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A Bracket Not to Bet On

March 17, 2008

Given that Inside Higher Ed is just three years old, we haven't established too many formal traditions so far. But around this time in each of the last two years, in our own twist on March Madness, we have adopted an out-of-the-box method of assessing the outcome of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I men's basketball tournament, which begins this week.

Befitting a Web site that focuses on higher education, and looks at college sports through the prism of how they fit into the larger picture of academic life, our NCAA bracket gives the edge in each game matchup to the team with the strongest academic performance. In past years, we've based our bracket on the teams' graduation rates, which has traditionally been the best (in part because it was really the only) nationally comparable way of measuring how athletes fared in the classroom.

This year, however, we're taking a slightly different tack, basing teams' pathway through the Inside Higher Ed Academic Performance Tournament (or APT) on the latest Academic Progress Rates for each team. The Academic Progress Rate is the NCAA's relatively new tool for assessing the real-time performance of teams and colleges, and it gives teams points for the extent to which their athletes stay in good academic standing and remain enrolled from term to term. (The NCAA uses the rate to reward and punish strong and poor performers, and it will begin imposing penalties this spring based on teams' outcomes.) We use the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate as the tiebreaker.

As in past years, we would not recommend that any of you use this bracket to make your selections in any office pools that you choose to enter (not that any of you would gamble, since illegal wagering is, well, illegal). After all, in the last two years, Bucknell University and College of the Holy Cross, both of the Patriot League, have won our brackets, and while Bucknell won its first-round game in 2006, Holy Cross lost in its first-round matchup in 2007.

Still, if you think college athletes should be students and want to know which teams, by the NCAA's own measure of choice, fare best academically, the Inside Higher Ed bracket is the one for you.

Some of the highlights of our tournament: The first round game between Georgetown and the University of Maryland Baltimore County is a tight one, and Belmont and Brigham Young go to the tiebreaker in the Elite Eight. Our Final Four looks a wee bit different from most of the experts', but let's just say that one of the No. 1 seeds makes it into our Final Four. The full bracket, and the winner, can be found here.

On with the games.

 

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