We have a winner! The Minnesota Golden Gophers take the NCAA title! The fifth seed out of the south region won the tournament by knocking out number one seeded North Carolina along the way. Surprising? Only if you are focused on basketball. We’re focused on student success.
We’ve taken a look at this year’s NCAA men’s basketball bracket with an eye toward how the 68 teams selected for the tournament perform on student success. Our bracket is based on the Eduventures 2016 Student Success Ratings, which scores universities based on two major criteria: how they perform given their institutional circumstance, and how they have trended on both first-year retention and six-year graduation rates for traditional undergraduates over the last 10 years.
Our unique methodology allows us to look deeper than the overall absolute metrics of wins and losses to identify true performers who, sometimes surprisingly, beat the odds and sustain success. Isn’t that what a great basketball team does, too?
When you look at the men’s basketball bracket through this lens, you see powerhouses, Cinderella stories, and upsets in every region. Few of the top seeds make it past the first round. Many historically strong basketball schools show they are also becoming strong student success schools. And some plucky little institutions without the marquee players, or the marquee dollars, play a good game as well.
Let’s see how they did.
In the East
- Number four seed, Florida beats up on all the competition, never having a close contest to win the region.
- Last year’s men’s basketball champion Villanova is ousted in the first round by Mt. St. Mary’s.
- South Carolina exceeds expectations by beating Duke in the second round.
- A relieved USC escapes its First Four play-in game making it to the regional final before meeting its demise at the hands of Florida.
In the West
- The number one and two seeds, basketball powerhouses Gonzaga and Arizona, go down to scrappy underdogs from the Dakotas. 16th seeded South Dakota ousted Gonzaga and 15th seeded North Dakota ousted Arizona.
- The loss of the top seeds left the door open for Vandy, Bucknell, and VCU.
- But no state has more pride and performance in student success than the state of Florida. This university system reinforced its dominance as Florida State won the region to set up a final four match-up with its in-state rival, Florida.
In the Midwest
- Finally, a top seed makes it out of the first round! Louisville came out strong against Jacksonville State but lost a close battle with Oregon to bow out of the tournament early.
- NC Central followed a Cinderella path for some time, but couldn’t raise its level enough to best a solid performance by ninth seed, Michigan State.
- Neither Oregon nor Michigan State could match a lively Vermont who punched way above its 13th seed to book a dream trip to the final four.
In the South
- Carolina roared past Texas Southern and Seton Hall, but ran into a buzz saw when it met Minnesota, who knocked out Butler in the second round.
- Second seeded Kentucky struggled got out of the first round with a mediocre performance against in-state rival Northern Kentucky and then couldn’t come up with the performance to beat Wichita State.
- 14th seeded Kent State ran through the draw beating UCLA, Cincinnati, and Wichitastate along the way only to lose in another dominant performance by Minnesota.
The Final Four
The Florida/Florida State semifinal is destined to go down in NCAA history as an absolute barn burner; both teams scored equally well on our Student Success Ratings scale. After a double overtime—and a closer review of its absolute retention and graduation numbers to break the tie—Florida narrowly took home the win.
But no team was ever going to beat Minnesota. It just had a certain confidence about it marching through its draw. It was never tested in its region, and when it met the formidable Florida, it maintained high performance and won a close contest.
In our book, that’s the kind of focus and fortitude all universities could use every day as they work on improving student success.
For more information about Eduventures Student Success Ratings, or to see how your own school or peers score, click here.
Eduventures NCAA Student Success Scorecard