B12
Oklahoma St. 107.2 B12
Iowa St. 104.8 B12
Villanova 122.2 BIGE
Xavier 115.2 BIGE
Creighton 113.5 BIGE
Butler 112.4 BIGE
Seton Hall 111.7 BIGE
Marquette 109.1 BIGE
Providence 107.7 BIGE
St. John’s 105.3 BIGE
Georgetown 103.3 BIGE
DePaul 102.5 BIGE
Purdue 121.4 BTEN
Michigan St. 118.9 BTEN
Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
Michigan 112.2 BTEN
Maryland 110.7 BTEN
Penn St. 109.1 BTEN
Nebraska 107.3 BTEN
Northwestern 107.2 BTEN
Minnesota 106.0 BTEN
Iowa 105.4 BTEN
Illinois 105.2 BTEN
Indiana 105.2 BTEN
Wisconsin 105.0 BTEN
Rutgers 101.5 BTEN
Nevada 112.4 MWC
Boise St. 108.9 MWC
San Diego St. 107.8 MWC
UNLV 105.6 MWC
Fresno St. 104.8 MWC
New Mexico 102.4 MWC
Wyoming 102.4 MWC
Utah St. 101.3 MWC
Colorado St. 96.1 MWC
Air Force 93.1 MWC
San Jose St. 90.4 MWC
Arizona 113.1 PAC12
Arizona St. 111.1 PAC12
USC 109.7 PAC12
UCLA 108.1 PAC12
Oregon 107.6 PAC12
Utah 106.9 PAC12
Washington 103.8 PAC12
Stanford 103.6 PAC12
Colorado 102.7 PAC12
Oregon St. 102.7 PAC12
Washington St. 98.6 PAC12
California 95.0 PAC12
Auburn 114.9 SEC
Tennessee 114.8 SEC
Florida 112.3 SEC
Kentucky 112.0 SEC
Texas A&M 111.3 SEC
Arkansas 110.3 SEC
Missouri 110.1 SEC
Alabama 108.2 SEC
Georgia 107.2 SEC
Mississippi St. 107.0 SEC
LSU 107.0 SEC
South Carolina 106.5 SEC
Mississippi 106.2 SEC
Vanderbilt 105.6 SEC
Gonzaga 116.0 WCC
Saint Mary’s 112.9 WCC
BYU 107.4 WCC
San Diego 101.6 WCC
San Francisco 99.5 WCC
Pacific 98.9 WCC
Loyola Marymount 94.7 WCC
Portland 92.8 WCC
Santa Clara 92.4 WCC
Pepperdine 89.8 WCC

The PiRates Are Adjusting How We Look For Buried Treasure

The PiRate Ratings began and operated for years as a college and pro football prediction establishment.  The ratings themselves began in October of 1969 and have operated continuously since.  In 1978-79, basketball ratings were added, and from 1980-2009, the PiRates did some horse racing prognosticating.  In all this time, however, it was an added filler that actually became our most patronized product we have publicly issued, be it in print or radio.

Our March Madness Bracket Picking guides have annually dwarfed all others, be it in the number of readers to this site, the number of responses from our historic newspaper presence, or the number of responses to our historic radio presence (and in one case to our sponsor, when one team’s fans threatened to boycott the adult beverage because our leader picked their rival to win the rivalry game).

We back-tested all the past Final Four and National Champions for the years where we had statistical data to identify the fingerprint statistics that might help us forecast future Final Four and National Championship teams.  We identified some consistent stats and discovered that some stats had little or no bearing.

For instance, we discovered that for most years, teams that scored a very high percentage of their points at the foul line tended to lose with more frequency as the rounds progressed.  We surmised that a lesser number of fouls were called in the bigger games, and the teams that got this far that were not great foul shooting teams got to where they were because they were dominant in other areas.  It just so happened that these other areas were the consistent ones that produced the champions.

We wanted to come up with a statistic that could be used to represent what has helped teams dominate in NCAA Tournament play.  We began refining this data over the years.

When our captain became a baseball metric specialist and started researching advanced analytics, he learned what many others had already learned.  What may work to determine the regular season division winners may not work in the playoffs.  Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane was quoted as saying (expletive altered), “My stuff doesn’t work in the playoffs.”

