Derek GerberichCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2013

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’ve all been there before.  It’s the classic dinner-table dispute over the quality of any two given sports teams.  For me, the dispute always arises with one of my best friends from Pittsburgh:

The matchup?  A diehard Pitt Panther versus a Penn Stater who bleeds blue and white.

The result?  A conversation that usually ends up looking a little something like this:

Me:  “Penn State could crush Pitt this year, Pitt looked terrible against Wagner.”

Him: “Stop it, Penn State is an embarrassment to the Big Ten.”

Me:  “Oh really?  Well, we beat South Florida this year, who beat Pitt TWICE!”

Him: “You want that game? Pitt took care against Duquesne, something I believe Penn State couldn’t accomplish.”

A game indeed.  And a game that most of us have probably played our entire lives.  Well, we beat Team X who beat Team Y who crushed Team Z, so theoretically we should handle Team Z with ease.

And it makes sense, right?

I think in mathematical terms it is called the transitive property.  You know, that property we are all brainwashed with in sixth grade?  If a is greater than b, and b is greater than c, then we can conclude that a is greater than c.

Logical enough…except when it isn’t.  Extrapolation of the property is dangerous.

Take basketball, for instance.  Haven’t you wondered why March Madness is always madness?  Why isn’t there ever a year when the favorites simply win?

So have I.

In the 2011 NFL season, I stumbled upon a graphic the week after the Chiefs knocked off the Packers.  It was entitled, “Any Given Sunday” and it demonstrated how every team in the NFL could be linked, theoretically, to having beat another team.

Example: The Chiefs beat the Packers who beat the Bears, who beat the…do you get the picture?  It was an absolutely intriguing graphic, and it seemed to show, in a sense, why you had to bring your A-game each and every Sunday.

Then I had a crazy thought.

What if the same could be done for the 2011-12 season of NCAA college basketball?  We weren’t just talking 32 teams here, we were talking about 344.  Yes. Three hundred and forty four.  Was it even possible?  My heart said yes, my brain said no.

There was only one way to find out.

So I tried.

And what did I find?  Well naturally, it was possible.  That’s right.  After nearly three-and-a-half weeks of mind-numbing and exhaustive data collecting, the pieces fell into place.

How did it work?  Of course, I started with Penn State.  I had to prove that my favorite team was indeed the best in the land.  At least until I connected the cycle.

You can find my extensive results listed below.  This should go to prove that any table talk of “this team beat that team so therefore this team is better than that team” is simply fallacious.

The table reads as follows.  Begin with Penn State.  Penn State beat Illinois, 57-54. (Score listed to the right of Illinois).  Illinois beat Ohio State by five, who beat Duke, who beat North Carolina, who beat Michigan State…you get the idea.

But, see?  I had already proved that Penn State theoretically should beat Duke, UNC, MSU and Ohio State.  Golden.   In fact, you can use this table to theoretically prove that any team in the nation is better than any other team in the nation!

Even lowly Navy.

And, ah yes, I almost forgot.  If you are “one of those” people who like to throw scores around, I must set you straight too.  You know who you are.  The people who say, well Central Michigan beat Toledo by 16, who beat Northern Illinois by 30, who beat Miami (Ohio) by three, who then beat Belmont by five.  Therefore, Central Michigan could beat Belmont by at least 50!

Not. So. Fast.

By calculating the margin of victory from every team in my list, who Penn State theoretically would beat, one could come to the conclusion that Penn State should easily beat Kentucky by: wait for it...approximately 3,151 points.

But wait, I almost forgot.  Kentucky and Penn State did play.  Final score?  85-47.

In favor of Kentucky, naturally.

