The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 19, 2018

PiRate Ratings Selections for September 20-24, 2018

Hooray for once.  The PiRate Ratings official picks last week enjoyed a nice winning record, sending the year to date record into positive territory.  It is a small profit, as the return on investment is just 1.92%, but at least it isn’t a red number.  Better yet, our straight picks against the spread or in the totals have a record of 11-6-1 for the season.  It is the exotic picks that have stunk up the joint.  Thus, we will go with just straight picks this week.

Best of all, out special Land Sharps are just torching the books with their selections.  One of the sharps, Buckeye Michelle, has been insane with her picks the last two weeks, and we have received messages from some of our regular subscribers asking for more information about her.  First of all, we are not in the business of matchmaking, so don’t ask.  And, yes, she is an incredibly beautiful 29-year old football fanatic.

One of you actually revealed to us that you know who Stewed Meat is.  Stewed is a real sharp.  Stewed lives in Nevada, and handicapping is Stewed career.  Stewed has shown us something special this week that many people never get the opportunity to see performed–playing the middle against both sides.  We’ll explain more about this at the end.

Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings Selections Against The Spread

Favorite Underdog Spread Pick
Wisconsin Iowa 3.5 Iowa
Louisiana Coastal Carolina 4.5 Coastal Carolina
North Carolina St. Marshall 4.5 North Carolina St.
Maryland Minnesota 3 Minnesota
Stanford Oregon 1.5 Stanford
West Virginia Kansas St. 17 Kansas St.
Chicago Arizona 7 Arizona
Philadelphia Indianapolis 6 Philadelphia
Green Bay Washington 3 Washington

Now for the Land Sharps.  At the present time, this is how each has done so far.

Buckeye Michelle is 9-1 for 90% against the spread and +$790 a 79% ROI

Cal Gal Tiffy is 9-3 for 75% against the spread and +$570 a 47.5% ROI

Friday Dog 13 is 4-2 for 67% against the spread and +$180 a 30% ROI

Stewed Meat is 6-4 for 60% against the spread and +$160 a 16% ROI

Dean 615 is 3-3 for 50% against the spread and -$30 a -5% ROI

If more than one of our expert pickers agree on picking the same game, it must be a strong pick.  You will notice that a couple of games were selected by multiple sharps this week.  You will also notice that a couple of sharps picked against each other.

If you are just tuning in to this feature, the rules are simple.  The 5 participants can select against the margin or going over or under the total for any FBS college football game.  They can select 3, 5,7, or 9 games each week.  We then select the most favorable spread available at oddshark.com.

Here are the Land Sharps Picks For the Week.

Buckeye Michelle

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

Wake Forest +8 vs. Notre Dame

Army +32 vs. Oklahoma

Stanford -1.5 vs. Oregon

 

Cal Gal Tiffy

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

South Carolina -2 vs. Vanderbilt

North Carolina St. -4.5 vs. Marshall

UTSA -7 vs. Texas St.

 

Friday Dog 13

Penn St. -28 vs. Illinois

North Carolina St. -4.5 vs. Marshall

Virginia -5 vs. Louisville

Clemson -16 vs. Georgia Tech

TCU -3 vs. Texas

 

Stewed Meat

Minnesota +3 vs. Maryland

Kansas St. +17 vs. West Virginia

Iowa +3.5 vs. Wisconsin

Stanford -1.5 vs. Oregon

Louisville +5.5 vs. Virginia

 

Dean 615

Notre Dame -7 vs. Wake Forest

Michigan St. -4.5 vs. Indiana

USC -3.5 vs. Washington St.

Texas +3.5 vs. TCU

Nebraska +18 vs. Michigan

 

Special Look At Stewed Meat’s Real Life Strategy

Stewed is an expert at “Middling”.  In order to be able to do this, Stewed gets access to playing the early line and then immediately plays one side of a game in which Stewed believes the line is off and will move in the opposite direction of which Stewed originally played.  Then, when the line moves in the opposite direction, Stewed plays the other side

Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say Alabama opens as a 14.5 point favorite over Auburn, and Stewed likes Auburn at this number.  So Stewed wagers on Auburn at +14.5.  During the week, a lot of other people believe 14.5 points are too much for Alabama, and they bet the spread down to 11.5.  Now, Stewed wagers on Alabama at -11.5.

On the surface, you might think this is nuts.  Stewed will have a slim chance of the game ending up at 12, 13, or 14 points in Alabama’s favor, giving Stewed two wins.  In most cases, Stewed will win one and lose one and lose $10 for every $100 wagered on both sides.

However, if you look at the 11-10 odds and do a little mathematical calculations, Stewed only needs to have the game come in at the middle of the extremes one time out of 19 in order to turn a profit, plus Stewed has a Margin of Safety in place, because the most Stewed can lose is 10% on the dollar wagered.

Earlier this week, Stewed Wagered on the following games that have seen a significant line change and then wagered on the other team once the line moved in the other direction.

SMU +12.5 vs. Navy

Navy -7 vs. SMU

 

Ball St. Pk vs. Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky +3 vs. Ball St.

 

Alabama -23.5 vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M +27 vs. Alabama

 

Auburn -24 vs. Arkansas

Arkansas +30 vs. Auburn

If just one of these four games come in with the spread in the middle, Stewed will turn a nice profit.

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March 23, 2018

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

Sweet 16–Friday, March 23

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

Friday Night’s Schedule

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

 

 

 

 

March 17, 2018

PiRate Ratings Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games of Sunday, March 18

Sunday’s PiRate Rating Spreads For NCAA Tournament Games

Higher Seed Lower Seed Spread
Purdue Butler 5.4
Michigan St. Syracuse 8.5
North Carolina Texas A&M 5.9
Cincinnati Nevada 4.9
Auburn Clemson 1.4
Kansas St. MD-Baltimore Co. 9.8
Xavier Florida St. 3.7
West Virginia Marshall 10.2

Sunday’s TV Schedule

All times Eastern Daylight

Sunday, Mar 18, 2018
TIME Higher Seed Lower Seed City TV
12:10 PM 2 Purdue 10 Butler Detroit CBS
2:40 PM 3 Michigan St. 11 Syracuse Detroit CBS
5:15 PM 2 North Carolina 7 Texas A&M Charlotte CBS
6:10 PM 2 Cincinnati 7 Nevada Nashville TNT
7:10 PM 4 Auburn 5 Clemson San Diego TBS
7:45 PM 9 Kansas St. 16 MD-Baltimore Co. Charlotte TruTV
8:40 PM 1 Xavier 9 Florida St. Nashville TNT
9:40 PM 5 West Virginia 13 Marshall San Diego TBS

Bracket-Picking Criteria Results

Of the eight teams in the Sweet 16 as of Saturday night, we still have six teams alive.  Our picks went 6-2 and were within a half-second of going 8-0, as our two losses came on last-second shots in the Loyola-Tennessee and Michigan-Houston games.

For the tournament, our picks are now 32-12.

The New PiRate Ratings Bracketology Criteria have performed on par with the traditional criteria that we used for over 20 years.  We will wait until the championship before deciding if the new criteria was worth discarding the old method.

Here is a look at today’s games as the criteria applies to each of the eight contests.

Purdue vs. Butler
The big question is, “Will Isaac Haas play?” The next biggest question is, “If he plays, can he be anywhere near 100%?”

If Haas is able to give anything close to his regular contribution, Purdue is too strong for Butler. But, as we have already seen in this tournament, Virginia not having its best defender, and Tennessee not having one of its key big men available were contributing factors in losses. If Haas is not able to play, then Butler gains a major advantage in this game. The Boilermakers rely on Haas more for his offense than his defense, and it is true shooting percentage margin where Purdue is so superior in this contest. Remove Haas and his 66% TS%, and this advantage melts away somewhat.

