NCAA Tournament 2013: Round of 64 Picks for Friday’s Games

By Chad Horner Yesterday, I posted my picks for the tournament games that will be played tomorrow; I’m back with my picks for Friday’s games. Once again, I encourage you to join our Tournament Challenge group and compete against our writers and readers! On to the picks.  As with yesterday, games appear in the order that they will be played. (2) Duke Blue Devils over (15) Albany … Continue reading NCAA Tournament 2013: Round of 64 Picks for Friday’s Games

NCAA Tournament 2013: Round of 64 Picks for Thursday’s Games

By Chad Horner

Over the next two nights, I’ll be posting my picks for each game in the first round of the tournament.  For most of the matchups involving 4 seeds or higher, I felt that an explanation wasn’t necessarily needed.

Also, if you have a bracket already filled out, then join the Princeton Sports Analytics group on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge!  See how you do against some of our other writers and readers.

Now, on to the picks.  Games appear in the order in which they will be played.

(3) Michigan State Spartans over (14) Valparaiso Crusaders

(11) Bucknell Bison over (6) Butler Bulldogs (From earlier post)

Butler is incredibly overrated.  Yes, they are one of only two teams in the field who has defeated 2 of the #1 seeds – Illinois being the other (they each beat both Indiana and Gonzaga) – but the metrics don’t back up their lofty seeding.  They are an above average team, offensively and defensively, but they don’t do anything incredibly well – there isn’t one statistic, or player, that makes you say “Wow”.  Bucknell, on the other hand, is fourth in the nation in effective field goal defense, and second in defensive rebound rate.  They also have Mike Muscala.  If you haven’t heard of Muscala, he’s almost definitely the best player you’ve never heard of.  He is first in the country in defensive rebound rate, and also ranks in the top 100 in Kenpom’s Offensive Rating, turnover rate, block rate, and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.  He does everything well, and it will be up to him to lead Bucknell to victory.  They’re bigger than Butler, and come Thursday, I expect the Bison to be better than them too.

(8) Pittsburgh Panthers over (9) Wichita State Shockers

The Panthers play at a deliberate pace – 339th in the country in adjusted tempo.  If they are able to control the tempo, the Shockers will be in trouble – they are 4-4 in games with 60 or less possessions (Pittsburgh’s season average).  Wichita State is a strong team, but Pitt, regardless of their seed, is one of the best in the country – 7th in Kenpom, 10th in Sagarin, 15th in BPI.  The Panthers should advance.

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NCAA Tournament 2013: Round of 64 Upset Picks

By Chad Horner

It’s official, the bracket has been revealed, and now it’s time to start looking for those 1st round upsets!  Here we’ve laid out some of the first round matchups that look particularly enticing as an upset pick.

Before we get to the picks, Princeton Sports Analytics invites you to challenge us in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge!  See how you do against those of us who will be writing about these games for the next few weeks.  Here is the link to the group; pick your best entry and join!

Now, on with the picks:

                    

(11) Belmont Bruins over (6) Arizona Wildcats
For the past two years, the Belmont Bruins have come into the tournament as a popular upset pick, and for the past two years, they’ve been soundly defeated.  But this is Belmont’s best chance yet.  Arizona boasts the country’s 274th-ranked 3-pt defense, and the Bruins are 33rd in the country in 3-pt shooting.  The Wildcats have only faced on team all year who is better than Belmont at shooting the 3: Florida.  Yes, they defeated Florida, but the Gators controlled the entire game – well, the first 39 minutes – and they were 10/18 from behind the 3-point line.  I like Belmont to knock off the Wildcats.

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NFL Conference Championship Playoff Picks

It’s Championship Week, and the picks are in!  This week we have Sam Michaelson and Max Kaplan joining us for the first time.  Last week, Jay Hashop was the only one to pick Atlanta, and therefore the only writer to get two games correct, bringing his record to 6-2 so far.  This week he is sticking with them, while the other writers aren’t convinced.

If you’d like to see us justify a bunch of picks that were eventually wrong, here are last week’s picks.

 

                      

San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons

Jay Hashop: Atlanta; Much of San Fransisco’s offensive success against the Packers followed as a result of their 8-for-13 mark on third down. That 62% rate seems anomalous given that the 49ers converted a subpar 36% on third down in Kaepernick’s regular season starts. Atlanta’s run game looked revitalized against Seattle, providing the necessary balance the Falcons will need to continue toward the Super Bowl.

Sam Michaelson: San Francisco; While everyone seems to be discussing Kaepernick’s record-breaking rushing performance, aside from his early interception, he was also nearly perfect through the air. Russell Wilson showed that the Falcons defense is susceptible to a scrambling/playmaking quarterback in the second half last week, and I fully expect Kaepernick to exploit these weaknesses as well. Matt Ryan will need a monster game against arguably the best defense in the league to keep up with the ‘9ers balanced attack.

