The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 30, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–December 2-5, 2016

Throughout this season, our college parlay picks have been our bread and butter until last week.  Last week, we made six parlay selections, four with college teams and two with NFL teams.  We won with one of the three college parlays but we won both the NFL Parlays to finish the week with a tidy profit.

For the week, we invested $600 imaginary dollars, and the three wins returned $755 for a profit of $155 and a return on investment of 26%.  For the year, that moved our total ROI of 7% on a profit of $407 on an investment of $5,500.

With the number of college games dwindling down, we will only issue three parlay selections this week.

December 2-5, 2016
1. College Parlay at +362
West Virginia over Baylor
W. Kentucky over La. Tech
Wyoming over San Diego St.
2. College Parlay at +269
South Alabama over N. Mexico St.
Troy over Georgia Southern
Oklahoma over Oklahoma St.
Idaho over Georgia St.
Clemson over Virgina Tech
3. NFL Parlay at +122
Denver over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Houston
New England over Los Angeles

October 24, 2016

College Football Ratings & Spreads For October 27-29, 2016

End of the Month Conference Inventory & Bowl Outlook
A big turn of events over the weekend changed the landscape of the projected playoffs, as Penn St. put Ohio St. in major jeopardy. Should Ohio St. beat Michigan, and the three teams finish in a tie for first place, and Nebraska loses a game prior to the Big Ten Championship Game, the league could see itself left out in the cold. Let’s take a look at all the conference races, starting with the Group of 5 leagues.

American Athletic Conference
Following a win at Central Florida, Temple’s victory over South Florida on Saturday puts the Owls in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Division. TU could win out to finish the regular season at 7-1 in the league and 9-3 overall, advancing to the conference championship game.

USF and UCF will most likely decide second place in the East when the two rivals face off at the end of the year. Cincinnati is still in contention for bowl eligibility, but the Bearcats have a difficult final month and could lose out against a slate featuring Temple, Central Florida, and Tulsa on the road and BYU and Memphis at home. Cinti must win two of these games to get to 6-6, and for now we are picking the Bearcats to fall short. Connecticut and East Carolina don’t have enough winnable games remaining to get to 6-6.

In the West, Houston is almost out of the race now after SMU shocked them in Dallas. Navy is in the driver’s seat with its win over Memphis, while Tulsa is the only serious contender to the Midshipmen. Tulsa must win at Memphis this weekend to make the game with Navy on November 12 the division title game.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 7

Conference USA
Both divisions are very much up for grabs with multiple teams still alive in the race to the conference title game. In the East, Western Kentucky hung 52 first half points on Old Dominion to knock the Monarchs off the perch as the last CUSA unbeaten team. Now, WKU, ODU, Middle Tennessee, and Florida Int’l. all have a conference loss. Middle Tennessee plays at FIU this week; Western plays at Florida Atlantic, and ODU plays at UTEP. If the three favorites win as we think they will, it will make this division a three-team race in November, and all three teams could win out at that point. For now, we will take the Hilltoppers to win the division.

The West is just as interesting as the East with Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi, and North Texas all with one conference loss. The schedule favors the Mean Green, and North Texas looks like the strongest team in the division at this point. Coach Seth Luttrell is in his first year in Denton, after serving as an assistant at Texas Tech, and he should be the easy Coach of the Year in this league after his team was picked to finish last.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 6

What looked like three for sure bowl spots going to Independents now could be reduced to just one. BYU is in good shape to gain bowl eligibility and earn their basically automatic bid to the Poinsettia Bowl. Army was on the way to bowl eligibility, but the Black Knights have fallen on hard times in recent weeks. At 4-3, the Cadets must get to 7-5 to be bowl eligible due to their playing two FCS teams this year. This means, they must win twice from among Wake Forest, Air Force, Notre Dame, and Navy plus Morgan State to go bowling. Of course, there is the caveat that if they should fall one win short at 6-6 but not enough teams earn bowl eligibility, they could still get a bowl bid as an alternate before any 5-7 teams are considered.

Notre Dame looks like a 5-7 team at best. The question is, “would the school accept a bowl bid at 5-7, if their high APR score allows them to qualify for a bowl as an alternate?” For now, we are going with the Irish to accept a bowl at 5-7 if they are so needed to fill out the field of 80.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 1 but with Army and Notre Dame receiving bids as non-qualifying alternates

Mid-American Conference
It’s all about the Broncos, no trouble. Western Michigan looks like the odds-on favorite to run the table to finish the season 13-0 and take the Group of 5 automatic bid to a New Year’s 6 Bowl. Coach P.J. Fleck could receive national coach of the year consideration, and WMU could see a top 10 regular season finish in the rankings before the Cotton Bowl bid they would receive. The Broncos own wins at Northwestern and at Illinois this year, so they will not be a pushover for a possible 11-1 opponent from a Power 5 league.

The race in the Western Division is not done just yet. Toledo is still undefeated in league play, and the Rockets close the regular season playing at WMU on Black Friday. The entire Western Division is still alive for bowl eligibility, but it looks like four of the six will make it, while two don’t. Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan are the two most likely to top six wins.

The Eastern Division is down to two teams in contention for both the divisional crown and bowl eligibility. Ohio and Akron might be the sixth and seventh best teams in the MAC, but the winner of their contest on November 22 at Peden Stadium in Athens will decide which team gets to be fodder for WMU in the conference championship game.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 6

Mountain West Conference
Boise State is the current leader for the Group of 5 NY6 Bowl bid, but the PiRates believe the Broncos are going to stub their toes somewhere before December 3. In fact, the way BSU has played in recent weeks, we can see a scenario where they do not even win the division.

Wyoming is the team playing well enough to knock BSU off the perch. The Cowboys are riding a powerful offense and an opportunistic defense under Coach Craig Bohl and sit with a 3-0 league mark. Boise State plays the Cowboys in Laramie this week, and the winner should take the division flag.

The entire Mountain Division could finish 6-6 or better overall. Air Force started hot and has fallen on hard times in October, but the Falcons need just two more wins and have Fresno State and San Jose State on the remaining schedule. Colorado State and New Mexico also need just two more wins to get to 6-6, and that is what we believe both will get. Utah State is 3-4 and needs three more wins, but the Aggies might be fortunate with just two more wins. At 5-7, USU could still earn a bowl as an alternate due to their acceptable APR score.

The West Division looks cut and dry at this point. San Diego State can already start preparing for the MWC Championship Game. The Aztecs’ only competitor for the division crown is Hawaii, and the game between the two teams will be at Qualcomm Stadium in two weeks.

With a home loss to Colorado State, UNLV is now most likely out of the bowl picture. A 5-7 record won’t work for the Rebels due to a low APR score.

The MWC gets six bowl bids, and if Boise State does not earn the NY6 bowl bid, there will be one extra team available as an at-large candidate for another bowl. Most likely, this will be a bowl east of the Mississippi.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 7 with Utah State a possible 5-7 alternate

Sun Belt Conference
This is the one league where more bowl eligible teams should be produced than conference bowl tie-ins. The SBC has four bowl guarantees, and they could provide a fifth team as a fill-in for another bowl. As of today, we believe that five teams will become bowl eligible, and the fill-in spot will not be available. So,thanks to geography, this means one team from this league will be at the top of the chain when at-large contenders are selected prior to the 5-7 teams getting their shots.

Troy looks like the strongest team this year, and the Trojans are our favorite to win the league and accept the New Orleans Bowl bid that goes to the league champion. Arkansas State, Appalachian State, and Georgia Southern are all still in contention and should be bowl eligible, although

Arkansas State has little room for error. We believe Idaho still has a good chance to get to 7-5, but we do not hold out a lot of hope for Louisiana-Lafayette or South Alabama.

Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 5

The race for the four playoff spots looks much clearer today, but we believe there are going to be some big upsets still. Our bowl projections could still have wide swings, so what you see today is just one wacky way the season could wind up. If the season ended today, Alabama, Clemson, Michigan, and Washington would be your four playoff teams.

We are predicting that two of these four will lose before the season ends, and one from this list will not make the playoffs. For this week’s entry, we are going to project Clemson losing to Florida State or to the Coastal Division Champion in the ACC title game. The Tigers are missing something on both sides of the ball this year, and we believe they will stumble one time. If CU loses to Florida State this week and then wins out to finish 12-1, the Tigers might still crack the playoffs as the #4 seed. What happens with Louisville in this scenario? The Cardinals could be 11-1, and because they would still not qualify for the ACC Championship Game if they finished tied with Clemson, they would be looking at an Orange Bowl bid or Cotton Bowl bid.

The team that concerns us as of this week if Washington. The Huskies play three very tough road games before the season concludes. They might get by Utah in Salt Lake City this week, and they should win at Cal in two weeks, but the season finale against rival Washington State is the perfect setup for the Cougars to upset the Apple Cup cart. If Washington State loses just one conference game and beats Washington on Black Friday, WSU will earn the Pac-12 North title, and UW will be out of the playoff race with no extra game to build back their resume.

The Big 12 still has two undefeated teams in Baylor and West Virginia. Both have fine squads, but we do not see either going 12-0, and 12-0 is what it will take for either to get to the Playoffs this year. The Big 12 decided not to expand, and that basically was an edict from the big state school in Austin, Texas. That decision could keep this league as the fifth best Power 5 league more years than not.

The Big Ten is not done just yet. Michigan still has to win at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes are not ready to roll over and let that team up north come into the Giant Horseshoe and leave undefeated. As of today, we believe the Wolverines will claw their way to a win in Columbus for the first time since 2000. If Ohio State wins, the East could finish with a three-way tie between the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Penn State.

Nebraska currently leads the West with by a game over Northwestern and two over Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. We believe the Cornhuskers are about to experience a tough final five weeks of the regular season with three losses possible. That opens the door for Wisconsin and Northwestern. The winner of the Badgers-Wildcats game on November 5 could emerge as the division winner if Nebraska does lose three times.

The SEC looks like an obvious play toy for Alabama. The Crimson Tide has a week off before facing LSU in Baton Rouge in two weeks. We believe the Tide will win by 17 or more points in this game. A closing game with Auburn could be interesting if the Tigers continue to play like they did against Arkansas on Saturday. However, we believe that was an anamoly, and Auburn will be lucky to lose by less than 14 to Alabama.

Texas A&M should not get too down for losing at Bama by 19 points. The Aggies are still alive in the Playoff picture. If A&M wins out, and the expected losses to teams we believe will lose actually happen, then TAMU could sneak into the playoff field at 11-1.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 10 with a possible 11th as a 5-7 alternate

Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Miami, Georgia Tech
Syracuse can earn a bid at 5-7.

Big 12 Conference
Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 6

Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU
We have Texas Tech at 5-7 and Texas at 4-8 as of today.

Big Ten Conference
Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 10

Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota

Pac-12 Conference
Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 8

Washington, Washington State, California, Stanford, USC, Colorado, Utah, Arizona State
We have Oregon at 5-7 and UCLA at 4-8 as of now. UCLA can jump into the alternate bowl mix at 5-7, but the Ducks will be out of luck.

Southeastern Conference
Projected Bowl Eligible Teams: 9

Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee
As of this week, we have four teams (Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri, and Vanderbilt) in contention to finish 5-7. We believe three of these teams will finish 5-7: Kentucky, South Carolina, and the winner of the Missouri/Vanderbilt game in Columbia on November 12. Should Vanderbilt win this game, they will move to the number one spot in the 5-7 bowl teams (assuming Duke finishes 4-8 and Minnesota is bowl eligible). Should Missouri win that game, then South Carolina will move into the fourth slot of 5-7 teams and have a decent shot of getting a bid.


The 5-7 Mess

As the season progresses, the number of mediocre teams has increased rather than decreased. As of today, it looks like at least four bowl spots will have to be awarded to 5-7 teams, and this includes a 6-6 Army team that actually needs seven wins to gain bowl eligibility.
The way the at-large bowl spots are filled out are not necessarily loved by the bowls themselves. For instance, if a 7-5 Idaho team is available for a bowl, while Notre Dame or Oregon sits at 5-7, it is the Vandals that must fill that bowl slot before the two powers can be considered. Imagine if you are the Birmingham or Indepedence Bowl, and you are faces with inviting a 7-5 team from almost 2,000 miles away and one which will soon be dropping out of FBS football. That’s the breaks, and it is what happens when there are about 10 too many bowls.
One solution that has not been discusses is allowing FCS teams to fill bowls. What if an undefeated Sam Houston State could get an Armed Forces Bowl Bid rather than play in the FCS Playoffs? Might an undefeated Citadel team be a better choice for the Birmingham Bowl than a 5-7 team from out West?

Our complete Bowl Projections follow below.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

PiRate Ratings
# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Alabama 135.6 128.8 135.5 133.3
2 Michigan 129.6 127.1 130.1 128.9
3 Louisville 130.0 124.8 130.1 128.3
4 Washington 129.0 121.6 129.1 126.6
5 Clemson 126.6 119.3 125.6 123.8
6 Ohio St. 123.0 122.7 123.5 123.1
7 LSU 124.5 119.5 124.1 122.7
8 Auburn 122.7 120.6 122.7 122.0
9 Oklahoma 119.8 118.0 119.4 119.1
10 Virginia Tech 118.9 117.5 119.3 118.6
11 Tennessee 119.0 115.9 118.4 117.8
12 Texas A&M 117.3 115.3 117.1 116.6
13 Florida St. 119.0 112.6 118.0 116.5
14 North Carolina 118.1 111.7 118.0 115.9
15 Colorado 117.2 112.7 117.0 115.7
16 Wisconsin 115.7 113.7 116.5 115.3
17 USC 117.2 112.7 114.9 114.9
18 Miami 116.6 110.6 116.2 114.5
19 Baylor 114.1 114.4 114.7 114.4
20 Florida 114.0 116.3 112.3 114.2
21 Oklahoma St. 113.8 115.1 113.4 114.1
22 Pittsburgh 115.2 111.5 114.4 113.7
23 Western Michigan 112.6 111.5 114.3 112.8
24 Ole Miss 115.0 109.5 113.9 112.8
25 West Virginia 113.2 111.9 112.9 112.7
26 Washington St. 113.2 110.3 113.3 112.3
27 Nebraska 112.6 109.6 112.4 111.5
28 Stanford 113.5 107.4 112.9 111.3
29 Iowa 111.8 109.2 111.6 110.9
30 Notre Dame 112.3 108.7 110.6 110.5
31 Texas 110.0 111.3 109.2 110.2
32 Houston 109.9 108.5 111.5 110.0
33 Penn St. 109.2 110.8 108.4 109.5
34 UCLA 109.9 108.4 109.2 109.2
35 Boise St. 108.1 109.1 109.3 108.8
36 Utah 111.2 105.9 109.3 108.8
37 South Florida 108.6 106.8 109.1 108.2
38 Georgia Tech 109.8 105.6 108.9 108.1
39 Georgia 108.5 107.7 107.8 108.0
40 TCU 107.3 108.8 106.6 107.6
41 Northwestern 109.3 105.2 108.1 107.5
42 Arkansas 109.6 104.9 107.7 107.4
43 Kansas St. 106.6 109.0 106.5 107.4
44 BYU 109.3 103.8 108.9 107.3
45 Mississippi St. 107.8 106.3 106.7 106.9
46 North Carolina St. 107.0 104.0 106.6 105.9
47 Arizona St. 105.8 104.7 104.6 105.1
48 Oregon 105.9 104.1 104.9 105.0
49 Toledo 103.8 103.2 104.5 103.8
50 Wake Forest 104.4 102.0 104.1 103.5
51 Minnesota 104.1 103.1 103.4 103.5
52 Temple 103.4 102.8 103.6 103.3
53 San Diego St. 103.0 101.5 105.0 103.2
54 Indiana 102.6 104.6 102.2 103.1
55 Maryland 102.8 105.1 101.3 103.1
56 Texas Tech 103.8 103.0 102.1 103.0
57 Memphis 103.9 101.3 102.6 102.6
58 Navy 102.8 101.9 102.6 102.5
59 Michigan St. 103.3 102.9 101.1 102.4
60 Syracuse 103.7 100.5 102.3 102.2
61 California 105.1 98.0 102.8 102.0
62 Western Kentucky 102.1 99.3 103.1 101.5
63 Duke 101.4 101.6 100.5 101.2
64 Virginia 101.8 99.5 101.1 100.8
65 Tulsa 99.7 101.8 100.6 100.7
66 Arizona 101.2 99.1 99.7 100.0
67 Vanderbilt 101.4 98.2 100.1 99.9
68 Kentucky 99.1 100.1 98.3 99.2
69 Missouri 99.4 99.0 98.9 99.1
70 Appalachian St. 98.1 98.6 99.9 98.9
71 Iowa St. 98.6 98.1 97.9 98.2
72 Cincinnati 97.9 98.2 98.1 98.1
73 Central Michigan 97.2 98.9 97.8 98.0
74 Boston College 98.3 97.6 97.8 97.9
75 South Carolina 97.2 97.1 96.6 97.0
76 Middle Tennessee 96.2 96.9 96.8 96.6
77 Central Florida 95.6 97.3 96.1 96.3
78 Illinois 97.4 93.9 96.6 96.0
79 New Mexico 94.6 96.9 95.5 95.7
80 Louisiana Tech 94.5 96.3 96.0 95.6
81 Air Force 95.1 96.3 95.1 95.5
82 Connecticut 96.0 94.4 95.8 95.4
83 SMU 94.6 93.9 96.9 95.2
84 Troy 92.8 97.5 94.8 95.1
85 Northern Illinois 93.9 95.3 95.2 94.8
86 Army 90.5 98.7 93.3 94.2
87 Utah St. 93.3 96.0 93.1 94.1
88 Purdue 94.6 92.6 93.5 93.6
89 Oregon St. 95.6 91.1 93.9 93.5
90 Ohio 89.5 96.2 90.0 91.9
91 East Carolina 91.2 93.2 91.3 91.9
92 Southern Mississippi 91.5 92.0 91.9 91.8
93 Georgia Southern 90.5 90.7 92.5 91.3
94 Colorado St. 89.8 91.6 90.7 90.7
95 Rutgers 91.8 89.4 90.4 90.6
96 Akron 87.9 93.4 89.5 90.3
97 Wyoming 89.5 89.8 90.3 89.9
98 Arkansas St. 88.1 90.1 89.8 89.3
99 Eastern Michigan 86.9 89.1 87.3 87.8
100 Old Dominion 86.3 89.7 86.7 87.6
101 UNLV 86.3 89.6 86.6 87.5
102 Ball St. 85.2 87.7 86.3 86.4
103 Tulane 84.7 88.9 85.2 86.3
104 South Alabama 83.5 90.3 84.8 86.2
105 Nevada 85.1 87.5 85.7 86.1
106 Kent St. 85.2 87.2 85.7 86.1
107 Miami (O) 85.0 86.0 86.3 85.8
108 Hawaii 86.1 84.9 85.9 85.6
109 Kansas 84.0 89.5 81.5 85.0
110 Georgia St. 82.7 87.2 84.6 84.8
111 Marshall 82.9 86.3 83.8 84.3
112 UTSA 81.0 88.0 83.4 84.2
113 North Texas 82.4 85.2 83.2 83.6
114 Rice 81.0 87.8 81.2 83.3
115 Massachusetts 80.1 86.4 81.2 82.6
116 Bowling Green 82.2 82.6 82.2 82.3
117 San Jose St. 82.0 81.8 81.3 81.7
118 Idaho 79.3 84.6 80.9 81.6
119 Fresno St. 80.0 83.7 79.7 81.1
120 Florida International 78.7 83.5 78.8 80.3
121 UL-Lafayette 77.5 83.6 79.3 80.2
122 Florida Atlantic 77.0 81.9 80.2 79.7
123 Buffalo 73.1 80.2 73.5 75.6
124 Charlotte 73.5 78.8 74.2 75.5
125 UTEP 72.1 76.7 73.4 74.1
126 New Mexico St. 71.8 74.9 72.7 73.1
127 UL-Monroe 67.4 72.3 67.7 69.1
128 Texas St. 67.3 69.5 68.1 68.3


