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Longhorns Show Prowess in March Madness of Academics

The winners of March Madness are decided on hardwood courts. But what if champions were crowned in the classroom?

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Both the Texas Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams competed for national titles in the NCAA Tournament

During March Madness, both the Texas Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams competed for national titles in the NCAA Tournament

What if the Longhorns’ fates were based on how they perform in the classroom instead of how they play on the hardwood court? According to Inside Higher Ed, UT Austin would still be a sure bet.

The online newspaper matched up American universities into a March Madness bracket with an academic twist. Winners are determined based on the academic performance of teams — the Texas Men’s Basketball team won the whole tournament, and the Women’s Basketball team made it to the final four. 

The Inside Higher Ed brackets compare teams using the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, which is a multiyear measure of a team’s classroom performance. If the teams tie, Inside Higher Ed looks at two different graduation-rate metrics for athletes. 

The Texas Men

Image courtesy of Inside Higher Ed

The data used in the Inside Higher Ed tournament is from the 2013-14 academic year. Though the Texas Men’s Basketball Head Coach Shaka Smart didn’t begin coaching the Longhorns until this season, he continues to emphasize scholarship and pushes his players to strive for academic success.

“He’s heavy on the academic part,” guard Isaiah Taylor told ESPN in an interview about Smart. “He wants us to get this degree from this college because he knows it benefits us in the future.”

After knocking off top-10 teams and wowing crowds with come-from-behind victories and highlight-reel teamwork, five players from the men’s team and nine student athletes from the women’s team earned spots on the 2016 Academic All-Big 12 Basketball Teams.

“I’m about helping our guys become the best versions of themselves. A big part of that, when you’re in college, is the academic side of things. I love learning and I want all of our guys to feel that way. I think everybody is really capable of gaining from the opportunities at a place like this. This is a world-class institution.” —Texas Men’s Basketball Head Coach Shaka Smart

Inside Higher Ed is not the only one putting together an academic spinoff of March Madness. The Metrics Mania tournament from Thomson Reuters is examining the research performance of the 68 universities participating in the NCAA tournament. 

In the Metrics Mania tournament, Thomson Reuters is naming winners based on indicators of impact that show how research output compares between universities. UT Austin — recently ranked No. 8 among all U.S. universities and No. 19 in the world for high-impact science, according to the Nature Index  made it to round three.