Journalism in the Public Interest


Our Academic Performance-Based Bracket Results: Totally Above Average

Our strategy of predicting March Madness results based on teams’ academic achievement faced its final exam last night, and we did pretty well.

Our strategy of predicting March Madness results based on teams' academic achievement faced its final exam last night, and—graded on a curve—we managed to swing a solid B.

Our pick Butler lost to the University of Connecticut in the championship game. Still, their unlikely run to the final placed us in the 85th percentile of New York Times readers.

The secret to our oracular mediocrity was making our predictions based on a metric called the Academic Progress Rate. The rate, calculated by the NCAA, measures whether team members are academically in good standing and on track to graduate. If a team averages below a 925 APR, which corresponds to roughly a 50 percent graduation rate, over several years, the NCAA can choose to impose penalties like reducing practice time, taking away scholarships and in extreme cases banning teams from postseason play.

Overall, men's basketball has the lowest APR of all NCAA sports, a fact that has received attention of late from, among others, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who urged stricter sanctions for teams that fail to ensure the academic progress of their student athletes.

While Butler had a perfect 1000 APR, Connecticut, the new national champions, have a multiyear APR of just 930, and a single-year APR of just 844. And they're not alone: About a dozen teams in this year's tournament have been sanctioned because of low progress rates.

The spoils of winning a national championship, including cash from the NCAA and licensing fees for the extra T-shirts that will no doubt be sold, will go to the University of Connecticut regardless. And this is what irks Duncan and other critics. Star Connecticut player Kemba Walker will almost certainly end up in the NBA, but many of his teammates will not. Will any of those spoils of victory be passed along to them? Or will they leave college without contracts, diplomas or prospects?

Matt Howard, the Butler star, will almost certainly not be playing professionally after he graduates this year. But with a 3.7 GPA and a finance major, the academic all-American will end his time as a student athlete with more than just memories.

Funny piece, but it was still the worst championship game I can recall.  Ever. Oh and I picked Butler to win too!

If Butler had won it would have been by luck. If you have followed this tournament for years, the easiest game to pick is the championship. Every team that has won over the last 40 years has had atleast one super star caliber player. Butler did not have that player, Connecticut did.

It is an old adage that on any given day, any team - regardless of how lowly - can rise to the occasion and beat another team.  There are countless examples.  The game was very low-scoring, indicating the defenses did well, but the offenses did not.  It is to Butler’s credit that they are so academically solid and made it to the final round.  And I’m not even from Indiana!

LOVE this article, LOVE Butler and thier superior academics.  Too many gifted athelic kids blow off school because they think it doesn’t matter if they got game.  Then they’re down n out dealers when the get injured or cut.  NCAA needs to crack down on the cheater coaches.  Too bad most people just love a winner regardless of how they got there (Calipari comes to mind).  We are seeing this cheating selfish greed in our government, wall street and major banks so of course it filters down to college sports.  Never heard of Butler until last year but Coach Stevens is setting a fantastic example for kids everywhere, too bad he’s only one of a handful.  They are number one in my eyes GO BUTLER!!!!

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