American Athletic Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
South Florida 108.6 106.8 109.1 108.2
Temple 103.4 102.8 103.6 103.3
Cincinnati 97.9 98.2 98.1 98.1
Central Florida 95.6 97.3 96.1 96.3
Connecticut 96.0 94.4 95.8 95.4
East Carolina 91.2 93.2 91.3 91.9
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Houston 109.9 108.5 111.5 110.0
Memphis 103.9 101.3 102.6 102.6
Navy 102.8 101.9 102.6 102.5
Tulsa 99.7 101.8 100.6 100.7
SMU 94.6 93.9 96.9 95.2
Tulane 84.7 88.9 85.2 86.3
AAC Averages 99.0 99.1 99.4 99.2
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisville 130.0 124.8 130.1 128.3
Clemson 126.6 119.3 125.6 123.8
Florida St. 119.0 112.6 118.0 116.5
North Carolina St. 107.0 104.0 106.6 105.9
Wake Forest 104.4 102.0 104.1 103.5
Syracuse 103.7 100.5 102.3 102.2
Boston College 98.3 97.6 97.8 97.9
Coastal Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Virginia Tech 118.9 117.5 119.3 118.6
North Carolina 118.1 111.7 118.0 115.9
Miami 116.6 110.6 116.2 114.5
Pittsburgh 115.2 111.5 114.4 113.7
Georgia Tech 109.8 105.6 108.9 108.1
Duke 101.4 101.6 100.5 101.2
Virginia 101.8 99.5 101.1 100.8
ACC Averages 112.2 108.5 111.6 110.8
Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 119.8 118.0 119.4 119.1
Baylor 114.1 114.4 114.7 114.4
Oklahoma St. 113.8 115.1 113.4 114.1
West Virginia 113.2 111.9 112.9 112.7
Texas 110.0 111.3 109.2 110.2
TCU 107.3 108.8 106.6 107.6
Kansas St. 106.6 109.0 106.5 107.4
Texas Tech 103.8 103.0 102.1 103.0
Iowa St. 98.6 98.1 97.9 98.2
Kansas 84.0 89.5 81.5 85.0
Big 12 Averages 107.1 107.9 106.4 107.2
Big Ten Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Michigan 129.6 127.1 130.1 128.9
Ohio St. 123.0 122.7 123.5 123.1
Penn St. 109.2 110.8 108.4 109.5
Indiana 102.6 104.6 102.2 103.1
Maryland 102.8 105.1 101.3 103.1
Michigan St. 103.3 102.9 101.1 102.4
Rutgers 91.8 89.4 90.4 90.6
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Wisconsin 115.7 113.7 116.5 115.3
Nebraska 112.6 109.6 112.4 111.5
Iowa 111.8 109.2 111.6 110.9
Northwestern 109.3 105.2 108.1 107.5
Minnesota 104.1 103.1 103.4 103.5
Illinois 97.4 93.9 96.6 96.0
Purdue 94.6 92.6 93.5 93.6
Big Ten Averages 107.7 106.4 107.1 107.1
Conference USA
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 102.1 99.3 103.1 101.5
Middle Tennessee 96.2 96.9 96.8 96.6
Old Dominion 86.3 89.7 86.7 87.6
Marshall 82.9 86.3 83.8 84.3
Florida International 78.7 83.5 78.8 80.3
Florida Atlantic 77.0 81.9 80.2 79.7
Charlotte 73.5 78.8 74.2 75.5
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 94.5 96.3 96.0 95.6
Southern Mississippi 91.5 92.0 91.9 91.8
UTSA 81.0 88.0 83.4 84.2
North Texas 82.4 85.2 83.2 83.6
Rice 81.0 87.8 81.2 83.3
UTEP 72.1 76.7 73.4 74.1
CUSA Averages 84.6 87.9 85.6 86.0
FBS Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 112.3 108.7 110.6 110.5
BYU 109.3 103.8 108.9 107.3
Army 90.5 98.7 93.3 94.2
Massachusetts 80.1 86.4 81.2 82.6
Independents Averages 98.1 99.4 98.5 98.7
Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio 89.5 96.2 90.0 91.9
Akron 87.9 93.4 89.5 90.3
Kent St. 85.2 87.2 85.7 86.1
Miami (O) 85.0 86.0 86.3 85.8
Bowling Green 82.2 82.6 82.2 82.3
Buffalo 73.1 80.2 73.5 75.6
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 112.6 111.5 114.3 112.8
Toledo 103.8 103.2 104.5 103.8
Central Michigan 97.2 98.9 97.8 98.0
Northern Illinois 93.9 95.3 95.2 94.8
Eastern Michigan 86.9 89.1 87.3 87.8
Ball St. 85.2 87.7 86.3 86.4
MAC Averages 90.2 92.6 91.0 91.3
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 108.1 109.1 109.3 108.8
New Mexico 94.6 96.9 95.5 95.7
Air Force 95.1 96.3 95.1 95.5
Utah St. 93.3 96.0 93.1 94.1
Colorado St. 89.8 91.6 90.7 90.7
Wyoming 89.5 89.8 90.3 89.9
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 103.0 101.5 105.0 103.2
UNLV 86.3 89.6 86.6 87.5
Nevada 85.1 87.5 85.7 86.1
Hawaii 86.1 84.9 85.9 85.6
San Jose St. 82.0 81.8 81.3 81.7
Fresno St. 80.0 83.7 79.7 81.1
MWC Averages 91.1 92.4 91.5 91.7
Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Washington 129.0 121.6 129.1 126.6
Washington St. 113.2 110.3 113.3 112.3
Stanford 113.5 107.4 112.9 111.3
Oregon 105.9 104.1 104.9 105.0
California 105.1 98.0 102.8 102.0
Oregon St. 95.6 91.1 93.9 93.5
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Colorado 117.2 112.7 117.0 115.7
USC 117.2 112.7 114.9 114.9
UCLA 109.9 108.4 109.2 109.2
Utah 111.2 105.9 109.3 108.8
Arizona St. 105.8 104.7 104.6 105.1
Arizona 101.2 99.1 99.7 100.0
Pac-12 Averages 110.4 106.4 109.3 108.7
Southeastern Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Tennessee 119.0 115.9 118.4 117.8
Florida 114.0 116.3 112.3 114.2
Georgia 108.5 107.7 107.8 108.0
Vanderbilt 101.4 98.2 100.1 99.9
Kentucky 99.1 100.1 98.3 99.2
Missouri 99.4 99.0 98.9 99.1
South Carolina 97.2 97.1 96.6 97.0
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 135.6 128.8 135.5 133.3
LSU 124.5 119.5 124.1 122.7
Auburn 122.7 120.6 122.7 122.0
Texas A&M 117.3 115.3 117.1 116.6
Ole Miss 115.0 109.5 113.9 112.8
Arkansas 109.6 104.9 107.7 107.4
Mississippi St. 107.8 106.3 106.7 106.9
SEC Averages 112.2 110.0 111.4 111.2
Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 98.1 98.6 99.9 98.9
Troy 92.8 97.5 94.8 95.1
Georgia Southern 90.5 90.7 92.5 91.3
Arkansas St. 88.1 90.1 89.8 89.3
South Alabama 83.5 90.3 84.8 86.2
Georgia St. 82.7 87.2 84.6 84.8
Idaho 79.3 84.6 80.9 81.6
UL-Lafayette 77.5 83.6 79.3 80.2
New Mexico St. 71.8 74.9 72.7 73.1
UL-Monroe 67.4 72.3 67.7 69.1
Texas St. 67.3 69.5 68.1 68.3
Sun Belt Averages 81.7 85.4 83.2 83.5


PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 SEC 112.2 110.0 111.4 111.2
2 ACC 112.2 108.5 111.6 110.8
3 Pac-12 110.4 106.4 109.3 108.7
4 Big 12 107.1 107.9 106.4 107.2
5 Big Ten 107.7 106.4 107.1 107.1
6 AAC 99.0 99.1 99.4 99.2
7 Independents 98.1 99.4 98.5 98.7
8 MWC 91.1 92.4 91.5 91.7
9 MAC 90.2 92.6 91.0 91.3
10 CUSA 84.6 87.9 85.6 86.0
11 Sun Belt 81.7 85.4 83.2 83.5


PiRate Retrodictive
# Team
1 Alabama
2 Michigan
3 Clemson
4 Louisville
5 Washington
6 Texas A&M
7 Ohio St.
8 Wisconsin
9 Nebraska
10 Western Michigan
11 West Virginia
12 Florida St.
13 Boise St.
14 Tennessee
15 Oklahoma
16 LSU
17 Auburn
18 Colorado
19 Baylor
20 Florida
21 Washington St.
22 Penn St.
23 Utah
24 Virginia Tech
25 USC
26 North Carolina
27 Houston
28 Stanford
29 Toledo
30 Pittsburgh
31 Navy
32 South Florida
33 Arkansas
34 Ole Miss
35 Miami (Fla)
36 Oklahoma St.
37 Appalachian St.
38 Iowa
39 BYU
40 Wake Forest
41 Arizona St.
42 Memphis
43 Northwestern
44 Troy
45 North Carolina St.
46 San Diego St.
47 Temple
48 Georgia Tech
49 Kansas St.
50 Georgia
51 TCU
52 California
53 Minnesota
54 Tulsa
55 Maryland
57 Western Kentucky
58 Central Florida
59 Kentucky
60 Wyoming
61 Louisiana Tech
62 Texas Tech
63 Indiana
64 Central Michigan
65 Vanderbilt
66 Middle Tennessee
67 Oregon
68 Georgia Southern
69 Texas
70 Syracuse
71 Air Force
72 Eastern Michigan
73 Akron
74 Colorado St.
75 Mississippi St.
76 Duke
77 Southern Miss.
78 South Carolina
79 Cincinnati
80 Arizona
81 Notre Dame
82 Missouri
83 New Mexico
84 SMU
85 Michigan St.
86 Old Dominion
87 Oregon St.
88 Utah St.
89 Ohio
90 Army
91 Connecticut
92 Virginia
93 North Texas
94 Idaho
95 Boston College
96 Illinois
97 Hawaii
98 Tulane
99 East Carolina
100 Arkansas St.
101 Purdue
102 South Alabama
103 Ball St.
104 Rutgers
105 Iowa St.
106 UL-Lafayette
107 Northern Illinois
108 Georgia St.
109 UTSA
110 UNLV
111 Kent St.
112 Marshall
113 Miami (O)
114 Nevada
115 UL-Monroe
116 Bowling Green
117 New Mexico St.
118 Florida Int’l.
119 Charlotte
120 Kansas
121 San Jose St.
122 Massachusetts
123 Texas St.
124 UTEP
125 Rice
126 Fresno St.
127 Buffalo
128 Florida Atlantic


This Week’s Games–October 27-29
Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Thursday, October 27      
Pittsburgh Virginia Tech -0.7 -3.0 -1.9
Buffalo Akron -12.8 -11.2 -14.0
Toledo Ohio U 16.8 9.5 17.5
Georgia Southern Appalachian St. -4.6 -4.9 -4.4
USC California 15.1 17.7 15.1
Friday, October 28      
South Florida Navy 8.8 7.9 9.5
Utah St. San Diego St. -6.7 -2.5 -8.9
Fresno St. Air Force -12.1 -9.6 -12.4
Saturday, October 29      
Central Michigan Kent St. 15.0 14.7 15.1
Houston Central Florida 17.3 14.2 18.4
East Carolina Connecticut -1.8 1.8 -1.5
Georgia Tech Duke 11.4 7.0 11.4
Virginia Louisville -25.2 -22.3 -26.0
Missouri Kentucky 3.3 1.9 3.6
Iowa St. Kansas St. -5.0 -7.9 -5.6
Oklahoma St. West Virginia 3.6 6.2 3.5
Illinois Minnesota -3.7 -5.2 -3.8
Michigan St. Michigan -24.3 -22.2 -27.0
Purdue Penn St. -11.6 -15.2 -11.9
North Carolina St. Boston College 11.7 9.4 11.8
Temple Cincinnati 8.5 7.6 8.5
Florida Atlantic Western Kentucky -22.1 -14.4 -19.9
Georgia (N) Florida -5.5 -8.6 -4.5
Texas Baylor -1.1 -0.1 -2.5
Wake Forest Army 16.9 6.3 13.8
Notre Dame Miami (Fla.) -1.3 0.9 -2.6
Utah Washington -14.8 -12.7 -16.8
Indiana Maryland 2.8 2.5 3.9
TCU Texas Tech 6.5 8.8 7.5
Ohio St. Northwestern 16.7 20.5 18.4
Eastern Michigan Miami (O) 4.9 6.1 4.0
Tulane SMU -7.4 -2.5 -9.7
South Alabama Georgia St. 3.8 6.1 3.2
Oregon Arizona St. 3.1 2.4 3.3
Wyoming Boise St. -15.6 -16.3 -16.0
Louisiana Tech Rice 16.5 11.5 17.8
Southern Miss. Marshall 11.6 8.7 11.1
UTSA North Texas 1.1 5.3 2.7
Florida Int’l. Middle Tennessee -14.5 -10.4 -15.0
Arkansas St. UL-Monroe 23.7 20.8 25.1
Oklahoma Kansas 38.8 31.5 40.9
Wisconsin Nebraska 6.1 7.1 7.1
Ole Miss Auburn -4.7 -8.1 -5.8
South Carolina Tennessee -18.8 -15.8 -18.8
Texas A&M New Mexico St. 48.5 43.4 47.4
UTEP Old Dominion -11.2 -10.0 -10.3
Memphis Tulsa 7.2 2.5 5.0
Florida St. Clemson -4.6 -3.7 -4.6
San Jose St. UNLV -1.3 -4.8 -2.3
Oregon St. Washington St. -14.6 -16.2 -16.4
Arizona Stanford -9.3 -5.3 -10.2
Hawaii New Mexico -4.5 -8.0 -5.6
FBS vs. FCS Week 9  
Home Visitor PiRate
Massachusetts Wagner 17
Mississippi St. Samford 19