PiRate Pick: Purdue

Michigan St. vs. Syracuse
This will be an interesting contest. The schedule strengths are identical, so we can look at the stats as if the two teams have played the same exact schedules. Michigan State has a clear true shooting percentage margin advantage and the Spartans also enjoy a modest R+T rating advantage.
The interest in this game comes from Michigan State’s issue against zone defenses. The Syracuse 2-3 matchup zone is tough to face the first time, and the Spartans had all of a day to study it and then implement a strategy against it.
It’s a different zone entirely, but Michigan State fared poorly twice against Michigan’s 1-3-1 trapping zone. Syracuse will trap out of their matchup zone as well.
On paper, Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston should thrive against zone defenses, but they did not hit from outside in one of the two games, and they turned the ball over against the traps the other. Maybe, the third time’s the charm? Or then maybe Syracuse is primed to make another surprise run to the Final Four? We’ll stick with Sparty.

PiRate Pick: Michigan St.

North Carolina vs. Texas A&M
North Carolina is almost playing at home, but Kansas just showed that having an in-state regional doesn’t guarantee two easy victories. However, the Jayhawks advanced, so the Tar Heels should get a little extra help with maybe a point or point and a half for playing so close to home as the state school where the tournament will be played.
The Tar Heels don’t need all that much extra oomph in the Big Dance. They are the defending champions, and they appear to be nearing peak performance at the right time.
Texas A&M is not going to be the weak victim. The Aggies will have the power to keep the inside game honest. A&M actually has a slightly better true shooting percentage margin than the Tar Heels, but North Carolina enjoys the R+T advantage. Down the road, North Carolina might struggle against a team that can force turnovers, but A&M isn’t one of those teams.

PiRate Pick: North Carolina

Cincinnati vs. Nevada
This game could be interesting for awhile, but Cincinnati is a bit too physical for the underdog Wolf Pack. The Bearcats’ R+T rating advantage is considerable here, and they enjoy a small true shooting percentage advantage as well. Eventually, Cinti will dominate on the glass, and this should lead to a run of several points, where the Bearcats send the Wolf Pack back to Reno, and that’s no gamble saying so.

PiRate Pick: Cincinnati

Auburn vs. Clemson
This is another one of those games where one key injury makes a huge difference in one team’s statistics. Auburn just narrowly escaped a first round upset bid by Charleston, and without a dominating or even contributing big man, the Tigers just aren’t the same team they were before Anfernee McLemore was lost for the season.

Clemson is not going to just show up and win this game, and they may not win even if they produce an A+ effort. Auburn still has a tough pressure defense on the perimeter, and Clemson has a negative turnover margin, so the War Eagles should get a couple extra scoring opportunities with steals.

However, when it comes down to it, Clemson has a decidedly better true shooting percentage margin and should be able to score inside enough times to win this battle again. CU enjoys a slightly better stength of schedule, and this should be the final nail in the coffin in this game.

PiRate Pick: Clemson

Kansas St. vs. MD-Baltimore Co.
Can they do it again? Is there any way a Number 16 seed can be one of the last 16 in the field? Here’s the funny thing about this game: Kansas State is precariously on the minimum R+T margin line to be picked against anybody in the tournament. Teams that rebound as poorly as Kansas State seldom make it very far in the NCAA Tournament. There are just a handful of teams in the last 50 years that won twice in one NCAA Tournament when their rebounding margin was worse than -3.
Maryland-Baltimore County would have been our pick in this game if the Terriers had a positive rebounding margin of 1.5 or better, but UMBC also has a negative rebounding margin. The Terriers might have been our pick if they held the true shooting percentage margin advantage in this game, but Kansas State has the better numbers here as well. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats’ schedule strength is about 15 points stronger than that of UMBC, and we just cannot pull the trigger on this one and take the most incredible long shot to ever make the Sweet 16.

PiRate Pick: Kansas St.

Xavier vs. Florida St.
This game should be the second most exciting game of the day. The Seminoles match up well with the top-seeded Musketeers, and this game should remain close for at least all of the first half and a good bit of the second half. Xavier has a slightly stronger schedule strength which makes their true shooting percentage margin and R+T rating advantages enough to matter. The margin of safety in this game is rather small, almost nonexistent, so a cold shooting day by Xavier could be enough to turn this game the other way.

PiRate Pick: Xavier

West Virginia vs.Marshall
We saved the best for last. In case you didn’t know, there is more than just a Round of 32 game here. These two in-state rivals don’t get along, and it’s almost as hated as Xavier and Cincinnati. It carries over to the two coaches, as they don’t really like each other.
When there is a game like this, the smaller school almost always benefits in some way.

Marshall is a woman scorned as these teams prepare to face off in a foreign land known as San Diego. West Virginia refuses to play Marshall in basketball (and football), unless the Mountaineers get two home games for every Thundering Herd home game.
What about the game itself? This will be the most interesting game of the day. Press Virginia’s defense may not exploit much in the way Marshall attacks it. The Herd had no difficulty facing Middle Tennessee’s trapping defense, as they pasted the CUSA regular season champions both times they faced them.

Alas, there is one important rule that we always follow at the PiRate Ratings. Whenever a team in the NCAA Tournament had a negative R+T Rating, we select the other team as long as that team has a positive R+T Rating. Marshall’s R+T Rating is -4.8, while the Mountaineers have a 16.6 R+T, and that is enough to give WVU about 18 more scoring opportunities. Marshall would have to hit about 18 three-pointers to neutralize that advantage.

PiRate Pick: West Virginia

Original PiRate Ratings Bracketology Sunday Teams Picked for Sweet 16
All 8 of our original picks are still alive today.
Cincinnati
Xavier
North Carolina
West Virginia
Texas Tech
Purdue
Clemson
Michigan St.

 

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

 

 

 

November 16, 2017

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for November 16-18, 2017

After a winning week with a modest 35% return on our investment, the PiRate Rating Money Line Parlays are just a fraction below break even for the season.  We are submitting three selections this week, with the odds being a tad lower in hopes that at least two of these three will win and put us back in the black for the season.  There are numerous trap games this week, so we chose to lay off about 35 of these games that could have been used to produce parlays in the +180 to +235 range.  The problem is that in just about every case, we were split on one of the games in the possible parlay.  For instance, the Western Kentucky-Middle Tennessee game found us divided at 3 to 3.  Either way, we could have used this parlay to produce a nice fat odds in our favor, but none of us are steadfast in our belief in the team we believe will win.  You can put a ditto on Wake Forest and North Carolina St.  We were 3-3 on that game too.

What you do receive this week are three parlays in which we were 6-0 on all but one game, and 5-1 on the other (NW-Duke).

Here are our 3 selections for the week.  REMEMBER: we issue these selections only for entertainment purposes and NEVER wager real currency on these picks.  We advise you follow our lead.  If you are a professional “player” and will play regardless, please use these selections as only one source for your investing ideas.

#1 @ +136  
Must Win Must Lose
Georgia Tech Duke
West Virginia Texas
******************** ********************
#2 @ +165  
Must Win Must Lose
Northwestern Minnesota
South Alabama Georgia Southern
Missouri Vanderbilt
********************  ********************
#3 @ +122  
Must Win Must Lose
Utah St. Hawaii
Old Dominion Rice
Idaho Coastal Carolina

October 5, 2017

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for October 5-9, 2017

Filed under: Pro Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 12:02 pm

Finally, the PiRates had a week to celebrate.  Playing strictly college games, it was quite a profitable week, albeit in imaginary currency.

Three of our five selections won, returning us $718 on our $500 invested for an ROI of 44%  The weekly success almost squared us for the season, as we are now just $83 down on $1,700 invested.  We are one additional successful week from possibly going from red to black figures for the season.

We have selected four parlays this week, all consisting of three-games apiece.  We will be experimenting with additional options this week to test a theory put forth by a mathematics department head of a local university, and if this theory shows some merit, we will discuss it at length in the near future.  For now, we will continue posting only money line parlays that give us better than +120 odds.