Beane was onto something, or in other words, it was plain to see that Oakland’s “Moneyball” ways produced 100-wins in the regular season, but it did not work in the playoffs, since the Athletics never won the pennant.  Forget for a minute that his predecessor Sandy Alderson actually began the advanced statistical age in Oakland, and he won three consecutive AL Pennants using a computer program to help determine some strategies.  Let’s look at why Moneyball issues do not work in the playoffs.

  1. On base percentage is superior to batting average, but in order to draw walks, the pitcher must throw pitches outside the strike zone.  In 130 out of 162 regular season games, a team might face pitching that would throw enough balls outside of the strike zone to walk four times per game.  However, in the playoffs, this team is more likely to face pitchers like Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Carlos Carrasco, Clayton Kershaw, and Steven Strasburg.  These guys will paint the corners and force batters to either swing or walk back to the dugout rather than to first base.
  2. The sacrifice hit, hit and run, stolen base, and taking an extra base on singles and doubles may not be the most intelligent way to score runs in the regular season when again, 130 out of 162 games may present better ways to score runs by getting men on and hitting three-run homers.  However, try to wait for that three-run homer against Strasburg, Kluber, Sale, or Carrasco and see how far that gets you.  You are likely to lose 3-2 more than get that three-run tater.  Many people understand that giving up one of just 27 outs to advance a runner one base is foolish–most of the time.  If you are playing for one run in the eighth or ninth inning and have a runner on 2nd with no outs, it is the right thing to do to bunt the runner over to third.  Also, when the batter is facing a dominant pitcher, and the expected on base average for this batter against this pitcher is far south of what his normal OBA is, then it may also be the smarter option to bunt a runner up a base rather than risk a non-productive out or worse a GIDP.
  3. Relief pitching changes in the playoffs, especially the World Series.  In actuality, managers more intelligently use their best reliever when leverage is the highest, even if that is with two outs in the fifth inning.  Rather than bring in the top ace to protect a 3-run lead in the ninth, managers are more likely to use that ace in a one-run game in earlier innings.  Under Beane in the height of the Moneyball years where the A’s made the playoffs and lost, Oakland never invested a lot in a true stopper.  The numbers said that just about any above-average reliever could get 35 saves coming into the game in the ninth inning protecting a two or three-run lead.  In the playoffs, when Oakland needed the next Rollie Fingers, Paul Lindblad, Bob Locker, or Darold Knowles, or the next Dennis Eckersley, and they needed that stopper to stop a rally in the 6th inning, he wasn’t on the roster.

What does this have to do with March Madness, you may ask?  Plenty, we respond.  In basketball, the Four Factors have come to represent some of the best statistical analysis that can reveal the superior teams over the inferior teams.  During the regular season, these stats may show that State U is a top 25 team and should be no worse than a 5-seed in the Big Dance.  Then, this team gets a 4 or 5-seed in the tournament and goes up against a 12 or 13-seed that dominated a mid-major conference during the regular season.  This underdog possesses some of the dominating stats that work in the tournament, while the big team from the big conference does not.  And, lo and behold, the underdog upsets the favorite, making the sports media talk about how so many 12-seeds beat 5-seeds, like it is a curse.

Never once did these media experts consider that the reason the 12-seeds beat the 5-seeds much more often than normal is because these 12-seeds would beat these 5-seeds 7 times out of 10.  In other words, they are not really upsets.  They are indicators that the people that set the seeds are doing a poor job.

So, by now, you must be anxious to see what these special stats are that help us determine what works in the playoffs.  The answer is: The PiRate R+T Rating.

Huh?  What is the R+T Rating?  If you have followed our site for a long enough time, you have seen the R+T used since the 2000 NCAA Tournament.  It has been refined through the years, sort of like how weighted on-base average goes through refinements based on each season’s environments.

At the present time, our R+T rating is:

(R * 2) + (S * .5) + (6 – Opp S) + T

R = Rebounding Margin per game

S = Average Steals per game

T= Turnover Margin per game

This formula translates into the number of extra scoring opportunities a team should be expected to gain over an average team.  It took hours of backtesting to refine it to the point where the result represented a real number that estimated the number of “cheap” points a team might be expected to receive over an average team.

It looks simple enough. If one team has a large rebounding edge in a game, they will benefit with an extra number of shots.  Depending on whether the advantage is at the offensive or defensive end, or both, limiting shots to one per possession and getting putbacks on the offensive end can create spurts in games that turn close contests into blowouts.