This Week’s Bowl Projections

Bowl Conferences Team vs. Team
New Mexico MWC CUSA New Mexico vs. Sou. Miss.
Las Vegas Pac-12 MWC Arizona St. vs. San Diego St.
Cure AAC SBC South Florida vs. Arkansas St.
Camellia MAC SBC Akron vs. Ga. Southern
New Orleans CUSA SBC La. Tech vs. Troy
Miami Beach AAC MAC Houston vs. Toledo
Boca Raton AAC CUSA Memphis vs. W. Kentucky
Poinsettia MWC BYU Air Force vs. BYU
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Central Mich. vs. Boise St.
Bahamas AAC/CUSA MAC/CUSA Temple vs. Eastern Mich.
Armed Forces Navy Big 12 Navy vs. [Idaho]
Dollar General MAC SBC Ohio U vs. Appy St.
Hawaii CUSA MWC North Texas vs. Hawaii
St. Petersburg AAC ACC/ND Tulsa vs. Miami (Fla.)
Quick Lane ACC/ND Big Ten {Notre Dame} vs. Indiana
Independence SEC ACC/ND {S.Carolina} vs. Georgia Tech
Heart of Dallas Big Ten CUSA Maryland vs. Middle Tenn.
Military ACC/ND AAC N. Carolina St. vs. Central Fla.
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Northwestern vs. Utah
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 {Utah St.} vs. California
Pinstripe ACC/ND Big Ten Wake Forest vs. Iowa
Russell Athletic ACC/ND Big 12 Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma St.
Foster Farms Big Ten Pac-12 Minnesota vs. USC
Texas Big 12 SEC Kansas St. vs. Arkansas
Birmingham AAC SEC [Army] vs. {Syracuse}
Belk ACC/ND SEC N. Carolina vs. Georgia
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma vs. Colorado
Liberty Big 12 SEC TCU vs. LSU
Sun ACC/ND Pac-12 Pittsburgh vs. Stanford
Arizona CUSA/SBC MWC/SBC Old Dominion vs. Wyoming
Music City ACC/ND/B10 SEC Nebraska vs. [Colorado St.]
Orange ACC/ND B10/SEC Louisville vs. Baylor
Citrus ACC/ND/B10 SEC Wisconsin vs. Auburn
TaxSlayer ACC/ND/B10 SEC Florida St. vs. Ole Miss
Peach Semifinal Semifinal Michigan vs. Texas A&M
Fiesta Semifinal Semifinal Alabama vs. Clemson
Outback Big Ten SEC Ohio St. vs. Florida
Cotton At-Large At-Large Western Mich. vs. Washington
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Penn St. vs. Wash. St.
Sugar Big 12 SEC West Virginia vs. Tennessee
Championship Semifinal Winners Alabama vs. Michigan
[Team] At-Large Selection
{Team} At-Large Selection of projected 7-Loss Team

The APR Score Rankings

If one or more 5-7 teams are needed to fill vacant bowl slots, they will be filled in order of highest APR score.  For instance, if there are five spots to be filled by 5-7 teams, the highest five 5-7 teams in APR score will automatically earn those spots.  Then, in order of APR score, the teams will choose which bowl bid to accept.  Here is the ranking of the teams.  If there are five spots to be filled, then it could go down to the 40th best APR score or lower, because few teams will actually be 5-7.

APR Scores
1 Duke
2 Northwestern
3 Minnesota
4 Wisconsin
5 Vanderbilt
6 Army
7 Michigan
8 Georgia Tech
9 Air Force
10 North Texas
11 Clemson
12 Stanford
13 Central Florida
14 Utah
15 Auburn
16 Boise St.
17 Navy
18 Illinois
19 Louisville
20 Boston College
21 Nebraska
22 Indiana
23 Alabama
24 Florida
25 Michigan St.
26 Missouri
27 Utah St.
28 Maryland
29 Kansas St.
30 Notre Dame
31 Middle Tennessee
32 Rice
33 Toledo
34 Virginia
35 Washington
36 Syracuse
38 Rutgers
40 South Carolina
41 Mississippi St.
42 Temple
43 Ohio St.
44 Hawaii









October 20, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–October 20-24, 2016

Not So Good

Last weekend was not a great one for the parlay-pickers at PiRate Headquarters.  We selected four longshot parlays and returned one winner at +192, as upsets by Eastern Michigan and Vanderbilt prevented a potential major windfall.

For the season, this drops our mediocre results to just plain not-so-good.  As usual, our solace is that we are not out a penny, because we never actually invest real currency (or whatever you call those green notes in your wallet).

We’re not all that enthused with this week’s schedule either.  It took an extra afternoon to come up with four picks, and we included two underdogs to win outright in our four plays.  Good luck with that.

It may be a better weekend to hike in the forest with all the changing colors on the trees.

1. College Parlay @ +209
California over Oregon
North Carolina over Virginia
West Virginia over TCU
2.College Parlay @ +234
Colorado over Stanford
Oklahoma over Texas Tech
Alabama over Texas A&M
Tulsa over Tulane
3. College Singleton @ +275
Arizona St. over Washington St.
4. NFL Parlay @ +208
Green Bay over Chicago
Cincinnati over Cleveland
Atlanta over San Diego
Denver over Houston

August 31, 2016

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlay Picks–September 1-5, 2016

This just for fun weekly feature turned out to be our most widely read part of the PiRate Ratings last year, because just like a broken clock is correct twice a day, somehow our money line parlays returned 40% on investment last year. People began leaving comments at our sister site, , telling us they were using these picks to wager their hard-earned money. That disappointed us a lot, since we begged them not to do this.

This is a just for fun mathematical experiment. We have no inside information; we have no specialist in Vegas placing wagers anonymously for us like other heavy hitters. In fact, if we were to announce to any book that we would like to play our picks for real, they would bend over backwards to help us do just that. So, that should tell you not to use these picks. Just read what we have to offer. If there is some way to wager just for fun with your friends, by picking X number of teams to win outright, then maybe you can use our selections.

For those not aware of the Money Line, it is a line established to wager on who you think will win the game without having to cover a pointspread. Obviously, if Michigan plays Hawaii, you would take Michigan to win. As Lee Corso says, “Not so fast my friend.” In order to take Michigan to win the game outright over Hawaii, you have to give ridiculous odds to the book. To win just $100 on this proposal, you must put up $75,000! If you want to wager just $100 on Hawaii to win the game in the biggest upset in years, you would win $25,000 if it happened!

Obviously, this is an extreme outlier. Let’s look at a closer game this week. Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina tomorrow night. The current Money Line odds are listed as Vanderbilt -185 and South Carolina +165. This means that if you believe the Commodores will win, you must put up $185 to win $100 ($285, because you get your investment money back as well). If you believe South Carolina will win this game, then by wagering $100, you stand to win $165 ($265 as you will get your $100 back as well if you win) if the Gamecocks win.

A Money Line parlay allows you to combine multiple games in order to raise your total odds. The catch is that if you bet X amount of games as one parlay wager, all X teams must win. It is considered a sucker bet to play this type of exotic wager, but we are not suckers, because we bet $0 every week. We can choose and choose parlays every week, and we will not lose a penny. We hope you will not either.

Here is our plan of attack that worked rather well last year for us. We will select a host of favorites and bunch them into parlays where the odds are better than even money for us should we win the wager. For example, let’s say that you combine three favorites into one parlay wager. Team A is listed at -250. Team B is listed at -235. Team C is listed at -225. The parlay on this three-team wager would be +188, or you would put up $100 to win $188 ($288 because as you know by now, when you win, you get back your investment money as well.)

It is not easy for three teams at -250, -235, and -225 to all win in a given week. That’s the catch. It looks so easy, and there are some nice hotels in Vegas that have been built from funds donated to them by suckers that thought it looked so easy.

Okay, now that you have been warned, let’s get started with our first Money Line Parlays of the 2016 season. We are playing just two parlays this week, and by playing, we mean like it is Monopoly–it is just a fun game.

Parlay #1

This one gives us +167 odds on our $100 fantasy investment. Yep, if we win, we receive $267 from the fake book in fake Vegas.

Tulsa over San Jose St.
Wake Forest over Tulane
LSU over Wisconsin
West Virginia over Missouri

Parlay #2

This one gives us +127 odds on our $100 fantasy investment. So, if we win just one of these two parlays, it will be a profitable week.

Colorado over Colorado St.
Temple over Army
UTEP over New Mexico St.
Minnesota over Oregon St.

Okay, that’s $200 fake invested funds into two parlays. If we lose both, we are out our imaginary $200. If we win #1 and lose #2, we will have a nice profit in week one returning $267 on the $200 wagered (33.5% ROI). If we lose #1 and win #2, we will have a so-so profit in week one returning $227 on the $200 wagered (13.5% ROI). If somehow both parlays win, we will be taking a fake vacation to an imaginary mountain lodge after pulling off a return of $494 on the $200 wagered (147% ROI).

One final warning and plea–please do not wager real money on these picks. Use them for fun only. See if you can come up with your own and see for yourself how easy hard it is.

Happy football holiday weekend.

August 21, 2016

2016 Big 12 Conference Football Preview

The Big 12 has been teetering on the brink of unplanned obsolescence for the last couple of years. As the only Power 5 Conference without a postseason Conference Championship Game, the league powers have been a little paranoid that other predators from the West Coast, the Deep South, and the Upper Midwest, might pillage them and leave them without a job. The Pac-12 is anxious to change its name to the Pac-16. The SEC and Big Ten realize that it is easier to work with 16 rather than 14 teams. The ACC has 15 in all sports except football, but even in football, Notre Dame plays basically five conference games per year.

What does a league do with just 10 members? It cannot play a conference title game until it has 12. Obviously, the league must expand by two to six teams, or else, their members will be searching for greener futures and high payouts.

In the meantime, the Big 12 continues to provide some of the most exciting football on the planet. The quasi-renegade league provides the alternative to the SEC’s and Big Ten’s blood and guts play, just like the old American Football League of the 1960’s sold itself as the more entertaining league to the NFL. The AFL had all the razzle dazzle stars like Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, Cookie Gilchrist, Lance Alworth, and others, while the NFL was all about bruising fullbacks running between the tackles and halfbacks running power sweeps behind pulling guards.

The Big 12 is the pass-happy league with wide open offenses, blitzing and gambling defenses, and no game secure even if a team has scored over 50 points. Who can forget the day in 2014 when undefeated TCU led undefeated Baylor by 18 points in the fourth quarter and lost 61-58? You could have watched Alabama beat Arkansas 14-13 that day. Michigan beat Penn State 18-13.

2016 promises to be an interesting season in the Southwest. Oklahoma represented the league in the NCAA Playoffs, after two 11-1 teams failed to earn a spot the year before. The Sooners quickly bowed out in a semifinal loss to Clemson, but OU is loaded this season and in contention for the top overall spot.

The Sooners will not receive a free pass to the playoffs this year. Their schedule is tricky with a pre-conference matchups with Houston at NRG Stadium to start the season and Ohio State on September 17. Then following a bye week, OU has a road game with TCU, and the annual Red River Shootout with Texas the following Saturday. If Coach Bob Stoops can guide his squad to a 5-0 start, a 7-0 finish is very likely.

A group of four teams figure to be the main challengers to the Sooners, or in a probable case, a quartet fighting for a Sugar Bowl berth as the league runnerup. Oklahoma State, TCU, and Baylor figure to be on most pundits’ lists, but the PiRates believe that Coach Charlie Strong will bring the Texas Longhorns back to near the top of the standings this year and even give Oklahoma a run for its money. If he doesn’t, the UT alumni may be advertising for a new coach in 2017.

For the Longhorns, the season kicks off with a Sunday tilt at home against Notre Dame, and a win in the opener could give the burnt orange a shot in the arm. A road game against Oklahoma State precedes the fight with the Sooners at the Texas State Fair the following week, and pulling off back-to-back wins over their rivals to the north is most unlikely. Thus, we believe that Texas can win 10 games and vie for the Sugar Bowl bid, but they cannot win 11 or 12 and contend for a playoff spot.

TCU begins the season ranked ahead of Texas in our ratings and actually within shouting distance of Oklahoma, but the Horned Frogs have to rebuild on offense due to heavy losses, including their star quarterback, running back, and wideout. The defense is still solid, but they may be on the field for too many plays in crucial games. Road games at Baylor and Texas could eliminate any gain made by possibly upsetting Oklahoma ar Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Oklahoma State is flying a little under the radar to begin the season. The Cowboys were 10-0 last year, before losing to Baylor, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss to end the year at 10-3. Their offense could top 42 points per game this year with experience and depth returning, while the defense should be on par with last year’s defense. OSU wins games by outscoring opponents, so scores like 45-31 are frequent happenings, and this team can win double digit games again while giving up 30+ points per game.

Baylor faced a minor rebuilding project heading into this season, but off the field events have wounded the Bears enough to where second half of the season depth issues could cause a minor fold. We do not expect BU to contend for the Big 12 crown, and we would not be shocked if the losses began to mount beginning with a trip to Austin on October 29.

Kansas State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech represent the next wave. In most years, KSU plays one of the softest non-conference slates, guaranteeing themselves of three wins before taking the field, and thus needing just a 3-6 conference mark to earn a bowl bid. However, the Wildcats will begin the season 0-1 with a Friday night game at the Farm against Stanford. The likely 3-6 conference record will leave the guys from the Little Apple home for the holidays.

Texas Tech faces a similar situation. The Red Raiders are looking at 3-6 or even 2-7 in league play, as they must play Kansas State and Iowa State on the road. Playing at Arizona State in September could prevent TTU from going bowling as well.

West Virginia may actually be a tad weaker than the previous two teams, but the Mountaineers have the favorable schedule that could give them the three wins they need to pair with a 3-6 conference mark and finish 6-6.

Iowa State is not ready to compete for bowl eligibility this year, but the Cyclones are moving upwards slowly. They could even sneak into a tie for 7th if the ball bounces their way, but they should win more than one conference game this year.

Kansas still has basketball season to await. The Jayhawks are likely destined for yet another last place finish, but this year KU should at least win a game after finishing 0-12 in 2015. The season opener with Rhode Island is the only for sure winnable game, but the Jayhawks might be confident enough to pull off the mild upset over Ohio the following week. It looks like another 0-9 league mark for the Jayhawks, but then by the time they host Texas on November 19, all will be okay with the Rock Chalkers at Allen Fieldhouse.

Here is how the Big 12 Media predicted the 2016 order of finish.

2016 Big 12 Conference Media Poll
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Oklahoma 24 258
2 TCU 2 222
3 Oklahoma St. 0 202
4 Baylor 0 156
5 Texas 0 151
6 Texas Tech 0 141
7 West Virginia 0 126
8 Kansas St. 0 88
9 Iowa St. 0 59
10 Kansas 0 27

Here are the initial 2016 PiRate Ratings for the league.

Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 125.6 122.1 125.6 124.4
Oklahoma St. 117.5 118.8 117.5 117.9
Texas 114.4 118.0 114.4 115.6
TCU 113.3 115.6 113.2 114.0
Baylor 109.4 109.7 110.6 109.9
West Virginia 106.6 106.1 106.0 106.2
Kansas St. 103.1 107.5 102.5 104.4
Texas Tech 104.9 102.3 102.7 103.3
Iowa St. 99.8 99.2 98.7 99.2
Kansas 88.3 96.1 85.9 90.1

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls, and notice that this league will not provide the needed number to fill all of its obligations, thus benefiting other leagues like the Big Ten and Pac-12, who both may have extra bowl eligible teams this year.

Big 12 Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Oklahoma 9-0 12-0 Playoffs/Fiesta
Oklahoma St. 7-2 10-2 Alamo
Texas 7-2 10-2 Sugar
TCU 6-3 9-3 Russell Athletic
Baylor 6-3 9-3 Texas
West Virginia 3-6 6-6 Liberty
Kansas St. 3-6 5-7  
Texas Tech 2-7 4-8  
Iowa St. 2-7 4-8  
Kansas 0-9 2-10

Coming Monday, August 22: The Pac-12 Conference with wide open races in both divisions.  Is there a surprise team ready to emerge as the new league beast, or is it more of the same old fare?