Every year, we look to see which games tend to give us the most success, and it is uncanny that two leagues tend to lead the way.  Would you ever guess that the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference have given us more winners than any of the Power 5 leagues?  Is it because these two leagues are more predictable, or is it because maybe the books do not always have the best gauge on these two conferences, and the numbers produce more favorable odds?  Unfortunately, we do not have enough data saved to give us a factual answer.  However, the percentages that we have saved tell us that we have a statistically important advantage when playing games among the MAC and SBC, so these two leagues will remain in the PiRate diet.

We will preface our picks for this week with the mild warning that we were not in 100% agreement on any of the picks this week, while we were solidly behind the three winning plays last week.  In actuality, we were not in 100% agreement on any potential 3-team parlay that produced greater than +120 odds.  The only parlay we all agreed on involved SIX games, at +205 odds.  Six sure things are seldom 100% sure.  It is most likely that one of the six could be upset, and our leader actually believes one of the six might be a great sides pick at +11 (off the record, he likes New Mexico State +11 vs. Appalachian State).

Here are our four parlays for the week.

#1@ +145  
Must Win Must Lose
Florida LSU
TCU West Virginia
Notre Dame North Carolina

 

#2@ +138  
Must Win Must Lose
Syracuse Pittsburgh
Michigan Michigan St.
Marshall Charlotte

 

#3@ +176  
Must Win Must Lose
Miami Florida St.
UTSA Southern Miss
Navy Air Force

 

#4@ +130  
Must Win Must Lose
Akron Ball St.
Idaho UL-Lafayette
Ohio U Central Mich.

 

Note–Once again, we are not issuing any NFL selections for the obvious reasons and the not-so-obvious reason that our NFL ratings have taken a 50%+ drop in readership.  This speaks loudly, and I hope the NFL brass are paying attention at the mass media with similar drops in patronage.

It is our editorial opinion that the NFL needs to instate a rule outlawing all publicly political opinions and statements during their games, just like most other retail establishments.  When you or we go to the grocery store to buy food, or go to your local insurance agent to renew your policies, none of us would expect to be issued any political litmus tests from either side of an issue, and we would quickly look elsewhere for our groceries or insurance if we did have to hear the employees and management deliver one-sided editorials, whether it was our identical belief or opposing belief. 

The NFL will only continue to lose patronage if they allow politicization in any way, on any side.  Football is just one of many avenues of entertainment.  The NFL has fallen behind trail hiking, reading good books, going shopping with our loved ones, visiting friends, and doing inventory (ugh) in the households of the Pirates.  The TVs have remained silent on Sundays and Monday nights.  Worse for the NFL, we all have discovered a much more enjoyable end to our weekends by not watching the games, something that may become addictive long after the impasse has been retired.  It takes a lot to win customers back after they have made the decision to leave.  Many companies never succeed in returning to what they once were once they experienced a large migration away from their establishment.

March 23, 2017

PiRate Ratings Bracketnomics 505 Sweet 16 Criteria Reveal

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

If you get to start anew with your brackets in whatever pool you are playing in as a participant, we have updated our PiRate Ratings Criteria for the Sweet 16.
If you played along with us, you should have 10 teams left in your Sweet 16, having 26 of the 32 first round winners. If you are in a league where you get one point for each winner that goes from 64 to 32, and two points for every correct Sweet 16 team, then you should be sitting pretty with 46 points. Hopefully, we will help you score some 3-point winners the next two nights, whether you must stick with your original picks, or you get to start over with the 16 remaining teams.

To understand our methods if you don’t already know, refer to this primer: https://piratings.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/bracketnomics-505-the-advanced-level-course-in-bracket-selection/

Here is a breakdown of each game for the next two nights, followed by an update at how the Elite 8 and Final Four look using our criteria.

Oregon vs. Michigan
Power Conference: Both teams

Strength of Schedule: Very slight edge to Michigan, but not enough to matter much

R+T Rating: Large edge to Oregon, as the Ducks’ R+T is 14.7 to the Wolverines’ 3.2. This means that on average, Oregon will have an opportunity through superior rebounding, ball-steals, and overall turnover differential to outscore Michigan by 11.5 points. There is a caveat, as the Ducks are missing a key component in Chris Boucher.
Ability to Win Away from Home: Oregon 14-5/Michigan 11-8. The Ducks have a decent advantage here, but not enough to move this game to the win column.

Winning Streak(s): The Ducks won 17 games in a row at one point this season and eight in a row another time, while Michigan had two, five-game winning streaks. Once again, Oregon has the advantage here, but we cannot annoint the Ducks winners just yet. Not having Boucher removes a lot of these advantages three rounds into the Big Dance.

Since the strengths of schedule are similar, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: Michigan = 8.9, Oregon = 13.8, Ducks look better here
FG% Differential: Michigan = 1.9, Oregon = 7.8, Ducks look much better here, as UM fails to qualify
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 68

This is a tough game to figure out, because Boucher’s absence makes Oregon less than what the stats say. Still, the Ducks come out as the superior team based on how we use the criteria. In our original picks, we had Louisville knocking Oregon out of the tournament in this round, but the Cardinals were sent packing last weekend.

PiRate Criteria Pick: OREGON

 

Gonzaga vs. West Virginia
Power Conference: West Virginia is, Gonzaga is not. A slight edge to the Mountaineers

Strength of Schedule: WVU 55.55. Gonzaga 54.02, a slight edge to the Mountaineers

R+T Rating: WVU 19.1, Gonzaga 21.2, a push when SOS is applied

Ability to Win Away from Home: WVU 11-6, Gonzaga 19-0, even with SOS factored into the equation, Gonzaga has the advantage here.

Winning Streak(s): WVU 8 & 4, Gonzaga 29 & 5, Gonzaga enjoys a small advantage

We must handicap these stats with Gonzaga playing in a weaker conference and a slightly weaker schedule
Scoring Margin: WVU 15.3, Gonzaga 22.8, a push
FG% Differential: WVU 3.4, Gonzaga 14.5
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 71

This is where we see another #1 seed going down. Gonzaga’s main Achilles Heel is their conference, where the WCC has two other quality teams. Of course, teams like Butler, George Mason, VCU, and Wichita State have advanced to the Final Four, but the percentages say that these are exceptions and not the norm. When you are trying to win a contest by going with the percentages, you go with the norm unless you have a major reason not to do so. When looking at the obvious way this game will deviate from the norm, it comes from the vaunted WVU full-court press, something that Gonzaga has not faced from a quality team this year. It is our belief that GU will commit very few turnovers against the press and even capitalize with a couple of easy baskets, making it look like to the casual fan that the press is not working. However, we believe it will take the Bulldogs out of their offense just enough to cause them to rush and make poor shot selections, and it will also begin to wear their bigger, bulkier players down in the second half. A fatigued team is only a shell of itself, and once GU is fatigued, WVU will pull away and win this game.

PiRate Criteria Pick: WEST VIRGINIA

Kansas vs. Purdue
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: KU 58.11, PU 55.83, a decided advantage for the Jayhawks

R+T Rating: KU 12.3, PU 15.5, a credible advantage for the Boilermakers

Ability to Win Away from Home: KU 16-3, PU 12-5, a tiny advantage for KU

Winning Streak(s): KU 18 & 8, PU 7 & 6, KU has the advantage, but this isn’t overwhelming since PU has two 6+ streaks, and that is all we are looking for in this criterion

Since the strengths of schedule favor KU enough to matter, we must handicap the following stats.
Scoring Margin: KU 11.4, PU 12.6, with the handicap, KU has a minor advantage here
FG% Differential: KU 7.3, PU 6.4, a slight edge to the Jayhawks
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 72 which will favor KU in the 2nd half

In previous years where Purdue was very good, we would call for Kansas to easily win this game because in the past, Purdue did not own good R+T numbers. In fact, they were downright awful. However, this year is very different up in West Lafayatte, where Purdue has an R+T number strong enough to reach the Final Four. Unfortunately, Kansas has the criteria strong enough to win the National Championship, and thus we must go with the team that is only a tad better in this game. A Boilermaker win would not be a surprise at all, but we must go with the percentages.