Turnover margin is not as important as rebounding margin except for when the turnover comes by way of a steal.  If the opponent turns the ball over due to travelling or stepping out of bounds or committing a charge, the opponent does not immediately see a benefit.  It ends the opponents’ possession, but it does not lead to fast break opportunities or the ability to tip the ball in the basket from a couple feet away.

When a team steals the ball, however, this is the absolute best extra possession.  Most steals come when the defense gains possession of the ball while their players are facing their basket, and the team turning the ball over has their back to that basket.  Almost all steals immediately present a number’s advantage for the team gaining possession.  If it is 2 on 1 or 3 on 2, this is like having a 3-0 count as a batter with the bases loaded.  Even if the steal results in a 2 on 2 or 3 on 3, the team with the ball has the advantage, since any even strength less than 5 on 5 favors the offense in basketball.

This is what the R+T represents.  A steal and rebound counts more than a turnover or lack of a turnover, but the turnover has value too.

How do we interpret R+T?  We have levels of interpretation.

If a team has an R+T rating of 20 or better, this is a potentially dangerous tournament team.  In a tight, evenly matched game, a team with a 20+ R+T rating has a huge advantage over a team with an average R+T rating.  At crunch time, a crucial steal or offensive rebound resulting in a basket can be the difference.

An R+T rating of 15-20 is a good rating, and a team with a rating in this range has Sweet 16 potential and maybe Elite 8 potential.

An R+T rating of 10-15 is average for an NCAA Tournament team.  Unless this team is outstanding in other areas such as field goal percentage margin, they probably do not have the necessary talent to make it past the Sweet 16.  There have been teams that made the Final Four with R+T ratings in  this range, but most of the time, they got there because they played opponents with even weaker R+T ratings.

An R+T rating in the 5-10 range might win a game or even sneak into the Sweet 16, but they should not be expected to go any farther.  It is unlikely that a team in this range will face three consecutive teams with even weaker R+T ratings.

An R+T rating in the 0-5 range does not have the goods to make it to the second weekend of the tournament.  Favored teams in this range playing underdogs with double-digit R+T ratings are prime to be “upset.”

And, when you see a team with a negative R+T, treat this team like you would treat a race horse with “four white socks.”

There is an old poem about horses wearing white socks (hooves), as it was generally believed, rightly or wrongly, that white hooves were a sign of weakness in a horse.  If we remember correctly it goes:

One white sock, keep him to the end.

Two white socks, give him to a friend.

Three white socks, send him far away.

Four white socks, keep him not a day.

A team with a negative R+T rating has four white socks.  Pick them not a game.  Teams with negative R+T ratings almost always lose in the Round of 64, even if they are a 2-seed playing a 15-seed.  There was a year where three heavily favored teams from power conferences but with negative R+T ratings played three double-digit seeds from mid-major conferences but with good R+T ratings.  All three heavily favored teams lost.

Do you remember in 2013 when Florida Gulf Coast made Andy Enfield famous for something more than his fantastic spouse, when his 15th-seeded Eagles clobbered second-seed Georgetown?  FGCU had a fat R+T rating, while the Hoyas had a negative R+T rating.

Let’s look at this statistic in tabular form with several potential NCAA Tournament teams.  These numbers represent only the stats from conference games for each team, thus eliminating games where a power conference team beat a low-major team by 35 points and padded their stats.