January 15, 2016

PiRate Ratings College Basketball Picks for January 16-17, 2016

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 10:55 am

This week, we expand our selections to include both Saturday and Sunday games of games from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC.

Beginning next week, we will commence with our 32 Bracketologists consensus as there have now been enough games to actually put some weight behind the teams in the field, on the bubble, and out of the field.

The Red Rating uses an algorithm based on the Four Factors of basketball.

The White Rating incorporates a “least squares” principle to the Four Factors.

The Blue Rating is a separate statistics and strength of schedule approach similar to our PiRate Bias Ratings in football.

Games Schedule for: Saturday, January 16, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Georgia Tech Virginia Tech 9 9 4
Wake Forest Syracuse 1 1 3
North Carolina North Carolina St. 18 15 21
Pittsburgh Boston College 19 23 19
Duke Notre Dame 10 9 10
Clemson Miami (Fla.) -5 -5 3
Kansas TCU 23 20 26
Texas Tech Baylor -1 5 2
Oklahoma West Virginia 7 6 -2
Kansas St. Iowa St. -1 2 2
Texas Oklahoma St. 6 8 5
Maryland Ohio St. 12 11 8
Minnesota Indiana -13 -13 -9
Illinois Nebraska 3 3 5
Northwestern Penn St. 10 11 9
Arizona St. Washington 6 6 2
Arizona Washington St. 16 16 17
South Carolina Missouri 15 15 11
Georgia Texas A&M -1 -1 -4
Mississippi St. Tennessee 1 -1 3
Auburn Kentucky -10 -10 -14
Vanderbilt Alabama 9 12 5
Ole Miss Florida 1 -3 3
LSU Arkansas 3 3 6
Games Schedule for: Sunday, January 17, 2016
Home Visitor Red White Blue
Florida St. Virginia -2 -3 -3
Wisconsin Michigan St. -6 -4 -9
Iowa Michigan 12 10 8
Colorado Oregon -1 2 4
Utah Oregon St. 4 3 6


February 16, 2015

America’s Most Accurate Bracketology Composite—February 16, 2015

As the Eastern half of the nation tries to dig itself out of the latest several feet of global warming, it is hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament will begin in four weeks and one day.

The weather may not be clearing, but the dance marathon competitors are beginning to clear up.

Before going into this week’s bracketology report, let me address the shot-clock story from Friday, February 13.  If you haven’t read it, here is the link:

We have received a lot of feedback from dozens of you, and apparently, this is a very divisive issue.  About 75% of you favor the 24-second clock for college basketball, while about 25% of you believe it will ruin the game.  You did not buy into the statistical data showing that more possessions in a game lead to more deviation in the efficiency and thus opens up the possibility of more upsets and not fewer.

We are happy that a couple of you are mathematics educators at the highest level, and all of you were unanimous in your support of the 24-second clock and the evidence that more possession would lead to more upsets.  Yes, it could lead to power teams winning by 40 instead of 25, but as we stated, Kentucky readily welcomes minimum possession games, and if the Wildcats are to be defeated this year, we believe it will come from an up-tempo team forcing the Blue Mist to defend 70 or more possessions.

Okay, back to the issue at hand.  Our two dozen plus bracketologists have released their individual bracketology reports this week, and we have combined them into our third master list of the season.  For more information on our composite experts, look at previous bracketology reports on this site.

Once again, 21 conferences will send just one team to the NCAA Tournament, and this could become 22 if Gonzaga wins the automatic bid from the West Coast Conference, as BYU has fallen out of the at-large list.  For now, we have Gonzaga sweeping through the remainder of their schedule, so in essence 22 leagues are tapped to send one representative to the Dance.

That leaves 46 remaining at-large spots, and according to our current data, about 64 teams competing for those 46 spots.

Let’s start with the definite one-bid leagues.  The conference tournament champion will get the lone bid for these conferences.  In the case of the Ivy League, at the present time, we believe Harvard and Yale will both finish 12-2, necessitating a playoff game.

Here are the top contenders for each of the one-bid leagues.  We have approximated the seed for the leading contender.


America East Conf Overall Seed
Albany 12-0 18-7 16
Vermont 11-2 16-10  
New Hampshire 9-4 16-10  
Stony Brook 8-4 17-10  
Atlantic Sun Conf Overall Seed
Florida Gulf Coast 9-1 19-7 15
North Florida 8-2 16-11  
USC Upstate 6-4 19-8  
Big Sky Conf Overall Seed
Eastern Washington 10-2 19-6 14
Sacramento St. 10-3 16-8  
Montana 10-3 14-10  
Northern Arizona 8-4 13-12  
Northern Colorado 7-6 12-12  
Big South Conf Overall Seed
High Point 10-4 19-7 16
Radford 10-4 19-8  
Charleston Southern 10-4 16-9  
Coastal Carolina 9-5 18-8  
Winthrop 9-5 14-11  
UNC Asheville 9-5 13-12  
Gardner-Webb 8-6 16-11  
Big West Conf Overall Seed
UC Davis 9-1 19-4 14
UC Irvine 7-3 14-10  
Long Beach St. 7-4 13-14  
UC Santa Barbara 6-4 13-11  
Hawaii 6-5 18-9  
Colonial Conf Overall Seed
William & Mary 10-4 16-9 14
UNC Wilmington 10-4 15-10  
Northeastern 9-5 17-10  
James Madison 9-5 16-11  
Hofstra 8-6 17-10  
Drexel 8-6 10-15  
Conference USA Conf Overall Seed
Louisiana Tech 11-2 20-6 13
UTEP 10-3 18-7  
Western Kentucky 9-3 16-8  
UAB 9-4 13-13  
Old Dominion 7-5 18-6  
UT San Antonio 7-6 13-11  
Horizon Conf Overall Seed
Valparaiso 11-2 24-4 12
Cleveland St. 10-3 16-11  
Green Bay 9-3 20-6  
Oakland 8-4 13-14  
Ivy Conf Overall Seed
Harvard 7-1 17-5 12
Yale 7-1 18-7  
Princeton 4-3 11-12  
Metro Atlantic Conf Overall Seed
Iona 14-2 21-6 13
Rider 12-4 18-9  
Monmouth 10-5 14-12  
Manhattan 10-6 13-12  
Mid-American Conf Overall Seed
Bowling Green 9-3 17-6 13
Central Michigan 8-4 18-5  
Akron 8-4 17-8  
Kent St. 8-4 17-8  
Toledo 8-4 16-9  
Mideastern Conf Overall Seed
UNC Central 11-0 19-6 15
Norfolk St. 9-3 16-11  
Howard 7-4 13-12  
Delaware St. 6-4 12-13  
UM-Eastern Shore 7-5 14-13  
South Carolina St. 7-5 10-17  
Hampton 6-5 10-14  
Northeast Conf Overall Seed
St. Francis (NY) 12-2 18-9 16
Robert Morris 9-5 13-13  
Bryant 9-5 12-13  
St. Francis (PA) 8-6 14-11  
LIU 8-6 12-13  
Mt. St. Mary‘s 8-6 12-13  
Ohio Valley Conf Overall Seed
Murray St. 13-0 23-4 13
UT-Martin 8-4 16-9  
Eastern Kentucky 8-4 16-9  
Belmont 8-5 16-10  
Eastern Illinois 8-5 15-11  
Morehead St. 7-6 12-16  
Patriot Conf Overall Seed
Bucknell 10-4 15-12 16
Colgate 9-5 12-15  
Lehigh 8-6 14-11  
Southern Conf Overall Seed
Wofford 12-2 21-6 12
Chattanooga 11-3 18-9  
Mercer 10-4 15-12  
East Tennessee St. 8-7 15-10  
Western Carolina 8-7 13-14  
Southland Conf Overall Seed
Sam Houston St. 11-1 20-5 14
Stephen F. Austin 10-1 20-4  
Northwestern St. 8-4 13-10  
Texas A&M-CC 8-4 13-11  
Southwestern Conf Overall Seed
Texas Southern 9-2 12-12 16
Prairie View 6-5 8-16  
Summit Conf Overall Seed
South Dakota St. 10-3 19-8 15
North Dakota St. 10-3 18-8  
IPFW 7-5 14-11  
Oral Roberts 7-5 14-12  
South Dakota 7-6 13-14  
Sun Belt Conf Overall Seed
La.-Monroe 12-3 18-8 15
Georgia Southern 11-3 18-5  
Georgia St. 10-4 17-8  
UT-Arlington 8-6 14-10  
La.-Lafayette 8-7 14-12  
Western Athletic Conf Overall Seed
New Mexico St. 9-1 17-10 16
UMKC 6-3 11-15  

Here are the multiple-bid leagues.  We list the top contenders by conference record, but you can see in many cases teams that are lower in the standings may be ranked ahead of teams higher in the standings when it comes to tournament criteria.

American Conf Overall Seed
SMU 12-2 21-5 6
Tulsa 10-2 17-7 12
Temple 10-3 19-7 9
Cincinnati 8-5 17-8 10
Memphis 7-5 15-10  
Connecticut 7-5 14-10  
Atlantic Ten Conf Overall Seed  
Dayton 9-3 19-5 8
VCU 9-3 19-6 6
Rhode Island 9-3 17-6  
Massachusetts 9-3 16-9  
Davidson 8-4 17-6  
George Washington 7-5 17-8  
Atlantic Coast Conf Overall Seed
Virginia 11-1 23-1 1
Notre Dame 10-3 22-4 3
Duke 9-3 22-3 1
Louisville 8-4 20-5 3
North Carolina 8-4 18-7 4
Clemson 7-6 15-10  
Pittsburgh 6-6 17-9  
NC State 6-7 15-11 12
Florida St 6-7 14-12  
Miami (FL) 5-6 15-9  
Big 12 Conf Overall Seed  
Kansas 10-2 21-4 2
Iowa St. 8-4 18-6 3
Oklahoma 8-5 17-8 4
West Virginia 7-5 19-6 7
Oklahoma St. 7-6 17-8 6
Baylor 6-6 18-7 4
Texas 6-6 17-8 8
Big East Conf Overall Seed  
Villanova 10-2 23-2 2
Butler 8-4 18-7 5
Providence 8-5 18-8 6
Georgetown 8-5 16-8 7
Xavier 7-7 16-10 10
St. John’s 6-6 17-8 9
Big Ten Conf Overall Seed  
Wisconsin 11-1 23-2 2
Maryland 9-4 21-5 4
Purdue 9-4 17-9  
Michigan St. 8-4 17-8 8
Ohio St. 8-5 19-7 7
Indiana 8-5 18-8 7
Illinois 7-6 17-9 11
Iowa 6-6 15-10 11
Michigan 6-7 13-12  
Minnesota 5-8 16-10  
Missouri Valley Conf Overall Seed  
Northern Iowa 13-1 24-2 5
Wichita St. 13-1 23-3 5
Mountain West Conf Overall  
San Diego St. 10-3 20-6 8
Wyoming 9-4 20-6  
Boise St. 8-4 18-7  
Colorado St. 8-5 21-5 10
Pac-12 Conf Overall Seed  
Arizona 10-2 22-3 2
Utah 10-2 20-4 3
Oregon 8-5 18-8  
UCLA 8-5 16-10 11
Stanford 7-6 16-9 11
Oregon St. 7-6 16-9  
Southeastern Conf Overall Seed  
Kentucky 12-0 25-0 1
Arkansas 9-3 20-5 5
Texas A&M 8-4 17-7 11
Ole Miss 8-4 17-8 9
LSU 7-5 18-7 10
Georgia 7-5 16-8 9
Tennessee 6-6 14-10  
West Coast Conf Overall Seed  
Gonzaga 14-0 26-1 1
St. Mary’s 11-3 19-6  
BYU 10-5 20-8  

Here is how the experts seed the top four by regions.

1 Virginia
2 Kansas
3 Iowa St.
4 Maryland
1 Kentucky
2 Arizona
3 Notre Dame
4 Baylor
1 Duke
2 Villanova
3 Louisville
4 Oklahoma
1 Gonzaga
2 Wisconsin
3 Utah
4 North Carolina

The last 10 in the field are all in danger of falling out of the field of 68 with one bad week.  Michigan was in the field two weeks ago, but the Wolverines have lost four games in a row to fall off the bubble altogether.

# Last 10 In
68 Tulsa
67 N. C. St.
66 Stanford
65 Texas A&M
63 Illinois
62 Iowa
61 LSU
60 Colorado State
59 Cincinnati

These are the remaining teams in order trying to move up into the field, but for now would be in the NIT if the season ended today.

# NIT Bound?
69 Purdue
70 Miami (FL.)
71 Oregon
72 U Mass
73 Old Dominion
74 BYU
75 Boise St.
76 Pittsburgh
77 Florida
78 Clemson
79 Minnesota
80 Arizona St.
81 TCU
82 Seton Hall
83 George Washington
84 Wyoming
85 Davidson
86 Rhode Island

August 23, 2011

2011 Big East Conference Preview

2011 Big East Conference Preview

To some football analysts (so-called experts), the Big East Conference does not deserve and automatic bid to a BCS Bowl game.  Not since Louisville in 2006 has a team from this league won a BCS Bowl and finished in the top 5 in the same season.  It has been four seasons since the league champion won a bowl game (West Virginia over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl when they had Pat White, Steve Slaton, and Noel Devine).  Cincinnati ran the table in 2009, but they showed they were not up to top tier standards when Florida blew them out 51-24 in the Sugar Bowl.


2011 does not look like the season where a Big East team challenges for a national title.  Things should change in 2012 when TCU joins the circuit.  For now, this season should be an excellent one for competition in the middle of the standings.  Last year, three teams finished tied for first at 5-2, and a fourth finished 4-3.  While we believe that one team may win the title going away this year, it isn’t impossible that another logjam at the top of the standings could be in the offing again this season.



Todd Graham takes over as head coach after winning at both Rice and Tulsa.  In Graham’s five years as a head coach, his teams have averaged more than 37 points per game, 287 passing yards per game, and 475 total yards per game.  In the last five years, Pitt has averaged less than 28 points per game, 208 passing yards per game, and 358 total yards per game.  To say that Panther fans are hyped is an understatement.


Graham’s first year at Heinz Field may not be as “offensive” as the fans expect, but there is enough talent to grab a piece of the Big East crown, especially since Pitt’s defense is going to be as good or better as last year’s stellar stop unit.


The offense will change from a multiple pro look to more of a spread look similar to that run by Auburn.  Piloting the new no-huddle, hurry-up attack is Tino Sunseri.  Sunseri completed 64.5% of his passes for 2,572 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, but those numbers will look like beginner’s numbers compared to what he should do this season.  He worked hard over the summer and now has better arm strength to go with a little more muscular frame.  Expect big things from Sunseri—maybe 3,500 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, as well as the possibility of national recognition.


The Panthers have to replace their leading receiver from last year, but this area is not much of a concern this year.  Mike Shanahan finished second with 49 receptions and 589 yards, while sophomore Devin Street proved to be a breakaway threat while grabbing 25 passes.  He started four times and played some at H-Back and some at wideout.  Hubie Graham will be the H-Back this year now that he is eligible after transferring from Illinois.


The running game will not suffer in the new offense.  Graham’s Tulsa teams averaged more than 200 yards rushing per game in his four years there.  Even with the loss of Dion Lewis, Pitt is in good shape here with the return of Ray Graham, who gained 922 yards while averaging better than six yards per try.  The one big question mark on this side of the ball is the depth at this position.


The Panthers are in good shape in the offensive trenches with seven quality players capable of starting.  Chris Jacobson is solid at one guard spot with Jordan Gibbs flanked outside him at tackle.  Ryan Turnley will move into the starting spot at center, while Lucas Nix will line up at either right guard or right tackle.  Depending on where Nix goes, either guard Corey King or tackle Greg Gaskin will fill out the line.


This offense might have a slight adjustment period getting used to the new offense, but once it gels, Pitt fans will get exactly what they were hoping for.  Pitt has averaged 35 points per game exactly one time in its entire history—1977.  We think this team is capable of achieving that mark in year one of the Graham regime.


We are even more optimistic on the stop side of the ball.  Not only is Pitt talented, all three units have quality depth.  This is hands down the best defense in the league, and the only reason Pitt may give up a few more yards and points per game this year is because the new offense will cause an extra 10 plays per game on average, about five more for the defense to be on the field.


The Panthers run a hybrid 3-4 defense that looks a lot like the old Oklahoma 5-2 defense of the 1970’s.  Pitt’s second team defensive line may be the second best D-line in the conference.  The first team line is composed of ends Aaron Donald and Chas Alecxih and nose tackle Myles Caragein.  Alecxih produced nine tackles for loss including 7 ½ sacks.  Donald played sparingly as a true freshman and proved to be a very capable pass rusher.  Caragein plugged the middle, allowing the inside linebackers to roam freely.