PiRate Criteria Pick: KANSAS (but this should be an outstanding game)

Arizona vs. Xavier
Power Conference: Both (in recent years, we would discount the Pac-12 some, but not this year. Three league teams made the Sweet 16.

Strength of Schedule: Arizona 58.17, Xavier 58.70, a wash

R+T Rating: Arizona 18.0, Xavier 15.2, the Wildcats with an ever so slight advantage that is not enough to mean much

Ability to Win Away from Home: Arizona 17-3, Xavier 11-9, this is a big advantage for ‘Zona

Winning Streak(s): Arizona 15 & 6, Xavier 7 & 6, Another tiny advantage to the Wildcats

Since the strengths of schedule are almost identical, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: Arizona 11.0, Xavier 4.1, the Wildcats have a major advantage here, as XU’s scoring margin is well beneath the threshold of a Final Four contender.
FG% Differential: Arizona 6.0, Xavier 0.9, another big edge for Arizona
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 67

This one appears to be headed to a double-digit win for the higher-seeded team. Add on to the criteria the fact that Xavier has not been the same since Edmund Sumner was lost for the year at the end of January, and this game looks like a potential breeze for Arizona.
PiRate Criteria Pick: ARIZONA (by double digits)

 

North Carolina vs. Butler
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: UNC 59.00, BU 59.04, a total push

R+T Rating: UNC 31.1, BU 9.5, do we really need to go on after this criterion shows the Tar Heels with a chance on average to score 20 more points on rebounds, steals, and turnovers?

Ability to Win Away from Home: UNC 13-7, BU 12-5, pretty much even here

Winning Streak(s): UNC 13 & 7, BU 12 & 5, another push

Since the strengths of schedule are identical, the following stats can be used at face value.
Scoring Margin: UNC 14.8, BU 7.8, Give the Heels a little more advantage here
FG% Differential: UNC 5.5, BU 3.7, more props for the Heels
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 70 (Butler will want to slow the pace, but they will have to play catchup)

Pirate Criteria Pick: NORTH CAROLINA

Baylor vs. South Carolina
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: BU 59.40, USC 56.23, the Bears have a little advantage here

R+T Rating: BU 19.3, USC 10.4, Baylor with decent advantage in this one

Ability to Win Away from Home: BU 12-5, USC 11-7, another tilt to the Bears

Winning Streak(s): BU 15 & 5, USC 8 & 5, BU with yet another advantage

Since the strengths of schedule favors Baylor, the following stats must be handicapped a little
Scoring Margin: BU 10.1, USC 7.9, the criteria keeps tilting green
FG% Differential: BU 7.2, USC 1.9, this continues the trend
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 67, Baylor will conrol the pace.

PiRate Criteria Pick: BAYLOR

 

Kentucky vs. UCLA
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: UK 58.63, UCLA 54.00, a nice advantage for the Wildcats, but UCLA still meets the minimum number for Final Four consideration, and remember UCLA won at Kentucky earlier this season

R+T Rating: UK 17.2, UCLA 10.9

Ability to Win Away from Home: UK 16-3, UCLA 14-3, nothing to learn here

Winning Streak(s): UK 13 & 7, UCLA 13 & 10, not much here either

We must handicap the following stats in UK’s favor fde to the strengths of schedule
Scoring Margin: UK 13.9, UCLA 15.0, basically a wash
FG% Differential: UK 5.4, UCLA 10.2, The Bruins pick up a big advantage here with Championship-caliber differential
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 74, expect the most up-tempo game of the Sweet 16, and it could even top 75.

Face it: this is the game that is going to make this round. The winner most likely plays North Carolina in the Elite 8, making for a fantastic 48-hours in Memphis, where they could move these games to the Liberty Bowl and still not have enough seats for the fans that want to get in. Think of this game like the second Ali-Frazier fight. Or, if you are a Bruin fan over the age of 55, be forewarned and remember that Houston beat your Bruins in the 1967-68 regular season before meeting up with the worst ever whipping by a number one team in the history of the game.

PiRate Criteria Pick: KENTUCKY — Until the Wildcats are knocked out of the tournament, they have the best resume when comparing it to past National Champions.

 

Florida vs. Wisconsin
Power Conference: Both

Strength of Schedule: Fla 59.34, UW 54.79, The Gators have a decided advantage

R+T Rating: Fla 3.3, UW 3.3 This is a dirty wash, as neither team can expect to be a Championship team with these R+T ratings.

Ability to Win Away from Home: Fla 17-7, UW 12-7, Florida played a lot of neutral site games near home when their arena was not ready following remodeling. This becomes a wash

Winning Streak(s): Fla. 9 & 7, UW 9 & 8, a wash

Since the strengths of schedule favor the Gators, the following stats must be handicapped in UF’s favor. Scoring Margin: UF 6.2, UW 9.2, a wash
FG% Differential: UF 4.6, UW 4.2, a small edge for the Gators
Estimated Possessions per team in this game: 69 We look for the Badgers to slow the tempo a little

When Florida isn’t playing Vanderbilt, they look like Final Four contenders. Actually, two of the three losses to the Commodores came after the Gators lost John Egbunu for the season due to injury, and UF went from 23-5 to 24-8 after that loss. This discounts the Gators’ results enough to make up for the schedule strength favor. In other words, this is a game where you flip a coin. We do not use the Four Factors in this criteria selection process, but if we were to use them for this game, it would just add a bunch of balance, as the teams would come out dead even. We must select somebody to go on and lose to Baylor Sunday, and just because they have a little more recent NCAA Tournament success, we will go with the Badgers.

PiRate Criteria Pick: WISCONSIN –but this is really a tie

Elite 8 to Final Four
Baylor over Wisconsin
Arizona over West Virginia
Kentucky over North Carolina
Kansas over Oregon

Semifinals
Baylor over Arizona
Kentucky over Kansas

Championship
Kentucky over Baylor

Note: When we first revealed the criteria for all 68 teams in the dance, we listed the top 10 teams with the best matching criteria to past champions. The top 6 teams in this list, and 8 of the 10 made the Sweet 16. Here is that top 10 again.
1. Kentucky
2. North Carolina
3. Baylor
4. Arizona
5. West Virginia
6. Gonzaga
7. Louisville
8. Villanova
9. Kansas
10. Purdue

 

March 17, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Ratings for Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Games

Saturday, March 18, 2017 NCAA Tournament Games

Team Team Red White Blue
West Virginia Notre Dame 6 4 1
Villanova Wisconsin 8 6 6
Gonzaga Northwestern 17 10 8
Florida St. Xavier 8 5 4
Butler Middle Tennessee 5 4 7
Arizona Saint Mary’s -2 -1 1
Florida Virginia 1 1 1
Purdue Iowa St. 1 2 1

 

Saturday’s TV Schedule

Time (EDT) Network Team vs. Team
12:10 PM CBS West Virginia vs. Notre Dame
2:40 PM CBS Villanova vs. Wisconsin
5:15 PM CBS Gonzaga vs. Northwestern
6:10 PM TNT Florida St. vs. Xavier
7:10 PM TBS Butler vs. Middle Tennessee
7:45 PM CBS Arizona vs. Saint Mary’s
8:40 PM TNT Florida vs. Virginia
9:40 PM TBS Purdue vs. Iowa St.

 

 

March 15, 2017

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

 

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

January 16, 2017

The Best of the Best and Where They Might Be Vulnerable

Every year about this time, a group of anywhere from a half dozen to 30 college basketball teams rank as possible national title contenders.  In some years, only a handful of teams have reasonable title aspirations.  In some years, there are no clear cut favorites, and many teams could become Cinderella’s with the perfect fit for the glass slipper.