Team Reb. Stl. Opp Stl. TO R+T  Conf.
Alabama -0.1 7.7 6.7 -0.3 2.7 1
Arizona 6.1 4.8 5.7 -0.2 14.7 5
Auburn -0.3 8.1 5.8 4.4 8.1 1
Buffalo 4.1 6.9 4.8 2.4 15.3 13
Cincinnati 9.1 7.1 5.1 3.1 25.8 7
Clemson -1.9 5.4 6.4 -0.5 -2.0 2
Duke 6.9 7.8 5.7 -0.1 17.9 2
East Tennessee 7.7 6.8 5.6 0.2 19.4 17
Florida -3.6 5.2 3.3 3.0 1.1 1
Florida St. 3.6 5.5 5.8 0.0 10.2 2
Gonzaga 10.5 5.7 4.9 2.6 27.6 11
Kansas -5.2 5.8 5.7 0.3 -6.9 3
Kansas St. -8.0 8.3 6.0 3.0 -8.9 3
Kentucky 2.0 5.7 5.1 -1.7 6.1 1
UL-Lafayette 10.2 7.9 5.7 1.1 25.8 23
Louisville 1.6 7.9 7.3 2.1 8.0 2
Loyola (Chi.) 0.8 7.4 5.7 2.2 7.8 9
Miami (Fla.) 0.9 7.6 6.3 1.6 6.9 2
Michigan -0.5 5.1 4.7 3.2 6.1 6
Michigan St. 9.0 3.5 4.8 -4.5 16.5 6
Middle Tennessee 10.0 5.5 6.2 -0.9 21.7 14
Montana 4.5 8.8 4.1 4.3 19.6 20
Nevada -1.2 7.3 4.4 4.8 7.7 10
New Mexico St. 11.5 4.3 5.3 1.7 27.6 15
North Carolina 9.9 5.5 5.7 -1.2 21.7 2
North Carolina St. 0.9 6.8 6.0 1.6 6.8 2
Ohio St. 6.0 5.8 3.9 0.0 17.0 6
Oklahoma 1.6 6.3 7.8 -3.2 1.4 3
Oregon 1.8 6.7 4.8 0.7 8.9 5
Purdue 1.9 5.5 5.4 1.5 8.7 6
Rhode Island 1.5 6.3 5.7 5.6 12.1 8
Saint Mary’s 6.4 5.8 6.3 -0.7 14.7 11
South Dakota St. 2.9 5.1 4.4 -0.2 9.8 16
USC -1.4 8.0 4.7 7.0 9.5 5
SMU -0.7 8.4 4.0 2.8 7.6 7
Tennessee 1.4 6.0 5.7 0.7 6.8 1
Texas Tech 5.1 6.2 6.7 0.6 13.2 3
UCLA -0.1 6.1 4.9 0.5 4.5 5
Villanova -3.2 6.7 4.3 3.6 2.3 4
Virginia -2.9 8.3 4.1 6.2 6.5 2
Virginia Tech -6.4 6.4 5.8 1.4 -8.0 2
West Virginia 2.8 6.9 6.0 2.3 11.4 3
Wichita St. 9.3 4.9 6.1 0.8 21.8 7

There are a couple of extra things to add to this discussion before you receive your BS in R+Tology.  Most of you by now have thought that it is a lot easier for New Mexico State to dominate in the WAC than it is for Kansas to dominate in the Big 12.  Beating Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Texas Tech is a lot harder than beating Chicago State, Missouri-Kansas City, and Seattle.  Definitely, the strength of the conference must be factored into this equation.  In the last column above, you see a number under the heading of “conf.”  This represents the rating of conferences by strength.  As of today, the SEC is the toughest league in college basketball.  The ACC is number two; the Big 12 is number three; and so on.  The WAC is number 15.  There are 31 Division One conferences, so 15 is about average, while the SEC and ACC are many points better than an average conference.

We do handicap these ratings when we do our March Madness picking.  An ACC team with an R+T rating of 15 is better than a Colonial Athletic Association team with an R+T rating of 23.  A SWAC team with an R+T rating of 7 is like a Big 12 team with a negative R+T rating.

One final adjustment.  When looking at the components of the R+T ratings, notice whether a team’s components are all positive numbers.  In other words, look to see if a team has positive rebounding margins, positive turnover margins (commit less than they force), averages more than 6 steals per game and who limits opponents steals to less than 6 per game.  This is the sign of a complete team, and complete teams frequently beat teams with superior R+T ratings when the other team is not a complete team.

Let’s look at two examples from above.

Dan Hurley has done a great job at Rhode Island, and the Rams are a “complete team.”  They have a positive rebounding margin.  They average more than 6 steals per game and give up less than 6 steals per game, and they have a really nice turnover margin.  Their R+T rating is 12.1, and the Atlantic 10 conference is rated #8.  URI is definitely Sweet 16-worthy with these stats before we begin to look at other factors like shooting percentages and defensive shooting percentages.