The four-man linebacker crew is without a doubt the best in the league.  Panther linebacker (a glorified term for a walkaway end) Brandon Lindsey could emerge as a Butkus and Bednarik Award contender.  Last year, he recorded 10 sacks and 17 ½ stops behind the line, the latter leading the Big East.  Inside linebacker Max Gruder finished second on the squad with 84 tackles.  His sidekick at the other inside linebacker position is Tristan Roberts, but he is being pushed hard by Shane Gordon.  Look for the two to split time here.  Spur linebackers (a combo linebacker and safety) Todd Thomas and Greg Williams will platoon the position.


More riches abound at the cornerback position.  Graham considers three players as regulars, even though just two can start.  Antwuan Reed, K’Waun Williams, and Buddy Jackson should force quarterbacks to look away from the sidelines or throw short.  Safety Jarred Holley led Pitt with five interceptions last year, and he will be joined by bandit safety (a hybrid safety/cornerback) Jason Hendricks.


Pitt gave up 19 points and 305 yards per game last year.  We believe those numbers will suffer slightly in the new up-tempo style, but don’t fret Panther fans; your team still has the top defense in the Big East.


If the offense can gel and play up to its potential in September, Pitt could actually contend for national honors.  We think the Panthers are a strong favorite to win the Big East with a decent shot at running the table in conference play.  Can the Panthers go 12-0?  It is a slight possibility.  There are four possible roadblocks.  A road game at Iowa could be tough on September 17.  The Hawkeyes are rebuilding, but they are always tough at Kinnick Stadium.  A week later, Notre Dame comes to Steeltown.  It should be the game of the week.  On October 15, Pitt entertains Utah, which is always dangerous.  Then, of course, there is the backyard brawl, and this year, Pitt travels to Morgantown to face West Virginia.  The Mountaineers could be in line to win the Big East with a win in this game, so it should be a great renewal of the rivalry with two teams capable of scoring a lot of points.



We must admit that we were a bit surprised when our computer ratings spat out the Bearcats as the second best Big East team at the start of the 2011 season.  Coming off a 4-8 season under first year coach Butch Jones, the Bearcats will be much stronger on defense, but a rebuilding offensive line will make it hard to duplicate the offensive effectiveness of recent years.


The Bearcats are well-equipped at the offensive skill positions.  Quarterback Zach Collaros is one of four or five highly accomplished passers in the league.  Collaros passed for 2,902 yards and 26 touchdowns last year while finishing second on the team in rushing.


Isaiah Pead returns to his running back spot after gaining 1,029 yards at a 6.6 yards per attempt rate.  He did not start every game, so he could push that number over 1,200 yards this season.  True freshman Jameel Poteat could see extensive action in a backup role.


Bearcat receivers finished one-two in receptions in the Big East last year, and number two is back for an encore.  D. J. Woods was good for 57 catches and 898 yards with eight touchdowns.  Junior college transfer Kenbrell Thompkins should inherit the spot vacated by Armon Binns.


It is the blocking corps that worries us and makes us wonder if our computer didn’t byte on a bad bit when it calculated Cinti’s rating.  Only two starters return to the line.  One of those is tackle Alex Hoffman, a 2nd Team All-Big East selection last year.


UC averaged 27 points and 417 yards per game last year.  We expect those numbers to drop a little bit this year.  Look for 24-25 points and 375 yards.


After Pittsburgh, the Bearcats may have the best defense this season (West Virginia may have something to say about that).  The top 11 tacklers and 17 of the top 18 from 2010 are back.  15 players that started at some point will contend for the 11 starting positions.


The four-man defensive line will be strong.  Tackles Derek Wolfe and John Hughes will be tough to run on, while end Brandon Mills will contend for the conference lead in sacks and tackles for loss.


J. K. Schaffer and Maalik Bomar led the team with 111 and 70 tackles respectively.  The two linebackers combined for 17 ½ tackles for loss.


In the backfield, UC is stocked with depth albeit not quite up to par with the secondary at Pitt.  The Bearcats did not stop many passes last year, and if they are to live up to this rating, they must improve on their 2010 showing.  The entire two-deep returns and adds juco star Maclcolm Murray, who could crack the starting lineup by the season opener.  True freshman Trenier Orr is working his way up the depth chart.


The Bearcats gave up 28 points and 370 yards per game last year.  It should be easy besting those numbers this year with all the experience and depth.  If UC can shave a touchdown and 50 yards off those numbers, they might be able to live up to our lofty expectations.


Cinti’s non-conference schedule features two very winnable games, one possible trap game, and two games against teams that should be favored to beat the Bearcats.  All five of these games precede the Big East schedule.  If UC is 4-1 headed into the off week of October 8, the rest of the league better beware.  The Bearcats host West Virginia, but they must face Pittsburgh and South Florida on the road.  A 5-2 league mark is possible.


West Virginia

Welcome back to our prime time soap opera.  In today’s episode, Bill tries to go behind Dana’s back to spread nasty rumors and get him fired, but he gets caught and Bill loses his job.


Yes, that soap opera was no fantasy story.  Former coach Bill Stewart really did try to get his future replacement, Dana Holgorsen, fired by feeding a media source information to try to slander his offensive coordinator.  Instead, it was Stewart that was sent packing.  Holgorsen now ascends to head coach a year earlier than expected.


Holgorsen authored the offensive revival at Oklahoma State, after tutoring Case Keenum as OC at Houston and serving on Mike Leach’s Texas Tech staff.  The explosive spread offense used by the Mountaineers during the Rich Rodriguez era will return in spades this year.  However, WVU’s defense will take a major step backward.


Geno Smith may not be the running threat that Pat White was, but he has a better arm.  Smith tossed for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes in 2010.  Those numbers led the league in passing efficiency.  WV averaged about 32 passes per game last year; that number could top 40 this year.  Smith could easily top 3,500 yards passing.


Smith has three excellent options to fire his passes to this year.  Tavon Austin, Brad Starks, and Stedman Bailey teamed for 101 receptions 1,421 yards, and 16 touchdowns last year.  Starks could lose his starting spot to Ryan Nehlen, and we could see this trio topping 150 receptions, 2,000 yards, and 20 touchdowns this year.


Noel Devine is no longer around in the Mountaineer backfield after it seemed like he was there for a decade.  His replacement will be a three-headed monster known as Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, and Vernard Roberts.  All three are true freshmen, so there will be a decline at this position.


The offensive line had to do some shuffling following the Spring Game injury of 2nd Team All-Big East guard Josh Jenkins.  The best center in the league returns in Joe Madsen.  Don Barclay returns at left tackle after earning 1st Team All-Big East accolades in 2010.


The Mountaineers’ offense ground to a near halt at times last year.  In a period of four weeks, WVU scored just 14, 13, and 17 points against three conference opponents.  Expect a dramatic increase in offensive production this year.  The Mountaineers could top 30 points and 425 yards per game in year one of the Holgorsen era.


Now, to the defense:  West Virginia’s stop troops were almost as tough as TCU’s last year.  The Mountaineers gave up just 13.5 points, 86 rushing yards, and 261 total yards last year.  This year’s defense is missing five all-conference players and seven starters overall.  Factoring into the equation the real possibility that the new offense will not produce long, time-consuming drives (WVU ran 105 more scrimmage plays than their opponents) and cause this team to defend as much as a dozen more scrimmage plays this year, WVU will not come close to matching their 2010 numbers.


One starter returns to the front line of the 3-3-5 defense, but the designated pass rusher from last year gives WVU the equivalent of two starting ends returning.  Julian Miller earned a spot on the 2nd Team All-Big East list after coming up with 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks.  Bruce Irvin led the league with 14 sacks and also made the 2nd Team All-Big East list.


The biggest rebuilding will take place in the second line of defense, as middle linebacker Najee Goode is the only holdover.  Goode contributed 8 ½ tackles for loss.


The back line is the strength of this side of the ball.  Safety Terence Garvin led the team with 76 tackles.  Cornerback Keith Tandy finished tied for first in the league with 17 passes defended.  Six of those were interceptions, and it earned him a 1st Team All-Big East Selection.


How much the defense regresses will determine how far WVU falls in the standings.  They tied for first last year.  We could see them challenging for first again this year, but we believe they will probably come in two games back and in third.  The Mountaineers will pick up three or four non-conference wins (LSU and Maryland on the schedule), so Holgorsen will guide his forces back to a bowl game.



2010 was the cherry on top season for the Huskies, as Randy Edsall guided UConn to the conference title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.  Edsall left for Maryland, and the new man is former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni.  Pasqualoni won 107 games in 14 years at Syracuse, including four Big East Championships.  The ‘Cuse went to bowl games nine times in the 14 seasons.


The cupboard is not bare in Huskietown, but there is quite a bit of rebuilding to do, especially on offense where five starters have departed and one unit has been decimated with the loss of four key parts.


That one unit comes on the offensive side of the ball, where UConn already faced some major losses.  Starting Wide receiver Michael Smith led the Huskies last year with 46 receptions and 615 yards.  He was declared academically ineligible.  Three more receivers expected to figure in the mix all quit.  Gone are Malik Generett, Gerrard Sheppard, and Leon Kinnard.  That leaves just six receivers on the roster, and two of those six are nursing minor injuries.  Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore are capable second and third options, but now they will have to become the feature receivers.


Just who will throw the passes is still a mystery.  As late as mid-August, Pasqualoni had not settled on a starting quarterback.  True freshman Michael Nebrich appears to have a slight edge over redshirt freshman Scott McCummings, but sophomore Michael Box and junior Johnny McEntee are also in the mix.  Nebrich will probably be under center when Connecticut hosts Fordham on September 1.  Last year’s co-quarterbacks did not produce bang-up numbers, so the eventual starter will not be that far behind what they had and could even be a little better.


The news is not as good at the running back position.  Jordan Todman has used of his eligibility after rushing for a conference-leading 1,695 yards with 14 touchdowns.  Number two rusher Robbie Frey is also missing.  Former Southern Cal fullback D. J. Shoemate takes over as the starter after rushing for 115 yards in limited action last year.  Shoemate had a problem holding onto the ball and was relegated to the bench.


The brightest spot of the offense is a talented and experienced offensive line.  Center Moe Petrus has been a 1st Team All-Big East pick in the past.  Tackle Mike Ryan made the 1st Team all-conference squad last year.


Connecticut will make a lot more mistakes on this side of the ball this season.  The Huskies limited mistakes last year, finishing the season +12 in turnover margin.  Don’t expect a repeat, even with a defense that could be just as good or even better than last year.  Look for about 20-24 points and 275-300 total yards out of this offense.


If the Huskies can plug some holes at linebacker, the defense could be a major plus in 2011.  UConn gave up 22 points and 367 yards per game last year, but it was a hit or miss season.  Against the weaker teams, the defense shut them down.  Against the stronger teams, the defense faltered.  Oklahoma, Michigan, Rutgers, and West Virginia combined to gain 1,864 yards (466/g), while the other nine opponents totaled 2,904 yards (323/g).


In the trenches, tackles Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin return as starters.  They combined for 15 stops for loss.  Reyes was able to intercept two passes and knock away four others.  End Jesse Joseph returns after leading the team with 8 ½ sacks and 12 tackles for loss.


The secondary returns intact with cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz looking to top their production of 2010 when they teamed for 20 passes defended.  Safeties Jerome Junior and Harris Agbor round out the secondary.


Only one experienced player returns at linebacker, and a freshman could actually become one of the new starters.  Sio Moore is the lone holdover from last year.  He was selected to the All-Big East 2nd Team after he recorded 110 tackles with 11 ½ stops for loss.


It is hard to predict what we believe the defense will allow this season.  It all hinges on what the offense does.  If Shoemate can hang onto the ball and produce a year similar to what Todman produced, Connecticut could control the clock, and the defense could be okay.  If the offense never gets untracked and cannot keep the defense off the field, the defense could take a step backward even with all the returning players.  We believe in finding a happy medium and will call for numbers just a little weaker than last season.


UConn benefitted from having a lot of scoring punch in their special teams last year.  Kicker Dave Teggart connected on all 36 of his point after attempts as well as 25 of 31 field goal attempts.  He was two for two beyond 50 yards.  Kick Returner Nick Williams averaged an eye-popping 35+ yards per return with two touchdowns.  Both specialists return and could be a major factor once again.


The schedule will save the Huskies this year.  The non-conference slate includes games with Fordham, Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Buffalo, and Western Michigan.  The Huskies will do no worse than 4-1 in these games.  With Syracuse, Rutgers, and Louisville visiting Rentschler Field, UConn will win the two conference games they need to return to a bowl game.  It will not be a BCS Bowl this year.


South Florida

The Bulls finished 3-4 in league play last year, 3-4 in 2009, and 2-5 in 2008.  They have finished with winning records the past three years thanks to a non-conference record of 16-2.  Second year coach Skip Holtz lost half of his 2010 starters, but his main returnee is causing him sleepless nights.


Quarterback B. J. Daniels is nursing an injured hamstring.  The third year starter does not have much depth backing him up.  Without him, USF is not going to move the ball through the air and will be less predictable on the ground.  Daniels did not have a stellar sophomore year after having a breakout year as a redshirt freshman.  If he cannot go at the start of the season, backup Bobby Eveld will get the nod.  Eveld completed 56% of his 75 passes, but behind him are a couple of true freshmen who are not ready to play at the BCS level.


Holtz’s top receiver from last year has used up his eligibility.  Dontavia Bogan led the team with 47 receptions, 19 more than the next guy.  That guy was Evan Landi, who returns after averaging close to 14 yards on his 28 receptions.  Former starter Sterling Griffin missed all of last year, and he should give Daniels or Eveld a decent second option.  Griffin caught 14 passes in 2009.


The backfield shows promise even if it does not return its starter from last year.  Demetrius Murray returns after rushing for 542 yards and four scores, but he could be supplanted by former Colorado Buffalo top recruit Darrell Scott.  Scott is eligible after sitting out last year.


The offensive line has to replace three starters.  The two returning starters are guards Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren. 


USF averaged 24 points and just over 300 yards per game last year.  It was considered a major underachievement.  Even with the loss of personnel and the injury to Daniels, we have to believe that the Bulls will be able to better those stats.  Look for 25-28 points and 325-350 total yards in 2011.


The defense has some holes to fill as well.  Gone are last year’s top tackler and tackler for lost yardage, co-top sack producer, and top passes defender.  Six starters return, and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder should find enough talent to mold a decent stop unit.


The biggest rebuilding job is in the trenches where three of four defensive linemen must be replaced.  Nose tackle Cory Grissom is the lone returnee.  At about 320 pounds, he can control two gaps on the line, but he will not make many tackles.  The true star of this unit is likely to be end Ryne Giddins.  In limited action as a redshirt freshman last year, he made six tackles for loss with 3 ½ sacks.


Linebackers Sam Barrington and DeDe Lattimore return after combining for 134 stops.  At the Sam Linebacker position, Reshard Cliett and Curtis Weatherspoon are likely to share reps this year.


The secondary is in good hands with the return of three starters, but none of the trio can be considered a game-changer.  Cornerback Quenton Washington recorded 59 tackles last year, but he only intercepted one pass.  Free safety Jerrell Young intercepted three passes to lead the team in 2010.


The Bulls don’t open the season with a cupcake like other teams.  They face Notre Dame in South Bend.  Other non-league tilts include three cupcakes—Ball State, Florida A&M, and UTEP.  The Bulls host Miami in November, and who knows how the Hurricanes will be playing by this point of the season.  They could even be facing the “death penalty” and players could be jumping off ship by this time.  Even if USF finishes below .500 in the league this year, they can return to bowl eligibility once again.



Coach Doug Marrone pulled off the biggest surprise of the league last year.  His Orangemen beat South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Rutgers to finish with SU’s first winning Big East record since 2004.  The Orangemen played in their first bowl since that season and defeated Kansas State in the most exciting bowl game of the season—the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.


SU won with their defense in 2010, but that defense was decimated by graduation losses.  Only five starters return, and one of those will miss the first game and maybe more.  All is not gloom and doom, because they get back two key players that missed most of last year.


It is the secondary where all this good and bad news resides.  Free safety Phillip Thomas suffered a broken jaw and will miss at least the season opener.  Thomas is the leading returning tackler with 92.  Shamarko Thomas returns to the strong safety position.  He finished fourth with 67 tackles last year.  The two players returning from injuries should be the starting cornerbacks.  Kevyn Scott has 17 starts under his belt, while Ri’Shard Anderson saw action in seven games two years ago as a freshman.


Two new starters will open up at linebacker, one of whom could be a true freshman.  Marquis Spruill is the lone returning starter; he registered nine tackles for loss in 2010.


