Post Academic

The geek’s March Madness, revisited

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on March 27, 2010
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Since we’re gearing up to watch the Elite Eight games to see who makes it to the Final Four, I wanted to revisit how our geek’s March Madness picks panned out.  Obviously enough, our choices aren’t going to help anyone win their pool–Kansas, BYU, Wake Forest, and Duke (the lone remaining contender)–though this group didn’t fare any worse than my actual picks.  And I still can’t figure out how Kansas let us down!

To make our picks, we used numbers from this poll conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which accounted for graduation rates (GSR) and something called “Academic Progress Rate” (APR), along with a more subjective sense of academic reputation.  For all the details on our how we came up with our semi-academic measure for making our picks, go here; to see bracket-by-bracket analysis, go here and here, too.)

Here are how the Elite Eight fare, according to our academic power poll (listed alphabetically).  Note that the graduation rates among the eight teams is not stellar, though some of the programs are probably impacted by early entry by underclassmen in the NBA draft.  Also, an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 925 or lower could put a program at risk of losing scholarships:

Baylor: 989 (out of 1000) APR / 36% GSR

Butler: 964 APR / 90% GSR

Duke: 989  APR / 92% GSR

Kansas State: 900 APR / 62% GSR

Kentucky: 979 APR / 31% GSR

Michigan State: 985 APR / 58% GSR

Tennessee: 924 APR / 30% GSR

West Virginia: 960 APR / 44% GSR

Have a good weekend watching the games!

“U.S. President Barack Obama picks his winners for the 2009 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament” by Pete Souza from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of the Executive Office of the President of the United States, public domain

The geek’s version of March Madness, East and Southeast Regions

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on March 19, 2010
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Hope you enjoyed the first day of March Madness, which featured a pretty good number of nailbiters (sorry, Vandy fans) and more OT games in a single day than I can remember.  Just in case you don’t have an alma mater in the tourney or don’t have a rooting interest, we’re providing a handy guide on who you can pull for if you care about academics and graduation rates — and want a team that could win a few games.  (By the way, I’m 12 for 16 in my bracket, and winning the group I’m in!)  For the guidelines, go here.

East Bracket — Winner: Wake Forest

Summary: Lucky for us, Wake pulled out a great last-shot win in OT against U Texas, after trailing by 8 points with a few minutes left.  The team with a 963 Academic Progress Rate (APR) and 100% graduation rate (GSR) beat the highly esteemed and very large state university, which had a stronger 975 APR, but a lower 42% GSR (which was probably Kevin Durant’s fault for leaving after his frosh year).  The bracket’s other top contender, Marquette, with its 970 APR/100% GSR didn’t far so well, losing by 2 to U-Dub.  Interestingly, this bracket features a number of large state universities, some with very strong reputations that underachieve a bit in APR and GSR:

U Kentucky: 949 APR/31% GSR

U Wisconsin: 933 APR/78% GSR

U Washington: 956 APR/29% GSR

U New Mexico: 909 APR/43% GSR

Mizzou: 959 APR/36% GSR

Cornell is in this bracket and would be in the running, but I deem them ineligible for not providing any grad rate data.

Southeast Bracket — Winner: Duke (UGH!)

Summary: Let the hating begin, but it’s hard to deny that Duke enjoys a rare blend of academic reputation and basketball legacy–and snotty whining on the court.  The numbers don’t lie, either: 989 APR/92% GSR, and that’s with rosters with plenty of draftable underclassman talent.  You’d think it would be more of a walk here, but Notre Dame–the Duke of football–(982 APR/100% GSR) and Villanova (985 APR/92% GSR and maybe even more recent basketball success than Duke) give the Dukies a pretty good scare, actually.

Otherwise, the biggest surprise in this region is just how disappointing the mighty UC Berkeley is!  Perhaps the most academically accomplished school in the country can only muster a puny 944 APR/20%(!) GSR, bested by its first-round opponent Louisville with a 965 APR/38% GSR.

It’s not a good idea in any way to bet on a Kansas-BYU-Wake Forest-Duke Final Four (though KU and Duke are prime picks), but, if you do hit paydirt using the geek method, give us a cut, won’t you?  We’ll recap how the nerds did next week, and give you our Final Four picks then!

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?