Now, let’s look at Michigan State.  The Spartans have a 16.5 R+T rating from the number 6 conference.  However, Sparty averages only 3.5 steals per game and have a negative turnover margin of 4.5.  This is a real warning sign for bracket-pickers.  MSU will dominate on the boards in a matchup against Rhode Island, but the Rams will even up that advantage with a large turnover margins against the Spartans.  If both teams shoot a similar percentage from inside and outside the 3-point line, you have a toss-up game.

Michigan State saw how this lack of being complete hurt them in the past.  In the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Spartans faced a Middle Tennessee State team that excelled in turnover margin and steals.  The Blue Raiders basically were much quicker than Michigan State, and this is why their turnover margin was so excellent.  They could pressure the ball and play in the passing lanes without giving up easy baskets.  MTSU pulled off the upset thanks to turnover margin equalizing the rebounding margin of their opponent.  The Blue Raiders’ quickness led to a lot of open shots, while Michigan State’s power game did not produce an equivalent number of open shots.  MTSU took MSU out of its game plan and forced the tempo, turning this into a 70-possession game.  Michigan State preferred a 60-64 possession game, and those extra 6-10 possessions per side helped the underdog team.

It is not always this cut and dried.  Other factors have to be considered, and this is where the PiRate Ratings have made substantial changes starting this year.  In past years, we did not give a lot of support to excellent three-point shooting teams, because we favored teams that could get shots from within 5 feet of the basket.  During the last three or four years, the three-point shot has become much more important, essential if you will.  The Golden State Warriors and other NBA teams now rely on advanced analytical data almost as much as Major League Baseball teams.  Three-point shooting has been determined to be as vital as having the relief ace that can enter the World Series in the 6th inning and get six high-leverage outs.  The PiRate Bracket-picking protocol has now incorporated true shooting percentages with R+T ratings and conference strength to refine our ratings.

The game has come down to whether a team can be expected to shoot a certain percentage from inside and outside the 3-point line and whether they can be expected to get extra scoring opportunities.  A combination of these two basic factors will be how we handicap games in the future.  Of course, we will handicap the two factors based on conference strength.

When you look at our spreads each week, you are looking at an algorithm that incorporates and handicaps due to conference strength, expected true shooting percentages and scoring opportunities








January 29, 2018

PiRate Ratings Bracket Gurus Report for January 29, 2017

Our Bracket Gurus have spoken for the first time this year.  Maybe, you should listen, because in 2017, the Gurus were 100% correct in picking the final 68 teams on Selection Sunday morning, something mighty impressive considering there were about a half-dozen teams competing for the last three spots in the field.

All 12 of last year’s March Gurus have returned, and because we thought we might fall one shy, we added a trio of new Gurus who have credibility with the PiRate Captain.  So, in this report, the number of Gurus reporting is 15.

Let’s get to it.  Here are the 68 teams seeded 1-16.

Seed Team League
1 Villanova BIGE
1 Purdue BTEN
1 Virginia ACC
1 Kansas B12
2 Duke ACC
2 Xavier BIGE
2 Auburn SEC
2 Oklahoma B12
3 Clemson ACC
3 Arizona PAC12
3 Michigan St. BTEN
3 North Carolina ACC
4 Texas Tech B12
4 Cincinnati AAC
4 Tennessee SEC
4 West Virginia B12
5 Kentucky SEC
5 Florida SEC
5 Ohio St. BTEN
5 Seton Hall BIGE
6 Wichita St. AAC
6 Rhode Island A-10
6 Creighton BIGE
6 Miami (Fla.) ACC
7 Arizona St. PAC12
7 Louisville ACC
7 Florida St. ACC
7 Gonzaga WCC
8 TCU B12
8 Arkansas SEC
8 Saint Mary’s WCC
8 Michigan BTEN
9 Nevada MWC
9 Alabama SEC
9 Texas B12
9 Butler BIGE
10 USC PAC12
10 Providence BIGE
10 Kansas St. B12
10 Houston AAC
11 Middle Tennessee CUSA
11 New Mexico St. WAC
11 Buffalo MAC
11 Loyola (Chi.) MVC
12 Texas A&M SEC
12 Syracuse ACC
12 Marquette BIGE
12 North Carolina St. ACC
12 Washington PAC12
12 Boise St. MWC
13 UL-Lafayette SBC
13 East Tennessee St. SOCON
13 Vermont AMEAST
13 South Dakota St. Summit
14 Belmont OVC
14 Wright St. Horizon
14 William & Mary CAA
14 Bucknell Patriot
15 Montana BSKY
15 UC-Davis BWEST
15 Canisius MAAC
15 Stephen F. Austin SLC
16 Florida Gulf Coast A-SUN
16 Penn Ivy
16 Wagner NEC
16 UNC-Asheville BIGS
16 Bethune-Cookman MEAC
16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff SWAC

Here is the breakdown of Multiple Bid Leagues. There are 23, one-bid leagues in this first report, with the Mountain West Conference just barely sneaking in with two teams and Conference USA just barely missing out on getting a second team in this field.