Max Kaplan: San Francisco; The Falcons almost blew it last week. The 49ers, on the other hand, approached 600 yards. They already had a top defense (2nd to only Seattle in the regular season). The Falcons were the #1 seed and have home field advantage (7-1 in the regular season), but the 49ers just looked unstoppable against the Packers. Kaepernick runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, and the Niners will run their way into the Super Bowl.

Chad Horner: San Francisco; The 49ers are better than the Falcons in passing and rushing DVOA on both offense and defense.  They’re simply the better team.  If Atlanta is to win, it’ll have to be through the air – they’re 29th in rushing offense DVOA, while San Fran is 2nd in rushing defense.  However, the Falcons are only 2-3 in games in which Matt Ryan throws over 40 passes.  I think the Niners will run all over Atlanta and win big.    

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North Carolina State knocks off #1 Duke: How it Happened

By Chad Horner

The Duke Blue Devils, the number one team in the land for the past month, were finally knocked off their perch Saturday afternoon by the North Carolina State Wolfpack team that was favored to win the ACC in the preseason.

In fact, if you had examined Duke’s schedule in the preseason and tried to find which game would be their toughest, it likely would have been this one.  However, after plowing through five potentially elite teams – Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Kentucky, and VCU – in a two week span earlier this season, while NC State was run off of the floor by Oklahoma State in a twenty point loss, their positions in the rankings flipped.  Duke came into this game as a modest favorite, despite the absence of Ryan Kelly, who they lost to injury earlier this week, and the fact that this was their first true road game of the season.  But there was one sign that the Pack was not an ideal matchup for the Blue Devils.

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NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

We’re back again this week to pick the Divisional games, with Jonathan Lack joining us this week, along with Jay Hashop, Danny Lei, and Chad Horner who gave their picks last week.

For the record, last week’s records were as follows:

  • Hashop: 4-0
  • Lei: 3-1
  • Velloso: 3-1
  • Horner: 2-2

                       

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Jay Hashop: Denver; Knowshon Moreno gashed the Ravens defense to the tune of 115 yards at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry when these two teams met in Week 15, and the Mile High Machine is still clicking on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the Flaccocoaster’s passer rating has alternated between being above 114 and below 77 over his last six games. You can probably guess which one’s due this Saturday.

Danny Lei: Denver; The Denver defense will be too much for Joe Flacco to handle, and Peyton Manning will continue his dominant play. In their only matchups against top-5 defenses this year, the Ravens lost by 30 and 17 points.

Jonathan Lack: Denver; These two teams met in Week 15 and the Broncos blew out the Ravens in Baltimore. While Baltimore has gotten some defensive starters back since then, I would hesitate to read too much into the Ravens’ win over the Colts. They put up some points against a poor defense, but moving the ball will be far more difficult against a Broncos defense rated top-5 in defensive efficiency. With a short week to travel to altitude against Peyton Manning and Co., I’m taking the home team on an 11-game win streak.

Chad Horner: Denver; To me, this game isn’t very difficult to pick.  Baltimore beat the Colts rather easily last week, but Indianapolis was the worst team in the playoffs.  I think Denver is going to win the Super Bowl, and I don’t see the Ravens, who the Broncos handled rather easily a few weeks ago – in Baltimore no less, stopping them.

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NFL Wild Card Round Playoff Picks

The NFL playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon, starting with Bengals-Texans at 4:30.  We asked four of our writers to give their thoughts on who will be victorious in each of this weekend’s matchups.  Interestingly enough, no writers had the same picks.

                          

Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans

Danny Lei: Houston; Matt Schaub has failed to throw a touchdown pass in five games this year. All four of Houston’s losses have come in these games, and that fifth game was a beatdown of the Jaguars. The Texans go as he goes, but I expect Schaub will come out strong in his long-awaited playoff debut.

Jay Hashop: Houston; One of the best indicators of Houston’s recent collapse on defense is their inability to get off the field. In their three losses in the past four weeks, the Texans have allowed third down conversion rates of at least 50 percent in each one, while the Colts converted only one third down in Houston’s most recent win. Cincinnati’s poor 34% clip on third down for the season doesn’t bode well for the Bengals.

Bruno Velloso: Cincinnati; The Texans’ slide really began in Week 11, where they needed OT to beat Jacksonville and Detroit, followed by a sloppy win over the Titans before losing three of their last four games. In those three losses, Schaub posted a passer rating of 72.1 or below. The Bengals, meanwhile, are hot, having won seven of their past eight. In those eight games, they have allowed a passer rating above 70 only twice, and not one above 80.

Chad Horner: Cincinnati; The Texans haven’t played a truly impressive game since they dismantled Baltimore over two months ago.  They backed into the playoffs, becoming the first team ever to be 11-1 and end up playing a game on Wild Card Weekend.  These teams are moving in opposite directions, and unless they get a huge game out of Arian Foster, I think the Texans are finished.

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