There is dark mood settling over the usual unbridled enthusiasm for March Madness this year. FBI investigations into widespread allegations of corruption among many of the nation’s top basketball programs are surfacing long-held fears about college basketball, painting it as a potential subversion of—rather than merely a welcome distraction from—the purpose of higher education. The outcome of the investigations and potential fallout for the NCAA tournament and its followers are unknown at this point.

Given this backdrop, can we take a moment to consider a different view – one that finds a silver lining by reemphasizing successful student outcomes, the central point of college? We’d like to give it the old college try by applying the Eduventures Student Success Ratings to the men’s NCAA bracket and seeing how the teams stack up.

As a reminder, our annual ratings are based on a scoring system that rewards institutions for performing well on retention and graduation rates (for traditional undergraduate students) based on the types of students they serve. These ratings measure how good an institution is based on its institutional environment and purpose; they find institutions that beat the odds.

Here’s how the 2018 NCAA Men’s Bracket would play out if all the games went according to Eduventures Student Success Ratings:

Click for full-size bracket

Davidson pulls off an upset victory

Twelfth-seeded Davidson (with a student success score of 69) comes out of the South to pull off an upset of top-seeded Villanova (65). In order to get to the final four, Davidson had to take out one upstart, University at Buffalo (59), and two NCAA powerhouses: Kentucky (40), Virginia (54). Davidson overtook the formidable Gonzaga (66) out of the West to meet Villanova (65) in the final.

When it comes to student success, Davidson and Villanova are institutions with similar, if not quite the same, profiles and characteristics. Both have over-performed their expected student success scores and both have made gains in graduation rates that are superior for their institution types. Davidson just found the extra gear to win in overtime.

Regions of life and death

Sports pundits in the know are calling the Midwest region the “region of death”— that region in which all the matches are tough and any one of a number of teams could become the eventual tournament winner. Among basketball fans, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, and Auburn are all strong contenders. Collectively, the Midwest region may be the strongest basketball region; it also boasts a solid record on student success with a median score of 54.

On the other hand, the East region may be the “region of life and death.” Four of the top 10 student success scorers in the tournament come from the east, Villanova (65), Florida (64), CSU – Fullerton (63), and Radford (61). To be sure, this tournament is single elimination, but this region’s institutions do a better job at helping their students avoid elimination on the way to graduation.

While the East may be home to the highest number of top performers, it is also home to the highest number of bottom performers. Wichita State (38), Texas Tech (37), Stephen F. Austin (35), and Murray State (27) are four of the 10 lowest performers in the tournament. These teams didn’t advance very far in the tournament and have some work to do to help their students advance as well.

The Cinderellas

What is exciting about every NCCAA tournament, and what often restores our faith in the system, are the Cinderella stories of teams with minimal resources, small coaching staffs, unknown players, and no scandals to speak of. They may not make it to the end of the tournament this year, but we enjoy watching them and look forward to seeing them perform in the future.

We see some of these in the student success performers as well: Texas Christian (62) made the final four out of the Midwest by beating Syracuse (57), Bucknell (60), Iona (58), and Penn (57) before falling to Villanova (65). CSU – Fullerton (63) finally succumbed to Florida (64) after two very solid outings against Purdue (46) and Butler (56). A buoyant Loyola-Chicago (60) went on from a first round victory over Miami (59) to beat Tennessee (58) and Georgia State (57) before running into eventual champion Davidson (69).

And with that, our student success tournament is over for another year, just as the real one gets under way. At the very least, we hope we’ve provided you with a brief distraction from the “madness.” Perhaps it will remind you of the people at these universities doing the real work to make students successful, regardless of what we read in the headlines about athletics. To see how your school scores on the Eduventures Student Success Ratings, click here.

Eduventures NCAA Student Success Scorecard

An ExtensionEngine Webinar

Dr. Moore’s Malaise: “Online Learning Cannot be Standardized”

March 20th, 2018  2:00pm — 3:00pm, EST

Who is Dr. Moore and why is he unhappy?

Dr. Scott Moore, Principal Learning Strategist at ExtensionEngine, talks with Higher Education leaders every day. He sites two recurring “disappointing” perspectives of some higher education leaders on creating online learning programs and courses:

  1. “They think of the creation of online learning in terms of production and focus on delivering a standard product across all programs at a lower cost.”
  2. “They cede strategic thinking to those who don’t think about market positioning, competition, and brand.”

In this webinar you will learn about:

  • Why standardization is not the right approach to creating online learning
  • Eduventures findings on the inconsistency of quality in online learning
  • A product-development approach for creating differentiated programs

Eduventures Principal Analyst at NRCCUA Howard Lurie will join Dr. Moore on this webinar. Join today!

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Eduventures Summit 2018

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JUNE 13-15, 2018
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