RICHMOND — March Madness has historically been a season of underdogs and upsets. But what would the brackets look like if teams in the tournament were pitted against each other using the graduation rates for their men’s basketball players?
Some college teams may be great at finishing close games -- but their players aren’t so successful at finishing their degrees.
For example, Iowa State -- the No. 24 seed overall in the NCAA Tournament -- has graduated only 8 percent of the men’s basketball players who enrolled in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. If that were the Cyclones’ field goal percentage, they would be lucky to have won any games at all this season.
Murray State, the 46th seed, awarded degrees to only 9 percent of its men’s basketball players. On the other hand, Duke, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, graduated 57 percent of its players -- which beats the team’s field goal percentage (47.7 percent).
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service used data from the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education to create tournament-like brackets based on graduation rates instead of success on the court.
Graduation rates can be measured in two ways:
» The Education Department computes the federal graduation rate, or FGR. It represents the proportion of first-year, full-time student-athletes who entered a school on athletic scholarship and graduated from that institution within six years. This rate does not account for student-athletes who may transfer to another school and graduate elsewhere. The Education Department calculates the FGR for regular students, too -- not just student-athletes.
» In the early 2000s, the NCAA developed its own measurement: the graduation success rate, or GSR. NCAA officials say this rate more accurately reflects modern patterns of student-athlete enrollment and transfers. The GSR holds institutions accountable for students who transfer into their school and does not penalize colleges whose student-athletes transfer from the school in good academic standing.
CNS created a set of brackets comparing teams based on their federal graduation rates and another set based on their graduation success rates.
Using the FGR, the Final Four teams would be Yale, Buffalo, Colgate and Northeastern. Using the GSR, the Final Four teams would be Yale, Gonzaga, Colgate and Washington.
Either way, in both sets of brackets, Yale was the national champion, having graduated 100 percent of its men’s basketball players. (Colgate also had a GSR of 100 percent, but we gave the nod to Yale based on the overall graduation rate for students.)
The CNS brackets and data are at http://bit.ly/madness-grad-rates.
More information about NCAA graduation rates can be found at http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/graduation-rates.