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The East is stacked with culturally significant academic institutions, from Harvard to Virginia to Harvard to North Carolina to Harvard to Harvard and, if to make sure I haven’t forgotten any schools, Harvard.
Harvard, of course, leads in overall academic categories, but the University of Virginia is honestly not far behind. It’s interesting, however, that Memphis actually had the highest APR rating of any school in this region, as recorded during the 2011-12 season.
So who’s getting out of this bracket and into the Final Four? Well, the East is a really stacked bracket, which made the decision more difficult than it might be at first glance.
The only upset in the "second" round would be Harvard over Cincinnati. In addition to the academics, when you do a search for famous alumni of Harvard, there are separate sections for Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and a section on Wikipedia titled “royalty and nobility.”
The only royalty to come from Cincinnati is Oscar Robertson.
As the region progresses, things get tighter. The second round has some great matchups, highlighted by Villanova against former Big East rival Connecticut. While I expected this to be really close, it turns out it was something of a landslide. Villanova—the pride of Philadelphia’s Big Five—is far superior to Connecticut in terms of, well, just about everything.
The mascot coolness is a wash, as both a Wildcat and Huskie are totally lame, but Villanova has a clear edge in terms of academics and basketball history. Did you know, Villanova has more NCAA tournament appearances and, per sports-reference.com, more NBA or ABA players than UConn? It’s true. Not to mention the fact that Villanova, while on the outskirts of the city, is still a Philly school. Have you ever been to Storrs? Exactly.
The rest of the “third” round plays out with Virginia beating Memphis—a great town but lacking enough of anything else to compete with the top seed—Michigan State squeaking past Harvard in an incredibly tough battle and North Carolina in a landslide over the Iowa State Cyclones. No offense, Ames, but I once had a snowball fight outside Hilton Coliseum during the NCAA tournament in March. And that was the coolest thing about being in Iowa.
In the Sweet 16, Virginia edges Michigan State in what would be an epic matchup. Virginia clearly wins on the academic front, and a Cavalier is probably a tiny bit more interesting than a Spartan. Michigan State’s hoops program does have more than 64,000 Twitter followers to just over 10,000 for Virginia’s team, and Tom Izzo certainly trumps Tony Bennett in terms of notoriety and basketball acumen.
Eight Final Fours and two titles to just two Final Fours for Virginia? How did Sparty lose this one?
Well, there’s Magic Johnson and the likes of famed director Sam Raimi who went to Michigan State. And then there’s everyone else who went to Virginia.
Seriously, I mean look at this list of notable alums: Tina Fey, Woodrow Wilson, Katie Couric, Robert Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Bowie Kuhn, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edgar Freaking Allan Poe (the Freaking is silent). Oh, right, and Thomas Jefferson founded the school.
And no offense to East Lansing, but you can’t exactly wear a white suit in the springtime, can you?
The other Sweet 16 matchup is another landslide. Villanova just has no shot over North Carolina, which goes into an all-ACC contest to reach the Final Four.
North Carolina may not have a Kennedy, but it does have Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Andy Griffith, Shelby Foote, Lewis Black, Lawrence Taylor, Jack Palance and James K. Polk among many other notable celebrity alums.
And the basketball side of things isn’t even close. Carolina has had 104 players drafted into the NBA with 81 actually playing in the pros, more than triple what Virginia can boast. Carolina has gone to 18 Final Fours in 45 tournament appearances.
Add that to more than 150,000 followers on Twitter (the least important metric of all, but a breaker of all ties when ties need to be broken), and this one goes to the Tar Heels, who are the first team to make the Final Four.