This past Sunday night kicked off the most wonderful time of the year: The NCAA basketball tournament, aka "March Madness."
Starting tonight, 68 teams will take to the court to decide a national champion in the most unpredictable sporting event of the year. (Seriously. Have you seen this year's bracket?)
Not to be upstaged, the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports released on Monday its annual report analyzing NCAA men's basketball tournament teams based on their academic performance.
Key to the report is the NCAA's academic progress rate. Long story short, the APR is a four-year metric that takes into account each athlete's academic standing and retention on a given team.
The men's basketball teams at the University of Kansas and the University of Texas at Austin came in at the very top of this year's report, each with APRs of a perfect 1000. Trailing not too far behind were Davidson (N.C.) College, Michigan State University, and West Virginia University, each with an APR of 995.
Before last summer, teams needed to fall below an APR of 900—which roughly equated with a 40 percent graduation rate—to risk a postseason ban. Teams below an APR of 925 risked potential scholarship restrictions.
Eight teams in this year's tournament—Colorado State University, Mississippi Valley State University, New Mexico State University, Norfolk State University, Ohio University, St. Bonaventure University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Southern Mississippi—fall below that 925 APR cutline, according to the TIDES report.
Then last August, the NCAA presidents went on a two-day presidential retreat, and before you knew it, they had adopted higher standards for NCAA tournament qualification.
Starting with next year's tournament, teams with two-year APRs below 930—roughly equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate—or four-year APRs below 900 will not be eligible for the NCAA tournament. Thirteen teams in this year's tournament—including the No. 1-seeded Syracuse University—fell below the 930 mark this year.
Okay, But Who Would Win?
The folks at Inside Higher Ed took the TIDES report one step further, as they created an Academic Performance Tournament bracket based on the APR scores of each team.
So, what happens in the braniac version of March Madness? Well, based on APR, the University of North Carolina, Asheville, would pull off the first 16-seed/1-seed upset in NCAA tournament history by taking down Syracuse in their first game. But in the end, the University of Texas would emerge as the winner of that region after scoring an upset over Harvard University in the Elite 8.
The Longhorns would be joined in the Final Four by Lehigh University (994 APR) and the aforementioned Davidson Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks take out the Longhorns in the battle of perfect-APR teams on one side of the Final Four, and Kansas cruises over Davidson in the academic NCAA championship game to win Bill Self's second championship in five years.
And, once again, this blogger's alma mater, Georgetown University, would lose in the first round to Belmont University in the academic bracket. Seeing how that prediction came to fruition last year, this blog may be conspicuously silent on Friday come 3pm.
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