Up front, two defensive linemen return.  End Mikhail Marinovich recorded just three sacks and needs to improve on that number.  His counterpart, Chandler Jones, is the star of the stop side.  Jones earned 2nd team all-conference honors after recording four sacks, 9 ½ total tackles for loss, and five additional QB hurries.  He also knocked away four passes.


After giving up just 19 points and 300 yards last year, look for those numbers to head south in 2011.  We foresee the ‘Cuse giving up 23-28 points and about 340 yards per game.


The offense really did not improve much upon 2009’s production, increasing scoring by just a point per game while actually gaining fewer yards.  This year, The Orangemen should produce the most points and yards in at least seven years. 


There is one big distraction as this team enters fall drills.  Speedy receiver Marcus Sales is suspended indefinitely following a drug arrest.  His trial does not begin until February of 2012, so he could play the 2011 season.  Whether or not Marrone allows him to participate is another question.  Sales had 26 receptions with a 16 yard average per catch.  Syracuse still has some quality receivers on hand.  Van Chew led the team with 41 receptions.  Alec Lemon caught 32 passes.  Both players should add to their totals this season.  Tight end Nick Provo is a proven option in the middle, and he should see more passes come his way this year after grabbing 33 receptions.


Quarterback Ryan Nassib returns for his junior season, his second as a starter.  Nassib passed for 2,300+ yards with 19 touchdowns.  Nassib will throw more passes this season, and he should top 2,500 yards.


The running game will miss star back Delone Carter, who departs after rushing for more than 1,200 yards last year.  Antwon Bailey rushed for 554 yards and a couple of scores with a 4.9 yard per carry average.  He is strictly a speed back, so when SU needs to pound the ball and convert short yardage situations, expect true freshman Adonis Ameen-Moore to see a lot of action.


Four starters return to the offensive line, led by tackle Justin Pugh.  Pugh earned 2nd Team All-Big East accolades last year.  Guard Andrew Tiller could be on the cusp of making an all-conference team.


Syracuse is known for having great place kickers.  Ross Krautman is the current top kicker in the Big East.  He nailed 18 of 19 field goal attempts last year, including 6 of 7 from beyond 40 yards.


We see the ‘Cuse averaging about 24-27 points and 325-350 yards per game this year.  They will fall in the conference standings, but there is still a chance the Orangemen can become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.  Four of five non-conference games are winnable, with Wake Forest, Rhode Island, and Toledo visiting the Carrier Dome.  A visit to Tulane is winnable as well, while the trip to Southern Cal should be a losing proposition.  The Orangemen should only need two conference wins to get to six.  Rutgers, USF, and Cincinnati visit the Carrier Dome.  SU could win two of those games.



After five consecutive winning seasons and four consecutive bowl wins, the Scarlet Knights took a step backward last year, finishing with just four wins.  RU coach Greg Schiano made some changes, gutting the Spread Formation and bringing in former Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti.  The Knights will switch back to a pro-style offense this year.


Rutgers’ biggest problem on offense last year was pass protection.  The offensive line gave up an unbelievable 61 sacks!  That is no typo.  Louisville dumped RU QBs nine times.  Army’s double eagle flex did the trick eight times.  The number was seven for both Pitt and Cincinnati.


Cignetti was a quarterback coach with the Saints and 49ers, and he will spend extra time tutoring RU quarterback Chas Dodd.  The sophomore started the final eight games and passed for 1,637 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Should Dodd need to be replaced, two freshmen could be in line as the next two options. 


If Dodd can get adequate pass protection, he will have a stable of quality receivers to choose from.  Mark Harrison, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Coleman, Quron Pratt, and Tim Wright and tight end D. C. Jefferson make the receiving corps as strong as any in the league.  Harrison showed breakaway ability last year when he caught 44 passes for 829 yards and nine touchdowns.  Sanu was more of a possession receiver, and he also caught 44 passses.


On paper, the running game appeared to be weak, but it was not so.  Factoring out sacks, the backs averaged 4.2 yards per rush.  Fullback Joe Martinek could be an important key this season.  In the new offense, he will block for a quartet of excellent backs.  Jeremy Deering may miss the start of the season with a head injury, after he averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year.  However, a true freshman may be the featured back this year.  Savon Huggins rushed for 1,891 yards and 35 touchdowns as a high school senior.  Jawan Jamison and De’Antwan Williams will see action.


The offensive line has nowhere to go but up, and with four starters returning, it will be improved.  Guard Desmond Wynn is the best of the bunch; his counterpart could be former prized recruit Antwan Lowery over returning starter Art Forst.  Desmond Stapleton and Andre Civil will man the tackle positions, while David Osei will be the new center.


Rutgers’ offense should make strides toward becoming powerful this year, but there will be some adjusting with the new offense.  Look for about 25-30 points and 375-400 yards per game.


Rutgers will need to outscore opponents to win, because their defense is going to resemble Swiss cheese at times.  The Scarlet Knights gave up 27 points and 375 yards per game last year, and with six key players gone, that number could weaken in 2011.


The strongest unit on defense will be at linebacker.  Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene return after teaming for 156 tackles with 8 ½ for losses. 


Up front, Rutgers uses a 4-man line, but one of the ends is more of a linebacker than a true end.  Marvin Booker and Ka’Lial Glaud will probably alternate at that hybrid position.  At the other end position, Manny Abreu has a leg up on Marcus Thompson and Micheal Larrow, but as of this writing, Larrow is the only healthy player of the three. 


The secondary is deep with average talent.  Cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones will be challenged by Mason Robinson and Marcus Cooper.  Safeties Duron Harmon and David Rowe make this unit deep albeit not outstanding.


With an offense that might hold onto the ball a little longer, RU could improve a little bit on the defensive side.  Still, this defense is anything but dominating, and the Scarlet Knights will have weeks where opponents torch them for 30-40 points.


The schedule is manageable, and RU could actually eke out enough wins to become bowl eligible.  Non-conference tilts with North Carolina Central, Ohio U, Navy, Army, and North Carolina are all winnable, but four of those opponents are dangerous. 



Charlie Strong’s first year at UL was a success; he guided the Cardinals to a 7-6 record and bowl win.  If he repeats that effort in 2011, he should receive votes for National Coach of the Year!


UL has endured major losses on both sides of the ball, and it looks to us as though the Cards are headed back to the basement this year.


Just three starters return to an offense that was credible but not spectacular a year ago.  The Cards’ two-man quarterback tandem both moved on, and the new quarterback figures to be Will Stein.  Stein threw a grand total of 14 passes last year, completing nine for just 72 yards.  True freshman Teddy Bridgewater is the QB of the future.


Stein has some talent at the receiver position.  Josh Bellamy is an All-American trash-talker, but he may be able to back it up.  He snatched 29 passes and scored five touchdowns last year.  Andrell Smith and Michaelee Harris will be aided by promising true freshman Eli Rogers.


The big loss on offense is at running back, where Bilal Powell leaves after rushing for more than 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Victor Anderson replaces Powell; he rushed for 286 yards last year.


The offensive line has just one returning starter, and he is center Mario Benavides.  No other offensive lineman on the roster has ever started a game, so the Cards could have some troubles moving the ball this season.


After averaging 26 points and 370 yards a game last year, the drop could be as far as 17 to 20 points and 300-325 yards this season.


While seven starters return on the defensive side, the Cards took a major hit on this side of the ball with the departure of six of the top 10 tacklers.  The biggest concern is in the trenches, even though three starters return.  Ends B. J. Butler and Greg Scruggs combined for just 37 tackles, and Butler missed Spring Practice with an injury.  The Cards will miss designated pass rusher Rodney Gnat and his team-leading nine sacks.


Linebackers Daniel Brown and Dexter Heyman combined for 14 ½ tackles for loss, but neither will challenge for 1st Team All-Big East honors.


Safeties Hakeem Smith and Shenard Holton led the Cards with 88 and 74 tackles respectively.  They combined for just one interception.  Cornerback appears to be a major liability.  Johnny Patrick was high NFL draft choice after leading the conference with 17 passes defended.  Expected starter Darius Ashley was picked up twice on DUIs and is indefinitely suspended. 


Louisville will have a difficult time avoiding the Big East cellar.  However, there is still a small chance the Cards could become bowl eligible.  The non-conference slate gives them a small chance to win five games and a decent chance to win four.  UL plays Murray State, Florida International, Kentucky, Marshall, and North Carolina.  If they can win at least four of those five, they could go 2-5 in the league and repeat at 6-6 in the regular season.


2011 Big East Conference Media Poll


1st Place Votes


West Virginia






South Florida




















2011 Big East Conference PiRate Ratings


PiRate #








West Virginia






S. Florida













March 19, 2011

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament PiRate Criteria Ratings

All Times EDT

Number in (Parentheses) indicates PiRate Criteria Rating

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


12:15 PM on CBS

Kentucky (14) vs. West Virginia (6)

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


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


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


Prediction: Kentucky 74  West Virginia 67


2:40 PM on CBS

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

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


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


Prediction: Florida 75  U C L A 62


5:15 PM on CBS

Morehead State (3) vs. Richmond (2)

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Morehead State 64  Richmond 62


6:10 PM on TNT

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

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


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


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


Prediction: San Diego State 72  Temple 62


7:10 PM on TBS

Pittsburgh (18) vs. Butler (7)

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


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


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


Prediction: Pittsburgh 71  Butler 59


7:45 PM on CBS

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

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Gonzaga 84  B Y U 75


8:40 PM on TNT

Kansas State (9) vs. Wisconsin (7)

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


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


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


Prediction: Kansas State 59  Wisconsin 55


9:40 PM on TBS

Connecticut (9) vs. Cincinnati (9)

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


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


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


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


Prediction: Connecticut 69  Cincinnati 59

March 14, 2011

2011 PiRate NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

Filed under: College Basketball — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:01 pm

1. Which teams meet the upper range criteria in every category?  That means they outscored their opponents by eight or more per game; their field goal percentage was greater than 7.5% better than their opponents; they outrebounded their opponents by five or more per game; they forced at least three more turnovers per game than they committed; and they stole the ball 7.5 or more times per game.


ANSWER—No teams this year meet all the perfect criteria described above.  Six teams come close to meeting the perfect criteria, but all fall short in at least one statistic.  This means there is no clear-cut favorite—only six teams that most closely resemble the great champions of the past.  Of the six, three come from power conferences.  These three are Kansas, Ohio State, and Syracuse.


Kansas fails to meet the turnover margin requirement, but the Jayhawks surpass all the other qualifications.  Ohio State comes up a tad bit short in field goal percentage margin, rebounding margin, and steals per game, but just misses in all three.  Syracuse misses in rebounding and turnover margin, but they Orangemen do not miss by much. 


2. Which teams can be immediately eliminated due to a negative R+T rating?  Which teams have an incredibly low R+T Rating (<2.0)?


ANSWER—Three teams can immediately be eliminated due to negative R+T Ratings.  It comes as no surprise that Alabama State and Texas-San Antonio, two teams facing off in the First Round in Dayton, have negative R+T ratings.  The third team is Michigan.  The Wolverines were outrebounded by 1.9 boards per game, and they only had a +1.4 turnover margin with just 4.7 steals per game.


Five other teams finished with R+T ratings less than 2.0.  This usually means one and done for these teams, unless they have outstanding FG% margins or cupcake opponents with worse criteria numbers.  Those five teams are: Penn State, Richmond, St. Peter’s, UCLA, and UCSB.


3. Which teams are capable of winning it all?


ANSWER—We separate the contenders from the pretenders by looking at the total PiRate Criteria score and then looking to see if the high criteria scoring teams receive merit on every individual statistic.


Last year, Duke was head and heels better than the other 64 teams.  The Blue Devils had the highest score overall, and they satisfactorily rated in every PiRate category.


No teams appear to be as strong this year as the Blue Devils were last year, but nine teams meet most of the minimum requirements to be considered Final Four contenders this year.


It should come as no surprise that the top two teams, Ohio State and Kansas, rank at the top in the Criteria.  Kansas actually has the highest score of the 68 teams, a score of 23.  The Jayhawks outscored their opposition by 17.2 points, shot 11.7% better from the field than their opponents, and outrebounded their opponents by 7.8 boards per game.  These stats are worthy of a powerhouse.  However, KU enjoyed just a 0.9 turnover margin and stole the ball 7.9 times per game, giving the Jayhawks an R+T Rating of 9.5.  We tend to look for teams with an R+T Rating in excess of 10, so KU is not a great favorite to go all the way. 


Ohio State’s total Criteria score is 21, good for second best.  However, the Buckeyes enjoy an R+T Rating of 13.2, which is a number we really like in a Final Four contender.  This number correlates to 13 extra scoring opportunities that their opposition does not receive.  OSU outscores their opponents by 17.3 points per game, shot 6.9% better from the field than they allows, outrebounded their opponents by 4.9 per game, had a turnover margin of +4.8, and stole the ball 7.2 times per game. 


San Diego State comes in third with 19 total criteria points.  BYU, Pittsburgh, and Texas come in next with 18 points; the Panthers have an R+T rating above 10.  The other three teams with PiRate Criteria scores showing themselves to be strong contenders for a Final Four berth are Syracuse, Purdue, and Duke


Florida, North Carolina, and UNLV are actually almost in a statistical tie with Duke, meaning those three are dark horse candidates for the Final Four.


Overall, this is the weakest field by far in the six tournaments where we have ranked the teams according to our criteria.  Looking back, this could be the weakest field since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. 


North Carolina State, Kansas, and Villanova won national titles in the past with less than stellar numbers.  We do not have all the statistics from those years, so we cannot really calculate criteria numbers for those three champions.  Could this be a season in which one team gets hot for six games and comes from out of the pack to win it all?  It could happen, but we are sticking with this mechanical system and going with its results.  Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Texas appear to be the best PiRate Criteria matches to past Final Four teams, and they are the quartet we officially pick to make it to Houston.  Syracuse becomes the wildcard team that could sneak into the mix.


Here is a look at the First Four Round One games and the 32 second round games.  The number in (parentheses) represents the PiRate Bracketnomics criteria number.


First Four Round


#16 Texas-San Antonio 19-13 (Elim) vs. #16 Alabama State 17-17 (Elim)

At first, we thought this was highly ironic, but upon further review, we consider it sort of a compliment.  These two teams both must be eliminated based on negative R+T ratings.  Of course, one of them must win this game so that they can advance to a 25-point or more loss in the next round.


Most of you filling out your brackets do not have to worry about these games in Dayton.  You get to turn in your choices after these games have been played.


UTSA has better criteria numbers after you factor out both teams’ R+T numbers. 


Prediction: Texas-San Antonio 64  Alabama State 55



#12 U A B 22-8 (2) vs. #12 Clemson 21-11 (1)

If you have been following the “experts” since the pairings were announced Sunday evening, then you know that these two teams do not belong in the tournament in their opinion.  It is not our mission statement to declare which teams should and should not have been included in the Big Dance, but we will tell you that Harvard and Saint Mary’s enjoyed Criteria scores several points better than these two teams, while Colorado and Virginia Tech had equal numbers to these two.


This game should be as close as the criteria scores show.  UAB has a one-point advantage in the criteria, but the Blazers just do not excel in any stage of the game.  Clemson’s strong point is forcing turnovers by way of steals, and that leads to a lot of cheap baskets.  Cheap baskets pay off big time in the NCAA Tournament, so we will take the Tigers in this one.


Prediction: Clemson 74  UAB 67


#11 Southern Cal 19-14 (-1) vs. #11 Virginia Commonwealth 23-11 (-1)

The winner of this game is going home two days later.  Neither team merits inclusion in the Big Dance this year. 


Southern Cal has no apparent weakness according to the PiRate Criteria.  In fact, they have a great resume—for an NIT team.


The Trojans outscore their opponents by four points per game, and they outshoot them by 3.3%.  They have a small rebounding margin of 1.2, and they have an even smaller turnover margin of 0.6.  They average six steals per game and have a R+T rating of 2.1.  On top of these modest numbers, their schedule was average.


VCU is much in the same boat as USC with two exceptions.  They have a negative turnover margin, but they also average 8.5 steals per game.


The only other difference in these teams is their records away from home.  USC won only 41% of their games, while VCU won 60%.


This one is quite tough to pick, but we will go with the Trojans due to their superior inside talent.  We expect USC to win the rebounding edge by at least five.


Prediction: Southern Cal  65  V C U  60


#16 UNC-Asheville 19-13 (-5) vs. #16 Arkansas-Little Rock 19-16 (-13)

Obviously, we have two teams that would not even merit NIT bids had they lost in the championship games of their conference tournaments.  UALR has one of the lowest Criteria Scores in the seven years we have been calculating this data.


UNC-Asheville actually has a couple of positive Criteria stats.  Their R+T is 5.5, which had it come against a more difficult schedule, would have made them worthy of becoming a possible team to watch in the Round of 64.