There has been a bit of a paradigm shift in college basketball the last two seasons.  It wasn’t much of a change, but lowering the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds has done a world of good for the game.  The 14% less time per possession has led to 8-12 more possessions per game for each team.  Teams that three years ago averaged 65 possessions per game are today pushing the ball to the tune of 80 possessions per game.

Contrary to what may have been predicted, offensive efficiency has not gone down.  It has gone up, because the layup and dunk off a fast break when the attacking team has a number’s advantage has led to more points per possession.  The offensive increase has once again made college basketball as exciting as it was in its hey days of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Also contrary to belief, the increased pace has not created a new UCLA dynasty in the men’s game like U Conn has done with the women’s side.  There are more than enough quality athletes throughout the nation and the world to make 100 teams competitive enough to win an NCAA Tournament game and 25 teams strong enough to reel off six consecutive wins after March 10.

We are not saying that the following 25 teams are the best 25 in the nation.  We have taken a sampling of the top teams from power conferences, the two or three current leaders from among the leagues just shy of being a power conference, as well as a couple of teams from mid-major conferences.

Today’s first look at the contenders will concentrate on showing you how the Four Factors and some of our own PiRate Ratings criteria can isolate where a contender might be vulnerable come NCAA Tournament time.  When it comes time for the teams to have one shining moment, the game changes a little.

In the past, teams that got to the Dance by beating opponents at the foul line sometimes floundered in the tournament, because officials let the players have a little more leeway before blowing their whistles.

Additionally, some teams that went 28-4 in the regular season but did so by running opponents out of the gym or holding onto the ball in a slower-paced offense found that quality opponents like they faced in the Dance did not succumb to their methods of operation.

Likewise, some full court pressure teams that entered the Dance with large scoring margin advantages (often padded by beating poor teams by 40 points), found that quality ball-control teams did not turn the ball over and allow these teams to score in transition.  These pressing teams had little half-court offense and quickly fell to teams that turned the ball over 10 times per game.

Today, we look at 25 chosen teams to tell you where they can exploit other quality teams, and also where they are vulnerable.  As you will see in this first look, there are no teams today that are not totally vulnerable in some way.  Thus, there is no clear-cut favorite to cut down the nets in Phoenix on April 3.  In point of fact, as we see it today, there are a couple dozen quality teams capable of making the Final Four, and yet all of these teams have an Achilles’ Heel and could lose before the Sweet 16 commences.

Before we get into the meat of this report, there could be a few readers not totally familiar with the Four Factors in basketball.  It is not rocket science.  The Four Factors (applies to both offense and defense) are:

  1. Field Goal Efficiency
  2. Turnover Rate
  3. Offensive Reboundin Rate
  4. Free Throw Rate

Field Goal Efficiency: [FGM+(3ptM * 0.5)]/FGA

Where FGM is field goals made; 3ptM is three-pointers made; and FGA is field goals attempted.  If your favorite team attempted 60 shots in a game and made 28 of these shots with 8 coming as three-pointers, then their FG Efficiency is [28+(8*0.5)]/60 which equals .533 or 53.3%

The difference between the offensive FG efficiency and the defensive FG efficiency is the FG efficiency margin.  This is by far the most important contributory part to winning in basketball, which is obvious, since the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket and score points, while limiting the opponents from putting the ball in the basket.

Turnover Rate:  TOV/100 Possessions figured as:  [TOV/(FGA+(FTA*0.475)+TOV]*100 and expressed as a percentage

This is a simple metric.  All it seeks to discover is how many turnovers does a team commit for every 1oo possessions.  There is a small adjustment in what qualifies as a possession for this metric as opposed to actual possessions.  Offensive rebounds are not factored into the possession counting here, as once a team secures an offensive rebound, they have already attempted a shot without committing a turnover.  The chance for a turnover after this is limited and can skew the real rate at which a team turns the ball over or forces their opponent to turn the ball over.

If your team committed 14 turnovers in a game in which they took 60 field goal attempts and 25 free throw attempts, their turnover rate for that game was: [14/(60+(25*.475)+14]*10o which comes to: 16.3%

Offensive Rebounding Rate: [OR/(OR+ Opponents’ DR)]*100, 

Where OR is offensive rebounds and DR is defensive rebounds.

If your team had 12 offensive rebounds, and their opponent had 32 defensive rebounds, your team’s offensive rebounding rate was: [12/(12+32)] * 100 which is 27.3%

Obviously, the compliment to this is defensive rebounding rate, which is the same formula applied to the opponents’ rebounding.

Free Throw Rate: FTM/100 Possessions or (FTM/[FGA+(FTA*0.475)-OR+TOV]) *100

There is a difference of opinion on how the expert analytics gurus figure this metric.  Some simple use FTA/FGA.  Some prefer FTM/FGA.  We have heard arguments in favor of both of these metrics, but we really liked a paper written by The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective’s John Ezekowitz, who argued for the metric we chose above in his February 21, 2011, paper entitled Re-examining The Four Factors: The Case For Free Throws Made Per 100 Possessions.

Putting It All Together

The key to the four factors is finding an algorithm in which the results of each team can be turned into some form of a rating or to produce a spread for a game between teams.  What good is it to know that Team A has X, Y, Z, and W rates in the four factors, and their opponent has a little better X and Z, and weaker Y and W rates.  So, where does that get us?  Only when the Four Factors can be turned into a rating of some sort is the data useful to the fan.

The PiRates tried for a few years to come up with an accurate rating from the Four Factors.  Our original mistake was assuming the different factors would not affect the college game any different than it does the NBA, where the numbers were determined to be 40% FG efficiency, 25% turnover rate, 20% offensive rebounding rate, and 15% free throw rate.

This did not make for an accurate rating when applied to college teams and uses to compare them in a point spread sort of way.  Whereas the NBA teams basically play equal schedules in terms of strengths of opponents (once enough games had been played), this cannot be said of the college game, where one team’s schedule could be as much as 20 points per game stronger than another team’s schedule.  Also, in the NBA, every team plays 41 home games and 41 road games.  The top college teams might schedule 19 home games, 3 neutral games, and just 9 road games.

We also realized that not all turnovers are the same.  A steal is worth more than any other type of turnover, because the ball remains live, and the defense frequently finds itself with a 2 on 1 or 3 on 2 fast break opportunity following a high percentage of their steals.  In the college game, more full court pressure can lead to steals that produce a lot of easy baskets, whereas in the NBA, this is a rare occurrence.

After much trial and error, we came up with three separate algorithms that when back-tested in past seasons produced acceptable predictive results.

Now, we can take a look at these 25 teams and make some assumptions based on their four factors data to date.  We can add some PiRate Rating data (like our unique R+T formula) to polish our beliefs.

The numbers you see below are our Blue Rating Scores for each of the Four Factors plus the Strength of Schedule score, the R+T rating, and the teams rating in true road and neutral games (neutral games when a team plays in another gym in their area against an out of town team does not count–like Kansas playing a Big East team in Kansas City).

AAC

Cincinnati: FG 6.4  TO 0.8  OR 0.6  FT 0.2  SOS 56.1  R+T 18.4 Rd W-L 4-2

The Bearcats do not excel in any one factor, but they are better than average in all factors.  Their SOS is good but not great, and their R+T rating is very good.  They will benefit from having extra scoring opportunities.  Cinti will run into trouble against big muscle teams from the power conferences, and they will struggle against teams that play choking man to man defense.  However, this team has enough talent to make it to the second weekend of the Big Dance.

ACC

Virginia: FG 12.0   TO 4.7   OR 4.3   FT -1.2   SOS 59.6   R+T 16.2   Rd W-L 6-1

The Cavaliers are going to be a tough out for any opponent in the NCAA Tournament.  Their style of defense will destroy teams that cannot shoot from the perimeter, and the Cavs will also exploit teams that do not have excellent passers.  To beat UVa, you must be able to pass the ball quick enough from the strong side to the weak side and then penetrate their interior defense for either an open look inside or a pass to a wide open three-point shooter.  Virginia will not beat itself.  Wisconsin and Arizona could be trouble for the Cavs, whereas Virginia could be a tough out for a team like Florida.

