Post Academic

The geek’s version of March Madness, Intro and Midwest Region

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on March 18, 2010
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For many a sports fan, this weekend–the start of March Madness–is probably one of the best all year.  (Here’s the actual bracket with a live scoreboard.)  While the best teams don’t match up until the Elite Eight or the Final Four, the opening rounds of the NCAA feature the most interesting and, often, the most memorable games every year, with outlandish upsets and almost-upsets.  It’s also one way for schools without a big national profile to get some attention.  Remember how George Mason got to the Final Four in 2006?  Admissions applications jumped 20 percent in what they called their first “post-Final Four” class and more alumni began to pay attention to their alma mater, too.

Let’s take this year’s pool and see who would win the geek’s version of the Final Four, going from region to region in a series of posts this weekend.  For the record, I’m picking Syracuse to win the actual tourney over Kentucky, since I dig the orange jerseys and the frustrating zone defense.  The criteria for the geek’s Final Four is easy:

1. Graduation Rates + Academic Progress Rate: Here are some interesting figures cited from this poll conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.  We won’t go as far as Education Secretary Arne Duncan in emphasizing graduation rates, since his idea of banning teams with an under 40% rate would probably lead to a bunch of Ivy League teams getting at-large bids.  By the way, here are the “Barack-o-tology” picks from his boss, courtesy ESPN.

2. Academic Reputation: This is a wholly subjective measure, but we do tend to know which schools are the nerdier ones.

3. Basketball Reputation: Just so it’s not a total geekfest, actual basketball seeding comes into play as a tie-breaker when needed.  Interestingly enough, some of the better basketball schools are also doing well with the statistical measures too.

Let’s run the totally unscientific and mostly unstatistical results…

Midwest Bracket — Winner: Kansas

Summary: In a case where geekland imitates the real world, Kansas marches through a brutal top-half of the regional to reach the Geek Final Four.  Why?  Kansas got a perfect 1000 score on the Academic Progress Rate (APR) and graduated 73% (GSR) of its players, which was probably knocked down a bit because Kansas actually has good players who go pro before they finish 4 years of school.  The bracket features some other perennially strong basketball programs with very good academic profiles, like Georgetown and Michigan State.  The sleeper here was Oklahoma State, with a solid 967 APR/82% GSR.  The best matchup of the bracket was the 1st round 1-16 game, between Kansas and Lehigh (994 APR/92% GSR/good reputation).

The bottom half of the bracket was, surprisingly, a mix of schools with good academic reputations with awful raw data:

U Maryland: 912 APR/8%(!) GSR — Note: any school with an APR under 925 could lose 10% of their scholarships, according to the poll.

Georgia Tech: 914 APR/38% GSR

U Tennessee: 924 APR/30% GSR — I had to include UT for Caroline, due to her Vandy connection

UC Santa Barbara: 872 APR/82% GSR — That 872 APR was the second lowest of all the teams in the tourney

And the bracket also features the lowest APR of all 65 teams selected, New Mexico State at 835 APR.

Next up: The West bracket, where I’m thinking Vandy will do pretty well?

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