An Academic Update on the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
If you based your 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament picks purely on academics, here's guessing you're at the very bottom of your March Madness pool(s).
Right before this year's tournament kicked off, I created a "Simply Academic" bracket based on each competing team's Academic Progress Rate (APR), as laid out in a recent report from the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. The APR is a four-year metric that takes into account each student-athlete's academic standing and retention on the team.
In each matchup, whichever team possessed a higher APR advanced. When both teams had the exact same APR, I advanced the team seeded higher by the NCAA tournament-selection committee, in the interest of allowing athletics to have some bearing on an athletics-based tournament.
None of the Academic Final Four—Butler University, the University of Kansas, the University of Memphis, or the University of Notre Dame—ended up making the real Final Four. In fact, all four squads were eliminated by the time the Sweet 16 wrapped up, with Butler and Notre Dame both failing to win a single game.
Only one of the Academic Elite Eight, the University of Florida, actually wound up in the Elite Eight. Meanwhile, Syracuse University, which would have lost in the Round of 64 to the University of Montana based on academics, and Wichita State University, which would have lost to the University of Pittsburgh in its opening game, both advanced to the real Final Four.
While this year's academic bracket didn't fare so well—it's in the bottom 1.5 percentile of the more than 8 million brackets submitted on ESPN.com—it's had a much higher success rate in recent years past. The 2012 academic bracket created by Inside Higher Ed accurately predicted one of the two participants in the championship game, the University of Kansas, as did ProPublica's academic bracket with Butler back in 2011.
Granted, given the extreme unpredictability of this year's men's tournament, there's no shame in the academic bracket having zero Final Four teams remaining. After all, anyone who predicted the Wichita State Shockers making the Final Four should probably consider buying some lottery tickets this week.
In case you're curious: Of the four teams remaining in this year's tournament (the University of Louisville, Wichita State, Syracuse, and the University of Michigan), there's a clear winner in terms of academics. With an APR of 965, Louisville would squeak by Wichita State (954) in one academic Final Four matchup, while Michigan (1000) would stomp Syracuse (936) in the other. (In the "Simply Academic" bracket, Michigan would have been felled by another team with a perfect APR of 1000, the higher-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, in the Sweet 16.)
As one of only six teams in the tournament with an APR of 1000, Michigan would roll over Louisville in the academic NCAA finals to become the champion of this year's tournament.
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