North Carolina: FG 6.4  TO 3.7   OR 17.4   FT 7.7   SOS 58.9   R+T 33.6   Rd W-L 7-3

The Tar Heels have the look of a Final Four team.  However, they have some small vulnerabilities.  First, they are not the best shooting team in Chapel Hill history, in fact far from it.  They do make up for this by being the best offensive rebounding team in college basketball.  They are not that shabby in the turnover department either, and thus, they have the best R+T rating in many years.  By the time the season moves into March, UNC will either be unbeatable and peaking at the right time or a major disappointment due to fatigue and injuries.  This is one team we cannot see losing prior to the Sweet 16, as they will be a 1 or 2 seed and no 15 or 16 seed can compete with them, with only a slim chance that a 7 or 8 seed can keep a game within single digits.

The team that beats UNC will be the team that can muscle their way under the basket and make the rebounding part of the equation only a minor Tar Heel victory.  Said team will also have to force the Heels into a few more turnovers than normal and produce some quick points off those turnovers.  West Virginia and Kentucky are the teams that will give UNC fits, while a great shooting team like UCLA or Gonzaga will find that they must do more than shoot lights out to beat this team.

Florida St.: FG 11.2   TO 2.8   OR 2.5   FT 2.4   SOS 58.6   R+T 15.6   Rd W-L 4-2

The Seminoles are going to be a tough match-up for teams outside the ACC that have never played against them.  Their style of play will lead to large victories in the early rounds of the tournament, but once FSU faces stiff competition, their inconsistent style of play will hurt their chances.  There will be many teams with a resume similar to theirs from amongst the power leagues.  FSU will be more like a poor man’s Kentucky.  They might win by 20-30 in the opening game, and they might make it to the Sweet 16 by way of a double digit win in their next game, but once they get to the Sweet 16, the Seminoles should be a quick out against a quality opponent like Villanova, Kansas, or Oregon.

Louisville: FG 6.5   TO 4.8  OR 7.9   FT 1.7   SOS 62.9   R+T 20.3   Rd W-L 5-2

Don’t dismiss this edition of Cardinals.  Rick Pitino knows how to coach in March, and there is enough talent at the Yum Center to guide UL to the Final Four.  The Cards have played a tough schedule to date and pulling off numbers like their current Four Factors against the opposition they have faced is a sign of a top 10 team.  In most years, these numbers would be the best in the nation, and even in a year where there are many great teams, these numbers stick out as among the best.

To beat the Cards, it is going to take a team that can shut off their inside game and force UL to beat them from the perimeter.  Not many teams can do this, but there are some potential teams out there that can send the Cards home, such as Virginia from their own league, Oregon, and Purdue.

Notre Dame: FG 8.5   TO 4.0   OR 0.2   FT 3.8   SOS 56.3   R+T 11.2   Rd W-L 5-2

The Fighting Irish have been consistently good for several years but with also a consistent liability.  Notre Dame has not been a dominant rebounding team since Digger Phelps retired.  While, the Irish have numbers strong enough to indicate they are Sweet 16 worthy, they do not have the dominating inside game that will get them to Phoenix.  A host of quality teams are out there that can hit the glass and limit ND to one shot per possession, and the Irish are bound to face one of them if they make it to the Sweet 16.  Baylor, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Kentucky could send Mike Brey’s bunch home to Indiana.  On the other hand, Notre Dame could be a tough opponent for UCLA, Villanova, or Maryland.

Big 12

West Virginia: FG 7.2    TO 16.0   OR 5.8   FT 5.1   SOS 53.7   R+T 27.2   Rd W-L 5-2

The jury is still out on this team, even though our PiRate Blue metrics say that Coach Bob Huggins has the currently top team in the land.  Huggie Bear’s Mountaineers have to prove they can sustain these fat metric ratings against the top teams.  WVU’s SOS is rather low for a Power Conference team, and they have yet to face Kansas or any tough team on enemy hardwood.  Their toughest road game to date came against Texas Tech, and they flunked that exam.

If WVU can keep their TO rate at astronomically high numbers and also maintain their better than average rebound rate, they are capable of making it to Phoenix.  Whereas many pressing teams eventually run into a team that does not fret the pressure and actually exploits it for points, WVU is more than your typical on the line/up the line gimmick defense.  This team can win by dominating on the glass, getting the ball inside for easy baskets, hitting the three, and playing strong half-court defense.  Once again, until they play Kansas a couple times, Kansas State on the road, as well as road trips to Iowa State and Baylor, it is too early to make a logical call on this team.

Baylor: FG 11.1   TO -0.2   OR 9.5   FT 8.1   SOS 61.8   R+T 20.5   Rd W-L 6-1

 

Scott Drew has been to the Elite 8 before, and this Baylor team looks like his next Elite 8 club.  Until the Bears face a team that can force the issue and pressure the ball, they look like a favorite to advance in each round.  As West Virginia showed, Baylor is not equipped to handle crazy pressure.  Other teams that might exploit this weakness include Virginia, Butler, Kentucky, and Florida.  And, if a mid-major like UNC-Wilmington or Middle Tennessee meets the Bears in the round of 32, Baylor will have to bring their A-game to avoid a major upset loss.

Kansas: FG 11.2   TO 1.7   OR 6.2  FT 0.1   SOS 59.1   R+T 16.4   Rd W-L  4-1

The Jayhawks have been flying under the radar if that is possible, but now that KU has ascended to the top of the charts, they will be on the center stage every game they occupy the penthouse.  Bill Self always has a contender in Lawrence, so this should come as no surprise when we say that the Jayhawks have the right stuff to make it all the way to the Final Four.  They can shoot the ball with the best of them, and they can defend the ball with the best of them.  They are not world-beaters anywhere else, but their other metrics are quite strong.  And, they have produced these numbers against a very good schedule.  KU has another big bonus, something they had when they won the title back in 1988.  With a star like Frank Mason III, teams will have to concentrate and dedicate another defender to stop this star.  That might work against some teams, but KU has five or six other players that can carry the team, so it is impossible to really double up on Mason.  If you are old enough to remember 1988, this reminds us of Danny Manning.

Big East

Villanova: FG 12.1   TO 1.6   OR 4.1    FT 9.6   SOS 61.1    R+T 16.1    Rd W-L 8-1

The Wildcats have proven so far this year to be good enough to repeat as National Champions, and in point of fact, at this point in the season compared to last year, they are a better team.  The rub is that so are about 30 other dominating teams.  VU has been putting teams away by getting their regulars into foul trouble from making quick moves to the basket.  Unlike other teams with very high FT rates, they are less likely to suffer from how the game is called differently in the Big Dance, because officials will blow their whistles on drives to the basket that produce contact.

Considering ‘Nova has put up these gaudy numbers against A+ competition, and they have an 8-1 record away from Philly, they are more than capable of making it back to Phoenix.  But, as Alabama just found out in football, getting back to the title game and winning it, are in different universes.  Villanova wants no part of North Carolina in a rematch.

Creighton: FG 12.5   TO 2.7   OR -3.4   FT 2.7    SOS 58.8   R+T 7.3    Rd W-L 7-0

Every year, one or two highly-rated teams gets sent home from the Dance early by a mid-major team that can exploit the power team’s weakness.  Creighton has the resume of a power team that could be susceptible to an early round loss.  Their negative rebounding rate might be covered up by other assets during the regular season, but come tournament time, just about every opponent they might face will be able to exploit this poor metric.  If their TO rate was really good, they could overcome this liability, but this is not the case, as the Blue Jays are just average or a little below in this department as well.  Their R+T rating is too low to make it to the Elite 8, and the Sweet 16 is their ceiling.  If they make it to the Sweet 16, teams like Baylor, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Kentucky can beat them by double digits.

