At the NCAA Basketball tournament yesterday, ninth seeded Northern Iowa pulled off an unbelievable victory, 69-67, over top seeded Kansas to advance to the round of 16. This is not the first time Kansas has been upended early in the tournament . Twice before , it has lost in the early rounds to little-regarded teams, Bucknell in 2005 and Bradley in 2006. This loss , however, has to be the most devastating because this year’s Jayhawks were tipped by most sports pundits, not just President Obama, to win it all.
Ironically, just before they lost to Northern Iowa, Kansas was declared the ‘winner’. of the NCAA Academic bracket by www.insidehighered.com. For the past five years, this website has run a fantasy tournament in which they use the academic achievements of the players on the differentNCAA teams and the March Madness bracket to determine which team would win the tournament based on the academics of its players.The winners were determined using the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, a nationally comparable score that gives points to teams whose players stay in good academic standing and remain enrolled from semester to semester.
All colleges lower the bar for student-athletes seeking admission , so athletes don’t always measure up to the rest of the student body when it comes to academics. The best athletes view college as a place to hone their athletic skills , a parking spot to showcase their talents for the pros. Many of the best basketballers stay in college only for a year, at most two, before they declare for the NBA draft and they couldn’t care less about studies or graduation.
The academic NCAA bracket makes interesting reading. Colleges that are well known for their acdemic excellence did not, in general, fare well . Georgia Tech and Georgetown both made first round exits , while Pittsburgh, , Villanova and Cornell did only slightly better. This year , Kansas, Brigham Young, Texas and Duke made the Final Four with Kansas defeating Duke in the final. This has got to be a bit of a surprise. I’d never have thought Kansas would be so caring about the academics of its athletes. Duke , yes , but Kansas? It’s as big a surprise to me as Northern Iowa’s victory over Kansas yesterday in the regular tournament.