Monday, March 17, 2008
Only basketball smarts needed in this bracket
By David Schoenfield
This weekend, we watched hours and hours of conference tournament games, analysis, selection shows, bracketology shows, more analysis, even more analysis just about Arizona State getting jobbed, and not once did we hear anyone talk about a school's graduation rate of its basketball players.
The implication is clear: If you want to succeed in the NCAA tournament, recruit future NBA stars, not future engineers.
Just look at Arizona. The Wildcats have 24 consecutive tournament appearances, the longest current streak. But their 25 percent graduation rate ranks near the bottom of this year's tourney -- and we don't think that's a coincidence.
In filling out the Inverse Graduation Rate Bracket, we used the NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report released last October, which considered athletes enrolled from 1997 to 2000. In other words, Georgia, you're on the hook for Jim Harrick Sr. and Jr. (This is actually a good thing, as you'll see below.)
Easiest region (to pick): East. American University made its first NCAA tournament, but checked in with an appalling 18 percent graduation rate. In fact, its toughest opponent was a first-round matchup against Tennessee (33 percent). Otherwise, only Washington State (35), Coppin State (43) and Oklahoma (46) checked in at under 50 percent. By the way, the male/female ratio at American is 34/66, which perhaps explain the low graduation rate.
Toughest region (to pick): West. Though the region features perennial academic lightweights Arizona and Connecticut (22) -- hey, don't accuse Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun of not knowing what it takes to win -- plus underrated West Virginia (33), UCLA (40) and Texas A&M (40), the Georgia Bulldogs continued their unlikely postseason run with a trip to the Final Four thanks to their 19 percent rate. And you wonder why Harrick Jr.'s exam in his Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball course included the question, "How many points for a 3-pointer?"
Easiest pick (single game): Besides Georgia's easy win over Xavier (90 percent), the biggest blowout was Kentucky (23) over Marquette (89) in the first round. Kentucky ended up beating Texas (33) in the regional final. Stand proud, Ashley, stand proud!
Toughest pick (single game): The Georgia-UConn regional final went down to the last shot. Boy, we miss Harrick.
Biggest upset (in entire bracket): Several strong academic schools actually won their first-round matchups, including Duke (over Belmont, 67-75), Stanford (over Cornell, which doesn't release its rate, but undoubtedly is higher than Stanford's 67) and Vanderbilt (edged out Siena, 83 to 85).
First-round flop: We have to go with Kansas State and Kansas, which ruined the Big 12's perfect first round. While Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M cruised to easy victories, Kansas lost to Portland State (45 to 43) while K-State ran into the USC juggernaut (67 to 29).
Sleeper school: Clemson. At 31 percent, the Tigers graduate players at the same rate it makes free throws.
Final Four shocker: UNLV over American. Maybe you thought UNLV had cleaned up its image in the post-Shark era; wrong! At 15 percent, the Rebels go on to beat Georgia in the Inverse Graduation Rate Bracket championship.
Buy stock in: The Pac-10. Arizona, USC, Washington State and UCLA all score at 40 percent or lower.
Sell stock in: North Carolina. With an 86 percent graduation rate, no wonder the Heels have only one national title this decade.
Obvious pick we still like anyway: Drake over Western Kentucky. With a 100 percent rate, the Hilltoppers clearly are not recruiting enough NBA prospects.
16 Coppin State def. 1 North Carolina
9 Arkansas def. 8 Indiana
12 George Mason def. 5 Notre Dame
4 Washington State def. 13 Winthrop
6 Oklahoma def. 11 Saint Joseph's
3 Louisville def. 14 Boise State
10 South Alabama def. 7 Butler
15 American def. 2 Tennessee
16 Coppin State def. 9 Arkansas
4 Washington State def. 12 George Mason
6 Oklahoma def. 3 Louisville
15 American def. 10 South Alabama
Round of 16
4 Washington State def. 16 Coppin State
15 American def. 6 Oklahoma
15 American def. 4 Washington State
16 Portland State def. 1 Kansas
8 UNLV def. 9 Kent State
5 Clemson def. 12 Villanova
4 Vanderbilt def. 13 Siena
6 USC def. 11 Kansas State
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 3 Wisconsin
7 Gonzaga def. 10 Davidson
15 UMBC def. 2 Georgetown
8 UNLV def. 16 Portland State
5 Clemson def. 4 Vanderbilt
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 6 USC
7 Gonzaga def. 15 UMBC
Round of 16
8 UNLV def. 5 Clemson
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 7 Gonzaga
8 UNLV def. 14 Cal State Fullerton
1 Memphis def. 16 Texas-Arlington
9 Oregon def. 9 Mississippi State
12 Temple def. 5 Michigan State
13 Oral Roberts def. 4 Pittsburgh
11 Kentucky def. 6 Marquette
3 Stanford def. 14 Cornell
10 Saint Mary's def. 8 Miami (Fla.)
2 Texas def. 15 Austin Peay
1 Memphis def. 9 Oregon
13 Oral Roberts def. 12 Temple
11 Kentucky def. 3 Stanford
2 Texas def. 10 Saint Mary's
Round of 16
1 Memphis def. 13 Oral Roberts
11 Kentucky def. 2 Texas
11 Kentucky def. 1 Memphis
1 UCLA def. 16 Mississippi Valley State
9 Texas A&M def. 8 BYU
5 Drake def. 12 Western Kentucky
4 UConn def. 13 San Diego
11 Baylor def. 6 Purdue
14 Georgia def. 3 Xavier
10 Arizona def. 7 West Virginia
2 Duke def. 15 Belmont
1 UCLA def. 9 Texas A&M
4 UConn def. 5 Drake
14 Georgia def. 11 Baylor
10 Arizona def. 2 Duke
Round of 16
4 UConn def. 1 UCLA
14 Georgia def. 10 Arizona
14 Georgia def. 4 UConn
8 UNLV def. 15 American
14 Georgia def. 11 Kentucky
CHAMPIONSHIP: 1 UNLV def. 14 Georgia