AAC: 3

ACC: 9

Big 12: 7

Big East: 7

Big Ten: 4

Mountain West: 2

Pac-12: 4

SEC: 7

WCC: 2


The Bubble

The Last 4 Teams With a Bye

Kansas St.


Texas A&M



The Last 4 Teams In The Field (First Four Teams in Dayton)

Marquette vs. Boise St.

North Carolina St. vs. Washington


The Rest of the Bubble (in order of votes by the Gurus)


Western Kentucky

Virginia Tech


South Carolina



St. Bonaventure



Notre Dame

Old Dominion




January 26, 2018

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Preview for January 27-28, 2018

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 9:16 am

Spreads For Major Conference Games This Weekend

Saturday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
Memphis Cincinnati -13.8
North Carolina North Carolina St. 12.2
Duke Virginia 5.0
Florida St. Miami (Fla.) 3.8
Pittsburgh Syracuse -9.6
Notre Dame Virginia Tech 4.8
Louisville Wake Forest 9.8
South Carolina Texas Tech -4.2
Florida Baylor 5.4
Texas Ole Miss 7.4
Kansas St. Georgia 7.8
Alabama Oklahoma -1.7
Iowa St. Tennessee -5.2
Vanderbilt TCU -4.9
Kansas Texas A&M 10.0
Arkansas Oklahoma St. 7.4
West Virginia Kentucky 8.8
Butler St. John’s 8.5
Creighton Georgetown 14.5
Penn St. Rutgers 9.0
Nebraska Iowa 4.7
San Jose St. Wyoming -9.7
Fresno St. Utah St. 7.6
New Mexico Colorado St. 9.4
Air Force Boise St. -13.2
UNLV San Diego St. 0.2
Arizona Utah 10.2
Arizona St. Colorado 12.1
Oregon Oregon St. 7.9
UCLA Stanford 7.5
Auburn LSU 9.5
Mississippi St. Missouri -1.0
Loyola Marymount San Diego -3.9
Pepperdine Santa Clara 1.4
Gonzaga San Francisco 20.0
BYU Pacific 12.7
Saint Mary’s Portland 23.0
Sunday’s Games    
Home Team Visitor Spread
SMU East Carolina 22.6
Houston South Florida 24.1
Wichita St. Tulsa 16.1
Temple Connecticut 7.1
Georgia Tech Clemson -6.9
Marquette Villanova -9.0
DePaul Seton Hall -5.0
Maryland Michigan St. -5.4
Indiana Purdue -13.6
USC California 17.9
Washington Washington St. 6.4

The PiRate Ratings Top 25

Rank Team PiRate Conf.
1 Villanova 122.2 BIGE
2 Purdue 121.7 BTEN
3 Duke 120.0 ACC
4 Michigan St. 119.3 BTEN
5 Virginia 119.0 ACC
6 Cincinnati 117.2 AAC
7 Kansas 117.0 B12
8 Gonzaga 116.7 WCC
9 West Virginia 116.2 B12
10 North Carolina 115.9 ACC
11 Xavier 115.4 BIGE
12 Texas Tech 114.5 B12
13 Wichita St. 114.4 AAC
14 Auburn 114.0 SEC
15 Creighton 114.0 BIGE
16 Oklahoma 113.5 B12
17 Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
18 Tennessee 113.4 SEC
19 TCU 113.1 B12
20 Arizona 112.9 PAC12
21 Clemson 112.8 ACC
22 Florida St. 112.6 ACC
23 Saint Mary’s 112.5 WCC
24 Nevada 112.3 MWC
25 Florida 112.3 SEC

Note: Rhode Island from the Atlantic 10 Conference is #27, but no other A-10 team is in line for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.  Thus, the A-10 stays as a one-bid league if URI wins the automatic bid by winning the A-10 Tournament title.  If a second team should make it into serious Bubble contention, then we will commence with A-10 expanded coverage.