We will go with UNCA here, as schedule strength is about the same for both teams.


Prediction: UNC-Asheville 69  Arkansas-Little Rock 59



Second-Round Games


East Regional


#1 Ohio State 32-2 (21) vs. #16 UTSA (Elim)/Alabama State (Elim)

This game will be over quickly.  There will be no scare, not even for two TV timeouts.  The second highest Criteria score versus one of the teams with an R+T Rating of “Eliminate.”


The Buckeyes outscored their opponents by more than 17 points per game.  Their strength of schedule was 13 points better than UTSA and 16 points better than Alabama State. 


We will go under the theory that UTSA will be the opponent in this game.  Using our Criteria Rating, Ohio State figures to be 30-40 points better than UTSA.  Coach Thad Matta will definitely empty his bench early in this game, so the Buckeyes may “only win” by 25-30. 


Prediction: Ohio State 78  Texas-San Antonio 50


#8 George Mason 26-6 (8) vs. #9 Villanova 21-11 (5)

George Mason is the higher seed in this game, so if they win, it cannot really be considered an upset.


Villanova was on course to be a four-seed when the Wildcats were 16-5 and contending for the Big East Conference regular season title.  The Wildcats could not compete down low against the more physical teams in their league.


George Mason has a higher PiRate Criteria Score, but it is not an insurmountable advantage.  The key stat for this game is the R+T Rating.  For GMU, it is 6.8.  For VU, it is 4.9.  Considering that Villanova played a harder schedule, these numbers basically cancel each other out, thus making this a tossup game.


There are two variables to consider here.  George Mason performed much better on the road, and Villanova is banged up a bit.


Prediction: George Mason 66  Villanova 62


#5 West Virginia 20-11 (6) vs. #12 UAB (2)/Clemson (1)

We believe the Mountaineers will be facing Clemson in this game, but the prediction will hold up if they play UAB. 


West Virginia is not as good this season as last season, and the Mountaineers will not advance to the Final Four, or even the Elite Eight.  They are liable to be out by the end of the weekend.  However, they are strong enough to get into the Round of 32. 


The Mountaineers best attribute is that they put up decent numbers against one of the toughest schedules in the country.  Of the NCAA Tournament teams, only Georgetown played a tougher schedule.  They will have to limit turnovers, or else this game will be close and go down to the wire.  We believe Coach Bob Huggins will be able to keep the pace at a level he likes and not allow Clemson (or UAB) to force the Mountaineers into enough mistakes to turn the tide.


Prediction: West Virginia 69  Clemson 62 (Or UAB 58)


#4 Kentucky 25-8 (14) vs. #13 Princeton 25-6 (-2)

Princeton has pulled off the big upset in the past, and they came within a missed jumper at the buzzer of becoming the only #16 seed to beat a #1 seed.  However, that was two decades ago.  The Tigers have not been to the NCAA Tournament in seven years, and that big win over UCLA was 15 years ago. 


Kentucky is not the type of team that will allow Princeton’s style of play to affect their style of play.  The Wildcats should actually play better than their norm with fewer mistakes. 


We believe that Princeton will actually crumble under relentless man-to-man pressure and turn the ball over enough times in the opening minutes of the game to allow the Wildcats to open a quick double-digit lead.  This group of Cats tends to fiddle around a little once they get a quick double-digit lead and then play uninspired ball until the opponent makes a run.  Then, they go on the attack at the right time and put the game away.


Adolph Rupp had a team just like this in 1958.  They were called “The Fiddlin’ Five.”  They were also called National Champions.  We won’t go so far as to put UK into this category, but we will advance the Wildcats into the next round and then into the Sweet 16.


Prediction: Kentucky 72  Princeton 59


#6 Xavier 24-7 (8) vs. #11 Marquette 20-14 (3)

If you are looking for a tough, hard-fought game with two Midwestern teams, then tune into this game Friday evening.


If the Musketeers were a little more competent at forcing turnovers, they could be a dark horse candidate to advance to the Elite Eight.  XU shoots the ball well and plays well on defense when it comes to preventing a lot of easy shots.  They do well on the boards, and against a team that cannot exploit their ball-handling and ball-hawking deficiencies, they will hold their own inside.  The only other possible problem for the Musketeers is a lack of depth, but in the NCAA Tournaments, TV timeouts are longer.  It is hard to wear a team down with such long breaks every four or so minutes.


Marquette does not have enough depth to take advantage of Xavier’s lack of depth, so this factor will become a non-factor.  The Golden Eagles got to this tournament due to their ability to put the ball into the basket.  Marquette needs to shoot better than 46% to win, while Xavier is adept at holding teams under 45% as a rule.


Prediction: Xavier 71  Marquette 65


#3 Syracuse 26-7 (17) vs. #14 Indiana State 20-13 (-4)

Syracuse has been getting very little national exposure since their 18-0 start ended with an 8-7 finish.  The Orangemen are a team to watch in this tournament.  If not for a pedestrian 71% winning percentage away from the Carrier Dome, we would have them as one of the top four teams in this tournament.


Coach Jim Boeheim’s team outscores their opposition by 10.3 points per game; they outshoot them by 7.6%, and they outrebound them by 3.6 boards per game.  Their turnover margin is +1.9, and they averaged almost nine steals per game.  Their R+T Rating is 7.6, and their Strength of Schedule is somewhere between above-average and very good.  This is the Criteria Score of a team that will advance to the Sweet 16 and compete for an Elite Eight and Final Four berth.


Indiana State needs the return of Larry Bird to win this game.  They are too perimeter-oriented.  The Sycamores do not have the beef down low to contend in the paint, and even though Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, teams rarely beat the Orangemen by firing up 25 long-range bombs.


This one smells like a blowout.


Prediction: Syracuse 81  Indiana State 62


#7 Washington 23-10 (13) vs. #10 Georgia 21-11 (2)

Washington is one of those teams that can play with anybody in this tournament—when they are playing up to their potential.  The Huskies could also exit in the first round if they play like they did the weekend they went to Oregon and Oregon State.


Georgia is much more consistent, but their best effort will not defeat the Huskies’ best effort.


Washington lacked the seasoned experience this season, and it showed when they ventured away from Seattle.  The Huskies lost to weaker opponents because they lacked the composure to win on foreign courts.  That changed when they arrived in Los Angeles for the Pac-10 Tournament.  Isaiah Thomas took over command of the team and led them to the tournament title.  This makes UW a scary and dangerous team capable of returning to the Sweet 16.


Georgia must really dominate the glass in this game, because we believe they will turn the ball over too many times against UW’s pressure man-to-man defense.  It is our opinion that the Bulldogs will play a little timidly at the start of this game and find themselves in a hole.


The Bulldogs had trouble against Alabama’s defense, and Washington is similar but with a much better offense.


Prediction: Washington 78  Georgia 70


#2 North Carolina 26-7 (15) vs. #15 Long Island 27-5 (-1)


Long Island is just the type of team that can forget that their opponent is a dynasty program that chews up and spits out little programs like this.


Teams from Brooklyn don’t intimidate easily, especially when they are led by a trio of Texans.  So, LIU will not be intimidated, but will they be talented enough to make a game of this contest?


That’s the rub.  They lack the defensive ability to slow down the Tar Heels, while Coach Roy Williams’ team will be able to hold the Blackbirds under their scoring average.  The big problem for LIU will be holding onto the ball, and we could see North Carolina forcing 20 turnovers in this game.  When the Tar Heels force more turnovers than they commit, they are almost unbeatable.  This game could be interesting for a short time, but it will eventually get out of hand.


Prediction: North Carolina 88  Long Island 70


West Regional


#1 Duke 30-4 (15) vs. #16 Hampton 24-8 (-8)

Duke has nothing to worry about here.  This will be like one of their November/December home games where they quickly put the cupcake away with a barrage of power and speed.  You know the type: a 37-point win over Princeton; a 34-point win over Miami of Ohio; a 52-point win over Colgate.


Hampton got to the Dance using an aggressive defense and three-point shooting barrage on offense.  Duke will not be affected by the defensive pressure, and they will cut off the open shots from the outside.  It will be a mercy killing, and it will be quick.  Look for the Blue Devils to be up by more than 15 points before the halfway point of the first half.  By the time Coach K empties the bench, the Blue Devils should be up by 25-30 points.


Prediction: Duke 81  Hampton 61


#8 Michigan 20-13 (Elim) vs. #9 Tennessee 19-14 (10)

Michigan is the highest-rated team that fails to meet our R+T Rating requirement, so the Wolverines are automatically tabbed as a first-round loser.


Coach Jim Beilein has been in a similar position before.  He guided a West Virginia team with not-so-flashy Criteria numbers to the Elite Eight, where they forced Louisville to come from 20 points down to rally for the victory.  That WVU team had one of the worst negative rebounding numbers of any team in Elite Eight history, but that team made few mistakes and had a nice turnover margin.


This Michigan team was only outrebounded by two a game, but they do not create enough extra possessions with their miniscule turnover margin of 1.4 and their average of just 4.7 steals per game.


Tennessee has been up and down, and the Volunteers are not going to make a repeat run to the Elite Eight this year.  However, Coach Bruce Pearl’s troops will control the boards in this game and maybe force more turnovers than they commit.  We figure that Tennessee will have 10 more opportunities to score in this game, and that is too many for the Wolverines to make up with their three-point shooting.


Prediction: Tennessee 74  Michigan 69


#5 Arizona 27-7 (3) vs. #12 Memphis 25-9 (-1)

Memphis was not going to earn an at-large bid this season had they failed to win the Conference USA Tournament.  They received an ideal first round opponent, and the Tigers actually have a fighting chance to pull off yet another classic #12-seed over #5-seed upset.


Arizona needs to pound the ball inside and rely on numerous offensive rebounds to win this game.  Other teams might be able to exploit Memphis’s poor ball-handling skills, but the Wildcats do not have the defensive acumen to take advantage here.


Memphis will try to make this an up-tempo game where they can neutralize Arizona’s height advantage inside.  It has a chance of working, but Arizona probably has too much power inside and just enough quickness to stop the Tigers’ transition game.


Prediction: Arizona 76  Memphis 69


#4 Texas 27-7 (18) vs. #13 Oakland 25-9 (3)

This has become a popular upset pick in the media.  Oakland has generated a lot of positive press, and many “experts” are calling for the upset in this game.  We are not one of them.  Not only do we believe the Longhorns will take care of Oakland with relative ease in this game, we believe Texas is a force to be reckoned with in the next two or three rounds. 


Let’s look at Texas’ Criteria Rating.  At 18, the ‘Horns rate as our sixth best team in the tournament.  They have a 13.5 point scoring margin, a 7.1% field goal margin, a 6.6 rebounding margin, and a 1.2 turnover margin.  Their only Achilles Heel is a low amount of steals resulting in a R+T Rating of 8.3.  Had that number been above 10, we would be selecting Coach Rick Barnes’ team for the Final Four.


Oakland won this year with strong rebounding and an excellent ability to force their opponents into bad shots.  Center Keith Benson is a future NBA player, but he is not enough to propel the Golden Grizzlies into the next round.


Prediction: Texas 77  Oakland 65


#6 Cincinnati 25-8 (9) vs. #11 Missouri 23-9 (10)

On paper, this looks like the best game of this round between a team with contrasting styles.


Cincinnati is one of the top defensive teams in the tournament.  The Bearcats are tough inside, and they have quality depth to continue playing hard in the paint. 


Missouri uses the “40 minutes of Hell” approach that Coach Mike Anderson learned under his mentor Nolan Richardson.  The Tigers press full court and run the fast break as often as they get the chance.  They are perimeter-oriented and can score a lot of points in a hurry.


When we try to decide tossup games, we look to the all-important defense and rebounding stats, since that is what wins close games in the Big Dance. 


Missouri is vulnerable in both of these crucial areas.  They have given up a lot of cheap baskets this year when teams solved their press.  The Tigers were outrebounded by 1.7 boards per game.


Cincinnati owns a +2.7 rebounding margin, and the Bearcats held onto the ball quite competently.  We believe Coach Mick Cronin’s crew will advance.


Prediction: Cincinnati 68  Missouri 65


#3 Connecticut 26-9 (9) vs. #14 Bucknell 25-8 (-4)

Ask Kansas Coach Bill Self if it is wise to underestimate Bucknell.  The Bison know how to hold onto the ball and work for intelligent shots.  Give them an opening, and they can bury you with a high field goal percentage.


Connecticut did the unthinkable by winning five games in five days.  Their defense does not get the merit it deserves, because Kemba Walker gets more attention for his offensive antics.  The Huskies actually held teams under 40% from the field.


Coach Jim Calhoun knows how to prepare a team for tournament action.  He will have UConn ready for this game, and the Huskies will not overlook the Bison.


Prediction: Connecticut 73  Bucknell 58


#7 Temple 25-7 (5) vs. #10 Penn State 19-14 (-1)

Temple’s score must be tempered by the fact that they are a wounded team coming into this tournament.  Two starters suffered injuries late in the season, and one is out for the remainder of the year, while the other may or may not be ready to play.  We must throw out Temple’s score of “5” in the PiRate Criteria, because 40% of the key players that produced that number will either not play or be greatly less effective.


Penn State is a lot like Southern Cal in this tournament.  The Nittany Lions have the look of a strong NIT team.  Aside from a so-so record against a strong schedule, they really have little to offer outside of one star player. 


We believe this Keystone State rivalry game will be close, and it could come down to the last shot.  Because the Owls are limping, we will go with the Big Ten representative.


Prediction: Penn State 59  Temple 56


#2 San Diego State 32-2 (19) vs. #15 Northern Colorado 21-10 (-6)

Most of you reading this probably cannot remember Texas Western University, but you may have scene the movie where the Miners were too quick for Kentucky and pulled off the big upset to win the 1966 National Championship.  Maybe some of you remember the Long Beach State 49ers ascension into the top 10 under Jerry Tarkanian and then Lute Olson.  Still more can remember when Tark the Shark moved to UNLV and turned the Runnin’ Rebels into a national power.


San Diego State is the next Western team to fit this bill.  The Aztecs are legitimate contenders to advance deep into this tournament.  They have few exploitable weaknesses, and they are the best team West of the Rockies.  Coach Steve Fisher knows how to get teams ready for tournament play, as he has three Final Fours on his resume and one National Championship.


SDSU’s PiRate Criteria numbers are flashy.  Their scoring margin is 13.3 points per game.  Their FG% margin is 7.1%.  They outrebound their opposition by almost seven per game, and they force 1.6 more turnovers than they commit.  Their one weak spot is a pedestrian 6.2 steals average.  If they run up against a more powerful team inside, they could have trouble getting enough extra scoring opportunities.


Northern Colorado will not be one of those teams that can cause trouble for the Aztecs.  The Bears are a good rebounding team, but their rebounding prowess came against a schedule that rates 10 points weaker than San Diego State’s schedule.


Prediction: San Diego State 73  Northern Colorado 51


Southwest Regional

#1 Kansas 32-2 (23) vs. #16 Boston U 21-13 (-11)

Kansas is a team on a mission.  The Jayhawks will not allow a repeat of what happened last year, and that extra incentive should be enough to send KU to Houston.


Kansas has the top PiRate Criteria Score this year.  They meet the basic requirements that most prior National Champions have met—scoring margin: 17.2; FG% margin: 11.7; Rebounding margin: 7.8; Turnover Margin: 0.9; Steals per game: 7.9; R+T Ratings: 9.5.


How do you beat this year’s KU team?  Kansas State and Texas pulled it off by matching up well inside and going head-to-head with them in the paint.


Boston U has the second lowest PiRate Criteria score of the 65 teams that have positive R+T Ratings.  The Terriers are way overmatched in this game, and they will have to be glad they just made it here.


Prediction: Kansas 90  Boston U 62


#8 U N L V 24-8 (15) vs. #9 Illinois 19-13 (1)

If our ratings are worth their salt, then this game should not be all that close.  UNLV may be just the third best team in the Mountain West, but the MWC was better overall this year than the Pac-10.  Third best in the MWC makes the Runnin’ Rebels one of the dozen or so teams capable of making a two weekend run.


Coach Lon Kruger has taken two different teams to the Elite Eight (Kansas State and Florida).  His teams play intelligently without being flashy.


UNLV went 24-3 against teams not named Brigham Young or San Diego State.  They are not particularly strong on the boards, and this will eventually be their downfall.  The Rebels shoot the ball brilliantly, and they alter enough opponent shots to force a lower field goal percentage.  They also take care of the ball and do not make a lot of floor mistakes.


Illinois is an inconsistent, underachieving team.  This can be dangerous for the prognosticator, because it is difficult if not impossible to predict which schizophrenic state will appear for each game.