Butler: FG 6.5   TO 5.1   OR 0.1   FT 2.1   SOS 61.3  R+T 10.0   Rd W-L 5-3

When Butler made back-to-back appearances in the National Championship Game, their Four Factors numbers were consistently good but not outstanding in any category.  This Butler team has somewhat inconsistent numbers compared to those Bulldog teams, but at the same time, they are stronger in the turnover rates and have played a much tougher schedule to date than those teams that won five tournament games.

Butler is probably a little too inconsistent this year to win five games and make it to the championship.  They might be better equipped to beat a North Carolina or Kansas than the 2010 and 2011 teams, but this Bulldog edition could easily stub its toe right out of the gates and not get a chance to upset teams like the 2010 and 2011 teams did (Syracuse, Kansas State, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and Florida).

Big Ten

The Big Ten has been able to make it to the Final Four multiple times in recent years, but no league team has cut down the nets since Michigan State in 2000 (Maryland was in the ACC when they won in 2002).  There are a couple teams this year capable of giving it a good try.

Wisconsin: FG 8.9  TO 3.9  OR 15.9   FT 2.6    SOS 52.7  R+T 28.8   Rd W-L 4-3

The Badgers have played a rather weak schedule to date, and that could send their current numbers much lower once the better Big Ten opponents have been faced away from Madison.  With Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, and Nigel Hayes, the Badgers have a trio of quality players good enough to carry them to the Final Four.  In past years, overall team speed was an issue with this team, but the Badgers have quickness, finesse, and power this year.  UW has been much, much better at home than away from home, and a lot of teams that go 18-0 at home and 9-6 away from home leave the Dance early.  A quality team that is headed to the Elite 8 usually wins 70% or more of its games away from home, and UW is just 4-3 at this point.  Of course, those three losses came to Creighton, North Carolina, and Purdue.  Recent road wins against Marquette and Indiana could be an indication that UW is on the verge of breaking out and becoming a serious contender.

Maryland: FG 6.1  TO 0.5   OR 3.4  FT 7.5  SOS 56.4   R+T 8.8  Rd W-L 6-0

An aside: Back in the days when only one team per conference went to the NCAA Tournament, Maryland had a team that was good enough to win the national championship but was just a couple points away from getting a chance to play in it.  The 1974 Terrapins went 23-5.  Their five losses represent the best five-loss team in history.  Loss number one came at the hands of #1 UCLA in Pauley Pavillion to open the season (Bruins had won more than 70 consecutive games), in a game in which the officiating was very generous to the Bruins and yet UM lost by just one point and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer.  Loss number two came at North Carolina State, who had won 35 of its previous 36 games (lone loss to UCLA) and who would be the eventual national champs.  This loss was a six-point loss, and the Terps led this game into the second half before a Wolf Pack rally won it for the home team.  Loss number three came on the road against #4 North Carolina, yet another contest where UM had a chance to win until late in the second half.  The Terps only home loss came against NC State, who by now would not lose again until the following season.  This loss to the Pack was another close affair with UM losing by six after leading in the second half.  You can probably guess where loss number five came.  Once again, NC State topped UM in the ACC Championship Game in what is probably the best every ACC Title game.  State won by a score of 103-100 in overtime.  Maryland’s 23 wins were mostly lopsided affairs.  Even the two other contests against North Carolina were not close, as the Terps won by 11 in College Park and by 20 in Greensboro in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

What has that got to do with this year’s Terp team?  Nothing, except this year’s UM team will be in the Big Dance even if they do not win the Big Ten Tournament or the regular season title.  However, this year’s UM team is primed to be an early round upset loser, because it is nowhere near as talented as that 1974 team that featured John Lucas, Tom McMillen, and Len Elmore.  That UM team out-shot quality opposition by 11%, out-rebounded them by 11 per game, and outscored them by 17 points per game.

Purdue: FG 10.1  TO -0.7  OR 10.5  FT 8.3   SOS 55.9  R+T 19.7   Rd W-L 5-2

We could give another history lesson on this Big Ten team.  Purdue has been to the Final Four twice before, but both times, it was with teams that played an entirely different style of basketball from this team and from all the teams during the Gene Keady era.

We have a lot of respect for Coach Keady and his successful disciples, including current Boilermaker coach Matt Painter.  However, history has not been kind to the “Keady system” in NCAA Tournament history.  Purdue never made it to the Final Four with all the highly-ranked teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s and seldom made it past the second game.  Case in point, last year, the Boilermakers left the Dance immediately, losing to Arkansas-Little Rock in their first game.

Why is it that Purdue has under-performed so consistently for so many years?  Coach Keady and his disciples strongly advocate an intelligent offensive half-court set and tough man-to-man defense to prevent good shots.  That works well in the regular season, as teams like this routinely play smart ball and beat all the teams they are supposed to beat, and even upset some better teams.  But, when you get into the second week of March, the opposition is usually as good as you at shooting and preventing good shots.  Games are more frequently decided by which team gets more opportunities to shoot.  Thus rebounding and turnover margin play significantly more important roles than they do in the regular season.  Purdue has not been a consistently tough team on the boards, and they do not pressure the passing lanes.

This year’s Boilermaker squad is one of the best rebounding teams in Mackey Arena in a long time, but once again, PU is stinking it up in the turnover rate metric.  The rebounding strength could get Painter’s squad past the first game and maybe even into the Sweet 16, but when the Boilermakers run into a team like Butler, Kentucky, or Florida, or even a Mid-major like UNC-Wilmington or Middle Tennessee, they are going to have a tough time advancing.  And, should they find West Virginia in their bracket…..

Pac-12

UCLA: FG 14.2   TO 0.3   OR -1.0   FT 3.2   SOS 53.4   R+T 10.0   Rd W-L 8-1

This might be the most exciting team to watch, but this UCLA team suffers from the same issues that Purdue suffers from as stated above.  When the Bruins are hot, they can put any team away, and their win at Kentucky showed this.  However, they will run into defenses that can slow them down when they get to March, and the Bruins do not have what it takes to get additional scoring chances through rebounding and turnover margin.  Additionally, the Bruins have played a lot of cupcakes this year, and a lot of their shooting stats have been aided by playing weak defensive teams.  Until they are ousted thought, Lonzo Ball and company promise to give the fan his or her money’s worth.

Oregon: FG 10.2   TO 3.0   OR 7.5   FT 6.5   SOS 57.1   R+T 19.5   Rd W-L 5-2

The Ducks could be a contender for the Final Four.  After a slow start, Oregon has now won 14 consecutive games and looks like the team the pundits expected they would be this season.  The Ducks have a really tough closing stretch in the regular season with seven consecutive tough games between February 4 and 25.  Included in this slate is a three-game stretch against Arizona, UCLA, and USC, with the latter two on the road.  If Oregon can come through this three-week stretch without injuries or undue fatigue, this team can repeat its performance of last year and maybe make it one round past what it did last year.  That would mean they make it to Phoenix.

Arizona: FG  8.3  TO 0.6   OR 7.3   FT 10.4   SOS 58.1   R+T 20.2   Rd W-L 5-2

At first glance, Arizona’s numbers don’t look much different than Oregon’s above.  Look a little closer.  This is a team that relies a bit too much on free throw rate and is vulnerable against a team that can pressure the ball and force turnovers.  Arizona wants no part of West Virginia, but they could fall prey to a lesser pressure team or a team that turns the ball over less than 10 times a game like Virginia.  In their loss to Gonzaga, the Wildcats turned the ball over nine times in the first half and didn’t shoot well, and Gonzaga pulled out to a double digit lead.  Arizona did get to the foul line several times, but they missed too many foul shots to get back in the game.  This is likely to happen to them in an NCAA Sweet 16 game if UA makes it that far.