Also, the Mountain West Conference is in danger of being removed from this list.  While Nevada remains in the top 25 and looks like a near lock to make the NCAA Tournament with or without an automatic bid, the Wolfpack’s nearest competition, Boise State and San Diego State, have fallen back enough to be remote at-large candidates.  Should the Broncos and Aztecs fall off that Bubble, we will remove the Mountain West Conference as a Major.

PiRate Ratings by Major Conference 

Cincinnati 117.2 AAC
Wichita St. 114.4 AAC
Houston 110.3 AAC
SMU 109.9 AAC
UCF 104.4 AAC
Temple 104.2 AAC
Tulsa 101.8 AAC
Tulane 100.7 AAC
Connecticut 100.6 AAC
Memphis 99.9 AAC
East Carolina 90.8 AAC
South Florida 89.7 AAC
Duke 120.0 ACC
Virginia 119.0 ACC
North Carolina 115.9 ACC
Clemson 112.8 ACC
Florida St. 112.6 ACC
Miami FL 111.8 ACC
Notre Dame 111.6 ACC
Louisville 111.3 ACC
Virginia Tech 110.3 ACC
Syracuse 108.8 ACC
North Carolina St. 106.7 ACC
Boston College 105.6 ACC
Wake Forest 105.0 ACC
Georgia Tech 102.9 ACC
Pittsburgh 96.2 ACC
Kansas 117.0 B12
West Virginia 116.2 B12
Texas Tech 114.5 B12
Oklahoma 113.5 B12
TCU 113.1 B12
Kansas St. 110.7 B12
Baylor 110.4 B12
Texas 110.2 B12
Oklahoma St. 107.6 B12
Iowa St. 104.7 B12
Villanova 122.2 BIGE
Xavier 115.4 BIGE
Creighton 114.0 BIGE
Butler 110.9 BIGE
Seton Hall 110.9 BIGE
Marquette 109.7 BIGE
Providence 108.2 BIGE
St. John’s 105.9 BIGE
Georgetown 103.0 BIGE
DePaul 102.9 BIGE
Purdue 121.7 BTEN
Michigan St. 119.3 BTEN
Ohio St. 113.4 BTEN
Michigan 112.3 BTEN
Maryland 110.4 BTEN
Penn St. 108.6 BTEN
Northwestern 107.0 BTEN
Nebraska 106.5 BTEN
Minnesota 106.5 BTEN
Wisconsin 105.7 BTEN
Iowa 105.3 BTEN
Indiana 105.1 BTEN
Illinois 104.3 BTEN
Rutgers 102.6 BTEN
Nevada 112.3 MWC
Boise St. 109.0 MWC
San Diego St. 108.3 MWC
UNLV 105.5 MWC
Fresno St. 105.3 MWC
Wyoming 102.4 MWC
New Mexico 102.4 MWC
Utah St. 100.7 MWC
Colorado St. 96.5 MWC
Air Force 92.8 MWC
San Jose St. 89.7 MWC
Arizona 112.9 PAC12
Arizona St. 111.3 PAC12
USC 109.6 PAC12
UCLA 107.8 PAC12
Oregon 107.6 PAC12
Utah 106.2 PAC12
Stanford 103.8 PAC12
Washington 103.1 PAC12
Colorado 102.7 PAC12
Oregon St. 102.7 PAC12
Washington St. 99.7 PAC12
California 95.2 PAC12
Auburn 114.0 SEC
Tennessee 113.4 SEC
Florida 112.3 SEC
Kentucky 111.4 SEC
Arkansas 111.0 SEC
Texas A&M 111.0 SEC
Missouri 109.9 SEC
Alabama 108.3 SEC
LSU 108.0 SEC
South Carolina 106.8 SEC
Georgia 106.4 SEC
Mississippi 106.3 SEC
Mississippi St. 105.9 SEC
Vanderbilt 104.7 SEC
Gonzaga 116.7 WCC
Saint Mary’s 112.5 WCC
BYU 107.7 WCC
San Diego 101.2 WCC
San Francisco 99.7 WCC
Pacific 98.5 WCC
Loyola Marymount 94.3 WCC
Portland 92.5 WCC
Santa Clara 92.3 WCC
Pepperdine 90.7 WCC

PiRate Ratings Take on the Current 68

Beginning next week, we hope to commence with our 2018 March Madness Bracket Gurus report.  We have received the go ahead from 11 of our 12 gurus saying they will be ready to send us their selections on Monday or Tuesday each week for the rest of the season.  We have not been able to establish contact with Guru #12 this year, so we are in the market for a 12th Guru.  We have feelers sent out to a couple of reputable bracketologists hoping to get back to a dozen.

