Only basketball smarts needed in this bracket   

Updated: March 17, 2008, 4:14 PM ET

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This weekend, we watched hours and hours of conference tournament games, analysis, selection shows, bracketology shows, more analysis, even more analysis just about Arizona State getting jobbed, and not once did we hear anyone talk about a school's graduation rate of its basketball players.

The implication is clear: If you want to succeed in the NCAA tournament, recruit future NBA stars, not future engineers.


On Friday, we promised to help you win your NCAA pool. Here are our nine foolproof methods.
The 10th -- straight chalk -- will be figured into the Page 2 group bracket as a control variable.
Stay tuned to Page 2 throughout the NCAA tournament to see how our brackets stack up.

Best unis
Our uniform expert breaks down attire aesthetics.
Uni bracket
Mascot fight
Which school has the most intimidating mascot?
Mascot bracket
Celeb alums
Which school has the most star power?
Celeb bracket
Inverse graduation rate
Which program graduates the fewest players?
Grad rate bracket
Coach appearance
Which coach is best-dressed for success?
Dapper coach bracket
Collegiate beers
If each school was a beer, which one would you drink?
Beer bracket
Cred, creed
Who has the right mix of street cred and religious clout?
Cred and creed bracket
Cheesy slogan
School slogans can say a lot. Who has the best one?
Slogan bracket
Non-hoops jocks
Which school produces the most successful non-basketball athletes?
Non-hoops jocks bracket

Just look at Arizona. The Wildcats have 24 consecutive tournament appearances, the longest current streak. But their 25 percent graduation rate ranks near the bottom of this year's tourney -- and we don't think that's a coincidence.

In filling out the Inverse Graduation Rate Bracket, we used the NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report released last October, which considered athletes enrolled from 1997 to 2000. In other words, Georgia, you're on the hook for Jim Harrick Sr. and Jr. (This is actually a good thing, as you'll see below.)

Easiest region (to pick): East. American University made its first NCAA tournament, but checked in with an appalling 18 percent graduation rate. In fact, its toughest opponent was a first-round matchup against Tennessee (33 percent). Otherwise, only Washington State (35), Coppin State (43) and Oklahoma (46) checked in at under 50 percent. By the way, the male/female ratio at American is 34/66, which perhaps explain the low graduation rate.

Toughest region (to pick): West. Though the region features perennial academic lightweights Arizona and Connecticut (22) -- hey, don't accuse Lute Olson and Jim Calhoun of not knowing what it takes to win -- plus underrated West Virginia (33), UCLA (40) and Texas A&M (40), the Georgia Bulldogs continued their unlikely postseason run with a trip to the Final Four thanks to their 19 percent rate. And you wonder why Harrick Jr.'s exam in his Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball course included the question, "How many points for a 3-pointer?"

Easiest pick (single game): Besides Georgia's easy win over Xavier (90 percent), the biggest blowout was Kentucky (23) over Marquette (89) in the first round. Kentucky ended up beating Texas (33) in the regional final. Stand proud, Ashley, stand proud!

Toughest pick (single game): The Georgia-UConn regional final went down to the last shot. Boy, we miss Harrick.

Biggest upset (in entire bracket): Several strong academic schools actually won their first-round matchups, including Duke (over Belmont, 67-75), Stanford (over Cornell, which doesn't release its rate, but undoubtedly is higher than Stanford's 67) and Vanderbilt (edged out Siena, 83 to 85).

First-round flop: We have to go with Kansas State and Kansas, which ruined the Big 12's perfect first round. While Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M cruised to easy victories, Kansas lost to Portland State (45 to 43) while K-State ran into the USC juggernaut (67 to 29).

Sleeper school: Clemson. At 31 percent, the Tigers graduate players at the same rate it makes free throws.

Final Four shocker: UNLV over American. Maybe you thought UNLV had cleaned up its image in the post-Shark era; wrong! At 15 percent, the Rebels go on to beat Georgia in the Inverse Graduation Rate Bracket championship.

Buy stock in: The Pac-10. Arizona, USC, Washington State and UCLA all score at 40 percent or lower.

Sell stock in: North Carolina. With an 86 percent graduation rate, no wonder the Heels have only one national title this decade.

Obvious pick we still like anyway: Drake over Western Kentucky. With a 100 percent rate, the Hilltoppers clearly are not recruiting enough NBA prospects.

First Round
16 Coppin State def. 1 North Carolina
9 Arkansas def. 8 Indiana
12 George Mason def. 5 Notre Dame
4 Washington State def. 13 Winthrop
6 Oklahoma def. 11 Saint Joseph's
3 Louisville def. 14 Boise State
10 South Alabama def. 7 Butler
15 American def. 2 Tennessee

Second Round
16 Coppin State def. 9 Arkansas
4 Washington State def. 12 George Mason
6 Oklahoma def. 3 Louisville
15 American def. 10 South Alabama

Round of 16
4 Washington State def. 16 Coppin State
15 American def. 6 Oklahoma

Regional Final
15 American def. 4 Washington State

First Round
16 Portland State def. 1 Kansas
8 UNLV def. 9 Kent State
5 Clemson def. 12 Villanova
4 Vanderbilt def. 13 Siena
6 USC def. 11 Kansas State
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 3 Wisconsin
7 Gonzaga def. 10 Davidson
15 UMBC def. 2 Georgetown

Second Round
8 UNLV def. 16 Portland State
5 Clemson def. 4 Vanderbilt
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 6 USC
7 Gonzaga def. 15 UMBC

Round of 16
8 UNLV def. 5 Clemson
14 Cal State Fullerton def. 7 Gonzaga

Regional Final
8 UNLV def. 14 Cal State Fullerton

First Round
1 Memphis def. 16 Texas-Arlington
9 Oregon def. 9 Mississippi State
12 Temple def. 5 Michigan State
13 Oral Roberts def. 4 Pittsburgh
11 Kentucky def. 6 Marquette
3 Stanford def. 14 Cornell
10 Saint Mary's def. 8 Miami (Fla.)
2 Texas def. 15 Austin Peay

Second Round
1 Memphis def. 9 Oregon
13 Oral Roberts def. 12 Temple
11 Kentucky def. 3 Stanford
2 Texas def. 10 Saint Mary's

Round of 16
1 Memphis def. 13 Oral Roberts
11 Kentucky def. 2 Texas

Regional Final
11 Kentucky def. 1 Memphis

First Round
1 UCLA def. 16 Mississippi Valley State
9 Texas A&M def. 8 BYU
5 Drake def. 12 Western Kentucky
4 UConn def. 13 San Diego
11 Baylor def. 6 Purdue
14 Georgia def. 3 Xavier
10 Arizona def. 7 West Virginia
2 Duke def. 15 Belmont

Second Round
1 UCLA def. 9 Texas A&M
4 UConn def. 5 Drake
14 Georgia def. 11 Baylor
10 Arizona def. 2 Duke

Round of 16
4 UConn def. 1 UCLA
14 Georgia def. 10 Arizona

Regional Final
14 Georgia def. 4 UConn

8 UNLV def. 15 American
14 Georgia def. 11 Kentucky

CHAMPIONSHIP: 1 UNLV def. 14 Georgia


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