March Madness is upon us, and college sports fans everywhere are busy filling out their brackets for the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, trying to predict which teams will make it to the Final Four. Serious bracketologists study each team’s overall win-loss record, strength of schedule, tournament match-up, the predictions of experts/media personalities like Dick Vitale and other data in an attempt to divine the ultimate winners.
If the teams in the Big Dance were judged solely on academic performance, it would be much easier to pick a Final Four. That’s what Ben Miller has done in a recent post over at The Quick and the Ed. Miller is a policy analyst for the think tank Education Sector and writes frequently for ES’s The Quick and the Ed blog.
According to Miller’s analysis, the academic Final Four, based on a rolling calculation of players’ graduation rates, would be Kansas, Butler, Villanova and Wofford. “The championship game would then feature Butler vs. Wofford, with the former prevailing thanks to a graduation rate of 89 percent vs. the latter’s 83 percent mark.”
With the assistance of Education Sector’s Abdul Kargbo, Miller filled out his bracket based on the federal graduation rates of each team.
Miller’s post has some other interesting insights into the state of college athletics in terms of graduation rates by race and overall. It is not a pretty picture. “Some schools are failing their athletes regardless of race. Maryland and Houston’s first round matchup has the distinction of being the worst academic pairing in the tournament, as the two have basketball graduation rates of 9 percent and 13 percent, respectively.”