Until then, here is our personal take on 68 teams.

America East–1: Vermont 7-0/17-5

AAC–4: Cincinnati 7-0/18-2, Wichita St. 6-2/16-4, Houston 5-2/15-4, SMU 4-4/14-7

Atlantic 10–1: Rhode Island 8-0/16-3

ACC–8: Virginia 8-0/19-1, Duke 6-2/18-2, North Carolina 5-3/16-5, Clemson 5-3/16-4, Louisville 5-2/15-5, Miami (Fla.) 4-3/15-4, Florida St. 4-4/15-5, Notre Dame 3-4/13-7

Atlantic Sun–1: Florida Gulf Coast 6-0/15-8

Big 12–7: Kansas 6-2/16-4, Oklahoma 5-3/15-4, West Virginia 5-3/16-4, Texas Tech 5-3/16-4, Kansas St. 5-3/15-5, TCU 3-5/15-5, Texas 4-4/13-7

Big East–7: Villanova 6-1/19-1, Xavier 7-2/19-3, Creighton 6-3/16-5, Seton Hall 4-3/15-5, Butler 4-4/14-7, Providence 5-3/14-7, Marquette 4-4/13-7

Big Sky–1: Montana 8-0/15-5

Big South–1: Radford 7-2/14-8

Big Ten–4: Purdue 9-0/20-2, Michigan St. 6-2/18-3, Ohio St. 9-1/18-5, Michigan 6-4/17-6

Big West–1: Hawaii 4-1/13-5

Colonial–1: Northeastern 7-2/14-7

Conference USA–1: Middle Tennessee 7-1/15-5

Horizon–1: Northern Kentucky 7-1/14-6

Ivy–1: Penn 3-0/12-6

MAAC–1: Canisius 7-1/13-8

MAC–1: Buffalo 7-0/15-5

MEAC–1: Bethune-Cookman 5-0/11-9

Missouri Valley–1: Loyola (Chi.) 7-2/17-4

Mountain West–2: Nevada 7-1/18-4, Boise St. 7-2/17-4

Northeast–1: Wagner 6-2/13-6

Ohio Valley–1: Belmont 8-1/16-6

Pac-12–3: Arizona 7-1/17-4, Arizona St. 3-5/15-5, USC 7-2/16-6

Patriot–1: Bucknell 8-1/14-8

SEC–8: Auburn 6-1/18-2, Tennessee 5-3/14-5, Florida 6-2/14-6, Kentucky 5-3/15-5, Alabama 5-3/13-7, Arkansas 4-4/14-6, Missouri 3-4/13-7, Texas A&M 2-6/13-7

Southern–1: East Tennessee 8-0/17-4

Southland–1: Stephen F. Austin 5-2/16-4

SWAC–1: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7-0/7-14

Summit–1: South Dakota 6-1/18-5

Sun Belt–1: Louisiana-LaFayette 8-0/18-3

West Coast–2: Saint Mary’s 9-0/20-2, Gonzaga 8-1/18-4

WAC–1: New Mexico St. 5-0/17-3

Last 4 In (headed to Dayton in a First 4 Game)

Notre Dame vs. Boise St.

Kansas St. vs. USC

#16 Seeds headed to Dayton in a First 4 Game

Wagner vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Penn vs. Radford

5 Double Digit Mid-Major Seeds No Single Digit Seed Wants to Play 

New Mexico St.

Middle Tennessee or Western Kentucky


East Tennessee St.



5 Final Four Dark Horses (lower than 4 seed)


Wichita St.

Saint Mary’s



The Bubble On the Outside Looking In

69 Syracuse

70 Georgia

71 Washington

72 Western Kentucky (or Middle Tennessee if WKU wins automatic bid)

73 Baylor

74 Maryland

75 North Carolina St.

76 Oklahoma St.




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