 Team Score Margin of Victory Penn State Illinois 54 52 2 Ohio State 79 74 5 Duke 85 63 22 North Carolina 85 84 1 Michigan State 67 55 12 Lehigh 90 81 9 Bucknell 56 53 3 Holy Cross 75 41 34 Lafayette 70 63 7 Army 90 74 16 Colgate 79 59 20 Navy 69 63 6 Mount St. Marys 64 56 8 American 49 42 7 St. Joes 66 60 6 Drexel 62 49 13 Virginia Commonwealth 64 58 6 Hofstra 80 63 17 Cleveland State 63 53 10 Vanderbilt 71 58 13 LSU 76 61 15 Marquette 67 59 8 Connecticut 79 64 15 Notre Dame 67 53 14 Syracuse 67 58 9 Georgetown 64 61 3 South Florida 75 45 30 DePaul 75 59 16 Pittsburgh 84 81 3 Providence 86 74 12 Louisville 90 59 31 Seton Hall 60 51 9 West Virginia 67 48 19 Cincinatti 77 74 3 Villanova 82 78 4 St. John's 79 76 3 St. Francis (NY) 63 48 15 Bryant University 80 67 13 St. Francis (PA) 59 56 3 Fairleigh Dickinson 69 63 6 St. Peter's 73 62 11 Canisius 74 60 14 Marist 67 57 10 Loyola Maryland 72 54 18 Iona 87 81 6 Rider 75 62 13 Manhattan 88 77 11 Fairfield 53 51 2 Niagara 77 69 8 Siena 58 54 4 Princeton 63 59 4 Harvard 70 62 8 Pennsylvania 56 50 6 Cornell 54 52 2 Yale 85 84 1 Columbia 59 58 1 Dartmouth 64 62 2 Brown 58 53 5 Rhode Island 65 56 9 Massachusetts 81 78 3 Fordham 80 76 4 George Washington 63 58 5 Charlotte 60 52 8 Richmond 75 70 5 LaSalle 78 76 2 Duquense 71 68 3 St. Bonaventure 66 52 14 Dayton 81 73 8 Temple 87 77 10 St. Louis 72 67 5 Xavier 73 68 5 Southern Illinois 87 77 10 Bradley 77 60 17 Indiana State 68 60 8 Evansville 90 81 9 Creighton 65 57 8 Wichita State 68 61 7 Missouri State 74 67 7 Northern Iowa 61 60 1 Drake 66 52 14 Illinois State 77 60 17 Rutgers 76 70 6 Florida 85 83 2 Alabama 61 52 9 Arkansas 72 66 6 Mississippi State 98 88 10 Tennessee 62 58 4 Auburn 64 49 15 Ole Miss 69 68 1 South Carolina 66 62 4 Georgia 57 56 1 South Dakota State 72 61 11 Oral Roberts 75 60 15 Oakland 93 86 7 Western Illinois 74 70 4 North Dakota State 55 51 4 Southern Utah 72 69 3 IUPUI 72 64 8 South Dakota 88 70 18 UMKC 76 57 19 IPFW 81 66 15 Valparaiso 85 76 9 Loyola Illinois 66 62 4 Illinois Chicago 78 69 9 Youngstown State 72 68 4 Green Bay 77 47 30 Wright State 57 56 1 Milwaukee 70 46 24 Detroit 84 74 10 Butler 76 65 11 Stanford 71 66 5 USC 51 43 8 Utah 62 45 17 Arizona State 64 43 21 Oregon State 76 66 10 UCLA 87 84 3 Washington State 63 60 3 California 77 75 2 Washington 69 66 3 Arizona 79 70 9 Colorado 71 57 14 Air Force 76 73 3 Boise State 74 59 15 TCU 65 64 1 Wyoming 58 52 6 UNLV 68 66 2 Colorado State 82 63 19 New Mexico 71 63 8 San Diego State 77 67 10 Long Beach State 77 73 4 Cal State Fullerton 75 61 14 UC Santa Barbara 99 86 13 UC Riverside 60 52 8 UC Davis 59 54 5 Pacific 73 64 9 Cal State Northridge 62 61 1 Cal Poly 94 81 13 UC Irivine 77 74 3 San Diego 99 79 20 Loyola Marymount 60 57 3 Saint Mary's 75 60 15 Gonzaga 83 62 21 BYU 74 63 11 San Francisco 81 56 25 Pepperdine 78 63 15 Portland 70 65 5 Santa Clara 84 78 6 Eastern Michigan 75 55 20 Ohio 68 55 13 Kent State 87 65 22 Buffalo 76 71 5 Akron 82 70 12 Bowling Green 79 68 11 Ball State 61 54 7 Western Michigan 78 69 9 Central Michigan 64 61 3 Toledo 85 69 16 Northern Illinois 71 41 30 Miami (OH) 62 59 3 Belmont 66 61 5 Mercer 82 78 4 USC Upstate 73 66 7 North Florida 77 52 25 Florida Gulf Coast 88 81 7 East Tennessee State 72 63 9 Lipscomb 66 57 9 Stetson 99 91 8 Kennesaw State 75 59 16 Chattanooga 65 59 6 Western Carolina 78 62 16 Citadel 68 56 12 Appalachian State 62 51 11 ELON 81 66 15 UNC Greensboro 93 79 14 College of Charleston 73 66 7 Georgia Southern 58 53 5 Wofford 63 49 14 Furman 79 72 7 Western Kentucky 76 63 13 Florida Atlantic 64