The Illini are not particularly strong on the glass or at taking care of the ball, and that is a recipe for disaster when the opponent is as good as UNLV.  Even if Illinois comes out playing their best basketball, it may not be enough to beat UNLV playing their typical game.


Prediction: U N L V  72  Illinois 64


#5 Vanderbilt 23-10 (5) vs. #12 Richmond 26-7 (2)

Here is another game getting a lot of attention due to its upset potential.  Historically, the #12 seed produces the a lot of great upsets.


This game could go either way.  Both teams have exploitable weaknesses, and it just so happens that both teams’ have the assets capable of exploiting the other’s weaknesses.


Let’s start with Vanderbilt.  The Commodores are not particularly strong on the defensive perimeter.  Worthy opponents have been able to beat them off the drive and get a lot of open inside shots.  This weak perimeter defense has also led to frontcourt players having to help, thus leaving open holes near the basket.


Richmond’s offense is a modified version of the Princeton Offense.  The Spiders have the talent to get open shots inside and in the five to ten-foot range.


Richmond cannot rebound against more physical teams.  The Spiders make up for their rebounding liabilities by seldom throwing the ball away.


Vanderbilt has an excellent physical presence inside with three beefy players that can rebound the ball on offense and defense.


So, which team gets the edge in our PiRate Ratings?  We always look to defense in rebounding in tossup games.  Vanderbilt holds the rebounding edge, while Richmond holds the defensive edge.  It is basically a wash, so we have to look elsewhere.  While Richmond has been much better away from home, Vanderbilt’s schedule is seven points more difficult.  We’ll go with the power conference team, but not by much


Prediction: Vanderbilt 70  Richmond 67


#4 Louisville 25-9 (12) vs. #13 Morehead State 24-9 (3)

This should be an interesting game, but in the end the big brothers are going to defeat their little brothers in this battle of two Bluegrass State teams.


40 years ago this week, another little brother upset a big brother on their way to a surprise appearance in the Final Four (later vacated).  In 1971, Western Kentucky did not just upset Kentucky, the Hilltoppers ran the Wildcats off the floor.  Can there be a repeat two score later?  No!


Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are vulnerable on the boards, and Morehead State has the nation’s best rebounder in the nation in Kenneth Faried.  However, the Eagles do not have enough talent or depth to keep up with Louisville.  They may emerge with a slight rebounding edge in this game, but it will not be enough to make up for all the open shots the Cardinals will get.


Louisville is going to run into trouble when they meet up with a team that can rebound and play credible defense.  That would be Kansas in the Sweet 16.  Until then, they have a relatively easy route to the Sweet 16.


Prediction: Louisville 78  Morehead State 62


#6 Georgetown 21-10 (8) vs. #11 Southern Cal (-1)/Va. Commonwealth (-1)

Last year, we discussed Georgetown’s vulnerabilities and the probability that they would fail to make it past the first weekend.  We expected the Hoyas to fall as a favorite in their second game, but they were a one and done team.


This year’s team is not much better than last year’s Hoya team, but they received a much more favorable draw.


Coach John Thompson III’s Hoyas once again have a rather low R+T Rating thanks to a turnover margin of -1.9 and a low amount of steals per game.  They will exit from the tournament in the next round unless there is a monumental upset in their pairing.


Neither USC nor VCU has the talent to take advantage of Georgetown’s deficiencies.  The three teams combined have a R+T rating below Purdue’s.


One additional note: The Hoyas will be a tad bit better than their Criteria Score in the tournament.  Chris Wright suffered a hand fracture in the middle of the schedule, and he is expected to be near 100% for the tournament.  You have to add maybe one point to their Criteria Score, but that is not enough to put them over the top in their second game.


Prediction: Georgetown 69  Southern Cal 61 (or VCU 60)


#3 Purdue 25-7 (16) vs. #14 St. Peter’s 20-13 (-7)

If only… Purdue fans will never know just how good their team might have been with Robbie Hummel joining JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore playing together.  This would have been the best Boilermaker team since Rick Mount led Purdue to the Championship Game against UCLA in 1969.


The Boilermakers no longer have that one glaring weakness that Gene Keady’s teams had and thus prevented Purdue from getting past the second round.  This team does well on the boards like most of those past Purdue teams, but they are particularly strong when it comes to forcing turnovers and taking advantage by converting steals into points.  It is the way many teams go on runs that put opponents out of commission.


St. Peter’s just barely avoided being immediately eliminated with a negative R+T Rating.  They squeaked by at 0.1.  It might as well be a negative number, as the Peacocks were outrebounded by 0.4 per game and had a turnover margin of -0.9 against a schedule that was four points below average and seven points weaker than the schedule Purdue faced.


Prediction: Purdue 73  St. Peter’s 56


#7 Texas A&M 24-8 (8) vs. #10 Florida State 21-10 (2)

The Big 12’s third best team has enough talent to challenge for a Sweet 16 berth.  We’ll leave the next round for another time and talk about this game.


The Aggies have no glaring weakness, and they have a few strengths, namely rebounding and defense (which wins games in the NCAA Tournament).  They are much like Kansas Lite.  A&M was not a team of surprises during the regular season.  They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and failed to upset the teams better than they were.  We expect the trend to continue.  They are better than the Seminoles.


Florida State does not take good care of the ball, and that costs them in confrontations against good opponents.  The Seminoles do not play particularly well away from Tallahassee, and they should be making a quick exit from the Dance.


Prediction: Texas A&M 73  Florida State 65


#2 Notre Dame 26-6 (11) vs. #15 Akron 23-12 (-9)

This is the best Irish team since Digger Phelps led Notre Dame in the late 1980’s.  Throw in the fact that this team has a chip on its shoulders following a first round exit last year, and the Irish have to be considered the Sweet 16 favorite in their four-team pairing this weekend.


The Irish finished the regular season with a scoring margin of 10.4 points per game.  Down the stretch, they went 7-2 against teams in this tournament.  The Selection Committee placed Notre Dame in a bracket that should provide a very memorable Sweet 16 contest against one of their most bitter arch-rivals.


Akron has a big seven-foot center, but the Zips do not rebound the ball all that well.  Zeke Marshall, the aforementioned big man, concentrates his efforts on blocking shots, and he frequently is not in position to rebound the ball.  So, the blocked shot frequently turns into a made basket off an offensive rebound.  The Zips did not fare well on the road this year, and with a considerably weaker schedule than average, this does not bode well.


Prediction:  Notre Dame 81  Akron 57


Southeast Regional

#1 Pittsburgh 27-5 (18) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (-5)/U A L R (-13)

One of us here at the PiRate Ratings might be dating himself, but he sees a lot of the 1962 Cincinnati Bearcats in this year’s Pitt team.  The Panthers have a dominating inside power game that will pulverize any finesse team that cannot hit 10 three-pointers.  Neither UNCA nor UALR has a remote chance to make this game a close contest.


Pitt outscored their opposition by 13.1 points per game.  This stat looks even better when you factor in that they compiled this gaudy stat playing in a league that produced 11 NCAA Tournament teams.  The Panthers outshot their opponents by 7.6%, and they totally dominated the glass with a 10.4 rebounding advantage.  If you are thinking the way to beat them is to play a packed in zone, think again.  Ashton Gibbs can bury you from outside with his near 50% three-point accuracy, and Brad Wannamaker can still get the ball inside to one of the bruisers waiting to punish you with a thunder dunk.


Only a negative turnover margin prevents the Panthers from being there with Kansas as a co-favorite for winning all the marbles.


Pitt’s cupcake opponent will have to be happy with winning their First Four game, because they will be humiliated in this game.


Prediction: Pittsburgh 78  UNC-Asheville 54 (or UALR 48)


#8 Butler 23-9 (7) vs. #9 Old Dominion 27-6 (10)

This is the second best matchup in this round, and the winner will put a scare into Pittsburgh in the next round and even have a decent shot at the upset.


Butler is now the hunted rather than the hunter.  The Bulldogs will not sneak up on anybody this year.  More importantly, they are not as talented as they were last year.  The Bulldogs fared much better on the road last year than this season.  However, down the stretch, Butler started to look like a team proficient enough to get past the first weekend once again.


Old Dominion has the talent to advance past the first weekend as well.  The Monarchs are a miniature version of Pittsburgh, the team they would face in the next round should they win this game.


ODU is the nation’s number one rebounding team with a +12.2 margin.  The Monarchs’ schedule was not outstanding, but it was on par with several teams from the so-called power conferences, and they finished 6-4 against teams in this tournament.  This is a better ODU team than the one that upset Notre Dame in the first round last year, and this game should be one you do not want to miss.



Prediction: Old Dominion 72  Butler 70 in overtime


#5 Kansas State 22-10 (9) vs. #12 Utah State 30-3 (14)

This is the one game where a number 12 seed winning would not really be all that much of an upset.  Utah State should have been a top eight seed in this tournament.  If we were conspiracy buffs, we would say that the Selection Committee searched for a team that the Aggies do not match up with all that well and placed them in this spot to verify their actions.


Kansas State does not take care of the ball well enough to advance very deep into this tournament, but their first game opponent cannot take advantage of that weakness.


Utah State has dominated their opponents by forcing them to play a patient half-court game with very little scoring in transition.  They prefer to work the ball patiently for a good shot and then force opponents to take a low-percentage shot.  Thus, the Aggies outrebound their opponents, but they do so by forcing more bad shots than by out-leaping their opponents.


Kansas State has the talent to force Utah State to play at a quicker tempo and force them to defend one-on-one.  Jacob Pullen is a poor man’s (and smaller) Derrick Rose.  He can break down most opponents off the dribble, and he should be able to force USU to resort to some type of combination defense to keep him from going wild.


What scares us most about Utah State is that they had two opportunities to show they are deserving of their lofty ranking.  They lost to BYU and to Georgetown, and they never really threatened to pull of the upset in either game.


This is one game where we are going to go against our own chalk.  Kansas State’s schedule was seven points tougher, and the Wildcats can exploit the Aggies’ weaknesses.


Prediction: Kansas State 70  Utah State 63


#4 Wisconsin 23-8 (7) vs. #13 Belmont 30-4 (9)

This game has become the most-picked upset special around the nation.  Belmont is being compared with Butler of last year.  The Bruins are lofty of all this attention-gathering admiration, but Wisconsin is not the Washington Generals.


Belmont has the highest scoring margin in the nation at 18.4 points per game.  The Bruins outshot their opposition by 5.7% per game, and they took a lot of three-point attempts.  They outrebounded their opponents by 3.9, and they had an eye-popping 5.3 turnover margin.  They share the top steals per game average in this tournament with Missouri at 9.7, and their R+T Rating is the best in the tournament at 16.2 (three better than number two Ohio State).


Of course, these statistics were compiled against inferior competition.  Belmont’s schedule strength is nine points below the national average and a dozen below their first round opponent.  Against the opponents that made it to this tournament, they were 1-3.  They beat Alabama State by 13.  The three losses were on the road to in-state rivals Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt, but they led in the second half of those games.


The last time Belmont was in the Big Dance, the Bruins came within a missed last shot of sending Duke home.   


Wisconsin was not expected to be this good in 2011.  This was supposed to be a minor rebuilding season for the Badgers.  The Badgers usually run Coach Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense with great efficiency, rarely turning the ball over.  They outscored their opponents by 9.9 points per game, and they outshot they outrebounded them by 3.8 boards per game. 


The Badgers have been a hot and cold team this year.  When they have been hot, they have been nearly unbeatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  When they have been cold, they have been easily beatable, because Ryan’s teams always limit possessions.  They finished the season as cold as ice, so the Badgers must be considered a slight underdog in this game.


Prediction: Belmont 74  Wisconsin 70


#6 St. John’s 21-11 (9) vs. #11 Gonzaga 24-9 (13)

Here is a game where we believe the seedings should be switched.  Gonzaga has been here enough times to be considered a regular in the NCAA Tournament, like Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, and Connecticut.  This makes a baker’s dozen consecutive appearances in the Big Dance for the Bulldogs. 


In past years, Gonzaga had a big scorer that could take over games.  Adam Morrison comes to mind.  This year, the Zags are more difficult to prepare for, because they are more team-oriented.  There is not a big star on the roster, but all five starters are capable of taking the team on his shoulders with a hot night.


In their nine-game winning streak to close the season, Gonzaga eliminated Saint Mary’s from the Dance party with two victories.  The Bulldogs scoring margin in those nine games was 76-58.  This is a good team playing its best ball of the year, and we expect Coach Mark Few to win yet another NCAA Tournament game.


St. John’s comes into the tournament minus one of its stars.  Starting forward D. J. Kennedy went down for the season with a knee injury in the Big East Tournament, and the Red Storm is now suspect in the paint.  Their Criteria Score of nine should be discounted by two to three points.  It is enough to take this contest from tossup status to near-comfortable status for Gonzaga.


Prediction: Gonzaga 74  St. John’s 66


#3 Brigham Young 30-4 (18) vs. #14 Wofford 21-12 (-1)

So, you didn’t get a chance to see Pete Maravich play at LSU in 1968, 1969, or 1970, eh?  We must admit that nobody will ever be the collegiate equal for Maravich, but Jimmer Fredette may be the closest thing to him.


Throw out the floppy socks and floppy Beatles haircut and throw out some of the most unbelievable passes in the history of the game (so unbelievable that Maravich’s teammates frequently could not see them coming), and Fredette is not that far behind Maravich.


The sports nation will be turning its eyes to this game just to see if Fredette can make a run at a single game scoring mark.  If we remember correctly, Notre Dame’s Austin Carr set the mark back in 1970 with 61 points against Ohio U in a regional qualifier game.


BYU may have been a strong Final Four contender had Brandon Davies not loved his girlfriend so much.  The Cougars averaged 8.7 fewer points per game once Davies was suspended. 


Wofford will not be able to take much advantage of Davies’ absence.  The Terriers fared well in all PiRate Criteria categories, but they did not meet even the minimum “numbers to look for” in any category, and their schedule strength was five points below the norm. 


Prediction: Brigham Young 75  Wofford 63


#7 U C L A 22-10 (-3) vs. #10 Michigan State 19-14 (1)

If only this were a few years ago.  Neither of these historically dominating teams is going to make waves in this year’s tournament, and the winner will be around for just one more game.


UCLA would be a national title contender if Kevin Love had stuck around for four years.  Imagine Love as a senior on this team.  Can you say Bill Walton-like numbers?  Alas, the Bruins must get by with a couple of well above-average forwards instead of the best three-man tandem in the nation.


The Bruins have the worst turnover margin of any team in this tournament.  At -3.4, UCLA would need to dominate on the boards, and while they usually win that battle, it is anything but dominating.


Michigan State’s one asset year in and year out under Coach Tom Izzo has been their rebounding acumen.  For most teams, a +4.3 edge on the boards would be considered outstanding, but in East Lansing, this is considered a down year. 


Neither team has done all that well away from their home court this season, and there really is only one stat where one team stands out ahead of the other.  MSU’s schedule was four points tougher than UCLA’s schedule.  That’s our spread for this game.  


Prediction: Michigan State 64  UCLA 60


#2 Florida 26-7 (15) vs. #15 UC-Santa Barbara 18-13 (-10)

The Gators looked like a potential Final Four team in the last month, at least when they were not playing Kentucky.  UCSB is not Kentucky. 


Florida tends to commit too many floor mistakes to win four games in this year’s tournament.  They have enough talent to get through the first weekend, but we do not see the Gators extending their stay after that.


UCSB upset Long Beach State to get here, and the Gauchos are one of the weakest teams in the tournament according to our Criteria Score.  With negative rebounding and turnover margins, they just barely escape automatic elimination with a R+T rating of 0.3. 


Prediction: Florida 76  U C S B  54




Our Bracket


You have seen the 32 teams that we believe will win the second round games.  Here is how we fill out the rest of our bracket.


Third Round Winners

Ohio State over George Mason

Kentucky over West Virginia

Syracuse over Xavier

North Carolina over Washington

Duke over Tennessee

Texas over Arizona

Connecticut over Cincinnati

San Diego State over Penn State

Kansas over UNLV

Louisville over Vanderbilt

Purdue over Georgetown

Notre Dame over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over Old Dominion

Kansas State over Belmont

Gonzaga over Brigham Young

Florida over Michigan State


Sweet 16 Winners

Ohio State over Kentucky

Syracuse over North Carolina

Texas over Duke

San Diego State over Connecticut

Kansas over Louisville

Purdue over Notre Dame

Pittsburgh over Kansas State

Florida over Gonzaga


Elite 8 Winners

Ohio State over Syracuse

Texas over San Diego State

Kansas over Purdue

Pittsburgh over Florida


Semifinal Winners

Ohio State over Texas

Kansas over Pittsburgh


National Championship

Kansas over Ohio State

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