SEC

Kentucky: FG  9.1  TO 6.7   OR 7.4   FT 4.7   SOS 61.1   R+T 22.3   Rd W-L 6-1

This is always a tough team to figure out.  Annually, John Calipari recruits the top talent in the nation to Lexington, and Kentucky has better talent than every team on its schedule.  However, that talent is almost always freshmen, and even five McDonald’s All-Americans as college freshmen are bound to play a bit inconsistently.  On any given night, these future NBA stars are liable to blow out an average team by 30 to 40 points.  On any given night, these future NBA stars are liable to fiddle around and allow a mediocre team to stay in contention.

In Kentucky’s favor, these freshmen will have 33 to 35 games of experience by the time the NCAA Tournament begins, and the Wildcats will have a 1 or 2 seed, able to get to the Sweet 16 just by showing up.  Once at the Sweet 16, this team will have the talent and tools to keep winning, but they will still be just raw enough to lay an egg and go home with a disappointing loss.

It will take a muscle team to beat Kentucky, one that can throw its weight around on the glass, make their fouls count more like unnecessary roughness penalties in football, and has the ability to outscore the Wildcats from behind the arc.

Florida: FG 3.1  TO 6.6  OR 1.7   FT 8.9   SOS 63.0   R+T 11.4   Rd W-L 8-3

Here is a really interesting team.  At first glance, this Florida team looks like many of the Florida teams under former coach Billy Donovan.  The Gators’ ball-hawking defense tends to lead to more scoring opportunities for the orange and blue than for their opponents.  However, the really good Gator teams under Donovan played incredible half-court defense.  This Gator team is a bit weak defending inside, and that will be their downfall in March.  The Gators are adequate but not great shooting the ball, and when they don’t force a turnover, they are not great at stopping the ball from going through the opponents’ basket.

One thing in UF’s favor is their schedule has prepared them to play top-flight teams.  Outside of the league Florida played Seton Hall, Miami, Gonzaga, Florida State, and Duke.

South Carolina: FG 7.8   TO 4.9   OR 4.6   FT -5.4   SOS 56.2   R+T 13.9   Rd W-L 4-2

You have to look at South Carolina’s statistics a bit differently than just viewing their numbers.  This is a tale of two teams.  There is the USC team that is 11-0 when its best player, Sindarius Thornwell has been healthy enough to play, and there is the USC team that is 3-3 when Thornwell has not played.

The bad news for SEC teams is that Thornwell is close to 100% well again, and the Gamecocks are 4-0 in the league because of it.  A healthy Thornwell is a threat to record a triple double or score 20 points and pull down a dozen boards, while playing exemplary defense.

If the Gamecocks stay healthy this year, they look like a near lock to make the Dance, and once they get there, we have faith in Coach Frank Martin that they will play multiple games.  USC’s defense is tournament worthy, and they have just enough offense to pull away in the second half.  Their major liability is at the foul line, where they commit more than an average number of fouls.  However, this stat suffered considerably during Thornwell’s absence.  Since his return, the Gamecocks have a much better showing.

The Rest

Gonzaga: FG 15.6  TO 1.6   OR  2.6  FT 5.6   SOS 55.9  R+T 16.9   Rd W-L 7-0

Gonzaga faces a similar task that Wichita State faced in 2014, when they went 34-0 in the regular season.  The Bulldogs are the last undefeated team standing at 17-0, and the way they dominated St. Mary’s Saturday night, many sports professionals are calling for an undefeated regular season.  They still have to go to St. Mary’s, and they have to play at BYU, so they could still lose one or two regular season games this year.

Gonzaga has been a number one seed before as well as the top-ranked team in the nation, and things did not go all that well for the Bulldogs.  In 2013, the Zags entered NCAA Tournament play with a 31-2 record.  They almost became the first number one seed to lose to a 16-seed, when they had to hold on to narrowly edge Southern University in the Round of 64.  Then, GU fell in the Round of 32 to Wichita State, and the Shockers rolled to the Final Four from there.

Might things be different this year for Mark Few’s squad?  Gonzaga looks a lot like UCLA.  They are not quite as good shooting the ball, but they are a tad better defending the ball.  They are considerably better on the boards, but by the time the Dance begins to tap, their strength of schedule will have dropped to a point where they may not be ready to face a quality team in the Sweet 16.  The Kyle Wiltjer Gonzaga team that made it to the Elite 8 was more equipped for the tournament than this year’s squad, so we believe Gonzaga will fall in the Sweet 16 round.

Nevada: FG 5.4   TO -1.8   OR 3.5   FT 9.8   SOS 52.3   R+T 8.0   Rd W-L 8-3

If you consider Gonzaga not to be a mid-major, then Nevada is the best non Power Conference team in the West this year, but the Wolfpack are a paper tiger.  They do not have the numbers to be a serious contender like some former Mountain West Conference teams in the past.  Their low R+T number coming from a below average schedule strength means Nevada is likely to exit the Dance quickly and by double digits.  We wanted to include them here today so you can compare them to the two mid-majors most likely to advance to the second weekend this year.

UNC-Wilmington: FG 3.8   TO 7.1   OR 3.7   FT -2.0  SOS 51.2   R+T 12.9  Rd W-L 9-2

UNCW gave Duke a big scare last year in the Round of 64, and this year’s team is better, capable of making a run to the Sweet 16.  Coach Kevin Keatts is a Rick Pitino disciple, and we would not be shocked to see Keatts taking over a big time program sooner rather than later.  He has all the tools to be a star on the big stage, and his team plays like it deserves a shot on basketball’s Broadway.

UNCW’s biggest liability is their negative FT rate.  This has come about because the Seahawks commit a lot of fouls with their pressure defense.  We tend to believe that some of this has been because they have played a lot of games on the road, where the officials whistled them for more fouls than they would have received had they been at home.  When the NCAA Tournament begins, a lot of the plays in which they might have been whistled for a foul in the regular season will no longer draw a foul call.

UNCW is the poor man’s West Virginia, and they could easily be this year’s Stephen F. Austin.  Beware if your favorite big time program makes the Tournament and they draw this team, and your team is like Purdue, Baylor, UCLA, Arizona, or Creighton.  The Seahawk press can produce a quick burst of points and put your team behind the eight ball.

Middle Tennessee: FG 3.7  TO 5.0  OR 7.4  FT -2.5  SOS 56.3  R+T 17.5  Rd W-L 8-1

If you like UNCW’s chances, then you’ll love Middle Tennessee’s chances this year.  This is the CUSA team that upset Michigan State in last year’s tournament, and this year’s Blue Raider squad is maybe 10 points better than last year’s group.  Middle Tennessee actually played UNCW over the Thanksgiving holiday and beat the Seahawks by five.  The Blue Raiders went on the road to Ole Miss and destroyed the Rebels in the first half with a 29-point halftime lead before coasting to a 15-point win.  They repeated the performance against SEC neighbor Vanderbilt winning by 23 and never being challenged.

The Blue Raiders could have 30 wins when the NCAA Tournament begins, and it would not surprise us if they receive a seed as high as 9 or 10.  Of course, this would mean they would play a 1 or 2 seed in the Round of 32 should they win their first game.  The Blue Raiders’ fans should root for your team to draw a team like Purdue, Notre Dame, Creighton, Butler, or Maryland in the first game and not someone like West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, or Kentucky.  Of course, these teams are most likely to be encountered after the opening game, which means the Blue Raiders should be a hot pick in the Round of 64.

We did not include the 25 best teams in this presentation.  There are many other quality teams like Indiana, Duke, Miami, TCU, Xavier, Akron, Illinois State, California, Utah, USC, and New Mexico State.

We hope you enjoyed this piece and learned a little about how the Four Factors has been part of the new analytical study of basketball.

Coming Friday: We take our next stab at the Field of 68, and if we can get our gurus to send us the information in time, we will debut our annual Bracketology Guru report.  Shout out to the Gurus that have not done so–please return the email we sent you to tell us if you plan to participate this year.  If we do not have enough information to debut our guru composite, we will attempt to select 68 teams ourselves.

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